SWITCH

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Snipers and Scones

The door was opening as we approached. An older, distinguished-looking man with salt and pepper hair and eyeglasses stepped onto the stoop. He was smiling and holding an open blanket.

“There we are. Look at you all grown up.” Carl wrapped the blanket around me and pulled me to him. I flinched at the pain in my ribs and he released me.

“Thank you, this is wonderful, and it doesn’t smell like bleach.” I wrapped myself in the soft blanket and inhaled as much of the fabric softener scent I could. Carl looked at me with a dejected expression on his face.

“She doesn’t remember any of this Carl. It’s not just you. She doesn’t remember me either.” Ann stood on her tiptoes to reach Carl’s shoulders, as she patted him a smile appeared on his face.

“That’s okay Caly girl. It will all come back to you in time. Don’t feel bad about our visit today when it does.”

“Um thank you, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Carl is able to feel future events as well as other things,” Ann whispered to me as we made our way inside.

“Wow, well now that is really something,” Not knowing how to react to such a strange admission I tried to sound supportive. Ann and Carl both laughed at me.

“What can I get for you ladies, pancakes?” Carl was tall with a grandfatherly build, but he looked like he would have been quite formidable in his younger years.

“We are here for a bacon and tomato sandwiches and some underwear,” Ann spoke in a flirty tone. She must have known she would embarrass Carl.

“I’m sure I don’t, I know I don’t have any clothing here.” Carl stammered.

“I didn’t think you would Dear. Don’t worry I have a few things at my place. I’ll be right back.” Ann carefully settled me into a large leather chair in the corner of the sunlit living room. “How about some coffee. Carl has the best coffee; he has it’s sent in from Hawaii.”

“Sounds great.” I was hungry, but I needed caffeine.

“I have fresh blueberry scones in the kitchen. I’ll go grab them.” Carl was a great host. I imagine we interrupted his morning, but he showed no signs of imposition. Carl called out to Ann from the kitchen just as she finished zipping her coat. “I have bacon and some fresh, bakery bread. Bring a few of those huge, dense tomatoes from the garden.”

Ann patted my arm lightly. “I’ll be right back. Don’t worry you are perfectly safe here.” Stupidly I hadn’t even considered my safety.

The neatly appointed room was lined floor to ceiling with shelves, completely packed full of books. This was the most overwhelming personal display of literature I had ever seen. A fancy set of American classics sitting at eye level caught my attention. Some of the titles I recognized. Their burgundy leather covers matched the couch and chairs. The subjects and authors didn’t seem to be in any particular order, but the books flowed nicely around the room by color and size. The room was fluid and calming. The walls curved with the shape of the dome frame. The placement of the windows let in a tremendous amount of light.

I was tense, grinding my teeth, almost holding my breath. Relief washed over me as I sat there alone in the sunlit room. It was only a few minutes before Carl came back with a round glass plate of scones, grapes, sliced apples, and petite squares of cheese.

“Oh, my what a beautiful presentation.” Carl laughed as he arranged a hot mug of coffee and the plate of food on the coffee table in front of me.

“You don’t remember any of this place, do you? Carl asked with a deep curiosity in his voice.

“No, they have me confused with someone else. But it’s strange I remembered Colonel Wolfe’s name. It’s Richard.” Carl nodded in agreement and sat back in his chair. “I recognized the sound of the helicopter landing on the pad. Like the sound, the car makes when you pull into your own driveway after a long trip. I don’t know why all this is happening to me. Ann thinks she knows me. I’m afraid she is going to be very disappointed when it turns out this was a mistake. This chair is incredibly comfortable, sitting here, I feel so peaceful and calm. There’s order and lightness in this room. It feels like I’ve been here before, but I guess I haven’t been.”

“Yeah, it’s a painstaking process they take you through when they block your memory. My ability works on people’s memories and feelings. I only see tiny crumbs of memories left in your mind about our work here. Maybe it’s a good thing, Cal.” Carl took a sip of coffee and popped a slice of scone in his mouth.

“Your ability. You say it so nonchalantly, but I don’t understand what you mean.” I was afraid to even ask. I feared I might spark some odd reaction or an even more unbelievable explanation.

“There are many of us here with extra abilities. We are categorized as specialists and we augment the normal military classifications you’ve heard of.” Carl explained slowly as if any moment I would nod my head in agreement and remember it all for myself.

“Colonel Wolfe says I’m a danger to my family. Do you think he is right?” I asked before taking a sip of hot coffee.

“All of us are dangerous in our own way. Yes, you might very dangerous if you were out of control. The same may be said of any of our specialized military groups.

“Take the snipers for example. They are disciplined, competitive, and always in control. They display better than average hand to eye coordination, excellent reflexes, and compartmentalized task completions. However, if one of them went off the reservation, you could capture them, take away their weapons, restrain them, and put them in holding until they calmed down. The problem would likely be solved promptly assuming they were not heavily armed.

“They aren’t able to take anything away from us Cal. Some of us are more dangerous in that respect. You can’t detain people who can shift and astral project, or even hope to capture that person in the first place. If they can control the thoughts and actions of others, forget it. It would be almost impossible to stop someone with those skills from imposing their will and doing as they pleased.”

