|Chapter 26: "Fellow Countrymen"
While Gails telewindow persona was saying something to her viewing audience about a different version of events, the flesh and blood Gail addressed the people in the conference room. "I was queuing this up for the 8 oclock show when you got here," she said. "Obviously it was a rush job. But the Locator program Andrea uploaded to our Gieldgood file allowed us to do some things we wouldnt have been able to do, not even with Janus."
Gail didnt try to answer the blank looks she got from her reference to Janus. "We know who killed Estelle Gidarb. It was the same man who killed Kimberly Fleetwoods nurse and another woman and made it look like the work of the Brown Belt Strangler."
"Matt/Matthew Folgman!" said Ken, Vince and Cousins simultaneously, with Kens "Matt," and the other mens "Matthew," overlapping.
Gail nodded. Her voice now became the voice-over for the action in the T-window....
6:14 p.m. "Detroit Police Detective Matthew Folgman is at home with his wife and child." The telewindow framed the stocky, square-jawed cop relaxing with his blond-haired, blue-eyed wife and 6-year-old son in front of a telewindow showing a 3-D version of "Fantasia" with ambient sound. The man, wearing white socks, denim trousers and a red, white and blue-striped T-shirt, appeared to be dozing with one hand casually resting on his wristband computer.
The simulated camera zoomed in on his right earplug receiver where a conversation about the man on the mountain was going on between Gail Parker and Hector Clay. It swung slowly around the back of his head to his left earplug. There, the conversation was between Euel and Estelle Gidarb. They were talking about airplanes and birds...
6:14 p.m. "Hector Clay leaves our WQST studio...." The Hector Clay ELFs short walk from the station door to the yellow Buccaneer looks no different than the one shown in the first scenario. But the simulated camera zoom of his face through the side glass showed a man in an entirely different mood.
"...He is not angry or frustrated. He is deep in thought about the man on the mountain, whose origin and identity are as mysterious to him as it is to you and me. The mystery mans first unexpected appearance during the funeral of Aaron McPhail left all of us with questions. The nature of the computer program we used to integrate that flashback into the self-generating syntheses of Aaron McPhails life did not allow us to predict what would be seen or heard. It merely allowed us to see and hear what the program determined Aaron McPhail would have done if he could have spoken for himself."
6:14 p.m. The Gail Parker voice-over said, "Matthew Folgman jokingly tells his wife to get him a beer. She laughs and tells him to get it himself." The action seemed to correspond to her words. The mans ELF then smiled, got up and went to the kitchen, where he made a call and spoke cryptically of a project called, "ironclad."
"Hes making sure that his predetermined alibi witnesses will be available if needed to answer for his whereabouts in the next half hour or so. When he gets the go-ahead, he informs his wife that he has police business to attend to.
6:16 p.m. "Wearing a light jacket, and low quarter shoes, Folgman leaves the house. He climbs in his Ho Chi and drives east on Plymouth.
6:21 p.m. "He drives his Ho Chi as fast as he can to a house near the main road with an attached garage. He pulls into the garage and drives out 40 seconds later in a yellow Buccaneer and a heavy brown parka with a fur-lined hood."
6:30 p.m. "Folgman bypasses the Fleetwood security alarm by punching the access code into his message center computer and parks the Buccaneer in a wooded area behind the Farmington Hills estate. Hes running dangerously behind. But unfortunately for Estelle Gidarb, so is she."
The simulated camera zoomed into the left side of Folgmans hooded head. The conversation about birds had become a heated argument about whether Estelle cared more about keeping to her bird-feeding schedule than she did about meeting Euel at the airport.
6:31 p.m. Using the same cut from the first scenario, Gail said, "Folgman works his way quickly to a shrub behind the house, sets down his knife. Pulls off his left glove and extracts a lock pick from his coat pocket." This time, the telewindow frame crops the dark hand in close enough detail to show that the hand is covered by a thin, latex glove."
