THE NEXT STEP:
I DEDICATE THIS TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE EVER STRUGGLED OR WHO CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY AND BASIC HUMAN DECENCY. YOU HAVE NOT STRUGGLED IN VAIN. YOUR STRUGGLE IS MY STRUGGLE, IT IS EVERYBODY’S STRUGGLE. WE CAN MAKE THE POSITIVE CHANGE WE ALL SEEK, BECAUSE THE CHANGE IS US.
Life is like trying to get up on water skis. If you want to ski, you have to let the boat do the work and pull you up. Your intent has to be there to get up on the skis, but you can’t pull the boat no matter how hard you try. You just have to let it happen, you have to let it pull you. Much like life, the best we can do is move forward with intent and purpose while putting ourselves in what we think is the right place at the right time; but we still have to let it happen. What’s supposed to happen, will only happen if we let it.
Challenges arrive when things aren’t happening fast enough for us. When we’ve put all this hard work into something, that why on earth hasn’t it bared fruit yet? We deserve it, don’t we? Don’t we? We try our best to be the best people we can, why hasn’t it happened for us yet? When is it going to be our time?
The only thing I can say is we have to keep loving, striving, working, fighting and dreaming. The minute we forget about what we want out of life or what our dreams are, all those things trying to keep us down will succeed in their mission. If we’re honest with ourselves and seek the truth that’s all around us, we can succeed. Sometimes truth is screaming at the top of its lungs in our face. Will we listen, or will we mindlessly move forward, forcing things to happen because we see the person next to us being much more successful? Will we continue to try pulling the boat, forcing it to go the direction we want, believing we actually can? Or will we just relax, prepare the best we can, and let the boat take us where it’s meant to take us?
Unhappiness can be derived from simply waiting on life to happen, thinking everybody else is more happy and successful than they actually are. This is a trap we find ourselves in when things don’t work out as planned. We overcome this by constantly asking ourselves what we’re thankful for. Instead of cutting ourselves down by only seeing how much more our neighbor has then us, we need to build ourselves up by realizing there are always people much worse off; and they wish they could be in the position we’re in.
If life is all about perspective, then how we see life can determine what we get out of it. Do we look at life like it owes us something, or do we look at it and see all the beauty within it? The more beauty we see, the more it comes back to us. The more it comes back to us, the more thankful we are for what we have; causing the cycle to start all over again.
Right now you might be asking yourself, what does all this have to do with a boat pulling me up when water skis are strapped to my feet? What does a pleasure activity have to do with succeeding at life, accomplishing goals or even finding love?
We have to pay attention to what’s happening, realize forces will appear more powerful than us if we try to muscle past them. We can put on skis, we can get in the water, we can even have friends cheering us on, including that cutie giving us the eye; but we can’t make the boat pull us. However, if we put on the skis, relax and let life happen, the forces trying to keep us down won’t seem so powerful.
When we’re stuck and feel like we’re going nowhere, we must ask ourselves if we’re getting stuck in the mud of indecision and uncertainty. Is the overwhelmed feeling coursing through our veins so vivid because we’re thinking of all the things we should be doing, instead of all the things we are doing?
When we trust the process and we let it work, we’re allowing the boat to pull us.
“The smell of unbelievably juicy, melt in your mouth pork can bring the strongest man to his knees, not to mention the perfectly cured ham, the yellow mustard, the sliced pickles and the ooey gooey melted swiss cheese on that perfectly toasted bread, coming together to bring an ecstasy of taste to the tongue. It’s a great thing to have the most amazing sandwich on the planet, in the birthplace of the people that came up with it only after immigrating to another country. Crazy world we live in.”
This is what Jason read on the postcard, which he thought was odd because the reverse side had the most generic beach scene he ever saw. He smoothed back the tail of his hair which was a bit greasy from waking up, which usually wasn’t an issue when his hair was in a ponytail; but his hair tie broke while he was sleeping and he needed to go the store to buy more.
Christina was still tossing and turning, not wanting to get up because of the late night she and Jason experienced. Of course a Netflix marathon will do that to a person. She rolled around for another minute or two in a nightgown top which consisted of one of Jason’s old shirts when he was a lot heavier. He always thought it was sexy when she put on his shirts, it made it easier for him to see the deep burning passion behind her eyes.
“Jason?” Christina called out because she rolled over and felt the empty space on the bed next to her. “Where did you go sexy man, don’t I get a good morning wakeup?”
“I’m in the living room, I’ll be there in a minute honey,” Jason answered as he imagined a Cuban sandwich because of the postcard he received out of the blue. Who could have sent it he wondered?
“I was walking to the kitchen for a drink of water, and this was slipped under the door,” Jason stated as he walked back in the bedroom and showed Christina the postcard. She was still under the covers not wanting yet to see the light of day.
“What is this, somebody sent you a postcard?” Christina inquired with a curiosity that caused her eyebrows to rise. Her hair was as greasy as Jason’s from having just been asleep, but hers was longer, brown and reacted better to the silk sheets on their bed.
“Yeah, no return address, just a description of a Cuban sandwich so vivid it made my mouth water immediately.”
Still half asleep, Jason handed Christina the postcard. She tried very hard to focus because the writing on it was too small for anybody to read, let alone somebody just waking up.
“This does make it sound pretty amazing, even makes me hungry for one. Which says a lot because you’ve always been a much bigger fan of them than me,” remarked Christina. She was alternately wiping the sleep out of her eyes, and trying to read the very small, but very neat writing.
“Hello, you still with me?” Jason asked because Christina had been staring at the postcard for what seemed like five minutes. “You’re really enjoying that description eh?”
“I was just thinking about this part at the end,” Christina reflected as she pointed her unpainted fingernail at the end of the paragraph. “This part here, having a sandwich in a place that gave birth to the people that didn’t come up with it until they immigrated somewhere else. I think it’s some kind of code.”
Jason quickly snatched the postcard out of Christina’s hand which caused her to sneer at him a bit. “We just woke up, it’s too early for that code talking stuff,” Jason expressed as he rolled his eyes.
Christina and Jason had spent a lot of time lying low since taking down the President, because they knew anybody and everybody could be after them. The old man, Marty, the security guard from the tea party rally, any one of them. They hadn’t produced one shred of material or evidence to take down anybody in the few years since it happened, and Christina was getting antsy. She read all kinds of magazines and newspapers which wasn’t abnormal because Jason did the same thing, they were both addicted to information which was one of the things that attracted them to each other. The difference being Christina was becoming obsessed. She told Jason she saw patterns in everything, and he noticed she was trying to outline them on the actual material. Christina’s parents talked a lot about codes when she was a kid, and about how much information is hidden in plain sight. This worked great when she worked for Shane corp., but since she and Jason had been underground, Christina was trying to cling to anything because she felt like she gave up on her dream. She loved Jason, but sometimes Christina felt he was inhibiting her.
“I know I’ve been on edge the last few years being out of the game, and it’s dragged up all this stuff from my childhood. My parents forced me to read specifically so I could tell them what I saw behind the words. It drove me nuts, and took all the fun out of a good book or article. I had it under control when I became an adult, and especially after I met you. Ever since we took down the President and I left my job, I haven’t felt useful, I haven’t felt like I mattered,” lamented Christina, unloading on Jason who smiled back. He knew this was one of those times when the glowing light from his soul would greatly help the beautiful woman lying next to him.
“I love you babe, you’re one of the most intelligent people I know. Words can’t describe how much you do count and how much you do matter,” Jason asserted as he put his arm around Christina and slid his fingers gently though her hair. “I’m sorry about the code talker remark. You know how I am when I wake up sometimes.”
“It’s ok babe. I’m just trying to move forward and feel gratitude for what life has given me, and I think I’ve been doing pretty well so far. I just need to be reminded of it from time to time, so thank you,” Christina replied. She gave Jason a kiss that made it plainly true to the entire universe, that pure love was emanating from a small cottage tucked away in the trees of Northern California.
“I love you, and I’ll tell you as often as necessary. So now that we have that out of the way,” Jason quipped with a loving smile that always made Christina melt. “What do you think the postcard means?”
“I think somebody is telling us where they are, and that we should come find them. There’s no return address, but from the description of the Cuban sandwich, they had to be talking about Cuba. The person who wrote it would have wanted this description to reach somebody who really understood it. Somebody who loves Cuban sandwiches just as much as them.”
Succulent Cuban pork and boisterous 55 Chevys backfiring provided smells and sounds so thick you could cut them with a knife. The buildings looked like something out of an old movie, where time never caught up and the whole city was on hold. This is what Jason and Christina experienced when they walked through the streets of Havana for the first time. Both of them had been out of the United States a few times, but this was the start of a whole new adventure, and they both could feel it.
“The food from these street vendors smells insanely good, my mouth is watering,” Jason uttered with a huge smile on his face.
“It does smell good, but let’s not forget why we’re here,” replied Christina who loved food just as much as Jason, but knew he had a habit for getting sidetracked; she had to help keep him on point.
That postcard, how did it get to them when only a few people knew where to find them? Even if it was Bryan, what connections did he have to find where he and Christina were? Jason knew he could trust Bryan because they had been through so much together, at the same time he knew a lot was left unsaid.
“You still with me, it looks like you got lost in that unwieldy brain of yours and were floating away,” wondered Christina with a caring, but nervous look on her face.
“How could Bryan have possibly known where we were, if he could find us who else could?”
“Something tells me we’ll find out when we find Bryan. The way we do that is by following the synchronicities. That’s what led us to take down the President, and that’s what led us to a place that’s been the home of so many dissidents and rebels over the years. Anyway, let’s also try to have some fun, how often do we take vacations?”
“You’re so right,” agreed Jason as he leaned over and gave Christina a deep kiss that kept their souls intertwined, giving them the ability to delve into whatever the next step was going to be.
“We should stop and get something to eat, and maybe even listen to some music, I’m sure that will get our brains moving in the right direction,” Christina mentioned as she steered Jason into the small restaurant on the corner.
“That’s a great idea my mind always works better on a full stomach. Besides, there’s no way I’d come here without roaming amongst the people,” Jason shot back. He eagerly followed Christina into the Paladar with a joy he hadn’t felt since the leader of the free world, became just another proven criminal and liar.
What became of Charles Bowman? Since a mysterious group made up of the world’s most powerful people were hiding him, there was no telling where he was. The only thing Jason knew for certain was that they must enjoy this moment, at this point in time. Just like Ridell happened on them in the bar out of the blue, somebody could tap them on the shoulder in this neighborhood place, and it could be the beginning of the end.
The lights were dim, and the small crowd consisted of the usual lunch rush. When Jason and Christina sat down at one of the only ten tables in the place, he knew this was the spot they would plan their next move.
“They’re here, do you want me to engage them or just wait to see if they lead us to Bryan?” asked the graying man in his early fifties behind the bar.
“Wait and see what develops, they might lead us right to him. We know Bryan is hiding somewhere in Cuba, but we can’t openly look for him; we bourgeoisie Americans aren’t exactly welcome here. Bryan being lured here by that postcard was just the first step. Using Jason’s skills to our advantage is exactly the mind game I want to twist him up with. We have so many surprises in store for him amigo,” stated the confident man on the other side of the phone.
The blue clock on the wall said 1pm, even though Jason thought it was only about 11. Jet lag was catching up with him. “Do you think we could buy some old baseball cards while we’re here since everything is from the fifties, I’ll bet they have some?”
“Are you crazy, we’re still underground looking for somebody that doesn’t want to be found,” Christina responded, dragging Jason back to reality.
“What do you mean he doesn’t want to be found, what about the postcard?” queried Jason with a smile because the love of his life was still pushing him to think after all these years.
“We only assumed the postcard was from Bryan, but what if it came from somebody who only wants us to think it was from Bryan?” asked Christina anxiously.
“Why didn’t you mention that before we came all the way down here? Why are you bringing this up now, are you getting one of those feelings again?”
Just as Jason was adding fuel to a growing fire of an argument between two love birds, a woman in her late fifties walked up and spoke in perfect English with a perfected fake smile. “What can I get you folks? Sometimes good food can aid the decision making process.”
“How did you know we’re trying to make a decision?” Jason speculated as his antennae perked right up.
“I could hear you from the kitchen, this place isn’t that big. I can show you some really nice postcards we have,” replied the waitress who hoped these crazy white people would just order something and leave before her husband returned. “So are you going to order something or what?”
“Yeah hold on,” retorted Jason. He was growing testy because the lady wasn’t very welcoming to somebody who was about to be her customer. “We’ll have a couple of Cubanos with everything, and some Cuban coffee afterwards. We need some thinking juice.” Jason winked at the lady to see if he could crack her hard exterior.
“Sorry I snapped, so many fishy white people have come through here in the last couple weeks. I don’t know what to think anymore,” answered the lady who was starting to sound more human, but still very guarded. “My husband and I run this place, he will be back soon. He’s grown weary of all Americans because of how they carry themselves. He knows they are up to something, and said he’ll do whatever he can to stop them.”
“He sounds like a standup guy, and I’m sure you both just want to make some money so you can survive. The world needs more people willing to put in the hard work required to build something. Just out of curiosity, what kind of fishy people came in here?” Christina asked with a caring aura that was hard for anybody to resist because they felt her pure humanity.
“There were a couple guys in here the other day that I never saw before. They walked in and were very rude to my bus boy who was only trying to clear tables. They harassed him and asked him all kinds of questions.”
“Like what?” Jason wondered, because he knew something important was about to be divulged.
“They asked where they could find the rebels, the atheist commies trying to bring down America; something you’d see straight off your Fox News.”
The three of them had a good laugh. It’s amazing the common ground that can be found when people laugh at obvious stupidity. “And what else?” Jason inquired, trying to get back on topic because he knew this was one of those times he must be present in the moment.
“The leader was the loudest and most obnoxious of the two, and looked like he’d kill the other if he didn’t laugh at his jokes. Anyway, he starts asking if I know where to find a guy named Bryan. Besides the European tourists that come through here once in a while, I never met anybody named Bryan. He said they needed to find him because he hadn’t shown up for work in a while, and were concerned about his well-being,” explained the waitress who was starting to feel a little more at ease; maybe all Americans weren’t the same she thought.
