Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chapter 13 Going down swinging

(copyright David A. Kearns)

Tim Stanton sat in his office in Durham, North Carolina and watched the old videos from YouTube. He wasn’t reviewing stock UFO film. He was going over footage from famous UFO conferences pre-2010, trying to spot the debunkers and the government plants.
It was a little exercise in which he indulged himself when he needed to divert his mind from an emergency, which in this case came down to Chuck’s disappearance and the deaths of Dave and Tom.
Watching these tapes became one in any number of rituals that had erupted out of Tim’s growing sense of paranoia. He wanted to know what a government plant or a bad penny looked like. He knew they were coming for him now, if they weren’t already in his group, or perhaps working for him as a manager within his chain of stores.
At that moment Tim was watching an old clip of an interview with the widow of Dr. James E. McDonald, who was largely considered the Dean of UFOlogy. The moderator seemed intent on driving the discussion into a forum on socialist Marxism, which Betty McDonald had been an admitted devotee.
Here the man sat with Dr. Stanton Friedman, Betty, and the publisher of Firestorm, a compilation of the McDonald papers and biography written by Anne Druffel. The moderator wanted to ramble on and on about a larger galactic civilization, and socialism; blending the two in a ludicrous stew of inanity.
It reminded Tim of that old television series V, that began with an alien talking about “universal health care” as a goofy slap at the Obama administration.
Classic, thought Tim. He noticed that the moderator never seemed to look anyone in the eye. He seemed more an actor, putting on a scene in a movie, than a genuine human being.
Reviewing this sort of thing was an academic exercise anymore as someone, or something, began bumping off ufologists in 2010, just after Obama had made his announcement concerning UFOs that disappointed so many disclosure people. That announcement, bland and non-committal to the subject of UFOs as it had been, had saved thousands of NASA-related jobs. After all, who would fund an agency that had been lying for so many years, when there were so many earth-based problems to address? Space-defense a key lobby; their jobs lost in the immediate would have derailed a campaign.
Back in 2010, Tim hadn’t been aware of the deadly politics afoot with regard to disclosure. Not until Ryan had died the following year would his eyes begin to open.
At what cost had those saved jobs come? No new initiatives in clean energy, no changes to the auto industry, and UFOlogy had driven off the agenda and sent deep underground. MUFON had gone the way of NICAP, after so many defectors and government plants.
Tim turned away from the old computer terminal and sighed, leaned back in his chair and let his mind wander.
There was nothing he could do about Chuck, and whoever it had been sent to play Judas to Tim’s growing underground, they were good; real good, he thought. Because no one he knew seemed to be conforming to the role; no one was overly solicitous, or sucking up. No one was trying to get next to him to do him in. Either that or they were still en route, or, the government hadn’t bothered to send in a Judas yet. Maybe they planned on creating Judas out of clay found in situ; among Tim’s devotees.
Well, they would have done their homework, wouldn’t they? They would have anticipated a likeness of mind between Tim and Ryan; that is to say, not easily fooled and wary of any nail head that never quite sat flush with the wood.
He began humming to himself an old song from Sesame Street “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t fit in…”
He still had a few hours to burn. He thought about Chuck and Dave, and the conversation he had had with both of them back in the summer of 2011, at Ryan’s funeral.
They had been walking on the beach. Chuck was the first among the group to see the relationship between what the aliens were doing, and what Cortez did with the Native Americans of Mexico. How the Indians turned on each other rather than face the outside enemy as a unified force.
“Yes, World Ender, that’s it. You must think back, and remember.”
Every now and then Tim could swear he heard Red Dancing Bear speaking with him in his mind.
“You must connect with Charles. Go to that memory of him, and he will find you there.”
Tim had seen Red that summer as well, in a dream after passing out on the beach. Then he had run into Red’s grandson, Stanley, just before Red died. Red had told Tim his spirit would be reborn within Stanley. Which - if you believed him - meant that Red was back on earth, walking and talking; sharing his special powers.
Red had always spoken of skills which were latent, but unique to the human species. These were tools that allowed the human being to ‘hear’ the thoughts of his loved ones, even after they had died. Tim didn’t know how much of this business he could believe, but, Red’s demonstrations; especially during the summer of 1981 had been nothing short of fantastic.
“Trust,” came the thought. Almost audible like a whisper.
Tim, got up from his desk, turned off the wall intercom, shut the light off and laid down on the sofa beside the sink.
He again directed his thoughts backward in time, to that day in 2011 soon after Ryan died. He could see Chuck and Dave running up to him on the beach from the north.
This must have been after they had spoken, somehow. There had been a gap there in the continuum, Tim recalled, where Dave and Chuck had gone, and Red suddenly appeared, or a dream of Red. Space and time were squishy when it came to anything to do with Red. It was like he carried the bubble of some sort of not-world around with him, and shared it with you when he talked to you. It had happened that day in June 2011 when Tim walked on the beach with Chuck and Dave before Ryan’s funeral. He ran into Red, but at some point, Tim had lost all track of time and space and passed out on the beach. He late attributed the gap in his memory to alcohol from the previous night, knowing full-well that explanation didn’t hold water either.
This had happened, then, or it was happening within that gap!
“Good, you are learning,” came Red’s voice.
They had both turned back to tell Tim something, but Dave is out of focus, smeared. Dave stopped jogging, and began a slow walk. Chuck kept coming forward.
Tim can hear the voice of Red Dancing Bear, as Chuck continued running down the beach.
“Red, where are we? When are we?”
“If you are ever to learn the way of things you will have to learn to trust,” came Red’s voice.
“Hard to, with so much going on,” Tim said as Chuck continued on.
“Then think of something else,” Red said.
“Such as..?”
“You think of the star out in the middle of the Milky Way Galaxy, that one day decides, well, shit, that’s it. I’m done. And the next thing you know, supernova.”
“Then you think of a planet, much like this one, just about 93 million miles away from it with a civilization on it much like ours. One that has been in existence for more than a quarter million years. A civilization wiped out in the blink of an eye, every man woman and child, along with every other bit of life on the surface of that planet, never to return again.”
“Sucks to be them, on that day, doesn’t it?”
“It does, sure.”
“Now I want you to take in a great big, deep breath.”
Tim did as he was told.
“What now?”
“In the time it took you to do that, what I just described happened a million times, all across the known universe.”
“So…? We don’t have it so bad?”
“All we are dealing with here, Tim, is a simple infestation; a test of our right to exist. We will either pass it, or fail it, and either way life here, will go on. That’s a better deal than what the other guy got, while you were busy breathing, don’t you think?”
“I guess you’re right,” Tim said, marveling that this was perhaps the first time Red had used Tim’s name, and not some cryptic handle like World Ender.
“No, you know I am right. So I want you to do something you’ve never thought you were capable of.”
“I know what you want me to do, but I don’t know if I am capable of it, Red.”
Tim could see Chuck now beginning to slow down. Pain written on his face.
“That’s inexcusable bullshit, Tim. Just sad, really, and I won’t accept it. Charles has suffered greatly to meet you here, at this time and this place, and you must believe, and you must reach out to him, in the way I have showed you before. You must allow yourself to go back, to then, in your mind, and meet him. And you must do it now…”
Tim exhaled slowly and held his breath, then exhaled. Chuck’s image came into stronger focus. He was exhausted, tired, worn out.
Tim broke into a light jog, then a full-on run to meet up with him. He could feel everything, the hot summer wind, the hard grit of the sand on his feet.
“That’s it, Tim. Quickly now, there’s barely any time left. You must hurry…”
He caught Chuck around the shoulders before he fell in a heap.
“I….have to tell you something, Tim. I…”
“I know Chuck, I know, calmly now, take it easy, breathe buddy,” Tim said.
“There’s a….a couple ….of names….”
“Okay, first, where are you, Chuck? Tell me that. Just tell me where we can find you…”
“Damn it Tim, there’s no time. You’ve got to listen to me. The names are Colonel Jason Epps, and Lt. Colonel Kurt Warner,” he gasped.
“Epps and Warner,” Tim said,
“No Tim, the ranks and the names, repeat them to me so I know you got it, man. Okay?”
Tim did.
"Now where are you?
“ They told me I’m in the desert Tim, somewhere outside Rachel, Nevada in an underground bunker. But you’ll never get to me in time. You’ve got to remember those names Tim, use them. He wants me to tell you to use them,” Chuck said.
“Chuck, you’ve got to hold on. We’re coming for you!”
“No you’re not, Tim. By the time you get here, if this is where I even am, I won’t be myself anymore, understand? It won’t be me, it will be someone else. They’re going inside Tim. They’re …they have some way to sift through my memories like the pages of a book, and I can feel it Tim, if they can do that, they can change me, take over. I don’t know how they do it, but this is something we never had a countermeasure for. Soon they’ll know….”
“Know what?”
“Everything. They will know all our plans. You have to get to Sean. I’ll fight as long as I can but you’ve got to warn Sean. They already suspect he’s with us…”
Chuck collapsed into a state of total unconsciousness.
Tim looked down at Chuck. He began to sob uncontrollably. He knew his buddy was close to death somewhere in the future. Tim looked up. He could see Dave in the distance jumping up and down, screaming something to him but it was as if a translucent wall had been placed between them. Dave knew too. Dave fell to his knees, sobbing, rolling over on his back, crying and rubbing his eyes. He knew his buddy was dying, the emotion distroying him, even though on some level, he was already well past dead himself.
Tim turned to call to Dave and then back to Chuck. Neither one was moving.
In an instant he felt himself being sucked outside his body .
He looked down to the beach below him and watched the earlier version of himself topple over in a heap, next to his friend. Chuck got up and wandered away in a daze with his buddy Dave, who was equally clueless as to what had just happened.
Tim swirled into the rays of sunshine like liquid travelling down a drain. The last thought he had before winking out again, was “we can go to places in time where the gaps are! We can go back, and if we can go back…”
All was blackness. No light, not sound, nothing.