6:32 p.m. Again, the camera paned back to show the same view of the action as the first scenario did while the Gail Parker voice-over said, "Estelle Gidarb leaves the house late to attend her bird feeder outside. Euel is behind her. Theyre having the same argument. Folgman rushes out, knocks Euel unconscious with the butt of his knife and slashes Estelle Gidarbs throat from behind.
6:36 p.m. "Folgman runs back to his car carrying his trophy in Euel Gidarbs pants. He opens the trunk, pulls out a plastic garbage bag and drops the bundle in the bag. He hurries from the scene. He is monitoring the audio surveillance devices he left at the WQST telewindow station and knows that Hector Clay has not returned. But he has no way of knowing when he will return and, for his plan to work, he needs to be there when Clay arrives."
6:39 p.m. "At a prearranged rendezvous point between Plymouth and I-96, Folgman switches cars, removes the jacket and changes footwear. He leaves the jacket and the boots in the other car with his accomplice and takes the garbage bag with him. He doesnt know when Hector will return to the studio, but he has studied his habits long enough to know that he is not likely to stop somewhere else. Because of Folgmans connections to officers in the Farmington Hills Police, he expect to be called into the case.
6:43 p.m. "The Farmington Hills police at the murder site receive an anonymous tip that Hector Clay might be involved. That sets into motions a furious scramble for confirmation which results in a warrant for his arrest."
Yu looked mystified. "What conformation could they have gotten in...what was it...3 minutes?"
"Plenty," said Ken, as interest in the telewindow program swung in his direction. "They probably made calls that failed to place Dr. Clay somewhere else at the time of the murders and they had testimony of at least one witness that did place a car like his at the estate. They also could have called the state police to run a computer check on any archived matches to the footprints. They could have done a field analysis of the fingerprints and blood and gotten a match from Condor Labs on the spot."
Vince said, "Did you notice how the time scan never showed the license plate or got close enough to the guy in the jacket to pick up details that wouldnt match Clays clothes? How could they expect to get away with some weak shit like that?"
Gail was struck, as always, by the extent to which intelligent, informed people were influenced by the appearance of things and events inside of a telewindow. Though she was confident that the simulations she created were as close as anyone could get to a true representation of past and future events, they were, none-the-less not true representations of past and future events. They were her creations, some aspects of which were bound to be inaccurate. Yet, there they were, knowing that a real time scan would take weeks, reacting to what they saw as if they were real. Even Yus question about what "they" expected to get away with, indicated a suspension of disbelief that favored whatever plausible sequence of events that was presented last.
Instead of pointing out the obvious, which would have defeated her purpose of bringing all of these people together, she answered Vince Costellos question. She said, "Thats why they needed all of that physical evidence." She could see Ken nodding. "But," she added, "if the suspect had been your average denizen of a borderline DZ, the scan alone would have been enough to convict him."
As the T-window showed Hector being led away, everyone was brought up short when their T-windows went blank.
The former soldiers all tensed in preparation to fight, thinking that the station had been attacked. Gail feared that her signal had been cut by the network, which meant that Mina Foski, Margaret St. Clair, and The Genie could all have been ousted or worse. The others assumed that a satellite had malfunctioned or a signal receiver had been smashed amid the general confusion outside.
They were all wrong.
Their windows blinked on, and opened on an old, familiar symbol which had become a joke. It featured a brown and white bird with a yellow beak, a red, white and blue shield on its body, an olive branch in one talon and a bunch of arrows in the other. It was the seal of the President of the United States.
Normally, no one listened when the President spoke because everybody knew what he was going to say. All they had to do was listen to National Public Radios Corey Becket or CBIs Sam Jinks. But these were hardly normal times.
An anonymous female voice-over said, "We interrupt this program to bring you an important message from the President of the United States."
A calm, serious, blue-eyed white man in his mid 50s with straight brown hair, a strong chin and a roman nose sat straight and tall at his desk in an indigo Softglow suit and white shirt. The tongue of his red, medium-width tie looped fashionably over the knot. Over one shoulder hung a frozen flashback image of Franklin D Roosevelt. Over the other, hung a flashback image of Abraham Lincoln. No one alive have ever seen such a thing, an American Party President flanked by pictures of former Presidents from the other two parties. It was enough to bring anyone up short.
