In the back of his mind, Charlie Hume feared places like the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute. He felt it was just the kind of place he could end up someday, alone and insane. Just wandering the halls amongst those who could no longer fit into society and who would eventually just “disappear” never to be heard from again.

Amongst those who seemingly had successfully “disappeared” from society was Liam Pace, former junkie and former member of the early 21st century one hit wonder band, Drive Shaft and Megan’s father!

Megan and Charlie entered the Institute’s recreation room and quickly spotted a man back up against the far wall. The man appeared much older than his actual age. His short spiky hair was all gray and the years appeared not to have been kind to his face. Liam Pace was kicking back in a plastic chair, sunning himself under the rays that shone through a large glass window. He was chain-smoking cigarettes.

“Hi, Dad,” Megan said, leaning down to give him a quick hug.

‘Ello, darlin,” Liam mumbled, as cigarette smoke curled away from his mouth.

“Dad, this is Charlie Hume,” Megan said, “he’s a private detective and has come with me to see you because something terrible has happened.”

Charlie nodded ‘hello’.

Liam gave Charlie a suspicious look.

“What kinda terrible?” Liam asked.

Megan and Charlie both grabbed a couple extra plastic chairs and sat down.

Charlie glanced around the room. A habit developed from a slight sense of paranoia that any private detective would be wise to develop. He wanted to see if anyone was watching them and/or appeared suspicious. But one quick look around the room and Charlie quickly realized that everyone here appeared suspicious.

In addition to the orderlies, nurses, and the occasional doctor, most “patients” were aimlessly wandering around, as others played cards or checkers.

Charlie noticed one very old guy with white hair, wearing horn rimmed glasses that were being held together by duct tape. This sad, pathetic looking character, was sitting at a card table playing some type of game where you try to get four plastic disks to connect in a row. He was mumbling something over and over. Charlie listened in and heard the old guy muttering a sequence of random numbers. At least they seemed random to Charlie.

“Char’s been kidnapped,” Megan began to explain, “and the kidnappers, whoever they are, said they’d kill her if I didn’t deliver this envelope to you. They said there are instructions in it for you to follow and after you read what was in it, you were to give them some kind of answer!”

Megan handed the envelope to Liam, as he took a long drag from his cigarette.

“Sir,” Charlie said, “do you have any idea what this is all about?”

Liam didn’t reply, as he tore the envelope open, taking out some typewritten sheets inside and an official looking contract-like document. He began to read.

Megan and Charlie glanced at each other. Charlie shrugged his shoulders.

After what seemed an eternity, Liam quietly placed the papers back into the envelope.

“Well?” Megan nervously asked.

Liam took another long drag on the cigarette and subtly frowned.

“I was afraid this might happen, someday,” he finally uttered.

“What might happen?” Charlie impatiently asked.

“Yeah, Dad,” Megan anxiously said, “what’s this all about?!”

Liam snuffed out the cigarette and turned to face Charlie and Megan.

“Get comfortable kids,” he seriously replied, “while I tell you one amazin’ story!”

Next: Chap. Eleven “A Magic Mixture of Magnetism and Drugs”

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