Frank was the first to open his eyes. It was now 6:50 in the morning and he slowly opened his eyes and stared at the Princess’s sleeping face. I am sure he must have noticed the bruised tissue about her right eye. Slowly he stroked her hair. Even in the early morning light it was glossy and very graceful in the way it draped her face. Frank had often said he was always amazed at how beautiful a woman looked in the morning compared to men who always looked like they just came off a battlefield. Very soon the Princess also opened her eyes. She took Frank's hand and held it. She peered into his eyes like she was looking for the answer to every question that had ever been asked by a woman. Frank returned her gaze as if he had every answer she sought.
Finally, Frank kissed her on her forehead and repositioned himself so he was sitting up.
“Jack, he said in a quiet voice, I want you to run out to Waitrose and pick up two Danish. Buy a pint of cream, too. In fact, if they have an English breakfast take-out buy that.”
I moved the dresser and slipped out the door. I can’t account for what happened when I was gone, but Frank was in the shower and the Princess just laid quietly in bed. I put down all the breakfast items and moved the dresser back. I wasn’t sure when Frank would have me stop barricading the room. After a few minutes Frank came out with a towel around him and fished through the bags for some underwear. Once he was dressed he went over to the Princess and said, “Do you want to get up and have something? Maybe you can tell me how you got that shiner.”
The Princess rallied herself and came over and sat by the table and poured herself a cup of Drop Dead.
“What do you think happened?” she asked.
“My best guess is you were discovered messing with the Cirrus flight plan by either your diabolical husband or one of his security goons.”
“That was pretty much it. I have never seen him so angry. He said all the questions from those pods being deployed when the plane was not having an emergency would cause him a lot of problems. He dragged me to my bedroom and put a guard outside the door. He kept me in there until ten last night. Finally, he had me come down and eat with him. He went on about how he thinks you are out to ruin him with unfounded accusations that you think he is some kind of Frankenstein monster. He was very incensed by that. He kept talking about how many lives he has saved, which is true. He has done a lot of good, Frank. I didn’t dare defend you and I certainly didn’t dare accuse him of being behind the religion stuff.”
“So you put two and two together?” Frank said with a serious face.
“Yes, after tagging along for that tour and your being held incognito I knew there must be a connection. Frank, you have no idea how big that laboratory is in Finland. It is over seven floors underground. You only saw part of two floors,” she said as a tear came out of her bruised eye and rolled slowly down her cheek.”
“I guessed as much. I have no idea how to stop him. Who would believe me? And even if I could convince a government to do something, he could deploy this nano-shit before the ink was dry on the order to arrest him.”
“He did mention one thing. He says he needs to get his depression product on the market because he needs the cash flow. He has sunk all his cash into Finland.”
“So we do have some time, unless he was trying to feed you bullshit.”
“Frank, I think you are in danger. If you were dead that would solve a lot of problems. They would have to turn your friend here into a paper weight, but then they would have no one on their tail.”
“You forget the Monsignor. He would figure it out eventually.”
“Maybe, have you told him what you know?”
“Not yet,” Frank said with a scowl, “I’m hoping to see him today.”
“I’m not sure the Church is in any position to offer much help. I can’t see the Swiss Guard in their blue and yellow tights storming Finland.”
“Frank agreed by saying, “They're not what they used to be.”
I had to speak up at this moment, “Frank there is someone coming down the hall with a very heavy and determined step. We may have a visitor.”
“God, I hope it is the Monsignor.”
Right after that there was a sharp knock on the door. Frank and I moved the dresser and he opened the door. I think he was surprised when a left hook caught him in his right eye.
Frank engaged the enemy. He was not one to avoid a fight. The enemy was none other than Sir Terrance Lutts. I would have to say he got a lucky punch due to the element of surprise. It did not take Frank long to take the wind out of Sur Lutts, as well as leaving him with a rather bloody mouth. Frank finally pushed him away and said, “What the fuck do you think you are doing?”
Breathing heavily, Sir Terrance wiped his mouth with his sleeve and said, “I think I should be the one asking that question, Mr. Huntington.”