When he spoke, what he didnt say was what rang in everyones ears. He didnt say, "My fellow Americans." He said, "My fellow countrymen."
In a scene repeated innumerable times throughout the country, the thunderstruck men and women in the WQST conference room gaped and listened in utter disbelief. The sights and sounds emanating from the White House could not have been more arresting than if the President had ripped off his face and exposed himself as a blue-skinned, six-eyed creature from another world. Whatever was going on here was as big as anything that had ever happened in the United States, and clearly not the work of Corey Becket, Sam Jinks or the American Party.
An incoming phone call signal flashed on Gails wristband computer. She ignored it. Whatever it was, this had to be more important.
"I neednt tell you," said the President, "that our nation is undergoing a crisis in law and order. As your President, I cannot and shall not permit this lawlessness to continue."
Those in the Presidents audience who were waiting for him to announce an even greater crackdown on rioters in the street were in for a surprise. In fact, everyone was in for a surprise.
The continued flashing of Gails incoming phone call signal was become an intolerable annoyance. She shut it off.
The President said, "After close consultations with Congressional leaders, I am prepared to declare and enforce marshal law, if necessary, to identify, apprehend and bring to justice violent law breakers at every level of our society. At the top of my list is a member of my cabinet, appointed by me 3 years ago and confirmed by the Senate. That man is U.S. Attorney General, Ron Cobb."
Gail Parkers heart pounded so furiously that she feared for her health. One quick look around her told her that she had a room full of company. These werent just words coming out of some guys mouth, these were the words of the leader of the Free World. Never mind the fact that no such thing existed anymore in practice, the idea still lived and here was a man defending that idea and in so doing leading the world by example.
So far, so good.
To add to his credibility, a window-in-window showed him at his desk in the large frame, and the man being arrested in the small one. Two white men in long, cloth coats surrounded by a throng of D.C. police officers and reporters, lead a taller white man in handcuffs past the White House gates to an unknown destination.
Before the concussion effect of that bomb could wear off, the President dropped another one. This time two men in handcuffs, one tottering and weeping, the other foolishly trying to hide his face, were being led down the steps of the Capital Building, surrounding by the same mix of law enforcement officers and reporters. Though the President identified them by name, he didnt have to. Everyone recognized them immediately as the House Appropriations Committee Chairman and the House Majority Leader. Then came the Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, stepping proudly like an heroic prisoner of war. After him was the CEO of the nations leading electronic newspapers and magazines, growling and snapping as he was led from his home by Vermont State Troopers and agents of the FBI. He was followed by the former head of Condor Inc., Dean Piper, looking dazed and disoriented as he was led away from his home by the Aspen police, the Colorado State Police and FBI agents.
Now things were beginning to look somewhat shaky. Despite everything the people in the WQST conference room knew about corruption in high places, they could not shake the feeling of being witness to a dictatorial purge. That was especially so with the threat of marshal law hanging over everything. Even the arrest of Dean Piper, a man they knew was an architect of genocide, had a look about it that was all wrong. Everyone in the room felt it, including Vince, who could not work up a decent amount of enthusiasm for the arrest of a man he hated to the core.
Big events were being played out too swiftly to comprehend. The arrests of so many high-powered people at one time was unprecedented in their experience. It occurred to none of them that their feeling of unease was preconditioned by that lack of experience and not at all a function of the arrests themselves. The only parallels they could draw were to times and places where such things happened only to potential opponents of murderous dictators. Therefore, they worried: Is America being turned into a police state? What good would it do to sweep out an old batch of villains who had a new twist on robbing people of their freedom and their lives only to replace them with a new batch of the old fashioned kind?
