Stepping off of the elevator, Hans was greeted by one of the night watchmen of Lab-Tech Industries, a high level security laboratory and research center in the business district of the city.
“Good evening Mr. Einrich,” the night watchman said, as he stepped aside.
“Good evening Giles,” Hans said. “Is the doctor in this evening?”
“Yes he is, sir,” Giles said. “He’s in his lab. He wants you to join him as soon as you arrive.”
“Thank you Giles,” Hans said as he walked down the long, white corridor and stopped outside of the doctor’s office. Punching in his security code, he waited until the silent doors slid open and then he stepped inside.
Laying his briefcase on the table beside the doors, he looked over at the white-coated man leaning over the lab desk, peering down into a microscope.
“Good evening Henry,” Hans said, walking up beside the man.
“Hans. I’m glad you made it. I have exciting news,” the doctor said.
“Still working on your experiment?” Hans asked.
“Not only working on it,” the doctor said, triumphantly. “I’ve completed it!”
“Oh?” Hans asked, peering over his colleague’s shoulder. “How does it work?”
“Very simple,” the doctor stated as he typed in the last characters of the formula and finalized the components he’d been working on for the last two years. “First, we render Col. Austin unconscious. Then, we surgically implant the microchip under the epidermis of his scalp. And remember, Hans,” he said, pausing as he looked up at his friend and partner, “we must be very careful not to disturb the slightest hair on his head. He mustn’t realize that the implant is there.”
“But how are we going to manage that?” Hans asked skeptically. “Won’t he feel it when he washes his hair or touches his scalp?”
Smiling broadly, Henry said, “That’s the beauty of it my friend. The microchip is so small that not even a phrenologist would know that it was there.”
“I just hope you’re right,” Han’s said. “Because I hear that Col. Austin is a very calm individual until he loses his temper. But once he does lose his temper, he doesn’t stop until he brings his adversaries down.”
“You worry too much, my friend,” Henry said, turning back to his work. “His temper is just what I’m counting on. The microchip would be useless without it.”
“I don’t understand,” Hans said.
“Of course you don’t,” Henry said, condescendingly. “That’s why I’m the brains in this partnership, and you’re the brawn.”
Reaching for a pair of tweezers, Henry picked up the microchip and held it under the microscope so that Hans could look at it.
“You see those divots carved on the surface of the chip?” he asked.
Peering down into the microscope and looking at the microchip that Henry was holding with the tweezers, Hans said, “Yes, I see them.”
“Well,” Henry said, “those are the binary codes that will set him off once we get it implanted.”
“Set him off how?” Hans asked, more confused now than he was in the beginning.
Sighing in exasperation, Henry said, “Any show of temper, frustration, excitement or any type of strong emotion will trigger the microchip. Once it’s implanted, all I have to do is wait for him to show any one of those emotions and once he does, he’ll be under my complete control. With this telepathic sound wave device,” he said, laying the microchip down gently on the lab table and picking up a small, black box next to it, “I can control his every movement. I can tell him what to do and when to do it. I can tell him when to feel pain, sadness, happiness and rage. I can tell him when to help an old lady across the street and when to rob a bank. I can tell him when to commit a murder or when to save a life. And the beauty of it Hans, is that he’s powerless to stop me as long as the microchip is implanted in his head. In fact, once I release him from a day’s work, he’ll have absolutely no memory of what he’s done, thereby protecting me by not being able to say who or what set him off in the first place, on the off chance that he does get caught.”
“But what if he is caught?” Hans asked.
“I’ve taken every precaution to see that that does not happen,” Henry assured him. “I have a lot of plans for Col. Austin, Hans. And I have no intentions of seeing him dead or in jail before I get what’s coming to me.”
“I don’t know about this,” Hans said, skeptically. “Col. Austin has a strong mind and a will of his own. How is that little microchip going to tell him what to do over his own mind?”
“How very observant of you Hans,” Henry said, appreciatively. “That’s why it took me so long to perfect the chip. A person of ordinary intelligence wouldn’t have required so many binary codes in this microchip in order to control them. But a person of Col. Austin’s exceptional intelligence and strong will required a more sophisticated series of codes. I had to be one hundred percent certain that the code on his microchip surpassed the most brilliant minds that we know of. In that way, our friend is certain to fall under my control without the slightest bit of hesitation.”
“But even if that’s true,” Hans said, picking up the tweezers and looking at the tiny chip, “how are you going to get it inside of him?”
Henry chuckled as he looked at the confused look on his colleague’s face. “Well, my friend, that part of the operation, I have decided to leave up to the brawn of this outfit.”
Realizing that Henry was referring to him, Hans’ head snapped up as he quickly looked up at his friend.
“Me?” he asked, bewildered.
“That’s right,” Henry said, taking the tweezers and microchip from Hans’ hand and placing it in a lead case. “I want you to follow him.”
Henry leaned over and pulled open the top drawer of the lab table he was sitting at. “Carry this with you at all times,” he said, pulling out a black, 9mm handgun.
“I don’t get it,” Hans said, looking at the gun. “I thought you wanted him alive.”
“Oh, indeed I do, my dear Hans,” Henry chuckled. “I want him very much alive. This my friend, is a dart gun.”
