The Second Civil War - Chapter Four
To read chapter one, go to The Beginning.
New York Mid August
Lyn Alberts did a left turn into West 47th Street. It would eventually lead to Times Square, but she was quite a way from there. Before she reached her destination this evening, she wanted to go via the man she would probably never see again, the man to whom her heart would belong for eternity. Such a sad story, she thought.
She thought of the creeping disease inside her, the one that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat, and which she could not afford. And then she thought of the option offered to her in return for treatment. Lyn had thought about it long and hard and had eventually decided she wanted to live. She put her hand into her bag and felt for the flask which contained the deadly biological toxin. She supposed it wasn’t exactly the right thing to do, but then, was it the right thing to charge such high prices for medical treatment? Sometimes it was so difficult to know what to do, especially when your heart cried out for life and love.
Lyn turned left into 8th and stared at the luxury apartment complex on the corner. He lived there. She wondered what he would say and how he would feel if he ever knew the decision she had taken. But she couldn’t think of any other way. If the price for her treatment was the lives of many others, then that was the price she would have to pay. After all, she didn’t have the money…
All that Jennifer Goodman knew about the camp where Reilly had deposited her parents and her was that it was somewhere north of Minneapolis and that the camp was situated next to a lake. There were tall trees everywhere so the camp was well hidden from prying eyes in the sky. In addition, if she had any thoughts of going anywhere, she soon discovered that it would not be happening. Security was tight. The parameters of the camp were securely fenced with well camouflaged wire.
Still, both she and her elderly parents had been given good, if small, accommodationl. They had been fed, and there was a doctor at hand to treat them. Jennifer was pleasantly surprised to find that she didn’t have to make any payment. The doctor explained that it was only the law that prevented less expensive versions of sophisticated medication, and he knew some people who reversed engineered the medication and so he was amply supplied with whatever was needed.
Outside the night air was brisk. She had not seen Reilly since he had handed them over to his general. There had been no introductions, just his terse explanation that these were good people and he didn’t want them to be collateral damage. Well, thought Jennifer, as she heard those chilling words, she didn’t want to be collateral damage either. She desperately wanted to speak to Reilly to find out why they had destroyed four cities. The thought devastated her. She had been worried about America not having a currency and having no money, but when she thought of the people in the cities which now had no power, with food going bad in fridges, and all sorts of vital electronic machines not functioning anymore, she knew that her worries about money faded in comparison. Still, she wanted to speak to Reilly. So she left the house and went to look for him.
Jennifer Goodman was stopped before she got much further than ten or twenty yards. “Where are you going?”
“I’m looking for Reilly,” she said.
“Reilly’s busy, but I’ll tell him you’re looking for him when I see him. Go back to your home and stay there.”
The two men, well known to most people, were respectfully left to eat their meal without being interrupted. If there were some who wanted to leave good manners behind and solicit an autograph, they didn’t act on the impulse. So the two men, seated at a side café on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, continued to speak softly.
“The operation was successful. Only a few lives were lost, and the point was made.”
“I take it we’re ready to implement the next part of the plan?”
One man had an olive skin with black hair. His brown eyes were almond shaped and while he would be considered short at 5’9”, his physique was such that many a woman would forgive him that shortcoming. The other man, considerably taller, with a yellow blond mane of hair, had the kind of green eyes that many would aspire to. His high cheek bones and well developed muscle tone spoke of long hours in the gym. They were both high profile figures, accustomed to being adored.
“The Los Angeles Times set up make shift offices in Orange County and are running an emergency operation. They’ve written a pretty good story, and it’s to our benefit. They’re telling people that there is ample evidence that the GOP is responsible for the EMP bombs. That should definitely set the cat amongst the pigeons. With there being so much resentment between the Republicans and Democrats, it’s not going to take much to tip this into a civil war. And the good old media is stirring the pot nicely!”
“Still, I think we need to work with our friends up north. It’s all worked very nicely. And we do want to get this war off to a good start.” There was almost a smirk to the blond man’s tone.
The dark haired man looked up at him and said, “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?””