The chief executives media handlers did not let that image problem get by them. They were smart enough to name Rupert Gieldgood as the number one man on the FBIs most wanted list for sedition and murder. They were smart enough to have him name some names of Gieldgoods victims that the public knew and some they didnt, names like: Stewart Lynch, Sally Waziniac, Betty Rogers, Blueford Monday, Gloria Castleman, P.J. shields, Estelle Gidarb and Euelalia Charmain. They were smart enough not to have the President announce the arrest of prize-winning journalists, commentators and Presidential advisors, Sam Jinks and Corey Becket. For the sake of appearances that would have to come much later. But it would come.
The President further distanced his actions from those of a petty dictator by giving six leading American Party members in Congress 30 seconds each to vent their own outrage. Whether they were more upset about being marginalized, being made fools of, or being excluded from the ranks of the men they now knew had been really running the country, no one could say. But no one could doubt that they were genuinely upset.
With enough expressions of indignation, to make the point, the President made an affirmative announcement. "I have issued an executive order, "he said, "for the immediate release of a man..."
The next window-in-window opened on a stocky black man grinning from ear to ear with both arms raised in victory, a man everyone knew as the host of a Detroit telewindow show called, God.
Then the President said his name, "...Hector Clay."
The conference room erupted in cheering and back-slapping, with everyone leaping from their seats, jumping up and down and hugging the nearest person to them. At one point, Vera Hugged Cousins, Gail hugged Barbara, and Barbara ran around like a crazy woman trying to hug everybody, including Andrea, Leah and Cousins. It looked like the dugout of the winning team after the last game of the World Series. If champagne bottles had been handy, their contents would, undoubtedly, have been emptied over many a happy head.
Glancing back at the telewindow now and then, Gail could see that Hector, though still surrounded by police, was being protected by them from an unruly crush of noisy, jabbering reporters. He tried speaking to them while fiddling with his wristband at the same time. For the most part, they were asking him questions with predictable answers, like; his thoughts on the arrest warrants for the men who tried to frame him, and his feelings about being cleared of murder by the personal intervention of the President himself.
A male reporter shouted, "Can you tell us what happened to Vivian Foski?"
"No I cant," said Hector.
A female reporter yelled, "Cant or wont?"
Hector said nothing.
Another male reporter asked, "Will you be interviewing the man on the mountain tonight?"
"Yes," said Hector.
The first reporter shouted, "Some people think that Vivian Foski is the man on the mountain. Whats your comment?"
"Youre welcome to your opinion."
A different female reporter asked, "Who do you think the man on the mountain is?"
"We could find that out tonight," said Hector. "I know only that time track engineers have run a time scan and"
"Where did you here this, asked the first reporter, "from the President?"
Hector looked startled. "No comment," he said.
Gail noticed that he was still attempting to do something with his wristband. Only when he put his finger to his ear did Gail make the right connection.
"Oh, my god!" she exclaimed, resetting her wristband control to receive phone calls. "Oh, my God, oh my God, Oh, my God!"
The call signal was on. She answered it.
"Hello, Gail" said Hector, amid a continuing shower of questions from reporters.
"Hi, Heck," said Gail, wiping away a little tear, as one by one the others caught on to what was happening and quieted themselves enough to listen.
"Ive got a ride," he said, "But I wanted to let you know I was on my way. Weve got a show to do."
Forgotten in the hubbub surrounding the release of Hector Clay was the fact that his appearance was an adjunct to the Presidents address. The window on the President reopened abruptly. While the rest of his message may have been important, most of the people in the conference room were more interested in what Hector had to say. All, but Barbara set their receivers to his line, set up a window-in-window, with Hector in the big one and the President in the smaller one. They wanted to know how he was treated, how Folgman had managed to cut him without him knowing about it and what he thought of everything that was going on.
Barbara, though she wasnt paying as much attention to him as she was to the President, understood him to say: He was well taken care of by some cop named Mike; he didnt know how or when he was cut and he thought everything was going to turn out all right. She also heard the President say something about more arrests.
"Hey," everybody, she said, "look!"
In her big window and everyone elses small one, was the face of a sniveling, red-eyed man in need of a comb, a shave and a tissue to wipe away the snot from his nose, the drool from his mouth and the tears from his eyes. He was wailing and blubbering about not meaning to hurt somebody, about not being responsible for anybody getting killed. He was saying he was sorry and begging the forgiveness of his family and friends and everybody who believed in him.
