We had invested in some high-tech communications gear for the times that I would be venturing outside the camper van, to keep us in contact and keep Clark as informed as possible. I wore a small transciever invisibly in my ear, which functioned as transmitter, receiver, and external microphone. In that way, Clark could communicate with me, and I with him, and he would also be able to hear my conversations with others. If I needed to say something privately to Clark, I would do so in Mayan, which would sound to outsiders like coughing or clearing my throat. It felt strange wearing the electronics gear, so I used terms from the space program to hide my awkwardness with humor.
I spoke to a neighbor, who verified that Dorothy Brooks indeed lived here, and would be back in a few minutes from the store. I returned to the van. Ten minutes later a red Yamaha motorcycle came around the corner, a sack of groceries secured within a crate behind the seat.
"Is that her?" I asked.
"It's her parking spot," observed Clark.
The figure climbed off the bike, and removed her helmet.
"That's no old lady." I stated the obvious. She looked to be in her mid-twenties.
Clark smiled at the satire. "Indeed."
She secured the helmet to the bike and grabbed the sack. I started to get up, but Clark's hand rested on my arm. "That's not Dorothy Brooks."
I continued to rise. "Maybe not the one we're looking for. But maybe there's a link. I'm going to check her out -- pray for me."
I stepped out from the far side of the van, came around, and approached her. "Excuse me?" I asked.
She turned. I could see her giving me a critical once-over -- shields up. "Yes?" she said, hesitantly.
I smiled. "I'm looking for a Dorothy Brooks who lives in this area."
I introduced myself. "I'm Perry Liston, from Portland, Oregon. She used to be married to a Theodore Brooks, who went by the nickname of 'Ham.' I've got a friend who used to know him, who had been in an accident, and only recently regained conciousness. I'm trying to help him reconcile his past, fill in the gaps. And I was hoping this Dorothy Brooks could help."
She looked at me for a few seconds, then said, "My name's Dorothy Brooks, but I think the one you're looking for is my grandma. She doesn't live in New York anymore."
"Oh," I said, disappointed. "I don't know what I'm going to do now."
"Your friend was in a coma?"
"Of a sort. A rare occurance. He'd been asleep for decades." I started to walk away. "Sorry to have bothered you. Thanks for the help."
She suddenly said, "Wait!"
I stopped and turned. "Yes?"
"Hold on a second. What's your friend's name? I might've heard my mom talk about him, and she could help him."
I stopped. I didn't really want to talk about Doc Savage right out here in the parking lot. I took a shot. "I'm not sure if I can talk about it out here. Is there a place where we can talk privately -- say, in your apartment?" I suggested. As the words left my mouth I realized just how bad that sounded, but it was too late.
Her grip tightened on her sack. "Listen -- you've got ten seconds to tell me the truth or start running -- or you're going to see how hard this sack of groceries can dent your skull!"
I held my hands up, open palms facing her, surrendering. "Okay." I cautiously turned to the van. "Clark, c'mon out."
The door opened and Clark stepped out. He stood tall, and walked casually towards us. I could feel tension from Dorothy Brooks, and was praying. As Clark came to my side, I said with resignation, "Dorothy Brooks, I'd like you to meet Clark Savage Jr." Clark didn't flinch. Thank God for being in one accord.
She didn't flinch either, but just looked Clark over. "He doesn't look like Doc Savage."
"Test him," I suggested, shrugging.
She thought a moment, then asked, "What did Ham like to drink?"
Clark paused only an instant. "Sherry. But he didn't consider it to be drinking."
Dorothy Brooks froze. Her eyes went wide and her mouth popped open. "Let's go inside!" she blurted, then spun and rushed towards the apartment.
"Van locked?" I asked. Clark nodded, and pressed a button on a small box he clipped to his belt. "Secure," he announced, then we followed her.
We entered the apartment. She had put the sack of groceries on the kitchen table, and was retrieving her hastily-discarded keys from the floor. She rushed around us to close and lock the door, then whirled on us.
"But you're dead!" she announced to Clark.
"It's a long story," I offered calmly. I motioned to the living room, and started moving towards the couch. "Can we sit?"
She paced the floor excitedly. "Who can sit at a time like this? My God, this is incredible!! Grandma never talked about you -- she never met you -- but Mom's told me all about you and Ham and the rest of the team." She looked at Clark and squinted. "What have you done to yourself?" she asked candidly.
