Everyone has their own set of buttons that can be pushed, and everyone has a breaking point. It’s one thing to experience just one tiny, little thing that bothers you. It’s easy to ignore, to simply look the other way. I’m conflicted in the lessons I grew up with in church, with the whole “what would Jesus do” mentality of just “turning the other cheek” when compared to the idea that my counselor told me, which is probably the most valuable thing I’ve learned since I have been seeing the prick. That is, “whatever harmful behavior you’re willing to endure without making the person aware whose harmful behavior is hurting you… without drawing a line in the sand establishing your boundaries and how you expect to be treated… not only further damages you in the long run, but in essence, teaches that person how to treat you, and what you’re willing to endure.”
It’s funny, I used to think that my boiling point, taking so long to reach, was an admirable quality. Now, I’m not so sure. But I suppose that’s something to continue working on with my counselor. These days I don’t have the luxury of waiting for polite interactions to take place. But yeah, I’m seeing a therapist on a more frequent basis these days because of…well…some health concerns. As usual, the wife was right about my habit of bottling things up and after receiving the news…erm…
Speaking of which, I’ve been journaling my own thoughts about that to review in my counseling sessions, and intentionally leaving the parts about my frustration and anger out of this podcast for fear of… well, some of it’s private, and some I’m just not that ready to be publicly vulnerable yet. But mostly because I’m afraid of being wrong. I’m glad that I’ve done so because what I’m about to share with you confirmed that I was wrong about a few things.
I can’t be certain if I finally experienced the one straw that broke the camel’s back, or if it was a brick, but either way, I finally felt it was time to call out Ron. A seed was planted last season when 4thTrumpet told me Ron was actually working for Hydra. Ever since then, I’ve been suspicious of his activities, and have probably been over-analytical. More recently, I suppose it was the dreams that caused me to push further. Or it might have been Ben’s funeral. Yeah, I just can’t put my finger on it, but for a man who has shown zero emotion in most of the interactions I’ve had with him, he seemed to take Ben’s death pretty hard. You’d think that would be to his credit, but in my mind, he owed me a debt: that debt being an explanation… for everything. Why has he collected The Storage Papers to begin with, why do I have in my possession a document confirming he’s working for Hydra, why I was used as bait in the church, and what the hell is the long game here?
My patience is wearing thin and I think I just came to a point where I didn’t want to proceed with anything related to the papers. Especially now that I’m in therapy over them, and it’s causing tension in my marriage and in my relationship with my kids, even if indirectly. There’s only so much I’m willing to sacrifice without a solid foundation of purpose. For these reasons, I got in touch with Anderson and told him I needed to speak with Ron directly, as soon as possible, or I was done.
Of course, Anderson tried to tell me I was being irrational, so I shared with him a slightly less-detailed version of what I just told you, only with a bit more hostility. I don’t think he initially thought I was serious. A few hours later, I got a phone call from Ron, who asked me to meet him at a bar near Old Town San Diego at seven fifteen PM that night.
I got there early of course. I’m always early. I grew up with the expectation that I was actually considered late if I wasn’t fifteen minutes early to any appointment. So, by my arrival at seven oh two, I’m confident my parents would have been disappointed. Either way, I had enough time to get a couple of whiskeys burning their way down my throat, heating up my entire body and making me just a little loose before Ron arrived. When we got there, he suggested we get a booth away from people, and toward the back of the bar where it was dark and seedy.
The first thing out of his mouth was unexpected. He said, “What’s so important to you that is worth risking my friendship and long-term trust I have with Mark?” Had Anderson been on my side in all of this? I mean, why would Ron say this unless Anderson had pushed him to have this meeting? Perhaps…
Now I’m curious.
I basically just came out and told him how I felt. That I was being used, uninformed, disrespected a bit, and extremely disappointed at the lack of information flowing my way. He didn’t budge. Instead, he just looked at his beer stein as I paused for some kind of reaction from him. After an uncomfortably long period of silence, I continued. I asked why he lingered so long at Ben’s funeral, telling him that I’d given Brianne a ride, and waited in the car for over an hour for her while they were the only two who remained after the service. I understood Brianne’s motivation. I mean it was her brother for Christ’s sake, but why did he stay even after she left. I asked what attachment he had with Ben. Still staring at his beer, his right index finger began to trace the rim of the stein. I looked back at him, and his eyes seemed to be watering up, but he didn’t crack.
