Blueprints for a Better World Markus Fredericks

Ions of Luck

By: Markus Fredericks

NOTE: The concept of this book is dedicated to the multitudes of good, honest, decent people who seem to be cursed with chronic bad luck.  ‘Ions of Luck’ may actually exist in a physical, subatomic sense, and there may exist a parallel universe in which your alter-ego may be reaping the benefits of having correspondingly great luck.  If that’s true, ‘luck’ may not be a random occurrence at all, and I hope this book will present a new theory why the ‘unlucky ones’ consistently seem to end up with the short end of the stick…

Chapter 1

    There’s a common saying, “You are your own worst enemy”.  If a parallel universe actually exists, then that may actually be true…

    A sudden thunderstorm caught paraplegic, Danny Donaldson by surprise one afternoon in Seattle.  Within a minute, his clothing was completely soaked to the skin.  To make matters worse, he had been in a hurry, and had forgotten to recharge his motorized wheelchair.  A wet and nervous Danny sensed that his only means of mobility was rapidly losing power, but he was determined to cross the busy Aurora Avenue.  He had a vital appointment with Mr. Shelton at the local Social Security office to ask if his SSI payments could be reinstated.

    Danny used to be a bright honor student back in high school, but he suffered severe spinal injuries when he fell off a ski lift during the Christmas break of his senior year in high school.  That was twelve years ago.  He was 29 years old now, unemployed, lonely – without any friends, and with no living family members.  To make matters worse, he had just been given an eviction notice by his landlord since he was late with last month’s rent payment.

    “Gee, my luck has been consistently bad for as long as I can remember.  I just wish that I’m lucky enough for my power wheelchair to make it to my appointment on time.  If I don’t get Mr. Shelton’s approval for benefits, I’ll be living out on the street by tomorrow.  At least I can already see the Sam’s Club sign, so I know I’m almost there,” thought Danny to himself as he pushed forward on the lever to his motorized wheelchair to cross the busy street. 

    The white ‘Walk’ sign was lit, but it was blinking, so he knew the sign was about to change.  Suddenly, his wheelchair ran out of power in the middle of the four-lane intersection.  Danny feverishly pushed the lever to move forward, but to no avail. 

    “Oh no – help!” cried out a helpless Danny as the ‘Walk’ sign had changed into a bright red ‘Stop’ sign, but no one was nearby to help.  The falling rain intensified, and Danny raised his head suddenly when he heard the ominously loud horn of a large, oncoming truck.  It was an 18 wheeler barreling straight at him at 50 miles per hour.  A split second later, the speeding truck slammed right into Danny’s wheelchair, and he was instantly airborne.  As he catapulted through the air, he was struck by a rogue bolt of lightning, and his ears were blasted by the accompanying thunder, which sounded as loud as a cannon-fire.

    Danny felt intense pain shooting throughout his head and body.  He even felt pain shooting from his dormant legs, as he flew more than a hundred feet.  He tightly shut his eyes when he saw he was about to crash into a nearby telephone pole…

    Danny expected to die, and in an instance – his entire life flashed before his eyes.  He saw every significant moment in his entire life – the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.  While reliving his entire lifetime in what Danny thought must have been just a nanosecond, he was pleasantly surprised to feel the intense, physical pain suddenly subsiding.  He decided to open his eyes again, when he felt himself whizzing through an amazingly long, light-filled, circular tunnel at dizzying speeds.  

“So, I guess this is what happens when one dies,” wondered Danny, while the mental replay of his lifetime continued to play out.  It occurred to him, “I guess I really lived a rather mundane life, which became downright depressing since after the ski lift accident.  The one bright spot for me was to see the girl next door who I used to have a big crush on – the beautiful Jessica Hart.”

    Yes, Jessica had been Danny’s next door neighbor since sixth grade.  Her middle initial is ‘S.’, which actually stands for, ‘Sweet’.  Thus, her full name was, ‘Jessica Sweet Hart’ – and she was very beautiful indeed, but unfortunately for Danny, she had never shown much romantic interest in him prior to the ski lift accident… 

    “Perhaps, Jessica was just overly used to having me hanging around her constantly.  I guess she probably thought of me more as being a ‘brotherly friend’, since she regularly told me all her deepest secrets.  I’ve hated myself throughout the years for never having the guts to tell her that I was madly in love with her.  It’s too bad that she showered me with more love and attention after I became crippled, but I chose to shun her company, since I knew that we could never become lovers on account of my paralysis.”

    After zipping down the hypnotic tunnel of light for what seemed like a long time, Danny suddenly noticed that his journey was coming to an abrupt, dark end.  Danny grit his teeth and shut his eyes just as he was hurtling towards a dark abyss…

    Danny opened his eyes when he sensed that he was no longer in motion.  He was clueless as to what he had just experienced, and he was equally uncertain as to what was his fate.

    As soon as he was able to focus his eyes, he saw that he was in a small, spherical room with multi-colored lights swirling around all the surfaces.  There was nothing else in the room except for two tunnels of light at opposing ends of the spherical room.  At first, Danny thought he was all alone in this unusual location until he was startled by a tap on his shoulder from behind.

    “There’s been some kind of mistake,” said a gray-haired, bearded gentleman wearing a long, gray robe.  “You must go back the way you came from.”

    Before Danny could reply, he was delighted to find himself standing on his own two legs once again.  His legs were as healthy as ever.  He couldn’t help but smile and giggle euphorically as he asked the elderly stranger, “Where am I?”

