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“... Jackson Jones here: with me on behalf of the Bureau Of Land Management is Samuel Smith; Jack and Sam. We’ve never done an indigenous lizard search before but both of us were enlisted in the US Army and are fathers were too, okay?”


Five men were seated on foldable chairs at the front of a makeshift podium where Smith and Jones were preening; three other men stood behind the portable chairs and by the attendance, Jones’ duende failed to rouse any evident enthusiasm.


The shabby meeting room’s ambiance was like an elementary school classroom; its’ small space was constructed to accommodate a basic necessity for hearing any guffaw and speech—front to back—without microphonic or other enhancement: excepting extreme hearing deficit, it was reasonable to conclude the cloistered setting enabled earshot across the room. Jones’ introduction simply absconded appreciation.


Officer Smith clapped his hands vigorously to either accost the dull crowd or to disturb Jones’ position as emcee; Smith said “Each one of you needs to introduce yourself. You guys at the back start first.”


One of the seated men twisted his hip slightly to stare over his shoulder at the three men behind him: akin to a chain reaction, each of the others mimicked the posturing in turn—chair to chair, shoulder to shoulder—until all five were poised in an over the shoulder stare at the three standing characters.


Two of the alerted but still sheepish men pointedly fingered the man in the middle as their leader. “Well, I’m an investigator with BOFI: Federal Bureau of Investigation.” After ostentatiously cocking his head to nod direction to the men at his side, he said “These two guys are associates of the press. APE reporters: so... that’s it.”


Jones and Smith quickly looked at each other before both of them tried to speak at the same time; Jones pardoned “Sure, go ahead Smith.” Smith immediately voiced authoritative suspicion: “How would you know to be here? Do you have any kind of identification: you got names, right?”


The men on the chairs swiftly elaborated the degree of their turned postures to more forwardly face what Smith’s questioning insinuated were possible intruders. A defensive APE reporter blurted “We could leave.” And the other APE snitched: “BOFI guy here said there was a story for us; otherwise, we don’t know nothing about whatever.” He motioned his arm over the chest of the BOFI middle man to reference the other APE: “He’s Jason and I’m John. APES, not big sweats: press cards, state and federal issued photo ID; we got it all.”


Jones demanded “And you, BOFI guy; got any proof of ID?” BOFI guy noticeably straightened himself to a defiant stance: “Of course. The thing to do is to call our published BOFI phone number and ask whoever answers the phone to connect you to the agent assignment supervisor who decided I would be accountable for this specific investigation: the assignment supervisor will explain who offered the lead to our office; I’m not allowed to disclose that information to you... I’ve got a BOFI badge: Bartholomew Barnes; Bart.”


Smith shouted: “VOTE. Do we kick these guys out now, before we check on their identification? Show of hands: raised means yea, down means nay.” Out of the five men still seated, only one raised a hand instantaneously: but upon detection, the younger man next to him hastily appended his own suit to second the yea and Smith respectively queried “Chief Johnson, sir, would you like to explain why you object to their being privy to the posse?”


Chief Johnson rotated his position towards Smith and Jones at the front of the room before declaring his indignance from the last chair on the left end of the row: “To my knowledge at this time, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department has not requested BOFI assistance with this investigation; I’m obliged—by my own employment limitations—to decline any such attention without additional authorization.”


Smith and Jones nodded their heads to convey understanding. Jones commiserated clarification out to the room: “Chief Johnson is Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department supervisor for investigations of non-violent incidences that cause or could cause public hazard. This has to be a democratic posse; no slur intended Chief Johnson, sir, but by majority vote they stay for now.”


An uncomfortable hush manifested over the group until the centered third chair man abruptly arose to declare “I’m Ralph Rowland: Maricopa County Animal Care and Control veterinarian, and this young man to my right is assistant animal health technician Gordon Green. We’re excited to be included with this detail’s indigenous lizard search duty. Both of us are trained and highly skilled with the use of sedation guns but we’re also authorized to use lethal force, if an animal suspect is uncontrollable.”


Gordon briskly ascertained subsequent support, “However: suspect is the key point; the lizards could have escaped from scientists or game wardens and their approaching cars might only be the result of previous keepers feeding them from inside motor vehicles. We have an image sketched—based upon information amassed from the sighting reports: Varanus Megalania Prisca—to clue you on appearance.”


