This weekend was a huge success for both the crowdfunding campaign and for my NanoWriMo project. As of last night, we have passed $2,600 of funding for my first novel, Whiteout, and I’ve hit the 18,000 word mark for Maelstrom. The response to both projects has been amazing and I want to thank you all for your support.
Now, we are still only 1/4th of the way to our goal and we’re going to need help to make Week 2 as successful as Week 1. Please, share the link, donate if you can, and do anything you can to help get us noticed! As always, thanks a million for your help and your support.
Just a reminder, this is unedited, a rough draft, is the product of too much caffeine and CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WHITEOUT AND DOWNPOUR. You have been warned!
Links to previous chapters: Prologue,
6. The General
The first door on the right ended up being disappointingly nondescript. Despite the lavish architecture of the antechamber surrounding it, the entrance to the room was nothing more than a bland, double door. The carved pillars surrounding it were adorned with depictions of various myths and legends from all over the united states.
One of them, depicted a pair of sasquatches walking through a snowy forest, and I couldn’t help but laugh. “Organization for the policing of myths and legends, and they can’t even do their research.” I pointed to the carving for James to see.
James looked at the image and started to laugh. “I guess two apex predators walking hand-in-hand had better feng shui than having them at each other’s throats.”
In reality, there had never been a time in modern history where there were enough sasquatches still alive where two would come into contact with each other, but if they had, it would have been a brutal affair.
The door to the interrogation room slammed open as Murphy came storming back in. “Why the hell are you letting him sit here and talk about Bigfoot?!” His mustache quivered and sweat beaded on his brow.
Angry little fella aren’t ya? “I swear it’s relevant,” said Nick. “We were just about to get to my employment with the CIA. Care to join us?” He tried his best at a winning smile, but his jaw ached as if he had been punched recently. Thinking about it, he supposed that might have been true.
“We don’t have time for your bullshit,” raged Murphy walking across the room toward Nick’s end of the table.
“Murphy, calm down,” said good cop, in a soothing tone.
“There are two dead men sitting on slabs downtown because of you.” He jabbed a thick finger in Nick’s direction.
“What if I told you they weren’t men when I killed them?” asked Nick, the evening slowly coming back to him.
Murphy looked completely confused by the statement, but good cop was beginning to look intrigued.
At least one of them is starting to listen.
“Murphy, let me handle this.” He stood from his chair. When on his feet, it was clear that he had a few inches on Murphy and made for quite the intimidating figure. “Go get a couple of cups of coffee and I’ll work on him. I think I might be getting somewhere.”
“He’s just going to feed you a bunch of lies.” Murphy’s voice had quieted, but the anger was still clearly there.
“That might be true, but if he does, we’ll just lock him up. No harm done.”
Nick didn’t like the matter-of-fact tone about locking him up, but supposed he couldn’t expect much else.
“Thank you. If you would, bring a cup for Mr. Ventner as well. If he keeps talking, I suspect it’s going to be a long night.” Good cop turned to Nick and favored him with a sly wink.
I get it, you and I have a little secret. Trying to foster comradery. Nick had been on both sides of an interrogation before and knew the tricks. Even so, if it meant a cup of coffee, he was willing to go along with it.
Murphy looked like he wanted to protest, but grunted and left the room, not slamming the door behind him, but also not trying to be gentle about it.
“I’m sorry about him. Tends to be a little bit of a loose cannon.”
Nick wondered just how much of it was an act. Maybe Murphy was sitting behind the double glass, calm as could be, laughing about his performance with coworkers. Either way, it didn’t seem to matter much. “It’s alright, I know the type.” Once more he found his mind wandering back to James, wondering where he was and if the police had caught up to him yet.
“I believe you were talking about the solitary nature of sasquatches?” He said the word ‘sasquatch’ with an almost practiced awkwardness as if were a new taste he was unfamiliar with.
“Yeah, I suppose it’s not really important. Suffice it to say, if two sasquatches got within five miles of each other, they wouldn’t stop until the other was dead. There’s ancient records of them tearing down whole forests in search of a rival, but that’s a story for another time.” A nagging sensation at the back of Nick’s brain told him that he needed to stall for time. He couldn’t quite place his finger on why, but knew that it was important.
“Right, we were about to meet a CIA general working for the sixth side, in the top of The Luxor in Las Vegas.” Nick briefly wondered what the CIA would do to him when they found out he had told so many secrets to a beat cop, but decided it was a problem for another time. The whole story sounded too ridiculous to believe anyway.