The man called Grimes sat on the edge of the table near the old hooded bulb. His sleeves were rolled up like a FBI man from the 1930s interviewing a member of the Capone mob.
“You need to get you some better clothes, man,” Chuck began to sigh. His eyes were cloudy, unfocused like those of a drugged bear.
Grimes brushed the dust off his trousers and checked his old Timex watch.
“I will admit, Charles, you are demonstrating a great deal of resolve here. Of course it is an exercise in futility,” Grimes said.
“What’s your name, man?” Chuck asked.
“You didn’t give him your name, did you colonel?”
“His name is Epps. Jason Epps, colonel, US Air Force, and he’s a ma’fuckin faggit,” Chuck said with a nearly toothless smile.
“Brilliant Colonel. Remind me to recommend you for the dumbass star,” Grimes said.
“Any other pieces of information you compromised here, Colonel?” Grimes asked.
Epps looked at him and shook his head to the negative. Chuck merely smiled slyly through his remaining bloodied teeth.
“Charles, we will have everything, all of it, every last bit of information. Whether you know his name, my name, or the lat and long of where the Empire State Building is, it will not escape this room, because you won’t escape this room,” Grimes said.
“If you’re so sure, why ain’t you tell me your name, man?”
There was a pause.
“My name is Johnny Fucking Hamster-wheel, and I own you, you insignificant piece of shit. You feel that stuff working through your system? That’s not going to give up, understand me Charles? Imagine battery acid eating its way through your brain and your central nervous system, working its wall all the way into every cell, interrupting every synapse. It will not stop, it cannot be argued with, cursed at, called a faggot,” and there was smile here with the pause, “But different than plain old acid, in this case, what’s invading you is doing more than cleaning. In this case what we have injected you with is dropping little tiny seeds Charles. Little tiny, microscopic organisms which are a bit of biotech we’ve developed. Little angry nannites, and they just fucking hate human brain tissue, so much so they are busy turning it to something else. Despise it with a passion, Charles the way you hate cockroaches and spiders. The way you used to have nightmares about them when you were nine, and wet the bed so much your father tried to spank the tendency out of you,” he said.
“How did you…?”
“Oh, we know quite a bit about that, Charles. We know about those nightmares you had in 1973 before your family moved from Marietta, Georgia. Because what came for you that night, Charles wasn’t a very large cockroach. No sir, it wasn’t an owl, or a tiger, Charles, it was a friend of ours. A good friend who gave you a little gift, and took something from you in exchange.”
Chuck felt a tear escaping.
“Naughty, naughty Charles, let that strange woman with the big eyes do that to his wee-wee,” Grimes hissed.
“You cock-suckin...!”
“And so Charles had trouble for a time, holding his water. And so Charles got erections at strange times, and for strange reasons. Heavens, mom and dad even took him to a specialist, who did nothing but take their money. And he knew, just knew he was different from the other boys and girls didn’t he. He knew that aside from just being a black kid in a white world, he was also a dirty child, a sexualy deviant child, who couldn’t stop rubbing himself. Who used to go into a trance and pull out his penis. So sad, whatever are mommy and daddy to do with their boy?”
“So the other boys made fun, and so Chucky took up boxing, the only thing that helped. I mean, at least the name-calling stopped, but even that didn’t solve it, did it Charles. The itch was always there, wasn’t it, you dirty little fellow,” he said.
“When I get out of this…”
“ And so Charles had problems trusting sexual partners his whole, miserable, pointless life…” Grimes spat with a bitter flourish at the end. “Yes, there it is, the nerve center. Allthosewastedrelationships…”
What came from Charles’s throat didn’t sound human, but it did sound primate, and carried all the emotion of an earthly creature, a scream ending in a defeated cry.
“That’s it Charles. That’s it. Open those places, those unpleasant memories for us all, so that we might review them together. Charles wasting his seed with strippers; Charles breaking up with the only other woman in his life who loved him. Charles experimenting with all sorts of deviance in the name of finding out what it is he is missing. Thought he was gay for a while, didn’t he? And what a mistake that was. You’re either on the team or you’re not, eh Charles? He even thought he was in need of a sex change. Went back to girls, tried them older, younger, Asian, black, white, fetish, non fetish…even joined a vampire cult, didn’t he.”
“The great thing about LA Charles, it’s the fucking gateway to hell isn’t it. And so damned anonymous anymore, right? People know you but they don’t know you. They care, but they don’t care, isn’t that right Charles.”
“You best pray, mister, that they find you first,” Chuck said with a dying gasp.
Grimes held Chuck by the chin. Looked right into his eyes. It was the first time Chuck had considered the possibility.
No, it couldn’t be, could it?
“Charles, I am they. Sillylittleman!”
The slaps weren’t very hard, but they were just enough; sending Chuck into a renewed state of unconsciousness.
“He’s ready. Hook up the monitor and begin sifting. And so help me, colonel, you’d best not fuck this up. I leave it in your hands. There’s something I have to take care of.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chapter 12 Going Underground

(You are viewing a novel in real-time, by David A. Kearns who maintains copyright. For reader enjoyment only. Not for republication in any form. The postings to this blog are chapters of The Big Lie, the second book in a UFO series.)

(Author's additional note: Stay tuned, comment, your participation in any form is appreciated.)

Tim Stanton, set the old hard-line fax phone down. The phone sat inside a room completely insulated for interference or electronic surveillance of any sort. It was a true, sealed, Faraday chamber that would have done credit to a government agency; a few years ago that is.
He had just been speaking with management of the Highjump Products Store in Breaux Bridge Louisiana. They were nice people; after a little coaxing, they began to understand what Tim was saying without saying; began to get the gist of his lingo.
It all made him feel like a character in some Graham Greene novel: “Is the package away?”
“Wha… oh yes, the package. Yes, it’s away, heh!”
Russ was en route to Tampa.
Every Highjump Products outlet had a wing to the offices which were reserved for Tim Stanton, and a cadre of managers he would meet with to discuss important company business. This wing was off-limits to the store employees.
The meeting schedule would change constantly, thus, employees never knew when Tim and his group would arrive. The store employees, from the manager on down to the cashiers all thought, this was to “keep them on their toes.” But that wasn’t the real reason, only a decent cover for the real reason.
These managers, who all arrived wearing the familiar company vest and jackets with the logo and name tags, weren’t really company officers, though they introduced themselves as such. Or perhaps sometimes, they were introduced as regional managers. They were directors of an underground network of what was now being called The Human Resistance. They had all signed The Human Declaration of Independence and Acts of War document. Two of those signers were now dead. A third, had been captured, his status was unknown.
They arrived, held a lengthy meeting in the private wings of these stores which could last for as long as two days, but very seldom longer. These managers along with their president and CEO even slept on cots and bunk beds near the managerial bathrooms and kitcheonetes.
But Tim knew this brand of the growing underground, was as outdated as his sealed Faraday chamber; as useless as that old Fax machine was.
It had been useful at one point to dumb down his forms of communication; use an ancient dial-up connection on old 486 machines between stores, but spies and watchers learned this game.
Then it came down to wiring coded instructions to resistance members through Western Union with gobs of cash, but that system was also discovered.
In an age now, where conceivably every single human being had a desktop computer, a powerful one at that, inside his head and was in constant streaming communication with the internet, where would you be able to hide anymore? What method would work?
“Mr. Stanton!” came a voice over the intercom.
“Yes, Marcie,” he replied.
“You told me to interrupt you of any important world news,” she said.
“Sure, what’s happened?”
“You’ll want to turn on CNN,” she said, then disconnected.
Tim went over to his desktop and moved the old mouse and said “CNN”.
The image of Evan Katzenberg came to life. It was from an old interview. At the bottom of the screen there was a ticker reading “DIRECTOR EVAN KATZENBERG,WIFE SARAH, DEAD IN HOUSE FIRE.”
“…I think Hollywood should have evolved from the days of blacklisting writers, actors and directors, and yet here we are. There was a reason we stopped putting propaganda in the movies. We stopped making them the public relations arms of the armed services and corporations. Now you have intelligence agencies from here and abroad behind all this muscle, and intimidation. I mean, I’ve been about keeping the art-form pure.”
“Aren’t you concerned for your relationships within the industry?” the interviewer asked.
“ Yeah, and I hear what you’re asking even though you can’t specifically ask it. But I ask you, why do you say that? Because I happen to show the humanity of some of my characters who also happen to be Palestinian, or Lebanese or whatever? That doesn’t make me a bad Jew, that happens to make me a good one,” he said. “Take that issue out of it: whatever happened to the artist challenging any sort of dogma, any sort of move toward mental uniformity? What, we’re not supposed fight against that anymore, or what we’re saying is either follow in lock-step with the party line, or, you’re out? No better than McCarthyism.”
The image shifted to the burned-out scene; a charred hulk of a house in Malibu.
“Fire Rescue is indicating that the explosion may be the result of a faulty gas valve in the home. Katzenberg was 57 years old. He and his wife leave behind two young children who were staying with relatives at the time of the explosion.
“Jesus,” sighed Tim.
He picked up the phone again. It might not be as secure as he wanted it, but he had to step up the meeting time-table. They all needed to get here, as soon as humanly possible.

“Man, I just knew there was something wrong with the government,” Tibby LeBlanc said after hearing the whole story.
The sixty foot fishing trawler was somewhere southwest of Pensacola. The sun was directly upon them but, there was a solid breeze out of the southwest. They stood in the pilot house watching the gulls swirl around the upper works and radio gear. The gulls were waiting for a quick meal that wasn’t coming anytime soon, this being a transport mission disguised as a fishing trip.
“Oh yeah. See, our buddy Ryan used to talk about what the lie does, to everything and everybody,” he said.
“What’s that?”
“He said it works like an infectious disease whose main outcomes are insanity and evil. He told us it was a mathematical certainty, sort of like an equation. The bigger the lie, the worse the insanity and evil working itself out on the other side.”
“Sounds like a philosopher more than a computer engineer,” Tibby said.
“You and he were close?” Tibby asked.
“Not as close as I would have liked. He was best friends with Tim,” Russ said.
“The guy who runs Highjump,” he said.
“Yeah, well, it’s complicated but, Ryan actually helped Tim with the start-up funds for the company. The company works as a front for the underground that we are growing,” Russ said.
“Day-um,” Tibby said. “And this Ryan killed himself?”
“That’s the official version. Tim said an assassin took him out in 2011, but he knew it was coming, and that he couldn’t escape it, so he hatched his plans, to get the movement started,” he said.
“Man you hear about this sort of thing, but deep down you find it hard to imagine it actually happening,” Tibby said.
“There are people working for the government agencies and contractors who are more evil than you can possibly imagine, Tibby. I’ve had some direct experience with this in Central America,” Russ said.
“What do you suppose they want from us, Russ?”“Them?” Russ asked.
“Yeah, them,” Tibby said, with his eyes rolling upward nervously.
“Nothing good, Tibby. That much we know for sure. Nothing good,” Russ said.

