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Author's Note:

Book one of the Mosaic Trilogy, Lazarus Cane, begins with a phony deposition being taken in San Quentin prison, by a Deposer from the CIA named Morgan, whose subject is known only as "Witness X". The scene takes place in media res: Greek for "in the middle of things." It's meant to give the reader the immediate impression that world events are reaching a boiling point, while offering a brief overview of the nature and magnitude of those events. The rest of the novel establishes the singular incident responsible for all the hubbub, which takes place in a quiet little Rocky Mountain community called Cutler County (hence the original title: Lazarus Cane & The Cultivation of Cutler County). The true nature of the interview is Morgan's effort to find out what exactly Witness X knows about the state secrets about to be spilled. 

 

 

 

Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters;

United with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.

Goya

 

 

Introduction:

A Witness for the Descendent (Last Thing First)

(San Quentin Federal Penitentiary, 2004)

 

Being a company man, Morgan was familiar with the many and varied legends of James Jesus Angleton, head of CIA’s Counter-Intelligence from 1954-75, yet he had never heard Angleton’s comments to the New York Times regarding the Kennedy assassination until informed of such by Witness X. On Christmas Eve, 1974, Angleton was asked to comment on the controversy surrounding the conclusions of the Warren Commission, which had designated sole responsibility for the twentieth century’s most mysterious crime to a 24-year old ne’er do well named Lee Harvey Oswald. Angleton’s response was cryptic, yet carried incendiary implications. "There are many rooms in the mansion," he responded. "I was not privy to who struck John."

Since the government’s official position was that Oswald acted alone back in ‘63, such a comment as this from an insider like Angleton implied not only that the official record might be wrong about JFK’s real assassin, it implied there was much more going on than even he knew about—beyond the assassination itself. When told this story during his previous session with Witness X, Morgan was skeptical. Between then and now, however, he had in fact confirmed it was true. He understood comparisons to a "mansion" because, for all intents and purposes, Morgan, himself, lived somewhere inside it.

Despite his inherent agreement with such a metaphor, he was still reeling from the fact that someone of Angleton’s stature would have the audacity to share such a comment with the press. He also understood the reason why Witness X had mentioned it in the first place. Due to the recent public admonitions of a certain ex-CIA officer named Seegen in regards to current events in Cutler County, Colorado, Morgan feared that history was repeating itself. Worse, Seegen’s comments—not to mention those made two days ago by the President of the United States—were about to make Angleton’s admonitions of ’74 look like coffee table banter.

Things had reached this desperate state once the ongoing crisis in Cutler County reached critical mass, and could no longer be ignored by the media or easily explained away with a little "Oswaldian" sleight of hand. For the past several weeks, its borders had been enclosed by an enormous military presence and an all-encompassing wall of fog, penetrated only by folks cloaked in HAZMAT suits and sporting clearances above-top-secret. Most of an entire county’s residents were missing without a trace, and the world was rightfully demanding to know the reason why. Disinformation was being employed as much as possible to keep certain doors inside the mansion sealed, but certain admittances were already out in the open, and Joint Senate and House Committees were being formed to deconstruct the evidence and claims of the few survivors. Witness X is being groomed to play his part in both enquiries. Hence the reason Morgan had been sent to San Quentin to hack through X’s jungle of misinformation wielding a machete of truth. It is Morgan’s job to discern which parts of X’s testimony may see the light of day, and which parts must be classified in the interests of preserving national security. With dawning horror, he is beginning to realize that using X in any capacity will inevitably prove tantamount to throwing open the doors of the so-called mansion and offering guided tours.

Both Morgan and Witness X have made careers from starting certain rumors and dispelling others—such is the nature of disinformation—which brings us to the reason for today’s ‘deposition,’ although the term has only been applied for the purposes of misdirecting the warden. One might surmise these efforts of mutual confusion leading to a great comedy of errors, if not for the fact that the subject being interviewed has been, for the past several months, a guest of the federal penal system, and is looking toward the very stark possibility that he will never leave. To X, the term ‘comedy’ is not remotely applicable. Enough time incarcerated will loosen the tongue of even the most steadfast agent of secrecy, and X is no exception, yet the witness’s answers have led Morgan to believe X thinks his ability to keep secrets is being tested. Thus, X has manipulated these proceedings to increase his own value. Meanwhile, from Morgan’s perspective—as well as those who sent him—time is running out. Even as Morgan awaits the arrival of his witness in this dingy but isolated interrogation room, explosive stories are being written by the country’s most prominent reporters. Even those within the media world who are company assets can no longer pretend that nothing newsworthy is going on. What they might uncover tomorrow must be unearthed, removed, and reburied today.