“You see, the CIA was having a little bit of trouble with a particular area of the Atlantic Ocean, and needed our help…”
The room we entered looked like a technical war room out of a 1980s movie. On every wall were banks of computers where scores of engineers in white collared shirts and ties, typing furiously and chattering into their headsets. On the back wall was a massive corkboard with pictures of military ships and thick reports, held together by pushpins and red string.
“Wonderful,” said a gravelly voice from the back of the room. “Gentlemen, the cavalry has arrived.” An older man in the uniform of a navy general stood up from his chair. While the others working in the room were clean-shaven and crew-cut, the general sported a tangled white beard, giving him the appearance of an old sea captain. In the breast pocket of his uniform, several cigars, neatly arranged, poked out.
“I was starting to think Smith was unsuccessful in convincing you. Would have been a shame to have to start the search all over again.” The general approached them, picking his way around the mass of tangled wires and computer banks. His stride was stiff, and uneven.
When he eventually made his way to the front of the room, he thrust a hand out good-naturedly. “I’m Captain Schwartz, but everyone here likes to call me Ahab on account of the leg.” He rapped on the side of his right leg, producing a hollow clacking sound, revealing a prosthetic.
I reached out to shake his hand and found myself in a firm grip. “I’m—”
“Nick Ventner, a drunk, but also one of the finest sources for the disposal of mythical creatures in North America.”
I blushed slightly at the compliment.
The general released my hand and moved onto James. “That makes you James, one of the fine few to go to the Land of the Dead and return unscathed.”
James hesitated, and then reached out to shake the man’s hand. “Nice to meet you, General Schwartz?”
“Ahab will do fine son. No need for titles here. Now, you’ll excuse me if I’m not more welcoming, but as you likely already know, we’ve got a situation developing, and we need your help. Follow me.” Ahab picked his way back through the room, motioning for us to follow.
As we passed, I looked at the various screens lit up around the room. People were tracking storms, researching marine biology, and I swore one of them was watching a National Geographic documentary on conspiracies of the Atlantic Ocean. “What exactly is it you’re looking at here?” I asked, confused.
“The disappearance of military vessels, Mr. Ventner. We’ve lost three carriers in the past six months, and we can only blame so many of these incidents on inclement weather and insurgents.” Ahab stepped up to the board covered in red strings and pictures of military ships.
It didn’t take me long to formulate a theory about the missing ships. Oceans in general are home to all sorts of nastiness, but the Atlantic has a few special qualities to make it worse. “I’m guessing the ships have a localized disappearance pattern.”
Ahab cocked an eyebrow at me suspiciously. “Yes, they do. How did you know that?”
James looked at me confused as well.
“Ships disappearing in the Atlantic Ocean, you can’t seem to figure out why, and you’ve called an expert in myth and legend. It has to be the Bermuda Triangle.” In my travels, I had never read anything good about the Bermuda Triangle. There were plenty of stories talking about people who hadn’t returned, and that was enough to make me want to stay the hell away.
“You’re going to tell me you don’t believe in aliens, but you believe in the Bermuda Triangle?” James’s tone was incredulous.
“Yes, of course I am. One of them is ridiculous, the other is not. So, Ahab. Am I right?”
“I can see our faith in your abilities was not misplaced.” He seemed genuinely surprised, but not unhappy about it. “Yes, the Bermuda Triangle. Now, before you ask the obvious question, no, we can’t go around it. Consumer ships go straight through it all the time on their way to Puerto Rico, and it’s only a matter of time before they start getting lost too. This is a public relations nightmare just waiting to happen.”
Looking at the pictures of the large carriers and gunships, it seemed impossible that they could have been taken down by weather. When dealing with phenomenon in the triangle, its odd weather patterns are usually the first to be blamed. Wind sheers that can make planes drop a hundred feet in a second, and severe pockets of low pressure creating sudden storms. Even the largest maelstrom in modern history couldn’t have taken down an aircraft carrier.
“I’m guessing you have a few theories for what’s causing the disappearances?” asked James, moving the conversation along while I thought through my inner library of conspiracy theories and legends.
