The Two Dollar Mill

The Factory (a novel)

The dusty basement of the old mill had a distinctive smell. Odd, he couldn’t quite place it. Not quite ‘musty’, not quite ‘rot’, not quite the smell of freshly turned earth (the way a garden might smell). Corners of this huge open room, with its steel beams exposed high overhead, were heaped with rusting bits of flat metal that looked like they might have been part of some kind of framework. He was intrigued. And then there was the path through the dust that led to a door. The steel door had several layers of deep blue and a couple different shades of green paint peeling in various areas and just a bit of rust. But the lock looked brand new. Scratches and digs around the new lock gave him the idea that somebody had tried to pick the lock, or a lock that had been there before this new one. A shining new brass key in the lock itself had him scratching his head. The key turned easily. The door knob turned just as easily. He looked around through the rays of late afternoon sunlight and the zillions of dust particles dancing in those rays. All the windows were above seven feet up on the wall and horizontally wide, not very tall. He wondered how far into the ground he had descended. He also wondered how soon after sunset the whole basement would be too dark to wander around in without a good flashlight or working overhead lights. There were no light fixtures hanging up there. He realized he was hanging on to the door knob and pulled it open.

Daerikk stepped through the door, felt a blast of cool damp air on his face, gasped and turned around. Everything had changed.

He’d never had to do quite as extensive a reality check. One second earlier, he’d been in the musty, dusty basement of the foundry section of the much-altered, much renovated, rambling (and abandoned) factory, or mill as they old guy called it… the mill he was seriously thinking about buying for next to nothing…

Now here he was, standing outdoors; nearly blinded by over-bright early morning sunlight; at the edge of a blueish grey stone cliff, one step away from a fifty foot drop to a pile of sharp looking boulders, then maybe twenty yards of boulder pocked sloping sand, more stone, and then angry pounding waves.

Behind him, a door; around him, a ledge; above him, steep, nearly vertical stone; below him, more steep, nearly vertical stone.

“-Um….” he looked around. A seagull flew toward him and hovered inquisitively, called its lonely almost piercing cry and drooled.

“Birds drool?” his own voice sounded strange to him. In the wind a sudden and very clear image of someone standing in his place, tearing off bits of almost stale bread and tossing them into the air for gulls to catch… filled Daerikk’s mind, “Can you communicate with me through pictures?” he gasped, then, “Bread?” he shrugged, “I don’t have any bread for you.”

The gull screeched, indignant. Daerikk got the distinct impression that the bird would try to drop a long stringy bit of … um, bird poo on him.

He yanked the door open and hurried through it, pulled it closed behind him.

Back in the basement. Musty, dusty, no hint of salt air-

He shuddered, turned the door knob- slowly pulled the door open again-

Sunlight- salt sea air, and a hovering sea gull-

He slammed the door shut, sighed, turned around, leaned back and slid down the closed door to a squatting position, “Uh-” he shrugged, “That’s different….”


// August 10, 2008 at 4:45 am

He covered his eyes with both hands, then kind of testingly peeked out from under one hand- nothing had changed in the last few seconds.

He sighed, stared through the dusky atmosphere and remembered waking up in a motel room-


The banging on the door had a ‘too crisp’, too tinny sound, “Daerikk Greenwood?”

He stared through the door, closed his eyes and saw from the outside, looking down, two policemen, both reaching for their guns. One tall and slightly awkward looking, the other shorter, stockier and, without his hat on, shaved bald.

Behind them another police car had pulled up and the officers were running around behind the motel to cover the back windows.

“Yeah? Hang on- I’m coming-” he opened his eyes, focused on the real world on a cool crisp summer morning in the hills or mountains of Pennsylvania- closer to Pittsburgh than another other big city- he threw back the blankets and sat on the edge of the bed.

The police pounded on the door again. Maybe more impatiently this time. Maybe they hadn’t heard him, “Daerick Greenwood? Open up, this is the police.”

He grabbed the pair of jeans he’d worn the night before and hopped into them on his way to the door, stood there in a fairly new tee shirt and jeans, yawned as he opened the door, gauged the two policemen’s cautious expressions through tired eyes, “Can I help you?” he sounded incredulous.