    “I hope you studied your science books while you were an Earthling.  Officially, you are at the crossroads between two dimensions, deep inside a black hole.  By some mistake, you were sent through the wormhole tunnel that connects to the parallel universe.  Hurry now, young man, you must go back down the same tunnel you just came from.”

    This was the first time in 12 years that Danny had enjoyed the sensation of walking about on his two legs, and he was in no mood to return to his crippled body.  Besides, Danny was quite certain that his body must be a mangled mess after just slamming into a telephone pole. 

    Danny defiantly said, “I don’t want to go back the way I came from.  I’m sure I’d be even more crippled now after being hit by a speeding truck and struck by lightning.  I’m more interested in going down the other tunnel.  After all, what’s this you said about a parallel universe?  I expected to be sent to either Heaven or Hell when I died.”

    The mysterious, elderly man said, “Oh my – not another ‘Heaven and Hell’ believer.  I’m the guardian of the crossroad, and I’m sorry, but I cannot allow you to pass through to the other universe.”

    Danny did not wish to offend the wise, old man, but he was adamant about not returning back down the same tunnel. 

    “OK, sir, but you already admitted that I’m here by some sort of mistake, so please tell me the truth about the parallel universe.  I’ve had horrible luck my entire life.  At least, I’ve had terrible luck since the day of my ski lift accident, so please tell what’s going on.  I deserve an explanation.”

    “I suppose that’s the least I can do,” replied the elderly guardian while he stroked his long, gray beard.  “Let me enlighten you.”

    The wise guardian gently placed a comforting hand on Danny’s shoulder.  He spoke in a scholarly fashion, “You mention that you have had consistently bad luck ever since that fateful day when you severed your spinal cord.  First, you must understand that luck is a tangible thing.  Luck is not related to randomness – it exists as naturally as does matter and energy.  Similar to your old science lessons whereby, ‘for every action, there is an equal, opposite reaction’, when good luck happens to one prime member, his anti-member must suffer a counterbalancing stroke of bad luck.”

    A confused looking Danny responded, “OK, sir – I remember learning a little bit about Newtonian physics back in high school, but I don’t really understand your theory that someone else’s bad luck results in another person’s good luck.  So, is this thing called ‘luck’, actually some sort of matter, like a subatomic particle?”

    “I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.  Luck is in some ways similar to a charged up, ionized atom.  As you know, there are positive and negative charged atoms called ions.  Similarly, there are positive and negative charged ‘ions of luck’.  Once again, for every ion of positive luck, there is an equally strong negative or ‘bad luck’ ion created.  That is simply the law of physics.”

    As Danny became increasingly intrigued, his questions became more in depth…

    “OK, I think I get the essence of it.  Good luck and bad luck must be counterbalanced.  It’s like people playing at a game of Poker – one man’s loss is another man’s gain.  Wealth at a Poker table is neither created nor destroyed – it simply transfers from the loser to the winner.  Fine, but I’ve had an incredible amount of awfully bad luck for the past 12 years, while I’ve been a good person who hasn’t broken any of the Ten Commandments and so on.  Why am I getting all this bad luck?”

    “Young man, please stop quoting your teachings of the Bible,” said the guardian in a friendly, yet firm manner.  “If you want the truth, you must be able to accept it – whether you like it or not.  As I said before, we are at the center point between two parallel universes.  Parallel means essentially identical, but in a mirror image.  Thus, if you have been consistently suffering from unusually bad luck in your world, then your anti-self is enjoying the spoils of extremely good luck in the parallel universe.  That is simply one of the natural laws of physics.  Just as Jesus Christ has an Anti-Christ, you have an opposite version of yourself.”

    “I thought you didn’t believe in the Biblical characters,” snapped Danny with a whimsical smile.

    “I don’t condone the incorrect teachings of the Bible,” replied the guardian, “but Jesus Christ certainly did exist – as does the anti-Christ version of him.  Similarly, the parallel universe has a similar version of you.  He is exactly the same as you in every way – even down to identical fingerprints.  However, he possesses the exact opposite set of luck ions.  Since most people have average luck, it really doesn’t matter which universe they occupy, but in your case, you must return down the tunnel from which you came to maintain a harmonious balance of opposing good and bad luck ions.”

    Danny’s face had become increasingly serious looking as he asked, “So, my long string of bad luck isn’t some sort of punishment, like a bad Karma sort of thing?”

    The elderly guardian reassuringly replied, “Young man, I sense that you are a quality person, so don’t misinterpret your bad luck as being some sort of punishment.  It’s just one of the natural laws of physics.  You should find solace that your alter ego is certainly enjoying a terrific run of great luck.  I hope my explanation satisfies your curiosity.  You must not go down the tunnel to the parallel universe.  If you were to encounter your other self, the chances of a creating a deadly paradox is very real, so please return down the same tunnel you came from.  You can’t stay here any longer.”

    Danny scratched the top of his head while contemplating his options.  After a brief moment of silence he said, “Sir, with all due respect, I see that I only have two choices.  I can either head back to my mangled, crippled body at a busy intersection in Seattle, or I can keep my healthy legs and take my chances in the parallel universe.  Like they used to say on an old TV game show, ’I’ll take what’s behind door number two’.  See ya.”