“Nothing, huh?” I said in that parental disappointed tone I’d learned to use. He didn’t even look at me. I asked him if there was even an ounce of him that thought I deserved an explanation for a few things, to anything. Nothing.
I even got to the point where I asked, “Why should I continue this pointless pursuit of the podcast?”
At this point, he made eye contact with me. He didn’t look angry, but more like he was trying to discern whether or not I was bluffing. The podcast obviously meant something to him, or had value.
After more silence, I picked up my whiskey, which was about half full, and slung it to the back of my throat before reaching into my pocket and extracting a folded up sheet of paper. I placed it down next to his beer stein. Ron looked at it, and our eyes met again.
“The fuck is this?” he said.
I just glared at him. I was literally ready to walk away from it all without some answers. He picked up the paper and unfolded it. I could tell he recognized it immediately as the nondisclosure agreement he signed when he hired on with Hydra.
Finally, some life was expelled from him. In an obviously agitated, but whispered voice, he said, “Who the fuck gave you this?”
The shoe was on the other foot now. I picked up my empty glass, intentionally ignoring his question, and held it between my eyes and the light above our booth, pretending I was unaware of his question. He became more insistent. “You don’t plan to go public with this, do you?”
He obviously wasn’t listening to the podcast. I looked him in the eye and said quite calmly, “I already have.”
At that moment, I couldn’t really explain how, but I could sense everything he was feeling. It was one of those moments where I previously described losing myself within thought, but I could sense everything, and I could hear in his voice (though he wasn’t speaking) a series of thoughts with his emotions. It was like a flash, like I was going to black out. Anger mixed with “that cheeky mother…” then fear mixed with questions like, “Do they know? Do I need to go dark?” and finally remorse and the thought, “I need to tell him.”
I felt dizzy and closed my eyes, assuming it was the whiskey doing it’s thing. I reopened them and said, “Yes, you do need to tell me.”
His eyes opened widely and he leaned back in his seat, almost as if I offended him. Then he shook his head from side to side, and went back to staring at his beer. I felt let down. At that point, I stood up, threw a twenty dollar bill on the table and said, “Nice knowing you,” and turned to walk away.
That’s when he grabbed my forearm and said, “Okay, I’ll tell you what you want to know.”
I said, “Well first you can let go of my arm,” which he did.
Then I said, “If you aren’t going to tell me everything, let me know right now.”
He nodded and I sat back down. He called the waitress over and ordered us both a whiskey… apparently he was drinking what I was drinking now. “Where should I start?” he asked.
I replied, “How about the beginning?”
Our drinks arrived rather quickly and he spent the next hour and three more whiskeys filling me in on the details. He served four years in the Army as military police and began working at the San Diego Sheriff’s department in nineteen eighty. He made Homicide Detective within two years, being the fastest promotion of the type to this day. His partner retired in eighty-six, and that’s when a new, promising young detective named Mark Anderson was assigned to work with him. Ron mentored him and taught him everything he knew.
I asked him about why he left the Sheriff’s department, and he initially told me it was complicated. I didn’t press him just yet, so I asked him about the Storage Papers and why he started the collection of documents. He kept things very shallow for a while. He just said that after he was no longer in the position of Detective, and after a few months of feeling sorry for himself, he began his P.I. business where he learned that there were a lot of people who had similar experiences as him. Experiences of things unexplained. Experiences that are related to Hydra. Sadness began to come through his facial expressions like a napkin soaking up condensation. I don’t think he could hide much any longer.
He began diving deeper, but in what seemed like a very different direction. He said, “I didn’t know Brianne got a ride with you to the funeral.”
He proceeded, telling me that he was in love once. He told me he never actually married Kelly, but that they had two children out of wedlock about one year apart from one another. The youngest was premature, and experienced a slew of medical problems right from the start. While he and Kelly had managed to get through several rough months with a preemie needing constant care, it wasn’t long after the baby started showing some progress and being released home that the news was delivered.
You see, Kelly thought that the stress and the sleepless nights of worrying about their newborn were causing her severe migraines, which is probably why the real problem was being overlooked. She had developed a rare type of brain tumor. This was all while he was working for the Sheriff’s department of course. For about six months, Ron took a leave from his job to help with their preemie and to ultimately be there for Kelly.
“Things were looking grim,” he said. “Kelly had slipped into a coma until I had nearly all but given up hope, and I was introduced by Kelly’s doctor to a pharmaceutical rep.”
