I am the italicized character that has been commenting throughout this series. Daniel has asked me to summarize the story in this chapter. He has experienced some technical problems with his computer equipment, thus the delay in presenting the chapter.
For the record, I see this series as an exercise of Daniel’s persistent puerility. I encouraged him long ago to put his talents to use in an occupation or a suitable career. But as many of his generation, he resisted the advice of elders and pursued a path of his own making. There is some talent here, but the readily apparent pursuit of flash and flourish is the bane of the autodidact and his shortcoming.
To summarize the events of the first two installments of this three-part chapter: Learning that danger stalked his new-found female friend Damon has once again made the trek to the Monterey Bay region to assist her. Louise, the proprietor of the Sandman Motel, has enlisted the begrudging aid of her step son DJ. DJ has directed Damon to a promontory outside of Carmel where a tower that is a part of The Process network is located. DJ, who is more comfortable in greasy surroundings, informed Damon that there is a shack under the tower where the peripatetic Jay Clover likes to bring his prey. DJ indicated that Clover had stopped by the motel and coaxed the young lady to come away with him. Damon with Fritz, the black German shepherd, leaves his car roadside, climbs up the fog-enshrouded wooded hill and encounters a fictional detective. We find Damon outside the fenced-in shack with Jay Clover, a gagged and bound Wendy, and a ferocious guard dog inside...
After Fenton Hardy disappeared the guard dog was let out of the shack and was raging at the fence line.
Fritz and I ducked back into the wooded recesses. I needed to put a plan in play pronto. There was a problem – I did not have a plan.
"I do,” Fritz said. Until this moment I sort of knew what the beast was thinking, but the voice was still a surprise.
"You can figure out your hearing voices thing later. First things first, we have a girl in there under duress. She is my leader and my instincts call me to guard her however I can, whatever the risks. If we can get over or under that fence then I can deal with the one beast. You deal with the other one."
A brilliant analysis of our predicament, bowser. But that's a locked gate, I saw the padlock swinging there.
We were crouched by the Jeep as the Presa barked and growled.
I wondered if Jay had left keys. I opened the thin driver's side door. I felt the dash and found the keys left in the ignition. A plan formed – crash the gate…
"Not a bad idea,” said the dog. “Let's do it this way. Run the Jeep into the widest stretch of fence. That should lift some of the fence off the ground. Once you do that, jump out and get the big dog's attention. If he's like every other dog, he's going to go after you. If he does what I'm sure he'll do; he'll jump at you. He'll hit the fence and hopefully fall back down. At just that moment I can attack his throat. He'll swing me around. He's bigger. But I won't let go. That's going to give you a chance to slip under the fence and bust through the door. Then, my human friend, you are on your own. My paws and jaws will be full."
I scrambled into the Jeep. I started the engine and fudged it into gear. I popped the clutch and pressed the gas. The vehicle jumped, screeched and tore into the fence. Branches swept the windshield. Gasoline vapors filled he airy cab. The force of the hit pushed my head into the glass. I was jerked back and forth. I could feel blood running down my face.
The chain link had lifted. I hopped out and waved my arms. The Presa charged, as Fritz had said. The big dog emitted a hurt whine when he smashed into the unseen chain link. He slipped down to the ground, his hind legs kicking wildly. I saw a black flash and Fritz was on the beast just as planned. Unearthly howls and guttural grunts ensued as the two canines joined in a death match. I left the Jeep in gear tilted at an extreme angle and caught on the fence. The engine screamed.
I acted without thinking; there were few options. I dove under the fence. I streaked to the door. I burst into the shack. I expected to be met with a bullet, a baseball bat or Jay Clover's fist. I stumbled into the brightly lit room. I scraped my knee on the rough cement floor. Wendy's wide open eyes directed me to Jay.
Jay sat on a wooden stool in front of a wall of lights and switches. He kept his back to me. The wall looked like a 50s sci-fi movie set. Things flashed, whirred and smoked. The air smelled like every Americans uncle’s driveway on the 4th of July.
“Look what the wind blew in. If it’s not the world-famous Damon Walters, make that E. Pardon my manners, I’d rise to meet you but I’m busy saving the world from from some seriously fucked-up destruction here. How you did you get past my Canario?”
I rubbed my aching, scratched knee. The girl implored. I moved her way. I decided to humor Jay while I did whatever I could to free the girl. “I introduced him to a friend and they hit it off.”
“I’m sure you think you’re funny. I assure you that when I can get away from this, I will do to you whatever you did to him. You have any idea what those dogs cost?” He worked feverishly at the switches and levers. A monitor blipped lines in green on a dark gray background.
I went to the cot. I untangled the girl from her leather restraints.
“I know what you’re thinking. You with your noble intentions. But the fact is the missy was willing. She wanted a check. I got some sellable shots till the tower went wacko.”
Wendy still gagged was saying no with her eyes. I had seen photos like the ones I could imagine Jay was making. I had seen them on magazines and books. Yes they caught my interest, but to see a person bound and gagged up close was a very different sensation. The scene was dull, ugly and smelled. There was no appeal in the nudity; I was revolted and ashamed.
I wrapped her in my thin jacket and brought her to her wobbly feet.
