The long anticipated first assignment came in
August, 1992. I was sitting in my law office thinking back to the day I
was recruited by the CIA. "Just act normal," Mo, my CIA contact, had
told me. The only problem was there was nothing normal in my life
anymore, not since my son Peter had been abducted by aliens from a
planet called Tarizon. The abductors were human beings who traveled in
huge spaceships the size of a football field. They traveled with their
slaves, an amphibious life form that, I was told, could swim as fast as a
dolphin and run as fast as a gazelle. These human aliens and their
slaves had been living amongst us for decades—right under our noses and
we hadn't realized it.
None of this was common knowledge, obviously.
Only a handful of people knew about the Tarizonian Repopulation Project.
Had the press got wind of it the American people would have been
outraged. It was strictly off the radar and a great effort was made to
keep it that way. When Peter supposedly died everyone believed he had
drowned in a flash flood near Possum Kingdom Lake in central Texas, but
the truth was he'd been taken hostage to make sure I did what the CIA
and the aliens wanted.
It had been over a year since Peter's
disappearance. They hadn't found the body, of course, since there wasn't
one. I thought of going public with the whole sinister affair, but I
couldn't prove anything, not really. The aliens had destroyed all the
evidence and taken most of the witnesses back to Tarizon. The few
witnesses who remained were not credible. Nobody had believed them in
the past, nor would they believe me now, if I tried to expose them.
Even my partner, Paula Waters, didn't know that
the aliens had taken Peter. She'd seen enough during Cheryl Windsor's
murder trial to understand that there were aliens amongst us, but she'd
chosen not to know any more. When Peter disappeared she didn't seem to
make the connection. She apparently bought the flash flood story that
Mo, my CIA contact, had conjured up to explain Peter's disappearance.
I thought about Jodie, our legal assistant. We
hadn't talked about the aliens since the trial. She also knew the aliens
existed as she had possessed one of their weapons for a brief period—a
memory gun that could steal time from those within its range. I hadn't
brought it up to her because I knew the aliens were monitoring my every
word. If they found out that Jodie knew anything about their existence
or their mission here on Earth, they'd abduct her as well and then there
would be three that were gone because of me—Peter,
Dr. Gerhardt, and Jodie—because I couldn't leave it alone. I just had to know the truth.
Since the day Mo revealed to me that Peter had
been taken, depression came over me like a swarm of angry bees. It
wasn't just the sadness and hopelessness you'd expect over the loss of a
child, but fear and dread of the future. If I strayed the least bit
from the narrow course set by the CIA and our so-called guests
from Tarizon, what would be the consequence? Would another of my
children suddenly disappear? Would they take my wife or would I wake up
one day in a mental hospital unable to remember my name?
It was difficult to get up each morning and face
such a bleak existence, but I still had Rebekah and our three other
children to protect. Of course, I owed something to Paula too, as her
law partner. She'd been supportive and patient these last few months,
but I needed to start pulling my weight again in the partnership.
Somehow I had to get myself together and get back to work.
I looked down at the living trust I was working
on for a software engineer and his wife. He'd been one of the founders
of a successful computer manufacturing company and wanted to be sure his
growing estate was properly protected. I was having trouble
concentrating on the task and was relieved when the telephone rang. It
was a long time client and friend, Ben Stover.
"Stan. I'm so glad I caught you."
"Hey. Ben. How's it going?"
"Not so good, I'm afraid. I need you to come down here right away."
Ben lived in Waco, about a ninety minute drive
from Dallas. He operated a small manufacturing business and had been
quite successful. I didn't usually go to my clients’ offices,
particularly if they were out of town. It was much more economical for
them to come to me.
"We can't talk about it by telephone?" I asked.
"No. It's too complicated and we've got some tough decisions that must be made immediately."
"Why don't you and Alice come up here? It'll be expensive for me to come down to your place."
"We can't be away from the business that long. Don't worry about the money. We'll pay for every minute of your time."
"I'm not worried about getting paid. I was just trying to save you some money."
"Just come down, Stan. We've got a bad situation here."
I sighed. "Okay, but I need to know at least a
little bit about your problem, so I can be thinking about it while I'm
"Oh God. I don't know where to start," Ben said dejectedly.
"Are you and Alice okay? It's not a medical problem, is it?"
"Not yet, but you know I have a bad heart. This isn't helping matters."
"Okay, just tell me a little about it."
"It's Ralph Herman, our bookkeeper. . . . I just
can't believe he'd do something like this. He's been part of the family
since he came to work for us nine years ago."
"Ralph Herman," I repeated. "I don't think I've met him."