In that moment it occurred to me that the most important book I had ever possessed was back with our gear in the Nevada desert. Ahab was about to begin talking about what his thoughts were on the disappearances when I interrupted him. “Before we go any further, we’re going to need our gear back, there’s a very important—”
“Book?” asked Ahab, grinning. “I had a feeling you’d be bringing that up.” He snapped his fingers and one of the men at the computers stood up and walked over to a concealed wall panel safe. “Don’t worry, it’s all intact. Not for lack of trying though.”
Don’t tell me they tried to open it, I thought. The book has plenty of countermeasures that prevent it from destruction or falling into the wrong hands, none of them nice.
“We tried to open it.”
The man who had opened the wall safe came back clutching their bags between two prosthetic hook hands.
I must’ve winced noticeably, because Ahab laughed. “Oh don’t worry, Schmidt lost those at sea.”
Schmidt smiled uncomfortably and dropped the gear in front of them.
“He is however one of the few men to survive these disappearances.” Ahab motioned to the pictures on the wall. “Aren’t you Schmidt?”
“Yes,” Schmidt muttered uncomfortably in a barely audible tone.
“He’s been a bit quiet on the subject, but we have managed to get one important detail from him. Tell him what you saw Schmidt.”
The man shifted uncomfortably, rubbing his hooks together and avoiding eye contact. “Sea,” he started, but then faltered.
“It’s alright Schmidt, these men are here to help us. Tell them what you saw.”
“Sea,” he started and faltered again. “Sea monsters.” The words died in his throat toward the end, but the message was clear.
“That’s right, sea monsters. Thank you, Schmidt, back to your post.”
The young man saluted and shuffled quickly back to his desk.
“Sea monsters?” blurted James. “What kind?”
It was the right question to ask. James and I had encountered a lake monster once, not even full grown, and it had given us a run for our money. Sea monsters are an entirely different story. They have an entire ocean to grow and feed in, unfettered by the borders of land. They were one of the many reasons I tended to avoid the ocean.
“Well that’s exactly what I was hoping you would help us figure out. We’re not sure what type is causing the disappearance, or even what types there are in the Atlantic.”
As he talked, I pulled a large leather-bound book from our gear bag. As a principle, the man who wrote it had also avoided the ocean, saying it was more dangerous than a vampire wedding next to a werewolf harvest festival. However, he had still collected as much information as he could to serve as a cautionary tale to others.
It didn’t take long to find the page titled: Sea Monsters of the Atlantic. On it was one word: Numerous. Below it was a crude drawing of every sea monster imaginable, all lurking below the chaotic surface of a black sea. “Megalodons, giant tortoises, giant squid, giant fish, giant sea snakes, everything,” I said, looking at the image. “At least there’s no krakens on here, but that could just be artistic license.” I turned the page around to show to both James and Ahab.
“Christ,” Ahab swore.
“What exactly do you want us to do about it?”
“Get rid of them, obviously.” He bristled at the question, as though he had made it perfectly clear.
“You want us to get rid of all the sea monsters lurking in the Bermuda Triangle? A region that is notorious for unmapped hazards, dangerous weather patterns, monsters, ghosts, goblins, curses, and everything in between?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.”
“I don’t know, James, what do you think? Impossible task, or execution in the Nevada desert? It’s a tough choice, I know.” The insanity of the situation had finally caught up to me. The fact that we didn’t have a choice in the matter made it all the more vexing. The conversation with Ahab had almost felt like a consulting bid, but in the end, we were going to do the job, and there was no question about it. I have always made it a point to choose the outcome that allowed me to live longer, even if only slightly.
James had gone rather pale. “There’s no third option?”
“No,” said Ahab finally. “There’s not. You trespassed on military property and injured no less than a dozen CIA personnel, some of them critically. We’re lucky we were able to contain it before any fatalities occurred. If you refuse, we’ll leave it up to a judge and see it’s done in a state that allows lethal injection.” Ahab’s tone was matter-of-fact, and not malicious in any way. “I’m sorry kid, but we really need your help.”
“Clearly,” replied James, almost monotone. “Bermuda Triangle is off the coast of Florida, right?”
“Yes,” replied Ahab.
“And we get comped a suite tonight?”
“Yes,” he replied again, impatiently.
“Fuck it then, let’s get drunk and celebrate certain death in the business of hunting sea monsters.”
I have never loved and respected James more than in that moment.
“To sea monsters then,” Ahab said, pulling the cigars from his pocket.
I hadn’t smoked in years, but near-death experiences and the promise of certain death seemed like a cause for it. “To sea monsters…”