“No sir, he’s not telling us a damned thing and at this rate, we’ll lose him,” came the voice of Colonel Epps. He was on his secure line again, speaking to someone.
“No sir, and I am not a doctor. The extent of his injuries are getting to a point that…”
There was a pause.
Chuck was amazed to know he was still alive, still marking time in this situation. The beatings, stabbings, slicing and chemical burns had stopped, for the time being anyway.
Who could he be talking to now? Not Lt. Colonel Kurt Warner, thought Chuck.
Whoever it was, Epps was afraid of him. That meant someone higher than both Epps and Warner on the pecking order. He had to get that name, and add it to his list. Chuck struggled to bring his mind into a state of full consciousness. He was in the fight of his life and he knew it.
It was a fight he could not physically win, but he might psychically win it, unless they had more tricks up their sleeves.
Whoever the cold bastard was down the end of the phone, he was the sort who would have more ammunition.
“I’ll await your arrival, sir.”
“Charles I am truly impressed,” Epps said hanging up the phone. “You may have just cost me my career…”
“I plan on …costing you….your life, colonel Jackass,” Chuck managed to respond in breathless gasps.
Epps snickered.
Chuck managed to look around the room with his remaining good eye.
“Where did your scumbags…go?” he asked.
Epps folded his arms.
“I read in your file you had been a boxer, before you took up surfing,” Epps said.
Chuck spat a gob of blood and teeth out of his mouth. He ignored the colonel.
“Scumbags couldn’t take it huh? Had to get new scumbags, had to call in the second string, see …if they could do a …better job,” Chuck sighed, closing his eyes.
His head lolled off to the side again.
“Get some rest, Charles. You’re going to need it,” Epps said.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chapter 11 Down in the Hole

(You are viewing a novel in real-time, by David A. Kearns who maintains copyright. For reader enjoyment only. Not for republication in any form. The postings to this blog are chapters of The Big Lie, the second book in a UFO series.)

3: 20 a.m. Dec. 14, 2014. 56 miles from Rachel, Nevada
Chuck tried to open his eyes but he couldn’t. If this was a hangover- and he dearly hoped that’s all this was - it was a world ender, a true come to Jesus.
He scanned his memories but they were loose, jumbled, ephemeral like the images made by oil poured on water.
He remembered the waters of the Indian River; got an old memory of gasoline dripping out of a flooded 15 horsepower engine at the back of a john boat, swirling into the stream.
Chuck, along with Jay Malone, and Ryan Cogswell had been fishing for whatever they could get their hands on. They decided to change fishing holes but the engine wouldn’t start, and so Jay had flooded it by over-pumping the ball on the fuel line. When he realized what he had done, he let some drain out into the bottom of the fiberglass boat. Then he bailed it out into the river with a plastic scoop made from the top half of a discarded milk jug. That day, Chuck had watched the iridescent gas slicks’ light-play on the water, like the multicolored surface of a soap bubble.
Jay Malone bailed the rest of the water out of the bottom of the boat while the engine settled, and set the jug scoop down. As a young man he had been handy like that. If something was broken, Jay would fixed it. If you had a lure that was snagged on a rock or whatever, and you really wanted to keep that lure, more often than not, Jay could figure out a way, either by working the boat around for a better angle, or tweaking the drag on a spinning rod just so. Damned if he didn’t get it back for you nine times out of ten. That was Jay.
Ryan took off his shirt, leaned back and rested his head on the bow bench while Jay worked. Ryan used his T-shirt as a sort of pillow that also shielded his eyes from the afternoon sun; his knees sticking up in the air; those impossibly long shins covered with animal hair over his gigantic monkey feet. Ryan should have run track, with feet like that. He should have, but he considered such suggestions blasphemy, inviting him to betray his true love, surfing.
The boat was quite literally in the middle of the river channel now. Anyone could come along in a larger vessel and …
“You worry too much, Chuck. Don’t you see? Jay’s got it all figured out,” Ryan said.
Chuck hadn’t said a word, so how had Ryan known what he was thinking? Well that was Ryan, wasn‘t it: psychic, seeing these before they happened; hearing conversations before anyone opened their mouth. Tim said this is what made Ryan such a good computer engineer later in life.
But this memory was from the summer of their seventeenth year. A really good year. Chuck loved that year which is why he was replaying it in his mind now. He needed this like food, like a sugar cube given to a wolf trapped in a claw trap; like a cat injured by a speeding car might purr just before….
For the first time in recent memory, Ryan had seemed to be happy at peace. He was funny like that. There was nothing like a little uncertainty with a touch of pseudo-danger thrown in to get Ryan to smile.
Jay wiped off his sweaty brow and prepared to restart the motor.
“You could help, Cogswell, Geez…”
“Now Jay, why the hell would I do something so stupid, as to deprive you the joy of saving our lives from these dangerous waters?” Ryan said.
Ha, dangerous waters of the Indian River lagoon, a three-mile wide, flat-calm expanse of heaven between the mainland and the barrier island.
They all stopped for a moment and let the sights, smells and sounds of the Indian River seep into them: the slapping of the small waves on the hull; the incidental puff of a hot breeze as it traveled across the water from the mainland; the rumble of distant thunder coming from the towering clouds over the St. Johns marsh twenty miles to the west; the piercing cry from an osprey fighting to keep a mullet in its clutches as it flapped toward the Australian pines on the far shore.
They all smiled at Ryan cynically, but also with a touch of gratitude in their glances. Every now and then they needed to be reminded how good they had it, how trivial their problems really were. Boyhood was disappearing fast; they needed to stop, look around and savor it like warm sunshine on a cold day. They would miss these days, in years to come.
Jay shook his head, pulled the starter cord. The engine came to life, and time moved on.
It was probably then that Chuck got his first glimpse into the magic of young Ryan Cogswell, and why Tim seemed so devoted to his buddy. They had their little girlfriends and so on but, Tim Stanton and Ryan Cogswell were brothers in everything but name.
He had admired and was somewhat envious of this relationship, but in the end, he counted himself more than anything proud to be a member of this little group that included Russ, Jay, Gary, Talky-Tom, and Dave…
What had happened to Dave? There was an image, something Chuck didn’t want to recall; surely it had been an elaborate nightmare.
In some reality somewhere, Dave had been shot in the chest, three times. That was the world Chuck didn’t want to live in right now. He didn’t want to remember what came next in that twisted dream.
In his mind, Chuck walked along Melbourne Beach pier, perhaps it had been later on that afternoon of his fishing outing. He had paused on the pier as the sun set, and gazed down again into the waters of the lagoon.
The old Native American was there by his side soon enough; the way he was prone to sneaking up on him from time to time throughout Chuck’s childhood. The Indian had an old cast-net made from cloth fiber he was tossing into the shallows. Skunked for now, he stopped and wandered up to Chuck, who smiled.
This was Red’s way: to be there, and then to be gone for a long time again, after imparting some wisdom. He was a lonely friendly figure around Melbourne Beach during the early 1980s. No one knew precisely where he came from or what he did for a living. At times he was lighthearted, joking, at others he was serious. Chuck knew this was going to be one of those serious talks.
“You must remember everything that happens to you,” the Indian said.
“How you been?” Chuck said.
With Red you always found the conversation had started without you. He didn’t bother with hello or goodbye. Regardless of Chuck’s efforts to get the old man to conform to the norms of polite conversation, Red steadfastly sloughed these efforts off.
“It could not have been easy, growing up among white boys, as they can be difficult,” Red said randomly. “Your old man was in the Air Force, imagine how hard it was for him.”
“I know, but I never thought of these guys as white, did I Red?”
“No, these truly are your brothers,” Red said.
“Truth be told, Red. I was harder on them at first, then they were on me,” Chuck said.
“That was to be expected. You had a right to be defensive. It makes good sense,” he said.
“I couldn’t asked for better friends, Red. Or a better place to grow up,” Chuck said.
“Then you must honor them. You must remember, everything, do you hear me, Charles? These are your brothers, you must not betray them, but you must remember what you see, for them, because they will seek you out in those places of the mind where you can no longer go physically,” Red Dancing Bear said.
“You’re saying I might not make it out of this?”
“I am saying, a warrior must be prepared, and a warrior must use weapons he is not even aware he posses,” the old Seminole said.
Red Dancing Bear turned and walked eastward off the pier and into the enveloping darkness with his cast net draped over his shoulder.
Chuck drifted back into a deeper state of unconsciousness.

