A WISP OF BLUE FOG

by marshall vickery

chapter 1

"Tommy Appears and Daria Jumps"

The man feared he would bleed to death on the snow-covered lawn. 

Please God, let them see me, he mouthed. I must walk. I can't stop. Or this is the end of the line. 

He swayed as he staggered out of the blue fog that had enveloped his body. He was about to fall forward when his hands found the stone mailbox pillar and held on. He pressed them against it, as if to draw strength from the cold monolith. A warmth spread across his groin and down his leg. 

All the power in the world, to come and go as I please, only to die right here on this frozen yard--while pissing myself!

The long gash just above his left ear bled and bled, warming his neck and shoulder, caking on top of older spillage. Someone had found the strength and the desire to kill him and had hit him, hard. He didn't remember who, or why. 

An unbearably loud noise hurt his ears—a dog, inside the Tudor-style house, barking furiously. A cat came out of the shadows, saw him and let out a shriek, running back into the darkness. 

He forced his body to respond as he pushed away from the mailbox and began walking on the expanse of frozen grass. The frigid air gnawed at his bare hands, but he felt no pain as he struggled to put one foot in front of the other. 

I must get to that front porch. Nothing else matters. 

Finally—was it a minute? an hour? —the steps of the porch were rushing toward him. 

He fell toward them with nothing to hang on to and his face hit the hard ground. 

Bathed in moonlight, his head continued to gush the warm crimson onto the snow, and he passed out. 

Tippitoe lay curled up and fast asleep on the blue and red Afghan, one paw draped over Tyler, his favorite toy bear. From under the large bay window of the study where the German Shepherd slept, the front yard sloped gently down to the street. A sodium-vapor street lamp cast its yellow light on the ornate mailbox and reflected off the layer of frost and the bronze cyphers on its side. The hilly subdivision’s main drive was deserted. A black cat prowling among the rhododendron bushes froze, alert, sensing something just beyond human perception.

Tippitoe watched the air next to the mailbox flutter. Wisps of blue fog coalesced into a cylinder, its bluish color mixing oddly with the sodium-vapor light. Now the feline, sensing danger, yowled and ran away. A human figure appeared inside the cloud, while darts of electrostatic discharge arced from its ethereal blue walls to the mailbox.

At the sound of electrical crackling, Tippitoe jumped on the bench lining the bay window, let out a low growl and then began barking furiously at the apparition on his front lawn. 

In the master bedroom of the Tudor-style home, Daria Gannaway was instantly awake. She shook her husband Jack’s shoulder and he was up. Holding his pump-action shotgun, Jack Arduino quickly descended to the foyer and peered outside through a narrow window flanking the front door.

“Quiet, Tippitoe! Quiet!” he ordered the dog, who joined him in the foyer with his tail wagging furiously. 

Jack watched the man push himself away from the mailbox, while a few remaining wisps of blue fog disappeared, and begin to walk across the lawn.

He was dressed in a heavy winter overcoat with a faux-fur collar and an 8-panel blue woolen cap. He walked slowly and laboriously on the ice-caked grass.

Daria joined her husband at the window.

“Who the hell is it, Jack?” 

“I don’t know… maybe it’s…” Jack replied, just as the man collapsed a few steps from the porch. 

Jack opened the front door, still holding his shotgun at the ready. Tippitoe, his tail wagging more slowly now, sneaked past Jack, jumped down the three steps and went to sniff at the man’s body, who was lying face down. His hat had fallen off revealing a large gash on his skull, which was bleeding copiously. 

Officer Robert Horton of the Arlington Police Department was responding to a call about a blaring burglar alarm at a church building down the street, when he noticed the flashes of blue light and electrical sparks arcing by the mailbox in front of a Tudor-style house. He drove his car slowly into the subdivision, keeping an eye on the strange occurrence. Swirling wisps of bluish fog formed into a cylindrical shape. From it, a man staggered out and nearly fell, trying to find his footing. He managed to put his hands on the mailbox and held on, then began walking slowly and carefully across the frozen lawn and toward the house.

As Horton drove his black and white patrol car onto the driveway, the man was nearing the front porch of the house. Suddenly, he fell face-first on the lawn. His woolen cap fell away, revealing a large gash on the side of his head, just above the ear. A dark stain began spreading on the frozen grass.

Horton now noticed that the owner of the house was standing just inside the front door, holding a shotgun. A German Shepherd shot out and ran to the bleeding man, circling his body and sniffing at it.

