Books By Willy
It Was a Beautiful Morning
(And my worst nightmare)
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It Was a Beautiful Morning
(And my worst nightmare)
Remember, if you find any mistakes please let me know. It is hard to find your own mistakes.
As I slowly started to wake up, I could hear the children playing in the yard. With my eyes still closed, I could feel and smell the fresh air coming through the window. The aroma of coffee brewing had found its way up the stairs. I could hear the clatter of pots and pans. My wife and kids had let me sleep late.
For the last few months I have been trying to find a way to build a complex for seventy-five percent of it cost. The cost of the power plant alone without a profit margin would cost more than what we were quoting. I had shaved the cost of every phase of the construction. If we got the contract, we would lose millions or we would have to cut corners in areas that could be cut, but should not be cut for safety reasons. The management wanted to make a low bid just to get their foot in the door and worry about the cost later. I disagreed with their philosophy. If you had to sacrifice you blood and sweat and not get paid for it, why take the job. I did not get paid for the many nights that I had to work late. They had elevated my position to manager without elevating my salary. Managers were not paid overtime, ha. Why didn’t they pay me a manager’s salary? They had been squeezing the last drop of blood out of me and I have had it up to my ears and was not going to take any more. I have been thinking of looking for another job. I was not going to take anymore crap from them. I had one big problem. My wife and kids loved where we lived. They did not want to move. They had family and friends living near and they loved their home.
As I opened my eyes, I looked out the window. The sky was the brightest blue that I had ever seen. With the beauty of the morning and the freshness of the morning air, I felt wonderful. I was lucky to have a home to live in, my beautiful wife Jean, and two wonderful children. The oldest was Louis he is ten and Penny is seven.
I could smell the bacon frying in the kitchen. My wife allowed me to get off my diet and eat a little fat once a week. The doctor had found out that my cholesterol was a little on the high side and advised me to go on a fat free diet for a while. I had been a good boy and kept to my diet and my darling wife treated me to my favorite foods once in a while. The day was beautiful and it felt good to be alive. I cannot stay in bed all day on a beautiful day like this. Slowly I climbed out of bed and stood at the window and was enjoying the view from the second floor window of our bedroom. The flowers were blooming, the children were happily playing, I had a day off from work and I wanted to spend the day with them. I had been working around the clock of and on for the last year. My children were a year older and I had not been able to watch them grow up for the last couple of years. I was hoping that I would be able to spend more time with then in the coming year.
As I stood at the window putting on my clothes, the house shook as if it was an earthquake. Living in California, this was not unusual. Within seconds, a loud explosion shook the house. This wasn't usual. I could feel the shock wave as it went by, the window and the house rattled. Being on the second floor, the house seemed to sway and I could see above the other houses. A column of smoke was rising in the distance. I wondered what had caused the explosion. As I continued to stare at the column of smoke, I noticed that a familiar land mark was no longer there. Fear spread through my mind. The cooling towers of Old Nellie, a huge Nuclear Power Plant, were no longer visible. Instantly, all of my strength left my body. My greatest fear had happened. I quickly turned on the TV. It did not turn on. I could hear my small generator in the basement go on. I turned on a portable radio. No local stations were on the air. I dialed a local radio station. Surprisingly, the phone worked. I asked the person that answered if he knew what had happened. He told me that the station’s power had gone off and they were going to run the station on emergency power and he did not know what had caused the power failure. They were as much in the dark as I was. He told me to listen to the station and as soon as they found out what had happened, they would announce it.
The TV station came on the air and they said the signal may not be as good as usual. They were using a backup power supply. As I watched the TV my worst nightmare came to mind. I took another look out of the window then called my wife and told her to shut down all the gas and electric appliances. I called the kids and told them to come upstairs as fast as they could. I grabbed a briefcase and stuffed it with all of my personal files that I though was important.
My wife came in with the kids. She told me that the electric power had gone off just before the shock wave went through. I told her and the kids to get a suitcase and start packing. Do not pack too much; we do not have much time. My wife asked why and wanted to know where we were going.
No sooner had she asked the question, the radio came on and the announcer said that there was an explosion at the Nuclear Power Plant on the north end of town. They were running the station on auxiliary power supplied. I told my wife we only have about a half-hour to pack and get out before the wind blows the radioactive dust over us. I told everyone to hurry. We must get out of here or we will be exposed to radiation.
I saw a group of my neighbors standing outside. I called to them and told them what had happened and to get out of town and head west as fast as they could. Most of them believed me, and a few just stood there. I yelled to them that it was the nuclear plant that exploded and radiation would be spreading all over the neighborhood. One of the men waved me off, as to say that I was crazy.
I did not have time to argue with anyone. I had to get my family away from here as fast as I could. I was not going to take any chances with my family. If there wasn’t any fallout, we would return home. I was not going to take any chances. We took the suitcases downstairs. While I loaded the car, my wife grabbed a cooler and packed as much food in it as it would hold and the kids loaded bags of food from the pantry. I hitched up my small trailer to my car. I told my wife and the kids that we had about ten more minutes. They could put anything they wanted in the trailer, but they only had ten minutes. I grabbed our computer and the bank books, credit cards, birth certificates and everything else that I though we would need. The ten minutes had passed sooner than I expected. I yelled, “It time to go.”
They stuffed the things that they had in their hands in the trailer and I locked the house. I looked around to see if the kids were buckled up, and took off.
Thank God, the wind was not brisk today. This would give us a little more time. I tried once more to get the neighbors to leave. They laughed at me. My last words to them were, “If that cloud of smoke gets over your head, you would be killing your family.”
As I drove away, I looked in the rearview mirror and they were heading for their homes. I was hoping that what I had said would shake them up enough that they and their families would have enough time to get out of the area. So what if I was wrong, they would only be spending a few hours away from home. I would apologize if I was wrong. I would rather be safe than sorry.
I headed south. The path the radiation would be heading. People were lining the streets and looking north. I knew that I had a head start on the cloud and maybe I could save a few more lives. I slowed down. I told my wife to warn everyone on her side of the car and I would do the same on my side of the car.
I told her not to argue with them. We could save more lives if we spread the word. We yelled to the ones that were standing along the road about the danger and for them to spread the word to their neighbors. As long as we kept ahead of the cloud we would be able to save more lives.
I continued south for another half hour and stopped along the way telling everyone about the danger. The cloud was starting to catch up with us. I continued south but did not stop to tell anyone else. They would not have time to get out and I hoped someone on the radio or TV had warned them. I turned on the radio and to my surprise; the announcer did not think there was any danger. He said that we might have electric problems for the next few days. I picked up my cell phone and called the local police. The line was busy. I called 911 and the operator answered. I told her that the police should be notified that there would be radiation fallout from the explosion. They should evacuate everyone south of the power plant. The operator though that I was joking. I told her that it was a very good chance that the power plant had a meltdown and to call the radio station and have everyone south of the plant to leave and go east or west. The cloud is moving in a southerly direction. I reassured her that I was not kidding and she should call the radio station. The worst that could happen is that we all would take a ride on Saturday morning and she agreed.
Within a few minutes, the radio announcer said that a recorded message would be on the air. It would be repeated over and over. They were evacuating the radio station and there was a meltdown at the power plant. Thank God. Somehow, the message was getting around.
I continued south. There was a highway a few miles ahead that ran east and west. I felt that it was best to go west because the winds usually went from west to east. Even though the winds were blowing south, the chances the cloud would drift east. I drove about 40 miles west then I headed north along the coast. I wanted to get my family on the opposite side of the fall out area. As we drove north along the coast roads, my mind went back to the explosion. What caused the explosion? Was it terrorist attack? Why were the cooling towers flattened? Usually, I can see roofs of the building at the power plant. I could not see any of the buildings at the Power Plant. Was the reactor still working? Just as we were leaving I saw a geyser of water and debris going hundreds of feet into the air. Questions flashed across my mind. What had happened?
Our new home:
I had made a loop and we were 50 miles north and east of the power plant. To my surprise we found a motel with a vacant room. We were very fortunate to find a room. It wasn’t the nicest place, but we had a roof over our heads, a place to sleep and we were out of the fallout area. I asked the motel manager if they had auxiliary power. He said that he did. He requested that if I watched TV, please do not use any lights or appliances at the same time. Also, there was no running water. We could not flush the john. He had provided portable toilets in the rear of the motel. He warned us not to use the toilets; we would not be able to flush them. There was no drinking water at the motel. He told me where I could buy bottles of water and suggested that I go over there immediately. They had plenty of water earlier today. They had their own wells and they were worried that they would pump more water than the well could supply. The manager was going to give us a gallon of water a day and said that was all he could give us. We could us it for cleaning up, drinking or flushing the toilet. He said that due to the outage he had to ration the power also. He did not know where or when he could get more gasoline. All the Service Stations were closed down. They could not operate the gas pump.
Within an hour, after we checked in, the motel was full. We warned Louis and Penny about using the potty. I had gone to the water company and bought as many five gallons bottles of water that I had room for in the trailer. I sat one of the bottles on top of the toilet to remind them of the problem.
Jean fixed us something to eat and we all sat back and watched the news on TV. Fortunately the motel had cable. There were blackouts and brownouts across the nation. Only the small power plants that could disconnect from the grids went back on line. Communication across the country was sporadic. At times, the only means of communication were Amateur Radio operators across the countries that were using portable power supplies or powering their rigs from their cars. The stations that were on the air were using gas or diesel generators to power the stations. The media was exploiting the misfortunes of the victims for their own gain.
The police had put up roadblocks to keep people and the news media out of the contaminated area. The road block encompassed 20 miles north of the plant and 50 miles east and west and 200 miles south of the plant. They announced that no one would be allowed in the restricted area. They were letting everyone out of the area, but no one was allowed to go in. Also, they announced that they could not account for any of the employees that were at the plant, and they were presumed dead. The Residents nearGround-0 were being isolated in schools north of the plant. The schools were the only building larger enough to house all the people that did not have transportation out of the fallout area. The government had flown in a special military division that specialized in radiation and nuclear fallout. They were separating the victims depending on how much exposure to radiation they had. They were not telling the victims how much exposure they had. Some of the victims were retained and others were bussed to schools further north.
I knew that the ones that had high exposure to radiation, there was nothing that they could be done for them. Others may have effects of the exposure for years. The lucky ones would be scrubbed down, released, and with hopes, that was all that would be required. From where the media said they had lived, I knew that most of them, if not all, had been overexposed to radiation. I closed my eyes and prayed for them. Thank God I had enough since to get the hell out of the fallout area.
We all laid in bed and had snacks for the rest of the day. I would not be going to work Monday or going home. It looked like we would not be going home for quite a while. I did not mention this to my wife and kids. They felt bad enough having to leave their home. Even though our house was not in the direct path of the fallout, everything in our neighborhood was affected and it would not be long before the radiation level would be quite high.
The question everyone was asking, including me, what are we going to do? The place where I worked was right next to the power plant. Most of the employees and the management lived in the contaminated area. They would not be able to go back home for a long time, and if they were fortunate enough to get out of the affected area. Reluctantly, with that condition, I had to tell my family that we would not be going home for a long time. We had a family conference. Fortunately for me, we all came up with the same idea. We will wait and see what will happen for a week before we make any drastic decisions.
We were sitting around watching TV. The media was having a field day. You would think that nothing else in the world was happening. It seemed that the rest of the world had vanished. There was no news concerning the war our young men were fighting, the stock market, sports, or any of the shouting match talk shows. Of course, there were hundred of so called experts that were giving out false information and frightening the public. The public was already scared out of their minds. They did not need any more. Every station repeated the same news stories over and over again. There was nothing on any of the stations that children could watch. I wondered what was going on in their little minds, especially Penny. Louis was almost eleven and he had been hardened by the media. Penny had tears in her little eyes when she saw and heard the frightening tales the media continued to announce. Jean and I took turns trying to amuse them. We tried to keep them away from the TV as much as possible without interfering with their wishes.
As the days started to pass, a number of paparazzi had been caught entering the contaminated areas. They wanted to see what Old Nellie looked like after she blew her stack. The paparazzi were locked up for their own safety and others that may come into contact with them. Repeatedly everyone was warned of the danger of being exposed to the radiation if they entered the contaminated areas. There was always another nut that did not believe the warning, or was being pushed by the media for their own greed. Every station was trying to top the other stations by announcing the worst tragedies.
For the next few days my brain was spinning. I did not know where to go or what to do. I could not think. What am I going to tell my family? I felt like a lost little boy that did not know where he was. I am the one that my family looks up to for answers. I don’t have any.
Problems had spread across the country. Every time a plant went back on line, they were only on for a short time. The greed for electrical power from everyone caused new brownout or blackouts. No one seemed to heed the warning of the officials to cut down on the amount of electricity they were using.
It wasn’t only the fallout area that was suffering. Problems had spread across the country, Canada and Mexico. Across the country, without power, they could not flush their toilets, and potable water was scarce. Without electricity the water treatment plants could not supply water. Foods that had been frozen or refrigerated had thawed out and started to decay. Without fresh food and water, they ate and drank what ever they could get. An onslaught of dysentery was spreading across the nation. The decaying garbage was stacked along the streets. Rats, flies and vultures were having a feast. Without electrical power they could not operated the refineries and pump the gasoline around the nation. The few gas stations that had auxiliary power had long lines of cars and truck waiting to get their ration of gasoline. The stations were rationing the amount of gas they sold to the customers. The whole country was rapidly falling apart. I did everything I could, not to mention this to my wife and my children. Fortunately I had purchased the five gallon jugs of water. It was for drinking purposes only. We had to live with everyone else’s BO.
Fleeing for their lives!
During the first couple of days, there were massive gridlocks and accidents that blocked the roadways as the victims hysterically fled California in their cars. All of the major highways were block with accidents and cars that had ran out of gas. As the traffic out of the contaminated areas started to slacken, many people on bicycle and on foot were fleeing. As the days passed there were still a few leaving in cars and anything else that would carry them out of the fallout area. In the following days, the ones that were fleeing on foot increased. Most of them had nothing but the clothes on their backs. The heavy valuables that they had tried to salvage were left along the roadside. Stories of massive looting were told. They were not only looting for valuables, they were also looting for water and food. People that had never stolen anything in their live were fighting over bottles of water. The strong were the victors.
The large buildings that had water tanks on top of them were taken over by gangs. They were selling small cups of water for twenty five to fifty dollars. Some of the victims that were on bicycles or on foot and strong enough to fight off the attackers told of the savagery that was going on. Most of the police and government officials had long fled. Many that were left behind had been killed over a drink of water. When the hoard of people that were walking out came up to a stream or ponds, they would fight to get to the water. People were eating and drinking anything they could find. There were groups that stuck together so that they could fight off the attackers. The old, the weak and small children were the first to die. Their bodies lined the sides of the roads. There were people that took makeshift generators and pumps to pump the gasoline out of the gas stations storage tanks. The sparks from the generators or the pumps ignited the gas fumes and caused massive explosions, hundreds that were waiting for gas were killed.
Thousands had thought this whole episode was a stunt put on by the new media and it had gotten out of control. They thought everyone that was fleeing were jerk and told them so. They plundered the homes and apartments of those that had left. What a price they will pay for the things that they stole. All of the municipal buildings and hospitals were closed. The hospitals were ram-sacked for drugs. All the banks had been broken into. Some of the small business owners had stayed behind to guard their businesses. I remembered the ones that laughed at me and my wife when we tried to warn them of the danger if they stayed. Hundreds of stories of atrocities were being told. Everyday thousands would find their way out of the blocked off area. The officials did not know what to do with them. They did not have a tenth of the food that they needed to feed them. Due to the shortage of water, they only gave each person a small cup of water. If they wanted more water, they had to go to the end of the line and wait for hours just for another cup of water.
God, as I listen to the stories on TV, I know that we have to get as far away from California as possible.
One evening on television, they verified some of the stories that were being told. They showed thousands of people walking north along US Route 5. As the helicopter flew over the poor souls, the cameraman focused the camera close enough that you could see the suffering in their faces and weakening bodies stumbling down the road. I could read their lips; they were shouting for food and water. How long could they survive without food and water? The levels of radiation in the fallout area were quite high. They may die of dehydration or starvation before they die of radiation poisoning. That may be a blessing. The suffering would not be as long. Dead bodies lined the sides of the road. I wondered what the ones that were passing them by were thinking. No one seamed to care. They all looked like they were on the brink of death themselves.
There was no privacy. Modesty had been forgotten. There was no place to hide. The women went about a couple hundred feet from the road to do their thing. The men took a couple of steps to the side of the road and turned their backs on the crowd. Most of them were too weak to go much further. How long had they been walking? How far had they walked? How much farther could they walk before they would lie down at the side of the road to sleep for ever? God bless those poor souls.
On one of the flights, a reporter told the helicopter pilot to land the craft. As they approached the ground, hordes of people ran for the helicopter. The pilot reversed the craft and lifted the craft out of the reach of the throng of people trying to grab the landing struts on the helicopter. The reporter shouted that he wanted the pilot to land the craft. The pilot told him that if he had landed he would have never been able to get off the ground. The reporter demanded that the pilot put him on the ground. The camera was aimed at the pilot’s face. If looks could kill, the pilot landed the craft about a thousand feet from the crowd and told the reporter that he could get off if he wished, but he was not going to wait for him. The reporter climbed out of the craft and saw hundreds of poor souls running toward the craft. The pilot had already started to ascend. The cameraman had not left the aircraft. He was filming the reporter’s frightened face. The reporter frantically leaped for the landing struts, and was hanging in the air. One of the poor souls grabbed the reporter’s feet and was hanging to the reporter’s foot. He lost his grip and fell back to the ground. With the help of another reporter, he pulled himself up into the helicopter. The pilot looked around at the reporter with a frustrated look on his face and asked the reporter if he wanted to try that again. The reporter uttered a silent no. The camera panned over at the desperate faces down below. Cold chills ran through my body. I could feel the desperation that I saw in their faces. Tears came to my eyes. It reminded me of the Americans evacuating Vietnam. I hear my wife coming in the door with the little ones. I quickly turned off the TV. If she had seen the hungry and thirsty faces, it would have killed her. She has always felt the pain of others. Every day tales of horror were being told.
Find the culprit:
Everyone in the State and Federal Government from the President on down was on the warpath to find out who was responsible for the meltdown. There wasn’t a Representative or Senator that had not been on TV four or five times. It looked like they had been rehearsing the same lines. KILL the culprit that was responsible for this tragedy. Every department of the government was going to investigate the accident. Every department in the country was blaming someone else for the meltdown. Washington was up to their normal behavior, the Republicans were blaming the Democrats and the Democrats were blaming the Republicans. The strings to the political puppets were making them all sing the same song. It was unbelievable, the President, the Attorney General, the NRC, and all the Congressmen and Senators all were on the same track and pointing in the same direction. It took a tragedy to get everyone in Washington on the same wave link. There top priority was finding the person that was responsible. They all had to know who was responsible instantaneously. It took a major accident before they got off their fat asses and agreed on the same thing. I yelled at the TV and said, “Stop the spread of radiation now. You can find out what caused it later.”
