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The Hanged Man

 Premiered August 22, 2003

Chapter Four

  

Denver International Airport was a different sort of adventure.  Her first introduction to DIA (affectionately known as "Delayed Indefinitely Airport", and other such choice derogatory nicknames) was Gate B55.  As she exited, she encountered one the widest, most expansive concourses she had ever seen.  Moving sidewalks some four or five feet wide, rolled by in either direction, while a floor to ceiling glass wall afforded a view of smaller buildings in the distance.  Dawn found herself near the end of the concourse, and began to calculate how far gate 55 would be from the terminal.  It seemed a very long way.

Her overnight bag strapped across one shoulder, her shoulder purse across the other, the briefcase in one hand and the purple expandable bag in the other, she turned to her right and began the trek.  The first sign she noticed was one labeled "Red Carpet Club East".  Somehow, Dawn suspected, in her current attire and makeup, she would not be readily welcomed in such V. I. P. surroundings.  She shrugged off the idea and headed for what she hoped would be an entry onto the moving sidewalk. The trouble with carry-on luggage is you have to carry it off as well.  It was then she noticed an eye-catching advertisement which claimed that one out of every three people get cancer.  "How cheery," she said quietly.

Then just as she passed under a full sized biplane (with a large 65 painted on it), she found the moving sidewalk and once on it, leaned again the moving rail to take a rest -- after that flight she needed it. It also gave her a chance to observe the surroundings.  There were numerous, nicely appointed shops and restaurants/lounges all along the concourse, a view to the right of another concourse at a considerable distance from hers with the intervening space filled with airplanes; a view to the left of what she assumed was a collection of light-colored, multi-topped circus tents, and overhead, large posters of two to three smiling people hanging from the ceiling claiming that "We don't just work here."  Briefly, she wondered exactly what they did do here.  There certainly weren't a lot of people working along the concourse.

Overhead was a series of high ceilings, formed into squares and with walkways on either side.  There was even a green balloon hugging one of the high ceilings -- and probably a small child somewhere very upset by this fact.  Coming off the moving sidewalk, she noticed a sudden increase in shops -- some of which had the appearance of California elite, be-sure-you-have-money-before-going-in shops.  On the marble-like floor, there were brass designs of dinosaurs, figurines and an occasional brief phrase.  One phrase managed to catch her attention in particular.  Embedded in a charcoal colored marble were the words, "TSE YE GO, AN YEH, DAA NYOT."  Dawn guessed it was either a profound esoteric philosophy, or the names of three Orientals who wanted their names "carved" in stone so to speak.  She couldn't be sure.

Then a really nice feature:  a women's rest room. 

Back on the next moving sidewalk, moving her ever closer, hopefully, to something called a terminal, Dawn noted they were now passing gate B41.  'Slow progress, but at least progress,' she thought. Then her goal of wanting to reach a terminal caught her attention.  The name had a strange sense of finality to it.  But she ignored the idea, and read a sign advertising "Red Carpet Club West."

Before she had time to think about the latter, she came to a central area between gates B38 and B37, which was positively festooned with exclusive and well appointed shops.  There was The Nature Company, Susan Vale Sweaters, a shop devoted exclusively to ties, and a variety of places to eat.  There was also a tourist information booth -- with a sign telling everyone to see the information booth in the main terminal.  This assumed, of course, that one knew how to find the main terminal. 

The ceiling, meanwhile, rose even higher, constructed of white painted, square metal beams and cross bracing.  In the middle of the area was a multicolored, double arc sculpture -- which might have had some functional use, but probably didn't.  Dawn was across the bridge flanked by the sculpture, taking it all in like the traditional tourist, when she noticed she had almost passed the escalators with signs suggesting the most direct route to the terminal.  Getting her mind back on track, she then began her descent to the lower bowels of the concourse.  It was then she noticed the two men walking together, but otherwise not speaking or taking notice of each other.  Had she not taken the slight detour across the bridge-like structure and then had to double back slightly, she might have missed seeing them.

Almost breaking into a run, without appearing to do so, she quickly descended two flights of escalators, no longer stopping to rest.  Then as she entered a large, wide area, she noticed several travelers scurrying to get onto a train -- which theoretically would take them to the terminal.  Dawn joined the rush, only to enter the train at the last moment, and hear a stern but otherwise pleasant voice announce, "The doors are closing; please do not block the doors." 

From Dawn's viewpoint, the quick entry into the train was perfect timing -- anyone following her would miss the train.  With that cheering thought, Dawn sat down on the small luggage platform at the back of the train and pretended she had no idea who had just incurred the wrath of the train voice.  It also gave her a view of anyone running to the train.  For the moment, there was no one.  But there was, she puzzled, a lot of people still standing in the waiting area.  'Was there more than one train,' she wondered?

