The Black Butterflies: Chapter three
December 9th, 1992.
My watch alarm sounded at 6:00 am. This was the only connection I could make to time and date. My night had been without event and dreams and for that I was grateful. Agent Anderson opened the door and peeped in.
“Good morning sir, would you like to join our morning exercise?”
My first answer was going to be no, I needed to boycott any attempt at friendship until I knew what this was about and exactly where I stood with these people.
“Yes why not, I have nothing else to do anyway.”
So much for standing up, I thought.
Outside the air was a cold fresh relief. I breathed it in, drinking in the moment, amazed that I had taken previous times like this for granted. I was in the company of about eight officers. I noticed that we were all dressed in black track pants and green jerseys. We left the dew kissed grass and headed down a narrow track away from the actual base.
The track opened suddenly onto the beach and the men started with a slow jog along the sand, a few feet from the soft, breaking, low tide. I followed them, enjoying the quiet, content for the while that no-one was speaking, and listening instead to the sea rolling on quietly, singing in its own unique voice.
That was the only real noise, the slow tug of the waves washing on the white sand and of course my labored breathing. The only person I knew was Anderson and he was directly behind me. I kept my eyes fixed on the head of the guy just ahead and tried to keep up with his pace.
We were in a loose circle, and my mind cleared in the morning air and the cool sea breeze. This felt almost normal and I blanked out the last few days. What I needed to do was run and keep running. Leave all my troubles behind. A few miles down the beach, the lead runner slowed and we made a line behind him. I joined in on their stretches, and other light exercise routine, then we headed back to the base.
My heart grew heavy as we walked the path that would take me back to the confines of my small room. I noticed then that it was just after eight o’clock and the base was full of activity. Two separate groups were being carried through different exercise routines and some other people were tuning vehicles. Another small group was tending the grass and plants around.
I went to my room showered, and changed into another set of track pants and jersey. This was going to be the uniform of my stay here. I guess they ordered these by the case from the US. Agent Anderson met me as soon as I had dressed.
“The Captain is ready to see you.”
I nodded and followed him along the same way that had gotten me to my window-less hell. Instead of going to what I thought was Mr. Wren’s office we went around that building to another modern one at the back. It should have had the words ADMIN written on the face because I was sure that was what it was. We went through a side door, however, and not the front. We walked silently along empty, well-kept corridors until Agent Anderson opened an oak door that led into a conference room.
The air-conditioner had to be on full blast. The room was the executive office of the army for sure. Huge table and comfortable looking chairs, phones in one corner and a bank of computers and other gadgets out-fitted the room. There was a door to the left that had the words War Room on it, the only sign that I had seen in the place. I had not seen a sign marked kitchen however and I was hungry. My guess was that everyone followed the smell to that room, or waited for a bell to summon them. Whatever it was I wished that I had breakfast before this meeting.
At the head of the table was Mr. Wren. He had a cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper in the next. He wore a white shirt and a green tie and glasses perched on his nose, as he read the fine print. Nothing else was on the table but his cell-phone. He looked up as we approached and offered a smile.
“Mr. Daniels have a seat please. Agent Anderson you can wait for him outside.”
I sat down and Anderson nodded and headed out the door.
“Mr. Wren tell me that I am on my way out of here,” I said, sitting down one seat away from him.
“If I said that I would be lying,” he answered without glancing up from the newspapers.
I restrained the urge to say ‘And?’
“Where is Cassius?” I asked.
“Back in London, he had some work and some personal business to take care of.”
“When will he be back?” I continued.
“In ten days or so, based on what he said.”
“Why am I here?”
He stopped pretending to read then and sipped his coffee instead.
“What I can tell you is limited and must not be repeated at anytime. Do you understand?”
I nodded like a six year old just about to receive a bounty of candy. There was a web site that I always visited for what they called unique jokes. Just before the site is a disclaimer about three pages long. If you skipped all that there was a bar below that read: LET ME IN ALREADY. That was exactly what I wanted to scream at Mr. Starch Suit with all his top-secret nonsense.
“I was told that you have a story to tell. An important one is what I gathered.”
I simply nodded.
“Well my friend Cassius asked me to do him a favor and keep you safe for a while. I was told that I should not question you and that I just had to keep you alive until he returned.”
“So he…you are both on the same side?”
He offered me his fake, stained-tooth grin. “You can say that.”
“But no one knows my story and what I have seen. How do I know if I can even trust you?” I asked.