He broke the gun down and pulled out a long syringe from the barrel of it. “This syringe contains enough anesthesia to knock out an elephant.”
Hans took the gun from his hand and examined it. “And then what?” he asked.
“And then, you bound and gag Col. Austin and get him here to the lab as quickly as possible,” Henry said. “I want to implant the chip and return him to where ever you pick him up from before he awakens. It’s imperative that he not know he’s been moved. Let him wake up from the drug precisely where you administer it with this gun.”
“That’s going to be tricky,” Hans said.
“That’s why I pay you so much, my friend,” Henry said with a smirk, “to insure that there are no mistakes.”
“Right,” Hans said, as he watched Henry put his instruments away and turn off the overhead lights. They walked over to the door together and Hans picked up his briefcase from the table as they exited the lab.
“How soon do you want this done?” he asked, as Henry locked and secured the door of his private lab.
“The plans for the SSJ-106 are coming in at the end of next week, possibly next Friday,” Henry said. “I want you to do it this weekend. That way, I’ll have an entire week to work out any kinks before I actually send him in to retrieve those plans.”
“If he’s caught stealing those plans,” Hans said, “they’re going to shoot him on sight. They won’t care who he is or who he works for.”
“Well in that case, we’ll have to be extra careful, now won’t we?” Henry said as they walked down the corridor and over to the elevator.
“Goodnight Mr. Einrich,” the night watchman said to Hans as he entered the elevator.
“Goodnight Giles,” Hans said as he stepped inside.
Watching Henry as he stepped inside the elevator, Giles said, “Goodnight, Dr. Jekyll.”
“Goodnight Giles,” Henry said with a cold smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Have a pleasant evening indeed.”
Giles shivered as the elevator doors closed. He didn’t know why, but Dr. Henry Jekyll gave him the creeps. He’d been working for the man for four months now and every time he came into contact with him, his legs turned to jelly and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
“Ah, what the hell,” Giles said, as he made his rounds and insured himself that the building was secure. “A job is a job.”
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this, Oscar,” Steve said, his face flaming red, as he settled into his booth.
Chuckling, Oscar said, “I couldn’t think of a more aptly suited candidate than you pal. Besides, it’s all for a good cause, don’t cha think?”
When Steve only smirked and squirmed in his chair, Oscar couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
“Well think about it this way,” Oscar said, “it could be worse.”
“Yeah, how?” Steve wanted to know as he cringed at the long, long line of women standing on que in front of him.
Stretching out his arms and showing off his one piece, striped speedo, Oscar said, “You could be me! I’ve been dunked so many times, I’m starting to get wrinkles.”
“You’re already wrinkled,” Steve deadpanned as the line began to move forward.
Stepping aside, Oscar said, “Well, gotta go pal. Your public awaits you.” He chuckled again at the angry glance Steve threw his way and ambled off toward the dunking tank.
Oscar had signed them up for a charity affair that was passing through the city. It was the Carnival’s annual trip through town to raise money to fight Muscular Dystrophy and Oscar had signed up for the dunking tank, where he sat on a wooden plank and people paid two dollars per ball to throw at a bullseye target, dunking him into a pool of water. He had signed Rudy up as a clown in full "regalia" to paint the faces of happy carnival customers for two dollars each. And last but not least, he had signed Steve up for the kissing booth. For two dollars per ticket, you could kiss one of the world’s most famous astronauts as many times as you wished! When Rudy and Steve found out what Oscar had signed them up for, they had both complained loudly about it but in the end, they both admitted that it was for a good cause and they both wanted to help out in any way that they could. But they had looked at each other conspiratorially and had silently agreed that they were going to pay Oscar back for this!
Taking a deep breath, Steve accepted his first two-dollar ticket and got a very sweet kiss on the cheek from a five year old girl whose mother stood to one side, proudly snapping pictures on her Polaroid Instamatic Camera. After that, the mother of the five year old, handed the camera to someone else in line to snap pictures as she handed Steve her ticket and shyly collected her bounty as Steve planted a chaste kiss on her lips. The next kiss came from an 85-year-old grandmother whose husband had been a test pilot for the Air Force and she wanted the picture to add to the ever growing shrine that she kept in his memory. Steve looked down the line and saw that it went on and on for as far as the eye could see. He didn’t know how he was going to satisfy all of these women before his lips gave out. ‘Just remember, it’s for a good cause,’ he reminded himself as he puckered up and accepted his next kiss.
Standing off in the distance, eating from a bag of freshly popped, popcorn, Hans chuckled as he watched the world famous astronaut doing his duty for charity. “Enjoy it Col. Austin,” he said with a smirk. “Because after today, you will never have this much fun again in your short, short life.”
Five hours later, Steve, Oscar and Rudy sat wearily in Oscar’s office in the OSI building. Steve kept massaging his aching jaws, which had gone numb after so much puckering up and he was trying to work some circulation back into them. Oscar couldn’t stop staring at the wrinkles in his fingertips and Rudy was anxiously trying to remove the paint from beneath his fingernails with Oscar’s letter opener, and giving up in frustration, he threw the letter opener on Oscar’s desk and laid his head tiredly back on the sofa. “The next time, just ask me to write a check, would ya Oscar?” he asked, miserably.
