Monday, November 30, 2015

Chapter Twenty Four

Harold had needed to turn off of the paved road and onto a dirt road in order to get around the lake to where Dr. Porter appeared to be working.  The minivan clunked and moaned as they drove over bumps and potholes, but apart from the noise seemed to handle driving on dirt far better than driving on pavement.  After a particularly nasty pothole, Alex was glad they were in the minivan and not his Mustang.
The dirt road wound around the lake, moving in and out of the woods that surrounded the lake.  Every time they came out of woods into a clearing and could see across, it seemed as if the light they were trying to reach was getting not just closer, but more intense.  Shadows of the vegetation at the edge of the water were thrown into sharp relief, and cast long shadows across the water.
“It looks as though she’s already made up for lost time,” Harold said. 
The minivan hit another hard bump, and seemed to lose power then.  The engine was still running, and Harold stepped on the gas to try and break the minivan free of whatever was slowing it down.  All he succeeded in doing, however, was revving the engine as the minivan coasted to a gradual stop.
Trying to shift into other gears resulted in more engine revving with no movement.  Even reverse was useless.  Harold shut off the engine.
“I guess we’re going to have to go the rest of the way on foot,” Harold said.
He and Alex got out of the minivan, and started walking quickly in the direction they’d been driving.  The ticking sounds, clanging, and groans of the stopped minivan quickly gave way to the sound of crickets and frogs as they walked.  And then, curiously, to silence.
“Do you hear that?” Harold said quietly.
Alex strained, and listened as hard as he could manage.
“Hear what?” Alex finally said.
“Everything has fallen silent,” Harold said.  “The creatures around this lake are keeping a low profile, all of a sudden.”
“I can’t say I blame them,” Alex said.  “This stuff going on right now can be officially classified as spooky shit.”
A wave of the strange sensation Alex was now becoming way too familiar with rushed over them.
“So what is it that causes that feeling, anyway, Harold?” Alex said as they hurried along the dirt road.  They were nearly jogging, and Alex hoped that a bit of conversation would keep his mind off of the fact that the muscles in his legs were starting to burn from the activity.
“It’s the reaction to opening the door between our worlds.  It’s kind of like feeling the heat generated from friction,” Harold said.  “We could measure it, actually, if we had a feather and ruler at our disposal.”
“Maybe another time,” Alex said.  He was starting to get winded, but he kept hurrying along with Harold.
Alex and Harold were able to see Dr. Porter clearly now, as well as several of the ‘angels’.  The weird sensation had become a constant again, as it had in Dr. Porter’s cabin, and was getting stronger the closer they got.
The two of them reached the clearing where Dr. Porter was working.  The ‘angels’ seemed more distinct now than they had in Dr. Porter’s cabin.  Alex noticed they had almost human faces now.
Dr. Porter appeared to be conversing with them excitedly.  She had not yet noticed Alex and Harold.  Alex noticed the disks that Dr. Porter had run off with were now floating on an inflatable pool toy she was using as a table.  Dr. Porter stood in waist deep water, holding on to the disks on the pool toy.
Alex noticed one of the ‘angels’ seemed to be looking at him and Harold.  Then another, and another, until all five of the ‘angels’ were looking at the two of them.
“That can’t be good,” Alex said.
“No, it’s really not,” Harold said.
Dr. Porter whirled around in the water and faced them.
“You two again?  You’re very persistent, I’ll give you that.  You’re too late, though, I have all of the information I need to open the doorway between our worlds, and carry on Thomas Smith’s great work!” Dr. Porter said.
“So much for stealth,” Alex said.
Harold walked forward to the edge of the water, and said, “Please believe me when I tell you that opening the door isn’t what you think it is.  You might think that you’re in control now, but you’ll lose any control over what happens once the door is open.”
Dr. Porter laughed, and said, “What would you know, butler?  They’ve told me all about you and your manipulations.  You’re simply a small minded fool who would keep great minds from flourishing.  Soon I shall have understanding of the great mysteries of the universe, while intellectual cowards like you will be trembling at my feet.”
