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The Cure

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The Cure

I didn't know what I expected to hear from Dr. Hess. Probably something I didn't want to hear or know.

Sources can be like that sometimes: pure bullshit or gold. You can never really be sure until you see and hear what they've got.

Hess had been my history professor when I had been in the University. His specialty was the 20th century and he was great for background. More than once his insights had put my stories in the correct context and perspective. He had never steered me wrong before so whenever he called, I'd make the time to listen.

I entered University History Department office late in the afternoon and a graduate assistant was manning the receptionist desk. She looked up and said, "Mr. Sawyer. Dr. Hess is expecting you. You can go right in."

I thanked her and headed back into the warren of offices and his door was open.

Dr. Hess was a little over sixty with white hair. He was sitting behind a cluttered desk which was home to two desktop PCs and a laptop. He looked up from his screen and said, "Kevin. Come in and pull the door closed if you don't mind."

I closed the door and sat in the same chair that I sat in as a student talking to my faculty advisor years ago. I said, "Dr. Hess what have you got for me?"

Hess said, "It's a long story that I think you might find interesting."

I said, "Go ahead Doc. I'm off the clock and have time."

"First, let me tell you where this comes from. In 1989 when the Soviet Union fell, the Russians sent us copies materials that they seized from the Nazis when Germany collapsed in 1945- material that has never been seen in the West before. For the last three years I have been studying it."

Hess pulled some notes out and sat them on his desk in front of him. "It starts in Nazi Germany in 1943. The war is going poorly for Germany and the whole of their scientific establishment is pressed into service to find any weapon that can turn the tide of the war."

I said, "I'm familiar with this part. Germany's wonder weapons: jet aircraft, super-tanks..."

Hess nodded. "Yes. That's the part that most people know about from the History Channel. Other things were going on behind the scenes that we only now beginning to learn about. You see the Nazis were also interested in making weapons of their people."


"They were looking into it", Hess replied. "but they were decades away from any real progress. They did make a big breakthrough in human conditioning."

"At the Auschwitz death camps Dr. Mengele oversaw a large medical experimentation group. One of those groups was run by a young psychiatrist named Johan Muller who studied under Carl Jung in Vienna during the thirties. He developed a method of physical and psychological stress combined with drugs that he called the death of personality or Pers?nlichkeit Tod. Once a persons personality has been effectively destroyed, they could basically reprogram the subject to be anything they wanted them to be. They were the perfect sleeper agents: completely unaware of who and what they were. Unable to betray themselves or their mission even under extreme interrogation."

I said, "That's terrifying. Agents so psychologically conditioned that don't even know whose side they are on."

"Exactly. Although the Nazis made the breakthrough, they didn't have time to use it. In January 1945 the Soviets liberated Auschwitz and NKVD teams, the predecessor of the KGB, snatched up all the Nazi scientists and research that they could find. The Soviets immediately saw the value of Muller's research. The process is so rigorous that it killed about 10% of the subjects. They took the research and ran with it. By 1955 the Soviets were putting deep cover sleeper agents all over the world. That's why throughout the Cold War Western Intelligence Agencies seemed to be completely swamped by Soviet agents."

I said, "Well- that explains a lot about the Cold War and it would make a good historic interest piece for the Sunday edition."

Hess continued, "Perhaps it would but the story doesn't end there. The Soviets used Sleeper agents until the very end in 1989. It was only after the Archives were turned over and we got a few defectors that the CIA finally figured out what the sleepers actually were."

"In 1990 a working group of various scientists were given access to the archives. They were tasked with finding anything that might be of scientific or medical use. Guess who was a member of the group?"

I said, "I have no idea Doc."

"Dr. Vernon Roth- fresh out of medical school and working on his psychiatric specialty at Georgetown."

I searched my memory and the name did sound familiar. "Roth as in Roth Pharmaceuticals?"

"He is one of the elder Roth's three sons and key player in developing in Roth's multi-billion dollar line of psychiatric medications."

I asked, "Isn't he some sort of an anti-gay nut?"

"Vernon Roth is a major contributor to anti-gay organizations all over the country and has ties to this clinic in Costa Rica."

Hess handed me a very slick tri-folded glossy flier with a photo of a modern looking clinic in a tropical setting called the Freedom Institute. I turned the page of the flier and read a bold headline: Freedom from the Spiritual Bondage of Homosexuality.

I said, "Doc are you saying that you think this clinic is using this Nazi developed and Soviet refined mind control method to reprogram homosexuals?"