Clark answered, "A disguise. I can't go around like I used to look."
"Yeah! Sure! Of course!" She paced a few more moments, then stopped and plopped down in a chair, controlling her rapid breathing and collecting her thoughts.
Finally she asked, "So what happened?"
Clark briefly outlined the significant events. She sat engrossed in the whole thing, then she sat back, thinking.
"All you want to do is get back in touch with your past? Can't blame you." She paused, then asked, "So how can I help?"
"We came here trying to find your grandmother, but it looks like she wouldn't have been able to give us anything. Would your mother be willing to talk to us?"
"In a heartbeat, if I let her know we're coming."
She looked at me defiantly. "Do you think I'd let something like this slip past? With all Mom's told me about you -- My God, you're a hero! At least to me you are. I don't care what they said -- most of it was before I was born, anyhow." She shook her head. "I can't believe this is happening. Tell me this isn't a dream." She looked at us, then at me. "Look. I can introduce you to Mom, and break the ice. Afterward, I don't know." She pleaded with us with her eyes. "But I want to be a part of this. Please."
Clark and I looked at each other. I saw the briefest of nods. "Sure."
She leaped up out of her chair. "Great! I'll call Mom."
While she dialed, I made a brief assessment of our new ally. She stood around 5'6", and weighed maybe 150. She had a stocky build, but was nicely proportioned. Her hair was brown and closely cropped. The only noticeable jewelry were simple post earrings, a school ring worn on her right ring finger, and a sports watch with a wide leather band on her left wrist. I could see a glint in her brown eyes when she talked, and her grin was both impish and provocative.
"Mom? It's me. Yeah, I'm fine." She looked over at us and smiled. "Mom, I've got some friends here who would like to meet you. It's about Grandpa Ham. Sure. We'll be leaving in a few minutes. Love ya. Bye!" She hung up the phone. "Okay, it's a done deal. She'll be waiting. Let me get these groceries put away, and we'll get going."
I looked over at Clark and smiled. I saw a look of expectation in his face.
Caroline Brooks -- who insisted on us calling her 'Carrie' -- was a wonderful lady, and we took to her immediately. We discovered early that she was not the daughter of Ham Brooks, but -- to our amazement -- of Monk Mayfair. Ham's son Donny had been abandoned in the care of Monk Mayfair and his wife, the former Lea Aster, not long after Ham's suicide. Monk raised Donny as his own son, and the two children became close friends, eventually marrying.
Donny had been killed by a drunk driver in 1975, which eventually prompted Carrie to become the director of a local drug and alcohol rehab program. We sat around a small conference table in her office, as Carrie filled us in on the details of the previous Dorothy Brooks, showing no animosity or bitterness in her actions.
Carrie Brooks was a striking woman. She stood tall and confidant, her head crowned with flaming red hair. Her face was attractive in a plain sort of way, wearing simple wire-rimmed glasses, and I noticed Doc occasionally looking at her with some intensity. Didn't blame him. She had maintained a fine figure, subtly muscular, and showed the subdued inner strength of a fighter, I observed. Considering her lineage and upbringing, I knew I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of her anger.
We found out that Monk and Lea were still alive, and living in semi-seclusion in Oklahoma. Carrie didn't hesitate in giving us the information on how to find him -- "Dad didn't want a whole lot of people knowing where he and mom moved to; you can understand why. But I think I can make an exception here," she commented with a grin.
We continued to talk, not noticing the passage of time. The sound of my stomach growling prompted Carrie to ask, "When was the last time you ate?"
"Breakfast?" I admitted, surprised that it was early evening.
She gave us a stern, matronly glare. "Then let's get out of here and get some dinner."
She suggested a casual restaurant a few blocks away. We secured the van, and walked. The evening was cool, and it felt good to get away from that van, to spend some time relaxing with new friends. While Clark talked with Carrie, I found myself paired up with Dorothy -- 'Dot' to her friends. I learned that she was a security guard at one of the Federal buildings, which seemed to fit her. And she, too, was far from shy, especially when we discovered we had computers in common. Although the subject of our faith never came around, we still had a good time of fellowship.
The van moved slowly down the access road towards the lakefront property. It was still early morning as we got out there. The sun was coming over the hills surrounding this little isolated lake near Tulsa, Oklahoma. The house was back aways, but easy to see. Clark touched my shoulder and pointed at something near the lake. "It's him," he said. "It's Monk."