“I know because I’ve seen it before, Dr. Porter,” Harold said.  “I fear the one left trembling will be you, however.”
“You lie!” Dr. Porter said.  “And you’re too late, the door is already opening.”
“Oh bugger,” Harold said.
The glow coming from the ‘angels’ increased in intensity, and they became even more well-defined.  They were certainly similar in shape to humans, and had similar facial features, but there was still something alien about them.  They were a little too thin, and their eyes were a little too big.  They appeared to be smiling, as well.  It was not a gentle smile.
The water underneath Dr. Porter and the floating pool toy was beginning to glow as well.  At the moment, it was only bright enough to look as if there was a light bulb held underwater, but the light was getting brighter and brighter every minute.
“Have you got any bright ideas on how to stop this, Harold?” Alex said.
“No, I’m fresh out of ideas at the moment,” Harold said.  “I think our best bet is get the artifacts away from Dr. Porter and hopefully break the connection that is opening the door.”
“How?  Like run up there and grab them from her?” Alex said.
“That’s what I have in mind, yes,” Harold said.
The light under and around Dr. Porter was getting brighter still.
“OK, why not?” Alex said.  “Let’s do this.”
He and Harold ran forward into the lake.  The water was shockingly cold, and Alex nearly fell in when lost his footing on a slippery rock.
What stopped him was one of the ‘angels’ catching him and holding him tightly by the wrists, keeping his arms above his head.  It grinned at Alex.
“Hey!  You guys aren’t supposed to be able to do that,” Alex said.
Harold made it past the other ‘angels’, and reached the spot where Dr. Porter was standing.  She looked shocked that he had dared to get so close to her.  The water underneath them was glowing ever brighter, and was beginning to move with strange currents and eddies.
He used Dr. Porter’s surprise to his advantage, and easily grabbed the artifacts out from under Dr. Porter’s hands.  He waded quickly back to shore.
“Those do not belong to you!” Dr. Porter said as Harold moved away from her.  “But it doesn’t matter, the door is still opening.”
The light coming from under water began to shine upwards, creating a beacon of white light pointing straight up into the sky.
“I have been invited to learn from the greatest minds in the universe, and I have accepted their invitation!” Dr. Porter said.
“You really shouldn’t,” Harold said.  “It will be much better for you if you don’t, in fact.”
Dr. Porter laughed again.  “Farewell, butler,” she said, and vanished down into the water.
“Damn,” Harold said.
“A little help over here?” Alex said.  Struggling against the ‘angel’ had proven useless, and he hoped Harold had some kind of trick for getting him free.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Minor.  You’re going to have to wait a moment,” Harold said.
“What?” Alex said, as Harold set down the disks on the shore, ran back out into the lake, and dove into the light Dr. Porter had just vanished into.
“I just don’t believe this,” Alex said.  So far the ‘angel’ had only been holding him in place, but Alex really didn’t like the way he, or she, or it, was leering at him.  And now Harold had vanished to where ever it was that Dr. Porter had gone.  He watched the spot where Harold had dived underwater, and hoped that whatever came up out of there next turned out to be nothing worse than a soggy butler.
The light seemed to be dimming, in fact, and Alex had another scary thought:  what would happen if Harold didn’t come back out of there in time?
The water continued to swirl and move, and Alex thought he could see faces appearing and disappearing under the surface.
The light dimmed further, and Alex really began to worry that Harold might not come back up out of the water.   As near as he could figure, Harold had been underwater for several minutes.  Alex had no idea how long Harold could hold his breath for, be he knew that he himself could barely hold his breath for over a minute.
Just then, as he watched, a shadow appeared underwater.  Seconds later, Harold’s head broke the surface of the water, followed by his shoulders, and eventually the rest of him.  What’s more, he was dragging Dr. Porter up behind him.
She began shouting at him the moment they broke the surface.  “Damn it, let me go at once, you great, British ape!”