“I’m all for that,” Steve said, still massaging his aching jaws. “In fact, I’ll double any proceeds they take in next time.”
“What are you talking about?” Oscar asked. “The manager of the carnival told me that the kissing booth broke all previous records today,” Oscar informed Steve. “He said he’s never seen that many women and young girls on line waiting for kisses before. In fact,” Oscar told him, “he’s already demanded your presence at the carnival next year!”
“Oscar….” Steve warned with a growl.
“You boys are missing the whole point,” Oscar informed them as he sat back in his leather chair. “The money we raised today was terrific and it’s for a very worthwhile cause but the whole point of it was to get out there and socialize. Meet and greet the people and let them know that you care about them.”
“We do care about them," Rudy sighed, still too tired to lift his head from the sofa. “But I could have shown them that with a check.”
Chuckling, Steve said, “If I never have to pucker up again in the next two years, it’ll be too soon.”
The intercom on Oscar’s desk buzzed and the secretary said, “Excuse me, Sir, but there’s a call for Col. Austin on line three. It’s Miss Bradford.”
“You were saying?” Oscar joked as he saw Steve’s blue eyes light up at hearing Michele Bradford’s name.
“On second thought,” Steve said, standing up and reaching for the phone. Oscar and Rudy looked at each other and laughed as they listened to Steve’s one way conversation with Michele:
“I’m fine, pretty Lady. How’re you? Good. No it went well. We had a lot of fun. Raised a lot of money. Yeah? I missed you too.”
Oscar and Rudy looked at each other and chuckled.
“Tonight? No, I’m not tired at all. Say about, eight? Good, I’ll pick you up. Me too. You too. See ya, then. Bye, bye.”
Steve hung up the phone with a satisfied grin on his face.
“Hmmm, this sounds serious,” Rudy said, lifting his head to look at Steve.
“Yes it does,” Oscar said, smiling up at Steve. “Anything you want to tell us, pal?”
Smiling, Steve walked over to the office door and said, “Yep. Don’t wait up for me tonight.” He walked out the door and closed it behind him as Oscar and Rudy chuckled and shook their heads.
Hans started up his car as he watched Steve leave the OSI building. He waited for Steve to pull off and put some distance between them before he pulled out of his parking space and began to follow him. He was able to follow at a discreet distance without drawing attention to himself because he realized Steve was on his way home. He would catch him there, administer the drug and get him back to Dr. Jekyll’s office post haste.
Driving as quickly as the speed limit allowed, Steve made his way through the streets, turning up the radio and thinking about the evening ahead. He had to make dinner reservations at Francesco’s, Michele’s favorite French Restaurant, shower and change and then hurry over to her apartment to pick her up. Steve couldn’t wait to see her. He had known her for about ten years and had always found her very attractive and had wanted to ask her out before, but their respective careers, other relationships and bad timing had always conspired to keep them apart. Finally, about two months ago, they had run into each other in the halls of the OSI building and had struck up a conversation. Steve had asked her out and out of habit, she had at first refused. Ever persistent, Steve had tracked her down again and this time when he asked her out, she had agreed to go on a date with him and the two of them had been inseparable ever since. As he spent more and more time with her, Steve found that his attraction for her went well beyond the physical. She was intelligent, spontaneous, compassionate, considerate, and had a great sense of humor, which Steve adored. He also found out that they had a great deal in common. She was outdoorsy, just like he was. She was interested in the space program, she liked fishing and hiking, she belonged to several of the same charity groups that he belonged to and they both preferred dogs to cats. She wasn’t pushy and obsessive over him and that made Steve feel very comfortable around her and he was able to relax with her and just be himself. She had her own agenda and Steve knew that she wasn’t trying to use him just to further her career. In fact, she didn’t need him to further her career. Anything she wanted, she was capable of getting for herself, without his help.
Pulling up in front of his door, Steve turned off the radio and took the key out of the ignition as he opened the car door and stepped out. Locking the car door, he quickly walked over and took the front stairs two at a time and let himself into his house, closing the door behind him.
Hans waited for ten minutes and then he exited his car, which was parked three doors down from Steve’s home. With the dart gun tucked firmly in the waistband of his trousers, he looked quickly up and down the street, and satisfied that he wasn’t being watched, he made his way to Steve’s home and walked up the stairs. Easily picking the lock on Steve’s front door with a practiced technique that he’d perfected over the years, he let himself into Steve’s house and quietly closed the door behind him. Stopping just inside the front hall, he listened intently and after a few moments, he was able to make out the sound of running water coming from the shower upstairs. Walking as lightly as he could on Steve’s carpeted floor, he crept up the stairs and after checking each room on the second floor, he found Steve’s master bedroom and went inside. Casing the room quickly, he came across a large walk-in closet with small, wooden blinds on the door that he could peek through and he quickly hid inside as he waited for his prey to emerge from the shower.
