Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Excerpt from Smile and Walk Away

Smile and Walk Away
Shatter, Book 1
By Danielle Riedel
Champagne Books:

Detective Duran thinks he’s searching for a missing woman. Little does he know he’s actually pursuing the last remaining evidence of a CIA cover up.


January 1981

The agent sat in a comfortable chair facing a blank screen. He wore a cuff around his upper right arm and had plastic clips over the tips of his right index and ring fingers. Rubber tubes were wrapped around his chest and abdomen. His head was shaved, and his scalp was covered in small white sensors. Wires from everything attached to his body were connected to a tabletop machine.

The doctor situated himself behind the machine with a pencil, a notepad, and a cup of coffee. A third man stood off to the side next to a projector. The agent in the chair couldn’t see either of them. Plastic panels extended eight inches out from each of his temples so that he could only see what was right in front of him.

“If you’re ready, Agent Majors, we’re going to show you a series of images.”

“Ready when you are, doctor.”

“Excellent,” said the doctor. He nodded to the man at the projector. An image came up on the screen of a child on a swing set. “I’m using the same electroencephalograph as the last time you were here,” he continued. “If the results today match your baseline electroencephalogram, within a small range of course, we can move on to the next phase of testing.” The doctor fixed his eyes on the monitor screen in front of him. The image on the projector screen changed to one of a dog urinating on a tree.

The agent relaxed as he looked at pictures of dolphins swimming beside a fishing boat, butterflies flying over a meadow, and a puppy catching a Frisbee. Two minutes passed, and those images became interspersed with ones of car crashes, open-heart surgeries, and amputees. Each photograph lingered on the projector screen for about three or four seconds. The doctor remained focused on the screen of the electroencephalograph.

Agent Majors saw three seconds of a nude woman on horseback, then four seconds of a man attempting to crawl out of the wreckage of his home after an earthquake. He saw four seconds of a new mother nursing her baby, then three seconds of a lion tearing apart a dead gazelle. The man at the projector was silent as he performed his simple task, and the doctor periodically glanced away from the screen to make a note or to sip his coffee.

The images became more graphic, ranging from sexual to grotesque. Pleasant and relaxing pictures would show up in between, but the contrast became more dramatic. The doctor continued his notes and observations. He picked up his coffee mug as the image changed from two women caressing each other’s breasts to a child sobbing as a man prepared to strike him. The coffee mug shattered in the doctor’s hand before it reached his lips. He cursed, but gestured for the man at the projector to continue. With the tail of his lab coat, he managed to stop the coffee spill from reaching the machine.

“Everything okay, doctor?” Agent Majors asked.

“I just spilled my coffee; it’s fine. Focus, please.” The doctor sat down, ignoring the small brown puddle and mug shards at his feet. It was a cheap mug.

The agent focused as he was told. The doctor wrote notes without looking at his paper, determined not to take his eyes away from the monitor.

An image came up of three kittens nestled together in a basket. The doctor signaled to the man at the projector that he should pause on this. He signaled again for him to proceed, but only after almost ten seconds had passed. Next, a picture appeared of those same three kittens screaming in agony as two adolescent boys set them on fire.

The doctor made no move to write anything. Then his pencil snapped in half with a distinct, high-pitched crack. The doctor laid down his notepad and the two halves of his pencil with shaking hands. His eyes widened as he looked from his monitor to the now kaleidoscopic image on the agent’s screen.

“Stop the test.”

The lens of the projector had shattered.

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