Foster investigates an alien experiment that caused people to be trapped alive in underground tombs. - - - "A maiden cut aloft from humanity / Locked in a coffin of stone / Her resurrection a clue for the man twice-blessed / Till the fate of her soul has been sealed". Our boy Eddie was able to link this quatrain with a wildly bizarre story he picked up in the Paranormal News Group. While building a connector deep within the New York City subway system, a group of workers discovered the extraordinarily well-preserved body of a woman. She had apparently been entombed within a concrete wall that was built over 50 years before. And, believe it or not, that's not the weirdest part. The strangest aspect to the story is that the woman was found alive. Authorities were able to identity the woman as one Francesca Dutton, an accomplished travel writer who was reported missing way back in 1945. Eddie worked his usual magic and managed to work up a false identity for me. I would undertake my investigation as "Jack Dutton" – a Philadelphia cop who also happened to be Francesca Dutton's grandson and only living relative. I drove out to the Maple Ridge Retreat, a psychiatric hospital in upstate New York where Francesca was being held and examined. I almost managed to walk right into her room, but I was stopped by a pair of special agents with the NAMP – the National Agency of Missing Persons. These two were clearly determined to get in my way, and they were damned effective watchdogs. One of the agents introduced himself as Agent Haley Burbitt, the other as Agent Simon. They told me their specialty was missing persons and that they had been placed in charge of the Francesca Dutton investigation. Burbitt was a tough-as-nails kind of cop, but he seemed like one of the good ones. He was like a well-intentioned bull dog. I could see right off that he was a decent guy underneath his hard-ass demeanor. He was sure more open-minded than his partner. Simon made up her mind about me from the second I introduced myself. She obviously didn't trust me, so she was not about to listen to a word I had to say. My first conversation with Francesca was heartbreaking. Needless to say, she was confused, disoriented, and extremely frightened. Her health was miraculously good, but her appearance was pretty ghostly. She had no pigmentation. Purse white. Her eyes had lost all normal color. Instead, they were blood red. She had virtually no memory of how she got into that subway – not a clue that might reveal how she survived, how she was breathing, moving, and behaving in relatively normal manner after 55 years entombed in stone. It seemed crazy to me, but Simon was looking for logical explanations. She had no interest in even considering possibilities outside of the so-called scientific ones. She talked about fissures in the rock which would allow for air and for Francesca's absorption of trace elements that kept her alive. She even brought up the idea that Francesca might have been the unfortunate victim of some freak accident. But none of Simon's theories could explain away one fact: Francesca Dutton looked as if she hadn't aged a day in well over half a century. Like me, Burbitt was more, shall we say, open-minded. He wasn't ruling anything out. He was talking about crystals, strange medical conditions, even voodoo. My initial suspicion was that Francesca Dutton's dark and private hell was linked to the Gua and their experiments. Maybe they wanted to see how humans respond to prolonged isolation. Maybe they wanted to determine a way store our bodies for future use as slaves. Burbitt seemed to lend support to my ideas when he finally decided to share a piece of highly classified information. It seems that when Francesca's body was uncovered, a Gua orb was found along with it. Eddie's first thought was that Francesca was Gua. I wasn't so certain. I hoped that Eddie was just being his reliably paranoid self, because when I looked into Francesca's eyes, I saw a profound sadness that struck me as all too human. Imagine waking up from a nightmare to find that everyone you loved and everything you knew was gone forever. A second trip to the subway revealed that the stone from which Francesca was extricated was close to pure limestone. Pretty unusual for a subway. Though they came at it from different directions, Burbitt and Eddie arrived at similar conclusions based on that finding. In the Buddhist religion and in a lot of ancient cultures, it was apparently believed that encasing a body in limestone would trap its soul, hold it in a kind of perpetual limbo where there could be no reincarnation, no heaven, no hell. It started to sound as if Burbitt might have been right from the very start. Maybe it was voodoo – or something damn close to it. I still wasn't making any bets. During our next conversation, Francesca opened up to me. She told me that there were two more like her, two others who had suffered the same fate and were still buried. With her help, Eddie and I were able to locate another of the bodies. This time it was one J.J. Reed, a native of New Haven who had also been missing for 55 years. Once he was dug up, we found that Reed's circumstances were identical to those of Francesca. He was also entombed in limestone, also inexplicably alive yet unable to remember even the minutest detail of how he got there. But what was the connection between these lost souls? Working through U.S. Customs records, Burbitt and Simon were able to determine that both Francesca Dutton and J.J. Reed had been in India during the same period in 1945. Eddie had missed that little piece of information during his own digging, but hearing that someone else beat him to it got our favorite hacker back on his toes. He continued his own research and was able to connect all three of the missing persons with a guy named Frederick Lansing --- an architect who just happened to design both the subway from which Francesca Dutton was unearthed and the New Haven building in which we found J.J. Reed. We also found out that Lansing and his wife, Olivia, traveled through the Himalayas together with Francesca and J.J. way back in 1945. Based on that bit of information, I felt sure that Lansing would know where his wife Olivia was buried. Burbitt, Simon and I headed out to visit Frederick Lansing at his home. We were all certain that Lansing held the final piece to this puzzle. But I couldn't help worrying. What if the Gua got to him before we did?moreless
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