The next morning at the garage, Alex and Stephen are still working tirelessly on the story. They took turns taking short naps, but those never lasted long, as both were eager to get back to work. The two men had been chasing this story most of their adult lives, and they were at the finish line. So it was no surprise that they didn’t want to waste valuable time sleeping.
Sebastian was awake now, having just said goodbye to Marie and Shin, who both caught a ride with Anna back to the airport to return to their respective homes. Sebastian was tempted to ride with them, but thought he should stick around in case Alex and Stephen had more questions. Although he couldn’t see how that was possible with all of the questions that they had peppered him and the other two recruits with over the last couple of days.
He also wanted to stick around in case Pete returned. He slipped out the door last night without a word. But as they were quickly learning, that was just the way he operated. He usually made entrances the same way so he didn’t think anything of it when Pete came walking through the back door a few minutes later.
“Good morning guys”, he announced as he walked in holding donuts and coffee for everyone. “I should have known you two would still be at it. Sebastian, you look as though you finally got some rest. Good. You deserve it.”
He handed each man a cup of coffee and set the donuts on the table. Alex and Stephen each gulped down the coffee but ignored the donuts as they continued writing and talking as if in their own little world.
“So,”, Sebastian asked, “what have you been up to? You needed some rest yourself?”
“No, no. I actually had some business to take care of. I actually need to talk to you about it. All of you actually.” He said this in the direction of Alex and Stephen who turned and seemingly noticed Pete in the room for the first time. They reluctantly stopped what they were doing and made their way to the couch where Pete and Sebastian were sitting. With their attention finally away from work, they dug into the donuts.
“Is this good news or bad news?”, Stephen asked. “You seem to be in a good mood, so I’m hoping this isn’t bad.”
“Well I guess that depends. Could be considered good or bad. Depending on what side you’re on. For our side? Great news.”
The other three men in the room all breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing this but knew that Pete had more to say.
“I actually had a meeting. A very important meeting. With all the current members of what you call ‘The Keepers’.”
This got their attention. They figured he would have to eventually face his former group, but didn’t think it would be this soon. Alex quietly worried if it was a good idea to tell them about his plans now, before the story came out. After all, now they would have time to prepare and have answers for all of the accusations that they were about to face.
“Do you think that’s the right play? Showing them our hand like that? I thought we were going to have the element of surprise on our side. Now they have time to think about how to handle things when the story breaks. But I’m sure you have your reasons.”
For the first time since meeting him, Sebastian, Alex and Stephen could all see the uncertainty in Pete’s eyes. He seemed genuinely concerned about the situation, which in turn began to make his three co-conspirators extremely nervous. Sensing their uneasiness, Pete quickly recovered and stood up and made his way over to the donuts. He picked up a glazed donut and tried his best to look calm.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to worry you guys. I’m just tired is all. Sebastian, to answer you’re earlier question, yes I do need some rest. But we’re so close to the end now, it can wait.”
He finished his donut before continuing. “And I have to admit, the meeting last night was pretty intense. Needless to say they were not happy with what I had to say.”
Sebastian couldn’t help but notice that Pete kept glancing at his watch and back and forth between Alex and Stephen. He was starting to get an uneasy feeling when Stephen began coughing a gasping for air. He looked over at Alex who looked equally uncomfortable. Trying to make sense of what was going on, he glanced back at Pete, who was making direct eye contact with him now.
“I’m sorry Sebastian. I really am”, Pete calmly stated. “Alex, Stephen, this was not personal. I know that doesn’t make you feel better but it’s the truth.”
“What are you talking about?”, Sebastian asked frantically. “What did you do?” He ran to Alex, trying to see if there was anything he could do.
“Relax. It’s too late. It will be over soon. It’s mostly painless they tell me.” Pete now couldn’t bring himself to watch.
“What did you do?!” Sebastian felt so helpless as Alex and Stephen continued struggling to breathe.