“Did they say what kind of work he was doing, how long he’s been here, or how they knew he was here in the first place?” questioned Jason. He was starting to feel Bryan had something up his sleeve.
“The boss guy was vaguer than vanilla ice cream. All he said was that Bryan messed up, and caused some sort of fracture within his company by taking sides; which led somebody at the top to no longer be the boss.”
This was starting to sound way too familiar. Christina and Jason were walking down the street in a country they had to sneak into. They randomly entered a small restaurant on the side of a rock strewn dirt road, only to find a waitress say some rude American customers were asking about the guy they risked coming out of hiding to locate.
“What else did they say?” Christina probed. She saw the wheels inside Jason’s head were spinning. She also wanted to get to the bottom of this synchronicity. She knew it had to be happening for a reason.
“That was about it really. Oh, they did ask about postcards,” revealed the waitress, trailing off as she walked back to the kitchen because the cook was yelling for her assistance.
Jason pondered for a moment as he looked around the room. On the walls were beautiful paintings for sale by local artists, along with pictures of some of the restaurants tastiest dishes, and awards they won for them. He thought it was weird that the register where people paid looked exactly the same as in any American diner.
“For somebody who is weary of Americans, they lay out their Paladares just like our diners,” Jason blurted out with a skeptical glint in his eye.
“Maybe, since Cuba and America were so closely linked before Castro, it kind of makes sense. This place is stuck in the time before the revolution, because of the embargo they’ve had a hard time catching up to how fast society is changing,” Christina fired back. She was trying to agree with Jason just enough, so he wouldn’t get on one of his soap boxes.
Jason and Christina’s stomachs began to growl because they hadn’t eaten since the day before. The flight over had been long, especially since they had to fly out of Mexico City posing as a minster and his wife just to get into Cuba. However, they were here now, and if they were going to have any hope of figuring this out, they needed some nourishment.
“Your food is almost up, please accept these fried plantains in the meantime,” pronounced the waitress as she set down a steaming plate of the most exquisite fried snack Jason had ever seen.
“Thank you, these look good,” expressed Jason as his mouth began to water.
“Here’s some sweet sauce to dip them in, but be careful, they’re very hot.” The waitress knew burnt tongues meant people couldn’t talk as easily. Something inside was telling her to help this random guy who walked into her place searching for truth.
Jason eagerly grabbed a piece of a plantain and blew on it, which caused a lot steam to rise. “You can’t beat fresh.”
“Just don’t injure your tongue, I might want to utilize that later,” Christina sniped with a sexy look in her eye that made Jason do anything she wanted.
“Of course, as long as you use yours,” Jason responded with a smirk.
Christina loved messing with Jason, because he completed her just as much as she completed him. The hard part was figuring out where to go from here, but that was also the exciting part.
As Jason was alternating between blowing on the plantains and slowly trying to eat them without melting his tongue off, Christina scanned the room. Showcasing local artists was nice, she wondered if they would get to meet any while they were there. Her eyes stopped when she got to the cash register Jason mentioned. Right beside it was a rack of postcards with one on the top looking very familiar.
“Jason, take that hot thing out of your mouth and look over there, by the register,” exclaimed Christina with laser focus because she spotted something.
“I would never tell you to take something hot out of your mouth, unless it wasn’t mine,” chuckled Jason because the woman next to him never failed to turn him on.
“I’ll bet,” winked Christina with a sultry look that always made Jason melt. “See those postcards over there?”
With a steaming plantain hanging from his mouth, Jason looked to where Christina was motioning. “That postcard on the top does look familiar,” pondered Jason as things started to click, causing the plantain to fall out of his mouth onto the floor.
Jason got up from his chair, not noticing his first step ground the plantain into the carpet under their table. He sauntered over and picked up the postcard. He looked at the picture and just shook his head.
“What is it honey?” Christina asked lovingly. She had seen this look on Jason’s face before, it was the same as the one he had when he began his quest to bring down the world’s powerful.
“It’s this postcard, you see the picture? Look at this space on the back, perfect place for the description of a Cuban sandwich huh?”
“Do you think the six entities sent this to lure me out so they could finish what they started? Do you think Bryan is here and they can’t find him?” theorized Jason. He was talking a mile a minute out of hunger because their sandwiches hadn’t arrived yet.
“Maybe, could be the old man, could be any one of the faceless entities that make up the six,” replied Christina. She got pretty worked up looking into them since Bowman went away, but knew that some good food would help them think more clearly. “They knew you’d come looking for Bryan. Once we find his trail whether they sent the postcard or not, I’ll bet they’ll try following us right to him.”
Jason thought for a minute, yes, he cared about his friend, yes, he wanted to find him, but there was a chance he could lead the bad guys right to Bryan. Dilemmas were something Jason was used to, what he didn’t know was what step to take next.
When all hope was starting to fade, the sandwiches arrived steaming and smelling so good, that if Jason died at that moment, he would be a happy man.
“Ahhhh, this is better,” Jason declared as he took a big bite out of the Cubano, the swiss cheese oozing out the sides. “Food is just what I needed to think clearly, I know we can figure out this quandary now.”
Jason knew Bryan had been in the game for quite a while working for Marty, and uncovered some big schemes; along with doing whatever Marty needed done. Bryan didn’t question his tasks because Marty was the boss, and the boss was supposed to know what to do at all times.
After spending so much time and energy taking Ridell and Bill down, Jason knew Bryan needed some time to himself. He was always so focused on the task at hand, that Bryan couldn’t see anything else; to blow off some steam was just what the doctor ordered.
Cuba was a place that accepted all people fighting for a righteous cause Jason thought. Even though Bryan wasn’t directly running from anybody, Jason knew he’d want to be among people and a society that stood for justice, and against corporate control.
Cuba welcomed all manner of Communist, Socialist and other political prisoners that needed a place of refuge with like-minded people. Jason discovered this immediately upon arriving.
Bryan would have had to go undercover, which wasn’t too hard in a place stuck back in time sixty years. For him to stay hidden however, Jason knew he needed friends. Even if Bryan made it on the island, there was no guarantee he’d be safe.
“Man this sandwich is good. Those Cubanos in New York were good, but nothing like this,” Jason stated because he was almost done with his before Christina even finished half of hers.
“I’m glad I tied my hair back before I started eating this thing because food would get all stuck in there,” remarked Christina. She was certainly having a moment of enjoyment, just not as much as her love that was sitting across from her. “So what’s the plan?”
“I thought we could talk to some of the locals and see if they can point us in the right direction.”
“That sounds good, but how do you know it won’t be a trap we’re being led into by some secret CIA agent or something that will rendition us to Guantanamo?”
“After all the stuff we pulled, they probably would send us there. Taking down the President can get some people pretty pissed off.”
Out on the street it sounded like a parade going by, a soccer team celebrating a win or some holiday Jason wasn’t aware of. He felt in the deepest part of his soul that he must go outside and see what was going on.
“Let’s hurry up and pay for these, something tells me we have to be out there for this,” Jason blurted out. He was starting to get one of those feelings again that Christina knew would lead them to their next risky undertaking.
“You know I’m never one to stop you when you have feelings like that,” Christina loved the way Jason got so passionate, as long as there was a point to it. Somehow she always knew there was. “This is beginning to feel like that time we flashed back to the water park murder. Then when we came back to reality, Marty called and offered you a job in New York.”
“That’s true, so this has got to be leading somewhere right? We came to this Paladar, and had an amazing Cubano. We discover the postcard we received might have been purchased here, by some guys looking for Bryan. I’d say we’re hot on the trail.”
“You’re so sexy when you’re on a mission. I could have had any guy I wanted when I was growing up. After I met you under that Japanese maple, I knew then that you were the one for me, because you always go where your heart tells you; it’s one of the most attractive things I can think of.”
Christina decided she would pick up the bill this time because food was cheap in Cuba compared to the U.S., so she thought why not. The U.S. embargo had greatly cut off food and everyday goods from this small island only ninety miles from the mainland, a whole ninety miles away. Jason knew the situation had to change, before he or anybody else would be able to see the true freedom they all dreamed about.
After setting some money down on the table which included a very nice tip, Christina and Jason thanked the waitress in the Paladar for her hospitality.
“Thank you for your service, it’s really nice to meet somebody that is so welcoming to people they don’t know. Thank you and we will be back,” Jason expressed to the mid-fifties waitress that he knew could cook anybody under the table.
“Thank you for coming in, we don’t get too many Americans in here. When we do and they’re as down to earth as you two, it really makes my day. That guy you were looking for, what was his name again?” inquired the waitress with a look on her face that said she really wanted to help.
“Bryan. We used to work together and I haven’t seen him for a while,” Jason replied. He was very curious where this was leading, as was Christina who was ready for some action because they were in the activist capital of the world.
“I don’t know this guy Bryan, but those guys that came in, the ones that were rude and asking about postcards?” continued the waitress.
“That’s actually what led us to this place,” answered Jason.
“You better steer clear of them, they looked like trouble. However I can tell you and this lovely lady are meant to be here. I know a guy that could help in your search. He is American, very secretive, but trustworthy. He’s helped me out of a couple of jams I got into with the government, and with the rebels. People don’t like that I’m an independent businesswoman trying to eke out an honest living.”
“Who is this guy?” Christina asked, feeling this was the start of their next step.
“I think he used to be CIA or something, he gives off the vibe of a tough guy with military training. He always seems to know what’s really going on. He has uncovered illegal schemes that unscrupulous people pulled and brought them to justice, which is one of the reasons he helped me. Those guys looking for your friend are bad guys, trust me, I’ve been around. This Bryan guy must have really pissed them off somehow.”
“I’d tell you what he did, but I don’t want to implicate you, probably better you don’t know,” Jason quipped.
”You’re probably right. Anyway, this guy goes by a pen name,” divulged the waitress trying to give all her information before another customer walked in. She needed all the business she could get.
“A pen name, did he used to be a writer or something?” Jason asked very curiously, still wondering who this guy was. It wasn’t every day that things fall into place, but he knew it happened a lot more often when you put yourself in the right place at the right time without knowing it’s the right place and the right time.
“He might have written something, I’m not sure. He goes by the name Madman for Good.”
“Really, that’s his name? Nobody will find him with that name,” reacted Christina very sarcastically because even though this was starting to sound too easy, she was intrigued at the same time. What else was she going to do she thought, take Jason home and be stuck always wondering if they could have found Bryan? If this was a trap that Moonsystems or the Six Entities was trying to lure them into, Christina didn’t know; but she was really starting to feel it was worth their time to find out.
“He’s always been nice to me. Even though he can be a little abrasive with the way he talks, I’ve seen him produce results. He once took down a corrupt government official who was pocketing money that was supposed to support poor families. The official was playing both sides, trying to be friends with Castro and the U.S. at the same time. Anyway, a Madman for Good is a new concept for me, so I thought I’d give him a try. I first heard about him through a friend who had issues with a guy who was some kind of fixer,” exclaimed the waitress speaking a mile a minute because she didn’t want anybody to walk in and hear her, but still wanted to help the nice young people standing in front of her.
“So a Madman for Good huh, that intrigues me too, I must say,” retorted Jason who often thought of himself as a Madman for Good, but never fully took on the persona. He thought he was one when he took down a corrupt Congressman and then the President, but this was different. This guy was doing the same thing he and Christina were doing, only for longer; and possibly for hire.
“Where can we find this guy? He probably could help us with everything you just said,” Christina queried because she wanted to get the show on the road. She had grown very anxious for action since she left Shane Corp., and didn’t want to go back to only searching for coded messages in newspapers. She wanted to step into the real world and fight the good fight.
“You see all that commotion outside?” asked the waitress as she wiped sweat from her brow because the heat outside combined with thinking about the Madman for Good was stirring up her passion. He was a force to be reckoned with she thought. Maybe he could help these people find what they’re looking for, while at the same time find what he’s looking for.
“Yeah I see that. I thought it was a parade or something. What is going on out there?” Jason inquired with a happy but determined feeling that he hadn’t felt since he decided to randomly take a trip. This led him to randomly finding a blog, and then because he trusted the process and let it work, he was led to Christina who helped him take down the President. Would this lead to something like that, who knows? The only thing Jason was sure of, he needed to check it out.
“It’s a weekly protest and teach-in that one of the worker parties holds around here. You want to talk to the Madman and see if he can help you? Walk right outside there and ask him yourself, he’s about to step up to the microphone.”
Jason and Christina thanked the waitress profusely and hurried to try to see the Madman. They walked outside and wove their way through the crowd, trying to catch a glimpse of the stage; which happened to be the back of a pickup truck that would make for a quick getaway if need be.
A man with a thick greying beard climbed into the bed of the truck, but before he could speak, Jason blurted out something he’ll never forget. “Hey Madman, how good are you?”
“I’m really good, as are most people when it comes down to it. The fact that you showed up here today, means that things are finally coming together. Maybe this time we have a chance to take these bastards down, you with me Jason?”
The crowd was growing all around Jason and Christina who were starting to worry the government’s secret police were going to come round everyone up, but the madman wasn’t deterred.
“So how do you know my name?” Jason asked. He was very concerned this was yet another person portraying themselves as somebody they’re not, just to get people to follow them. Also, had he been following them; and for how long?
“I know a lot about you. I know about Moonsystems and how you helped take down Bowman, that was some good work. Of course if it wasn’t for that old man, things might have turned out differently,” sniped the Madman trying to gauge Jason’s reaction.
“That’s true, but you still haven’t answered my question. How do you know my name?” questioned Jason who was growing testier.
“Have you been following Jason and me for that matter? Do you know about everything we’ve done, because that’s exactly what the people at Moonsystems claimed,” Christina pried. She not only wanted to throw in her two cents, but also wanted to know if she should be worried.
“Well not following you per say, but just keeping up on your accomplishments. I like to follow up on people around the world who shake things up, and are willing to risk everything to bring accountability and end corruption. I keep track of different activists and people that make a difference, so I can see who is worthy of joining my cause.”
