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Editor's Note: Mr. Greinke is an ordinary citizen currently taking a few months' vacation to drive solo across the USA on a rather unordinary historical tour: a tour of the Cold War. His objective is to visit the many "Battlefields of World War III" that lie scattered across our great land. These battlefields include anything and everything related to the Cold War and the long-promised nuclear Armageddon that never happened.
Barney Greinke, Nuke Tourist: Part IV
Detained in Dupuyer
The Right People
The Game Warden was gone for about 45 minutes, during which time I had plenty of opportunity to look over the small town of Dupuyer. From my seat on the porch I could see that, for a small Montana town, Dupuyer had a pretty extensive business community. There were a couple of bars, another general store, a farm and feed store, a garage, some sort of warehouse, and even a few homes. This place wasn't just 4 buildings and a broken gas pump, this place was a sprawling mini-metropolis of 8 buildings and a fully functional gas pump.
"We can't let you go back there. He's an international terrorist."
"Dangerous. Desperate. The sniper team is moving into position now."
"Did you notice any weapons on him? Anything bulky under his shirt?"
"What you're about to witness never happened. Got that? It never happened, and we were never here."
Of course, the real conversation they were having was probably more along the lines of "When does elk season open around here?" and "Night crawlers or salmon eggs?"
Eventually the Game Warden came back.
"Well, they do want to talk to you, that's for sure," he said, "but they have to wait for the right people to get here."
The Right People? They'd been following me for an hour and a half and they were still waiting for The Right People? I took this as a good sign. Waiting for The Right People meant I was tangled up in some sort of bureaucracy, and bureaucracy (at least in America) isn't very good at administering covert beatings or making people disappear.
"I'm supposed to stay with you until the FBI shows up," the deputy told me. He was trying to look serious, but I could tell he was a little excited that the FBI was on its way. He was a young guy with one of those thick moustaches that are so popular among law enforcement professionals. I wondered if he grew it so he'd look older.
"FBI?" I replied. "That's cool." I was a little excited myself that the FBI was gonna show up.
Too bad it was me they were showing up to see.
I didn't know how much longer I'd have to wait for The Right People, but after a couple of sodas I did know I had to take a leak. I went into the general store to use their facilities; the deputy dutifully tagged along and stood guard outside the bathroom door.
After finishing my business in the men's room, the deputy and I exited the store and nearly collided with three gentlemen who seemed to be in a hurry to get inside. These were obviously The Right People we'd been waiting for. They must have heard that I'd gone in to use the bathroom and were rushing over to make sure I wasn't making a break for it.
"You must be here for me." I said, taking a step back from our near-collision and offering a smile and a handshake.
"If you're Barney," said the first man, extending his hand. "I'm Agent X of the FBI, and these are Agents Y and Z of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. We'd like to talk to you."
Agent X was about 40 years old, wearing a white tennis shirt with thin blue stripes. He wasn't that tall, about my height, and looked nothing like the Mulder or Skinner I was expecting. Something about him reminded me of my accountant: his intensity of focus or his mannerisms, perhaps, or maybe it was the way he peered out from behind his glasses. Agents Y and Z were wearing the type of blue windbreakers that you see on "COPS" whenever it's a drug raid episode; only theirs didn't say "POLICE" in bold, don't-shoot-me-yellow letters, theirs said "OSI."
I smiled nervously and shook their hands. My adrenaline, which hadn't ever really subsided since the silo, was on its way back up again. I took the initiative and launched a preemptive apology strike:
"I really want to apologize about this whole mess," I said. "I didn't think that those silo pictures would result in this kind of a ... a response."
"Well, we'd just like to ask you a few questions. 'Find out where you've been today," said Agent Y. He looked like he wasn't too happy about being called out here on Labor Day weekend. None of them did. I couldn't really blame them.
"Sounds good to me," I said, "I just wanna get this whole thing straightened out."
A couple of the Air Force security troops had come over to the store with the agents, I noticed, and were standing back about 20 feet from the rest of us. This was the first time I'd seen them outside their vehicles. They were very buff, serious-looking guys, decked out in full battle fatigues. The M16s they carried slung at hip-level made them look even more serious.
My throat was a little dry all of a sudden. "Mind if I grab my soda off of that table?" I asked the three agents.
"Go ahead," said Agent X, giving me a look that said maybe I should be concerned with bigger things than finishing my soda. I turned and walked over to grab the half-empty bottle off the picnic table at the far end of the porch. I could feel them watching my back. Were they again expecting me to make a run for it?
