PART TWO: A Race With Amnesia
“Mankind is a race with amnesia
Clinging to a planet pocked by
Long-forgotten horrors…recalled only
In our most ancient myths and legends…
As if nothing more than dreams.
But dreams can as well be nightmares,
And amnesia is often caused by trauma.”
— Avis Schumacher
The Past is Not Passed
Dateline: Wednesday, 5 December, 2012
Outside Falls Church, VA
So, instead, he called Yellow Cab.
Twenty minutes later, slightly wobbly and leaning on a cane the hospital had given him, he climbed into a cab and was on his way at last. He was going to see a sketch of the Roswell symbols and compare his lone Commandments photo with them, thanks to Ross Galilei, Ph.D., Professor of Astrophysics at George Washington University, and specialist in physical trace evidence (of the little green man variety).
Dave went over his notes, refined his questions, and within minutes they were entering the outskirts of Alexandria. He thought about running by his apartment, for clothes, cat food, and so forth, but . . . no. Cyndi had warned against going anywhere near his usual haunts. Besides, he was in no condition to climb three flights of stairs.
So, it was on to Washington University, and his interview with Dr. Galilei.
And not once did he notice the little black sedan, two cars behind him.
Sgt. Heim and his men followed the cab as it left the Malach woman’s house. They’d been watching the residence since following her home from Connors’s apartment the previous night. This really was a no-brainer, Heim thought. Having the Mossad along was utterly unnecessary, as he’d known it would be. He could handle this; it was child’s play. The two Mossad agents were nothing but baggage. Until now.
Because, now, they would take Connors . . . the moment that cab stopped. They would have to be careful of traffic cops, security officers, and the like: they hadn’t come all this way to blow it at the last moment. They’d come for only one purpose—to capture or kill David Connors. And they would.
They would have him today, one way or another—dead, alive or some other condition in between.
The cab arrived at GWU’s grad school, on Ballenger Ave., about twenty minutes later. The campus was only half a mile from David’s apartment—an eight-minute stroll, at most. But there would be no strolling for Dave Connors . . . not from his apartment, anyway; it was permanently off-limits.
Fortunately for David’s hip and thigh, traffic was light that morning, and for good reason: autumn had finally given way to winter, and the weather had gone all to hell. Mother Nature was serving notice that the little joke about “Indian Summer” was over, and the real nastiness was about to begin.
As the cab approached the visitor parking garage, Dave was dismayed to find the entire campus bristling with security: squads of armed guards, city police, and other uniformed personnel were swaggering all over the grounds—as if patrolling a top-secret government installation. Some were even wearing brown shirts. Over a decade after 9/11 and the aftershocks were, if anything, increasing.
But if Dave was dismayed, the passengers in the black sedan were nonplussed: Heim and Co., already blocked from action at the Malach woman’s house, were to be stymied here, as well. Because they were armed to the eyebrows, they couldn’t risk scrutiny by even campus security, let alone uniformed police. They had no choice, then, but to drive past the garage and park on the street. And wait.
And even though the display of campus Gestapo irked the hell out of Dave, he owed his life to it, just then. He would remain unaware of this until after his meeting with Dr. Galilei, when “Life-in-the-Big-City,” as he called it, would throw him a little curve.
He paid the cabbie, then gimp-walked on his cane across campus to the Science building. At least the rain had ceased, and the sun was actually beginning to peak through the clouds—albeit sullenly, as if it had simply grown tired of playing hide-and-go-screw-yourself.
Dave’s path took him up a gradual slope that wound its way beneath a thickening grove of elms, oaks and maples. The autumn leaves were brilliant, and as the sun shot through the clouds in all its glory at last, Dave saw a golden beam shine through the trees, as if lighting his way.
The hilltop came into view, crowned by the science and engineering building. David entered it and saw a bald man in his forties, wearing a white lab coat, walking toward him. He had dark eyes set beneath a thick, beetling brow. He glanced first at the cane, then at his visitor.
“Mr. Connors?” he asked.
“Guilty,” Dave said, extending his right hand. “Please, call me Dave.”
The professor shook his hand and smiled in return. “Ross Galilei. I was led to understand you wouldn’t make it today. Our mutual friend, Cyndi, phoned and told me you’d got the worst of it in a tangle with a car, is that right, Mr. Connors?”
“More or less. But I’m good to go, Doctor. And, please, just call me Dave.”
“Sorry. Call me Ross, or Doctor, if you prefer. Anything but Galileo; it makes me feel like a star. Get it?”
Dave smiled. What’s this? Geek humor?
“Are you all right to walk?” asked Dr. G.
“Well, my break-dancing career’s over, but I guess I can still walk, yes.”
Galilei smiled. “Good. Then follow me, please.”
Dr. G led him toward a hallway on the left. Dave gimped along behind him to a large, wood-paneled door, which Galilei unlocked with a card key (security being a byword on campus). When they stepped inside, Dave couldn’t help feeling awed and dwarfed by the sheer size of the office.
