Lake 33 Killing Relic
Chapter 10: Mike and the Licence Plate
 

A tale of radiation contamination in
St. Charles, Missouri
A story of Weldon Springs

NOTE: This is the first draft including typos, point of view and tense problems, poorly thought out ideas and bored slipping into crazy stuff.

Draft 1, crude and imperfect. Fixed maybe, fixed never? Language warnings.


Chapter 10

"Is this time travel shit?" I said in half jest, sitting alone in Calvin's Camaro. Crazy, a 1967 license plate in a cave full of Mississippian artifacts.

"And one Graham cave spear point, don't forget the spear point."

Who left the license plate? It must have been with those drums. Only one person could find the owner of the license plate, my little brother Mike, the guru IT specialist famous for his crossbow shots and the best venison sausage in eastern Missouri.

I texted Mike. "Hey, I have a question I need to ask in person- your brother."

My phone buzzed almost immediately with a Lake St. Louis address.

Calvin had told me Mike had moved to a larger house.

I drove around the lake, a neighborhood of older houses, yet still in the two-million-dollar range of homes. The houses were packed together so close you wouldn't have been able to step outside during COVID-19 without bumping into someone's facemask.

I parked at his address behind an old Silverado with a Remington symbol on the back window. Mike came out of the house happy and healthy, except for a hobble and limp.

"My older brother, the family's black sheep,' said Mike.

We shook hands with crooked smiles and then a brief hug.

"You missed Buck's funeral," I said.

"I miss Danny; I never missed Buck," said Mike. "You look like shit," said Mike. "Bread and water in solitary confinement for three years?"

"Everyone keeps saying that. Why are you shuffling like that?" I asked Mike.

"A painful vasectomy reversal, pipe reconnected," said Mike. "Did you know I was remarried?"

Mike slapped his forehead. "That's right. You did not attend my wedding or the honeymoon party in Lower Alabama. For a new wife, I traveled to Panama City to mine the white trash and hillbillies. Missouri's gene pool is not good enough these days; chromosome damage from all the radiation. 

My new wife is from the Pensacola area. Did I ever mention that I met her on active duty at Eglin Air Force Base? She was hanging around the special forces base, the one with the alligator in the middle of nowhere."

"That describes the entire base," I said.

Mike nodded, "Rebecca was a little too wild for me back then."

"Too wild for you?" I asked, "That can only mean too married. Well, congratulations, but I didn't get you a gift."

Mike smiled. "You were busy! Busy taking the fall for somebody else. Something only my older brother would do."  

"That is water under the bridge," I said. "I see you moved but kept your old truck?"

"Yeah, and I'm warring with the homeowners association right now. I'm not allowed to have a pickup truck in this development. It's fucking Missouri, and I'm not allowed to have a pickup truck? What the fuck?"

"I have a favor to ask; it requires some of your famous brainiac skills. I have a mystery quest or beer bet."

I paused for effect, "Buck found an old license plate in a barn hayloft, dated 1967 Missouri. I can't explain it right now, but I think it is related to his early death. I need to discover who owned the license plate in 67 or who it was registered to."

Mike looked incredulous.

"Really? You couldn't just come, like wanting to borrow a hundred bucks or something like a normal ex-con? You might as well ask me who the second person on that grassy knoll was. It won't be easy to find the owners; those are pre-computer age records."

"Well, I knew it wouldn't be easy or possible, but if anyone could do it, that would be my little brother."

"Something that killed Buck? Poison? Are you on the trail of Dixocin? Did you find another Times Beach chemical dump? Is that why you look like shit? A smoking crack or huffing Dixocin? Did Danny die of Chloracne, exposure to dioxin?" 

"I'm looking for answers?"

"You're going to owe me big for this one," said Mike.

"I got no money; I've been in jail."

Copy that no, I want something from my past. Remember those days when you used to beat me up because you were a mean ass?

 "No, I don't remember that," I said with a big smile.

"What I want for this task is a basket full of fresh morel mushrooms out of Bush wildlife. Wild morel mushrooms.

"Jesus, you might as well ask me who is on the grassy knoll."

"That's my price, and I know you can pay it. I will get Bobby's help. He's about ten times smarter than me, so I will split the shrooms with him. And do not bring me any buggy mushrooms; they must be soaked in salt water before you bring them to me. Do I ask too much? Yeah,19 fucking 67?"

"Deal," I said. "Although it might take me weeks to find that many mushrooms."

