We went downstairs together and Phil had an angry cup of coffee waiting for me in the house’s breakfast nook.
The nook was adjacent to the kitchen and flooded with light from a large bay window. Through the window a lonely lemon tree stood tall in the sun in a green backyard.
The place was quiet and still and Phil didn’t have much to say, so I figured I’d kill some time.
“So, do you have one of your pogo sticks here?”
Phil blinked and creased his lips into a tight smile. Moments later we were standing outside his house in the sun.
I stepped on the outrageous device and it powered me three feet in the air before I stopped.
“Jesus, this thing is dangerous.” I stepped off the spring.
He grinned as two cars, a red ford pick up and a silver sedan, crawled by us, with both drivers looking left and right, mouthing the numbers on the houses and squinting through their windows.
The man in the silver sedan rolled down his window and Phil went to greet him.
Standing adjacent to the action I heard my name peppered through out the conversation.
“You’re here for Peyton? About a car?” I heard Phil say.
The man in the car knew I was there. How?
Phil turned from the car and looked at me.
“There’s a man here for you…” Phil turned to him, “What was your name by the way?”
“Peyton, Steve came here to give you a car.”
“I was told you were in need of reliable transport.” The silver haired man in the denim shirt now stood in the lawn with us. He shrugged and held the keys up in front of his face.
“Sorry?” I asked.
“Orly called me and told me you needed a car. That you were helping with the Obama case. I think I speak for everyone in America when I say thank you. A car is the least I can do for you and the team.”
“Right…” He dropped the keys in my hand.
“Anyway, she’s in perfect running condition” he pointed to the silver Chrysler 200 M sedan behind him.
“And it’s got a pretty high security clearance, too, so there’s that. Anyway, thanks for your help. I gotta get going with my wife. We drove in from Corona.”
“Corona?” Phil chimed in. “Well that’s two hours away!” Phil was downright bewildered.
“Yeah, when Orly called us we got over as soon as we could. Sorry if we kept you waiting.”
“Well… no… I was just testing this pogo stick here.”
“Sorry?” Steve voiced his confusion.
“Don’t worry about it. Thanks.” I pocketed the keys.
“Yeah, well figured my son wasn’t using it so you guys might as well have it for a bit. And, oh! It’s got a cot in the trunk! Army issued!”
“Where’s your son now?” Phil wanted to know.
Apparently Steve’s son had left his car behind when he went on yet another tour to Iraq. And his car had military security clearances of some kind. It also had nice black leather seats and drove like a dream (though as I remembered it occasionally slipped gears when it hit 30).
Steve’s wife stood behind him as though she knew this was all more than a little insane.
“Steve, you ready?” She had her hands on her hip and her head cocked.
“Sure honey.” Steve shook our hands and got into his wife’s truck and that was that.
“Golly, all the way from Corona.” Phil was impressed.
“Fuck. Now I am really in this thing.” I shook my head.
“What’s that now?”
“Nothing… nothing…” I felt the keys in my pocket. By accepting them, it was as though I had accepted something else entirely. That I had agreed to stay there with Patti until the man from the DR showed up.
A hearing over a motion to dismiss was coming up in a few weeks and the witnesses needed to be consulted with and prepped should they be called to give testimony.
I turned the keys in the ignition of my newly acquired car and drove off to meet with Orly and Patti at Orly’s dental office. I needed to know everything there was to know about the man coming in from the Dominican.
The Carpet Bagger
He had various aliases he used online. “Inspector Smith” and “Brian Hicks” were the ones I would come to know but I think he probably had more. He had his reasons. I think he might have also wanted to be someone else entirely, someone whose life turned out differently; so he called himself a “detective,” a “freelance journalist,” whatever the hell that meant.
Orly was his second choice when he first wanted to appear as a witness against Obama. His first choice was an attorney in Philadelphia named Phil Berg, but Phil wouldn’t talk to him. Phil didn’t buy his story. Besides, Smith was put in jail for years for identity theft. The man forged documents for Christ sake. Even if he were telling the truth, a jury would never believe him.
But Orly would put a dog on the stand, if it meant that more people would watch her on television and read about her online.
She decided that she would work with “Inspector Smith” just so long as he could agree to some ground rules. Specifically, he was not to show the birth certificate to the media, if we were going to work with him. If he did so, it might hurt the case by allowing the Defendants more time to get a look at the thing, and pick it apart in the process.
But, fuck us he did it anyway, before any of us even met him in person.
He released a video of himself walking through a small third world village, talking to the camera. In his hands he carried a piece of paper, while the every day mob of people threaded through the frame behind him as he pressed down the sunlit street.
Though he spoke directly to the camera, you could hear the nearly faceless people quickly flashing behind him in the background vying for attention. But what the fuck language were they were speaking? Spanish? Portuguese? Italian? No one knew.
And where was he anyway? Plenty of people speculated on that, too. The commentators thought out loud: Bolivia, Peru, Brazil? It didn’t matter. Thousands of people weren’t watching the video on YouTube because they were interested in where exactly the man was. They weren’t even watching to hear what Lucas Smith had to say.
They were just watching that piece of paper bouncing up and down on the screen. Everything else paled in comparison.
The following story is culled from two affidavits from 2009 and 2011 and a Amicus Curiae from 2013, all submitted in separate actions in the U.S. District Courts of California, the superior court of the District of Colombia and finally the Supreme Court of Alabama, respectively.
All documents were submitted under penalty of perjury and are a matter of public record. Any and all deviations or augmentations of the stories provided in the above cited documents are based on personal conversations I had with Lucas himself.
In February of 2009, Lucas Daniel Smith flew to the Republic of the Congo as part of an investigative report Smith he had decided to write.
It was his second time on the “dark continent,” as he had been once before, in 2007, though he never said why.
Fashioning himself as a “freelance journalist,” using the $5,000.00 he “raised” from a single friend, Lucas Smith flew from his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Africa in search of a mythical dinosaur.
As per his 2011 affidavit:
“This fabled creature is a dinosaur-like animal that is commonly referred to as Mokele Mbembe. It should be noted that other such hidden, or once fabled, animals have been discovered in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The animal now known to most of the world as the Okapi was once considered to be a mythical creature by Europeans who referred to it as the African Unicorn.”
When Lucas Smith heard that this particular myth was in fact modern he took it upon himself to seek it out and write an article about it. He carried a camera and planned on getting footage of the old Dino, too.
What he found upon arrival there was underwhelming: out of the dozens of people he arranged to interview, no one there had seen the dinosaur firsthand. Lucas was deep in the swampy Likouala region of the Congo for days speaking with the locals on camera with all of them shaking their heads “nononononoNONONO”.
No one had seen the animal in the entire region until Lucas finally met a man that knew another man who had seen the Dino when he was a soldier stationed in the Congo. However there was a catch. The witness had moved to Kenya mere months before Lucas arrived, forcing Lucas to decide whether or not he’d go the extra mile or leave Africa entirely.
After a brief call to his benefactor and an extension of credit, Lucas decided to make his way to Kenya in a last ditch effort to find the man who had witnessed the fabled African Unicorn.
Illustration by Dan Booth. Not to be reproduced without express prior permission.
Read on: Part 1
Peyton Freiman is an American visual artist, writer, and sometimes actor. His art has been exhibited in both New York and Austin, while his writing has appeared in The Wild Magazine. He has also appeared in the Austin based web series “Master Class”, as the character Carson. His personal website is: www.mrfreiman.com.