The 65th Octave

by | Mar 8, 2001 | Archives

Chapter One

Robin MacAllen’s stomach knotted when Usha, his assistant, entered his hotel suite. Dressed in silk, she was, as always, cool, elegant, despite Miami’s humid air. But the old man dressed in a rumpled tweed coat who trailed behind her reeked of trouble and grief. Robin had left explicit instructions not to be disturbed. Any interruption was bad enough, but the old man’s bearing suggested something even worse.

Pushing six feet and built through summers of hard work on the high sea, Robin appeared capable of handling anything, anytime. He was. But over his forty-five years he had also learned his limits. A four week business trip to Europe had pushed him far enough. Even the flight home had been tiring-an electrical storm, bucking plane, traffic from the airport snarled. He had barely made his keynote speech at a global banking symposium after the flight.

Now slouched in his chair, shoes untied, necktie undone, wearily fingering the growing stubble on his chin, he was past his limits. And now? Take on more trouble? Impossible!

At these seminars, bankers paid him a fat $725 an hour just for advice. At the top of a highly specialized field, he spotted global con tricks, scams, financial rip offs. The more he charged, the more bankers called.

After this trip though, he had cancelled all meetings. One banker offered to quadruple his fee but the crushing weariness was not worth any amount of cash.

Usha walked in silently on the polished pine floor, ignoring Robin’s state of exhaustion. “A gentleman is here for a consultation. He says it’s a matter of life or death.”

Though physically imposing, Robin’s manner was calm. He rarely lost his temper with anyone. With Usha never. But the choked terseness of his reply warned her that his patience was wearing thin. “I told you to cancel all consultations. I don’t care what his problem is or what he’ll pay. I’m beat. Ask him back tomorrow.”

She blinked twice, stepped further into the suite and though barely half his size replied with force. “He says he can’t pay anything. I think you should listen. It’s one of those feelings you pay me to get. Trust me on this one.”

What she said next really didn’t matter. There was a standing arrangement between them. He always helped those who couldn’t pay. Business was good. The luxury suite he kept here in Miami, his ranch in the Everglades, his home in Everglades City, his London and Hong Kong flats and global travels were paid for by men who saved millions from his advice. Rich men could afford to wait for his advice. Poor men could not.

Robin always remembered. Rich he was now, but not always. Far from it, his wealth had risen from talent combined with relentless focus, hard work and a little good luck. Had the man offered him a million dollars, tonight he might have turned it down. This old man was probably the bearer of headaches and bad news. But since he couldn’t pay a dime Robin knew he had to hear him out.

“God, I want to go to bed,” he said as he stood, forced himself to walk stiffly across the room and poured himself a Miami Special-black Cuban coffee-thick with sugar. He was trapped. “Okay, Usha, I’ll see him. Keep it short! What’s he want?”

He groaned, slugged down the coffee and reached for the coffee filter again as he heard her reply. “He won’t say. He just says it’s a matter of utmost importance. Of life or death.”

He groaned again. “Great. A mystery man. The gods must be angry.”

Her almond face turned serious as she replied. “I don’t know about the gods, but I do know my feelings. This man is sincere.”

He raised his hand in mock surrender. “Okay. Okay. I give up. What’s sleep anyway? Send Mr. Sincere in.”

He watched the old man enter and introduce himself. “Thank ya for seeing me. Fergus Clague is ma name.”

Robin caught the Scottish brogue and recognized him as a man who often hawked books at the Miami Airport. He had a rugged look of strength, somehow out of character for his age. His ragged tweed coat was too well filled, his bearing too straight, too strong for his years. There was more beneath the surface. Robin’s warning instincts, with the help of a second Miami special coffee, pushed their way through his sleep-deprived fog.

“Yu cover yurr surprise well, young man. This is a good sign. I see yurr younger than I’d thought. Well, I guess we can forgive an old man whose eyes er not what they ought to be. Yurr surprised I know yu from the airport? Yurr there often.”