After about ten minutes, Steve walked into the room naked, his body still damp from the hot shower and he was drying his hair vigorously with a white towel. Hans smirked grudgingly but appreciatively as he looked at the condition of Steve’s body. From looking at him, you would never know that he was part machine. Dr. Wells had done a remarkable job with his bionics, totally disguising the robotic parts with a human like surface that blended perfectly with Steve’s own skin. Hans also noticed that Col. Austin obviously worked out and kept himself in shape and being an astronaut and the subject of the first bionic experiment in history, Hans assumed that being in good physical condition came with the job. He also noted jealously, that the women in Col. Austin’s life would be very pleased as well. Laying the damp towel over the arm of a chair in his bedroom, Steve walked over to his dresser and picked up his deodorant and sprayed it on and then he reached for his cologne, the one he knew Michele like the best. He put it on liberally, not wanting to overwhelm the senses with too much but just enough to make a woman sit up and take notice.
Hans removed the 9mm gun from his waistband and slid the muzzle through two of the wooden blinds as Steve screwed the cap back on the cologne bottle and sat it on the dresser. He was about to reach for his comb when Hans pulled the trigger. The small dart left the muzzle of the gun so quickly that even Hans didn’t see it. It struck Steve in the back of the right shoulder and he went down like a ton of bricks. Hans waited for a minute or so to make sure that Steve was really “out” and then he slid the closet door opened, tucked the dart gun back in his waistband and walked over and stood over the unconscious astronaut. Pleased with himself, Hans quickly pulled handcuffs and ankle bracelets from his pockets and bound Steve. Looking around the room, he pulled a folded sheet from the foot of Steve’s bed and grunted as he wrapped the unconscious man in the bedsheet. Standing and taking a deep breath, he wiped the sweat from his brow, and leaning down and gripping Steve under the arms, he dragged him out of the room and gently down the staircase so as not to leave any bruises on Steve’s body. Grabbing Steve’s car keys from the mantle piece, Hans ran over and looked out the front door and then quickly made his way down the stairs and over to Steve’s car where he unlocked the trunk and left it open.
Hurrying back up to Steve’s house, he dragged Steve over to the front door and peeking out again, made sure no one was on the dark streets. Hans grunted as he lifted the two hundred pound, muscular, unconscious astronaut up on his shoulder and made his way down the front steps and over to Steve’s car where he unceremoniously deposited him in the trunk. Slamming the trunk closed, Hans got in the front seat, started Steve’s car, and made his way through the darkened streets of the city as he headed for Dr. Jekyll’s Laboratory.
It took Hans forty-five minutes to get back to Lab-Tech Industries from Steve’s home. He drove Steve’s automobile into the underground parking lot and pausing briefly to punch in a security code which raised the crossbar, he pulled into his parking space where Dr. Jekyll was waiting for him with a gurney and two orderlies.
“Any trouble?” Dr. Jekyll asked, as Hans exited the vehicle and walked around the back of the car to open the trunk.
“Smooth as silk,” Hans said, lifting the trunk to unveil his prize.
“Excellent!” Dr. Jekyll said, looking down at Steve who was still unconscious and wrapped in a sheet. “Get him on the gurney,” he told the orderlies, who quickly moved to the back of the car and lifted Steve from the trunk. They carried him over to the gurney and strapped him down.
“Where are his clothes?” Dr. Jekyll asked, noticing Steve’s state of undress underneath the white sheet.
“I caught him coming out of the shower,” Hans explained with a smirk. “Obviously, I didn’t want to wait around until after he got dressed.”
“And you’re sure no one saw you?” Dr. Jekyll asked.
“No one,” Hans assured him. “I was in and out of there within twenty minutes.”
“Very good,” Dr. Jekyll said. “Take him to my lab,” he told the orderlies, who rolled the gurney over to the service elevator and wheeled it inside. “We’ll meet you up there,” he told them, as he and Hans took the regular elevator upstairs.
“How long will he be under?” Hans asked, as they rode the elevator up.
“The anesthesia will work for exactly four hours,” Dr. Jekyll said. “The operation will take no longer than thirty minutes to get the microchip implanted and activated. After that, I want to monitor him for another half hour or so to make sure there are no side effects. What time was the drug administered?” he asked.
Looking at his wrist watch, Hans said, “I got him in the back of his right shoulder at approximately…..seven-twenty. It took me another five minutes to get him down stairs and inside the trunk of his car. The ride out here took forty-five minutes.”
Looking at his own wristwatch, Dr. Jekyll said, “It’s eight-fifteen now. That means he’s been under for approximately fifty-five minutes. I’ll begin the surgery at eight-thirty and I’ll have completed it by nine o’clock. I’ll monitor him for exactly thirty minutes after I implant the microchip and by that time, he’ll have been under for exactly two hours and ten minutes. It will take you forty-five minutes to drive him back to his home and say…..another five or ten minutes to get him inside and back into position. By then, it will be ten-twenty. That gives you plenty of time to get out and back here before he wakes up, which won’t be until eleven-twenty.”
They exited the elevator and walked over to the lab where the orderlies were preparing Steve for surgery. Rinsing his hands and donning his scrubs and mask, Dr. Jekyll walked over to the table where Steve was laying and began implanting the microchip.
