The Bone Bridge- Chapter Three
(OK, this partial of Chapter Three is it. After this, you're all cut off. I'm risking queering any future sales with every chapter I publish. But this chapter and the concept of it is so promising, I couldn't resist sharing it with you guys.
This is your introduction to the book's bad guy, Hans Dietrich. Dietrich bills himself as a paranormal investigator but he's much, much more than that and none of it's good. Trust me, these three characters and the three very different events are or will be related and tied together long before the end.)
Abu Ghraib Prison, west of Baghdad, Iraq
“Oh, if only these walls could scream,” the old secret policeman thought.
Just walking into the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, and as a civilian, at that, was no mean feat. But getting access to restricted and classified locales was rarely if ever a problem for Hans Dietrich.
The ramrod-straight American Army liaison colonel who walked down the deserted walkway beside him spoke little but informatively, which he appreciated. While the always reserved German didn’t actually like him (a distinction given to one, perhaps two people), Dietrich began developing respect for this man. Hair buzz-cut to razor-sharp perfection, with a no nonsense demeanor, this military man’s claim was very much at odds with his stubborn pragmatism and skepticism. He had what Dietrich guessed was an Appalachian accent, perhaps Texas.
“As I’m sure you know, Mr. Dietrich, we handed over control of this facility back to the Iraqi government in July of ’06.”
Dietrich smiled to himself and silently asked, “If that’s the case, then why did we have to get permission from the Pentagon for this investigation?”
“But almost from the start we began getting reports from the Iraqi guards and even the detainees. The videotape you’re about to see is the only documented evidence that would seem to support those claims.”
The prison, which the American colonel never referred to as a prison but “this facility”, was cleared of both inmates and guards well in advance of Dietrich’s visit. Arabs in general, Iraqis being no exception, are exceptionally skittish about the paranormal and the story went that they abandoned the prison, vowing not to come back until it was rid of a certain entity.
Their footfalls made hollow echoes as they walked down the aisles. Of course, Dietrich had seen the pictures of prisoners getting tortured and made to form human pyramids at the behest of American idiots who were otherwise themselves powerless in their lives. He tried to imagine the screams and moans of agony, pain and despair and smiled. It would have brought him back to the good old days in East Berlin and Lichtenberg when he was with the East German Stasi. In fact, every time Dietrich and his crew were invited into a prison, he tried to imagine what it was like in its heyday.
Dietrich looked at his technical manager Günter to his left. Since he was in charge of setting up the equipment, it only made sense that he would attend the pre-investigation tour, or what everyone on the team would call recon. The three men arrived at a door that the colonel, whose name plate read “Waterston”, had to unlock with a key.
“Rather than turn on the gas jets, I’ll just play the tape and let you judge for yourselves.” He turned on a light. “I’m what you’d call a die hard skeptic. I need hard, concrete evidence before believing in stuff like this and even after that, I want to see more before I’ll wrap my arms and lips around it. But this takes the fucking cake, pardon my French.”
Dietrich, despite his growing respect for this man, was also developing impatience. He’d uttered more words in the last 60 seconds than he had since meeting Günter and him at the gates a half hour ago. But considering the alleged content on this surveillance tape, perhaps he could be excused for his relative prolixity.
Col. Waterston turned on a TV then a VCR. The security video was on an antiquated VHS tape that promptly disappeared before the officer’s hand.
“It’s been fast-forwarded to just before this guard’s experience. I’m sorry there’s no sound but at least it’s in color and the picture quality’s OK.” Dietrich nodded with hardly concealed impatience and irritation as he and Günter closely regarded the tape.
An Iraqi guard was making his rounds in a hallway at the prison, looking inside each cell as he went by. Almost immediately, a figure in an orange jumpsuit slowly approached him from the left and the guard, understandably, was quite alarmed. When the figure in orange reached out to him, the guard took a step back and pointed his rifle at him, briefly pointing the barrel down. He was obviously mistaking him for an escaped prisoner and was telling him to get on the ground. When the orange-clad man, who also appeared to be of Arab descent, didn’t obey, the guard fired a shot at him to no discernible effect.
Instead, the figure turned around and walked into a cell. The most remarkable thing about that was the door was closed. The guard followed the figure, had to unlock the door and briefly entered it only to reemerge moments later, looking both scared out of his wits and perplexed. It was everything the American and Iraqi military said it was. He then ran out of camera range, obviously to ask his colleagues what the fuck was going on.
“Now, obviously, this hasn’t been tampered with. We have a complete chain of custody documenting who’s even so much as touched this tape. Now, you were briefed in our first encrypted email. The Iraqis ain’t setting foot in this facility again until they get proof that this guy’s gone. And it is extremely important to both us and the Iraqi government that this place is up and running again.”
“So, who’s the figure in orange?” It was the only thing Günter would ever say during the tour, which was typical of him.
“Well,” Col. Waterston said before exhaling and rubbing the back of his neck as he sat on the edge of the desk. “That’s the perplexing thing. We’ve blown up still pictures that we took of the video and we’re pretty sure it’s Mursi al Islamiyah. Very bad al Qaeda operative.” He fractionally leaned toward Dietrich and Günter and said almost under his breath even though the prison was supposed to be deserted. “Mursi al Islamiyah died in our custody in late ’03 but you didn’t hear that from me. That tape was shot just last year in ’08. To be honest with you, Islamiyah was probably the only true blue al Qaeda terrorist we ever had here. But you didn’t hear that from me, either.”
“And the inmates had seen him, too?”
“Yes, sir. At least half a dozen inmates and three, maybe four guards in, I believe, five other separate times.” He slid off the edge of the desk. “Your reputation precedes you, gentlemen. If you sweep this area and get rid of this so-called ghost, then the Iraqi government will believe you and we can get this facility hummin’ again.”
Dietrich had a well-deserved reputation as a paranormal investigator, an actual ghost hunter in every sense of the word. Not some guy with a few high tech instruments who does an 8 hour investigation then does a reveal for the client a couple of days later and going back to his life. Dietrich was someone who actively stalked and captured ghosts. The client never really knew how he did it and certainly not why. But all anyone knew was that if they had a noxious entity living in their house that then suddenly vanished after a Dietrich investigation, all they’d feel was gratitude. No one ever asked what was done with the spirits nor seemed to care.
Sure, there were reveals after an evidence review. EVPs, still photos taken with all spectrum cameras, video footage, any evidence of supernatural activity was dutifully shown to the client along with the usual assurances of having their home, job or whatever rid of its paranormal pestilence. Of course, Hans Dietrich was just a paranormal investigator like Mata Hari was just a dancer.
“You might wanna focus a camera in that holding cell that figure walked into," the colonel concluded. "That’s the very same cell where Islamiyah died in December of ’03.”