"He married Peggy, Alice's daughter by her first marriage. They're divorced now, but Ralph has always been a good employee."
"So, what did he do?"
"He's been embezzling money for a long time and concealing it pretty well."
"Oh, jeez," I moaned.
This was a common problem for small business
owners. The owner usually knew how to sell his product well enough but
not necessarily how to run a business. He'd have to delegate
bookkeeping, collections, and office management to others and trust them
to be honest. Many times they weren't and this led to problems, usually
"Yes, damn it! I can't believe it."
"God, I don't know; a lot. It'll take weeks to try to figure it out. We may never know the full extent of it."
I sighed. "How did he do it?"
"I don't know. I haven't been paying that much attention to the books. I can't do everything. I trusted him! Damn it!"
"Have you gone to the police yet? I asked.
"No. That's why I'm calling you. I’m not sure if I should."
"Okay, I'll clear my schedule tomorrow afternoon and drive on down. I can be there by one-thirty, okay?"
"Yeah. I'll be here—up to my elbows in shit."
I laughed. "Okay, just hang in there. We'll figure this out."
As I'd been talking to Ben, a wave of relief came
over me. I wasn't sure why, but having a serious case to work on filled
me with energy. Maybe it was an adrenalin rush, I didn’t know, but my
mind seemed clear and focused for the first time in weeks. There was a
client in trouble and I was eager to dig into the shit, as Ben put it, and do whatever was needed to make things right.
Maria, my secretary, walked in and I smiled at her. Her face lit up when she saw me. "Well, you're in a better mood, I see."
I shrugged. "Yeah, Ben Stover just called. He
needs my help. You'll need to clear my calendar tomorrow afternoon. I've
got to go see him."
"Sure, I'll take care of it."
She made no effort to leave but gazed out the
window over North Dallas. Then I remembered she'd come in about
something. "So," I said, "did you need something?"
She blinked and then smiled. "Oh, sorry. Ah. . . yes; Mo is on the phone."
My skin suddenly turned cold. The energy I'd felt
drained out of me and was replaced with a feeling of great dread. Maria
gave me a sympathetic look and then left. She didn't know much about
Mo. He had come into my life long before she became my secretary, but
she seemed to sense my fear of him. It hadn't always been that way. At
first it was exciting—exciting to be involved with the CIA even if only
on the fringe of their activities. But as time went on, one thing led to
another and soon I was deep into their operations. It had almost cost
me my life at one point, but all that was nothing in comparison to what
faced me now.
"Mo. What's going on?" I said, trying to act normal as he had instructed me to do.
"How you holding up?" he asked sounding genuinely concerned.
Mo, himself, was a decent person. At least, I had
thought so over the years. He had helped me many times with difficult
cases and had asked little in return. He even saved my life on one
occasion when an assassin was on my trail. I never suspected his
generosity was calculated for a specific end. I guess I had been
incredibly naive. But, I knew it was the CIA and the bureaucrats who
were calling the shots, not Mo. He had tried to protect me as best he
could, but I had let myself get recruited. It could have been avoided if
I'd just said no thanks in the beginning.
"Better," I said.
"How about your wife?" he asked.
Rebekah. That was another story. She'd never be better. She had been more or less a zombie since the
funeral. Luckily her mother lived nearby and had
been able to stay with her and the children. I dreaded going home at
night. There were no smiles, no small talk, just silence. Rebekah hadn't
said it, but I knew she blamed me for Peter's death; and well she
should. It was my fault. There was no doubt about that.
"The same," I said.
"So, what do you want?" I said bitterly.
Mo sighed. "We have a situation and we need your help."
"I'm listening, " I said, pressing the phone hard
against my ear. I had been waiting for this call—wondering why the
aliens would need someone like me on their payroll.
"We can't talk about it over the phone. I'm around back at the service entrance to your building in a blue BMW. Come on down."
"But—" I started to protest, then realized there was no point. "Okay, I'm coming down."
I looked at my briefcase wondering if I'd need
it, then decided I better take it. There may be some paperwork involved
in the assignment or I might need to take notes. After stepping out of
the elevator I turned right, took the back corridor through the mail
room and passed the service elevator. As I exited out onto the loading
dock, I saw the blue BMW, walked toward it, and got in.
Mo took off with a jerk and turned left toward LBJ freeway.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"To meet Kulchz," he replied evenly.
My skin turned cold again thinking of the alien
commander who was in charge of the abduction of thousands of American
children. What kind of a man was he? Was he really human? The aliens
looked like us. Mo had said they were human, but how could that be?
