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1979 Crown Publishers Alongside Night Cover

Alongside Night
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 22

It was ice-cold on Mount Greylock.

A white-satin bedspread covered the mountainside, a star-broken midnight canopy over it. The air was crisp and clear. The snow — powder dry — made soft protests as four snowmobiles, one after another, left their tracks.

Three hours later, in the long-abandoned tourist lodge at the summit of the highest peak in Massachusetts, twenty-six men and women of the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre, and two of their younger allies, were gathered around a roaring fireplace. The windows were opaqued. Next to a map stand — Elliot, Lorimer, and Chin on his other side — General “One-Eyed Jack” Guerdon briefed his Cadre.

It was the fifth and final briefing of a series started with contingency plans months ago that had weathered rehearsals, computer analyses, more rehearsals, and had only been given a final go-ahead hours before. The arrival of Lorimer’s microfilm and the couple made the attempt on Utopia a tactically acceptable risk. Strategically, what had started as Contingency Plan D and was now Operation Bastille Day was considered by human mind and computer fail-operational.

“I know we’ve been through this three times already tonight,” said Guerdon, “but this last time I’m hoping for any damn thing that pops into your head, no matter how silly. It may make the crucial difference for the prisoners.

“Designations again. Infiltration group — Major Chin, Elliot Vreeland, Deanne Powers — is Judas Goat. Hang-glider commandos — Captain Donizetti’s group — is Winged Victory. The command ‘copter — Captain Billis and crew, myself — is Guardian Angel. Transport helioplane — Captain McCarter and crew, Dr. Schiller’s medical team — is Friendly Sky. Laser technician group remaining on Greylock’s summit — Lieutenant Evers in charge — is Bigmouth.

“At 0545 Winged Victory will drop near the relay tower, knock it out, then surround Command Shack Gamma. After receiving confirmation of this, Judas Goat will depart Nobody’s Road, at 0600 breaching Utopia by SOP for entering prisoners. At signal from Judas Goat, Winged Victory will assault Gamma simultaneous to Goat’s taking of Command Suite Beta — neutralizing all officers. Judas Goat will now establish microwave relay with Guardian Angel, then proceed to break into Monitor Booth Alpha. Guardian Angel will laser their video back here to Bigmouth for redundancy taping and relay to major television outlets as soon as the raid is completed.” Guerdon turned to the laser technicians. “You should have their signal by 0615.”

The technicians — Lieutenant Betty Evers, Sergeants Compton and Jones — nodded.

Guerdon spoke at large again. “When Guardian Angel receives video confirmation that Utopia is secure, we will immediately inform Friendly Sky, which will be guided down to Hoosac Lake by Winged Victory. ”

Near the back, the helioplane commander raised his hand. “Captain McCarter?”

“I’m still concerned about landing conditions, General. The tank had a better weight distribution than I do, and I’m worried about that thirty inches of compacted snow on the ice.”

“What’s your fully passengered gross weight and landing estimates?” Guerdon asked.

“It’s still forty tons. With the skis, we’ll need a strip of about a thousand feet to land, twice that for takeoff.”

“All right, don’t risk a landing until you have to. I’ll delay my signal until the last minute.” Guerdon went on to the group: “With Guardian Angel’s assistance, Judas Goat will guide the two-hundred prisoners to the landing strip, where Friendly Sky will treat any shock cases and airlift them out. With luck, we should all be heading home by 0720.”

Guerdon recognized Lieutenant Evers, the twenty-four-year-old chief of the laser technicians. “General, wouldn’t it be simpler to establish line-of-sight microwave relay between Judas Goat and my group? Guardian Angel could monitor on audio only.”

Guerdon flipped back several maps and pointed to the stand. “This is Savage Hill. It’s directly between Greylock and Utopia. To get line-of-sight we need two hundred feet of elevation that Utopia doesn’t have. Guardian Angel will provide that elevation — and then some.”

“Distance of the transmission is about five-and-a-half miles, General,” she said.


“We don’t need laser for that distance, sir. Difficult to pinpoint when we could simply track modulated infrared from your engines.”

“No doubt. But if Bigmouth is put out of action, I want the option of relaying my tapes directly through O’Neill One. Remember, from a strategic standpoint, our secondary tactical objective is more important than our primary tactical objective. We need to establish publicly that such prisons exist, and execute a graphic demonstration that we Cadre are not the terrorists and racketeers Lawrence Powers has been accusing us of being.”

