Saturday, November 20, 2010
(After playing the Delta Green scenario “Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays” (with handouts by Graham Kinniburgh [Adam Astonbury]) with Cesar, Yamil, and Melissa from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday.)
Agent Arthur Crispy and Agent Sasha Petrova spent the next several hours processing the crime scene with the police. Tribal police collected a number of fingerprints from the bones and several footprints that didn’t match the moccasins that were found with the bodies. Colorados’ best guess was that it was a male of some size. They also found some large caliber shell casings and processed them as evidence.
The remains from the cave and the bodies of Agent Grant and the deputy were all shipped to Phoenix for examination. Agent Crispy eventually got a signal on his cellular phone and was able to get a call through to inform his superiors that Agent Grant was dead. He also learned the names of the three shamans: Palmer Valor, Joseph Nachise, and David Bylas. According to tribal police, the body of the acolyte had been drained of blood, though there was only a small incision upon it.
Search parties had been sent out to try to find perpetrator. Bloodhounds were also ordered and the police helicopter flew over the scene at one point. Local news helicopters were also being used to expedite the search. Crispy talked to Colorados and got permission to examine the backpack they’d found in the cave.
It was early afternoon before the two federal agents were able to leave the scene. Agent Crispy told Agent Petrova to take them to the Tribal Police Station.
“Can we eat first?” she asked.
“We can order Chinese and have it delivered,” he replied.
They drove back to San Carlos as Crispy used his cellular phone to order the food. At the station, Crispy and Petrova were escorted into the evidence room by a deputy who showed them where the backpack lay in an unlabeled cubby. The room was dimly lit with a single light bulb and had no windows. It seemed very dusty in the room.
Crispy got rubber gloves from the deputy but then just stood there and looked at the backpack without touching it. When Agent Petrova approached, Crispy stopped her and went back to his meditation. He stared at the backpack for about 10 minutes, hoping the deputy would get bored and leave.
Another deputy appeared in the doorway with a paper bag that smelled of Chinese food.
“Guy from Wang Pou said that somebody ordered Chinese?” the deputy said. “For Agent Crispy?”
“Go ahead and have lunch,” Agent Crispy said, gesturing to the other three.
The deputy handed off the bag to Petrova, who handed it back.
“Go ahead and have lunch,” Agent Crispy said again.
“Just save me some,” Agent Petrova told the man.
The second deputy shrugged and left the room. The first deputy didn’t leave as Crispy had hoped so he continued to stare at the backpack. He finally asked Agent Petrova to get the camera from the car. She returned a minute later with the Polaroid Instamatic camera and the 35mm camera. Crispy took the Instamatic and then unzipped the backpack, sticking the camera in and taking a photo. The machine ejected the film and he shook it until the photo appeared. It was very blurry and didn’t show anything.
Crispy took several photographs of the sphere without removing it from the backpack, having to finally put the bag on the floor and taking the photo from a few feet away so that the camera would focus correctly. While he was messing with it, Petrova suggested using the 35mm camera but he objected that they couldn’t take the photos to a photo shop. He was also not comfortable using the police laboratory. He never did get a good picture but got one he was satisfied with.
He ripped up the photos he didn’t like, seemingly angry, and pocketed the pieces.
He finally zipped the backpack back up and put it back into its cubby. There was a tag on it and he glanced at the deputy, who didn’t seem to be paying close attention, though the man seemed amused at the special agent’s Polaroid antics.
In the next cubby was another, smaller backpack of a different color. A small tag on that cubby read “Hernandez Case” followed by a row of letters and numbers. That backpack also had a tag.
Blocking the deputy from what he was doing, he tried to switch the tags but found that he would have to unhook them, which would probably draw too much attention. Petrova slid over to the man.
“What are you doing?” she whispered.
“All in due time,” he whispered back.
“Crispy!” she hissed. “Crispy!”
“What?” he whispered back.
“Can I speak with you for a moment,” she said, nodding towards the door.
“No,” he replied. “All in due time.”
He looked at the backpack for a minute.
“Agent Petrova, would you be so kind as to ask the deputy what his astrology sign is?” he finally whispered to the woman.
She glared at him.
“Not until you tell me what you’re doing,” she murmured back.
“I am making sure that this doesn’t fall into the wrong hands,” he said.
“I seriously doubt―”
“Petrova, don’t argue. I will explain later.”
She glared at the man.
“Try to look happy about asking,” Agent Crispy whispered.
She got closer to the man.
“You are not whoring me out,” she said. “Why don’t you go ask him what his sign is?”
“Because I have to … because it will be my responsibility,” he said. “Because if I’m discovered, you will not be responsible.”
“But I will be an accomplice,” she said.
“If you keep talking you will be,” Crispy said slowly.
She glared at the man again.
“No,” she finally said.
“Not unless you want to talk,” she said.
“I said we would!” he replied.
Agent Petrova was still uncomfortable.
“Give me this and we’ll talk as soon as we step out of this office,” he hissed. “Right now … right now, I need your help in doing this!”
She looked at him for what felt like a long time.
“It would take less time if you would just talk to me about it first,” she said.
“You don’t want me to tell you about the NSA and what they have going on with us,” he said.
“Uh … yeah, I do.”
“You are aware that our rooms were searched?”
“You are aware that―”
“Are we going to talk here?”
“We have to do this now!”
She looked over at the deputy who still looked bored. Crispy make a noise in his throat and she looked back at him. He seemed quite agitated.
“Okay,” she said.
“They are looking for a specific piece of evidence which is in … this … bag,” Crispy whispered. “Once they have it, I think they are not going to use it for the best purpose it could have.”
“All I know right now, Crispy, is that you seem to be doing things to work against the people we are supposed to be helping.”
“The people we are supposed to be helping are the people of this state and this nation. Not the NSA.”
“That is not the NSA,” she said, gesturing at the deputy.
“The NSA is going to be in here tonight, looking for this thing, and they’re going to take it,” he hissed back. “The deputy is not going to be able to stop them. He’ll probably get killed if he tries.”
She looked at him a moment.
“Fuck!” she said.
She glanced at the deputy, and then looked back at Agent Crispy.
“Whatever … I don’t know … do something!” Agent Crispy hissed at her.
She finally walked over to the deputy. She was actually taller than the man and noticed the name Vasquez his nametag. She sighed and frowned as she moved closer to the door. The man looked at her and away from Agent Crispy.
“You all right, ma’am?” he asked.
“Something just doesn’t make sense about this case,” she answered.
“What’s that, ma’am?” the deputy asked.
“Don’t you think it’s a little bit strange?”
“Yeah, all these dead bodies and all.”
“Did you know any of them?”
“I knew Palmer Valor pretty well.”
He talked about the old man while Petrova nodded.
While the two were talking, Crispy quickly switched the backpacks in the cubbies. He unhooked the tag from the backpack that had been in the Hernandez cubby and pocketed it. He also shoved the tag on the backpack with the sphere out of sight. He turned around very slowly.
“Let’s have lunch,” he hissed.
The deputy locked the evidence room behind them and they found the paper bag on the desk in the front. They asked if they could eat there and the police allowed them to use the break room. Agent Crispy was certain the NSA would be coming along shortly and decided to wait for them.
As Agent Petrova opened up her food and started to eat, Agent Crispy’s cellular phone rang. He picked it up and heard an unfamiliar woman’s voice on the other side.
“Is this Agent Crispy?” she said.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Dr. Mindy Blatherstone,” the voice said. “I’ve been waiting here at the hotel now for two hours. Hobbson said you’d meet me here. You’re supposed to be briefing me.”
“Dr. Blatherstone, we just lost an agent,” he replied. “Agent Blatherstone―”
“I’m sorry that we inconvenienced you with the loss of your agent. I am sorry that you had to come out here and wait at the hotel. We were in the mountains. We are currently―”
“Actually, I think you should be apologizing to me for the lack of―”
He hung up the phone and put it back into his pocket.
* * *
Dr. Mindy Blatherstone was a special agent with the FBI, a blood splatter specialist with a physics degree and a long history of forensic analysis with the agency. She had been contacted by Special-Agent-in-Charge Hobbson and told to meet two other agents at the Apache Gold Casino Hotel. He said that one of the agents on the case had been killed that morning and he wanted a forensic specialist on site. He’d given her a thick file.
She’d seen the ballistics report for Agent Grant. The shell that had killed her had been a .303 British.
She had driven to San Carlos from Phoenix and been waiting in the lobby since noon, watching reports on the local news of an alleged four murders in the nearby mountains. An Elaine Braverman was wanted for questioning in connection with the murders and a photograph was shown of the woman. However, though the police claimed they wanted Braverman for questioning, a warning at the end of the report urged anyone who saw Braverman not to approach her but to alert police immediately.
