West with the Night.
~ By Beryl Markham
1215 Hours, 13 July 2013, US 15/29 Lee Highway, Warrenton, Virginia:
ana drove southwest from Haymarket. As she approached Warrenton, she kept to the right and took the US29B business exit onto Broadview Avenue. Broadview ran west then turned south, around the old town area. God, I feel dry. She turned right into the Exxon gas station and parked by the ice machine at the corner of the building. She noticed a bronze Chevy Suburban behind her that drove in and parked at a pump under the canopy.
After a wait in line inside the market, Dana bought a bottle of water. She tucked the bills and change into a front pocket of her jeans. The bronze suburban was still there.
On Broadview Avenue south, she turned to the right to continue on the Lee Highway US-211. This would take her all the way to Newmarket at the I-81 along a winding highway. Before Newmarket there was Luray where she read the sign and laughed. It read Jelly Stone Recreation Park.
“Who would have figured,” she said out loud.
She was still laughing when she came to the turnoff for East Main Street in Luray. Just across the intersection of Reservoir Street, she saw a statue on one corner and restaurant on the other—a Hardees.
“Damn, now I’m hungry,” she mumbled to herself.
She pulled into Hardees and parked. After another wait in a line, she sat at a table for two and ate. Getting a refill of her drink, she went to the parking lot and noticed the statue again on the opposite corner. The walk to the statue corner was short. The sign read Confederate Soldiers Monument. She studied the monument for a while, remembering what a California historian and reenactor had told her once as she’d been observing a similar statue in Pasadena. “There were over twenty-five thousand of those statues made after the war,” the fellow had said.
It does look like the one in Pasadena. She turned around to walk back to Hardees. In the parking lot, she noticed a bronze Chevy Suburban.
Is this a coincidence? Have they been following me? I can’t take that chance. Sorry, Jim. I can’t go on right now. This is going to have to wait. She reached her car and returned to Alexandria the same way, on the Lee Highway.
The same Suburban followed here to Alexandria. When she parked under a tree, the Suburban drove past and appeared to drive out of the neighborhood.
1450 Hours, 14 July 2013, Dana’s Apartment, Alexandria, Virginia:
Dana wrote a letter to Hank about the plan she had developed since she discovered she was being followed. She sat in a chair in her room with a pen and a spiral note book. The letter was hand written because she didn’t want any of it on her computer, in case her place was searched again. That included not having a deleted MS Word file that could be recovered by any skilled techy.
You are getting this hand-written letter because I don’t want to talk on the phone or in emails about this. I need you to do me a big favor. Meet me half way, literally, at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on August 1. As you know, American Airlines has direct flights out of Mudford to DFW, Texas. Meet me at the food court nearest the American Arrival gate on that date, August 1. The gates can change, so I’ll arrive earlier and locate yours. Chances are it will be in the same wing of the terminal. We won’t have to go through the TSA checks. We can catch departing flights out of there easily.
I’m not coming home this summer at all, as I need to work, but this is too important to wait. And I can get the day off on August 1st. Call me after you get this. In the call, tell me two things. Tell me, “the plan is on” and the “arrival time” of your flight. I’ll assume it’s for Thursday, August 1. Do not mention the flight number as those can change, and the information could be picked up by surveillance. I need to tell you something important and I need your advice. Please!
2345 Hours, 20 July 2013, Civil War Event, Casa de Fruta, California:
Matt was at Casa De Fruta where there was a night battle scheduled on the Saturday Orders of the Day. It would be a spectacular sight with the muzzle flashes and length of the flames visible in the dark.
After the second afternoon battle that day, the men only had an hour to rest and get a bite to eat, before the night battle was on. Matt removed his shell jacket and hung it on the corner of the command tent. He needed to cool off.
Linda took a wet cloth and wiped his face. “Your face is red,” she said. “You need to lie down before the next one.”
“I think I will,” he said. “I wish Dana was here. She loved these night battles.”
“I think you better get used to the fact that she may be taking a different turn in her life.”
Linda helped him recline on his cot in the tent. “I miss her, too,” she said then left him alone.
The night battle was always the third battle on a Saturday. There were a few minor complaints, but these were generally considered the finest night battles anywhere in the nation. A huge spotlight hung from a light pole at the corner of the walnut orchard and would not be shut off until the night battle was over.