The old man went on in a voice soft but steady. “I’ve seen and remember yu, so I guess it not be strange yu’ll remember me. But I’ll guess yu’ll find it strange I know yurr name and that yurr family er Scots. Yu’ll be surprised at other things I knew about yu too. I’m pleased. Yu confirm my assessments of yu.”

Robin watched the old man settle into an armchair as he continued to speak. “Yu might think I’m crazy, bein at the airport every day. I see a lot. I’ve seen millions a people in this airport but I know exactly how many times I’ll have seen yu pass, Mr. MacAllen. I’ll even be rememberin the first time I saw yu because in that minute I knew yu hed the second sight. You’re a Scot, I can tell. I’m a Scot and have the second sight too. I’ve known for days we’d be speaken even before yu flew back from Europe.”

The old man’s words quickened as they took on a hushed tone. “Listen to me, laddie MacAllen, and listen good. We Scots are Celts and er history goes baak a long way-but there is a parallel history et goes baak further, much further, perhaps to the beginnin of time. I can’t tell yu all there is. But knowen that history has caused more men to die than yu can tell. Caused a purge in the Highlands too horrible to tell. That purge is thought ta ended hundreds of years ago. It did not. The purge goes on to this day. I’m one of the last carriers-those who know the whole story but are not of the controllers. I been lucky in this but now me time is near. Last week me best friend who was also a carrier was found murdered in London. He’d been hidin there for years. We’d stayed in touch. If they found him, they’ll have found me. Me days are numbered. I have knowledge it’s important I pass on. I have to tell yu!”

He paused, seemed to consider whether or not to continue, then straightened, as if a decision had been made. He continued. “The ferst time I saw yu I realized yu might not even be aware yu have the second sight. Yu aren’t even hiden it! That’s a dangerous thing-so I guess yu’ll be free a the controllers.

“I wanted to tell yu but had to be sure you’re the one who should know. I’m give’n yu a book. It’s got the secrets thet’ll be give’n yu more things than yu’ll want to know. Yu’ll find ways to make more money then yu can count. Yu’ll be able to make it in stocks, in bonds, in business, in almost anything yu’ll choose. This secret’s worth billions, but also can be a curse. Yurr about tu receive a call from England. Yu’ll be needin this book when yu go there, and go there yu will. So I’m give’n it to yu now. It can bring yu a fortune. Might save yurr life.”

Robin immediately began to leap ahead to what the old man was about to say. “Let me guess,” he thought, “How’d this guy know my name? Probably watched me book a flight. He could easily have surmised I was of Scottish ancestry. Typical scam. Thinks a tidbit of knowledge will fool me. A variation of the treasure map scam. Next he’ll want a little seed money to put his secret to work. I’ve seen better cons. This is just a variation of the old treasure map scam.”

He began instinctively to calculate the scam. “Why choose me? I was trained by a master con artist. I’ve got all the knowledge. I use it to protect rather than bilk investors, but I know it all.”

He started to feel cold anger at the insult of this con, yet spoke carefully, “I suppose you need some cash? How much?”

The old man’s eyes turned a deeper blue, like ice and stared piercingly at him. “Och, Laddie, it isn’t money that I’ll be needin where I’m goin. I’ll be needin time but don’t have even that now, so I’ll only be needin yu to know the secret. Yu have the sight. Yurr not bein tracked. Maybe yu can succeed where I can ne. But watch out, there’s more danger then yu’ll be needin to handle if the controllers know yu know. Once you understand the secret yu’ll know what to do with it. Yurr sight tells me so.”

The old man’s eyes brightened. “Most think the secret came from China but that’s not true. The secret was born with the Celts. A long, long time ago they took it to Scotland. Yu see Scotland has always been a hard country. High, cold, little good ground for much of anything save a little wheat and clear water to be makin whiskey. But that’s why we chose those lands. The Celts weren’t there to begin. Yu’ll find Celt blood all over the world, where you’d never expect. Always cold, hard places we’ll be, because we’ve always be tryin to escape the controllers because they knew we had the secret.”

