Security Through Absurdity: Bubbles Will Pop

Security Through Absurdity: Bubbles Will Pop

by Rachael L. McIntosh

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Product Details

BN ID: 2940152013115
Publisher: Rachael L. McIntosh
Publication date: 07/03/2015
Sold by: Smashwords
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 669 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Rachael L. McIntosh is an accomplished visual artist who also worked for a major US defense contractor during the lead up to the Iraq war. She acted as a national media coordinator during the politically significant December 16, 2007 "Money Bomb"; an online fundraising frenzy that became the largest single-day fundraiser for any political candidate in US history. She has also appeared in the feature length documentary "For Liberty". Currently, she is writing novels and homeschooling her two children in Rhode Island.

Read an Excerpt

Security Through Absurdity

Bubbles Will Pop


By Rachael L. McIntosh

iUniverse

Copyright © 2015 Rachael L. McIntosh
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-5078-0


CHAPTER 1

October 2005, Switzerland


Ethan Lowe blinked while staring at his reflection in the bus window. His image was merging with the drizzly weather outside, and it kind of fit his mood—if moods were what you could call them these days. Everything had sort of mushed into one long-standing malaise. It was only recently that he had started to recognize that maybe this might be a problem. His gray state of mind had originally been an asset for his line of work. But since finding out that he was going to be a father ... a father to twins ...

He shook his head, broke off another chunk of chocolate, and popped it into his mouth. As he sat munching, the bus stopped, and two winter-camouflage-outfitted military men boarded the bus, SG-550s were slung over their shoulders. He imagined how people would react to the automatic rifles back in the States. They'd probably grab the kids and push their way off the bus, totally freaked out. He smirked and watched as the army guys settled down in the seats between an unfazed teenager and an elderly woman.

He liked it here. He had gotten to admire the mountains while on the train ride to the bus and was now sitting comfortably by the window, watching the watery smear of a farm-speckled landscape roll by.

The doors of the bus slid open at exactly 2:15. Like everything in Switzerland, his arrival was a testament to the predictable order of things, as was just about everything having to do with the care and maintenance of the Swiss citizenry. The place was organized and worked like a fine timepiece.

As soon as Ethan's feet hit the ground, the doors closed and the bus hissed away. A herd of sheep was staring right at him from behind an antique but well-maintained fence. He looked around and noticed a couple happily holding hands as they walked up the cobblestone path to his left. The drizzle was in full effect, and the leafless trees made it seem much colder than it really was. He pulled up his hood, zipped his black Arc'teryx jacket all the way up, and jammed his hands into his pockets.

Ethan discovered that the cobblestones led directly up a hill to a castle, and he figured that was where he was supposed to go. The message he had received about this meeting had been very vague. Cheese shops, restaurants, bakeries, and cafés lined both sides of the street on his ascent. When he was almost at the top, he noticed it: the polished stainless-steel statue. It was just like the one in Jonas Ledergerber's office (if that was his real name). No, not the castle—this old stone building was definitely where he was supposed to go.

Château St. Germain 1663 Gruyères Museum HR Giger


He paid his entry at the front desk and headed in. The place, unlike most museums he had been in, was dimly lit, with pin lights illuminating the artwork. Wandering somewhat aimlessly and uneasily around the building, he was surprised to encounter an enormous cast-bronze statue depicting the creature from the movie Alien. And it wasn't until he was upstairs and through some arched stone passageways that he took the time to really look at the artwork—large-scale, five-by-five-foot, black-and-white, surreal-meets-technical drawings of pentagrams impaling and/or otherwise violating drawn-and-quartered naked women. There were goat heads and mysterious symbols and lots of mechanical stuff married with the feminine form. The drawings were clearly expertly done.

As Ethan studied one of the more titillating pieces, a tall salt-and-pepper-haired man in a perfectly fitted dark charcoal overcoat and a scented cloud of Clive Christian "V" for Men silently slipped up next to him. "Good day, Mr. Lowe," Ethan heard in a Swiss-German accent. "Thank you for agreeing to meet."

Startled, Ethan turned to the man and replied, "As if I had a choice." And he quickly took the wad of a handkerchief out of his pocket and attempted to pass it over, because after all, that was why he was here—to deliver roughly a million dirty dollars, all of which had been cleverly transferred and fashioned into a very flashy jewel-encrusted butterfly brooch.

Arms folded across his chest and not looking at Ethan, eyes still fixed on the woman being defiled by the top corner of the pentagram, Mr. Jonas Ledergerber answered, "Now, now, it was you who needed me. The neema incident with the colonel," he said, shaking his head, "I regret to say was ridiculous, but you were intelligent enough to accept my help."

Ethan looked at him with restrained disdain as he absently fiddled with the clump he was still left holding. He knew that Jonas Ledergerber was exerting his dominance by making him stand there like a confused child cradling a small fortune. But he also knew he had no right to say anything. He had, in fact, gotten out of hand while working at the "no blood, no foul" operation beneath the Baghdad International Airport, otherwise called NAMA. He thought back on his role as a "translator," the currently accepted euphemism for torturer. The Huachuca-trained CIA and Fort Bragg Special Forces had all been professional enough. But it had been during a relatively mild session when the guy everyone called "Colonel," with whom he had been partnered for the case, started describing how he had slowly mangled and killed a young Serbian prostitute back in the day.

