Hijacking Heaven (1st draft)
“Today Robert Forder must die.”
The threat did not come easily, nor was it a statement expecting an answer. No one heard it, but Graham Sheppard spoke the words anyway, as if to summon the courage, evoke the genie from the gun, in a piston of lead, sure to cut short the life of anyone forced to take it.
Sheppard’s head still hung as if in meditation- wrestling with all thought. He sat on the edge of the bed in his t-shirt and underwear with his bare feet clutching the shitty, blue motel carpet. The smell of burnt dust still emanated in the air, released by the heat on the shade of the night table lamp overturned in the darkness. It now sent horizontal beams into the dimness.
A sheath of dark hair hung in front of Sheppard’s deep set eyes. His elbows rested on his knees and his hands trapped the smooth handle of the gun. His skin had gone pale, taking on an almost luminous quality. But for the greying stubble of beard on his face there would be no color at all.
The covers lay in mountainous heaps around him- a fortress of sleep disturbed. Only hours ago they had been flat and smooth like the calmness of a lake in the depths of midnight. But the storms had come; the nightmares yet again, the searchlight fingers, the fiery penetrating eyes in an endless river of sweat and the sudden jolt to full alertness. It was an epiphany causing Sheppard to saw through the silence of REM into a violent, repetitive gasp for breath.
“How has it come to this?” he said. But Sheppard already knew the answer. With everything Forder had done right, he’d made one critical mistake. He had called her, and in the moment of his weakness, he had brought on this final wrath. “This house of cards you’ve created will tumble in on itself. There’s no escaping death this time old friend.”
The heavy drapes still blocked out the morning in a scrim of impenetrable darkness. Not that it would’ve mattered, for today was like so many other days lately- overcast and brooding, casting a pall, in a sombre reflection of the tempestuous moods; depression, fatigue, despair....and the truth. The truth of what Forder knew...could he be allowed to live with the knowledge any longer?
Robert Forder knew something was going to happen....something big- chaos on a global scale forged in the furnace of a new world order. He knew everything and those behind it and how far they were willing to push the envelope to see their plans come to fruition. To them the planet had become an ill tended garden overrun with pests and choked by weeds, but things could be fixed. Oh yes. The population could be culled. They would succeed where wars had failed and their envisioned Eden; their heavenly nirvana, would be restored.
Whatever they had in mind, to be sure, it was coming and it would start in the little town of Coram, Montana, population three-hundred and thirty-seven, Forder knew it. He knew their dirty little secrets, the experiments swept under the rug, the ever watchful eyes and who they focused on. ...And he knew if everything went according to plan.....none would live.
How strange that word seemed now....live...If you could call it that?
Sheppard had not lived for some time. Not since Dr. Robert Forder, renowned scientist with a B.A , from Sonoma State in environmental studies, graduated with honors and started to crank those wheels in motion eventually leading to his disappearance. The good doctor had cut his teeth with various agencies studying the effects of global warming, and a virtual stew of environmental hazards. The work had been extensive but not without accolades. The list of awards and recognition for his work was celebrated and had been dished out from the EPA all the way to the fucking White House.
But his motivation and pursuit of truth had caused him to delve too deep. He had made some vicious enemies and then the anonymous calls and warnings had started.
“Unfortunate things can happen to inquisitive people Dr. Forder. Remember that. It would be a shame to lose something you cherish. Perhaps a new line of work would better suit you?”
So Forder had died, for the first time, before someone else did the job for him. He had neatly folder his clothes near the water’s edge and walked naked into the Pacific Ocean leaving everything behind- the career, the house, the dog, the Volvo...and her. Helen had been the love of his life, but for love and her safety, he had to let her go.
Yet, the body of Robert Forder was never found. Even as the word of a prominent scientist taking his own life had eroded into yesterday’s news and the public interest had once again moved onto gas prices, social unrest, and foreign conflicts, there were those who suspected he had survived. Sheppard new beyond the shadow of a doubt the man still walked on mortal coil. It’s why this is so fucked up. Why it’s come down to this.
