Chapter 27

Forty minutes later the builder found himself standing in the bondsman’s trailer trying to explain the situation to the man.

“My neighbor got himself arrested again.”  He said.  “It’s pretty much the same thing that got him hauled in back in December.” 

“Does he know what it’ll cost to bail himself out?”  The bondsman asked.

“I don’t know.”  Markoff answered rubbing at his eye.  “I haven’t heard from him since he called me at my office.”

“This is a second offense.”  The man said raising his eyebrows.  “They may hold him for a while.  Have a seat.”

The builder turned towards the familiar couch.  He sat down.  The familiar TV set was showing Jimi Hendrix playing the National Anthem at Woodstock.  In 1968 Hendrix took the stage to close out the festival blazing through a protest version of the song.  The narrator said.  24 years later the punk rock band Nirvana would reinterpret their Seattle counterpart’s version at the Redding Festival in the United Kingdom.

Markoff watched the man as he pulled papers from a filing cabinet nearby.

“How are America’s Enemies?”  He asked.

“Who?”  The man said looking up and blinking.

“America’s Enemies.”  The builder repeated.  “How’s the status of all that?”

The man shook his head.  “Terrible.”  He answered opening a file on his desk.

“I thought they’d be better.”   Markoff said.  He shot a glance at the television.  A salsa band was now playing at a baseball game.  “Didn’t that meteor in Iran kill a bunch of them?”

“No.” The man said shaking his head again.  “It only made them more violent.  Factions in the Middle East are accusing our nation of directing the asteroid towards them with the blast from our space probe. “

“That’s insane.”

“A man was arrested just last week at an imam in New Jersey with twenty tons of explosives stashed away in a storage unit.”

“I didn’t hear about that.”

“Envelopes are being sent daily to high ranking government officials with mysterious white power in them.  Seven arrived at the offices of the Pentagon last week.”  The man sneered.  “They all had cryptic messages scrawled across them indicating that they were sent from a new and more deadly branch of the already established terrorist network.”   

“How many attacks are there a week?”

“Twenty.”  He answered without hesitation.  “Sometimes more depending on the general mood of the world.”

“How’s that?”

The man sighed.  “They are like hornets.”  He said, running a hand through his thinning hair.  “If they are stirred up then they attack.  It’s as simple as that.”

“What stirs them up?”  The builder asked.

“Everything stirs them up!”  The bondsman answered with a flip of his hands.  “It doesn’t matter what it is, they’re always our enemies.  We could pay them not to attack us and they would still attack us.  They hate everything that we represent.”

“Why?”

“Because they are our enemies!”  The man said.  His tone was one of total exasperation.  “Why is this so hard for people to understand?”

“I get it.”  Markoff replied.  “I’m just trying to figure out how worried I should be about them.”

“Very.”  He answered.  “We have to attack them constantly or they will attack us at will and without hesitation.  I wouldn’t blame the government if they sent that meteor there!  It would be a good thing to wipe as many of them out as possible.  I wouldn’t cry about it.  Would you?”

“Well no.”  Markoff answered defensively.  “If they hate us then I say the less of them the better.”

“You’re damn straight.”  The bondsman quipped.  “Let them all die like dogs.  That’s a patriot’s attitude.”

The builder leaned back on the couch, watching the television.  The program seemed to be a reflection of every different way that the Star Spangled Banner had ever been played throughout the history of the country.  He wondered silently if the man watched anything that wasn’t directly related to rabid nationalism.

As he sat, calls were made.  The bondsman dialed numbers, read paperwork and wrote notes down on a notepad.  He scratched his balding head and muttered incoherently into the mouthpiece of his old yellow phone.  He nodded and shrugged.  He shook his head with violent frustration at the words that were conveyed to him across the network of communication lines.

Finally he hung up.

“They can’t find your friend.”  He said to the builder as he slammed the phone down on his tenth call. 

“They can’t find him?”  Markoff asked.

“He’s probably in a holding cell.”