“And what exactly is your cause?” Jason wondered. He knew this was leading somewhere because the hair on the back of his neck stood straight up. The intense heat and humidity was making the crowd miserable waiting for the guest of honor to speak. They had been waiting a long time for this rally to happen.
The Madman for Good used to be someone who followed everybody’s guidelines of what a perfect citizen and productive member of society should be. His change happened when he woke up one day, and started asking himself what the hell he was doing. Was he becoming just one more pawn in the game of how badly can we screw over the little guy? Once he realized he didn’t want to help the new breed of ultra-free market capitalism evolve, he had to change, and he had to help others change as well.
“My cause you ask, my cause is to bring as many like-minded people as I can together so we can finally demand some change. There is so much work to do, and the only way we have a fighting chance is if we grow our numbers; which requires me to do some recruiting. My goal is to show people that they don’t have to put up with the same old thing. Things can and will get better. First they must believe its true, then they must go out and make it happen.”
Jason stood there and thought for a minute. He was starting to sweat because Christina didn’t tie the end of his braid tight enough. What was this guy’s plan? Build a group big enough to put the “powers that be” on notice? Was he just building a cult of personality so he could use this group of people for his own nefarious interests? Jason knew that either option could be a possibility. Since he and Christina had learned a few things fighting the good fight, they decided to stay and listen because this guy might come in handy.
“If I don’t go on stage now and start speaking, these people will take me down instead of the six entities controlling the whole ball of wax,” insisted the Madman as he motioned for Jason and Christina to take their places for the speech, but be close by so he could talk to them afterward. He didn’t want them to get lost in the crowd because he wanted to discover their motivations, and if they were authentically down for his cause.
“You think we can trust this guy, his words make him sound like he’s down for the same cause we are of ushering in accountability and ending corruption, but I’m not sure. I’m nervous around people that have an answer for everything,” Christina whispered gently into Jason’s ear so nobody else could hear her. Of course with the crowd noise nobody could hear anything, even the two random guys in unassuming suits who were scanning the crowd.
“Trust him? What like the old man on the beach who just happened to be Marty’s brother and friends with the President because they were all dorm buddies in school? As long as we stay on our toes and keep our eyes and ears open, I think this guy can be useful in finding Bryan. Any more than that, we’ll have to wait and see. We’ve followed our passion of conscious evolution to an adventure in Cuba, in order to find a friend that may or may not have sent a postcard after five years of no word. We need to play this one out, but don’t worry we’re here together,” Jason responded as he gave Christina a deep kiss that always warmed her heart, and bear hugged her soul.
The Madman for Good grabbed the microphone for what was sure to be a rousing speech. Jason and Christina took their places by the truck so they were close, but could still look at the crowd to gauge reaction.
“My friends and fellow truth seekers, how you all doing today?” asked the Madman whose smooth voice welcomed the crowd like a cozy blanket on a cold day.
“Sounds normal so far,” Jason remarked as his eyes widened at Christina like here we go.
“It does but remember until we know we can trust somebody, we can’t trust anybody,” Christina expressed in a very concerned voice. She knew that until they figured out this guy’s motives, they could only trust themselves. “Let’s see what this quote un-quote Madman has to say, see if it’s an earned title, or just a marketing ploy.”
Just as Christina was about to let out another snide remark, the Madman started to speak. “I’ve gathered you all here today for a specific reason, which I’m sure you’re aware of if you’ve been following me on Facebook and Twitter.” The Madman had built up his following mostly through social media, and specifically designed public spectacles; which proved he wasn’t just words, but action, or so Jason thought.
“Enough buildup, get to it already,” yelled a random guy in the crowd, who seemed to represent the entirety of the people there, who were all losing their glossy gazes and growing skeptical looks on their faces.
“I’ll get to it, because I want us all to get to it. There are those fighting tooth and nail to keep up the status quo, people looking to privatize every resource we as humans need to ensure our survival for generations to come. I’m here to talk to you about that, and what we can do.”
“He’s beating around the bush, I hope this is building towards something,” Jason seethed under his breath in Christina’s direction.
“Whether it’s good or bad, it’s leading somewhere. Nobody calls themselves a Madman for anything unless they’re relentless,” Christina replied.
The Madman was scanning the crowd and noticed many people carrying signs for the different issues they cared about. Privatization was by far the most popular, and he knew faceless entities didn’t like people who stepped out of line. He needed to know who was truly interested, and who was faking interest so they could tear others down.
“There might be a limit to their greed, and there might not be. What I can tell you though, is that I’m a relentless hunter and gatherer of unadulterated truth. Whatever ugliness lies behind the scenes, I’ll be there to uncover it. Many politicians, appointed and elected officials all cower to somebody. Our goal is to find out who that somebody is, and bring them down so they can never hurt anybody again.”
“Still sounding pretty vague, but at least he’s getting closer to a point,” Christina retorted who was trying to listen because she liked his philosophy. Now that she thought about it, he sounded familiar.
“How do we find these people who make huge profits off the cleanliness of the water we drink, the quality of the food we eat, the chemicals we buy and produce, and the thoughts we may or may not have in our heads? We start by realizing that to truly succeed we must all become “Mad People for Good.” We must ensure unrelenting positivity runs through everything we do. Because although the people we’re up against will stop at nothing to hold us back, we must show them that their power is illusory because we’ve allowed them to have it.
We must let go of the idea that all people are out to do us good, and also the idea that everybody is out to do us harm. Discernment is the key to all interactions. If we believed everybody in the world was out to get us, we might never trust anybody. If we want to build a worldwide coalition to end the destruction of our species, then we have to upend their worldwide movement. They might have bigger guns and more money at their disposal, but we have something much more powerful. We the people have the will to see them pay for what they’ve done. We have the will to see their false promises and silver tongues are just a means of gaining more power and control. We need to show them we have the real power because there are way more of us than there are of them.”
Christina and Jason began looking around to see how the Madman’s message was being received. Some Europeans were roaming the crowd, but most were local Cubans who needed something to light a fire under them; because no one had been screwed over more by both sides than them. They had a revolution and installed what they thought was the answer to American imperialism and control of the world.
The world shunned Cuba because the United States government made them. This caused the Cuban government to be focused on control, stamping out dissent, and firming up their grip on power by telling the people just enough of what they wanted to hear.
“You think this guy means what he says?” Jason asked Christina, no longer in a whisper because the crowd began to scream and cheer for the Madman who finally made a point they could get behind.
“I believe he does mean what he says, that it’s possible to bring everyone together around a common cause that’s in all their best interests. I believe he believes that,” explained Christina who was going from skeptical to a little less cynical.
“So you’re not totally on board, you think it’s a line of b.s.?” Jason wondered.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say a lot of things, and most of the time it turns out the exact opposite of what they say. How can this guy be truly as good and passionate for collective uplift as he says? Or should I say as relentless in pursuit of positivity?”
Jason knew she might be right, but he noticed the look on her sun soaked face was the same as his when he thought he saw Aaron for the first time. Did Christina know this guy?
“The more we raise the issue of being treated like pawns and worker bees, the less smoothly it goes for the “elites”. The less smoothly it goes, the less profit is made; the less profit that’s made, the more lives that can be saved.
Once they see we’ve been reading between the lines and can spot what’s hidden in plain sight, they’ll realize we have the upper hand. Our purpose is to bring real people together.” The Madman was staring directly at Christina with no attempt to hide himself. “I love you all. I love humanity, that’s why I do this. That’s why I’m a Madman for Good.”
The Madman for Good then exited the back of the truck, walked up close to Christina to take one more look at her, before he was driven away by one of the vague looking men in suits that had been scanning the crowd.
Christina was in the front clutching Jason’s hand very tight, scared to the point of almost pissing herself, but also excited and anxious like she had just seen a ghost.
“So you want to tell me what that was all about? Why was he staring at you like he was trying to tell you he loved you, and everything has been in preparation for saving humanity, and you?” inquired Jason who was starting to feel uneasy.
“I wasn’t sure who he was at first, but then he said a few things so familiar I knew I had heard them before. Many people talk about the evils of privatizing resources so a few can make profit off the many, which is something I’ve always been down for putting an end to. When he looked at me I knew, he might have been wearing sunglasses, and that shaggy and greying beard made him look old and out of the loop, but I could tell he’s still in the game. He was obviously trying to disguise himself, but then he lowered his sunglasses just enough so I could look into his eyes. Like he wanted to show me who he truly was, if only for a second before his driver sped down that back road over there,” Christina fired back while pointing to the unmarked and heavily wooded road right behind them.
“You obviously feel like you know this guy. I’ve felt like I’ve known a lot of people, and then it turned out I was only relating to them because our beliefs and thought processes were the same. How can you say you know somebody through a disguise and words strong enough to stir a crowd, but just vague enough that he wouldn’t have anybody chasing him? He didn’t precisely say what the problem was or what he was going to do.” Jason was concerned for Christina’s state of mind because of her history of taking things to the absolute limit.
Christina stood there for a minute before she spoke. She knew she could trust Jason. Hell, he was the only man that understood all her quirks and eccentricities but loved her anyway. She slowly started to open her mouth to speak, but had a very dry tongue from the heat and the thoughts swirling in her head.
“I know that look, as if something is weighing on your mind. Just tell me,” Jason whispered softly as he looked into Christina’s soul to let her know he loved her and always would.
“That Madman for Good or whatever he’s calling himself these days, I think he’s my father.”
The Madman for Good, aka Jay Sherman always wanted to do the right thing, but sometimes there was a roadblock preventing his forward progress. He would question and question and question, and nothing seemed to ever come from it.
When the Madman met Julie, everything changed. Not only did he begin looking at everything differently, but now his endless questioning had a focal point that Julie helped to shape.
Julie and Jay were inseparable. They finished each other’s sentences and seemed to complete each other where the other was lacking. This went on for several years until they married, and eventually had a baby girl named Christina.
“What do you mean the Madman is your father? I thought your parents were back in Michigan,” pried Jason, a little concerned this was the start of another one of Christina’s episodes. He also knew she would never tell a lie, even if it hurt.
“I mean he is my dad. I don’t know how much clearer I can say it,” stated Christina whose fuse was shortening.
“I didn’t mean to upset you, I just think it’s crazy that we traced some secret postcard that may or may not have been sent by Bryan, to a country we had to sneak into because of a travel embargo. Then all of a sudden we run into your father,” asserted Jason whose love for Christina was always on display; especially when he needed to get to the bottom of so many different synchronicities.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to snap at you, I’m just in shock. I could really use a joint right now, something to calm my nerves and help me think rationally. They also have some of the best rum in the world here, even though whisky has always been more our thing, and the green. I so wish I could imbibe right now.”
“I feel you on that, but we’re in a place where we don’t really know anybody. Since the United States has one of the most feared prisons in the world here, we don’t want to end up in it because somebody spotted the stoners who took down the President. Cuba might not have any extradition, but I’m sure the CIA or any number of other spy agencies both government and private would love to get their hands on us. We don’t want to give them an excuse,” retorted Jason a little scared, but feeling a surge of energy because he knew they were being led somewhere they needed to go.
Just as Christina leaned over to kiss Jason because it always grounded her with warm sustaining energy, a note fell out of her pocket.
“What’s that?” asked Jason pointing to the crumbled up piece of notebook paper that tumbled out of Christina’s pocket and onto the scorching hot asphalt below her feet.
The words “honey bear” were scrawled across the note that was lying on the ground. She started to cry as she picked it up. “What’s wrong sweetheart?” Jason asked because he never liked to see a woman cry, let alone the one that made his soul sing.
“Honey bear is a nickname my dad gave me when I was young. I’d be playing with my toys in the living room and watching cartoons early on a Saturday morning, when my dad would come out and say, honey bear want me to cook you a special breakfast this morning?”
Jason just stood there and didn’t say anything. Could this be true, could this guy really be her father? Or was it another ruse perpetuated by some random person that had been following them, and put this note in Christina’s pocket to throw them off.
“So you think this was the Madman?” Jason inquired, trying to help them step out of the emotional mess they seemed to be sinking into.
“Yes. I think my dad the Madman slipped this into my pocket, for what reason I don’t know,” wondered Christina, stumped by what on earth the note could possibly say.
“Open it, aren’t you curious, I sure am. You’ve told me a lot about your parents while you were growing up. How they pushed you to your limit in finding what they thought was the truth, while at the same time pushing you to find your own path.
You two must have had a falling out. Where was your mom in all this? Anyway, whatever this note says, I’m here for you. Something tells me it will give you some of the answers you seek.”
Jason and Christina were on the same wavelength of finding truth and what was really going on. Now a clue was slapping them in the face saying, hey look at me.
“Can we go sit under that tree? I need some shade, the sun is making me sweat like a pig,” revealed Christina. She just wanted to be comfortable while she was being shown what she needed to see.
“I always like to make you sweat, but usually it’s followed by moans and joyful screams,” Jason joked, trying to lighten the mood.
“That’s true,” replied Christina as a miniscule smile broke out on her face. “We haven’t had an outdoor adventure in a while, and the woods over there would be perfect; but first this note.”
The trees behind where the Madman’s truck had been parked provided some shade, but not much from the sweltering Caribbean sun. Locals were roaming around as the crowd had pretty much dispersed. People actually seemed to be getting back to their daily lives, like a spontaneous protest hadn’t just happened. Which seemed a little odd to Jason, but he was sure the answer would come in time.
Jason and Christina sat under a tall wispy tree that provided a rather sweet sound from the wind blowing through the small amount of leaves that were on it.
“So what does it say?” Jason persisted, almost as anxious as Christina to see what was said by somebody who claimed to be her dad.
“Hold on, hold on. Don’t get your panties all in a bunch,” Christina jeered. She was trying to regain her composure, and crude sense of humor that always made Jason fall in love with her all over again.
“I love when your panties are in a bunch, but only when they’re crumpled up on the floor,” Jason chuckled with a look in his eye that made Christina tingly.
“Ok, ok; plenty of time for that later.” Christina gave Jason a look back that said I’m going to tear you up, but not now.
“Are you going to read the note, or are we just going to eye fuck each other all day?”