Thank God Jean and the kids were outside. They had enough problems of their own.
The House and the Senate planned a special emergency joint session tomorrow. The House and the Senate would enact a law that required that anyone knowing anything about the accident to notify a special panel that was being set up. An individual could spend 20 years in jail with fines up to $100,000 and a 10 million dollar fine for corporations that did not come forward if they knew anything that may be relevant to the investigation. The President had already had an executive order that allowed the investigator to ask anyone and everyone questions that were related to the meltdown. There was no limit to the amount of money that would be spent on the investigation.
As densely populated as California, millions would be over exposed to high levels of radiation. My greatest fear had been that they would not be able to evacuate them quick enough to avoid radiation poison. My fear was a reality. Many had been overexposed and many more would be in the future. As far as I knew, no one had prepared for this magnitude of a disaster. No one felt that the expense was worth the effort. Their attitude was, why spend money on something that would never happen. How wrong could they be? There had been two meltdowns, what made them think that it would never happen again? The politicians did not want to spend any of their pork barrel money on a project that they felt would never happen again. How stupid could they be? The good old boys all stuck together, you help me with my pork barrel and I will help you with yours. You rub my back buddy and I will rub yours, politics as usual. The ones that had enough foresight and knew there were possibilities that another meltdown would happen were voted down by the good old boys. The more I watch the news, the madder I became. I was hoping that my anger would not frighten my wonderful children and my beautiful and loving wife. I did not want to do anything to upset them. I knew they had enough on their minds.
The fallout was spreading west not east. The top of a low-pressure center coming up from the south was pushing the radioactive cloud west, not east, as I had though it would. Fallout had spread 250 miles south and 45 miles west. This had surprised everyone, including the weatherman. The residents along the coast were just starting to get worried. A few were abandoning the coast. The traffic on the main highways along the coast has massive gridlocks and many accidents. The weatherman had predicted the fallout would be heading southeast. Thank God, my family was out of the contaminated areas.
We had been stockpiling everything that was canned and edible, including bottled water. The trunk of the car and the small trailer was full. Prices of everything had jumped up 400 to 500 percent. We concentrated on canned foods. We did not know when we would be able to get ice. No shipments were being sent into California. The trucking unions would not allow their drivers anywhere close to the California border. If we found perishable foods that were frozen, we would have to eat them the same day we purchased them. There was no place that you could buy ice.
The radio and TV talk shows were going full force. They were blaming everyone they could think of. That included the President and everyone in both Houses and the industry. The industry was blaming the plant management. The plant management was blaming the control room operator. I did not know who to blame. There could be a multitude of reasons for the accident, or was it an accident? The President, everyone that was involved with engineering, the builders and the people that were operating the plant may be responsible for the accident. Someone may have ignored safety to save a few million bucks. I also blamed our government for demanding a quick solution for the power shortage in California. The government had demanded that the plant be in operation at a date that was four years before it could possibility have been built. They should not have cut corners to insure that the power plant would be operational in such a short period of time. The officials could have waited until all questionable problems could be resolved and corrected before the plant was put into operation. They wanted the electrical power now and forget about safety, industry needed the electrical power now, not next year or the year after. Where are they going to get the electrical power that they need now? The power that they demanded was not at their disposal any more.
Now that we have had a meltdown, everybody is starting to think about the consequences of another meltdown. Now that this tragedy has started, everyone wants to know how to prevent another one from happening. All of their good thoughts will be forgotten in a few months. Why aren’t they thinking about stopping this meltdown before they start planning for another meltdown? The media and both parties were complaining that no one had prepared or predicted that this would happen. Why didn’t they listen when it was brought up ten years ago? They had been warned.
The ones that had voted against investing and looking into the possibility that there may be another meltdown were complaining the most. They wanted to know what plans had been made, if any, for this type of emergency. Who was going to pay for the loss? They should have known! They are the ones that voted against putting any money into the project. They are the ones that said that it would never happen again.
Almost everyone in the fallout area would not be able to return to their homes for years or ever. The business in the area would all declare bankruptcy. Where would the millions of people be housed temporally and where would they eventually go to live? Who would feed them? How would the bread baskets of California be replaced?
There had not been any preparation for a nuclear accident, or any serious thought given to the problem. The thought of the magnitude of this type of disaster was so awesome that every time the subject came up, it was dropped. The experts had estimated the cost would be in the trillions. Just how much, no one could even guess. The power company, builders, engineering company and the federal government could not pay for all the losses. The same jackasses that said, “Forget it, it will never happen.” They were still complaining the most.
Now that it has happened, they are running around in circle not knowing what to do first. My answer to them is, stop Old Nellie from spreading the damn radiation! If it keeps up the same way that it has been, the whole world will be radioactive.
We were still staying at the motel. It was hard to find a program for the kids to watch. The few stations that we could get were trying to outdo the others. TV was useless. Instead of trying to help the military coordinate the relief effort, they interfered with the relief effort by demanding answers to question that could not be answered by anyone. Answers, that God only knew. All the talk shows were shouting matches between idiots that did not know which end was up. I had never listened to so much BS in my life. The ones that knew what they were talking about was shouted down by the idiots that though they knew everything. The smart ones knew that there was nothing they could say that would change the idiot’s mind. Or, aid the solution to this major tragedy. In the past and now, I noticed that the talk shows that had the highest ratings were the one that had the most shouting matches. They should rate these programs as “Parent’s Guidance,” or put them on late at night so our children could not watch them. What an impression it must be embedding in the minds of our children. They will grow up thinking you have to fight your way through your life shouting and screaming. What an example we make for our children.
What is everyone going to do?
There is no one in this world that is going to help me and my family. We have to take care of ourselves. If we wait for someone else to help us, we will starve. We had a family conference and we all agreed that we had to start a new life somewhere outside the fallout area. With the condition the way it was, where should we look for a place outside the fallout area? It was beginning to look as if the whole world would be contaminated.
The officials were trying to cap the reactor. They had tried to flood the area with cement, and I was wishing that it would work, but it didn’t. Somehow the reactor core was not being affected. There were thoughts of bombing Old Nellie. Like Old Faithful, Old Nellie kept belching clouds of radioactive material into the heavens. My kids had asked me what I though they should do to stop it from erupting. Without frightening them anymore than they already were. I told them the truth. I did not know. I told them that our government should ask the Russians to help them; they had capped the Chernobyl Power Plant. Chernobyl was capped almost twenty years ago. Yet, I had heard that Chernobyl was still hot. I told them we will pray that something can be done to stop the spread of radiation.
When they dumped larger quantities of cement on Old Nellie, she would be quiet for a while then belch it up and spread more radioactive material. Old Nellie was one of the newest designs and the largest plant in the country. It was the pilot program that was going to end the need for foreign fuel. It produced more power than three or four of the older plants. Old Nelly was like a huge coal fired boiler that was stoked to the limit and they could no reach the damper to shut it down.
Where is our mail?
One morning while twiddling my thumbs and waiting for good news on TV, I wondered what had happened to all of our mail? We must have two hundred and fifty pounds of junk mail by now. The news media didn’t announce anything about mail delivers in the fallout area, if they had, we had missed it. I knew that no one would be at our local post office. I called our local post office anyway. A recorded message gave instruction where to call for various communities. I called the number they suggested and another recorded message gave me another number to call. Finally a human voice answered and I asked him what they were doing with the mail that they could not deliver. He told me that it was being held in other cities around the country and I could send them my new address and they would forward the mail to me. At least, I don’t have to go back home for it. I would have to buy a four ton truck just for the junk mail. Already, I was regretting having to filter through the pile of junk mail to find a document that may be important.
It was time to make a decision!
Every day things were getting worse. Millions of people were driven from their homes. The motel owner wanted to increase my room rate. Everything was becoming scarce. I knew that things would get worse before they got any better. I sat my family down and we had another family conference. The kids wanted to know when we could go back home. I tried to explain to them that I did not know for sure. This did not satisfy them. I knew that we may never be able to return to our home in our lifetime. I did not want to tell them that we would never be able to go home. I told them that it would depend on how much fallout had hit our home and since it was still spreading radiation we had to wait until it stopped. I tried to calm everyone and explain that we had a chance to start a new life somewhere else. My words went on deaf ears. I took Jean aside and told her that from what the news had reported, we may not be able to return for a least a couple of years, if not a lot longer. If we did return and the radiation level was high, it would kill us. I told her that I would not put the kids and her in danger of being overexposed to radiation. She had no idea how dangerous it would be to return. She knew it was dangerous, but not as dangerous as it really was. She had hopes of returning when the fallout stopped. Her desire to hold on to our home had kept her from being rational. I put my arms around her, hugged her tightly and looked into her tearing eyes, and said, “I know how much you and the kids love our home. You must understand the danger we would be in if we returned. Darling we must get out of this area. We have to get as far away from here as soon as we can. There are going to be millions of people just like us. They will have to be housed and fed. We will be better off if we leave here right now. We will get a good night sleep and leave at the crack of dawn and head northeast. If the radiation goes in that direction we will have to go somewhere else. ”
Nothing appeased Jean and the kids, they all wanted to go home and have this nightmare over with. Before the accident happened, I had received a job offer from a friend that I had worked with on a project a few years ago. We got along excellently. I would love to work with him again. He was now working for a company in Connecticut. I had not given him an answer. I do not know why I did not give him an answer when he called. I knew my wife did not want to move and would not. Anyway, I told him that I had to discuss it with my wife. He told me to take my time; it will be a couple of months before I was needed. He would hold the job open for me for a while. I knew that my gang would not and did not want to make a change. Again, why had I stalled him? Did I have a premonition that this would happen or was the thought of working with Howard again the reason I told him I had to talk with Jean. I do not know.
I called Howard and to my surprise he said the job was mine if I wanted it. I told him that I would be there with my family in about a week. It would take us about 4 or 5 days to get to New England. Now that I had made a choice for my family, how would they take it? Why ask the question? I already knew the answer. I told my family that we were going to live in New England. The kids and as well as my wife rebelled, they wanted to stay on the West Coast. Jean and Louis were fighting mad. Jean yelled at me, “Why didn’t you tell me what you were doing. I do not want to leave this area. I have lived here all my life and all of my family lives near here.”
I tried to console her, “Honey, I called your parents and your brother before we left and told them to get as far away from the area as they could. You know your parents were planning a vacation in Mexico. Your father gave you the address and phone number of the place they were going to stay at. I will call him and let him know where we are headed. You know your brother has that summer place in Oregon. I called him and I told him to go north. He told me that they were going to Oregon for a while. Yesterday, I called him to see if they had any trouble getting up there. He told me no and invited us to stay with them until this is all over. I told him that our welcome would wear out within a week. I told him about the job offer. He told me to take it. He said that from what he had heard, it would be at least 6 months before they would start thinking about letting anyone back to where he lived and it would be a year where we had lived. Tommy and Ellen already have jobs working at a fast food restaurant. That was the only jobs that they could find. Tommy works one shift and Ellen works another. One of them is always with the kids. I told Tommy that we would let him know where we ended up.”
Jean lashed out at me, “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to call them? I have been worrying about them. Let’s go and live with them.”
“Honey please calm down. I knew you would object to us going to Connecticut, even thought you have always said the decision where I had to work was mine. I wanted to talk it over with your family without you around. I didn’t want them to hear us fighting while I was on the phone. You know how upset they get when we fuss at each other. You can call them from the road tomorrow, when you have had a chance to calm down. Let’s all go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep. We are going to try to get to Connecticut in three or four days. I know you all don’t believe me or you don’t want to believe me. There are no words to describe the devastation that is happening. Believe me honey, millions of people will be displaced and without jobs. That is why I told Howard I would take the job. I did not want to be without a job. What will we live on? They will probably have to shut down the whole state. Everyone in California will have to be evacuated. The other day some talk show host wished that an earthquake come along and break California off from the rest of the country and it would sink in the Pacific. I know he was being comical, but if they don’t stop the spread of radiation, no one will be able to live in California.”
Pouting, Jean walked to the other side of the room and sat down. She gave me a couple of dirty looks. I went back to watching TV. There was nothing else to do.
Leaving California for ever:
Fortunately, I had found a service station that had used an old hand pump and was selling five gallons cans of gas for twenty five dollars. I bought enough to fill the car and two extra five gallons cans. At least I had enough gas that would get my family about eight hundred miles farther east. I would have to worry about the gas when I got there.
Later that afternoon, Jean was still upset and so was I. I wanted to get an early start. We fed the kids early. I patted them on their little butts and sent them to bed. As usual, Jean spent an hour in the bathroom before she went to bed. God only knows what she does in there. I guess it’s her hour of solitude and she deserves it. She always lets me do my thing before she does hers. The time I wait for her to go to bed is not wasted. If I am not tired and fall asleep, I will try to relive the day and see where I screwed up. And, try to find a way to correct my mistakes. The last few days are nothing compared to what the future is going to be for millions of people. The problem the Albanians had in Kosovo is a picnic compared to what is starting to happen here. Kosovo is only a microcosm of what is getting ready to happen here.
While I was waiting for Jean to get out of the bathroom, I turned on the TV. They had the latest report from the Military on the fall-out. They showed a map and highlighted the areas that had different levels of radiation. Red was the worst. The red area covered everything fromGround-0 to Bakersfield. The winds had been taking the fall-out south-south-east in a narrow strip for about 300 miles and it was gradually spreading eastward and westward as it got further fromGround-0. The Sierras had somehow blocked it from spreading east. The northern part of the west coast had not been affected. I had thought that it would widen more than it had. The Weatherman explained that there were two low-pressure systems bumping heads. The northern low presser center was spreading radiation eastward and the southern center was taking the giant share of the fall-out and pushing it west. By tomorrow morning, the radiation would be spreading along the southern coast of California toward Los Angeles. God, why did this have to happen? This is the worst thing that could have happened. There are tens of millions of people along the coast. A large share of the nation’s food supply is coming from the area that was colored in red. I had been in LA during the rush hour, it was incredible. The traffic would be moving at a snails pace, and many times it had come to a dead stop and inch along. Once the people in the area find out that the radiation is headed their way, there will be another massive gridlock, worse than the one that we have already had and no one will be able to get out. The stampede will jam up the roads for hundreds of miles in all directions.
I jumped up, called to Jean and told her that we were leaving now. She screamed at me, “What the matter with you? I am not leaving until tomorrow morning.”
I did not have the time to argue with her. I got the kids dressed and Jean was still in the bathroom. I could hear her cursing me through the door. The kids with their sleepy eyes were helping me load the car. I went to the motel manager office and it was closed. I had written out a check for what I though I owed him. I left him a note and told him if I owed him more, I would mail it to him. I headed back to our room. As I approached the room my wife was standing in the doorway in her nightgown. She had her hair set in round hair curlers. She was still bitching to me about not leaving until tomorrow morning. I was afraid that she would wakeup the other guest at the motel. I did not say a word to her; I slid past her, grabbed an empty garbage bag, went into the bathroom, and dumped everything of hers into the bag. She yelled to me, “Those are my things what do you think you are doing?”
As I passed her at the bathroom door, I looked her in the eyes and said with a look of determination, “Get your butt in the car and stop yelling. You will wake up everyone in the motel.”
A surprised look came across her face. She was surprised and so was I. I had never talked to her like that. She didn’t say another word. She dashed back into the bathroom and looked around to see if I had gotten everything. When she returned, she followed me out of the room. I opened the car door on the passenger side. She gave me a weird look and got into the car. I looked at the kids and they were already sleeping.
I headed for Route 80. The traffic going east was very heavy. The only lights were from the cars. The cities that we passed did not have any lights. It was unusual to see the city pass by and not be lit up. As I passed into Nevada, I expected to see lights. There weren’t any. As we passed Reno, I expected the see the casinos all lit up. All that I saw were the headlights of a few cars in the distance. I wonder what they were doing up at this time of night.
Jean and I had not said a word for a long time. I felt a warm hand gently grasping the back of my neck. She said in a forgiving whisper, “I’m sorry. I know you would not have dragged us out at this time of night unless something had happened. I know it must be major. What happened?”
I didn’t want her to know that the radiation may go north once it hit the West Coast. I simply told her that it looked as if LA may be hit by the fall-out by tomorrow morning. If it did, I wanted to be as far away from the massive exodus of California. She was overwhelmed. Now, I believe she understood the fear that had motivated me to get the hell out of California. As we continued to talk, I felt that we were on the same wave link. The way we had been for the last 15 years. At times, I wondered if she was appeasing me and letting me have my way. We talked for a while until she fell asleep. I was hoping that she understood my fears. Like many others, I think she didn’t want to believe it would ever happen and it would not be as bad as I had told her it would be. I had gone through Nevada and Utah. Salt Lake City was as dark as Reno. I continued into Wyoming. I should have stopped earlier. The rest stops were all full, so I continued east.
I drove until I could no longer drive safely. My eye lids had lead weights on them. I could no longer hold them open. It was almost three AM. The traffic going westbound was extremely light and almost non-existing. I had not seen a car going west in over an hour. The eastbound traffic was heavy. I had driven this road many time before, and had never seen this much traffic at any time. I think they all had the same thought I had. Get as far away fromGround-0 as possible. If we do not get out now, we may be too late to get out. And, hopefully, we would stay out of the fall-out area.
With each mile I was getting sleepier and wanted to find a place to park and to talk to some of the drivers heading east and west. There was a rest area 20 miles ahead. I hoped that I could make it without falling asleep. It would be a good place to take a nap and talk with a few of the other drivers. As I approached the rest area the police had blocked off the exit. The rest area was packed full. The next town was only about 10 miles away. If you were not familiar with the area you would pass it by. It was about 5 miles off of Rt. 80. There was a small shopping center in the middle of the town and it would be a nice spot to catch 40 winks. As I approached the exit ramp, I wasn’t surprised. Each side of the exit ramp was packed with cars. The road leading to the small town was lined with cars for the first mile. It thinned out as I got closer to the town. The town didn’t attract very much business from Rt. 80. Most of the businesses were from the local residence. We had stopped here a number of times for the wonderful food at a small family restaurant. A number of years ago, I was trying to eliminate a few pit-stops. I noticed that my gas tank was on empty. I was in the middle of nowhere. An exit was only a half mile ahead. I exited the interstate. A sign read, “Summers 5 miles” and it pointed to the left. When I reached the center of the Summers, I noted that there were no franchised businesses. Some how, this quaint village had survived the onslaught of big businesses. I gassed up and discovered that something else was empty, my stomach. There was a small family restaurant called “Mom and Pops”. The food was delicious. Penny, the waitress was exceptionally friendly. I was glad that I stopped in Summers. Not only for the food and gas, everyone was very friendly. Over the years, I always made it a point to make Summers one of my pit-stops when I drove across the country. The food was excellent and the cost was very reasonable.