Hess said, "That's your story Kevin. Look at the details. The Soviet method of programming a sleeper took a year and two months. The clinic's program lasts one year and two months. It's very expensive - the cost of the treatment is over a quarter million dollars. It's the only method of treatment for homosexuality to claims a 100% success rate."

"I've covered the Ex-gay movement here in the region and they only claim a 30% success rate."

Hess said, "That's just it Kevin. Homosexuality is integrated into the personality, the only way to change it is to completely reorder the personality. This method is just how you might go about doing it."

I said, "I like it. This would make a great story. Do you have anything more for me?"

Hess handed me a sheet of paper with names and addresses. "This is a list of five people that have completed the therapy at the Freedom Institute and one more who died of a heart attack while he was undergoing treatment. It's not much but its a start."

"Thanks Doc. I'll see what I can do with this. Would you mind emailing me more of the background?"

Hess said, "It'll be waiting for you when you get home. Good luck Kevin."

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Interesting premise. I'm not sure I like the subtle encouragement of the view that homosexuality is a personality trait as opposed to a deep level genetic one, but the premise makes for some interesting potential discussion points, and a fascinating storyline. (I grimaced when Hess SAT his notes down, rather than SET them down though.)

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Dr. Roth doesn't sound like the kinda guy who would be content to rebuild a personality just to shuck off its gay characteristics. I suspect he will be creating sleeper agents of his own, to infiltrate various gay rights movements...


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The Cure (continued)

When I arrived home Dr. Hess's information was still downloading. I walked across the street and picked up a sandwich for supper and when I got back the download had finished at a cool 27.3 Gigabytes. When I Unzipped the file, I found that I had sixty Gbytes of data meticulously organized into folders cross referenced with scanned images of the source material in the original German and Russian.

I scanned the list of patients that Dr. Hess had given me and then ran a backup routine that sent copies of all the files to the Herald's mainframe and my online backup company.

After getting everything squared away I sat down and began to go through Hess's information from the beginning. I was ready to puke twenty minutes into the Auschwitz files. The things that they did to those poor people read like a hellish nightmare.

They did every inhumane thing imaginable to their test subjects. Sensory deprivation, shock treatment, low protein diet, just plain torment for weeks and months over and over until the patient breaks. The Soviet methodology wasn't any better. The core of the process was to destroy the personality and replace it with whatever cover the case officer decided to give the sleeper.

As I read through this horror, I had the nagging feeling that I was missing something. The method called for using long periods of sensory deprivation and then using a voice to guide the subject. After months and months of isolation, the subject would crave human contact and would comply with the first voice that they heard. The original personality wasn't destroyed. It was simply deeply submerged and could be instantly recalled using a word or phrase as a trigger.

There was absolutely nothing in the material regarding sexual orientation. No mention at all. If the Freedom Clinic was using this to cure homosexuality, it didn't add up.

I looked up from my work and the clock was closing in on 1 am. Time had gotten away from me again. I put the computer in sleep mode and collapsed on my couch.

* * * *

My sleep was fitful. The images of those people being tortured haunted me.

Someone beating on my front door at a little after 5 am woke me up.

I shook off the cobwebs and went to get the door.

A big, grim faced detective was standing at my door flanked by his partner.

"Mr. Sawyer, I'm Lt. Brenner New Orleans PD Homicide. I need to speak to you for a minute."

I said, "Sure. Come on in. I'll put on some coffee and we'll talk at my kitchen table."

The hulking detective and his partner followed me into my kitchen. I turned on the coffee pot and said, "Please. Have a seat. How can I help you?"

Brenner asked, "Where were you at 7:30 last night?"

I said, "Right here having a po-boy for supper."

Brenner's partner said, "Can anybody back that up?"

I reached into the trash can and retrieved the bag my sandwich had come in. I pulled out the receipt that was time stamped 19:33. I handed it to the detective and asked, "Good enough?"

Brenner nodded. "I didn't really consider you a suspect but it's best to eliminate you early. Dr. Hess of Tulane was murdered at his home early last night. I understand you saw him yesterday."

"George is dead?"

"I'm afraid so. I understand that you've been friends for years."

I was shocked into silence. I couldn't imaging anyone harming old George. He had always been a soft-touch for students and soft-spoken with everyone else.

"Dr. Hess has been a friend since I was an undergraduate. I try to get by to see him every few weeks."

Brenner asked, "When you spoke to him yesterday, was he nervous about anything?"

"We talked about his latest work. He was talking about his studies of Cold War era manuscripts."

Brenner's partner asked, "Have you even known him to gamble or have money problems?"

