Aloha – I’m hitting the mid-point of Arlo first draft now (Chapter 29). I’m continuing to lag behind and share the first draft (beware of grammar and human error). Again, Chapters 1-6 are available on this blog if you want to get caught up.
Chapter 7 Enola Gay
“I still don’t understand what the rush is?” Justin drawled as they merged onto the freeway, southbound from Brigham City.
“We have another stop before we go back to New Mexico,” Marshall Salt smiled.
Blake had dozed off in the back seat before they even left the hotel parking lot.
“So where are we going?” Justin quizzed.
“Wendover? What’s that?” Justin looked across the passenger front seat.
“Where is that?” Ryder corrected. “Wendover is a city just across the state line into Nevada.”
“Nevada?” Justin’s face eased into a reflective smile. “I’m pretty good at blackjack. They caught me counting cards last time I was in Vegas. Threw me out of the casino.”
“You gamble?” Marshall asked incredulously.
“Of course I gamble. I’m calculating risks every time I get in a car with you. Watch out for that semi you’re passing by the way. How fast are you going?”
“Eighty-five. Well within the margin of error for this part of the state. Speed limit is eight until we get to the outskirts of Ogden.”
“Eighty is plenty fast,” Justin stated flatly. “Anyway, if I weren’t a gambler do you think I’d have any part of driving off into outer space in a craft that has never even been tested?”
“I think the term is fly off into outer space,” Marshall corrected, as he edged the speedometer closer to ninety.
“Once you leave the gravitational pull of Earth, how do you determine that you’re flying?” Justin brought up an old debate they had argued since high school. “How about sailing, or putting, or floating?”
“Well sailing would suggest a sail and wind,” Marshall took the bait.
“Well, didn’t Blake indicate that he was adding a solar sailing array to the power system?” Justin argued.
“But we’re also using fusion rockets,” Marshall retorted. “You can’t be sailing if you’re using internal power sources.” He whipped the car around a Volkswagen.
“I still content that driving is applicable as flying,” Justin folded his arms as he leaned back in his seat. “And for heaven’s sake, slow down.”
It was nearly nine o’clock when they pulled off the freeway to enter Wendover from the Utah side of the border. Blake was still snoring light as the car shifted speeds into very light traffic on the main boulevard of Wendover. Ahead on either side of the boulevard, as the road began a very slight rise, Justin and Marshall saw two casinos… one on either side of the road.
“Hope luck is with me today,” Justin grinned.
“Not going to the casinos,” Marshall corrected as he followed the GPS guide to make a left turn. They traveled through a few blocks of scattered older houses, then out into the empty sagebrush to what appeared to be an abandoned airport. “We’re here.” Marshall pulled off the road into a small weed covered parking area next to the fence. “Let’s look around.”
“What is this place?” Justin asked.
“Well, it has been a lot of things. In 1940 it was developed as the largest bombing and gunnery range in the world. It averages 25 miles wide and was 86 miles long. They picked the spot because it was in the middle of nowhere, as you can see,” Marshall smiled as a tumbleweed bumped into his leg.
“Over a thousand air crews trained here during World War II. But its main claim to fame or infamy is that this is where they assembled and tested versions of Little Boy and Fat Boy, and practiced for the delivery of the Manhattan project.”
“Little Boy?” Justin shrugged.
“The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Marshall seemed to be growing impatient. “Enola Gay?”
“Oh, that Little Boy,” Justin replied non-committally. “So we’re here sightseeing? What next, Auschwitz?”
“No. As you will recall, we were looking for a remote facility for construction. I thought this might work. We’ll probably have to do some major repairs to get some of the necessary infrastructure, like water. I never expected these old buildings to be of much value, but we’ll have to have clean labs for much of the construction of components. It is remote, yet a major airport is less than two hours away. I wanted to get a look. Unfortunately, the town has grown and there is quite a bit of local traffic,” Marshall commented as two cars pulled into the parking lot.
“What now?” he muttered as four men emerged from the vehicles. He seemed to freeze for a moment, then suddenly yelled at Justin, “Run!”
The four men spread into a trap formation, and it took Justin a moment to process what Marshall wanted him to do. But rather than run, he closed in on his friend, “What do we do?”
“Fight or flight,” Marshall declared.
“Marshall Salt,” the tall balding man to whom Marshall immediately thought, Goliath, left center stated rather than asked as he and his companions approached slowly.
Marshall looked at the four men appraisingly, Jeans and black t-shirts. Goliath wearing a leather jacket. He does not expect a fight. Gang? No. Kidnappers? Probably. Hired guns? Probably. Former military? Not sure, probably. Goliath was the tallest and Caucasian, as was the shorter man on the far left. The other two were Hispanic, and muscular. Probably make a good start for a rugby team, Marshall laughed nervously. Déjà vu. All this transpired in the time required to take a breath. He heard a door slam shut and an exclamation he couldn’t quite make out.
Marshall stepped forward, “I’m Marshall Salt, what do you want?”
“We just want you and your friends to come with us”, Goliath smiled encouragingly.
“And if we don’t?” Marshall tried to sound brave even as his right eye began twitching nervously.
In a more commanding tone, Goliath said, “You will come with us; it’s just a question of what condition you want to travel in. We’re instructed to bring you in alive, but nothing was said about damaged or undamaged.”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement and grew hopeful, but that hope faded as a young Oriental woman dressed in denim shorts and a black t-shirt that mirrored those of the four men, descended from a dirt and weed covered rise across the road. Haven’t I seen her somewhere before? He thought.
“Hi, I’m glad to find you,” she seemed excited. He noticed that she was addressing the four men. “I have a flat tire and could use some help.”