   Danny pushed the elderly man to the side and took a few running steps before he dove head first into the tunnel at the opposite end of the spherical room.  Instantaneously, he re-accelerated back to the dizzying speeds.  Time seemed to be non-existent, and Danny wondered if he was traveling in the endless tunnel for moments or for eons.  Even as his body was being transported at an incredible, hyper-speed, he maintained one single, tantalizing thought: he was determined to seek out the parallel universe’s version of the girl of his dreams, Jessica Sweet Hart…


Chapter 2

    “Oh, mama mia!  Please make your presence known, dearest Mama Cecelia,” cried out an excited Professor Paganini as he watched through the window of his experimental, communication chamber…

    Aldo Paganini was a brilliant physics professor at the University of Washington.  He was a burly, single man in his mid-forties who looked more like a Mobster than a scientist.  Aldo had been devastated by the loss of his precious, Mama Cecelia.  His mother had been picking tomatoes in her garden in Tuscany, Italy.  At the time, Aldo was only sixteen years old when he witnessed her being struck by a lightning bolt from a rogue thunder cloud.  The day after her funeral, Aldo came back to visit his mother’s grave near dusk, and he saw a vision of his mother’s spirit standing next to her tombstone.

    Ever since that day, Aldo was determined to invent a mechanical means of communicating with the spirit world.  He had no faith in shyster psychics and their bogus séances.  Thus, he decided to study physics.

    Professor Paganini came to work at the University of Washington 20 years ago, and he had managed to get a government grant to develop a communication chamber aimed for contacting the spirit world.  Aldo was on the verge of success, but since he had achieved no positive results for two decades, the government cut off his funding 90 days ago.  Thus, for the past three months Professor Paganini continued to work by himself on a shoestring budget, and he was on the verge of personal bankruptcy.

    Professor Paganini’s theory was that the spirit world was geographically very nearby, and that communicating with spirits should be similar to tuning in to the right frequency on a radio to hear a particular station. 

    Aldo had also proudly expanded on Newton’s Law: no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.  Professor Paganini’s new theory is more thorough: no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time in the same dimension – but they can coexist in the same time and place in two separate dimensions.

    To the casual observer, Aldo’s communication chamber was rather crude and amateurish in appearance.  It was a room measuring about six feet wide by six feet deep, built from cheap two-by-fours and plywood.  All the walls, floor, and ceiling were painted in flat, black paint.  On the left and right walls of the chamber were two concave mirrors aimed at each other, with a two-way transmitter located on a tripod stand in the middle.  The transmitter would send out radio waves of varying frequencies towards the concave mirrors which were pointed to a triangular prism at the front of the transmitter.  This magnified radio signal was pointed at a round, smoked mirror mounted on the back wall which was lined with a ring of powerful electromagnets along its perimeter.

    The only access to the chamber was a small door, which was also painted black.  There was a tiny observation window in the door at eye-level.

    “Oh, mama mia – let this moment be the opening of Pandora’s Box,” spoke Aldo out loud, even though he was all alone.

    Through the door’s window, Aldo watched intently as his communication device had latched onto something he had never witnessed before.  Suddenly, multi-colored streaks of light appeared in the black, smoked mirror.  Aldo’s mouth fell wide open as the lights increased in luminosity.

    “Grazie a Dio – my Mama Cecelia is coming back to me.  Mama!  It’s me, your loving son, Aldo.”

    Moments later, the lights flashed brightly before it became instantly dark again.  There was a thud as the tripod holding the transmitter had toppled over.  Aldo jumped back when suddenly a man’s face was jammed up against the door’s small window.

    “Let me out of here!” shouted Danny as he pounded on the door with his fist.

    A very disappointed Professor Paganini opened the door and said in a heavy Italian accent, “What’sa matta you?  You are not my Mama Cecelia.  Who the hell are you, and how did you break into my communication chamber?”

    Danny was unsure whether or not he was back in Seattle or if he had successfully made it to the parallel universe.  He politely introduced himself, “Hi.  My name is Danny Donaldson.  I didn’t mean to intrude.”

    “What kind of joker are you?” replied Aldo as he beckoned his intruder to step out into the lab.

   “If your name is Danny Donaldson, then I must be the president of America, Mitt Romney.”

    “Say, what did you just say?  Did you say that Mitt Romney is the president?”

    “Yeah sure – where have you been?  Mitt Romney was real lucky to beat out Obama in the last election.  Anyway, the son of a bitch cut off my funding.  Goddamn Republicans – they’re always looking to eliminate government spending, but nevertheless, shame on you for not even knowing who our president is.  Let me tell you, young folks these days need to keep up with current events.  By the way, what’s this crap of you masquerading as the famous writer, Danny Donaldson?  I must admit that you certainly look an awful lot like him.”

    Suddenly, Aldo became quiet and ignored his intruder.  He turned around and began to search the premises.  His serious demeanor went away as a big smile broke out across his face...  He said out loud, “OK – That’s very funny.  You know, I wasn’t born yesterday.  I’m sure there must be a hidden camera somewhere, and you guys are filming me for a televised prank.”

    However, when no hidden camera was anywhere to be found, Professor Paganini became rather somber again.  He asked, “OK, then – tell me exactly who you are, and how did you get into my communication chamber?”

    “I’ll tell you everything,” said Danny, “but please first tell me where I am.”

    “You got to be pulling my leg…  I’m Professor Aldo Paganini, and you are at my physics lab at the University of Washington campus in Seattle.  OK, son – start talking, or I’ll call for security.”

    “Did you say that I’m in Seattle – as in, ‘Seattle, Washington’?”

    “You heard me right,” replied the professor.  “Say, are you on some kind of drugs?”

    “No – I’m not a drug user at all.  I’m just surprised they have a city by the same name in your world too.  OK, please have a seat.  You’ll be astounded at what I’m about to tell you.”

