Here is another chapter from John's book. In this chapter Ellen's team is attempting to get rid of the BLM agent surveying their land. Ellen, Bill and Tim have some fun annoying the BLM agent John Brady while they pretend to look for fossils. In one more week I will post Chapter 16, which describes how the group will have to deal with drones flown by the military around the area. And only two more weeks until the book is released on Amazon and you can find out what happened with Ellen, Bill, Tim and Charlie in their search.
Chapter 9 Digging for Fossils
Summer in northern Wyoming is in full swing by the middle of July, so it’s not unusual for the thermometer to register triple digits in the lower elevations by mid-afternoon. On this particular day, July 11, a week after the holiday, the temperature was a few degrees below a hundred, but the midday sun still beat down mercilessly on the scruffy landscape while sweat poured from two men toiling in a phony fossil pit. At least they had enjoyed the celebration on the Fourth, even lighting a few sparklers and Roman candles in celebration of America’s independence.
It had been three days since the survey started and the team of interlopers was still scurrying around the property with tools in tow. John Brady, the BLM agent who had visited them earlier, was on hand every day. Sometimes he hung around the survey team and occasionally he went into the pit to watch the amateur archaeologists. It eventually dawned on him that everyone concerned with this charade was probably wasting their time. He wasn't very happy with the situation and the heat just made him miserable. Going back to the house didn't help the matter either, because these idiots hadn't even gotten their air conditioners repaired yet! He was told by his superiors to ride to and from the property in the survey truck, also without air conditioning. All in all, it was the longest, crummiest three days he had ever spent … anywhere.
Bill dressed in shorts and a dirty tie-dyed T-shirt, and stood in front of the long table in front of the house for the “fossils” they had dug up. He pecked continuously at a small rock with an archaeologist's pick. Brady sweating profusely and obviously upset with the whole situation, sat on the edge of the pit and glared down at Bill with an open look of abject hatred. His wrinkled suit was badly in need of a dry cleaning. "Just what the hell do you think you’re going to find in that lump of limestone, you fucking idiot?" growled the agent.
Bill, unperturbed, glanced up with a wry smirk. "You never know,” he mocked as he presented his quasi-trophy. “Pretty rock, that – don’t you think?" Bill held up the stone for Brady’s approval and smiled. Then he resumed the annoying peck-peck-peck that he knew just had to be playing on the agent's last nerve.
Brady wiped even more sweat from his forehead. The cloth was getting saturated. In spite of drinking copious amounts of water, he was starting to feel lightheaded from the afternoon swelter. He groaned at the thought of going back to the overheated house, even though he knew he’d soon need the break. "How in the hell can you stand there in that pit half the day in this heat, then go into that sweltering house for the other half?” Brady asked. “It doesn't seem like you’ll ever find anything of interest down there, anyway."
Bill turned the rock over and over in his hands, eyeing it closely as would a true paleontologist , while looking for a good place to chip away at more of the rock. "Just takes dedication, John, old boy,” Bill replied. “We all have such an interest in fossils that we simply ignore the heat. Just pure stick-to-it-iveness, that."
Peck ... peck ... peck ... Tim walked over to their side of the pit, pulled his gloves off, climbed out and made his way to the house. "I’m going in for a rest, Bill. I guess I'll send Ellen out for a while to take over. Do you need any more water? Mr. Brady, would you like some water?"
"Ten four, old buddy,” Bill chimed. “Make it two – one for me and the other for my new pal here." Bill continued picking at the rock at slow intervals, with just enough pauses to maximize the annoyance factor that was obviously building on Brady’s face. He glared at Bill when Bill had the audacity to speak for him and then call him pal.
Brady looked up at Tim and asserted, “Sure, I’ll take something cold, if you’ve got it.”
Tim smiled and replied, “It is hot out here, isn’t it? I’ll see if I can find something a little cooler this time.” He turned and slowly walked back toward the house, then removed his hat so he could wipe some sweat from his brow with his sleeve. He put his hat back on and continued to the front door.
After entering the house, he walked quietly out the back door and around the side until he found the entrance to the cellar. He opened the door just wide enough to slip inside and silently closed the door. Within was a well-furnished, ten-by-twenty room that had been super-cooled by the air conditioner in the corner. He wiped his brow again and stood directly in front of the cool stream of recirculated air.
"Oh, man, does that feel good," Tim sighed as he raised his arms to get the maximum effect of the air conditioner. Ellen walked up behind him and said, "You’re going to get sick changing your body temperature that often and that quickly. You need to follow Bill's example and stay out at the dig site for a longer time before coming back in."
Tim turned toward Ellen and let the cool air run across his back. "He just does that because he enjoys watching that Brady fellow suffer,” he said. “We're going to kill that sonofabitch with this heat before he gives up and leaves. Can you imagine him wearing that suit and tie every day? He looks like shit by noon."