“I’m getting to it, hold on.” Christina opened the note and began to read. “Dear honey bear, I know it has been a long time since we’ve seen each other, and I’m very sorry for that. I abandoned you when you needed me most, and it’s been the biggest regret of my life. I’ve spent the last bunch of years wracking my brain about how I could make it up to you, and then it came to me. Hello to Jason by the way.”
“How does he know me, I’ve never even met the guy, I’ve barely heard you talk about him at all,” Jason exclaimed. He was now very intrigued because this note was the beginning of something that would take them exactly where they were needed to go.
Christina kept reading. “I can explain everything if you and Jason will meet me. I know a safe place where we won’t be watched or recorded. Follow the dirt road you saw my truck drive away on. About a half mile down, there is a road on the right hand side you want to take. Follow that for a few miles, until you get to a stand of four trees that look unnatural because they’re all growing together; but trust me, they’re very real.
Once you get there, a small trail right behind it will lead down a hill and eventually to a cabin with a chimney on top. You’ll know it when you see it, there’s something on the side only you would know about. Hope to see you two soon. We have much to discuss and catch up on. Love Pop.”
“That was quite a note. What do you think we should do? Should we follow the path he laid out for us?” questioned Jason who didn’t want to make a move without Christina’s input. He didn’t want anything to come between them. He couldn’t handle any more time apart from her, and neither could she.
“Yes, I think we should go. We’ve been following synchronicities since we met back up after you randomly answered that blog post. It led us not only into each other’s arms, but also to take down the leader of the free world. We’ve made it this far because we’ve followed the signs in front of us. Sometimes I’ve taken that to an extreme, but that’s why I have you to balance me out,” Christina exuded with as much honesty as she could provoke.
“Well, that’s it then. It’s so hot out here. Let’s grab a couple bottles of water for the walk. I don’t want to get so dehydrated before we get there that we don’t see somebody following us. We have a history of being watched,” exclaimed Christina who never spoke truer words.
The Trafficante liquor store existed for the traveler that didn’t want anybody to know what they were buying, or for what reason. Cuba had been the home to countless militants, activists, radicals and revolutionaries since long before Castro. Its history would dictate that such a store existed.
Jason and Christina walked in the front door, which was only a couple hundred yards from the tree they were sitting under. Customers were milling around the aisles trying to decide what kind of munchies they wanted. Most of the stuff looked old and outdated, very much like the bodegas in America. When Jason grabbed a couple bottles of water out of the cooler, he was relieved they were ice cold.
“This water is just what we need. Is it really that hot outside, or is it just me?” Jason quipped with an evil smirk as he and Christina walked up to the register.
“Oh it’s just that hot outside,” volleyed Christina as she gave Jason an equally evil smirk that caused them both to laugh out loud.
A few people turned around to see what was so funny, but when they saw it was just some American tourists being dumb, they went back to finding their temporary happiness.
“That will be one dollar,” barked the grizzled early sixties Cuban man whose untrimmed beard was scraggly, because he always had something more important to do.
Christina reached into her sweaty pocket and pulled out a very crumpled and soggy bill and gave it to the man behind the counter.
“Sorry about that, sometimes these things get pretty messed up,” Christina acknowledged wanting to come off as the friendly person she really was. She knew the calmer she stayed, the clearer she could think.
“That’s okay, in this heat I’ve seen it all,” relayed the store clerk who spoke with a Cuban accent, but in very good English as he put the money in the drawer.
“I was just curious,” inquired Jason as Christina worried about what might come out of his mouth. “Do you know anything about the guy that spoke on the back of that truck? He was really inspiring. We’d like to find him and ask him some questions.”
“That guy, you don’t want to mess with that guy. He showed up about twenty years ago, said he was running from somebody or something I can’t remember now. Since Cuba has been refuge to all sorts of people in the last half century, I didn’t think anything of it. Shortly after he arrived, all these shadowy looking people appeared asking what was he up to and what his goals were,” declared the store guy with fear in his eyes.
“It’s okay, you can tell us, what happened then?” asked Jason because his inner journalist was begging to come out after lying dormant for so long.
“There isn’t much more to tell, I don’t want to get involved with somebody like that. I don’t want to end up in Guantanamo. Americans don’t like us already. I don’t want to get them more upset by helping a guy they’re chasing. I’ve said enough. You two should leave now,” responded the clerk, more nervous than he was before.
“No problem, we don’t want any trouble. Do you know where we could find him?” wondered Jason who needed to know. He felt deep down that this would not only lead to Christina’s father, but would also lead them to Bryan.
“I don’t know too much, except for rumors of a hideout in the woods. I’m not going to look for it though, with my luck some no named death-squad would disappear me. Then I couldn’t get lovin from the woman that makes my soul sing; just like your lady does for you.”
“Thank you for your help, stay strong. These people can’t win forever,” Jason dispatched, channeling his inner Guevara.
Christina led Jason out of the store so fast, they didn’t notice the two people looking at magazines had been spying on them the whole time.
“Where do you think they’re going, do you think they’re going after the Madman?” asked the dark sunglass wearing forty year old man near the register.
“I don’t know. You asked me to keep tabs on them with my contacts and I have. What more do you want from me?” inquired the clerk who was obviously being pressured.
“We’ll let you know when we’ve had enough. Those are some of the most dangerous people in the world. They’ve messed with our operations enough already. We can’t let them do it again.”
Jason and Christina walked along the path looking for the right hand turn the note mentioned. It seemed like they had been walking forever because of the sweltering heat and humidity, but in actuality was probably about twenty minutes.
“Are we there yet, I don’t see any evidence of a road,” queried Jason. He was starting to feel they were being led on a wild goose chase.
“Wait, what is that up there?” pointed Christina to an odd looking rock on the right side of the road.
They walked up to it, barely able to make out a message written on the front. “What does it say, I can’t read it,” asked Jason very curiously.
Christina bent down to look and saw the words honey bear written on the side. The nickname was in barely legible writing produced by some kind of plant or other natural substance in the area, because it definitely wasn’t a pen or pencil.
“It says honey bear,” read Christina who looked at Jason to see what he thought.
“This has to be a clue, it’s too coincidental.”
Christina looked behind the rock and saw a bunch of needles and branches had been piled up to conceal something. She motioned for Jason to help her clear some of it so they could see what it was.
“What do you think is back here?”
“I don’t know, but we’ll find out sooner if you help me.”
Just as Christina uttered those words, she saw a small road the overgrown brush had been hiding, but very much still travelable by truck.
“This has to be the way, my dad always covered his tracks well; something he always trained me to do as a kid.”
Just as Jason and Christina started walking down the path they heard some voices.
“Where did they go, do you think they know we’re after them? They’ve never been to Cuba before and are randomly walking through the jungle to find somebody they may or may not know,” wondered one of the men who had interrogated the clerk back in the liquor store.
“We’ve been tailing them for the last few years. They found their way all the way down here, they must be up to something,” the senior operative insinuated.
The voices sounded very close so Jason and Christina hurriedly put back as many of the branches as they could, and hid in a nearby bush.
“They got to be close, I can smell them.”
“Shhh,” whispered Jason trying to keep them both quiet so they wouldn’t get caught.
“What’s this rock doing here, that’s kind of weird,” observed the junior operative.
“Well, rocks have been here for millions of years, what’s next you going to ask me what a tree is for?” bantered the senior operative very sarcastically. “Come on, let’s keep going.” With that the two mysterious men continued to walk down the dirt road.
“That was close,” Christina whispered to Jason as they got back on the path and continued walking. “I could really use a joint right now, especially after that. Maybe my dad will have some good stuff when we get to his house.”
“Your dad smokes weed?” Jason asked very surprised.
“I know he used to when he was younger. But since he’s been absent from my life for a long time hiding in Cuba, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
The next hour was long, neither Jason nor Christina said a word. They alternated taking sips of water and watching their feet move forward in a hypnotizing cadence. It almost prevented them from seeing the four trees growing together right in front of them.
“Look, I think those are the trees he was talking about,” Jason pointed to the abnormally tall and strange looking trees that were all growing together.
Christina hurried to catch up, and saw there was a path right behind the trees that led down a pretty steep hill, but one they could manage. “I think the path is that way, leading down that ravine. This reminds me of those crazy hippy trails going down to the beach. College Cove and Baker Beach were always my favorites, sometimes you had to bushwhack; but when you finally made it to the beach, you were always blown away no matter how many times you had been there.” Christina was filling up with energy again like she was when Jason and she met back up.
“Well then let’s go, this is yet another synchronicity we must follow, they haven’t steered us wrong yet.”
The hillside was a little soft, but rocks were stuck into the cliff acting as a crude staircase. From the footprints in-between them, Jason and Christina could tell this path had been used recently.
After about twenty minutes of switchbacks, they finally got to the bottom of the ravine. There stood a small cabin with a chimney protruding from the top just like the note said. Christina ran up, not noticing Jason was having a hard time catching her; the love of his life was presently finding her destiny.
Christina saw a big Winnie the Pooh that had been carved with a chainsaw, and hung by one of the windows as a display.
“This has got to be it, I’m sure of it. Winnie the Pooh was my favorite cartoon growing up, that’s why my dad was calling me honey bear,” Christina explained excitedly, anxious for the next step.
“You’re thinking of what the next step is going to be aren’t you,” Jason theorized.
“How did you know?” wondered Christina with a smile.
“Come on now, after all we’ve been through, you’re asking me how I know you so well,” Jason replied, trying to reassure the love of his life that he’d always be interested in the person she was, and the person she’d evolve into. “Aren’t you going to knock?”
“Don’t get you panties in a bunch.”
“Haven’t we been through that before?” sniped Jason with a smile that conveyed he wanted nothing more than to make the beautiful woman in front of him scream out in ecstasy. However, they had more important things to do at the moment.
“Hold on I’m going.”
“I know, it’s okay, it really is. Just knock.”
The two of them walked up to an old rustic door that Jeremiah Johnson himself would have been proud of. With sweat rolling down her face Christina gave a big knock, very nervous about who might be on the other side. After what seemed like an eternity, the door creaked open and a man came into view.
“Honey bear, you made it.”
Thoughts were racing through Christina’s head faster than a top fuel dragster making a pass at 330 miles an hour. She was having a hard time finding the words. “What?” Christina wondered very cautiously.
“Jay used to talk about you all the time. He said leaving you was the biggest mistake he ever made. He only hoped that you’d be a warrior for humanity and searcher for the ultimate truth,” replied the old lady who seemed as passionate for this fight as anybody. “I saw many pictures from when you were younger, and some from right before Jay went into exile.”
“I’m sorry, we’ve been through a lot in the last few days, getting shot at while leaving a foreign country we illegally entered was the icing on the cake,” Christina expressed. She forcefully tried to crack a small smile. “What’s your name by the way?”
“People call me Angie.”
“Well Angie, want to come in and have a drink with my boyfriend and his partner? I’m sure we have a lot of things to talk about.”
Bryan and Jason looked at Angie and then back at each other. They smiled at the fact they reunited with a purpose, and that they were partners again.
“I wish I could, but I have to pick up my grandkids from daycare. I was just having a beer until it was time. Your dad did want me to give you this if I ever came across you.”
Angie handed Christina a piece of paper with numbers on it, which resembled the same numbers her dad whispered in her ear when they left Cuba. She knew this was no coincidence.
“When we left, my dad, Jay, whispered some numbers in my ear,” revealed Christina who felt this was yet one more step in finding the answers they were looking for. She also thought the word dad was spoken rather easily, and she liked it; even though she knew their relationship needed a lot of work before it was where it should be. “We thought it was a phone number at first, but then we realized they were coordinates.”
“He was investigating somebody before he left, which is actually what caused him to leave. I used to work for the guy he was investigating, and I know he had certain places he liked to hide things. I was thinking this might be one of those places,” hypothesized Bryan who wanted to know if the guy he used to work for was really the evil mastermind he was starting to seem like.
“You must be Bryan,” remarked Angie with a strange smile that said hi how you doing, but I’m not sure I should trust you. “We came across your name when we did that last investigation.”
The group was getting a little nervous because everything was starting to fit together a little too snug. They knew it was something they had to finish. It could lead them to the truth about Marty, but also toward the six entities.
It was 5pm and people were starting to pull into the parking lot for after work refreshment. Jason, Bryan and Christina knew they shouldn’t be talking too loud considering they didn’t know who was listening.
“So what do you know about me?” asked Bryan very suspiciously.
“There isn’t time I have got to go. The last time I was late picking up my grandkids, they almost banned me from bringing them back. Since they’re the cheapest place in town, I can’t lose them,” Angie divulged nervously because she always felt like she was being watched since Jay left. A dark sedan pulled up fifty feet away. She couldn’t quite make out who was in the driver’s seat, but they seemed to be staring at her.
“Okay, okay no problem. Can you tell us anything about the numbers on that paper? Are they coordinates or directions, could you give us a hint?” wondered Jason who was aching to get a drink because they had been shot at two different times, but he also wanted to move things along. He knew this might be the tip of the iceberg because he felt something big around the corner.
“Yeah sorry. Those numbers are an address, and a locker combination.” Angie pointed her pink press on nailed finger at the numbers on the ratty piece of paper that looked like she’d been carrying it around since the depression. “There’s a bus station and some lockers about ten minutes from here. I think you’ll find all you need. Good bye and good luck, and when you see Jay, tell him I’ll always remember our weekend together.”
Angie smiled as she walked away, not wanting to wave and draw more attention. She wanted to show how happy she was that the man she was once in love with, had his offspring come to Detroit to finish his work.
“How can we get a hold of you if we have any questions,” Jason yelled but Angie couldn’t hear him as she was hurrying for her car. How weird he thought for a 75 year old woman to have a few beers before she picked up her grandkids, but to each their own.
“Sounds like your dad was quite fond of the ladies,” quipped Jason to Christina with a sly smile. “Sounds like she wasn’t a jilted lover.”
