Ephram didn’t remember the point where he had passed out, or what had caused him to finally drop off. But what woke him up was clear enough.

He gasped as he was splashed a bucket’s worth of cold water over him, then again as he was overtaken by a paroxysm of shivering. It had been three days, and he couldn’t have stayed awake any longer. Not at least when his Employees had all gone home, to sleep. None of them had much of an interesting home live, with the exception of Benny. He and his teenaged daughter had what looked like a spectacular row the second evening. Maybe he’d suggest some counseling when he got back to Columbus, though the trick would be in explaining why.

His captors, apparently had surveillance everywhere his people in the Columbus office went. Their cars, the restaurants they ate in. their homes. Complete. Effective. Impossible. A part of him was pleased he’d uncovered this Enlightenment. The rest of him was appalled. This wasn’t remotely the kind Enlightenment he had been looking for, or it seemed, could easily endure.

He twisted, trying to ease the aches that had set in, in his lower back, shoulders and elsewhere. Ephram Ralston Palantine wasn’t as young as he used to be.  Fifty-five next November, in fact. Not old, yet.  But soon.

It hadn’t been long certainly, since he’d passed out. Nothing much had changed from what he saw. He didn’t need much sleep to recover, but he guessed he’d been given less than an hour. To much of this and whatever he saw, what ever his captors wanted him to see would be worthless anyways.

Shivering involuntarily, he glared up at the big rugby player of a man in a black suit who stared at him from behind a black featureless mask. The man, or at least his organization was rather theatrical in their behavior, but also competent enough to catch him unawares. Or perhaps, he’d just been careless wandering around the ghost town above. There had been nothing about the abandoned mining community above them that suggested there’d been any inhabitants living in the area there for years, except for a recently planted marijuana crop on the outskirts.

However, he’d as yet been unable to figure out what his captors particularly wanted from him. Not to kill him, certainly, and not to derive secrets from him. They appeared to have plenty of surveillance of his organization.

What then?

Maybe to actually offer him what he’d come here to find. If that was the case, They had a rather convoluted way about it.

Palantine had to admit it piqued his curiosity. Figuring out what exactly the man wanted from. Surely, he was at least half as smart as his captor was.

“Not going to sleep on me again, are you?” the man finally asked.

“Just a couple nods,” Palantine replied with a defiant grin. “It’s not like you’re offering much entertainment. You’re not showing me anything I haven’t seen before.”

“Is it entertainment you came here for?” the man sneered.

“Or at least something at least to make this stay worthwhile,” Ephram told him. “At least at the Carlton I’d get a chocolate on my pillow and a thousand channels of porn. Not to mention free wifi.”

The man laughed.

“We’ve been here for three days,” he tried to explain. “And you have yet to ask me anything of substance. What is this about? Are you ready to tell me yet? Or do I have to guess?”

He’d been allowed to use the bathroom at least, under guard, of course. That made him all the more curious. They must have expected an escape attempt. On the other hand, he had been captured so rarely. this was an educable moment. And he’d also been through much worse.

“You’re Ephram Palantine,” the man offered. “You are a multi-millionaire. You operate a number of your special franchises around the world. You delve into the mysterious, supernatural, unexplained phenomena, all manner of unsavory enterprises, that few speak of, or at least live to speak of. You break whatever laws you think you are able to, without consequences.”

“I tend to draw the line at kidnapping and unlawful confinement,” Palantine offered.

“Do you?”

“Most of the time,” he acknowledged.

To achieve some objectives, force was necessary. But it was to achieve the best ends. That’s what he’d always told himself, and he was very persuasive when he had to be.

“Yes, but at what side of that?” the man stated. “You’ve been on the other side of this before. You have enemies. With their own objectives.”

Ephram had to nod. He had enemies. And he had been subject to their whims. Many times. It was all part of the job. Part of the mission.

“So is that how you see yourself?” he asked the man. “My enemy?”

The man narrowed his gaze.

“Is that how you see me,” he replied. “Is it all that simple to you.”

Now they were getting somewhere.

“No,” Ephram admitted. “But if we are to achieve whatever here, it would help to see things from your perspective.”

“Brighter than you seem,” the man noted.

“On occasion,” Ephram agreed. “Why am I here?”

“You’re here, because we are permitting you to enjoy a taste of your own medicine, before you face what you truly came here for, what you truly deserve.”

That sounded dramatic, even ominous. Perhaps they were an enemy. But what kind?

Go to Chapter Seven

Go to Chapter Nine

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