"I think we're wearing him down,” Ellen replied. “After tomorrow morning, when we show him our ultimate little trick, I bet he packs up and takes off. He sure does hate being here. When he's absolutely convinced that none of us know what the hell we're doing, he’ll call off the survey. I guess I better get out there and relieve you before he gets suspicious."
Tim reached into a cooler, then pulled out a thermos and a plastic water bottle. He poured some water from the thermos into the bottle, being careful not to spill it. In the cool of the air-conditioned room, a wisp of vapor arose from the heated liquid. He put the cap back on the bottle and grinned as he handed it to Ellen. “Here you go. Mr. Brady would like some ‘cold’ water to help him deal with this heat.”
Ellen grinned as she took the water bottle and noticed the heat emanating from it. “That might be a little too warm. Let me wait a few minutes so it can cool down a little bit. Then I’ll head out to the dig.”
"Yeah, get on out there and have some fun,” Tim shot back. “I hope Brady gets in touch with all the other agencies when he gives up and tells them how bad off we are out here."
"I hope so, too," she said as she climbed out of the cool basement and into the noon swelter.
* * *
The next morning, it was still cool outside, but the temperature had started to rise. "And just what in the hell do you think you're going to do with that dynamite?" Brady asked incredulously as Bill repeatedly tossed it into the air with one hand and caught it with the other. It was eight in the morning on the fourth day of the survey and John Brady's suit was still crisp and sharp, having been changed after yesterday’s tormenting heat. The survey team was just unloading for the day. Brady stood above the pit with his arms folded and Bill crouched in one corner of the hole while juggling the dynamite. Charlie stood in the pit and drilled a hole in the far side with an air-powered masonry drill. The bit made quick work of the crimson stone that soon showed through the bedrock on the other side of the dig.
"You mean THIS?" Bill asked, holding the stick up for him to inspect. "Tell him, Ellen."
Ellen grabbed Brady’s hand and led him into the pit. She looked excited as she guided him toward the far side. "Look over here, John." She pointed to an area outside the pit about thirty feet away from where Charlie was drilling. "See this impression in the side of the rock? We think we have something here. See, we have a theory that one of these other formations is going to have lots of different fossils in it. Everyone digs in the Morrison or the Cloverly formation, but we want to find something different. Nobody digs in the Chugwater formation because they think there aren’t any fossils there. We think they just haven’t dug down deep enough to find anything.” Ellen tapped at the distinctive red rock as she explained her position to Brady.
Brady shook his head in disbelief. These people are idiots, he thought. “But there aren’t any fossils in the Chugwater formation,” he yelled at the group. “Everyone knows that!”
Ellen grinned and replied, “Sure there are – and we’re going to find them. But the rock between here and the hole is just too hard for quick work. We’ll save time by blasting away that part of the hill to see what we might have here. Don't worry – we have the construction permits and can legally use the dynamite. Bill has experience with explosives, so as soon as it all can be set up, we'll be ready. You care for a cup of coffee while we wait?"
Brady slowly followed Ellen toward the house. He didn't seem at all convinced that these clowns knew what they were doing, but he had a job to do and he was going to do it. "Please, would you bring it to the front porch?" he requested. "That is the hottest damn house I've ever been in. It doesn't even seem to lose the heat overnight. When are you people going to get the air conditioners fixed, anyway?"
"Soon," Ellen answered. She walked through the front doorway and left him standing on the porch. "Just as soon as you get your grubby little butt off our property," she said softly when she was safely out of earshot. As she passed through the hall toward the kitchen, she noticed that nobody had remembered to turn down the furnace this morning. The thermostat read ninety-five degrees, so she turned the knob counterclockwise and heard the gas to the furnace shut off. She filled two cups as quickly as possible and returned to the porch.
"There you go, John,” she said as she handed him a steaming cup of ‘get the hell out of here’ coffee. “Coffee sure hits the spot this time of day."
"Tell me, Ellen," Brady remarked as he sipped his brew, "do you really expect to find anything out there?" As Brady sipped the coffee, he grimaced, paused for a second before swallowing. He looked at the coffee cup and lowered it instead of taking another sip.
"Never know, John,” Ellen replied. “Anyway, I've got a lot of money and this is a fun way to spend it, don'tcha think?" she mused as she glanced in his direction.
The Bureau of Land Management had run thorough background checks on all of these people. The funny thing was that they all seemed exactly as they were portrayed, but Brady had secret suspicions that Mr. Regal of the Regal Agency was taking this little rich girl for a big fat ride. They were probably all in on it, everybody taking a slice of the pie. Nothing illegal in that, but he felt it was his duty to warn the woman that if she really wanted to look for dinosaur remains, she had definitely hired the wrong crew.
