tagRomanceHeaven's Rending Ch. 03

Heaven's Rending Ch. 03

byAdrian Leverkuhn©

Chapter 3: All Dreams Must End

Jonas Carpenter walked down the steps of the old Executive Office Building carrying a tattered leather briefcase; he paused at the bottom and surveyed the chilly landscape before he stepped into the waiting car. He told the driver to go to Senate entrance of the Capital, then sat back on the cold vinyl bench and rubbed his burning eyes. His gut burned, and the fear that had been eating at him for several days clawed at his throat. He put on his glasses and looked out at the noonday traffic, resisting the urge to look and see if he was being followed. After events of the past few days it seemed likely. All bets were off now.

The car pulled up to the stand reserved for government business, and he got out and walked toward the entrance. After his car pulled from view he backtracked and looked at Union Station and started to walk that way. He looked over his shoulder at the Capital Building as he walked away from one life and into another, and he wondered if the clowns cloistered away in their ivory tower had any idea what had just happened to America. And, he asked himself grimly, would they even care if they knew? All that was required now was their silent acquiescence. The pieces had all been moved and yet all were still in play; and the outcome was still far from certain.

He walked inside the station and crossed the huge expanse of travertine and walked up to the New York Central's ticket counter and paid for his sleeper on the one o'clock train to Boston, then puttered across to a newsstand and picked up a New York Times. The headlines were still full of speculation about what had really happened in Dallas; had Oswald really been the lone gunman, and if that was so, what about witness statements about gunmen on what was fast becoming known as the grassy knoll? Smoke behind the fence? Carpenter took in the picture of the President's son saluting as the funeral procession passed, and he bit his trembling lip while he pushed back memories of happier days with the President.

He paid for the paper then walked to the concourse and waited for his train to be called. He turned and looked at the clustered faces, tried to pick out any too inquisitive eyes - there were none - and when his train was called he walked down the ramp to the platform. His train - a long line of gray Pullman cars - was to his left; on the platform to his right was a Seaboard Meteor due to leave for Miami within a minute, and he turned again and looked for a tail - and once again satisfied no one was following - he jumped up on the Meteor and walked back to the lounge car and took a seat as this train began to pull smoothly away from the platform.

Carpenter watched the people on the platform - watched for any sign of confusion, any sign the cutout had been spotted - as the train pulled away from the platform and began to head toward the light of day. He squinted at the hard November light as the train burst into the hard afternoon light, and his chest hurt when he looked out at the White House and the EOB as it drifted by.

The Conductor walked up and asked for his ticket, and he reached inside his blazer and pulled out the envelope for this train and handed it to the man. The conductor flipped through the tickets and punched one several times, then handed it back to Carpenter.

"That's compartment 2318a; three cars up from here. Dinner begins at five."

"Hmm - oh, thanks." Carpenter took the tickets from the man and looked down as he put the envelope back inside his blazer. When the train began to pick up speed after it crossed the Potomac, Carpenter went to the bar and ordered a Scotch and water, then walked quietly to his compartment. He sat and looked out at the Virginia countryside as it rolled by outside his window, then caught sight of his reflection in the window and looked at the empty eyes he saw there.

'Hollow,' he said to himself. 'I'm a hollow, empty shell now . . .' he thought as his eyes filled with tears. He watched a tear fill his eye, then roll down his cheek. Through his reflection he saw his the President's head exploding - white pulpy lumps in red mist - and in the echoes of the explosion he knew that America - his beloved America - had just been killed.

He looked across at people who mourned for the man.

Carpenter mourned for his country.

__________

He stepped down from the train into a hot Miami sun and - with his briefcase still in hand - walked to the taxi stand and grabbed the second cab in the line, then headed off for the Fountainbleu Hotel. Now - more out of latent instinct than for any other reason he could name - he looked out the back of the cab as the station receded; only a family with a couple of kids was left now on the sidewalk outside the station, so he turned and relaxed for a moment . . . let out a long repressed sigh. He looked out the window as the cab rolled through an industrial wasteland, then burst out into quaint palm lined suburban streets. The cab turned and crossed the Intra-coastal and it was if he was thrust into a new world in that briefest moment; already, so soon after Castro's ascent, the character of Miami was changing. He could see the deep blue waters of Gulf Stream out his window, and he rolled his window down and took in deep breaths of the warm, salty air that now danced to a deeper rhythm . Shadows of palms danced across his face and for a moment he felt almost happy - happy like a childhood memory had found him unawares- and he smiled as this new sun warmed his chilled face.