Mike smiled as if anticipating the tasty morsels.

"I'll find out who owned the license plate. Although for the life of me, I can't imagine the use for this quest."

"I'll tell you the whole story later," I said.

I texted him the license plate photo and drove away, wondering what brain cells had folded to make him the genius he was. Halfway around Lake St. Louis, I realized he had not introduced me to his wife or invited me into the house.

I parked on the Missouri River Weldon Springs boat ramp at not quite midnight. There was no moon, and the news on my phone said there would be a meteor shower early in the morning. 

Climbed on Calvin's car, "Betty, I need to get some windshield time and pulled out a joint. It was risky. I would have to carry someone else urine if called in by Murphy for a test.

Fired up the joint thinking about Danny's funeral and that State archaeologist, "The biggest discovery of the century," he said.

After exhaling a cloud of smoke that temporarily blocked the stars, I considered that I had withheld from Mike the details about the stranger at Buck's casket with the screaming Geiger counter.

"Who is to say that Buck didn't die of Dioxin?"

After a while, I drifted off to sleep.

As the map indicated, the entrance to the artifact cave was near the old logging road, Buck's entry hole into the cave was wide open and I wiggled my way inside and turned on the little camping headlight.

Danny said there were petroglyphs and I searched the walls. In the center of the cave, the light illuminated rows of rusting 55-gallon drums leaking white powder.

Suddenly, a monster or guardian, a terrible hairless creature with huge fangs, attacked me, the creature growling in rage while I screamed with equal terror.

I blocked the beast with my shovel, which I had not had when I crawled through the narrow entrance.

With all my mustered desperation, I threw the beast against the wall with a sickening crunch. Blood dripped down the cave wall, covering a petroglyph carving of a shaman, half man, half beast.

I rose unsteadily to my feet, seeing little monsters scurrying through the rows of drums, kicking up a fine dustlike cloud of white particles like flour in the bakery.

I turned the light on the monster which had attacked me; it was still breathing, hairless with oozing sores.

"It's a groundhog. It's a groundhog," I repeated and turned the light on the hairless baby groundhogs that scampered from my light.

"Sorry about your mother, I said and wiggled into the next cave chamber.

There on a rock ledge was another deathhead ceramic pot. Inside the pot were colorful Cahokia arrowheads.

"Score! I can buy a new car with this pot."

I picked up the artifact, marveling at the details, "Someone's soul is captured in this trophy pottery," I said.

There was a shuffling noise, and I turned, expecting the groundhog again.

This time, someone slammed my face against the cave wall. The blood trickling down the rough sides was mine, and I touched my torn forehead wet with my O-negative blood. In the flashlight, my hands were covered in the powder from the leaking drums, and my fingers were crimson with my blood. I held a Soviet pistol from the old days.

"What the fuck!" I yelled, looking for a fight.

Behind me stood a tall Native American and absolutely the ugliest person I had ever seen in my life. The high cheekbones indicated he was of the Native American genome, intricate facial tattoos, unkempt hair, and wearing Ivory-Billed Woodpecker feet as earrings. From his neck swung a shell jaguar gorget, the jaguar gorget, and in his hand, the Graham Cave flint spear point attached to a deer leg bone. His bare feet were covered in white dust up to the ankles.

Neither one of us spoke.

Cautiously, I looked down at the deathhead pot I had dropped and picked up the two halves to see if someone could repair the priceless piece of art.

When I wiped the white powder from the facial features and brought the two halves together, they formed Buck's face, molded into pottery.

I dropped the broken pot again, watching as it sparked, shattering into a dozen pieces.

I woke with a start and a gasp to see the Missouri River enveloped in a white morning fog and a three-story barge pushing upriver between the navigation markers.

Fuck. 

I felt my head for blood, nothing.

Who the hell, and what the hell was that Indian?

Danny's face on the pottery, what the fuck did that mean, and what in the hell was that Indian?

"I'm not smoking anymore of that shit," I said and tossed the papers and bag of pot into the Missouri River. "And I'm not going anywhere near that cave."

The warning had been relatively clear from someone. A pretty good warning for someone."

"Should I call Jodi's husband with a warning? It's only a stupid fucking dream about a death cave and death pottery. It was just a dream. It was just a dream."

I studied the fog, which covered everything in a cloud of white. Should I tell Brian I had a bad dream? I saw a ghost, and Buck is now free."

"Fuck, fuck," I said.


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