The young man next to Chief Johnson eagerly stood up to initiate an introductory hand shake with Ralph; he said “I’m Harold Heath Hardy, Harry, Chief Johnson’s assistant investigator.” After shaking hands with Harry, Ralph sat back down and watched Harry beam a gregarious grin around the unwary group: overall and by genial neglect, Harry’s happy was wasted comity.


The last man on the right end seat introduced himself as “Robert Barton, homicide investigator, Phoenix PD. I’m not overly optimistic here: don’t call me Bobbie.” Smith quipped, “And that’s fine; this isn’t a personality contest. The main emphasis of meeting is to organize our efforts to locate and if possible, apprehend giant lizards. Excepting the three at the back, a copy of the report that propels us to posse was previously sent: that’s why you are here.”


Without hesitation, Jones’ emoted to establish confederacy: “Because of the descriptive—and I must say persuasive—intensity of the report and other sighting complaints, the real possibility of giant lizards on the loose at Gila Bend can no longer be ignored.” Harry applauded and exclaimed “Yes sir!”


Chief Johnson lowered his head to benignly chuckle but Barton glared over towards Harry with a frown and smirked sarcastically, “So, maybe you should change your name from Harry to Hayseed.” The other men collectively and incredulously ogled Barton during a tense moment before Smith diplomatically chastised Barton: “Low. Bah humbug. Let’s not get off on a wrong track here.”


Jones staunchly defended any further digression: “Right, on track! The woman from San Diego wasn’t the first person to complain about being apprehended by giant lizards outside the Space Age Cafe. Between Maricopa and Yuma County Sheriff’s Departments, there’s been a total of nine reports during the past two years; every incident occurred near restaurant establishments: the giant lizards approach parked or stopped vehicles outside the eateries as if they’re accustomed to being fed from vehicles.”


Smith interrupted: “But the giant lizard sightings have only been at very rural or remote eating locations; two sightings were outside a Dairy Queen near Dome and another report was less than a mile away from an isolated taco shop close to Dome: six complaints are about the giant lizards approaching vehicles near the Space Age Cafe at Gila Bend.”


Chief Johnson ingratiated himself to the discussion by explaining “The Gila River Indian Community refused to address our inquiry; they said our concern seemed to be more of an issue for God: if they’ve seen giant lizards, they aren’t going to tell us about it.”


Gordon handed Ralph a folder out of a floor-stashed carrying case; from his seat, Ralph started passing lizard sketched image sheets to the chaired men and then squatted a backward swivel to relay two pages to the APES. After Ralph resituated on his chair from a forward stretch to present Jones and Smith with the same handout, BOFI guy said “Excuse me. I didn’t get one.”


Ralph continued to ignore BOFI guy while Gordon politely responded “We don’t have an extra one; you’ll have to ask one of the APES to make you copy. Sorry.” The other men involved themselves with a brief image study before Jones maneuvered a shift of focus by saying “We’ve mapped the area where the search will begin and extend by boundaries.” Smith progressed over the room to spread out area maps: he mockingly bowed to BOFI guy as he dangled a map towards him and snapped “Get one... You got one.”


And then Smith promptly reestablished himself as an announcer at the front of the room: “It seems relevant to mention, giant lizards—larger than Gilas—are not considered as indigenous to Arizona or California; we’re calling this an indigenous lizard search for several reasons and one is to avoid alarming the public at large. We do not need an irrational press persuading the public into undue hostility. The APES amongst us are forewarned.” The startled APES concurrently vowed confidentiality: “Sure, no worries.” “Mum’s the word until you say it’s not.”


Jones waved to a chalk board on the front wall and said “Other than BOFI guy and the APES, each man has to write down the dedicated dates and hours preferred for posse to democratically set time limits. After we tally an average, each man needs to declare what he considers as necessary equipment—what he is willing to bring—and then what other supplies and who will bring what or not; keep in mind this is a posse not a picnic.”


Smith said, “If we don’t any waste time with it, we can wrap this up in an hour.” And Jones added:  “But we still have to define our method of approach—what we will do—if the giant lizards approach us. We can’t just go out there to manhandle.”



Link Space Age Cafe, Chapter 3 APE REPORT

Characters Time And Place

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