At first Ethan had figured this was for the benefit of the terrified SOB strapped in the chair. But when the story started to sound a bit too familiar, Ethan lost it. He just lost it and killed, not the guy in the chair, but the "colonel" from Fort Bragg.

Mr. Ledergerber turned to face Ethan. "Now that the regrettable incident is behind us," he made a gesture as if brushing flour off his hands, "it is time that you help me." Without a smile, he patted Ethan's shoulder and said, "Come. Let us enjoy the local fondue before I send you on your way home." Ethan thrust the bundle he was holding into Mr. Ledergerber's hands. Ledergerber took it and, without even looking at it, put it in his pocket. "You will take some time off now, yes? I will call upon you when necessary."

Ethan's head was now officially in the dark-gray zone as he made his way downhill to the anything-but-delightful fondue Jonas Ledergerber was promising. He had no clear idea how he was going to manage any of this. Especially now with Jocelyn expecting.

CHAPTER 2

The same day, Norwich, Connecticut, USA, -6 hour time difference


Jocelyn McLaren was nervous, excited, and optimistic all at the same time as she locked up her silver C280 Sport Mercedes and headed through the sun-streaked reds and yellows of the tree-lined parking lot to the hospital. She was simply radiant in the new maternity clothes, and she was feeling surprisingly healthy. Really healthy. More healthy than she had ever remembered being in her adult life. Somehow the hormones of pregnancy had kicked in and countered all the weird physical problems of the relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis that she had come to know as her normal state of being for the past ten years.

Apparently, these same hormones had also changed her perspective about shopping for clothes. Normally, she didn't like shopping and fussing about her appearance, but now, surprising even to herself, she had a closet full of the lightest pink, very feminine and flattering, not to mention very expensive, mommy-to-be fashions. Her new wardrobe was a huge departure from the black and gray or, if it had been a good day, navy, office attire that she had donned on a daily basis to shuffle into the fluorescent flicker hell otherwise known as the Conglomerate, one of America's "big six" defense contractors. But thankfully, she had peacefully extracted herself from that mess last week, and she was still thoroughly enjoying the buzz of being free. The colors of the autumn morning and the fresh, crispy air were accentuating this feeling of freedom.

She pushed a lock of her strawberry blonde hair behind her ear and unfolded the note Mimi had given her during the going-away party. Walking toward the hospital, she surveyed the layout. Mimi, the receptionist at the Conglomerate, had scribbled it all out for her. According to Mimi, this was the best OB-GYN in the area, and his office was supposed to be in the "new building." Considering that one part of the hospital looked like the mental institution they had shut down back in her hometown—a big, scary, Victorian brick behemoth dating back to the nineteenth century— she instantly concluded that she was supposed to move toward the typically 1980s oversized arches and somehow fake-looking bricks.

Having reached her destination, she smiled at herself in the glass doors as they silently slid open. The unexpected but totally predictable smell of hospital disinfectant wafted past her along with the non-hurried rush of weary hospital foot traffic. When Jocelyn finally found her way through the linoleum and plastic signage scavenger hunt otherwise known as Backus Memorial Hospital, she happily rolled up to the doctor's check-in area and grinned. The dark-haired and very suntanned receptionist sitting behind the beige office cube-like desk reminded her of someone she used to work with—a woman named Nancy.

It was funny seeing a character like Nancy outfitted in colorful nursing scrubs featuring Winnie the Poo. And she couldn't help but notice that the polka dot clad clerk, rummaging around in the bank of filing cabinets at the far end of the room, bore an uncanny resemblance to one of the many temps that had buzzed into and out of her division after Nancy died. Jocelyn eyed the the bespectacled woman with the pixie haircut, hoping that Ms. Polka Dot would look her way so that she could confirm her hunch, but no such luck. Maybe those are new glasses or something. Smiling, she called out over the dim waiting room Musak, "Hey! Shelly, right?" But the clerk didn't even look up. Disappointed because she had actually appreciated that temp and wondering if she was just imagining things because of seeing someone who reminded her of Nancy, Jocelyn's attention was soon diverted back to the receptionist.

"You're at ten o'clock?" the tanned Nancy look-a-like asked as she rooted around with her mouse and stared at the computer screen. "Jocelyn McLaren?"

"Yup. That's me," Jocelyn happily answered. However, the receptionist did not possess the same joie de vivre and a silence settled in forcing Jocelyn to notice the framed, large format color photographs of mountains scattered around the waiting room. "Nice pictures."

"The doctor took 'em," the Nancy clone replied flatly. "He goes all over the place. Just came back from Alps." Jocelyn detected a bit of an unspoken "I-hate-my-boss-so-much" attitude before the woman asked her for her insurance card.

"Oh, I don't have one."

