I got to the office’s main reception desk right at 9 the next morning since Leslie appeared to be the punctual type. Actually, she’s the full of surprises type. She was waiting there for me to arrive.
“Been waiting long?” I asked her.
I turned to the receptionist, signed Leslie’s paper work, and turned to escort her into the building. The receptionist called out to me, “Mr. Bryce, there’s a phone message here for you.” She handed me a little piece of pink paper. It said I was to meet Adams at 9:30 at the hospital entrance and accompany him back here. I couldn’t see why, but he’s the boss.
I asked the receptionist, “Can you call my group admin to get someone to escort Dr. Warden? I have to leave on an errand.”
“Yes, Mr. Bryce.”
I turned to Leslie, “Someone else will be with you this morning. I have to go over to St. Mike’s and pick up Adams.”
“Ok. No problem. Can we meet for lunch?”
“Sure, if I’m back in the office. I’ll leave a message with the group admin.”
I turned and left for the subway. Various delays added up to me not getting to St. Mike’s until around 9:45. Adams was sitting in a wheelchair in the main lobby with a nurse’s aide standing by his side. He didn’t look too well.
As he saw me approach the entrance he stood up. When I reached him he had said his goodbyes to the aide and she had turned and was pushing the chair back into the bowels of the place.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
His right arm was in a black sling held close to his chest. His demeanor was frail. He seemed to have aged a lot in the last few days.
“Could be better, but I can leave.”
We headed for the street. Adams had the gait of an old man, but the years slowly fell away as we got to the sidewalk.
“Taxi?” I asked as we reached the curb.
“No, I want to walk. I’ve been cooped up in that place and I want to be outside in the fresh air for awhile.”
I couldn’t blame him, we were still having a stretch of fine weather.
Adams elaborated, “Let’s walk over to the Crombie subway station and head to the office from there. I need to pick up some things and fill out some papers in HR. I need you to help me collect my things. Then I’ll be at home for the next few weeks. Home care, doctors appointments, physio, tests and all that.”
We turned and started our walk. Crombie wasn’t the closest station, but it was only a few blocks away.
“I’m sure your daughter will be glad to see you when you get home. I’m surprised she wasn’t here to meet you.”
“I sent her back to Ottawa. She has an important job there and there isn’t anything she can do here fussing over me.”
We stopped for a red light. No jaywalking for us.
Green. We crossed the street with the late-for-workers and tourists. I had a question burning a hole in my head and out in the open was where to ask it. I turned to Adams and asked straight out, “Are you Zed?”
His lack of hesitation surprised me. We kept walking without missing a stride. He wasn’t offering anything else, so from the choices of who, what, when, where, and why bouncing around in my head, I went with, “Why?”
That stopped him. Then I stopped and faced him. The sidewalk crowd flowed around us.
Adams spit out his reply, “Money. Money, pure and simple. I needed money. I wanted money.”
I stared blankly back at him. He stared at me, his face taut, ashen, and angry.
He sighed. His expression loosened. He motioned with his left arm that we should keep walking. We did.
“Soon after the fusor papers were presented at that physics conference a couple years ago, I was approached by some men who knew about my money problems. They said that for very little work on my part, I could make a lot of money.”
We came to another red light and stopped again. Adams wasn’t paying much attention. I had to stop him from walking into a right turning car.
“All I had to do was create some ‘mischief’ in the fusor department. Slow down work, introduce roadblocks, circulate disinformation, raise doubts. Basically, keep it from going forward. Make it seem like a waste of time, set up situations, maybe dangerous ones, to cast it in a bad light, something not in the public good. Nothing that a bureaucrat in my position couldn’t handle. For that they’d give me more money than I’d ever hope to see in my lifetime.”
The light went green and the jaunty little man in the walk-sign beaconed us safe passage.
Adams stayed put and continued, “I thought I could do it and I wanted the money more than I cared about what was going on in those labs. I figured some other lab somewhere else in the country would eventually figure out this fusor physics, so nothing was being lost.”
Red light again. Time for round two.
“What I didn’t appreciate when I started was my actions might get someone killed and ruin the lives of others. I thought I was pretty smart and could easily be a ‘criminal mastermind’ and pull it off without any problems.”
Adams paused. Walkers walked. The light went green and the little man again asked us to cross. We took him up on the offer this time and walked to the other side. I could see the Crombie entrance sign up ahead.
“Who are ‘they’?” I asked.
Adams turned his head toward me as we walked, “‘They’ are in the energy extraction business. They don’t want any competition. Especially from an energy source that one day might be as free as air.” Adams waved his good arm and tried to grab some.
Adams seemed to be forgetting I was there and was talking to someone else, “I’ve made so many mistakes. That night when we met? That was a mission I screwed up. Hiring you. Another mistake. I thought it would help keep the incident quiet. Keep it in the family and under control.”
I wasn’t thrilled to hear that, but hurt feelings from the likes of me weren’t stopping him now. He was on a roll.
“Constable McMillan being killed? That was due to my mistakes. Mary Smith in jail? Me again. Streetcar highjacking and the human damage? Me. And to make matters worse, there’s more like me in that place. Peons too.” Adams tried to wiggle his dead shoulder. “One of them probably did this. Beats me who.”
We got to the Crombie sign and went down the stairs to the station. I fished two tokens from my pocket and popped them into the turnstiles. One for me. One for him. We headed to the end of the platform.
We stood there and faced each other.
Adams continued, “Of course there is no solid evidence to prove any of this regardless of what a convicted murderer may have told you. But, I’m sure you and Dr. Warden will try. You’re naive enough.”
Adams seemed relaxed now. His body and face had lost the rigidity they had while telling me his story. The train was entering the station. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do once we got back to the office.
I needn’t have worried.
As the engine roar and air pressure wave made the physical presence of the subway train known, Adams took a step off the platform and into oblivion.