As I approached the center of town, the sky was just starting to show a little brightness. Summers’ one and only police car was parked on the opposite side of the road with its parking lights on, and the engine running. I had met Pete on one of my earlier pit-stops. When I stopped in Summers, Pete was always sitting at the counter talking to the Penny. Penny and Pete were married a few years ago. Penny had such a pleasant attitude, Jean and I named out daughter after her. I stopped my car on the opposite side of the road and walked over to the police car. The window was open and Pete was fast asleep. I turned around and headed for my car. I heard a frightened voice, “Hey… you… there, what are you doing here?”
I turned around and in the dim light I could see his frightened face. “Hi Pete, didn’t want to wake you, we are headed for Mom and Pops and wanted to know what time they opened.”
You could see the relief on his face when I said Mom and Pops. I knew that he was relieved as he opened the cruiser door. He said, “What time is it now?”
“It’s a four-fifteen.”
“They won’t be open until six. Do I know you?”
I smiled, “Maybe, when I pass through this area I try to stop and have a snack at Mom and Pops.”
I saw a twinkle in his eye. He pointed a finger at me and said, “Yew, I know you. You have a beautiful wife and two nice little kids, a boy and a girl. Penny and I would love to have a couple of kids like yours. At this time we just can’t afford it. By the way, what are you doing up this time of night?”
I didn’t want to frighten him. I said, “We are headed east and I just couldn’t pass your town without stopping in at Mom and Pops. Do you think I could take a nap in their parking lot until they open?”
“Of course, I will go along with you. Since the explosion at that power plant we have had a few break-ins. Old man Summers is watching the town and I was watching the road. Don’t tell him that you caught me sleeping. He will skin me alive.”
I drove on into town and as I approached the business area an old man flagged me down. It was Mr. Summers. I had seen him around before. I pulled over and Pete pulled to the opposite side of Summers. Pete called out to him, “They are friends of mine. They are going to park over at Mom and Pops until it opens.”
The old man gave me a suspicious look and motioned to me to continue. I could tell what he was thinking. If we tried anything, he would be on our butts in a flash. We proceeded to the parking lot and before I could take the key out of the ignition, I was asleep.
I had no idea how long I had been sleeping. I could smell the aroma of fresh perked coffee. I could not open my eyes. I had forgotten where I was. I though that I was still at home. As my eye lids cracked open, I saw that I was sitting in my car. My mind was a complete blank. I had no idea where I was or what I was doing here. To make it worse, Mom and Pops had been repainted and remodeled. It didn’t look like the place that I had remembered. The first thing I saw that I remembered was my wife and the kids sitting quietly at a table on the outside of the restaurant eating their breakfast. I slowly came to my senses, pulled myself together, and joined them. I gave them all a peck on the cheek and sat down. Penny popped out of the restaurant with a smile on her face and a pot of coffee in one hand and cup and saucer in the other. As she poured me a cup of coffee she asked, “Did you have a nice nap? And, what can I get you for breakfast?”
Half asleep I answered, “The same as hers, but make mine sunny side up. Thanks to Pete and my wife, it was a very good nap. I still don’t know how she kept the kids quiet.”
Jean answered, “Penny deserves the credit, she took her namesake and Louis into the restaurant and let them help her setup all the tables inside. She gave them goodies for their help.”
Both kids sang out, “Oh, Dad, we knew that you needed your sleep.”
I growled back at them with a half smile. “Since when have you guys had any consideration for your old Papa?”
Louis snapped back, “You know, we always let you sleep on the weekends.”
My little Penny came over to me, gave me a peck on the cheek, and said, “Poppie, you know that I love you and you can sleep everyday and I won’t make a sound!”
I looked at the tender loving little face and stopped short of saying the comment that had flashed through my mind, “that will be the day!” And said, “I know you would and I love you too.”
I put my arms around her, lifted the fragile little frame and sat her on my lap. I called Louis, he hates the mushy stuff. I repeatedly kissed one and then the other. I told them how much I loved them both. Tears were tricking down Jean’s face. Penny was watching the whole episode. She was wiping her eyes with her apron. I love these tender moments with my precious little ones. The love I had for my family was the most priceless thing in this world. Those few moments were worth all the trouble that had occurred and would occur. I could not hold back the tears any longer. It was a gusher. My little Penny hugged me and patted me on my back. Louis even put his arms around me to comfort me. That was a miracle. Jean didn’t want to be left out of the hug fest. What more can one say about a loving family, except, thank you God.
Louis was the first one to peel off the pile, which was to be expected. Jean came next. Poor Penny was squashed by the other two. “Thank all of you, I really needed the sleep. How long have I been sleeping? What time is it? Have we crossed the time zone?”
Penny, the older Penny, tried to answer my question, “I don’t know how long you have been sleeping. It a quarter to nine and you are almost to the Pacific Time zone if you are heading west. You are heading east, aren’t you? Relax for a few more minutes and I will have your breakfast in a jiff.”
The breakfast and the nap were refreshing. The inflated prices from the meltdown had not hit this small town. No one had raised the prices on anything. Penny told us that they had a town meeting and almost everyone in town wanted and agreed to keep the prices at the same price they were before the meltdown. If the prices of items shipped in went up, they could only increase the price the amount of the increase.
I had not gone inside the restaurant. When Penny came back to refill the coffee cup, I asked, “Didn’t you lose you power out here?”
Penny answered, “Yes we did.”
“How did you cook everything?”
“We have an old cast iron stove. When we remodeled, we could not throw it away. Even though we installed a new range, the food is not as tasty as the food on the old stove. We have some kerosene lamps that Mom and Pop used for years before electricity came to Summers.”
I asked Penny if the gas station had gasoline. She answered, “Yes, but don’t tell anyone on the road. We are trying to ration it amongst ourselves. Paul said that he had called all over looking for gas. None of his suppliers had gas. Paul turns on a small generator when he has to pump gas. I will call and tell him to let you fill your tank.”
After we finished our breakfast and I had another cup of coffee, we all loaded up and drove across the street to the gas station; Paul filed our tank and was nice about it. He told me that he had just enough to keep the village for a couple of months. They would be out in a day if the word go out they were pumping gas. I gave Paul an extra ten dollars for the gas. He asked, “What is the ten spot for?”
“Paul, everyone in the village has been nice to me every time I drop in. I would have had to pay twice that amount somewhere else. You will have to pay a lot more when you replace the gas I took. Thanks, I certainly appreciate it.”
As I pulled away from the station, I looked around. Pete, Penny, and old man Summers were standing in front of Mom and Pops waving good bye. The kids rolled down the window, waved and yelled goodbye. Jean and I wave also, we were on our way.
We had a tank fill of gas, Jean had bought enough food to last us for a few days, and we headed for Rt. 80. The eastbound traffic on Rt. 80 had increased. There was almost no westbound traffic to speak of, only a little around the small towns that we passed. The miles were melting by. The news on the fallout around LA was devastating. There were gridlocks on every highway leaving LA. There had been multiple car accident that had blocked the roads. The fatheaded talk show hosts were blaming the weatherman for everything. The weatherman had no control on the change in the weather or the meltdown. The talk show hosts are pied pipers for idiots. I tried not to let Jean and the kids know how bad things really were. We stopped often, but for only a short time. The highway kept rolling under us.
Since we left Summer we had gone 800 miles. Again, it was well into the wee hour of the morning before I stopped driving. I pulled into a rest area. It was not as full as the others that I had passed during the day and yesterday evening. I closed my eyes and I was asleep. At the break of dawn the sun peeked over the horizon. It shined into my eyes. Fighting to open them was a mixed feeling. I wanted so much to get another hour or two of sleep, but I also wanted to get back on the road.
As I slowly opened my eyes, I saw the kids and Jean having their breakfast at a picnic table. After doing my early morning usual, I joined them for a quick snack. Jean wanted me to rest for another hour or so. I would love to sleep all day. I also wanted to get my family as far away from the meltdown as possible. We packed up the food, threw away the trash and rounded up the kids. I told them to do their thing and hit the potty. There would not be any potty stop for a few hours.
The eastbound traffic had slackened during the night and the west bound had picked up. Thank God the car was working fine. I put the cruise control on, set it at the speed limit, sat back, and watched the country roll by. Some of the cities had power others did not. The price of Gas had doubled. Thankful, I did not have a gas guzzler.
Fortunately, the kids were playing road games and counting the number of different animals along the road. My wife had her headset on and listing to a talking book. The library had hundreds of them. I think they had started them for people who couldn’t see to read. She loved to listen to them while she did her housework. I looked over at her and said, “When are you going to return the tapes to the library?”
She rolled her eyes with a little sarcasm in her face and said, “I will mail the tapes to them. I never read, or listen to the same book twice.”
I smiled at her and threw her a kiss. She looked up at me with the gentle smile of love and said “Forgive me for the look I had on my face. I hate to lose my place on the tapes. Also, forgive me for being an ass; I know you had no choice. I am praying for those poor souls that can’t get out. If I had not listened to you, we would be in the same predicament. Thanks for getting us out of there. I am looking forward to a new life in Connecticut. I think the kids will enjoy it also. Do you think that you will get the job? After this accident they won’t let them build another nuclear plant, will they?”
Shaking my head, “I don’t know honey, if the country needs them, they will build one in every state to satisfy their needs. There is a lot of big money to be made and the big money will not let a little meltdown stand in their way. They will pay off the politicians. And, they will get anything they want.”
With a surprised look, she said, “You are kidding me. From what I have heard on the news, they are not going to let another one be built in this country. And, they are talking about shutting down all the others.”
“Honey, don’t believe what they are saying now. The economy can not afford to shutdown all the nuclear plants. The country is short of power now. That may be one of the reasons we had the meltdown. Where will they get the power to fill the void with Old Nellie gone? The loss of Nellie is going to be devastating. Where will they get the power to replace the power that Nellie gave to the country? If they shout down all the nuclear plants, the country will be as bad off as California. They are not going to be able to bring in enough power from Mexico and Canada. We share our power with them now. We are going to see the largest price increase that the country has ever seen. Give it a few years and let this all blow over and the news media will find something new to sell their commercials. They will start building new ones because they have to replace the power that was coming from Nellie. Go back to your book; you will enjoy it more than this conversation.”
“You are right. The tape was running while we were talking. Now I have to rewind it to find out where I was. You go back to your driving.”
She mumbled to herself for the next 10 minute until she found the spot she wanted. With a smile on my face, she gave me a dirty look and stuck out her tongue at me. I chucked and she stuck her tongue out at me again. I tried not to irritate her she: she had enough to worry about.
The next couple of days were like the last. The traffic in the eastern part of the country was its normal bumper to bumper traffic, from Chicago to New York. I crossed over the George Washington Bridge and looked south. The Trade Center buildings stood majestically above all the other buildings. Jean pointed out the Statue of Liberty to Louis and Penny. I had never seen them so excited. It was a new world for them. I weaved through the traffic in upper Manhattan and the Bronx to Westchester County. As I crossed into Connecticut I let out a sigh of relief. I had planned ahead; I had made reservations in an inexpensive motel on the outskirts of New London. I did not feel like running all over Connecticut looking for a place to stay. I had stayed there before. It would only be a short drive to the company that was hiring me. I had worked temporally for them a few years back and had made friends with the small staff. I had not discussed what my duties would be nor did I care. I was happy to get a job. Everyone in California that had survived the fallout would be looking for a job.
I had been taking glance at the gang looking at the country side and the cities as we passed. I would have loved to know what was going on in their minds. I whispered to Jean,” What were you thinking about.”
Jean’s mind was someplace else. She had turned the tapes off and was looking at the scenery. I said to her again, “What were you thinking about? Do you think you will like Connecticut?”
I caught her off guard, “What did you say.”
I repeated myself again and added, “This is going to be your new home state for a while.”
She snapped back, “It may be yours; I am here just for a visit. I am going back to my home as soon as I can.”
Shaking my head I started to say, “Honey, you better plan for a long visit.”
Instead I said, “While you were listing to your book, they said on the news that they were evacuating everyone in a 40,000 square mile area. The fallout must be devastating.”
Jean did not say anything more. She must be very depressed and so are millions more across the country. I continued, “The military has control, no one is being allowed in, and no information is being given out. Sit back and relax, we still have a couple more hours of driving.”
As I passed over the Connecticut River, I knew we were almost there. I roused the gang and told them that we only had twenty more minutes to go. I asked them if anyone was hungry. They all tuned in with a “Yea.”
I answered them back with, “No more fast foods for any of us for a long time. There is a wonderful seafood restaurant over the bridge in Groton. They have the best seafood anywhere and it is always fresh. I am going to have a couple of small lobsters and a bowl of their clam chowder. What do you guys want?”
Without any hesitation they all said, “The same.”
This was a miracle. They never want the same thing to eat. Our budget for the month had just gone out the window. Jean and the kids all looked happier than they had been since we left home. I think they were tired of driving and glad that it was almost over. There was new excitement in the air. This made the whole trip worthwhile just to see the happiness in their faces.
We checked in at the Motel and cleaned ourselves up. I parked the trailer and unhitched it. We loaded up and headed for Groton. As we drove over the Thames River, I pointed out the giant nuclear submarines docked at Electric Boat. As we pulled into the restaurant parking lot the kids were ready to jump out and Jean had finished putting on her makeup. The kids dashed into the restaurant and Louis said to the hostess, “There will be four for dinner and a booth next to the window that looks out over the Sound. I like to watch the boats.”
She smiled at him and said, “Smoking or non-smoking?”
Louis snapped back, “Non-smoking. No one in my family would put one of those filthy things in their mouth.”
The Hostess smiled and said, “I can tell by the healthy faces of your family, you wouldn’t want the smoking area. But, I had to ask.”
We all sat down to a feast and stuffed our selves until we couldn’t eat the desert. The waitress put the dessert in the famous doggy bags and added a few extra pieces of dessert. The bill and tip set our budget back two months, not one month. But, it was worth it. After dinner the whole family was back to their normal cheerful selves. We went back to the Motel and the whole gang was asleep before I could turn off the lights. It was still early and I was too nervous to sleep. I sneaked outside and took a walk around the area. There was a pay phone at the entrance of the motel. Like a magnet it drew me to it. I wanted to know about the new job. I picked up the phone, paused for a few minutes. Instead of calling my future boss, I dialed my home phone without thinking. I had left the answering machine on when we left. I had called before and didn’t find any messages. I thought I would keep calling, just in case someone was looking for us. I think something had happened to the line, a very fast busy signal was buzzing. I did not hang up the phone. I pushed down the lever. I paused for a few moments and dialed Howard’s home number. I was curious about my new job. What did Howard have for me to do? I was hoping that they weren’t working on another nuclear plant. I wanted to find out what I would be facing tomorrow. As the phone rang my heart picked up a few beats and perspiration started to form on my forehead. The phone had been ringing for a long time. I was about to hang up the phone and Howard answered, “Hello, who is calling at this time of night?”
I wanted to hang up without saying anything, but I couldn’t. I had already woken him up, so I said, “Hello, sorry to have waken you up.”
I lied and said, “I forgot to reset my watch. I didn’t know you went to bed this early and did not realize it was this late. I still have the West Coast time on my watch. I just wanted to let you know I arrived this afternoon. I called to see when you wanted me to come in.”
Nervously I waited for his answer. With enthusiasm Howard replied, “Hi Bill, glad to see you made it. I am glad you are here already. You are a little earlier than I expected. You can join me tomorrow. I have to go to the other end of the state. How was the trip?”
I told Howard about the trip, what we left behind, and our first afternoon in Groton. After about 10 minutes of small talk, I got enough courage to ask Howard what my duties would be. After I asked Howard, it seemed like an hour had passed before he replied, “Well Bill, I don’t think I should tell you over the phone. We now have two job openings for you. The first one is related to a study on a number of fossil plants. That one has not been filled. The second job, the salary is double what I promised you. We think that the second job will be right up your alley. You fit the bill perfectly for both jobs. That why I called you. I don’t want you to make your decision until you have talked it over with your family. Moving all the way across the country is very hard on a family. From what I remember, you worked atGround-0. I don’t think you will be going back there anytime soon.”
“No, that’s one of the reasons that I am taking the job. My family would have killed me if we did not have the meltdown. It helped to persuade my wife to make the move.”
Impatiently I asked, “Please Howard, what are my duties on the second job? I want be able to go to sleep until you tell me.”
“Bill, to put it simply, the government has given us all the time and money we want. They want to find out what happened out west. How close was it to your home?”
“We were almost atGround-0. I could see the cooling towers from my home.”
Howard wanted to know why the plant had a meltdown. He questioned me about the meltdown and the fallout before he let me talk.
Confused, I answered, “Howard, I can tell you in 10 seconds why it happened and what would have prevented it. You know why it happened as well I do. You are not kidding me about the salary and the job, are you?”
“Bill, I know the answer, but, the government wants detailed reports with all the facts that led up to the meltdown. You were worried about the engineering of the plant, weren’t you? NRC and the government have given us permission to examine any documents that the engineering company, the builders and the power company have. We have the authority to question anyone and everyone that had any connections to the accident. I want you to join me in the investigation. Have a good night’s sleep and come in about eleven tomorrow morning. This will give you and your family a chance to make up your mind. Good night and sweet dreams ha, ha, sleep if you can.”
Now I knew what to expect. It relieved me somewhat. I let out a sigh of relief and said, “Thank you Howard, now I can sleep. If you hadn’t told me I would be up all night wondering what I had to do. At least now I have a choice. I can worry about it all night or go to sleep. Sorry I woke you. Go back to sleep. See you tomorrow at eleven.”
I hung up the phone before he could get another word in. I headed back to the room. I was relieved, or was I. My family’s future was secured for a while. I was thankful I had a job. Where would I be if I had stayed in California?
As I slipped into the room and tiptoed to the bed, Jean said, “Stop walking around, and go to bed.”
“I am sorry honey; I am too fired up to sleep. I am coming to bed now.”
I could not sleep. I was thinking about every thing. I was trying to think about the job. Which one should I take? There was no time for sleep, even though I knew that I would be dead tired tomorrow. My thoughts kept sliding back to the meltdown. I could not shake it from my mind. I was quite concerned why the military had not released any specifics about the meltdown. They had not released any information on the damage, the number of casualties and they had not updated the areas that had dangerous levels of radiation. What were they hiding from the public?