Horton got out of his car, unfastening the holster of his sidearm. 

“Put your gun down now, sir and raise your hands above your head.”

The homeowner obeyed promptly as the policeman approached and began speaking into his shoulder mike.

“Horton, two oh six two. I have a 10-32 at 5755 Cedar Lane, and a 901, unknown injuries. Request backup.”

“The man’s injured… badly, I think” the homeowner said, stepping out the door. “We need an ambulance.”

“They’re on their way, sir. Please remain where you are.” Officer Horton crouched down next to the man and felt for his pulse. “Sir, can you hear me? You hurt anywhere else? Just your head?”

“Yes… I don’t know. I… I’ll be fine.” The man’s voice was just a whisper.

“Please don’t move, sir. Don’t try to get up. You’ve got a pretty bad cut on your head, that I can see. The ambulance will be here soon.”

“I don’t need no ambulance! I’ll be fine.” The man pushed down on one elbow and got his head up. His elbow slipped, and he fell back down onto the icy lawn. 

“Damn you!” he shouted. “Don’t just stand there! Help me up, will you? I need to get up!”

“Sir, I need you to stay where you are,” said Officer Horton calmly. “The ambulance will be here momentarily. In the meantime, what is your name and address, sir?”

“I’m Douglas Fennville. I’m… I work at the White House, with President Roosevelt…”

“Yes, sir, I understand.”

“The hell you do! I must talk to my friend Jack! Please help me get up. Help me, I tell you!” 

Horton didn’t move. “Sir, please stay where you are! You’re badly hurt. The ambulance will be here in no time.”


At Virginia Medical Center, the patient’s brain scan revealed a massive hematoma resulting from blunt force trauma to the left parietal lobe. The emergency room doctor, a young resident who had seen less than his fair share of trauma patients, quickly moved on after a cursory Glasgow Coma Scale interview. The GCS score was 13, two points below normal. The patient’s main problem, the young doctor declared, wasn’t the bleeding but his brain damage, as evidenced by “disoriented conversation” and “inappropriate use of words.”

It was early morning. The single window, looking out on the Emergency parking lot, offered a glimpse of Arlington’s tree-lined 16th Street. 

When Jack and Daria entered the room, the patient was resting on a pile of pillows. Jack glanced at his heavily bandaged head and said nothing.

“Jack? What did you tell ‘em?” the patient asked.

“Nothing, Tommy, nothing. Nobody asked me anything. I told the cop last night that you were an old friend, obviously not well after the concussion. He asked me about the blue fog. I told him I didn’t see anything.”

“This damn doctor asked me a bunch. Didn’t say nothin’, either.” Tommy’s speech was slurred and his gaze unsteady. Brain damage, Daria thought.

“Except for what you told the cop last night,” said Jack.

Tommy drew a deep, shuddering breath. “What the hell do you mean, Jack? I didn’t speak to no cop!” 

“Maybe it’s nothing,” said Daria. “You gave him your Douglas Fennville name and in the same breath told him you work at the White House with President Roosevelt.”

“What? What did I say? Did I say his name? I can’t be sure the son of a bitch isn’t in on it, with his minions... They found out… Yeah, no doubt, they found out. That’s who it was! That son of a bitch…”

Jack and Daria looked at each other.

“I’m not sure you said it, Tommy,” she continued. “Jack thinks he heard you say Roosevelt’s name, but we can’t be sure. In any case, we’ve got to get you back home, quickly, before they start looking into this. You need to get proper care and you can’t stay here. It’s too risky.”

“Hmmm…” mumbled Tommy. “Someone somewhere is always on my trail. I got rid of the old clunker in the refrigerator. Only activators, now. Two of them. Here. Always on my trail, they never stop.” Tommy’s voice trailed off.

“Maybe I need to take you home to Annabelle, Tommy,” said Daria, sparking Jack’s puzzled look. “As soon as… maybe even right now. You okay with that?”

Tommy didn’t reply and appeared to have dozed off.

Jack went to the room’s door, closed it and leaned his shoulders against it. “Daria, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

“Now, babe, suppose you come up with a better idea.”

“Haven’t thought one up, yet.”

“Okay, then. It’s quite simple. I get his activator, push the button, and take him home. I’ll see to it that Annabelle takes him to the hospital. He’ll get good care, probably at Walter Reed or whatever they called it back then. Then I hit ‘return’ and come right back here two seconds after I left.” 

“No way! I won’t let you do it. We’ve called it quits, and it needs to stay that way!”

