Already suspecting the answer, I asked, “Did he use a word more precise than ‘it’?”
Daniel’s laugh had a hint of weariness, “No, but if I had to guess, he said something about a device that needed to be destroyed last time, and when we asked him if he meant the power impregnator he didn’t respond.”
I thought back to the afternoon. Even besides the tablet, we had two storage rooms worth of Abominator devices. I could think of half a dozen devices that might be good candidates for destruction and I’d only opened one of the two rooms. Plus, and I wasn’t going to mention this outside of HQ, we had a whole lower level below the main level of HQ that Grandpa set up to be a fallout shelter and base for rebuilding civilization in case of nuclear war.
I’d come to suspect that there might be more Abominator equipment down there in addition to canned and freeze-dried food that was well past its expiration date.
“Crap,” I said, “He’s not in… the best of health, though. Do you think we have to take him seriously?”
Daniel’s grandfather said something in the background and Daniel said, “Just a second,” and then in a voice that sounded distant, as if he wasn’t talking directly into the microphone, “Grandpa, which device? The Rocket has a lot of devices, remember?”
Grandpa Cohen said something unintelligible and Daniel’s voice came over the phone again, “He says you’ll know it. And now he’s walked away, mumbling something to himself. I’m going to keep on moving. I’m the only one home so I should keep him in sight.”
Glancing at my mom and Haley, I wondered if I should wrap up the conversation. Haley had to be able to hear both sides, but my mom couldn’t. “No problem,” I said, “but do you think he’s saying something useful, or is he just randomly repeating things from the past?”
“I don’t know for sure,” Daniel said, the inconsistency of his volume hinting that his phone was moving back and forth near his mouth as he walked, “but when you asked if we should take him seriously, he said ‘yes.’ I didn’t have my cell on speakerphone and I keep up enough of a block that he shouldn’t be able to pull it out of my head.
“My dad and I have suspected for years that he set up something in his brain that would allow him to pass out information at crucial moments. I mean, the League’s board’s basically said that they’re following a plan based on what he learned about the future and that they’re not telling us to avoid messing things up. If he’d trust anyone keep things on track, though, he’d trust himself.”
I felt myself frown, “And he’s not being particularly talkative either. Do you think it would be worth it for Haley and me to drop by?”
“No. He’s still as powerful as he used to be. We know how he responds to family, but we try not to risk guests without help and I’m the only one home right now.” Daniel’s phone made a clunking noise.
“Okay,” I looked over at my mom. “Totally different subject. It sounds like my dad’s block is on its way out. Do you have any tips to help us make it as smooth as possible? We’re hoping it won’t drop while he’s teaching a class or something.”
Daniel let out a breath, “Wow. Don’t let him go on long trips alone until it happens. The way a block ends is that the subject’s brain stops reinforcing pieces of the block a little bit at a time and learns more and more until one day it all falls. There’s no way to know what the final trigger will be, and whether it will fall gently or all at once. It’ll be better if he’s in familiar surroundings, near friends and family.”
I thought about Dad, wondering what he was doing now—watching TV or doing research for his next book, maybe loading the dishwasher. I wasn’t going to be at home and neither was Rachel. As the person who ran the business end of Dad’s combination of writing, public speaking, therapy, and teaching, Mom worked at home as he did.
She’d be here and that was a good thing, but on a gut level, it felt like I should be helping more than that. To Daniel, I said, “We’ll see what we can do. They both work out of the home a lot, so my mom will be with him and I don’t think he’s got any big trips planned.”
“That sounds like the best possible situation,” Daniel said. “I think I need to help Grandpa back to his room. I should hang up.”
He did, and I explained what he’d told me to mom, ending with, “Do you want me to move back home for a little while until Dad comes to himself? I can’t promise I’ll be home all the time, but if I’m home in the evenings or at night, it’ll be better than nothing.”
Mom shook her head, “I think I can handle it. You’ve got your own very busy life right now and explaining why you’re here one minute and gone the next… I’m not going to pretend to know more than Daniel, but I think that’s the way you trigger the more dramatic kind of break. Don’t worry about me.”
Then she stopped, glancing toward the door to the hall, “There’s something you should know though. I think your Grandpa Klein knew about Grandpa Vander Sloot and the Rocket. Thinking about it after my block ended, it was obvious even though I can’t explain why it’s obvious.”
Dad’s father, my Grandpa Klein, had taught anthropology at Grand Lake University until they eliminated the department and he moved to teach at the University of Minnesota. I’d never seen any indication that he knew, but I hadn’t been looking either, and now that I was, I remembered that Grandpa Vander Sloot visited him in Minnesota every year.
I’d asked him what they did once. Grandpa said they went fishing.