Something about the man called Doctor Occult made Detective Brian Walker feel he could trust him. Obviously, his own doctors felt the same way, or they would have never released him into the man’s care. As he finished getting dressed, the man re-entered his hospital room.
“Are you ready?” Occult asked.
“I’ve just got to sign some papers first, then we can go,” Brian told him. “If you want, you can go bring your car around, and I’ll meet you downstairs when I’m finished.”
The man just smiled. “I never said anything about having a car.”
“Then how are we going to get where we’re going?”
“You’ll see,” Doctor Occult said as he turned and walked back out into the hall.
Brian shrugged. As a detective, he felt he should have been more curious about Occult, but for some reason, he didn’t.
One minute, the two men were standing in a hospital elevator, and the next, Brian was fighting off a wave of nausea as he found himself standing in a laboratory of some sort. He felt himself beginning to sink to the floor when two sets of hands grabbed him and helped him remain upright.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be OK in a minute,” said a male voice to his right. “I felt the same way the first time the good doctor teleported me.”
Sure enough, just as the man had said, Brain began to feel better. Once his head cleared, his first instinct was to get a good look at his surroundings. His suspicions about being in a lab were confirmed immediately. Tables were positioned throughout the room, each one covered with tools or electronic equipment. His eyes were then drawn to the large red submarine setting in dry-dock. It was one of the most incredible things he had ever seen.
Then he turned and saw who was standing to his left.
“Hi,” she said. “My name’s Kelli. Kelli Lockhart.”
For a moment, the detective couldn’t speak. When his brain finally got his attention, he spoke. “Sorry. I’m still a little woozy. My name’s Brian. Detective Brian Walker. I’m pleased to meet you.”
“Oh, great,” came a voice from his right, the same one he had heard a few moments earlier. “Just what I needed — competition.”
Brian turned and saw a young man smiling. The man stuck out his hand. “I’m Thomas John Dalton, but you can call me T.J.”
The two shook hands.
The detective looked around and found Occult walking toward him with a cup of coffee. “Here,” he said as he handed Brian the cup, “this might help settle your nerves.”
Brian thanked him and took a sip. “This hits the spot,” he said.
“Follow me,” Richard said. “I would guess that, right about now, you would really appreciate some answers.”
The detective nodded as he took another sip of coffee.
Richard, accompanied by Kelli and T.J., led the newcomer to a small office space. The small room already held two occupants, an elderly woman who was sipping coffee of her own, and a gentleman who appeared to be roughly the same age as Occult. The man was just finishing up a telephone conversation.
“That’s right,” he said to whoever was on the other end. “I should be home in a week, no later than two. Don’t worry, I know when classes start again. There’s just something here that requires my attention. OK, I’ll talk to you when I get home. I will. Take care, and I’ll see you soon. ‘Bye.”
“So, Professor,” T.J. said with a grin, “I didn’t think you were joining our little group.”
“I’m not, officially, but I have offered to lend Occult my assistance this one time.”
T.J. laughed. “Yeah, sure. This one time.”
Doctor Occult smiled. “Detective Brian Walker, let me introduce Professor Richard Raleigh.”
He let the two men shake hands before introducing the other guest. “And this is…” Occult paused, unsure of how to introduce a woman who called herself the Witch.
The woman sensed his reluctance and introduced herself. “I am Abigail Standish. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“It’s nice to meet you, as well,” Brian replied.
“So, Detective,” Occult said, “I would imagine you are ready for some information.”
“Yes,” Brian said, nodding, “that would be nice. ‘Who are you, really?’ and ‘Where am I?’ are the first ones to come to mind.”
“I’ll answer the ‘where’ first. You’re still in Charleston. As to who we really are, that’s a little bit tougher to explain.” Doctor Occult paused. “We are… here to find a friend.”
“I’ll accept that, for now,” Brian said. “Now, why am I here?”
“Believe it or not, that one is somewhat easier to answer. You are here because you posses certain abilities that have begun to manifest.”
“What do you mean ‘abilities’?” Brian asked.
“Do you remember the last thing you said before you blacked out in the police station?” Occult asked him.
The detective thought for a moment. “They said that I kept repeating over and over that I was the king. Even I thought that I had lost it when they told me that.”
“Yet, the doctors could find no evidence of anything out of sorts with your normal mental state,” Doctor Occult told him.
“Doc, you’re starting to sound like you have some idea as to what happened to me.”
“Do you believe in the supernatural?” Occult asked him.
“With guys like Doctor Fate and the Spectre making the news as far back as I can remember, I would have to say there is certainly enough evidence to. Why?”
“It appears that what you experienced was supernatural in nature,” Doctor Occult told him.
“OK. Please stop the bus; I’d like to get off now,” Brian said.
“Sorry,” Occult replied, “but I think this is one ride you have to take to the end.”
“So, I’m like the Spectre,” the detective commented.
“Not hardly,” Abigail interjected. “There’s isn’t anyone like the Spectre.”
