The Thief of Souls

I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t laugh.  I didn’t even smile.  I had no idea what was going on.  I told Tom the same crazy story I had told the cops.  My surveillance of Lane and his youthful chauffeur; their meeting with the blonde girl; what I saw in the basement; the contraption strapped to the blonde girl’s head with wires leading to the mysterious humming apparatus against the wall in a brightly lit room, like a laboratory or something down there; and, finally, me getting bopped on the head;  floating in and out of consciousness after that, and waking up some time later in my car in some park in the middle of nowhere, with Lane and the blonde girl unconscious in the backseat.  It sounded ridiculous and made no sense.  Tom didn’t seem to have an answer either.

In the next few days, I learned some additional facts that didn’t make much sense.  For instance, during the two days I had been kept against my will at the Rostow mansion,  it had been conveyed for $1.00 from Paul Lane to one Hector Jarvis.  I dug around various sources and learned enough about Jarvis to decide that he had been the youthful chauffeur.  The day after the property was conveyed, Jarvis sold it to an Arabian businessman in a cash deal for a rock bottom price.  Not only that, but the bank accounts and stock certificates that had been put in Lane’s name after Rostow’s death had been transferred by Lane to none other than the mysterious Hector Jarvis.  For his part, Jarvis had cashed out both the accounts and stock certificates.

Not surprisingly, after these transactions, Jarvis was nowhere to be found.

But one thing I did know, Nancy Lane had been right in her conviction that the Paul Lane who had divorced her was not the same Paul Lane who had now returned home.


The mystery of the experience would not stop bothering me.   I started digging on the internet again, thinking that the solution might lie somewhere in Desmond Rostow’s past.   His last position, before escaping into obscurity in 1971, was on the faculty of the applied electronics department at the University of Buffalo.  I located an old directory on microfiche at the school library and learned the name of his contemporaries from back then, thinking they might lead somewhere.  Call it instinct or something that made me a decent enough private investigator, but that research eventually led me to Dr. Frank Addington, now a doddering old man squirreled away in a fairly decent nursing home in the far suburbs.  And it was Professor Addington who helped me solve the mystery, at least partially, though nobody except Lane, the blonde girl, and perhaps Mrs. Lane and Tom Bridge would ever believe it.

Addington was pushed in a wheelchair into the day room to meet me by one of the nursing home orderlies.  I had asked to see him on the pretext that I was writing a book about Rostow.  Addington was old, but still sharp, probably something like a 160 IQ.  He’d had his share of academic success, important papers, awards, though nothing like Rostow.

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