“Oh, come on, Jack! We can’t let the poor man stay here! You know what’s gonna happen if he stays here. They’ll be on to him inside of twenty-four hours! Do you want him to end up in the infirmary of some Federal prison?” 

Before Jack had a chance to answer, a brief knock was heard, and a nurse entered the room.

“Mr. Fennville, let’s see how you’re doing and then you’ll be on your way home, okay? Y’all can stay a few more minutes but then you’ll have to wait for him downstairs, okay? I’ll be back in a few to let you know when it’s okay for you to go.”

She took the patient’s vitals, quickly and efficiently. After the nurse left, Jack paced around the room. “We’ve talked about this, Daria. That’s why we haven’t been back to see the Fennvilles, ever. I don’t like the damn thing, I never have and never will! It was the means to an end, that’s all it was. Mission accomplished.”

“And what do you propose to do with him?” Daria nodded toward Tommy, who had fallen asleep.

“Get why he’s here, fix him back, send him back home. Alone!”

“What’s one more jump? Come on, honey, don’t be so bullheaded! I hate jumping. You know I blame it for my miscarriage, even though you say it wasn’t it. And yet, I really think I should take Tommy back. Look at the poor man—he’s barely alive! Something is seriously wrong with him, and I don’t mean just the gash on his head. Did you notice how he looks, how he talks, what he says? I can’t leave him like this, Jack!”

As if to punctuate Daria’s words, Tommy let out a loud groan. 

“All right, all right!” Jack put his arms around his wife’s shoulders, clasping them behind her back. He looked her in the eye. “You know what?”

“What?”

“I’ll miss you. Even if you’re gone for just five minutes.”

“That’s the spirit, Jack!”

“I wish you didn’t have to go…”

Jack smiled at her, the same sweet smile that won her heart, the same smile that made her jump after him the first time. She kissed him lightly on the nose. “I’ll be back in jiff, to my dear husband and to good ole 2019!”

Daria went by the bed and put one hand on Tommy’s shoulder.

“Here. This should do it. Everything that touches me should jump with me. The rest should stay right here. Gray for ‘forward’ and black for ‘back.’ Okay, wish me luck, see you in a few!”

With a smile on her face, Daria pressed the black button. Instantly, a blue fog enveloped them, blocking them from view. Electrical discharges arced briefly from the fog to the monitoring equipment in the room. The blue fog dissipated.

“Jack, fetch me some water… My mouth is drier than a popcorn fart,” Tommy groaned.

“What the hell? Why didn’t you jump?”

“Jump? What jump? Must’ve dozed off. What jump?”

The nurse blew back in and checked Tommy’s pulse. “Okay, folks. You’re clear to go, Mr. Fennville. Check back with us in twenty-four hours and let us know how you’re doing. Sir, you may pick him up at the southeast entrance.”

She left and Tommy looked at Jack. “Guess it means I’ve gotta put ‘em clothes on. God, I’m tired. And scummy. I smell like a muskrat. Jack?”

“Yeah, Tommy, give it a minute. I’m waiting for Daria to come back.”

“Come back? Where’d she go?”

“She jumped to take you back home. You were supposed to jump with her. Now I’m waiting for her to jump back, any minute now.”

Tommy gave a grimace of pain. “‘fraid not, Jack. She can’t work the controls. I’ve had to modify the activator—people were abusing it—so that it can’t be used for two people. And, I’ve changed the input codes and they’ve to be entered each time. No way she can figure ‘em out. We’ll need to go after her.”

“How?”

“Give me a minute, pal. I’ve gotta remember if I have another activator around here. Right now, I can’t remember crap, so give me some time. Okay?”

CHAPTER 2

"Jack and Tommy Figure Out a Plan"

Tippitoe recognized his master's SUV and gave it his usual, over-the-top joyful welcome. Tommy had dozed off for most of the ride home. As he headed for a chair in the living room, he began to sway. Jack caught him by one arm just before he started to fall, but the grip was not firm enough and they both ended up sprawled on the floor. 

For a few moments, Jack and Tommy remained on the floor, silent.

"Sorry, bud."

"It's all right, Tommy. You okay?"

Tommy sat up, moved his legs to one side and laboriously got to his feet. He didn't make any sudden movement and slowly reached the recliner chair. 

"Guess so," he finally replied. "But I hurt all over and my head throbs like a son of a bitch. Tell you the truth, pal, I'm not okay at all."

"It'll take a while for your head to heal. Can I get you anything?"

