Chapter 6: A Conspiracy Revealed
Over a month had passed since Mr. Wilson first arrived at La Vida Aureo. Based on what little he knew of the situation, Dudley was quite surprised to find Wilson sitting alone under the Navajo willow tree in the courtyard. Dudley was unsure of exactly how to proceed and decided the safest approach was to attempt pleasant conversation. Wilson seemed hesitant at first but quickly warmed to Dudley and they were soon engaged in a lively discussion. Wilson asked about La Vida Aureo, where it was located and other general information.
Dudley shared this experience with Isabella later that afternoon while they were reviewing the latest data from the supply inventory, which had returned to normal. “That is most curious. But, reminded Isabella, some Alzheimer’s patients have periods of clarity and lucidness. I would not get my hopes up that he is this way all the time. Remember, he is under constant care by his own physician and is only here temporarily.”
Dr. Chilton came less frequently and Mr. Wilson spent more time in the courtyard. Dudley made a point of trying to engage him in conversation each time he saw him and Wilson began to tell Dudley about himself and about growing up in the Middle East. Dudley had done some reading about Alzheimer’s and knew that people suffering from this disease often can recall many details about the past, but little or nothing from the present.
One afternoon, Wilson seemed particularly anxious when he saw Dudley approach. “My doctor gave me these pills to take every few hours, but I ran out several days ago. I noticed that the pills made me feel all foggy, but things seem much clearer now that I’ve stopped taking them. My doctor hasn’t been back and I have no way to get this prescription refilled.”
“I’ll check with Isabella and see if we have some way to contact your doctor. I’m sure he’s just been busy.”
“No. Wait. Didn’t you tell me your name was Doc? I need to talk to someone I can trust. I feel as though there is something going on. I’ve been remembering more and more these past few days since I ran out of these pills. Something terrible is happening to me and I think it has something to do with my new book.”
Dudley grew concerned that maybe Mr. Wilson was having some sort of a serious delusion and that he should call someone. He rose to leave.
“No. Wait. I’m perfectly fine. Please let me tell you what I remember. My name is Warren Pearson and I’m a writer and a professor at Rice University in Houston. A few months ago, some men who said they were from The Government came to my home and told me that my life was in grave danger because I had exposed some international plot concerning oil markets in my latest book. I tried to tell them that my writing was entirely fiction, but to no avail. They took me to a small house somewhere where they said I would be safe. They said a group of religious fundamentalists had issued a fatwa on me and there were agents searching to kill me. They started giving me drugs that they said were for my nerves and to help with my anxiety. I repeatedly tried to tell them that the manuscript was pure fiction and that I had written it entirely by myself.
“Everything gets really confused after that. I remember these agents telling me that I was no longer safe anywhere in Texas and they looked for someplace more isolated. They moved me to another house and I think I remember them saying something about New Mexico. Then I arrived here somehow.”
Dudley listened carefully to the story. Despite Wilson’s apparent clarity, Dudley remained uncertain about what to do. He gradually excused himself and went looking for Isabella. “Isabella, I don’t know what to believe. I know very little about Alzheimer’s and cannot tell whether Mr. Wilson is delusional or not. But, even if any of his story is true, we have to do something.”
“I agree, Doc. Let’s do this. You continue to engage Mr. Wilson in pleasant conversation and I’ll get Hannah in here to talk. Maybe she can shed some light on Mr. Wilson from the guy who got her involved. I remember she said he worked for some government agency. In the meantime, I’ll see if there is a “Warren Pearson” on the Internet and if he’s anything like our Mr. Wilson.”
Hannah arrived at La Vida Aureo early the next morning and went directly to Isabella’s office where she and Doc were waiting. Dudley briefly reviewed his conversations with Mr. Wilson. Isabella added, “I’ve checked out “Warren Pearson” on the Internet and he has lots of books, etc. for sale on Amazon. And, the picture certainly looks like our Mr. Wilson although he seems to have aged quite a bit.”
Hannah asked, “So do you think this story about a fatwa is true? Is he in some kind of witness protection program? Remember Salmon Rushdie and what he went through with the Ayatollah?
“OK, but it looks like he’s being drugged and by people from our own Government. What is that all about?”
“I don’t like the smell of this, said Isabella. We must do something to protect Mr. Wilson or Pearson until we get to the bottom of this. Doc, can you and OJ take him to Cerrillos for a few days and away from here?”
Then, Isabella turned to Hannah and said, “Hannah, I think it’s time for you to put on your Hard-ass Hat and talk to your government buddy Witherspoon and see what he knows about all of this.”
Robert Witherspoon agreed to meet Hannah for coffee and she briefed him on the recent revelations at La Vida Aureo concerning Mr. Wilson. “Look, Bob, I sense that something is terribly wrong here. I’m talking to you because you were the one who brought Mr. Wilson to me in the first place with the sale of the house in Algodones as bait. You always been straight with me in the past and I’m asking you to at least talk to this guy who claims his name is actually Warren Pearson and get to the bottom of this.”