I said, "No. His family owns a number of small oil refineries here and in Mississippi. He was comfortably well off and I've never known him to set foot in a casino."

Brenner said, "Whoever killed him was looking for something. They tore his place apart and there's evidence that they tortured him. Does he ever have valuable manuscripts or artifacts?"

"He would never take any of that stuff outside the controlled conditions of the archives at Tulane."

Brenner said, "I know that you're a reporter but we would appreciate it if you kept quiet about any details of the murder. If we get some mutt in the interrogation room it might help us trip them up."

I said, "I won't be on this story since I know the victim. If I can help in any way, give me a call on my cell."

Brenner and I exchanged cards and the detectives left me drinking coffee and looking for answers.

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The Cure III

Carter Tower

Houston, Tx

Jason Carter was an empire builder. From his 25th story penthouse office window, the cities of Houston and Baytown sprawled out below him as far as a man could see. As a young man of thirty he had taken moribund drilling company and through smart moves and indescribable effort had turned it into the fourth largest oil field services company in the world. All of the big oil companies did business with Carter Consolidated.

His rigs did the drilling, his pipes did the moving, his terminals did the unloading of supertankers in the deep waters of the Gulf and his refineries did the cracking. Carter Consolidated, also known as or C Squared, did $220 billion in revenues annually and distributed a dividend every year without fail.

Despite all of his money, power and genius, a problem confronted him that he didn't have an answer for. On his desk was a private investigators report of his 20 year old sons after hours activities at Louisiana State University. For a good Southern Baptist like Carter, those activities were pretty damning.

As he read the report, it made his head spin and his stomach churn. He could forgive the weed. Hell- he had smoked weed in college until it got in the way. It was what his son Jake was doing with the other boy in the hot tub at 3am that bothered him.

Had he been a bad father? His son Jake's passion had always been for baseball and he had been there every chance he had. When the high school team made the state finals, he flew the team to Austin and stayed to the bitter end. He had been there for birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Sunday church services for at least three Sundays out of every month.

No. He couldn't blame himself. That was futile. As an engineer his natural inclination was to ask how do I fix this?

This was an area completely outside his expertise. He needed information and he needed it fast before... his son was infected by HIV or found murdered in an ally. The lives that those people lead... His son was better than that.

He looked in his personal phone-list, found the number for his pastor and dialed. Shiloh Baptist was a big, popular church and fairly progressive for the area but it still held true to its Southern Baptist roots. Carter's monthly contribution to the church made it financially strong and very active in the city.

"Pastor Lefluer, this is Jason Carter. I need to talk to you about a very discrete and delicate matter..."

* * * *

New Orleans Herald

Saturday morning at the paper was always a mad house as we finished up the Sunday edition. I had three stories: family values state senator from Alexandria was divorcing, the enduring legacy of Katrina series and the sale of surplus FEMA housing. Peter Boyles on the city desk had the Hess murder but wasn't going to do much with it until more details surfaced.

My stories were all pretty much done by eleven and I started looking at the information that Hess had given me. Was this what got him killed? I made a copy of the list of names. They all appeared to be names, social security number, date of birth and city, state. None of them were over thirty and most clustered between 21 and 24. One from Miami, one from Atlanta, one from New Orleans, one from Dallas and the last from Houston. The one who had died was from Savannah, Georgia.

They were all clustered across the South which made sense. The Bible belt is where people would be the most motivated to find a "cure".

Some years ago I had done a piece on the Ex-gay movement when they had a conference in the city. What was the name of the psychiatrists from Oschner's Clinic that I interviewed? I looked through my rolodex and found the name that I was thinking of: Dr. Charles Benoit.

I dialed his number but got a recording. I left a message and decided that I probably wouldn't hear from him until at least Monday.

I called in my research assistant and gave him the list. My RA was a skinnny journalism student from Tulane. "Gabe- take this list and very quietly find out who these people are. Just use our in house people-search subscription. Keep it on the down-low."

He looked at the list and said, "You don't know who Casey Renard is?"

"The one from New Orleans? Oh... those Renard's. Old money family that ran much of the Port of New Orleans- the busiest port in North America."

I thought to myself- at $250K per treatment, it would have to be the rich.

Gabe went into his cubicle to search out the rest of names as my cell phone rang.

"City Desk, this is Sawyer."

"This is Charles Benoit returning your call Mr. Sawyer."

"I appreciate you getting back to me so quickly. Some years ago we talked about the methods used by the Ex-gay movement."

"Yes, I remember."