Dr. Blatherstone ate lunch and looked through the chaotic and strange file she had been given, frustrated by the fact that there were numerous copies of the same documents but no solid physical evidence at all. The copies of Agent Grant’s notes, which had several copies and apparently had all been mixed up, made less sense to her. It was a big file and a lot of it seemed redundant.
It was her first time in the field and she was unsure what to do exactly. Finally, around 3 p.m., she had called the senior agent.
She had not heard Agent Crispy hang up.
“Actually, I think you should be apologizing to me for the lack of evidence,” she said into the phone.
She went on about the file and how little information it actually contained. She talked about how she needed more physical evidence, photos, and actual hard evidence from crime scenes. It was several minutes before she realized that she had either lost the signal or he had hung up on her.
“Field agents,” she said.
“Blatherstone?” A young man wearing a hotel blazer called. “Is there a Miss Blatherstone here?”
“Dr. Blatherstone, yes,” she replied.
He apologized and told her he’d just gotten a call that she would be picked up shortly to go into the field.
“That’s fantastic,” she replied. “Thank you.”
She took the piece of paper he’d written the note on.
* * *
After Crispy got off the phone with the hotel, he talked to the tribal police lieutenant on duty, asking if there was any kind of local guide who might know the area between the Sacred Cave and San Carlos. The man said he’d make a few phone calls and see if he could get them a guide but thought that most of their experts were out looking for the murderer.
He told Petrova that they would be picking up a Dr. Blatherstone, who was Grant’s replacement, at the hotel.
“She has an attitude,” he hissed.
“With you?” she replied, feigning surprise. “I couldn’t imagine.”
“She wanted an apology,” he said.
Agent Petrova finished her lunch while Agent Crispy drank a soda. When they returned to the Apache Gold Casino Hotel, they spotted a woman in the lobby and recognized the heavy file that Agent Crispy had put together. She was not dressed for field work but wore a skirt and high heel shoes.
Dr. Blatherstone noticed that the two agents wore dirty, disheveled suits and even saw a few spots of blood on both the woman’s jacket and the scarf the man wore around his neck. Introductions were made and Dr. Blatherstone showed them her identification and badge.
Blatherstone immediately started to examine the bloodstains on both agents. They told her they were from the deputy that had been killed that morning. She told them she hoped they’d both been photographed as part of the case.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Agent Petrova said.
“Not really though,” Agent Crispy muttered.
Dr. Blatherstone related what she’d learned about the ballistics report on Grant. Crispy guessed the weapon might be used for hunting big game and she told them the best guess was a military rifle, possibly a Lee Enfield Mark III, a weapon with good range and stopping power.
“Is this all of the physical evidence that we have?” Dr. Blatherstone asked. “This file?
Agent Crispy sighed and looked at the bulky file. He set it aside.
“We don’t have to discuss the file right now,” he said. “What we do have to discuss is the suspect that is currently fleeing the jurisdiction.”
“Okay,” she replied.
“We’ll use the conference room for a little bit of privacy,” Agent Crispy said.
He led them to the conference room and then pulled out an Arizona road map and opened it on the table.
“I have my suspicions that the suspect or suspects are currently following this path,” he said, laying his finger on a point southeast of San Carlos and moving it to the northwest. “Probably heading precisely to San Carlos, right here. Following a line along that path. I suspect that they are going to try to hijack a car from these roads and head for San Carlos tonight.”
Dr. Blatherstone looked bored.
“All right,” she said.
“Hijack a car?” Agent Petrova asked.
“This individual or individuals are extremely well-armed,” Crispy went on. “I am sure that there will be more victims if we don’t manage to find them soon or predict their moves with accuracy.”
“So, what are you doing about that,” Dr. Blatherstone asked.
“I’ve already contacted the local P.D. for some local expertise,” he replied. “I was wondering if you had any contributions to make.”
“I really haven’t gained anything too insightful in your highly organized evidence file,” she said. “This is really out of my realm of expertise: hunting and chasing down criminals.”
“Very well then,” Crispy replied. “Agent Petrova, do you have any contributions to make to the situation? Any opinions?”
“No, but I think you have a lot more to contribute than you have been so far,” she said.
“It is not the time or the place,” the man replied.
“It’s very difficult to work under these circumstances, Agent Crispy,” she said.
“Very well, let’s go for coffee,” he said.
They left, going down the street to a local coffee shop and getting a booth. Agent Crispy ordered a frappuccino with a straw.
“Frappuccino … we got black coffee. We got cream and we got sugar,” the waitress said.
“Black coffee, cream, and sugar …” Agent Crispy said.
“And I think Bob’s gotten some of those flavor things we can put in,” she went on. “I think we’ve got vanilla.”
“So … everything? You want the works?”
Dr. Blatherstone ordered black coffee and Agent Petrova declined anything.
“Dr. … Blatherstone,” Agent Crispy said.
“Agent Crispy,” she replied. “I’m wondering what it is I’m supposed to be doing to help.”
“I’m not entirely sure at this point,” he said. “If you were to look at the file and the evidence we have gathered, especially where it relates to Houston’s Braverman and the case that led from there to here, you don’t have any hypothesis?”
She said she didn’t but noted that most of the cases had already been through the FBI and local police. She guessed she might be able to do more once the evidence from the most recent shooting had been examined.
“Maybe you would be best served by going back to Phoenix and being at the laboratory there,” he said.
“Isn’t the evidence being handled locally?”
“No. Most of it is going back to Phoenix.”
“Exactly what I tried to tell them. Usually, I don’t come out here. I told them to send Rodriguez but they didn’t listen. Hobbson was convinced that you needed me.”
“Agent Crispy,” Agent Petrova said.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Do you think this is in any way related to this … thing that has been spreading from person to person?” she asked.
“Yes, I read Agent Grant’s theories on that,” Dr. Blatherstone said. “Hopefully, you have something more sane to say about it.”
The two agents looked at each other.
“I don’t know,” Agent Petrova said. “I found it odd. If it is, indeed, true that if this is an illness or a disease, why hasn’t it branched off? Why is it a straight line?”
Agent Crispy sighed and suggested examining the latest crime scene again. Dr. Blatherstone guessed there would be a lot of evidence there. They returned to the hotel and Petrova showered and changed into a fresh suit while Dr. Blatherstone moved her things into the room. Agent Crispy also cleaned himself up.
It was around 4 p.m. before they arrived at the Sacred Cave. The two deputies on duty allowed them past the police tape. Dr. Blatherstone began examining the cave.
“Sloppy,” she said, shaking her head.
She sprayed some luminol around the area to look for blood splatters that the police might have missed. She didn’t see any splatter marks and guessed gunplay had not been involved. She found bloody footprints throughout the cave. However, considering that there were four bodies found, there was a lot less blood than she expected to see. The bloodstains were also all confined to one part of the cave. One other corner stank of feces and urine but she only found residue of it and guessed that the police had removed any actual samples. The woman muttered under her breath, complaining about the sloppy forensics, and used a micro-tape recorder to make notes to herself as she worked. She searched the entire cave thoroughly but wasn’t able to get anything solid from all of it.
She had finished with the cave by around 5:30 p.m. and started to carefully examine the crack in the back.
Agent Crispy left the cave with a map in his hands. He had marked where the Begay ranch lay and, using a compass, guessed about the direction from the cave. He also figured the general direction that someone would have to go in order to get to San Carlos from the area.
Dr. Blatherstone asked Agent Petrova if she were wearing the same shoes. When the agent said they were, Blatherstone reached down and took the shoe off her foot, looking at the tread before giving it back to the woman and going back to work. Agent Petrova went over to where Agent Crispy was looking down the mountain.
“Do you have an idea?” she asked the man.
“Well, I assume we’ll find the disemboweled corpse of Mrs. Braverman somewhere in that direction,” Crispy said, pointing to the southeast, towards the Begay farm. Then he pointed to the northwest. “I assume that whoever has that rifle has gone in that direction.”
“So let’s go find the body,” she said.
“There was a phone call that I received, the first night that we were out here,” he went on. “It led me to believe that, just like the envelope that came under your door in the hotel room, that there was more to this case than there first appeared, and we made connections all the way to West Virginia because of that phone call and because of that note.”
He looked at the woman.
“The thing in the backpack is vitally important to this case,” he said. “The thing in the backpack is not something we would normally find in the hands of criminal, psychotic or not. The thing in the backpack is probably responsible for everything that is going on. That’s why I got you involved in what I had to get you involved in back there.”
“Actually, it was more like casual conversation, but go on,” she replied.
“As you can see from the bloody trail that this thing has left through the United States, it cannot be left to be manipulated by people,” he went on. “I don’t know if you believe that this is actually as dangerous as I think it is. I don’t know what your theories are about this thing. But I can tell you that if the NSA were to get possession of it, I think the country would be worse off.”