Tommy moved his head from side to side in a circular motion. Then he looked at Jack, intently.

"Why am I here?"

"At the hospital you were mumbling something about Annabelle and Tom Jr. I couldn't quite understand. Can you tell me?"

"The stuff I said at the hospital?"

"Yes."

Tommy leaned his head back for a moment, then resumed its strange circular swaying from side to side. When he spoke, his tone had changed.

"I've discussed it far too many times. Their arguments are hogwash. The job, my knowledge of the Project--stuff we've never done before--all in jeopardy, all up in the air, all the time... I've stepped up so many times, to 'splain, to make something out of nothin', to protect my machine. We've been over all that. Then, these people show up. Too many demands. They keep askin' for more. And I... I'm so damn tired!"

"What do you mean? Who's 'they'? What are you trying to say?"

"You're not ready. It'll tell you when you're ready. And you're not."

Tommy leaned back in the chair, his eyes darting from side to side, his hands kneading the armrests as if to dig into them. "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country, and all that crap. Bullshit, all of it. Nobody comes to rescue nobody. You don't know what the hell I'm talkin' about, do you, pal?"

"Maybe we can start with that gash on your head."

"What about it? Oh, yeah. Nasty, mean people who did this to me. I was talkin' to 'em just like I'm talkin' to you and bam! They hit me upside the head with a crystal vase. A heavy one. Misses the temple by a hair. Wish it hadn't."

"Who's they?"

"I was so surprised, you coulda knocked my eyes off with a stick. I was staggerin' around like a blind horse and when I came to, I was lyin' with my face stuck in the dirt of your front yard!"

"Tommy, I've never... What in the world has happened to you? You're the patrician statesman, the inventor extraordinaire. You're comfortable in a pickup truck, or in the receiving line at the Vatican. I barely recognized you when I saw you last night--starting from the gash wound on your head, everything is out of whack. You're... not you."

"Not me?"

"Definitely the way you talk... you've never been one to use profanities. And you're so angry, even arrogant--which, my friend, I've never ever seen in you."

"Thank you for not mentionin' the way I look. Delirium saltuum, they call it. Jump too many times, you mess up your brain cells. Brownian motion. Jump too far one way or the other and you mess up your hypothalamus, the little switch in your brain that adjusts your emotions. I called it Time Jump Syndrome. They wanna call it by that other Latin name. But they're after me, Jack, they're after me!"

"Who's 'they'?"

"Here's the straight clinical poop. The hypothalamus adjusts your body weight--which explains why I'm draggin' around 100 extra pounds. The hypothalamus also adjusts body heat--that's why one minute I've got hot flashes like an old lady, the next I'm freezin' half to death. Then comes the sleep--I can't get any. Fluid intake--I'm thirstier than a camel, all the damn time. Top it all off with a generous amount of diabetes insipidus, so I'm pissin' like a mule. Pressure on the optical nerves will cause me to go blind inside of two years. Finally, since I am, as you very eloquently put it, all out whack--I'm mad as hell and I can't help wantin' to beat the livin' shit out of every human bein' I run into. That enough for you, pal?"

Tommy threw his head back, hitting the headrest with full force. The chair gave a snapping noise. Jack thought is friend was about to have a seizure. Instead, he reclined all the way back and, in a few seconds, he was snoring loudly.

Jack sat on the couch and mentally reviewed what he had learned about his friend's sudden reappearance. Tommy was in serious trouble and very serious ill. These two readily observable facts did not square at all with all he knew about him. Tommy was always the most careful person when it came to his health, the most considerate in all his relationships, one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century and perhaps of all times, since Tommy Hamilton was the inventor of the first ever, truly functioning time machine. And Jack was the first human being ever to make a time jump, shortly after meeting Tommy at the Georgia Tech conference in Atlanta. Tommy himself jumped when the FBI started investigating his machine. For reasons known only to him, Tommy jumped all the way back to 1916 and started a new life there. He supported himself by "inventing" things that didn't yet exist in the early 20th. He built quite a career and the big oaf whose hands were the size of baseball gloves got married to a lovely Southern lady. He supported Roosevelt and helped him win the election to Governor of New York in 1928. He was with Roosevelt when he won the presidency in 1932. FDR rewarded him with the Ambassadorship to the Holy See and chose him as his Special Assistant in 1941, a job Tommy currently held.

A couple of hours passed, and Tommy was still sleeping, while Jack grew increasingly worried about Daria's whereabouts. Finally, he could wait any longer and shook Tommy awake.

