In the Silence

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CHAPTER SEVEN

David picked up Paul from the motel. All the way to the airport they talked about how Marcea had stayed up most of the night, elated about everything that happened Sunday. The airport was busy with the early Monday morning travelers and they sat in the terminal waiting for the boarding call. David had run out of things to say and just kept quiet — not one for long good-byes. Paul, also short of words, sat silently. This is so ironic. Just three days ago I wished the plane would have crashed, to spare me from hurting David. Things started off terribly but turned out better than I had prayed for. Meeting Marcea, Ann and Danny was so wonderful. I hope . . .

The first boarding call for Paul's flight back to San Francisco was called. "I'll go ahead and get on now so that you can get to work," Paul said, breaking their silence.

"Okay," replied David bluntly. "And hey . . . Uh, never mind."

Paul stood. "I guess this is it. Good luck and God bless you."

David stood and extended his hand to Paul. "Maybe I'll call you when I come down to get those records straightened out."

Paul hoped David would, but knew better. "That would be great." They shook hands one last time. Walking down the corridor to board the plane, Paul looked at the palm of his hand. There was blood!

David moved to the ropes to watch Paul walk down the loading ramp. Realizing this could be their last good-bye, he wanted to jump over the rope barrier, run and hug his best friend. But Paul turned the corner and was gone. David stood there, wishing he had told Paul he forgave him, or at least told him he was still his best friend.

The Denver airport was huge and shaped like a big horseshoe. It was over a mile to where David had parked. He got on one of the moving sidewalks, ashamed about the blunt send-off. Something warm in the palm of his hand caused him to stop. As the people walked past, he stood rigid, looking at the blood dripping from the cut on his hand from Friday night. David took a handkerchief from his pocket and held it against the cut. This only reminded him of how rudely he reacted on Friday night. I always act like a jerk! I showed no loyalty and now I let Paul get on the plane without even saying I was sorry. I may never see him again. Paul could die soon! It's not fair! Forget work today. I'm going to get drunk. Damn, life is . . .

Suddenly, David was almost knocked over by a silver haired man in an expensive suit. "Hey, watch it jerk!" he yelled as the man hurried down the people-mover. Then, distracted by a commotion behind him, David turned and noticed a reporter and cameraman running, chasing the man in the suit. Here comes another busybody reporter out to discredit someone. Probably just like the one I sent the teletype to years ago. They're all jerks!

"Get out of our way!" yelled the reporter with a microphone in hand. In front of him ran the cameraman, a long cord dangling from the camera connecting the two. As the cameraman ran past David, the long microphone cord flipped up and hooked over David's left ear. The reporter snapped back on the microphone and David's ear felt like it had been ripped off. That's it! All David's pent up emotions came to a head. He let his elbow fly and caught the running reporter in the chest, making him drop the microphone and double over. David then grabbed him by both the back of his pants and the collar of his jacket and threw him over the railing of the moving walk.

The cameraman stopped, turned around and hit the RECORD button on the camera. As soon as the red RECORD light came on, David jumped toward the cameraman, yanked the camera off his shoulder, hit the EJECT button, took out the video tape, and smashed the plastic case into the floor. The cameraman cowered when David shoved the camcorder back to him. There were witnesses all over. Not wanting to be confronted by airport security, David hurried down the walk and ditched into the first rest room. After hiding in a stall for a couple of minutes he emerged to find that the silver-haired man the reporter and cameraman had been chasing was waiting for him. His face was always in the news. "I know you. You're Senator Brian Buck."

"Why did you stop that reporter?" quizzed the senator.

"The guy hit me on the ear with his microphone cord. I was mad at myself, so I guess I took it out on him," answered David.

"Poor guy," said the senator sarcastically, relieved that David was neither assassin nor foe.

"I don't like reporters. They all need to have the crap knocked out of them, just like they do to everyone else."

"Boy, you can say that again," laughed the senator.

"Nice to meet you, Senator Buck. But I'd better get going. You'd better also; airport security will be in here any minute."

As David reached for the door, he thought of what he had read about Senator Brian Buck when he had tapped into the wire service late Friday night. He looked back over his shoulder. "I bet you are glad they found you innocent of those child abuse charges. And congratulations — it looks like you will win your reelection."

David exited the rest room and hurriedly blended into the crowd. Noticing two security guards running up the corridor, he glanced away. They ran right past him. David picked up his pace, thinking he was in the clear, when suddenly someone grabbed him by the arm. "I need to talk to you!" It was Senator Brian Buck. "Just walk with me to my plane."