I knew that the Military had teams that were specially trained and prepared to handle this type of emergency. Were there enough teams to satisfy the needs of all the victims? I did not think so. Was it so bad that the government would not release the information to the public for fear of a nation wide panic and hysteria? If I am right this accident will make Kosovo look like a weekend outing. I should not measure the atrocities in Kosovo with the casualties in California. But, in a scale of 1 to 100, Kosovo would be about .001 and California would be 100. Earlier that evening, one of the television stations said that the residents near Ground-0 would be able to return home in a few months and there were very few casualties. I was glad that Jean and the kids did not hear it. There was no way residents atGround-0 would be able to go home any time soon. With a rage of disbelief, I thought, “Where in hell did that idiot get that information. It could be hundreds of years before we would be able to go back home or never. It would not be a million casualties; it could be in the tens of millions dying from the effects of the meltdown. They would not die immediately, but over the years millions would die of radiation poisoning. The children would have birth defect. The cost to the world would be in the trillions.”
God is the only one that knows how many people have already died and have been overexposed to the radiation. There is no help for them. I remembered an Old World War II manual that said they would herd the people like cattle and check how much radiation they were exposed to. If they had been overexposure to radiation and nothing could be done for them; they would segregate them from the general public and house them until they passed away. Those that had lower levels of radiation may be treated and may live, if there were enough facilities to care for them. Without help provided by the military or private services they would all die a lingering death. I did not want my family to be aware of this part of the disaster. The possibilities that there would be millions that could not afford nor be able to find the help they required to survive. They would go through years of suffering. Many may commit suicide from the never-ending pain. Oh God, why did this have to happen?
As I lay in bed trying to erase these thoughts from my mind and fall asleep, all the things that were stuffed in the back of my brain started coming out. God give me and my family the strength to live through this nuclear holocaust. God bless all of those poor souls that have been exposed to the radiation. God please let those that have been over exposed die peacefully without pain.
I guess, I finally fell asleep, but I am not sure. I felt like I had been awake all night or had I been dreaming. When the morning sun flickered through the blinds, a ray of sun light shined on my face. I could feel the warmth of the sun. The sun is a source of nuclear energy that is necessary for all things on earth to survive. Has man gone too far? Are we equipped to control the nuclear age giant or can the nuclear age giants be controlled? Will it destroy all of us some day? Can we tame this monster in our time? It has been around for over a half century. Will we be able to enjoy the fruit that this monster is capable of providing us without letting it kill us all? Maybe, in the future, we can tame the monster and never again will it be able to harm the world.
I don’t know what time I fell asleep. The flow of adrenaline through my body had kept me wide-awake most of the night. It was flowing more now than before. I wondered what Jean is going to say about my new job. She and the kids were still fast asleep. As I looked at them resting so peacefully, tears came to my eyes. I was torn between grabbing them and telling them how much I loved them and letting them get their sleep. As I laid there looking at them, I wondered what they though about the meltdown. Also, what was in back of Jean’s mind that she had not let out? Were Jean and the kids trying to shelter me by not talk about the meltdown?
I looked over at Jean. I caught her looking at me. She quickly closed her eyes. What was she thinking? She saw me looking at the kids and crying. She had caught me in my private thoughts. God, I love her for letting me have my private thoughts about her and the kids. I rolled over, gave her a kiss on the cheek, and said in a whisper, “Wake-up sleeping beauty I know you are already awake. Just open your beautiful eyes.”
As she peeked between her eyelashes a beautiful smile came across her face. It was like a ray of sunshine. She put her arms around my neck and pulled me over to her. She hugged and kissed me and stroked my head. She whispered to me, “Darling, there is no way to express the love I have for you. I saw the love you showed for our children. The look on your face and the tears rolling down your cheek gave me the most wonderful feeling I have ever experienced in my life. Thank you for that beautiful moment. I will cherish it for the rest of my life.”
We just held each other for a while. I could feel the blood flowing through her body. God, thank you again. You have given me the most beautiful and wonderful family any man could ask for.
I whispered to Jean, “Darling, I called Howard last night. He told me that he has two job openings for me. One has the salary that we talked about, the other job’s salary is doubled that amount. Which one do you think I should take?”
Without thinking she said, “You would be a fool not to take the one that doubles your salary.”
She stopped short, and said. “Wait a minute; what do you have to do to doubles your salary?”
I said to her, “Hold off for a moment, I’ve got until eleven to make a decision. Let’s get up and have a conference with the kids. We can live on the salary of either job. The salary for either job is more than what I was making at my job in California. After we get up and go out for breakfast, we will all sit around and go over all the details of both of the jobs.”
“Honey, please give me a hint. I will go crazy if you don’t tell me.” She pleaded.
“OK, I will tell you as much as Howard has told me. Howard and I are going to try to find out why the plant had a meltdown.”
I went over what I though the job required me to do. I told her I had no idea how long I would be away from home. I explained that Howard and I would be working together on the project. We could use the extra money to buy another home. And, most of all, I hated to leave the family for long periods. Also, it was a great honor to be selected to work on this disaster. And, as usual, whether she liked it or not, I knew what she would say and as I predicted, she said, “Honey, the decision is up to you. I know that you want the job. Now let’s wake up the kids and get some breakfast, I’m starved.”
And, out from under the blankets in the other bed, a duet sung out, “Me too.”
After all they had to eat last night, how could they be so hungry?
“What are you guys doing awake? We though you were sleeping.”
Louis replied, “Your snoring woke both of us up. You have to turn down the volume if you want us to sleep in the same room with you Pop.”
I must have fallen asleep. “Hey, wait one minute I don't snore, do I?”
Out of Penny little mouth came, “And, dogs don’t have fleas either.”
We all laughed. I wonder where she picked that up from. She is always surprising us. I climbed into bed with them and wrestled with them for a few minutes. Penny said, “Daddy, if you keep tickling me, I am going to wet the bed.”
I picked her up and aimed her at the bathroom and said, “Go, get in there before your Mom gets in there.”
Putting things in order I said, “Louis you go second and then I will go. Mom you can go last. We can watch the news while we are waiting for you.”
Louis said, “The order is OK. But, we will all starve waiting for Mom. Let’s go eat while she is getting ready.”
Jean pleaded with Louis, “I won’t be long, and I will take a shower later. I want so much to have breakfast with all of you. Please.”
Louis said, “OK Mom, if you promise.”
“I promise, and I will keep my promise.”
While we were waiting for Jean, surprisingly there was very little news about the meltdown. This bothered me. Had the Government put a blackout on the meltdown or had the public had enough of it. Wouldn’t you know it, my suspicious mind thought of the worst? It must be so devastating that the fear and panic would sweep the nation. What will happen and what will everyone do, what will I do?
We all went to the restaurant together. After the feast yesterday, I couldn’t believe how hungry everyone was, even little Penny. She usually leaves half the food in the plate and keeps shifting it from one side of the plate to the other. She was hoping that her Mom or I would not say anything about the food she didn’t eat. This time, she cleaned the plate and asked for more. We told her that she could have anything she wanted. We wanted to put a little fat on the skinny little bones. It was a pleasure to watch them eat.
After we all stuffed our faces. I took them down to the beach on Long Island Sound. The beach was almost empty, a few walkers, a jogger, and an old man sitting at the edge of the water fishing. We all sat down at a picnic table. I told the kids about the two jobs. I think their mother had been coaching them. Louis told me that I would be the one working and it was my decision. Penny told me that she wanted me to stay home, but the decision was mine to make. Jean said that she had told me that it was my decision, not hers or the kids. I knew that they were saying this for my benefit. I could not leave them home alone for long periods of time. I felt that if I took the job with the higher pay, I would be away from home for long periods. I hated spending my nights in an empty motel room and sleeping alone. My evenings with my family were the happiest times of my life. I loved to watch my little monsters grow up. At times, they were growing up to fast. I knew that they really wanted me to stay home with them. After mulling it over for a while, I said, “I am not going to take the job that takes me away from home. I am going to take the job with the lower pay.”
They all yelled at me at the same time, “No, take the job with the higher pay.”
They yelled so loud that the old fisherman a couple hundred yards down the beach turned around and looked at us. I wonder what he was thinking.
I took them back to the motel and kissed them all goodbye. Again they told me to take the job with the higher pay. We would need the extra money to buy a place to live. We had gone through the years of renting and I did not want to go through that again. I wanted to live in my home.
My first day at work:
When I arrived at the office, Howard’s secretary ushered me into a conference room, she pointed to a package of goodies in a box. She told me that Howard would explain what everything was for, and I could look them over while I was waiting for him. She said that Howard was briefing a few men that will be working with us.
I was surprised that Jennifer had remembered me. Maybe, Howard told her to expect me and it jogged her memory. Jennifer was an attractive, sweet woman, about fifty years old. From what I could remember she could type so fast that the keyboard would overheat. Howard would kid her about burning up all the computers. They could not find one that was fast enough that could keep up with her.
After reminiscing about Jennifer for a few minutes, I looked over at the box and opened it. The first thing I saw in the box was a video camera and all types of attachments. There was a package of 50 video tapes, if not more. The camera and the accessory equipment were neatly placed in a case. There were note pads, pens and a portable computer, one of the best. I turned on the computer. It had every program you would even need. There was an attaché case with all types of security gadgets attached, including handcuff. When I opened a box, there was a document with a Federal Seal and with the President signature. Below it was at least a couple hundred copies. It was our authorization to question anyone and everyone that we felt might have information related to the meltdown. It referenced a special act of Congress and the Senate; no one had immunity from this investigation. It made me feel like the country had turned into a police state over night. That agitated me. What is this country turning into? We are losing our freedom. Then I realized that I was part of the change. I was one of the enforcers.
Before I could finish going through the goodies Howard showed up with four tall men. They made Howard and I look like shrimps. We both were only about five nine. Three of them looked like they were in their early twenties and the older one was in his thirties. Howard introduced them to me and I forgot their names as quickly as he said them. I told them that I would have to put mental nametags on them for a few days. They all laughed. Frank was the oldest and the name of the youngest was Jimmy. The other two were Mike and Mitch. Already, I had forgotten which one was Mike. The other one had to be Mitch. All of them were well over six feet and well built. I don’t think there was an ounce of fat on any of them, all muscle. Who were these men? I will have to ask Howard later. No sooner had the thought left my mind; Howard told me they would be going along with us when we went on the road. The government knew that there would be a number of people out there that did not want this investigation to go forward. They have two special cars for us. They have armor plate and are bulletproof. We will be protected 24 hours a day, as well as our family. A cold chill and fear swept through my body. I had never thought about the danger I was putting my family into. Howard said that they would be protecting my family, but we would not know they were there. They had checked around and found out where we were staying and have been escorting me and my family ever since. I looked at their faces, smiled and said, “How was the dinner last night. I remembered you guys; you were having dinner at the seafood restaurant in Groton yesterday.”
“You caught us.” Frank said, “We want to thank you for taking us to that nice restaurant. We were getting tired of fast foods.”
“You are not the only one. I have been wondering how long it would take for my kids to wean themselves of junk food. Maybe it was the seafood restaurant that did it. They haven’t asked for anything close to being fast food.” I paused and then said, “Let’s get down to business.”
I am going to quit the job:
Howard said, “First call your wife and tell her that a lady named Susan will be calling on her today. We have rented a home on the Sound for you and your family. It is quiet and easy to watch. I don’t want to scare Jean and the kids. You can tell her about the security if you wish. She and the kids do not have to know that they may be in danger.”
Nervously, I walked out of the room to an empty office down the hall. I shut the door behind me. I dialed the Motel. As I waited for Jean to answer the phone, the cold chill reentered my body. I made up my mind that I would not put my family in any danger. As I said before, the danger of this investigation never entered my mind. I kept asking myself. How could I have been so stupid? What have I got myself into?
A man’s voice answered the phone. I though I would die. Where is she? Thankful it was the Motel Manager. He had seen our room light blinking on the switchboard. He apologized for answering our call. He told me that my wife and the kids were outside and he would call them. Thank God. It wasn’t what I had thought. I told him I would appreciate it if he had her pick up the phone in our room.
While I waited for Jean to answer the phone, I decided not to take the job. Jean answered the phone with a cheerful voice, “Helllooo, I understand this is my lover calling me.”
“Honey, I am not going to take the damn job. I feel embarrassed about it and I don’t know what to say.”
She came back at me with a demanding voice, “You are going to take the job. The kids and I will be fine. We have an army watching over us.”
With surprise, I asked her how she knew that someone would be watching us. She replied, “Your observant little son and his nosiness. He saw this man at the Motel watching him. He went close enough to the man an asked him why he was following us. Louis told him that he had seen him at the restaurant last night.”
The man told Louis that they wanted to make sure that no one would hurt us and that his father was a very important man. He said that he would see a lot more of him in the future and told Louis that his name was Tim. Louis told Tim to stay put and he was going to tell me. He came flying into the room and yelling that we have the FBI watching over us. When I finely got him settled down, I put the pieces together. I went out and introduced myself to Tim. A very nice lady named Susan had joined Tim. They apologized for not being more discreet. Honey, I don’t want you to turn this job down. I have heard you complain about the nuclear industry for years. This will give you the opportunity to help clean it up, for me and the kids, and all the kids all over the world. I think you are the man that will make the difference how this world will handle the nuclear business from now on. So, please for the world and your own sake, don’t turn down this opportunity. You have all the branches of government behind you. Go out there and give them the hell that has been stored up in your body for years. I love you and the kids love you. They want you to take this job. You know Louis; he is thrilled to death about having the FBI watching over him. Again, honey don’t throw away this opportunity. I love you.”
I was dumb founded for a few moments I didn’t say a word until my wife asked me if I was still on the line. That woke me up. I said, “Honey, if you and the kids want me to take the job, I will stick with it. I never realized how important this job was until Howard introduced me to the FBI security team. I almost forgot why I called you. I was going to tell you that I was not going to take the job. One other thing, Howard wanted me to notify you about Susan. From what I have gathered you know about the house. I better get back with Howard and the others. I love you, and hug the kids for me, bye.”
I slowly hung up the phone, my head was still spinning. I walked back into the conference room; I was still in a daze. I came back to life when Howard asked me how Jean liked the idea of having bodyguards.
I changed my mind, no, my family changed my mind:
As the though of having to have bodyguards had knocked me emotionally for a loop. Chills were still flowing through my body. Yet, I said to Howard, “No problem, my son Louis had noticed the body guard and went over and questioned him. He told his mother and when she came out Susan was there. Susan explained to her why the two of them were there. She loved the idea and where do we go from here.”
I noticed from the look on Howard face and the way he looked at me, he knew that I was a little upset. He took my arm and we walked out of the conference room to the adjoining office. He told me to sit down. He closed the door and said, “Bill listen, I don’t know what went on when you left my office. I noticed the look on you face when I introduced you to the FBI agents. If you have any question about taking this job, I will understand. The other job is still open and it is yours. I do not want to force you into taking this job. I know what my wife and I went through when I was offered this job. There will be a lot of pressure on us from all directions. Everyone in the country from the President down will be on our ass. They have already tried to pin me down on how long is it going to take. I told my boss that no one in this world knows how long it will take to find out what caused the meltdown. The President wanted an answer. I wrote a memo to the President and told him that we will never know what caused the meltdown. We would do our best to come up with a reasonable explanation on what could have happened, but we will never know for sure. I got a reply back from the White House it said that the President understood, but the President wants to know who was responsible for the accident. I replied and said that the President and everyone else in the country that had set a deadline for the plant to go on line were to blame. I have not gotten a reply.”
I chuckled with a smile on my face. I got up and hugged Howard and said, “Howard, you told them the same thing I would have told them. Howard, from the moment the meltdown occurred; I knew what the circumstances would be. My only thought was to save my family. I didn’t want them to be hurt because of someone else’s mistakes. I knew from the little you told me, the job would be dangerous. What I forgot or better yet, it never entered my mind that the job would affect my family. The impact was too great for me to handle when I realized that my wife and kids would be in danger. I knew that I would have someone out there that would want to blow my brains out, but not my children and my darling wife. It never entered my mind that someone would harm or threaten to harm my wife and kids to shut me up. When you mentioned that my family would require bodyguards, it blew my mind. When I called my wife, I was going to tell her that I was not going to take the job. I told her and she insisted that I take the job and reluctantly, I agreed. Howard, I am here for the showdown.”
Howard nodded, shook my hand and said, “Bill, the Company’s President called me in and asked if I would like to take on the investigation of the meltdown. They would double my salary. I asked them if the raise was permanent. They said that it was for this job only. They assured me that I would get a large increase when the job was done. At first, the same thoughts that had come across your mind come across mine. I was worried about my wife and kids. I was not going to take the job. My family insisted that I take the job. Welcome aboard.”
We talked for another half-hour. Our thoughts about the job and the investigation were identical. We returned to his office and got down to business. Howard outlined the job, told us what we would have to do, and how we would go about it. The federal government and military had asked for certain guidelines. We had to follow them. As I read them over, I did not find anything that would impede the investigation. I felt that the files of the engineering company would be the heart of the investigation. Those files should show us how the plant should have been built. The question is; was the plant built to the specification outlined in the files. Were there any changes to the specifications, who made them and who authorized the changes? From what the government wanted us to do, and to follow their guidelines it would take about 50 men two years to complete the job, if not longer. I felt that it should not take that long. If it was an unforeseen accident of some type, we would never know what caused the meltdown. If there was an engineering problem, there could be a few people that may know the answers to why the accident occurred. Was it an accident? Did someone throw the wrong switch? I did not think that could have caused the meltdown. But, it was possible. Could it be something mechanical? It could have been, but not likely. Why didn’t the Plant Protection System and the Critical Function Monitoring System shut down the plant? Why did it happen??? There was a lot of money being made constructing these plants. And, there is a lot more money when they are put into operation. However, all it takes is some idiot who is trying to make a name for himself that cuts corners just to make an impression on his boss. If this was the case, I hope someone would come out of the woodwork and tell us about it. There are hundreds of things that could have happened. But, which one caused the meltdown. The thing to do was to eliminate the thing that would not have caused the meltdown. Concentrate on the things that would cause a meltdown. Again, I asked myself, why didn’t one of the safety features work? If they worked why didn’t it stop the meltdown? Why didn’t the containment area contain the effects of the meltdown? Questions, questions, questions, which one will give us the right answer that will lead us to why there was a meltdown???? We know that none of the crew at the plant survived. Wasn’t there any indication that they had a problem? None of the warning devices around the plant went off. It seems that the plant exploded like it was set off by a stick of dynamite. It came too quickly for anyone to notify someone that they had a problem. Did the operator know what was coming and he panicked. Was it sabotage?
Howard interrupted my thoughts, “Bill we are taking a ride down 95 to Stamford. We are going to request copies of all the plans for the plant and inspection reports. I know they are going to appreciate us interrupting their day. I bet they have enough on their minds.”
