New York City, 1943
Two agents from the United States Government’s Office of Alien Property enter Nikola Tesla’s New Yorker Hotel room. Windows are closed. Curtains are drawn. The place reeks of decay and death. It’s been three days since Nikola was found in his bed, his body stiff with rigor mortis, and the hotel staff had been specifically told not to enter the room.
Frank and Declan had a job to do, one that usually a hotel maid would be doing. They were given their instructions and far be it for them to question authority: strip the room and empty it of all of Tesla’s possessions, then take every single item back to FBI Headquarters in Washington DC.
They bundled up Nikola’s clothes and shoes and placed them in a sturdy leather suitcase with reinforced corners, then locked it.
“I can’t believe we are in the same room where Nikola Tesla died.” Declan glances at Frank, who is sitting on the bed, viewing the emptied room.
“Yeah, it’s a tough gig. What a truly brilliant man. I wonder what they want with all his stuff. I mean, old clothes and personal effects? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, have we got it all? Did you clear out the bathroom?”
“Yes. Everything he owned is in this one case.” Frank taps the suitcase with his knuckle. “His whole life, and this is what is left.”
Declan is quiet for a moment, then steps toward the door. “Right, well, let’s get out of here. This place gives me the creeps. He only died a few days ago, and in that bed apparently.” Declan chuckles as he watches Frank jump from the bed and dash toward the door, nearly falling over the folded boxes stacked in its entrance.
“You bastard! You didn’t tell me that!” Frank dusts off his pants in disgust, hoping he hasn’t caught the death bug. “What the hell are these boxes for? Did the director say?”
“No, he just said to make sure we got everything, and to not leave one file behind.”
“File? There are no files here.” Declan looks at the set of hotel room keys he’d placed on the dresser upon entering. He notices two keys. “Hey, wait a minute.” He picks up the keys. “There’s another key.”
He flips through the bunch and reads out the room number: “3327.” He opens the door and sees 3327 in brass numbers at eye level, then looks at the other key. “This other key says 3328. Damn, there’s another room—next door!”
Frank and Declan exit the room, leaving the lone suitcase containing Tesla’s sole possessions, and open the door to room 3328.
“Oh, no. Are you serious?” Frank is dumbfounded.
The room is filled to the hilt with papers stacked high, nearly touching the ceiling in some places. Every inch of the floor is covered. Somewhere in there is a bed, but they can’t see it beneath all the papers. Piles of scientific journals and magazines echo the New York skyline outside the window. Declan picks up a yellowed, stained publication of The Century Magazine circa 1900 featuring Tesla on the cover with an article title in bold font written underneath his picture: “Experiments with Alternate Currents of High Potential and High Frequency.”
“High Frequency? What the hell does this mean?” Declan stares bewildered, acknowledging his lack of scientific terminology.
“Stuffed if I know. Where do we even start?” Frank kicks a box, sending it into the leg of a chair. “We need more manpower. Ring the office and tell them to get some more hands-on-deck down here and tell them we’re going to need another stack of boxes,” he grumbles, “and a truck. This is going to take us forever.”
Frank takes out his pack of Camel cigarettes and gold Zippo lighter and sparks one up, taking a long drag before exhaling it onto the dusty pile of magazines to his left. The door slams shut behind Declan as he heads down to the hotel foyer to use the public telephone.
A total of 347 boxes practically filled one of the FBI’s main conference rooms. The National Defense Research Committee enlisted John G. Trump, Professor of M.I.T.’s Engineering Department, to examine Tesla’s possessions and all of his documents seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act 1917.
The United States was in the middle of a world war, and Tesla’s experiments documented in several scientific journals about his powerful particle beam weapon termed the “Death Ray” could prove catastrophic if they landed in the wrong hands. This could not be allowed to happen.
The professor had been given strict instructions to examine in detail every single piece of what was now termed Evidence in the illustrious life of Nikola Tesla. It took John eleven grueling days and nights to sift through the mammoth amount of paperwork and to report his analysis, finding Tesla’s efforts to be “primarily of a speculative, philosophical, and promotional character.”
An additional note said the papers “did not include new sound, workable principles or methods for realizing such results.” John was satisfied that any notion Tesla may have had of inventing any such weaponry that could cause massive destruction was the mere musings of a senile old man.