I drove in a little closer, then stopped and climbed out. We weren't sure how Monk would take seeing Clark alive after all these years, so I made the first move, wearing the transciever for Clark's benefit.
The morning was cool, and I could see the sun reflecting off the waters ahead and to my left. I moved cautiously towards the figure, about a hundred yards ahead of me. I had barely gotten halfway there when he turned to face me, still in silhouette. A voice I remembered only from the Murrow program squeaked in my direction.
"Whadda ya want?"
I stopped. "Lieutenant Colonel Mayfair?"
"Nobody calls me that anymore. Whadda ya want?" he repeated.
"Name's Perry Liston, sir. I'm from Portland, Oregon, and I'm here with a friend of yours." On cue, Clark left the van and walked slowly in our direction.
"Who's that?" he growled, not seeing through Clark's disguise.
"Do you still carry that old pocket watch of yours, Monk?" Clark asked, as he came alongside me.
Monk's hand wrapped around something in his pants pocket, while he squinted to see us clearer. Curiously, he said, "Come closer."
We moved towards him slowly, not wishing to give any hostile intentions. As we did, I was able to get a closer look at this living legend. At a distance he had looked like an elder gorilla, his arms long and appearing to stretch below the knees of his short legs. His frame was wide and showed great strength even in spite of Monk's advanced years. The hairs on his head and face were a combination of grey, white, and his original red, thus accenting his simian appearance. He wore a woodsman coat and a Greek fisherman's cap.
"Who....are....you?" he said hesitantly.
"It's me, brother," Clark said, now in Mayan. "Are you well?"
The homely chemist's eyes went wide, and I was sure I saw his face pale. I was ready to react if he passed out.
"Can't be," he said, suddenly defiant. "Prove yourself!"
"Remember the time you shot that man in the leg? I congratulated you for your humanitarianism. Then you admitted you were aiming between the man's eyes."
"Blazes!" he exclaimed. "It is you, Doc!"
We closed the distance, and Clark reached out his hand to him. "Hello, brother," he said, his voice full of emotion.
Monk took the large bronze hand in both of his. Then, without a word, the two men came together in an embrace that was almost half a century overdue. Old friends who had seen life and death together, reunited. Monk's eyes were moist, I noticed. So were mine. Although I couldn't see his face from where I stood, I presumed Clark made it three for three. After a few moments, Monk pulled away from the big man and stood back in wonder.
"It's you -- but it doesn't look like you." He took it all in. "But how?"
Clark simply smiled in return. "It's a long story."
"How'd you find me?"
"Carrie," Clark answered.
"Should'a known," he commented wryly. "She told you I married Lea?"
"Yes," replied Clark. "I'm surprised it took so long for you to settle down." Then he suddenly added in low, sobering tones, "What happened?"
"What do you mean?"
"Carrie was adopted." This was a revelation even to me.
"What makes ya think so?" he challenged.
"I had a chance to look into her eyes."
The look on Monk's face was a combination of awe, admiration, and bitterness. "Still the best, Doc. I'm surprised nobody else saw that before." He paused, daring with his eyes. "Go ahead, Sherlock -- drop the other shoe."
We all stood there in silence. I hadn't a clue to what they were talking about, but I started to suspect. Then I started praying.
Monk's shoulders had slumped, and he pivoted away from us to avoid our eyes.
"What happened?" repeated Clark.
Monk stood there for a few moments, collecting his thoughts, shifting his bulk from one foot to the other like a schoolboy caught cheating on a test. Then he looked at us and his eyes narrowed slightly. "It was after you'd left, Doc. We tried holding the team together. Dealing with the problems as they came. But it didn't work out. There was too much fighting in the ranks. Renny went first, then Long Tom an' Johnny. Pat -- I tell ya, she was a real trooper then -- tried keepin' us together any way she could. But it didn't last. So it was up to the three of us: me, Pat --" He paused with emotion. "-- and Ham."
