Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chapter SEVEN

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” – Amendment VIII

GLP had experienced many changes since 2006, all in an effort to stop the spread of damning information. At one point it became a “pay only” site, requiring credit card information and a monthly fee in order to participate in any conversations. I was able to get around this with bogus personal information and company credit cards. I was not the only one. The ingenuity of persistent individuals finally forced GLP to shut down, but not before I was contacted, again, through a personal message. Another set of numbers was provided that led me to another well-thought out web page. Only this time it wasn’t a movie, but an address along with specific directions to get there. I immediately wrote the information down, completing my last entry before the screen went blank. Apparently this too had a “self-destruct” time limit on it. Refreshing the screen or retyping the address would again reward me with a “No longer available” message.

Again my home phone rang, only this time I didn’t wait three rings before answering nor did I greet the caller. In silence I listened to the computerized voice telling me before disconnection, “Three days.” I stared at the address I had just written down noticing the city and state was about three days drive from me, if I drove non-stop.

I had a decision to make. My life had changed to some degree with the intrusions and relentless efforts to stop the spread of truth, but I still woke every morning, showered and dressed in my suit for work. I still paid my bills, well, the important ones, so missing six or more days of work would not be favorable to me or the bill collectors who seem to be the only other people aware of my home phone number now.

“Three days” the voice resounded in my head. I stood in the middle of my living room briefly scoping what items I’d need to take with me. I knew for sure my guns. They were outlawed now and anyone caught with a firearm that wasn’t police or military were serving some hard time. The last I’d heard was a minimum of five years per firearm discovered in the possession of an unlicensed person. I owned two.

My 9mm handgun was easy enough to hide; my long barrel .22 was not. Even though the .22 was not the most damaging gun, it was always my favorite. It had such an intimidating look to it, reminding me every time I brought it out of the old mafia movies where the .22 was always a hit man’s weapon of choice. I held it in my hand, feeling the cold steel against my fingers, noticing in awe how perfect the grip still fit within my palm. It had been a long time since I took these guns out, too afraid of being discovered.

It takes a unique individual to love a gun. It wasn’t so much the manufactured parts, so perfectly connected. It wasn’t the power traveling up your arm when you pulled the trigger, or even the loud percussion that echoed right through you when fired. It was the deeply embedded belief that this country was founded on the freedoms to own these beautiful toys. Still angered at the complacency of this country’s citizens, I finally decided against bringing these guns with me. I wrapped them back up, put them both back into an old cardboard box and secured them, once again, in my fireproof safe. A safe I had built into my bedroom wall when gun ownership became proprietary.

I packed some clothes, locked up my home and filled my car with gas. The only things I brought with me were the address and a few music CD’s to help the trip a little more tolerable. Within an hour, I was on the road. Within three hours, I was already tired of the CDs I’d brought along to entertain me.

I wasn’t on the road maybe 12 hours when I noticed her. A beautiful bronze woman with her thumb out, getting more irritated with each passing car that neglected to stop. As I slowly approached her, I thought to myself, “How in the world could any man pass her up?” I didn’t. I wanted some company and what better than a beautiful woman. She opened the passenger side door and peeked in.

“You’re not an ax murderer or rapist are you?” spoken with a southern twang to her voice. I remember very clearly how her long hair hung to one side when she spoke. She had the most stunning eyes; a crystal clear green color with tiny flecks of yellow that perfectly complemented the deep burnt red color of her hair. She wore cut-off shorts made from an obviously favorite pair of jeans, caressing her ass in perfect form, harmonized by a white Tank top and no bra, a look that worked wonders for me since she wasn’t “top heavy” as some would say. I envisioned in my mind, like most men can, what a perfect fit her breasts would be in the cup of my hands.

“Hell of an introduction,” I responded, showcasing my best smile. “Come on, you’re safe with me.”

She never asked me where we were going nor did she indicate a desired location. I would’ve normally found this odd except my mind was too busy trying to guess which hillbilly state her accent suggested. Despite my questions and seemingly stupid revelations of personal information, I was unable to break her silence. I had imagined her story from very different perspectives, wondering if I’d guess the right one.