It was gargantuan, bigger than any classroom, and illuminated by three tall, rectangular windows—the old-fashioned kind, with hand cranks. The view was stunning.
The hilltop presided over the entire campus from here, the trees, the quad, the main administrative buildings—even Duke Avenue, crowded with its fraternity and sorority houses, restaurants and coffee shops. Dave could follow the avenue all the way along its course into the heart of Old Town.
“Doc, you must have kissed some serious posteriors to get this view,” he said.
Dr. Galilei seemed taken aback by this, but managed a slight smile.
“Eh, yes, well,” he began, “I understand you’ve some interest in my work on trace evidence analysis.” He nodded at a projector aimed at the back wall.
Great. Dr. G had a presentation all ready to go for him. No doubt a dose of “Death-By-PowerPoint.”
“Later, perhaps,” Dave said. “What I’d really like to see is your sketch of the Roswell debris.”
Dr. G arched an eyebrow. “You certainly don’t mince words.”
“My word-mincer’s broken, Doc,” Dave said. “Besides, you’re a busy man.”
Galilei gave the projector a rueful glance, then turned toward his desk.
From a central drawer, he withdrew a thin manila envelope. Inside it was an old-fashioned, spiral notebook. The covers were bent and wrinkled, and all the pages appeared yellow with age, yet the edges were still sharp and crisp.
Galilei lay it on his desk with reverence, as if it were a treasure map. He opened it halfway, removed two pieces of onion-skin paper and revealed the sketch at last: the Roswell debris.
It was a surprisingly good pencil drawing of what appeared to be part of a kite, with a balsa wood frame and a light, silvery skin (indicated by pencil shadowing and the word “silver.”) Dr. Galilei had even included the torn and ragged edges of the debris, just as David remembered them. Then, along one side of the frame, on some sort of I-beam, were the symbols. Dave whistled and nodded.
“Disco,” he whispered.
“I drew this in July of 1987,” the doctor said, “during a field study I conducted in Roswell that summer. Fortieth anniversary, that sort of thing. I met the woman who owned the debris, a Rosalind Something. She let me sketch it in her kitchen.”
“Rosalind Brazille,” Dave said. “I met her, too, five years ago. Neat lady.”
“Yes,” Dr. Galilei replied. “How is she these days? It’s been ages.”
“Can’t tell you. She . . . disappeared.”
“Oh,” said Galilei. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“You’re tellin’ me.”
“In any event,” Galilei continued, “I read the article you wrote at the time, for World News Weekly,” he added. “Good piece, really. Objective, informative—almost scientific.”
“Well, thanks . . . I think.”
“As you can see from the sketch, I’m no artist. My primary aim was to capture the symbols on the debris as closely as possible, with little concern for size, proportion, or other aesthetics.”
Dave thought it looked pretty good to him. The symbols, so achingly familiar, stared back at him from the paper like a spurned lover. You lost me once, genius, don’t lose me again . . .
“May I?” Dave asked.
“Of course. But please be careful; it’s only in pencil. Easy to smudge, even now.”
Dave picked up the notebook, careful not to touch the 25-year-old drawing. It showed the debris just as he remembered it: a small, angular piece of some impossible plastic-liquid-metal, the I-beam inscribed with purple, pictographic symbols—a cross between computer machine language, Egyptian hieroglyphs and primitive cuneiforms.
“As I said, I’m no artist,” Galilei offered. “Just a feeble scientist doing his best.”
“Well, your best is pretty darn good, from what I can see,” Dave said.
“Thank you. Our friend Cyndi said you had some . . . similar photos?”
“Had being the operant verb, Doc. My Roswell shots are all missing. But I do have one similar photograph, taken recently.”
Galilei blinked, confused. “Rendlesham Forest, 1980?”
Dave withdrew a single 5×7 photograph from his jacket pocket and placed it on the desk next to the notebook. It was a plain, black-and-white photo of what looked like chunks of hand-carved stone tablets, covered in strange pictographic symbols. Galilei blinked.
“The . . . Ten Commandments?”
“Give that man a ceegar,” Dave said.
“I don’t smoke,” the professor said. “But I may start today. This is incredible.” He held the lone surviving photo of the Commandments next to his sketch and compared the images. At a glance he could see that many of the symbols were indeed the same. “Simply incredible,” he repeated.
“No artist here, either,” Dave said. “Just a feeble journalist doing his best.”
“And I’d say that was ‘pretty darn good,’ too.”
“So,” Dave said. “What do you make of it?”
The professor paused a moment, glanced down at his sketch and David’s enlarged photograph, then looked up again. “I don’t know what to make of it. Save the obvious.”
Galilei shrugged. “That the God of the ancient Hebrews was an extraterrestrial. Of the same species that crash-landed outside Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.”
* * *