“Walters, this is more powerful than anything you will ever be close to again. You can’t begin to understand the forces arrayed against me on this night. When the world learns what we have built here there will be shock and reverence.” He sat rigid on the stool with his eyes fixed on the screen. Crimson flashes illuminated the night outside the dirty little window. The ground throbbed with an electric force.
I hustled the girl outside. From the lack of sounds of struggle it seemed the battle of the dogs was over; no telling the outcome. I pulled Wendy through the fence opening. We crashed through wet brush, branches stung and evergreen needles cut. I had given her my light jacket. I wore a short sleeve button collar shirt and khakis. This was straight flight. The dark woods were their usual spooky. Wendy did the horror-show slip with twisted ankle. She held onto my shoulder. We found the road and the going was faster. There was a glow from what I thought to be the bottom of the hill. We did not exchange words, just harsh strained breathing.
The light was at the edge of night, the gray/black that reveals shapes and forms. A presence formed in the middle of the road. The shape was tall and wore a poncho with a straight-brimmed hat. A match flared as the man lit a cheroot. The flash revealed a steely handsome man with a serious demeanor under the wide brim. Flinty eyes. A terse even voice said, "Running from something?"
We stopped dead, "Well, let me explain…"
"No need to explain. Clover had something to do with this?"
"Yes as a matter of fact…"
"You see the peeper?"
"Mr. Hardy you mean? Well…"
"I want the peeper. I don't care about Clover's business."
"He just disappeared. Are you a lawman?" I asked insipidly.
"Just a man running for mayor. Folks here like a decent town."
"That's real nice. I'd like to get this girl to somewhere warm." The jacket left her bare legs uncovered. I was soaked in my shirt. I wanted to get the girl back to Lou's and my ass to San Francisco. I had no time for politics.
"Adios, my friend. Good luck," I said as we limped away on the slick ground.
"Keep to the edges, you're heading towards danger. And, Walters…"
"We're keeping Carmel clean," he said tersely, the cigar still in his teeth.
Now that we had stopped running I noticed the encroaching effects of Process exposure. I was in an aquarium full of silver/gray amoeba beings swimming in unison, below and beyond the caped man yellow lights and shapes flickered and danced. The swoosh of tires from the freeway and wet wind disturbing the trees sounded. The all too familiar sensations. But I was beginning to notice that I could ward them off when I concentrated on the matters at hand; especially when the solution to a dilemma required me to step out of character.
I took the caballero's advice and steered Wendy to the brush at the side of the road. There seemed to be an unusual amount of cars parked off the highway. Men in dark clothing milled around what appeared to be a fleet of Dodge Aspens. Radio chatter punctuated frenetic activity as the men rushed to and fro.
It was easy to see that ‘something big was going down’; I had seen my share of TV shows. That the big thing concerned whatever was happening at the tower was also easy to surmise as flashes of light were coming down the hill and illuminating the scene. I decided to push my luck, to carry the new-found confidence forward.
The cars that bordered the highway and spilled an assortment of lights were primarily Dodge Aspens; some maroon, some gray like mine. Sometimes events ride on a cloud of chance – a word misunderstood, an errant assumption, a convenient shadow. I steeled myself for entry into the circle of authority. We moved along the fringe of the activity unnoticed.
Wendy remained silent throughout. She had made an attempt to speak, but may have spent her voice with Jay Clover well before I arrived. She slipped into the passenger side door of my car that had been left close to the trailhead.
I strolled through the web of Aspens to a knot of officers shuffling in the cool night air. I squared my shoulders. I combed my hair straight back with my fingers. I burst into the middle of the men and took a commanding posture – I jutted the chin of my thankfully Irish face. Despite my lack of a uniform and the splotches of blood on my clothes the men gathered around me. The occupation attracts the loyal followers – the FBI, KGB and other agencies recruit from the farms because they are loyal and take orders. "Gentlemen," I roared. “There is a target in the structure under the tower. Care must be taken as this man may be armed. We want him alive. Be cautious. Now, break into two groups and advance on the tower from either side of the road."
I could see that there were several agencies present with the mysterious, and Aspen driving, CBI chief among them.
"And whose authority are you?" a New York accent. Shit, my luck, there was a New Yorker among them. I continued the act, picked a random name and winged it. "This comes straight from Campbell!" I shouted.
Bull's-eye. Apparently this Campbell had some serious clout because the men split like fire ants on a honey-drenched horse thief, scurried obediently to the sides, and scrambled upward.
I rejoined the still silent Wendy who huddled under the scant cover of the light jacket. I might have had some stuff in the trunk, but I wanted to get out of there before I looked. I jockeyed the Aspen out from the tangled of its four wheeled cousins.
As I neared the highway another Aspen squealed to a stop in front of mine and out popped the blond agents that had fucked with me back in Monterey. "Campbell's got everybody going up the hill to the tower," I shouted from my rolled down window. "I've got to get this girl to a hospital pronto. So get that piece of shit out of my way!" The blonds stared at each other like a puppies at a mirror. "Now!"
One of the chubby blonds jacked the maroon Aspen out of my way. I short-waved him adios as I set for Monterey on the Cabrillo.
Dissonant music of mixed melodies blended with the rush of wind on the cheap car’s shaking windows. They’re playing Ives again? Fuck that. I pounded the buttons to change the station but the radio was not turned on. I reached back and grabbed an 8-track, buy one get eleven for a penny. I slammed it in, max volume - “tramps like us”.