What broke her silence was a close call, my mistake, when I dozed off for a moment while driving. She reacted quickly, grabbing the steering wheel, veering us away from a rather large oak tree.

“Jesus CHRIST!” she yelled. “I’m driving!”

“You don’t know where I’m going,” I responded with newfound alertness.

“Doesn’t matter, just point me in the right direction and I’ll drive until you tell me to stop.”
Now I have to admit, I was turned on by her authoritative nature. That and the way her bare thigh shoved against mine as she slid from the passenger seat to the driver’s, reluctantly forcing me to open my door, walk around the car, and take my place in the passenger’s seat.

“Just drive that way,” showing her the direction with the nod of my head. “I’m putting all my faith into a girl that doesn’t smile, you know that right?”

“I know.” Her eyes met mine. It was the first time I saw her smile. She drove us another few hundred miles, stopping only to eat and refill the gas tank. With a dialog finally opened, we talked endlessly, sharing intimate details of each other’s lives and history. Her name was Celeste Armstrong, and she was on the run after she had shot and killed two officers during a raid of her family’s home in Kentucky when the whole gun thing was taking place. Apparently, after my own heart, she too was a gun enthusiast and diehard American, though her ancestry was Scottish immigrants. At one time she opened her carryall bag and showed me her own pride and joy.

“It’s not the best there is, but it’s all I was able to get away with,” she tried to explain, afraid I’d be embarrassed at its size. It was a little “Belly-Gun” as we called them. A .22 revolver that held six hollow point magnum bullets. This gun was small enough to go undetected in the pockets of any loose fitting pants. She, however, carried it in a cosmetic bag, buried underneath the lipsticks and eyeliners she stored. In trade of her confidence, I shared with her everything I’d learned about 9/11, the government and all the events that led us together, which she seemed most interested in learning.

We had made great time on the road, so much that she suggested we sleep in a real bed on our second night traveling, pulling into the parking lot of a Motel 8 which sat isolated amidst the mountain ranges that served as a painted backdrop to its rustic structure.

“Well, this is cozy.” Commenting on the scenery as she dropped some quarters in a soda machine and waited for the can of 7-Up to fall. “I’ll bet our room is just as warm and friendly.” She smiled brightly with an aura of innocence that had me silently questioning our sleeping arrangements.

She took out two little bottles of tequila from her cosmetics bag, grabbed two plastic cups from the motel bathroom and emptied a bottle in each, followed by an equal distribution of soda. We both sat on the end of the bed, with cup in hand, as she toasted our thirst with a “Bottom’s UP.”
Our first kiss was as anticipated as a child’s Christmas Eve. I knew it would happen, I’d known since the moment she first smiled that I would, if nothing else, feel her lips on mine. The sweet hint of tequila on her breath as she leaned into me was more intoxicating than the alcohol itself, and once our lips touched, once I felt her moist tongue mingle with mine, I knew I’d feel myself deep inside her as we both climaxed. We fell asleep tangled within each others embrace.

We woke up early, showered and once again resumed our travels, enjoying the soothing sounds of old time rock and roll on a car stereo that could only get three stations. That was until there was a news break about a racial incident in California. E Coli was big news for some time, found in spinach and lettuce. About 150 people had perished in eight months’ time since these subtle attacks began. It was being reported that the string of food poisoning was intentional. The illegal immigrants hired to manage the crops were outraged at the lack of attention they demanded from our government and retaliated in the only manner they knew how. As a result, some vigilantes decided to even the score with sniper rifles. The air surrounding me changed just a bit when I heard this report. It was one of many that seemed to dominate the news almost daily now. I felt like a tightrope walker attempting to cross the grand canyon with only one man on each side to hold the rope steady; taking small strides, focusing intensely on my balance, only to discover these men commissioned to aid me hate each other, and I’m helplessly at their mercy. Hate, like any other strong emotion, has a tendency to block out rationality and a tug-of-war is eminent with no regard to the life they hold in the palms of their hands. Celeste must have sensed this same uncomfortable build up, as she remained equally silent during the broadcast.