It was still dusk when the brigades were marched out to their locations and, therefore, not really dark when the battle got going. The confederates were on the side of the hill and behind a wall. The artillery line below and to the right began laying down their fire.
With tremendous flashes, the flames shot out thirty feet in front of the gun barrels. When the guns went silent, the smoke and cooler temperatures created an eerie, floating fog that drifted across the landscape, lending a ghostly ambience to the scene and diminishing the glare of the spotlight.
The advancing union line marched forward to attack the confederate hill. They stopped to fire and the only thing visible was their muzzle flash. This created more smoke and fog. The confederates were ordered to fire.
The noise, the fire, the yells, grew in a crescendo of sound as the union line approached, nothing but dark shadows in the fog and smoke.
The visiting actor in the confederate ranks stepped forward with his black-powder pistol drawn, aimed at the approaching union troops.
“Take this you damn Yankee sons-a-bitches,” he yelled then fired all his rounds from the Remington forty-four caliber.
“Here,” a reenactor nearby said. “Take my musket, sir. It’s loaded and ready to fire.”
The actor holstered his empty pistol and took the Enfield from the confederate soldier behind him. He fired at the Yankees who fell at the base of the hill. A young man holding the colors went down on his knees as if hit, but kept the colors high.
The orders had been to fire by company. This night the Third Confederate kept the fire hot, firing volley after volley. At the end Matt was hoarse from yelling the commands above the noise.
1230 Hours, 21 July 2013, Cafeteria, FAO Building, Washington, DC:
While Dana was at lunch with others from her office, her cell phone rang. She looked at the screen. It was Hank.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hi, Dana, it’s good to hear your voice.”
She laughed. “Yours, too,” she said. “It’s been awhile.”
“I’m sorry. I know. Is this a bad time?”
She stood, excused herself with hand motions to her friends, and walked away from the table. “No, but I’m at lunch with friends,” she said. “It’s okay.”
“I just wanted to let you know that the plan is on. At nine-thirty in the morning.”
She breathed out a sigh of relief as Hank confirmed meeting her on the first of August at DFW Airport and that he was arriving at 9:30 a.m.
“That’s nice,” she said.
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I am just relieved to hear this news.”
“Good. I have to see another patient, so I have to cut this short.”
“That’s all right. Thanks for calling.”
She shut the phone and returned to the lunch conversation. Her fear was just as strong as the day she returned to her trashed apartment. The plan was simply to meet him at the airport and tell about the drive he now possessed. She had to tell him what Jim had told her.
Give the drive to the senator.
Dana had no way of knowing if she could actually find Jim’s other drive and follow through with Jim’s request. She closed her eyes. God, I’ve made such a mess of things.
At the table, Paula smiled. “Who was that?”
“A family friend back home. He’s trying to plan a surprise party for my folks’ anniversary,” Dana lied.
“Wow. That’s nice.”
“Yeah. But it’s sort of hard planning from my end here,” Dana said.
The others nodded in sympathy.
0900 Hours, 24 July 2013, in a Cessna 182, over San Joaquin Valley, California:
In the single engine airplane, Hank adjusted the left earpiece of the headset and briefly scanned his instruments. Jenn looked out of the right window under the wing of their Cessna. The patchwork image of farms and roads on the valley floor below them stretched out toward the horizon.
“That was nice seeing Scott,” she said. “He never drives up to see us these last few months.”
“He’ll find his way. You worry too much,” Hank said.
She looked out at the landscape again. “When are you going to Dallas?” she asked.
“Next week, on the first.”
“Dana has something to tell me.”
“What is she going to tell you?”
“That’s just it. I don’t know.”
“Why can’t she tell you with a call?”
“I don’t know that either,” Hank said.
“Yes, it is. But I trust her.”
“You’d think she could talk to her folks.”
Hank shrugged. “For some things that’s not so easy.”
He noticed the huge shadows on the earth below, cast by the white, billowy cumulus clouds, which were scattered above their altitude. He knew the flight service station had updated the information and that the weather report had included the passing of the low pressure cold front. It looked like the clear weather cumulus clouds, to him, behind the cold front. It was ideal flying weather. Nice calm, dense air.