The cab turned into the hotel's huge covered drive; Carpenter read the fare on the meter and passed the money to the driver as he pulled his lean, almost lanky body from the back seat, then he walked through the revolving door into the lobby and into an apparel shop off the main lobby. He bought a couple of golf shirts, a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses and some toiletries, put these in his briefcase, then walked to a nearby men's room. He changed his shirt in a stall, then walked out of the lobby and hailed a taxi, then told the driver to take him to Miami International. As the cab made it's way through the heavy afternoon traffic he took out his purchases and carefully rolled up the shirts and slipped them back into his briefcase. He took the shirt he'd been wearing since Washington and shoved it under the driver's seat.

The ticketing concourse at MIA was almost empty when he walked in, and though the blast of air conditioning that hit him felt good after the sweltering Florida heat inside the unairconditioned cab, he felt on edge again. He made his way to the BOAC counter and bought an economy ticket to Heathrow, then made his was to a coffee shop and ordered a pastrami sandwich and an iced-coffee. He looked at newspaper headlines that expressed shock and dismay at Oswald's murder, and this revelation tore into him like a hurricane. So the third phase of the operation was already in high gear, he thought. All those loose ends were going to be taken care of now. His stomach began to burn again, and he regretted ordering coffee.

The BOAC flight was called, and Carpenter walked down the concourse toward the gate. He ducked into the men's room across from the boarding area and changed shirts again, put on the sunglasses and a maroon ball cap with a white H embroidered on it, and walked out of the restroom and onto a Mexicana 707 that was in the final phases of boarding for Mexico City. He watched the passenger's eyes as we walked on-board, and made his way to the back of the plane and took his seat.

In Mexico City he walked across the terminal, checked in for a Braniff flight to San Antoniio, then made his way to a Varig flight leaving for Rio de Janeiro, and only when he felt this jet rotate and climb into the sky did he feel some of the tension he had felt during this long, frantic evening lift from chest. He picked at his meal on the little plastic tray and tossed off a scotch, then closed his eyes and went to sleep.

__________

He woke with a start as he felt the gears slam down on the runway, and watched as the 707 taxied to the ramp and stairways were rolled up to the doorways at both ends of the plane. He felt the blast of warm air flood the aircraft as the doorways opened, and he made his way quickly down the stairs and crossed the still cool tarmac to the terminal. He turned and watched as passengers from his flight walked in behind him, and so satisfied that no one was tailing him he walked across the terminal and bought a ticket on TAP to Lisbon for that evening. With nothing to do for almost twelve hours, he grabbed a cab and rode into the city.

He walked into a bar later that morning when he heard music through the open door, and he sat there while three men made their way through some of the most amazing music Carpenter had ever heard. After an hour of this a ravishing woman came in and sat nearby, and she ordered lunch; Carpenter was intrigued by the woman - she seemed a cut above the locals he had seen so far. Maybe it was the jewelry; it looked like Bulgari stuff, and the suit she wore had Givenchy written all over it. She spoke Portuguese, but for some reason Carpenter was sure that wasn't her native tongue. He continued to look at her surreptitiously for a moment longer, then let himself be pulled back into the music.

He could feel the smooth easy beat in his soul, and he felt a sudden soaring release from the misery of the past week as he listened to the discordant chromaticism. He felt the music, felt it wash away the deepest hell that had been chasing his soul, and it made him want to laugh at all the mendacity and subterfuge of this life, and the tragedy of this now so suddenly shattered dream that - was and would forever be - his life. He caught movement in his eye and time wavered; it was the woman's foot keeping time to the music, and he looked at her once again. She was lighting a cigarette; her face was veiled in blue smoke and her neck was the most perfect thing he had ever seen. Abruptly, she turned and looked at him; she caught his eyes looking wistfully at hers and she held him there for a moment - like he had been swept in by her searchlight - then she turned away, satisfied.