It was still dark when we pulled up to the address stipulated on the paper I carried with me. I could only see the outline of the house defined by the now dark blue color of a sky waking up. We sat in silence, taking full notice of the neighborhood and surrounding buildings, feeling more and more like the last two people on the planet until daylight began its reign. As the sky lit up in subtle orange and red streaks it became obvious the house was abandoned. We watched a man approach a drug store on the corner, open the door and turn on the lights before flipping the “Closed” sign to “Open”. With a kiss on my cheek, Celeste and I parted ways. She ventured to the drug store while I convinced myself to investigate the old dingy, mint-green house which had busted out windows and no doors. The extensive graffiti both inside and outside told me this place had long been forgotten. Even more numbing was the splattering of dried blood still sprayed on the walls and ceilings, complemented by the dark brown spots on the carpets. If I was to meet someone here, then I was most definitely too late. I knelt down beside one of the larger brown spots, touching it to see if it was tacky or crusted, looking for a timeline that would give away any information to this home’s history. The spot I touched on the carpet flaked off in minuscule particles, showing me what took place here happened long before I was contacted. My next thought was the possibility that something had been left here for me to find. I began exploring each room, tapping on the walls and lifting torn areas of carpet looking for this unknown item. The kitchen had no cupboard doors nor any carpet; only remnants of tile, also stained and discolored by neglect, and bare openings in the countertops that housed a sink and fixtures. The bathroom was equally unimpressive. The only removable items in this entire house were the toilet, tub and god awful odor that lingered in the small room. The bathroom also had the only unmarked walls; barren of the artistic work of vandals equally offended by the putrid odor. I looked in the toilet filled with a brown thick liquid from which the odor originated. ‘They couldn’t POSSIBLY expect me to look there!’ I remember thinking to myself. I looked around the bathroom for an item I could use instead of my hand, and to my dismay found nothing.

I held my breath and just before I inserted my hand into the unknown substance I could only speculate on, I heard women screaming. I thought immediately of Celeste. Without a second thought and a sigh of relief I quickly found my way out of the house only to be abruptly greeted by two policemen, guns drawn, yelling at me to lay on the ground with my hands on the back of my head. I had a chance to look up in the direction Celeste went as they were handcuffing me and noticed her beautiful red hair fanned out on the concrete. It was all I could see of her with the crowd now hovering over her motionless figure. My heart was ripped out of my chest cage and replaced with a rage I’d never experienced before. I tried my best to fight the police, only to be rewarded with a hard punch to the face, followed by more hits to my torso, and when I was down again, graduated to kicks. It was an unfair battle considering I was in handcuffs and totally at the mercy of their abuse.

For my first time in the back of the cruiser, I thought I handled myself quite well. I knew enough of my rights still existed to not say a word. In my best effort to ignore the burning and swelling my body was experiencing, my thoughts focused on Celeste. It struck me as very odd they would focus their attention on me when a young woman was killed not 100 feet from them. In fact, thinking back now on that day, they never even looked in that direction! I couldn’t understand why she was a victim. She was merely a passenger! All I could think was that she was recognized for the crimes she committed and the law finally caught up to her. I’m not one prone to tears, but sitting in the back of that cruiser, replaying the previous night over in my head to the point of actually smelling the Honey Dew scent of the body lotion she used, I gave in; not sobs, not obvious weeping, but tears. Tears that were as much my enemy now as was the knowledge I kept collecting regarding this country. Tears were a sign of weakness and silence was now my best friend.

Because I volunteered no information nor asked any questions, I could only assume my arrest was some sort of Breaking and Entering charge, although I felt the treatment I’d received was a bit harsh considering the condition of that home. I tried to rationalize how a B&E charge could stick when the house in question had no doors, windows or tenants, let alone anything worth stealing. Then I thought back to the gun Celeste had shown me and was hit with that now seemingly regular feeling of despair. Did she take it with her or did she leave it in my car for them to find? Is that gun why she was killed and I arrested?

