Chapter 36 – 4F 64 65 20 74 6F 20 4A 6F 79

Chapter 36 – “4F 64 65 20 74 6F 20 4A 6F 79”

September 17, 1958 – Roarke Home, Suffolk County, New York

The man pulled the papers from his briefcase in a practiced manner. It was designed to intimidate, to force compliance.

“You’re asking for his social security number?” was the cool reply from the Old Man.

Harold looked on nervously. He knew a beating and nonstop berating was in the works. It was only a matter of time. Once the phone company man left, his father would beat him senseless.

“It’s what we require,” came the assertive response. The man was apparently used to getting his way. Didn’t people understand who he represented?

“F*** you. Get the f*** out of my house.”

Suddenly the phone man was in unexplored territory. No one had ever given him this much trouble. No one dared.

But then he’d never met “The Warden” before, as Harold and his mother came to refer to the patron of the house in his absence. It was a prison they lived in and he controlled the comings and goings…usually.

Harold had figured out how to not only make free phone calls but how to get money back from the phone company. It had been foolproof until they had caught him when he tried the former trick from his home phone. He had broken that rule only once, but it had been enough once Bell security realized what someone was doing and started keeping an eye out for it. The call to a school friend overseas had been important for other reasons, so risk had been necessary.

The phone company man started to complain, to say something about how Harold had committed fraud, how the company deserved to be able to identify him in the future, to keep an eye on him, etc.

The phone rang.

“It’s for you,” the Old Man said stonefaced.

The phone company man looked confused. Who would be calling him here, on the Roarke family household’s phone?

After the man hung up, only having said a few quiet words, all of which were “yeah,” the phone company man left. He wiped the sweat that had appeared on his brow, apologized quickly, and even left the check that the Old Man had written him to cover the company’s losses on the kitchen table.

The Old Man—the Warden—looked to Harold and smiled. By defrauding Ma Bell for a few hundred dollars, somehow, Harold had at last pleased and impressed the son of a—

——

May 12, 1994 – Private Home, Greenpoint, Queens, New York

“Mr. Roarke?”

Harold Roarke “woke” to the doctor’s voice. He immediately knew nearly everything he wanted to know.

He knew the brand of the white coat the doctor wore. He knew the cost of the cologne he wore. He even knew the doctor’s social security number, the names of his immediate family, their ages and address.

What he didn’t know was how he knew. He tried to ask but could barely move his face and his throat didn’t seem to want to obey his command to vocalize.

“Don’t try to speak, Mr. Roarke. It’s unusual for anyone in a coma… this long… to recover at all. Your muscles have atrophied. It’s going to be months before you are able to speak. More time before you walk again.

“Your friends… They have been looking for any way to…”

The doctor cleared his throat.

“You now have a… a…. computer… of sorts… in your head. You can access it and any necessary information you require. Assuming it’s working correctly. This is all very, very cutting edge… Your friends they never gave up on you recovering.

“There were issues with the stemcell therapy. Did some good though. Wouldn’t have been able to make the interface work without…um…

“Well, more of that later. We are here, sir. We’re here to help you recover.”

Roarke did something he hadn’t done in twenty years. He smiled. Not a real smile. In fact, what he did must have looked hideous based on the doctor’s response to it.

He started calling up facts, news, and events that had transpired while he slept. He learned what had become of many of his old friends. Some had died. Some had risen to positions of power. The advances in technology were astounding.

At the forefront was one Eli Schnieider. The official record had said that Schneider had inherited a fortune from his deceased father. Apparently, despite the elder Schneider’s passing when Eli was a toddler, the estate had been held in trust until he finished graduate school.

Of course that was a lie. It had been Roarke’s money. Schneider had taken it away from him and left him a vegetable.

But Harold Roarke didn’t care about the details. All he could think about was how he was going to destroy Eli Schneider and Braden Nelson. The data was merely means to that end, variables to be set, functions to be manipulated, pieces of a narrative he would write to control Fate. He had something to drive him to survive, to recuperate, to pass the time: a hatred that was so cold it burned to the touch.

Roarke had gone to sleep only part a human and awoken a god. And gods had plenty of time to plan their vengeance, to place their pieces, and control the game.

—–

©2011 Christopher C. Knall

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