The receptionist tilted her head to look directly at Jocelyn and asked, "You mean you lost it?" And that's when the dark, tired, bags under the woman's eyes became quite obvious. Given how exhausted this lady looked, Jocelyn wasn't surprised that she could discern the familiar acrid, tangy, odor of coffee breath. But she was surprised that she could smell it from where she was standing. She could smell everything these days. It was some sort of new pregnancy superpower. This whole being-able-to-smell thing had appeared about the same time as her newfound preference for light pink, and she marveled at what all these new hormones she had coursing through her were doing.

"Well, I had hoped that I was going to be able to get COBRA health insurance after I left my job," Jocelyn said as she placed her color coordinated purse carefully on the counter. "I haven't gotten my card yet, and I don't know what is going on with the paperwork. I had heard that everyone was offered COBRA, so I just figured I'd apply ..."

"Oh, so you got laid off?" The woman seemed to reposition her gaze to a different part of the computer screen she was looking at as she reached over to grab a clipboard to hand over to Jocelyn.

Accepting the clipboard and pen, Jocelyn said, "No. I just quit. I couldn't take it anymore. I know stuff takes a long time to get approved, but I—"

Miss Nancy let out a loud sigh, rolled her eyes, and crossed her arms across her chest. "But that's not how it works. You can't apply for COBRA if you just quit."

Jocelyn had figured as much, but she'd also figured she'd give it a try to see what might happen. "Well, I know I'm not getting unemployment, but there's got to be a way to get health insurance. I mean, look at me." Jocelyn positioned herself to showcase her five-month baby bump as the office Musak softly played a very uninspiring version of Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho. The two other women in the waiting area, who both looked as if they were about to drop their precious cargoes at any moment, glanced up but then quickly returned to their outdated People magazines.

The receptionist sort of snickered and said, "Yeah, well, I wanna walk outta here too, like every day, but no one's gonna just give me health insurance for being alive. You sorta have to be in on the game, ya know?"

Jocelyn sighed. She hadn't worried about health insurance except for when she had been living in her non-live-in painting studio back in Boston seven years ago, before she landed the job at the Conglomerate. That's when she had just paid money directly to the doctor if she needed to see someone. Sure, it was sort of expensive, but almost everywhere she went had sliding-scale pricing based on income, and needless to say, as an artist she qualified for decent prices. That's just how it was back then. Now the new governor in Massachusetts was doing something different with the state's health care system. She'd heard a little about that from her artist friends back in Boston—some of whom were moving out of the state to New Hampshire because of this new law. And others were frantically trying to figure out whether there was some sort of legal way to become a tax evader. She didn't really know the particulars of it; she just knew it was a new thing back in Massachusetts.

Jocelyn pursed her lips. The woman was clearly correct, but needing to be "in the game" wasn't exactly what she wanted to hear—especially since she had just removed herself from it last week. "What if I made some sort of a payment plan ... directly to this office?" she offered hopefully.

"Umm, right. A payment plan. You are getting ready to have twins. You have MS. You are going to be thirty-five when these kids are born. You don't have a job. And you are technically a high-risk pregnancy. Do you know how much a neonatal stay for a preemie costs? Let alone for two? Twins usually come early, you know."

Put off by this woman's confrontational attitude, Jocelyn countered with, "I'm not worried. I have a savings account, and I guess I could sell my house to pay for whatever comes up." She took out her credit card and handed it over in lieu of an insurance card.

"I hope you have a really nice house to put up for sale," the woman said, taking the card. "A neonatal stay could easily run up to a million dollars for twins"—she looked up, held Jocelyn's gaze, and narrowed her eyes, almost smirking—"a million dollars a day."

"Seriously?" Jocelyn asked in disbelief.

"Seriously." An extended and awkward period of silence ensued as the woman wrestled with the clunky credit card imprint machine, swore under her breath when she hurt her knuckles swiping the card, and then asked Jocelyn to sign on the line. As she tore apart the carbon copy of the transaction and handed it to Jocelyn, she said, "I really think you need to start looking for insurance," and handed the credit card back.

Jocelyn primly put the card back into her wallet and said, "Well, I'm having problems locating an insurance company that will take me with the MS and being pregnant. What do you suggest I do?"

"Move."

"What do you mean move? Like exercise?" Jocelyn asked, somewhat perplexed by the woman's answer. "No. I mean, like, pack up your stuff and move to another state that has really easy qualifications for state aid," the woman explained while affixing a red dot sticker to her file. "That's what I'd do." "I never thought of that. People really do that?"

The receptionist looked at Jocelyn as if she had two heads and replied simply, "All the time."

Just then, Jocelyn's cell phone rang, and it gave her the excuse to end the conversation with the sour receptionist. "Oh, I have to take this." Miss Nancy rolled her eyes again, and the other women in the waiting room lazily watched as Jocelyn excitedly answered the phone and made her way to a chair under an impressive photo of the Matterhorn. "Hey! Are you home yet?" she asked as quietly as she could, but still everyone could hear her just fine.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Security Through Absurdity by Rachael L. McIntosh. Copyright © 2015 Rachael L. McIntosh. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Security Through Absurdity: Bubbles Will Pop 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this series! This is the second one and I highly recommend starting with the first one, Little Yellow Stickies. This is a fun and interesting read! I'm realizing my life is highly dull by comparison to the main character!!!