Lyn was sipping an espresso at the café across from the luxury apartment complex. Occasionally people would stare to her. They couldn’t quite figure if she genuinely looked like the 50s star or whether it was a good make up job. Lynn didn’t notice the stares. She was too busy hoping to see him. As she sipped her coffee and watched the entrance to his apartment, her thoughts turned to Black Mist, the deadly nerve agent she was carrying.
Of Russian origin, it had been invented during the cold war and brought death within hours to those who breathed it in. Worse than that, the mist itself was a propellant for the bacteria it carried. The gas weakened the lungs, and the lungs once weakened did not resist the bacteria. There were rumors that it was bubonic plague bacteria - Yersinia pestis. Initially, the disease caused large black welts on the skin, thus called the black plague. However, as the disease became more entrenched, it developed into pneumonic plague, a far more deadly version. It was also known to be the most infectious of all diseases.
Lyn had been told that the particular item she carried was a combination of a gas that weakened the lungs and allowed the bacteria to speed up its toxic effect more quickly. She had been told that death would result within a few hours of contact, depending on whether the person has a strong immune system, and whether treatment with antibiotics was immediately available. During the hour or two that it would take for the disease to develop, however, different carriers would go into all parts of New York, and because they would be infectious within an hour, once the initial gas attack was over, the deadly plague would begin. It was anyone’s guess how many would die, and how long it would take to contain the plague. It would also be especially difficult because the results of the EMP bomb had all but disabled New York city.
She didn't know who her paymasters were and she didn’t know why they were doing it. Hadn’t they just killed the city electronically? She had no computer, no refrigerator, no car, no money. Nothing was working. She knew it was a war, and she knew that in a war it was every man – or woman – for himself. All she wanted was a chance to have a life.
They are silent, invisible killers...
The Texas Governor, Adrian James, was having an interesting, if disturbing, conversation.
“How well are they armed? And when do they plan to strike?”
“They’re very well armed. They’ve been arming for years. They want America back the way it used to be. They consider everyone who is not a staunch Republican a traitor to the cause. They also consider anyone who is not a Christian, not white, and not heterosexual to be an enemy.”
Adrian James thought of his daughter who had told him a month prior to her sixteen birthday that she was a lesbian. She had wanted to use her 16th birthday party as a coming out announcement. He had been shocked to his core, had forbidden her any such action, taken her to see the pastor, then a psychologist, and finally, after two years spent weeping on his knees before his Lord and consulting numerous experts in the field, had accepted the inevitable. She was his daughter after all.
She was twenty three now, had graduated college with honors, had a live in lover whom she badly wanted to marry, and worked as a sociologist for the state department. He thought she was following in his footsteps by wanting to serve the community. He loved her deeply and in those quiet times when he contemplated the deep divide between his faith and the circumstances of his life, he still despaired. Oh that there would be easy answers in life. Now, as he heard the words of his informer, his heart trembled with fear for his daughter.
“Why?” he asked.
His informer looked at him and said, “Some people like simple answers. They see things as black and white and they think when things go wrong, it’s because some things are grey.” The verbal delivery of the paunchy man who spoke held no condemnation, just factual information, as if there was no meaning to any of it.
“Do you know what they’re hoping to achieve?” he asked.
“Oh, that’s simple enough. They’re hoping to reestablish the old America. They want men to be fathers, women to be married and looking after the children at the kitchen sink. They want gays to confess it’s all a heinous sin and to reform and beg forgiveness. Then they want everybody worshipping Jesus Christ, and they want jobs that pay them substantially more. They want to raise their families in the style to which they would like to become accustomed.
“And they think this war is going to get it for them?”
“They think if they kill those who don't fit, only good Americans will be left.”
Governor Adrian James was scared that his daughter wasn’t a good American.
Lyn was beginning to feel very, very depressed. The night crept on and it was fairly late when the man she loved appeared - with another woman attached to his arm. They seemed most affectionate to each other and the pangs of jealousy bit into her, increasing her anger at her situation. It boiled and stirred her bitterness, increasing her determination to disperse her little flask with its deadly contents. Revenge, she thought, and then she hated herself. It didn’t matter which way Lyn played it, she was going to lose him. The biological weapon would kill him as well.