Hey, Russ, buddy! Wake up. We almost there,” said the man driving a pick up truck over the sandy trail winding through the Louisiana bayou.
Russ woke, yawned and stretched. It had been a rough thirty hours or so.
He had taken the Trailways along I -10 as far as Breaux Bridge, Louisiana when he was shown the need to drastically change his plans by the man sitting next to him, Tibby LeBlanc.
The scanners on the seat backs were dialed in to a wireless router on the overhead camera, loaded with NORA software. Tibby pointed this out. NORA recognized your face. It was the same software package pioneered by the Vegas casinos to catch cheaters and card counters. Now the government used it, nationwide.
Homeland Security gained authority to make the devices standard on all forms of public transportation.
His new pal, Tibby had picked up on Russ’s nervousness half way across Texas as Russ repeatedly leaned over the seatback trying to catch snatches from CNN Internet off the man in front of him, who had an older version of Holovision playing on his iBrain.
“You on probation, ain’t you?” Tibby started in.
Russ nodded. This sounded like an excellent lie.
“And you skipped town all the same, thinking they can’t find you on a bus.”
Russ nodded again.
“They ain’t give you the chip?”
Chips, locator implants by Savante were used when the old, outdated ankle collars with GPS were phased out.
“No, they didn’t,” Russ said.
“You must have had you a good lawyer,” Tibby had said.
“Something like that,” Russ had said.
“Yep, that’s how de got me four years ago. But see, all these buses got the Smartlife and the NORA,” Tibby said pointing to the black box coated in dark glass on the top of the seatback.
“How long since you rode a bus?” Tibby asked.
“I’ve been getting used to it recently,” Russ said.
“The scanner in there got every inch of your face the second your ass hit the seat. It may take a little while, but de get you all de same. So if you running from the lawman, you got to bob an‘ weave, bob an‘ weave, like a cat on de freeway, son. Pretty soon they have all this Smartlife business in real-time. You won’t be able to so much as hop on de bus if you’s in trouble with the lawman.”
“You seem to know an awful lot about all this,” Russ said.
“Name’s Thibedeaux LeBlanc. My friends just call me Tibby,” Tibby said.
Tibby went on to recount two Thibedeaux/Boudreaux jokes which Russ could barely make out.
It turned out Tibby had done Federal time in Texas after an anemic attempt to rob the bank that had foreclosed on him in 2009. His heart hadn’t been in it. He had spent the entire previous night drinking when the idea occurred to him. It was more like a confused protest of grandiosity.
The cops arrived outside as he stumbled around the vault with the bank manager. He had told everyone else to get out then let the manager go as well. He thought for a minute about suicide, decided against it, and then fell asleep in the vault. The 12 gauge shotgun, hadn’t even been loaded. The charges how ever, were federal; since he crossed a state line with a weapon used in the commission of a felony.
Jail time had been relatively light: two years.
“But they got to make room for more people whose had dey houses nicked off ‘em,” Tibby said. He was not very found of the government.
“Neither am I,” Russ said. Tibby smiled and continued his little autobiography.
Tibby had gone back to for a court appearance concerning his own violation of probation, and had taken a bus so that his pick-up truck, which was stripped of Smartlife, wouldn’t be attached to him as far as the record went.
Tibby ran a fleet of shrimp boats with an uncle.
Something about Tibby made Russ trust him implicitly..
So, after a while of talking with him, Russ’s new, revised plan was to go to New Iberia with Tibby, and from there take a boat to Tampa: a boat trip paid for by funds sent from Tim Stanton drawn from the cash drawer at the Highjump Products store in Breaux Bridge. A store in which the LeBlanc family, it turned out, were associate managers, salespeople, and cashiers many of them; all except for Tibby who went sidewise of the law when that bank foreclosed on three hundred acres in St. Martin parish that had been in family hands for nearly two-hundred years.
Russ looked at Tibby smiling so big next to him as the bus stopped outside of Tibby‘s hometown. “What’s funny?”
“You saying you and the president and owner of Highjump stores are good friends, and here you running cross country looking like a wet dog,” Tibby had said.
With that Tibby LeBlanc had taken Russ Bridges into his home, given him a change of clothes, two home-cooked meals prepared by his wife and daughters, and now was planning to help Russ get to Tampa.
The next morning they bounced along in an old beater pick-up truck toward the marina as the sun rose.
“You were talking about someone named Chuck in your sleep, just now. Who’s that?” Tibby said. “Chuck’s in trouble. Some people have him, Tibby, some very bad people. Same people who killed another friend of mine,” Russ said.
“I guess I know’d they’d be more to that story you told me. I expect you’ll let it all out when you good and ready to, Russ,” Tibby said.
“This is more than your average VOP,” Tibby added.
“The less you know, the better for you,” Russ said.
“You got you a choke hold on that folder, Russ. You was on the couch and my daughter tried to take it out of your hands and put it on the table. You jess curled up with it like it was your baby,” Tibby said.
“I can’t thank you and your family enough, Tibby,” Russ said.
“We ain’t got you to Tampa, yet. You thank us when we get you there,” Tibby said.
“Who’s piloting the boat?” Russ asked.
“I expect I will, Russ,” Tibby said.
Russ breathed a heavy sigh of relief and Tibby smiled.

“I want someone to get Lt. Colonel Kurt Warner on the line,” said the voice.
There was a man in the room, holding one of those ancient telephones in his hand. The man had sandy hair, bristly at the top. His eyes were cold.
“I’ll wait,” said the man.
Chuck closed his eyes and listened.
“Tell him Colonel Epps needs to speak with him, stat. That’s an order, Lieutenant,” said the voice.
“Warner, we have an issue that I am addressing here. When I say you need to …fine, fine Warner. Listen. Sundown is blown, understand? It’s dead, so you need to plan accordingly,” the man said.
The was a snapping sound. The man had just snapped his fingers and ordered someone to do something.
Chuck felt a harsh slap to his face, saw a blinding flash in his eyes. Whomever, knew he was awake, and listening.
Now he remembered it all, the front tires of his car shot out; the crash into the light pole. Being dragged off a bloody air bag, thrown into a van. He recalled the injection that sent him to a very dark place for what felt like days on end.
Chuck was dragged to a chair in the center of the room. He felt sick to his stomach. He had been fitted with an bag of IV fluids. He wore a hospital gown. But this was no hospital. He was in a dark, dank room, like the hallway behind a food court at a mall. Bare cinder blocks, a water main, a ladder leading to closed metal door in the ceiling. He got the feeling of oppressive weight around the walls, as though he was underground somewhere.
The simple metal gurney where had lain for who knew precisely how long. The desk that the man sat on. The soiled sofa and adjoining arm chair where sat the other two: What were they? Chinese? Indonesian, Central American, Or Thai? The evil motorcyclists, who had killed Dave with no more thought than swatting a fly.
“That operation is blown, but you need to put a nail in it,” the man said.
“Who? Who do you think?”
There was a pause in the one-sided dialogue. This man, Kurt Warner, was fighting back on the other end of the line. Whatever it was, he didn’t want to do it.
“There is going to be a news item that will surface about this situation. Yes, something like that. That will be the official story. There is no other story, understand? Fine then since you’re only halfway on board Warner this is how it will be,” the man said.
Chuck leaned over and winced. He was in deep pain. He might not get anymore information than this.
Lt. Colonel Kurt Warner. Lt. Colonel Kurt, he thought trying to force the thought into his subconscious mind.
“Mr. Naigles?” came a pleasant voice.
Chuck lifted his head. He looked right into the eyes of the man before him.
“Mr. Naigles, I am Colonel jason Epps,” he said.
“Thanks for telling me,” Chuck said.
“Let’s talk about how this will go, Mr. Naigles,” Epps said. “You are in a below-ground bunker in Nevada, in the desert.
“When they find, you. That is to say, if they find you. Your body will be half chewed to pieces by animals. We have film on you at several casinos in town, blowing through a shit-load of money. It’s really quite sad actually, you never did get over that gambling addiction, did you, Mr. Naigles,” the colonel said.
“You want to know something?” Chuck said.
“Why don’t I go fuck myself?” Epps asked.
“Yeah, something like that,” Chuck said.
“I don’t suppose it would surprise you to learn, that I need some information from you, would it Mr. Naigles?”
“And I can either die quickly or slowly?”
“Something like that,” said Epps.
“Colonel Jason Epps let me ask you something, since you’re in an honest mood?”
“Fine, as long as you know, you’re not getting out of this alive, I don’t see what the harm could be. This facility is lined with three feet of lead, buried below ground, a completely self contained sealed facility,"Epps said.
“What office of the government do you work for?”
“I am a colonel in the Air Force attached to the Office of Investigative Services,” the man said.
“And you guys just go around killing private citizens?”
“You mean citizens who signed this?” Epps said, holding up the Human Declaration of Independence And Acts of War, drafted by Ryan Cogswell, dated July 2, 2011.
“Charles, the thing about a document like this is, once you sign it, it’s like you’re placing you ass in my hands and saying, ‘fuck away. Colonel! Fuck me in the ass!”
“How nice for you,” said Chuck.
“You gave up your rights as a citizen of this country the minute you signed this document advocating the destruction of public property or mayhem to officials changed with protecting this country,” Epps said.
“So we’re doing this?” Chuck asked. “We’re going to debate this issue, now? Before you off me?”
“If you like, I find that I have some time,” Epps said.
Chuck focused hard on the man’s face. He wanted to remember every bit of scar tissue. He spat toward the man but he raised his right hand to deflect the spray.
“So you’re a righty,” Chuck said.
“Why is that important to you,” Epps said.
One of the motorcyclists got up and slapped Chuck hard.
“Stay on task, Charles. You have questions for me, but my time is short,” Epps said.
“Why Dave?”
“Because Mr. Finklestein had no vices that could be used to discredit him after his death. He was the victim of a robbery gone bad. You mourned the loss of your friend, forgot the fact you’ve gone 13 months without so much as touching a poker chip, and back you slid. You offended some mob types in your round of the casinos and that was that, as they say.”
“I get it. What are you hoping to gain by working with them?”
“Those things, in the saucers, or whatever. The non-humans,” Chuck said.
“You and your misguided little troupe of declaration signers, seem to think there is some sort of choice in the matter, that we have the option to do otherwise? Do something other than precisely what we are told to do,” Epps said.
“My dad was in the Air Force too, Colonel Epps. As was…”
“Who, you friend Ryan's father, Douglas Cogswell? Yes, we are aware of that,” Epps said.
“I’m just glad my old man didn’t live to learn what a bunch of mother-fucking pussies rose up to run the show in the end,” he said. “You’re killing your own people, rather than face an overwhelming enemy. Question one is, why do we bother paying you? And question two: how does your pussy-ass fucking sleep at night?” Chuck said.
This time it was Epps who bitch-slapped Chuck with the back of his hand.
“You judgmental little prick. You spend your whole life cutting deals in Hollywood, running around on your wife. She dumps you, so you take to gambling, damned near lose that house of yours in Malibu, which doesn’t really matter since you’ve no one left to leave it to anyway, and you have the nerve to judge me? You’re the pimp here, Charles, not me. I’ve spent my life serving this country, and that flag. I serve them to this day. I’ll be serving them the moment we put a bullet in your brain,” Epps said.
“So get on with it then, Jackass. If you’re too chicken-shit to even be honest with me, why are you wasting your time and mine?”
“Honesty? That’s what you want?”
“Yeah! By the time I’m dead, I think I’ll have earned it, buddy. Because I think I was right when I signed that piece of paper, and having met you, I know damned well I was right, and you can justify and knock me around, but in the end you’re the pussy. You can’t be honest with a man you are about to murder, a man tied to a chair who can’t fight back,” Chuck spat.
“The truth is, Charles, you and your friends have no idea precisely what it is we’re dealing with, here,” Epps said.
“Hey, why would we, man? We have no idea because we’re playing catch-up here. Because you people have been keeping all the damned answers from us?! You’ve been keeping the technologies for your little goddamned club.”
“And what club is that, Charles?”
“Defense contractors, people who make flying drones of death and Smartlife to keep us all in the box, waiting for the bombs, when we should be waiting for and fearing those assholes with the big eyes!
“Meantime, this greenhouse thing? That could have been solved back in the 1970s if you had released the information on energy tech, the advances to transportation all of it..”
“And then what, Charles, start a new arms race with the Soviets? Empower communism with flying black triangles that can kill us just as easily as we can now kill the Chinese and everyone else? Your little cadre of fools is so damned naïve, it simply amazes me that educated men…!”
“Colonel Epps, who’s being naïve here? Us or you! You think these beings haven’t given all this stuff to the Chinese, too, so we can all wipe each other out while they watch? You think all of us aren’t in play here? Who’s foolish, us, because we can smell what’s coming, or you, jackass, still saluting the flag and murdering your own citizens in the name of the very same United States of America you killed when you began lying to us all!? “
Epps sat, stone-faced. But he had revealed something, just enough. It was a guilty tick; a twitch of the top, left eyelid, accompanied by a slight flutter of the cheek muscle below. It was enough for Chuck to pick up on, and Epps knew it.
Epps clenched his jaw and hissed; “That’s certainly an interesting theory, Charles, but the Joint Chiefs…”
“Naw, that’s bootleg. You’re not stupid enough to be a true believer, Epps. I’ve spent a career reading faces in the boardroom, and across the card table. You’re right about my problem but you ain’t special and different either.
“ You’re garden-variety. I know what you are,” Chuck hissed.
“Oh really? And what is that?”
“You‘re a sell-out, an easy folder. You folded, for us. And I suppose there was a pay-out, or the promise of one.”
“Yes well, obviously you’re way wrong here…”
“No, Epps. C’mon, you boys on the inside of this thing think you’ve got some sweetheart deal worked out them, don’t you? Think you’ll be raptured like the Seventh Day by these monsters? I got news for you, baby, you’re the fucking appetizer, and the rest of us will be the goddamned main course if your get your way.
“Let me be the first to wish you and your friends the fires of hell if there is such a place. Because Epps you have waaaay screwed the pooch. You’ve miscalculated.”
“Really, how can you be so sure?”
“Because, you’ve bluffed, and you’ve lost, dumbass. Nothing left to bargain with, or did you miss that day at the Air Force Academy?”
“Are you quite finished, Charles?”
“Yeah, I think so. Do what you’ve got to do, man. I’m ready,” Chuck said.
“Fine, as per our understanding, there is something I will need from you,” Epps said.
“Really? Fuckin’ amaze me, bro: what is it you need from me?”
“ I will need to know everything you know about the inside of your little outfit. I need to know when and where Mr. Tim Stanton moves. I will need to know any connections your group may have with Senator Sean Cogswell…”
“…I will need to know where Russ Bridges is, and I will need to know precisely what Evan Katzenberg gave you yesterday; and where that special something is, right now,” Epps said.
“That’s a big laundry list, Colonel Epps. Good luck with that!” Chuck said.
“There will be quite a bit of pain, Charles…”
“Bring it on, motherfucker. Let me show your pussy ass, what a real man is capable of, one who doesn’t sell out like you did,” Chuck said.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chapter 10 Devil Rave