“That is just it Mr. Daniels, you don’t really know do you?”
We both held each other’s gaze for a moment or two.
“You will be escorted to your last location to collect whatever you need. You are required to stay under the care of special agent Anderson at all times. He will be the only escort you have out of the compound. You would leave here tonight and should be back before dawn. Let me be honest with you,” he leaned forward, hands clasped.
“If you leave our protection you will be dead within twenty-four hours. Like I said I do not know what you know and I hope that my curiosity can wait the few days for Cassius return. From what I heard and saw downtown the other day, there are people who want you dead. Do not make it easy for them. At the moment, you do not know who to trust and we are not friends. Just stick out the next few days and when Cassius returns we can all deal with this.”
“Sounds reasonable to me,” I admitted.
“We started on the wrong foot the other day, but the agents and soldiers have no idea why you are here or who you are. It would be in your best interest to keep it that way. The key is to trust no one. You must speak to no-one about all this.”
“Are you working with Cassius on this case?”
“Not really. My job between now and the time when the right people hear your story is to keep you alive. Cassius’ business is not really along my expertise.”
“Can I have breakfast now?” I asked standing up.
“Of course Agent Anderson will show you to the kitchen.”
“For the record the state has not done a good job of keeping key witnesses alive in the past, why should I think that this time would be different?” I asked just before I opened the door back to the hallway.
“Mr. Daniels if you obey my rules you live, if you choose to go out there on your own you will die. The others in the past chose the wrong door. What is your choice?”
I walked back to the table. Something had just clicked in my head.
“You mean all that shit about you keeping me as a prisoner of the state blah, blah, blah was bull?”
He nodded obviously pleased by his performance. “So what will it be?”
“I’ll take Witness Protection for $200 Alex.”
The laugh that followed shook the room and I had to admit I could not hate the guy, no matter how hard I tried. I walked over to where he sat and we shook hands.
I was out in the cool night breeze waiting on Anderson to bring the car around from the garage. It was 11:47pm and the moon was full and high. The camp itself was extremely quiet and besides an agitated poet waiting on a ride, no one else was around. I did not find the peacefulness strange, as I had never been out this late. This was to be my first exit from the base since my arrival and my heart raced in anticipation. Since my visit with Wren my guards had been a lot more relaxed. The mere fact that I was standing outside by myself was evidence enough that things were changing.
A blue sedan came around and pulled up alongside me. When I got in, Anderson was dressed like me: Black track pants and a matching jacket. The army apparently bought all its clothes in bulk.
“Nervous?” he asked as we drove off.
“I am, to be honest,” I admitted with a weak smile.
“Is it because you are leaving your safety?”
“Well I might hate the hell hole but at least I get to remain alive. The last time I was outside these walls is burnt into my memory.”
“You were the guy with the Yardie outside Woodford Square?”
“How do you know?” I asked a little more agitated than I should.
Anderson simply smiled and focused on his driving.
“Where are we heading?” Anderson asked.
“Drive and I’ll guide you along the way,” I replied cautiously.
Protection or not, the least Anderson knew the better. What I knew then was that Anderson’s question about me and Cassius was no question, it was a statement. He knew more than he pretended to and I could not help but wonder if Wren was playing this game too. What I did not know then was that as we drove off to collect my things, two other cars fell into place behind us.
We had an un-eventful journey to Manzanilla. Anderson and I hardly spoke and I dozed more often than not, just interjecting the silence with directional hints, left or right. The radio was on low by my request and the old slows from the eighties kept the silence at bay. When we got to the house the place was dark and quiet. Perfect because I did not want to meet anyone and answer any questions. The bar was already closed and I remember thinking that was strange. I paid it little mind and Anderson and I entered the house.
He snooped around, pretending to see nothing, but I was certain that he was taking it all in. I made no hurry to collect my things, packing and thinking whether I was making the right choice. I still had a few beers in the refrigerator, which I drank as Anderson declined to join me. When I had everything packed, with my computer and documents ready, I made a last minute run of the place. Everything was ready. I walked out and saw Anderson in front of the television watching some overnight international news channel.
“What is this great secret that you are keeping?” he asked suddenly turning to face me.
The shock of the question must have showed on my face.
“What do you mean?” I asked forcing myself to remain calm.
“I have heard rumors that you have seen a lot of things, things that men get killed for. I am your body-guard don’t you think that I should know?”
