Bob Reynolds is the antithesis of what you’d think a seasoned CIA field agent would be. He isn’t fit, nor is he suave. Instead he is a fat balding middle-age man who uses profanities every other word. “That son of a bitch needs to hit a home run, the worthless bastard,” Reynolds utters between gulps of his draft beer, while watching the hapless Washington Nationals about to extend a 10-game losing streak.
He then swings around on his bar stool in an Arlington, VA tavern where some CIA spooks gather to make small talk and sometimes bare their souls. “Those fuckers will never be winners in our lifetimes,” Reynolds yells, making a fist at the TV.
“It was set up from the very beginning that they would be lousy – that’s the only way those high-on-the-food chain fuckers would’ve given this shitty town a baseball team in the first place!”
“So, you’re talking conspiracy here, Bob? I say trying to lighten up his angry mood.
“Hell, yes. I’m talking conspiracy, Joe. Fucking-A, I mean real collusion – planned, executed and covered up!” Bob barks back.
Being a desk jockey for the Company has its benefits and one of them is not ending up like Bob who is battle scarred to the point that one day he might not be trusted by those high on the food chain and get brought inside and given a desk job, retired or worst. Bob has a reputation for being a good man to cover your back, and he is a stone killer that disarms his targets with his good old boy ways – so when they least expect it – boom – they are gone quickly, quietly and cleanly.
However, lately Bob has been drinking a lot, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by those in the middle of the Company’s food chain. In fact, it is for that reason that I was instructed to befriend this morose and cantankerous dinosaur. For me it is a chance to get unchained from my desk and get a crack at moving up to the middle food chain – nothing personal, just the way the food chain works. This particular night, Bob is acting even more depressed and out-of-control than usual. So much so, that he is finding fault with everybody and everything – even me and the Company.
“Boy, your young now – all filled up with piss and vinegar, patriotism and telling your bosses that you’ll jump even higher than they ask you to jump through those infinite hoops they invent on a whim,” Bob says with a sad smirk on his face. Then one day they’re going to show you something that will prove to you what fucking liars they all are and how they don’t give a shit about you or anybody else. They serve only those on the top of the goddamn food chain—the one-half of one percent that owns and controls everything in this whole shit ass world.”
It was after 11 p.m. and I am getting tired of listening to Bob, so I feign that I’m feeling a little sick and tell Bob I’d better be going.
“No, don’t go yet, there some things I want to tell you tonight,” Bob says grabbing me firmly by the arm. “Listen, I know you might have been put up to paling around with me – but it doesn’t really matter. You need to know what you’re dealing with when you commit your life to the Company – so I’m going to give you some facts of life that I only goddamn wish some mother fucker would have given me 30 years ago!”
With that, Bob piques my interest, so I swing around on the stool and beckon the bartender.
“Pour us two Southern Comforts, and put it on my tab.” I say pointing to the empty shot glasses in front of us. For the first time all night, Bob smiles and begins telling me a fantastic tale about one of the many major conspiracies he’s stumbled upon in his career.
The Facts of Life
“Ever wonder why we are always at war?” Bob asks.
I just smile and shrug my shoulders.
“It’s because one group of elites can’t get along with another group of those at the top of the food chain. It’s all about money, greed and power – nothing else,” Bob stares deeply into my eyes, as though he was trying to read my soul. “Look here kid, before you were born, I was assigned to Vietnam. I did the dirty work. I was a cleanup man. I disappeared the bodies after we eliminated a target. It was there that I met a Dr. Jonas Watson. It was my job to get him safely out of the jungle, or so I thought.
This guy was the only true genius I ever met in my life. He graduated from Yale when he was only 15 and he was light years ahead of many of his professors in Med school.
A researcher from birth, Watson was recruited by Fort Detrick, where he became the youngest director of several top-secret biological projects. Anyway, after a day trekking in the steaming Vietnam jungles it dawned on me to ask this bird what the fuck he was doing in the middle of a goddamn shooting war.
“He just looked at me and said I’ll tell you when the time is right.” Well, that evening I got a message from another field operator that surprised me. He told me that I was to change course and take the doctor to a CIA safe house 10 miles south of Saigon. He also instructed me not to inform Watson in the change of plans. So, I immediately changed course and Watson immediately became suspicious.
“We were going North, why have we suddenly reversed course,” Watson asked me.
I hesitated to answer, giving him time to tell me that we were going south to Delta 2 safe house. “How’d you know that? I asked Watson.
“That doesn’t really matter,” he said looking at me with his beady blue eyes. “It’s time we talk,’ is all he said.