“OK, OK, Hannah. I’ll talk to him, but I’m just a middle man on this one. I was doing a favor for the local Homeland Security guys. They kept me in the dark about the details, but that’s not unusual for them. But, if half of what you’re telling me is true, I really should meet this Mr. Wilson or Pearson. Can you arrange that?”
“Yes and I won’t even blindfold you to take you there.”
“Isn’t he still at La Vida Aureo?”
“No. We thought it best that his personal doctor not be able to visit him for a while and give him more medicine. It’s not too far a drive if you’re up for the excitement of driving toward Santa Fe on I-25.”
“Let’s get going.”
Hannah Halverstrom and Robert Witherspoon braved the afternoon traffic on I-25 heading north toward Santa Fe. They drove the gravel Waldo Canyon Road into Cerrillos and parked behind the adobe house with a For Sale sign in the front yard. Matthew Dudley was waiting in the living room when they entered. “Doc, this is a friend of mine, Robert Witherspoon, with the FBI. Bob, this is Matthew Dudley the person at La Vida Aureo that your Mr. Wilson confided in.”
“It’s certainly a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Dudley. I don’t want to appear rude, but I really need to talk to Mr. Wilson as soon as possible. Is he here?”
“He and OJ are in the out building. I’ll go and get them.”
Witherspoon had asked everyone to leave so that he and Pearson could speak privately, but Pearson insisted that Dudley remain. Dudley sat across the room, but was able to hear Pearson repeat essentially the same story to Witherspoon as he had revealed under the Navajo willow in the courtyard. For the next hour, Robert Witherspoon listened intently as Warren Pearson told the story of his recent manuscript and the subsequent events involving Homeland Security. By now, it had been over a week since Pearson had any drugs and his recollection of things was even more detailed. When Pearson finished his story and answered a series of follow-up questions, Witherspoon asked everyone to come back into the house. “Mr. Wilson, or should I say Professor Pearson, has related a very fascinating and troubling series of events. I cannot promise anything except that I will make some inquiries immediately and get back to you as quickly as possible, hopefully in a few days. In the meantime, I believe it is prudent for Professor Pearson to remain here and away from Albuquerque and La Vida Aureo. Is that possible?”
Dudley spoke up, “This is actually my house and he can stay here until you advise differently. I’m sure OJ and I can manage.”
Hannah and Witherspoon drove back to Albuquerque in silence. She knew him well enough to provide him space to contemplate everything he had heard from Pearson. He retrieved his car from the La Vida Aureo Guest parking lot and drove straight to his office. When he arrived, Agent Manny Apodaca from Homeland Security was sitting in his office and he didn’t look very happy. He spoke before the door had closed completely.
“Where’s Wilson?” Apodaca demanded. “Our doctor showed up at the retirement place this afternoon and he was gone.”
“It’s nice to see you too.” quipped Witherspoon. “How should I know? Didn’t you tell me he had an advanced case of Alzheimer’s? Maybe he wandered off someplace.”
“We’ve set up a search grid and have people out looking for him as we speak. But, I decided to come here and see what you knew, or maybe that real estate friend of yours.”
“Sorry, I can’t help you. I just arranged for him to get into that retirement place like you asked me to do and for someone to sell the house in Algodones.”
“I hope you’re not screwing with me, Bob. Wilson is a very valuable Homeland Security resource as we need to locate him ASAP.”
“I’m sure your guys will find him someplace nearby, but if I hear anything, I’ll be sure to call.”
Witherspoon’s professional curiosity had been raised a full notch by the agent’s visit. He immediately booked the next flight to Houston and then on to New York. He had time to quickly search the Internet and print as much material as he could find about Warren Pearson, including all his publications, for reading on the plane.
At Rice University, he was able to talk to the Dean in Professor Pearson’s department who also arranged a meeting with a few students from Pearson’s most recent creative writing class. These students described the evolution of The Hormuz Conspiracy manuscript, including their challenge to Pearson that had started it all. Witherspoon was unprepared to answer when they asked about Pearson’s current whereabouts and why the FBI was involved. Witherspoon heard himself tell them, “Professor Pearson has been travelling and doing research for his next project. Some of the background material is a bit sensitive and had to be cleared through us.” He hoped that would suffice because these students looked too sharp to be fooled for very long.
In New York, he went directly to the offices of Random House to inquire about the manuscript Pearson had submitted. Witherspoon used the same premise regarding the FBI’s interest as he had used in Houston. A Senior Editor informed Witherspoon that Random House had published quite a few of Pearson’s novels and short stories and that his most recent manuscript was being reviewed. He remained polite and vague in his questions; his main information objective was simply to confirm the existence of Pearson’s Hormuz Conspiracy manuscript and that it had come to Random House. His visit was brief; he thanked the Editor for her time and cooperation and left.
It did not take long for the water cooler telegraph at Random House to begin discussing the visit from an FBI agent and his interest in Warren Pearson’s latest manuscript. Miriam Bulloch nervously called her husband to inform him of the visit. Witherspoon was still in a taxi on his way to La Guardia when Aaron notified his supervisor that an FBI agent had showed up at Random House to inquire about the Pearson manuscript.
