Mudbath (Part 5)
30th August, he finally wrapped up his digging at the City Hall in Reno. He found that a painter by the name of Rolf Schneider from Sacramento died in 1954 and buried at St Mary Cemetery. There was none by the name of Rolf Schneider or a Jennifer McConkey in Reno. However that place on the address belonged to a David McQuillin and he was a young mate in the army posted to Vietnam. Somebody was trying to cover up something here and he got to find out if this David got a relative or a sibling in his family who looked like Jennifer. Claude had no picture of either David or Jennifer.
He travelled this far because he wanted to visit the address. He had passed that place few times on the other side of Mayberry Drive.
They watched the sunsets over Truckee River in the trail of the Crooked Mile in a beautiful summer. He sat down with his guitar in Idlewild Park and began to make a new tune. He wrote what he saw…
Natural tastes of colours,
Painted sunsets and dawn…
Noel asked, “Are we going home?”
“Yeah but first we go to the address.”
“Why do you want to meet her?”
“She disappeared in front of my eyes.”
“That could be an illusion?”
“I can’t believe. McConkey, McQuillin, McKinley Art and Culture…I don’t know.”
“Let’s ask the neighbours. Maybe this David got a girlfriend.”
“No, strange neighbours...”
“Did you call?”
“No. I’m going to get in there.” Claude did call from Salt Lake City and left his last message in the box and that could be a mistake.
“I think that’s a bad idea.”
They drove to the address and took pictures of this beautiful house in a stunning neighbourhood. He rang the bell and in fifteen minutes nobody answered. He noted the post box outside was big enough to collect the kind of mails he sent.
Sunday, they watched the house. Nobody came out or walked in. Noel and Jamie in turns rang the bell. It seemed like an empty house.
Finally, Claude threw a piece of brick through a rear window and still nobody answered the door.
“I’m going in.”
“Hey! Wear a mask.”
“No. It’s daylight.”
“Gloves?” asked Noel.
“Yes,” agreed Claude. “Jamie, stay here! Don’t come close. Noel, you stand by a tree, keep watch. Page me if anyone comes to the door.” He passed him a small walkie-talkie handset.
Claude entered the house which was in faint light. He tried the doors. There was no sign of anybody. He slowly climbed the stairs. He opened bedroom doors and a study where he found piles of paper, cardboard, some large framings and stretchers. There seemed to be some kind of connection to McConkey and her artwork. Here he saw a huge printer like a blueprint machine. He wished he brought the camera. He examined the prints on the table containing some technical drawings that he could not read.
His radio cracked, “Bond?”
He grabbed it and lowered the volume, “What’s up?”
“You’re taking too long,” cried Noel.
“Shut the fuck up!” he whispered, “I’m coming just in a second.”
He picked some of those blueprints and got out of the house.
“What did you find?”
“These,” he showed the pages, “Part of a radar guidance system…”
“What the hell is that?” asked Noel.
“Hey! This looks like a diagram of a helicopter tail boom. It’s a Cobra.”
“What’s a Tomahawk?”
“Damn! I must go back to take some pictures.”
“I think that’s some kind of military stuff. We better leave!”
“I feel there’s a connection. We are very close to find something…I can feel it.”
“You’ll find nothing but you won’t give up.”
Claude entered the house again and took some photographs using flashcubes. He searched but could not find anything more helpful.
Eventually, they left Reno on Sunday. On Route 95 possibly the highway across the desert that Jennifer McConkey would take driving in her Jaguar.
At the serene stops he continued to write his new song he called Beauty with a flare of kind of work he knew…
Theatre halls and mansions,
Movie stars and models,
‘Beauty and the Beast’,
Cried the house of audience,
In galleries and museums,
Paintings of the masters,
Composers and architects,
Ballet girls and Miss Universe,
Jewellery stores and antiques,
In light and shade of music,
Precious stones of hidden world,
Claim tall for beauty…
There’s no truth in beauty,
Since beauty is truth,
I breathe my life for you…
Arriving at Las Vegas he got no time but to get ready for the service trip. He cut his long hair, removed his beard and packed. On the 6th Saturday night, Claude rushed in a car to the storage facility in Henderson and parked right outside the bin, A51.
He carried a pair of large pliers from his uncle’s workshop and cut the lock. He wore a hoody to conceal his face partially. Rolled the door and entered, switched on the light and took a good look at the items. He began to take pictures. There was not much here but some of those frames and stretchers and technical drawings on a table. There was a large object lying on the ground beside the length of the wall about 14 ft long under a tarp. He removed the cover and starred down at an ugly looking missile for a long moment.
An AGM-12 Bullpup – an air-to-ground missile – one of the most advanced weapons of the time. It was lying there dismantled and parts removed. However, it should not be here. Claude quickly captured a series of photographs.
An AGM-12 missile could be guided by the pilot in a jetfighter to make an entry into a cave and blow up. The pilot used a joystick to steer it towards the target using radio signals, its speed 1.8 Mach.
Claude left the facility. Next morning he flew to Newport, Rhode Island, and served two years in the Navy. This breaking into the storage bin was discovered with the unusual contents and turned into US custody under CIA. And that was an end to a story.