Disappearing Act

by Victor Miller


by Victor Miller

     Harlan Brace was a rule bender; especially when he could bend them in his direction. On everyone else he used those same rules as a war club; beating all he could into submission. All things must end, and this did for him when he got caught bending the wrong rule.

     It was imperative that Harlan disappear and he was getting desperate. The law was closing in, and he feared they were about to spring the trap. He knew if he were locked behind bars he'd surely go mad. Never mind that his crime was of the white collar variety. Never mind that at worst he'd go to some minimum security facility. Never mind that his sentence would most likely be of minimum duration with a few months of community service tacked on. Being unable to control his everyday functions would drive him crazy.

     Sure, he'd used his position to make himself rich. He saw nothing wrong with a little insider trading. Hell, if he were some average joe with the same knowledge no one would say anything. Why should he be penalized because he was a broker on Wall Street?

     All his life he'd been a fanatic about being in control. He'd learned at a tender age that crying in just the right way could make his mother do hand springs to serve his every whim. Crying at just the proper moment also kept his two older sisters busy trying to avoid their father's wrath. Harlan's father was selectively blind to the boy's growing ruthless nature. Possibly, the cause of it.

     In grade school, he'd learned good grades got him respect from his teachers and made a buck from the dumber students who paid him to do their homework.

     In high school, he'd tutored several members of the football team, promising to keep them in the game only if they did certain, favors, for him. Once the jocks were under his thumb they couldn't back out. When one threatened him with exposure he called on the rest of his servants to fix it.

     College proved a different challenge; most of the jocks were there on scholarships. They barely had to attend classes, let alone meet minimum standards, so he chose another angle. He wheedled his way onto the college newsletter, learning what closets held the skeletons, where all the dead bodies were buried, so to speak. In private, he implicated several professors in scandals that could have ended their careers. They'd do his bidding or there'd be an expose' in the next edition; no one was spared. He could have made a comfortable living as a private detective; instead, he chose to be an embezzler/blackmailer. That control thing again.

     On Wall Street, he shot to the top over the fallen bodies of fellow employees. They dealt with him more out of fear than respect. Staying on his good side became a full time job.

     His only mistake in his thirty odd years was leaving his desk unlocked once when he went out for lunch. When someone looking for a spare scratch pad accidentally found his private ledger, his downfall was swift. After all those years under Harlan's thrall, they scrambled over each other to turn him in.

     He managed to get most of his cash and negotiable securities out of the bank before the Feds closed in, and secreted it away.

     He put out feelers to the minor underworld connections he knew; within days, he had a response. If he wanted to disappear without a trace there was someone who could help him.

     "Come in. Have a seat," said Dr. Abel Samuels. The Doctor appeared to be about fifty years old, and looked much like Albert Einstein to Harlan. "I've read about your... predicament, and I've got a proposition for you."

     "What? Change my face and fingerprints?"

     "Oh, nothing so mundane as that. Those are only temporary fixes. A minor DNA scan would see through all of them."

     The combined odors of antiseptic and formaldehyde in the tile and stainless steel examining room were an affront to Harlan's nostrils. He was in no mood to beat around the bush.

     "Then what is it you can do for me?"

     "We do a lot of research here, but.... Well, let's just say, we find it difficult to operate within the meager grants from the government. To continue what we do, we are forced to solicit grants from, ah... entrepreneurs such as yourself."

     "You've done whatever it is you do here before then?"

     "Yes we have. And with great success I might add."

     "So. What is it you do here?"

     "Why, cryogenics Mr. Brace."

     "What? You're not going to tell me you're going to freeze me then thaw me out in the future when I'm in the clear."

     "Oh, no-no-no Sir. That's too time consuming. Actually, we'd like to place your brain in another body."

     Harlan never flinched, he just wanted to know, "Whose?"

     "Well, you see, we have several good choices that were put in suspension back in the twentieth century."

     "Forget it! Back then they only put disease ridden bodies in suspension."

     "Science has made great strides in the 200 years since then. We can cure just about anything. Unfortunately, those put in suspension back then didn't have their brains properly preserved. If we revived them now, they'd be nothing but living vegetables."

     "So what does that have to do with me?"

     "Well, you see, even though these bodies are essentially dead, the government won't allow us to terminate them. We are forced to preserve them."

     "Oh, I get it. If I consent to the transfer I get a new body, and you have one less corpse to deal with."

     "In a manner of speaking."

     "How do I know I'm going to get a decent body?"

     "Simply put, we'll revive the body that matches your type most closely. Then we'll keep it on life support until you are assured it is healthy."

     Harlan was almost convinced enough to take him up on it. "All right, assuming I agree, what's the bottom line?"

     "A mere seventy-five million will get the job done."

     Harlan winced at the amount. "That's over half of what I have."