"After you let loose of my arm!" said David. Then he pulled away from the senator's grip

"You said you knew about me being innocent of those child abuse charges, and ahead in the polls. Where did you get that information?" asked the senator as the two men walked.

"I read it off a wire service Friday night."

The senator stopped dead in his tracks, not sure who David was. It could be a coincidence . . . or? "Are you positive it was a wire service you got the information from?"

Now David was becoming suspicious. "Oh, did I say wire service? I meant I read about you in the newspaper."

"That's not what the newspaper is reporting. Here, read this!" The senator pulled a newspaper from under his arm.

David opened it. The front page read: SENATOR FALLS BEHIND IN POLLS AS MORE ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD MOLESTING COME FORWARD. This seemed just the opposite of what he had read off his computer screen. David mumbled, "I must have misread it. I wasn't thinking straight that night. It has to be my mistake."

The senator glanced up and down the corridor and then stared right at David and asked, "Do you know about DOS?"

David was quick to reply. "Yes. It stands for Disk Operating System, the operating system most computers use today."

"Okay. And thanks for stopping that reporter," said the senator as he turned and walked away.

David thought about the D.O.S. letters he noticed on the microwave equipment. He ran after and caught back up to the senator. "I know where some equipment is with the initials D period O period S period on it."

The senator grabbed David by the arm, felt David tense up, then immediately released his grip. "We need to talk, but not here. Can you meet me in the airport Sky Chef Lounge in fifteen minutes?"

"Sure," said David. "But you have to promise to help me with a problem I have."

"I will help you," said the senator as he nonchalantly walked away.

David spent ten of the fifteen minutes wait wandering around the airport in amazement. Can I trust the senator? He might turn me in. But he is the one that could get my Dishonorable Discharge corrected. Until just recently he has always been one of the most respected statesmen. But now, with all the bad press he has been getting and all . . .

David walked by the entrance of the Sky Chef Lounge three times and kept peering in for the senator. The lounge was quiet, with only three people sitting on the tall bar stools and gazing at a television that was mounted above the dark green bar. David got a gut feeling that something was not right. He started to make tracks, wanting to put some distance between himself and the lounge. About fifty feet from the lounge a man in a dark blue suit, white shirt and black tie stepped out of a side door. His apparel was a dead give away: FBI. David's instinct was to turn and run, but he froze when the agent reached inside his jacket. He's reaching for a gun! I'm had! I knew I couldn't trust a politician. The Clipper Chip is still connected to the computer behind the seat in my truck. The small dark-suited man approached with his hand still inside his jacket. If this guy wants to search my truck, I can overtake him in the parking lot. He's not that big. The man stopped in front of David, blocking any getaway. "Are you waiting for the senator?"

"Senator who?"

"Senator Brian Buck, and don't play dumb with me," The man whispered man forcefully. "Do you know about D.O.S.?"

"Yes," said David.

The man pulled a brown crushproof envelope from inside his jacket and handed it to David. "I'm the senator's aide. He couldn't risk meeting you but senator told me to give this to you. He wants you to call him next week." Then the man walked off, without saying another word. David glanced at the package. The outside was stamped with red ink: TOP SECRET. Bewildered, David started walking. This could be part of a setup. Noticing a restroom, he ducked inside, went into a stall, and tore open the package. It was an audio cassette tape with the words COPY TWO OF TWO on it. David put his foot up on the toilet lid, slipped the cassette into his sock, wadded up the brown envelope, and flushed it.

Relived to be finally out of the airport and at his truck, David took a deep breath. Strangely, he actually enjoyed the adrenaline rush and thrill. David always wanted to work for the FBI or CIA doing some sort of covert surveillance, but with a Dishonorable Discharge there was no way. Somehow, with this tape, he would help Senator Brian Buck; then the senator would be obligated to help him finally get his military records corrected.

David unlocked the door and got in. Just as he started the truck there was a huge explosion! It was too loud to be a backfire. He jumped from the cab and scanned the parking lot. Sirens started to blare! There was a huge black plume of smoke coming from over the airport terminal. "Oh, my God!"

David sprinted toward the terminal! The cassette tape came out of his sock and skidded across the asphalt. He grappled for the tape, ran back to the truck and threw it on the seat. As he once again ran at full speed toward the doors of the airport, he heard more sirens. Horns were blaring and people where running in panic. The doors to the terminal clanked shut and were automatically locked. David ran around trying several more doors; they were all locked. He pushed his head against the tinted glass and could see the chaos inside. Then he heard someone yell, "There's been a plane crash!"

