Small Town Problems: Chapter 12 -Part 1/2


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“Gary?” I asked in disbelief, but then it all came flooding back. “Wow, I’m sorry about that. It has been a while… I mean you were a bean pole when I saw you last and as baby-faced as anyone ever had a right to be.” I looked behind me and hesitated a bit, but I knew Bill trusted him and that counted for something. “Come on in. Need a drink?”

“Sure, I’ll take a water.”

He followed me back to the kitchen and sat down at the bar while I fixed him a glass, “So, what brings you ‘round these parts? I don’t recall you ever coming back home since we graduated.”

“Well, it wasn’t too long after high school before my family moved closer to Tulsa for my father’s work, so I didn’t have much reason to come back.”

“Oh right. I remember our sisters being pretty good friends and it tore her up when they moved. Of course, my sister moved away not long after she graduated, too. It seems like we have a self-imposed population cap that we subconsciously maintain here.” I took a drink and probed again, “So, why now and why me?”

He looked around slowly before folding his hands and placing them on the bar, “There are some things that I feel obligated to take care of, but I have to know what’s real before I go down this path.”

“Well, I’m certainly not holding you to anything.” I didn’t want to give him a reason to stick around. As far as I knew, Gary still worked for the FBI and might be a last-ditch effort from Diaz to infiltrate our group.

Gary looked at me coldly, “This isn’t for you. I made a promise to Bill that I would help keep everyone safe.” I nodded slowly but kept my mouth shut tight. He let out an exasperated sigh and continued. “Bill was worried about the direction things were going and I was trying to help from the inside to push things towards a more favorable outcome. The last time I talked to him was when Diaz’s team was pulling you all in for interrogations.” He looked down solemnly, “And the next thing I knew, Bill was dead.”

“You certainly seem to know about everything. I’m not sure why you need me to…”

He slammed his fist onto the counter, “I’m here because I want the truth.”

“We all want a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean we’ll get it. I know Bill was talking to you, but I don’t really know you. Why do you feel like you owe Bill anything?”

He reached down with his hands and I heard some shuffling. The next thing I knew he laid half of his leg on the table. “Thanks to Bill, this is all I lost.” I sat in stunned silence while he continued, “On my second tour in Afghanistan we came across an IED. The platoon Bill was in came to our rescue and, despite his sergeant’s orders, Bill pulled me to safety. I would have died if it wasn’t for him, but that’s just who he was. He put his team over his career. He had more honor than anyone I’ve ever known and I will not sit idly by and accept lies about him.”

“How do you know what you’ve heard are lies?”

“The official story is that he went camping and his campfire wasn’t put out, so it spread during the night and he was consumed by it. That’s all well and good for the insurance company, but not likely given what we had been talking about.” He reattached his leg and looked back at me, “Within a few days of Bill asking me about aliens, I knew I was being watched. They were clever, but I’ve done my share of spying to know what to look out for. I researched when I could, but soon after Bill died they came after me hard and I had to put everything aside. They finished up the last round of the investigation a couple of months ago and I carefully waded back into the data. I found something of interest, but I don’t know how to proceed until I get the other side of events.” He eyed me cautiously, “And I know what Bill would want if it’s true.”

“Why don’t you fill me in on what you know and I’ll see if I can help?” I still didn’t want to give too much away if I didn’t have to. I knew they’d come back for Har’elday if they found out he was alive. Gary took a drink of water and agreed to my terms. We spent the next half hour discussing events and he was surprisingly spot-on. I could tell his perspective was the way Bill would have relayed it. And most of the private discussions Diaz likely wouldn’t have known about.

“So the last bit of information I need, is whether or not Har’elday is alive and with you?”

That question puzzled me, “I don’t understand why you would ask that. What aren’t you telling me?”

“I understand that you’re being protective, which leads me to believe he is here somewhere, but I need you to trust me and answer my question directly.”

I took a deep breath and felt a nagging in the back of my mind, What do you think, Maggie? Is he for real? I took a drink and felt her reassuring presence, “Ok, fine. He’s alive and here.”

A confused look came across his face, “Then I’m at a loss.”

“What do you mean? What question did I address?”

“The reason I came here is because I was leaked information that they had a prisoner in custody in association with this case.”

“We’re all accounted for, so I don’t know who it could be. Did they say it was Har’elday?”

“No, but they’ve had this prisoner for a while and the information was void of any descriptors. They want to keep the identity off of official channels, which led me to believe it was an alien.”

“Could the prisoner have been from the other ship?” Har’elday surprised me as he slipped out of the pantry.

Gary bolted to a standing position and spun around. He noticed that I remained calm and relaxed and he eased up, “I take it you’re Har’elday?” 