The Princess was still just wearing a blouse and her slip, but that didn’t stop her from telling her husband to stop acting like a madman.
“If you would like to know, she came because she is not too sure you’re sane.”
“I’m the most sane man in the world, Huntington,” he said sitting down on the bed. He was still catching his breath.
“Fuck you are. Do you think the world will thank you after you have fucked with our minds?”
“Probably. If they know, but I still hope to not have them know. You’ve seen Old Jerusalem. Do you think they give a shit if they knew I did it?”
“No, you pretty much turned them into smiling zombies.” Frank said with derision.
“That is not true. You will find out that they can still be angry, just not about religion. They control their lives just as they did before, with one exception.”
“What, pray tell is that?” Frank asked with a sneer.
“They are no longer a slave to some hateful god. They have to be their own moral compass.” Lutts said forcefully.
“Do you really think they are free?” Frank asked with disgust.
“As free as they ever were or ever could be. If freedom exists it exists for very few of us. Most of humanity are prisoners of their silly irrational culture.” Lutts spit out some blood onto the floor and then continued, “You think for yourself, Huntington, but don’t you realize you are a product of your American culture?”
“So what? Everyone has behaviors and ideas that come from their culture. No man is an island, except maybe you. Not everything that shapes us is bad. We are humans and there is a lot of crap that can either kill us or bring unhappiness. All most of us are trying to do is live as happy a life as we know how. Sure, most people are idiots when it comes to critical thinking, but they have every right to their life as you do.”
“I’m not killing them,” Lutts said with a look of disdain.
“What about those nuns who killed themselves?” the Princess said forcefully.
“Yes, that was disappointing, but with all medical breakthroughs there is always the chance of people dying. Some end up in the control group, but that is how science must work. It is unfortunate, but when compared to all the people who die of a disease before a cure is found, it is nothing. Science has saved millions from dying from diseases. Religion is one more fucking disease that needs to be cured.”
“You don’t get it. You have the means to do anything to our minds. What damn thing are you going to force on humanity next?” Frank said after standing up again.
“Nothing. I know my limits. As an atheist I fully support human rights.”
“And you think you can keep the genie in the bottle?” Marianne asked him.
Frank shook his head and said, “You are more stupid than I thought. Show me any example in history where technology was successfully kept bottled up?”
Marianne got up at that and said with contempt, “You can’t even keep me under control. Even though I realize you must have used your damn nano crap on me.” And with that she walked over to her husband and attacked him with her nails. She caught him by surprise and the blood started flowing down his cheeks. Frank pulled her away when he saw that Lutts was going to punch her out. After Frank did that, Lutts decided to take aim at Frank and flayed him with his fists like a crazy man. Frank took one step back and then gave him a solid punch in the stomach. Lutts went down. A moment later vomit started coming out of his bloody face.
“Grab your coat. Jack, we are leaving immediately.” Frank said as he wiped blood off his hands on the bed sheet.
I grabbed as many bags of clothing as I could and we left for the elevator. Frank pushed the down button like his life depended on it. The elevator door finally opened and standing there was Monsignor Angelo Pietro dressed in a business suit. Frank and Marianne quickly went into the elevator and Frank pushed for the first floor.
This unexpected invasion of his elevator caught the Monsignor by surprise so it took a second for the penny to drop.
Princess! Mr. Huntington! I was just coming to see you, Mr. Huntington. Is that blood on your sleeve?” asked the surprised priest.
Frank gave him a weak smile and said, “Yup, this is the aristocratic blood of Sir Terrance Lutts.”
“You hit him?” the Monsignor asked in an even more surprised tone.
“We left him in Frank’s room sprawled on the floor. He’s a bloody mess,” the Princess explained.
Just before the door opened up to the lobby, Frank asked the Monsignor, “Where are you staying?”
“I’m just down a block from here.”
“Good enough. Let’s head over to your place.”