He did, however, find some unusual writings in a file titled “My discussions with Ravi and the Universal Energy Collective,” and decided that this particular file would be shown to the President of the United States himself, Mr. Franklin
D. Roosevelt. Placing the file into a red folder, John secured it in a yellow envelope marked Top Secret.
Nikola Tesla’s last journal entry into that file was made the night before he died on 6 January 1943. It was brought to the attention of the FBI Director by their undercover agent who doubled as a baggage handler at the New Yorker Hotel. The entry read:
Ravi informed me last night the Galactic Federation of Light were initiating “first contact” and that a landing was being planned to take place somewhere near the border of the United States of America and Mexico, in a central location, possibly New Mexico or Arizona, sometime within the next few years.
If this turned out to be true, John feared not only for his country’s future,
but also the future of the world as he knew it.
Smiling, I pull my coat collar up around my ears and set a brisk pace to my car. There’s crispness and anticipation in the air as I play through scenarios for my morning meeting. Tomorrow is a momentous day forme, maybe one of the most important in my life. I have a meeting with a gallery owner, Lucinda, who’d seen one of my paintings at a mutual friend’s house and suggested I come by her gallery and show my portfolio.
Lucinda owns a small but well-established boutique gallery on New York City’s lower east side. She’d felt my artwork and her gallery were a match made in heaven. I paint within the realm of Contemporary Abstract Expressionism and Lucinda had likened my work to the Cubist period and the Dada movement, and specifically to surrealist artist Joan Miró, which I found extremely flattering. She also mentioned something about geometry, which has always intrigued me, so I’m interested to hear more of what she has to say.
As it happens, I had visited Lucinda’s gallery a few times since my arrival in the Big Apple from Australia only a few short years ago now. The talent and sheer genius of the works that graced the pristine zinc-white walls humbled me; to be considered worthy of being hung alongside these artists fueled my ambition to become the queen of NYC’s art scene.
Tonight, was a celebration of sorts and what a beautiful evening it was. A sumptuous meal indeed. Walking through the perfectly still night to my car, I replay each moment of my celebratory dinner with my fiancé Ron. Leaving him to finish his dessert was the right move. I have to get up early to fight the morning rush hour as my meeting with Lucinda is at nine. A wide smile adorns my face as I embrace the feeling of a flawless evening and the excited anticipation of tomorrow. Gazing skyward, I gasp aloud at the performance being put on by the stars. Dashing across the sky in a hurry to nowhere is a shooting star, it catches my breath for a moment, then exits the stage almost as quickly as it entered. What a magnificent sign. Wow! I haven’t seen a shooting star for years and on the eve of my meeting with Lucinda. I let out a mini woohoo! and dance over some cracks in the pavement.
Suddenly, a wave of uneasiness washes over me. The magnificent dinner turns to lead in my stomach and I instinctively feel my step quicken as I hear the telltale sound of footsteps echoing my own. Am I being followed?
Just ahead is a twenty-four-hour convenience store. Dashing across the street and ducking in as casually as I can, I walk to the back of the store and pretend to browse. My heartbeat is hammering in my chest so hard I’m sure the sleepy shop attendant can hear it. All the while I keep an eye on the street through the glass storefront.
A group of suspicious-looking men pauses on the sidewalk. Peering through the shelves, I can see them look into the shop and then continue walking. They are wearing sunglasses. It’s nighttime, for Pete’s sake! Why are they wearing sunglasses? As they move out of sight, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
Gosh, tomorrow is such an important day for me. And now somebody is trying to kidnap or murder me!
Chill out, Aurora, I scold myself. Quit being such a drama queen. I’m just being paranoid. No one is following me. It’s all in my head. It seems the men have gone as I inch toward the door. I sneakily poke my head out and glance in the direction I saw the men walk. I can’t see anyone.
“See? Nothing to worry about,” I say out loud.
I look up the street and can just make out the entrance to the outside parking lot on the next block. A blue neon sign highlights my destination. Having pepped myself up a little, I have an extra skip in my step. It’s getting late and all the retail shops have closed. There’s not a soul around.
“There she is!” a man’s voice yells from across the street.
