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.

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