“Us? Why would you say us? Astral project?” He was speaking English, but I was confused by what he was saying, and he acted as if I should know all about it.

“The ability to project yourself into another room or another country if you want to.” Carl looked at me suspiciously just as Ann had when we first met.

“That’s all fairy tales and Hollywood magic Carl. Nobody can do those things in real life. Am I a sniper, is that why they brought me back here?” I carefully nibbled the corner of a blueberry scone. I could tell I offended Carl with my comments. “I know how to shoot a gun. I didn’t think twice about it, I must be some kind of ...”

Ann walked through the door with a beautiful bunch of red tomatoes and an Indian print backpack over her shoulder. “Ann, those are the biggest tomatoes I have ever seen. Do you grow them?” Carl sat still keeping his gaze on me. He looked confused.

“Hydroponic Cuostralee’s. I grow them in my hothouse.” Ann sniffed the huge, red orb. “These are my favorite for eating raw. Now I also have some nice Roma’s, but I use them for sauces.” Ann was proud of her tomatoes you could see it in the care she took handing them over to Carl one by one, they were a deep, dark red and easily the size of grapefruits.

Carl looked up at Ann. Her touch brought him back to the moment. He fumbled the huge tomatoes in his hands and then hurried back to the kitchen with them.

“Do you have your two-way Ann? Call Gerald’s office. He is worried and about to go looking for Caly.” I heard thick paper rustling in the kitchen as Carl assembled the sandwiches.

“Yes, I’ll call him. You’ve only been out of sight for twenty minutes. It’s not like he was concerned enough to go with you now was he.” Ann tapped a few numbers on her phone and leaned against the stark white wall of the dining.

I wasn’t able to hear much of her conversation over the popping of my skull while I ate. A milkshake would have been a much less painful choice.

Ann put the phone back in her pocket and started pulling winter clothes out of the backpack. She held up a new package of underwear and three white, tank-style bras. She put them on the couch next to me and continued pulling out long-sleeved shirts and two pairs of jeans. She folded it all and stuffed back in the pack before handing it to me.

“You seem to be a bit chunkier than last time I saw you, but I think these will fit. Sara and I went shopping on her last visit. She left some things behind on accident. Sara’s my daughter. You probably don’t remember her either. She was fourteen when you left. She thought the world of you, like an older sister. Let the Colonel know what you need. He will get anything you ask for.”

“Yeah, all he wants to get me is a pine box and an unmarked grave,” I remarked while popping a cheese square in my mouth. “Maybe just a burlap sack. He’s a complete asshole.”

“He may be, but wouldn’t a shallow grave be much easier than orchestrating all this. I don’t know what he’s planning, but I bet it has nothing to do with a pine box. There’s some shampoo, a nice set of coconut soaps, and a few other basics in the bottom of the bag. Hot shower and fresh clothes always make the world look better to me.” Ann was kind, and I could tell she genuinely wanted to help me. I was grateful. She was the first person here who didn’t want anything from me in return.

“Thank you for these Ann. I’m sorry I don’t have a way to repay you. Once this is all sorted out, I will send you a check.”

“Listen to you. You aren’t expected to repay me, Sweetie. Please take the bag as a gift. I hope you get some use of the clothes. Sara won’t miss them, believe me.”

There was a knock on the door. Carl walked across the room and greeted Gerald.

“How are you Carl, I see you found our girl. Thanks for fixing her breakfast.”

“No problem Gerald. Please come in. It’s been years. How have you been?” Carl was a good host, but his questions were not as benign as they appeared. “You know she is not going to be able to stomach any processed garbage. You might arrange for her to get some real food while she’s here.”

Ann patted my leg and popped up off the couch “We would be happy for her to stay with us in the north village if that works out for you Ivan.”

“Thank you, we are still deciding on the best course of action. I’m sure we will get her settled in the coming days.” I recognized this as my cue to leave. I folded my blanket as best I could manage and left it on the leather chair.

Carl walked over to me and handed me a bag of sandwiches wrapped in white butcher paper. Confusion still contorted the corners of his smile. “Come back and see me again when you can Caly. I would love to hear some more about your views on Hollywood magic.”

“I offended you, Carl. It was not my intention. You and Ann have been very kind to me, thank you.”

“I told you not to feel bad Cal. It will all make sense to you soon. Oh, and no, you are not a sniper. Besides, that’s a two-person operation and they did not bring back the wrong person. Save yourself some pain, stick to the milkshakes for a few days. I’ll make some fresh scones when you are well enough to enjoy them.” Carl grabbed me lightly on the shoulder and smiled. It was obvious to me he could sense much more than Ann let on. He knew everything I was feeling.

I took the sandwiches and the backpack Ann brought me, thanked them both again, and made my way to the door. Gerald offered his hand out to help me down the stairs and we walked out to the yard. The houses were set on beds of small dark gray rocks. The path looked like a crushed slate and quartz mix. It was all quite orderly, rugged, and beautiful in the full morning sun.

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