Panic sets in as I see the very same men, I thought were following me now running up the street directly towards me. They’re at least a hundred yards away. I knew it! I am being followed! Who are they? What do they want? They’re all wearing long, black trench coats and as one of the men’s coat flies open, I spot what looks like the handle of a gun poking out of a holster! I scream and run away as fast as I can in my high heels but they’re gaining on me.
“You’re not going to get away with this!” one of the men shouts. “You haven’t before, and you won’t now!”
Without thought or slowing down, I scream over my shoulder, “You can’t kill everyone! There are too many of us. The world will know the truth. It’s what I’m here for. It’s what we’re all here for!”
As I run, I frantically reach into my bag to find my keys. I have a few seconds to try and catch my breath and calm myself to press the right button to open the door. The door lock springs open. I jump in, lock and start the car. A loud thud behind me reverberates throughout the interior. It’s one of the men’s fists banging on the trunk.
I speed out of the parking lot, wheels screeching as I make a sharp right onto the dimly lit street. My heart is pounding out of my chest. Muffled yells echo in the distance. Suddenly I hear gunshots ringing out around me as I slam the pedal to the floor. Shaking uncontrollably, I try and take command of the vehicle, hanging onto the steering wheel for dear life. My little black dress is soaked with sweat. What the hell is happening? Who are those men and why are they shooting at me? It all feels very surreal, like something out of a movie! My words play repeatedly in my head. The world will know the truth. It’s what I’m here for. What did I mean? I’ve never used those words before. I have no idea why I shouted that. I shudder to think about what could have happened.
The whole panic-stricken episode is a blur.
What was I not going to get away with? Those men have the wrong woman. I’ve never done anything dishonest in my life. I’m an artist, for God’s sake. I lead a quiet, respectable existence and I’m about to get married to a respectable businessman. You haven’t before, and you won’t now! These men have it all wrong. I have never seen them before, or given them—or anyone else, for that matter—any cause to be chasing me, yelling those accusations, let alone shoot at me. They have mistaken me for someone else.
I’m streets away now and safe. You can’t kill everyone! There are too many of us. What was I saying! It must have been sheer adrenaline. Plus, I was in protective mode. Defensive. Yes, that’s it. I saw a gun and panicked. I try to calm myself down with some deep breathing exercises I’ve fine-tuned in meditation class.
“Everything is going to be alright. I’m safe now,” I chant to myself over and over.
Thank God, the men don’t appear to be pursuing me. I’m nearly on the freeway that leads directly home, and they have no idea where I live, I hope. The freeway ramp is in view, so I accelerate to gain the speed required for the traffic flow ahead.
“Deep breaths, Aurora,” I say aloud, soothing myself to composure.
Suddenly an imposing, shiny black beast of a car with darkly tinted windows lurches off a side street and barrels straight towards me like a freight train. I have no time to do anything but brace myself.
Smash! My car hurtles through the guardrail and flies off the side of the ramp, twirling in midair. My head is spinning and being shaken from side to side. Glass flies tornado-like throughout my car’s interior as it crashes onto the busy freeway below, landing on its roof. The screech of metal on concrete is deafening. A shower of sparks lights up the darkness. After spinning a few times like a breakdancer on their back, my car finally comes to a standstill.
I’m dangling upside down, held in place by my seatbelt. In my peripheral vision, I can just make out the hint of bright lights getting brighter by the second. I can barely turn my head to look out of my shattered driver’s side window. I’m horrified to see what is now barreling down on me. It’s a truck! All I can do is stare, paralyzed by fear, all too aware of what is about to happen. The truck brakes hard but is unable to stop in time. It swerves and hammers my rear door. Bang! My car soars a few hundred yards before finally slamming into a freeway pylon. Intense pain from the seatbelt’s stranglehold on my chest is the only thing I can feel. The stuck horn repeats the same urgent, ear-splitting note. Steam explodes from the hood. Trickles of warmth begin exploring my face. As I reach up to find the source, the smell of blood becomes the last lingering impression before it’s all too much information for my brain
to handle. In a flash, all pain and sensations cease. I feel nothing.
I become one with the blackness. Weightless, dreamlike, unable to process thought. My only awareness is that a major trauma has occurred and that I will never be the same again.