She thought about that a moment.
“The phone call was telling me about a sphere,” Agent Crispy went on. “And that’s what we found today.”
“It also told me that the NSA has been looking for this thing and they don’t have the best interests of the nation at heart.”
“We believe them why?”
“Because the NSA searched the room and because they have not been honest with us.”
“I’m not entirely sure how you came to the conclusion that it was the NSA who searched our rooms and that they have all of these motives from an anonymous phone call. I would question that information.”
They could hear a helicopter in the distance.
“Let me just say that I wouldn’t trust anything or anybody with what is in that evidence room right now,” Agent Crispy went on. “If it were to be buried and forgotten, I would be much happier than giving it to any agency.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know.
“Then why are you so afraid of it?”
“Because I don’t quite understand it but I definitely know it’s linked to this case and the person who fled from this cave wanted to take it with them.”
“So, it’s something valuable. People are killing each other over it.”
“Something valuable; people are eating each other over it.”
Suddenly Agent Petrova looked worried.
“I believe we are about to receive a visit from somebody that I just mentioned,” Agent Crispy said. “You can tell them what I told you, or not. It’s up to you.”
They spotted a black helicopter in the distance. It seemed to be following the route of State Road 70. Agent Petrova took out her radio and started to monitor different frequencies in the hope of hearing some kind of radio chatter from the helicopter but all she got was police chatter and static. They soon recognized it as a UH-60 Blackhawk and saw that it seemed to be flying in a search pattern following State Road 70.
Agent Petrova found Dr. Blatherstone meticulously examining the crack, using a flashlight and a magnifying glass to search every inch of it.
“They might be looking for us,” Petrova said.
“Who is ‘they?’” Dr. Blatherstone asked.
“Whosever in the helicopter,” Petrova said. “This location. They’re looking for this location.”
“You’re the only person of interest in this entire county?” Dr. Blatherstone asked, not looking up from her work.
“Of course,” Agent Petrova said. She looked at the woman. “Was that a joke?”
Crispy had followed Petrova back into the darkening cave and suggested Dr. Blatherstone search the end of the passage rather than the near side.
“You want me to skip ahead?” she said. “You want me to go out of order and to skip ahead?”
“Yes, that’s what he wants you to do,” Petrova said.
Agent Crispy reminded her that he was the senior agent. Dr. Blatherstone stared at him.
“I’ll notate that we’re moving to the complete opposite end of the cave and trampling evidence on the way,” she said.
“Very well,” Agent Crispy replied.
“Very well,” she said.
“Yes, go ahead,” he said.
She followed the cave several hundred yards to the other side and spent the next 20 minutes checking the end of the cave and cursing the police for damage the site.
“Shouldn’t you be out, looking for whatever they’re looking for out in the woods?” Dr. Blatherstone asked as she finished what little work she was allowed to do.
“If we had the resources and the knowledge, but we don’t,” Agent Crispy said to her. “We have you.”
“I am cooperating with you,” Dr. Blatherstone pointed out. “I am trying to pull the evidence in an area where the investigation’s obviously been botched. I’m here to help you and fully cooperate.”
“You will have to excuse my foul humor,” Agent Crispy said. “I am not the most pleasant of individuals in my normal state. And today I lost an agent.”
“The more you say that, the more it sounds like an excuse,” Agent Petrova said to him.
“As it may be, it still remains the truth,” he replied.
He led the two women down the hill to the two deputies who were on guard. He had noticed, when they’d arrived, the white police SUV parked on the dirt road. Their sedan was sitting behind it. Crispy acted as much the invalid as he could and asked one of the deputies if they could use the SUV, leaving the sedan for the deputies. The deputy called in to the office and got permission from Colorados for them to borrow the SUV.
The deputies traded keys with Crispy as Dr. Blatherstone moved her forensic equipment from the sedan into the SUV. She and Crispy both climbed into the back seat and Petrova drove them into the mountains, off road. It was a very bumpy and uncomfortable ride.
* * *
It was some three hours later, around 9 p.m., when they finally came across a paved road running roughly north to south. Petrova pulled the vehicle to one side as smoke or steam came from under the hood. She checked the engine to find there was no coolant left in the tank or the radiator. A quick examination of the vehicle proved that somewhere on their cross-country drive, a hose to the radiator had gotten torn and the coolant had all leaked out. She waited for the engine to cool and then made some makeshift repairs to the hose, which had been damaged at one end, and refilled the coolant tank and radiator from a jug of anti-freeze in the back of the SUV. While she worked, Agent Crispy radioed in and asked if there had been any reports of hijackings or stolen cars; the answer was a negative.
It was 10 p.m. and very dark before she had the vehicle fixed. The road seemed to be little-used and Agent Crispy guessed they were on Indian Road 8, maybe 10 miles east of San Carlos. It was a pretty night, with bright stars shining overhead.
“How romantic and murderous,” Agent Crispy muttered.
The other two looked at each other.
They drove back to San Carlos and, when they reached the Tribal Police Station, they spotted their black sedan parked out front in the parking lot. Before they left the vehicle, Dr. Blatherstone asked about the people in the helicopter and why they couldn’t get information from them but Crispy pointed out they didn’t even know who they were. However, he had an idea and so phoned the local airport and asked about a flight plan for a helicopter. He had to give his ID number and get one of the deputies to vouch for him but the man finally told him that the only flight plan southeast of San Carlos was flagged as no information available. The only other helicopters in the air were the two news helicopters and the highway patrol helicopter.
They went into the station and learned that the search for the murderer had found nothing. They were using bloodhounds as well as three helicopters, though the two news helicopters had been grounded for the night. There were also a number of civilian volunteers searching for the murderer.
“Apaches,” the lieutenant on duty told the man.
So, we might find our suspect with an arrow in him, Crispy thought.
He traded the keys to the SUV for the keys to the sedan and mentioned that the SUV might have been damaged.
They returned to the hotel and again ordered room service as they had not had dinner.
Agent Crispy called the Phoenix FBI office and asked them to fax him information on the bodies when it was available, as well as call him. When the food came, he liquefied his dinner before eating it through a straw.
* * *
Crispy was woken from his intermittent sleep on the chair by the ringing of the phone in his room. He picked it up.
“Crispy,” he gasped.
“Crispy, it’s Colorados,” the voice on the other end of the line sounded shaky. “We’ve got three dead here down at the station. You folks might want to get down here.”
The line went dead.
* * *
The phone in the women’s room rang and Petrova rolled over and picked it up.
“Agent Petrova?” she heard Crispy’s voice rasp.
“Yes?” she said.
“I need help getting up,” he said.
She looked at the clock. It was 12:30 a.m.
“In the middle of the night?” she asked.
“Colorados just called,” he said. “There are more casualties at their office.”
She groaned lightly.
“What?” Dr. Blatherstone asked. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ll be right there,” Agent Petrova said into the phone and hung up.
She left the room as Dr. Blatherstone rolled over to go back to sleep.
Petrova helped Agent Crispy out of his chair and then returned to her own room. She shook Dr. Blatherstone.
“We’ve got to move,” she said.
“Move,” the other replied sleepily. “Are we in danger or something?”
“We have fresh bodies,” Petrova said.
Dr. Blatherstone sat bolt upright in bed and got her clothes, yanking them on and heading out the door. Agent Crispy came into the room a minute later, moving slowly. When they got to their sedan, they saw that Blatherstone’s sedan was already gone. Petrova got their own sedan moving, turning on the flashing light and the siren. She caught up with Dr. Blatherstone’s sedan and passed her as they neared the police station, slamming on the brakes and sliding to a stop. Dr. Blatherstone pulled up behind them.
There were already several police cars there, lights flashing, as they got out of the car.
“Get me Colorados!” Agent Crispy said as they headed into the building.
The foyer was a mess. A dead deputy was sitting behind the desk, his head lying in a pool of blood. A large section of his hair was missing. Colorados sat nearby, in shock.
“That’s your job,” Dr. Blatherstone said to Agent Crispy as she pointed to the sheriff.
“Agent Petrova, go and check the evidence room,” Agent Crispy said.
Dr. Blatherstone warned them not to touch anything and then started to examine the crime scene, taking numerous photos. She warned the local policemen off, telling them she’d seen their handiwork. She found that the deputy’s throat had been slit and he’d been scalped, probably with the same weapon. His side arm was in the holster and when Blatherstone examined it, she found that it had not been fired.
* * *
Petrova passed the break room and saw another officer lying in a pool of blood there and noticed that his side arm was also still in the holster. She found the third deputy on the floor of the hallway just the other side of the door to the evidence room. He had been killed in the same way. She guessed they had been taken by surprise or they had known their attacker.
