Yes, I’m not going to hit 50,000 words by midnight tomorrow. But I’m not stopping with the writing!
“How do you want to handle this?” Agent Brendis Hooper asked. The swarthy man carried an air of arrogance or that he didn’t care about anything else but himself. At least that is how the man made Caldwell feel at fist and nearly every first impression others have of him too. The secret that Caldwell figured out, is Hooper is one of the most caring teddy bears there are. True, Hooper had a standard Marine high and tight hair cut and a muscular, runner’s body to boot. Combine this with the fact the man leaned on walls, table, people, whatever and rarely seemed to pay attention, made you wonder why he was even there, because it didn’t seem like he wanted to be. Caldwell noted Hooper was leaning on the front of their car, even though they had only stepped out and closed the door about a second earlier.
“I’ll go in and do the talking. You be you and observe. If we need a bad cop, I’d appreciate you step in.” Caldwell checked his gun was secure in his holster and but didn’t button his jacket, so it would remain hanging open. Hooper nodded, his jacket buttoned up as he reached into his breast pocket and produced a pack of gum. He put one in his mouth, didn’t offer one to Caldwell and started following.
” I can do that,” is all Hooper said as he and Caldwell approached the address for the building listed as the lab address for Burr.
They entered the a double-door fit with polarized glass, one door marked with a number 104. As they entered the office, the two men could see about a fifty foot long space in front of them, with one wall fitted with waist high workbench across it length and several desks scattered throughout. Every desk was decked with no less than two large monitors. The back of the room ended in an enclosed office that took up three quarters of the wall and it had a window looking out into the space. To the left of this was a short hallway leading to the back of the building and possibly storage, Caldwell surmised.
“Rock, paper, scissors,” Hopper said putting his hands up ready to rochambeau.
“For what?” Caldwell asked confused, but put his hands up as well. They silently counted to three and revealed their pick. Caldwell had paper and Hooper had rock.
“Guess you win. If they make a run out the back, it’ll be up to me to chase.” Caldwell chuckled. He liked Hooper.
“Guess it’s my lucky day,” Caldwell said and stepped forward as a talk lanky man came out from behind a desk to greet htme.
“Hi, can I help you?” Jude asked.
“Agent Caldwell and Agent Hooper to see Dr. Burr please,” Caldwell said. The lanky man raised his eyebrows then turned and headed back toward the office. The blinds to the office were closed. The man knocked once, then opened the door. There was a brief exchange and he stepped away from the door as a man exited the office.
Caldwell figured Ramsden Burr as an academic with two doctorates would be some stogy, glasses-wearing, intellectual twerp. But here was a man dressed in cargo pants, flannel shirt and a three day growth. If Caldwell didn’t have to wear shirt, tie and be clean shaven for work each day, he’d be dressed very similarly to Burr. Burr was around six food and had a good firm handshake. “How you doing. I’m agent Caldwell and this is agent Hooper. Can I take a few minutes of your day to ask some questions.” Burr was wary but nodded toward the office.
“We can talk in here,” Burr said. The two agents followed him in to the well lit office. One chair sat in front of a large, solid wood desk that was worn with use over the years. The back wall had more of the same chest-high workbenches around two walls. Instead of monitors, the walls and workbenches were strewn with maps of the world, diagrams of what looked like hieroglyphs Caldwell had seen on a PBS show once, and several large tomes of books. Hooper remained standing near the window, as he cracked open the blinds a bit so he could see out, but let the angle block anyone looking in. Caldwell took the offered seat.
“I can get another chair if you’d like agent,” Burr said. Hooper smiled and waved him off.
“I’m in the desk most of the time. I prefer to stand,” Hopper said as he turned to watch the others in the office begin to talk amongst themselves, obviously wondering about the FBI’s presence.
“What can I do for you?” Burr asked as he sat. Caldwell took another look around and then watched Burr. Not that Caldwell was highly experienced with terrorists, but so far Burr didn’t fit the profile. His parents, Horace and Sibyl, were often travelling due to Horace’s involvement in the military. Mainstream protestants normally weren’t the ones who gave a future terrorist their start. The fact that in one or two journal articles Burr had written it seemed he was an atheist, which could easily fit. But atheist and fringe scientists like Burr were again not the normal terrorist profile…but one never knew.
“Dr. Burr, we are investigating a strange occurrence in that happened less than twenty-four hours ago in the San Jose hills,” Caldwell said as he watched Burr closely. Burr simply looked between the two agents, but didn’t respond.
“Dr. Burr. . .” Caldwell started again.
“Please call me Ramsden. I’m not so into my honorifics like some of my peers,” Ramsden said with a nice easy smile. It was hard not to like this guys, Caldwell thought. A lot of times people with terrorist inclinations wanted to be treated with respect. The report from A.S.E.R.T. had named dropped several people with various titles and abbreviations before and after their names. The fact that Burr didn’t insist on his honorifics was throwing Caldwell off his game a bit.
“Can you explain your wereabouts between the hours of eleven PM and two AM on the fourteenth?” Caldwell asked.
Ramsden watched Caldwell a minute before answering, as if he were weighing his response against the man. It was something Caldwell would do, is doing with Ramsden. “I was in the San Jose hills at that time,” Burr said. Caldwell blinked. Rarely did a suspect confess, but that was as close to a confession as any.