     "We know. We checked you out. But it is a small price for freedom, wouldn't you say?"

     "Yeah, well, I'm gonna have to think about it."

     "Then think about this: If you get caught they'll put you in jail for who knows how long, years maybe, and when you get out you'll be penniless with no where to go. At least by my method you'll be able to live comfortably for many decades."

     It made sense... but Harlan could not resist trying to put his own personal spin on the deal. "Or I could cut a deal with the Feds and expose this place."

     "Oh, I wouldn't do that if I were you. We have many powerful allies at our disposal. They have ways of making people vanish. Then we'd chop you up into spare parts for transplantation. Think about it; half a loaf is better than none, hmmm?"

     Harlan's control of the situation had slipped away rapidly and it left a bitter taste in his mouth. He'd have to sacrifice, make some sort of personal compromise if he ever hoped to defeat the Feds. Still, freedom left him unfettered.

     "Well, since you put it that way, I really don't have much of a choice."

     "There are always choices Mr. Brace. But cooler heads usually come up with the best ones."

     Of the three possible receptacles for his brain, the best match with his body chemistry was a healthy looking Mediterranean type that appeared to be within a few years of his own age.

     Harlan made the cash transfer to Dr. Samuels and the gears went into motion. Since venturing onto the streets and risking capture could botch the whole deal, Harlan stayed at the institution. So much the better. This way he could keep a close eye on the progress of his new body. Within weeks, he was assured of the body's excellent health. The day of his departure into obscurity was set.

     The surgery was flawless. Harlan was kept sedated for seven days while the physio-stimulator accelerated the healing process. After that came several sessions of psychotherapy to aid his mind in its adjustment to its new home. Every person's body experiences the world just slightly different from others, and the confusing signals entering the brain could lead to psychosis or neurosis. After that, intense physical rehab to retrain the motor skills.

     Ten weeks later he was finishing the final stages of his rehabilitation. He'd made arrangements to have the remainder of his funds transferred from his Swiss account to his new home in Argentina. Soon he'd be on a plane bound for the good life.

     While he stood in line at the check-in, an overweight trench-coated fedora grabbed hard to his elbow and flashed the credentials of a Federal Marshal.

     "Well, well, well. Dominic Scalese. As I live and breathe," said the trench-coat before he muscled Harlan to a waiting room. "The tip we got on you was right. Where you been the last two years?"

     "I don't know what you're talking about. My name is Anthony Rodriguez."

     "So your I.D. says... but my pocket scanner says your prints are those of Dominic Scalese, wanted murderer and Mob Boss. Whata-ya got to say about that?"

     "Your scanner is mistaken."

     "Yeah, and elephants fly. You got the right to remain silent...."

     Within the hour, Harlan had been booked, photographed, examined, DNA scanned, given a prison uniform and tossed into a holding cell with several other prisoners.

     When confronted with the damning evidence of the crimes Dominic Scalese had performed, Harlan sang for all he was worth. Only trouble was, nothing came out.

     Harlan had been duped and he knew it; he'd been a pawn in a much larger game than he could have imagined. Abel Samuels, though he was a pre-eminent research scientist, was also in the employ of the Syndicate. He'd come up with the scheme and laid it out for them to see.

     He'd take the brains of important mobsters who had to disappear and place them in one of the 200 year old bodies and, when the time and donor was right, place the unsuspecting dupe's brain in the mobster's body to be caught. They could have tossed the body out to be found, but a dead mobster's body without a brain in it would lead to too many questions. The Doctor's scheme was a lot cleaner. The only sticky part was getting into the mobster's file and placing in it a record of cranial surgery to thwart any physical examination.

     During Harlan's sessions of hypnotherapy, the Doctor had placed a mental block in Harlan's brain. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't tell anyone the truth. He couldn't even write it down. He knew the truth but was powerless to reveal it. All he could do was protest his innocence while he was tried and sentenced.

* * * *

     In a luxury penthouse office in the center of the downtown district, the real Dominic Scalese is greeted by one of his confederates.

     "It's all over and done with, Dom."

     "They sentenced the fool?"

     "Yeah. Life in the rehab colony on Diemos with no chance for parole."

     "That's a shame. There's a lot of guys there who'd like to see me dead."

     "Yeah, real terrible. Say, we were able to intercept the cash transfer that the guy put through. Over sixty-five mill."

     "Okay. Tell the Doc now that I've been convicted he'll get the rest of his money in a couple of days... and tell him, for a 200 year old body, I don't feel a day over forty."

* * * *

     REHAB COLONY -- DIEMOS: Harlan stepped off the transport to the entrance of the subterranean colony. He'd heard all kinds of horror stories about these filth encrusted places where the scum of society were sent to be forgotten. He had no idea what he was about to face. Not to worry; there were a few old friends here who would be more than happy to explain it to him....


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