Then as the train began to move, everyone being kept informed by the train voice and messages flashing above the doors, Dawn realized she was on her way to terminal C.  Wrong way.  She shook her head, deciding that, 'surely they would not send the train in one direction, never to be heard from again.  Surely, it would make a round trip at some point.'  Dawn decided to place her fate in the hands of...  Well, Fate.  'But would the men be waiting for her?'  Dawn swallowed, trying to digest the thought.

As the train accelerated quite rapidly, Dawn checked out her surroundings, looking for escape routes.  For starters the train was in a square shaped, concrete tunnel, the kind one doesn't easily exit without the aid of a Patton Tank, or well-supplied demolition team.  There was a center rail on which the train rode, along with raised concrete strips for the train wheels (supposedly rubber tires).  There was a ledge or an emergency walkway on the right hand side, some four to six feet above the floor of the tunnel and at the same level as the floor of the train.  Of course, if you weren't at the level of the train when you found your way to the emergency exit, it would probably be next to impossible to crawl up onto the walkway.  But then there was something else.  On one side of the tunnel were hundreds of pinwheels, sticking out of the wall, and going slightly crazy as the train whizzed by.  It was really kind of weird.  But the sight managed to take Dawn's attention off her paranoia.

At concourse C, everyone exited the train, except for Dawn, who had decided to rely on the round trip theory.  Then the train proceeded further in the same direction, where it took a sharp turn to the left and then back to the right and then stopped at what Dawn could now see was the end of the line.  Then it just set there.  For what seemed a much longer time than necessary.  Dawn could not escape the idea the train was now being taken out of service and she would be trapped like the folk song hero on the MTA in Boston -- forced to never return for lack of the correct exit token.  Finally a light in the tunnel changed from red to green and the train began moving in the opposite direction, toward concourse C.  Whew!

The rest of the trip was a piece of cake.  There were strange little flat metal, hand and axe-shaped figurines along one wall at varying angles, crossed metal girders -- obviously intended as decorative and with no functional quality, and several colored metal-like vertical strips arranged in designs on the ceiling and walls and which resembled everything from a hand reaching out to a dragon/serpent-like design.  Dawn could not help but be reminded of Disneyland rides -- except the train tunnel decor was considerably less creative.  But it was a nice touch, she decided.

Of course, the ugly hanging sculptures of paper airplanes near the escalators at train's end were not so nice.  Fortunately, the arrival in the main terminal tended to make up for them.

When Dawn walked out onto the main floor, a desert plant scene was situated before her.  The attraction included a large space of gravel and small rock, cactus of every form and shape, and southwest leafy plants and pinecone-like trunks.  The ceiling, meanwhile, extended up to form large ridges of translucent canopies, all extending up into open peaks.  There was the sense of circus tents and scaffolding, but the airport design came across much nicer.  It was really quite impressive.  At the same time, Dawn could not resist the temptation to say aloud, "This airport is really intense." 

Suddenly realizing her appearance and gawking might attract attention, she glanced around and tried to appear normal.  She made a quick survey of the people around her, but saw no one that was particularly menacing. Or for that matter, normal.  She then made her way to the main terminal's transportation information booth, where a rather nice, approaching-middle-aged woman greeted her.  Dawn had already decided to stay in downtown Denver for the night before setting out on the trek for Fort Collins.  She badly needed rest -- particularly before showing up on some stranger's doorstep and asking for asylum.  There was also the fact one could hide in a big city easier than in a smaller town, and a diversion into Denver might be a great deal more prudent.

Dawn first asked about taxis, only to learn fares to downtown Denver ran about $40.  The helpful woman, seeing Dawn mentally calculate that she could not afford a taxi, suggested a shuttle van at $15, or a city bus at $6.  Then the lady added, "The vans are quite a bit nicer than the buses."

Dawn smiled at the advice, and asked, "Are there any cheap, clean places to stay in Denver?"

The woman looked at Dawn with a practiced eye.  "The YWCA is on 16th Avenue downtown, and it a great deal more inexpensive than any of the hotels.  Just tell the van driver."

Dawn hesitated for just a second.  "Thanks," she said, and then headed for the exit.  She smiled as she thought, 'And the YWCA is probably okay with taking cash instead of a credit card!'

Walking out of the terminal through the much heralded baggage claim area complete with a huge oversize luggage section (obviously for the ski-packing trade) Dawn found a city van and hopped aboard.

One of the things that is most impressive about Denver International Airport is the huge acreage surrounding it and the fact it is some 25 miles from downtown Denver.  Accordingly, it is in the middle of the State of Colorado's version of nowhere.  As the van pulled out, Dawn could not help but stare at the treeless grassy plains stretching out before her.  The tent-like structure of the main terminal seemed like something out of "1001 Russian Nights" -- but where the lone temple-like structure was set amidst a tundra of green and brown grass instead of white snow and ice.