“I’m sorry Dr. Porter, I can’t do that,” Harold said. 
He pulled her along with him up to the shore, where he finally let her go.  She tried to run back in to the water, but Harold blocked her from doing so.  He produced a small length of cord from one of his pockets, and quickly tied Dr. Porter up.  It happened so quickly that Dr. Porter barely had time to say, “Hey!” in protest before Harold had finished binding her arms and carefully set her down on the ground. 
Harold then picked up the artifacts from where he had left them and walked back into the lake.  He stood over the spot the two of them had just emerged from, and began muttering something that Alex couldn’t hear.  The light coming from beneath the water quickly began to dim, and a couple of moments later Alex was able to get his hands free from the ‘angel’ who had been holding him.
Alex noticed the ‘angels’ were becoming less and less defined, and getting dimmer and more transparent as Harold did whatever it was he was doing.
The light coming from underwater was completely gone after a couple of minutes, and soon, Harold was simply standing in a dark lake, holding on to the artifacts by himself. 
“What the hell just happened?” Alex said to Harold, as Harold came walking back out of the lake.
“Dr. Porter made the same mistake Thomas Smith made,” Harold said.  “Luckily for her, this time I was there to pull her back out of their world before the door closed again. “
Dr. Porter was raging at Harold from where she sat.  He ignored her for the time being.
“I don’t think she realizes how lucky she is, yet,” Harold said.
“Was that dangerous for you?” Alex said.
“Extremely,” Harold said. 
“Why did you do it?  She clearly wanted to go,” Alex said.
“Because I couldn’t bear to see someone else meet the same fate that met Thomas Smith,” Harold said.  “If he was lucky, perhaps he met with a quick death.  On the other hand, perhaps he’s been alive all this time as well.  Perhaps he’ll even outlive me, there in that other world.  I couldn’t let someone else go through that, knowing what I know.”
Alex thought about that quietly for a moment.  Finally, he said, “So what are we going to do with her now?”
“Good question,” Harold said.  “First things first, let’s get moving back towards civilization.  Dr. Porter and I are soaked through, and it looks like you’ve gotten a bit damp as well.”
Alex and Harold helped Dr. Porter to her feet.  She had stopped her angry tirade, and fallen into a sullen silence. 
“Is your car parked nearby?  It’s a hike to ours, and ours broke down to boot,” Alex said.
Dr. Porter glared at him, and stayed silent.
“OK, we’ll walk then,” Alex said.
He and Harold each took one of Dr. Porter’s arms, and led her back towards where they had left the minivan.  Harold took his phone out of one of his pockets, and discovered it wouldn’t turn on after the adventure in the lake.  He asked Alex if he could borrow his phone, and called Mr. Darcy to see if transportation could be arranged for the three of them, and to have something done about the minivan.
“Our ride should be here in a couple of hours,” Harold said.  “I’ve told them how to find the van.”
A little while later, the three of them reached the minivan.  Harold opened the sliding door, pulled out his luggage, and put the remaining artifacts inside.  Keeping a firm hold on his luggage, he gestured into the van, and said to Dr. Porter, “Please get in and stay out of the weather, at least.”
Dr. Porter glared at him and Alex, and appeared to be weighing her options.  She finally shrugged and got into the back seat of the minivan.
She sniffed, made a face, and said, “What a piece of shit.”
Alex took a deep breath to keep his sudden annoyance in check, and said, “We’d have picked you up in a nicer car if you hadn’t arranged to have mine smashed as part of your grand scheme.”
He walked around to the back of the minivan. 
“Please stay here,” Harold said to Dr. Porter, and closed the sliding door. 
He went and joined Alex at the back of the minivan.  They stood in silence for a couple of minutes.
“Are you going to bring the artifacts back to the museum in London?” Alex said.
“Of course, Mr. Minor.  They’re not of any use to me any longer, and at least if they’re in a museum I’ll have a good idea of where they are at any given time,” Harold said.
“I would have thought you’d plan on putting them in a safe deposit box.  Or maybe invest in some new luggage to hide them in,” Alex said.
“No, no, back to the museum they’ll go.  I expect they’ll be largely forgotten about again, and if anyone happens to take an extreme interest in them sometime in the future, well, I’ll be there to bring them back again,” Harold said.
“Back to an earlier question, then.  What are we going to do with Dr. Porter?” Alex said.
“Well, we could bring her home, give her a stern talking to, and then be on our way.  I’ve also heard one of our co-workers has a penchant for leaving troublesome people on the side of the road in a bordering state with a coupon for The Sizzler,” Harold said.
“I’m not sure either of those are the right option,” Alex said.
“In that case, perhaps we should let Mr. Darcy turn her over to the police.  I’m sure they’d like to get their hands on someone involved in the conspiracy to steal these artifacts.  Particularly someone that seems to have orchestrated the destruction of your car,” Harold said.
“I think that sounds about right,” Alex said.
Eventually, a long black sedan, and a tow truck arrived.  Alex, Harold, and Dr. Porter rode back to Mr. Darcy’s office in the car.  They left the tow truck to deal with the minivan.
Mr. Darcy was waiting for them when they arrived.  It was very late at night, or very early in the morning, and no one was in the office except for him.  Alex wondered once more if Mr. Darcy ever left that office.
“Mr. Minor, Mr. Derby, I understand you have recovered all of the missing artifacts?” Mr. Darcy said.
“They’re here in my luggage, Mr. Darcy,” Harold said.
“Excellent,” Mr. Darcy said. “And I see you’ve brought Dr. Porter along as well.  I have a contact in the Minneapolis police department who is eager to speak with her.  Dr. Porter, in the meantime, please make yourself comfortable.”
Mr. Darcy removed a pair of envelopes from a drawer in his desk, and handed one each to Alex and Harold.  They both contained a thick stack of one hundred dollar bills.  “Well done, gentlemen,” he said.
He then removed a manila folder from another drawer, and said, “Now then, are you ready for your next assignment?”
The End

 Final word count for this year's novel: 50,375 
Thanks for reading!

Chapter Twenty Three

Alex and Harold sat in the minivan in front of Dr. Porter’s cabin.  Every few seconds, there would be another pulse of the strange sensation.  It made Alex’s hair stand up each time, but Harold, as usual, seemed entirely unaffected by it.
“What do you think we should do here?  Come back in the morning?  Watch and wait until she leaves and we can go in and look around undisturbed?” Alex said.
Harold looked at Alex, and said, “I think we should go inside, immediately, and recover the artifacts and my luggage.  Why on Earth would we wait?”
“I’m just thinking that she might start screaming about intruders, and we might get shot at, either by her or her neighbors, if we just go in there in the middle of the night,” Alex said.
“You don’t seem to have very much confidence in your ability to be stealthy, Mr. Minor,” Harold said.
“That’s because I’m completely fucking terrible at being stealthy, Harold.  Just ask Megan some time,” Alex said.  He had visions of being chased down the road by a burly neighbor of Dr. Porter’s wearing nothing but pajama pants and brandishing a shotgun.
“Well, I’m stealthy enough for both of us, Mr. Minor,” Harold said.  “Just stay close to me and try not to knock anything over.”
“You’re insane, Harold,” Alex said.
“Perhaps,” Harold said.  “At any rate, stick close to me and we’ll be back out of here in the minivan in mere moments.”
“I sure hope you’re right,” Alex said.
They got out of the minivan, and Alex cringed at the way the doors screeched open.  He expected to hear someone’s dog start barking, but none did.  He joined Harold at the foot of the driveway.
“Remember, stay close to me, and don’t knock anything over,” Harold said.
“Whatever you say, Harold,” Alex said.  “Let’s just get this over with.”
They walked up the driveway next to each other.  Alex flinched a bit as each step in the gravel crunched under foot.  He expected a dog to start barking any second, lights to turn on, and a need for him and Harold to start running.