    A skeptical Professor Paganini sat down on a chair and said, “Go ahead – tell me what you got.”

    “Well, my name really is Danny Donaldson, and apparently I look exactly the same as a famous writer by the same name.  However, I come from a parallel universe.  I was in a near-death experience, and I mistakenly ended up in a wormhole tunnel leading to a black hole.  I was met there by a mysterious old man.  He said he was the guardian of the crossroads between parallel universes.”

    Aldo leaned forward in his chair as he listened with great interest to Danny’s story…

    “The old man told me to return down the same tunnel I came from, but I had such a terrible life in my world living as an impoverished cripple.  Miraculously, as you can see, I am able to walk again for the first time in twelve years.  I ended up defying the guardian’s wishes, and I jumped into the other tunnel on the other side of this amazing, spherical room surrounded by swirling lights.”

    “I can’t believe my ears,” said a stupefied Professor Paganini.  “That is absolutely amazing that you were able to pass from one universe to the next.  You just confirmed what I’ve believed was possible all along.”

    “There’s much more,” interrupted Danny.  “The elderly guardian mentioned something about luck.  I didn’t grasp it fully, but he said that ions of luck exist, and he explained that positive and negative luck must balance out between the universes – or some disastrous paradox can happen.”

    “Oh my, this is incredible news,” replied Professor Paganini while rubbing his tummy, “but all of this excitement is making me very hungry.  Let me buy us a pizza at Pagliacci’s on University Way.”

    Although Aldo had always been sure there was a parallel universe, he was eager to learn about Danny’s information about the ions of luck.  They continued with their conversation as they walked to the restaurant.

    While Danny continued talking, he was also curiously studying his surroundings, which seemed oddly familiar, yet unfamiliar at the same time.  Danny was astounded that the parallel universe seemed like an exact duplicate of his own, and for a while, he wondered if he truly was in an alternate, parallel universe or not.  However, Danny’s uncertainty ended when he happened to notice a copy of the university newspaper.  Its cover article heralded the miraculous game winning field goal made by the Husky football kicker as time expired against the University of Oregon.

    “I can’t believe this,” explained Danny.  “You see, in your side of the parallel universe, the Husky kicker’s field goal hit the crossbar and the ball bounced over for the big win, but in my world, the same field goal attempt hit the crossbar and bounced back.  The guardian was right – good luck ions in one universe are offset by bad luck ions in the parallel universe.  That’s why you have President Romney, and we have President Obama.”

    Aldo was a good judge of character, and he was positive that Danny had told him the full truth. 

    The twosome devoured a large, delicious pizza with ‘the works’ on it as they were deeply engrossed in conversation...  Danny divulged that he had tried to become a book writer, but not a single publisher was interested in his work.  He said, “Personally, I still think my book had a real clever storyline.  I called it: ‘When the Monkey Cries’.”

    Aldo’s mouth fell open.  He said, “This is really incredible.  You see, the Danny Donaldson from my world is the author of a number one best-seller – and it has the exact same title as your book, ‘When the Monkey Cries’.  It’s already been made into a movie.  I haven’t seen it, but I hear it’s a big hit.  It’s playing right now at the Varsity Theater.  We ought to go see it.”

    The movie theater was located on ‘the Avenue’, within easy walking distance of the pizza parlor. Danny was rather familiar with the stores and restaurants located on University Way in his universe, and he was astounded that all the same businesses were located in the same exact places in the parallel universe as well.

  The movie was given a 5-star rating, and there was a long line of avid movie goers waiting to buy their tickets.  A pretty college co-ed approached Danny in the lobby to ask for his autograph.

    “I’m sorry, miss, but you’re mistaken,” explained Aldo to the excited girl.  “It happens to my friend, Ralph, all the time.”

    When the disappointed girl left, Danny asked Aldo, “Why did you say my name is ‘Ralph’?”

    “Psst,” whispered Aldo.  “Please listen to me, my newfound friend.  For the time being, it’s important for you to not attract any attention to yourself.  My first priority is to figure out exactly how you physically made it into my communication chamber.  It’s very likely that we are on the very brink of a fantastic, new discovery, but I can only imagine what would happen if the authorities took you in for questioning at this time.  I bet that they’d either lock you up in jail, or send you to the nuthouse.”

    “I understand – I promise I won’t bring any attention to myself.  OK, let’s find some seats.  The movie is about to start.”

   Curiosity combined with jealousy filled Danny as he restlessly watched the wonderful movie.  He kept on whispering to Aldo, foretelling each upcoming scene to prove that the story was his own.  As the movie concluded, Danny was thoroughly agitated by his successful alter-ego. 

    As they left the theater when the movie was over, Danny said, “Please tell everything else do you know about the famous Danny Donaldson.  I feel I already hate him.”

    “Well, I’m afraid you’re going to hate him even more when I tell you that in addition to his good fortune with the writing and producing movies, he also happened to win an enormous lottery jackpot.  I forgot how much it was, but it was obscenely huge.  Also, he’s living in one of the fanciest houses on Mercer Island, and he’s married to a really cute and gorgeous, blond girl he had dated since high school.  I recall her first name is Jessica.”

Chapter 3

    After the movie, it was getting late.  Aldo knew that Danny had no place to stay, and that he had no cash at all.  Literally, Danny only possessed the clothes on his back.  Even his wallet was missing – Danny thought it probably flew out of his pants when he was struck by the truck on Aurora Avenue in the ‘other’ Seattle – so Aldo kindly offered his unique guest an invitation to stay at his modest, little house not far away in Shoreline.

