Bhopal 2

 Word count 1340                                               

“Hey Jane, you are sure to get a Pulitzer and lots of awards for the Louisville Times.  Your story on the deadliest industrial disaster in America may be bigger than India’s Bhopal poison gas disaster.”

“Yeah, but at the price of thousands dead in Kentucky and Indiana, Duke?  We are just lucky that we live a few miles out of range of the leak.  You didn’t see the many horribly contorted dead foaming and the mouth and bleeding from their noses as I did.  Anyway, we just started, don’t think about awards now.”

“Sorry, but damn, it is so big that I really can’t get perspective.  Anyway, how did the interview with Harrison go?”

Jane frowned “I’ve got a feeling that there is something wrong about the boss at Kentucky Chem.  Read the transcript of my interview out loud, Duke.”

Jane Price:  “Mr. Harrison, this must be the absolute worst thing that you can imagine, your family dead and your company the cause of the horrible disaster.”

Sam Harrison:  “Ms. Price, you’re right about the loss of my family.  I grieve for them and all of those that died or were injured in the Kentuckiana territory.  I may seem brutal to mention it at this time, but I’m not convinced Kentucky Chem is at fault.  There are two other entities that may have greater blame than us – the subcontractor for the containment unit, and the US government.”

Jane Price:  “How so?”

Sam Harrison:  “Isn’t it obvious that the containment unit failed?  I think that Zimco, the subcontractor, is to blame or at least shares much of the blame.”

Jane Price:  “Any chance of sabotage?”

Sam Harrison:  “I can see why you might think that somebody evil and crazy, or one of our foreign enemies might have done it, but our security cameras suggest otherwise.”

Jane Price:  “You mentioned the government.”

Sam Harrison:  “Our business is harmless agricultural chemicals, not poison gas, and I can’t say anymore about it.  We are subject to non-disclosure agreements.”

Jane Price:  “What is your next move?”

Sam Harrison:  “For the company, it will be to do what we can to help our community heal.  I’m afraid that the courts will determine what, if any, legal responsibility we have.  For me personally, I think that I’ll retire and try to live with the pain.”

“What’s your take, Duke?”

“He acts like a guy trying to sound like he wants to do the right thing while’ protecting his company.  He seems to be implying that the Feds screwed up a poison gas project.  Other than the government angle, I’m not seeing anything unexpected, Jane.”

“Here’s what you don’t get out of the transcript.  If I had not been doing interviews for a lot of years, I would not have seen it.  Harrison was acting.  He had prepared his answers in advance, knowing what I would be asking.  When he didn’t think that I was watching, he looked at me like someone who didn’t care that his family had just died.”

“You mean like I look at you all the time, Jane?”

“Shut up and get serious.  Don’t try my patience, Duke”

“Sorry, levity uncalled for.  Have I ever told you that you do really good stern?”

“Will you let me finish, Duke?  By the end of the interview, I felt like I was watching a monster.  I hope that I didn’t give my suspicions away.”

“So you have a lot of feelings, which for an extra five dollars would buy you a cup of coffee in a cheap San Francisco joint.  But don’t worry about him catching on; Jane Price’s poker face is famous.”

“One more thing.  He was off fishing miles from the Louisville epicenter during the disaster, but his family was at home just within the diameter of disaster.  Coincidence?”

“If you didn’t get anything else, I like the sound of ‘Diameter of Disaster’.”

“Need I repeat, ‘get serious, Duke’”

“OK, boss.  What do you want me to do, Jane?”

“You’re stronger on research.  You should do a thorough check on Harrison’s background.  I’d be amazed if you didn’t find literal skeletons.  Meanwhile, I’ll see if the military backs him up.  And it’s ‘colleague’, not boss.”

Jane reported:  “Let me tell what I got first, or I should say didn’t get.  All of my military contacts said something like ‘no comment’ about poison gas production or boilerplate like ‘The U.S. honors all of our treaty agreements relative to that subject’.  I interpret that as validating Harrison’s implication that Kentucky Chem was producing poison gas for the military.”

“What did you get on Harrison’s background, Duke?”

Duke reported:  “There are so many things that I suspect he did without being able to prove any of them.”

“When he was in high school, a girl disappeared.  Police suspect that she was murdered, but no body was ever found.  One little detail – she had made fun of Sam Harrison’s acne when he asked her for a date.  No one thought anything as trivial as that would have been a reason for murder.”

“His first wife died from food poisoning.  No foul play was suspected.  His ‘grief’ led him to build a park and name it in her honor.  He then went on an extended leave from his job and returned to work with the wife that died in the disaster.  With a little digging, I found out that wife two was pregnant when wife one died.”

“His former business partner was discovered with three prostitutes in his room when police went to arrest him for embezzlement from Kentucky Chem.  He always claimed that he had been set up on the embezzlement charge, something easy for Harrison, and that the hookers had just barged into his room before the police showed.”

“Just last year, Harrison put out feelers about becoming the Democratic candidate for governor, but couldn’t get any support.”

“He quietly increased insurance on Kentucky Chem and began to sell his company shares over the last three years.”

“The friends and family of Mrs. Harrison indicated that Harrison was a control freak at home who scared their boy.  She had not mentioned divorce, but the family thought she would have filed for one soon.”

“Putting everything together, I’d say that he had thoroughly plotted revenge against his wife and all of the Louisville area with a convenient poisonous gas leak.

Jane considered Duke’s report before responding “You are painting a guy who ruins or kills anyone who irritates or offends him in any way – a sociopath that makes Ted Bundy look like a choir boy.”

“Yeah, but no proof of anything.  With what I found in just a few days makes me think that the ‘Diameter Of Disaster’ is just the latest and worst of his many crimes.  With his combination of perverted brilliance and money, what can we do?  I don’t think that we or the police can do anything.  What do we do now, Jane?”

“OK, we check and double check all of our facts.  Cooperate with the police on this.  On the off chance Harrison makes a mistake; show him the story before we run it.”

“We were right, Harrison laughed at us and the police told us we have nothing, but I’m still glad that we ran the article.  I just got a letter from a concerned, but anonymous citizen.  Want to hear it, Duke?”


“I believe the implications of your article about Harrison.  Someone had to act, so I did.  He’s gone on his last fishing trip.  You can find him floating, or maybe on the bottom of the lake.  I don’t know how long bodies float.  This is for all of his past and future victims.”

Jane said “I think that this is justice.  How about you?”

“I Agree.  It calls for drinks and dinner.  My treat.  You may disagree, but I don’t think that we will investigate the identity of the man who took Harrison on his last fishing trip.”

Appears in Yellow Mama illustrated and Dark Dossier

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