Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy
Rochester, New York
It turned out that the professor in New York was actually at a Catholic Seminary in Rochester, which was in upstate New York. It took a few hours to get travel plans set up, thanks to the layers of bureaucratic red tape, which were necessary to go through for the government to pick up the tab, and another few hours before the next available flight was scheduled to go. By the time they landed in Rochester, it was getting later in the day, meaning they needed to rush if they were going to catch her before she left for the day.
Whitaker had argued they should have just called her and asked her to explain things, but Taylor wanted to see her in person. He usually preferred face-to-face interaction if at all possible, since people had all kinds of ‘tells’ that were much easier to pick up when face to face. While she was just an expert and not actually involved in any crime, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t obfuscate or lie. One of the key things Taylor had learned since he’d started working as an investigator, first by himself and later with the Bureau, was that everyone lies, even when they don’t have to. Everyone has something to hide, and finding out what that was, was often helpful in cracking the case he was working on.
It was almost six by the time they rented a car and found their way to the St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, which was actually a handful of buildings on the campus of Nazareth College, itself a small private university.
They asked around and were directed to an office in one corner of the largest building that made up St. Bernard’s. Taylor raised his hand to knock on the door when a man’s voice boomed through the door.
“She’s here, right now. Why won’t you listen to me?” the voice said, followed by a crashing sound.
Taylor dropped his hand to the doorknob and pushed the door open, his other hand pushing his jacket back and resting on the butt of his weapon. Inside, standing behind a desk was an older woman with grey hair, her hands raised in what Taylor thought looked like a ‘calm down’ motion. She was staring on the other side of the desk, closer to Taylor and Whitaker, fear evident on her face.
The man looked almost homeless, with a mismatched array of clothes and a thick, wiry beard. The thing that Taylor noticed about him most of all were his eyes, when he turned at the sound of the door opening. They were strikingly light blue, and wide with anger and craziness. They reminded Taylor a little bit of the pictures he’d seen of John Brown in history books when he was younger. The broken remains of what looked like a desk lamp were scattered at his feet.
After a second of everyone staring at each other, the man did something that hardly ever happened: he completely surprised Taylor. Although he was clearly startled, he reacted almost instantly, turning away from Taylor and Whitaker to take off running, crashing through the large window.
“Stay with her!” Taylor shouted back at Whitaker as he jumped through the now opened window.
The guy was fast and was halfway across the small green lawn and nearing one of the cross streets that bracketed the college, by the time Taylor made it out the window.
As soon as Taylor hurdled through the window, he took off after the wild-eyed man. The man had to slow down as he approached a row of cars parked along the street, squeezing between an SUV and a pickup truck, allowing Taylor to close some of the ground between them.
Taylor was confused at first why the man didn’t immediately speed up as soon as he cleared the cars, as that allowed Taylor to close even more ground - until he noticed a small shiny object fly out of the man’s hand and underneath the vehicle Taylor was approaching.
Thankfully for Taylor, his instincts kicked in, saving him from the delay it would have taken him to consciously realize what he had seen. Taylor dug the side of his boot into the ground to slow his momentum as he scrambled away from the car. Taylor had only made it a few feet from the car when the bomb exploded. The explosion wasn’t large, but Taylor could still feel the heat from the small fireball. The explosion’s concussive blast was enough to slam Taylor to the ground, knocking the wind out of him and effectively ending the chase.
Although he had told Whitaker to stay with the professor, he wasn’t surprised when her face appeared above him as he struggled to get air back into his lungs.
“Are you okay?” Whitaker asked, a concerned look on her face.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Taylor wheezed, still lying on the ground trying to regain his senses. “The guy got away.”
“Yeah, I guessed that from the explosion.”
Whitaker reached down and grabbed Taylor’s hand, helping to pull him up from the ground. A cursory once over showed Taylor to be uninjured, except for his pride, with only a few small cuts from flying debris. Had he been much closer things would have been very different.
There was no way the guy could have known that Taylor and Whitaker were going to be there. They hadn’t called ahead, and there was no reasonable explanation that the guy would have guessed the FBI would turn up at that moment. Despite that, the man had had a small explosive ready to go at a moment’s notice. This said he was either very paranoid or very prepared, either of which made him incredibly dangerous.
Taylor was certain that this was their suspect. The coincidence of a man with a pipe bomb just happening to be there at that moment was too great to discount it. Even with Taylor’s bad luck, it was unlikely he would run across a second bomber. While their suspect hadn’t been a bomber per se, the homemade device was very similar to something a person with explosives experience would have built.
The first patrol car showed up by that time and Taylor was happy to let Whitaker deal with it. Once she calmed them down and let them know the FBI was in charge, she had them block off the area and made a call to get local agents down to the scene. Whitaker made the decision to leave collecting evidence to the local agents. She’d have to call Joe and have him coordinate it, but they didn’t have a problem getting the leg work started before official orders came in.
That taken care of, they headed back to the professor’s office, keen to speak with her now that she was more than just an expert witness. Taylor was surprised to find her still in her office leaning against her desk, looking at the shattered lamp and window.
“Professor Wood, I’m Agent Whitaker, and this is Agent Taylor, with the FBI,” Whitaker said, flashing her badge. “Obviously, we would like to ask you some questions about the man who was just in your office.”
Taylor thought it strange hearing Whitaker refer to him as Agent Taylor. While he did work for the FBI currently, he was not a special agent. That was a title conferred on people who had gone through the FBI academy and had been promoted to that rank. Taylor knew that Whitaker had only said that to keep from confusing civilians who would probably not understand the FBI hierarchy’s nuances. While it wasn’t a particularly big deal, it still made Taylor feel uncomfortable.