Jenn pointed to a shadow on the ground. Hank scanned the sky and saw a huge towering cumulus in front of them.
“It’s way above us,” he said.
Jenn nodded. “Are we going around it?”
“No need,” Hank said. “We’ll just fly right under it.
“It’s beautiful and even awesome,” she remarked.
Jenn continued to gaze at the towering cumulus as they kept on course. She noticed that it was flat on the bottom and darker there.
“We might get a little rain under it,” Hank said. “But we’re almost home. Twenty minutes.”
“I know. We’re doing over one-hundred thirty knots,” she said. “But when we’re at this cruising altitude, the ground below slips by so slowly, that it is really quite boring up here.”
Hank chuckled. “Yeah, you’re right. Why do you think I told you to bring something to read?”
The small Cessna flew closer to the large cloud, which was about two thousand feet above their plane. Jenn leaned forward to glance through the windscreen. As she looked, she could see the concave bottom of the cloud. It was not completely flat. She had not taken the pilot’s meteorology class, so she did not realize the significance of her observations. Hank looked forward toward the patchwork of farms, which extended miles before them. Soon they flew under the cloud, into its shadow. It grew darker in their cabin. They could see, beyond their position, the dazzling sunshine of the terrain below.
Jenn swallowed. “I just had to clear my ears,” she said. “Are you descending?”
“No,” Hank said. “I’m straight and level.” Then he scanned his altimeter again. He found they had risen about five hundred feet. And the altimeter was still showing that they were climbing. “Oh, now that’s interesting,” he said.
“There is an updraft under this cloud,” he explained. The warm air under it is rising up from below, is cooled, expands, and keeps rising into the formation of the tower.”
“Oh, that’s interesting.”
“I’ll just nose over a little and get lower that way.” Hank pushed the column forward and the plane angled downward, as if in a glide slope, only Hank kept up the cruising power.
“Great,” Jenn said.
Hank checked his altimeter again and this time he became concerned. “Well, it appears we are still rising.” He pushed the column forward again, then back, and the plane was now at a steeper angle almost a diving angle.”
“Hank, what is going on?”
“That updraft is stronger than I thought,” he said. He looked at the altimeter again and they were still gaining altitude.
“Hank it’s raining now,” Jenn said.
Through the rain, they could see the sunshine still on the horizon, but they were higher also. They could also see, through the rain, the bottom of the cloud getting nearer to them. At this time Hank was becoming very alarmed.
He nosed over more. Now they were in a dive attitude looking straight down at the ground. When Hank looked at his altimeter, it was still gaining.
“Hank, what is happening?” Jenn yelled.
“We are being pushed backward into the cloud,” he said.
“We’re being pulled into the cloud.”
“We’re flying straight down,” she yelled. “How can we be going up?”
“That’s how strong this updraft is,” he answered.
His mind was racing. If they went into the cloud with no ground references, even if he was flying on instruments, he would not be able to control the plane in the turbulence higher up. He risked getting vertigo. The plane could get beat up with hail and torn apart, more likely than not. If drawn up into the cloud, they likely wouldn’t survive it.
“Hank, we’re going up into it.”
The darkness enveloped them. The ground and sunshine disappeared. There was the light from the instruments and that was it. Flashes of purple lit the sky when they felt the first bumps, Turbulence. It could flip them over, or stall their wings. Hank thought fast. The prevailing winds carried the storms easterly. I should have turned west, while angled downward, while under the cloud, instead of maintaining the northerly heading.
Hank checked his compass heading. He pulled back on the column and, watching the instruments, turned the wheel to the left, and pressed the left rudder. He watched the compass. There. Bring it to 270. There were more bumps now, and Hank saw they were gaining more altitude, but now he was trying to fly west, and out of the morass they were in.
There was a patter of noise, besides the bumps. Jenn yelled again, “That’s hail.”
Hank saw it but didn’t speak. It was small stuff. He knew it could be larger balls of ice higher up. He scanned his instruments as more buffeting and bumps rocked the plane.
“I’m going to be sick, Hank.” Jenn groped for a bag to vomit into. The cabin became darker, then there was a greenish flash. “Was that lightning?” she asked.
“Probably,” Hank muttered.
Then it was blackness, again, purple again, and green again, all around them. From the altimeter readings, Hank estimated they had gained over a thousand feet inside the cloud.
