5 Parallel Universes of Charles Eppes
Charlie was scribbling full speed on the whiteboard when he heard the door open. He knew who entered without even turning around.
“I’m working on it!” He said sharply.
“We were hoping for more than that Mr. Eppes.”
Charlie faced the uniformed figure. “Colonel Fleinhardt, as I have explained I am not a computer. This is not binary arithmetic I’m doing here.”
“True. With binary arithmetic at least we would have an idea as to when we’d be receiving results.”
Charlie flung a pen across the room in frustration. “Look it. I have barely slept in a god knows how long. You want your bombs, subs, lasers, troop analysis’s? Either find another math genius I can actually work with, or develop some patience because this is closer to art than math and I’m the only one who can do it!”
“Of course Charles.” Charlie looked down. He hated it when the Colonel used that sweet, understanding, tone of voice. It made him long for sunlight and his father's koi pond. “I’m going to have medical bring you some vitamins. You’re looking a little pale.”
“Will theses vitamins let me stay awake for another three days?”
“Possibly.” Charlie gave a snort and turned back to his work. “Remember Charles you have the thanks of a grateful nation.”
Don hated this place. He hated it as a kid when they brought Charlie here, and he hated it as an adult when they had to bring Charlie back.
“How’s he doing?”
The doctor shrugged, never a good sign. “We’re trying to adjust his medication right now but we’ve had no real change for several weeks.”
“So he’s just..?”
“Yes.” Don sighed. “You know we fax all his work to MIT and CalSci? One of the professors even came up to try to talk to him.”
“Did it work?”
“Not really. The professor said Charlie was redefining the very nature of math but he won’t finish a thought. Said it was like reading the next great American novel with every fourth page torn out.” Don shook his head. Charlie had always been smart. The madness, on the other hand, his mother had dismissed as ‘genius temperament’ until it was too late.
“Should I tell him about dad? I mean losing mom all those years ago... I mean that’s what got him here the first time.”
“Honestly Don I don’t know if he’ll even hear you.”
Don opened the door to the cell like room. Charlie was scribbling on a piece of paper with a soft felt tipped pen. They had tried to stop him once. He chewed through his own hand and wrote equations with his blood. When they put him in a straitjacket he screamed for three days then went catatonic for a month.
“Charlie?” Charlie didn’t acknowledge him. “Charlie, it’s Don.” Still nothing. Don put his hand in the path of the pen. Charlie looked up. “Charlie I need to talk to you. It’s dad. We lost dad. He died last week.” Don looked into his brother’s eyes and saw nothing. No emotion, no comprehension. Don began to cry. The sob came from deep in his chest, brutal and unrelenting. Some human instinct kicked in and Don felt Charlie gently pat his back and he cried even harder. Down the hall someone began to scream.
Don tried not to fall asleep. It wasn’t that after all these years he didn’t appreciate modern symphonic composition it was just that he’d been up at five a.m. chasing bad guys. The audience applauded and Don quickly sat up strait and joined in as Charlie bowed from the podium.
In the dressing room Charlie stripped off his tux as fast as he could. He loved his work but the clothes drove him nuts. By the time Don and his dad knocked on the door he was in jeans and a sweatshirt.
“Hey Charlie, sounded good tonight.”
Charlie gave a dismissive wave. “You’re too kind. The oboes were off time and the piccolos were flat.”
“Well we couldn’t tell.”
“I could. I wanted to stop the performance and throw a fit at them.”
“Now Charlie, you haven’t done that since you were twelve.”
“Only through pure force of will. So Don, how’s the crime fighting?”
Don shrugged. “We get one, two more pop up, and the paperwork’s a killer.”
“You should have stuck with the piano. Any foul mood you can just blame on artistic temperament.”
“No thank you. One prodigy is enough for this family.”
“So Charlie, what’s this rumor I hear about you taking a movie job?” Alan asked.
“Oh god, not again.” Don moaned.
“Paramount has made me an offer.”
“Charlie, name the one job you’ve been fired from.”
“Don, it was mutual artistic differences.”
“The one job.”
“I was seventeen and very full of my own ability.”
“Your tantrum made the front page of Variety.”
“Below the fold. If this goes well I can stay in town, get steady pay, maybe buy a house or something.”
“Ok who is she?” Alan asked quickly.
“You’re looking for steady work and want to buy a house. Who is she?”
“Maybe I’m just tired of the wandering minstrel gig.”
“Ok. Don’t tell us.” There was a knock of the door and a head poked around the corner.
“Larry, come in. You remember my dad and brother. Larry my tour manager.”
“Certainly. Nice to meet you again.” Don and Alan each shook hands with Larry.
“Yes. Ah Charles there’s a ravaging horde of rich, middle-aged, classical music groupies waiting for you.”