At ten minutes after eight, Michele began to worry. Steve had said he would pick her up for their date at eight o’clock and he was too considerate to leave her waiting without a phone call. Even if he were only going to be a few minutes late, he always called ahead of time to let her know, and this was the first time that not only hadn’t he showed up for a date, but he hadn’t called to let her know when he’d be there. She knew that as an OSI agent, Steve sometimes had to drop everything at the drop of a hat to go out on a mission. But the one and only time that had happened since they’d been dating, he had made sure that Oscar had called her and let her know what was going on and the first opportunity that Steve got, he had called her himself from assignment and apologized and had promised to make it up to her as soon as he got back, which he had, she thought with a smile. Picking up the phone, she dialed his number and let it rang repeatedly before hanging up. By eight-thirty, when he still hadn’t arrived or called, her worry turned to fear and she picked up the phone again and dialed the OSI building. The answering service picked up the phone and after giving the service her clearance code, they agreed to connect her with Oscar at his home. Nervously nibbling her bottom lip, she waited for the call to go through and for Oscar to pick up the line.
Sitting at his desk in his office at home, Oscar was going over some files that he’d brought back with him from the OSI office. Ever the workaholic, he was unable to leave his work at the office and he poured over the files, making adjustments here and there along the way. He’d been at it non-stop since arriving home almost two hours ago when the phone suddenly rang, giving him his first break of the evening. Looking at the clock on the wall across from his desk, he noticed it was just past eight-thirty, and removing his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose, he reached over and picked up the phone.
“Hello?” he said, wondering who’d be calling him this late in the evening.
“Hello, Mr. Goldman?” Michele asked.
“Yes. Who is this?” Oscar asked.
“This is Michele Bradford. I’m sorry to bother you so late…..”
“Oh, Michele,” Oscar said with a smile. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, Sir,” Michele said. “Mr. Goldman, can you tell me if you’ve heard from Steve this evening?” she asked anxiously.
“Steve?” Oscar asked perturbed. “No I haven’t, Michele. I haven’t heard from him since he left the office earlier. Is there something wrong?”
“We had a date this evening,” Michele explained. “He was supposed to pick me up at eight-o’clock and I haven’t heard from him at all. I’m really getting worried.”
“Yes, he was looking forward to seeing you tonight,” Oscar told her. “In fact, he was on his way home to get ready for your date when he left the OSI building earlier.”
“I’m probably just overreacting,” Michele said skeptically, “but it just isn’t like Steve not to show up and not to call if he’s going to be late.”
“You’re right,” Oscar said, now growing worried himself and standing up from his desk. “He’s much too considerate to do something like that. Let me check around and make a few calls,” Oscar said. “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
“Thank you, Mr. Goldman,” Michele said. Hanging up the phone, she was more sure than ever that something had happened to Steve. If he wasn’t at home and Mr. Goldman hadn’t sent him out on assignment, then where could he be? She was too nervous and upset to sit around and wait to hear from Oscar, so, picking up her car keys from the coffee table, she walked over to the front door and let herself out. She decided to drive over to Steve’s home to see if she could find out what was going on. Something was wrong. She could feel it in the pit of her stomach.
Clicking the phone off to clear the line, Oscar quickly dialed Rudy’s number.
“Hello,” Rudy said, picking the phone up on the second ring.
“Rudy, its Oscar. Listen, is Steve there with you?”
“Steve?” Rudy asked. “No, Oscar. I haven’t seen him since this afternoon.”
“I was afraid of that,” Oscar sighed.
“What’s going on?” Rudy asked.
Oscar quickly explained the situation and Rudy said, “I think we should get over to his house. Do you still have his spare door key?” he asked.
“Yes,” Oscar said. “I’ll meet you there.”
“I’m on my way,” Rudy said, hanging up the phone and quickly rushing out the front door.
Oscar went through his desk drawer and pulled out the spare key to Steve’s front door, which Steve had given him for emergencies. Moving from behind his desk, he grabbed his car keys and ran out of his home, slamming the front door behind him.
“Well?” Hans asked, as he entered the lab.
Removing his surgical gloves, Dr. Jekyll looked over at him and walked over to a large white table in the corner of the room. “Everything went well,” he said with a satisfied glint in his dark eyes. “Now, all that remains is to see whether or not he responds to this,” he said, picking up the telepathic sound wave device. Pulling up a stool, he sat down beside Steve and activated the device. Leaning over the unconscious astronaut and talking softly into the device, he said, "Listen to me very carefully. Your name is Mr. Hyde. You will answer to that name and that name only. You will remember my voice and obey my every command. When you hear my voice, you will stop whatever it is you are doing and you will follow my instructions implicitly. Afterwards, you will remember nothing. You will go back to your normal life with no memory of what you did or said as Mr. Hyde.”
Sitting back on his stool, Dr. Jekyll said, “Open your eyes, Mr. Hyde.”
Hans watched in horror as Steve’s eyelids lifted slowly to reveal two blue orbs staring straight up at the ceiling. Steve’s eyes were blank and it was obvious to Hans that he was under some type of hypnosis.
“What is your name?” Dr. Jekyll asked.
In a rough voice that sounded nothing like his own, Steve said, “My name is Mr. Hyde.”