“I heard an explosion. Is Pete okay?” the middle-aged woman asked.
“If Pete is the man who just jumped through your window, then yes he is fine. The sound you heard was from an explosive he threw under a car which almost killed me!” Taylor said.
“I take it you know this man?” Whitaker asked.
“Yes, he was one of my students a long time ago.”
“His name’s Peter?”
“Peter. Peter Hubbard.”
“When you say a long time ago, how long?”
“Almost twenty years. He started here in two thousand, the same year I was hired as an adjunct professor.”
“You knew him well?”
“I guess. He was taking a class I was teaching on early church history and he’d often stay after class to continue talking about the lecture. He was intelligent and incredibly curious. He was ... odd, but very smart.”
“What do you mean by odd?” Taylor asked.
“He was just unusual. It’s hard to describe. He’d lock onto something small and just, fall into it. After a week he’d come back and know more about whatever we’d discussed than I did. Of course, looking back his obsessions make sense, but at the time I just thought he was passionate about the subject.”
“What do you mean, looking back?” Whitaker asked.
“He’s schizophrenic. It’s why they kicked him out of the military.”
Whitaker started to ask a question until Taylor reached over and squeezed her gently on the elbow, interrupting her. He knew she would start asking more direct questions about the suspects’ mental condition and military experience, since those were the two things that would most likely impact their investigation, but Taylor thought they were missing context.
One of the ways Taylor still differed from Whitaker and the rest of the FBI was his point of view. They could never break out of the cop mindset, fixed on the specifics they needed to close a case. Taylor believed that was short-sighted. One of the reasons why he’d been successful was that he treated an investigation the same way he’d been trained to tackle a mission back in the service. It was important to gather all the intel and get the most complete picture of a situation before moving. In investigations, that meant not just knowing what a suspect was doing and why they were doing it but understanding why the suspect thought they did something. Seeing a situation from their point of view could help him anticipate them in the future.
“Could you just start at the beginning and go through what you know about Peter?”
“I mean, I can’t tell you a lot. I heard from him off and on, but there were years in between. We weren’t friends.”
“Okay,” Taylor said, changing tracks. “You said he was studying theology? Did he graduate?”
“No. He dropped out shortly after nine-eleven. He’d been really affected by it. In hindsight, that should have been one of the first clues of his mental troubles.”
“Why? A lot of people enlisted after nine-eleven. I knew a bunch of guys who dropped out of college to join up. What made it different?”
“He had ... ideas about the attack. He wasn’t explicit, but he’d make comments about knowing who was ‘really’ behind the attacks. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but from things he’s said over the years, I think that’s the first time he started with his ... obsession.”
“What was his obsession?”
“I’m not a psychiatrist, so I can only tell you about what I’ve seen, but I think that it started as a genuine curiosity about early heretical cults expelled from the church. He was fascinated by all of them, but eventually, he locked in on the Simonians and Ennoians. Neither is well documented, but he read everything he could and even called on some scholars in the field to ask questions.”
“We were given your name by Professor Detmer at Georgetown, who told us that a group called the Ennoians believed that the mother of the angels, or something, was going to bring about Revelations,” Whitaker said.
“Yes. It’s not exactly what the Ennoians themselves believed, but it’s where his delusion has taken him. He didn’t pay them a lot of attention in the beginning, which isn’t surprising considering how little information exists about them, but by the time he left to join the military he was starting to really focus on the sect. The next time I heard from him, a couple of years after he left, they’re all he talked about.”
“She was more than just the mother of angels, in their belief. The sect believed she was almost as powerful as God, and greater than Satan since she was just the feminine aspect of God himself. Other than that, yes. Pete was convinced she was behind nine-eleven and all the other ‘bad stuff’ happening worldwide. He believed that was one of the prophesied events in revelations.”
“So, he thinks he’s a warrior of God, or something?”
“I think so. Again, this is just piecing together things from what he’s said and his behavior. Except for one time, a few years ago when he was being kicked out of the military because of his mental illness, he’s never addressed the fact that he was sick. For him, this is all real. I’ve tried to get him help but he flies into a rage when anyone suggests that none of this is real and he’s got an illness.”
“You said he comes back to you to ask questions occasionally?”
“Yes. Maybe because I was his instructor when he started forming his beliefs or maybe because he knew me before the disease set in, he’s decided I’m one of the ‘safe people’ he can talk to about it. He says he has to maintain his ‘mask’ for everyone else, since he can’t tell if they are fallen angels or servants of Ennoia.”
“You said he got kicked out of the military a few years ago, so the whole time between then and nine-eleven he was in the service?”
“Yes, I think so. You have to understand, he wasn’t normally like he was today. He’s normally incredibly controlled. The only reason you’d know something was wrong is if he talked to you about what he called ‘the coming battle,’ which he didn’t do unless he thought you were safe. Honestly, I haven’t seen him worked up like this except shortly before he got kicked out of the military.”
“Do you know where he lives or where we can find him?” Whitaker asked.
“No. Like I said, I only hear from him occasionally, and the last time I saw him in person was three years ago, right after he got out of the military. Normally he’d just call me from wherever to talk about whatever new ideas or theories he had about the Ennoians.”
“If he was that disturbed, why did you keep taking his calls?” Taylor asked.
“At first, he was doing actual research, and I found it interesting. He’d been in contact with several scholars in the field and had even visited some of the archives in Europe where you could find writings from the early ecclesiastical councils. His progression from studying the sect to attempts to prove them right and follow their beliefs didn’t happen until later, and not all at once. By then, I felt a sense of responsibility for him since I’d been the one to introduce it to him.”