I asked, “Do you think that we will have any trouble with them?”
Howard smile at me, “I don’t think so, we may have to do a little arm twisting.”
I interrupted Howard, “Are you are going to mention the fines and jail time?”
With a smirk on his face, “No, that’s your job.”
I slowly rocked my head side to side, thinking, why in hell did Howard give that job to me? Those bastards will really want to kill me.
Again, Howard interrupted my thoughts, “No, all you have to do is smile at them and hand them one of the leaflets that my secretary gave you. We call it the Persuader”
With relief, I said “You mean the one that states fines and jail time for not cooperating with us.”
He nodded, “That’s the one, if that doesn't shake them up, then we will let Frank and his boys take them for a ride and book them. If that’s what they want.”
With my head still spinning and trying to be logical about this situation. I started to daydream. What would happen when we run across someone that objected to the investigation? Fear again flashed through my body. I had turned into a pessimist. I had expected the worst. In the past, I had always been an optimist. What is happening to me?
Everyone started picking up all of their things. Howard told me to give the camera to one of the agents. One of the younger agents said, “I love taking pictures.”
He looked at the older agent for a sign of approval. The older agent nodded and smiled. A smile brightened Jimmy’s face. It is always nice to have a group that is congenial and happy. I have found that if you have a team that is unhappy, you will never get the best out of them. So far things looked good.
We headed out of the building with two of the agents in front of us and the other two behind us. Just like in the movies. These men were trained for the worst. All four of them went into a trained reaction when they opened the outside door. You could see that they knew what may be expected, the unexpected. They were ready for it. There wasn’t a thing or person that they did not look at. They had been communicating with the drivers in the three cars parked in front of the building. They put Howard and me in the middle car with one on the agents. Two of the agents got into the front car and the last one got into the rear car. We were on our way; I had noticed that all of them had a little ear pieces stuck to the back on their ear. There was a flesh colored wire that went down into the shirt collar. Where were the mikes? I could pick up some of the conversation. From the conversation, I knew they were talking to the other cars.
Howard and I went over the items that we though that we may need. There were quite a few of them. We knew that it was not enough time for us to get everything we needed today. We knew that the company had a vault that was fireproof and secure. We would put a guard on the vault until we got all the documents we needed. The local FBI was meeting us at the company and would provide security for the vault.
Howard told the local FBI not to notify the company that we were coming. He felt that a surprise visit would tell us more of what to expect in the investigation of the company. He wanted it to be a big surprise. I agreed with Howard. Their reaction will tell us a lot more than the plans that we are seeking. We would know how high up the corporate ladder the cover-up went, if there was one. I had visited many plants over the years. If you are working on a job and you have the proper identification and approval. You can remove from the plant copies of everything in their vault. The originals documents may have been at the plant. I was hoping that the company had copies of the documents or the originals. If the originals were at the plant, they are gone for ever.
I had been here before:
The trip to Stamford didn’t take long. We were busy talking about what we had to do and the time flew by. The lead car stopped at the guard shack. The guard was a little hesitant about letting us in. I could not blame him. I would be the same way. I told Howard that I had been here a number of times before, and I would talk to the guard. I got out of the car and headed toward the guard shack. The guard recognized me. A faint smile came across his face. I told him that we were there on federal business and that we wanted to talk to the company president. He told me that the president was away on business and he would see who was in charge while he is gone. He though that it was the VP of personnel, and he said that he would call him.
When he left for the guard shack, I followed him. The guard had someone on the phone and they had told the guard that we had to return with a letter of authorization from the company’s president. I asked the guard the name of the person that he was talking to. The guard didn’t tell me the person’s name. I told the guard that I wanted to talk to the person that was on the phone. I think the party on the other end of the line had heard my conversation with the guard. He had told the guard not to give me the phone. As the guard told me this, I gave him a cold stare and whispered into his ear that if he prevented us from entering the complex he could spend the next 20 years in jail. I reached for the phone and he gave it to me. I introduced myself and before I could say two words someone hung up the phone. I hung up and hit the redial. A young lady answered the phone. I told her that I wanted to talk to the gentleman that just hung up the phone. She told me that he had left the office. While I was talking to her, I scanned the windows to see if anyone was looking down at us. I spotted a chubby man looking out of one of the windows. I warned her not to play games with me. I told her that I could see him looking out of the window on the 6th floor. She tried to muffle the phone and told him that I saw him. He jumped back from the window. She tried to convince me that he had left. I asked her if she would like to spend the next twenty years in prison. I told her if she didn’t have him at the receptionist desk in five minutes she had just bought a ticket to the jailhouse, and hung up.
The guard showed us where we could park. I told Frank to have one of his men watch the guard and not to let him make any more phone calls. Frank told Chuck, the driver of the lead car to stay with the company guard. We parked the car and went into the receptionist area. The VP and his secretary were not in the receptionist area. Sam Peters’ office was just down the hall. I had worked with him. I knew that I could trust him. I asked the receptionist if she would call him and he was expecting me. When Sam came out of his office and looked down the hall. He said, “What the hell are you doing in this neck of the woods. The last I heard of you, you were living somewhere out west. Come in to my office.”
Howard told me that he and the agents would wait for me in the reception area, and see if the VP would show up. I told Howard that it would only take a minute or less. As soon as I got into Sam’s office I closed the door behind me and told him why I was there and gave him a copy of the Persuader. I told him about our encounter in the parking lot. I asked him who was the highest official in the company that he felt that we could trust and how high up the corporate ladder he was. Sam told me there was an engineering manager named Ben. He is the type of guy that everyone wanted to work for. He is a very brilliant man and honest. He has been fighting with the top brass for the last couple of year. It’s a wonder they haven’t fired him. He either has something on all of them or they are afraid of him. I asked Sam to call Ben and ask him to meet us at the receptionist’s desk. Sam made the call and told Ben why we were there. Sam hung up the phone and we walked to the receptionist’s desk. A confrontation was going on at the receptionist’s desk. Someone had told the security guards that under no circumstances should they let us into the complex. When I approached the receptionist area and I heard the guard asking everyone to please leave. I had a dozen copies of the Persuader in my inside coat pocket. I went to the guard and handed him a copy of the authorization. I said to him, “Please read this before you say another word. It could affect the rest of your life.”
As he read the document, you could see the change in his facial expressions. He had not gone half way through the document and he looked up and said, “I am not going to jail for anyone. You go ahead and do anything you want and I am not going to stop you.”
I thanked him and asked him who had sent him to the receptionist desk. He told me that the security Chief, Mr. Allan, had called him personally. I inquired if he was sure it was Mr. Allen. He told me he would recognize Allen’s voice if he were speaking in another language. I recalled the voice of the man that I spoke to at the guard shack. No one would forget that voice. It was a combination of a freight train passing and a foghorn at the same time.
Howard looked up the hall and saw a man hurrying in our direction. He asked Sam who the man was. Sam turned and looked down the hall, and said, “That’s Doctor Benjamin Cook.”
When Ben walked into the receptionist’s area he asked, “Who’s is charge of the investigation.”
I spoke up and said, “Doctor Cook I am Bill White and this is Howard Simmons. Howard is in charge and I am his assistant.”
Ben looked around as if to see who was listening and said, “Mr. White, I would like to talk to you and Mr. Simmons for a few moments in private. Sam may we use your office for a few minutes.”
Sam acknowledged, “Any time Ben, It’s my pleasure.”
As we walked down the hall I could hear Ben talking under his breath. He kept saying, “I warned those bastards.”
Howard looked over his shoulder at me and motioned for me to listen to what Ben was saying. Even though I was six feet away from Ben, his complaining was loud enough for me to hear. I told Howard that he was doing what I have been doing for years, complaining about everything. Howard smiled and whispered, “Me too.”
Ben ushered us into Sam’s office and pointed to a couple of chairs for us to sit in. He turned around, made his way to Sam’s desk and sat down. He looked at Howard and then at me a couple of times as if to examine us. I thought he was trying to decide if he could trust us. Lastly, he looked at Howard and said, “I am an old man, it is too late in life for me to get into trouble. What I am going to tell you is not to go beyond this room. Do you agree?”
I looked at Howard and Howard looked at me. Howard nodded; I assumed that he wanted me to answer Ben. I shrugged my shoulders. I knew what I had to tell him, but how was I going to put it without having Ben clam up. I looked at Ben and said, “Look Ben, we have a job to do. I can not promise anything, if what you tell us ever get out of this room, and we agree to what you are asking, and what you may say is very important part of the investigation, we would be putting ourselves into trouble. We cannot agree to keep a lid on anything you say. Here, please read this and maybe you will understand our position. The investigators are required to tell everything they know about the accident, as well as you are.”
Ben nervously ran his finger through his hair while he read the Persuader. Again, Ben was mumbling to himself. Then he looked up at us and said, “I know, I know, I just wanted to keep my ass out of the middle of this problem. I am going to retire in a few years and I don’t want this thing to drag me down with it. It will drive me nuts for the rest of my life. I will tell you what I think. But, I can not prove it. That is why I am asking that you do not let anyone know where you got this information. Anyway, this is what I think, not what I know. I was not directly involved in the design and construction. But, I knew enough about what was going on that I warned them not to play around with the, design, the schedule and not to shave the budget. If they did, we would end up spending more money to correct the problems. They did not listen to me. They had their damn fingers into the design, construction, and schedule and, trimmed the budget so much that it’s a wonder they ever finished the project. Through the grape vein, I learned about the problems that kept popping up. Since I was not directly involved and did not personally see what went on. I think the management screwed up royally. But, I cannot prove it without reviewing the whole project. Another weird think, everyone in the organization thinks I have something on the management. I don’t know how they got this idea. Yet, they all still think that I have something on the management, what it is, I do not know. I have been racking my brain and going over everything that could be damaging to the management. Maybe they are just paranoid. I have gone over all of my reports and letters to see what I may have written or had known that is bothering them. Is there someone that has something on them, and they think that I am this person. Is someone using me as a pawn in this mess? I know they cut corners. They released drawings and documents before they were completed. The federal government put a deadline on the time the plant had to go on line. The engineering staff spent more time at the site than they spent in their office trying to fill in the blanks on the documents. All in all it amazing that the plant went on line. With what they had to work with, between the men at the site and the engineers that went out to the site, they did an excellent job of putting the plant on line.”
Howard asked Ben, “When did all of this come about?”
Ben looked a little puzzled. I think he got sidetracked a little. I asked, “When did the management start thinking you had something on them?”
Ben smiled and said, “Oh, oh. About a year ago, I came back from a study I did on the nuclear plants out west. The Old Lady was included. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Yet the top echelons were very interested in my reports. I had to give duplicate copies to all the top managers, the President, the VP’s, and the company’s Attorney. I have gone over all the reports a dozen time to see what they were looking for. The only thing that I can say that may be related to this accident was a cluster of rods that did not drop when they should have. I was there when they were shutting down for a refueling. The operator overrode the automatic shutdown and did it manually. The operator did exactly what he was required to do. All of this is in the report. I have gone through the logic diagram a dozen times to see what had caused the cluster to hang up. I though it had to be a mechanical failure or the wiring was screwed up. All of this was in the report. The plant was a masterpiece of engineering. It is a shame that we lost her. You have to forgive me. I think of mechanical objects as being human. I talk to my car like she is an old lady that has been taking good care of me by not letting me down. I feel the same about the power plants. They work for years around the clock. All they ask for is a little tender love and care. If they don’t get it, watch out. This may be one of the reasons for the meltdown. She was not getting enough tender love and care.”
I asked, “Weren’t they servicing the plant?”
“Yes and no, they were doing the minimum that was required. Every time she went off line. Brown-outs started popping up around the country every time she went off line for service. The President and everyone else in the country were pushing the plant management to put her back on line. Every Power Company across the country was tapping into the Old Lady’s output. From the information I could gather she was running full power from the day she went on line until the she went belly up.”
Howard interrupted Ben and asked, “What were you going to tell us that you can not prove? We would like your opinion of what is being covered up.”
Ben looked at Howard and shook his head; he looked at the floor and said, “You both are going to think I am crazy. Have you ever posted a sign on someone’s back and watched the guy’s expressions as he passed someone. He knows something is wrong by the look on everyone’s face. He does not know what they are smiling about. Just switch it around. Every time I passed one of the top managers, they had the same curious expression on their face. I would smile at them. They would look back at me as if to say, what are you smiling about? I did not know what they though I had on them. Also, there have been more top echelon meetings in the last year than usual. I have never seen so many secretive meeting. In the past, the minutes of all the meeting were usually published on the bulletin board. I knew that there was something that they were covering up. I started looking into the documents for anything that would give me a clue to what was wrong. I could not find anything that was obvious. What happened after the meltdown is very unusual. The President and all the VP and their families have gone to Europe for an extended vacation. They made Mr. Allen a VP and left him in charge of the company. They must be desperate and they are hoping that this whole thing will fade away. If not, they can blame everything on poor old Allen. He was head of security. When they left they made him Vice President of Personnel as well as security. He is not a brilliant man. Yet, he is not stupid. He has kissed ass to get to where he is. I think the answer to why we had a meltdown and what caused it is simple. But, to prove it is something else. The company was in a save money frenzy. The company president felt that the company would go belly up if they didn’t tighten up the budget in every department. I think we cut too many corners on the plant. I told them and warned them that we would pay for the mistakes soon. You cannot build a plant for 3/4 of what it should cost. Something has to be left out. You cannot leave anything out. It’s not a broken down car where you can leave off the fenders. We left too much out of the time frame. I have tried to find what was left out. What wasn’t done that should have been done. I knew we screwed up a year ago. For the last year I have been trying to find out where we screwed up and to prove it. I have failed. Maybe one of you can find the answer.”
Ben was on the move. Howard motioned to me to let him keep talking. You could see that Ben had been muzzled for a long time. And, someone had just removed it. Ben continued to pour out his guts and frustration that had been building up inside of him for years. He told us that the old company had been bought out by a large conglomerate and it did not take them very long to replace everyone that may appear to be a threat to them. He had wondered why he had not gotten the axe. In a way he wished they had offered him early retirement. The new group that took over was blinded with their power. None of them knew a damn thing about the nuclear power plant business. All that was on their mind was money and power, not nuclear power, the power to control the financial world.
Ben started to slow down. I think he felt that we were getting tired of listening to him. When he paused for a moment, I said, “We have something in common. You call the plant Old Lady and I call her Old Nellie.”
We all chuckled. I looked at Howard to see if he had any more questions for Ben. We sat quietly for a few minutes waiting for Ben to say something.
There was a knock on the door. I opened the door and it was Frank. I went out into the hall with Frank. He told me that there was a problem in the parking lot. He said that Chuck told him that a Mr. Allen was trying to force a young lady into his car. Frank wanted to know what he should do. I said, “Tell Chuck to give Allen a Persuader and explain to him the consequence if he doesn’t cooperate. Have Chuck escort Mr. Allen and the young lady to the receptionist’s area and keep them there until Howard and I get there. We will be there in a few minutes.”
I returned to the room with Howard and Ben. I told Howard about the problem in the parking lot and I thought it was a good idea for us to talk to Mr. Allen before he vanished again. Howard asked Ben if he would be around for the next few hours. Ben said that he would be there the rest of the night if we needed him. He wanted to end this problem as soon as possible. We both thanked Ben for his support and we appreciated him opening up to us.
Meet the elusive Mr. Allen:
Howard and I left Ben in Sam’s office. We noticed the confrontation that was taking place in the receptionist’s area. Mr. Allen with his foghorn voice was screaming and yelling at Chuck and Mitch. He was threatening them with lawsuits and accusing them of interfering with his constitutional rights. As Howard and I approached the receptionist area Mr. Allen shut his mouth like a clam. I wondered what had made him shut up. Allen was looking past us. I looked over my shoulder and saw Ben leaving Sam’s office. Ben had them all scared. What did Allen think Ben had told us about him?
Howard looked at Allen, shook his head, and said, "Mr. Allen we're not here to deny you of your constitutional rights, we are here to simply find out why there was a meltdown in a nuclear power plant that your company designed and built. It is our understanding that you are the top ranking officer of the company at this time. The gentleman to my right is Mr. Bill White and I am Howard Simmons. Mr. Allen before you and your secretary say another word, I want you to read this flyer completely, so that there is no misunderstanding on what our intentions are.”
Allen said that he was given the document outside and he had thrown it away. Howard insisted that Allen read the document completely before he said anything else. I watched Allen’s face as he was reading the flyer. The look on Allen’s face went from of a vicious pit bull to a frightened puppy. Allen paused for a moment and looked around the room as to look for a way to escape. Howard encouraged Allen to finish reading the flyer. It was in his best interest that he read the entire document.
As Allen turned the pages, beads of perspiration flowed down his brow. As he read the last page and looked for another page, he asked, “Is this all?”
I smiled and sarcastically said, “Isn’t that enough?”
Howard nodded and asked, “Are there any questions?”
Allen shook his head as to say no then blurted out, “Hey man, I am not the guy you should be talking to. I was left to take charge while the top brass were away on a business trip.”
Howard called Frank and asked him to take Mr. Allen’s secretary aside and see what she knew about the company’s management. Howard thought that it was just possible that she may have overheard something that may shed some light on what had been going on behind the closed-door meeting that Ben had told us about.
Howard asked Allen if there was a conference room that we could use while we are there. Allen eagerly replied that there were a number of conference rooms, and we could take our pick. Allen had offered to show us the conference rooms. As we walked to the elevator Allen started to open up. We let him ramble on with hopes that he would say something that would make our days work easier. Most of his rambling was how everyone from the president of the company to the lowest paid person in the company expected miracles out of him. Since the top brass left, a quarter of the personal have requested a transfer or raises.
I asked Allen if the engineering department was still on the third floor and did they use the same vault to store the documents that they had there a few years back. He told me that the vault was still there but all of the documents were no longer there. Howard and I both stopped in our tracks. This hit us with a jolt. A thousand questions ran through my mind in a fraction of a second. What the hell are we going to do? Now, where are we going to start?
Where are the plans?
Excitedly, Howard and I asked, “Where are the plans?”
Allen said, “The engineering department is moving to Europe. The President had all the drawings packaged for shipment to Europe.”
I could not hold my frustration back. I said, “What the hell are we going to do now?”
Howard said, “We are going to Europe.”
Allen looked at me and said, “The plans were packaged, but they have not been shipped yet. At least, I don’t think so. They are sitting on the loading dock down stairs. A truck is going to pick them up sometime today.”
I let out a sigh of relief. Howard said, “Thank God, I didn’t know what we were going to do. I had thought of all of the paper work that would be required to get the documents back.”
I looked over at Howard and whispered to him, “I think that we better stop that shipment or we won’t have anything to work with.”