All David could do was stare through the glass at the pandemonium inside. Please God, don't let it be Paul's plane. I haven't even been able to tell him that I love and forgive him. I still need to tell him how I feel. I should have told him before he got on the plane but I just couldn't; it's something men don't say to each other. Please, don't let it be Paul's plane.

David started to run up and down the outside sidewalk, trying desperately to get back into the airport. Spotting passengers exiting by one door at the far end, he ran to it and tried to enter. The security guard stopped him and said, "No one can enter."

"What happened?" David yelled at the guard.

"No comment," the guard yelled back, pushing David back out the door.

Standing at the door and watching one of the security guards frisk everyone as they exited, David started asking the travelers if they knew what had happened. The third person he asked answered. "A small private plane blew up on take off."

"Are you sure it was a small plane? Not a big jet?" David yelled.

"Yes. I'm positive. I saw the whole thing. This small two-engine plane was sitting on the ground waiting in line to take off and it just blew up," explained the traveler before he hurried off.

Paul is safe; he boarded on a jumbo jet. David felt guilty for feeling good, but now he could leave. Sirens were coming in all directions. Just as David stepped off the curb a big van almost ran him down as it screeched to a stop. Out jumped two men in what looked like battle gear, the words BOMB SQUAD written on the front and back of them. Knowing they would be searching people and cars if they suspected a plane was bombed, David hurried to his truck. Kneeling on the seat, he pushed his laptop computer further back, more out of sight in case of a quick inspection. All the time he wished that he had removed the PROPERTY OF US GOVERNMENT tag off the Clipper Chip.

People were running toward the airport to see what had happened. There was no line at the parking toll booth. The booth attendant, all of her attention focused on the commotion going on, just lifted the orange barrier and let David drive away.

Out on the interstate, David could finally relax. He kept tuning the radio for the news. Finally, a newscaster reported, "Senator Brian Buck's plane exploded on takeoff at Denver International Airport. The senator, his aide, and pilot are feared dead. More news to follow as information becomes available."

David immediately looked for the cassette tape. It was gone! He checked his rear view mirror, then the side mirror. A white sedan was in the left lane coming up on him fast! David pulled into the right lane and then swerved off at the next exit. The sedan stayed on the freeway. In a panic David slammed on the brakes, jumped from the truck and started searching for a bomb or tracking device. Whoever took the cassette tape was probably onto him. He checked under the truck and then lifted the hood; everything looked normal. He searched the cab under the dash, then under the seat — nothing. Now, with his hand checking the crevice of the seat, he found some coins and some candy. Then he felt something different! It was the cassette tape. The tape had slipped into the crack when he had knelt on the seat to hide his computer.

Relieved that no one had taken the tape, David assured himself that nobody knew he had it and that he was over-imagining. Now, anxious to know what was on the tape, he got back behind the steering wheel. The truck did not have a cassette player but there was one at his bench back at Bill's shop. Back on the freeway, David's mind raced almost faster than he drove. I wonder what was so important that the senator's aide gave me this tape. Why was the bomb squad called to the airport if the plane crashed? I wonder what D.O.S. stands for.

David hastily parked the truck and entered by the rear door. The front of the blue building had Bill's face painted on it and below in bright red letters it read: BILL'S ELECTRONIC SERVICE. The minute David got through the door, Bill approached him and asked anxiously, "Were you at the airport when the senator's plane crashed?"

"Yeah, I was in the airport parking lot, just leaving, I went back to see what happened but they had locked up the terminal. I think it may have been a bomb." David tightened his clutch on the cassette tape as he spoke.

"Bomb! The radio hasn't said anything about a bombing," reported Bill as he put a VCR on the customer pick-up shelf. "You've been watching too many spy movies."

David almost blurted out about his encounter with the senator, but decided to listen to what was on the tape first. It was best not to get Bill involved with the Clipper Chip and all. It was hard, but David just kept his mouth shut while he looked toward the pink boombox — it had a cassette deck.

"The parts are here to splice the cable up on the translator. Make sure to get a new battery for your truck before you go back up on Mount Antero. Your buddy Paul won't be there to save you," said Bill kiddingly, trying to turn the focus away from the bad news about the plane crash.

"I'll get up there and repair the cable this afternoon," said David inattentively. Then he walked to his work bench and inserted the tape into a small pink bomb fastened to the wall above his workbench. David hit the PLAY button; the tape started. There was nothing! He checked the tape — it was moving, but even with turning up the volume there was still nothing. He hit the REWIND button; the tape rewound and then stopped. David hit the PLAY button again — a bunch of different tones. It was someone dialing a phone number, a ringing sound, and then someone answered. "Department of Statistics." David hit STOP on the boombox so Bill wouldn't hear it. He looked around the shop and found a set of headphones, plugged them into the boombox, rewound the tape and started it again. David listened carefully to the dialing, the phone connecting and the female voice answer the phone.