The following is an example of the wilderness the interviewer has been sent to navigate. During the late sixties, according to Witness X, three prominent guests were granted a guided tour of a highly secret, underground government facility somewhere in the American southwest. At the time, the place hadn’t yet achieved notoriety among conspiracy theorists as being half-controlled by aliens performing genetic experiments, combining the best aspects of themselves with kidnapped/abducted human beings in the base’s lowest subterranean regions. The laboratories collectively involved in this endeavor have since come to be known as Nightmare Hall. Of the three guests, X claims two were novelists and the third was an aspiring artist who would eventually become the most celebrated icon of his profession, almost single-handedly responsible for creating characters we, today, call ‘superheroes’. The two novelists would carry away inspiration to create two of the most legendary contributions to English literature, their work making their names famous in every household a century and more beyond their earthly demise. The last names of the novelists were Shelley and Wells; the artist’s name: Lee. Had this tour never taken place, goes the implication, the world would’ve never heard of Frankenstein’s monster, The Island of Dr. Moreau, or the Incredible Hulk. How is it possible, you might ask, that three such influential artists, living in different centuries, could know each other, much less be brought together? The answer, of course, was time travel. This is hardly the most outrageous story Witness X has told. If one is to accept such a wild story, the question becomes not "how" but who could perpetrate such a gathering.

Another tall tale that sent Morgan googling was X’s claim about Harry Houdini. It is known that Houdini had connections to Scotland Yard through a Police Inspector William Melville, and perhaps served as a spy in some capacity whenever he visited foreign countries as an entertainer. Morgan was amused to learn (first from X, then from Houdini’s biographer) that some of Houdini’s spying excursions might’ve been perpetrated while the master magician was supposedly wresting himself free from chains or manacles behind a curtain, sometimes leaving his sold-out audience in suspense for as long as an hour and a half. X embellishes this theory with his own explanation that, in such cases, Houdini’s escape was hastened by means which allowed him to be free of his restraints within seconds, even faster than his considerable talents permitted. Again, the proper question isn’t how, but who was responsible for unlocking the Metamorphosis trunk and manacles, strait jacket, cuffs, or chains? Furthermore, one wonders how these escapes could be perpetrated within seconds. How could Houdini then leave the premises without being seen, travel to his targeted destination while eluding all witnesses, gather his information, and return to the original starting point without numerous stagehands realizing his movements? The answer, according to X, is teleportation.

According to X, many historical figures thought to be long-deceased are still alive. Besides Kennedy’s aforementioned assassin, this group includes John Wilkes Booth, Jack the Ripper, Adolph Hitler, John Dillinger, and Jesse James. The depths of X’s stories seem to have no bottom. He has spun tales involving people, places, and events as diverse as John Milton, Princess Diana, Roswell, and 9/11. All of these legends have one common denominator; a single figure perpetuating the sciences of time travel in order to benefit his own bank account. This is a figure that X has designated with the name "Malabar."

A new question then becomes: who are the customers, and what exactly do they get for their money?

At times, X seems to be testing the limits of Morgan’s gullibility. The story that actually aroused a chuckle is X’s version of events regarding the most famous UFO story of all time. This, of course, involves the mysterious events surrounding an alleged UFO crash outside of Roswell, New Mexico in the summer of ‘47.

The established account depicts the crash of a so-called "flying disk" on a sheep ranch overseen by one Mac Brazel. X relates hearing of the true reason for its arrival. Supposedly, two disks were summoned for the purposes of gathering a small group of individuals who had paid Malabar millions of dollars between them for the privilege of taking a trip into outer space. Unfortunately, no one predicted the lightning storm that greeted these mysterious craft. Two of Malabar’s agents were then beset with the task of locating the crash sites before military authorities could close them off. Needless to say, they were unsuccessful, and full refunds had to be returned to the chagrined.

Upon dutifully reporting X’s claim of such a preposterous individual to his superiors, Morgan was shocked to hear that a telephone conversation had been recorded in New York City, mere days ago, between two individuals discussing this alleged fabrication of X’s imagination as though Malabar was a real person. A copy of that tape recording will be played today for Witness X, and awaits his arrival in one of two tape recorders sitting on the table. The other will record their conversation. Depending on X’s reaction, the interviewer hopes to finally formulate a viable recommendation for how to proceed with the fate of his witness.