He paused again. "Ham was so busy keepin' up the business and legal sides of things, he was always too busy for the adventures. So it was me and Pat solvin' the mysteries and fightin' the bad guys. But then, in -- 1950 -- Pat and I were in a scrap against some jokers down in New Orleans. Pat got hurt, bad. Lost her left eye." He turned to Doc. "You knew how much Pat treasured her looks. This devastated her inside! Well," he returned to his low tones. "I was there for her. Nursed her through the crisis. She became emotionally dependant on me, which I didn't mind." He paused and smiled. "You remember, we all had crushes on Pat," he confessed with a grin.
He took a deep breath. "We got close. One thing led to another -- and she got pregnant." He looked us in the eyes now, and pleaded with us for secrecy. "Please don't tell this to a soul, especially Carrie. She's my little girl," he said with pained eyes. We both nodded acknowledgment. He continued: "Pat got pregnant. She didn't really want a child, but there wasn't anything we could do. Somethings aren't as bad as they are nowadays. She had some friends in the Greek islands. She went there, and gave birth to Carrie."
He paused; the worst seemed to be over. "Pat an' me had talked this out. She didn't want to raise a child. I did. But I couldn't do it alone -- just the sight of my ugly mug would start any kid to cryin'. She needed a mama." He looked at Doc. "You remember how it was with me and Lea? She'd always been close to my heart -- and vice versa -- but I'd never been the type to settle down, until this. Me an' Pat had been a momentary fling, but Lea and I loved one another for what we were. She knew, how I still don't know. But she knew. And so we also knew it was time for me to settle down and raise a family." He looked off in the direction of the house, and his voice softened with the love he felt for his wife. "She's the best thing that ever happened to me, and she's been a good wife and mother."
"'A virtuous woman is to be prized above rubies,'" I quoted from Proverbs.
Monk turned to me and said, "Yeah. Exactly, kid."
We all stood silent for a few moments, then Monk continued his narrative. "Carrie was our first, but not our last. Lea 'n me, we've got five all told. Carrie, the oldest, of course. Our oldest boy Clark --" He gave Doc a sideways glance and grinned. "Then there's Hamilton, Mark, and Deborah -- we call her DeeDee. DeeDee's expectin' again -- that'll make eleven grandchildren." He smiled the smile of a proud papa. "Not bad, if I do say so myself!"
Clark queried, "Hamilton?"
"Yeah. A play-on-words, in tribute to my old buddy Ham." He paused and smiled. "Actually, it's very interesting. Hamilton went into law -- belongs to a firm in Coral Beach, Florida. Ham would've been honored. Y'know, some days I really miss them battles we used to have." He took a deep breath, let it out in a sigh.
He walked a couple of steps towards the house, then spun and faced Clark. "Y' ain't angry, are ya?" he asked.
Clark smiled warmly. "No, Monk, no. I'm just glad to be back."
"Ditto, Doc." He took Clark's hand once more in a strong, comforting grasp. "Let's go up to the house. I can't wait to see the look on Lea's face."
When we got to the house, Monk called for his wife. She moved slowly, but then put on a burst of speed and ran into Doc's arms -- she recognized him beyond the disguise! The petite woman with the silver hair hugged Clark's neck, and he held her a moment before lowering her to the ground. Monk suggested they have some coffee in the living room. Clark and I passed on coffee, but accepted some herbal tea. We once more repeated the details of Clark's imprisonment and escape, much to Monk's amazement.
"So what got into you to go back to those caves, Doc?" asked Monk, showing frustration.
"That last battle there. Wail had just vanished, there in the cell. There was something to it that just didn't fit." He looked over at me. "Perry would say that I didn't have a peace about it. Well, I didn't. So I returned to the caves to resolve the mystery."
"But why didn't ya tell anyone about it? You know we would'a followed you to the ends of the earth."
"I don't really know. Maybe it was just a personal battle -- him versus me, no holds barred, till one of us won. I can see now that it was an ego trip, and foolish on my part."
"That wasn't foolish, Doc -- it was downright stupid!" Monk rebuked sharply, then dropped his head. "Sorry, Doc."
"It's okay, Monk. I deserved it. What happened after I left?"
He relaxed, took a sip of his coffee, and began. "Heck, we didn't even know you'd disappeared for a couple of weeks after you were gone. Lots of us figured you just retreated to the Fortress for awhile to get a fresh perspective on things. Well, after a few weeks, and no contact, we tried contacting the Fortress to see if you were there. Nothing. We all put our heads together -- even Pat, who was really worried by that time -- and figured you might've gone back to the caves. I figured you'd gone back to settle things. So we went to the caves. Johnny took the lead, and we covered as much of it as we could before we figured you weren't there. We used every gadget we could find, and came up zilch. So we gave up, and returned to New York.