No one said anything as they walked down the street. It was a busy street and a busy time of day. Brits were walking with a purpose. It was time to go to work. In the streets the taxis outnumbered the private cars and they all had to dodge the classic red double decker buses. They no longer had the faretaker with his black uniform or the bus driver that would never wait for someone running down the street. Everything was robotic. Identification cards were linked to your bank and read automatically. In New York they still would take cash, although most paid with their smartphones.
The Monsignor’s hotel was rather nondescript. It was one of those Indian run places that were inconspicuous and that is what the Monsignor wanted considering his line of work for the Vatican. Rather than wait for the lift which was always being hogged by the cleaning staff with their carts, we walked up the two flights of stairs. It was a small room with only one chair. The Monsignor beckoned the Princess to take it and Frank and the Monsignor sat on the double bed. I put all the bags I had brought on a small table and on the floor.
“Jack, go see if you can rustle up some ice and real glasses for drinks. All I see are those paper thin plastic glasses. I think we all could use a good drink” Frank said to me without making eye contact. He was looking over the room and the Monsignor.
“I am sorry the room is not much” the Monsignor explained, I try to keep a low profile when I am working on secret tasks for the Church” the Monsignor said as a matter of fact.
I got up and went back out onto the street. The Waitrose we had stopped at was just a half block back and I knew they would have a bag of ice and some real glasses. I also picked up a bottle of wine in case the Monsignor and the Princess did not wish to drink Frank’s strong American liquor.
When the Princess let me back into the room Frank was explaining to the Monsignor his adventure in Finland and on the Cirrus T-80. He spent several minutes explaining how he figured out that the new technology that Lutts was going to release to the world to cure depression was the very same technology needed to destroy religion. When he explained the use of nano-capsules to deliver the genetic material that would change the brain.
“Ah” the Monsignor ejaculated, “that is why we could not find any trace. We were looking for a drug or retro-virus and he was using something far smaller than that. I’m going to assume these nano-capsules are made of carbon and would show up as inert clutter in the blood, if they showed up at all. You would have to be looking for them and no one had a clue to do that.”
“Yes, that is true, Monsignor. He could have Old Jerusalem drowning in those things and no one would have seen them.”
Frank then went back to his time in the plane. The Monsignor only comment was he had never heard of a jet being used as a prison. The nice thing about it is that he could blame the predicament on an error in programming. Anyone who was unfamiliar with how planes are set up with flight plans would think it was plausible. Plus he could always blame an underling and claim he never had a thing to do with the plane flight to nowhere.
Finally, Frank brought it back to the conversation and fight he just had with Lutts.
“And so you see, Monsignor, we need to figure out how to stop this madman. He controls a very large organization. I can’t say for sure that all these nano-capsules are in Finland. For all I know he could be having them spread all over the earth. It will be the perfect crime. Even if I reveal to the world his plan after they wake up atheists they will feel so good that they will be sending him chocolates. In fact, now that I think about it, this depression product will probably be unnecessary after he kills religion.”
“No”, Marianne interjected, “He has mentioned to me several times he needs the income from this depression treatment. He may not be over charging the world for it but there are millions of people who will clamor to try it. Maybe we have more time than we thought?”
“How much time?” asked the Monsignor.
“I bet no more than six months if he rolls the treatment out worldwide,” Frank said while rolling the ice around his glass.
Frank got up and threw his ice cubes in the sink that was in the room and refilled his glass with Jack Daniels.
“Once the money starts rolling in, he will start producing the quantities he needs to zap religion,” the Monsignor concluded.
“Meanwhile my life is in danger and I don’t have a clue how we can stop him,” Frank said forcefully. He slammed down his glass as a visual explanation point. I was surprised to see the Princess jolted by the loud noise of Frank’s glass.
“This is beyond the resources of the Church,” the Monsignor said while letting his body slump on the bed.
“I wonder how many in his organization know what he is up to?” Frank said out loud in a tone that almost sounded like he was just thinking out loud to himself.