“You know what they say about curiosity and the cat, Anderson,” I offered lamely.
He nodded and produced a white folder from behind his back. My heart froze.
“What is this?” he asked and opened the folder for me to see the sketches in them. I breathed slowly then smiled.
“Black butterflies, Mr. Anderson, as you can see.”
At least my voice did not betray me.
He stared at me for a few seconds then nodded in agreement.
“Black and gold butterflies, with some patterns that strangely resemble bullet holes. And some with even stranger gold patterns. These things do not actually exist, what do these drawings mean?” He inquired further.
I walked to him and slowly took the folder and checked, all the drawings where there. I took the folder back to my computer bag and slipped it in.
“Those drawings are the works of an active vibrant imagination Mr. Anderson, one that I am in the possession of. They represent nothing but the darkest images of my mind.”
“That might explain the black, but what is the gold?”
“The gold or yellow represents the sun that I see as my hope.”
“And why butterflies sir?”
“They represent the freedom that I crave.”
On the wings of two of these butterflies was a code I had devised in gold, to conceal the names of the two men I had seen on the beach. On a few others I had used the same code to briefly describe what I saw as a drug deal and the location. I had drawn them over a few days, after the ticking clock was my only company. In my heart I knew that there were still two more reasons for this creation. One was the belief I had which would see me dead before time, and the hope that I would be able to leave a message from the grave, to someone who would be smart enough to figure out my code. The other was simply because these insects on the pages before me were the start of it all like I said. They represented not only the freedom like I claimed but also the cause of my demise. I was relieved though that on observation they appeared to be just butterflies. That was good for now, seeing that they were still incomplete.
We stood facing each other for a few moments, the words I had spoken sounded believable because they were the truth. Where best to hide such truth than in the open. He nodded then and offered me a wan smile.
“Did you expect something more dramatic?” I asked.
I never got time to hear his answer.
Even by the sound of the first shot it had not registered in my mind what was happening. I stood staring into what was left of Anderson’s face and had the chance to look at the white of his cheekbone and the formation that was his teeth. I looked on in disbelief while the white slowly filled to blood red. Anderson turned to face me slowly.
“Rooonnn!” he managed.
We stared at each other for a moment longer and he slowly nodded before tumbling to the floor. The fact that he was still alive amazed me, he just could not really be there, and this had to be a dream. Any minute now I would jump awake and we would still be on the road to this place.
The thought had not even taken form when the room went dark. The shots that followed rocked the house and the smell of gunpowder was everywhere. I did not run. Instead I crouched and headed to a far corner, hugging my bag and waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark. This was no dream and the burning of my eyes were not the only give-away. The room slowly came into focus and I said a silent pray for my former guard. In my fast-beating heart, I was certain that I would not be leaving the house alive.
The shots, I worked out, were coming from two locations, the front of the house and the side on the right. If I could manage to creep to the back door I could get to the track and head to the side street that I knew was somewhere to the left. If I could. I started to the door in a slow creep, clinging to the bag as though it was a life jacket and I was in the middle of the Atlantic.
Suddenly, the back door flew open and for a second a shadow was outlined in the doorway. The person came in quickly and was followed by another that was slightly bigger. The first person grabbed my hands and dragged me too my feet. In a flash we were out of the house and heading down the track to the back. In the moonlight I half-heartedly followed. In fact I felt like I had little choice since death was certainly inevitable. I was very tired of this already. The running, the hiding, and the death. Let the end come as soon as it could I decided then.
The person held me tight and I could clearly see the gun that he held now. I did not need to look back at the second person, to know that he trailed just a few feet behind. We headed down a muddy track and through a small cluster of bamboo plants. The light was poor but my captors’ movements were quick and sure, as we kept a steady pace. After a series of lefts and rights that had left me dizzy, we came upon a dirt road. Parked in the middle of it was a black sedan.
As we approached the car, the panic that I had managed to contain so far, filled my throat. I also realized then that the car was running and a third person sat behind the wheel. Without any words I was bundled into the back seat. A captor sat on each side, with guns drawn.
The bigger one that had followed us commanded. He was out of breath. The third person nodded and they pulled off. What happened next was simple. I passed out, still holding my belongings to my chest.
Editor’s Note: Wired868 has been authorised to publish excerpts from Kirk A Inniss’ maiden novel, The Black Butterflies for readers. Click HERE to read from Chapter One, Part One.