posted on Feb, 18 2008 @ 02:18 PM
Prague, November 18, 2011
River Phoenix was nearly clipped by an aged, rumbling taxi as he crossed the cobbled street in Old Town. The driver was oblivious, as most were in
Prague. Crossing the street, particularly at night, was always a test of fate. He glanced at its tail lights as it sped along the land and
disappeared behind the canyon of buildings a few yards away, its fan belt still squealing in the distance.
That was his second close call tonight.
River hopped onto the sidewalk again and made his way down the flight of metal stairs planted into the stonework foundation of one of the city’s
many ancient buildings. Prague had been soaked all day in an icy rain, leaving a chilled sheen on the streets and facades. The man followed a stone
path through the arched doorway of a hotel and down a flight of stairs hewn from the foundation into the popular Bily Konicek’s restaurant.
River emerged into a cavern. Much of the clubs and hotspots in Prague were carved into the stone block foundations of the city’s history. Bily
Konicek’s was no different, a nightclub and restaurant forged inside the arching stone walls of what could have easily been a dungeon centuries
before. Black steeled wine chillers and a mahogany bar were stark contrasts to the aged rock rising high above him.
A pretty blond Czech with pink highlights in her hair and the hinting sparkle of a nose ring asked his name in English and then led him to his
meeting. Like many of the women in Czech Republic, the girl’s pale features were somewhat hard, her nose slightly prominent, but River found her
nonetheless alluring and coyly sexual. It was why he had made the country his home for the past six months.
Hugh Cross stood as River approached, and for a moment River was taken aback by how much his friend had aged in five short years. Certainly more so
than would be expected. The young girl smiled and left River to the small table just off the sprawling bar.
“River, time’s done you justice,” Hugh said, embracing his sinewy form. “Thanks for meeting with me.”
“Absolutely, Hugh. I was happy to hear you were in the country.”
They sat as a waiter grabbed an empty martini glass that left a shimmering water ring on the darkened tabletop. River ordered a scotch, a drink that
would probably last him the entire dinner meeting, knowing Czech’s bartenders predilection to be generous in their pouring.
The conversation began small enough, time to catch up on events and politics within the Pentagon stateside before the lines on Hugh’s face deepened
as the man’s mind dwelled on the real reason for the meeting. River was patient. He waited, allowed his friend to strum up whatever inner strength
or resolve he needed to approach River.
“Have you spoken to Lawrence Kalley lately?” Hugh asked, his fingers absently toying with the stem of his third martini.
“You’re kidding, right?” River eyed the man, who continued to stare into the frosted glass. “I haven’t spoken to Kalley since going
freelance. He’s a company man, through and through. He certainly has no respect for mercenaries, particularly those who broker weapons deals on
“Yeah, maybe. But he still thinks highly of you. Says despite the jump to the dark side, you’re still annoyingly principled.”
River chortled. “Defining characteristic, I suppose.”
Hugh downed the rest of his drink and finally brought his eyes up to the horizon.
“My son, Boone, has gone missing, River,” he said, his voice so weak, it barely crested above the din of the restaurant.
“Boone? What happened?” River leaned forward.
“I don’t know. He was on vacation a month ago in Turkey, of all places, and just stopped answering his phone. The embassy sent someone to the
Hyatt, where he was staying, and indicated there appeared to be a struggle in the room, some furniture overturned, the bathroom mirror shattered, but
there was no sign.”
River remembered the freckled boy more than the man he became, the kid who liked wearing surfing shirts and dreamed of riding waves along the North
Shore even though he lived in the suburbs of Virginia. A sweet, polite kid whose innocence was so noticeable when you spent your career in the
backstabbing world of politics.
“You don’t believe he was on vacation?”
“I don’t know. He was stationed in Afghanistan for the DoD; wouldn’t be surprising if his vacation was actually an assignment,” Hugh said.
“They’ve been nice, but really not forthcoming with information.”
“Lots of theories, just no suspects.”
Hugh then leaned in, much more intently, the animation on his face returning as if his face submerged from the static and snow of an old television.
“Then I started getting text messages from Boone two weeks later,” Hugh withdrew a sleek phone, its screen bright and shifting in colors. He
scrolled through some saved messages. River noticed a sizable list from Boone. Hugh stamped a button and showed the screen to River.
“I received ten of these over the course of the past three weeks. All of them saying the same thing,” Hugh finished.
River took the phone from Hugh, silently remarking just how tense his friend’s grip was, as though petrified of allowing the last remaining ghost of
his only son from his control. River scrolled through the other repeating messages. AIASP.
“A name? An acronym?” River commented.
“Yeah, I thought of that too. Could be, who knows?”
“Maybe your son’s phone is just malfunctioning?”
Hugh head shook with enthusiasm, his pain and desperation emerging from his graying hair and his weathered face. River could detect the pungent
alcohol on him turning sour. His friend had been drinking long before River walked into Bily Konicek’s.
“No. I had a friend at NSA make some inquiries to the provider. They are all original messages, all actively sent from the phone.” Hugh’s
voice cracked a little. “It’s his way of telling me something. Where he is, I think.”
[edit on 2/18/2008 by behindthescenes]