“What’s that suppose to mean?”

“It means that the shift change is about to come along at the prison and that they probably won’t get to him today.”

“Well, will they get to him tomorrow?”  Markoff asked.

“Maybe tomorrow.”  The bondsman nodded. 

“What do you mean, maybe?”

“I mean that these things take time.”

“How much time?”

“Days maybe, weeks?”  The man rubbed the bald spot on his head.  “I don’t know.”

“Well why don’t you know?”  The builder shot back.  “Isn’t this your business?  Shouldn’t you know how long it takes to get a man released from jail?”

“Generally speaking?”

“Yes.”

“It takes eight hours on a weekday and seventy-two on the weekends?”

“This is a weekday.”  Markoff reminded him.  “Are you saying that they could find him in eight hours and that he could be out?”

“Of course.”  The man responded. Then, looking up he added.  “I make no guarantees.” 

“Why can’t you just give me a general timeframe?” 

“I did.”

“Weeks?”  Markoff asked.  “I’m trying to keep this from my wife and she’s having a party tomorrow where this man is invited.”

“Why do you want to keep it from your wife?”

“Because she’ll somehow blame me and I don’t want to hear it.”  The builder shot back.  “I’m having a real lousy week at work and the last thing that I want to hear about is a lecture regarding my hell raising friends when I get home.”

“You build buildings don’t you?”  The man asked putting a finger down on a line that was written in his files. 

Markoff had, had to list his occupation in order to post bond the last time that Kinkaid had been arrested.  “You know that.”  He answered indignantly.

“Well then you know that Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

“What the hell is that suppose to mean?”

“It means that everything takes time.”  The bondsman answered closing the file.  “I can’t tell you when your friend is going to get his bond hearing.  They may hold him for a while.  This is his second offense after all.”

The builder sighed, rubbing a hand down his face.

“What do you build?”  The man asked suddenly.

“What?”  Markoff asked.

“What do you build?”  He repeated.  “Houses?”

“No, shopping malls.”

“Name one that I know.”

“The Taj Mahal.”  The builder answered reflexively.  After its completion the structure had been featured on the cover of one of the local magazines.

The bondsman drew in an audible breath. 

“What?”  The builder asked, cocking his head and lowering his brows.

“Nothing.”

“No, what?”

The man shook his head.  “It’s just that, that’s a hotbed for America’s Enemies.”

“Oh man.”  Markoff moaned.  “Look I know its Middle Eastern looking but it’s an American shopping center for cry it out loud.  It’s not terrorist related.”

The bondsman lifted his eyebrows.  “Are you sure?”

“They have a Fast Footwear and a Teddy Bear Station there.”  The builder answered.  “How could it possibly be more American?”

“I’ve heard things.”  The man muttered. 

“What things?”

“Men in radioactive suits, kneeling on the ground in the direction of Mecca.”

“When.”

“This week.”  The man shot back.  “I talk to cops.  They see these things.”

“At the Taj Mahal?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

The man ran a hand across the top of the file folder.  “High level operatives from foreign countries have a long history of installing themselves within the framework of our governmental agencies.”  He answered looking up at the builder seriously.  “They bring a scientific skill set and exploit that knowledge to obtain positions where they can relay our nation’s secrets back to their home countries.”

“You’re talking about NASA.”  The builder said.

“NASA, DARPA, NOAA, the NSA.”

“So NASA is actually out there at the Taj Mahal?”

“Men in radiation suits, praying to a foreign God.”  The bondsman nodded.  “I thought that you’d be aware of these things.”

“No one tells me anything.”  Markoff spat.  “All I know is that there was a fire and that I may or may not be liable for making repairs to the structure.”

“They’re in your courtyard, kneeling on the ground.”

The builder closed his eyes imagining the men.  He saw them, yellow suited and faceless lined up on the mosaic sun.  They were stooped with their arms laid to the cobblestone pavement in silent prayer.  Had they found any traces of a meteor?

The End

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