The door to the evidence room was ajar and the keys were in the lock. She pushed it carefully open, weapon in hand, but saw it was empty. She also noticed that the bulging backpack that had held the sphere was gone. There were bloody footprints on the floor. She left the room, angry.
“Are you all right?” Dr. Blatherstone said when she saw her.
“There is some evidence missing from the evidence room,” Petrova told her.
Blatherstone was shocked at that. They discussed it briefly, Petrova telling her of the odd sphere that had been found that Crispy thought was most important to the case. She asked Dr. Blatherstone how long ago the men had been killed. The doctor guessed 20 minutes at the outside.
* * *
Crispy tried to comfort Colorados and learned from the man that the deputies were all well-trained and experienced. He further pointed out that Johnny Miller, the dead man in the break room, had served in Vietnam and was a veteran. He had been a decorated Ranger. He pressed Colorados to run an inventory of his men, get in touch with all of them, and get them out on the streets. The orders seemed to bring Colorados back from whatever dark place he’d been and he started barking orders for a door-to-door search to see if anyone had seen anything.
“Can you and your agents help us out with that?” he asked.
“We will process the scene and then be there,” Crispy said.
Petrova reported to Crispy that the sphere was gone. She also told him that the incident had only happened 20 or so minutes before. As Crispy and Petrova left the police station, the black SUV roared up and Simmons climbed out of the passenger seat. He spotted the two and headed straight for them.
“What the hell’s going on?” Simmons asked.
“It seems like somebody attacked the local P.D.,” Crispy said.
“Yeah, it seems they took some evidence too, didn’t they?” Simmons said. “Why was I not informed about this? I just found out about this sphere-thing!”
He looked around himself.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Crispy said. “There’s still the bag they recovered in evidence.”
“There is?” Petrova said.
“There is?” Simmons said.
“Yes,” Crispy replied.
“Get out of the way!” the NSA man said, pushing past the two.
He headed into the building followed by the other man. The two agents looked at each other and Petrova quickly got into the car. Crispy followed suit and she drove down a few blocks and over a block before she stopped and they got out, starting the door-to-door search.
* * *
Dr. Blatherstone saw two men in black suits and sunglasses enter the police station and held up her hand, telling them not to contaminate her crime scene. The lead man flashed a badge in her face.
“NSA,” he said, brushing by her.
He headed into the hallway, flashing his badge at anyone who got in his way. It was only a minute or so later before he appeared again.
“Crispy!” the man yelled, running back out of the building with his man in tow.
They came back into the building and headed for Dr. Blatherstone.
“I’m Jack Simmons, NSA,” the lead man said.
“Dr. Blatherstone,” she said.
“Yeah, where’s Crispy?” he said.
“You’re standing in my evidence,” was her reply.
He stepped a foot to his right.
“Where’s Crispy?” he asked again.
“He left me here to find evidence,” she said. “They went door-to-door to question people. Field work, you know?”
“Have you seen the sphere?” he asked.
“The what?” she said.
“The sphere! The sphere!”
“Like at Epcot?”
“Yes, but much smaller.”
“No, actually, as you can see, I’m up to my elbows in blood and forensic evidence.”
“All right, what did you say your name was?”
“Dr. Blatherstone, have Crispy call me. I’ve got some information that I need to give to him.”
“You can leave it with me. I’m on his team.”
The man looked around carefully and leaned close to her.
“The sphere is actually a component from a U.S. surveillance satellite that fell from orbit,” he said. “It’s imperative that we recover it immediately, a matter of national security. Tell Crispy.”
He and his man left the police station again.
* * *
Agents Crispy and Petrova went to a couple of houses before Agent Crispy’s cellular phone rang. It was Dr. Blatherstone, who asked if he was looking for a sphere.
“You’re looking for part of a missing satellite that crashed, right?” Dr. Blatherstone said.
“This is the first time that I’ve heard about a satellite,” Crispy eventually said.
“Well, Agent Simmons came here, messed up some evidence, wanted to talk about a satellite crashing, that part of it is spherical in shape,” she said. “The material it’s made of is classified. It’s a matter of national security that he gets that portion of the satellite back. I thought you should know.”
“Did he have any other explanations for anything else?” Crispy asked.
“He did make some rookie mistakes by standing right in it, but other than that, no.”
“He just said something about a satellite?”
“He said it was a spy satellite and it was a matter of a national security to get that sphere back. I’m sure you’re cooperating with him; I just thought you should know. I just wanted you to know that. So I made you aware.”
He got off the phone and told Petrova that the cover story was that it was that the sphere was a piece of a satellite but that it apparently gave people the ability to howl like coyotes and exsanguinate people and burst things out of their bellies.
They went to several houses, waking the residents and asking them if they had seen anything unusual. The only answer they got was that, right around midnight, most of the people they talked to had been woken by howling coyotes. One man said he went out in his backyard but couldn’t see any coyotes anywhere around, though they sounded close.
They spent a couple of hours at it but gave up around 3 a.m.
* * *
Dr. Blatherstone examined all three bodies and found that none of the weapons had been discharged or even drawn, apparently. All had been killed in the same way. She guessed that a large knife had been used to kill and then scalp the men. She also found some pinprick holes in the second deputy’s shirt. They went through the undershirt and into the flesh of the man’s chest. Quick checking proved that all three of the men had similar markings. She photographed each of them and then made a note on her tape recorder to get a toxicology report on each of the men.
“Damn,” she heard someone say as she examined the body in the break room. “Johnny was in Vietnam, man. He was a Green Beret, wasn’t he? What the hell? What the hell!?!”
The bloody footprints appeared to be the same as the footprints in the Sacred Cave.
She called Agent Crispy on her cellular phone again.
“Doctor,” Crispy answered.
“Agent,” she replied. “Are we debriefing before turning in for the night?”
“We should, yes,” he said.
“Conference room?” she said.
“Yes,” he said.
* * *
Agent Crispy called in to report the area that he and Petrova had covered. The dispatcher seemed to be very appreciative of all their help. They drove back to the hotel and found Dr. Blatherstone waiting for them in the conference room.
“We can’t be looking for the same killer,” Agent Petrova said.
“The killer that had the rifle?” Agent Crispy asked.
“Or that killed the Begays.”
“Yes, they have completely different M.O.s.”
“Do you want to hear the evidence that I’ve found?” Dr. Blatherstone asked.
“I’m not as surprised as you are that somebody wanted the sphere,” Agent Crispy said. “The sphere is the only linking element.”
“The satellite?” Dr. Blatherstone asked.
“The satellite, yes,” Crispy said.
“The piece of the satellite,” Petrova said.
“The piece …?” Agent Crispy said. “Yes, that thing.”
Dr. Blatherstone told them what she had found, noting that all three bodies had been killed by the same weapon and all three had been injected with something. Each had several injection sites on their chest and she had requested a toxicology report. She said that the footprints had been the same size as the ones at the cave. She pointed out that she’d also gotten footprints of the NSA agent, in case it came in handy.
“Very well,” Agent Crispy said. “I’m sure you’ll find that the toxin used is very, very unusual. We’ve seen it before.”
“Very unusual in what way?” Dr. Blatherstone asked.
“The same that was used on the Begays,” he said.
She remembered reading about it.
“Elements not on our periodic table?” she said. “Not of this earth? Which is interesting to say the least.”
She wondered about the connection with a satellite put into space and Petrova repeated that it was not the same killer. Crispy pointed out that the toxin might have traveled along the chain of killers and seemed to make people go insane.
“Beware of men carrying needles,” Dr. Blatherstone said. “Got it.”
Petrova wondered what the point was of the murders. Crispy pointed out that the murderer might have done it to throw police off the trail – that the killer might not have wanted police to suspect he was the same as killed the police. Agent Petrova still couldn’t believe that it was the same person as the one who had killed Agent Grant.
They all went to bed, exhausted.
* * *
Crispy woke around 6 a.m. when his phone rang.
“Crispy,” he gasped.
“Yeah, Agent Crispy, this is Agent Smith,” Crispy heard, recognizing one of the other FBI Agents from Phoenix. “We got the fingerprints for you. We sent a fax. Looks like it’s a Master Sergeant Emanuel Santana, Apache, age 48, deserted U.S. Army Special Forces in ’71 while on leave to attend his mother’s funeral. All the same, his desertion was considered a threat to national security because he was on detached duty to the CIA’s operation PHOENIX in South Vietnam. The U.S. Army CIC, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, FBI, CIA all investigated his desertion but developed no leads.”
“Oh fuck,” Crispy said.
“The agencies with an interest in his whereabouts kept the file open but on inactive basis,” Smith went on.
“We need a photograph.”
“Yeah, we can send you one. It’s 20 years old though. Don’t think it will help you much. U.S. Marshals, Army CIC, and CIA will all be informed that the case is open again. Like I said, sent a fax to you.”