“Close your eyes and rest now,” Dr. Jekyll said with a satisfied smile.
Steve closed his eyes and appeared to be resting peacefully. Standing up, Dr. Jekyll said, “I want to monitor him for a while and then you can take him back to his home.”
“All right,” Hans said, dumbfounded and unable to take his eyes off of Steve. All of the doubts he’d been harboring about Dr. Jekyll succeeding in his mission were laid to rest. The man was obviously a genius and with someone as powerful as Col. Steve Austin working for him, there was no way he could fail.
Michele pulled up in front of Steve’s door and looked around for his car. Noticing that his mustang was nowhere in sight, she assumed that he wasn’t home but decided to try the doorbell anyway. Walking up the stairs, she rang the bell over and over and knocked loudly on the door to no avail. Just as she was turning away from the door, two more cars pulled up in front of Steve’s home and Rudy jumped out of the first car and Oscar jumped out of the second one as they quickly ran up Steve’s front steps.
“Mr. Goldman, Dr. Wells,” Michele said in surprise.
“Is he home?” Oscar asked, digging in his pocket for Steve’s spare door key.
“No,” Michele informed them. “And his car is gone as well.”
Opening Steve’s front door, the three of them quickly entered his home and began searching the house, room by room. Finding nothing amiss, they assembled back in the living room.
“No sign of foul play,” Oscar said.
“None that we could detect anyway,” Rudy said.
“I don’t know if we should be happy or upset about that,” Oscar said.
“I don’t understand,” Michele said.
“Well, no sign of foul play could mean that no one came in here and assaulted him and that he left on his own,” Oscar explained. “Which means he could be all right, wherever he is.”
“But the question remains,” Rudy continued, “exactly where is he?”
They all looked at each other, each trying to figure out where Steve could be and why he hadn’t contacted them.
“I think we should get over to the OSI building,” Oscar told them. “From there, we’ll start making some calls and get a task force together to start searching for him.”
“That’s a good idea,” Rudy said.
“Do you think I should wait here for him?” Michele asked.
“No, I don’t think that would do any good,” Oscar said with a sigh. “You’ll be more valuable to us down at the OSI.”
“All right,” Michele conceded as she followed them out the door.
Oscar locked Steve’s front door and the three of them walked over to their cars and headed over to the OSI building. The grim expressions on all of their faces as they drove, spoke volumes about the worry and fear they were feeling for their friend and they were all thinking the same thing: ‘Where are you Steve? Please be all right.’
“It’s time,” Dr. Jekyll said, looking at his wristwatch. “Get him back to his house Hans, and leave him exactly as you found him.”
Standing up, Hans told the orderlies to take Steve back down in the service elevator and put him carefully back into the trunk of his car. He wanted to make sure he was as far away from Col. Austin as possible when he finally came to. Starting up Steve’s mustang, he carefully pulled out of the parking lot and headed across town back to Steve’s home.
Steve moaned and slowly opened his heavy eyelids. Everything around him looked familiar but somehow, everything seemed off kilter. He couldn’t figure out why he was eye level with the bottom of his bedroom door or the chair legs in one corner of the room. Blinking rapidly and trying to clear his blurry vision, he was suddenly aware of the soft carpet under his face and he realized he was lying on his bedroom floor. Pushing himself up with a groan, he looked around, confused and disoriented as he tried to figure out what had happened. The last thing he remembered was walking down the hall from his shower and entering his bedroom. He remembered looking in the mirror and putting on some cologne as he got ready for his evening out with Michele.
“MICHELE!” he said as he suddenly remembered he’d had a date with her. “Oh no!” he said to himself. “What time is it?” Turning quickly, he looked over at the digital radio clock on the table beside his bed and saw that it was eleven thirty.
“What the? What happened? Where did the time go? How did I get down here on the floor?”
Looking down, he realized that he was undressed and covered only by the sheet that had been lying on the foot of his bed. Wrapping the sheet around him, he stood up and with his head spinning, causing him to stagger, he walked over to his bed and sat down heavily with a sigh. He picked up the phone and tried unsuccessfully to dial Michele’s number, finally slamming the phone down in frustration as he realized he couldn’t remember her number. Placing his elbows on his thighs, he dropped his head in his hands and ran his fingers through his hair as he tried desperately to remember her number.
Picking up the receiver again, he called the OSI building to ask the answering service to check the roladex for Miss Bradford’s number and was surprised when the call was put through to Oscar’s office.
“Steve!” Oscar said in astonishment when he heard Steve’s voice on the other end. “Where are you?”
Rudy and Michele quickly turned and looked at Oscar in surprise and both breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
“Well where do you think I am Oscar?” Steve asked annoyed. “I’m at home. What are you doing there this time of night?”
“I’m putting together a task force pal,” Oscar said. “To look for you!”
“What are you talking about?” Steve asked. “Look for me for what?”
“We’ve been trying to find you for the last three hours,” Oscar informed him. “When did you get back home?”
“Back home?” Steve asked in confusion. “Oscar, I never left. I’ve been here all evening.”
“Steve, we came to your home and searched it room by room. You were no where to be found pal?”
“What?” Steve asked in bewilderment. “We who?”