Carpenter thought he saw the faintest smile on her face, and he took an inventory of her features: blond-streaked hair, color originally very dark brunette; height about five foot one- maybe- and not more than one-twenty dripping wet; grey-green eyes; mid-thirties, maybe forty; no wedding ring - a not too delicate Rolex on one wrist and a circle of gold and stone on the other. She wasn't a pretender, he said to himself, unlike so many of the has-been's and never-were's that populated political life at the federal level. He reached for his briefcase on the seat by his side and, reassured by it's presence, looked at his watch. A little after one in the afternoon, five hours 'til check-in.

He looked at the woman once again and shrugged, then took his briefcase and walked out into bright afternoon sunlight toward the beach. He crossed the street and made his way to a small stand renting cabanas "by the hour or by the day" and turned to look back at the bar. Nothing. He knew he couldn't let up his guard - not for one minute - but there was a part of him that wished this would all be over soon. He couldn't run for the rest of his life, and he was so close now he could almost feel it! Two more flights, then an hours ride into the hills, and maybe, just maybe he would live to see another day. He knew Morales - by reputation - was a thorough tactician, but Campbell and Joannides were known pythons. It would, he knew, take a miracle to outrun those two Dobermans.

He tensed as the woman came out of the bar; without hesitating she turned and walked up the street - away from Carpenter's position - and he breathed a little easier.

__________

Carpenter was tense and on-guard as the Portuguese airliner turned onto the active runway and began it's dash into the sky; the woman - the woman from the bar - was sitting in seat 3a, and everything about her now screamed danger. Carpenter was in his now habitual aisle seat in the very last row in coach, and he was upset. He hadn't provided for a cutout on any of the remaining legs of his escape; he had figured that once in South America it would be pointless, and now he was feeling the effects of this sloppy field-craft in his gut. He wasn't a spook, he wasn't military, and now he felt outclassed, out of his element, and very exposed.

The 707 thundered down the runway and clawed it's way into the sky, and Carpenter kept his eye on the curtain separating the two compartments - as if the woman would come barreling down the aisle at any moment with guns drawn and fire in her eyes. As soon as the 'Fasten Seat Belt' light went off, he walked back to the head and wiped the sweat off his forehead and took yet another quick leak. He ducked into the galley and asked one of the hostesses for an aspirin; while the girl turned and bent down to rummage through the drawer, Carpenter scanned the passenger manifest hanging on a clipboard on the wall by the aisle. 3a: Benevides, Maria L. Spanish, thought Carpenter, not Portuguese, and just as easily Mexican, or more dangerously, Cuban. He took the aspirin from the girl who smiled at him and asked - in broken English - if he needed a glass of water. He took the proffered paper cup and tossed the pill in his mouth, then the water. He tossed the cup into the trash, wadding it up to conceal the pill he had slipped back inside it. He smiled at the girl, looked down quickly at her legs and wondered what she might taste like after a night of lovemaking, then fumbled his way back to his seat and flipped through yesterdays International Herald Tribune.

After the hostesses served the first meal, Carpenter tried to doze but gave it up after an hour or so, then sat bolt upright when the woman from 3a parted the curtain and walked down the aisle toward his seat. She passed him and walked into the aft head without so much as a pause, and as soon as she had closed the door Carpenter stood and walked aft as if to stretch his legs. After the woman came out she walked back to First Class, and Carpenter could see the "Occupied" light outside the single washroom there, and he relaxed a little. He went into the washroom after the woman and poked around; he half expected to find a note there - something out of an Ian Fleming book, he knew, but he was feeling not just a little paranoid - and when he found nothing he went back to his seat.

The hostesses served a light breakfast an hour before touchdown, and though Carpenter passed on the food he did drink a little orange juice. He had slept not a wink, and his dry mouth tasted foul with gritty fatigue from the long hours at high altitude. He got up and went to the head again, and sprinkled water on his face. When he opened the door the woman was standing there, and she looked at him a moment before recognizing him - then she smiled at him, a smile full of curiosity - before she made way for him and let him pass. He decided to wait for her in the space opposite the galley, in the aisle by the aft door.

She came out a moment later and seemed pleased to see him, and she walked over to him.