“Ha, ha, ha you’re so funny Mister.” Christina thought it was interesting her dad had lovers that weren’t her mom. Her dad had been out of the picture for some time, and something was telling her that the mystery of her parents would be figured out soon enough. “I think we should go in for a drink, we all could use one or four. Besides we now have our next move,” stated Christina who held up the piece of paper.
The dark sedan that made Angie nervous was still parked even after she pulled away. Since Jason, Christina and Bryan had drinks and bus station lockers on their minds, they didn’t notice two men get out and follow them into the bar.
Mary’s Alibi was something of a marvel. Well a marvel in the sense that it still stood after countless fights, cop interruptions and drunken idiots thinking they could get laid by anything that moved. Paintings lined the walls of animals playing poker, golf, football and all other sports that could be played by humans. People that liked drinking establishments for its surroundings and the crowds, this was not the place for them. If a person liked a bar that was a dank pit, this was their home away from home; a perfect dive bar for the dive bar patron in us all.
Christina, Bryan and Jason sauntered over to an empty table near the back, their feet sticking to dried up beer that didn’t get mopped up the night before. Several guys in hard hats and overalls sat at the bar being their loud obnoxious selves they couldn’t be on the jobsite, or when they went home to their wives.
“This reminds me of that place back in Arcata, remember where we liked the Bloody Marys?” Christina queried as they all sat down at the booth. “They’d get upset if you asked for a Bloody Mary with the works, acting like it was so much work for them to make. God forbid if you wanted a second one.”
The three of them started laughing, knowing they needed all the good energy they could get because this was the calm before the storm. Just as Bryan tried to come up with a witty response, a very well-endowed waitress walked up to their table. She took a quick glance at Jason because she thought he was cute. Since he was sitting next to Christina who was giving her the evil eye, she decided to fix her gaze on Bryan.
“What can I get you folks today?” quipped the 26 year old waitress attempting to show Bryan as much cleavage as her 3 sizes too small bra would allow.
Bryan who looked like a deer in the head lights quite literally, took a minute to find his words because the huge boobs he was fixated on were a foot from his face. Then he gained his composure and spoke. “Can I get three jugs, I mean three Pb and J’s?”
Christina and Jason snickered, but the waitress who didn’t mind this reaction because it usually meant a good tip continued. “Sure, coming right up big boy.” She looked at Bryan like pulling him into the bathroom would take too long, and pulling him behind the bar would be quicker.
“Wow, it’s amazing how guys can be completely controlled by boobs. No matter what the messaging says, women really do control the world,” joked Christina who laughed as she looked at Jason.
Jason chuckled, but then he spoke. “Hey Bryan, doesn’t this all seem familiar, like déjà vu or something?”
“What’re you talking about? I’m about to have some drinks with my friends and then hopefully have some boobies in my face before we leave,” expressed Bryan who couldn’t stop staring at the waitress whose blouse was being strained to its complete limits.
“I know you want boobs in your face, heck I do too,” agreed Jason as he looked at Christina who glanced back like you are such a man. “What I mean is, doesn’t this all seem like it’s happened before?”
“Kind of, but refresh my memory. I’ve smoked a lot of good weed with Jay since I was last in an American bar. My memory is a little hazy.”
“It was after the anti-immigration rally, when we met up with my old friend Aaron.”
“I remember that, and?”
“We were all sitting around having Pb and J’s, and this well-endowed waitress comes over with the same look in her eye as that waitress that just took our drink order. Doesn’t that seem weird to you?”
“I think the only thing that’s weird is you’re jealous. This lady seems like she is either depraved or deprived I don’t know which. Either way it could be lots of fun.”
Just as Christina was giving them a glare etched with a smile, the waitress came back with their drinks. “Three shots of Jameson and three Pabst Blue Ribbons,” exclaimed the waitress who was undressing Bryan with her eyes. Her boobs were now inches from Bryan’s hands, trying to make it very obvious what she wanted. He thought she wanted to do him right under the table as she walked away and blew him a kiss.
“That’s what I’m talking about, don’t you remember this exact thing happening.” Jason was trying to help Bryan think past the little brain in his pants.
“What, you don’t think a woman would go for me?” asked Bryan as he flipped over his coaster to reveal a phone number. He showed Jason like see, she does want me.
“Of course a woman would go for you. Heck I didn’t think a women would go for me until Christina showed up, but then she did,” remarked Jason as he looked deep into Christina’s eyes because she was everything he wanted. “Don’t you remember what happened at the bar after the rally?”
Bryan tried to think, but it just wasn’t coming to him. He took a drink of his beer to help jog his memory, but it wasn’t working. “I remember we had some drinks.”
“Yes we had some drinks, and the waitress that brought them was coming onto me just like she’s coming onto you now.” Jason started to wonder if Bryan’s brain got perma-fried down in Cuba, or if it really been that long.
“Yeah, and?” inquired Bryan with a look that said I know it’s been a while since we hung out or worked together, but please get to the point.
Christina was starting to wonder if the waitress did pull Jason into the bathroom. She didn’t know where this story was going, and was just as eager as Bryan to find out.
“What’s your point?” Christina quizzed impatiently.
“My point is the waitress kept trying to shove her boobs in my face every time she brought us new drinks. Heck she even gave me her number on the bottom of a coaster. But remember she did it because we looked like lonely guys getting drunk, and she knew she could make us do whatever she wanted,” replied Jason as he took a big drink of beer because he was getting a sinking feeling something was about to happen.
While the three of them sat there drinking their beers trying to think of what’s next, the well-endowed waitress walked behind the bar to make a call.
“They’re here. They have a woman with them, which makes it harder to keep Jason here. His old partner is with him and he is the one that I have my triple f cup sized hooks into,” stated the waitress very concise and to the point, everything a good agent should be.
“That’s good, he’ll be the one to make them stay because Jason has Christina,” replied the confident voice on the other end who had planned these setups many times before. “Don’t worry, Mark will be by to talk to them soon. Thanks Mary. Remember, my bedroom door is always open.”
“You couldn’t handle this. Anyway, as long as your money is good, I always need work.”
Mary hung up the phone and pushed up her boobs so they were mere millimeters from popping out like all the ladies at the renaissance fair, then she walked back over to see what else she could find out.
The bar was filling up and the loud conversations reached a fever pitch. Jason, Christina and Bryan couldn’t even begin to hear what Mary said on the phone. “When she comes back, you’ll see what I mean. I know that many women want you, I just think she’s trying to keep you here.” Jason was trying very hard to jog Bryan’s memory.
“Well here she comes, let’s see,” Bryan hurriedly finished his beer so he could order another one by the time she got to their table.
“Another round?” asked Mary, as she inched closer to Bryan, encouraging him to cop a feel
“Yes, I’d like another jug, I mean another drink. The same,” Bryan answered as Mary walked away, but not before she lowered her shirt so Bryan could see the entirety of her cleavage. “Is that what you mean by her holding me here, I don’t think so.”
“Just wait till she comes back. Man you’ll see,” Jason persisted because he wanted his partner to see the importance of the situation.
Two minutes later Mary came back with Bryan’s drink, set it on the table, and walked away without even giving him a glance. “See that’s what I’m talking about, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you; the giant boobs in the face thing is just an act.” Jason’s feelers were now up because he knew what came next in the original story.
“That was weird, she didn’t look at me at all that time,” realized Bryan, who thought for a minute before he spoke again. “Something is coming back to me.”
Just as Jason was about to lay down another I told you so, and Christina another comment about how men only thought about boobs, somebody tapped Jason on the shoulder.
“Hey Jason, fancy seeing you here; I’d say this isn’t your usual watering hole, but I’ve said that before and I hate to repeat myself. Then again, why mess with a classic?” queried the confident man who made room for himself at their table by forcing Bryan to scoot to the edge of the booth.
“This has happened before,” replied Bryan as things finally clicked.
“You think?” Jason immediately recognized the guy who once again sat at a table of his without being invited. “Nice to see you again Ridell; I heard you got out of jail, I hope not before plenty of good loving.”
“Ahhh, I’ve missed your wit. Even though I only spent nine months inside, I’ll never get that time back. You’ll pay for what you did, I just have to figure out how.” Ridell was trying to instill the same fear he inflicted when he was in the spotlight with his immigrations schemes.
“I figured you’d be out one day, people like you don’t go to jail. The system is built to sweep things like that under the rug. I knew they wouldn’t hold you for long, but I didn’t think you’d beat it that quickly.” Jason wasn’t just going to sit there and be threatened.
“If you’re here, I’m sure my brother isn’t far behind,” Bryan interjected, knowing that Bill had to be around the corner. Even though Ridell was the specific cause of his downfall, Bill cleaned things up, that’s what he did. He knew Ridell would always need help, somebody to force him to be more careful.
“He is, in fact we’ve been following you for some time,” Ridell expressed as calm and confident as any powerful ex-politician above the law would be. “To think, it all started with a postcard.”
For Jason the picture was becoming clear. When he and Christina first arrived in Cuba, and went into that Paladar for Cubanos, they saw some postcards by the cash register very similar to what they’d been sent. When they inquired about them, the lady there said two guys had asked about them recently, and were very rude, just like stereotypical Americans.
“Was that you trying to kill us with the drone back in Cuba?” Christina demanded, starting to sweat not from fear, but anticipation.
“Bill wanted to target you guys with one of those because he was used to flying them, but I wanted to get you bastards also. We must make you pay for what you did, but first a toast.” Ridell grabbed a shot of Jameson from the table and raised it. “Here’s to the reunification of enemies. Without the other, we wouldn’t have purpose.”
Ridell downed his shot as Bryan piped up. “So if you couldn’t kill us then, why have a drink with us now? You were shooting missiles at us and we escaped.”
“I still want to kill you guys. Things were going so well and I was making so much money before the water park incident, before the rally, before all that crap. My life isn’t close to where it used to be.” Ridell’s anger was building, but was still in check. “After Bill and I went down, the six entities abandoned us because we got tripped up by two nothings with no power. They thought what help could we be in implementing their final plan?”
“What would that final plan be, what do they have up their sleeves?” asked Bryan who didn’t appreciate being put down by trash he took out a long time ago.
“I won’t be making that mistake again. I told you the whole plan when I believed I had the upper hand. Bill said if I did that again he’d kill me himself.”
“Sounds like you’re still my brother’s bitch.”
“Yeah we will see who’s still a little bitch, want to step outside?” Ridell yelled. He wasn’t afraid to get in an old fashioned bar fight because he wasn’t holding office anymore.
“Let’s stop this pissing contest and get down to brass tacks.” Christina was getting tired of the back and forth. She knew if Ridell still wanted to kill them, he would have when he walked in the door. “So if you just tried to kill us, why should we listen to anything you have to say?”
“Always the voice of reason, thank you Christina for mediating this very tense situation. I’m actually very glad you’re here.” Jason’s face became beat red because this scumbag was talking about the love of his life, but Ridell continued. “After we got arrested, the six entities didn’t have our backs anymore.”
“You said that already. Get to the point shithead,” Jason fumed. His rage was reaching the boiling point.
“Aww, I remember you saying that, classic. Anyway, once I stopped being supported, I got all these threats that I couldn’t do anything about. I couldn’t find anybody I could work with. The six entities put the fear of God into everyone that could help us. That’s when I tracked down Bill because he’d also been released.
He suggested we go after you because you really did ruin our lives. Since he had access to all sorts of gadgets and machines from his time in government, we used a drone. We’ve been following you three ever since.”
“So again, shithead, if you were trying to kill us not too long ago, why are you here and why aren’t we dead in an alley somewhere?”
“I love that mouth on you, almost as much as I love your mom’s,” Ridell sniped causing Bryan to start laughing uncontrollably.
“Don’t laugh at this jerk. Whose side are you on?” asked Jason like what the hell man.
“Sorry, but you must admit that was pretty funny,” remarked Bryan trying to lighten the situation.
“So funny, get to it already,” blurted Christina.
“There she is again, the voice of reason. Anyway, after I missed you with several shots as you left Cuba, I thought there had to be another way. Since the six entities were going to try taking me down, I realized I had to take them down first.”
“You’re going to take down a worldwide organization with immeasurable power just like that?”
“Yes Christina I am, because I know how they work and what they’re trying to do. They are more of a threat than you because they can do infinitely more damage. You know the old saying, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
“And shithead and?”
“You know if it wasn’t for this sweet lady here, I’d slit your throat right now,” Ridell explained to Jason. “I discovered this Marty Jackson guy was linked to them through a treasure trove of information he built up.”
The bar was bustling like it always did at 5:30, which was good because it meant nobody was paying attention to this meeting, or so they thought.
“How is Marty involved with them?” Jason asked very eagerly.
“Oh so you can talk normal, good for you,” answered Ridell who smiled at Jason. “I don’t know if he is involved with them, linked to them or was just investigating them. All I know is that Marty had built up something that he was hiding.”
Christina felt the note in her pocket and wondered if it had something to do with the bus locker. “And where do you think he was hiding all this stuff?”
“I think you know.”
Christina looked at Jason and Bryan like should we really trust this guy, or was this just one more scheme because he couldn’t kill them earlier that day.
“I can see you’re mulling this over, never good to make a hasty decision,” remarked Ridell as if he wasn’t the guy who made a hasty decision to shoot their plane down with a missile, and ended up taking out a few trees instead.
“How do we know we can trust you?” Christina insisted with a death look that said don’t fuck with me or I’ll tear your eyes out and make you look at yourself before I kill you.
“You don’t, and by now I’d think you’d know that’s how the game is played.”
Jason looked at Christina like should we tell him, she looked back with eyes that said only if you believe it’ll lead somewhere we need to go. They both thought it was amazing that two people whose souls were authentically intertwined, could just read each other’s thoughts. Bryan picked up on all the inner dialogue. Jason was the most trustworthy guy he ever met, and had never done him wrong. He looked at Jason and nodded.
“We know of this locker,” Jason stated very cautiously. “We want to find out about Marty just as much as you.”
“That must be his hiding spot.” Ridell was glad they were finally getting somewhere. “What are we waiting for? If we don’t find whatever Jay hid soon, there’s no telling what the entities will do. They might shut off all the water. They might use the Emergency Powers Act.”