(Copyright David A. Kearns, all rights reserved)

11:30 p.m. Dec. 13, 2014. Orlando Florida

Kyle Cogswell finished Tweeting his uncle, Sean. He was so proud of his uncle; wanted to be just like him. And why not? Women practically fell over with their legs in the air at Sean Cogswell‘s feet. And if they didn’t actually do so, you could tell they wanted to. It was rumored his uncle was seeing some hot vamp who was married. But Kyle didn’t believe it. He didn’t know if his uncle bothered with relationships. He certainly wasn’t the type to be involved in any torrid romances.
He knew that people in Sean’s office would get word to him that his nephew needed to speak with him eventually. It would take a few DMs through Twitter. Sean was up on that, all his dad’s friends were for some reason. For a group of older guys they were all very sophisticated and knowledgeable about technology. They even code names that changed every three or four days, as if they were being spied on like a gang of meth-selling bikers or something. More than once, Kyle had heard the men refer, only half-jokingly, to their little “underground.”
Uncle Sean had his office’s Tweet sight as well as four other accounts. Kyle used the touchpad system on an old iPhone his sister had loaned him. He liked using that rather than iBrain which gave him a massive headache. Didn’t own one of those either. The one he brought tonight was borrowed from CC.
Kyle was seventeen now. He could drive. His hair was sandy brown, and they said he had eyes just his father’s; the color of shallow, clear seawater over turtle grass, greenish blue. His was filling out too. Weighed just over 190, could run a 17 minute, 5 k and bench 200 pounds of free weights, fifteen times. He could knock out a thousand push ups, one hundred at a clip, in the space of an hour. He was meeting with a recruiter for the U.S. Marines in four days. This was his last year at Melbourne High School, where his father had gone, as had his dad’s best friend Tim Stanton, president and CEO of Highjump Products.
Tim was a mentor to him, but what Kyle really wanted was for his father to be a mentor. But Ryan Cogswell had been dead for nearly five years. So, in second place, he wanted his uncle Sean, war hero to be his mentor; to tell him everything he could about his dad, Ryan. What he got was Tim; always sort of hovering with his own brand of oversight: always checking up on him, through the Malone family “uncles” Gary and Jay, who had also been friends of his father’s during his high school years, who themselves were constantly informed through Jay‘s son, Chase, a freshman cornerback at UCF, and Kyle’s lifelong surfing buddy.
He knew something special had happened to his dad and their little surf crew way back in the 1980s, but he wasn’t sure what it was. It was something that made these men bond like foxhole veterans, as though they had seen battle.
He couldn’t figure out his uncle Sean, the senator. He always seemed so sad, and aloof, as though he knew something bad was about to happen, couldn’t stop it, but at the same time, whatever it was, he couldn’t tell you about it either.
Mom Debra, was no help. His sister Charity, had her own problems growing up. CC was just so damned smart, it was infuriating. Probably going to Harvard, or MIT where she would skip class and still ace everything.
Kyle struggled academically by comparison but did well enough that his own friends considered him to be pretty smart. He sort of surprised himself with a 1590 on the SAT. But he wanted action. Wanted battle, like his uncle had seen. Wanted to gain that worldly, handsome gaze of the family men were so proud of. He had seen the photos of his granddad, Douglas, who had served in the Air Force in whatever secret capacity it had been. He liked the way the man looked, so strong, confident, alive; facing the challenge. Uncle Sean had that look, same hair color, eye color, same stony strength, only just a bit sadder. Kyle knew it had something to do with the death of his father. They said Ryan had been one of the most intelligent men to come along in his generation, and that intelligence had enabled him to look into things, that in the end, drove him to insanity and suicide. Yet somewhere in his heart Kyle knew that wasn‘t the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as they say. He knew that Uncle Sean was aware of what exactly happened, and that Sean was secretly dreading that long conversation where he explained it.
“Cogswell! WTF bro?” came the voice of Chase Malone.
Chase was nothing like his dad, Jay the former mayor of Melbourne Beach and real estate guy. Chase was more fun, like his own uncle, Gary. The men of the tribe said Chase even fought like Gary. He certainly wasn’t afraid of a little dust up every now and then.
“Leave your uncle alone, man. He’ll get back to you when he can! Jeezus,” Chase said.
Chase was lucky. The Knights had a shot at a national title this year. Chase was hilarious. Off the wall sense of humor. He had wanted someone to go with him to one of these devil raves. They were getting pretty wild, he said.
“C’mon man, it’ll be a hoot. All those freakin’ weirdo’s zoning out on whatever, doin’ their thing! Who knows, might be some hot girls in it for us.”
“Chase I don’t think it’s that kind of gig, man,” Kyle said. He had done a little internet search. But Chase had been curious and so he bugged and bugged his surfing buddy until he relented at last. Chase didn’t do ‘no.’
‘No’ was for pussies.
Gotha was a giant warehouse with a huge stage off I-Drive. The warm up act wasn’t half bad; some Aerosmith-Run DMC tribute band. But everyone was here to see Feathered Lizard; the new thrash-hop group fronted by this demonic looking guy who called himself Quetzalcoatl. Clearly the man was unbalanced and manic depressive in the Marilyn Manson mien. As per notorious custom, the artist was late to the gig, so Kyle had taken the opportunity to run back near the johns and try to get his uncle to call him back.
These freaks in the bubble trying to sell him neural enhancers were really annoying. All Paul wanted was a damned Pepsi. All they had was “Red Bull Kava-Kava,” and something called “Ginseng speedballs”.
His uncle Sean seldom got back to him right away. Kyle really wanted his input into whether he should go to college and then try to get into the officer program, or just enlist, like Sean had; see some action, get his education through the marines as he went. Sean got a BS in communications from them, and an MBA. Yeah, he saw some action too, six tours; Iraq, Afghanistan, some time in Pakistan.
His uncle gave off signals like there was something massive he wanted to say, but couldn’t. Kyle felt like the marines was the way to go, but he knew his uncle had deep, deep reservations about the whole thing; just knew it.
Why won’t he tell me? Why won’t he at least talk to me?
“God damn, dude! You are such a GIRL! C’mon, do that shit later. We got to get close to the stage before the bubblers take all the good spots, man!”
As they walked through the crowd during the intermission, Kyle could see that they were very nearly too late. The bubblers indeed were lining up. Savante had also rented out big chunks of the general admission area for their bubblers, many of whom wore the neon-colored Savante T-shirts. When the strobes and black-lights whirled through the throng, these would light up with multi-colored creatures, sea turtles that paddled, flowers that made use of holo-tech and seemed to briefly bloom and close, bloom and close. Those in the bubble, saw a kalidescope of colors and images.
“Did you bring your iBrain, dude?”
“I have my sister’s,” Kyle said.
The device looked like a half head-band that wrapped around the ears and hooded the sides of the eyes. They were so compact you could fold them up and put them in your pocket.
“Your’s 3-G holo?”
“It’s upgraded to 3-G, yeah,” Kyle said sheepishly.
“Fuckin’ bubblers, man. I can’t stand ‘em,” Chase said. “Think they’re the shit.”
Bubblers didn’t have to have a headband of any kind. Their upgrade, 4-G, was a chip inside the skin. You had everything on tap. The voice activation system was a sequence of key words, which holoed you right to your desk-top. If you had the fast touch, it drove into your favorites and presented them split-screen translucent.
Increasingly, people were living more and more in the bubble. You drove down I-95 and pop-ups came into view, demarking hotels gas stations. Little down arrows just over the tree line, with the symbols above them McDonalds, Howard Johnson, etc. Did away for the need of those advanced plasma diode windshields. It killed that whole market like Walmart taking down the mom and pop grocer.
Good for the environment, they said. No need for billboards. Business paid a service fee and bam, that was it.
Savante was on this whole green kick these days: in every way imaginable the Neural Network “N-squared” was pitched as means by which the world would go green and who could argue? Aren’t you green? Don’t you want things to go green? What’s wrong with you!
What a joke, he thought. What a bunch of damned phonies!
Kyle supposed once his orders came through, he’d be inside the bubble on MarineComm A, or B depending on which route he went, but, he’d have to get used to that for the full ride. Once you did that, you agreed to their programming for the duration of your service, and then some if you signed confidentiality agreements.
There were new bills going through congress now to curtail some of all this, but how could you argue with something that also could be used to cure blindness?
They were looking into it, but for practical purposes, it was true. You tuned in and bam, you could walk around with your eyes closed, the internet GPS and a small camera accessory doing the work. If you still possessed most of your optic nerves, you were good to go.
Chase stopped in his tracks for a second.
“Hold on, Kyle. I just got a call from my dad on Flywire, said I need to check my email.”
“Set Red,” Chase said to his voice activated Holo desktop.
“G-Mail, Chasemaddog, red/7, Inbox, down, down, down…Open…”
“Well shit, Kyle, this is bad. Turns out something happened on the new Russ Bridges shoot. Tom Stallings is dead…”
“Our dads’ friend?”
“Yep. It gets worse. Russ Bridges has gone missing. Meanwhile, oh, shit. Mr. Finklestein is dead,too” Chase said.
“Shot during a robbery in a parking lot in Los Angeles. He was visiting Mr. Naigles for some reason. And Mr. Naigles has gone missing as well. Dad says we have to get the hell home. This is an emergency. He said we have to go now. Even me! Damn! I have practice tomorrow! What the hell can he be thinking?”
“Maybe he just means me,” Kyle said.
“No this is weird, he means both of us. We’re supposed to go directly to my house. He even used code, damn he wants me to bust out the Smartlife system in my new car. This is bad, Kyle.”
They turned to move but the throng rushed the stage just as the thrash-hop music flooded the hall.
The screen came down and an elevated platform began extending out into the audience. Massive screens at the top of the hall came on, as did screens on the walls of the building.
“Might as well watch,” said Chase.
The young men put their headsets on.
Bubble ravers were obviously getting more of an experience with the capabilities of their systems.
“Jesus, what the hell is that?” Kyle yelled.
The images dove and dipped at the audience members. Though computer generated, they were so realistic and terrible one avoided them on instinct at first, until the sensation wore off.
Holo-images of flying beast dogs swirled in the mist around the form of the lead singer for Feathered Lizard, a white man in his forties with a long mane of white hair, pink eyes like a pig caught in a camera shot of those old flash bulbs. Were those scales on him? Did a fan of reptilian spines briefly jut from his back like the plates of a stegosaurus?
The beast dogs encircled themselves around the master’s feet on the stage. They licked their scaly lips and hissed at the audience.
Band members completed the ruse by stepping over them, around them as they played, as if the hellish images generated by a program were real. Quetzalcoatl was screaming froth into the microphone, growl-yelling, the words, in Yiddish, Welsh? Irish? What the hell were they?
The bubblers were flailing around as the music thundered. It seemed to come from everywhere, from the floor, from the bodies of their fellow concert goers.
“If they are getting more on their systems than we are Kyle, I can’t even imagine what it’s doing to them,” Chase said.
“Damn, dude, that can’t be healthy,” Kyle said.
There were at least three couples actually fornicating on the “dance floor” if it can be called that; rapt with lust-madness, their eyes rolled back into their skulls, drones of fornication, reptile dogs like those on the stage. Various mosh pits could be seen back from this epicenter of insanity, people beating each other, flailing, gnashing teeth, the pulling of hair.
Someone reached for Chase’s considerable black mane, where-upon Chase wheeled around and popped them with a quick jab, undoubtedly breaking a nose or a jaw.
The injured youth merely rose to his feet again like a zombie and pin-wheeled away, swept up in the music.
“God damn this is insane, Kyle…”
At once people were backing away from a man on his knees, something was in his hands, something dripping like gobs of blackberry jam. The man, bald, shirtless his back a mixture of muscles, Celtic and Aztec tattoos, was to Kyle and Chase. Everyone formed an aisle before the stage.
The man rose to his bare feet and approached the stage as the music reached a crescendo. He placed his offering at the feet of Quetzalcoatl feet which briefly sprang talons and claws like those seen at the base of some Aztec statue.
The man raised his blood-covered hands in tribute. Kyle knew better than to keep watching but, he couldn’t turn away. The man would turn around and reveal something…
“What the….?”
He turned to face Kyle and Chase.
“Dude! He ripped out his own fucking eyes, bro! That dude ripped out his own eyes and put them on the stage!” Chase said.
“To live inside, is to finally be free! To live inside, is to finally be free!” the man whispred directly at Kyle. How had a reptilian, sandpaper whisper reached Kyle’s ears above the din of the thrashing pumping music and chords.
He was dancing in perfect synch to the music, blood running in streams down his face from his empty eye sockets, onto his bare chest and obscuring his Celtic tattoos.
Kyle could see the dot on his forehead where the mini-cam was stitched into his skin.
“What the hell did he do?”
“I’ve heard about this, Kyle! I thought it was just an urban legend. They call it going inside!” Chase screamed.
“He’s gone inside,” Chase said. “Totally dependant on the Bubble, committed to it for the rest of his life. Sacrifice to the Gods of rock, Feathered Lizard. Fucking sick, man…”
Kyle felt himself being hauled backwards by a massive hand.
The man with angry eyes before him looked Samoan. What had he done to offend this man?
“You and Mr. Malone have been given orders. You need to follow them, right away, Marine. Do you copy?”
“Copy,” Kyle said on a reflex.
“Then move out!”
“Who are you?”
“You’re Uncle Sean sent me. Now move!”
Minutes later they had left in Kyle’s 1977 Dodge Dart. The classic was a restored beauty.
“Why does Uncle Tim want all us kids to drive these old pieces of shit,” Chase said at last as they headed east toward the coast on 528.
“Hey, you didn’t know how to disable Smartlife on your ride!” Kyle said.
“They're making it harder to do that. You’ve got to get down near the engine anymore, as well as yank the crap out of the dash. Plus the GPS pinger they have in the back. It would have taken hours,” Chase said.
“This time next year, they’ll be mandatory; even in classics and antiques like this one,” Chase said.
“I heard that, too,” Kyle said.
“I wonder what all this is about.”
“Me too,” replied Kyle. But something had come alive in him after witnessing the horrific nightmare of the man and his vacant eye sockets. It was as though he had lived that moment in a dream before. And it had finally awakened him from a sleep, a nice dream he had been having.
Kyle knew in that instant, he wasn’t going into the Marines. The world was about the undergo changes the like of which none of them had seen.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chapter 9 Mutually-Assured Destruction