Howard agreed and we asked Allen to take us to shipping. We made a u-turn and headed down stairs. Perspiration started to flow again on Allen’s forehead. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and tried to hide his action. I thought that he may know more about the shipment of the drawing to Europe than he would admit. From his facial expressing, I think Allen wished that he had not opened his mouth. Allen knew he had said something that he should not have said. I was wondering how I could get the truth out of Allen. He doesn’t know that Frank is going to talk to his secretary. Just maybe, that will open up the door to his hidden secrets.
I put my hand on Allen’s shoulders and asked, “Mr. Allen, I hope that you don’t mind, one of the FBI agents that accompanied us is questioning your secretary. She may remember something that you may have forgotten.”
It looked like all the blood drained from Allen face. He tried to say something, but nothing came out. Howard looked at me, winked and said, “Mr. Allen is everything alright? You look a little pale.”
Allen stopped and said, “Look, I told you guys that I was just taking care of the company while the management is on a business trip. I don’t know anything else. I will try to answer all of your question the best as I can. It is hard enough keeping all these jerks working. Everyone in this plant is trying to pin everything on me. And, I only did what I was told to do.”
Howard asked, “What were you told to do?”
Again, Allen’s face turned a milky white. He stammered trying to think of something to say. Howard repeated himself and Allen said, “They told me to take care of the company while they are gone.”
As soon as Allen opened his mouth, I knew that he was hiding something. I wondered what else had they told him to do? I think he realized that he had muffed it again. I think he was afraid of the next question Howard would ask. Howard may have thought that he would not get any further with Allen at this time and said, “First let’s make sure that those drawings and records have not been shipped. I would appreciate it if you have someone put the files back in the vault and put a guard on the vault until we have had a chance to look them over.”
Allen quickly replied, “Sure, sure, anything you want.”
When we reached shipping, the boxes were still on the loading platform. Allen called to George, the shipping manager and told him that all the boxes had to be put back in the vault.
George said, “Hell no! Mr. Swanson called me this morning from Europe and told me if those boxes didn’t go out today, I could kiss my job goodbye. He said they needed them in Europe today. They are losing a lot of money by not having them in Europe.”
I went over to one of the boxes and looked for the labels. The boxes that I looked at didn’t have any labels on them. I asked George, “Why don’t the boxes have labels on them?”
George replied, “Mr. Swanson told me that the shipping company was going to crate all the boxes and put them in a container for shipping overseas. And the shipping company would take care of that.”
I asked George, “Where are the packing slips or the bills of laden. Who is the shipping company? Have you used this company before?”
George answered, “Mr. Swanson never told me who the company was. He said that they would take care of all of the paper work.”
“Do you have an itemized list of what is being shipped? Is this the usual way you handle shipments to Europe?”
“No. We usually do all the paper work. Usually we have twice as much paper work for shipments to Europe.”
Again, Howard told Allen that he would like all the boxes put in the vault before we left and he would like them to start returning them to the vault now. Allen went over to George and tried to explain what was going on. George resisted Allen’s request. I walked over to George and handed him a copy of the Persuader and asked him to read the entire document before he said or did anything. Without looking at the flyer George said, “Who in the hell are you to go over the president’s head.”
Howard walked over to George and stood almost nose to nose to George and looked him in the eyes and said, “If you want to know who we are, read this document or you may spend the night in jail.”
I watched George as he read the Persuader. I saw the same metamorphosis that Allen and the others went through. As George read the document, you could see the fear that spread across his face. Without another word, George called to a couple of guys and said, “We are going to work overtime tonight.”
He also got on the phone and called for additional help. We told them not to remove the contents from the boxes and to put a seal on each box. We wanted to know if anyone tampered with the boxes.
Howard got on the phone and called the receptionist. He asked her if Frank was around and if he was, please put him on the phone. Frank answered the phone and Howard explained our problem and asked if he could send someone to watch the workers that were returning the cartons to the vault. He wanted to have a twenty-four hour guard on the vault.
Before we could get out of the shipping area Mike popped through the swinging doors. Howard prepped him on what he wanted done and we headed to the conference room with Allen.
Howard and I questioned Allen for more than an hour. He was simply following orders. He had no knowledge of what the management was doing and what effect it would have on the power plants. I do believe he knew about the shipment and he opened his mouth too soon. Allen was just an obedient servant. It was a waste of time to question him any more. We knew Allen wasn’t calling the shots.
From what Frank had gotten out of Allen’s secretary was the same. They were just following the management orders for the fear of losing their job. The new management had laid down the law. The employees were not to think any more. They were just to be obedient slaves.
We spent the next few hours that we had left and questioned the designers and engineers. They had submitted their estimate and cost for the plant, the management had cut their budget in half. The employees stated that the management had changed the procedures for checking and reviewing all the documents. It did not give them enough time to inspect and review all the paper work that was needed for checking the documents. They were forced to submit them before they were properly reviewed. If there were mistakes, there was no way they could have been caught within the time limits that the management had established and with the schedule they had to keep. The management theory was the mistake would be picked up down the line. There were so many documents to review that they could not review all of them. Some of the errors were caught and it cost much more to correct the error during construction than it would have cost if they had been reviewed the documents before they started construction.
The engineers told us that during construction the builder had to modify the construction because of a simple error that could have been caught if the management had given them the time they needed to review the plans. Also, they said that since the plant went into operation they had to make many revisions and modifications to the plant to keep the plant operating. And, it was a wonder that the plant didn’t have a meltdown the day it went on line. Due to the number of normal errors that were not caught, it was a miracle that it had stayed on line this long. They could not do the regular maintenance on the reactor because of all the changes that had to be made while the plant was off line.
One of the designers pulled a folder out of his desk and told us that these were the revisions that he had been doing since the original release. He also had all of the schedules that the management had issued and the revised budgets that the management had insisted that they stay within. One of the group said the management had no idea what the consequence would be by releasing incomplete drawings and the management didn’t give a damn.
Introduce ourselves to the employees:
We had a couple of hour left before everyone went home. We wanted to talk to them all. We had no idea how many employees were employed at the company. We wanted to let everyone know why we were there and warn them not to discuss what was going on at the company. We didn’t want to start a media frenzy. We asked Mr. Allen if there was a place where we could assemble all the employees. He told us there was a large warehouse at the rear of the complex. He thought that it would take some time to get all the employees together and set up a microphones and speakers. I told Allen to do his best. He could ask everyone over the PA system to go to the warehouse for a conference. Howard asked Allen if he could have 1000 copies of the Persuader. Allen told Howard that would no be a problem.
The grape vine had been in full swing. Almost everyone in the company already knew why we were there. Most of the employees had expected to have visitors since the meltdown. Even with the huge crowd that attended the meeting, Howard felt that a few may have skipped out and went home. The Persuader was distributed to all of the supervisors and we asked them to make additional copies for everyone in their group if they needed them. We wanted to make sure everyone received a copy of the Persuader.
At the meeting, Howard asked the employees not to discuss what was going on at the company with anyone outside the company. We asked if they had any information that they felt would help us determine why the plant had a meltdown to please write us a report. We hoped to talk with most of them and with their help we may find the answer to our problem and get out of their hair as soon as possible. We told them that the investigation was very serious. We were there for one reason and one reason only. We were there to find out why the meltdown had occurred. We were not there to arrest anyone and their cooperation would be greatly appreciated. We did not want to have the media blocking the entrance tomorrow morning. We felt that there was no way to keep this a secret and if anyone talked to the media and divulge anything that would impede the investigation they may be in a lot of trouble. We have to turn our report over to all the branches of the government including the Attorney General. If there is a line of reporters at the front gate tomorrow, they will have to tell us who told them. If they have not read the document that we had handed out. Please read it now. The press is not immune to prosecution. They as well as everyone at this meeting must abide by the document. If they lie or refuse to tell us who had told them about the investigation, they may be arrested and the person that told them will have the problem that is mentioned on the document. We will not be the one that will decide if they are charged for obstructing the investigation. The Attorney General’s office will decide who will be charged. They may be arrested for not cooperating and be sent to jail if they do not cooperate with the investigators. By lying to one of the investigators, it would be the easiest way for them to get into very serious trouble. Howard pleaded with them to be honest with the interviewers and not shade the truth thinking that you are keeping a friend out of trouble. You do not know what your friend is going to say and what they say may contradict your statement, then you both are in trouble. Howard and I thanked them all for coming and asked them when they got home to try to think of anything that may help us resolve the problem. We reminded them that it was not only our problem. It is a problem for everyone on this planet and across the country. Their future and their life may depend on what they can tell us.
Beside the normal security Frank had local agents put on duty at the Engineering Company. They also had a couple of men waiting at the shipping dock for the shipping company that was going to ship all the documents.
As we were leaving the warehouse, Frank got a call from Mike at the shipping dock. He told Frank that someone had come to pick up the document and he thought that we should take a look.
Meet the shipping company:
We turned around and headed for shipping. When we got there, to our surprise, there were two large garbage trucks waiting. We asked the drivers if they were the regular Garbage Company that usually picked up the garbage. The drivers said that they did not service this company. One of the drivers said that they got a call this morning to come here after 6 PM to pick up a load of boxes. They told us that the doors would be open and they wanted the boxes burned because there was confidential information that they didn’t want their competitors getting their hands on. Jim was filming the whole conversation. I asked them if the person that called left his name. He told us that he didn’t answer the phone, but he had seen the paper work and it said a Mr. Allen had authorized the pickup. Howard told the drivers that they were not needed and they would be paid for their time. As the drivers headed for their truck, I looked over at Allen. I though he was going to faint. His face turned milky white and he was gasping for air. Two of the agents grabbed Allen; they thought that Allen was going to fall off the loading dock. George grabbed a chair out of his office and brought it over to Allen. Allen plopped down on the chair. He was still gasping. He was shaking his head with his mouth open. His lips were moving but that foghorn voice did not emerge. One of the other workers brought him a cup of water. After a couple of sips Allen said, “I didn’t make that call. Someone is trying to frame me. George did Swanson tell you he had called the shipping company?”
George said, “I am not sure exactly what he said about the shipping company. I asked him if he wanted us to do the paper work for shipping the stuff out of the country and he told me the shipping company would handle all of the paper work and they would pick it up and for me to leave the loading dock doors unlocked. They were busy and could not pick up the boxes until late in the evening.”
I put my hand on Allen’s shoulder and said, “You have some nice friend, don’t you.”
I yelled to the drivers of the garbage trucks to hold on for a few minutes. I had a few more questions I wanted to ask them. They eased the truck back to the loading dock and got out and climbed up on the loading dock. I asked, “Do you know who received the call at your office?”
The older driver of the two said, “Yew, It was Pete. He takes all the calls. Why?”
“Do you know where Pete is and do you know how to get in touch with him?”
“Sure, Pete is on call if we have any problems. Do you want to talk to him?”
“I certainly do, please call him, and use the phone over there.”
I pointed to a phone in the office. The driver asked, “How do you get an outside line.”
George said, “Push nine, when you get dial tome, then dial your number.”
I asked George to put the phone on the platform on the same line as the one in the office. When the driver got Pete on the phone he told him that they had a problem with the six o’clock pickup and someone wanted to talk to him. The driver motioned to me to come over. I picked up the phone and asked, “Hi Pete, my name is Bill White. We have a little problem. Would you recognize the voice of the man that called you this morning?”
“I don’t think so. I get a thousand calls a day. They all sound alike to me.”
I turned and motioned for Allen to go to the phone on the platform and don’t pick up the phone until I told him to. I put the phone to my ear and said, “Pete, I am going to put someone on the phone. Maybe this will jog your memory.”
I told Allen to pick up the phone and have a normal conversation with Pete and asked him if he could make a pickup at six. I lifted the other phone and listened. Allen got on the phone and hadn’t said three words and Pete said, “That not the man that call in the order.”
I asked, “Pete, are you sure?”
I asked Allen to say something again and then hang up the extension.
Again, Allen said, “Can you make a pickup at six?”
I asked Allen to hang up the phone.
Again I asked, “Well Pete, what do you think?”
Pete chuckled and said, “I hate to offend anyone, I would have remembered that voice. That not the person that I talked to this morning. I have never spoken to that man.”
“Sorry to have bothered you Pete. Thanks for your help.”
Pete asked, “What about the pickup?”
“There will not be a pickup here today. Bill the company for your troubles. I am sure they will pay you.”
Pete asked, “Can I talk to one of the drivers.”
“Of course, but I want to ask you for a favor. I am going to give the driver a document for you to read. If you get a call from anyone asking about this pickup, tell them that the crew picked up the boxes and they were burned.”
“You want me to lie to them,” asked Pete.
“You can put it any way you want. Just don’t tell them that the boxes have not been destroyed. You will understand when you read the document that I am asking the driver to give you tonight. Please don’t tell anyone about this conversation. If you do, you could get yourself into a lot of trouble. If anyone calls, just tell them that as far as you know the order was carried out.”
Pete asked, “What’s going on down there?”
“You will know all you need to know when you read the document. Please do not discuss this conversation with anyone. If you do, you could be putting yourself and your family’s lives in danger, thanks and good night.”
I quickly hung up the phone so that I did not have to answer any more questions. I hoped that I did not scare him too much. It may save him and his family’s life. Swanson is going to extremes to cover his ass. God only knows what he will try next. I had given each of the drivers a copy of the Persuader and told them for their sake and Pete’s to deliver the document to Pete tonight. One of the drivers told me that he had read it while I was on the phone and he would make sure Pete got his copy within the hour.
We thanked Mike for calling us and asked George to please make sure all the boxed were put back into the vault.
We all headed back to the receptionist’s area. Allen was mumbling to himself. Howard asked Allen, “What the problem? We know that you did not order the documents to be destroyed, Swanson must have made the call.”
Allen grumbled, “Those bastards are trying to dump the whole damn mess in my lap. When you guys come tomorrow I have a few things I want to show you.”
Howard said, “Show us what you have today. You will feel a lot better after you get it off your chest. We know that you didn’t make the call to pick up those boxes.”
Allen asked us to follow him. We went into his office; Allen unlocked a file cabinet, and showed us three drawers full of documents. He said, “Those bastards were in so much of a hurry to get out of here they asked me to destroy all of these documents. They wanted me to personally shred them myself. They did not want anyone else to see them. If they were that important, I wanted to look at them before I shredded them. In the bottom drawer is a bunch of audio tapes also. I haven’t played any of them. George said that Swanson called from England. I think that the bastard is still in the country or he has someone doing his legwork for him. He had a car in the parking lot. When he wanted to take one of his girl friends out and didn’t want his chauffeur around he would use the car. Someone came around in the middle of the night and unlocked the gate and drove the car out and relocked the gate.”
Howard asked, “Do you know who the women are that he has been going out with.”
“Yew, one of them is that little bitch that I was shoving into my car. I think she is one of them and she handles all the other women.”
“Why were you shoving her into your car?”
“She knows everything that goes on with those bastards. I wanted to find out what they were up to. As I said, they took off as if the place was on fire. Swanson called me and told me to come to his office on the day of the meltdown. When I got there, they had cleaned out their offices and were carrying everything downstairs to the limos. Usually they call someone from shipping to do the heavy work. I had never seen them working so fast. As a mater of fact, I had never seen them doing a damn thing. All of them had taken off their suit jackets, ties and rolled up their sleeves. They stuffed everything they could in the two limos and that car. They didn’t have room for the documents in the cabinet. They handed me a memo that stated that I would run the company while they were out of town. They brought that bitch with them when they took over. I was wondering why they didn’t take her with them.”
We thanked Allen and went to the conference room. We did not want Allen or anyone else around when we discussed the company’s personnel. Howard asked Frank, “You interviewed Mr. Allen’s secretary, does she know anything about those secret meeting? Was she any help?”
Frank answered, “I didn’t think she knew anything that would help you. If she does, she fooled me. She is scared out of her wits. I felt sorry for her.”
“What is her name?”
“Is she still around.”
“I don’t think so; I think she left after I talked with her. Most of the employees have taken off. She said that she was a little upset after Allen tried to force her into his car.”
“Please check to see if she is in the building. If she is, let me know. I want to talk to her.”
Howard told Frank to have someone keep an eye on the file cabinet in Allen’s office, and have someone from shipping box the documents, and put them in the vault. They may be the key to the meltdown. We all headed back to the receptionist’s area. Howard wanted to know why I wanted to talk to Betty Anderson. I said, “I have a hunch that she knows a lot more than she claims. Of course, she was just taking orders. Who was giving her the orders? Who else was taking order and who from? I want to know what went on outside the company as well as in the company.”
“Bill, you have a point. There has to be more to this mess. What is it?”
I shook my head and said, “I wish I knew. Why in hell have they gone to this extreme? What did they do that force them to go to this extreme? Or, did they panic after the meltdown?”
We had informed the company guards not to let anyone leave the company with anything. Frank had gotten a call from one of his men. He had been notified that Betty Anderson had left through the back gate and she had documents with her. She told the guard on duty that she had to do some work at home. Betty had been allowed to take work home with her many times in the past and the guard didn’t think anything about it until she was out the door, then he notified the security office.
When Howard heard that she had left the building with documents, he asked security to check around the outside of the building to see if she had left the grounds. Fortunately, she had parked her car in front of the complex and she had to walk around the perimeter of the complex to get to her car. One of the guards saw her as she was getting into her car. The guard told her that we wanted to talk to her again. She reluctantly went with the guard. When she came in the conference room without the documents, Howard asked, “Miss Anderson where were you going with the documents and where are they?”
Her face went pale and she did not say a word. Howard waited for an answer. She did not answer him. Howard asked her for her car keys. She fumbled around as to stall Howard. Howard was impatient. He said, “May I?”
He took her pocketbook and dumped the contents on the table. He picked up the keys and handed them to the guard and said, “Get a box and take everything that’s in the car and bring it to me.”
Frank told Mitch to go with the guard. Like me, I felt that Howard did not trust anyone. When the guard left the room, Betty broke down and started to cry. Howard noticed that no tears were coming from her eyes. He said to Betty, “Stop pretending. If you do not cooperate with us, you may have to spend every cent you have and more just to defend yourself.”
Howard asked Betty who she was getting her orders from. At first, she tried to avoid answering any of Howard’s questions. Finally she said, “Everyone.”
She paused then said, “Swanson, Peterson, Matheson, Brown and all of their gofers. They had about a dozen gofers. I do not know all of their names. There is a management tree that shows who is working for who. They all have their private secretaries and those bitches don’t do a damn thing but sit on their asses and flirt with the brass.”
I asked, “What were you taking home with you?”
Nervously Betty looked around the room to see who was there. I think she was looking to see anyone that she could not trust. Finally she whispered to Howard, “Swanson called from England about an hour ago and told me to go to his office and pick up everything that he may have left in his office. I asked where his secretary was. He told me she was on vacation. He told me if I didn’t get everything out of his office he would have someone blow my brains out. He knew that you guys were here. He told me that if I open my mouth, he would have someone stick a gun in it.”