Morgan spends the minutes before X’s arrival reviewing his notes, drawing small circles in the margin to indicate points of interest for today’s discussion. He focuses primarily on the complete transcript from their previous interview, in which Witness X first alluded to knowledge of Projects BRIDGE and LONGWALK. When asked to recall the first time he discovered the existence of Projects "B" and "L"—and to define the extent to which CIA and other federal agencies were involved—X was at once regretful of admitting such knowledge and reluctant to provide further details illuminating these topics. He claims such knowledge was derived from rumor, and proceeded to deflect interest by embarking instead upon discussion of unrelated events; such thinly disguised stalling measures intended to prolong this series of interviews either for the purposes of tantalizing his interviewers into offering bolstered returns, or to stall his interrogation just long enough for other associates working in secret to attain his release.

When X is led into the interrogation room this afternoon by two prison guards and given a seat in the chair across the table, it is Morgan’s immediate impression that the subject’s demeanor has changed since their last session, despite denial when X is asked if anything has happened to cause such change. Three polygraphs have all shown X to harbor intentions of deceiving the interviewer, and, from experience with this particular subject, Morgan assumes X is once again lying when he denies the occurrence of new developments. X has a habit of denying things but later confirming them, as though simply guilty of misremembering, yet his initial wrong answers—intentionally misleading or not—require the re-evaluation of subsequent deductions made based on the original answers. The effect is tantamount to realizing one has ventured down the wrong path of a maze, and must now remember their way back to an appropriate position from which new direction can be found. Also, X has a penchant for answering questions with questions of his own, which he now proceeds to do by asking the interviewer why he should continue cooperating when no steps have been taken to initiate his request for relocation to a more comfortable facility. Morgan responds that this will happen "when I’m convinced that your answers can be trusted." X rolls his eyes and reiterates his suspicion that once he’s given the investigation everything he knows, he will be left ‘hanging in the breeze.’ This is a common impasse between Morgan and X. However, there is a narrow way through toward illumination, no matter how potentially compromising it may be; compromising because it requires verifying that some of what X has previously claimed is known to be true.

The bait requires telling X something he may not already know, thus compromising highly classified knowledge. Sometimes, X can be caught off guard by the interjection of information previously unmentioned; his reactions, on these golden occasions, serving as windows through the walls of the maze that he has built. Without fanfare, Morgan simply admits that there may be some truth to the stories of Malabar, before sitting back to observe any quiet expression of shock, whether real or manufactured.

Instead, Morgan observes only relief. "So you know," says X, "that I’ve been telling you the truth all along."

Morgan asks if Malabar is the one responsible for events in Cutler County.

As usual, X answers with a question, "You remember the story I told you about Angleton and the New York Times. Well, here we sit—you and me—both of us with some sense of the size of this mansion, despite the fact that neither one of us ever leaves our respective guestrooms. We may be permitted to hear of what’s down the hall, but the only reason we remain guests is because we don’t take it upon ourselves to go exploring rooms into which we have not been invited. From what I’ve heard, Malabar doesn’t inhabit any particular room, but exists more like a ghost inhabiting all of them. Better yet, I’d say he’s like a cat-burglar who doesn’t care which room he’s allowed to enter or not. My point is that projects like LONGWALK, BRIDGE, and the Philadelphia Experiment are mere rooms in a greater mansion. The UFO agenda is a room. The secret history of mankind is a room. The questions you should be concerned with are: Just how big is this mansion, and who owns it?"

Morgan’s dry expression reflects an absence of further patience for unsubstantiated urban legends. Perhaps sensing this, X proceeds to admit that he never truly believed such an individual as Malabar exists. He had always assumed the character was invented to act as a cover story, and the story took on a life of its own.

Morgan’s next question is, "In which room might I find Lazarus Cane?"

X proceeds to expend several seconds apparently retrieving the memory from mothballs. "The legend I heard was about a spoiled rich kid back in the forties who wanted to write movies. Besides writing, he also had other talents, and it was these which made him interesting to Hollywood. Supposedly, he became the inspiration for The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney, Jr."

Morgan admits his confusion. "By ‘inspired’ you mean he came up with the idea?"

"No, I said it was other talents that made him valuable. He was the inspiration for the character. Cane is reputed to be an actual werewolf who allowed himself to be observed by the film’s makeup specialist, Jack Pierce, during a private meeting in the Hollywood Hills in the late thirties or early forties. Some versions of the myth have Chaney and George Waggner, the director, also present to observe the transformation. Supposedly, it was Malabar who arranged this meeting."