“It was the donuts”, Pete replied. Noticing Sebastian’s face, he continued. “Don’t worry, it was just the chocolate ones. I know you don’t touch chocolate. It was in your file. Figured it was safe. Seeing the midsections of your friends here, I knew they couldn’t resist though. No offense guys.”
“But why? I thought you wanted our help! Did you change your mind? Was this part of your plan all along? Why not just kill us immediately?”
With what little breath he had left, Alex answered. “He needed us. He had to know what all we knew and how close we really were.”
Seemingly impressed with that response, Pete replied, “That’s part of it for sure. I was hoping to find out more, but your friend Anthony disappeared on me. It’s okay. I’ll deal with him later. But I also needed them to get you. You’re the key to all of it Sebastian.”
“So that’s what this is all about? My tracking software? I would have just given it to you if it was that important to you.”
Pete smiled and said, “Yes, that software is extremely interesting but that’s not it. I come across innovations like that all the time. It’s frustrating but I have my ways of dealing with that.”
“He needed you to get inside his own group”, Alex managed to get out. Sebastian could see him getting weaker by the second, but he was determined to get this out. “He didn’t have all the inside information of his own organizations operations so he needed someone who he could use. If he tried digging around himself, the group would have gotten suspicious. Is that close? Conductor?”
At the mention of that name, Pete’s head snapped in Alex’s direction. He regained his composure quickly though before answering.
“I see you know more than I thought. Congratulations. But that’s okay. My work is done.” He checked his watch one more time. “By my calculations, you and Stephen have about two more minutes. I wouldn’t waste the oxygen yelling at me.”
Pete walked over to the desk and grabbed the box full of notes that Stephen and Alex had gathered. He leafed through one of the folders and shook his head.
“I guess I have some homework to do. After all, I can’t erase ‘The Keepers’ from existence without all of this. Thanks.”
He was getting ready to leave when Sebastian walked over to him and grabbed him by the shirt.
“You didn’t answer me. Why now? If you’re going to destroy your own group anyway, why do you care about the truth getting out?”
Pete looked at Sebastian, almost feeling sorry for him.
“Sebastian, I know you’re not going to believe me, but the purpose of our group has always been to look out for the good of human civilization. We served our purpose. The world is ready for life after ‘The Keepers’. But if the truth were to ever get out? People couldn’t handle that. You see how many conspiracy theories are out there about groups of people controlling the world? Imagine a story coming out with proof that a group like that actually exists. Chaos. On a global scale. Society is fragile. It always has been. It’s based on a belief that we all control our own destiny and the people that we put in charge actually know what they’re doing. If this story were to come out, all of that would be over. Governments would be overthrown. Markets would collapse. Economies would be destroyed. There would be no peace and the sense of law and order that allows us to live our day to day lives would be broken.”
“I don’t think you give people enough credit”, Sebastian finally replied. “Like you said, there’s nothing that can be reported anymore that surprises the public. We’ve seen it all.”
Pete wanted so badly to believe that, but he had seen too much in this life. He knew how this would end.
“I hope you’re right, Sebastian. I’m just glad there are young people like you to lead the next generation.”
As he turned one more time to leave, Sebastian had to ask him one more question.
“What about me? What’s to stop me from writing my own story? I don’t have all the notes, but I know enough. I could write the story myself.”
“Sure you could. Tell them about this group. Tell them about how society started about five thousand years earlier than all your history books tell you. Tell them that those societies had more advanced technology that modern day. Tell them that all of this information can be found in secret locations around the world. Those have all been destroyed by the way. You tell them all of that. Let me know how that goes.”
Sebastian knew he was right before he even said it. He never met Anthony but from what he learned from Alex and Sebastian he knew going public with what he knew without proof like Anthony did would get you nowhere and you’d be labeled as just another crazy conspiracy theorist. He looked helplessly over at Alex and Stephen, but neither were moving now.
As helpless as he felt, he wasn’t through with Pete. He turned to tell him just that, but he was gone.
He knew it was hopeless, but he called 911 and stared at the door, knowing that he would never see Pete Carmichael again.