An investigation into the doings of Bill Regal had uncovered that he ran one of the lower-class detective outfits, doing a lot of wife-versus-errant-husband type of work – anything people needed doing and were willing to pay through the nose to get. "You know this Regal character doesn't know the first thing about fossils, don't you?” Brady asked. “You'd be much better off hiring a more reputable bunch of folks than these clowns to help you."
"I think I'm old enough to take care of my own business," Ellen said stiffly, looking away from Brady after the question. Brady just sighed. Some women were just too independent for their own good.
From the front porch, Ellen and Brady could hear Bill yelling for everyone to get out of the dig. "Okay, folks, stand by!" he declared as everyone took cover behind the automobiles. He began the countdown: "10 ... 9 ... 8 ... 7 ... 6 ... 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... fire in the hole!" Bill pushed the plunger on the detonator box to ignite the charge.
B-O-O-M! The explosion rattled the farmhouse windows, while rock, dirt and debris blew more than a hundred feet into the air. It took nearly five minutes for the dust to settle completely. Bill glanced down into the pit and saw that the area of the hill where the explosive had been buried was blasted away. Also missing was the section that Ellen had told Brady she thought might have contained fossil remains.
Brady started laughing with more than a little amusement. His booming guffaws lasted more than a minute. "Too much of a charge, that," Bill understated the situation.
* * *
"Jenkins here." Special Agent Steve Jenkins gave the standard greeting as he answered his telephone from behind a new oak desk in an otherwise drab FBI office in downtown Billings, Montana. The desk was a present from his wife, Dianne, and he had decided to use it in his downtown office rather than at home. He wanted to brighten up the depressing atmosphere of these dilapidated surroundings and this large roll-top seemed just the ticket.
Billings, a city of around a hundred thousand, had a small FBI office with just two agents – Jenkins and Duke Feltman. Jenkins’ partner was out at the moment, he knew not where. The atmosphere in this small outpost was pretty informal, with just the two of them here in the boondocks of southern Montana. They did not really keep tabs on one another and, if they needed something, they might have to leave phone messages just to stay in touch.
There had been no real excitement around the place since the arrest of those wacky militia people years ago, and Jenkins could do without that kind of action. He preferred his quiet routine instead. As he looked around the office and at a mirror in the corner, he noticed a hair out of place, so he quickly pulled out a comb to correct the flaw. He also straightened his jacket and plucked a piece of lint from one of the sleeves. After another glance into the mirror, he judged that he was squared away and went back to his paperwork.
The blare of the phone broke the monotonous silence. "Oh, hi John,” Jenkins greeted Brady. “How are things with the Bureau of Land Management?"
Brady answered “Not great, I’ve been out sweating my ass off watching those crazy people by Franc Valley blowing up rocks looking for fossils. We thought with Ms. Goodwin’s money they might be onto something that could benefit the government but the only thing they’ve found is new ways to blow things up. A waste of my time and I’ve ruined two suits sweating out there.”
Jenkins laughed and said. "Yeah, I know. They seem to be a nutty bunch of people, and you're right, they're probably a waste of time. But something is just not kosher with them. I can't really put my finger on it, but I'm going to keep my eyes on them for a while. Don't have that much to do of late, anyway."
He fished for a cigarette, pulled the last one from the generic pack, tossed the empty in the trash and lit it with his chrome FBI lighter. Strictly speaking, it was against the rules to smoke in the office, but nobody except Duke and himself ever frequented the place anyway–and they both smoked.
Brady continued saying “I’m recommending that we pull out, even if these people find fossils there will only be dust left after they get through. I’d try and stop them from ruining things except that they are looking in places that they’ll never find any fossils. I think you’re nuts if you think there is anything going on there.”
"Yeah, that's fine, John,” Jenkins went on. “Sure, I understand the BLM can't waste their time with this bunch of loonies. Go ahead and pull out of it. I'm just telling you that they have my interest piqued. Even though the background checks went through without a hitch, I don't think we have the full story on them just yet. For instance, did you know that they ordered several thousand board feet of lumber for their little dig? Now you tell me what they are going to do with all that wood?"
There was a pause as Brady thought and said “From what I’ve seen these guys are going to build a bonfire and try to melt the rock in order to get at fossils. But seriously, what are they going to do with all that lumber? I’d worry more about their permit for dynamite if I were you.”
Jenkins put his feet up on the desk, leaned back in his chair and blew two neat smoke rings toward the ceiling. "Yeah, well I worry about that, too,” he said. “Look, I'll keep you informed of anything I learn about them. Say hi to the wife and kiddies for me, we’ll have to meet up for a barbecue one of these days." He hung up the phone, rose from the chair and grabbed his suit coat from the closet. He figured Duke had the right idea after all and he would respond in kind. He would get lost, too.
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