(Copyright David Anthony Kearns, all rights reserved, not for commercial republication but soley for reader entertainment. Attention reader, you are now enjoying The Big Lie, in real-time: this chapter was drafted over the last three days from the date and time of this post. Stay tuned to Twitter for update announcements. The draft of Book 2 of the Monster Hole Series will continue now, until completion, or mysterious demise of the author.)

Dec. 10, 2014 Fifteen miles off Astoria Park, Washington State - Russ Bridges sat on a surfboard in the channel between the massive walls of water exploding in shimmering shades of brown and green along the reef, and the boat that had brought them this far out to sea.
Dark Thunder was wrapping today. This would be the last day of shooting before they closed things down for the winter. They had been buzzed twice by helicopter but the banks of mist that came in from the deep pacific obscured the lettering. It must have been a local television crew. Their own helicopter hadn’t arrived today, for some reason, but that was alright; they were done with all those establishing shots; done with all shots really. Didn’t even need this footage today, but, it was swell; big enough to tow into and just small enough that Russ actually thought of paddling into it.
What the hell it was only about twenty to twenty five feet. He was up for it.
He sat in the morning fog appreciating the neon glow of the sunrise, watchingTom approach aboard the jet ski from channel.
Tom idled up to Russ and cut off the engine. The two of them sitting for a minute taking in the silence.
“You know I was thinking Ryan…” said Tom.
“…would be proud of us,” Russ said finishing his thought for him. “Especially you Tom. Funny how we were both thinking about him this morning.”
“Why would he be proud of me?” Tom asked.
“Hey, he would never have guessed you would do something like this; drop everything go riding giants with me and these guys. It’s been a blast man,” Russ said.
“You okay, Smoke?” Tom said, using the nickname from Melbourne Beach.
“Yeah, why?” Russ said.
“I don’t know. It’s not like you to be so melancholy.”
“I never knew I was being melancholy.”
“Okay, call it introspective. Something wrong?”
“Naw, but when you mentioned Ryan it was a little weird. You know these past few days it’s like I can feel him, right here next to me, like he’s trying to tell me something. But, no matter how loud he yells, I can’t seem to hear it. I wish I knew what the hell it was Tom,” Russ said.
“You remember what his brother told us, don’t you?”
“Yeah, that when we needed to, we’d hear him,” Russ said.
“Maybe you’re hearing a warning not to risk your neck on these waves. We’ve got all the tow-in sequences we need, Russ. No need for the director to get himself killed on the final day of filming,” Tom said.
“No, that’s not it, Tom. Look at these waves. It’s perfectly glassy. If only for the title sequence it would be a gas to have the director riding one of these, just like the young guns. Good publicity man, and I’ll be damned if I miss out on easy pickin's like these,” Russ said.
“Alright then, Hoss. Saddle up and we’ll pull you in,” Tom said. He keyed the ignition and moved forward, allowing the thick, red rope to play out on the smooth water. Russ grabbed the handle, placed his feet in the board straps, and after a second or two, was up and moving across the water.
Tom curved the ski off to the northwest and raised his right arm; the ready signal. Here was a likely set.
Russ could see that Tom had chosen the second wave in the set. The first would give Russ a chance to gauge shape, and height.
There was that helicopter again racing around to get their own shots of the spectacle so that the rising sun was hitting the subjects dead on. Whoever these bandits were, Russ thought, they had better not try to make any money with the images.
The rope went slack, then taught again as Tom turned and selected his line of attack for the best run.. Before curving away and heading to the channel, Russ would then decide how late he wanted to let go of the rope. If he was feeling lucky he could maximize the whip and try to take the whole wave backside, traveling under the falling lip and across to the opposing face. But he knew his limitations. If something happened to him, Tom wouldn’t be able to traverse a football field of whitewater with the ski in time to offer any help.
And yet, it looked make-able, causing him to hold onto the rope perhaps a millisecond longer than he should have.
Russ looked at Tommy just as he let go: he was going deep, but not all the way through. Tom smiled, as if to say “I wouldn’t go for it either.”
He cruised along at a nice speed for a second until his forward momentum played itself out, hopping and carving deeper toward the rising critical section, trying to feel the power of the wave behind him. The familiar sensation of dangerous steepness and blooming momentum, raised ripples of gooseflesh on his arms and shoulders.
The wave went critical so fast that he almost let it run right beneath him. He gasped and switched stance. All focus, all thought an energy was brought down to a very simple battle of wills between his animal sense of self-preservation, and the strategic part of his mind that calculated the best line to take in order to make it out alive
Russ leaned back to prevent himself from being pitch-poled forward. Time seemed to slow as he met the rushing wall of water, pushed off of it as though stepping out onto a cloud. He knew it had been a mistake to drop in this late and his life was in danger, but there was no turning back now. He was airborne, having accidentally launched himself off the wave’s lip with no more thought than a kid hitting the top of a skate-park ramp.
“I deny the accident of it,” wasn’t that what Jackson Pollack said of his drip art?
Russ relaxed and brought his right knee up a bit, as though completing an Ollie, and extended his left foot forward. He gently placed the board down into the steep hillside of water with a slapping hiss and continued to slide. That’s going to look good on film, he thought briefly. And indeed it had been no more difficult that a ramp trick done by a million skaters a day; only the stakes had been so much higher.
For an instant, it seemed, sound itself was shut out and all was blur, speed; every little defect in the shimmering surface of the wave became a vibration running up his shins to his knees. His velocity tripled in the next two seconds as he hunkered and prepared to push out a three-hundred pound squat on the bottom turn, all the while trying to keep a feather-light touch on the board‘s direction. The concussion of the curling lip exploding behind him was much louder than he expected, as was the burst of air from the tube, filled with sea spray and a wall of moving air.
Russ dug his legs in and pressed hard. In an instant his head felt like a hundred pounds of dead weight, given the G-force of the turn.
A thousand squats a day with three hundred pounds of free weights; bicep curls, neck curls, sit ups, push ups, submerging yourself in 55 degree water carrying a fifty pound chunk of concrete across a shallow cove for 100 yards. Surfacing and diving back down for it, however many times it took to get the job done, ten times in one workout; rain or shine, high tide or low. That’s what it took to put him here, for this ten-second ride on a giant.
Russ carved the first bottom turn and nearly ate it only catching himself with a reflexive slap of the right hand which dug deep into the cool blue.
In that second he fought to keep his footing, the wall had come up behind him again to scoop him up to the top of the crest. If he had missed the cutback he would have launched into the sky, then been mauled by the next wave which was a third larger than this one. But he didn’t. He swallowed hard as he fell from the top and entered a white-out of uncertainty, miraculously clearing the spray and the chop like a fighter pilot navigating out of a cloud of shrapnel.
Straight down again and curving hard, extending himself along the face, the wave grew easier to manage now. Russ leaned back to slow himself and locked his fear-monster in a closet. He didn’t know if death awaited, or glory, but the chance was worth it. He closed his eyes, backed inside the hollow barrel, then opened them again. The ceiling to this cave of moving water was nearly ten feet above him. For just a second he was nearly sucked into the vicious hydraulic. He trimmed his stance, leaned forward and offered up a split-second prayer.
Please don’t close out on me now.
No thought as he watched each section of the wave face’s grow more distant and covered up by the tube, the hole growing smaller.
Russ braced himself for a pounding, inhaled hard and waited for fate’s ruling.
The spit punched him in the back as he emerged into the sunshine again, bunny hopping, skip-slapping across the face and out of danger. Free like a child, his heart raged with joy. He dug his heel, swung his left arm for one more cutback. Something made him look to Tom sitting on the jet ski now, just fifty yards from him.