By the time Bob Witherspoon arrived at his office in Albuquerque the next morning, he had a pretty good understanding of how this entire misunderstanding happened and believed that it should be relatively easy to clear up. He was surprised to find TWO Homeland Security agents waiting for him, Agent Apodaca and his Regional Director, Agent Richard Canfield.
“Look, Witherspoon, said Canfield abruptly, what were you doing in Houston and New York? You told me that you didn’t know anything about this situation or about Mr. Wilson.”
“I was just trying to gather more pieces of this puzzle. It looks to me like you guys really overreacted. I see this as a terrible misunderstanding and that you’ve really trampled on Professor Pearson’s rights. Oh, yeah, I know “Wilson’s” real name is Warren Pearson.”
“Get real. Bob, these international terrorist activities are serious business and this is totally outside your jurisdiction.”
“Yeah, but there is no terrorist plot. Pearson’s work is fiction, pure and simple.”
“Let me lay out the reality for you. The United Sates can’t remain safe from terrorist attacks unless it remains vigilant and pro-active. We know that we have to act quickly and aggressively if there is even a whiff of something.”
“True enough; I agree, but this is FICTION. Didn’t you guys do any background checking on Pearson?”
“But the situation he described could be true and then we’d really have a mess on our hands.”
“Wait a minute. Don’t tell me that you guys actually believed it. I just hope you haven’t been telling other people that this scenario IS true!”
“You know that the general public is squeamish and lacks the courage to assert the United States’ rightful role in the world. They want to see the United States retreat from its role as global superpower toward a policy of isolationism. We believe that another America First movement like the 1930s and 40s could develop, which almost cost us the War. What we’re doing is far better than waiting for another Pearl Harbor or 9-11 to act.”
“What exactly did you guys do?”
“We modified the Pearson story line a bit and met with a number of key Congressmen and outlined a comprehensive program of action. We told them that we had discovered this international terrorist activity against the world-wide oil markets through some solid undercover work and some surveillance drones. There was no need to mention Pearson; we just had to keep him out of circulation. The timing was perfect. With its increased oil production, the United States can exert significant influence throughout the world without too many boots on the ground. It didn’t take too much persuasion for these Congressmen to jump at the unique opportunity we provided.”
“So, your plan was to keep Pearson drugged up and in a retirement home … forever?”
“It was for the greater good.”
“Well, gentlemen, your plan failed. Pearson has recovered a bit and I have his version of what happened, including what you told him. The reason I went to Houston and New York was to verify his version of events and fill in some of the missing pieces.”
“What are you going to do?”
“This is outrageous and Homeland Security has really gone too far. But, the public already distrusts all government intelligence agencies, not to mention their opinion of Congress. Here’s my proposal. Your official story will be a major misunderstanding and we’ll keep the details of your actions between us. I’ll leave it to you to unravel the mess you created with your Congressional buddies. Tell them you already broke up The Group and killed off the head of NWO. Whatever. Just don’t get TOO clever. Remember, the Air Force is still answering questions about Roswell! And, you need to do something for Pearson. I’ll be glad to deliver it, but it needs to come from you. Finally, I’ll take care of the folks at the retirement home.”
Agents Canfield and Apodaca were definitely not pleased with this outcome, but Canfield was quick to realize that there were other options … always. He motioned to Apodaca that it was time to leave, nodded to Witherspoon and left his office.
Once in their car, Canfield began to lay out how they would proceed despite this minor set-back. “Look, our basic concern is that an isolationist movement is gaining traction. Our strategy to counteract this internal threat calls for the United States to use oil as a strategic weapon to significantly expand its role as the world’s ONLY Superpower. The recent increase in domestic oil and gas provides a unique opportunity to influence world affairs through non-military means, primarily through economic forces. The bad guys described in Pearson’s book provided a perfect rationale for our strategy. We can still assert that we secured sensitive documents from The Group and that the terrorist group known as NWO actually exists; we just have to come up with new names for them. Remember, our strategy had significant resonance with that small group of Congressmen when we first presented it. We chose a few liberal Democrats who do not trust the oil companies and some Conservative Republicans who believe that the United Sates should have a presence of force in every region of the world. They also readily accepted our premise that it was necessary to expand covert operations and spying on domestic and International oil companies. Look, we basically included something for everyone! Let’s get back to the office. We have a war to win.”
Agent Apodaca listened intently. While he agreed with everything Canfield said as well as his new plan, he remained troubled by what they had personally done to Pearson. They had abducted him on the initial assumption that his manuscript was based on actual people and events. They kept him in a safe house for several weeks and drugged him with some sort of truth serum, but he kept insisting his story was 100 percent fiction. Ultimately, they concluded that he was telling the truth. But, some clever people high up in the organization decided that this story represented a significant opportunity. But, they had to deal with Pearson and keep him out of circulation for an indefinite period of time. So, they told him his life was in danger, changed his medications to mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and stashed him in a small house in Algodones, New Mexico with full-time supervision. But, they were filming that Wildfire TV show there and feared that someone potentially would recognize him. So they told him that the fatwa had been expanded; they upped his medications and started looking for a reputable Memory Care facility nearby. After listening to Canfield’s revised plan, he realized that most of what had been done to Pearson was unnecessary, unwarranted and possibly illegal.