It is now that Morgan presses the play button on one of the tape recorders between them. When he cuts the recording off midway through, the expression of Witness X reflects an intriguing new level of seriousness. One of the voices he just heard introduced himself to the other as Lazarus Cane. Morgan realizes this is the moment in a poker game where a bluff is called, and he proceeds to do so. "You said Cane was a screenwriter in the forties." The interviewer stops the tape which is recording their session and asks the witness if he’d like a few minutes to reconsider further wasting the patience of those considering his relocation to a more comfortable facility, but this is merely a tactic. If Cane was a screenwriter in the forties, how can such a youthful voice supposedly belonging to him be audible on a tape recording made in 2004? A sarcastic remark referring to H.G. Wells’ time machine occurs to Morgan, but he refrains from sharing it with X, whose customary arrogance is deteriorating right before his eyes. When the hunted beast is on the run, the hunter doesn’t deviate from the pursuit, just as moments like this in an interrogation hold no room for levity.

X asks, "How do you know that’s Cane speaking, and who is he speaking to?"

"The CIA officer that Cane called is named Rooker. As you just heard, Cane is making an offer to deliver Malabar in Cutler County, Colorado within three days of the recording. I find it hard to believe that the voice we just heard belongs to a man old enough to have written a screenplay in 1941."

"I can’t tell you if these legends are real," says X. "If Cane called the Agency, I’m sure you had him met in Cutler County, which means you already know if he’s telling the truth or not about Malabar. You’re trying to find out if I can keep my mouth shut about things I know. You’re not preparing me for any enquiry. You’re here to figure out how much of a loose end I really am. My official position is that Malabar is a myth. Probably, so is this ‘Cane’." X now levels a gaze devoid of anything but resolve. "I am a good agent. Now take me out of this place."

When Morgan averts his eyes, the witness’s own glare becomes sharper. "You know, I dream every night that the next meal I eat will be poisoned?"

Morgan replies that this is paranoia talking.

"I’m a good agent," X repeats. "How can you wonder about that after reading my file? I haven’t said a word in here to anybody. Just take me back with you."

"I’m beginning to think you haven’t said anything because you don’t know anything. If you don’t know anything, you’re of no value to us."

"It would help if I knew what side you’re truly on."

Morgan reiterates his primary reason for being here: to ascertain the full extent of what is known by Witness X in preparation for an official House and Senate Committee Hearing.

"And testifying would equate to treason," X insists. "Don’t even talk to me about immunity, like last time. There is no immunity from the people who own the mansion, and you know it."

Morgan resumes running the original tape recorder, that which has been recording their conversation. On the record, he then gives his assurances, just like so many times before, that full disclosure is the witness’s only option. What ensues is the first session since these interviews began in which Morgan detects no intention of deception whatsoever from his subject. By the time they are finished, Malabar and Cane are no longer the stuff of urban legend, and the ongoing situation in Cutler County is revealed to be exactly what Morgan and his superiors have feared all along.

As X is led back to his cell, Morgan leaves the prison for the last time, with the tapes of sessions which were never intended to be evaluated by any human ear besides those who would have nothing to learn by listening to them. In the car, he tells his driver to proceed as he, from the backseat, calls his contact to inform him that the primary mission is accomplished, that Witness X should be designated with "hot potato" status. He tells his contact on the phone that X is actually making up things at this point, although Morgan can only guess at the reasons why. "He claims Cane’s forefather was the result of a genetic experiment to mix the DNA of a wolf and human, which was sent back in time like all the other failed experiments in order to conceal them from discovery in the present. Our witness claims this operation was referred to as Project DESCENDENT."

After receiving confirmation from on high to proceed as planned, Morgan hangs up and makes a second call, initiating his secondary objective—a far simpler affair by far than cracking Witness X—with a call to his agent working as a cook in the prison’s kitchen. Because Witness X is diabetic, his meals are prepared especially for him. Due to this fact, it will be child’s play to make the witness’s nightmare come true. The upside, for X, is that during supper tonight he will be effectively released from all his fears, both "paranoid" and otherwise. The downside is that he will be deprived of his life, as well.

After what’s happened in Cutler County, there is no longer any way to keep the lid on the jar. The best consolation he and his superiors can hope for is controlling the level of spillage.

 

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