The phone went dead.
He called Sheriff Colorados to relay the information and the man said he wanted a meeting as soon as possible. As soon as he got off the phone, it rang again. This time it was the front desk with a message that he’d just gotten a fax. He asked the man to send it up.
* * *
The ringing phone woke Petrova again. The clock said 6 a.m. She picked it up.
“Petrova,” she heard Crispy’s voice.
“Yeah,” she said.
“I’m afraid that by now you know the drill,” Crispy said.
She hung up the phone and then went next door to help Crispy out of his chair. He told her to order coffee and she did so. Then she woke up Dr. Blatherstone. Crispy came into the room and told them that they knew who the perpetrator was.
He relayed the information. The summary in the fax read:
Emanuel Santana. Born: 3rd Feb. 1948 Geronimo, Arizona, U.S.A
Race/Ethnicity: Native American (Apache)
Enlisted US Army: 1st November 1967
Santana was an excellent soldier whose outstanding dedication and promise saw him recruited to Army Special Forces duty within a year of enlisting.
Santana’s records indicate that he excelled in Unarmed Combat, Demolitions, Small and Medium Arms, Survival Techniques and latterly (see ‘Project Phoenix’ below) in ‘Intelligence Asset Realisation’ (read Interrogation).
He served two tours in Vietnam and received a Purple Heart on his second tour for outstanding bravery, rescuing a wounded comrade who had been captured and removed to an underground command and control network by the enemy. (According to his C.O. of the time he single-handedly ‘smoked the whole nest out’).
He achieved the rank of Master Sergeant in August 1970.
His skillset came to the attention of the Central Intelligence Agency and for his third tour he was seconded to PROJECT PHOENIX, operational details of which are still classified today. It can be surmised that Santana got the opportunity to put his talents to considerable use during this period.
In March 1971, while still seconded to PHOENIX he was granted compassionate leave to attend the funeral of his mother (the last of his immediate family) in Geronimo, Az. He attended the funeral and subsequently appears to have decided to go AWOL.
The CIA considered his disappearance to be a security risk given the ‘special duties’ he was performing for Uncle Sam in South East Asia. Consequently his desertion attracted more attention than that of the average grunt. The Bureau, CIA, US Marshalls Office and Army Criminal Investigation Command all deployed assets in the search for him.
That search was unsuccessful however (perhaps not surprising given Santana’s unique abilities and the general antipathy towards federal institutions felt by the native American community at the time).
His file with the Bureau remains open/unresolved. It has been reviewed periodically with no result.
CIA, US Marshalls Office and ACIC should be informed through the appropriate channels of any developments regarding Santana – each will doubtless have a small mountain of paper that they will be pleased to dispense with.
It was signed by Sandra Chen, Supervisor, Records Review and Dissemination Section.
Crispy found Geronimo on the map, near the area of the buried car. They guessed Santana was their man and that he had killed Braverman. Crispy mentioned that unless Project PHOENIX had taught him to be a coyote, it didn’t explain the connection between the dug up bodies and car, or the coyotes howling in the middle of the night. He felt it was too coincidental. Dr. Blatherstone continued to doubt the connection but Agent Petrova wondered if he was controlling them somehow.
They drove to the police station and found Colorados and Garrett both there, both men introducing themselves to Dr. Blatherstone. Colorados looked disturbed and told them that they had gotten the fingerprints results back, giving them the same information that the FBI had already given.
“I’ve known Santana was living in these mountains for over 20 years,” he finally said. “I thought it was just a gentle hermit. I’d like to settle this without interference from the FBI or ‘white’ police, but I realize that Santana is a federal fugitive. Garrett and I have talked and … we’re handing … handing control of the case over to you. It’s your baby now.”
“Very well,” Crispy said.
“We’ve got 180 local Apache volunteers, 50 tribal police,” Colorados said. “Garrett says he can get 40 Arizona State Troopers. We can contact the U.S. Marshals and if you folks want to bring more of your people in … you tell us where to search we’ll get looking.
“A vehicle was found just north of town, abandoned. Best guess is Santana used it after he hit the police station. It was stolen last night. According to the owner, it was stolen sometime after they went to bed at 10 p.m.”
“We were not too far behind,” Crispy said.
“No, it was 20 minutes at most according to the body temperature,” Dr. Blatherstone said.
Colorados told them that car was found north of town on Indian Road 9, a dirt road. He noted that the bloodhounds didn’t pick up anything past a nearby stream. Dr. Blatherstone suggested a S.W.A.T. team but Colorados pointed out that they had to find him first.
“So, you’re in charge,” Colorados said. “You tell us where to go and you tell us what to do, we’ll get the people out. We’ve got three helicopters available. We’ve got the highway patrol helicopter and, during the daylight at least, we’ve got two news helicopters.”
He also told them they’d have access to bloodhounds, professional trackers, horses, off-road vehicles, and spotter planes.
Crispy ordered them to start the search north of town in a grid pattern and fan out. He said they would take the state patrol helicopter. They drove to the airport and met with the same pilot they’d had before. Crispy ordered Dr. Blatherstone to examine the stolen car and she did so. She found nothing of help in the car, though there was a bloodstain that proved to be the same type as one of the deputies.
Late in the afternoon, they spotted what appeared to be birds circling in the area northwest of San Carlos just past State Route 77 north of Globe. They passed over the area a couple of times and spotted what appeared to be a car a few dozen yards off the road. The birds were a little further northwest. They called it in and soon police cars arrived on the scene. Police moved into the wooded area and within a half hour, they got a radio call that they had located another dead body that had apparently been drained of blood. The deputy said that the body looked like it had been buried but it had been dug up, apparently by a coyote.
In the distance, they spotted another Blackhawk helicopter.
* * *
Dr. Blatherstone, at the police station, figured out the location of the abandoned car and headed that way, arriving where police were closing down the highway within 20 minutes. The state patrol helicopter landed on the road soon after and the three FBI agents all arrived at the spot around the same time.
They examined the body of the young Apache. Dr. Blatherstone determined that the body had been drained of blood and she guessed it had been there at least 12 hours. She guessed he had died sometime in the early morning hours the night before. She found a small incision on the man’s foot, as well as more needle marks on the man’s chest.
A couple of pickup trucks arrived, both of them disgorging a number of hounds and owners. They sniffed around the area and then bayed, pulling their handlers to the northwest.
It was about 6 p.m. before they got into the air again, this time all three of the FBI agents aboard the helicopter heading northwest. It was dark by 7:30 p.m. but they continued to search, occasionally seeing flashlights on the ground as other searchers scoured the area.
Around 9 p.m., they heard someone on the radio saying “We got him!” A moment later, another voice screamed “Oh God! He shot Red right in head!”
Crispy ordered the pilot to turn to the south while he tried to figure out exactly where the men had been on his map. Petrova rode up front with the pilot while Dr. Blatherstone was in the back with Crispy. They could see more lights on the ground below and Petrova, in control of the floodlight on the bottom of the helicopter, panned it back and forth.
Suddenly, one of the windows near Petrova’s feet broke and something struck the back of her seat with a thud. She could smell gunpowder.
“We’re getting shot at!” Agent Crispy screamed, his voice very high-pitched. “Get us out of here, man! Get us out of here!”
Everything went black under the helicopter as the second shot destroyed the floodlight. There were flashes from below and Crispy and Petrova grabbed their Kevlar vests while Dr. Blatherstone sat on hers. Agent Crispy grabbed the flare gun from its mount and slid open the door of the helicopter. He fired down at the ground below and saw the flare fly down and explode as it hit the ground amidst the trees below. He reloaded it.
The helicopter shook as something struck it. Dials started to shift uncontrollably.
“Son of a bitch!” the pilot swore. “He got the fuel line!”
“Put her down!” Crispy yelled, shoving the flare gun into his belt.
The pilot managed to land the helicopter down with a bump and started to shut down all of the interior lights and systems. After the engine died, they could hear shooting someone out there in the dark. In the distance, they heard another helicopter.
Crispy suggested Dr. Blatherstone stay behind and the pilot handed them some night-vision goggles without straps. Then he took one of the M16A2 assault rifles from the back of the helicopter. Agent Petrova had grabbed a pump shotgun from the back and threw it over one shoulder. Then she, Crispy, and the pilot headed in the direction of the shooting, Crispy and Petrova looking through the night-vision goggles.
The helicopter had landed on a rise of sorts. Downhill from it, that part of the mountain was lightly wooded and strewn with boulders. Ahead of them, some ways off, they heard weapons fire and the baying of dogs. They saw an occasional flashlight but it seemed far away.