    After setting up a small cot in a guest bedroom, they were too interested in learning about each other’s world to sleep a wink.  They were still engaged in deep conversation when the break of daylight broke through the darkness of night.  Aldo helped to maintain their energy by serving a large pot of coffee.

    Although the scientifically inclined Aldo completely believed in Danny’s story, he doubted that any ‘regular’ person would believe that a man could actually travel through a black hole into another dimension.  After all, most people would simply scoff at the idea, if not ridicule it completely.

    “Say Danny, until we figure out how you can blend into society, it’s imperative that you lay low.  This world already has one Danny Donaldson, and he’s very famous, so the world won’t be willing to accept a second one.  From now on, whenever you leave this house, be sure to wear some sort of disguise.  I have a pair of sunglasses you may borrow.  For sure, you’re welcome to stay with me as long as possible, but you need to know that my house is in pre-foreclosure.  When my government funding was cut off, I fell behind on my house payments.  To make matters worse, the university has indicated that it won’t hire me to teach a regular physics class, since they claim that all my research has been too paranormal in nature for their curriculum.  They said I’m free to use my physics lab on campus only until the next trimester begins, at which time I must officially resign my post and vacate the premises.  The only way I can keep my lab is if I can raise some private funding – and the dean won’t even give me the time of day unless I can raise at least half a million dollars.”

    Danny rubbed his tired eyes, but felt a renewed surge of energy when he had a sudden epiphany…

    “You know, I’ve never stolen a single thing in my life, but I remember my dad used to say, ‘There’s a time and place for everything’.  To be sure, I feel I’ve been unfairly punished for the past twelve years, although I’ve always been a man of good character.  It’s a shame, but apparently I just happen to be overloaded with these terrible, negative ions of luck.  I think it can be justified to arrange for my alter-ego, the successful, rich, and famous Danny Donaldson, to share some of his tremendous wealth with his less fortunate twin.  Professor Paganini, I think I have a plan for us to become partners.”

    “Danny, I’d love to hear your plan, but please call me by my first name, Aldo.  OK, tell about this partnership you propose.”

    “Sure, Aldo.  Right now, I don’t even have any identification, but supposedly I am a perfect duplicate of the rich and famous ‘Danny Donaldson’ – right down to matching fingerprints.  If you can help me pose as a credible imposter, I bet I can get you all the cash you need – enough to save your lab and your house.”

    “Hmm, that sounds very tempting,” said Aldo while smacking his lips.  “Technically, you are not taking money which doesn’t belong to you, since the wealth was obtained by a disproportionate amount of positive ions of luck – at the direct expense of your own counterbalancing bad luck.  Morally, I don’t see anything wrong with it either, but Danny – I hope your plan doesn’t involve killing the famous Danny Donaldson.  I wouldn’t want to be involved with murder.”

    “Au contraire…  The last thing I would ever do is to kill my rich twin, although I honestly can’t stand anything about him.  You see, the elderly guardian of the crossroads warned me not to risk creating any kind of paradox.  When the rich, famous version of me happens to die, his vast amount of positive luck ions would dissipate.  Thus, to maintain a proper balance of luck ions, I’m quite sure I would die at the same time to maintain nature’s harmony.”

    “Danny, I see what you mean.  Anyway, we won’t kill the rich, famous bastard – we’ll just get you a nice, ‘compensatory bonus’ which you deserve.  So tell me, how can I help you?”

    “Let’s try to access his bank account through your computer,” said an invigorated Danny.  “Let’s see how much wealth Lady Luck has blessed this lucky turd with.”

    “Come with me to the den.  My computer’s in there.”

    Danny knew there were many different banks that his twin might deal with, but he reasoned that most people choose a bank that is located reasonably close to their home.  He said, “Aldo, show me a map of Mercer Island, and point to the general area where you think his fancy house is.”

    After accessing a city map, Aldo pointed to a small protrusion at the edge of Lake Washington.  “He lives right about there, on the waterfront.”

    “Great,” said Danny with enthusiasm.  “Now use a search engine to locate the nearest banks.”

    A few minutes later, Aldo came to the conclusion that the Mercer Island branch of Bank of America was the closest one to his house.

    “Keep your fingers crossed.  Let’s see if he has an account there.”

    Aldo tried to access the famous Danny Donaldson’s account, but the feedback said, ‘no such account exists.’

    “Why don’t you try: Daniel W. Donaldson?”

    Moments later, the screen asked for a password. 

    “Well, at least I can tell that he has an account over at Bank of America,” commented Aldo, who was sure that their computer search has reached an impenetrable barrier.

    “Why don’t you click the button that says: did you forget your password?” said a hopeful Danny.

    The next screen which popped up on the computer screen stated: If you forgot you your password, you must successfully answer three security questions…  (1) What is your favorite participation sport?

    “Oh boy, I’ve been a cripple for twelve years, so of course I don’t participate in any regular sports.”

    “Danny, you told me you were injured by falling off a ski lift.  Didn’t you used to like skiing?”

    “Yes, I used to love skiing.  I really was pretty good at it.”

     “Well, it’s worth a try,” said Aldo as he typed in the answer, ‘skiing’.

    The computer said, ‘Correct’, and went onto question number two…  (2) What is the name of your first pet?

    “When I was a boy, we had a cute, little mutt named, ‘Sparky’, but I can’t fathom that my alter-ego could have had a dog by the same name.”

    “You’re probably right, but let’s try it.  What have we got to lose?”

    After Aldo entered the name, ‘Sparky’, the computer said, ‘Correct’, and proceeded with the final question…  (3) Where did you first meet your wife?