A strange warmth now emanated from the gun as if trying to calm, or reassure Sheppard everything would be OK. One moment of strength Shep, of self control, commitment and it will all be over. Don`t let him plead for his life. No barter of give and take. Kill Forder for good. End it for real this time.
Graham Sheppard understood one thing. He was doing Forder a favour. Better his death come swiftly from Sheppard’s gun then the torturous, slow and painful end they would inflict. He knew how they operated; what they were capable of to protect their own skin. The only question, when the time came, would Sheppard be able to pull the trigger?
He couldn’t remember how long it had been since Robert Forder ceased to exist and morphed into the man he now called Graham Sheppard. It seemed like years instead of the few months, but when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder time has a way of playing tricks on you.
This was no longer Dr. Robert Forder the buttoned-down three piece suit -type with the manicured finger nails and the clean shaven face, sitting on the edge of the bed in a musty motel room at forty bucks a night. This was Graham Sheppard, fugitive, running from shadows in a deadly game of hide and seek. Ready or not, here they come.
After all, he had given it a good run to elude those who suspected he still lived...hadn’t he? The used car Graham Sheppard had paid cash for had been delivered to the parking lot a few miles down the beach as instructed. The clothes and necessities had all been carefully concealed in a water–tight bag in a labyrinth of rock by a cave near the water’s edge and his new identity had been waiting under the spare tire with the gun and the extra set of car keys.
All that remained was to get the fuck out of Dodge. Make a clean getaway and try to begin again. But the knowledge....the truth? It wouldn’t let him rest, not even as Graham Sheppard and the dreams had started- the nightmares of an apocalypse too grotesque to imagine. Sheppard had resigned himself to the mission of heading north to try and warn the people of Coram. But would anyone believe him?
All his work, all his proof, was most certainly gone, scattered to the winds, ground through shredders, burned beyond recognition to pools of ash. They’d make sure of it, adding to the pyres of other important research and studies now being destroyed, or classified by manipulated government agencies across the globe.
And there’s no fucking time now!
Perhaps it wouldn’t have come to this, but for....the mistake. Helen. He had called just to hear her voice again, however sad and sombre, but they had been there. He sensed them through the phone line as a bloodhound senses the trail of the fox. They had been there listening as Helen answered and unable to stop himself he’d uttered the words, “I’m Sorry.” After the ensuing shock and silence she had responded, “Robert is that you?” and in panic he had hung up.
Now, they no longer suspected he lived, they knew. They would find him and his end would be none too pleasant. They would add him to a roll-call of other important scientists and micro biologists who had gone missing, or met with “unfortunate” tragic ends. It was only a matter of time before they traced the call to a payphone at a Stop N’ Go outside of Butte and no need for rocket science to connect the dots to Coram.
Sheppard had driven through the night along I90 to Missoula then the back way, along highway 200 to route 83 and up past Condan. He had worn a face respirator since Flathead Lake until he`d checked in to the motel in Columbia Falls and sequestered himself in this dingy room.
Everything else had been meticulous- pay cash, take the plates off the car before first light, remove a light bulb from the fixture illuminating his door, break it into shards of eggshell outside his room, chair to the door handle, lock everything and sleep, however restless, with the gun on the mantle of his chest.
Sheppard traced his eyes to the night table where he`d fingered through the bible in search of a few passages of comfort. Never one for religion over science, he now concluded, with mortality precariously held in the balance between his hands, no harm in crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s.
Perhaps ignorance was indeed bliss and those in great danger would simply be better off not knowing what was going to happen?
Sheppard could cheat it now...take the coward’s way out. Gun under the chin...pull the trigger...game over...OK, in the mouth, sure not to miss; precise, instantaneous...finite. Then when they found him, they could make up any story they wanted……but Helen?
Six months ago Robert Forder had died, today so would his alter ego Graham Sheppard.
Slowly he raised the gun with robotic accuracy and placed it between his teeth. The barrel cold in the mouth, almost the metallic taste like blood... how soon it would taste like blood for real...finger on the trigger ready to rock and roll....a final explosion, a searing hot sensation in the brain...then nothing. The pain would be gone, the paranoia, the running, the memories of her.
I’m so sorry Helen.
Sheppard’s finger cocked the trigger....in the distance a siren sounded.