No introductions, no niceties. One of them held a photograph in front of his face and asked, “Do you know this woman?”

Daerick nodded, yes the two policemen looked like the ones he’d envisioned. Yes, there was another police car behind theirs, and another barely visible behind a thick ornamental bush halfway down the parking lot.

“Her name is Ramona McKendricks.”

The officers looked at each other, seemed to relax almost imperceptively. Then the bald one asked, “How do you know her?”

Daerick yawned, “We graduated from college together.”

Both officers in front of Daerick looked like they were waiting for more.

“I hardly knew her before graduation, but we got talking after the ceremonies and she invited me up here, I thought we might even start a serious relationship, but I showed up for our date last night, she was drunk and with this other guy- I didn’t like him at all- anyway, she told me I was a hopeless loser, laughed and got into his car-” Daerick sighed, “The guy made some kind of weird gesture at me and squealed his tires as they drove away.”

“That’s the last time you saw her?”

Daerick nodded, “I stopped off at Dunkin Donuts, got a coffee and a muffin and came here, watched the eleven o’clock news and fell asleep.”

The tall, awkward guy looked like he didn’t know whether to believe Daerick or not, the shorter guy with the shaved head stared through him and nodded his head, “Would you mind showing us your driver’s licence?”

Daerick shook his head, “No problem-” he yawned, “What happened? You wouldn’t be here in force if you thought I ran a stop sign on my way into town.”

The tall guy looked nervous.

One of the other officers came over and whispered something to the bald guy.

The bald guy nodded, “The motel owner lives here, he says he was walking his dog when you came in early last night and says we can look at his security video tapes, but he’s pretty sure nobody left after ten thirty last night.”

Daerick scratched his head, looked around, yawned again.

The bald guy looked through Daerick one more time, probably trying to read his probable reaction before he looked right at him, “We found her body this morning, or most of it- in a garbage dumpster thirty miles east of here, behind a boarded up abandoned motel that hasn’t been in business for about five years.”

Daerick felt sick. He remembered the weird look in Ramona’s eyes the night before, drunk, or drugged, hypnotised? Something wasn’t right- But his legs felt weak, he nearly collapsed in the door way, “I have to sit down.” He steadied himself and lowered himself to sit on the door step, “Could somebody get me a drink of water?”


// August 10, 2008 at 5:35 am

The guy with the shaved head took Daerick’s driver’s license and promised to bring him back some water while the taller guy stood there looking uncomfortable.

Daerick leaned back against the door frame, “Your first homicide?”

The tall guy looked a little more nervous.

Daerick winced, “Sorry- I was an MP in the Air Force for six years. I was lucky, never had to deal with any corpses. There was one guy I thought was dead, but he was so damned drunk he couldn’t feel it when we prodded him with our batons….” he yawned.

The tall guy didn’t say a word. He did look like he thought Daerick was a suspect.

“I got a good look at the guy, you’ll probably want me to come into your station and give you the best description I can…”

The tall guy just stared at him.

Daerick turned his head slightly and sighed.

Two more police came from somewhere, probably from behind the motel. One of them signalled to the tall guy as they flanked Daerick and kept their distance.

The tall guy nodded to them, glanced at Daerick and hurried away to talk to the guy with the shaved head from a safe distance.

The guy with the shaved head did bring a plastic bottle of some local brand of spring water with him, handed it to Daerick, “You were an MP?”

“Thanks, yeah, almost six years-”

“Were you going to go into Law Enforcement?”

Daerick shrugged, “I thought so- Then I took a weird battery of tests and this group I thought was a special intelligence unit told me I had potential and put me through some shit that changed my mind in a big hurry.”

The bald guy nodded, “Officer Wentworth said you told him you got a pretty good look at the guy she rode away with and volunteered to come down to the station and give us his description?”

Daerick nodded, “I’ll probably need a ride, I don’t know if I can drive-”

The bald guy nodded, “This is officers Egan and Gardiner, they’ll give you a ride in. You haven’t had breakfast, have you?”

Daerick shook his head.


Daerick shrugged, “I don’t know- I’m in shock.”

The bald guy nodded, “I’ll pick you up something from McDonalds- coffee?”