    This question brought a temporary sense of gloom to Danny, since he had never been married, but he was aware that in the parallel universe, the other Danny had been lucky enough to win the heart of his personal crush, Jessica Sweet Hart. 

“I guess he must have met her when her parents moved to the house next door back when they were in sixth grade.  That was in Lynnwood, Washington.”

    “Let’s just try plain old, ‘Lynnwood’, and see what happens.”

    Presto – the computer allowed them to access his private bank account. 

    An excited Danny said, “OK, let’s see just how the other half lives.  Find out his balance.  I’ll bet he has some ungodly amount of money.”

    When Aldo clicked his computer mouse to access the balance, he commented, “Are you kidding me?  Sixty-three dollars and fourteen cents!”

    However, when Danny asked him to search for ‘account history’, it showed that only two days earlier he had transferred well over $5,000,000 in cash to the downtown branch of Key Bank. 

    “That’s more like it,” said Danny.  “Why don’t we catch a couple hours of rest before we pay a visit to Key Bank later this morning?  I’ll withdraw enough money to cure all of our problems.”

Chapter 4

    After catching a couple hours of much needed rest, Danny took a shower and put on his jeans and somewhat dirty T-shirt.  Aldo was in the kitchen brewing another pot of coffee.  He turned around when Danny said, “Good morning, Aldo.  So, are we ready to head to the bank to make a gigantic withdrawal?”

    Aldo’s eyes looked over Danny from head to toe.  He shook his head and said, “Well, your plan sounded great at first, but it’s not going to be as easy as you think.  OK, you happen to look exactly like Danny Donaldson alright – but I’m afraid that you still look more like the poor Danny Donaldson from another world.  I know that the rich Danny Donaldson wears expensive, designer clothing – and so would the folks working at the bank.  Before we can expect to waltz into Key Bank to make a huge withdrawal, you need a complete makeover.  Otherwise, they’ll be very suspicious.”

    Danny pondered about it momentarily before he replied, “Gee – I kind of overlooked that minor detail.  You’re 100% right.  Even if my face looks just like the rich writer, my scruffy appearance would raise some red flags.  I know you’re hurting for money at this time, but can you help me buy some suitable clothes?  I can see that you are several sizes larger than I am – otherwise, I’d just borrow some of your clothes.”

    “Don’t worry – I can come up with enough cash to get you dressed correctly.  You are my partner, and I need to invest in you.  Danny, keep in mind that what we propose to do is very illegal, even though it can be morally justified.  I want to take no unnecessary chances, and we need to pay attention to the smallest details to pull this off.  Let’s go back to the computer, and dig up some more information and photos of the famous Danny Donaldson.  We can look at his website and other celebrity photo sites.  We also need to go back to the Bank of America site.  I need you to see if your social security number is the same as his, and we need to get an exact street address of his home.  I want you to learn as much as possible about him.  We also need to hack into his e-mail to learn more about the people he’s been interacting with.  Before we barge into the bank like a couple of thieves, I want you to learn more about the famous version of Danny Donaldson than he knows about himself.  You may look like his clone, but you are a long ways off from being able to become his imposter.  Literally, if his wife, Jessica, were to run up to you and give you hugs and kisses, I don’t want her to notice any difference.  If we do our due diligence, we might be able to make our withdrawal in about a week.”

    Danny understood the importance of preparation.  Besides, he rather fancied the idea of hugging and kissing Jessica Hart – or correction: make that, ‘Mrs. Jessica Donaldson’, instead. 

    Danny spent hours taking notes and studying photos of the famous celebrity.  Fortunately, Danny’s basic, short-cropped hairdo was nearly identical to the online photos of the celebrity.  Still, they knew they had much work to do.  When Aldo excused himself to contact Key Bank by phone, Danny made a slight detour online to feast his eyes on the parallel universe’s Jessica. 

    Danny thought to himself, “My God – she’s now even more gorgeous than ever, but she still has that same radiant smile and clear blue eyes.  Jessica is the girl of my dreams – and then some.”

    After five minutes of drooling over Jessica’s photos, Aldo returned to the room.  He had a serious look on his face. 

    “I just got off the phone with the branch manager of the bank.  I didn’t mention any names – I simply requested some general information on procedures.  I told him that I was a longtime, well-known bank member who everyone there knew by name, but I had the misfortune of losing my wallet with photo ID in it.  I asked if I could make any withdrawal at all without ID.  I was told, ‘no problem’, and that I could make an emergency withdrawal until I got my photo ID re-issued.  However, without official ID, the maximum they will allow one to withdraw is only $100.  I mentioned about my plan to make a large grant to a college, and I was told such a transaction would need to be notarized.  The man I spoke to said he wouldn’t even notarize a document for his own mother if she forgot her ID at home.  So, Danny, we need to re-think our plan.  The best way for you to get all the necessary identification is to steal it from his Mercer Island residence.  Danny, are you up for the task?”

    Danny felt a nervous twinge of anxiety, but then he glanced one more time at the photos of the lovely Jessica.  He said, “Sure – you can definitely count me in.”

    Danny wasn’t a particularly tricky, scheming type, so he relied on Aldo’s ingenuity to formulate a plan.  Aldo suggested, “Let’s try to hack into his private e-mail.  At least we can learn much of his inside information from his online account at Bank of America.”

    Within a few minutes, Aldo was able to access the famous Danny Donaldson’s private e-mail file.  He said, “OK – I hope this will give us some pertinent information.”