It was dark when Anne Shapiro and Douglas Martin stepped from their Los Angeles apartment. They were both dressed warmly, in black, and carried backpacks with the essentials they thought they would need over the next few days. Neither of them had any illusions. After the initial impulse to escape immediately, they had thought about it and then planned more carefully.
Douglas carried the revolver on him with spare ammo in his belt. They had decided to avoid contact with others and to walk in the dark and remain as hidden as possible. They were both thankful that the lights were out, although, more and more, they saw fires burning wildly. There was no one to put out the fires as the streets were full of cars that couldn’t be moved. Unfortunately their television had been on when the EMP bomb hit and so it was fried, and their normal source of news was subsequently unavailable. Their one source of news was the little radio that Anne had kept packed for emergencies – the earthquake type. Now he was thankful that it was there, with a full set of spare batteries.
They kept to the shadows on the sidewalk, and when they saw people ahead, they stopped, reconnoitered, and took back roads. Their destination was simple. They were going south, ostensibly to San Diego, but really intent on getting to Mexico. Their passports – still valid from their last trip to Rome the previous year – were pocketed safely so that if they lost their backpacks, they could still cross the border. Neither were sure if Mexico would close the border, but they felt the earlier they made the dash, the more likely it would be that the borders would still be open.
Douglas’s parents had a vacation villa in Rosarito and it had always been a family joke that if anything ever happened to the great old U.S. of A, then everybody would head down there. Well, the two of them certainly were, and they hoped that the rest of the family would be there as well.
Neither of them had any illusions about the long walk. They knew that there would be many people, who desperate to survive, would begin to rob others as food and other necessities became scarce. Douglas supposed the marines had arrived but in a city with a population close to ten million people, he didn’t see that they could contain the violence that would erupt.
Lyn gasped. Trevor and his new girlfriend were coming towards the café where she was sitting. She looked for a way out but there was none. So she did the only thing she could do. She gazed into space and continued to sip her espresso as if she didn’t have a care in the world.
Of course, he saw her.
Worse, he walked over to her, and she noted, with surprise, that there was delight on his face. “Lyn, how lovely to see you.”
Lyn’s found it difficult to compose her face. Yet, for the sake of what dignity she could muster, she said with charming control, “Trevor, I was walking past your apartment on the way to meet some friends at Times Square when I saw this charming café, and as I was a little early, I decided it would be a nice place to have a cup of espresso.” God, was she babbling? How insincere she sounded.
“Lyn, it’s lovely to see you,” he repeated, intensity in his expression. I’ve missed you but we’ve had some issues in the family and I left New York rather suddenly. Just got back. Can I introduce my lovely sister, Bobbie, to you?”
So that’s where he has been. Why hadn’t he called, she wondered desperately. Would she have taken this path if she had known he had been interested, as was now apparent to her? Still, he didn’t know about her disease, and if he did know that, he would know that they had no future together while she had the disease.
Oh why did so many have to die in order for her to be cured, she asked herself desperately. It was the only way, she answered herself. And she desperately believed in the cause. There were too many rich people who were taking everything for themselves, while people like her could not get the medication to live. Her flask would be delivered at Times Square where the mayor of New York and various others of the legislature had gathered this night - along with the leading lights of the city - to decide on a course of action. Of course, so many times in the past, these people had decided what to do, and when they did, they did it mostly for themselves, and the rest of the people just carried on struggling under increasing burdens of debt - tired, stressed, and with little hope.
Trevor drew up a chair without asking. He parked himself right next to her, put his arm around her, and gave her a lingering kiss. She wanted to respond, and for a moment she did, and then she squeezed his hand with hers, and said, “So Bobbie, I didn’t know Trevor had a sister. Tell me about yourself.”
And as it was all playing out, she thought she deserved an Oscar for her act.
