Dream Leaper Chapter 6

It was after hours and off the books. Bob & Bettie had come in, and Bettie was carrying a small, heavy bag. I hoped my superiors would not be upset for me giving away my time to friends, but I knew I had to do this. I had to help if I could.

Bettie started, almost in an explosion. I guess she'd wanted to talk about this for a while. She looked at Bob, and then at me, and started speaking trying to keep the tension out of her voice. She didn't succeed. She didn't even bother with pleasantries.

“Bob has a … uh, hobby. A dangerous hobby. Our marriage is falling apart because of it. He needs to give up this hobby and start acting more normal.”

A hobby. Big deal. But I knew this is what she wanted to talk about, so I obliged her. “What sort of a hobby?”

“A dangerous hobby. A bad hobby. An evil hobby. It's affecting his mind and everything about him.”

Bob shifted uncomfortably.

Drugs, it had to be drugs. Well, I was sure I could help him, if – IF – he was willing to be helped. I turned to him.

“Bob, is this true? What sort of hobby do you have that Bettie finds so objectionable?” I quickly glanced at his arms and neck, looking for needle tracks. Didn't see any … but of course, there are lots of other ways to introduce drugs. What drug? Not heroin, that usually means tracks. Bettie didn't display any signs of violence; probably not methamphetamine. Could be cocaine.

Bob avoided my gaze. “Nothing, really … just a small past-time. It's only a few times a week, it doesn't interfere with my job, and I only do it after the kids go to bed. It relaxes me.”

Bettie looked at him hard. “It's wrong, it isn't moral. It's affecting you, the way you think, the way you talk … each time you do it things get worse. You're becoming emotionally distant from everyone and everything. You are going into your own world … things are getting worse and worse. I don't know what I'm going to do … you're going to end up hurting the kids. Stop it now, right now, this minute or I'm going to turn you in!”

Bettie's voice was breaking. Silently, I moved my hand to the security button. I needed to be ready if things got dangerous … and they could do any time. It was hard to consider Bob dangerous, but drugs can do things to people, warp them beyond recognition.

Bob looked at Bettie strangely, dangerously, defiantly. “No.” His voice was quiet, but there was no doubt as to the level of commitment behind that one word. He was calm, he was in control, but he was immovable.

Bettie reached into the bag. I'd thought he was taking recreational drugs, and his kit would fall out. I expected a maybe a needle or two, maybe a cooker, a nose spoon... what came out of the bag showed it was much, much worse. I was frightened, and Bob saw me press the security switch. He bolted up to the bag and grabbed for it, spilling out the contents. He grabbed the three items and bolted for the door, but not before I saw what they were.

A geometry book. The brief glance I had convinced me it was advanced geometry, far more advanced than the sort of thing naughty kids read during adolescent rebellion. Of course, my knowledge of such things is pretty limited, but in school I learned enough to know when a book was bogus, just intended to frighten people, when it was real but very basic, and when it was advanced. The cover on this book looked neither bogus nor basic. From Bettie's actions, I knew that she believed it was the real thing. Advanced Geometry … straight up. Advanced. Very advanced, and of course very dangerous.

A FORTRAN manual with a home-made binding. No attempt to disguise it. It was thick, thick enough to be more than just FORTRAN. Maybe it included a second language, like ADA or C. Or something more dangerous.

A computer laptop. Not an approved computer, a hacked one. Someone had managed to tear off the official seal presumably to remove the blocks on restricted areas of computing. This computer probably could do … things. Every year my continuing education credits included training in recognizing security threats; this was the first time I'd seen the real thing.

Bob moved really fast, he managed to get out before security cordoned off the office. Bettie was crying, sobbing uncontrollably. It took a few minutes to calm her down enough for her speech to become intelligible. She finally managed to croak out two words, “My kids, My kids”. Security finally arrived, and we gave Bettie something to calm her down.

Of course she was worried about her kids. But I knew that out there was a man with geometry, and computer, and the knowledge to put the two together to build … God only knows what. This was way, way over my head. This was bigger than a single marriage, and I shuddered to think of how he came to obtain such items. I didn't want to drag myself into this, or Bettie into this, or their kids – especially the kids – but Bob had become dangerous, too dangerous to ignore. I knew I was going to have to file a report. Bob was training himself to become a mathematician … oh, my God, how could he have gone so wrong?

Bob was my friend, but I had to rat him out. Poor Bettie! How long had she lived with such a diseased man? How did Bob let himself get seduced … I wondered if he was part of some perfidious organization. Did the Pythagorians really exist? If only I'd offered to help sooner, maybe it would not have been too late to save him. I wasn't sure what was going to happen to him next, but I knew it wasn't going to be good.

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