Another hand was raised, belonging to one of the commandos. “Lieutenant LaRue?”

“Can we still be damn sure about no ground resistance, sir? None?”

“Unless our data is out of date, we can be sure. The on-call garrison is a good three miles away, and knows nothing except to respond to an alarm. Once you put the relay tower out, we don’t have to worry about reinforcements since Gamma and Beta both use it. Remember the theory behind this lockup. The security system relies almost totally on a few trusted men and electronic control. Mr. Powers wants as few witnesses to his private concentration camp as possible. The very design specifications for his fail-safe verify this. He would rather see all the prisoners — and his own men — in ashes than have proof of this get out. And, ultimately, this provides us with the Achilles’ heel we need. Anything else?”

Hearing no response, Guerdon waited several moments before saying, “Very well. See if you can catch an hour’s sleep. Dismissed.”

At 0545 hours, 27 February, a lone, unmarked police sedan turned right at a red brick church house about six miles north of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, climbed a hill, and turned left onto a desolate country road, snow-plowed into banks on each side. A young Chinese man wearing a gray suit with tie drove the vehicle; behind him, separated by a soundproof glass partition, were a young man and woman handcuffed to each other.

It was while they were standing still at Nobody’s Road that Elliot asked Lorimer if she were scared.

Lorimer nodded. “You?”


Lorimer smiled slightly. “I wish I had a cigarette.”

“Listen, Lor,” Elliot went on. “This is probably a crazy time to get into it, this late and everything, but you’re not going to have any — well — problems in there, are you?”

Lorimer regarded him scornfully. “You should know me-better than that by now. I’m not the fainting type. Why, are you?”

“No, you’re not following me.” Elliot adjusted his handcuff to chafe slightly less. “Let me try it from another angle. If I hadn’t stopped you, would you really have shot your father?”

“Oh, yes,” she said simply.

“Because he drove your mother to suicide?”

She shook her head. “Look, you think you can become cold-blooded when you have to. You’re an amateur compared to me, and it’s a trait I inherited from my father. How did he seem to you, in the hotel?”

“Controlled. Cool. Rational.”

“He’s always that way,” Lorimer said, “and he always has been. I can’t ever remember seeing him furious or ecstatic or releasing any strong emotion.”

“Now I’m not following you.”

“Don’t you know any psychology at all? A human being can’t bottle up emotions forever. There has to be an outlet. My father’s is pretty much out of Machiavelli. He likes to give orders. When a man like this gets his hands on a police organization, the only sensible thing to do is kill him before he kills others.”

“And what’s your outlet?” Elliot asked her.

Lorimer did not answer.

Chin received a radio signal that Winged Victory had knocked out the communications relay tower and was now positioned around Gamma.

A few minutes later, the sedan pulled up to the electrified main entrance gate to Utopia.

A quarter-century earlier, in more prosperous times, the property had been a private summer camp where urban children — mostly from New York — escaped their nagging parents for eight weeks of hiking, boating, and ceramic-ashtray making; in winter, it had been a ski camp. And it was on these grounds, over two holiday weekends one fall and one spring, that small groups of libertarian investors had gathered to discuss a then-infant science of countereconomics.

Now, through an eminent domain that had taken the property from later owners for a federal highway that was never built, the property had passed into less innocent hands.

A video camera mounted on a post at the entrance swiveled around to examine the car. Chin flashed headlights twice, then once again. The gate opened for him by remote control.

Chin drove onto the grounds.

Utopia was built upon a sweeping landscape now covered with picture-postcard snowdrifts, here and there illuminated by floodlights. Video cameras followed the sedan’s progress as it drove a snowdozed dirt road that wound, eventually, down to Hoosac Lake. A half-mile short of the lake, close to a large, flat-topped building semi-underground on a hill, Chin pulled into a small parking lot and cut his engine.

Taking an attaché case and a drawn pistol with him, Chin opened the sedan’s rear door, leading his two prisoners out by their handcuffs. He began pulling them toward the fifty-yard-distant building, in their last few seconds of privacy telling them quietly, “Remember, once you’re in the holding cell, you must remain absolutely still — no matter what — until I get you. Don’t even think about moving.”

Elliot and Lorimer nodded.

At the entrance to the main building, an armored door peeking out of the hillside, Chin held his gun to Elliot’s back while a video camera watched them. A few moments later, over an intercom, a voice asked:

“Who sent you?”

“The Old Boys,” Chin replied.

