Short Story: “Framing Trap”

There’s a fictional gathering place on the web that I frequent. The following story might have happened there… — poz

“Framing Trap”
by P. Orin Zack
[Jun 2007]

“It couldn’t be.”

Bob stared in wide-eyed disbelief, challenging me to support the claim, but there was nothing further I could say. Planting the thought was enough. The question was whether he’d give it enough time to germinate before drowning it in the acidic blather that had been passed off for truth all these years.

He glanced away. “Could it?”

I smiled. Maybe this time I’d make a convert. “You tell me. What if it were?”

It was noisy in the back of the café. Noisy enough to drown out our conversation if you were more than a few feet away. Noisy enough that the group at the big round table up front wouldn’t notice. And that was just the way I wanted it. Not that the regulars would have objected to what I had to say. After all, it was a known hangout for folks with the fire of independence, the kind that tended to get rounded up from time to time when the junta running what passed for a government these days wanted to juice their ratings, as it were.

He jiggled the glass he’d just drained, signaled for a refill, and knit his brows. “You probably like puns, don’t you?”

“Sure, but what does that have to do with —?”

“I should’a guessed. ‘Cause what you just did has the same effect. First you lead your mark down the garden path, letting them think they know what you’re talking about, then suddenly spring the trap on them, and they have to re-examine everything they just accepted. Puns are framing traps.”

I shrugged. “So?”

“Well, if what you say is true – and I’m not ready to accept that yet, but if it was, then a whole lot of coincidences and weak explanations start adding up.”

Bob’s refill touched down in the same motion that his empty glass was snatched away. The staff here were good. You’d almost think they owned the place or something.

“For example?”

He watched the waitress complete her circuit of the room, swapping drinks as she went, while he spoke. “It’s like her. If you didn’t see her go by, you might think your glass refilled itself. It’s more than deft handiwork, too. She plans her route out, no wasted steps. And when it works, she’s nearly invisible, like a stage ninja. Well, dropping that thought of yours into the mix does the same thing to a lot of events surrounding the incident.”

I smiled. “Such as?”

“Ignoring the test itself for the moment, there’s a swarm of questionable events around it: several war games, Junior’s clumsy admission that he saw a closed-circuit feed of the first strike before he entered the classroom, the investigation cover-ups. Stuff like that.”

“Why ignore the test?” I pressed. “Is that harder to accept than the rest of it?”

Bob took a long breath, and watched the owner joking with the regulars for a moment. “Just the opposite. That’s the easiest bit. Anyone with an ounce of sense would try their damnedest to make the facts as they understand them fit into whatever scenario they’ve bought into. With a scheme as audacious as the one you’ve suggested, they’ll have rigged up back-up plans to make sure the buildings came down – patsy terrorists, remote-controlled aircraft, carefully timed explosives, the whole nine yards — and set up a welter of false leads to keep everyone off their trail. And it worked like a charm, too. The official story had a dual role to play. One was to sucker in the people who didn’t question it, and the other was to be a straw man – bait for those willing to put the pieces together into a number of other false stories, just so they could be set against one another. LIHOP. MIHOP. I mean, really, does it matter if the government let it happen or made it happen? Either way, they’re complicit. But as long as the argument goes on, the people fighting over it are kept in the dark, kept from realizing what really happened.”

“Then you think I’m right about it?”

His head bobbled. “But more than that.”

“More?” Where was he taking this?

“Sure. It puts a different spin on all kinds of things. The money trail leading from John O’Neills’ smoky tomb in lower Manhattan involves cronies both here and abroad. I’d been stumped on how they all benefited from the event that Silverstein milked for insurance fraud, but if it was a weapons test, as you suggest, then there’s not only hush money to be gotten, but payoffs for complicit businesses as well. Those short sales on the airlines took guts, because they were placed in advance, but that was nothing compared to the chutzpah of testing the spawn of a black weapons program in broad daylight, on New York City, for heaven’s sake. But you’re right. There really was no other way they could have done it. Unless it was carried out under the cover of some huge disaster, the secret would have been out. And only a terrorist attack would give it the cachet they needed to pitch the nation into a bunker mentality so the people could be cowed. You kind of need that if your end game is world domination.”

A sudden yelp from the crowd gathered around the wise men, as the owner calls them, stilled the chatter briefly. My breath froze as I nervously scanned the crowd for a quickly averted gaze. I’d picked this place for a different kind of cover, but there was still the chance it had been infiltrated. Some thoughts are too dangerous to utter. But that’s a choice we make, and mine was to get this one out, to spread it quietly so that it couldn’t be stopped. If I survived, that is.

Bob drained his glass. “And then there’s the test itself.”

I watched him carefully, looking for a tell, a way to know if he was being honest, or just setting me up to be black bagged.

“They played it out like it was a real war. Psy-ops from the git-go, with a management patsy at CNN to call in the initial ‘eyewitness’ report, doctored footage from a documentary shoot released the next day to confirm the CNN story, and a wall-to-wall horror show on every channel, all the time. They didn’t have to worry about the real eye-witnesses, because no matter what they said, there was a pre-built scenario for their reports to make sense with. Fires from aircraft crashes, controlled demolitions, mass hypnosis…”

His voice had been gaining volume, and I motioned for him to tone it down. “But what about the test itself? The technology?”

“Some kind of energy weapon? Well, sure. How else could you atomize a building that quickly? Steel, concrete, electronics, desks and people don’t all respond to the same frequency of microwaves. To do that, they’d need something that could overwhelm the interatomic forces holding the molecules together. Anything involving heat would have left different residue. All the dense stuff went up, but not the paper. The government even made a point of mentioning the paper. Remember that hijacker’s passport they claimed to have found on the street? Saying that was a stroke of genius, because it kept everyone from noticing the paper. But there were other things, evidence so bizarre that it was completely ignored, like the oddly torched cars surrounding the test site.”

I breathed easier. “Then you believe me?”

“Yeah. But from where I sit, there’s just one problem with your story.”

“And that is…?”

“That you mentioned it.”

THE END

Copyright 2007 by P. Orin Zack

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