Soda bottle in hand, I returned to the trio of agents. It was time for business. Agent X took charge of the situation:
"OK, the first thing I want to tell you is that you're not under arrest, and you're free to go at any time. Do you understand that?"
"Uh, OK," I said, wondering what reasons he might have for telling me this.
"I also want to explain that I have jurisdiction here. On military property the OSI has jurisdiction, but off base the FBI has jurisdiction."
"Uh, OK," I repeated.
"Now I'd like to ask you a few questions," said Agent X.
We all went over to the table. Agent X took out his pen and notebook and began the interrogation. He started out with the basics: address, phone number, social security number, place of birth. Then he went into the relevant stuff: How long have you been in Montana? Why were you stopped at a missile silo? Tell me about your Cold War Tour. Where else have you been on this tour? Describe exactly what you did at the silo. Where'd you get that dirt on your shirt? When did you arrive in Great Falls? Tell me everywhere you've been in the last two days.
Agent X took extensive notes regarding my whereabouts for the last two days, marking down all the places and approximate times. His handwriting was quite neat, I noticed, and I wondered if that was part of FBI training. Agents Y and Z stood by and observed.
The Big Picture
The questioning took about a half an hour in all. I got the impression that Agent X and Agent Y thought the whole Cold War Tour idea was kind of odd, or perhaps they thought it wasn't a very believable story. Agent Z, I could tell, kind of dug the idea of driving around the country looking at all the immense and bizarre things we'd built for World War III.
When the questioning finally ended and Agent X closed his notebook, I expected that it was time for them to give me "The Stern Talking-To" and to confiscate the disk with my silo pictures. Things didn't quite work out that way.
"Well, Barney," explained Agent X, "I'm going to tell you that the reason that we're talking to you now is that, a little while before the missile security troops started following you today, there was an intrusion detected inside the fence of another silo. A silo not far from where you say you were."
"You know those white poles at the silos?" added Agent Y.
"Those little Washington Monument obelisk poles?" I replied.
"Yes," said Agent Y. "Those poles have sensors, and those sensors detected a security breach inside the fence of a silo today."
I knew that silos had all sorts of security sensors, but I'd always thought those obelisk-shaped poles were antennas. It's nice to learn something new.
"Now, I'm asking you," said Agent X, dropping into a serious, official tone, "did you go inside the fence of any silo today?"
"No," I replied, strongly and clearly. "I didn't even get within 50 feet of a missile silo today." I figured that he was looking for a strong, clear answer.
"OK," he said, still in his serious voice, "I'm going tell you that lying to an FBI agent is a federal crime; and if I find out six months from now that you're lying to me, I'm going to charge you with that too. Now I'm going ask you again, did you go inside the fence of any silo today?"
"No," I repeated.
A Bad Decision
I didn't mind them asking me so accusingly if I'd been poking around that other silo. It was their job to find out. And I was sure that they could be a lot nastier about it if they'd wanted to be. Besides, nuclear security is a pretty serious matter, even to a nuclear tourist.
"Mr. Greinke," said Agent X, "we haven't found out anything to establish that you were at the silo when the intrusion was detected, but we've also found nothing to establish that you weren't at that silo either." His tone was very dry and matter-of-fact. "I'd like to now ask for your permission to search your vehicle, Mr. Greinke."
I thought about this for only a fraction of a second. I knew that I had absolutely nothing to hide in there. I had figured that, on a trip like this, it was inevitable that I might be stopped, questioned, and possibly even searched, so I hadn't bothered to carry anything even slightly illegal. All those nights I'd spent alone out in the desert, miles from anywhere, without so much as a can of mace between me and America's latest crop of serial killers, those nights were going to pay off right here and now.
I held the keys up to him. "Sure. Go ahead."
He had me write out a note granting him permission to search the vehicle. I signed it. He signed it. The deputy signed it. Agent Y signed it. Agent Z signed it too, just for good measure.
Agent X took the keys and walked over to the Trooper. He looked at it cautiously, as if maybe it was wired to explode or something.
"Is there anything you don't want me to find in here?" he yelled over to me.
"Not a thing," I yelled back.
He paused and looked the vehicle over for another moment.
"Is there anything in here that's going to hurt me? Anything I should know about?" he yelled.
"No," I yelled back. "Not that I can think of." About the most dangerous thing in there was a bag full of really smelly laundry from my week out in the Idaho desert.
Safely and prudently, Agent X extended his hand far out from his body and inserted the key into the door. He crouched a little, and appeared to be bracing himself for the bright flash and loud bang that was sure to follow. "Standard procedure for Montana?" I mused. I watched him slowly turn the key and open the door. With the absence of any sort of explosion, the search began.
When I was in high school I took a class in criminal law. The last day of class, my teacher gave us a few of rules of thumb to stick by when dealing with police, whether guilty or innocent. One of these was don't ever invite a cop into your house; another was don't ever volunteer for a search. These, he'd told us, were not absolute rules, but in the absence of any legal counsel they were rules we probably ought to follow. Since I'd been basically living out of my Trooper for the last month and a half, I was now breaking both of them.
I watched them search the Trooper for an hour, secure in the knowledge that there was nothing in there for them to find. Nothing criminal, anyway. There was definitely a lot of other, non-criminal stuff that they would surely take interest in: night vision equipment, GPS, technical books on nuclear warfare, declassified nuclear weapons documents, fancy scientific calculator, fast new notebook computer, camera, digital camera, cell phone, binoculars, and probably a few other suspicious-looking high-tech doodads I'd forgotten about. It was all part of the technological arsenal that I'd assembled for my journey into the heart of Cold War America. It also, I'm sure, made me look like the best-equipped "tourist" since Abu Nidal. I thought about what a good idea it had been to leave the bolt cutters, spotting scope, and laser rangefinder at home.
Watching from the porch, the thing that struck me most about the search was how little it resembled anything you might see on TV. Agent X, with some help from Agent Z, was meticulously going through each and every item in the Trooper, flipping through every magazine, opening every cassette case, looking into every aspirin bottle, then putting the items back, nice and neat, just where he'd found them. There was no throwing stuff around, no mess-making, no breaking of anything; it was the most courteous search I'd ever heard of. Television searches, I decided, are horribly inaccurate.
Taken for a Ride
The search, of course, told them nothing. Except, that I was either telling the truth or was the most suspicious person to show up at a silo in an awfully long time. And it definitely had not cleared me of trespassing at that other silo.
"Barney," said Agent X, handing me back my keys, "First, I'd like to tell you that we haven't removed anything from your vehicle. We did find some things in there that I'd like to talk to you about. And I'd also like to drive you out to the silo I told you about, where the trespassing occurred, and show you that site. Maybe we can save some time and ask you about those things on the ride over there?"
No doubt he wanted to ask me about the night vision and other goodies. Going off to the other silo, though, seemed a bit odd. Thoughts of being disappeared started coming back. I think Agent X picked up on my apprehension about visiting the silo.
"I need to reiterate that you're still free to go. We found no evidence in your vehicle to indicate that you were at the other silo. We'd just like to take you there and ask you a few more questions."
"So, just out of curiosity," I asked, "what happens if I just get in the Trooper and drive off? You guys will, like, keep following me or something?"
"I can't say exactly what will happen," the FBI man replied.
"Probably something like that?" I asked.
Agent X sort of tilted his head to the side and raised his brow. "Well..."
I pictured myself for a moment, driving around for the next few days or weeks or months with an escort of two Broncos full of heavily armed soldiers. It might be fun at first, and I wouldn't have to worry much about the grizzlies in Glacier, but the novelty would certainly wear off.
"Well, " I said, "I didn't do anything, so I just wanna get this mess cleared up. I guess I can go to the silo."
This whole FBI episode had actually been pretty interesting so far. Not interesting in a fun way, but definitely interesting. I knew that I was innocent, even if I couldn't prove it, and so I also knew that there was no evidence to prove I was guilty. Why not go? Besides, maybe I'd even get to visit a silo really close up.
We left the deputy to guard my Trooper and piled into the government vehicles. I sat in the passenger seat of the unmarked FBI Blazer.
"See Agent Y sitting behind you?" said Agent X, starting the motor. "If you go for my gun, he'll kill you."
He'd said it with a serious voice, but I couldn't tell if he really was serious, or if this was some sort of dark FBI humor.
"Uh, OK," I said, smiling and hoping he'd been joking. I fastened my seat belt and looked back at Agent Y. Agent Y, it seemed, hadn't gotten the joke either.
Next: Barney's road trip takes a small detour. Write to the Nuke Tourist at:
||Also in this issue:
Ukrainians: Our Country Is Run by Depraved Criminals!
New in TABLOID:
Mom's a Man, I'm a Witch -- And I Just Got Suspended!
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