Tom raised his fist in the air in salute.
That had been a good one, Tom was thinking, one for the…
The explosion ripped the jet ski to pieces with a crackling thud, scattering hunks of flaming plastic, bone and flesh across the smooth waters of the Pacific in a cacophony of incidental fury.
Tom’s head, his arm, chest, torso, legs were ripped like exploding pieces of chicken.
Russ kept starring at that empty place where Tom had been. He kept looking for the familiar form of his friend to resolve but it wouldn’t. There was a dollop of foamy water with blood in it, and a slick of flaming gasoline.
The helicopter arched overhead then raced westward, toward the coast. It grew smaller and with each passing second, looked more guilty as it descended on the horizon.
Russ sank back down into the water as his wave played out, and with no one to offer the tow rope again, began paddling for the channel to avoid the ten foot wall of white water from the next, all the while looking back, not willing to believe what he had just seen.
He watched in horror as the white-water erased all evidence of Tom or the watercraft he had been riding.
The film crew knifed the boat around toward him as Russ screamed his lungs hoarse: one word “Tom!” over and over.

“Tim! Tom’s been killed,” Russ said over the landline.
He was on a rainy wharf yelling into a battered pay phone. He foot-bailed on his crew with only his jeans, his jacket and his pocket contents after reaching the docks. They, those whoever, would be looking for him. Not only that he didn’t know if someone within the film, or the boat crew, had placed the explosives in the ski.
The air was getting cold, a storm was coming.
“You should have used a secure line, Russ.”
“Is that all you can say?” Russ heard himself spit. The words echoed off the plastic walls of the phone booth. He had called the Highjump outlet in Delonega Georgia, and as expected, right according to plan, Tim had been there.
“Russ calm down! Since the cat is out of the bag, go ahead and tell me what happened.”
“We were wrapping up this morning. Didn’t even need the footage. I had been on the jet ski since dawn. I thought it was calm enough to ride one. So, Tommy offered to tow me in. It’s like only the third time he’s towed someone in, mostly he drives the boat.
“So I rode the wave, everything goes well and then bam; the ski exploded. And there was this helicopter buzzing us all morning Tim. I think they were trying to kill me, not Tom!”
“Easy Russ, what did the Coast Guard say?”
“All they could do was take out statements, Tim! There isn’t enough of him left to…and there was nothing left of the ski! They…that reef is full of sharks man.”
“Okay, look, we were expecting someone to get rough and they have, Russ. Where are you?”
“I’d rather not say. I…”
“Can you get to shayla?” Tim asked indicating the code word, for Safe House Los Angeles.”
“I’ve got $300 cash on me buddy.”
“Don’t….” Tim started but Russ was already on his page. ‘Don’t use ATM, don’t use credit. Use cash. Russ was already plotting out where to get a razor, and a dog groomer. His hair needed to go, as did his moustache and beard. He needed to “get cubed” and fast.
“This is totally fuckin’ crook, Tim. Tommy’s dead, man. They killed Tom!”
“Russ, focus. You need to stick to the alpha plan. I am sorry about Tom but we have to get moving now. Things are happening! And fast”
“What things?”
“I’ll let them explain it to you,” Tim said.

Russ slept for nearly two days in the apartment in the Los Felix neighborhood.
Dave Finklestein and Chuck Naigles showed up on day three.
Dave parked his rental van in the lot at the observatory and walked down the hill. Chuck forgot about protocol and drove his BMW right up to the front door of the apartment complex.
But he had at least disabled his Smartlife System so it couldn’t tell his home and office where he was.
“Woah, Yule Brenner!” Dave said before he could stop himself.
“What took you guys so long to get here?” Russ asked opening the door. He was disheveled, unshaven, a three day beard coming back in to replace the luxurious cave man special he had sported during the filming. He had obviously made use of the booze cabinet and a little bit of reefer he had requested to be stashed there.
By the look in his eyes, Chuck supposed Russ had endured a full-on X-Box and anxiety marathon.
“Tim was being watched. He couldn’t send us straight away, Russ,” said Dave. “I only heard about all this last night. I am so sorry. I know you and Tom were close.”
They each hugged him, but he was loose like a rag. No heart left in him.
Russ plopped on the couch. He dug into the remainders on the coffee table to pack himself a bong hit, proffering it to them both in an absurd gesture to hospitality that he knew from experience, neither of them would take him up on.
“Same ole Smokey,” said Dave with a sad smile.
“I saw in Variety how the Coast Guard closed the investigation. But they still need to talk with you,” said Chuck. “Shouldn’t you call them?”
“Tim left word on Twitter not to. They’ll want me to come in, give the statement and when I do, I’ll expose myself. Then, whoever will simply finish the job. They were after me, Chuck, not Tom. I just have this feeling, don’t ask me how I know, I just know. For some reason, they need me dead first,” he said.
“Funny you should say that,” Chuck said.
“Why you, now?” Dave asked.
“ Maybe they don’t like surf movies,” Russ said, exhaling the weed smoke.
“You sure this isn’t about that stuff in Costa Rica?” Dave asked.
“Naw, man. That’s ancient history, and I didn’t even know enough to rat on anybody. I just got the hell out of there with Simone and our money. If those people had wanted to kill me, they could have done it while I was in Belize, or four years ago at Ryan‘s funeral in Mel Beach. I was majorly exposed there. No, this is about the thing, the group, what we know. It goes back to Ryan, to what we learned at the funeral, all this stuff we‘re working on.”
“So..?” Chuck asked.
“They’ll get all of us, one by one. Everyone who knew Ryan. U.S. Senator or not, even Sean isn’t safe. Somebody should let Jay and Gary know, if Tim hasn‘t already thought of it.”
Chuck exhaled.
“What’s the matter Chuck?” Russ asked.
“Just seems weird. You’re the only movie director I know, and I mean really know well, and….”
“And…? No use holding back on the wild theories, Chuck. Spill it,” Russ said.
“Four days ago, I got a call from someone who I worked with on some investigations.”
“I thought you were an attorney, Chuck. Not an investigator,” Russ said.
“Buddy in this town everyone’s investigating everyone else. Just a fact of the game,” Chuck said.
“And, what happened?”
“This is shit I could get disbarred for, for sure. But I was about to ask you for your help looking at some of the stuff this, uh, business associate has,” he said.
“This associate you helped in an investigation into something that could get you disbarred?” Chuck said.
“Right. If Tom’s death is related to the thing, then, they’ve anticipated our next move and tried to prevent you from helping me. Maybe that’s why they came at you first,” he said.
“To prevent me from hooking up with you, now? That’s way paranoid, dude. You’re spending too much time with Tim.”
“Am I? Or are you not spending enough? You forget what’s a stake here, Russ. Some of us have been hauling the sled while others have been off making movies.”
“Well hell, at least we‘ve scotched that for now. And what this associate has to say, is related to the thing?” Russ asked.
“Oh hell yeah it is,” Chuck said.
“Who does that sound like?” Dave said. “Doesn’t sound half crazy if you know what these people are capable of.”
“Chuck you’re saying that they, and by them I mean both the Air Force and our other friends, are infiltrating Hollywood? Movie making?”
Chuck rubbed a hand over his tightly trimmed afro and leaned back in the sofa. He threw up his arms is if to say ‘That’s right Smokey, believe it, don’t…whatever.”
It took a second for anyone to react.
“Makes perfect sense, when you think about it,” Dave said. “You wouldn’t want to just control politics and economics, would you? In order to do the former two, you’d have to control thought itself. What better method than the movies. Likely been at this for decades.”
“What is it exactly this guy wanted to show you?” Russ asked.
“Have you heard of Sundown Studios, Russ?”
“Yeah, well-connected CGI firm over in Venice Beach. They do all the work for those Savante commercials for their neural desktop and the network.”
“Well this guy I know, he’s had several run-ins with them. I want you to listen to what he has to say,” Chuck said.
“You don’t think he’s on the level?”
“Yeah, I do, but what he’s saying is so out of whack, I want someone else’s eyes and ears on it. I thought of you first…because. Besides Ryan, you’re the only one in our crowd who has had some experience with the intelligence community. You’ll know whether what he‘s saying is for real or not,” Chuck said.
“Okay, I’ll chat with him. What the heck,” he said.

