The bedside clock read 11:20 p.m. James Parker, better known as Jim or Houdini, was lying in bed on his back, fully clothed, hands clasped under his head, reflecting on the day’s events. What should have been a smoothly executed operation had become a complicated one. He could blame it all on Rocky for mishandling Mr. T, but what was the use of laying blame at this point?
Houdini remembered the meeting less than one week ago in Dr. Trench’s office. Dr. Trench had then stressed the importance of the operation for the members of the Order, who had long been waiting with anticipation for the moment they would be united with their Master reincarnate. Recently, after a search that had lasted many years, it had been established beyond the shadow of a doubt that their Master had reincarnated as Norton Thorp, a famous mathematician presently living in New York.
But Dr. Thorp was not aware of his true identity, Dr. Trench had explained to them, or of his destiny as a spiritual leader. However, if they, Houdini and Rocky, succeeded in bringing him to the Temple, the evidence that would be presented to him coupled with the heartfelt devotion of his followers would eventually win him over and persuade him to become their Master and guide.
“Dr. Thorp should be treated at all times with the respect due to a sacred person,” Dr. Trench had told them. And, looking Rocky straight in the eyes, as if the recommendation were addressed particularly to him, he had added: “Persuasion is the key, with coercion to be used as