"I have come across a new method that some people are marketing as a cure for homosexuality and I'd like to have someone who knows what they are talking about evaluate it."

Benoit laughed, "There's no such thing as a cure for sexual orientation but I'm curious to see what you've got. Can you come by my office around three?"

"Sure Dr. Benoit. I'll be there. Just do me a favor and keep this quiet. I'm not sure what I've got yet and I don't want egg on my face if this is a wild goose chase."

"I understand. See you this afternoon."

As I hung up the phone my editor rushed in, "Sawyer, your apartment building is on fire!"

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This is thrilling! Where are chapters 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14 and 15 plus more if possible?http://www.awesomedude.com/adboard/style_emoticons/default/razz.gif


Same as what Rick said.

Colin :icon_twisted:

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The Cure - IV

I saw the smoke plume from miles away. When I arrived, the police and fire department had the whole block cordoned off. My Midtown apartment was obviously a total loss and they are hosing down the surrounding buildings to keep it from spreading.

A young woman wearing a New Orleans Fire Department jacket approached me and asked, "Are you Sawyer from 2C?"

"Yes Mam. What happened? Mrs. Tran kept a tight ship. Everything was up to code and inspected twice a year."

She showed me a badge, "I'm Alice Miloy. I'm an investigator with the fire department. We're going to try to figure it out. Right now we're just trying to make sure everybody got out."

I said, "Everybody worked so the place was pretty much empty during the day. The owners lived on the first floor. Mrs. Tran was there all the time. Her sons Hien and Gia are college age. I'm not sure where they go but they are usually both out by 7:30."

Miloy asked, "What about 3B?"

"3B are the Benard brothers. They work off shore and won't be back until next week."

Miloy nodded and said, "Thanks Mr. Sawyer. I think that accounts for everybody."

I said, "Miss Miloy, what happened here?"

She said, "I can't really get into until it cools down and we can look around but right now my gut is telling me its arson."

I shook my head in disbelief. "No way the Trans would be in on an insurance scam. They were straight arrows."

She said, "It could be anything from a pissed off ex to a fire to cover a burglary."

"What makes you think its arson?"

She took an instrument off of her belt and pointed it at the fire. "This gadget tells me how hot a fire is. Most structure fires top out around 1500-2000 degrees. Take a look at this."

She showed me the laser thermometer- it was reading 3700 degrees.

"Unless someone had a closet full of thermite, this fire is burning too hot. There is some sort of accelerant at work here. I'll have to get the lab results but I'm sure. We see this sort of thing in high end insurance jobs- they want the structure to burn fast and completely. It burns so hot that anything inside is completely incinerated: bodies, evidence, contents. With fires that burn this hot, there'll be nothing left."

* * * * *

After exchanging cards with Miloy, I got in my car and headed to Pierre's for a late lunch. I made a call to a friend who owned a cheap motel in Gentilly and secured a room for a few weeks.

As soon as the call was done, my phone rang. I answered, "Sawyer."

"Gabe Crenshaw boss. I ran down those names for you. They are all problem kids from big money families across the South."

I asked, "Problem kids?"

"Yeah. Partying, drugs, DUIs and rumors. Nothing solid. According to what I've dug up they were all in some kind of trouble. Then they went away for a year and change- I don't know rehab or something. The cover story is that they were studying abroad. That's not clear. When they all got back they were model citizens."

"Thanks Gabe. Write it up and email it to me. I'm beginning to think that list is important."

"Sure boss."

"Gabe, what are your plans for the weekend?"

"I don't know. I'll probably study at the dorm."

"Go see your folks in Gulfport and call me Sunday before you come back."

"Is this stuff that hot?"

"I'm beginning to think that it is."

I finished the call and got another another one almost immediately.


"This is Detective Brenner. You know a kid named Frank Luckett?"

I said, "Doesn't ring a bell."

Brenner said, "He's a sophomore at Tulane. He had Dr. Hess for World History I and II this year. We found him dead in his apartment this afternoon."

I asked, "Does it look related to the Hess case."

"When we started investigating him, we found out that the Feds were looking at him. It appears that he was some kind of hacker. Same M.O. It's definitely looking like it is related."

"Detective I'm beginning to get down right paranoid. Somebody torched my apartment building this morning sometime little after eleven o'clock."

"Sawyer, whatever you got from Hess is like plutonium. It's killing everybody that it touches. We've got to talk, maybe get you in a safe house."

I looked at my watch and said, "I've got to see a source at Oschner's Clinic at three. What you say I meet you downtown about five."

"Good enough for me. Watch your back."

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