“Oh, good. Well then this should be quick,” Caldwell said as he shifted in his chair and gave quizzical look to Hooper. Hopper just smiled and kept watching between Burr and those out in the work area. Hooper plopped a stick of gum in his mouth, without offering a piece to anyone else.
“So, what exactly what were you doing up there at that time of night?” Caldwell asked.
“I was conducting an experiment. I needed a small open space that was away from pedestrians walking through or the cops trying to run you out of a public park at those hours.” Probably away from harming any bystanders, thought Caldwell. He was not sure he was liking where this was going. He felt like Burr controlled the conversation, which was on of the first rules of their interviewing training. Caldwell needed to regain control of this conversation.
“Let me get to it Dr. Burr,” Caldwell started as he sat to the front of his chair, postering himself to be closer to Burr’s space and to emphasize his meaning, “I need to know what you were doing, because of this moment this is being considered an issue for the anti-terrorism division. As you can imagine what the movies and books have done to demonstrate how quickly someone suspected of terrorism loses their rights.” This shocked him. Burr sat up looked worried.
“I can show you the video, this is not some sort of bomb or what have you.”
“Maybe not, but there is a danger to innocents, which is the real reason you decided to go up into the hills vs. conducting your experiment in a public part. Am I right?” Burr was lost in thought, but nodded absently.
“Ramsden,” Caldwell said, “What are you up to? We need our own techs to verify what you are doing is not a danger and not something that could be used for a terrorist activity.” This kicked Burr out of his reverie.
“Your people? You don’t think I’ve shared my information with others already, with peers? I haven’t been secretive of what I’m up to. What do I get for it? Nice pat on the back and then laughing behind my back once I’m out of the room.” If only Burr knew the truth, Caldwell thought, that someone in his organization sicked the FBI on him, which was far from just laughing behind his back.
“The FBI isn’t made up of stuffy intellectuals who are threatened by a peer. We’ll be more objective, but we have to insist you give us your notes so we can evaluate the possible ramifications of your experiments.” Caldwell said. He thought he had Burr, but then a wall suddenly went up between them. Burr sat back, like stone being slid into place.
“Do you have a warrant?”
“Ramsden, didn’t someone get hurt on your latest out of country trip?” Burr looked steely eyed at Caldwell.
“That was an accident of the environment and had nothing to do with my experiment.”
“The you have nothing to worry about. But you have to understand our position, we found the grass in the area of the hills where you conducted your experiment was completely drained of life. It was different than as if the sun had killed the grass, it was still the natural length as if growing wild, but was drenched of color and any living cells.”
“What?” Burr said in a whisper.
“So you must understand why there are concerns.”
“That makes so much sense,” Burr said to himself, lost back in thought. “That explains why the room was made of stone.”
“The room in Equador?”
“What? How do you know about that?” Burr was shocked.
“I’ve seen the video. You want to tell me that wasn’t dangerous? Almost drowned your team or yourself. Am I right?” Burr was shaking his head.
“No. No. That is why the room was built the way it was, so it could be closed off against the water filling it.”
“You mean, one of you might have been trapped in there and drowned?” Burr looked up and met Caldwells eyes.
“Agent. I don’t expect you to understand. I’m feeling like you’re treating me like a person getting a ticket for driving too slow on the freeway when the cops should be out getting real criminals.”
“You were driving too fast on the shoulder with a blindfold. Who knows who might get hurt next time,” Caldwell said as he stayed on the attack.
“Agent, I can’t give you my notes. I can’t give you anything to take back to your people.”
“Until I get a warrant,” Caldwell said with a scoff.
“No. Even if I wanted to I don’t have any notes. All my information is done from memory,” Burr looked to the side as he said this last part. He’s hiding something, thought Caldwell.
“We could take him in now,” Hooper said suddenly as he eyed Burr. “He admitted it was him. Just because we don’t have all the facts, doesn’t mean we can’t hold him and let him remember what he needs to in order to share with our people what he knows.” There was an awkward silence that settled on the room. Caldwell wondered if this is what an old time gun fight standoff was like.
“Dr. Burr, we’ll be on our way,” Caldwell said breaking the silence. Everyone in the room seemed to take a breath. “But I need you to be handy. I’m willing to come out with one of our techs to meet with you instead of treat you like a criminal and take you in. Are you open to that?”
“Well you’re obviously the good cop,” Burr said. Hooper started laughing.
“That’s a good one,” Hooper said.
“I could tell your tech the same thing I’ve shared with A.S.E.R.T. but you’ll need a real scientist to translate for him. I’ll recommend Dr. Carol Bennett. She’s on the A.S.E.R.T. board and I trust here to be objective in putting everything in layman’s terms.”
“Great,” Caldwell said as he stood,”I’ll make the arrangements. Be seeing you soon.” He let himself out of the office with Hooper following closely. Two minutes later they were heading back to the car.
“Why not just take him in?” Hooper asked.
“He’s not up to anything for some political statement or to hurt people…at least that is what he believes.”
“I bet the inventors of the atom bomb thought they were up to something good too.” The two agents shared a knowing look.
“That is why we’ll go through the process of getting a warrant and in the meantime we’ll follow Burr around and see what’s what.”