"We didn't know what to do, Doc. We tried doin' the best we could, but, without you, there was no glue holdin' us together. Like I told ya before, Johnny, Renny, and Long Tom split off to pursue their own careers -- can't say I blame them -- which left me, Ham, and Pat to run the show. Ham kept the business end working, and me and Pat fought the fights. We even got a stand-in to cover for you in some public appearances, and talked that writer fellow into putting together a couple of stories with you included, just to keep up appearances that you were still around.
"It was back in 1951 when Ed Murrow jumped down our throats 'cause of the bit at the Crime College. One of the graduates -- remember 'Big Matt' Sharp? -- got killed. Someone got the word to Murrow, and tied it in with the College. Murrow investigated it, then turned it over to that rat Kefauer. The College was ripped open for all to see."
Monk showed the agitation of the years. "It was bad, Doc. They called us every name in the book, 'specially you. They twisted the intent of the College into some sorta nightmare -- 'Better be good, or Doc Savage will take you to his Crime College and cut into your brain!' It was a nightmare for us. And, to top things off, with you gone and no one to ride herd on the businesses and stuff, the College deteriorated, and made things even worse than they looked.
"Then the government investigated it -- and us. Kefauer in 1951 and Nixon in 1952, both hot on our tails and lickin' their lips for our blood. And they got it. Ham tried to keep things intact, but, in the end, everything that wasn't nailed down got sold off to pay the reparations and damages for what the government said we did. The Empire State Building, the Trading Company, and all the other little investments we had -- auctioned off to the highest bidder.
"One thing about those times I will admit was good -- it brought all of us together to defend what we stood for."
Lea added, "Remember, Andy....Ham kept you all from going to jail on criminal charges."
"Sure did, hon," agreed Monk. "But it was a losin' battle, and, in the end, we all fell like a house of cards.
"Ham took the worst of it, 'cause he tried fighting things legally against something that was not legal in the first place. He was disbarred from legal practice, Doc. Kicked out. That did him in. Dorothy -- his wife -- stood by his side the best she could with Donny -- their kid -- but he ended up shutting her out, and slipping deeper into depression.
"He killed himself less than six months later. Gunshot. Everyone backed off after that. They figured they got their 'eye for an eye,' so left us alone from then on. Hated to see it happen that way."
"As you probably know from talkin' to Carrie, I got close to Donny and took him under my wing in Ham's absence." He paused, almost embarrassed to continue. "One thing you have to know about Dorothy Brooks. She had been a legal associate in Ham's firm, and was barely 19 when she and Ham married. Too young, if you ask me. They were married for only a short time before Donny was born, and motherhood was new and unfamiliar to her. After Ham died, she retreated into the bottle. Donny spent more time with us than he did with her -- which ended up to be a good thing. In '54 she just vanished; later we found out she'd gotten married to some dude out of Arkansas, and that was the last we heard from her. We finished raising Donny as if he was our own."
"Caroline told me how she and Donny got together," Doc said.
Monk smiled. "Yeah. Carrie used to call him 'Donnybrook,' and they were best friends throughout school. In school, whenever Carrie got teased, Donny was right there to defend her." He looked over at Lea, who knew what he was going to say next, then continued anyway. "The two of them took out a grand total of twenty-five school bullies in ten years. Nobody got in their way when they were together." He smiled with pride. "That's my girl!"
"Yes, she is," summarized Clark.
Lea left us to prepare lunch.
"So what happened to the rest of the team?" asked Clark eagerly.
"Well, you already know about Pat. She moved to the Greek islands and started a cosmetics empire that's one of the most powerful businesses in the world. She actually owns one of the islands, and runs the business from there. I hear the island's also got a health resort and spa, and hot shots pay through the nose to get their tummies tucked. She's apparently a recluse there -- kinda like Gloria Swanson used t'be -- and her daughter Penelope is running the show now."
"So I heard," replied Clark.
"Yeah. Don't know who the papa is. Rumors abound: take your pick. There's the one about her getting a quickie marriage to an over-the-hill Greek fishing mogul. Or the one having her involved with one of the presidents back in the '60s. My favorite is the one having the father as the king of a tribe in Africa." He paused with a grin. "You don't think you-know-who might be involved?"