Barbara assumed that he was Folgmans accomplice or some other conspirator that nobody else had seen before. Cousins shook his head. They guy looked worse than he did, and he was behaving badly. Ken did a double take. The others knew who he was the instant they saw him. The crying man was Jack Fleetwood.
The camera panned back from his face to show him outside without a coat in the grip of his own Michigan State Police officers. A man in civilian clothes was trying to read him his rights. Suddenly he broke away and grabbed an officers weapon from its holster. Before anyone could stop him, he pointed the gun at his chest and pulled the trigger.
Instead of an explosion, and a rush of officers to close in on the man with the gun, there was a sound like a popping cork and a movement away from him. The officers grabbed their noses, some off them started laughing uncontrollably. "Hes gonna blow!" shouted one of them.
Jack Fleetwood dropped the gun and stood immobile with a small dart protruding from his shirt. His face registered several states of mind, beginning with dismay, turning quickly to distress and then to absolute horror...
The Fleetwood window closed. The red-faced President went on, and the people in the conference room, with the exception of Glen and Vera looked at each other in bewilderment. Glen and Vera looked at each other and laughed.
"What was that all about?" said Yu.
Glen couldnt stop laughing.
Vera stopped long enough to say, "The latest in crowd control..."
Hector was having a hard time following everything in his wristband telewindow. Edging to the circle of blue uniforms, he asked one of the reporters if he could share her hand-held model. She happily agreed.
The President was wrapping up his masterful address which left no doubt in most peoples minds who was in charge. It gave Hector visions of an ambitious young lieutenant he last saw as a mature, three star general. He was sure that at least three other men in the city shared that vision, the three others who served with him during the war.
"In closing," said the President, "I would like to introduce a brave woman who was used against her will to promote a barbaric practice that neither she, nor this Administration ever endorsed. I am confident that her words will be a lesson and an inspiration for all of us....Kimberly?
The President closed his window, in the most unorthodoxed ending of a Presidential address ever conceived, and let Kimberly have her own.
Fully dressed in a flowing black gown, and sitting upright in a chair with her legs crossed at the ankles, she did not look like a woman who had been in and out of a coma for as long as she had. She looked incredibly sad, yet, somehow, incredibly beautiful and serene. She looked like an angel in mourning.
On Kimberlys side of the window, things looked much different. She could see herself in the telewindow monitor but she did not behold an angel. She saw a woman who had cheated on her husband for the love of another man that she would have died fora man that she did die for. She wanted to see the men who killed her and Blue suffer.
"Hello," she said softly, "Im Kimberly Fleetwood, the real Kimberly Fleetwood, not an ELF or a computer-enhanced version of myself. The President has graciously allowed me this opportunity to address you at this time. With all the violence attendant to the unauthorized use of my name to promote the hideous practice of Gidarbing, I feel it is my duty as a citizen of the United States to set the record straight...."
Kimberly could tell about her vehement objection to the Gidarbing of Blue Monday, which she did. Sans the colorful details, she could tell how her husband tried to kill her because of it, which she did. If the details came out later, that was all right with her. But now was not the time. And what could she say about the man on the mountain? Shortly, he would have enough to say about himself to be talked about with wonder by linguists, theologians, master programmers, and ordinary people for millennia.
Now was not the time or place to attempt a description of her anger at the mystery man for separating her from Blue and the blissful place they met and embraced for the last time. On Blues side of the mountain, anger did not exit. It would have had no useful function. There was no such thing as fear or want or painwell, not the bad kind. There was no such thing as a desire to hurt someone the way she wanted to hurt Jack, Gieldgood, and their associates who had hurt so many others. These feelings had no useful purpose on Blues side of the Mountain. They did on hers.
Yes, there was much she could say about the man on the mountain. There was much she would say about why death was too good for Jack Fleetwood and Rupert Gieldgood. But now was not the time.
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison