But enough distractions with trivial matters like the election. It it time to turn back to more important things like False Memory. When we last left our heroes, Dusty and Martie, they had just rushed Dusty's younger brother, Skeet, out of the New Life Clinic before the evil Dr. Ahriman had the opportunity to program him to commit suicide. Ahriman saw their car speeding away and recognized from the look on Dusty's face that he knew what was going on.
Dusty and Martie take Skeet to stay with Foster (Fig) Newton, weird misfit who also paints houses for Dusty.* Fig says very little, but goes around all day plugged into a radio like an "electronic IV bottle" listening to radio shows about "UFO's, alien abductions telephone messages from the dead, fourth-dimensional beings and Big Foot." His trailer has a satellite dish to pick up UFO signals. Inside, it is full of TV and computer screens full of mysterious data, tracking equipment, and charts. He keeps a bedroom stacked with books about all the sorts of things Skeptical Inquirer likes debunking. In short, Fig is too paranoid even for Dean Koontz. This makes him the perfect choice to babysit Skeet. Granted, when Dusty first says Skeet may be in danger, Fig jumps to the rational conclusion that some drug dealer is after him. But he has no trouble at all believing their stories about brain washing and mind control. He is only disappointed that the villains are not aliens, cross-dimensional beings, or even government. But he guesses right the fourth time, that it is the American Psychological Association. When they ask you he guessed, he says there are only five possible suspects. The fifth is Bill Gates.**
Dusty tells Fig not to bother going to work, since everything is soaked from the rain anyhow, just keep Skeet and Valet the dog safe and out of sight. (Presumably Dusty will pay Fig for his babysitting services). Dusty and Martie are going to Santa Fe to talk to Dr. Ahriman's victims there. They deprogram Skeet, leaving him with only one program -- stop taking drugs! Fig looks on, not in the least surprised by what he sees. He also gives them a toy truck to hide their gun in so they can get it past airport security.
Dusty and Martie check into a hotel near the airport, read over Closterman's file on Ahriman's Santa Fe victims, deprogram each other, and make love. Oddly enough, although no graphic details were given, I really didn't want to know about that last. I am not sure why. Dusty and Martie are husband and wife, after all. Presumably they have relations quite regularly. So why don't I want to know about it? Maybe I just want to give them some privacy. Maybe because what we have seen about their marriage makes clear that it is about so much more than sex. Or maybe it is because thus far sex has only entered the story in the form of rape and various depravities, so that I have trouble even processing the idea of regular sex anymore.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ahriman, who has made a duplicate key to their house, goes over to see how they figured out what was going on. He sees the note from Closterman and hears Susan's message identifying him as her rapist. Their phone also has a message from the travel company, confirming their reservations to Santa Fe. He destroys the tape, calls an unnamed person under his control, who is activated by the name "Ed Mavole" and gives instructions to burn the house down. (Tum dum dum! Watch this mysterious person. This will not be the last). He also notifies his backers in Santa Fe that Dusty and Martie will be out and investigating, and to let them go if they don't uncover anything, but kill them if they Get Too Close. Here we get to hear the details that Ahriman is part of a larger conspiracy, that he perfected mind control techniques for the others and taught it to them, that the conspiracy exercises power behind the scenes, and that it allows Ahriman to use his mind control powers for personal entertainment, while others are forbidden from doing so on pain of being fed to the crocodiles (in Santa Fe?!). We also learn that Ahriman is worried that his backers might find out just how far he is carrying his private games and be displeased. Whether this is a crocodiles-level displeasure or not is not made clear. We also get to see more senseless and extraneous preening and posturing about how evil he is, that i once again omit.
I will add here that I really don't understand the purpose of the institute in Santa Fe and what it is supposed to add to the story. We have been dealing with Ahriman alone up until Closterman mentioned being intimidated by thugs that reeked of authority. The institute is about to play a major part in Dusty and Martie's adventures in Santa Fe, and then disappear again as we return to a private feud with Ahriman. I am not sure why Koontz bothered at all, except perhaps to add a few standard action-adventure scenes to pad the story out. If I were rewriting the book, I would be inclined to leave them out altogether and focus solely on the characters and their very personal conflict with Ahriman.
Anyhow, Dusty and Martie fly to Santa Fe in the winter with their gun-in-truck smuggled in in their carryon. (This was before 9-11, but after airport security had been ramped up due to terrorist attacks in other countries). They interview various Ahriman victims. One of them shows them the Bellon-Tockland Institute, Ahriman's backer. It is a mysterious, super-secret, highly fortified compound, with the stated mission of "Applying the latest discoveries in psychology and psychoparmacology to design more equitable and stable structural models for government, business, culture, and society as a whole, which will contribute to a clean environment a more reliable system of justice, the fulfillment of human potential, and world peace." To Dusty, this sounds a lot like brainwashing.
Obviously, they are Getting Too Close, so some Bellon-Tockland thugs put down a spike strip in a remote area to cut their tires, and take them captive for a "hump and dump" operation. They throw Dusty in the trunk, but keep Martie in the back seat because she is the prospective humpee. The dump will take place at an old, abandoned Indian well. When they reach their destination, Martie pulls the gun they smuggled in the truck. She tries to talk her way out without killing anyone, but the thugs reach for their machine pistols, so Martie has no choice but to shoot and kill them. She and Dusty drop the bodies down the well, bury the gun, and drive to Albuquerque, where they park the car in a quiet side street, drop the keys down the storm sewer, and check into a cheap motel that accepts cash. They buy sandwich materials and beer, to help them sleep. (Again with the alcohol! But this is its last appearance in the book). They take long showers, and don't make love. (And, once again, I really don't want to hear about it). They discuss whether they are willing to kill Ahriman, and whether the Bellon-Tockland Institute would come after them. But in the end, they are not ready to kill him, not yet.
I have breezed through this part quickly, particularly the adventures in Santa Fe, because it does not fit very well. The B-T Institute, the secret conspiracy, the hired thugs and so forth don't really feel like part of the story at all. The proper story is about Ahriman and his victims. This part is a detour that the story on the whole would be better without. It does serve one useful purpose, however. It gets Dusty and Martie out of the picture long enough to allow a comic and entertaining section, with Ahriman changing roles from shadowy figure or annoyingly excessive villain to a comic villain. That can be kind of fun, as we will see in my next post on the subject.