His words tumbled out. “But a man can’t live through cold winters on just whiskey. Many a Scot became a traveling man. A few ended in the East, way back when China was still a new place and white men were special. Marco Polo had a few hardy Scots. Don’t get me wrong Scots di ne go just to Asia. Came west too. Did yu know one a the native American chiefs was a Scot? But that was later.

“They went everywhere. But it was in Asia where they used the secret to get ahead. Some in Asia were too bold and openly used the secret to help the Emperors keep the masses under control. Europe’s monarchies all lost power, but the Emperors in Asia stayed strong with the secret. This only lasted because the controllers were not there!”

The old man leaned nearer as his words sharpened. “Opium! That’s the way in those days. They built a big trade of it. Run it out a Canton down the Pearl River to Hong Kong. The Emperors allowed it for the secret. Then opium became forbidden but they never got caught because they used the secret. Knew when and where the patrol boats would be. Built huge trading companies in Hong Kong. Always knew what type of goods would be needed next.

“They kept the secret. Handed it down. One Taipan to the next. But then they made their mistake bringing it back to Europe where the controllers already were. They spotted the power right away.”

His voice grew stronger. “The controllers been trying to take over for five hundred years. They’d been brutal. Have wiped out whole nations. That’s what the destruction a the Toltecs, Olmecs and the Aztecs was all about. Ever wondered why Central American Indians look like Orientals? They started in the same place. When controllers originally took control o the secret, many escaped. The Scots to north in the mountains, others east and others west across the water. They took the secret with them. That’s why there was so much gold. The secret needs gold.”

Robin’s mind honed in on the gold. This would be the lure in the scam, he thought. Soon Clague would be telling how they could find a map with the secret’s lost gold. Robin interrupted. “Mr. Clague, I am not interested in discovering treasure or learning the whereabouts of hidden gold. Let’s stop wasting your time and mine.”

The old man sank back in his chair. Then with a determined look he began again. “Mr. MacAllen, yurr suspicious nature is good. Believe me in the days ahead yu’ll be needed it. I’m not here for askin, just tellin. Listen up just a moment, then I’ll be gone. There’s no treasure. Usin the secret requires gold if ya don’t have the second sight. That’s why when the Spanish learned of the Aztecs and their gold, the controllers knew the Aztecs had the secret. Didn’t take long. The controllers arranged to wipe out the whole nation. And the Spanish took the blame! To this day, science is baffled. Whole civilizations down there in Central America disappeared! Controllers di nae want anyone to know. So they just wiped them all out! Di nae make them slaves or be keeping beautiful women for pleasure. They were afraid even one might know the secret and escape or tell.”

Robin’s sat up. Something the old man said or the way he said it, rang true. He leaned closer as the old man who continued.

“Once it became clear to the controllers that some in Scotland en the east still knew the secret, they worked to wipe everyone out. Orchestrated the Highland massacres. In China, Emperors fell in bloody wars that brought them down. We Scots, di nae made it easy for them. Always been a close race. Clannish. Tough. An we’re scattered all over the world. An we’ve the second sight, that feel at the base of our neck and in the gut that tells what we can trust and what we cannot. Grows, that feel does. So strong your head aches when it’s important. I’m sure yu have felt it but maybe haven’t known what it was. They couldn’t kill us all. Couldn’t find out so easy who the holders of the secret were. We’ve learned how to hide.”

The old man’s voice slowed and softened. “I’ve had the second sight my life throogh. Brought me and my friends everything we wanted for forty years. But the controllers ne’er gave up. Finally traced us a few years ago. Started killing us all. My friend in London was the last. Next to me. So I know me days are numbered. When he died I knew. Had to pass the secret on. Now I’m passin it to yu. Remember they’ve wiped out nations just thinkin some may of had this secret. You, me, a few lives means nothin to em. This book tells all yu’ll need to know. Read with care for few men know its contents. Not more than a handful o these books exist. Take it and leave as soon as yu can. Read it, then yu’ll know what yu have to do! This book’s from a friend who’ll call yu soon. Believe me yu’ll hear from this friend!”

Having finished, the old man sagged wearily back into the chair. Then with a sudden effort he rose and said with a lowered voice. “Got to go now. Cannot be seen with ye. Even this time we’ve spent puts yu in danger.” He straightened, walked to the door and without another word was gone.