Daerick nodded, “Regular coffee, cream and sugar, I can’t stomach any of the fancy stuff…”

The bald guy nodded, “Okay, these two officers will wait out here for you, and don’t worry, they won’t make you ride in the back.” He scowled at one of the ‘officers’.

Daerick nodded, “Thanks, I appreciate it-” but then he glanced toward his back window he caught a vision of two more policemen, still back there, watching his back window.

He steadied himself as he tested his legs while he was standing up, “I’ll be quick.”


// August 11, 2008 at 6:44 am


Daerick didn’t take long to shower and dress, didn’t shave- did brush his teeth…

The two policemen were waiting outside, one on each side of the door, looking bored and restless.

Daerick pointed toward the office, “I probably should tell them I won’t be checking out on time-”

One of the policemen nodded, “We’ll wait by the cruiser-” indicated the police car with a gesture.

Daerick nodded, read the legend, “State Police” for the first time.

The tanned and wrinkled middle aged man behind the counter in the office wasn’t the same man who had rented the room the evening before, “Hi-” Daerick tried to sound relaxed, “I’m the guy in room number 5- I’m probably a witness to a crime, the police want me to stick around for a while, can I have the room for at least one more night?”

The man’s fingers trembled visibly as he pushed his glasses up tighter to his nose and peered down through the bifocal lens to read something he had in front of him, he signed nervously, “Put it on the same credit card?”

Daerick nodded, “Yeah, would you?”

The man nodded, “Okay, let us know if you need to stay longer than tonight?”

Daerick nodded again.

As he climbed into the front seat of the police car he caught some movement in the ‘corner of his eye’ and glanced toward the office in time to see the man on duty step back away from the window he’d been peering through.

The policeman who’d taken his spot behind the steering wheel let Daerick know he’d noticed that too and tried to sound cheerful, “Not a heck of a lot happens around here. He’ll probably spend the day on the telephone telling everybody he knows all about it. They’ll all be glued to their televisions tonight to see what’s going on.”

Daerick winced, “Oh Jeeez, who had to tell her parents?”

“Not me…” said the driver, “Thank God-”


The state police ‘barracks’ were close to the interstate highway, accessible from both the highway and a back woods, hard to find access road. They came in through the access road.

The building was fairly new, definitely looked like it was built by the lowest bidder… The driver had to let his partner out of the back seat by opening the door from the outside, Daerick noticed the lack of inside door handles.

The two policemen flanked him as they came up the sidewalk, then one went ahead and the other stayed behind as they walked him inside. The one who’d gone ahead said, “This is our witness-” to a tough looking older policeman behind a window that said, “Watch Captain” and had a name plate (upside down) in place.

The watch captain nodded and pushed a button that buzzed loudly while the first policeman opened a door.

They escorted Daerick through a generic office to a side office with an open door. The guy with the shaved head sat behind a desk with a smallish LCD monitor, indicated the cheap looking chair beside the desk, “Have a seat-” he glanced at the two officers and nodded, gestured for them to go wait out of sight in the next room.

Daerick noticed the name plate on the desk, “Lieutenant O’Brien”.

The guy with the shaved head noticed that Daerick was reading that sign, “That’s not me, I’m an acting Lieutenant this week while O’Brien’s on vacation.”

Daerick nodded.

“You don’t happen to remember your service number for the Air Force, do you?”

Daerick nodded again, “Do you want me to sign something giving you permission to look up my records?”

“I’m printing that up right now- tell you the truth, we don’t need it- It’s just a formality.”

Daerick frowned, repeated the six digit number that followed a letter, then, “Let me know if you need more information, I hear they reuse those numbers a lot.”

The bald headed guy typed with two fingers, nodded, “Yeah- they do-,” he waited a few short moments, then, “Vancouver, Washington-? Atlanta, Georgia; Rockford, Illinois, Springfield, Vermont; Silver Springs, Maryland; Provo, Utah; Utica, New York; Westerly, Rhode Island; or El Paso Texas- no wait a minute, El Paso was forty years ago- I don’t think that could have been you.

Daerick grinned, “Westerly, Rhode Island, I’m from Connecticut, but the recruiter was in Rhode Island.”

The guy with the shaved head frowned as he typed again.


