2016 Dec 23, Friday
DOCTOR TAKER AND THE ECHO OF THE PAST
Part 01: The Man in the Rainbow Robe
A child screams while its mother cowers nearby. A man lumbers before them. One hand gropes along the wall. The other grips a gun. Empty casings litter the floor. Sweat lines the man’s forehead. His breathing is short and ragged. His eyes shift from one corner of the room to another, as if he was searching for invisible prey.
The woman darts to the child and embraces it. The child cries its eyes out. The woman kisses it on its forehead, whispering that things would be fine.
The huge shadow of the man looms over the both of them. He raises his gun hand, aiming right at the child’s wide forehead. The scene clips to black. Screams and gunshots. The sound of crying lasts for a minute before a replay button appears.
Joseph Taker took off his jade-tinted glasses and wiped them on his thick gray coat. He raised them to the light of the solitary bulb in his office. Clear. He put them back on and closed the movie on computer screen.
Taker sighed as he reached out for a rainbow-colored mug near his keyboard. The coffee had grown cold. He drank it all in one gulp. He winced. Black and bitter. The coffee always finished the job of waking him up.
After replacing the mug on the table, he placed his hands on his temples. Clicking the metal clasps loosened the helmet that he wore while watching the video. It was heavy, with meters of cable emerging from the back like tentacles from a metallic octopus. The cables snaked across the floor behind his chair and towards a row of gigantic computer towers. The steady blinking of orange and green lights were the only splash of color among the black behemoths. It was like watching a slumbering giant as it breathed.
Taker ran a hand on one of the towers. “Get some rest,” he whispered. Removing the helmet, he laid it on his desk. He grabbed his old, scratched up wooden cane and rose from his chair. A familiar jolt in the knees. He grunted and tapped them with the sides of his cane. The pain faded. It will do, he told himself.
Before he opened the door leading out of his apartment, he paused in front of the coat hanger. He took off his gray coat and hung it from a nail. Next to it was a thinner rainbow-colored robe on a curved plastic coat hanger. He removed it from the hanger with great care and slipped it on. The weight on his shoulders disappeared. He stood straight and felt ten years younger. Adding his battered, black newsboy cap completed his look since it covered his shaved head. The helmet would not fit otherwise.
Closing the apartment door behind him, Taker hobbled to the elevator. It took him to the lobby. Once outside, he hailed a cab. Twenty minutes later he arrived at the Eternity Records Tower, its spire pointing to the blue sky. Taker paid the fare and got off. Some passersby stared at him. A child pointed, calling him Santa Claus. Taker doffed his cap and flashed a grin. His thick and matted beard must have helped the resemblance. Upon seeing his reflection on the glass revolving door, he noticed his beard was graying. He shook his head and went in.
Upon reaching the front desk, Taker took off his hat, leaned in, and whispered, “I am Joseph Taker. I have a meeting with Mr. Rico Gambino at 10:00 am today.”
The woman at the desk stared at him. “Do you mean Mr. Blazer Flame?” she asked.
Taker nodded. “The same one.”
“Mr. Flame is finishing up a song. You may wait for him in Recording Room G. It’s on the twenty-fifth floor.” With a forced smile she added, “Have a good day, Dr. Taker.”
Taker winced. “Thank you, young lady,” he replied.
A guard pointed Taker to the elevator bay. The clear glass capsule zoomed up the floors. Taker observed the crowd below shrink to dots. It was all he could do to avoid the stares of the executives in their suits and ties.
The twenty-fifth floor. Taker wove his way out of the capsule and made it right before the doors slammed shut. He fixed his coat and hat. Facing him were a row of offices, but no Recording Room G.
He thought of approaching a security guard, but the closest one available was a surly fellow leaning on a pillar. He tapped his baton on his forearm, while his eyes scanned the area. Taker decided against making contact, but he noted the man’s name: Aguilar. With his hunched back and dark gaze he more closely resembled a hungry vulture than an eagle.
Spotting a janitor mopping the floor near an office, Taker approached him. He had his back to Taker, a bucket of dirty water near his feet. He leaned in and asked, “Where is Recording Room G?”
The janitor yelped and leapt out of the way. He knocked over the bucket, spilling the contents over the floor. Some of the water stained Taker’s shoes and robe.
“What the hell was that?” the janitor cried. He held out his mop like a spear, ready to strike against anyone who approached. His breathing was labored, and Taker noted the dark circles beneath the man’s bloodshot eyes.
“Worry not, friend,” Taker said with a reassuring wave. “I am only asking for directions.”
The janitor finally noticed Taker. His shoulders slackened and he lowered the mop. The furrows on his brow also disappeared and he no longer clenched his teeth.
“You scared me there,” the janitor remarked. “Jeez.” Looking at the mess on the floor, he swore up a storm. “Oh, the boss is gonna kill me!” he exclaimed, gripping his temples. The mop handle clattered onto the floor.
A crowd formed a ring around the two. The vulture-like security guard, Aguilar, emerged from the throng, stomping towards the hapless janitor. He smacked his victim on the lower back with his baton. The victim howled with pain. The guard’s lips twisted into a sadistic grin and he struck another blow on the janitor.
“You’re gonna lose your job this time, Sanchez!” Aguilar bellowed.
“I didn’t mean it,” Sanchez the janitor cried, shielding his head with his thin brown arms as the blows went higher. “It was an accident, honest!”
Aguilar raised his baton, a murderous glint in his eye. Taker noticed it and swung his cane. There was a resounding crack and the baton flew out of Aguilar’s hand.
Clutching his wrist, Aguilar snarled as he rounded on Taker. “Who the hell are you?” he growled between gritted teeth.
Taker straightened himself and said, “I am merely a visitor here.” Pointing to Aguilar, he added, “And your conduct is unbecoming of your position. I suggest that you submit yourself to disciplinary action. But before you do, I suggest you help poor Sanchez with cleaning this mess.”
Aguilar stiffened. His fingers twitched and he looked like he was choked by an invisible hand. After a second, he grabbed the fallen mop and started working on the puddle.
Sanchez the janitor groaned. “Oh no,” he exclaimed, tearing his hair at the temples. “If the boss sees the guard cleaning instead of me, I’m finished!”
Taker pointed at him and said, “You worry too much, my friend. Worry not. Help Mr. Aguilar if you must, but first tell me where Recording Room G is. And once you are both done, go ask if you could take the day off.” Glancing at Aguilar, he added, “In fact, why don’t you request one day’s worth of leave from Mr. Aguilar? I am sure that he won’t mind given his disgraceful behavior today.”
“No,” Aguilar replied, his voice wooden and stiff, “that’s fine with me.”
Sanchez also shuddered. “Thank you, sir,” he said, his voice also as stiff as Aguilar’s. “Recording Room G’s in the corner of the hall. Inside one of the offices. You can’t miss it.”
Taker pinched the brim of his hat as a gesture of gratitude. Now turning to the crowd, he waved a hand at them, saying, “All of you will forget that this happened. Anyone who recorded videos or took pictures will delete them immediately. Then you will return to your work.”
The crowd trembled. A number of them took our their cellphones while the others left immediately. A sea of glowing screens formed as the spectators started deleting evidence. Eventually they also left, and Taker hobbled his way to his destination.
TO BE CONTINUED