There was silence in the room for about a minute. Suddenly, the Princess said, “Only one. Terrance’s assistant, Dr. Amy Larson. She would be the only one to know. Terrance would be honest to her because she would be smart enough to figure it out on her own. Everyone else would be working on a piece without knowing the purpose of the whole. Just look at the labs in Finland. Each had a specific project. Only when you combined all three do you get a cure for depression – or a cure for religion. Dr. Larson has the run of the place, she would figure it out in a minute.”
“Holy Mary, Mother of God!” Monsignor said while shaking his head.
“If she knows what is going on why doesn’t she stop him?” Frank asked the Princess.
“I don’t know. She is an odd one. I can’t make her out. I’m not sure she knows she is a woman. She works non-stop, literally. Terrance has told me he envies her ability to only sleep twenty minutes a day. She only takes one break a month for two days when she flies back to her mother in Edinburgh.”
“When is her next break?” Frank asked.
“Funny you should ask. It is always the third weekend of the month. Terrance says statically it is the slowest time of the month for business.”
“It’s the same in the news cycle, too. Journalists are always saying there is nothing but car accidents and cats up trees during the third week of the month. I’ve always took it as a myth. I need to talk to this chick. Fat chance of doing that at the lab since Frankenlutts wants me out of the way.”
“Well, it is happens to be only three days away” the Monsignor said with a smile to Frank.
“I think we all need to go to Edinburgh,” Frank said returning that smile.
The Princess continued to speak in a tone as if she was speaking out loud to herself, “My husband never does anything big while Dr. Larson is away, so we know that is another bit of intelligence that we have some time. He won’t do a product launch without her about. He has set the publicity date to be when she is gone. That is why you were asked to come because he thought he could give you the background so when he made the interview circuit your story about the Finnish lab and the discovery would run at the same time. She never takes part in the publicity. Not her cup of tea. But now he can’t depend on you to be his background man, Frank. What are you going to do?”
“This is too big a charge to make against your husband without real solid proof. If I could get the research data from his computers that would be enough. But I’ve got jack.”
“Yes Sir, you do have me. Can I do something for you?” I asked.
Everyone started laughing for some reason. It only took me a second after the laughter started before I surmised what Frank really meant by the phrase, “I’ve got jack.” Every million sentences or so I still make a mistake on meaning. Language can be so difficult to cipher, especially when you have to factor in body language and humor. My failure rate to understand what is said is still 70% lower than human miscomprehension. People have killed each other from not understanding what was said.
After a pause, the Princess went back to her thinking out loud mode, “I can’t go with you, Frank, to Edinburgh. I don’t relate to her and she barely acknowledges my existence. I’m just a fluffy princess to her. My husband was furious at my interfering, but he did let me go. He knows I fly off to London or New York on any little impulse. I need to fly off in order to show him I am back at my Princess lifestyle. I will go back to Maidstone while Dr. Larson is away. I can try and get you the proof you need. I’m no hacker and it is probably a long shot. Security is very tight everywhere, even in the castle. I’ll probably be wasting my time.”
“If I could come along, Princess, I might be of help. I might be able to bring a gadget or two that can help get into a computer. You could say you invited me to work on some project to help the poor,” the Monsignor said while toying with the silver cross hanging from a watch bob on his expensive vest.
“Perfect” Frank said, “we all now have parts to play to try and stop Lutts. Now all we need to do is try not to get ourselves killed. Are you sure you’ll be safe, Princess, after what happened in my hotel room?”
“Terrance will hear about me tearing around New York. He will realize I don’t want to make a big deal out of this. I think I will be alright.”
“I wish I could help tear up New York with you, but I best be incognito until I see Larson” Frank said while reaching out for her hand.
The Princess gave a weak smile back to Frank, but it was obvious to me she was not interested in hopping into bed right now. She was truly worried that she was in over her pretty little head.
“Gentlemen, I think it is time to separate. Monsignor, I will meet you here in three days. Good luck, Frank” she said softly and then got up without another word and left.
Frank got up and filled his glass again, “Well Padre, do you think we can save the world?”
“Not even Jesus Christ was able to save everyone, Senor Frank” the Monsignor said slowly shaking his head.
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