Anti-Opioid Serum Developed
Watson then began telling me an incredible story of why he and a team of researchers from Fort Detrick were trudging in the middle of Vietnamese jungles. . “About six months ago, the director of your agency gave me and a team of the best scientists at Fort Detrick the task of developing a unique serum that he and his counterparts at the Pentagon deemed to be essential to reversing our losing war effort here,” Watson said, wiping the sweat from his brow with a snow white handkerchief. The problem, you see, is that nearly 30 percent of our combat troops in Vietnam are addicted to heroin, which is keeping them in infirmaries rather than in the field fighting the enemy. So, our assignment was to develop a new kind of antidote for opioid-addicted troops that could be quickly administered and get them back to fighting for democracy and the American way.”
I looked at the professor and held up my hand.
“Whoa, why are you telling me all of this bullshit now, Watson? We got to keep moving, or otherwise we will become human trophies for Charlie.”
Watson nodded, picked up his backpack and continued to tell me his tale as we moved southward. “In theoretical terms such a serum would be possible if we were able to formulate an ingredient that could induce the same feeling of euphoria and well-being in an heroin addict without creating the need for continual doses nor damaging the addict’s body. This was the goal of the “Nirvana Project.”
What the doctor said, floored me, so I stopped.
“You mean to tell me you’re out here in the jungles of Vietnam working on a cure for drug addiction.”
Watson smiled and said, “That’s right.” Not only did we work on it, but we succeeded in perfecting it.”
“Tell me more as we’re moving,” I told Watson in whisper. He proceeded to lay out what had occurred:
“When we thought that we had perfected our Nirvana formula, the Pentagon sent us out here six weeks ago to test it on troops in the field.”
“How did it go,” I asked, listening intently to all the sounds around us in the jungle.
“Better than we could have ever expected,” Watson said. “In less than a month, we cured 20 addicts and they were moved back into action. But just as we were about to expand the program, the commander got an urgent message from the Pentagon.”
Watson grabbed my elbow forcing me to stop.
“Yeah? So what? I asked in curtly.
A Danger to the System
“People above the Director of the CIA gave him orders to immediately scuttle the program as soon as we began reporting its success.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I said looking behind as Watson followed.
“I wish I were, Mr. Reynolds, but I believe the program was killed because it was too successful.
“What do you mean?” I stopped and told Watson we were taking five.
When the doctor sat down on the jungle floor, he looked like a skinny Buddha. I watched as he took some water from his canteen and splashed it on his face. “Mr. Reynolds, I mean that someone in a very high position did not see any value in our serum. In fact, on the contrary, they saw it as a danger.
“A danger to what? I asked incredulously.
“I suppose a danger to trillions of dollars in illicit drug profits, to the collapse of whole economies based on the growth and sale of opium poppy seeds — but something even more dangerous.”
“Ok, Doc, you got my attention. What’s more dangerous than that?”
“Well, Mr. Reynolds, I believe those in the highest places saw our serum as a threat to their entire system.”
“How so,” I asked, with my mouth hanging open.
“Don’t you see? If there were no more drug addicts in the cities of the United States and countries around the world, those addicts might just become engaged in life. They would become aware of the injustices, the misery of their surroundings and finally their own potential power to change it all it their favor. They would rise up against the few who pull the levers of the world. The power structure could never allow that to happen.
Ambushed in the Jungle
Watson’s last sentence was the last thing I remember because everything went black. It took me several days to remember it or him at all when I awoke in a field hospital in the middle of the jungle. It was the third day before I asked a young medic draining my neck wound what had happened to Watson and me.
“You were ambushed by Charlie in the jungle,” the young man said in a cheerful voice. “You were lucky; Watson wasn’t.”
Three months later when I went state side, I asked some of my friends about whether or not they had heard of the so-called “Nirvana Project.” None of them had, but then one day my section chief called me into his office, closed the door and ordered me to forget about everything and anything I’d ever heard about the Nirvana Project. Being a true believer, like you are now, I did just that.
But a few years back, I had a chance to go into our archives and I checked it out. Guess what I found Joe?
All Witnesses Deceased
Reynold’s story had captivated my attention and his sudden question jars me back into the hard, cold now. “I don’t know Bob,” I say. What did you find?”
I found a report that showed all 20 of the troops that had been given the anti-opiod serum during the project were also wiped out in that very same firefight. I also discovered that the five other members of Watson’s team all died in a chopper crash. Strange coincidence – don’t you think?”
© 2018 Chet Dembeck
Categories: Flash Fiction