"That's okay. I don't need the comfy couch. Did Lola tell you about the incident in the shower?"
"She did. Are all your memories accompanied by a headache?"
"Yes, but don't let it stop you. I'd rather suffer through the pain to find out who I am than get cut off in midstream."
"Don't worry. I'm not here to torture you, Jack." She came out from behind the desk and settled in one of the chairs, crossing one slim leg over the other. "I understand your memory loss occurred from a fall."
He perched on the chair opposite hers and gripped the arms. "I woke up on a mountainside in Afghanistan with no memory of how I got there or who I was."
Under her direct questioning, Jack told her how he had come to find Lola and everything they had discovered and experienced. "I think if I can locate the members of this covert ops team, Prospero, I could start to recover my life and maybe help Lola find out what happened to her brother."
Lesley held up her hands. "One thing at a time. First, you're going to need to relax. Release the death grip you have on that chair. Get comfortable, slump in your seat, stretch out your legs. Whatever feels comfortable for you."
Jack uncurled his fingers from the arm of the chair and leaned back. "Should I close my eyes?"
"Go ahead. Now I'm going to name different parts of your body and different muscle groups, and I want you to clench and then relax them."
He followed her instructions, and almost unconsciously his breathing deepened. A warm flush crept across his body, and his fingertips and toes tingled. Lesley's calm voice seeped into his brain, the sound like a gently gurgling stream.
Clench your teeth.
The rough command sliced across Lesley's encouraging words.
Tighten your muscles.
Jack's arm twitched, and he squeezed his eyes closed.
Do not succumb to hypnosis.
The male voice came from somewhere deep in Jack's subconscious. It drowned out Lesley's soporific suggestions.
Keep your eyes open.
Jack's eyelids strained against the weights pulling them down.
Do not allow the enemy to hypnotize you.
Digging his fingernails into the arms of the chair, Jack forced open his eyes. His muscles coiled, replacing the fluidity that had taken possession of his body. He jumped out of the chair and ran his hands across his face.
"What happened, Jack? You were almost under." Lines of frustration bracketed Lesley's mouth.
Jack shook his head. "I couldn't do it."
"Why not? Were you getting a headache?"
"No. I couldn't do it because the Colonel trained me not to."
The man's voice warning him against hypnosis belonged to the person who had formed Prospero: the Colonel.
"The Colonel." Lesley folded her hands over the notebook in her lap. "Do you remember this colonel's name?"
Jack parked on the edge of the desk. "No. I heard his voice and somehow I knew he was the Colonel, just the Colonel. He was giving me instructions for avoiding hypnosis."
"I was afraid of that." Lesley uncrossed and recrossed her legs. "People in your line of work are rarely susceptible to hypnosis."
"So I've reached another dead end?"
"Not necessarily. You have another clue to Prospero. Maybe this colonel's name will come to you." She grimaced. "You still have your headaches, and if you're willing we can try sodium amobarbital."
"That's right. I've used it with some success before. I don't have time now, but if you want to give it try at a later date it might work."
"I just might." He tapped his wrist. "I suppose it hasn't been forty-five minutes, has it?"
"Not even a half hour."
"I'd like to wander off and find Lola."
Lesley unfolded her tall frame from the chair and returned to her desk. "I can help you with that." She entered some data on her computer. "Her patient's in room eight fifty-two. That's on the eighth floor."
"Thanks for your efforts. You almost had me."
"You've been well trained, Jack. You're an interesting case."
They shook hands, and Jack left Lesley to her lunch. He slipped into the stairwell and took the stairs two at a time. After sliding into a near-hypnotic state he wanted to get his heart pumping.