Ron explained that this pharmaceutical company had been doing some research into what they called “gene therapy” at the time. Keep in mind that this was in the eighties and gene therapy wasn’t even being thought of by mainstream scientists and researchers at the time, let alone being treated with medications and other procedures. He explained that the treatment would be completely experimental, and would require transfer to their own private facility to ensure the treatments had the highest chance of success. Their oncologist confirmed that there were literally no other options that could be considered from the hospital’s point of view.
Ron expressed his concerns about the cost not being covered by insurance, and for being responsible for two very young children while all of this was potentially going to be happening. He said he was lured into an agreement after being promised the world. He said they told him their private facility had childcare, and that the treatment would be of no cost to them, as it was considered research, being funded by federal dollars through a government contract. So, being unable to consult with Kelly and she had no living relatives to help make the decision, Ron begrudgingly decided to proceed with the treatment.
Ron explained Kelly spent months in the facility, and eventually, I had to slowly begin returning back to work or risk losing my job, and any medical benefits that covered the kids while I was employed. Knowing he didn’t quite feel ready to return, he spoke with one of the overseers of the facility who had been treating Kelly. They prescribed him an experimental sedative that would supposedly calm him down, but allow him to function in his daily tasks. It was supposed to get him in working shape, mentally. But the drug had some side effects for him. Occasionally, it caused minor hallucinations. These were discussed with the medical team, and his dosage would be altered.
He had only been back to work for a few weeks when an incident occurred. He was actually off-duty, in plain clothes after leaving his shift. He stopped at a corner gas station to fill up his tank before heading over to the research facility to spend some time with his kids and with Kelly, who was still in a coma. He’d walked into the store while the pump was feeding gas into his car, and was looking for anything he could find over the counter to fight a headache that had been culminating behind his eyes for several hours. He went to the register, paid, and began walking out the door when he heard someone behind him yell, “give me the cash!”
He turned around to find a caucasian male in his early twenties with his arm raised toward the cashier. His hand was covered by a brown paper bag. They man didn’t see Ron until his grocery bag hit the ground, and after Ron’s weapon was trained on him.
Ron yelled out, “Sheriff’s department, drop the weapon!”
And just then, Ron had one of the hallucinations he said he was experiencing. He described in detail the man’s face, which initially looked dirty, but young, frightened, and somewhat innocent. He remembered thinking the young man probably didn’t have much experience with armed robbery, so Ron felt confident that he had the situation under control, if only for a few seconds. It was then that everything changed for him.
As Ron was about to negotiate with the man to drop his weapon, he said the man’s face began changing. It started twisting and morphing into this sort of disfigured blob, undulating in waves of skin, hair, and teeth. At the same time it began changing colors, from flesh tone to a greenish-dark gray, the man’s head began shaking violently from side to side, front to back, so quickly that it was blurry, as if he didn’t even have a head. In the meantime, the man’s body remained completely still.
Ron glanced at the cashier, a middle-aged Asian woman, who appeared frozen in time. When he looked back at the man, he was… something else. His face had changed from a boyish appearance to something demonic. Large, yellow eyes with vertical slits for pupils glared back at Ron. The creature’s breathing was ragged. Ron watched as the eyes turned to look at the paper bag still enveloping its hand, then looked back at Ron and revealed a mischievous grin. Rows of razor-sharp teeth were exposed in joyful satisfaction that the creature knew something Ron didn’t.
It looked at the bag around it’s hand again, then slightly lowered its arm toward the floor. The bag slid off of its hand and fell to the ground, revealing that the creature hadn’t been holding a gun underneath the bag. Instead, its grip was firm around a baby’s neck, with its face turning purple as the creature brought it closer to its face. The yellow eyes pierced Ron, and the baby it was holding was intentionally turned toward him and held there for a moment, as if on some kind of sick display. It took him a moment, but as the baby’s head began turning a darker shade of purple, he recognized it as his own daughter, the preemie who he thought was in the care of the research facility treating Kelly. As soon as Ron recognized the baby, it’s as if the creature knew. It seemed almost amused as it grinned even wider.
Ron yelled, “Put it down carefully!”
Instead, its head slowly turned toward the baby and it began opening its wide jaws, bringing the baby’s head beyond the boundary of its outer row of teeth. A shot rang out, and Ron’s ears began to ring.