There was a huge flash in the darkness and a jarring bump that pulled them up hard in their seatbelts and then slammed them back down. Hank was pretty sure they were going to disintegrate very soon. He thought they might be inverted also. Nothing happened immediately, only more bumps and flashes. He kept the heading on 270. Then a lighter purple surrounded them, then a green glow. He scanned his instruments but the attitude didn’t seem correct.
“Hank,” she said. “I feel like I’m hanging toward you sideways.”
Hank felt his own weight pressing his arm to the left window. What he didn’t realize was that they had been tossed in such a way by the turbulence that the right wing was straight up and the left wing straight down. Hank was heading west still but the attitude of the plane was such that the updraft had less lift. Then a yellow–green light surrounded them, and the bumping ceased. It was then they flew out of the darkness and they were out of the side of towering cloud at eleven thousand feet. The Cessna was on its side angling forty-five degrees toward earth, with the right wing up and the left wing down. Hank kept in the dive as he turned the wheel right, to bring the wings horizontal, then pulled back on the wheel to level out.
Jenn looked back, but she could not see that the cloud top reached forty-eight thousand feet. Hank checked the instruments and fuel gauges. The engine behaved as if nothing had occurred. Neither spoke for a long time. Jenn was very shaky and drank some water from a plastic bottle. Hank held her hands to steady them. He was shaking also. There was no need to speak. In twenty minutes they landed at their home airport. Both felt relieved to be on the ground.
As they left the plane, Hank couldn’t help but wonder if it had been tampered with. His instruments had not acted the way he’d expected them to. Was it just a freak of nature, or was someone trying to kill him? And did this have anything to do with what Dana wanted to talk to him about? Her missing boyfriend was an agent for the DHS, after all. And with all the shit that the NSA was pulling these days, one could never be too sure.
No, now you’re just been paranoid, he told himself as he and Jenn headed for their car. Even so, he couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that things were not as they seemed.
1545 Hours, 24 July 2013, SRI Office, FAO Building, Washington, DC:
SRI Director, Phil Press, called for a meeting with Terry, Cullman, and Bill Gander. They sat in a circle around his desk.
“I just had a call from our staff man in Bastain’s office,” Phil said.
“Calder issue again?” Terry asked.
“DHS doesn’t like what’s transpiring. Calder knew all the classified ops we’ve done plus had access to even more at DHS.”
“What’s the problem?” Terry said. “Jim’s gone now.”
“The senator is asking DHS what happened to Calder. Apparently the senator wasn’t spooked enough by our man to let it go.”
“Maybe Jim told the senator more at that meeting than our guy knows,” Cullman said.
“It’s possible. But I think the senator would have called a hearing by now, if that were so,” Phil said. He paused for replies. When no one responded, he continued. “Cullman, I liked how the Calder solution went down with the first-phase rapid biological, followed by the second team ID stripping the body and taking care of disposal.”
Cullman nodded as a thank you. “What’s DHS want?” he asked.
“DHS wants any of Jim’s informed contacts taken care of,” Phil answered. “We had someone screw with that Doctor Houston’s plane in California. Almost brought it down, but apparently he was a better pilot than we gave him credit for.”
“Why?” Terry asked. “He represents no threat. Calder never made contact with him.”
“No, but Dana has, though whether she’s told him anything or not, we don’t know. So we’re putting him on the back burner for now. There’s a more immediate threat that needs to be taken care of first.”
“And that is?” Bill asked.
Phil looked at Bill. “I want you, Cullman, and Harold to take care of Dana Sweet. The guys following her say she showed up at Calder’s house this morning. She didn’t stay long, but now they aren’t sure where she’s going. If she goes back home, you can make contact with her there. If not, then you can ‘bump into her accidentally’ wherever she ends up tonight.”
“Not a problem. That’s all?” Cullman asked.
“For now. Terry and Glen will take care of her father later if the need arises,” Phil said. “We’ll have our guy in Bastain’s office tell us if things settle down with the senator.”
“How do you want it to go down?” Cullman asked.
“Make it look like a suicide.”
“No problem. Anything else?” Cullman repeated.
“Yeah, give me the op details in person when you finalize.”
“You got it.”
“Remember, nothing written as usual.”