By Bruce A. Smith
The Men of Honor of Unity House is a novel based upon my experiences as a therapist at a residential foster care facility for young men coping with sexual assault charges. In 2001, during the Anthrax scare that followed 9-11, my agency’s director and I mapped out a plan for how we would deal with our men, aged 12-18, if we had to go into lockdown in the event of a local terrorist attack. The following pages are based upon those discussions.
The plot so far: A 2-kiloton suitcase nuke has exploded in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the staff of Unity House form the Men of Honor Society for two purposes: One, to keep the seven teen-aged boys of Unity House busy and not fighting each other, and two, to act as a rescue group to the local neighborhood. Due to the destruction and radiation, the police and army can not get into this section of Worcester. The people living on Marion Avenue and Plantation Street have only the Men of Honor for assistance.
To read more of the Men of Honor:
Chapter 13 – Help arrives, along with romance
Day Three – pre-dawn
Day Three started a little early for me, 4:00 a.m. I was half-awake in a twilight state when I heard the south hallway door open, triggering the intruder/escape alarm. I was surprised because I was sleeping near the hallway and hadn’t heard anyone walk past me.
OMG. Someone’s coming in, not going out! I realized.
I jumped out of bed, ran down the hall and saw a thin, older man with a goatee slowly closing the door behind him. He flung-off a giant bed sheet over his head.
“Good Morning,” he said. “You must be David Stein.”
”Yes, I am. Who…” but he anticipated my question.
“I’m Adam Peronski. Nice to meet you.”
“Adam, what the hell are you doing here?” exclaimed Terry, jogging down the hall, her voice rising first with surprise, but then lowering in order to not attract the guys. If they heard her voice, they’d know something dramatic was taking place and worthy of getting out of bed.
“Good Morning, Teresa,” said Adam.
Teresa? I didn’t know Terry was a Teresa.
Terry came smoothly right up to Adam and gave him a hug. Even though he was wearing a good-sized backpack, he was able to give her a long one in return.
Teresa? Hugs? 4:00 a.m.? What was going on here?
“How the hell did you get here?” Terry asked.
“Oh, I’ve had quite an adventure.”
“I bet you did,” Terry replied impishly.
“Yes, and I look forward to telling you about it. I even brought a bottle of wine to help me do it. Should we invite this therapist of yours to join us?”
“Hmmmm,” she smirked, “I don’t know, Adam. He likes red wine, but I remember his disgraceful behavior at the Christmas Party, so I’m not sure.”
“Oh, yes… I heard about that.”
Oh, my Gawd. Peronski heard about my inebriation?
Adam put a warm hand on my shoulder and whispered sotto voce, “Don’t worry, Dave, my lips are sealed. I haven’t told a soul, at least none that I can remember.” He chuckled.
I didn’t know quite what to think. Was I being put on, or just being played with? Adam resolved my questioning.
“C’mon, let’s have a glass of Cabernet and figure out how we’re going to survive nuclear war.”
Terry led us off toward her office where we were met by Karen, Bill and TT, who were awake, alert, and watching for who else might be coming into, or out of the house.
“You must be Sergeant. Jackson,” Adam said. “Glad you’re here with our boys. I’m Adam Peronski. I’m on the Executive Board of the Worcester Alliance. Do you drink red wine before dawn?”
“Of course! Whaddaya got?” she asked.
“Cabernet Sauvignon,” Adam said. “Berenger’s Estate; best ten-dollar bottle of wine on the shelf of the state store in Meredith, New Hampshire.”
“Sounds good to me,” Karen replied.
“And TT, always good to see you, even at 4am.”
“You too, sir.”
“And… you must be Bill Sowards,” Adam continued.
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, thank you for tumbling into our lives, and bringing your food truck with you.” Adam grinned.
Bill grinned back.
“Well, Teresa,” Adam continued, “do we have any vino glasses, or do circumstances only permit coffee mugs?”
Terry slapped a coffee mug into Adam’s hand and extended her own.
“At least it’s a clean mug, Buster, so shut up and start pouring.”
After filling our mugs Adam motioned for a toast.
“I want to salute those of you who have stayed behind here at Unity House to take care of our boys, and I want to especially thank TT, Bill, and Sergeant Jackson for joining our ranks. I thank God for your working Internet connection and I want to thank the United States Air Force for not shooting me down.”
He smiled knowing we didn’t have a clue about what he meant by his last comment. Adam was a trickster. ‘Adam Annanzi.’
“Air Force, Adam?” asked Terry playfully. “Exactly how did you get here, and what aren’t you telling us?”
Terry seemed to know Adam very well, and was keeping right up with him as he played his little mind games.
“A sea plane that belongs to my next-door neighbor delivered me. When the bomb went off, I knew there was going to be trouble getting coverage here at Unity, so I asked my neighbor Anthony Viselli for help. Anthony has lots of friends in both high and low places. Plus, he has lots of large toys with big motors. Tony V got me here.”
“And the Air Force?” I asked.
“Well, Anthony made some phone calls and got us clearance to fly down in his float plane from Squam Lake to Lake Quinsigamond, where he unloaded me and his motocross bike. Getting the bike out of the plane was the hardest part of the trip.”
“But the Air Force,” I insisted.