Was Ridell aware of what Marty was investigating, or even that Jay found out and was pushing them to the same locker? Since he was never one to pass up a synchronicity, Jason decided they should let this play out as long as they were on their toes.
“Just to put you guys at ease, maybe we should smoke this first; I’m sure the three of you could use it.” Ridell held up a joint so perfectly rolled, Christina would have been proud if it was one of hers.
“Now you’re speaking my language. You didn’t lace this with anything did you?” Jason joked, not clear about anything anymore.
“Haven’t we been over this, if I wanted to kill you I would have already.”
Ridell got up from the table which caused Jason, Christina and Bryan to look at each other. They all thought what the hell, so they followed him out the front door.
“You got a lighter man? I think Bill stole mine. Ha, ha, ha, ha,” chuckled Ridell, trying to lighten the situation.
“He always had a tendency to do that.” Bryan laughed as he produced a lighter from his pocket and handed it to Ridell.
“Thanks man.” Ridell lit the joint and took a big puff. “Awwwww, that’s much better. I haven’t smoked in years.”
Jason grabbed the joint next and took a big rip just to get the taste on his tongue. “That has a nice flavor, what is it?”
“Good green bud number five.”
Bryan and Jason laughed because of their interaction with the two joints Bryan gave him when he first arrived in New York. That seemed so long ago, now they were smoking a joint with the very guy they brought down.
Jason handed the doobie to Christina who wanted to speak before she took a hit. “I know we have a common enemy, but again why should we trust you?”
Christina took such a big hit that when she exhaled, a big cloud of smoke surrounded them all.
“It has to do with your mother and how she might be the mastermind.”
Christina never thought her dad would try to take down her mom like something out of a political conspiracy handbook. Who would think their parents were out to destroy everything, just to fix it? Maybe kids do think parents are out to ruin their lives. Then their thoughts, feelings and actions evolve as they gain more life experience.
“My mother? How could my mother have anything to do with this?” Christina asked so passionately and skeptically she almost forgot they were smoking a doobie with a former Congressman Jason helped to take down. “I know I lost touch with my mom after dad took off. She said she had to find her own way, but to find her pulling the strings of an evil organization meant to tear down the world, just to build it back up is almost too much to fathom.”
“All I know is I heard some chatter about a lady running the organization now. Seems even a group bent on world domination through privatization of everything is an equal opportunity employer,” Ridell added with a smile.
Was everything coming together like the last time Bryan and Jason put themselves in the right place at the right time? Was something bigger going on all together? They didn’t have it figured out yet, but this was their first clue along the path.
“Even an extremely powerful group has to be on the side of women in power. I realize sexism and racism are still very much an issue, and minorities are marginalized before being allowed into certain positions only if they go along with the status quo,” Christina blurted out all in one breath. “But, again, what does this have to do with my mom?”
Ridell still had Bill’s threat of ending his life hanging over his head, and he wanted to prove to Christina that even if they didn’t trust each other, they did have common goals. “I don’t know for sure, when you’re talking about the six entities, you can never be sure of anything. I did find something in your dad’s papers from when he was investigating Marty. It said the only woman he ever loved might be the leader of his worst nightmare, and Marty would lead him there.”
Jason looked at Bryan who was wondering if they were done exposing themselves to any of the hundreds of people that wanted to kill them. From the look on his face, he knew they needed to get the hell out of there. “So you’re saying that Bryan’s brother is threatening somebody we took down? He wants to find somebody that’s going to help them take down his former boss who will lead them to my girlfriend’s mother? This is all because her father said something in a secret paper after he was driven out of town by the person he was investigating?”
“If you were any more vague I might know what you’re talking about,” remarked Ridell who was just as weirded out by the whole thing. “That’s what I’m saying. We just have to make sure we keep the same goals. I’m sure we all have leverage on each other, which will keep us honest until we accomplish our common goals.”
Bryan wore a smirk because he knew that one of the reasons Riddell murdered his father, was to cash in his insurance policy. He was sure Riddell held something on him, he just didn’t know what. “So my brother is threatening you if you divulge too much, but he’s okay with you coming to us for help? Seems like he’s lost a step in his old age. Why doesn’t he just come out here and tell us himself?”
“You know your brother, he likes to stay in the shadows. He doesn’t want to come out until the entities are done. He’s prepared for the long haul,” stated Riddell.
“Okay, as long as you don’t get in the way when we have it out, because I’m sure he knows it’s coming just as much as I do.”
The four of them eyed each other trying to see if they should trust each other. Who knows who might be watching or from what angle, or with what kind of camera or recording device? It seemed the technological world meant to connect every one, made the world grow further apart by making it suspicious of itself. Jason knew it was important to do their small part to put society back on the right path. Nothing in life was inevitable, it always came down to a choice.
“Follow us to the bus station and we‘ll figure out where to go from there,” Jason exclaimed. While he loved to smoke doobies and bullshit all day, important work needed to be done, and he wanted to get moving. “We don’t need to trust each other, we just need to have the same goals. If not, all bets are off.”
“Agreed,” Riddell replied with a smirk.
Jason, Christina and Bryan hopped into the Tahoe that was faithfully piloted by Goose. “You guys took long enough, over there,” Goose blurted out. He was a little worried they may have been seen because the parking lot was full, and cameras could have been anywhere. “Christina, I know your dad told me to protect you, and by extension Jason and Bryan. That guy will try to screw you over the first chance he gets.”
“That’s why we have to use him before he uses us. We have to throw him out with the trash before he throws us out,” Christina replied feeling the full confidence that comes when speaking truth from your soul.
Jason looked at her admiringly and thought this woman is amazing, I love her even more now. “I love you baby, I’d follow you anywhere.”
“I know, and I you, but right now we have to keep our eyes and ears open because nothing is a sure thing.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” added Goose, happy to see the down to earth reasoning that made him follow Jay, was passed down to his daughter.
They pulled onto the street for what would have been a ten minute drive if there wasn’t traffic, but that was practically impossible since it was right in the middle of rush hour.
The sun was fading away, and the remaining light reflected a yearning for a better society off of closed factory after closed factory that had moved overseas.
“I wish we could do something about this. The government gives tax breaks to companies who move their factories thousands of miles away, putting many Americans out of a job. Meanwhile the companies say they need these tax breaks because it gives them money to expand and create more jobs. They just fail to mention those jobs won’t be in this country,” Jason seethed. His face was getting red with anger the more they drove down the street.
“That is very true. We have to deal with rampant unemployment, which causes a drain on natural resources because the infrastructure that kept it affordable is gone. The companies say that if they took control of power and water systems, they could streamline its delivery to the people.” Goose wanted to ensure that he was part of the conversation. Every kid they saw playing outside seemed to be wearing clothes and shoes that should have been thrown out years ago.
Goose joined up with Jay years back after convincing him that after years of investigation, Marty wasn’t the great guy he made himself out to be. He continued to dig up information while the Madman for Good was in exile, as he waited for that right opportunity to make his dreams come true.
“Yes. They think of profit first when delivering water and power to the people. Since they’re the only ones providing it, they can charge whatever they want. Working people can’t afford to pay because the rates have been raised so much,” quipped Christina. She looked at Jason because she was getting just as excited as he was since they were getting an opportunity to do some good.
“Maybe we need some kind of technology to save us. It’s true that technology is partially responsible for the downfall of society by making everything impersonal, but we can also use it to our advantage. We can use technological breakthroughs to help advance society. Some people say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Without good intentions however, a person will never know what the right course of action is. People get in trouble when they think that if their intentions are good, they don’t have to take action,” replied Bryan since he had just as much to gain or lose as anybody else. Would his brother really allow this to happen without it being just one more scheme?
“I agree. That’s why the Madman for Good became the Madman for Good. Unrelenting positivity through the action of doing the right thing,” expressed Goose, whose passion and hope grew from the energy building in the car. “He wanted to start as a catalyst for change, then transition into an agent of change. I’m not sure which one I am yet, but something tells me I’ll soon find out.”
As they meandered through the city, people were walking home from work, kids were playing in what little space they had, and homeless people hoped somebody would come along and be their agent of change. Was it possible for people to be their own agents and catalysts of change at the same time? Jason knew that if they were honest about who they were and what was in front of them, their authenticity would initiate positive results.
The north central downtown Detroit bus station was a sprawling facility that went on for several blocks. Jason and Christina were familiar with bus stations that had one pick up and drop off point, not 20. “How will we ever find the right locker?” wondered Jason as he followed Bryan and Christina who were getting out of the car. “You coming with us Goose?”
“Unfortunately I have a few people to meet with, but don’t worry, they’ll help us down the road,” Goose answered with a wink and an authentic smile.
“What do you mean a few people that will help us down the road?” asked Christina, wondering if they should trust the guy supposedly protecting them.
“Just remember that if the early bird gets the worm, the hawk gets the bird.”
“What? Think you could explain using a metaphor that actually makes sense in English?” quipped Christina with a fake laugh because she was feeling the stress of the situation.
“Even if things are dark and look like they’ll never work out in a million years, if we have faith that they will, they will. It’s when we close that door, that it stays shut. Never close that door.”
“I’ll try not to. I’m glad my dad was such a positive influence on you.”
“I could say the same. He raised a daughter with a great head on her shoulders. Good luck, and if you need anything, here’s another untraceable cell phone whose signal bounces from tower to tower so it can’t be nailed down. Call me if you need anything.”
Christina, Jason and Bryan waved at Goose who led the caravan of four black Tahoes as they disappeared back into city traffic.
“There are so many people here, any of them could be a spy,” thought Jason, keeping his eyes peeled for anybody suspicious. Men and women alike were bustling around everywhere trying to get to their buses, while trying to have that last minute conversation before they went home to their family.
“Let’s try going that way.” Christina pointed toward the information booth. “Maybe they can tell us where the lockers are.”
“Ooh and look, a Coney dog place right there,” replied Jason as his mouth started to water. “I haven’t been here in years but they were always so tasty. I mean it’s no Cuban sandwich or anything, but there’s something you can’t beat about a bunch of chili on top of a great tasting wiener.”
“Not that I want to get in between a couple of guys arguing over which wieners taste better,” quipped Christina with a laugh that caused the guys to immediately have more respect for her because she could take a joke. “In fact, all wieners have different flavors.”
“Excuse me?” inquired the mid-fifties man standing at the information booth. Jason, Christina and Bryan had been laughing so hard, they didn’t notice they walked across the busy station right up to the booth. Most of the people were stuck looking at their phones, the rest were staring at them.
“I’m sorry sir, my boyfriend just made a joke.” Christina lamented, trying to lighten the mood for the obviously offended booth man. “We’re looking for some lockers we can put some things in while we ride around the city?”
As the guy in the booth looked down at a computer screen with a scowl because he had to deal with obnoxious jerks for crappy pay, Bryan whispered from behind them. “He looks familiar, like I’ve seen him somewhere before.” Bryan seemed to be having a flashback, or maybe the ex-Congressman’s weed was just that good. “It seems like he’s helped us before, I just can’t put my finger on when.”
“Now that you mention it, he does look familiar,” noticed Jason.
The guy in the booth leered at them suspiciously before he spoke. “You know I can hear every word you’re saying, you aren’t exactly being quiet you know. Trust me you’ve never seen me before. Don’t say we all look alike so I must be the guy you ran into.”
“The lockers?” inquired Christina trying to restore order.
“Yeah, at the far southwest corner of the station is a bank of lockers. There might still be a few available. You’ll see a pay station with instructions there that should explain everything.”
“Thank you,” Christina responded graciously.
“No problem. Make sure your punk-ass friends don’t talk trash at my booth again, or I’ll have to come out and kick both their asses.”
Christina led the boys away. She didn’t want to draw any more attention to themselves, other than the people already watching them. “Why did that guy get defensive all of a sudden? We didn’t even do anything,” implied Bryan. “Somebody must have pissed in his cheerios.”
“He only got upset when you said you’d seen him before,” conveyed Christina, happy she was there to settle down the testosterone. “People only get that upset when you’re speaking truth, and they have something to hide.”
Jason was happy to see that the woman he loved was becoming more attractive as time went on. “I love you baby, you’re right. We probably have met him somewhere, but where?”
Just as Bryan was following Christina and Jason to the lockers that were now only a couple hundred feet away, it dawned on him, were people following them? How were they able to move through this crowd without somebody jumping out and grabbing them? Were they being led into a trap? “What about Ridell? What about my brother for that matter? Weren’t they going to help us out, where are they?”
“That’s a very good question, but right now we just have to grab whatever is in that locker,” suggested Jason because they were getting closer to what led them to Detroit.
“I pointed them to where Marty hid the information, should I take them down now?” inquired the guy in the booth who had picked up the phone.
“Not yet, just keep an eye on them. We need them to open the locker, grab whatever is in there and then we’ll take it from them. After that, be creative. I know this isn’t as exciting as being security at a rally, but you’re doing your part to keep the American people strong,” expressed the mysterious voice on the other end which had a strange tone to it, almost like it was healing from a face lift. “I know you’re down for the cause, you helped us stop Aaron. Even though he was lost, we know you can still help the entities. Without them, the mongrels would take over.”
“Understood sir. You might not be serving anymore, but you’re still my Commander in Chief.”
Christina and the boys walked up to the locker with combination in hand, not noticing the two men who had been following them 100 feet behind since the info booth.
“Now that I think about it, we have seen that guy before. He was security at the anti-immigrant rally in New York. He directed us towards Aaron,” remembered Jason as Christina began to enter the numbers.
“You know I think you’re right,” stated Bryan whose brain moved from food back to the task at hand. “You think Riddell and my bro sent him?”
“Maybe, but they couldn’t pull something like that off since the six entities don’t support them anymore, or so they said. Then again who knows about anything at this point.”
“Well if you guys are done babbling, do you want to see what Marty was hiding?” Christina interrupted as she opened the locker and found one simple manila folder inside.
“We came all this way for one stupid folder?” queried Jason as he reached out to pick it up. “Let me see what this thing says.”
The folder had no markings on the outside, but the inside was filled with plenty of pertinent information.