After realizing their relentless questioning and ridiculous speculations weren’t working, they booked me; fingerprints, photo, my Miranda rights read, the works. Because I never satisfied them with even a single syllable, they used my driver’s license to get all their information for their paperwork before ending our short relationship with a final shove into a community holding cell with only one other man there to keep me company. The acidic smell of urine in the stagnant cell was so potent it made my eyes water. I struggled for a moment to find my own bench on which to sit, as far away from the source of this odor as I could possibly be, without much success.

I sat opposite this man for quite some time, having a staring contest of sorts. He was very dirty with ripped pants, looking more like sweatpants than slacks. He had on a long sleeve plaid shirt and his hair looked as if it hadn’t been combed for a week. He was unshaven, well beyond the fashionable “Five o’clock shadow,” and his shoes showed his toes, though they weren’t sandals. I couldn’t help but wonder if this man was the cause of the smell which my senses hadn’t yet become numb to. What struck me most odd about this man was the trench coat he was wearing, also decorated with stains and tears, accented with cigarette holes burnt into the sleeves and lapel. We were in the middle of August, the hottest month this part of the nation had seen in almost three decades. So picture this, there we were, sitting across from each other, my hands folded across my chest and his hidden in his pockets; well, semi-hidden as you could see his fingers poking through the obviously torn seams. I could only imagine what the sight of me must have been like, bloodied and bruised with my own dirty clothes hiding the signs of the beating my torso took.

We both broke our gaze to look at the guard unlocking the cell. “Mr. Jones, lets go.” I chuckled to myself at the “originality” of his name then looked down at his feet as he walked by, trying my best to avoid any further eye contact. I noticed his right foot turned inward just a bit when he stepped. A convenient distraction as my thoughts shifted to the dozen possible explanations for his imperfection. That was until he said something that snapped my attention back to his eyes. It was a whisper, barely audible, but distinct. “Three days,” he said, and before I could stop him he was already out of the cell and out of my sight. All I could remember thinking was, “What the Hell?”

I could feel this tingling deep inside of me, an unpleasant tickle that irritated me. I knew what this feeling was; it was anxiety. It was the beginning of an attack of impatience and rage. I started pacing the cell for some relief, mimicking in my mind a caged lion, when I noticed what appeared to be a cigarette lighter laying below the bench the man had been sitting on. I stared at it for some time before I realized it wasn’t a lighter but a very small voice recorder. I casually scoped the room in an effort to spot any signs of being watched. I looked for hidden cameras before peeking through the bars of my cage for any nearby guards or incoming companionship. When I felt confident I was left to my own devices, and using my pacing around the cell as cover, I swept up the small object and put it in my pocket as quickly as possible, never once missing a step.

I continued pacing the cell, my thoughts totally absorbed in the many events that had taken place in such a short period of time. Flashes of Celeste invaded my thoughts every time I tried to focus on the recorder and why that man had left it for me. I was unaware of how long I’d been pacing until once again, the cell door was unlocked and opened. The guard didn’t respectfully call out my name as he did the gentleman before me. He just stood there, impatiently waiting for me to exit, and I made sure not to keep him waiting long. No one led me to another location nor informed me I was free to go. The officer holding the cell door was as much consideration that was afforded me. I did notice a clean cut man in a light blue suit and dark sunglasses sitting in the corner below a large clock that indicated eight hours had passed since I was arrested. I couldn’t definitively tell if he was watching but sensed his eyes following me until I was finally in the graces of the late afternoon sunlight. I took a deep breath, inhaling as much fresh air as I could, appreciating for the first time the smell of Wallflowers and Petunias, before I noticed my car was parked in front of the station. I patted my pockets looking for my keys at the same time making sure the recorder was still where I put it. The tape was there, my keys were not. When I turned around to reenter the police station for my keys, I was startled by the man in the blue suit standing so close to me there was little space between our bodies. He held up his hand and dangled my keys before dropping them to the ground, then turned around and walked down the street. I never released my eyes from him as I knelt down and grabbed my keys. “What the hell?” I exhaled as he turned the corner and disappeared out of sigh, but not before I noticed the slight inward twist in his stride. I tried to follow him, not really to talk but to validate a nagging suspicion. Upon turning the same corner, and at the risk of sounding like a cliché, he wasn’t there.

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