Reilly sneaked into the hut in the early hours of the morning. Jennifer was asleep, as were her parents. Their wooden shack had one bedroom, a living room, a small bathroom and a kitchen. He guessed rightly that Jennifer would sleep on the settee, so when he let himself in, he was careful to first close the bedroom door, before he stepped quietly to her sleeping figure, put his hand over her mouth so that she wouldn’t cry out, and woke her.
“It’s time we spoke,” he said.
“It’s night,” she replied groggily.
“I had a mission,” he said.
“Another EMP bomb?” she asked sarcastically.
“That wasn’t us,” said Reilly.
It’s time, thought Lyn. I must go. They will be getting out of the meeting soon, and it’s a thirty minute walk. I must go. She slowly got up from the chair.
Trevor said, “Are you off? What time are you meeting your friends? It’s a bit late, isn’t it?”
“They went to see a late show and I’m meeting them afterwards.”
“Gosh, there’s a show on? I thought everything had come to a halt in New York.”
Before he could ask any more questions, Lyn bent and kissed him on the lips, and said what she knew to be true, but also knew a woman never said to a man before he said the words first. “I love you,” she said. “I always will, no matter what.” And then she stepped out.
She heard him call her, but moved quickly, fading into the dark, unlighted streets.
Lyn walked quickly. Her thoughts were in turmoil. She had HIV. There was a new treatment. It cost millions. She hated all those wealthy people. She hated, in particular, all those people who called people like her lazy and stupid because she didn’t have a job. She wished they would all die. And tonight they would. And she would live.
But she didn’t want Trevor to die. And she didn’t want his sister to die, because that would make Trevor sad. And what would happen if Trevor caught the plague? She hadn’t thought of that. Lyn paused. But she paused only for a moment. Times Square was still ten minutes away, and if she wanted to live, if she wanted the treatment that cost millions, then she would need to carry out this assignment - for the good of the cause.
And then she was there. She breathed a sigh of relief. The limousine drivers were beginning to park outside. That meant that the city dignitaries were about to come out. She was in time. Her hand went into her purse and she felt the flask. She also felt the tiny little mask that would slip into her nostrils and which was barely noticeable. It would cover her mouth as well. It had been specially molded to fit her face so that she would be protected from the toxic effects of the parcel she carried. The mask was a perfect replica of the bottom half of her face.
Jennifer didn’t believe Reilly for a moment. She wanted to, but she couldn’t.
“So, if you didn’t do it, who did? And then why do you have all those bombs and guns?”
“We have the guns and bombs because we want to protect ourselves. I’ve told you that this day would come, but we didn’t start this war. We’re here to protect all God loving Americans.”
‘Well, that we are,” she said. She looked at him. He was so sexy.
‘Thank you for looking after my parents,” she said.
The men and women started exiting the doors. Lyn recognized some of them. She had seen them many times on television.
She felt the flask with her fingers. She felt the mask that now covered her face. And she felt the little pill at the top of the mask – just in case she changed her mind. It was the pill they said she must take if she didn’t carry out her mission. They had told her that there was no escape, that they could not afford to have her live if she did not carry out the task allocated to her. The cyanide pill would kill her in a moment and the people would go free this night.
Lyn thought of Trevor. She thought of his sister. She thought of her illness.
The people continued to walk from the theater. They were nearing the limousines now. She needed to act now.
She thought of the man she loved. She thought of all humanity, and in those moments, her death would give them life. Her hand moved towards the cyanide pill, and then it seemed to her that she was making the right decision. She said her goodbyes as she bit down. She felt her strength fade. She saw the people blurring in front of her. And then she dropped. Around her there were screams, but Lyn never heard them. She was gone from this world.
Doug and Anne walked steadily, first heading west towards Santa Monica, and then walking south along the seashore. They reached Redondo Beach by five the following morning. It was still dark, and it was only thanks to Anne’s love of vintage that they had any inkling of the time. The art deco watch that she had so diligently wound every evening before she went to bed had finally paid off.
It was just outside Redondo Beach that their luck ran out.
For chapter five, return to The Beginning, and click on link to next chapter. If it has not yet been published, it will only be a few days.
© 2016 Tessa Schlesinger