Ernesto wrinkled his brow at the incoming caller ID but took it anyway and calmly answered, “Lost souls’ hotline. You got sore feet? We need to meet!”
Jamie smirked a little and responded, “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten who this is, ‘ole sham? You got me and Frieda out of danger in China a few months back, and now I want to return the favor. You see, my lady and I found this scruffy stray mutt. Well, he reminded us of you, so would you mind if we named him after you?”
Ernesto pictured the image of Jamie with his longish blond hair and dancing blue eyes that flashed when his uncontrollable flair for blarney started. Ernesto had felt a certain young earnestness in this Irish rogue. Jamie’s computer talents were offset by his constant chasing of the next adventure to capture that pot of gold at the end of the ever-elusive rainbow.
Ernesto chuckled slightly and asked, “How is Frieda? Did she deliver okay? How is your new offspring? Did you get one with the plumbing on the inside or the outside?”
Jamie’s smile faded as he replied, “She and the baby are doing fine, Ernesto. Just fine. But that’s not what I’m calling about.” Ernesto sensed Frieda and the child were a sore subject, so he quickly moved the conversation along. “Enough of the social chit-chat, what’s up?”
Jamie began, “I guess you know me well enough to know that domestic life isn’t really for me. After little Timmy was born, the family wanted us closer to home, as in her parents’ home. I drifted on and ended up working in the Oregon/Washington area. Not a bad gig, waiting tables, cleaning rooms, helping old folks on and off the riverboat that cruises up and down the Columbia and Snake rivers. And OMG, the opulence of those 50 cent tips! Sometimes my cup runneth over from their generosity!
“Anyway, I got off in Richmond, Washington, to get me some variety and culture by taking in the Hanford Reach Museum.”
Ernesto, growing impatient with Jamie’s monologue, curtly asked, “Jamie, is there a point to this story? I mean, I’m always glad to hear from you, but then you start talking, which ruins it.”
Jamie now wondered if it was a good use of his time too, but continued, “You know, I’m fairly sure it’s your caring, compassionate nature that keeps people coming back for more sarcasm. If you don’t have time to listen, then just say so. I called you because no one else would get it.” Somewhat chastened, Ernesto offered, “I’m sorry, Jamie, please continue.”
Jamie continued, “Anyway, the Hanford Reach museum had two separate sections. One for the geological history of the area, which was okay. But the one I wanted to see was the chronicles on the first U.S. site to be built with the sole function of refining uranium to enrich it into plutonium to make the first atomic bombs.”
Ernesto’s eyes got big, and he was completely focused on the conversation. He responded, “Really? How come I’ve never heard of it?”
Jamie, warming to the topic, explained, “Turns out only 1% of the manufactured city of Hanford knew what was being built. The exhibit talked about the B-Reactor, the world’s first industrial-scale nuclear reactor, which was built during World War II as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. You know what was interesting about this exhibit? The life size photos and atomic bomb schematics that they have in the exhibit. Including some logistical nuclear fission graphs to help understand the fission process.”
Ernesto said nothing during the slight pause, so Jamie continued, “There I was taking in all this advanced physics when a camera goes off next to me. I turned to see this scarfed woman taking several photos of the nuclear bomb schematics, but nothing else.
“Then, when I turned to speak with her, she went white as a ghost, not so easy with her olive-skinned complexion. Being the kind of person I am, I took her camera and offered to take her picture in front of the exhibit, just to see what she would do.
“She bolted and headed for the door like Satan was after her. Then, I was honestly trying to return her camera, but she was almost in hysterics. I started yelling at her to refocus and calm down. The guards at the place think she is trying to steal something, so they intervened and tried to stop her. She wrenched free, turned, and at a dead run, gets through the front door and into the parking lot. There she gets picked up by a car. She and some guy driving with his face in a shadow sped away. We were all standing there scratching our heads, when the guards ask me what was going on.”
Ernesto smirked and offered, “I bet you told them she tried to lift your camera. However, since it wasn’t actually taken you weren’t going to formally report it.”
Jamie clucked his tongue and whined, “Oh man, I’m sorry, have I already told you this story?”
Ernesto chuckled slightly. Jamie added, “After everything calmed down, I found a quiet place to go over the photos. The only photos on the camera are on the atomic bomb schematics, the B-Reactor, and anything else on how to enrich uranium and how the first atomic bomb was engineered. All of this in a Muslim female’s hands who definitely had a scared, guilty look.”
Ernesto smiled a little and somewhat sarcastically suggested, “My, what an exciting life you lead. Did you have a similar experience at the zoo, too? Was there anything else about this accidental tourist and her lost camera I should know about?”
Jamie, now irked at the tone of the comment, bluntly replied, “Actually, yes, I think so. She was found dead the day after the lost camera episode. It was all over the news about how badly beaten her body was before she died. I got to thinking that she might be a part of a Muslim terrorist cell looking for atomic bomb information that didn’t want to go through the Internet, thereby calling attention to certain keywords being monitored by Homeland Security.
“These pictures are fairly incriminating, but the interesting thing to me, is that this was being collected, not by a computer search engine, but using an analog method that can’t possibly be traced back. Fairly clever actually.
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