Part 29 of an original tale that delves into the unexplored realms of the human mind. Hired by her lover to find a raven haired beauty, Benjamin Bering must avoid the local police as well as the agents of a nonexistent government agency who are after him and the woman. There are just two problems. The woman is in a coma and her body has been stolen. (Part 1 can be found HERE.)
A pall of stunned silence permeated the room and it could have been cut with a knife. The cold ruthlessness of Brock's words resonated with the memories of that terrible war so long ago.
Susan was sitting next to me in horrified silence. It was left up to me to finally break the awkward silence. "Executed? Why were they executed?"
"Every morning some of the men from our unit would go out on patrol. Every afternoon they would return with a dozen or so women from some village," Brock began, tapping into long suppressed memories. "I had forgotten this until now, but I noticed that every morning they would refresh their ammunition before setting out on patrol. I couldn't say for certain, but I thought they must have kidnapped those women and ... and wiped out everyone else."
"I'll bet the annihilated villages were officially reported as collateral damage?" I muttered half in sarcastic anger.
He nodded, "I believe that was the case. Our mission was highly classified, and as of six moths ago it has never been declassified. My own service records list that tour of duty as Classified Special Ops. Jimmy said that his records showed the same thing."
"What was your mission, anyway?" Susan blurted out.
He glanced at her and shrugged, "No one in our unit, except for General Graves of course, was allowed anywhere near an area where they had set up a series of interconnected tents and shacks and those were circled by a ring of several tall towers. I once caught a glimpse inside one of those shacks. It was filled with all sorts of electronic equipment, the purpose of it all I have no idea to this day.
The women were herded into one of those tents. You know, there was something strange about those women too. They looked like they were sleep walking. Jimmy thought they'd been hypnotized. Once they were inside those tents no one was allowed to enter or leave until almost six hours later."
Susan and I were looking at each other. We both must have sensed the correlation of those tents to the labs we'd been seeing on those discs. It had become evident that Brock's story at that point was just a glimpse behind the scenes of Operation Penetration. It was all too clear to me that under the guise of a classified military operation, the activity in those tents was the infancy of the same type of research in which we had become embroiled - four decades later.
"Tell us, Sergeant," Susan said, "what happened next, after they came out of those tents?"
"It was strange," he began, "remember when I said the women were sleep walking ..."
"Yes. Go on, please," she conveyed to him in response.
"Well, when they came out of those tents they were ... normal, wide awake and alert. They were smiling and they started mingling with the soldiers and the civilians as if nothing had happened." He fumbled with his collar and turned his head as if relieving tension in his neck. "You tell me something. They were working on some kind of mind control, weren't they?"
I nodded and tried to avoid eye contact and replied, "Something like that."
His eyes lit up as if he'd had an epiphanous awakening to the bigger picture. "All those Feds, the general, and King's kid ... " his words trailed off for a moment as he was trying to digest his own thoughts. "Then there was Jimmy's murder and that kid we found ... Your boss beaten half to death ... And that missing Gray woman ..." He then grew quiet and was studying the two of us with more than casual interest.
I spread my arms wide and then drew them together until my cupped hands met at the fingertips, the demonstrative gesture suggesting that those events were all part of the same ball of wax. If that articulation had not made my point clear I said, "They are all related, Brock, directly related."
He shook his head and asked, "They're doing the same thing they did back in Nam, aren't they? They're messing with people's heads!"
My countenance solemn, I nodded. Despite our alliance, I was still uncomfortable with giving O'Day too many facts, especially any with detailed information. "Brock, when you said the women mingled with the soldiers and the civilians, how so?"
Glancing at Susan he seemed to be embarrassed and hesitated before answering, "I didn't mention that part because there's a lady present." Susan shrugged as if to indicate that she was open to his answer. "General Graves gave us orders to have our way with the women. He said it was our reward for the diligence we'd shown in performing our duties."
"All in the name of your country and its flag? How patriotic!" Susan vented.
"We were serving our country," he grimaced. "We were young men away from home, some for the first time in our lives. We were in a strange and hostile environment. None of us had seen a woman in months. Those women were willing. It's not like it was rape."
Before Susan could continue grilling him I broke in, "How long was that activity a part of your mission?"
"Oh, I'd say five, maybe six months," he replied. "I remember that the general first made the women available to us in the summer of '67. It was somewhere near the end of the following January that we were informed that were going to cease operations."
I was rubbing my chin and nodding my head, "January 30, 1968? That was about the same time of the Tet Offensive."
"Yeah, and it was desperate times. We were ordered to destroy the base and anything that might have been a clue to what we were doing there. We were ordered to leave no evidence of our activity. All the while that damned song kept playing on the P.A. system."
Susan looked at me and said, "Not another song?" She turned her attention to O'Day and asked, "Out of curiosity, what song was that?"
"We assumed it was the general's favorite song - To Sir With Love," he shrugged. "Most of us would always ad lib the lyrics as "To Sir With Lust."
I was sure he could read the disgust in my voice when I asked, "All those women ... they were some of the evidence that had to be destroyed, weren't they?"
As long as I had known Brock O'Day, I had never known him to show emotion. In fact I once thought he was without a compassionate fiber in his entire body. Yet, I could have sworn I had detected the barest trace of a tear forming in his eye as he responded to my pointed remark.
"Jimmy and I were ordered to inspect the women, up close and personal you might say. Five of them remained at the camp while the other thirty were marched off into the jungle with some of the soldiers. The soldiers came back an hour later ... alone."
"Oh my God!" Susan murmured.
My stomach was churning while I was formulating the question, one which I had wished Susan had not been present to hear. "What was so special about the five who were spared? How were they different from those sent to their deaths?"
"The five had ..." His words were interrupted by the squawk of the police radio attached to his belt. Through the intermittent static he listened while the dispatcher reported a robbery in process and an officer down at a nearby bank about five blocks from our location. "I'm on it!" he proclaimed into the radio's mike on his collar. He darted for the door and called out to us, "We'll continue this talk later."
Visibly shaken Susan moaned, "The five had ... what?"
(To be continued in part 30 on Monday, 3/9, with My Butterfly Collection.)