Marveling at the isolation of the airport, she caught the attention of the man sitting beside her.  Very politely, he asked, "First time through DIA?"

"Yes," she replied.  "But why do they call it Denver's airport?  It's so far from Denver."

The man laughed.  Then, as if considering her implied suggestion, "I suppose they could have more appropriately called it Colorado International Airport.  But then having an airport known as "CIA" might not be exactly what the Public Relations people would have wanted."

Dawn could not help but smile herself.  "You're probably right.  But it's still quite a place."

The man frowned slightly.  "It also comes with quite a price tag.  It was supposed to have cost $1.7 billion, but came in at an actual cost of almost $10 billion.  And the man responsible for what I figure is one of the biggest frauds in the history of politics, gets the brand new boulevard to the airport named for him."  The man's disgust showed through for a moment.  Then he eased up slightly.  "Pena then became Secretary of Transportation.  It was the only way Denver could think of to get rid of him, and quit costing us so much money.  Foist him off on the rest of the country."

Dawn smiled, but with less enthusiasm.  She wasn't interested in encouraging the man, and after a few choice words about "Federico's Folly" and "Pena's Plane Stupidity", he seemed to get the hint and return to his newspaper.  Dawn settled down, her energy seriously waning, to ride out the overland stage to the far distant horizon, to a mile-high city snuggled up against white capped peaks.

When they finally arrived in downtown Denver, she was one of the first people dropped off.  Several people gave her a curious look -- most people who flew the friendly skies did not stay at the YWCA.  But Dawn tried to carry herself with a certain grace, and almost managed to pull it off.

Once out of the van, luggage and all, she looked up at the edifice before her.  As she did so, she could not help but think about the song, "YMCA".  Of course, she was standing before the YWCA, but the implication of strangeness was still there.  Then she remembered reality.  This was a place for those with very limited funds.  And Dawn could not risk another ATM, particularly in her present location and after having gone to the trouble of diverting the immediate attention of any stalkers to Chicago.  This was also a place where one did not have to use any identification to get a room.  Pay the money in cash, and they give you a key.  This became very apparent when she approached the desk clerk to ask for a room.

The lady behind the desk looked up at the woman approaching her and who was wearing a wig, sweatshirt and more makeup than generally allowed on Halloween, and made an immediate assessment: A lone woman with hand luggage, arriving before noon and looking like hell, is in trouble.  The lady produced a somewhat bored smile, but asked nicely enough.  "Looking for just a single?"  When Dawn nodded yes, she added, "No men allowed in rooms."

Dawn laughed slightly.  "That's not even a remote possibility."

The woman looked a bit closer.  "You okay?"

"Yes, thank you." 

The woman didn't immediately buy Dawn's answer.  "You know, a lot of battered wives and girl friends come here.  We don't ask a lot of questions, and it's hard for the abusers to track them here.  We also have security close by."

Dawn smiled slightly, and replied, "That's good." 

"And we also have a real good group here if you need to talk.  Anytime.  Day or night."

"Thanks," Dawn answered.  "But I just need some privacy."

"That you can get.  But if you change your mind..."

Dawn could easily have played the battered woman part.  The odds of being battered were high enough for anyone to believe it of most anyone else.  Combined with the implied anonymity and minimal cost of staying at the YWCA, Dawn decided this was her best chance at finding a safe haven.  It also reduced the suspicion that might arise from her arriving just before noon and going directly to her room to sleep.  Meanwhile, the woman slipped a pamphlet on battered women and relevant meetings at the YWCA in Dawn's room receipt as she handed her the key.

Dawn's room turned out to be, not only at a considerable distance in space and time from a first class hotel, but also some distance from an adequate second class hotel.  While it was moderately clean, it lacked such amenities as a private bathroom -- confining itself to a small lavatory, whose age could not be erased by any amount of cleaning.  The bed, meanwhile, had all the appeal of a turn-of-the-last-century hospital bed with rounded metal frames and military-reject bedspreads.  The single other piece of furniture was a rustic dresser with cardboard being used liberally on the interior of the drawers.  Dawn stood in the doorway, the key in her hand, surveying the scene.  Then she entered, closed and locked the door, threw the more recently installed dead bolt, slipped the security chain on its slide, and then slowly shed all of her luggage and carry-ons.

For a brief moment, she recalled Gil's clearly stated distaste for the much talked about "cashless society".  Any government, according to Gil, which could control the criminal class by having easily accessible records to any and all financial transactions, could also control every non-criminal class.  The use of credit cards in the overwhelming majority of transactions could allow instantaneous information on where someone was and what they were doing.  The implications of such an elimination of privacy had infuriated Gil, and Dawn was now experiencing his worst nightmares.  She would have to have money, and her only means would be via her credit cards.  She would have to risk it.  But now was not the time.  She needed sleep.  Then perhaps, she could risk acquiring some more money.

