The Doomsday Conspiracy

Chapter Twenty-Seven


Day Eight
Waco, Texas
Dan Wayne was not having a good day. As a matter of fact, he was having a dreadful day. He had just returned from the Waco county courthouse where he was facing bankruptcy proceedings. His wife, who had been having an affair with her young doctor, was divorcing him, intent on getting half of everything he had (which could be half of nothing, he had assured her lawyer). And one of his prize bulls had to be destroyed. Dan Wayne felt that fate was kicking him in the balls. He had done nothing to deserve all this. He had been a good husband and a good rancher. He sat in his study contemplating the gloomy future.
Dan Wayne was a proud man. He was well aware of all the jokes about Texans being loud-mouthed, larger-than-life braggarts, but he honestly felt he had something to brag about. He had been born in Waco, in the rich agricultural region of the Brazos River Valley. Waco was modern, but it still retained a flavour of the past, when the five Cs had been its support: cattle, cotton, corn, collegians and culture. Wayne loved Waco with all his heart and soul, and when he had met the Italian priest on the Swiss tour bus, he had spent almost five hours going on about his home town. The priest had told him he wanted to practise his English, but actually, as he thought back on it, Dan had done almost all the talking.
"Waco has everything," he had confided to the priest. "Our climate's great. We don't allow it to get too hot or too cold. We have twenty-three schools in the school district, and Baylor University. We have four newspapers, ten radio stations and five television stations. We have a Texas Ranger Hall of Fame that will knock you out. I mean, we're talking history. If you like fishing, Father, Brazos River is an experience you'll never forget. Then, we have a safari ranch and a big art centre. I tell you, Waco is one of the unique cities of the world. You must come and pay us a visit."
And the little old priest had smiled and nodded, and Wayne wondered how much English he really understood.
Dan Wayne's father had left him a thousand acres of ranch land, and the son had built up his cattle herd from two thousand to ten thousand. There was also a prize stallion that was going to be worth a fortune. And now, the bastards were trying to take it all away from him. It wasn't his fault that the cattle market had gone to hell, or that he had gotten behind with his mortgage payments. The banks were closing in for the kill, and his only chance to save himself was to find someone who would buy the ranch, pay off his creditors, and leave him with a little profit.
Wayne had heard about a rich Swiss who was looking for a ranch in Texas, and he had flown over to Zurich to meet him. In the end, it had turned out to be a wild goose chase. The dude's idea of a ranch was an acre or two with a nice little vegetable garden. She-eet!
That was how Dan Wayne had happened to be on the tour bus when that extraordinary thing occurred. He had read about flying saucers, but he had never believed in them. Now, by God, he certainly did. As soon as he returned home, he had called the editor of the local newspaper.
"Johnny, I just saw an honest-to-God flying saucer with some dead, funny-looking people in it."
"Yeah? Did you get any pictures, Dan?"
"No. I took some, but they didn't come out."
"Never mind. We'll send a photographer out there. Is it on your ranch?"
"Well, no. As a matter of fact, it was in Switzerland."
There was a silence.
"Oh. Well, if you happen to come across one on your ranch, Dan, give me another call."
"Wait! I'm being sent a picture by some fellow who saw the thing." But Johnny had already hung up.
And that was that.
Wayne almost wished that there would be an invasion of aliens. Maybe they would kill off his damned creditors. He heard the sound of a car coming up the drive and rose and walked over to the window. Looked like an easterner.
Probably another creditor. These days they were coming out of the woodwork.
Dan Wayne opened the front door.
"Daniel Wayne?"
"My friends call me Dan. What can I do for you?"
Dan Wayne was not at all what Robert had expected. He had envisioned a stereotype of a burly Texan. Dan Wayne was slight and aristocratic-looking, with an almost shy manner. The only thing that gave away his heritage was his accent.
"I wonder if I might have a few minutes of your time?"
"That's about all I've got left," Wayne said. "By the way, you're not a creditor, are you?"