“Yes. Do you have any idea how long they’ve had the prisoner?”

Gary sat back down, “No, but I can’t imagine it could be anything else. So there’s a possibility they could be from the other ship.”

“Now hold on,” I crossed my arms and shook my head in disbelief, “Díaz seemed to imply that he was going hard after us because we had a survivor that could help salvage the ship. That would lead me to believe there were no other survivors.”

Har’elday grunted a disagreement, “With this new information I would guess that there are two reasons for this. One, they’re unable to communicate with the th’ople they have. Two, the th’ople they have does not have the knowledge necessary to safely operate the ship.”

“Or both.” Gary added and Har’elday nodded in agreement.

“Our botanist was on the other ship and If I remember correctly, like me, she was not cross-trained in any ship operations. If she was able to get into an escape pod or survive the fire, then it would make sense that they could not utilize her regardless of whether or not she learned English.”

“But if that was the case, why would Díaz keep her?” I asked.

Har’elday raised an eyebrow, “Elandra was, or is, a leading expert in botany. Think about how much we’ve accomplished on your farm with my knowledge. She could help increase the food yield across your country, which I imagine could have a significant economical and political impact.”

I turned back to Gary, “How do we find out who they have?”

“That’s the things,” he tapped his finger on the counter, “I’ve exhausted all my safe options. So what’s left is for me to find out for myself. I take it that rescuing whoever this turns out to be is important to Har’elday, which would be important to Bill, and therefore is important to me.” Har’elday and I voiced our agreement.

“Do you know where they’re keeping her?” I asked.

Gary nodded, “My sources tell me that their base of operations is located on a naval base in Washington.”

“There’s a naval base in D.C.?” I had been there a few times and couldn’t remember anything like that.

“No, the state of Washington. They apparently have quite a bit of land that can be utilized by other agencies on one of the bases. Most of the personnel stationed there don’t have a clue what they have going on back there. It should be an underground bunker halfway between the front gate and the submarines.”

“And they’re just going to let you on to check it out?” Har’elday asked.

“I doubt it, but even if they did I wouldn’t want my name on record. So we’re going to have to infiltrate it.”

“We?” I asked. “You want us to come along?”

Gary laughed, “No. Good Lord no.” He caught his breath, “No offense, but you’re a farmer and if we screw up then we don’t want them catching Har’elday.” He muttered and laughed under his breath a bit more, “No, I have a small team I’m putting in place that will help out.” He stood up, “Well, I think I have all of the information I need. I have to head out and start making some phone calls to get things in motion.” He started to walk, but Har’elday stepped in front of him.

Har’elday looked at me sternly for a moment and then focused on Gary, “I think it would be best if I came along.”

“Now hold on,” Gary and I both jumped in with a disagreement, but Har’elday cut us off.

“Do you have access to a portable atmosphere so that she doesn’t die when you leave the room?” He continued on without allowing space for a response, “Do you have a tool that can seamlessly make a hole through a wall without disturbing the structural integrity or make noise while doing it? Do you have someone who can deadlift 1,000 pounds and can analyze and invent apparatus to solve problems in a very short time period?”

Gary looked over at me and I shrugged. I couldn’t find any fault in his resume. “He’s not lying.” Was all I could think to say.

We all stood still for a few minutes while Gary mulled over the information. He slowly let his words come out. “All of that would certainly reduce the size of the team I need, I’ll grant you that. Can you let me think on it for a while? I’ll get back to you later tonight on my decision.” That seemed to appease Har’elday and he stood aside. Gary got my phone number before heading out and we sat back down in the kitchen after he drove off.

“He has a point about keeping you safe.” I calmly said, hoping I could talk him out of going.

Har’edlay nodded his head and sighed deeply, then looked at the clock on the wall. “I need to go to my appointment, so we can discuss this when I get back.” 

I reluctantly agreed and waved as he drove off in his jeep. I chuckled remembering how he nearly went into the ditch just off the main road in front of the farm his first lesson. He was a very cautious driver and he’d picked it up well over the past couple of months. What do you think, Maggie? Is he ready to go off and see other places, let alone infiltrate a secure government facility? It’s times like this that I wish Bill was talking back to me. I bet he’s too busy chatting up General Patton… I guess just keep an eye out like usual and tell him to holler at me. I could feel some anxiety from her, but I think she was proud of Har’elday. I searched out my bookshelf for something that might lure Bill out for a conversation. Mulling it over for a second I decided on The Three Musketeers, which was a favorite of his. “Well Mr. Dumas, maybe Bill is bugging you instead? If so, send him my way when you’re done.” I sat outside in the cool breeze and let the adventure take me away.

* * * *

Continue to Chapter 12 Part 2! Coming January 18!

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