“Well, the Army and police forces have all the roads blocked off, so flying in was the only way. The Air Force has the entire sky locked-down over New England. No take-offs and no landings. The Air Force has F-One-Something-Somethings flying at sixty thousand feet with orders to shoot down anything in the air. But Tony has a plane that can fly pretty quietly at tree-top levels – he has several, actually, from his former line of work – so we were able to make the forty-five-minute jump from his dock on Squam down to Quinsigamond without incident. Plus, Tony has a friend – a very good friend – at the FAA who was able to scramble the radar screens at Westover that were scanning the central New England sector just before we took off. Nostros Amigo Mysterioso covered our ass, and Tony did the rest.
“Where’s Tony, now?” asked TT. “Is he with you?”
“Oh no, he’s eating prime rib – or at least left-overs at this time of night – with the rest of the hoi-polloi stranded at the Lake Quinsigamond Country Club. Apparently, they’re living like there’s no tomorrow, which for some of them there may not be since they got dusted pretty severely. He’ll be flying out of there tomorrow with as many folks as he can carry needing medical treatment, if he can get clearance. The aerial lockdown is supposedly still in place for at least another 24 hours.”
“But why 4:00am, Adam? Landing on a lake in the dark is pretty risky,” I asked, settling back into one of Terry’s chairs, putting my empty wine mug on my belly like a contented Buddha.
“Army’s idea,” he replied. “They didn’t want the local citizenry getting agitated. We were only authorized to travel between 3:00 and 4: 00am, when few people would see what was going on. Tony V’s GPS stuff is pretty remarkable and we landed without hardly making a ripple.”
“The Army knows you’re here?” Karen questioned, “but not the Air Force?”
“Of course, isn’t that the American Way? Never let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
“Okay, but why the Army?” Karen continued with an uncomprehending nod.
“Well, the Army was all for the idea.”
“They are?” I said.
“Yes. The Army and I agree with you,” Adam continued, “that this house can be a safe harbor for this neighborhood. Unity House has power, lights, water, email, food, and all of that. Not much of Worcester has even half of those. Lights are iffy for over half of the county, along with much of greater Boston. In fact, the problems seem to be snowballing.
“Anthony put me in touch with a General Mayfield at Westover Army Base. The military thinks the gamma burst is going to generate lots of problems down the road, like causing insulation in utility cables to go brittle and break, allowing moisture to interrupt the electrical system, the phones, or even the computers and switching equipment that control the water mains, sewers and things like that. We may see, God forbid, the collapse of the entire utility infrastructure of eastern Massachusetts.
“So, General Mayfield wanted me to come into the dust zone pronto; be a liaison, and help get things organized here in order to prepare Unity House to be a base for treatment and evacuation. Unity is still functional, but we don’t know for how long. Thousands of medical personnel are on their way to Westover, and ultimately those people are coming here and about a dozen other locations in the dust zone. Surgical, radiation and medical teams – the whole magilla – so Mayfield wants to get the show on the road and I’m the first jester to appear in your midst.” Adam stood and took a little bow to accent the importance of his arrival.
“Yet, his superiors, the Pentagon types, are nearly paralyzed with fear of another attack, so they are moving very slowly on the rescue operation. In fact, the whole country seems to be sleep-walking in a kind of nationwide shock from the attack. But many, including General Mayfield, can’t wait any more. It’s time to get Worcester’s rescue operation in to high gear. So, Voila; C’est moi.
“So, I salute you sergeant, and you too, Bill, and especially you TT. You are the first of many to join our merry little band of outcasts and, ahem,” Adam looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes, ‘students of ancient mysteries.’”
Terry poked me in the ribs. Adam and Terry, or should I say Teresa, were a regular tag-team comedy act. I loved them.
“So, when are the rescue teams coming in?” Karen said, interrupting the joviality.
“Not exactly sure,” Adam replied. “Certainly not for another twenty-four hours, and probably forty-eight. Mayfield’s command is looking to get detailed information as to our situation, so they can deal with the highest priorities first. And nobody, including Mayfield, wants to launch the operation prematurely and risk making the situation worse. Large-scale operations in radioactive dust are new to everybody.
“So, our first job is to make sure we’re okay here, enough to be able to handle a lot of sick and injured. Then, we go back into the neighborhood and assess things, and begin to do what we can do to help folks. The military should be here within thirty-six to forty-eight hours, I figure. In the meantime, we’re scheduled to check in with Mayfield’s command at 8 a.m. every morning until the military arrives.”
“Last question, Adam,” I asked. “Does the military have any idea who nuked us? Al Qaeda? Terrorists?”
“No. When I asked General Mayfield that same question, his answer was very revealing. He said, ‘Don’t ask. Let’s not even go there, please. Any speculation I might share with you, even if it’s the God’s honest truth, is too political to discuss, so I won’t.
“Whoever set off the nuke, or why, is secondary. We have a job to do here and we need to get on it.’”
“Wow,” I replied, “that’s a little scary, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is,” Adam answered. “The scenarios are endless, and the deeper one goes into speculation, the scarier it gets. I agree with Mayfield, though, and that is we need to focus exclusively on taking care of ourselves. We don’t have time for anything else.”
“Well, let’s get some sleep,” said Karen, bringing us back to our present reality. “I promised Willy and Trey that I’d lead a session of calisthenics at seven.”
Two hours. Just enough to get a little shut-eye.