"A creditor? No."
"Good. Come on in."
The two men walked into the living room. It was large and comfortably furnished with western-style furniture.
"This is a nice place you have here," Robert said.
"Yeah. I was born in this house. Can I offer you anything? A cold drink, maybe?"
"No, thanks. I'm fine."
"Have a seat."
Robert sat down on a soft leather couch.
"What did you want to see me about?"
"I believe you took a bus tour in Switzerland last week?"
"That's right. Is my ex-wife having me followed? You don't work for her, do you?"
"No, sir."
"Oh." He suddenly understood. "You're interested in that UFO thing. Damnedest thing I ever saw. It kept changing colours. And those dead aliens!" He shuddered. "I keep dreaming about it."
"Mr Wayne, can you tell me anything about the other passengers who were on that bus?"
"Sorry, I can't help you out there. I was travelling alone."
"I know, but you spoke to some of the other passengers, didn't you?"
"To tell you the truth, I had a lot on my mind. I wasn't paying much attention to anyone else."
"Do you remember anything about any of them?"
Dan Wayne was silent for a moment. "Well, there was an Italian priest. I talked to him quite a bit. He seemed like a nice fellow. I want to tell you something, that flying saucer thing really shook him up. He kept talking about the devil."
"Did you speak to anyone else?"
Dan Wayne shrugged. "Not really ... wait a minute. I talked a little bit to some fellow who owns a bank in Canada." He ran his tongue across his lips. "To tell you the truth, I'm having a little financial problem here with the ranch. It looks as though I might lose it. I hate goddamn bankers. They're all blood-suckers. Anyway, I thought this fellow might be different. When I found out he was a banker, I talked to him about trying to work out some kind of loan arrangement here. But he was just like all the rest of them. He couldn't have been less interested."
"You said he was from Canada."
"Yeah, Fort Smith, up in the Northwest Territories. I'm afraid that's about all I can tell you."
Robert tried to conceal his excitement. "Thank you, Mr Wayne, you've been very helpful." Robert rose.
"That's it?"
"That's it."
"Would you like to stay for supper?"
"No, thanks. I have to be on my way. Good luck with the ranch."
Fort Smith, Canada, Northwest Territories.
Robert waited until General Hilliard came on the line.
"Yes, Commander?"
"I found another witness. Dan Wayne. He owns The Ponderosa, a ranch outside of Waco, Texas."
"Very good. I'll have our office in Dallas speak to him."
In Langley, Virginia, the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency studied the transmission thoughtfully. Number six. Things were going well. Commander Bellamy was doing an extraordinary job. The decision to select him had been a wise one. Janus had been right. The man was always right. And he had the power to have his wishes carried out. So much power ... The Director looked at the message again. Make it look like an accident, he thought. That shouldn't be difficult. He pressed a buzzer.
The two men arrived at the ranch in a dark blue van. They parked in the courtyard and got out of the car, carefully looking around. Dan Wayne's first thought was that they had come to take possession of the ranch. He opened the door for them.
"Dan Wayne?"
"Yes. What can I ...?"
That was as far as he got.
The second man had stepped behind him and hit him hard across the skull with a blackjack.
The larger of the two men slung the unconscious rancher over his shoulder and carried him outside to the barn. There were eight horses in the barn. The men ignored them and walked to the last stall at the back. Inside was a beautiful black stallion.
The large man said, "This is the one." He put Wayne's body down.
The second man picked up a cattle prod from the ground, stepped up to the stall door, and hit the stallion with the electric prod. The stallion whinnied and reared up. The man hit him again hard across the nose. The stallion was bucking wildly now, confined in the small space, smashing against the walls of the stall, his teeth bared and the whites of his eyes flashing.
"Now," the smaller man said. His companion lifted the body of Dan Wayne and tossed it over the half door into the stall. They watched the bloody scene for several moments, then, satisfied, turned and left.