by Michael E. Lloyd
Chapter 1: Napa Valley, California
part 2 of 2
‘Jen? Hey, it’s Kristy.’ ... ‘Oh, I’m fine — I think! Where are you right now?’ ... ‘Ah, that’s perfect! Listen, girl, I know you’re probably tired and looking forward to dinner with Ralph — but can you do me a special favour and route down through the Valley? There’s something I really need to talk about — and you’re the only one!’ ... ‘That late? You poor thing! OK, let me cook for you instead.’ ... ‘Ah, you’re a darling! See you around eight-thirty!’
* * *
Four hundred miles to the south-east, in the heart of the Mojave Desert, the interrogations of Brighter Vale’s hapless mine manager, Dave Evans, were well underway. The various authorities who had descended on the site in the preceding few hours were extremely keen to understand just what had happened there, earlier that day.
But they were not making much headway.
* * *
Jennifer Pruston finally got away from her meeting in Sacramento well after seven o’clock. But at least the roads were clearer now. By eight she had passed Fairfield, and was repeatedly reminding herself not to keep going on Interstate 80 back to Vallejo, as usual, but to turn off at Route 12 and, as dusk came quickly down, to head up towards Napa.
Like her close colleague Kristy, she had come a long way from her humble background. Her ancestors had been brought to the USA from West Africa a long time ago, and had struggled for centuries to survive. But unlike her friend — the failed fifties movie queen — Jennifer was a child of the sixties, and the doors of equality were at least being unlocked, if not fully opened, for her in those changing times. Her innate intelligence and sense of justice had taken her through school and college with great honours, and once her initial career in Child Care was established, she had married Ralph Pruston, himself a seventh generation American whose own roots were in Yorkshire, England.
She had then become increasingly active in politics. When her own two baby boys had grown into strong teenagers, she had begun her intense personal campaign to represent the people at the highest level. And eventually she had made it, always by listening to ordinary folk and then acting on what she felt was right.
And tonight, Kristy of all people needed someone to listen! No problem. Ralph was now cooking for one, there was a different style of dinner to look forward to, and her good friend probably just had some little crisis of confidence, blown up out of proportion and easily sorted by a sympathetic ear.
She swung left into Wild Horse Valley Road.
* * *
The meal had been good, but rushed, and Kristy had still hardly said a word. She obviously wanted it cleared away as soon as possible. The mood was not as relaxed as Jennifer would have liked. But she knew when it was best to bide her time.
‘Jen, you’re not going to believe any of this ... but you absolutely must.’
And at last Kristy carefully told her colleague a little of her recent, rather unconventional business activities. Then she walked her through the events of the late afternoon, and showed her the Domans’ message, and finished by summarising her own reactions and ideas. Jennifer listened carefully and politely, often asking a bemused question and occasionally a more challenging one, but most of the time simply staring, mouth agape, at her hostess.
When she was done, Kristy sat back in her chair, close to exhaustion, and simply said ‘Well, what do you think?’
‘I think you’re probably nuts, girlfriend ...’
‘Oh, Jen!’ Tears welled up in the unhappy ambassador’s eyes.
‘... but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt!’
The big smile on Jennifer’s face was at once reflected on Kristy’s, and she knew now that she was not facing her task alone.
She left her new ally to ponder the challenge while she made a proper pot of coffee.
‘So what now, Jen?’
‘It’s easy, Kristy. I completely agree with your final thoughts ... we need to bring in someone else, right away, for lots of good reasons. Then we’ll have at least some sort of position of strength! And I know who I’d choose ...’
‘You’re going to suggest Lawrence, aren’t you?’
‘See, we’re already thinking like a team! Yeah, it’s gotta be Larry ... we have to get the other side on board and take it straight out of Party games. And he was an attorney, back in the days. And we need a man with us, or you know how hard it could get! We don’t have time for a girls’ cause on top of all this ... and he has the seniority to command more attention than we can ... and frankly, he can take the heat off us — I’m already sweating here, just thinking about it all!’
‘But Jen, he’s not going to believe me like you have! He’s going to take everything we say with a pinch of salt ... I know I would! And he’s a good man, but he’s not beyond using this against us. And ...’