// August 13, 2008 at 6:25 pm


“So- your Mom spelled your name funny-”

Daerick tried not to laugh, “Yeah-”

“And you turned down a commission in the Air Force.”

He frowned, nodded, “Some guys from a special intelligence unit gave me a weird test and said I did really well on it, they wanted me to take some specialized training. My sergeant said I should avoid those guys like the plague, said it was a dead end to any military career and maybe worse. He just plain didn’t like the way they looked. I should have paid closer attention to him. But they held out a teaser, if I did well in the training they would fast track me into a special program for becoming a commissioned officer. Sounded almost too good to be true-” Daerick nodded, “Things got weird- really weird- I think I opted out at the last possible moment- I’d either be dead or out of my mind in a mental hospital if I went any further.”

“-That kind of weird, huh?” the bald headed guy nodded, “I’ve heard of some of that stuff on the radio. Can’t always sleep nights…” he typed and read whatever was coming to his computer screen, “-But-… Your trainers and commanders all give you very good marks. This one guy, Anderson, wrote a note to the effect that you took your oath to defend the constitution so seriously that you could hesitate at a critical moment and fail to act decisively in a life and death situation. I’ve never seen or heard of anybody putting a comment like that in a report like this.”

“Anderson? He was a clerk. He wrote what he was told to.” Daerick scowled, “That was their rationale for letting me go. They said they saw that kind of reaction in a small percentage of those they were training, but it was significant enough, they said, so they had to try to manoeuvre us into ‘grey areas’ of ethics and push us almost to the breaking point to see how we would react. I thought their justification was a lot of bull and I thought they were recruiting for black ops hit men, tell you the truth…” he shuddered.

The guy with the shaved head nodded, “If I was in your shoes, I wouldn’t even tell anybody I’d been in the services. The wrong cop looking at something like this would peg you for a whack job and you’d be the first person they’d see as a good suspect in almost any case.

Daerick nodded, “The sergeant told me it was bad news-”

The guy with the shaved head half raised one eyebrow, “You’re lucky it’s me reading this.”

Daerick nodded, looking a bit too serious… “Do you have an artist- do you have the software to put together a computer sketch of the guy I saw?”

The bald guy shook his head, “It would be real nice, but it wasn’t in the budget.”

Daerick grinned, “There’s a free demo version of something. If you’re afraid to put any unauthorised program on your computer I can bring my laptop in and show it to you-”

The bald guy had a grin that was nearly unreadable, half skeptic, half suspicious- “Yeah, your university transcript is- uh, interesting- Liberal Arts with clusters in Law Enforcement, Computer programming, fine arts, with certificates in radio broadcasting, audio and video recording, and creative writing. Looks like you couldn’t make up your mind there.”

Daerick sighed, nodded.

“And one of your counsellors says your paper on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would be worthy of a Masters Thesis, possibly even a Doctoral Thesis.”

Daerick rolled his eyes, “I think that guy wanted to be a little more than friends, I wouldn’t take his endorsement all that seriously.”

The bald headed guy nodded, “If you watched any television at all, I know you’ve heard this before- We’d appreciate it if you either didn’t leave the area, or let us know where you will be until further notice.”

Daerick tried to look at the bald headed guy deep and hard to get as good a feeling for ‘where he was coming from’ as he could without making the guy feel uncomfortable.

But the bald headed guy did get some body who wasn’t in a uniform to drive him back to the motel and return with his laptop computer, and looked impressed as Daerick put together what looked like a really good sketch of the guy he’d seen Ramona ride off with.

“-You’re satisfied with this? You think it’s a good likeness?”

Daerick nodded, winced, “My recall and artistic talents were part of the reason the intelligence guys wanted me on their team.”

The bald headed guy scowled, shook his head when he thought Daerick wouldn’t notice, “Like I said, It would be a good thing if you stayed in close touch with this department-”

Daerick sighed, “Are there any temporary job agencies in the area.”

The bald headed guy looked through him again, “Would you take a job as a night watchman in a factory that’s pretty close to deserted? They are desperate enough to come here and see if any troupers want to moonlight- and they’re offering the best pay I heard of for a night watchman job-”

3,167 Words

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