Howard asked, “Have you had calls from England before?”
“We get calls from all over the world everyday. Why do you ask?”
“Did it sound like Swanson was calling from England?”
“That’s funny; I thought he was calling from his office here. Why?”
“Allen didn’t think Swanson was calling from England either.”
Howard questioned Betty, “How did he know that we were here?”
“That rat has a network of snitches in the company. It is made up of all the gofers, their secretaries and God know who else. They spend more money keeping tabs on what the employees are thinking than what they are working on. Since the meltdown all the Gophers have been questioning everyone in the company about their personal feelings about the meltdown. You go to the management tree and pick out all of the VP’s and their Gophers and question them. Ask them why their bosses had them asking everyone how they felt about the meltdown. I think they asked everyone in the company the same questions. You can question me all night. I can’t give you any more information than I already have.”
I sat down next to Betty and said, “Betty, do not pull what you did today. We won’t decide if you have broken the law. Everything that has gone on here will go into our report. For your own sake, please do not do anything behind our backs. I understand the fear that you have been going through. I know it is quite hard on you. With Allen trying to shove you into his car, and Swanson threats, we understand how you must feel. If you think of something that may be important, write it down when you think of it. We want to solve the problem of the meltdown. That is all we are here for. We are just doing our job, like you are. Try to have a peaceful evening.”
We walked out into the hall with Betty and again thanked her for staying late.
The guard gave Betty her car keys and Howard the documents.
I called shipping and asked if someone had removed the document from the cabinet in Allen’s office. They said that it was almost completed. I told Mitch to take the files that we had gotten from Betty and to take them to the vault. After all the documents from shipping were put back into the vault, we all let out a sigh of relief.
Howard looked around the room at all the tired faces and said, “Let’s get the hell out of here. It has been a long day.”
On the way back to Groton I wrote a report about the event of the day. Most of today’s events were on video. This would help us with the report and to verify everything we put on the reports. Howard and I discussed what we should do tomorrow. We felt that we needed to sit down with the engineers at the company and get a full picture of what had happened for the last 10 years. We felt that this would give us a clue on what direction we should go.
The whole crew was starved. We stopped at a service area on the turnpike for a pit stop. I was glad for that. We all grabbed a snack. And, I was happy to get a candy bar. When we got back to the office they told me that my family was at the beach in our new home. We had a new crew to watch over us. I followed an agent in my car with another one following me. It was almost dark when the lead car pulled into a driveway.
My new home:
When the lead car drove over a crest, the headlights lit up our new home. It was a classic Victorian home with a beautiful beach and a boat dock inside a small cove. The house sat thirty to forty feet above the water line with steps leading to a beautiful landscaped lawn. I parked my car, waved goodnight to my escort and thanked them. I took a quick tour of the grounds while there was a little light. I looked around; it was a very pleasant place to live. I hoped that Jean and the kids loved their new home. I thought it was a wonderful place to bring up the kids. Yet, I do not think they would stay here if they had a choice between this house and the one we had to abandon. Personally, I would be very comfortable living here. The place was beautiful. I hoped that this home would satisfy them for a while. It may help them get over us losing our beautiful home in California.
I stood there absorbing the beautiful view for a few minutes. I turned around and headed for the house. As soon as I turned, my little monsters popped through the side door that led to the large porch that circled the house. They flew down the steps and across the lawn. I bent over and held out my arms. They clasped their arms around me and I lifted them up and kissed them. Penny loved hugging and kissing me. At times I could tell that Louis enjoyed it also. But, he also wanted to be a man. He never hugged and kissed me when his friends or classmate were around. Yet, he always showed his mother great affection. It has been a lot of fun watching Louis growing up to be a young man. Louis was a typical boy and Penny was a classic little lady and I loved it. I would not have it any other way.
Both of them were talking a mile a minute. They wanted to tell me about their new home. The best I could make out of the confusion was; they both loved the home. Penny was telling me about the inside of the house while Louis was telling me about the outside and the boat dock. He had been fishing and we were going to have the fish that he had caught for dinner tonight. I asked him where he got the fishing poles. He told me that there were a dozen poles in the basement and a boat down at the beach.
When I reached the side door Jean called to me. She told me to get washed up for dinner. She told Penny and Louis to do the same. There was no line for the bathroom. There were three full and a half bath.
When I walked into the kitchen, it was huge. Jean had her hands full frying the fish. I walked up behind her, put my arms around her waist and kissed her on the neck and cheek. She said, “Sit down and relax. It will be a little while before the fish is done. You must be exhausted. How was the day?”
I said, “We will talk about that later. I don’t want to talk about it in front of the kids. How did you know when I would be home and start cooking the fish?”
“Around noon, I asked one of the FBI men if he knew where you were. He told me that you on the turnpike heading west. Every since them, he has been keeping me up to date. When you arrived at the office they told me and when you left, one of them told me that you were on the way home.”
I was a little surprised that they kept tabs on us. I went into the bathroom to get cleaned up. There was no standing in line for the bath here. There was one for each of us.
After I got cleaned up, I went down stairs and sat down in an oversized chair. I wanted to close my eyes for a minute, but Penny and Louis wanted to tell me about the first day at their new home. I had never seen them this enthused about anything, at least about the same thing. They both were trying to squeeze in the day in a few minutes. I loved seeing them this happy. It made me feel relieved after I had to tear them away from their home.
Jean called us all for dinner. There was this oversized round table in the middle of the kitchen with plenty of room around the table. A very old chandelier was centered over the table. There was plenty of elbowroom. As a mater of fact, I didn’t like being so far from everyone. We usually held hands while we said our blessing. Fortunately, we could reach each other. Penny stood up in her chair so she could reach Jean and me. Penny and Louis had a wonderful appetite. They must have been busy all day exploring their new home. They both ate with gusto. After dinner, I went and watched TV for a few minutes while Jean cleaned up the kitchen. I had offered to help, but she said that I had earned a few minutes of relaxation. How right she was, I fell asleep as soon as I sat down.
When I woke up, I did not recall going to bed. I must have slept in the chair all night. The morning light just started to reflect the trees that lined the cove. The water was dead calm. The cove looked like a huge oval mirror. The only defect in the mirror was the ripples fish made when they broke the surface of the water. I was torn between watching a new day being born in my new home and sleeping for another hour. I could not take my eyes off of the birth of new beautiful day. The sun was still below the horizon but it lit up the bottom of the fluffy clouds with an array of multiple colors. I felt great. My family was safe, secure and happy. Between glimpses at the beautiful sunrise, my eyes slid shut. It was difficult for me to keep them open and I believe I dosed off to sleep for a fraction of a second or two. During one on those elapses, I felt a warm hand caressing my neck, a warm kiss on my cheek and a gentle voice whispered in my ear, “I love you.”
These are the precious moments of marriage that makes it all worth while. These moments erase out all the problems of the past and ease the problems of the future. Jean slid into the chair and joined me. We watched the birth of another beautiful day together. It wasn’t long until our little monsters interrupted the tranquility of the moment. They climbed into our laps and we showed them the beauty of seeing the birth of a new day. When the morning sun started to blind us, we parted for our respective bath rooms. The next hour or so was routine. It was the norm for every household around the world. Jean prepared a wonderful breakfast. The agents had driven her and the kids to the local Supermarket. The refrigerator was full. It did not look like we were going to starve for a while. Thinking of this, made me feel selfish. I had seen the massive food lines at the camps that the army had set up in a Nevada desert. The portions were quite small. The lines looked like they were endless. I could not believe this was going on in the United States. I looked out the window and my escort to work was waiting. I hurried and kissed everyone and told them to enjoy the beach.
Starting my second day at work:
When I walked into the office, things were already popping. During the night, Betty Anderson and Allen had been murdered. God, what is going on in this world?
What a way to start a day. Those poor frightened souls; they were just trying to make a life for themselves. What motivated the murderer that killed them? What did they know that made the murderer go to this extreme. Was it fear that drove him to do this heinous crime? Or, was he paid to end their lives?
Yesterday, I wanted to show Betty as much compassion as I could. Over the years, I had seen many frightened employees bending over backward to please their bosses just to keep their jobs. There was always the threat of losing their job if they did not toe the line. How many times have I gritted my teeth and bore it. God only knows how bitter I was at the time. At times, I knew that it wasn’t the persons fault that was giving me hell, he had probably had just got the same thrashing from his boss. They were probably under more pressure than I was.
Allen on the other hand, as stupid as he acted, was no dope. He was a bully and he pulled every trick in the books to get where he was. The management knew it and they used him. I felt sorry that he had to lose his life, but he made his bed and he had to sleep in it.
I was in deep concentration when Howard jarred my thoughts. He asked, “What are you thinking about. Let me in on your thoughts. I can’t read your mind.”
“Howard, I never expected this job to turn into the mess that we are in now. There have been enough lives lost. Why did they have to go? I was asking myself why they were killed. If we knew why they were killed, maybe we would know why we had the meltdown. Was it a hired killer or someone so afraid that Allen and Anderson would be the ones that would send them to prison for the rest of their life. If it was a hired killer; who hired him? Was it Swanson, Peterson, Matheson, Brown or someone else? Is Frank around?”
Howard nodded and said, “We setup an office for him and the others. They are down the hall. Do you want to talk to him?”
“Not really, I just want to know if they are involved in the murders or is it’s just the state and local police’s problem?”
“The FBI is up to their necks on these killings. They are shipping more men in today. We have rented that empty building down the street and they will be setting up shop over there.”
“Do you think we can talk to him for a few minutes?”
“Sure, what do you want to know?”
“I just want him to brief us on what they are required to do in a case like this. Who is calling the signal in these two murders? Have they locked up the crime scene? You know what I am getting at.”
Howard patted me on the shoulder and said, “Let’s go talk to him.”
As I walked down the hall, I asked myself if Frank would think we are stepping on his toes if we asked too may questions. When we walked into the door, he had three phones off the hook. My God, this must be driving him crazy. He motioned for us to take a seat. After a couple of minutes, he paused from a moment and said, “I will be finished in a moment.”
To me, the few minutes were like eternity. I thought it would never end. I yelled at myself and mumbled, “Cool it, cool it, cool it.”
Howard and Frank both looked at me. I smiled. What else could I do?
After a few more minutes Frank hung up the phone and asked, “What can I do for you.”
I was a little embarrassed and felt that I had to explain why I said cool it. I smiled and said, “I am getting hyper. Something inside of me kept pushing me. At times I can not control the pressure that is driving me. Without thinking I told myself to cool it. I know it going to take some time to unravel this whole mess. Something inside of me keeps nagging me, if I don’t hurry, I will never solve the problem. All the clues are starting to fade away. With Betty and Allen gone, what else is going to happen?”
Frank looked at me and said, “Welcome to the club of Hyper’s I know just how you feel. Every case that I have worked on, it has been the same way. I tell myself to back off and relax. If I cool it, the case will be solved. Let me bring you up to date on what is happening. We have sealed up Allen and Anderson’s apartment. We have tripled the number of personnel at the engineering company. No one takes anything in and no one takes anything out. We have a team that is digging into the last 6 months of Allen and Anderson lives, who they called, who called them, their bank accounts and anything else that we can find out about them. We are also helping the local police investigate the murders. At the moment we have no idea who murdered them. That’s about all I can tell you now.”
I looked at Frank and said, “Thanks, you have answered all of my questions. I wish you had solved all of the problems that are bugging me.”
“Bill, I know how you feel. Every time I get frustrated and can’t solve a case, I reach out into space hoping I can grab the answers out of the air to help me solve all of my problems.”
Frank looked at Howard. Howard said, “I think you have covered everything. Come on Bill; let’s get out of Frank hair. He has enough problems.”
We took off for Stamford. On the way over, I was checking the employee list and compared it with the management tree, I high-lighted all the Gophers and their staff. I felt that they may give us a lead. Howard was going to talk to the engineering staff and I was going to talk to the management’s staff. I set up an office in one of the huge conference rooms. I wanted to talk to the lower staff members in a group. I felt that if one started to spill their guts, the others would follow. Also, I wanted to talk to some of the employees alone. I asked Harvey, the head of Human Resources, to join me and bring along a computer that had a list of all of the employees at the company. Everyone that entered the company had to strike their identification card to get access to the building. We printed out a list of all the people that were at work. I checked to see which of the Gophers were at work today. Surprisingly, none of them were at work. There were 16 Assistant Vice Presidents. Why had all of them decided not to come to work today? Also, only 8 of their secretaries were at work. We made a list of all the Gofers and their secretaries that were not at work. We gave the list to the FBI and asked them to call the 24 employees and find out if they were home. It they were home, ask them to please come in, we wanted to talk to them. It they did not answer their phone, have someone go to their residence and see if they were there. Since Allen and Betty were murdered last night, I was afraid that others may have been murdered also? While the FBI was checking out the missing employees, I had a long discussion with Harvey. He told me that he had been working for the company for twenty years and for the last 5 or 6 years since the company was taken over, he had been going through hell. He was the one that had to fire some of the most valuable employees that the company ever had. He had wished they had fired him. He had two sons in college and a large mortgage and could not afford to quit. The ones that they did not fire, they asked them all to take a ten percent cut in salary. The ones that did not take the cut were fired on the spot. The morale of the employees was so bad, that it terrified Harvey. He expected someone would spray him and his staff with bullets. He had heard of many disgruntled employees that went off the deep end and murdered their co-workers. We talked for more than an hour. It gave me a good picture of what the company had been going through.
It was pass the lunch hour and the FBI agent that we had sent to check on the Gophers still had not called us or returned. I spent the next hour talking to the eight Gopher’s secretaries. It was a waste of time, they were either lying or did not know a damn thing. All they did was type letters and memos for the Gopher that they worked for. They gave me copies of the memos that they had typed for their bosses. I thumbed through some of them and did not find anything that would help us. Their bosses never told them a thing about what was going on in the company and they did not care. Since, I could not find any of the Assistant Vice Presidents around I decided to see what Howard had found out. I had only walked a few feet down the hall when I hear my phone ringing. I ran back and answered it. Frank said, “Bill, did the murder of Allen and Anderson gave you the idea to check up on the VPs?”
A chill ran through my body. I expected the worse. I answered, “Not really, I wanted to have a talk with them. Solemnly Frank said, “Yes, three of them have been murdered. I think you are on the right path. Be careful, I am doubling the number of men that are guarding you, Howard and your families. We have a court order that will let us check out all of the VPs and their secretary homes. If they don’t answer the door, we go one in. Maybe we can save a few of their lives. Someone out there is desperate. We would like to catch him before anyone else is killed. Sorry about the bad news, I hope I haven’t shaken up you and yours family. I felt that it’s best that you know. The guards at Howard’s and your home have been notified. They are on high alert. I will keep you and Howard informed on what is going on. Sorry to have to tell you this. I thought that it would be best to let you and Howard know what was going on.”
I thanked Frank and called home and told Jean to keep the kids in the house and I wanted one of the Agents inside the house with her and the kids. Jean wanted to know what had happened. I told her that two of the people that we questioned yesterday were murdered. And, for the sake of the children, try to keep them inside and away from any of the windows. I knew it would be a hard job for her to keep them entertained. I suggested reading to them and let them watch TV. I told her that I loved her and I was sorry that this had happened. She told me that we all were in it together and they would be fine. I knew she was trying to take some of the blame off of me. I loved her for it. The conversation ended with us telling each other how much we loved each other. I was ready to call it quits. No job is worth putting your family in danger of losing their lives.
In the middle of the afternoon the Agents brought in four of the VPs. They had no trouble in getting them to come to the office after the Agents told them what had happened to Allen, Betty and three of their co-workers. I did not have to twist their arms. Like the old saying, they sang like canaries. Like the secretaries, none of them were told what the top four had been doing. There primary job was to feed the top four with information on the pulse of the companies employees. They pooled their information that they gathered through the grapevine. They had found out that the top four were stealing the company blind. The management had set up fake companies around the world. They had placed orders with these blind companies and were paying them for services that the corporations never received. They had opened up accounts around the world and depositing the monies that was paid to the fake companies. From what they had gathered through the grapevine, they estimated that the management had stolen billions of dollars from the corporation.
After I spent a couple of hours with the VPs, I gave Frank another call. I told him the name of the person in accounting that the VPs thought was behind the embezzlement, his name was Paul Thompson. I had checked and he wasn’t at work, I though that he may be on the murderer’s list. Also, I gave Frank the address of the top four, Swanson, Peterson, Matheson and Brown, they too may have been killed. Betty had told us that they all had split up and she had made reservation for all four of them and their families to different countries. I wanted to know if they took their flights. If they had, try to find them. If they did not take the flight, where were they?
For the next two weeks, we interviewed hundreds of people. It all boiled down to money, power and greed. The new management knew nothing about the engineering business. All they cared about was the bottom line. They had trimmed the engineering staff to almost a skeleton crew. They made an impossible schedule that no one could keep. The company was top heavy. The cooperation had too many corporate managers and not enough working staff. Beside the Blind Companies, they had drained the corporation’s assets by giving the inner circle huge bonuses. The Federal Government had pressured the management to do in two years what would morally take twenty years. It was a management fiasco. How else could I summarize the situation? No one had planned ahead for the growth of the country. Now we had a massive energy crisis.
As far as the missing management and employees, the FBI, State and Local Police had their hands full. They found two more VPs murdered in their homes and they had put out dragnets for the others with little or no success. They had leads, but no bodies, dead or alive.
In the following month, the FBI found out that the top four in management had not taken the flights that Betty had made for them. As the FBI continued trying to track the top four, they found three of the four. Swanson was the only one still missing. Someone had murdered Peterson, Matheson, Brown and their families. When will the slaughter end? Will they be coming after Howard and me, and our families? Even with the army that was guarding us, I was still afraid that the bastard would kill us all.
Over four months had passed; the reactor was still sending plums of radioactive partials thousands of feet in all directions. It got to a point that the military did not want to send any more men anywhere close toGround-0. They already had too many men that had been overexposed. The radiation level was too high to send anyone into the area, even flying over at a high altitude in a helicopter was not advisable. They even tried to stop the reactor with bombs, that didn’t work. What was remaining of the containment area was protecting the reactor. The bombing increased the amount of radioactive partials being spread around the world and the bombs created giant pools of radioactive water.