It all happened so fast. As the ringing subsided, Ron looked over at the cashier, who was screaming in fear… not in fear of the monster Ron had just killed, but in fear of Ron. He looked around to find two other customers backing away from him, and he was confused for a moment. Then he looked at the floor where the creature stood. Before him, lying immobile on the ground, was that early twenties caucasian male with a bullet hole in his forehead; just above his left eyebrow. A pool of blood and brain matter lay behind him, and also splattering the magazine rack and checkout counter near him. Next to an empty brown paper bag on the floor was the young man’s hand holding a banana.
The police arrived within a couple of minutes to find Ron outside with his gun on the ground next to him, and his arms up, with his detective badge in one hand on display. He spent several hours being questioned that evening, and ultimately was released under suspension from work until a further investigation could be conducted. He knew he couldn’t tell the truth about his perception of the event, but he also said that he didn’t see a banana prior to pulling the trigger.
The police released a statement with a generic, “There will be a full investigation with all of the witness statements taken into account,” kind of message, while Anderson was tasked with collecting Ron’s badge and gun prior to his release. By the time Ron was sent home, it was well into the early morning hours, so he skipped going to the research facility that night.
Ron awoke to a phone call around eleven AM the next morning. It was the research facility. They called to inform Ron that Kelly had passed away overnight. Ron was tearing up quite a bit when telling me this. He obviously loved her. He pulled out his wallet, and retrieved a small photo to show to me. In the photo was a very young, much slimmer picture of him with a very pretty woman sitting next to him on a log outdoors somewhere possibly local. Aside from Ron having more hair and less weight, he looked completely happy. Kelly had light brown hair and some hefty eighties bangs. I turned the photo over to see if anything was written on the back, and to my astonishment, the small amount of information there bore heavy weight. Written in pencil that looked to have been smudged over the years, it was written, “Ron Hammond and Kelly Scanlon, nineteen eighty-six.”
I was shocked. Ron was the biological father of Benjamin and Brianne Scanlon. I had a seemingly endless fountain of questions that started flowing, but Ron insisted I allow him to continue, so I let him speak.
He said he wanted to see Kelly’s body before they took her away, and arranged to be at the research facility within the hour. Waiting for him at the entrance when he arrived was Mark Anderson, along with four other Sheriff’s deputies. Ron seemed somewhat confused at first, wondering if Anderson had also been informed of Kelly’s passing, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, he was again given a difficult task. Anderson explained that according to the witness statements from the gas station, the banana was fully revealed for quite a long time prior to Ron firing his weapon the previous day. He was tasked with bringing Ron in.
Ron, a bit numb from all of the events that transpired over the previous twenty-four hours, explained the situation about Kelly’s passing and requested to see her before he went with Anderson. He said Anderson was kind, and he did his job. He allowed Ron to see her, but insisted that he accompany him along the way. He kept a respectful distance while I grieved, and personally drove me into the station in the front seat, and without handcuffs, despite department policy.
There was a hearing, and Ron was ultimately found guilty and was terminated from the Sheriff’s department. In light of his impeccable service record in the United States Army and the Sheriff’s department, he didn’t have to serve any jail time. He was away from Ben and Brianne for about sixty days though, and he had asked Anderson to act on his behalf to coordinate care for them while he was gone, which the research facility was pleased to provide.
Finally, the first chance he got, Ron drove to the facility to collect his children, but that’s where things went even more sideways. Normally, he would check in with the front desk personnel, and a security guard would escort him through a series of locked doors to the childcare area. That day, instead of bringing Ron directly there, he’s led to an office that happened to also look like an interrogation room minus the two way mirror.
He sat for about forty-five minutes before a man greeted him. He was tall, in his fifties with a dark gray suit and a yellow tie. He carried a briefcase which he placed on the table as he sat down. Ron didn’t go into much detail about the specifics of the conversation, except that the man kept referring to the situation as a “unique little predicament.” Ultimately, he was sent there to negotiate. They wanted to keep Ben and Brianne. This infuriated Ron, but the man calmly presented the current scenario with some options. He pointed out that Ron was now a convicted felon with no job or medical insurance. The man produced a file from his briefcase that looked like a foreign language to Ron, but he was told that the children possessed some unique genetic markers, similar to their mother, that if not studied thoroughly could potentially cause the same demise for both of them (if no cure is found, of course).