“Please calm down, Mr. Minor,” Harold said, quietly.
“How exactly is it that you can be stealthy enough for both of us?” Alex whispered back.
“I’m a butler.  It’s my business,” Harold said.
“We’re screwed,” Alex said to himself under his breath.
“Thank you for your confidence, Mr. Minor,” Harold said.
They reached the side door.  Alex got there first, opened the hurricane door, grabbed the door knob, and said, “Here goes.”
The door was locked.  Alex was mildly embarrassed that his first reaction was a feeling of relief.
“Allow me, Mr. Minor,” Harold said.
He took the door knob, and this time it turned easily.  He swung the door open, and walked inside.  “Stay close to me,” Harold said.
“How the hell did you do that?” Alex said.  He followed Harold inside, doing his best to not let the hurricane door slam shut behind them.
“It’s a trade secret, I’m afraid,” Harold said.  “Be quiet.”
The waves of the strange sensation were even stronger inside.  Just as one pulse seemed to subside, another one began.  Alex felt himself break out in goosebumps from head to toe.  He was already on edge, and the pulses were pushing him close to panic.
It was dark inside the cabin, but there was enough light coming in the windows that they were able to see the interior reasonably well.  The kitchen and living room were one open space.  The walls were covered in wood paneling, and Dr. Porter appeared to have quite a collection of framed art.  Most of the frames were kind of battered, and Alex guessed they were largely thrift store finds.  The furniture was mismatched, and most of it was overstuffed.  There was a wood burning stove in one corner of the room.
All in all, it was a pretty cozy cabin.  Apart from the otherworldly pulses of energy, of course.
“She’s really made an astonishing amount of progress,” Harold said.
“How can you tell?” Alex said.
“I can feel it.  I know you can too, your hair is standing on end,” Harold said.
“Is not,” Alex said.
“Be quiet.  We’re being stealthy,” Harold said.
There were three doors in the far wall.  Two were shut, and one was open.  There was enough light coming in the window in that room to tell that it was a bedroom.  It was also possible to tell that no one was in there.
The far door was shut, and there was only shadow showing underneath it.  Harold and Alex didn’t waste any time on that door, since the middle door had a soft, very white light coming from underneath it.  It seemed to pulse in time with the waves of sensation.
Alex and Harold stood outside the middle door.  Harold reached for the door knob.
“Whatever you see in here, don’t be alarmed, Mr. Minor,” Harold said.
“I think that’s the most alarming thing you’ve said tonight,” Alex said.
Harold opened the door.
Inside, Dr. Porter sat alone at a three legged table.  She had a small disk under each of the table’s legs, the larger wax disk and the gold disk on top of the table, with a piece of polished black obsidian on top of all of it.  She had both hands on the obsidian, and was staring intensely into it.  She was, so far, completely oblivious to Alex and Harold’s presence.
Underneath the table and Dr. Porter on the floor, drawn in either chalk or white salt, was a five pointed star inside of a circle.
More curious was that there was a softly glowing outline of something human shaped, but somewhat small, standing just outside the circle at each of the points of the star.  The strange sensation had stopped coming in waves and was now constant.
“Holy shit!”  Alex said.
Harold covered his face with one hand, and sighed.  “I can’t provide stealth for you if you insist on being obvious, Mr. Minor,” he said.
Alex didn’t have time to reply, because Dr. Porter was no longer paying attention to the scrying mirror, and was instead staring at Alex and Harold with a mix of surprise and anger on her face.
“What are you doing here?  How did you get in?” Dr. Porter said.
“We’ve come to collect my luggage, and the artifacts you’ve stolen,” Harold said.
“We got in through the side door,” Alex added.
“That door was locked, and I put a spell of protection on the whole house,” Dr. Porter said.
Harold chuckled politely, and said, “Spells of protection have no effect on me, Dr. Porter.  I’m a butler.”
