Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Disturbance At The Reagan Museum

September 8, 2015

"Safety," Don Jespersen said. "It's all about safety. Obviously it's what we're concerned with, nowadays. I just need to make sure everyone involved feels safe."

He didn't elaborate. He didn't need to. Jespersen was a small-boned man with pale skin and thin black hair. His movements were quick and nervous. Like a mouse, Henry Talbot thought. He's like a scared mouse. But Talbot knew why, and he didn't blame Jespersen at all. In a week the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation And Library was going to host two debates for 16 of the top candidates in the GOP primary. CNN would cover it live for a nationwide audience.

And everyone knew the Reagan Place was the most haunted presidential library in America.

It wasn't like the cold spots and flickering lights at Nixon's facility. It went past that. Security guards disappeared from their shifts in the middle of the night. Their cars were found in the parking lot like they hadn't left the property, and they were never seen again. Visitors got nosebleeds and heard whispering voices near the California exhibit. There was a rumor that during a 2003 book signing, Ann Coulter shrieked like a cat in heat and spoke obscenities in Akkadian for 20 minutes. Urban legends claimed a clip of it existed, but no one had a live link. Several people complained of intense suicidal thoughts near Nancy's gowns. Jespersen admitted that three visitors had suffered fatal heart attacks while riding the dummy horse at Rancho del Cielo. Henry Talbot knew there were more, many more. Allegedly, the museum's Secret Service code name was "R'lyeh."

There were so many things that Jespersen wasn't telling them. Some of the most powerful people in the Republican party were working feverishly to keep the truth about the place hidden. It existed in the world of internet rumor - even the Snopes pieces about chain emails on the subject were always getting killed. The Washington Post once sent a reporter to the place and GOP lawyers and operatives threatened to destroy the publication if an article surfaced. No one had ever seen pushback like that.

The three of them - Henry, Don, and Henry's assistant Lisa Styles - had reached the entrance hall by that point. They talked a bit more near the large portrait of a smiling Reagan in a suit, his grin partly shadowed by a wall.

Jesus, Lisa thought, glancing at the picture while her boss tried to reassure the client. Jesus, how could anyone smile that much? Every goddamn picture. Every time you saw him. He just couldn't stop.

"We had surveillance video of someone's face in a window near the replica of the Oval Office," Jespersen said. He motioned for them to walk out together into the courtyard. It was clear he wanted to continue the talk in private. "It might have been a face. I'm not sure."
"Can we see it?" Lisa asked.
"The hard drive is... it got corrupted."
They nodded. It was not surprising to them at all.

The were away from the rest of the staff when Henry tried to ask the one question that mattered to him. He put it as delicately as he could.

"Has the problem... has it gotten worse recently?"
Jespersen looked at them silently. He didn't answer at first, but his expression said everything.
"It always seems to get worse when they... when they start talking about him more often. It's like... it's like they're charging a battery. The energy just builds... and bad things happen."

Lisa was glad to be outside, even for just a moment. It gave her an unsettled feeling. It was filled with Reagan's clothing, his artifacts. It was like one of those churches that still held relics of the saints - apostle skulls or fingernails for the faithful to adore. And now every candidate would come here to compete to own the man's memory. There was something religious about it. Ancient and powerful.

Don Jespersen was finishing up, and it was clear he wouldn't tell them about other investigators who had tried to cleanse the Reagan Place. And he definitely wasn't going to share the real reason he'd picked Henry and Lisa for this assignment. Neither of them had close living relatives - you could figure it out with a basic internet search. They knew they were expendable. They wouldn't be missed if things went bad in there.

How many times has this happened? How many people had they hired to do just this job? And what had happened to them? They didn't know the answers to these questions. But they didn't have options either. They barely made the company's expenses every single month. They needed the work.

"We have to preserve, protect, and defend the reputation of the 40th president," Jespersen said, sounding like he was making a speech he'd made many times before. He straightened up as he said it. The words gave him courage. "We must uphold this legacy. It's so important that you do this without... incident." The setting sun came through the building behind them – the glass doors on the front and back entrances lined up to allow a brilliant flood of light. And as Jespersen talked, the black silhouette of Reagan's statue appeared and reappeared over his shoulder.

"Andy recommended you pretty highly,” he added. Henry and Lisa glanced at each other with a hint of pain. Even though Andrew Roth had started their company and introduced them to each other, they didn't talk about the man anymore. The three stood in uncomfortable silence.
“He was a good friend,” said Lisa. And that ended it.
"I'll let you get to the job," Jespersen told them. He walked away and didn't look back.

"Another night in a haunted house," Lisa told Henry, who chuckled.
"A few nights, probably," he replied, trying to seem cool. Like this job wasn't the worst they'd ever faced together.

In every haunted house story there was always the reason why the characters had to stay, she mused. Sometimes it was a home they'd just bought. Sometimes it was a thunderstorm and a stranded car. In this case it was a reward at the end. The fee was going to be $100,000. It was enough to make them worry. But it was too much to turn down. 

For the people who came next week, the reward might be the presidency. The idea struck her, and she didn't know what to do with it, so she let it go.

"Let's begin," he told her. He said it with more confidence than he really had. He was playing a role, playing the leader. The mask of command, she thought. She was a retired Army MP, and she'd seen this before. You put it on, and it fit to your face. Yes.

They walked toward Reagan, half-lit in the remnant of the sun. They disappeared into the museum.

Soon after it was full night and quite dark.

Read Part 2 - The Writing On The Wall

3 comments:

  1. Awesome!!!!! Can't wait until the next installment!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We have a new lead on the origin of SCP-1981.

    http://www.scp-wiki.net/scp-1981

    ReplyDelete
  3. shit. i hope the comic book collection is still intact

    ReplyDelete

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