    After sorting through a couple hundred useless e-mails – mostly spam, along with multiple solicitations for charitable donations – Aldo announced, “Hey, Danny – I think I found something of interest…  First, here’s an e-mail from Amy’s Limousine Service confirming that they will pick him up tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM sharp.  They’re taking him to the airport.  They also confirm that they will be picking him up when he returns exactly one week later.”

    “That means that no one will miss him for a whole week,” commented Danny.  “That gives us plenty of time to take care of business.  So, what else can you dig up by reading his e-mail?”

    Aldo was gaining confidence as the wheels were rapidly turning in his mind…  “I see that he’s taking a first class flight to the Cayman Islands, and that he’ll be traveling alone.”

    “Aldo, I recall that in my world, lots of criminals do their banking at the Cayman Islands for some odd reason.”

    “The same is true about the Cayman Island banks in my world too,” replied Aldo.  “I wonder what this guy is really up to.  One thing seems for sure – his wife, Jessica, will be staying at home…  Look at this – here is an e-mail that Mr. Donaldson sent to his wife, Jessica.  Oddly enough, it says he needs to visit his publisher in New York City.  What a freakin’ liar he is.”

    “Gee – this lucky guy has everything anyone could ever dream of, so why would he need to lie to his beautiful wife?  Aldo, see if you can find out anything else of interest.”

    After several more minutes of scrolling down old e-mail files, Aldo said, “Bingo – I think this will explain a lot.”

    It was an e-mail he had received from a girl named, ‘Babs’.  The message said, “Hi, Danny dear – My flight just landed.  I’m staying at the Grand Cayman Hilton.  They gave me a big suite with a huge Jacuzzi we can share.  I’ll pick you up at the airport, and we can open that bank account we spoke about.  Eternally yours, your squeeze-bunny, Babs.”

    Aldo opened the attached file which came with the e-mail.  He said, “Wow, take a look at this photo – this Babs is a real looker.  Check out that equipment of hers in that skimpy, lime-green bikini.”

    Danny felt sorry for the wife, Jessica...  “Imagine that – a guy with everything, including the girl of his dreams – make that, ‘the girl of MY dreams’, and he has to cheat on her.  What a lousy scumbag.”

    “All I know is that easy money often turns good men into total jerks,” said Aldo.  “It must be another one of those natural laws of physics.”

    “OK, we sure have learned a lot in short time, but it looks like we might have to act by tomorrow morning.  So, what’s the plan, coach?”

    “I’m not sure yet.  I know I can’t think on an empty stomach.  Let’s just grab some burgers and fries at Dick’s Drive-in, and then let’s go case out the guy’s house on Mercer Island.  I want to see what we’re up against.”

    “Sounds great, coach.  Let me get my shoes on.  Say – where are those sunglasses you said I could borrow?”

    They ate their burgers as Aldo drove his Toyota towards the I-90 Bridge.  Danny was amazed that a Dick’s Deluxe tasted exactly the same in both worlds – and the fries were also identically cut from potatoes with the peel left on.

    When they drove down the winding road towards the property, they marveled at the beautiful lake view and plush, expensive homes in the exclusive neighborhood.  They easily recognized the Donaldson’s residence since they had seen photos of it online, but much of the house was concealed by a tall, stone fence with wrought iron gate.  It had a quaint, cobblestone driveway.

    “Check out that security system over to the left.  They have a camera, with two-way phone, a small, numeric key pad, and a fingerprint identification system.  The little sign above it says: Entry only by entering the correct numeric code or by fingerprint recognition.  How convenient – I guess you’ll have no problem getting inside,” when suddenly they were both startled by the loud barking of two, angry-looking Rottweiler dogs jumping towards the closed, security gate.

    “We better get going before someone comes to check up on us,” said Danny.

   “Yeah – we’re out of here.  I’ve seen enough.  Let’s go back to my house to lay out the battle plan.”

    “I’m with you all the way,” replied Danny.

    Aldo turned on the car radio to an ‘oldies station’ as he remained deep in thought while he drove home.  Danny privately noted that even the same music hits were popular in both of the parallel worlds.

    When they got back to Aldo’s house, he locked the door behind him and invited Danny into the living room.  He said, “I’ve got it – here’s the plan…  Tomorrow morning, we need to be there early enough and intercept the limo as it heads towards his house.  When I stage a light, fender bender accident, the limo driver will surely pull over to the side of the road to inspect the damage.  I’ll get you a supply of chloroform for you to soak into a rag, and smother the driver’s face from behind while I point to the damage sustained.  When he’s completely unconscious, we’ll stuff him into the trunk of the limo.  If he happens to be wearing a limo driver’s company cap, I’ll put it on and act as though I’m the limo driver.  I want you to park my car a few blocks away in an inconspicuous spot.  Next, I want you to climb into the large, passenger section of the limo, and hide behind the dark, smoked windows with a chloroform-soaked rag.  As soon as I open the rear door for the rich Mr. Donaldson to enter, you need to smother him with the chloroform as well.  Once he’s unconscious, you need to exchange clothes with him – and don’t forget to take his fancy Rolex watch.  All of his ID should be in his wallet, and his plane ticket and passport should be in his suitcase.”

    “Say, coach,” interrupted Danny, “This is cool stuff.  I’m really impressed.”

