(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.
“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.