“These look like blueprints, specs and financial reports for something called a water bio-analyzer. Geez, I hated science classes. How are we supposed to know what this means?” pondered Bryan, not knowing what to make of it.
“I didn’t much care for science classes either, I had to hold study groups for months just to get a C,” Jason chuckled, and realized he very much missed laughing with Bryan since he had been away. He had Christina and couldn’t be happier, but sometimes he needed some friendly male interaction. He was just glad to have his friend back.
“How about you hand it to somebody with an actual science background,” replied Christina with a smirk that said Geez, let a woman fix what men have messed up once again. “It’s interesting when a woman has more book smarts than the guys. Let me see that stuff.”
Jason handed Christina the folder with a loving look in his eye because he was so turned on when she intellectually took charge. He knew that love was behind it, she really was a Madwoman for Good.
“Oh man, this is, oh my God. I didn’t even think this was possible. No wonder dad was after Marty, and who knows why Marty had it, or even if he was trying to hide it from somebody else. This could change the world,” exclaimed Christina whose eyes were bulging out of her head.
“Really, then what is it? I thought I was the only one who liked to beat around the bush,” Jason sniped with a dirty smile.
“I’m not touching that one. Well maybe I’ll touch it after we figure this out and get some alone time. These are blueprints for a revolutionary new way to desalinate and purify water. From the pictures, it looks like they pipe the water in from the ocean or feed in snow, and put it through this bio-analyzer which cleans it quick enough, so when it comes out of a kitchen sink, you can drink it. This could change the world.”
Just as Jason pondered the right response, a hand tapped him on the shoulder. “Remember me, I told you guys to stop looking because you’ll never take us down.”
Jason turned around and looked into the eyes of seventy year old Terrance Shipley, who had five of the biggest armed body guards he’d ever seen around him in a defensive formation.
“I remember you, but where is that Australian shepherd, it was so cute. Way better looking than your ugly mug,” remarked Jason, not wanting to cede an inch.
“Ahhh, there’s that wit, that angst to fight. That’s why we knew we should follow you. We knew you’d eventually lead us right to these plans your former boss so gracefully stole from us. He thought he’d cut us out of the deal. Little does he know….” the old man quipped.
Just as Christina was about to defend Jason and Bryan verbally once again, the old man stopped her before she opened her mouth. “Before you say it, let me say it for you. We knew your dad was following Marty, and we knew he discovered where Marty hid the blueprints. Now we have them and don’t try to stop us.”
“What makes you say that you son of a bitch,” asserted Christina accusingly as she lunged to punch the old man before one of his body guards pushed her to the ground.
“You’re such a big man you like to hit women,” Jason fired back, defending his lady.
“If you would have just stayed away from the water park that day, none of this would have happened. Why couldn’t you have just gone to get anesthetized in an air conditioned movie theater like the rest of the population?” questioned one of the bodyguards menacingly.
“Okay enough,” interjected the old man who was starting to feel inconvenienced, but nowhere near threatened. “This is how it’s going to work. I’m going to take these blue prints and you aren’t going to follow us.”
“After all we’ve been through, what makes you think we won’t?” Jason stalled, trying to play along so they could get as much information as they could. “Continue. What are you threatening us with so we don’t come after you? Who did you kidnap?”
The old man was stunned that Jason had already jumped two steps ahead, and wondered what Jason was insinuating. For now, the threat was the plan. “When this country lost the most powerful man in the world they trusted to carry them to a brighter day, I asked myself what purpose could that serve? We could make it look like the people triumphed over evil, giving the bad guys time to regroup and attack even harder next time.”
“You going to get to it, or are you just going to talk big about things we already know, like the President faking his death after you made him resign?”
“I always respected your ability to cut through the bullshit Jason. If the cards were different, you could have helped me and the six entities carry out the master plan.”
“What master plan?”
“Do I look like Riddell? Do I look like I’m going to tell you just because you asked me? While we’re on the subject, have you seen Riddell or that guy Bill who always told him what to do?”
Jason chuckled under his breath before he answered. “We haven’t seen him, and we’re actually telling you the truth this time. I’m not telling you because I want to screw you over like a used car salesman, I want you to tell us who the hell you kidnapped, so we can get on with the rescue. I really want to eat one of those Coney dogs over there.”
“Okay, not being one to get in-between a man and his food,” joked the old man, wondering if Jason was actually hungry or was attempting some sort of diversion. “We tracked down Christina’s father in Cuba, and asked him where Marty hid the blueprints. He said somebody was on their way to grab them and re-hide them. Naturally once we said we had an eye on you guys, and that we’d kill him if he didn’t talk, he told us.”
“You’re telling me my dad cracked, just like that?” Christina queried suspiciously.
“He said he didn’t want to let you down like he had before. After he told us you were headed to some bus station locker in Detroit, we decided we’d hold onto him for insurance until we received the blueprints.”
“Well now that you have them, are you going to let him go? Where are you hiding him?” questioned Jason, hoping the old man would let something slip.
“Once we feel that you have backed off, we’ll let you know when and where we’re letting him go. You don’t want to start receiving his limbs one by one in the mail, do you?”
“Not really, I wanted to spend some more time with my entire dad, not just parts of him. Don’t hurt him. How do we know he’s still alive?”
As the old man walked away holding the manila folder, followed by his monster bodyguards, Jason looked down at a vibrating burner phone Goose said couldn’t be traced. Somehow the old man sent him a video message.
Jason opened it to find the Madman for Good tied up with a copy of the Detroit free press in his hands to show what day it was. “Sorry Christina, I tried. I just didn’t want to see you hurt. These guys mean business. Don’t question their authority because they won’t put up with it. I love you.”
The video cut out and the screen went black.
“So we have to find him, right?” inquired Christina as she frantically looked at Jason and Bryan like why haven’t we started looking yet.
Just as Bryan was about to open his mouth a familiar voice spoke up. “What did we miss?”
Jason turned around to see Ridell standing there like he was out of breath from running. “You’re a little late to the party. We found what Marty was hiding, but the entities came and scooped it up before we could leave. They also kidnapped my father and said if we followed them, they’d send us his body parts one at a time,” Christina exploded two inches from Riddell’s face. She had an expression that said tell me what I want to know, or I’ll rip your balls off and shove them down your throat. “I suggest you tell us everything you know about the six entities or so help me God, I’ll rip your heart out and send it to your father. Oh sorry, I can’t do that because you killed him. Talk asshole or I’ll think of somebody else to send it to.”
Jason backed up five feet from Christina because he never saw her so mad before. He decided it was better to get out of her way because he knew you don’t get in the way of a woman and her dad.
“Okay, hold on. You’d think I was the one that took him.”
“How do we know you’re not?”
“So we’re going to play this game again?”
“Just talk, NOW!”
“Remind me to never piss you off again. Without your mother, the six entities would have never gotten off the ground. She was the architect.”
“So my father investigated Jason’s father for investigating my mother?” asked Christina in disbelief of the words that spilled from her lips.
“Pretty much,” replied Riddell, who knew how unlikely an alliance this could be. “I want to help you guys because the enemy of my enemy is always my friend.”
“You said that before,” Bryan piped up, remembering how many times Riddell had done him wrong in the past. “Not that I trust you, because I don’t. How exactly are you going to help us?”
Riddell chose his next words carefully, “I want to bring these guys down just as much as you do, and the less time we sit here jawing, the more time we’ll have to track down her mom. Like I said, she is the key.”
Jason needed to fill his stomach because it was growling like Tony the Tiger. “Can we finish this conversation over at that Coney dog place? I’m starving and I don’t want to start this fight on an empty stomach.”
After staring each other down for what seemed like an eternity, Jason, Bryan, Christina and Riddell all realized that if they kept standing there staring at each other somebody would notice them. Without talking, they walked through the noisy bus depot and across the street to Bull’s Coney Dog.
The place was fairly busy when the four of them walked in. The smell of chili and hot dogs beaconed across their nostrils and permeated the room. After a long wait in line, they hoped it was worth it. “What kind of wiener are you going to get? Something puny and un-flavorful that makes you sick when it goes down,” Jason bantered with Riddell, trying to get a rise out of him, and to see if he could take a joke.
“Isn’t that what your mom said last night Jason?” Ridell quipped. Bryan laughed at the surprisingly funny joke his former and future enemy came up with. “Let me buy this round and purchase some good faith.”
Christina and the guys agreed so Riddell ordered four Coney dogs with the works, and a few baskets of fries because he knew it would be plenty to share. As they walked over to an empty booth and sat down, Riddell spoke, “about your mom, she’s been at this for a long time, getting close to her won’t be easy.”
“If anybody could get close to her, I could. I’ll play the long lost daughter who wants to reunite with her mother, which in a way I am.” Christina barely believed that in the span of a few weeks, she found out her father was alive, met up with him while he was exiled in Cuba; and then discovered her mother at the helm of a worldwide conspiracy bent on world domination, it was something right out of a movie.
Jason sat next to Christina on one side of the booth, and Bryan sat uncomfortably next to Riddell on the other side. “Ladies first,” Bryan chuckled, motioning for Ridell to scoot down so he could sit on the end.
“I thought it was age before beauty. Wait, I meant you,” replied Riddell, badly messing up the joke. Bryan laughed anyway because the attempt was there. Ridell’s plan of getting close to the people that took him down was almost complete.
“Ok, let’s get off moms, I got off yours,” Jason shot back, who wanted one more dig because he couldn’t help himself.
“Ha, ha, ha Mr. Jason. Bill always said you were the brains behind taking us down, but from the lack of quality in your jokes I’d have to disagree.” Riddell didn’t like this set up either, but he knew it was necessary.
“What do you have for us? What about the blue prints for the bio-analyzer? Did my mom invent it or did the six entities steal it from her?” Christina blurted out. She wanted to start this mission as fast as possible, because she couldn’t sit next to Ridell much longer. “What’s the next step? How do we get the blueprints back?”
“It all goes back to the President faking his death, or should I say your mom faking his death. She knew the entities would hemorrhage major cash, if he was held accountable; as would the system designed to slowly chip away at the working class till there’s nothing left. Why do you think unions have declined since the eighties?” asked Riddell who wanted to prove himself.
The air of bullshit was thick in the air, so Bryan tried to cut through it. “Okay, we know unions and workers have been downplayed for years. That’s nothing new. We want to know how Christina’s mother is involved.”
Christina’s eyes said thank you for getting things back on track. “Yeah what about my mom, and how do you know she’s my biological mom?” Christina queried, wondering how both her parents got involved in this. Her parents always told her growing up that she’d have to find her own path. She’d have to be her own agent of change, and not wait for somebody else. She lost track of her mom when her dad left. Little did she know what was going on behind the scenes.
“Your mom had a science background like you,” Riddell interjected, trying to appeal to Christina’s intellect. He needed her help most of all. “She came up with the idea of the bio-analyzer all by herself. She knew it would be extremely useful as the entire world goes through drought after drought. She showed her ideas to a guy she met in school who had government contacts. It was your dad Jason, Marty Jackson.”
Jason was stunned. “So my dad was working with Christina’s mom?”
“Yes. They were childhood friends who grew apart as they got older as many tend to do. Anyway, she showed Marty the blueprints because she trusted him, and thought he could get it to the right people.”
“So what happened next?” wondered Christina with baited breath.
“Once Marty realized the importance of what he was being shown, he showed them to his other old friend from school. You know him as the former President. He went behind Marty’s back and offered your mom a job and a boatload of money for the blueprints. He of course wasn’t the President yet, but he knew the bio-analyzer could make him billions. Your mom wanted to share the technology with the masses and make good money at the same time. She came up with plans to not only use the bio analyzer to fix the environment, but also plans to fix the military, the health care industry, the chemical industry, the financial industry, and the government itself. Then to top it off, she wanted these six separate parts to work together to help the world, while making huge profit.”
“So the six entities came from my mom, so she could have her hands in all the areas she’d need to control the world? Was this the master plan that you were talking about?” Christina fired back with an inferno in her belly she hadn’t felt in a very long time. She wasn’t bitter anymore about leaving Shane Corp., just another stepping stone toward her dream. She knew once you’re on the path toward your dream, it will take you places you never thought you’d go.
“You’re mom wanted to change the world, one area, one entity at a time. Which brings us to the master plan,” responded Riddell, wanting to divulge just enough to get the gang’s juices flowing, because he knew they would screw him over the first chance they got. He just had to make sure he screwed them over first.
Just as Christina was about to ask another pointed question the food arrived steaming hot. If heaven had a smell, Jason surmised it would be something like this. “Man I’ve waited for this a long time,” Jason recalled, remembering when he was a kid and would visit his family.
His dad grew up in the area and told many crazy stories about the sixties. He was always in the picture, but his real dad wasn’t. What was the story with Marty? Jason needed to find out soon, but he knew Christina’s journey would have to come first. He thought it was interesting that once he was traveling his path, it led back to her. Little did he know, it was now driving them both back toward their parents.
A million thoughts were steamrolling through Jason’s head, but an amazing chili dog was sitting in front of him, so he took a big bite. “Mmmmmmmmmm, this is good.”
“I’ve had chili dogs before, but this is good,” exclaimed Bryan happy to be back with his good friend. He knew the road ahead wouldn’t always be rosy, so he decided to just enjoy the moment.
“Should we look for Marty? Christina’s mom? Christina’s dad? Who will lead us to what we’re looking for?” Bryan theorized as he took another monster bite. He was in ecstasy just as much as Jason. “I think we need to locate Christina’s dad first. Ridell, you must know where they’re holding him?”
Ridell was enjoying his Coney dog with such gusto, chili was dripping down his face. He had to wipe his chin before he was able to get his words out, “yes.”
“Yes, is that all you can say?” replied Jason who was lulled into relaxation by the delicious food in front of him, but not so much that his brain went to sleep. “What’s the next step?”
“Tell us, where are they hiding my dad?” Christina gasped, starting to get anxious.
“Ok ok, don’t get your panties in a bunch. When I was still in their good graces I visited an abandoned factory they used as their secret headquarters.”