"I should be flattered that you've found me," the woman said in English. "Perhaps you follow me for a reason?"

"Why would a woman as beautiful as you be trying to hide?" he said, clearly wanting see where this brief conversation might lead. He smiled pleasantly with this parry.

"Perhaps a jealous husband? Would that suit you? Or perhaps I am . . . let me see . . . a spy? Would that amuse you?"

"Don't know any beautiful spies, but I suppose there's a first time for everything."

"Oh, so you know many spies? Should I be surprised? So. Why are you following me?"

"Well, I didn't know I was. Where are you headed?"

"Oh . . . Lisbon, then perhaps I'll drive through Galicia. Would you . . ." her voice trailed off for a moment, as if she wanted the tension of the moment to build . . . "would you carry to join me on such a drive?"

Carpenter smiled. "Now that would be something, but I'm afraid I have business in Germany to attend to. Perhaps another time."

"Pity," the woman said. "Well, auf Wiedersehen." Carpenter watched as the woman marched down the sloping aisle to the forward cabin, then took his seat as the Seat Belt light chimed on.

After the plane landed and taxied to the terminal building, he watched nervously as the stairways were positioned at both ends of the jet, then hurried down and trotted into the terminal building and into a small book-sellers that allowed him to see passengers deplaning from the front door. He watched the woman emerge into the sharp morning air and shield her eyes from the sun, then he craned his head to see her walk down the steps. The woman walked tentatively down the steps, her brown pumps clearly not the best attire for navigating the steep treads, and she descended with her body canted a bit sideways as she held onto the handrail with her brown-gloved hand.

Carpenter felt a presence, a tremor in the air, and looked around the small shop and the adjacent terminal; he saw an old man talking on the telephone - rattling away in animated Portuguese - and a couple kissing near the door he had just entered the building through. He turned and watched the woman walking across the concrete tarmac, saw her stately walk and made a quick mental calculation. She may be on his trail, he thought, and perhaps not. He did not want to take a chance; he had to see if she did anything suspicious, see if she tried to make contact with anyone . . .

She entered the building and walked towards the baggage claim, and he moved to follow her . . .

"Jonesy! Jonesy Carpenter! Is that you?"

Carpenter heard the voice, knew who it belonged to the moment he heard it. He turned to the sound of the voice and saw Paul Thomas walking his way, his right hand already outstretched in greeting.

"Paul! What are you doing here. I thought you were still posted in Geneva?" Thomas had been working at State with Dean Acheson since the War, though he had been a strong Eisenhower supporter from the old days. Thomas approached quickly and took Carpenter's hand in his; he could see the sadness plainly in the old diplomat's eyes. A million emotions crossed between the two in that brief exchange.

"What are you doing here, Jonesy. Shouldn't you be helping out with the transition?"

"No, Paul, I'm done. I just had to get away."

"You look like crap, son. What's going on back there?"

"Uh, look Paul, I'm in a helluva hurry. Can I call you soon? Where will you be in a couple of days?" Carpenter made to pull away, but Thomas gripped him by the upper arm with surprising strength and held him in place.

"Did you just come in on TAP, from Rio? Jonas? What the hell is going on here?"

"Paul. I can't tell you. You didn't see me. Alright?" The old man looked at him for a second, then at the briefcase Carpenter held.

"Something to do with Dallas?" he asked.

"You don't want to know, Paul, alright?" The old man nodded his head.

"Contacts? Did you leave any back doors open?"

"Watch for a letter - from an Abbey. All I can say now. You did not see me. Got that, Paul?"

His old friend looked at him and shook his head. "C.I.A., huh? Figures. Yeah, get lost and stay lost. Drop me a line when you can. Geneva. And be careful."

Carpenter pulled away from his friend and walked off toward the baggage claim. Now things were looking really complicated to Carpenter. The woman might be dangerous, but just how probable was it that an old friend might show up here, now, at this place and time, let alone someone so highly placed in the State Department. Let alone someone who had run agents in the O.S.S. during the war. He entered the baggage claim and looked around; the woman was in a small group of people standing by the area where baggage would soon be delivered, and she still appeared to be alone.

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byAdrian Leverkuhn© 3 comments/ 4904 views/ 1 favorites

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