The roar of the Yamaha two-stroke, twenty-five horsepower short shaft portable outboard engine disrupted the serenity of dawn on the lake. The sun crested the hills to the east just as the mooring line was cast off and the Zodiac, all of fifteen and a half feet long and filled with divers and gear, pulled away toward its destination. Clarke watched from a folding chair on the shore and absently rubbed his bald head. The temperature, typically coldest within eight minutes of sunrise, had dropped to the mid-thirties overnight. It was expected to jump into the fifties by noon, but cloud cover—a near constant on the peninsula—would keep it from climbing any higher.
Holding a tin cup of coffee, Allen unfolded a second chair and sat down next to Clarke. For a moment, the two merely watched as the Zodiac made a slow trek toward the existing markers. A lack of sleep was not unusual, but today the caffeine had yet to perform as advertised. He would sleep well once the relief showed up and a new incident commander took over.
“Any word from Seattle?” Allen asked, with a loud sip of his coffee.
“Maybe by sunset. They’re pulling a team of seven off the riots and remobilizing.” Clarke paused. “Or so they said. I really don’t think they care.”
Allen nodded. “All the crap going on in the world, it makes sitting on the edge of a lake filled with dead bodies feel serene.”
“Good news, though,” Clarke said. “We have a satellite uplink and Talbert has a lead on our Henry Backmon. Seems he went missing from Iowa about six months ago. Left behind a wife, two kids, a BMW, and a mortgage.”
“Iowa? Seems like a long way to come for a swim.”
“Cedar Rapids. Electrical engineer working for a firm that develops electronics and communications technology for things that fly. Talbert pulled a few articles from the local rag and some other finds.” Clarke handed a tablet to Allen. “Got him looking for more, but you’ll appreciate the first one. It’s a blog article Backmon wrote praising some parts of the Unabomber’s Manifesto.”
Allen took the tablet. The screen showed the referenced article with a picture of a moose and the title “Uncle Ted was Right: The Industrial Revolution as Cancer.” Allen squinted his eyes at the small print, a recent habit for old eyes. “Did you read this?”
Clarke shook his head. “He lost me after the first line. I don’t think engineers were made to wax poetic. I have a thriller in the tent if I want literature.”
“You and your thrillers.”
“Everything is nonfiction, you know.”
“So you’ve said.”
The sound of the Zodiac’s motor cut off and both Allen and Clarke looked up. The dive team had reached the marker buoys and moved about with purpose. Allen placed the tablet on the ground with his coffee cup. He picked up a pair of binoculars. The first two divers were hard to make out, but judging by the way one of them pointed, he assumed that one was Stuart, which meant the other was the rookie. They were checking each other over, tightening belts and picking up the LED markers. It was a quiet operation from the shore, but he imagined the bustle of activity sounded different where the action was.
Allen was a diver who had pulled his share of dead bodies from the water over the past decade, but he had made a choice a few months ago that he would be more effective as an incident commander if he remained nearby and in contact with other authorities rather than in the water. It did not help that his vision had been degrading and he now felt his joints where before they just worked. Age sneaks up, pops you in the head and takes your lunch money. His team was comprised of mostly younger people, with the sole exception of Stuart, who was pushing sixty-five next month. It was demotivating for Allen to think of how fit the old guy was, and he tried to put it out of his mind frequently. Seeing him on the water now, however, did not help.
Allen put the binoculars on the ground and picked up his coffee cup again. “So, we have a guy who runs off to join a cult, lives in a commune with other cult hippies lorded over by some guy they call ‘The One’ who likes to record things on archaic reel-to-reel tapes while rallying against technology and change.”
Clarke picked up his radio. “Recovery One, report.”
Stuart’s voice crackled through the two-way: “On scene, ready to dive. Alpha team in the water in one minute.”
“Roger. Out.” Clarke put the radio on his lap. “I follow you so far.”
“Fearing some FBI investigation and supposed manhunt, this ‘One’ says it’s time to go. With no real fuss—according to the tape, anyway—Backmon and friends take a raft or canoe or something up the river to this lake, put on weighted shoes, and say goodbye to a cruel, cruel world.”
“Sounds reasonable. Not logical, but reasonable.”
Allen looked toward the mouth of the river, then back to the marker buoys. “So, if they all jumped into the middle of the lake, where’s the boat?”
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