Dr. Porter’s eyes went wide.  “Did you say you’re a butler?”
Alex looked back and forth between the two of them.  He wasn’t sure which part of that conversation baffled him the most.
“I am,” Harold said.
“They said you were coming.  I didn’t understand what it meant, but they told me,” Dr. Porter said.
“Could you tell me what the hell is going on?” Alex said.
“Well, Harold Derby, you’ve come a long way to see me.  It’s too bad for you that I’m not about to let you ruin my triumph!” Dr. Porter said.  “A lifetime of research and study.  Failed experiment after failed experiment.  And now that I have the proper tools, success is within my reach!”
“Ruin your triumph?” Harold said.  “Completely aside from the fact that you’ve taken items which do not belong to you, I’m not here to steal your success.  I’m here to save you from yourself.  To save you from the same fate that befell Thomas Smith, and me.”
“Say what?” Alex said.
“The fate that befell you?  To commune with the angels?  To find the truths mankind has been searching for since the beginning of time?” Dr. Porter said.  “I would be glad to meet that fate.”
Harold shook his head, sadly.
“There were no truths, only more questions,” Harold said.  “And those are not angels.  To their credit, they never claimed they were.”
“You lie!” Dr. Porter said.
 She stood up from her chair suddenly, knocking it over backwards, where it fell through one of the glowing human shapes standing behind her.
“Look at me,” Harold said.  “Three hundred some years old.  I need no sleep, and there is no rest for me.  I do not need to eat, and there is no joy in a fine meal for me.  I watch, and wait, and hope that one day this will end.  My reward turned punishment.”
“You were only a lackey to Thomas Smith.  He has travelled to be with the angels, and eternal ecstasy,” Dr. Porter said.
“I don’t know about that,” Harold said.  “Mr. Smith has travelled somewhere, certainly.  Has it occurred to you that perhaps these ‘angels’ are seeking truth themselves.  I think Mr. Smith has found himself the subject of study for them, and I don’t think I would wish that on anyone.  They’re looking for a door and an invitation, and once they’ve found them, they will quickly make themselves unwelcome guests.”
“All lies.  You just want me to give you the artifacts, so you can use them yourself, or collect a bounty on them.  I’m not about to let that happen,” Dr. Porter said.
She grabbed the large wax disk, the golden disk, and her obsidian mirror from the top of the table in one quick movement and shouldered her way past Harold and Alex, knocking both of them back on their feet.  They heard her stumble through the house behind them, throw the doors open and letting them slam again behind her.
“Holy hell is she strong,” Alex said.
“We were almost too late,” Harold said.
The five glowing figures still stood around the points of the star on the floor.  Alex had a strong feeling he and Harold were being watched.
“Mr. Minor, go outside, close the doors behind you, and at least see direction she took off in,” Harold said in a quiet voice.
“OK,” Alex said.  “What are you going to do?”
“Get rid of this lot.  Go, go!” Harold said.
Harold’s voice sounded urgent enough that Alex did as he was told, leaving the room they were in, and closing that door behind him.  He heard Harold muttering something, but he couldn’t make out what it was.
Alex stepped outside, shutting the door behind him, just in time to see Dr. Porter finish backing out of the driveway, and accelerating quickly away.  Alex ran to the end of the driveway, and saw her tail lights receding, before making a left turn some distance ahead.  He could hear her tires squealing around the corner, and then she was gone.
“How the hell are we supposed to find her now?” Alex said to himself.  He walked over to the minivan, leaned up against it, and wondered how long Harold was going to be.
After about thirty minutes, Harold came outside again, looking disheveled and tired.  He walked deliberately down the driveway, to where Alex was waiting.  Alex noticed Harold was carrying his luggage.
“Are you OK, Harold?” Alex said.
“Fine, thank you Mr. Minor,” Harold said.
“You don’t look like you’re fine,” Alex said.  “What happened in there?”
“I’m just tired, Mr. Minor.  They didn’t care to leave, so I had to throw them out.  It required a great deal of effort,” Harold said.   