“What did they tell you?”

“To keep my palms dry.”

The armored door slid open, and the three went in.

The vestibule to Utopia comprised a jail cell reminiscent of a small town — two chain-held cots on the wall, a seatless toilet–a door (to the Monitor Booth) that would have looked at home on a vault, and (on the side opposite the cell) the suite belonging to the Officer on Duty. This last was the only part of the prison interior not usually monitored by the Alpha Booth; instead it was cross-monitored with Command Shack Gamma, where five other officers — one on duty, four off — were stationed. The two on-duty monitor guards had a similar relief arrangement, but there was no cross-monitoring with the off-duty guard shack, a half-mile away.

It was precisely 6 A.M. by a digital wall clock when the OD left his office to meet Chin and the two prisoners in the vestibule. He was a stocky man in his forties, well muscled with a slight potbelly, and looked exactly like an accountant, which is how he had started his career. The OD extended his hand to Chin in greeting. “I don’t think we’ve met,” he said. “Sydney Westbrook, late of the Boston office.”

“Special Agent Chin, just out of San Francisco.” Chin tucked his attaché case under his left arm, transferred his pistol left, and with his right took the proffered hand briefly. “Where do you want them?”

“Who are they?”

“This one is Elliot Vreeland and — ”

“Vreeland?” Westbrook interrupted. “Jesus, I wish the chief would make up his mind. They just came for the other two not an hour ago.”

Startled, Elliot involuntarily asked, “My mother and sister aren’t here?”

“Shut up, punk,” Chin cut in, “you’ll speak when you’re spoken to!”

Westbrook shrugged, telling Chin, “Don’t wear yourself out. He’ll find out anyway.” He told Elliot, “That’s right.” Powers had kept his bargain. Westbrook looked over to Lorimer. “Who’s this one?”

“The chief’s little girl.”

“Really? I saw her on the list but didn’t think the chief would have the heart to go through with it. But you know the chief. He won’t allow anyone to imply that he would show favoritism.”

“Yeah. Like I said, where do you want them?”

“Right over here, for a few minutes.”

Westbrook led Chin and his prisoners over to the holding cell and unlocked it. Chin removed Elliot and Lorimer’s handcuffs. Lorimer went in immediately, but Elliot, precued, hesitated a moment. Chin shoved him in roughly — a little too roughly, more than Elliot was expecting. He fell against the cot. Lorimer looked as if she was about to spit at Chin, but held back. Elliot was never entirely sure that she was only acting.

As the OD locked the couple in, Chin asked him, “You wouldn’t have some coffee on, would you? I’m half frozen.”

“Sure,” he replied, “A fresh pot in my office.” Westbrook motioned Chin to follow: Chin holstered his gun and did. “So,” the OD continued, “how’s Frisco this time of year?”

“Please,” said Chin, sounding genuinely annoyed. “That’s SF — if you must shorten it — not Frisco. A hell of a lot warmer than here, I’ll tell you.”

Continuing to make meaningful comments about the weather, Chin followed Westbrook into his office while Elliot and Lorimer took positions on their cots, leaning back against the wall in a relaxed, braced manner, suggesting dead tiredness to anyone watching on video. Neither one moved a muscle.

As soon as Chin and Westbrook were completely inside the OD’s office and monitored only by the other command center, Chin dropped his attaché case onto a chair, triggered a pulse from a small transmitter connected to its spring latches, and removed a plasti-sealed handkerchief from the case. Westbrook was heading to the coffee maker. Chin delayed a few moments until he saw, on the OD’s cross monitor to Command Shack Gamma, that the other officers were swooning from the knockout gas Donizetti and his men were introducing there. Then, breaking the seal with one hand, Chin silently edged up on the OD’s back and grabbed him with the other hand, pressing the chloroform-soaked handkerchief against Westbrook’s mouth and nose. The OD struggled, trying to shout, but Chin outclassed him. After some seconds, Westbrook, unconscious, stopped struggling. Beta was secured.

Donizetti showed his head in the command monitor a half-minute later and gave Chin a thumbs-up; Chin returned the thumb signal with an “Okay” sign. Gamma was neutralized, also. Donizetti and his commandos would now head down to the lake to guide Friendly Sky in.

The most critical stage of Bastille Day had been completed.


Next in Alongside Night is Chapter XXIII.

Alongside Night is
Copyright © 1979 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

Now in production: Alongside Night. Look for it in 2013!

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