When they got about 100 yards from the helicopter, they saw a muzzle flash ahead and to the right of them, far too close for comfort, and then heard the report of large weapon. The pilot grunted and fell backwards. As Petrova dove for cover, Crispy leapt at the pilot and dragged him to cover. He examined the man and found that he had been struck on the lower abdomen but the Kevlar had deflected most of it. He tried to struggle to his feet.
“Where did that come from?” he whispered.
“Stay down, man!” Crispy whispered back. “Stay down!”
“I think I’m okay, I think I’m okay,” the man replied. “Where is he?”
“Stay down officer!” Crispy hissed.
Crispy realized he still had the flare gun and so he drew and fired in the direction he thought the shot had come from. The flare flew about 30 feet and then imbedded itself in the side of a tree and spewed out sparks. Crispy looked through the IR goggles but all he could see was the light from the flare.
“It’s time to move!” he said. “Go! Go! Go!”
He led the officer down the hill in the direction of the shooter, going around the right side of the flare. He could not see Petrova.
* * *
Dr. Blatherstone had climbed over the seats to get to the front of the helicopter. She had heard the gunfire, seen the flash of the flare, and assumed the worse. She called for help on the radio. The man who answered asked for her location but she was unsure.
She pulled on the Kevlar vest.
* * *
Agent Petrova was moving to the left between cover when she suddenly heard what sounded like a coyote not far ahead of her. Then she heard the Lee Enfield fire again and something struck her in the right shoulder, knocking her backward. She felt like a mule had kicked her and it took her breath away.
She shook her head and reached over to find that the Kevlar had almost completely stopped the bullet that was sticking into her right shoulder. She could feel blood but had no doubt she would have been much more badly injured if not for the vest.
She stumbled to her feet, drawing her sidearm
* * *
Agent Crispy saw a muzzle flash far to his left, not anywhere near where he expected the assailant to be. He ran towards it and heard the pilot trying to keep up behind him.
Suddenly, a shape came out of nowhere and struck Agent Crispy in the side, knocking him down. It smelled like a dog and for a fleeting instant, he was certain it was coyote. A moment later, another rifle crack filled the air and he heard the pilot cry out behind him. Then the man cursed again and Crispy guessed that the Kevlar had saved the man’s life.
“I told you to stay down officer!” Agent Crispy hissed.
“Okay!” the man called back.
Crispy looked around but the animal was gone. He drew his sidearm and tried to call out Santana’s name. He was unnerved. Santana moved like the wind and was never where Crispy expected. When he fired, he always seemed to hit.
“Yell this for me!” Crispy said to the pilot.
“What!?!” the man said. “It will give away our position.”
* * *
Petrova had gotten back up kept to cover, looking to the left where the last shot had come from. The hiss of the flare was keeping her from hearing anything nearby. Through the goggles, she spotted Agent Crispy and the pilot to the right.
“Santana!” she heard the pilot yell. “You’re killing your own people! It’s not who you are!”
She then saw a man crawling towards the other two men. He rose to a crouch, leaving something on the ground, and started to move more quickly towards the men without making a sound. It looked like he drew a knife. She aimed her Glock at the man and fired but didn’t think she hit him. Santana stopped and turned her way as she took another shot, the man’s head jerking as if the bullet had grazed it. He didn’t slow down, but kept moving her way.
* * *
Crispy and the pilot heard the shooting from their hiding place.
“Open fire!” Crispy hissed.
The pilot opened his mouth to yell it out and then stopped.
“Wait, what?” he said.
Crispy stood up and looked around, holding the goggles to his head and spotting Santana. He aimed at the man as the pilot picked up his rifle from the ground.
* * *
Petrova fired at the man again, striking him in the right leg. She was sure that she had hit the man in the kneecap and even thought she heard a crack. Santana stumbled but did not fall and came to his feet, still moving towards her.
Someone fired from Crispy’s location.
She fired again, this bullet striking Santana in the gut, and he tumbled over to lie still on the ground. He lay there for a moment and then lifted one hand, grabbed a nearby tree, and pulled himself to his feet again.
Petrova was flipping out. The man should not still have been on his feet after the number of bullets that had struck him in vital or sensitive areas.
* * *
“Damn it, I got no target! I got no target!” Crispy heard the pilot say.
He realized that the man didn’t have any goggles so he shoved the goggles over the man’s eyes and held them in place. That made him blind but he hoped it would help the pilot. He heard more shots coming from nearby.
* * *
“Drop the knife!” Petrova yelled.
She fired again, hitting the man in the upper left shoulder and seeing him jerk back. But he didn’t stop. He just kept coming. She fired again as she backed away, hoping not to stumble and fall. The next bullet struck him in the pelvis and she knew she heard the bone crack and maybe even break.
But he kept coming!
She started to curse quietly.
She heard someone fire nearby and saw a spurt of muzzle flash from the area she knew Crispy and the pilot were. Santana stumbled again as blood spewed from the man’s pelvis, very near where she had just shot him.
“Crispy!” she screamed. “He has a knife!”
She shot him in the left shoulder again but he kept coming. Then she pulled the trigger and nothing happened.
Her Glock had jammed.
“Run!” she heard the pilot yell.
Another shot came from that area and Santana stumbled as the blast nearly took his left foot off with a snap and a spray of blood from the man’s ankle. He stumbled again and then, impossibly, stood once more.
She dropped side arm and turned to run away, screaming and sliding the shotgun off her shoulder. Another rifle shot came from Crispy’s area.
Petrova spun around as the man leapt at her. She put the shotgun to her bruised shoulder and fired, taking off the top left side of Santana’s head and flinging him backwards a good five feet. He hit the ground hard and did not get up again.
She turned and ran away from him, finally turning around. She pumped the shotgun and looked around, using the IR goggles in her other hand to locate him again. She spotted the unmoving body and started to walk towards it again. She got about 10 feet away and covered the body.
* * *
“He’s down! He’s down!” the officer next to Crispy said.
“Good job officer,” Crispy said.
* * *
In the helicopter, Dr. Blatherstone was watching down the hill. She actually saw the flash of Petrova’s shotgun as it took off a good deal of Santana’s head. Then it went black in that area. She thought that, in retrospect, it would be interesting to be able to examine a crime site after actually seeing the kill.
* * *
Crispy got on the radio and reported that Santana was down. He cautioned everyone to hold their fire. He could see flashlights further down the incline and reported that FBI and the highway patrol were on the scene.
“Agent Crispy,” he heard over the radio.
“Doctor,” he said.
“Do you need my medical expertise?” Dr. Blatherstone asked. “You shot someone?”
“Yes,” Crispy replied.
He radioed for everyone to stay back until they confirmed the kill.
* * *
Petrova had gotten out her maglite and held it in her left hand, shining it on the body. She could now see that a bullet had shattered the man’s ankle and the kneecap she’d shot was in pieces. The right side of the pelvis had been hit several times and was obviously broken as well. How he had continued to move towards her on two legs, both with broken and shattered bones, she could not understand.
* * *
“Officer, cover us!” Crispy said.
He started to move towards the light and the pilot followed him.
“Stay back and cover us,” Crispy said.
The man hung back, rifle to the shoulder.
Crispy was next on the scene with Dr. Blatherstone arriving only a moment later. All three had maglites and all three had weapons out, covering the body. Dr. Blatherstone found no pulse and so starting to process the scene as Petrova talked about how Santana had just kept coming.
Crispy didn’t see a backpack. He turned back down the incline, using his flashlight and soon came upon the Lee Ingram Mark III rifle. He searched the area nearby and found the backpack nearby. He heard the pilot coming up behind him.
“Officer!” he said.
“Yeah,” the pilot replied.
“You saw what happened up there,” Crispy said. “What’s responsible is in that backpack. Shoot it!”
“Okay,” the man said.
He fired a shot at the backpack. The bullet ricocheted off something in the pack and struck a nearby tree.
“What the hell is in there?” the man said.
Crispy saw that the flashlights were still approaching. Over the radio, someone called his name.
“Did you get him? Are you okay?” the voice said. “We heard shots fired.”
“Just confirming the kill,” Crispy said into his radio.
“What!?!” the voice replied. “With a gun?”
“Once you see him, you’ll understand,” the man replied.
The pilot looked shaky and Crispy told the man to take the rifle and report in. The pilot went to pick it up but then just headed up the hill, not looking back. As soon as he was out of sight, Crispy turned his flashlight off and thought.
In the distance, somewhere, another helicopter approached.
He finally came to a decision. He turned his flashlight back on and headed up the hill, asking Blatherstone, still working on the body, if Santana had anything in his pockets. She had already found dried blood all over the man’s hands and face, which she had been trying to swab off to later see if it matched any of the blood types of any of the victims. All she found in his pockets was a garrote. Shoved in his belt was a Colt Python .357 revolver. Petrova mentioned that he had a knife and they soon found it nearby. It, too, was covered with blood.