"Tommy, Tommy, wake up! How can I get a hold of another activator?"

"Oh, I don't know, Jack, I'm so tired... Maybe, I keep one of the early models here in this century... Maybe in a safety deposit box..."

"Maybe – maybe! I don't want any maybes! Tommy, I've got to find my wife!"

"I'm sorry, Jack. I..." 

"Tommy, look at me! Do you have another activator? Some way you can get a hold of one? One you hid, somewhere, for moments like these? Think!"

"I can't think, Jack. I can't remember a damn thing. My head hurts!"

Jack shook Tommy by the shoulders. "Where's that activator, Tommy? Where's Daria? What place was the one she took programmed for? Where did she jump to? Do you realize I've lost her for the second time to your damn time machine?"

It was no use. Tommy was fast asleep. An eerie wheezing sound came out of his gaping mouth with every breath.

CHAPTER 3

"Brutus Does the Deed At Site X"

Brutus was a self-conscious big man. There was nothing he could do to hide his bulk: the barrel chest, the thick, muscular forearms, the fleshy circumference of his neck were all too visible through his baggy work clothes. There was a way about him, a charming nonchalance that said, hey I'm safe, and put most people at ease. His mouth, always open to breathe more easily, emitted a slight wheezing sound that come from deep within his lungs. Brutus was engaged in a year-long, silent battle with the fear of dying young. At 39, he thought of himself as an "aging man" and the ominous cough racking his chest and stoking his fears suggested it may indeed be working silently to bring his life to an early close. When the cough started last Christmas, Brutus thought nothing of it until Sandra, his wife, asked him what the matter was with all the hacking. Brutus wouldn't go anywhere near Dr. Jimmy Carr's office in Oak Ridge's medical center. He told Sandra it was "a touch of the crud” and it would go away. It hadn't, and for almost a year now. He felt older and more tired every day.

Brutus had the job of his life, chief superintendent at Clinton Engineering Works. The job kept him busy. At the start, there were nine buildings put together out of wood and concrete; miles of internal roads to grade and pave, a perimeter swale to dig up and top with a double fence, seven main gates that had to be hard to get into. During construction, he had often asked himself why all this and what the government was up to. He wasn't told and hated it that he couldn't answer his crew's questions about it.

The weirdest part, all staff was required to live inside the perimeter of the CEW. Why? Was it because, as the signs plastered all over spelled out, "The enemy is listening"? Brutus now doubted the newsreels, boasting that the Allies were just mopping up loose end in Europe. Wasn't Nazi Germany licked? A couple of years ago, when they had started the Clinton build, the war could go either way and real Nazi spies were running around. What were we afraid of now? 

President Roosevelt had authorized the secret installation at Site X on December 28, 1942. Brutus and his crew went hard at work on the 59,000 acres of land along the Clinch River, 20 miles west of Knoxville, Tennessee. Residential housing was built for up to 15,000 workers and their families. Today, the town site known as Oak Ridge was the fifth largest city in Tennessee with a population of 75,000. Brutus and his wife and two children moved into the standard prefab two-bedroom "A" house, next to the men's dorms, spartan wooden structure for as many single people as humanly possible. Five sinks to fifty men, as the saying went.

The town site was in the northeast corner of the facility, which occupied a strip of land less than one mile wide and six miles long on hilly terrain descending from the Black Oak Ridge in the north to the spot where the Poplar Creek emptied into the Clinch River.

Brutus didn't consider the two material preparation plants (K-25 and Y-12), the liquid thermal diffusion plant (S-50), and the pilot production reactor (X-10) as his best work. The buildings were cheaply built, of minimalist design, downright ugly. With the war going on, good materials were hard to come by. A few families who homesteaded on the farmland north of the Clinch had to be moved, including Brutus' cousin Nell, who never missed a chance to complain about it. Overall, Brutus was happy with the way things had gone at the CEW and grateful he had a safe job that paid well. 

He had little, if any, understanding of the Project. He knew it was something important. Site X was big and sprawling, way too big to be kept secret. People inside and outside the facility talked, often out of school, about what was going on in there, enemy-listening be damned.

Brutus unlocked the metal gate and traipsed toward the powerhouse. On the external control panel, a pressure gauge was "lying down flat." It was, and it wasn't. It gave a reading that didn't make much sense, unless you knew there was a tiny leak in the pipe, letting out just enough air to mess up the gauge. Enough of a reason to be here after midnight? Brutus hoped so.