    “Thanks for the compliment, but please allow me to finish.  Here’s the rest of the plan…  We’ll switch back to my car and leave the limo ditched with just the limo driver.  We need to load the unconscious, rich Danny into my Toyota’s trunk.  Next, we’ll head back to my house where I’ll set him up with an IV bag to keep him safely sedated.  I need to round up all those supplies tonight from the University Hospital, where I still have good access.  We can keep our rich guest sleeping safely for a day or two while we take care of our banking withdrawal.  After we split up the money, I’ll drive you to the airport, and you can catch the next flight to the Cayman Islands.  That’s the perfect place for you to end up.  I’ll bet over there, you can easily find some forger who can set you up with a brand new name and ID.  If I were you, I’d recommend you have a little fun with his girl, Babs, while you’re down there.  Once you’ve gotten a 48 hour head start, I’ll leave the sedated, ‘rich Danny’, somewhere away from my house.  He’ll wake up a few hours later, and return home.”

    “Boy, you sure can come up with quite the plan,” said a very impressed Danny.  “I totally love it.  At this moment, I’m a lost man without an identity from another universe.  Just prior to that, I was a cripple facing eviction.  Now, I can have a healthy, wealthy, fulfilling life thanks to your plan.  I’d be forever grateful.”

    “I’m grateful too. I can save my house from foreclosure and keep my experimental lab.  I still hope to communicate with my Mama Cecelia someday.  I’m very fortunate to have met you, but you know what I really like best about this plan?”

    “No.  What’s your favorite part?”

    “I don’t have to waste any of my money on buying you some fancy clothes.  You can just wear the rich Mr. Donaldson’s designer clothes when you go to the bank.  In case you didn’t already know, I’m really a frugal cheapskate at heart.  Anyway, I just want you to hang out around my house while I’m gone.  I need to smuggle out a bottle of chloroform and other supplies from of the university tonight.”

    “I’ll just stay here and learn as much as I can about my rich, alter-ego.  Have a safe trip, Aldo.”

    “Thanks, Danny.”

    While Danny was alone at the house, he continued to study his notes so that he had all the pertinent information memorized, including: the Mercer Island home address, his home telephone number, smart phone number, and the like.  He noticed that the rich Danny’s social security number was almost the same as his own, but inexplicably the last digit was one number bigger.

    Danny searched for more information and found out that the names of the two, scary Rottweiler dogs were: ‘Killjoy’ and ‘Chomps’…  “That tidbit of information could come in handy.”  However, he spent most of his time ogling at any pictures he could find of the girl of his dreams: Jessica Sweet Hart.

    Meanwhile, Aldo completely struck out in terms of locating Chloroform and some suitable, safe anesthetics.  He consulted with one of the registered nurses he knew from the University Hospital staff regarding sedation, but she quickly convinced him that any drug induced unconsciousness was extremely risky business if administered by a novice.  Aldo knew that if he accidentally killed the ‘rich Danny’, the ‘other Danny’s’ life could be jeopardized, so he decided to secretly change plans…

    “Danny’s a nice, non-violent sort of guy,” Aldo muttered to himself as he drove back home.  “I’ll just get an unmarked, glass bottle of tap-water, and tell Danny that it’s chloroform.   When he goes to smother the limo driver with the water-soaked rag, I’ll just bail him out of trouble by kicking the chauffer in the gut, and then knocking him out with a hard chop to the back of his neck.  I don’t mind getting down and dirty when it involves developing a new means of communication with my precious mother, Mama Cecelia.”

    As Aldo continued to drive he came up with a ‘plan B’ for handling the sedation of the rich boy…  “I can’t take a chance of trying to set up our captive with an anesthetic IV, since I could easily either give him too much of the sedative, or even worse – not enough of the stuff, and have him wake up at an inopportune time.  That’s too bad for Mr. Donaldson, but I’m just going to have to keep him thoroughly restrained with ropes and duct tape.  If I could just buy chloroform and everything else at the local drugstore, then everything would be quite civilized – but no such luck.  Thus, the lucky turd is going to have to suffer a bit – but at least his suffering will be ‘in the name of science’.”

    When Aldo returned home a few hours later, Danny heard him unlocking the front door.  An embarrassed Danny quickly clicked away from the computer page showing Jessica’s photos.  In an instant, he clicked onto the page showing the rich Mr. Donaldson’s personal e-mail.  Danny asked, “So, did you manage to get a hold of chloroform and the sedation materials?”

    A fibbing Aldo said, “You know I did.  There’s no way I was coming back empty handed.  Here’s a bottle of the chloroform.  Be sure you don’t inhale any of it yourself.  Just liberally douse a hand-towel with it and cover the limo driver’s face.  He’ll be out like a light.  You can repeat the process on our precious, lucky jerk when he climbs into the back of the limo.”

    Next, Aldo brought out a small cardboard box with several plastic flasks of clear fluid.  He fibbed again as he said, “I’ll hook up one of these flasks to a tube, and stick an IV into the guy’s arm.  That will keep him sleeping like a baby while we make our withdrawal at the bank.”

    “I’m glad to see that you are so thorough, and that you pay such close attention to detail,” said Danny with appreciation.

    “It’s all just like a game of Chess – you just have to plan several moves ahead.”

    Danny smiled and nodded in agreement with Aldo’s Chess analogy, although he was privately thinking, “Actually, I prefer to think of this shenanigan as more of a Poker game.  For now, I think I’ll just play along and act like I’m willing to scram to the Cayman Islands, and enjoy life with a bunch of money and a hot chick named, ‘Babs’.  Admittedly, that probably would be the smartest thing for me to do.  However, my mind is already made up.  As dumb as it may seem, I’d risk anything and everything for the chance of winning over the one girl that I’ve always been in love with, Jessica Sweet Hart.  She’s my one and only, true sweetheart.”