The reactor core was still working. The containment area must be flooded with underground water. I was more concerned about stopping the spreading of the radiation than why it had happened. We may be able to find out why it happened after we shut it down. Stop the spread of radiation first. Radiation monitors around the world detected the rise in radiation. In some of the places thousands of miles fromGround-0, the radiation was getting to a dangerous level. Daily the levels rose. Fear had spread around the world. They were still pressing us to find the reason the accident occurred. I was starting to think, it was not an accident. I felt that it was deliberate. Had someone planned this? Has some foreign agents planted a bomb, maybe. Was the carelessness perpetrated by the management responsible for the meltdown? In spite of all the errors, the engineers and builders did an excellent job of putting the plant together. It had run for two year without any major problems even though maintenance was erratic. The big question now, how in the hell can they stop the spread of radiation?
Satellites were tracking the radioactive clouds and recording their paths. Some of the clouds were visible as they traveled around the world. The jet streams rapidly carried the radioactive partials around the world. The weathermen could not predict where the clouds would drop there radioactive particles and leaving higher levels of radiation. This reminded me of the sand and dust storms in Northern Africa. Winds carried the dust across the Atlantic. The jet streams were continuing to carry the radioactive clouds around the world. I worried about my children. I told my wife to watch the news. When a radioactive cloud headed in our direction, keep the kids indoors and shut all the windows and doors. Do not circulate the outside air into the house. I prayed for those around the world who would go outside just to watch the clouds passing over them. The news media kept the public informed where the clouds were. The clouds were leaving radioactive trails around the world. Some areas were more contaminated than others. There were many areas around the world that already had very high levels of radiation. The residents had to be evacuated. Tent camps were being set up around the world to house the people in the affected areas.
Every network had there own expects, they appeared on the network’s talk shows. Most of them came up with elaborated schemes to quiet Old Nellie. Every creditable solution that they suggested had been tried and failed. They only confused the public more than they were. It was easy to tell which one did not know a damn thing. The ones that knew what was going on said that they did not know what the consequences would be. They did not know what areas would be spared. They just prayed for those that had been contaminated and hoped that the reactor would stop spreading radioactive material. If the new service personnel penetrated the restricted areas, filmed the victims, and were caught, the Military would confiscate the film and would not let them leave the restricted area. The government did not want the public to know the real truth of what had been going on.
With embarrassment, the government asked the Russians for help. They took a few months to set up their equipment. After they had been set up for a couple of week, they gathered up their gear and took off. Old Nellie had quieted down just before the Russians arrived. She was on her good behavior. The Russians packed up their gear and took off. Since the Russian had left and Nellie was quiet, the news media assumed that the Russians had stopped Nellie from spreading her radioactive juices around the world. Headlines came out and said that the Russians had done what we could not do. Everyone wanted to know how they did it and were celebrating. Many had started to go back to their homes. Their jubilance was short lived. The Russians had been gone for a couple of week and Old Nellie let loose with a blast that was larger than all the rest. The Russians had found out that they could not use the same method that they use at Chernobyl and could not give us any other ideas other than the ones that we had already tried. It was a great letdown for the whole world.
Radiation was still being spread around the world. As the months passed, higher level of radiation was being detected on the opposite side of the world.
California, parts of Nevada and Arizona were blocked off. The government put a lid on the number of casualties. No one was allowed in the blocked off areas. They put up shelters in Nevada, Oregon and Arizona. Some of the shelters were off limit to everyone except the residents and they were not allowed to leave. They were heavily guarded. The cost of this man made disaster was costing the government billions of dollars every day.
The government was pressing Howard and me to go out toGround-0 and investigate the sight. What were we going to investigate? From the aerial photographs there wasn’t anything to investigate. Even though the reactor was not belching like Old Faithful, ever hour, the area was highly radioactive. Old Nellie was belching when she wanted to. No one could come up with a formula that would predict the next eruption. You never knew when she would shower the area. Really, if we went toGround-0, what did they expect us to do? Howard and I refused to go. We told them that if we went toGround-0, there was nothing there that would give up a clue to why the accident happened. The plant was totally destroyed except for what was in the containment area and it would be suicidal to even try to enter the containment area. Just by being near the containment area, we would get a large dose of radiation and die. I was not looking for a slow agonizing death and neither was Howard. I loved my life and my family to much to take the chance. The military had sent a number on troops toGround-0 and they are suffering from over exposure. We replied to the agencies that demanded that we go toGround-0. We told them to go toGround-0 themselves if they did not believe the danger existed that we had described. Of course, none of them chose to visit Nellie.
For the next year, Howard and I, with a crew of the best engineers around the country, reviewed the plans and documents relating to the design and construction of Nellie. Hundreds of the documents were incomplete or had errors. From the very beginning we had been told by members of the engineering staff that the management sent the incomplete documents to the reactor site. The staff had spent more time at the site helping the construction crews decipher the half completed drawings. God only knows what caused the meltdown. I had a long talk with Howard. We both agreed that it was greatly mismanaged. It was a wonder that the plant was ever started. It reminded me of a saying that my father said, “It was put together with spit, gum, tape, and bailing wire.”
Even though we had sent letters to almost every department of the government to explain what we though caused the meltdown; every other day we would get memos from various government agencies demanding that we explain to them why there was a meltdown. As before and at the moment, our best guesses were, pressure of the Federal Government to build more nuclear power plants, do it quickly, and do not spend any money. And, to top it off, greedy people that wanted their share of the take. Million of dollars that should have been spent on building a safe plant was funneled to personal bank accounts around the world. Howard and I had drafted a memo that encompassed the above and sent it to the ones that demanded an explanation.
The government had put a lid on what had happened and what is happening in California. Beside satellite pictures ofGround-0, there was nothing else. Right after the meltdown every television station around the world had nothing else on the air. Now there was nothing about the meltdown, the fallout, levels of radiation around the world and the victims. It looked like the government had put a lid on the catastrophe. Being a pessimist, I though the worst possible things that could have ever happen had already happened.
During the week I was awake before the kids got up. The alarm went off at five-thirty. On the weekends, the kids were always awake before I opened my eyes. To keep them amused and quiet, I had given them each a small eight inch TV with headset so they could watch their own programs without waking me up. They never watched the same programs. Penny had her program and Louis had his. A roar of excitement woke me up. I heard them running up the stairs. I did not know what was happening. I rose up in bed. They yelled at me to turn on the TV. I grabbed the remote and pushed the switch. They were showing a picture from a helicopter. They showed a massive pileup of cars and trucks. I could not believe what the announcer was telling us. The pictures were from the outskirts of LA. Accidents had caused a massive gridlock and millions of people were blocked off from leaving the LA area. It appeared that every road leaving LA was blocked. There were of bodies all along the roadside. There was no movement of anything on the ground. It appeared to be a still picture that was being scanned. I could not believe what I was seeing. The only thing that moved were birds, seagulls, and vultures circulating around. Later they filmed wild animals roaming the streets. We saw packs of dogs, and coyotes scavenging the human bodies lying on the streets. The announcer said that they had not seen any signs of human life. If there was anyone living, they had to be inside the buildings. The radiation levels were quite high. The pictures were quite clear. There was no fog or smog. No exhaust fumes.
The pictures were stopped abruptly after a jet aircraft flew by. They had been taking the pictures through an open door of the helicopter. The camera was turned back on and they were filming the jet as it flew past. Arrays of tracer bullets were seen coming from the jet. The helicopter dropped to a lower altitude and continued to film the jet making passes at them. The picture on the TV went blank. After a few moments the picture came back. An announcer at the TV station said that they had lost contact with the helicopter. He hoped that the crew was safe and it wasn’t shot down. Unfortunately, later that day, they announced that the helicopter was shot down by the jet. The White House, the Pentagon, and every other department of the government were covering their asses. Why was the helicopter shot down? Who gave the orders? I was fighting mad. The pilot would not have shot down the helicopter without direct order from his commanding officer. Where had the chain of command started? Was it the President? I turned off the TV. I told the kids to go to their room and play and not to turn on the television again today. What I had though would happen, has happened. I cursed God for letting it happen. I asked him why those poor souls deserved hell on this planet. I was sure that many did not deserve this kind of treatment, not from anyone, including God. I cursed the President and the chain of command that gave the orders. I was sorry that my children had to see and hear what had happened. I never wanted them to see anything that traumatic, especially at their young age. I heard Jean running up the stairs. She had been listening to one of her taped books and did not know what had happened. She saw the kids dashing down the stairs with fear on their little faces. She asked what had happened. I told her about LA and the helicopter. I should not have. When something like this happens, she emotionally feels the same pain and anguish that the victim and their family feel. Tears came to her eyes. Now I was not only angry with our government and God, I was angry with myself. I should not have told her.
As the months passed, the whole world was becoming contaminated. There was nothing in the world that the radiation from the plant had not touched. Vegetables, fruit, milk, fish, meat, water and every thing else had traces of radiation much higher than normal. Like the rest of the world, I did not want my kids to be exposed to contaminated food products. We, like everyone else, was purchasing canned foods that had been canned before Old Nellie blew her stack. The canned goods were outrageously expensive. To make things worse, manufacturers were flooding the market with canned goods that were pre-dated. I had purchased a Geiger counter to test everything we purchased and ate.
Not long after the helicopter was shot down. Almost every TV station had hired helicopter crews to fly over the areas that were off limit, especially those that were well guarded. As the helicopter flew over the area’s they received ground fire. Hordes of people would come out of their tents with signs asking for uncontaminated foods, medical attention and help to get them out of the camps. Some of the camps had razor wire surrounding the camps. There were thousands of people with no indication of any first aid stations or hospitals. There were huge cemeteries on the outskirts of the camps.
As the weeks and months passed, food had become scares. You could not find milk, fruit or vegetables that did not have some contamination. We were all taking Potassium Iodide (KI) to prevent thyroid cancer. Foods that were imported from countries on opposite of the world, had unacceptable levels of radiation. Every bite my babies put into their little mouths was tearing me apart. If I did not feed them they would die. If I let them eat they may die also. God help me and everyone else in this world.
A Large number of the military personnel, firefighter and other workers were ill from high level of radiation exposure. Many children and adults were affected by eating contaminated food. The public did not trust anything the officials have been telling them. It was obvious that there is no public trust in the government. There is a massive food shortage despite the increase in shipments being supplied from other countries. Some unscrupulous individual are selling contaminated food. Live stock and wild animals were affected. People were afraid to drink the water or even bathe in it.
With the amount of steam and water that was being jettisoned out of the containment area, it appeared that the reactor was still running at full power. Giant plums of steam and water were being sent as high as a thousand feet into the air through opening in the containment area. The force was so great that what they had been dumping on the containment building to seal the openings had caused pressure to build up and was propelling the material higher than the normal eruptions and with higher levels of radiation.
Even though at times the eruption slackened some, occasionally the reactor would comes back to life and send plums thousands of feet into the air. Experts from around the world were guessing on what was happening in the reactor. One thing for sure Old Nellie was still operation on her own. She was getting enough water to keep her alive.
The General Accounting Office estimated that the cost to the country would be in the trillions and it would be two hundred years before the contaminated areas would or could be inhabitable.
Ambassadors from around the world were demand that the United States do something to stop the spread of radiation around the world. People at far corners around the world were being affected by the radiation. Crops and animals around the world were being affected. Ever possible thing had been tried to stop the reactor and the spread of radiation, none of them worked.
On the news one evening they reported that a riot had occurred at one of the containment camps for those that had been exposed to very high levels of radiation. Someone had filmed the riot. They showed thousands of people rushing the guards at the containment camp. There was a stampede of people rushing the guards. The guards were firing back with machine guns. One row of people after the other was being gunned down. Once the stampede started it could not be stopped. The following rows of people kept pushing the one ahead of them into the raging gunfire. Those that were not being shot were being trampled to dead by the thousands that were following them. Finely the guard stopped shooting and ran for their lives. Thousand of people funneled through the gates.
As the days went by famine spread across the western part of the country. A giant migration was easing across the country. With the hoards of people spreading eastward riots and looting was the only way to survive for hundreds of thousand of people. There wasn’t enough police or military force to hold back the hoards of people. The military had sent troops to stop the migration. The majority of the troops deserted and headed for their homes and their families. Only the barbaric survived and they had no mercy for anyone. Forcefully they took what they wanted. Mayhem was the news of the day. I wanted to take my family and flee. But, where would we go. Similar atrocities were occurring around the world. It looked like the civilized world was coming to an end. If things could not be any worse, it had be the hottest and driest summer in history. We had bickered about the cost of living. Regardless of how much money you had, if food and water wasn’t there, your money was worthless. I was wondering how long it would take before it got to us. Thing were getting so bad across the nation that I was ready to head to the back country and live like our forefather had lived. But, where would I go? Almost every square inch of the world was contaminated. How long could we live with level of contamination increasing? I wish I knew.
As I was putting the final touches on the report, for the thousands of times I have asked, why did Old Nellie blow her stack? Had the plant managers tried the same test that caused Chernobyl to have a meltdown? I asked Howard the same question. Howard looked at me, shook his head with a look of dismay and said, “No one will ever know. The thousands of engineers and scientists that we have talked to, they do not know why it happened. Only God knows for sure. I think God has his doubts.”
There have been reports that exposure to radiation can cause mutation effect to our DMA. The effects are passed on to our children. What will it do to our bodies? What will humans look like in ten, hundred and a thousand years from now if we all don’t die from this meltdown?
I went back to what I had been sweating over for a year or more. Howard and I were making the finishing touches on our report. I had never spent this much time looking at thousands of incomplete documents. After we reviewed all of the documents, our best guess on what had caused the accident was the reactor rod wiring was possibly corrupt. As Doctor Cook had told us, the operators that were familiar with the shut down procedure, knew that the reactor had to be shut down manually. The new operator on duty at the time of the meltdown had not been warned about the problem when shutting down the reactor. For some unknown reason, the operator may have tried to shut down the reactor. When the control rods failed to drop, he may have panicked. He may not have had enough time to correct the error before the explosion. If we only knew for sure what happened, we may save many lives in the future, it there is a future.
Despite the unfinished drawings, the construction reports indicated that the required work had been done without having the finished drawing at the sight. Would this satisfy everyone? No, it would not. It did not satisfy Howard and me. I felt like I had made a complete circle and I was where I was a couple years ago, I was still confused and wondering why this had to happen.
We signed the documents, shook hands and took everyone out for dinner. We had made reservation for dinner, we were three hours late. Fortunately someone called and told the restaurant manager that we were running a little later and to please hold the dinner. In spite of the radiation levels of the food, I was going to enjoy it; possibly it would be my last dinner. We celebrated for a couple of hours and thanked everyone for their help. After dinner, my escort dropped me off at my new home. The house was dark except for one light on the porch and one in the living room. I waved and said goodnight to the guards. The guard inside the house welcomed me and took off. I did not want to wake anyone so I crept into the house and got in bed without waking up Jean.
It had been a terrible week. Everything that I had done was questioned by everyone. The week had been the type that I wished had never come. Not only did I have to work 14 hours a day for the last six months. I could not sleep after I came home. My mind was spinning all night. I would worry about the consequence if I did not do a good job. I had gone through this type of thing many times before and it never bothered me. What was different this time? Why had everyone put so much pressure on me? I had finally finished last night. The documents were over a foot thick. I felt sorry for the kids that had to work over the weekend to make dozens of copies and correlate the sheets. My beautiful wife and my two little monsters were sawing wood. They looked like they had had a hard day also. I kissed the monsters and quietly headed for the master bedroom. I did not take my usual shower or brush my teeth. I would have awakened them all. I eased out of my clothes and slipped into bed with my bride. With the street lights shining through the window, I could see her beautiful face, I had a strong urge to reach over and cuddle up to her. I gently kissed her on the shoulder and was asleep in seconds.
In my sleep, I could hear kids yelling and screaming. I asked myself, “What in the hell is going on. I was to damn sleepy to open my eyes. Thank God it is Saturday morning. I hope they don’t call me back to work. I think I will quit before I go back to work today. As I lay there a blast of fear ran through my body. I jumped up and ran to the window. I saw the vapor coming from the cooling towers at the Nuclear Power Plant. I though I was dreaming. I expected to see the damn plant flattened and plums of radioactive particles being sprayed thousands of feet into the air. I slowly eased back to the edge of the bed and sat down. I closed my eyes and reopened them. I gave myself a slight slap on my face. I asked myself if I was awake or dreaming. I thought that this was a dream. I opened and closed my eyes again. I asked myself again and again. Am I dreaming now or had I been dreaming? I got down on my knees and closed my eyes and prayed to God that I was not dreaming. My bride had heard me moving about and climbed the stairs with a cup of coffee. She saw me on my knees praying. She put the cup of coffee down and knelt down beside me. She ran her soft hands down the back of my neck and kissed me on the cheek. She whispered, “Darling, what is bothering you. Is it something that I have done?”
I opened my eyes and looked at her and asked, “Where are we?”
“We are at our lovely home in California, why.”
“Am I dreaming or am I awake?”
“Honey, I think you are awake. It looks like it. Listen to the kids in the yard.
They are certainly awake.”
“I have never been so happy to be awake. I never wanted to dream again.”
“Honey, what did you dream about?”
“Darling, I never want to think about it again. Thank God it was a dream. When I get over the way I feel now and you still want to know about it, I will tell you. Not now, I want to enjoy today. Call the kids while I get dressed. I want to hold all of you in my arms and thank God for letting what I went through last night be a dream.”
As Jean walked out of the door and down the stairs, I picked up the phone and called my boss at his home. After he picked up and said, “Hello.”
Sternly and excitedly I bellowed out, “Larry, add twenty-five percent to my estimate, Otherwise, I will not sign it.”
Larry said, “Calm down Bill. What is bothering you? Why are you so upset? The management will kill you if you change your estimate. I will do anything you want. It’s you decision. If you think we should add twenty-five percent to the contract, I will do it. But, please tell me why. ”
I tried to calm down a little. My mouth was dry and my lips were stuck together. I stretched my mouth to pull my lips apart and apologized to Larry for being so harsh and said, “Management has been pressing me to trim my estimate since I started the proposal. I did what they wanted against my better judgment. I had some time to think it over. We don’t deserve the contract unless we do everything in our power to make sure we do it right. We will not cut any corners to save money. If we don’t get the contract, so be it. Too many lives are depending on us to build a safe and efficient Plant. If we can no do it right, we will not build it. I don’t give a damn if they fire me. If they ask you to pressure me to change my mind, forget it. I tried everything I could to reduce the cost before they started pressuring me to trim the estimate more than I should have.”
Calmly Larry asked, “What happened to make you want to change your estimate?”
“When I get over what I went through last night, I will tell you about it.”
I hung up the phone. I did not want to discuss why I wanted to change my estimate. I turned around and saw my wife holding my beautiful little monsters hands. I squatted down and spread my arms apart and motioned for them to come to me. They ran into my arms, I lifted one in each arm and told my bride to join us. She hurried across the room and put her arms around all of us. We all prayed together for many more wonderful days like today. IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY and my worse nightmare.
Thanks for stopping in!
Written and Published
William W. Wynne
Copyright © 2003