Chuck, Dave and Russ sat at the diner off I-10 with Evan Katzenberg. It was like a surreal nightmare to Russ; a personal idol, meeting him here in a Denny’s near I-10. If only he could call Tom after this little sit-down.
“Dude, you’ll never guess who I had lunch with…”
“No fuckin way!”
“Way! Way, way!”
Katzenberg kept the brim of his Laker’s cap pulled down over his sunglasses even while crammed in the corner of the darkened booth where not even the wait staff could get a good look at him. Russ had heard the stories about how the famous director had become more paranoid and security conscious, lately. He was about to find out why.
“This guy is stoned,” Evan said right away. “I can smell it on him.”
“My friend was just murdered, Mr. Katzenberg,” Russ said extending his hand. “You’ll have to excuse me. By the way, I am a huge fan of your work,” Russ managed.
“He’s cool?” Katzenberg asked, darting his eyes toward Dave.
“Evan, he’s cool too. This is Mr. Finklestein. He’s a financial advisor to our outfit. Just lay it all out for them, like you did for me two days ago.”
“You know I don’t mind telling you that I am risking a lot here, Chuck. I hope you can appreciate that,” he said.
“Evan, with all due respect, I put my ass on the line for you as well, didn’t I?”
Russ stifled a nervous laugh. After all here was Evan Katzenberg! And here the director was acting like a twitch in a crime drama that he might have written and directed. The real man was paranoid, afraid like the rest of us, Russ thought.
Evan Katzenberg looked at Russ; “Just what the hell are we smiling at, jackass!?”
“Look Mr. Katzenberg no offense, I’m just a little star-struck. This is like, surreal to me…”
“Yeah? Well get over it already, time is wasting. I‘ve got my yard guy driving around in my $90,000 Porsche so fucking Smartlife can‘t track me here. I‘m driving his POS F-150. I‘m lucky, he only steals the thing and doesn‘t also rob a bank with it,” Evan said.
“Evan let’s just start at the beginning,” Chuck said.
“Alright, two years ago, I finished Crossfire, and we’re in the editing stage and somehow, someone gets an advance copy even before we were done. And even before the movie comes out I’m getting blasted from all sides.”
“I remember that. They said the ending was…” Dave said.
“Too sympathetic to the Palestinian viewpoint. Right.”
“I didn’t think so,” Dave said. “I mean, speaking as a Jew myself…I”
Everyone else at the table was looking at him.
Dave waved his hands over his head; “sorry, go on.”
“Then these people approached me, claimed to be from some Christian group, demanded I change the thing; said I was giving up on Israel, giving up on my own people. I mean, these assholes did everything but call me a freakin’ holocaust denier staged rallies for the news cameras. And my grandparents survived the camps!”
“You needed something to make it all go away,” Dave said.
“He’s a smart one, he is. Yes, in a town where power is the objective, information is the currency. I needed the chief agitator, this ass clown of a plastic surgeon cum pastor, neutralized,” he said.
“So, I started looking into it. I find out half the bullshit in this town, the political trouble, including the theft of an uncut version of Crossfire can be traced back to these pieces of shit over there at Sundown Studios, who, the ass clown had done contract work for,” he said.
“Okay, with all due respect, Mr. Katzenberg…”
“Knowing the connection between Sundown and this surgeon, I refused to work with them on Metamorphosis but the big boys at RM are demanding it. So Chuck here knows this guy who does this thing, see? These jobs, he can…”
“He’s a fixer,” Chuck said. “He investigates. I don’t have official knowledge as to what he found out.”
“It was bad,” said Evan. “We had this guy. Oh was it bad. The wife…”
“All besides the point,” Chuck said.
“Right. So we tell him to at least back off on the protest thing which goes away. He does, but, what he gives up in trade for us shutting up about his personal life is the following. Back in the 2009 remember when they caught Leon Jimenez, down in Juarez?”
“Yeah, head finance guy for the Mexican mafia!” said Dave.
“Well, remember how he disappeared?”
“Witness protection,” Russ said.
“Right, and I’m getting to that. It seems that Sundown Studios turned Leon Jimenez into none other, than Carlos Mercado, and they used the surgeon to help them do it,” he said.
“Of Smartlife Systems, the Gregorio platform, the Neural Network. The inventor of Bubbling?” Russ asked.
“None other! Plastic surgery, video clips of him growing up in Santa Clara, Cuba. Still shots of his, pictures of his relatives you see in the newspapers? All faked by Sundown Studios.”
“Whoa,” Russ said. But the director was ahead of him.
“Yeah, tell me about it. Sounds crazy, right?”
Katzenberg took out a file and began laying down photographs.
“If you look at the pictures of his mother you ever notice, she’s always wearing the same dress? In all their brochures. You mean to tell me that hag was wearing the same dress the day the boy was born, as she was the day he jumped the wharf at Havana Harbor? Which is somehow the same damned dress and hairstyle she’s wearing in Miami when she got off the plane? Hell I know it was bad over there, but the same damned dress for twenty five years?”
“Who is she?”
“The girl in this photo is an actress named Yolanda Ramirez. Her resume listed some bit-work for the X-Box and walk-on stuff she did for CGI product over at Sundown Studio. It drove me nuts looking at these pictures because I knew I had seen that face before. I never forget a face. I might not place the name but a face, I never forget.”
“She nearly got the lead female role in Metamorphosis! She really nailed that audition. I went back and found her tapes.”
“She’s good?”
“She’s fucking dead, is what! Drove off the PCH when I started asking questions about all this stuff. Kicker is, as far as anyone knew her can tell, she didn’t even own a car, and never had a California driver’s license.”
“How did she get around?”
“Who knows with these kids. Half of them have too many DUIs, they use the buses, taxis, bicycles, whatever. She lived in a crappy little apartment off the Wilshire with another girl. She dies in a souped-up 2013 Mazda convertible that LAPD can‘t find an owner for. If it was me missing that automobile? I‘d file a report. Nothing on record. No VIN. Tell me I‘m crazy.”
Russ went to ask a question but Katzenberg wasn’t finished.
“How does a shitty little CGI outfit in Venice Beach become so big in the space of ten years with no major motion credits, nothing but some video game work? I mean what have they done in the last ten years? Why does someone at every party in town know who they are if they haven’t done any meaningful work? How come they’re such big hot-shots they can tell a major studio they have to be put on my picture, and all they have to show for themselves is that shitty little warehouse of a studio out in Venice Beach?”
“Yeah, okay. You got me. You’ve looked into it?” Russ asked.
“This is what they’ve really been up to for the last ten years,. They were paid quite well. This is also where you guys apparently come in. This shit is well beyond me,” he said.
Katzenberg opened the dossier again and placed the photos and screen captures from YouTube down on the table.
“What do you think?” he said.
“Looks pretty real,” Russ said. “But, obviously these palm trees over here are clones of each other.”
“This guy is good. You’ve spent time looking at film, my friend,” Katzenberg said.
“I remember these shots,” Dave marveled.
“That’s familiar,” Russ said pointing to the alleged UFO in the picture.
“Yeah, it’s the top of a light pole over at Disney. See? This is what they do! They fake it, but they leave in these easy little details, only you have to hunt for them like those old Where’s Waldo things you looked at as a kid, remember those?” he said.
“Then we have this,” Katzenberg said.
“What the hell is that? This is fake?”
“No the word I am getting is, this is the real deal. Sundown Studios are supposed to use this as a mock-up for about a hundred different critters they will put into a dozen different major motion pictures they suddenly got contracts to work on.”
Russ whistled and said; “art imitates life.”
“Right, I get you Russ. Art imitates life, to make life seem…”
“Less real…” said Dave.
“So, I’m not crazy,” Evan sighed with relief.
“They are even going to use one in my movie. I have been told in no uncertain terms that I am supposed to write this or something like this into our story. Can you imagine? How the fuck am I supposed to write this son-of-a-bitch into a love story set in the future? This has nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with what I am working on! I mean, first of all, WHAT the fuck is it? Let‘s start there, please.”
“Where was this taken?”
“Coleman Texas. The word is, this thing chewed up a farmer pretty good.”
“Where would something like this come from?” Dave asked.
“Remember that story Ryan told Tim; that programming detail he was working on for Camerdyne? The creatures they were making in a lab somewhere?” Chuck said.
“Perfect, Camerdyne. Yes, now we come to the piece de resistance,” Katzenberg said.
“Better than this?” Russ asked.
“One last piece of information then I am out of this,” he said.
The document seemed to be an internal memo between the U.S. Air Force and Camerdyne Systems, Inc. releasing Leon Jimenez into the protective custody of the company’s private security forces.
“This establishes a connection between Camerdyne, and Leon Jimenez, alias Carlos Mercado, of Savante Systems, Inc.” Evan said.
“We’ve got to go to the press with this,” said Russ.
“No, not yet,” Dave said. “We need to run this by Tim and ….”
“Yes, well…” Chuck said. “Look Evan I can’t thank you enough for this,” he added.
“Whatever you do, you’ve got to keep me out of this. The funny thing is, the plastic surgeon warned me, I wouldn’t be able to keep this under my hat. I can keep him in the clear for a while, but he said, in the end when this gets out, people will die. If you believe our guy, he and I will be first,” Evan said.
“Look, we can protect you, we have a secure network,” Dave said.
“Just wait a while before you got to the press. I don’t need no network to protect me. What I need to do is finish making my movie, even if I had to add this damned devil dog into the script somewhere,” he said.
“You can’t get out of that?” Russ asked. “Even with what you know?”
“It’s a long story. Suffice it to say, someone else has something on me. My friends, we live in a world of mutually-assured destruction, and there’s very little we can do about it,” he said.