The two men to the right, angled toward the woman without approaching.
“I’m afraid we can’t help you right now miss,” Goliath smiled with a wolfish grin. “It’s not far back into town. I believe there’s a garage about a mile up the road.”
The woman seemed undeterred as she continued walking, “I have the twins in the car and forgot to bring a stroller,” she stated as she started to cross the road. “I can’t just leave them there.” She turned toward Marshall and Justin asking, “How about you two gentlemen? Can’t you help?”
Marshall was sure he had seen her somewhere, but where. “I’m afraid we have some serious business we have to attend to with these fine men,” he spoke calmly, “I think you would be better off returning to your car and waiting for someone to come by.”
In a blur, the woman suddenly attacked the man nearest her. He was down grasping his knee. The second man was quicker, and a blur of hands and feet in an exchange between the man and girl ensued.
Marshall and Justin stood motionless longer than the other two men. Goliath, with a motion of his head, sent his remaining companion to join the fray while he continued to stare like a predator at Marshall and Justin. Marshall looked at the ridge once again, and then ordered Justin to join him as they ran toward the fight. They didn’t make it very far. The tall man was upon them in a flash. Justin was reeling across the ground from a hard kick to the stomach. Marshall fared slightly better. He actually landed a punch that didn’t seem to faze his adversary at all. A wrenching sensation reminded him of the time he had dislocated his shoulder trying to play basketball. His eyes welled up in tears at the pain. He thought he might black out, but then a smile came to his face, as he saw another man running down the hill the Oriental woman had descended from. “Arlo,” he muttered as he fell to the ground.
Looking across the way, Marshall saw the woman who had come to their aid throwing a kick that the third man caught, sending her flying into the ground. She was up in a moment, scraped and clearly about to lose, but not beaten.
Goliath caught a glimpse of the running man, and pulled out a gun. Marshall was still clear headed enough to grade a rock and throw it at Goliath. It was a glancing blow, but enough. The shot missed, and the running man threw a knife at Goliath who fell to the ground holding his abdomen.
The woman was on the ground now, doubled over. The other two men turned to flee, passing Goliath without hesitation. The slower of the two didn’t make it. The man from the ridge grabbed the laggard and broke his neck in a single twist. The faster of the two, made it to a car that peeled out with gravel pelting everyone in its wake.
The newcomer turned toward the man with the broken leg who was crawling toward the remaining vehicle with death in his eyes.
“Arlo! Don’t!” Marshall called. “We want to talk with him.”
“What about the woman?” Arlo growled menacingly as he approached her.
“I don’t know. Don’t hurt her.” Marshall managed to sit back up. Yup, dislocated shoulder, he muttered under his breath.
The woman on the ground looked much worse off than Marshall felt. With Arlo on the watch he turned to Justin. “You okay?”
Justin reached up and took Marshall’s proffered good hand, “Remind me that we should avoid barroom brawls.”
“You’re fine,” Marshall pronounced and released his hand, letting Justin slip back to the ground. Turning he walked over to the woman on the ground. “Shorts apparently aren’t the best apparel for a fight,” he grinned.
“Thank you, would be a better opening,” the woman muttered.
Marshall looked the woman over, Japanese? He wondered. Pretty! 25? Fairly tall for someone from the Orient. But I’m pretty sure I picked up a California accent and attitude. Then aloud he stated, “Boy that eye is probably going to swell shut.”
“Thank you for your concern,” the woman rose and turned as if to leave.
“Not so fast,” Marshall commanded.
“Do you really think you can stop me?” the woman challenged.
“No, but he can,” Marshall smiled at the man standing a few feet away.
The woman turned to the man, “Arlo? I think I heard. Thank you.” Turning back to Marshall she added sarcastically, “See, that’s what you’re supposed to say to someone who saves your ass.”
Arlo smiled a toothy grin aimed at Marshall. “Yes, Arlo, thank you.”
Arlo Schmidt was a big man with the build of a NFL linebacker. Standing at six foot four, he had worked for the Salt family for thirteen years. His blond hair, swept back in a short pony tail was showing signs of gray, that looked silver rather than gray, but Marshall teased him about it almost every day.
“So again,” Marshall turned back to the woman, “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
“I was just passing by when I saw that you and your friend were in need of some help,” she lied.
“There is no way you saw us from that hill unless you were watching us. You were not passing by,” Marshall stated flatly. “How are the twins anyway?”
“Oh yes, the twins. I really do need to get back to them.”
Arlo interrupted. “She is driving a car rental. I saw her watching you when you pressed the alert. I apologize for not being closer, but she had distracted me when I noticed that she had been following you since yesterday.”
“From Salt Lake City? I didn’t think anyone would be on site,” Marshall reflected.
“No, from Chicago. I saw her at the airport, flashing what are obviously government documents.”
The woman put her hands on her hips, “Well if I’m a government official you need to back off or I would arrest you.”
“Not the FBI,” Arlo observed. “If she were FBI she would have already identified herself by now. She has to be CIA or NSA,” he grinned. They don’t have authorization to conduct spying operations on U.S. citizens, well other than their electronic eavesdropping that is also technically against the law without Executive Order.”
“That makes sense,” Marshall concluded. I’d say CIA. NSA calls on CIA for kidnapping and murder; they don’t do it themselves.”
“She could be with the Chinese intelligence service though,” Arlo reflected.
“I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure she’s from California,” he grinned.
Naomi Katsuki actually stepped back. “How do you know that?”
“We have our ways,” Marshall attempted a German accent.
“Marshall!” Justin yelled.
“What?” Marshall yelled back over his shoulder, still smiling.
“Blake is gone.”