"Can I ask questions, or do I have to just do as I'm told?" I asked.
Mo smiled. "Sure, what do you want to know?"
"You said the aliens were human. How can that be?"
"I don't know. I've been told that Earth and
Tarizon are sister colonies having been settled about the same time.
Apparently we have common ancestors."
"Yes, apparently millions of years ago there was a
planet out there somewhere inhabited by humans. As technology advanced
and life expectancy increased, the planet got overcrowded and couldn't
population. Because of this, settlers started journeying out into space searching for alternative places to live.
One of those groups of settlers found Tarizon and another, Earth."
I sat back and closed my eyes trying to fathom
all of this. It was just too bizarre and impossible to believe. Yet I'd
seen their spaceship, the memory gun, the frogmen, and they'd taken my
son. How much proof did I need? "What about the frogmen? I asked."Tell
me about them."
"They call them Seafolken," Mo said. "They're slaves who man the ships and do all the hard labor."
"I thought this society was advanced. How come they still have slavery?"
"I don't know. All I know is the Seafolken are
strong, fast, and have psychic powers you wouldn't believe. You don't
want to mess with them."
"If they are so fearsome, how do the humans keep them in line?"
Mo shrugged. "Hell, I don't know. You can ask Kulchz. Maybe he'll enlighten you."
We were on I30 now heading east. When we got to the Lake Tawakoni exit, Mo got onto the state highway and headed south.
"Why are we going to Lake Tawakoni?" I asked.
"That's where the aliens moved their headquarters
after you screwed up their base of operations at Possum Kingdom Lake.
They have to land near a lake so the Seafolken can feed."
I nodded. A few miles down the road, Mo took a
right onto a county road that took us deep into a wooded area. He made
several more turns and each time the road got narrower and was less
maintained. Soon we were on a dirt road deep in the middle of nowhere.
Finally, he stopped at a gate. He got out and unlocked it.
In the distance I could see the lake. Mo got in
and drove us through the gate and then stopped to lock it behind us.
Nobody would find the aliens out here, I thought. I doubted I could even
find my way back to Dallas, if something happened to Mo. We drove
another ten minutes and finally stopped by an old,
dilapidated oil storage tank. As I got out of the
car, I noticed a door had been cut into the side of the tank. Mo led us
The dank interior was only illuminated by a
single blue light above the door. I stopped to let my eyes adjust and
asked, "Where are we going?"
"Kulchz has an office underground," Mo replied,
pushing me forward. "Just up ahead you'll see a hatch that will lead us
down to it."
I walked forward with caution, and as my eyes
adjusted to the low light, I saw a metal railing protruding up from a
hatch. Mo nudged me toward the railing, so I grabbed it and started
down. At the bottom I found myself in a long corridor that went in both
directions. It was stark white and well lit. I waited for Mo.
"Which way?" I asked.
"Follow me," he said. As best I could tell, he
went south toward the lake. A few minutes later he stopped in front of a
door, looked into an eye hole, and the locking mechanism clicked. He
pushed the door open and walked in. I followed him with much
Kulchz was a tall human with broad muscular
shoulders and a rugged face. He looked at me intently as I entered the
spacious office that appeared to be made of glass or crystal. There were
thousands of lights, control panels, and monitors of every sort. He
motioned for us to sit down. The room was furnished with several chairs
and a sofa cushioned by a soft, white substance. When I sat down, the
seat conformed itself to the shape of my body. As I sank into it, I felt
like I was floating on air.
Kulchz sat in front of a large, glowing desk.
With the faint blue glow came a steady humming noise that changed pitch
from time to time. I looked at it curiously.
Kulchz nodded slightly. "Mr. Turner, at last we meet."
"Yes," I said. "I figured one day we would. This is quite a place you have here."
"Yes, it will do for our limited purposes."
My hands were shaking so I slipped them under my thighs to quiet them.
Kulchz smiled. "There's no reason to be nervous, Mr. Turner. We mean you no harm and your son is doing quite well on Tarizon."
Anger swelled in me as I thought of Peter being a
captive of these intruders. As if he'd read my mind Kulchz said, "He's
not a captive. He's been assigned temporary quarters and has been
provided a guide to teach him the ways of Tarizon."
"Really? So, he got there okay? He's not sick or anything?"
"No, he's perfectly healthy and actually enjoying himself, I believe."
A monitor clicked on and there was an image of
Peter being led down a crystal hallway by a woman dressed in a white
gown. As she stopped in front of a room she looked toward the camera.
She was young and quite pretty. She said something and Peter laughed. He
seemed quite taken with her and looked as happy as I’d ever seen him.