"Department of Statistics."

"Connect me with Jack Henderson, please."

"Could I tell him who is calling?"

"Yes, this is Senator Brian Buck."

"One moment, senator. I will ring his office."

Ring ring ring.

"Jack Henderson here."

"This is Senator Buck, Mr. Henderson. I just wanted to let you know that I cannot get any money appropriated for that study of how much mentally ill people cost the taxpayers."

There was a long pause. "You must not be trying hard enough. I told you this was an important project for me and if you wanted to get reelected . . . "

"Well, Mr. Henderson, it's not only that we don't have an extra ten million dollars to appropriate. I have been checking into your Department and it seems that many of your special projects never amount to much. And most of them seem, well, far from altruistic."

"Who gave you the authority to check into the Department of Statistics? We have immunity from the President."

"I know that, Mr. Henderson, and that is why I am going to see the President next Monday. I am going to ask for an investigation into the Department of Statistics."

"Senator, I'm warning you — do not get involved. I can make your life miserable. You think those child abuse charges were hard to deal with! I'm warning you to back off."

"I had a feeling your Department leaked that erroneous information."

"So what if we did? That's just standard mud slinging. The President himself pulled the same thing during his election campaign."

"Yeah, but the President didn't appropriate money to your Department to get elected."

"Don't kid yourself. He took money from special interest groups and is as dirty as the rest of you snakes."

"Thank you, Mr. Henderson. You just gave me what I needed to know. I have been recording this conversation."

"You son-of-a-bitch."

Click, was the last sound on the tape. David couldn't tell if the senator hung up on Mr. Henderson or vice versa. David rewound the tape and listened carefully for some clues of a crime or something else incriminating. All that he could tell was that the senator just did not want to fund Mr. Henderson's project. It sounded like two bureaucrats trying to buy each other off. The information on this tape would not even make the evening news. David listened to the tape one last time and considered the senator's unfortunate accident. He even briefly contemplated calling the news station and giving them the tape — but it probably would be like his experience when he mailed the teletyped printout to the news media when he was in Vietnam. The tape seemed worthless.

As soon as David took off the headphones, Bill approached from behind. "Here are the parts to repair the translator up on Mt. Antero."

"Good, I'll go get a new battery for my truck and head up there after lunch," said David, taking the parts from Bill.

While the battery was being installed, David sat in the customer waiting area of the garage. The TV attached to a ceiling bracket was airing the story about the senator's plane exploding on takeoff. I should give that tape to someone, but there is nothing important on it. What a bummer. The senator could have helped me. Oh well, I still have the Clipper Chip. I will just have to do things myself. I'd better remember to take the tape out of the boombox and destroy it when I get back to the shop.

The noontime news ended and a talk show came on. David got up and walked out of the shop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Turning onto the gravel road that lead up to Mt. Antero reminded David how just three days ago Paul and he were right there. Boy, I will never forget this road. This is where Paul told me that he's HIV positive. I was lucky he was with me. I would have frozen that night. Everything did seem to turn out okay, but I should have told Paul that I have forgiven him. He surely has been through a hell of a life.

David pulled the truck up to the gate, stopped, got out, grabbed his tools and went into the radio bunker to shut off the power to the antenna. He hurried up the tower and cut the bad section out of the transmission cable, careful this time not to slice into his hand. Working rapidly, he installed the new couplers and a new section of cable in less than ten minutes. This similar task had taken more than forty-five minutes Friday, but today there was no rage to divert his energy and skill.

David climbed down, returned to the bunker and switched the power to the translators back on. Checking his watch, he saw it was almost two thirty. He mentally calculated that the television signals were off for a total of eighteen minutes. David knew Bill would be pleased — a lapse in transmission much longer than that would really anger the viewers. As it was, Bill probably already received twenty calls. While doing a few last tests, David noticed the swatch of a piece of his blood-covered tee shirt and pushed at it with his foot. Then he noticed more dried blood drops by the door. Boy, my hand must have really been bleeding. That was a nasty cut. I should've had stitches. The cut in David's hand tingled from thinking about it.

David made one last check, picked up his tools, locked up, and went back to the truck. Putting the key in the ignition, the truck started right up this time. Gazing straight ahead between the concrete building and antennas, David took note of how awesome the view really was. It was almost like he could make out the image of Paul standing there praying, the same as had he witnessed Saturday morning.