“I guess so.  I see you’ve got your luggage back, at least,” Alex said.
“Yes, and it’s a good thing, too,” Harold said.
“Did you get the disks she left behind?” Alex said.
“They’re in my luggage,” Harold said.
“OK, cool,” Alex said. 
They were silent for a moment.  Alex was unsure of what to say next, and Harold seemed content to say nothing.  Eventually, Alex pointed down the road and said, “She went that way.”
“Is there a body of water around here?” Harold said.
“Are you kidding?  We’re in the land of ten thousand lakes.  We’re lucky our feet aren’t getting wet right now,” Alex said.
“She’ll probably be heading for a big lake, then.  Let’s have a look at a map, and hope we can pick the same one she did,” Harold said.
“Why would she be heading for a lake?” Alex said.
 “There is a lot of power in a good sized body of water.  She’ll want to use it,” Harold said.
“How is she going to use it?  She’s missing three of the disks, right?” Alex said.
“Get in the van, Mr. Minor.  I’ll explain on the way,” Harold said.
After they had taken a look at the surrounding area on the GPS, and Harold had selected the lake that seemed the most likely for Dr. Porter to go to, Harold turned the minivan around and they started to drive.
“The reason Dr. Porter needs the lake is because she’s missing the three disks that were under the table.  Think of them as batteries.  Right now, she has power tools with no power source.  If she can tap into an alternate power source, however, she can keep working,” Harold said.
“So we’ve got her batteries, and now she’s looking for an outlet?” Alex said.
“More or less, yes, Mr. Minor,” Harold said.
“Great,” Alex said.
The drove in silence for a few minutes, before Alex said, “So, Harold, what’s the deal with your luggage?”
Harold sighed, and said, “I suppose that by this point, I may as well trust you with this information.
“You’ve already put together that I was Thomas Smith’s butler.  I was also his assistant as he worked on his research into the occult.  It was fascinating work, and we thought we had found a way to find the great truth.
“We spoke with the beings Mr. Smith referred to as ‘angels’, who were only too happy to answer our questions about the nature of the universe.  Their answers furthered our mathematical work, as well as our alchemical experiments.  What they taught us would be considered basic facts of chemistry and physics today, but at the time the information was a revelation.
“At first, the angels provided only the most vague visions to Mr. Smith in his scrying mirror, but building on what he learned from those visions, we were able to eventually hear their voices, and then see them as we saw them tonight.
“Before much longer, we knew enough to open a door for them to come into our world and, as we would learn, for us to go into their world as well.
“Mr. Smith went into their world, and never returned.  I vowed to find him and bring him back, but I never found even a trace of him in years of searching.  Eventually, I abandoned my search.
“Over the years, Mr. Smith’s personal effects were scattered and lost to time, which was for the best. 
“However, I’ve kept one item with me all these years.  The key, such as it is, to open the door made with the artifacts we’ve been trying to recover.  It is another disc, about the size of a large coin, made of lead.  Years ago, I concealed it in the lining of my luggage, to keep it secret should anyone try to piece Mr. Smith’s work together again.”
Alex didn’t quite know what to make of this new information.  He was pretty sure he had the basic gist of it, however.
“So, what you’re saying is, you’ve got the key to unlock the universe hidden in your luggage?” Alex said.
“In short, yes,” Harold said.
“And it would be bad for Dr. Porter to get her hands on that key?” Alex said.
“It would be very bad,” Harold said.
“Then I have to ask… Why don’t you keep it in a safe deposit box?” Alex said.
Harold laughed, to Alex’s surprise.
“An excellent question, one I have been wondering about as well these past few days,” Harold said.
They road they were on came close to the lake Harold thought the most likely.  Alex looked out across the water, and said, “How are we supposed to spot her in the dark?”
Just then, the same soft white glow they’d seen in Dr. Porter’s cabin appeared on the far side of the lake.
“Oh, I guess that answers my question,” Alex said.