Charlie sighed. “If I wanted groupies I would have been a rock star.”
Charlie carefully removed a small thread from the cuff of his tailored suit. It had cost him a small fortune in Vietnam and it was a favorite.
“Yes.” Charlie hissed, looking up from the weekly profit reports.
“Um. Some of the guys. Well we think…”
“You think?” Charlie gave a hollow laugh “I can promise not one of you were recruited for your ability to think at anything above the most average level. You were recruited to follow my orders and take your weekly pay.”
“I know but…”
“Mr. Dickenson, I can think circles around 99.982% of the human population. Isn’t that right professor?” Larry made inarticulate noises from under the duct tape covering his mouth. “Mr. Dickenson, do as you are told and go away.”
The lackey scurried off and Charlie slinked up to the bound professor.
“You always knew how smart I was? You always said I could be great.” Charlie nuzzled Larry’s neck. “I was always so fond of you for that.” Charlie licked his way up Larry’s neck. The professor squeezed his eyes shut and tried to turn away. “We worked so well together.” The guards on the doors stared strait ahead. Charlie bit down cruelly on the ear he had been licking. Larry gave a muffled scream and Charlie tasted blood on his lips. “So why, I have to ask, what was it? What sent you crawling to my fucking brother at the F.B.I.? WHY DID YOU BETRAY ME!?” Charlie screamed at his captive. The guards shifted uncomfortably and Charlie quickly composed himself. “No matter. I’ve always been able to out think Don.” Charlie took out a large gun. “And I always have a plan B.”
Down the street a well armed team sat in a black van.
“At the academy they taught you there are no super villains sitting in high tech lairs somewhere plotting to take over the world. Well they were wrong. There’s one. Our primary target, Charles Eppes. He paints himself the cool mastermind but we believe he has personally pulled the trigger on no less than a dozen execution. He’s not above getting his hands dirty so he should be considered armed a very dangerous. We believe he may have hostages but we can not confirm and we can not pass up this opportunity. If we get him we take down half the money laundering and weapons deals on the planet. We do this and tonight we’re all James Bond, so everybody lock and load.”
Charlie shrugged off his coat and hung it by the door.
“Hey Dad I’m home.” He called out.
“Someone in the living room for you.” Alan called from the kitchen. Charlie popped his head around the corner.
“Hey! Don, you’re back in town.”
Don raised his beer not moving from the couch. “For three weeks of home games.”
“Think you’ll be able to make a game?”
“I’ll see how the work load pans out, but sure.” Charlie settled into the easy chair with a wince.
“You wince sitting down. What did you do?”
“Oh. Arrest went south.”
“What!” Don leapt form his seat. “You were shot?!”
“I was wearing my vest.”
“You were shot!”
“I’m fine. Just got a hell of a bruise.”
“My own brother doesn’t tell me when he gets shot.”
“You were batting .528 against the Yankees. I didn’t want to put you off your game.”
Don shook his finger at Charlie like he was a child again. “Next time you get shot I want to know. I don’t care if I’m batting a thousand.”
“Now show me this bruise.”
“Come on, manly comparison of injuries. Shirt off.” Charlie made a face and pulled up his shirt. Don winced.
“Ouch. Looks like you got run over guarding home.”
“We’ll, just ‘cause the bullet stops doesn’t mean the kinetic energy does.”
“Hold on.” Don disappeared into the other room and came back with a jar. He tossed it at Charlie. “Here. Rub this on.” Charlie unscrewed the jar to find foul smelling green sludge.
“Dare I ask?”
“I’ve got no idea. Enrique has some witch doctor back home brew up vats of the stuff. Probably got pine sap and chick gizzards but it works.” Charlie dipped his fingers into the sludge and rubbed it on the large bruise. To his amazement it actually began feeling better.
“I should take this in. Let the lab boys play with it.”
“Have fun.” Don settled back onto the couch.
“So how’s the road been?”
“Oh you know, drugs, booze, fast women.”
“I’ll buy the first two.”
“Hey. I have groupies.”
“Do you sleep with them?”
“Ok.” Charlie nicked Don’s beer.
“Hey yourself.” Charlie took a few sips and handed it back “Say Don, do you remember Agent Reeves, Megan. You met her last time you were in town?”
“Um…yeah…crime fighting shrink. Why?”
“No reason. She was just asking after you.”
“Asking after me?”
“I think she likes baseball.”
“No way Charlie. You are not setting me up.”
“Come on. She’s smart, gorgeous.”
“No. I got enough to worry about with a brother in the FBI. I do not need a girlfriend getting shot at to.”
“Well at least try to be nice. Dad invited her for dinner.”
Don sighed. “God save me from know it all, crime fighting, busy body, little brothers. Couldn’t you have just become a teacher or something?”
“Come on Don, where would be the excitement in that?”