The helicopter that was heading their way was shining a floodlight down into the area.
“What should we say?” Crispy asked the others.
“They’re not going to believe me,” Petrova said.
“Well, we have witnesses,” Crispy pointed out.
“We have the satellite?” Dr. Blatherstone asked.
“Yes,” Crispy replied.
“We need to hide it,” she said.
The spotlight hit them and the helicopter, a larger one, hovered over them for a few moments before it started to move in the direction of their helicopter.
“Converge on us!” Crispy said into his radio.
He turned off his flashlight and then ran down the hill, tripping and falling once in his haste. He found the rifle and backpack, putting on rubber gloves he’d gotten from Blatherstone and picked up the backpack.
The second helicopter landed near the first and men with flashlights disembarked as Crispy grabbed the backpack and headed up the hill towards them.
* * *
Three men arrived at the spot where Santana lay. When they got close enough, Petrova and Blatherstone could see that they all wore black suits and had sunglasses on, even though it was very dark out.
“Back off!” Dr. Blatherstone said.
Petrova asked them not to get too close.
“Arnold Smith, CIA,” the one in the middle said. He was very young.
“Donald Miller, INSCOM,” the black man on the left said.
“Harvey Bennett, CIC,” the older man to the right said.
“We’re here for Santana,” Agent Smith said. “Is that him?”
“What’s left of him,” Dr. Blatherstone said.
“Yes, he attacked us,” Agent Petrova said. “He opened fire.”
“He’s dead?” Agent Smith asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“All right, we’re going to need that body on the grounds of national security priority over local matters,” Agent Smith said.
“I am still processing this corpse,” Dr. Blatherstone. “You can find it at the Phoenix office shortly.”
“Very well,” Petrova said to Smith. “After you complete the necessary paperwork.”
“I’ll need the proper paperwork,” Dr. Blatherstone also said.
“Where was what he was carrying?” Agent Smith said. “There is an item vital to national security.”
“The knife should be over there somewhere,” Dr. Blatherstone said.
“It’s not a weapon! He had something with him. A sphere.”
“A sphere?” Dr. Blatherstone asked.
“A sphere?” Agent Petrova echoed.
“A large round ball-like object,” Agent Smith said.
“Like a bomb?” Petrova said.
“Gentlemen,” Agent Crispy’s voice came from the darkness.
Agent Miller spun, drawing a gun from his jacket as he did so. He shined his flashlight at Crispy.
“Identify yourself!” he barked.
“That’s Agent Crispy,” Dr. Blatherstone said. “He’s in charge of this investigation.”
The man looked at Crispy for a moment and then put his sidearm away.
“I am responsible for this fiasco and I do apologize,” Agent Crispy said, approaching. “You will have our findings in full. You have been looking for a certain item―”
“Is that it?” Agent Smith interrupted him, pointing at the backpack Crispy held.
“Gentlemen, if your agencies start losing members by the dozens, you’ll know why,” Crispy said.
He tossed the backpack to Agent Smith, who caught it with one hand. The man opened it long enough to look inside and then zipped it closed. The men looked at each other.
“We’ll get that paperwork to you by morning,” Agent Smith said.
They turned and walked back up towards the second helicopter, its motors starting to cycle even as they walked away. The helicopter took off and disappeared into the night.
Blatherstone processed the crime area as highway patrol, tribal police, civilian volunteers, and even a U.S. Marshal arrived on the scene. Some of them were visibly upset to find that the murderer was, indeed, Santana, and that he was dead. Others seemed relieved that the man had been killed.
Within an hour, one of the borrowed news helicopters had landed on the site and brought mechanics to make repairs to the damaged police chopper, as well as a body back for Santana. Dr. Blatherstone requested the use of one of the helicopters to transport them back to Phoenix with the body. Within an hour, the police helicopter was ready to fly and took them first back to San Carlos and then to Phoenix. En route, Agent Crispy told Agent Petrova that he had surrendered the sphere because it had all been just too big for them to deal with themselves. He also contacted Dr. Gutierrez to meet them at the Arizona Heart Hospital for the autopsy.
Dr. Blatherstone was very excited about the whole thing. She had never actually seen someone killed before being able to work on them.
All three FBI agents were allowed in the small autopsy room. It had a single door and was lit by a single light above the table that Santana lay on. Dr. Gutierrez did a visual inspection of the body first, being very thorough and describing each injury that the body had sustained to a tape recorder. As he finally made the first incision in the abdomen of the body, Santana suddenly sat upright. The corpse looked up and something whipped up out of the incision, striking the light, shattering it, and throwing the room into darkness.
“Gutierrez! Get down!” Agent Crispy yelled.
Though the room was pitch black, Dr. Blatherstone thought she could clearly see the corpse of Santana turning her way and coming at her. She backed up, unable to see anything else in the room but the walking corpse. Two more arms sprouted from the sides of Santana’s torso and the woman screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Oh my God!” Gutierrez shrieked. “Madre de Dios!”
Agent Petrova screamed, turned around, and saw the light coming from under the door to the hall. She ran to the door, grabbing at the handle.
Crispy had instinctively drawn his sidearm. He shoved it forward and pulled the trigger. The noise of the firearm going off seemed terribly loud in the confined space. He heard the bullet strike the far wall and realized it had gone right through the corpse.
They heard a strange noise, almost like a whip, and the sound of a body striking the floor.
Blatherstone had backed up to the wall, still screaming in terror. She slid down to the floor and cowered in a ball as the thing that had been Santana, apparently glowing in its own light, continued to approach her. More arms sprouted out of the thing’s sides and it was hunching down, almost like a spider. She thought she could hear it muttering, in a high-pitched voice, something about killing the white man.
“I’m a woman!” she screamed.
Petrova flung open the door and fled the room screaming.
In the light from the hall, Crispy could see Blatherstone cowering against the wall to his right. Gutierrez was lying on the ground to his left, insensible. Santana still sat on the examination table, a smoking gunshot wound in his right shoulder, his right arm almost dislocated by the blast. The arm hung at a strange angle but moved in a weird, liquid-like fashion and made Crispy feel sick to his stomach.
Crispy dropped to the ground behind the table and fired another shot at Santana, the bullet going right through the examination table. He saw blood fly out from somewhere in Santana’s gut and heard the bullet strike the ceiling. The dead man looked around and then slid off the left side of the table, his left foot making an audible crunch as it bent sideways and the man put his weight on the shattered ankle. He picked up one of the scalpels from the small cart by the table.
Blatherstone continued to scream. She didn’t know what to make of the horror in front of her as Santana was also standing across the room.
“There are two of them!” she screamed. “Spiders! Spiders!”
* * *
Petrova slammed through a pair of swinging doors and almost ran into four men in black suits running her way. She could see that two of them were armed with H&K MP5 SSD submachine guns, each of them equipped with a silencer. The other two had square shaped handguns in their hands. They ran by her as she fled.
* * *
Crispy painfully got to his feet and moved around the examination table, trying to keep it between himself and the walking dead man. He shot Santana again, the bullet going very low and splitting his right foot. A silvery filament that glistened with blood spewed out of the incision on Santana’s chest and struck him. He felt several pinpricks where it had hit and then felt terribly lethargic. He stumbled to the ground, dropping his pistol, and fell to the floor. He found that he was, horribly, still conscious but could not move at all.
The filaments went back into the body and Santana looked down at the man with his one remaining eye. Then, he looked over his shoulder at Gutierrez. He turned and knelt next to the physician.
Blatherstone shook her head as the horrible apparition in front of her vanished as if it had never been there. In the light from the hallway, she saw Gutierrez and Crispy lying on the floor, Santana kneeling over the former with a scalpel in his hand. She drew her sidearm and shot Santana, the bullet striking the man in the lower back.
The man jerked away from her and then stood up and turned. She screamed.
He moved around the table and she fired at him again, the bullet completely missing. From the incision on the man’s lower chest, filaments lashed out at the woman but she ducked to one side and they struck the wall, leaving some kind of residue. The filaments retracted back into the man with terrible speed. She continued to scream and the light from the doorway dimmed as several figures appeared there.
“It’s up! It’s up!” the first man yelled.
The two figures ducked to either side and were almost instantly replaced by two more men, both of them armed with handguns. When one fired, there was more of a pop than an explosion and Dr. Blatherstone saw that wires now connected the gun to Santana. With a crackle of electricity the walking dead man jerked. The man had a taser gun. Despite the jolt of electricity, Santana still did not fall!
She shot Santana in the shoulder but he just turned away from her.
The second man in the doorway fired his taser gun and the probes found their target. Santana jerked like a puppet on a string again. Still, he did not fall. Then the filaments lashed out of his body and struck the doorjamb near the first taser gun wielding man.