Her thoughts about Gil had an abrupt effect.  All of her bottled emotions from the last hours welled up and out of her, and she began weeping uncontrollably.  Collapsing onto the bed, she cried out, felt all of the pain, and finally began the intense grieving process.  For several hours she cried, until finally, she managed to fall into a fitful sleep. 

And later in the midst of her sleep, she dreamed.

The dream began with the sounds and misty sights of a wedding reception.  Hers, Dawn decided.  To one side, stood Gil, dressed formally and looking very much like the best man.  He was talking to a woman.  Anna!  Who was dressed in a priestly garb, as if she were the first female priest of the Catholic Church.  Dawn wondered if the wedding was legitimate -- Anna seemed so much the outcast, the rebel.  Then a movement in the periphery of her vision caused her to turn.

Abruptly, she saw someone who looked like Gil, hanging by his left foot from a tree branch, his right leg crossed behind the other.  His hands appeared to be tied together in a prayer mode, his hair streamed down toward the ground.  Behind The Hanged Man stood the apparent bridegroom, a few feet away, but now approaching her.  Dawn recognized the man immediately as the warrior from her previous dream of the ziggurat.  A premonition of being overpowered touched her as the man seemed intent upon consummating their wedding then and there, to inseminate his bride before she could change her mind.  Dawn felt a slight panic, but was then distracted by a strange and intense light behind the man's eyes, shining from below his eyeballs, and then out and down from his eyes in the direction of her waist.  Mesmerized by the light, Dawn looked closer, until she saw tears in his eyes.  Stranger still, the tears seemed to have a milky white color.  Inexplicably, Dawn thought of the color of a man's semen.  But then the bridegroom smiled, and Dawn felt strangely comforted.

It was then Dawn realized she still held the bridal bouquet in her hands.  With no thought other than to complete the ritual, she tossed the bouquet over her shoulder.  Then she saw it hit another man in the face.  When the bouquet fell to the floor, she recognized a very amazed and stunned Nathan.  The shock on his face made her laugh.  Then it faded, as she fell into a deep sleep.

vvvvvvvvv

Nathan was indeed amazed, but the man before him could take little comfort from the phenomena.  Goonie had his own worries, having been the bearer of bad news more than once in the last few hours.  It was not a part for which he continually sought.

Nathan's voice was low and threatening.  "What do you mean she wasn't on the flight!?

"Duke said they checked everyone as they deboarded," Goonie replied, his mouth dry.  "They also talked to a stewardess who claimed they had been one passenger short at takeoff."

Nathan looked at the man, nervously standing before him.  "Gilbert Lenki dies, and the morons in Seattle neglect to immediately establish a stakeout at the airport!  Even after the beacon locator begins to announce the fact!  Then this woman uses a credit card in broad daylight to buy a ticket to Chicago, and they manage to miss the outbound Chicago flight, such that she gets out of Seattle unhindered!  And now!"  Nathan's voice raised slightly, before he reestablished control of it.  "You're telling me, despite the clear signal of her location, she wasn't even on the Chicago flight?"

"Yes sir," Goonie managed to reply.

"And why do you suppose that was?"

Goonie tried to make it sound casual.  "The Chicago flight was a diversion?"

"Of course, you nitwit!  It didn't occur to anyone she would use her credit card to divert us to Chicago and then head elsewhere?" 

"But how did she get the implant out and put it in her shoes?"

Nathan made a mental note to ask the doctor the same question -- perhaps just prior to his untimely drowning.  "I don't know, but I'm going to find out."  Nathan's voice was blistering in its intensity.  "It seems as if Mister Michaels, the man upon whom we have relied to monitor the woman's movements, has greatly underestimated her.  We will not make that mistake again.  She is to be tracked down, detained, questioned, completely debriefed, and then, when I am satisfied she is of no further possible use, she will be terminated.  Is that clear?"

"Yes sir!"  Goonie's confidence returned inasmuch as he felt comfortable with termination.  There were no subtleties involved with death -- it was always very clear and straight forward.  Shoot them.  They fall down dead.  That's it.  Simple.

Nathan then added, "We will also use our best people on this!  Now, see to it!"

As Goonie shuttled out of the room, Nathan remained in his chair, still fuming.  He felt on one level the challenge, the glove this woman had thrown in his face.  She was actually attempting to outwit Nathan Fox!  But then, at a more important level, he wondered aloud, "Perhaps, Miss Dawn whatever-your-name-is, you represent a greater danger to our plans than I had given you credit for.  Suffice it to say, such potential disruption will not be tolerated.  There is now no one to save you or to deter me from having my way with you."  Nathan's frown turned slowly into a deadly smile.

"The party's over, baby!"

 

Chapter Three -- Death

Forward to:

Chapter Five -- Temperance

 

               

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