"I doubt it," Clark replied, equally enigmatic. "He's faithful to Jane. So no one's seen Pat in decades?"
"Pat, no. Penelope, yes. She's the golden girl of the cosmetics world. Been in all the money magazines." He looked at the ceiling, reflecting. "Spitting image of Pat, though, when we both knew her back then."
"What about Renny? Long Tom? Johnny?"
Monk thought a moment. "Johnny returned to archaeology. Steven Spielberg used him as the model for Indiana Jones."
My eyes widened. "Oh, really?"
"Yeah. But they missed it by getting Harrison Ford to play the part. Johnny was a lot skinnier than that." He paused, then continued. "The last time we heard of him was back in the '80s when he went to the Middle East on a dig.
"Renny headed up an engineering firm in Los Angeles. He was quite successful. He got killed in that big earthquake they had a few years back.
"And Long Tom.....him, I dunno. The last I saw of him was Ham's funeral. And he was quieter than I'd ever seen him. Then nothing.
"To be honest, since we all split up -- except for when we got together at Ham's funeral -- we've avoided keeping in touch with one another. The team broke apart, and we've all gone our separate ways."
Clark said, "Let's not make that mistake, too. Please?"
"Agreed," affirmed Monk with a wide grin. "You know about computers?"
"A bit, but not entirely," he admitted. "Perry's the expert."
I lightly patted the PC backpack at my side and gave him a quick description of the system.
"Slick. Remind me to give you our email address," commented Monk. "Email is terrific -- makes it real easy to keep in touch with the kids."
"Yeah. We've already met Dot," I said.
Monk grinned wide. "Ain't she a pistol? I tell ya, she's a handful, but I'd want her on my side in a fight in a heartbeat!" He squinted in my direction and asked conspiratorially, "Perry, you're single, right?"
I unexpectly blushed.
"Andy!" exclaimed Lea. "That's your granddaughter you're talking about!"
"All right, all right, all right!" he conceded, but still grinned in my direction.
The day passed with reminicing and bringing Clark up on history. I sat like Mary sitting before Jesus, in rapt facination, listening to tales of adventure recounted by those who had lived it.
During dinner, then afterwards in the den, I found myself staring at Monk. Finally, he questioned my curiousity.
"What's the problem, kid?"
I started. "What problem?" I asked sheepishly.
"You've been starin' at me like I wuz an exhibit in some museum. What's the matter -- ain't ya ever seen a mug this ugly before?"
"No, sir. It's not that," I quickly apologized. All eyes were fixed on me, as I tried to collect my thoughts sufficiently. Then, after a few moments, I spoke. "You were born before 1900, weren't you?"
"Yeah. Eighteen-ninety-nine," he answered without pausing. "So?"
"You don't appear to look like a man who's close to a hundred years old."
I observed the reactions in Clark and Monk. Both shifted briefly in their seats, nervously. Then Clark spoke first. "In the early '30s I got some pills from a -- distant relative -- of mine. In effect, the pills delayed the aging process in people. I analyzed the contents, and was able to reproduce it. Then I issued it to my men."
Monk picked it up from there. "When Doc vanished, I took possession of the stuff. Being a chemist, I was best able to continue producing it. However, before the next dosage was needed, things hit the fan, and we had other things on our mind. Then the other guys split off, Pat left for Greece, Ham died, and it was just down to Lea and me. I kept us going for a couple of decades, but, in the end, we simply decided we wanted to grow old gracefully. So I destroyed it." He took a sip of his coffee, then added in Doc's direction. "Anyhow, there's always silphium."
"silphium?" I asked, eagerly.
"Yes," answered Clark. "silphium was another age delaying substance, an herb. It had the additional effect of keeping its users healthy and vigorous, without loss of fertility. On the surface it looked to be a wonderful thing, but it was not. If it would have been loosed into society and all able to partake of it, the birth rate would've mushroomed all out of proportion. God only knows what the end result would have been."
Monk nodded agreement. "Yeah. Doc ended up using his influence on the press to lay down a false story about silphium. He couldn't stop its existence, but he could make it look as if it were just another overrated plant. Another example of snake oil."
"Interesting," I commented. As I looked over at Clark, I noticed that his eyes were narrowed, in thought. I wondered what he was thinking, but decided not to ask him.
