Monday, December 15, 2008

The Queen of Guilty Pleasures - Part 3



Agent Tersarius picked up a car at the Dallas FBI office and drove 30 miles to Juniper Valley, a small suburb on the southern edge of the county. He drove around the Town Square.

Catty-corner from the City Hall he saw a rather dilapidated office building with a sign, “The Juniper Valley Journal — Your Hometown Newspaper.”

No one was inside except a dark-haired middle-aged man behind a large desk. Tersarius smiled as the man stood up. "Can I help you?"

Agent Tersarius flashed his badge. He noticed the man flinched slightly

“I’m Agent Edward Tersarius, and I’m looking for information about Juniper Valley. I thought the local newspaper would be a good place to start."

The man relaxed slightly and smiled nervously. “You’ve come to the right place.”

They shook hands.

"I’m a microbiology forensics specialist with the FBI out of Washington, D.C.,” he said evenly. “I’m investigating a suspected attempt of illegal human cloning, and I have a lead that’s brought me here.”

Tersarius could tell the man actually understood him. “How can I help you, Mr. Tersarius. Is that a Lithuanian name?”

“Yes, it is, my grandparents came through Ellis Island. A phone call trace has led us to Juniper Valley,” he said. “How much do you know about law enforcement in this town?”

The man turned around and sat back in his seat. “We run the police log every week. Like everyone else.”

“Who’s the Coordinator in this town? You know, the guy you need to go to get permission to do stuff?”

The man glared at him. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I assume whoever your local Coordinator is might be involved — for protection.”

"Coordinator" was the term used in law enforcement for the person in any law enforcement agency who worked for the drug dealers.

“I can speak plainly," said Tersarius. "We know Texas law enforcement is on the other side of the drug war. We’ve known it for years. All Texas police and sheriff’s departments have been compromised by the drug cartels.'

He leaned forward for emphasis. "It’s like during the ’20s and Prohibition. I don’t really care. I’m not here on a drug investigation, Mr....”

“Marcel, Tim Marcel.”

“A former Playboy Playmate and pin-up star from the 1950s was attacked in Los Angeles,” he continued. “The nature of the wound indicates the assailant may have collected a tissue sample.”

He let the statement sink in. “Perhaps whoever's involved in this cloning project has arranged for protection from your local Coordinator. These people make all kinds of side deals for extra money — easy enough, considering they control local law enforcement."

"We have a partial phone number that led me to Juniper Valley," he continued. "The question is, why would the trail lead to Juniper Valley?”

The editor looked wary. “What kind of businesses might be involved?”

“Reproductive services, artificial insemination, livestock cloning, perhaps? Microtechnology, cryogenics...”

“Whoa, stop right there. What’s cryogenics got to do with cloning?”

“If you transport tissue samples, they have to be cryogenically frozen."

Marcel walked over to a window and beckoned the agent. “You see that furniture store across the square?”

“Yes?”

“You remember the Superconducting Super Collider?”

“Yes.”

“The Collider was being built next door in Ellis County, at least until the assholes in Congress cancelled the project 12 years ago. The project’s headquarters were in an industrial park here in Juniper Valley while the tunnel was being built.”

Marcel turned to Tersarius. “The first people who came here were in cryogenics, because of the magnets they were going to install. When the funding was yanked, a number of people took retirement and gave up on government science work, including..."

He pointed. “Jim and Jill Frame, who opened up that antique furniture shop.”

“Thanks, that’s interesting.”

“Yes, and AirFlo Gases is still in the industrial park.”

“What’s AirFlo Gases?”

“An outfit that started up the same time as the Collider. They liquefy gases they pull out of the clean Texas air. Like liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen.”

“You’ve been very helpful, Mr. Marcel. I may stop by and visit with you later. By the way, do you own the paper?”

“Yep, I do everything pretty much. Owner, publisher, janitor-in-chief. This is a small outfit.”

“Well, I know small newspapers don’t make lots of money. You hang in there.”

Marcel showed him to the door. Agent Tersarius turned before he walked out. “By the way, you never told me.”

“Told you what?”

“Who I was asking for?”

“Oh, yes.” Marcel shuffled his feet. “Lt. Scott Hitchens. He’s the guy.”

(to be continued)

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