I flashed my Philly PD identification to the guard at the Naval base, who directed me to the fourth building along the main base street. I cruised slowly through rows of cars – most of them dark blue Chevrolet sedans – trying to figure out how I would play my hand from here on out. I reached in pocket and set my digital recorder to the voice activated setting and headed for the Spartan glass front of the building. The voice activated setting isn’t perfect; it takes a few seconds of sustained vocal activity for the recorder to turn on, so I would lose the beginning of every conversation I had. Still, I suspected the Navy might not be too keen on me recording inside their facility and I thought an incomplete record was better than no record at all.
A young, blonde kid (probably fresh out of high school) was on duty at the main reception desk:
Jefferson: -ing for a prisoner.
Kid: I can help you with that. What’s the name?
J: Northcott, Lawrence Dade.
(A pause as the kid types the name into his computer)
Kid: I’m not seeing any Northcott, sir. Am I spelling that correctly?
J: Yes. Well… what about a John Doe?
Kid: We do have one John Doe. He was brought in last night – actually this morning. Arrested for fighting in a waterfront bar. He was too far gone to give his name during booking and he didn’t have his ID on him.
J: Ah… no. No, that wouldn’t be him. He would have been brought in Sunday night. Have you had any transfers?
Kid: It’s actually been pretty quiet around here, sir. We’ve had the usual; two seamen brought in for dereliction of duty, another for unauthorized gambling in the barracks. They’re cooling their heels pending disciplinary action. No Northcotts or anything close, and no unusual John Does. I’m sorry.
J: No problem. Thanks for your help.
I walked back through the door, trying to figure out where I could go next. I considered calling Officer Kelley and asking him if he had seen anything odd after dropping off Northcott when someone called to me. One benefit of the voice activated setting on the digital recorder is that it keeps the recorder running for two minutes after talking ends so it doesn’t shut off prematurely. The transcript doesn’t convey it properly, but I got the distinct feeling that everything King said doubled as a threat.
King: Sir! Excuse me! I’m Commander King with ONI and I’d like to ask you a few questions.
Jefferson: I… Sure. Ask away.
K: It would be better if we moved to a room where our conversation could be private.
(Footsteps as King leads me to an interrogation room followed a loud scrape of metal chair legs on linoleum)
K: So… Care to tell me why you were asking about Northcott?
J: Am I under arrest?
K: Not now, but questions like that make me wonder if you should be. Just cooperate and I’ll try to get you out of here ASAP. State your name and occupation.
J: Doctor Dylan Jefferson, Lead Mental Health Specialist at the Alternative and Special Detention wing of the Philadelphia Police Department.
K: And why were you asking about Lawrence Northcott?
J: Northcott was my patient and was transferred to Naval custody without my approval. I was just checking on the transfer.
K: It had nothing to do with the fact that you illegally removed Northcott’s arrest record from your place of employment?
J: No. That was an accident. I had a date that night and I was eager to leave.
K: How’d that date go?
K: Did you get laid, Doctor?
J: If you want a story about sex, how about this: you can go fuck yourself. I’m leaving.
K: I wouldn’t, Doctor. I think your date didn’t go very well. You were at your home in Drexel Hill less than 90 minutes after leaving ASD and hard at work breaking your patient’s confidentiality by posting his story on the internet.
(King tosses a surveillance photo to me, which I pocket)
J: That sounds like an admission of stalking, Commander King. I work for Philly PD, remember? We take care of each other. It’s a brotherhood. The Navy knows something about that, right?
(A very tense silence ticks away before the interrogation room door opens)
Burroughs: Doctor Jefferson, I’m Captain Burroughs, Naval Intelligence. You’re dismissed, Commander.
(King leaves and Burroughs takes his seat with a sigh)
B: You’re a tougher nut to crack than we thought you’d be, Doctor.
J: Perks of a college education.
B: Indeed. Alright, full disclosure; I thought we could scare you away from this, but it seems like stonewalling and threats – both things the Commander excels at – kind of… I don’t know, push you along?
J: Well, therapists are taught to dig for the truth. I’ve never had a problem with that.
B: (laughs) No, you don’t. Why don’t you tell me what you know. From the beginning.
At this point, I actually started to get scared. My bravado faded and I started answering much more dully. While King was threatening me, I was pretty sure he just wanted me to shut up and go home with my tail between my legs. He was nothing but razor burned skin stretched over an impressive amount of muscle. I thought I could outsmart him and learn a bit more. Burroughs, though, was smarter, friendlier, and, I had a feeling, much more dangerous. He seemed like the kind of guy who could justify murder as a valid way to preserve national security. I recapped the information from my first two posts to Burroughs, who remained silent throughout my diatribe.
B: So what is your goal here? Just to know the truth?
J: Partly. I do want to know what’s going on, but there are things attacking people in the city that Northcott saw from the deck of the Eldridge. There was more than one attack Sunday night. How many more will there be? Should the public be worried? It goes far beyond my interest. Do you…do you happen to have a cigarette on you, by any chance?
B: I guess I can honor a dying man’s last wish.
(The flick of a lighter and crackling of fresh tobacco can be heard)
J: A dying man?
B: Figure of speech, Doctor Jefferson. The creatures, those are troubling… What did Northcott think they were?
B: And your officer friend?
J: A drug addict.
B: What about you?
J: Some sort of animal, maybe? A mutant honey badger? I don’t really know.
B: Hah… Well, it’s somewhere between the three. They are human.
(Burroughs begins tapping the screen of his tablet)
B: Sort of… Tests show heavily mutated human DNA, but it’s still human DNA. The lab techs say the mutation is probably from environmental contaminants, radiation, and rapid evolution to new dietary needs.
J: How did y-
B: We obtained the bodies from the incidents in the city. Working for the federal government has its perks, Doctor. If you ever have the opportunity, you should take the leap away from state government.
(Burroughs turns his tablet to face me)
B: Does this look familiar?
J: Is it a Prius?
B: Yes! A Prius c, actually. I own one. Good car. This one was found in the hull of the Eldridge when it returned to port in 1943.
The entire interrogation had me spinning. The tobacco buzz probably didn’t help. I wasn’t sure if I was going to live to see the next day; Burroughs seemed to be alternately hinting at killing me and offering me a job. Then, he hit me with completely unexpected information about the beings who had attacked the city on Sunday night. The black and white picture of the rusted-out Prius with its front bumper lodged inexplicably into the hull of the USS Eldridge left me speechless. Even so, I hadn’t yet heard the most shocking fact of the entire interrogation.
B: They had to cut through the engine block to extricate the car. Somehow it had fused with the metal plating on the interior hull. When they got it to a dry dock for closer examination, they found two sets of nearly complete human remains. One set, the female driver, was subjected to the barbaric anthropological testing of the time, which told them nothing aside from the fact that the remains were human and had been heavily irradiated. The other set of remains was stored in a hermetic vault until more refined methods were commonplace. We forgot about him until 1996, when we realized the car was a Prius. That was a surprise. Two years later, we had the left femur carbon dated. It was between 25 and 35 hundred years old.