Tears of joy welled in my eyes and I could scarcely keep from crying.
Peter was alive! He was okay!
The monitor went blank and Kulchz smiled. "So, worry not about Peter. He'll be fine as long as you do your job."
"My job?" I said. "What is my job?"
Kulchz sighed. "There's been, what would you call it, a . . . ah . . . botched, I believe is the term . . . a botched extraction."
"Really? What went wrong?"
"Nothing with the extraction itself. Everything
seemed to go as planned. It was staged as a parental abduction as it
often is, but there is a police detective who won't accept this
explanation. He thinks the wife is involved in the disappearance somehow
and is out to prove it."
"Who's the detective?"
"Kramer. Will Kramer," Mo replied.
"Hmm. I don’t know him. Does he have any evidence?"
"We don't know. All we know is that this detective must be stopped, and you've got to do it."
"So, you want me to represent this woman?"
"Yes, defend her and prove she's innocent. You
must stop the detective too. If he keeps digging, he might discover the
truth and then we . . . well you know what we'd have to do."
I knew only too well what they'd do. The two
options that had been explained to me were having my memory erased or
being exiled to Tarizon. The problem with memory erasing was that it was
imprecise and unpredictable. It was quite possible that months or years
might be erased unnecessarily. There was even the possibility of brain
damage. Living on a strange planet away from family and friends didn’t
offer much appeal either.
"Yes, I guess I do. . . . So, why don't you just
abduct the woman and save us all a lot of trouble? Take her to Tarizon
to be with her family?"
"We can't do that. Our treaty with the U.S.
government doesn't allow it nor do we want the Earth mothers on Tarizon
where they might try to interfere with the home family."
"What about Peter and Dr. Gerhardt?" I asked. Did the treaty allow you to take them?"
"If the program’s invisibility is in jeopardy,
then it can be done as a matter of national security, but that is not
the case with this woman. We have to try very hard to resolve these
kinds of problems without resort to violence or abduction."
It occurred to me that many of the alien husbands
would probably have fallen in love with their Earth wives and would
have insisted that they be protected post extraction. I wondered if an
alien husband had ever refused to be extracted. Surely it must be
difficult to live with a woman four or five years, have children with
her, and then up and leave without even a word of explanation.
I nodded. "All right. What is this lady's name? Where can I find her?"
"Her name is Charlotte Wenzel. She's being
questioned at the Plano Police Station right now. Sooner or later
they'll indict her. You should contact her immediately."
My heart sank. What were the odds I'd have a conflict on the first case they wanted to assign me?
"I can't handle that case," I said.
"Why not?" Mo asked.
"Bart Williams, my partner's husband, works for
the Collin County District Attorney's office. I overheard him say he was
prosecuting that case. It would be a conflict of interest."
"You have to do it," Kulchz said. "You're the only one we have to represent her."
"They have other prosecutors," Mo pointed out. "If you take the case, they'll just assign another prosecutor."
"True. But I couldn't do that to Paula. This is a big case for Bart. He's been waiting a long ti—"
"Do I have to remind you we've got Peter?" Kulchz said angrily.
A cold chill swept over me. I glared at Kulchz.
What a bastard he was. "Okay. Okay. So, if they do indict her, where do I
get the money to post the bond?" I asked.
"How much do you think you'll need?"
"Well, if she's charged with murder, it could easily be two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars."
Kulchz nodded. "We'll provide you whatever it takes to get Mrs. Wenzel off. Just let Mo know what you need."
Mo stood up. "I'll take you back to your office so you can get started."
I got up and said, "What about Peter? Can I talk to him?"
Kulchz stood up abruptly. "No, just do as you’re
told and he'll be fine. When Ms. Wenzel is cleared and the investigation
is over, you can come back here and see some more video of him."
"That's it?" I said angrily.
Mo took my arm and guided me to the door. I
looked back, but Kulchz had already turned his attention to other
matters. On the way back to Dallas I thought of Peter. He did look well.
Was that really him or just some computer image? I wanted to believe it
was him. I had to believe it. The alternative was unbearable. When Mo
dropped me off a block away from my office building, he gave me a
briefcase and said the contents should tide me over for a while.
When I got back to my office, I closed the door
and opened the briefcase. It was stuffed with money—hundred dollar bills
in nice neat packages. It didn't take long to count three-hundred and
fifty thousand dollars. The expected bond money plus a hundred grand as a
retainer, I figured. Paula would be proud and shocked that I'd gotten a
decent retainer from a client—not bad, had the circumstances been
different. I was eager to tell her the news but when I checked her
office, she wasn't there.