"Oh, yeah," Monk interrupted, remembering something. "Doc, they found the Fortress."
This brought Clark out of his concentration. "How?"
Monk shook his head. "Don't know. I never saw anything in the news about it, but that's no surprise. But I verified it several different ways through the Net."
Monk snorted in disgust. "If I didn't know the creep was dead, I'd figure Ol' John Sunlight might've tipped someone off. Looks like the Government got to it first. Probably stripped it clean." He paused as he challenged his memory. "The conspiracy boys are sayin' that the Government's usin' it as a sort-of secret 'way station' for UFO's and who-knows-what. Not even the tabloids mention it -- not that I read that kinda trash, mind you." He smiled innocently.
"I should have pulled that second lever when I had the opportunity," commented Doc somberly.
"Yeah," agreed Monk, unashamedly. "You should'a."
I chimed in. "Pardon me?"
Monk answered. "When we was first battlin' John Sunlight at the Fortress, back in '37, Doc opened a spot in the ice a distance away. Inside was two levers. He pulled one, which released a knockout gas in the Dome, and allowed us to get close enough to get in."
Doc continued. "The second lever was a destruct switch. It would have activated a hydraulic mechanism that would've pulled the Dome under the ice flow, and sunk it to the bottom. I refused to use it while there were people inside." He looked defensively over at Monk. "Even John Sunlght."
"Yeah. Too bad." Monk looked with stubborn determination. "I'd've pulled it in a second."
There was an uneasy silence. Then Monk changed the subject.
"Y'know, Doc....something's been buggin' me. You both came from Oregon to New York, then here. Where'd you get the money? Were you able to get through to Hidalgo?"
"Yes. Actually, it was Ham that made it possible. He had left a cache of gold with his old law firm, along with instructions on how to re-establish contact with Hidalgo."
"Well, I'll be dipped! That old shyster!" exclaimed Monk. "But how'd you know to contact his old law firm?"
I took a deep breath and prayed. I knew eventually Clark would have to reveal that he was a Christian, but we hadn't expected it to be so soon. We weren't sure where Monk and Lea stood with Jesus Christ, so we both wondered how they would take to news like this. Clark had told me somewhat of Monk's violent, arrogant, brutal past, and there was nothing about that witnessed to their present religious condition.
But then God moved.
"I knew because God showed me. You see, Monk, I'm a Christian now." The words came from Clark as simple truth of the matter.
Now Monk squirmed uncomfortably. "Well....that's great, Doc! Yeah....whatever....whatever makes you happy....is good, Doc. I'm....I'm happy for you." He looked ready to bolt and run, but Doc mercifully provided a way out.
"Monk?" he said lightly.
His head turned to face Clark. "Yeah, Doc?"
"Can we go for a walk?" He rubbed his legs. "I need to stretch my legs a bit. How about you showing me around the place?"
Relieved, Monk's eyes brightened, and he said excitedly, "Well, sure, Doc! Let's go!" And the two of them walked outside, leaving Lea and me in silence.
I wondered, then prayed, about what to say to her. But she broke the ice, and startled me down to my socks.
"You know, Perry," she started off thoughtfully. "I have been praying for this moment for years, although it's not as I thought it would happen." And she turned to me and smiled.
My eyes widened, and I marveled at the simple, meek faith Lea Mayfair had in God. And I smiled in kind, sharing a love beyond both of us. "Yeah. I'd love to listen in on that conversation, wouldn't you....sis?" Our eyes met, and I rose from my chair, walked over next to hers, and lowered myself to my knees at her side. Our hands joined, our heads bowed, and we began to pray, to intercede for the two men outside, who walked by a smooth lake and opened their hearts to one another for the first time in half a century.
We made contact with Monk and Lea Mayfair here, near Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's been a very good day. And a *glorious* day in Heaven. It's party time, because Monk Mayfair let God remove that box of rocks he'd been carrying for almost nine decades, and bring him freedom and forgiveness. And the prayers of his faithful, wonderful wife have finally been answered.
We'll be staying here awhile, until we know where we go from here. I'll try to write once a day. And I'll see what I can do about getting some pictures of this place -- it's beautiful out here.
Please, Jack, give everyone in the house a hug from me. From us. I miss 'em bad, especially at times like these.
God bless you all. Talk to you soon.
Perry and Clark....and Monk and Lea