“Do you remember what you were saying when you collapsed?” Doctor Occult asked Brian.
“Not really. They told me that I had become delusional, claiming to be king,” Brian said.
“Your exact words were, ‘I am King.'”
“How do you know?”
“Because I heard them, as well.”
Confusion quickly etched its way across Brian’s face. “I’m really lost now.”
“What you heard, what we heard, was a call from somewhere else. Since your mind wasn’t prepared for the sudden assault, it tried to shut itself down in defense. I, on the other hand, am used to such things and coped a whole lot better. As to why the message said ‘I am King,’ it’s because that was who sent it. The King is the one we are looking for, and we need your help to find him.”
The detective cocked his head to the side slightly. “But, if you heard him, too, then why do you need me?”
“Because the test results of yours that I saw lead me to believe that you might be able to trace the King’s mental cry back to its source. Will you help us?” Once he had finished speaking, Doctor Occult walked over to a window that looked out at the lab.
“I would be glad to help,” Brian told them, “but I don’t know if I can.”
Doctor Occult turned around. “I can help you help us.”
“How do you propose to do that?”
Dr. Richard Occult looked at the detective and spoke one word. “Hypnosis.”
“Detective Brian Walker, if you can hear me, raise your right hand.”
Slowly, the sleeping man did as he was told. Doctor Occult nodded to himself in satisfaction. He was surprised at how easily the young man had slipped into the trance; he took it as a sign of trust.
“All right, Brian, let’s begin. I want you to picture yourself standing at the beginning of a small stream. Do you see the stream?”
When Brian nodded, Occult continued. “This stream is your gift, your power. Let your mind follow the stream to its destination. Can you see where it is going? Good. Now, I want you to step into the stream. Feel it flowing around you… over you… through you. Quit walking and let the stream carry you. How are you feeling now, Brian?”
“It’s exhilarating,” the sleeping man responded.
“Do you feel the power?”
“You’re doing fine. Just let me know when you reach your destination.”
“Man, this is weird,” T.J. said.
Kelli turned in the direction of the voice. “What do you mean, ‘weird’?”
“I don’t know. Just being invisible, I guess,” he told her.
“So,” Kelli asked, “have you decided on a codename?”
“I hadn’t really decided, yet.” T.J. went silent.
“Don’t do that,” Kelli told him, “I can’t keep track of where you are when you quit talking.”
“I think that’s the idea,” Professor Raleigh laughed.
Abigail gave the man a wink. “He’s probably… oh, what’s the phrase your generation uses…? Oh, yes, he’s probably checking you out.”
Oh, man, T.J. thought to himself. It’s a good thing they can’t see me. He quickly, and quietly, walked from behind Kelli and over near the sub.
“He better not be,” Kelli laughed.
“I’m over here at the sub, trying to think up a good name,” T.J. said, defending himself.
Abigail and Richard began to laugh. “And which is redder?” the woman asked. “You or the submarine?”
“OK,” Kelli said, smiling, “leave him alone. I, for one, believe him.” With that, she turned her back to the sub and walked to one of the tables covered with electronics, adding a little extra wiggle as she went.
The invisible T.J. groaned to himself as the older couple laughed even harder.
Brian found himself completely immersed in the power. As panic began to set in, from far away he heard Doctor Occult’s voice calling to him.
“You need to calm down,” Richard told him.
“The stream has become a river; it’s threatening to carry me away,” Brian responded, his voice filled with apprehension.
“The river is only responding to your state of mind. If you can calm yourself, then the river will do the same.”
Richard watched as the young man took a couple deep breaths. “The river should now be calm. Can you see your destination?”
“I see a glow in the distance. It’s like seeing the sun rising over the ocean.”
Amazing, Richard thought. It appears our friend has quite a bit of potential. “Let us try a little experiment, shall we?”
“Are you sure I’m ready?”
Doctor Occult smiled. “You have already shown that you can control your abilities by calming the river which represents your power. I think you are already.”
“If you say so,” Brian replied. “What do you want me to do?”
“Remember the sound of King’s voice. Can you hear it? Good. Now, I want you to place your hand above the water in your mind. Slap the water and watch the ripples flow away from you.”
“Let your mind flow outward with the ripples and concentrate on King’s voice. If this works, we should be able to get a better idea as to his location.”
Brian took another deep breath. “Here goes.”
“Well,” Kelli asked as T.J. appeared before her, “have you thought of a name?”
“The only thing I could come up with was the Hood,” T.J. told her. “I know it doesn’t sound very flashy.”
“I like the name,” Abigail said as she and the professor joined the two young people. “It is simple. Things are becoming too complicated nowadays, anyway. Keep simple what you can; it will make life easier.”
As the four stood talking, Doctor Occult opened the office door and walked out, followed closely by Brian. By the look in his eyes, they could tell that Brian was seeing something other than them.
“Let’s plan our next step,” Occult told them. “We know where the King is.”