Robin looked at the book, old cracked leather, crusted along the spine, musty feeling. Then he tucked it in his coat pocket and called Usha in. “You really missed on that one. The guy was crazy. Had to be scam of some kind. Darn if I can figure what he’s after. Too damn tired to work it out.”

He downed another Miami special. This had been a hard night and he needed this one just to get ready for bed. He asked Usha. “What’s your feelings? I can’t seem to get a lock on the old man. My gut feelings usually tell me right away. But with the old man I get nothing, just a creepy feeling, a sense of dread. Something’s really wrong.”

“I heard the whole conversation,” she began. She stopped as the phone rang and picked it up. “Robin MacAllen’s office.” She looked at him in disbelief. “Ian Fletcher is calling from England. He sounds almost as crazy as the old man.”

Robin clicked on the conference speaker and Ian Fletcher’s voice jumped loudly into the room. “Robin,” Ian almost cried, “I’m calling from a call box just outside Nailsworth. I need your help, extremely urgent. You must come. Now. Please. On the first flight.”

Robin was too stunned to reply. There was fear in Ian’s voice and he knew something drastic had happened. They had been business associates and close friends from almost the day they had met in the Philippines. If anyone was a cool customer it was Ian, yet he sounded more desperate than he could even imagine.

“Fly back to England now?” Robin was so tired he could barely speak those words. He hesitated then replied. “Ian, remember last week in London? How exhausted I was? I’m just back and have been working the whole time. Can’t this wait a few days?”

Ian did not even pause before he replied. “No…no Robin this is beyond comprehension. I’m desperate. Please come here to the Cotswolds. Nailsworth. On tonight’s flight. Please.”

A request like this from Ian was unimaginable, unless something was seriously wrong. The thought of another flight and long drive into the English countryside was overwhelming. His eyes blurred with weariness yet he answered. “Isn’t Nailsworth the little village just down the hill from Minchinhampton?”

Ian’s rasped reply was almost panicked. “Yes, and for God’s sake get here quickly!”

“Let me think, Ian. There’s a pub just outside Nailsworth called the White Stag. Let’s meet there for dinner tomorrow. If I can get a plane out tonight, I’ll reach Heathrow early, rent a car and drive down.”

The intensity of Ian’s reply was startling. “No!” Ian shouted. “Do not come into Nailsworth, especially not the White Stag. They might see you there! Drive to Minchinhampton instead. Just past the village square, watch for a store called Gough’s on the left and an intersection. Go straight over and down a steep hill. About two miles on, the road forks. Take the right turning. About a mile on you’ll see a big oak on the left. Follow a path across the road from that tree into the hills. Don’t come until midnight. Whatever you do, don’t let anyone know you’re coming. I’ll be waiting there and will signal…”.

Ian’s voice suddenly stopped, but it took Robin a few seconds to realize there was no sound coming from the phone.

“Ian? You’ll signal what? Ian. You there? Ian!”

He waited but there was no reply. Tired or not, he would fly to England. There was much to do. He had planned some fishing in the Everglades with his friend, Billy Panther, a Seminole Indian. His adrenaline surged as he moved into action.

“Usha, I’m heading for the airport. Call and make reservations. First flight available, London or Manchester, first class. I can drive to the Cotswolds from either place in a couple hours. Have a rental car ready when I get there, a big one that’s fast. Mercedes or Audi. In the morning call Billy Panther. Cancel our fishing trip.”

The brief meeting with the old Scot did not resurface until an hour later that night when an overworked Miami traffic cop shouted at him for dashing through the airport to reach his flight. “Hey get on the crosswalk! Can’t ya see how fast those cars are going! I’m getting tired of scraping you guys off the road. Already had to clean up after that old Scot whose always hanging around here. Stepped right in front of a car. Killed. Hit and run! If I see you cross like that again, it’s gonna cost you.”

Robin was momentarily stunned, then reached into his pocket, felt the book and raced down the terminal to catch his plane.

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