He assured Ron that the children would have a top-notch education and access to special programs, which Ron admittedly regrets not obtaining more details about. It didn’t matter to Ron. He was adamantly refusing all of it until the guy changed his demeanor. Ultimately, he provided Ron with a choice. Knowing that they had full custody of the children for over two months, all it would take is a simple phone call to child protective services to have the State take custody, pointing out that Ron would have a very low probability given his recent circumstances… or, he presented another option. They offered him a job. Apparently they had dug into Ron’s background and found some qualities they were looking for in his service and employment records. They said Ron could work for them in exchange for regular updates on them to observe them being taken care of without informing them that he’s their father… or he could refuse and never see them again.
The man retrieved another document from his briefcase. It was nearly a hundred pages, and one of the first few that he thumbed through was this nondisclosure agreement that I presented a copy of to him today – an unredacted version of course. I suddenly felt like an asshole. Ron said they allowed him to visit his kids for as long as he wanted that day while he thought it over. He considered going after them legally, but with no job, no money, and a felony conviction over his head, he knew it was pointless. He agreed to the job, feeling somewhat defeated, but still somewhat thankful he could at least have the knowledge that his kids are okay.
He explained that the primary purpose of his job was to disseminate information, to create counterintelligence and disinformation when necessary. “Regarding what?” I asked.
He just said, “About anything they asked me to.”
He looked at me in a very serious way and said, “The Storage Papers contain the truth. If something strange is occurring in San Diego, then there’s a very high probability, almost certainty, that it originated with Project Hydra. I’ve covered up these stories under the guise of a private P. I. firm for years now, intentionally creating a different narrative for the public to see compared to what has actually happened. I’m good at my job… I use a service-oriented approach to gain the trust of the client, document all the details, and report out to Hydra. They tell me what data to get rid of and what to report back to the client and/or what information goes public. Only, I have them by the balls with all of the information currently in your possession. So keep the papers under lock and key, okay? I’ve always felt wrong about it, but that’s why I’ve archived everything in hopes that someday, I’d be able to keep the facts alive, despite what happened to the experiencers. I’ve led people astray in my involvement with these cases, and served to report information to Hydra, while covering up any evidence that could implicate them. I’ve been nothing more than a henchman,” he said.
He continued, “I’ve always held out hope that I could obtain even a small amount of redemption but I’ve never quite had a vessel. Now that my kids are grown, Hydra continues to try to blackmail me into working for them. They find new pressure points of mine to keep me in line. I suppose I’m only comfortable telling you all this now because they’ve always used my children as a bargaining chip against me… and now that I’ve lost one of them, it’s time for some things to come out into the light.”
I confirmed that I had his permission to share this information on the podcast. He continued further, “Just so we’re clear, I do see your podcast as a very important piece of my redemptive process. Without it, I fear this old man wouldn’t know how to spread the word about any of it, or at least not without significant risk. The beauty of it is you’re not really at risk either. You see, I was following you in the beginning, trying to collect information about you and I wasn’t sure whether to report you to Hydra for fear of being exposed or pursue you as an ally. I still wasn’t 100% certain either way until I lost Ben.”
Looking back now, I sensed some deception in this statement, but I was so enamoured with this news that I ignored that instinct at the time.
I had to interrupt him with a couple of questions. “Okay, first of all, does Brianne know you’re her father? And second, what kind of risk is there for you and myself at this point?”
He explained that the hour-long conversation after the funeral was spent informing Brianne of what has happened. She’s now aware, and is currently under very little perceived risk from Hydra. If anything, there’s potential risk only if certain circumstances were to come about, which he didn’t go into. And he said he felt confident that by going public with this information, my safety was probably better off than if I continued sharing the documents without divulging our conversation. This was due to the mere fact that if something ever happened to me, there would be a public record of motive that would incriminate Hydra. If there was anything they were planning at all, they’d have to back off now.
The real risk lies with Ron. He said he’s at the point where he’s done playing their game. He almost laughed about it, saying he still needed a job, so he was going to continue reporting to work there, which would be a true test to see if they’re actually listening to my podcast. Pretty ballsy if you ask me…or stupid.
He said he truly loved the cases he sees… the witness accounts and the things he’s personally seen that reassure him that death isn’t the end. “They can do whatever they want to me now… I’m not afraid,” he said. “With any luck, they’ll realize what a valuable resource I actually am to them, even with the ulterior motives I may have now to remain in their employ.”
I honestly think there’s more to Ron’s motives than he shared with me over those drinks, but ultimately, I’m satisfied that whatever they are, it’s probably not going to be bad for me… but I sure as hell believe he’s not going to let Hydra off the hook without contestation.