‘Kristy, cut it out! That’s not the way we’re gonna make it through this thing. We’ve got to be strong and just do what’s needed. We have to convince Larry to put his faith in us. It’ll be a real simple decision for him, as long as he can ignore all the bogeys. He’s a very righteous man ...’
‘Gee, of course that’s how it is, Jen. Thank you for being so honest! I said it had to be you, didn’t I? OK ... but who’s going to contact him?’
‘I’ll do that. You’ve had your share of tough explaining. My turn next. Team, right?’
‘Larry, it’s Jennifer.’ ... ‘Yeah, I’m fine, thanks. Hey, this is still your private cell phone, right?’ ... ‘Good — mine too. Fingers crossed, then! Larry, I need to tell you something really important, in complete confidence. Will you promise not to reveal it to anyone else, or even discuss anything to do with it, till we’ve had a chance to meet and talk it through?’
‘Now wait a minute, Jennifer. There’s off-the-record, and there’s imposition. You can’t just ask me to do that, carte blanche. You might be about to tell me you just murdered somebody!’
‘Aw, come on! That’s not fair. But I promise you there’s nothing criminal or immoral about it ... at least, not the part we need to discuss. It’s just very big. Help me here, please. Remember all the favours we’ve done each other over the years ...’
‘This had better be straight down the line, Jennifer, or you’ll pay for it, you know ... in this world or the next.’
‘I know that, Larry. Listen ... I swear to you on my honour and our Bible that everything I have to tell you is true, as far as I can judge, and it’s from a source we both know and admire. I have no other agenda. And I’m giving you all my trust just by making this call ...’
‘All right, Jennifer. I’m trusting you too. Shoot.’
She kept it as brief as she could. She told him that Kristy Toresito was part of a business venture involving the Mojave mine (‘Yeah, the one they mentioned on the evening news ...’), and because of that she had been approached by some powerful “people” who were interested in laying their hands on a lot of special minerals and metals. And that Kristy now had to take their “requirements” to the very top of government. And that they all had to get their act together fast, for a joint meeting on May 12. And that — ‘... wait for it, Larry, this is where you gotta stay with me, OK?’ — and that those “people” were apparently from another world ...
Lawrence Veight’s reaction was loud, and, she imagined, probably unpleasant to behold.
‘Mrs Pruston, where I come from they call that blasphemy!’
‘Larry, please! You know it’s not me saying that. I’m just telling you what I know. And we have a lot of real evidence. I appreciate it hurts your sensibilities and much more, but you must give Kristy and me the chance to show you what we have, and tell you what we need to do!’
‘This goes against all my instincts ...’
‘I know that. And I’m sorry to be doing this to you. But don’t you see? ... if it is all true, and if even you come to accept that, and you stand up and say so, then we may actually be able to do what seems to be needed here. I really appreciate all the ironies, but I’m certain this thing demands the strength of your own famous faith to support it, until we understand the whole truth.’
‘Jennifer, you’re a persistent and persuasive woman. We disagree on a lot of counts, but I’ve always respected you, and I have to believe you’re being honest with me here. Same time, I’m certain you and Kristy have been the victims of a huge and evil hoax. If I ever find out who’s behind it ...’
‘Larry, can we please leave that sort of talk until you have something to base it on? Right now, Kristy does have something — in fact, a great deal, in more than one sense! Please find a spare hour to meet with us, as soon as you possibly can, and we’ll promise to respect your judgement of it when you’ve heard us out.’
‘All right, I’m willing to do that. But it can’t be tomorrow ... there’s just no way. Are you both free Saturday, late morning?’
‘I’ll make myself free, and ...’ — she glanced over to her friend: ‘Saturday morning?’ — ‘... so will Kristy. Can you please come to her house in Davis?’
‘That seems fair. Eleven o’clock, then. This had better be very good, Jennifer.’
* * *
As the sisters-in-arms hugged their goodnights, Quo was musing on the significant delay which had suddenly been inserted into the mandated timetable. The governments of the Earth had been given a full ten days to prepare for the May 12 summit, but one of their senior players had already decided they could afford to “lose” more than thirty-six hours ...
Copyright © 2008 by Michael E. Lloyd