“Whose secret headquarters? My mom’s? The entities, whose? So help me, if you tell me one more time not to get my panties in a bunch, I’ll make you choke on that Coney dog you’re shoving in your mouth,” Christina shot back because she was tired of playing games.
“It’s across town. Let me walk in there and see what I can see. I’ll find out what I can.”
“Didn’t you just say they were after you too?” queried Christina. She wanted to make sure everybody was on the same page. “How are you just going to walk in there?”
Not wanting to give up his leverage right away, Ridell knew he’d have to give them just enough to keep their beaks wet. “They do want to see me go down. That much is true. If I tell them I can bring you to them, while helping you find them, it will be a win win.”
“Then what, we’re just supposed to stroll up there because you say it’s cool?” Bryan fumed because he didn’t trust Ridell anymore than he could throw him.
“Look man, you don’t have to trust me, hell none of you do. We all want the same thing, and the sooner you realize that, the better off we’ll all be. Basically I’ll go there, tell them I know where you’re at, and that you’re looking for Christina’s dad,” offered Ridell.
“After the old man showed up at the bus station and told us they’re holding Christina’s dad, I’m pretty sure he’s expecting us to go after him,” remarked Jason trying to see where this was going.
“He probably is expecting that. I’ll say I’m sorry for what I did, and I’ll help take you guys down just to show them I can be trusted again. Then when they tell me where he is, I’ll simply send you a message. You then swoop in and rescue him,” Ridell suggested.
“Just swoop in huh, and how in the hell are we supposed to do that?” quizzed Jason angrily.
“I don’t know, you’ll figure it out. Hell, you took me and Bryan’s brother down by using your wits. Which at this point, is the only thing you can trust,” Ridell retorted.
Bryan began to ponder everything he had been through with Ridell. All the years he tried to bring him down after discovering what he was truly about, then actually taking him down, and now having him come back to help was unbelievable. Bryan was still confident though because he had leverage on the former Congressman.
“Go ahead and do it. You have something on us, we have something on you. We don’t have to trust each other. We just have to remember either one of us could end the whole game. That will keep us both honest. Jason and Christina want to change the world for the better and so do I, especially since our families are somehow involved. What do you have to gain?” Bryan cross-examined, wanting to know Ridell’s motivation before they were off to the races.
“What makes you think I don’t want a better world too? You know I did at some point in the past. I realize we’re in different places now, but that kind of thing never goes away,” pondered Ridell, remembering days gone by.
“I’m still not sure if I believe you, but at this point we just have to see what happens,” Jason answered confidently. This was the only way to get the truth they were all seeking.
“That’s the voice of reason I was searching for,” Ridell remarked, trying to hide an evil smile, but which Jason picked up on immediately.
“What was that smile for, you planning to screw us over?” Jason snapped back. He had to hold his nose because the stench of bullshit was just too much.
“Not any more than you’re planning to screw me over,” Ridell volleyed in return.
Not wanting this thing to get into a stalemate because of a measuring contest, Christina spoke up. “Go talk to them and get back to us. Since we don’t trust each other anyway, we don’t have anything to lose.”
“I know I don’t,” Ridell snarked with an even more deceitful smile than before, which made the guys trust him even less. “You’ve got a good woman here Jason. You don’t want to lose her over this. Don’t let her kill herself trying to outdo her mother by starting the twelve entities or something.”
“Why did you have to say that, don’t you know when to shut your stupid mouth?” uttered Jason whose anger was boiling over. He was very passionate about making positive change, and about the amazing woman that was sitting to his right. He also knew his purpose was to uncover what was swept under the rug so the world could see it, rise up and institute the changes that needed to be instituted.
“Since I know the next words out of your mouth are going to be shithead, I’ll be on my way,” Ridell remarked smugly with a cool confidence that made Jason want to punch him. “I’ll message you when I have something. Just remember to always look over your shoulder, you never know who is watching.” Ridell got up from the table and walked toward the door, right behind him, he was followed a man in blue jeans, a black hoodie and dark sneakers.
“See you later man, don’t screw us over. That goes for you too bro,” Bryan conveyed to Ridell, and the guy who followed him out the door he knew was Bill.
“What do we do now? We know we can’t trust that guy. Marty could probably help us find where Jay is because of the information he found,” Jason exclaimed. He was trying to wrap his head around the situation because it was a crazy truth. “Marty was tracking the entities so he could find Christina’s mom, all the while holding onto to technology he knew they’d love to get back. I think we should start there.”
Jason hoped Christina could handle this thing they were about to get into, but he knew she could; that’s one of the reasons he loved her so much. She was just as much down for the cause as he was.
“Sounds like a plan. Let’s go ask Goose if my dad had any contacts in the city that could lead us to Marty,” Christina demanded. She was getting riled up because a deep passion for justice was rushing through her veins.
The three of them finished up their food, and walked out to the car. “I know I just ate a bunch of chili, but don’t worry I won’t fart too much,” Jason joked, trying to lighten the mood.
“Hey, I ate just as much you did buddy. I’ll stink you both out,” Christina fired back with a laugh that made both Bryan and Jason smile.
“Two people turning each other on by describing their farts, I don’t think I‘ve been grossed out more in my entire life,” Bryan added.
Goose had been patiently waiting by the Tahoe that was in the same place as when they left. “You came back?” asked Jason, surprised Goose parked in the same spot.
“I couldn’t leave you guys, not until this fight is done. I’m a Navy Seal, it was ingrained in us to never leave a brother behind, and see the mission through to the end,” answered Goose with as much conviction as his soul could exude. “Besides, I’d do anything for Jay, he saved my life.”
“With everything that’s happened so far I totally want to hear that story, but for right now we have to find Marty. My dad must have discovered something about where he could be,” Christina expressed anxiously.
Goose got a twinkle in his eye because Christina truly was the daughter of the Madman for Good. “I think he did. When he was looking into Marty, he found out Marty was looking into the entities, which is how he found out about you.”
“We know all this,” Christina stated. “Tell us something we don’t know.”
While Goose was trying to come up with a witty response, a call came over the police scanner attached to the dashboard. “Officer down over at the corner of 86th and Hunter St. requesting ambulance and all units in the area for backup.”
“That sounds like a hairy situation,” exclaimed Jason who was a little nervous, but glad because they had a battle hardened Navy Seal on their side.
“It definitely does, especially since Jay had tracked Marty to that location some years back. I think we should take a ride over and check it out,” replied Goose instinctively. He looked and sounded like he was going into battle, because he knew he was.
Goose pulled the car out of the parking lot and headed down the road toward the address. The streets were filled with angst because of all the traffic. Driving down the road in downtown Detroit, must be like driving down any downtown street in America Jason thought; poor people struggling to survive outside of skyscrapers filled with jerks laughing in front of computer screens while counting their billions of dollars. Jason felt like finding Marty was the next step in stopping them, and to rescue his girlfriend’s dad of course.
They pulled up at a warehouse which had already been cordoned off with crime scene tape, and had a bunch of cops trying to keep the crowd at bay. “Great, how do we get in there now?” queried Jason, wondering what trick Goose might have up his fully tattooed sleeve.
“Judging by this crowd I don’t think we are, but I see a guy I used to serve with,” noticed Goose as he parked the Tahoe a block away and walked towards the scene.
“Let’s follow him, especially if it leads us to my dad and eventually my mom.” Christina jumped out of the car so fast, Jason and Bryan were barely able to keep up.
Within five minutes, Goose found his way to the front of the tape and was talking to one of the uniformed officers. “Hey Goose long time no see,” expressed the late-fifties officer who looked like he had seen better days, but still had much work to do before he could retire. “How are you, how’s Jay?”
“He’s been better, the entities took him,” remarked Goose with both sadness and rage in his eyes thinking of what he was going to do to the people who took him. “I’m actually here with his daughter trying to find him.”
Goose turned around to introduce Christina because she was nipping at his heels. “So you knew my dad also?” Christina asked as she went to shake the hand of yet another person that worked with her dad.
“You could say that. Goose and I go way back, we were both Seals. He went into private security, I obviously went this way,” the officer explained pointing at his badge. “But my passion for being one of the Mad People for Good has never dimmed. What can I do for you?”
“We know Jay had been tracking a guy named Marty Jackson years ago, and this was one of the places he tracked him to; we figured it was a good place to start. We just didn’t figure we’d come across a dead body in the process,” Goose stated inquisitively. He wanted to find his leader. Jay was more than a mentor to him. He was a man that re-instilled hope within his soul.
“It’s funny you bring up Marty. He was just here, but then he split,” the officer wondered.
“Why?” asked Goose.
“He heard his hiding spot had been located, and the entities were coming to get him. They sent in one of their henchman, but I guess Marty got to him first. The kicker of the whole thing, was that the guy they sent in was disguised as a federal agent, some guy named Bill something.”
Bryan stood there stunned. “They sent my brother in, and Marty shot him, is that what you’re saying?”
“You want to keep your voice down?” whispered the officer who knew anybody could be listening. “You must be Bryan, I heard Jay talk about you, nice to meet you. Anyway, Marty found out they were onto him, this guy Bill goes in to do the deed, but Marty got to him first.”
“Marty what, killed him and escaped?” Goose chimed in, not wanting to lose track of the mission.
“Pretty much. After I arrived on scene, the uniforms, suits and lab geeks were roaming around trying to find whatever evidence they could. I saw a little scrap of paper hanging out of a crack in the wall. Since nobody was around me at the time, I picked it up and started reading.”
“Well, well? What did it say?” demanded Christina who was just as impatient as she was excited.
“The note was addressed to followers of the Madman for Good. It was some kind of coded message I was never able to figure out,” deciphered the officer who really was confused, but happy he ran into some friendly faces that could help. He wanted to fight the same good fight that the Madman for Good instilled in him.
“Do you still have it, let me see it,” Christina insisted. She held out her hand and the officer put a dirty scrap of paper in it.
“Beside the fact this thing looks like somebody wiped their ass with it, I think it might be the answer we’re looking for,” observed Christina who knew that to get at the heart of a situation, you had to keep things light. “It’s addressed to all Mad People for Good. It says I had to do what I had to do, Honey Bear knows the answer. The location is beyond Pooh’s forest where honey no longer exists. Find Marty if you d-aver.”
“This message was obviously meant for me, or for somebody else to find and give to me. I have no idea what d-aver means though,” explained Christina as she got a tingling feeling they were onto something really big.
“When I worked with Jay, he was building up his movement as he was investigating Marty and the entities. He held neighborhood meetings all over the place but listed them secretly. He would give a random street name to throw people off, but the last letter was the key. When he said D-aver, he didn’t mean it’s on D street, he meant it’s on R street,” expressed Goose who even though he was one of the toughest guys anywhere, he was happy that people with unrelenting positivity were on his side and would also see the mission through. “Jay must have stashed the note, who knows if Marty even knew it was there while he was hiding out.”
“It sounds like he was trying to make the clues just hard enough, but not so hard that nobody would figure them out,” Jason wondered out loud.
“He was, but he wasn’t. He was building a movement to take down the people who hold the real power behind the scenes, the entities in the shadows so to speak.”
“So this place is on R Street or something then?” responded Christina.
“Not exactly. You put the R in front of the word ave. and you get the word rave. Since he hoped people would be ravenous for change, he thought having a meeting on a street called ravenous would be a great place to start. It’s a quiet, discreet office park about ten minutes from here.”
“Well let’s go,” Jason demanded, eager to find out about Christina’s dad, but also about his own. Meanwhile Bryan was still trying to process the fact that his brother was dead. Ridell must have told him what they were up to. He told Bill to drive over, kill Marty who was at the safe-house they were in front of right now; but Marty got to him first. Bryan expected his brother to get killed one day, but Bill was still his brother and that would never change.
“Nice to meet you Christina. When you find your dad and I know you will, tell him that I owe him so much and would follow him anywhere. I’ll gather the troops at a moment’s notice, he only has to say the word. There are many people like me and Goose ready to take these bastards on. We all want to do anything we can,” stated the officer who stuck out his hand so Christina could shake it.
“I will, and thanks so much for your help.”
As they walked back to the car, Jason realized that the waterpark, the Congressman, the President, hell everything they’d been through led to this point. Even though it was scary to delve into the unknown, this time was more exciting because he knew they were directly helping the world to evolve.
The Golden Meadows office park looked the same as any of the million office parks people pass as they drive down a busy street. It was the perfect meeting place to set up the downfall of a secret organization.
The parking lot was half full as Goose pulled the car into a spot. “Okay, this is the place. I remember going to a few meetings here before your dad went into exile.”
“He really must have meant something to you for you to risk so much for him,” related Christina.
“He did and he does. Like I said before, he saved my life, and when we have more time I’ll tell you the whole story. For now, all you need to know is that you’re looking for suite 5d. It’s the one down there in the far corner,” Goose explained as he pointed at the small brown door. Even though it looked like any run of the mill door, he knew that behind it was their collective next step. “Why don’t you go down there, I’m going to stay back and have a smoke.”
Christina nodded at Goose in agreement, while she, Jason and Bryan got out of the car and walked toward the far end of the parking lot. Each step they took was another step forward in a journey with an unknown outcome. They might not know their destination, but they were traveling their correct path.
Before they could think of anything to say to each other, the door that read suite 5-d was staring them in the face.
“Should we go in?” Bryan reluctantly inquired like he didn’t already know the answer.
“No I think we should go home, smoke weed and watch Seinfeld reruns. Of course we should go in, but that whole weed and Seinfeld thing sounds good. Maybe we could afterward,” babbled Jason to himself, not noticing if Bryan or Christina were listening; he was just trying to make himself feel better. He turned the knob on the door and they walked in.
There was a familiar looking secretary at the desk, knowing he’d seen her somewhere before, Jason walked up.
“We’re here to see, wait a minute, Barbara?” inquired Jason with a dumbfounded look on his face.
“Go right in, he’s expecting you.”
The office door behind Barbara was big and made of a beautiful stained oak, which seemed odd for a discreet office, but Jason knew they had more important fish to fry.
The door opened to a man sitting behind a desk, who was trying to hide in the shadows. “I’ve been expecting you, how you doing son?”