As if on cue, the round headlights of a jeep appeared on Bear Creek. Here they come, he thought, with half a grin.

"Howdy, Sarge!"

"Hey-ah, Brutus, how's it hangin'?"

"Oh, so, so. Here to check a cotton-pickin' gauge, that's all."

"Oh, yeah? What's the matter with it?"

"Oh, nothin' much, I reckon. Arlo says, I can't find nothin' wrong with it, you'd better have a look. So, I'm havin' a look."

"OK, then. See ya, Brutus!"

"Yeah, Sarge. Be seein' you." 

The jeep made a sharp U-turn and took off. Brutus took another look at the gauge, which was doing exactly what it had been doing for the last two months. No sense in fiddling with the gauge if the pipe needs replacing. Switching the pipe was simple work, but procurement was getting increasingly difficult. There was a requisition on somebody's desk for a length of vinyl chloride pipe and maybe even a purchase order somewhere, but no new pipe.

The Yankee sergeant's a good man, Brutus thought, better than most of the "furriners" there. No trouble from that direction. The other fellow in the jeep, though... Brutus hadn't liked his stare. The man hadn't said so much as a howdy-do to him. I'm being paranoid. Better stop it or I'll never get through with this. He jingled the keys in his pocket. He could almost "sense" the key to K-27 and the one next to it, to Dr. Wolfson's office in X-10. 

Marion "Brutus" Yingling didn't feel afraid, only a little queasy. It was like going turkey hunting in the fog. You don't know what you're looking to see, exactly, but you know you'd better be prepared for it when it shows up. Funny place, this CEW, or Site X. So much security going in and out of it, and so much less inside. You could almost come and go as you pleased, once you were in. If they're so concerned about unauthorized entry, Brutus thought, how come they let anyone who's already inside have the run of the place? There were restrictions and if you had this or that badge you couldn't go into this or that place and so forth, but it was mostly for show. Engineering and maintenance people, like him and Arlo and the other boys, could go in and out of all the buildings along Bear Creek Road and the ones near the power plant at the southern end of the Oak Ridge Turnpike. Nobody ever asked any questions.

A chill ran down Brutus' spine as he walked by Poplar Creek, his senses on high alert. The water gurgling among the rocks sounded like it was saying something to him. He smelled the heirloom fragrance of the glorybower plants by the river's edge. The air was cold, the sky overcast. No moon. The omnipresent mud stuck and made his shoes heavier. Another careful sole-cleaning job would be needed before going back inside the house, or Sandra would have a conniption.

Inside X-10. Wolfson's office. The director's desk... the two filing cabinets... the x-shaped floor lamp... the safe! Door just pushed to. No surprise here. Lax security now worked to Brutus' advantage. Wolfson always stayed late, left in a hurry, and always violated procedure D, "Ensure containers are locked and double-checked." Brutus' violation was procedure H, "In case a container is found open, secure it and double-check it."

The black folder with the red ribbon was there. It was all Brutus needed to do. Just confirm it was there. He took it out and held it in his hands, briefly, turning it around and upside down. He put it back and pushed the heavy safe door back to its original position, just a couple of inches from its frame. On a hunch, he carefully wiped the door where his fingers had touched it, feeling silly about it. Job done.

On the way back to his truck, the distant hoot of an owl made him think of Bella. The nocturnal bird was his sister's favorite. They were close as children, especially after Daddy never made it back from Italy, lost in the Great War. Brutus was the provider and protector, for Mother, and his two younger siblings. He and his little brother fit the family mold, but not his sister. She was more refined, more scholarly, more elegant than all the Yinglings. By high school, closeness with her brothers ended. She got married well above her station, to an important man who worked for the U.S. government in Washington, DC. 

Brutus felt a sense of accomplishment. There'd been really nothing to it. Nothing taken, nothing disturbed, nothing revealed. A couple of broken regulations, minor ones. That was all.

At the Solvay Gate, Hank Sheffield gave Brutus the look and waved him through. The retired Airman loved the quiet and stillness of the night shift. The only traffic Hank saw in and out Site X past midnight was the patrol and, about once a month, Brutus Yingling driving to Gran Paree on Asylum Street, the only tavern open all night in East Knoxville.

The last of the three-fer medley of bluegrass tunes on his Ford Kicker Radio was over and the WSM call sign came on as Brutus parked in the back of the tavern.

"Howdy, Brutus, the usual?"

"No, thanks, Elmer. Gotta make a phone call, that's all."

"Somebody sick at your place?"

"Nope, just the call." 

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