“Myself, Rudy and Michele,” Oscar told him.
“Listen Oscar, I don’t know what this is all about,” Steve said, “but I’ve been here all night. I had a date with Michele and….”
“Michele’s here right now,” Oscar said, cutting him off.
“She is?” Steve asked in surprise. “Oscar, I need to speak to her.”
“Sure,” Oscar said, “but are you all right pal? You don’t sound so good.”
“I’m fine,” Steve said. “Put Michele on the phone will ya?.”
“He wants to speak to you,” Oscar said, handing the phone to Michele.
“Steve?” Michele said into the receiver.
“Hello there pretty lady,” Steve said, with a sigh of relief.
“Oh Steve! What happened to you? Where were you?” she asked.
“Not you too,” Steve chuckled. “Nothing happened Michele. I’m fine. I’ve been here the whole time.”
“But Steve, that’s just not true,” Michele said. “We searched the entire house for you, including the basement and you weren’t there.”
“Then you must have searched the wrong house,” Steve joked. “Cause I never left home all evening.”
“I, I just don’t understand,” Michele said. “You weren’t there. We would have found you if you were.”
“Look, we’re getting no where with this,” Steve said in frustration as he ran his hand through his hair. “Wait right there and I’ll be right down there as soon as I get dressed.”
Covering up the mouthpiece and whispering to Oscar and Rudy, Michele said, “He wants us to wait here for him. He says he’s coming down here.”
“Let me speak to him,” Oscar said, reaching for the phone.
“Steve, you wait right there,” Oscar said after Michele passed him the phone. “The three of us are going to drive back over to your house to see you.”
“That’s not necessary Oscar,” Steve said in exasperation. “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
“No,” Oscar said, adamantly. “Just wait right there, pal. We’re on our way.”
Steve moved the phone away from his ear as Oscar slammed it down with a resounding ‘click’. Sighing in frustration, he hung up his phone as he tried to make heads or tails out of what they were talking about.
“What do they mean I wasn’t here when they got here?” Steve asked himself. “Of course I was here. Just what the heck is going on anyway?” he wondered. Standing and tossing the bed sheet aside, he quickly slid on a pair of old faded jeans and a long sleeve white shirt. Rolling up the sleeves, he slid his feet into a pair of loafers and finger combed his hair as he went down stairs to wait for his friends. He still couldn’t figure out how he’d lost three hours and why his friends thought he’d been missing during that time. Walking into the kitchen, he put on a pot of coffee and took down four cups and saucers. He had a feeling they’d be doing a lot of talking that night and he wanted to be as alert as possible.
Twenty minutes later, Oscar, Rudy and Michele pulled up in their cars in front of Steve’s home. Exiting their cars, they walked up the front steps together and knocked on the door.
“Oh Steve!” Michele cried, throwing herself into Steve’s arms as he opened the door.
“Hey there,” Steve said with a smile as he wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. “If this is the kind of welcome I’m gonna get, maybe I should disappear more often,” he said with a laugh.
“Don’t even joke about it pal,” Oscar said with a relieved sigh as they all entered the house and Steve closed the door behind them.
After they were seated and Steve had served them all a cup of hot coffee, he stood by the fireplace with his arm resting on the mantel. “Now just what the devil is going on here?” he asked Oscar.
“It’s like I said, pal,” Oscar began. “When you didn’t show up for your date, Michele got worried and called me. She thought maybe I’d sent you out on a mission or something.”
“I’m sorry about that, sugar,” Steve said, walking over and sitting down on the sofa next to Michele. Taking her hand in his, he said, “I didn’t mean to stand you up like that and upset you.”
Giving his hand a gentle squeeze, Michele said, “I know you didn’t Steve. I’m just glad you’re all right.”
“Can you tell us where you were?” Rudy asked.
Looking over at him, Steve said, “I’ve told you. I’ve been here the whole time doc.”
Rudy, Oscar and Michele looked worriedly at each other and the look was not lost on Steve.
“Will somebody tell me what’s going on!” Steve demanded in frustration.
“Steve, what’s the last thing you remember?” Rudy asked.
Taking a deep breath, Steve said, “I’d just taken a shower. I was in my bedroom about to get dressed and the next thing I remember, I was getting up off the floor.”
“What?” they all gasped in unison.
“What happened?” Rudy demanded.
“I don’t know,” Steve said, in confusion. “I must have passed out or something, ‘cause I don’t remember anything in between that time.”
“What time did you finish your shower?” Rudy asked.
“As far as I can remember, I think it was around, quarter after seven,” Steve said.
“And what time do you remember waking up?” Rudy asked.
“Eleven-thirty,” Steve said, remembering the time on his bedroom clock.
“The three of us got here a little after nine,” Oscar said, standing up and walking over to Steve. “We searched the entire house and that took about thirty minutes, and we left right after that.”
“Then you must have overlooked me,” Steve insisted. “There’s no way I could have left. I wasn’t even dressed when I came to?”
“What?” Rudy asked.
Turning to the doctor, Steve said, “Rudy, I had just gotten out of the shower. I hadn’t gotten dressed yet and when I came to, I still wasn’t dressed.”