Almost mystically, David turned off the truck, got out and walked to the edge of the cliff where Paul had prayed. David remembered Paul's words: Listen to the silence and you will hear His words. David stood gazing into the valley and the surrounding snow-brushed mountain peaks with the sun rays shooting from behind the white cotton-like clouds. He listened, but heard nothing. Filled with apprehension, almost afraid that he might hear God, he started bartering. God, I really don't pray enough. Probably because I don't know many prayers. I have tried to lead a good life and I never thought about living with Marcea as wrong. I am helping her. And I did get her away from dancing. The comparison Paul made, it being the same as his living with his friend, kind of makes sense. Maybe I should marry Marcea after I get my military records fixed. If you could help me do that I would be more ready to get married. And please take care of Paul. He really is a good guy.

David returned to the truck. It was after three, hardly enough time left in the day to warrant going back to the shop. He thought of stopping for coffee on the way back, but then he had a better idea. The Clipper Chip was under the seat just wanting to be tested again. In a matter of minutes David had his computer in hand and was headed back to the radio bunker. He unlocked the door, unfolded the laptop computer and prepared to snap the jack into the terminal test jack with the letters D.O.S.

These letters on the equipment finally had meaning. When the senator had asked if he knew what D.O.S. stood for, all he could think of was Disk Operating System. Then on the tape the senator was talking to someone at the Department of Statistics. I bet this equipment belongs to the DEPARTMENT OF STATISTICS!

After getting everything hooked up, the Clipper Chip started decrypting the D.O.S. data line. As usual, it took several minutes for the screen to come to life, but finally the information flashed on the screen:

 

SURVEY TAKEN OF REGISTERED VOTERS SHOWED ONLY 32% OF REGISTERED VOTERS WOULD FAVOR A DEATH WITH DIGNITY BILL IF VOTED ON TODAY.

 

NEXT MESSAGE: PRESIDENT'S POPULARITY CONTINUES TO SLIDE.

 

NEXT MESSAGE: PROZAK, NEW WONDER DRUG HAS BEEN FOUND TO HAVE SERIOUS SIDE EFFECT. THE FDA WANTS IT PULLED OFF MARKET . . .

David felt more confident that this was just a wire service feeding out the current news to all the news rooms around the country. After about twenty minutes of reading he had enough and was just about to disconnect the Clipper Chip when an article about the senator appeared on the screen:

 

FIRST REPORTS INDICATES SENATOR BRIAN BUCK'S PLANE MAY HAVE BEEN BOMBED. PLANE HAD BEEN DELAYED FIFTEEN MINUTES FROM DEPARTURE TIME. BOMB SQUAD SPECULATES BOMB WAS TO DETONATE IN AIR. EYEWITNESSES SAID PLANE JUST BLEW UP ON RUNWAY. BOMB SQUAD INVESTIGATING. MORE INFO TO FOLLOW AS REPORTS COME IN.

David was stunned! He stepped outside the bunker to get some fresh air. He needed to think things out. I delayed the senator's plane! That person at the airport did say that the plane just blew up. Next the bomb squad shows up. Something just isn't right. Neither the information on the radio all morning nor the noon news said anything about a bomb. What I do know is Friday night I read about the senator being cleared of all the charges, I mentioned it to him, he wanted to know if I knew about D.O.S. and he handed me a newspaper that was printed a day later that said the charges against him were true. And what the hell is the Department of Statistics? I have never heard of it.

David returned to the computer to read some more. Almost everything seemed normal. He was suspicious, but of what? The only thing David could deduce was that this line was hooked into the Department of Statistics which maybe monitored the statistics for the wire services. Why or what for, was another question. But this was the government, another Department wasting tax dollars. Or could it be that the government actually was the press? That they controlled everything? Maybe the first amendment to the constitution was just a ploy to make people think they were free. David shrugged it off. Bill is right. I do watch too many spy movies.

David had enough. As he reached up to disconnect the computer one name came to mind — Mr. Henderson, the person that the senator asked for on the tape. He couldn't think of his first name. David should have disconnected the computer but instead he moved his fingers to the keys and typed:

IS MR. HENDERSON THERE?

 

Then he hit the F2 key. In less than a millisecond the message went from his computer screen through the Clipper Chip, up the wire, into the terminal board, and down to the microwave transmitter with the D.O.S. letters on the side. It was too late! From the concrete bunker the data flowed down the transmission cable, up the antenna tower, and radiated out a microwave dish pointed at Pueblo, Colorado.

 

 

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