Not Really

Not Really

I seem to remember it happening this way…

Having a friend who lived far away from town was nice. Having a friend who lived far away from town whose parents liked to go to Atlantic City a lot was even better. So it was with my friend Isaac who lived out on the York River between the state park and Camp Peary, a military base renowned for its secrecy.

About once a month, Isaac’s parents would head to New Jersey with the instructions that there be no parties. I’m guessing that they accepted the outcome of their directive as easily as they handed money to the dealers at the Tropicana, but Isaac never got into any trouble.

One party things got weird. A few of us had been hunting during the day and gotten too close to the fence separating our hunting grounds from whatever goes on behind the fences at Camp Peary. Freezing rain started falling and we broke from our hunting to throw rocks at the fence to try and knock off the ice that was starting to form. After about ten minutes there were a few military policeman there warning us to get away from the fence or face federal consequences. We left, but we also dropped on the MPs all of our adolescent bravado and ignorance about our civil rights and freedoms guaranteed by the founding fathers. Stupid stuff, really.

The weird part of the party was that Isaac disappeared. He was usually the one to make sure that everything was clean and that nothing was getting broken. We figured that he left with his girlfriend, so we continued the night as if he had been there. As the party wound down, we went out looking for him. His truck was there. His dog was there. He was not. Being young and stupid we decided to wait until the sun rose to do something about it.

The next morning we woke and Isaac was still not to be found. We went out again, but had no luck finding him. Worry began to set in as we thought about what we should do and then panic struck. Isaac’s grandfather was at the front door. Since we are all in the basement and our cars were parked down the road in a field, we were pretty sure that he had no idea we were there. There we six of us stuffed into the basement bathroom shower and if he had just looked down through the vent next to him, he would have seen us. Fortunately, he left and we went back to trying to figure out what to do about Isaac.

He took care of that for us. About thirty minutes later he walked in. He wouldn’t tell us where he had been, which was not unusual for Isaac, so we all let it go and went back to the juvenile behavior we demonstrated so adeptly.

Several years would pass and Isaac’s mother would be forced to move from the river house into a townhouse that was more centrally located to Williamsburg. On one of their trips to Atlantic City, Isaac’s step father had mysteriously passed away. There were no signs of violence, but small town rumors had always followed Mr. Darlington’s life. He was a lawyer, but many thought he had once been a spy. No one really knew anything, but that didn’t stop them from talking.

After his death, Isaac had insisted on the moving into the townhouse. His mother preferred an apartment, but she deferred to Isaac when he picked up the mortgage. He was hard working, never missing a shift, and kept the basement clean, and kept those of us who came over quiet. We were just as juvenile, even though we were in college. Isaac seemed more than happy to have us over and he always had the best Nintendo games.

He was still a man of mystery, though. He would often go outside by himself which was strange because he didn’t smoke or chew tobacco. He always said that he just needed to go for a walk. There wasn’t much room behind the townhome, but he would head off into the woods and after a little while he would show up and head upstairs to make a call. Since I sucked at all the video games, I kind of wondered what was going on, but Isaac was just being Isaac, I reasoned.

One day after my an 8:00am class, I walked out to the parking lot to catch a nap. Being a commuter in college allowed for variable sleep patterns due to the inconsistent schedule I had to follow. When I got back to my car there was a note on the windshield.

It said, “Meet me at the Mariner’s Museum at 10:00, Isaac.”

The Mariner’s Museum? What would Isaac be doing there? My next class was at ten, but I hadn’t skipped it yet, so I decided to meet Isaac. The last time I had been to the museum had been with my grandfather and father. They were so into every little placard and all I wanted to do was run around. The day was a real bore for me. My grandfather must have sensed my boredom and bought me a compass as a distraction. Today I would need some of my grandfather’s generosity to figure out this story.

I got to the museum and saw Isaac right away. Instead of going in we walked to the back of the building. He didn’t say anything and was walking faster than normal.

Finally, he said, “I need your help.”

“Whatever, man, what’s going on? I asked.

“Remember that time at my house when I disappeared from the party? I kind of got kidnapped.”

“Yeah, right, aliens?”

“No, by some guys from inside Camp Peary. They told me some stuff about my stepfather that I can’t tell you and asked me if I could help them out. I was helping Ralph track a group of spies in Williamsburg. Now I need some help catching them.”

None of this was believable to me. What was there in Williamsburg worth spying on? Were these spies out to steal the secret recipe for the house dressing at The Cheese Shop? I couldn’t think of why spies would want anything to do with Williamsburg, but since Isaac was so sincere, I played along.

“Whatever you need.” I said.

He explained to me that there was going to be a package delivered to the townhouse next to his. All those times that he had gone outside, he was actually listening to what was going on in the other apartment. He had learned that a small group of multinational spies were in Williamsburg as part of a world wide espionage ring that was planning an attack on military bases around the country. Cheatam Annex had been chosen as the first base because of its relatively low level of security.

His story seemed too fantastic. The cold war was ending, prosperity was finally hitting the economy, and this seemed so James Bond. All he wanted me to do was sit in the parking until the delivery man got there. After the guys inside took the package, my job was to throw a rock through their front window and run as fast as I could. 

“Why me?” I asked.

“Because I know you’ll help. That’s it.”

He was right and the next day I was waiting on Merrimac Trail for any kind of delivery van to enter Isaac’s little townhouse complex. Finally, around three o’clock, a blue van pulled into the lot and stopped in front of number twenty-three. The guy who got out wore a plain blue uniform and carried a small package about the size of a football. Isaac’s neighbor answered the door, took the package, and went back in without signing anything.

At the time I didn’t understand why I had to throw the rock through the window, but I picked up the projectile and wound up to deliver a moderately paced fast ball right through the front window. Three guys came running out of the house with guns drawn and then I remembered, “RUN!”

I jumped a guard rail and headed down a hill towards the Colonial Parkway and heard the popping sound of guns up the hill. This was not something that I thought would happen, but the shooting quickly stopped. A thick patch of kudzu grabbed my leg and I fell. I took a quick look back to the top of the hill and saw Isaac waving to me.

The feds had set up a sting and used me as a guinea pig to get most of the bad guys out of their hideout. Agents who had been hiding in the woods and in the parked cars were all over the place. Isaac stood over the guy who had taken the package.

“This was the guy who killed Ralph,” said Isaac.

I shrugged and nodded.

That was the last anyone saw of Isaac.

At least that’s how I remember it going…