“But your car was gone too,” Michele told him. “I looked for it when I got here.”
“I know this is going to sound far fetched,” Rudy said thoughtfully, “But do you have any history of sleepwalking Steve?”
“You know I don’t Rudy,” Steve said in exasperation. “You know my medical history better than I do.”
Nodding in confirmation, Rudy said, “I want you to come back to the lab with me so that I can run some tests. There’s got to be a reasonable explanation for this.”
“Yeah? Like what?” Steve asked.
“I think maybe you had a dizzy spell,” Rudy said. “I think when you fell, you hit your head, rendering yourself unconscious for a while and then, in a subconscious state, you got up and left the house.”
“With no clothes on?” Steve smirked.
“Stranger things have happened pal,” Oscar said.
“You’re right,” Steve said to Rudy, “That is far fetched.”
“Be that as it may,” Rudy said, “I still want you to come to the lab with me so that I can run those tests.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Steve said. “Rudy, I’m fine. I feel great. In fact, I’ve never felt better.”
“I think Rudy’s right pal,” Oscar said. “At least let’s rule out any serious medical problems.”
“Oscar, I’m telling you, it’s a waste of time,” Steve said, getting up from the sofa and walking back over to the fireplace. “I’m fine.”
Standing and walking over to him, Michele took his hand in hers and gazing up into his blue eyes, she said, “Please Steve. Do it for me.”
Staring down at her, Steve sighed in defeat and said, “All right, all right. I’ll do it for you.” She wrapped her arms around him and the two of them held each other as Rudy and Oscar looked at each other and sighed in relief.
“Well?” Oscar asked, two hours later as Rudy and Steve exited the lab.
Michele walked over to Steve and put her arm around his waist as Steve put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a wink.
“Physically, he’s fit as a fiddle,” Rudy said, looking at Steve’s chart.
“But?” Oscar asked in concern.
“That means there’s no physical reason for his loss of time,” Rudy explained.
“What are you saying?” Oscar asked.
“He’s saying that it might be mental or psychological,” Steve said.
“Now Steve….” Rudy huffed.
“Well it’s true, isn’t it doc?” Steve said, becoming annoyed. “The three of you are convinced that I left my house earlier tonight and I say I didn’t. Therefore, the only other explanation is that I had some kind of mental lapse and just don’t remember what happened to me.”
“We’re not saying that at all Steve,” Oscar said placatingly. “We just don’t understand why you insist that you were there when the three of us know you weren’t. How do you account for that?”
“I can’t account for it,” Steve said angrily as he removed his arm from around Michele’s shoulders and walked away.
Trying to avert an argument between the two friends, Rudy said, “Steve, your blood work will be back in about….” he looked at his wrist watch, “two hours. In the mean time, why don’t you go home and get some rest.”
“You did blood work?” Oscar asked curiously.
“Of course,” Rudy said. “I want to see if a low blood count could have been the reason that Steve passed out.”
“I see,” Oscar said.
Turning to Steve, Oscar said, “For the next couple of days, I want someone with you at all times Steve.”
“I don’t need a babysitter Oscar,” Steve huffed.
“I’m not implying that you do, pal,” Oscar said in exasperation. “I just want to make sure someone is there in case you have another episode.”
“There’s no reason to believe that I will,” Steve said defensively.
“There’s no reason to believe that you won’t either,” Oscar countered.
Taking a deep breath, Steve reluctantly agreed. “All right,” he said, “but if nothing happens in the next forty-eight hours, I’m calling it off.”
“Good, Oscar said,” relieved that Steve was willing to go along with him on this. “And make it seventy-two hours.” He couldn’t help but chuckle at Steve’s angry glare. “I’ll call Russ and have him stay with you for the next three days,” Oscar said, reaching for the phone.
“That won’t be necessary Mr. Goldman,” Michele said. “I’ll stay with Steve.”
“You?” Steve and Oscar asked incredulously.
“I couldn’t ask you to do that,” Steve said.
“I want to do it,” Michele said, walking over to him.
Blushing, Steve said, “But I don’t think that would be a good idea, Michele. I mean, what would people say? I wouldn’t want to ruin your reputation,” he said, as a shy, lopsided smile appeared on his lips.
“Oh for pete’s sake Steve!” Michele said in exasperation. “This is the 1970’s, not the 1870’s. Couples are moving in together all the time these days and besides, this is for medical reasons. Let people think whatever they want to!”
“You can’t argue with logic like that,” Oscar chuckled.
“You sure about this?” Steve asked skeptically.
“Of course I’m sure,” Michele said, gazing up at him. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Thanks,” Steve said humbly as he leaned over and placed a chaste kiss on her lips.
“Well, now that that’s settled,” Rudy said, “all that remains now is for us to get the results of your blood work back.”
“Well, you’ll know where to find us when you do,” Steve said, taking Michele’s hand and heading for the door.
“I’m going to turn in too and get a few hours sleep,” Oscar said. “Call me if you find anything out of the ordinary.”
“I’ll do that,” Rudy said, bidding them goodnight and closing the door behind them. He walked over and sat at his desk, reading over Steve’s chart again as he waited for the results of his blood work to come back.