Dr. Blatherstone fired at Santana again, this time aiming at his abdomen. Both tasers were still crackling with electricity but Santana stood there, using his left hand to brace himself against the examination table. The thing lashed out from his gut again and struck one of the men who fell with a cry and then lay still in the doorway.
Blatherstone’s next shot missed the dead man as he jerked and swayed, electricity still coursing through him. Another man in a suit appeared in the doorway, this one armed with a submachine gun.
“Is it going down or do you need me to put it down?” he asked his companion.
“Put it down!” Dr. Blatherstone said. “Put it down!”
He ignored her and she fired at Santana again, hitting the man in the abdomen. This time, the body staggered and then dropped to the ground as if all of the life had suddenly gone out of it.
“Go! Go!” the man with the taser said.
The second man stepped into the room and pointed his weapon at Dr. Blatherstone. A third man entered, also armed with a submachine gun, and covered the rest of the room. The man with the taser rolled over Santana’s body, gripped the incision in the abdomen, and pulled it open.
“God damn it!” he said. “It will have to do.”
Putting on rubber gloves, he took what looked like a gallon-sized plastic baggie from an inside pocket and then reached into Santana’s gut, drawing forth a strange, silvery cluster of ganglia at the nexus of a web of nerve filaments. It was covered in blood and ichor. He shoved it into the plastic baggie and zipped it shut.
“I’m a doctor,” Dr. Blatherstone said, putting her sidearm away.
She went to examine Crispy and was surprised to find him still alive.
The man who had taken the thing out of Santana took what looked like a maglite out of his pocket, but when it turned it on, it gave off a weird, unsettling, electric-blue light. He shined it around the room and when it lit on the spot where the thing had almost struck her, he stopped. He walked over to the wall and wiped it with his handkerchief, then stuck the handkerchief into another baggie.
* * *
Petrova had finally come to her senses and headed back to the autopsy room. She passed a few people who wondered aloud what was going on and one older man who claimed he’d heard gunshots. When she got back to the hall, she drew her sidearm, going through the swinging doors.
A man in a black suit lay in the hallway just outside the door, not moving. A taser gun lay on the floor next to him. She checked him and found him alive.
“Agent Petrova, FBI,” she said, looking into the room.
The three men in black turned her way, two of them aiming weapons at her.
“Let’s go,” the third man said.
They all moved to the door. The unarmed man picked up their unconscious confederate in a fireman’s carry and headed down the hall. One of the men continued to point a submachine gun at her as he passed while the other one wiped the doorjamb with a handkerchief. They followed the other man down the hallway, backing up until they got to the swinging doors.
She walked into the room, pointing her weapon at Santana’s body as she went around him, and found Blatherstone examining Crispy, who was alive but unresponsive. She found Gutierrez in the same state.
“They took it out of him, so you don’t have to worry,” Dr. Blatherstone said to Petrova.
She dragged Santana’s body onto the table with Petrova’s help and started to examine it.
“What about Crispy?” Petrova asked.
“He’s fine,” Dr. Blatherstone replied. “There may be more residue or something inside this cavity.”
Petrova checked Crispy, despite Dr. Blatherstone’s protests that she had already done it. He was alive, conscious, but didn’t seem responsive. Dr. Blatherstone worked on the body but could not find anything out of the ordinary within. She cursed.
“What happened?” Agent Petrova asked. “What happened? What happened?”
“Apparently, the crazy-ass theory from the journal from your Agent Grant was right,” Dr. Blatherstone said.
“He was pregnant with an alien. It was an alien in the body and it shot out this thing that filled tem with the toxin.”
Within a few minutes, both Gutierrez and Crispy were on their feet.
“I told you as much,” Crispy hissed.
“No, you didn’t!” Agent Petrova said.
“You said, and I will read you from Agent Grant’s notes, ‘Gestation is also a psychological term,’” Dr. Blatherstone said.
“That’s what I said because she was trying to get me retired,” he replied. “Gutierrez, your recording, is it still going on?”
“Yes, I’ve got it right here,” the doctor said. “What the hell just happened?”
“How exactly do we explain what happened?” Agent Petrova said.
“I have an idea,” Agent Crispy said. “I know exactly what to say.”
“You do?” Agent Petrova said.
“We’ll say that he was carrying illegal drugs of a very high potency, and that he was a mule,” Agent Crispy replied. “Once we started to autopsy, we inadvertently released these drugs in aerosol form unto ourselves and we panicked. We opened fire on the hallucinations. I will take the blame for every shot that was fired.”
Medical personnel and police soon arrived in the room. After some confusion, a cover story was issued to the police. Dr. Blatherstone made sure that she tucked Dr. Gutierrez’s tape into her pocket before she left.
* * *
On the morning of August 14, 1997, Agent Crispy got a cellular phone call from what sounded like a black woman. She told him she wanted a face-to-face meeting, asking that he arrange for the three agents who had been involved in the Santana case to meet her at the Hall of Flame Museum of Fire-Fighting at noon the next day.
“I’ll find you,” she said.
* * *
At noon on August 15, 1997, the three agents were at the museum and were approached by a thirtyish, dark-skinned African-American woman wearing trendy, expensive clothes, and John Lennon-style shades, who had long dreadlocks. She looked like an executive from a record company.
“I’ve been calling you,” she said to Crispy. “You sound a lot taller on the phone.”
“You sound a lot more ethnic on the phone,” he replied.
“Well, thank you very much sir,” she said with a grin. “There’s a clandestine organization in the intelligence community that has an unhealthy interest in acquiring non-terrestrial technology. The idea of government operatives exploiting alien technology might have sounded like bullshit a month ago, but you saw what was curled up in Santana’s gut.”
“Yes, I did,” Dr. Blatherstone muttered.
“I’m not with those people and neither are the others I work with,” the black woman went on. She directed their attention to one of the fire engines on display. “The people I work with are a lot like the men who use to ride around on these fire engines. We put out fires before anyone can smell the smoke. If you want to be a part of this, then say so now. But don’t say ‘yes’ unless you’re sure. This is one club you don’t get to quit.”
“I have nothing better to do with my life than put out the fires that spring up,” Agent Crispy muttered. “But I don’t think I’ll be much use to the FBI any longer.”
“Well, you’ll be staying in the FBI, at least on the surface,” the woman said. “How about you, Miss Blatherstone?”
“Well …” the other woman hesitantly said as Crispy sighed.
“We might even be able to find out how you were burned, Mr. Crispy,” the woman went on. “Who was behind it and why they did it. It wasn’t exactly what you think. You were too close to something.”
“I was a college student,” Crispy whispered.
“Uh-huh, exactly,” she replied.
“How about you, Miss Blatherstone?” the woman said. “Don’t you want to know what was curled up inside of there? I’m sure you tried to get a sample.”
“I tried,” Dr. Blatherstone said.
“These things are all over,” the woman went on. “Not these specifically, but situations like this. We’re trying to keep a lid on it as best we can.”
“I’m sure you could use my expertise.”
“Yes we can.”
The woman turned to Agent Petrova.
“Miss Petrova, why did your folks leave Russia?” the woman asked. “It wasn’t just to find freedom in the United States, you know. They were part of something that was hidden under the Kremlin. They had good reason to leave.”
Petrova looked at the woman for a long time.
“Yes or no, Miss Petrova,” the black woman said. “I need to know if you want to be part of it. It’s your choice.”
“At this point, it doesn’t feel like much of a choice,” Agent Petrova finally said.
“It is a choice,” the woman quickly said. “If you say ‘no,’ you’ll never hear from me again. And you’ll also never, well, you’ll never be able to be a part of it again.”
“But I’ll always remember.”
“Like I said, not much of a choice, so yeah.”
“I’m with a group called Delta Green,” the woman said. “We deal with the elimination and obscuration of preternatural phenomena that pose a threat to our citizens and this country. The existence of these phenomena cannot be allowed to come to the public’s attention. The damage to society, both physical and psychological, would be catastrophic. Now that you’re in Delta Green, you’ll have to play by our rules. Rules one is ‘Deny everything.’ Delta Green does not exist and neither do preternatural phenomena. Someday the time might be right ― but that day ain’t today.”
She smiled at them.
“Delta Green will be in touch with you if something comes up in your geographic area, or if the situation suits your talents,” she said. “In the meantime, if you stumble across something that could require Delta Green attention, you can call me on my cellular phone.”
He drew out a piece of paper and handed it to Agent Crispy.
“Please share that with the others,” she said. “We will be as much help as we can be.”
She smiled again.
“We’ll be in touch,” she said. “Oh, and don’t try to follow me. I don’t want to have to embarrass you by ditching you.”
She gave them a strange salute like an “okay” sign, the circle of her forefinger and thumb raised briefly around her right eyes.
“Be seeing you,” she said and left.
They didn’t try to follow her.