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3:21 a.m.
By
Nick Pirog

-Smashwords Edition-

Published by:
Nick Pirog

Copyright © 2014 Nick Pirog

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or
given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person,
please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading
this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you
should return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting
the author's work.

Chapter 1
June 18th
Alexandria, Virginia
It had become part of my routine. Sometimes it was only a glance, other times I
would pick it up, walk around the room with it, spend a couple minutes toying with the
notion of opening it. But when you are only awake for sixty minutes a day, those couple
minutes are a precious commodity. Those are two minutes I’m not kissing Ingrid, or
rubbing Lassie’s belly, or playing cards with my father, or making trades, or running, or
showering. Two minutes I’m not living my life.
But I could never bear to open it. I could only postulate the words and images that
lived inside the red folder.
“Honey, we need to go. It’s a twenty minute drive to the airport,” Ingrid shouts from
the living room.
I gaze down at my cell phone.
3:32 a.m.
The Potomac Airfield is located ten miles away, on the other side of the river. It would
be much easier for everyone if we arrived before 4 a.m., though I am certain Ingrid made
arrangements for a wheelchair to be waiting.
Just in case.
“I’m coming,” I yell, my eyes still locked on the folder lying on the middle shelf of the
four-foot tall safe in my closet.
It had been eight months since the President of the United States handed me the red
folder. When he handed it to me, he said, “I have to warn you, there are things in there
you can’t unsee.”
He read it.
He knew.
Knew what my mother had done to me.
But it wasn’t my mother who concerned me.
It was my father.
If what Director LeHigh had said was true — that my mother was an acclaimed CIA
torture specialist and the reason I was only awake from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. each night
wasn’t because I had some one-in-a-trillion sleep disorder named after me (I’m Henry
Bins and I have Henry Bins) but because she had conditioned me through sleep
amplification — then where was my father when this was all happening?
Yes, my mother might be alive, but I hadn’t seen her in thirty years and I had no
intention of ever seeing her again. But my dad was my rock. He taught me everything I
knew, made me into the man I am today. What if he allowed her to do these horrible
things to me? What if he’d been lying to me for thirty years?
“Don’t bring it.”
I turn around.
Ingrid stands in the doorway of the large walk-in closet. She looks good for having

been awake for going on twenty-seven straight hours. She wears a typical outfit for
summer on the east coast: dark blue jeans, a gray University of Maryland T-shirt, and
white and purple Nikes. After helping me pack last night, she headed into work early,
then spent the next twenty hours trying to wrap up two open cases and all the paperwork
that accompanies a week-long vacation as a homicide detective.
“This is supposed to be our time together,” she says.
I nod.
She’s right.
Although we’d lived together for going on seven months now, we only saw each other
three or four hours a week. She couldn’t control when or how long she would be away
working her next case, and sometimes three days would go by without the two of us
seeing each other. The unique circumstances of our relationship seemed less challenging
on paper than they proved to be in reality. And with everything that transpired in the
fifteen months we’d been dating — Jessie Kallomatix’s murder, not to mention Ingrid
colluding with the President to help me expose a CIA secret prison on American soil (and
getting me tortured in the process) — it seemed like there was always someone else in
the room.
I shut the door to the safe and give the dial a quick spin.
“You’re right.”
She smiles, then shouts, “Viva Mexico.”
“We’re going to Alaska.”
“Right. Viva Alaska.”
I laugh and pull her into my arms and give her a long kiss.
“Come on,” she says, giving my butt a slap. “I don’t want to have to drag your ass onto
that plane.”
I nod and we exit the closet.
“Where’s Lassie?” I ask.
“He’s sulking. I don’t think he wants to go. I think he’d rather go to your dad’s and
hang out with Murdock.”
Lassie is indeed sulking. He is on the kitchen table, his black and tan body liquefied.
His tawny eyes are half open.
“Dude, what’s your problem?”
Meow.
“I told you, Murdock is sick. He isn’t going to be any fun.” Actually, Murdock isn’t sick.
He’d become increasingly aggressive with some of the neighborhood dogs and the vet
attributed this to the vast amount of testosterone in the 160-lbs English Mastiff’s softballsized testicles. He was getting neutered tomorrow and my dad didn’t want him chasing
around Lassie while he recovered.
Meow.
“I don’t know, the flu or something. You can stay over at my dad’s for a month when
we get back.”
He glares at me.
“Alaska is going to be great.”

Meow.
“No, we aren’t staying in an igloo. It’s summer there too. It’s supposed to be really
nice.”
Meow.
“Can you ride a moose? Well, if we see one, I’m not gonna stop you, though I’m not
sure if they have them in Fairbanks.”
He sighs.
“But what they do have . . .” I flip open the laptop and scroll through the pictures I’d
downloaded. For the past month, I’d spent a couple minutes each day reading up on, and
looking at, pictures from Alaska, aka, The Last Frontier. I click on one of the pictures,
then turn the laptop towards Lassie. “. . . is Arctic foxes.”
Lassie’s eyes open wide.
“Now, go pack.”
Ten seconds later, he has his favorite jingle ball in his mouth and paws at the front
door.
::::
“Alaska is going to be so much fun in a body bag.”
Ingrid gazes at me with pursed lips, which eventually turn into a smile. She slows
down, but still manages to get us to the Potomac Airfield with three minutes to spare.
A man in a golf cart waits for us and we load our bags into the back. We’re only half in
when he zooms towards the jet sitting on the tarmac two football fields away.
It is 3:58 a.m.
The chartered flight, plus a week’s rental at one of Fairbank’s most luxurious cabins
wasn’t cheap, but my last trade — loading up on corn futures — paid for the trip.
I can see the wheelchair waiting for me outside the small thirty-passenger jet.
I won’t need it.
At exactly 3:59 a.m., the golf cart pulls up to the plane. The man says he will take care
of our luggage and the three of us jump out and clamor up the wheeled steps of the
plane. The pilot nods his cap at me and gives Lassie a quick rub on the head.
We hurry down the aisle and fold into two of the large reclining seats.
Lassie settles in on my lap and Ingrid gives me a quick kiss before I fade into
blackness.
When I wake up, I will be in Alaska.
And at 3:07 a.m., I will see the sun for the first time.

Chapter 2
June 19th
Sunrise 3:07 a.m.
Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska is 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the imaginary line that
extends in an arc across the upper third of Alaska. The Arctic Circle marks the southern
limit of the area where the sun does not rise on the winter solstice or set on the summer
solstice. While there is no Polar Day — twenty-four hours of sunlight — in Fairbanks, the
sun is still scheduled for a heavy workload at over twenty-two hours.
I push myself up with a gasp.
My heart races. I am covered in sweat.
Snippets of the nightmare swirl around me.
A white room.
A doctor in blue scrubs.
An IV in my arm.
Where is it?
I don’t know.
Where is it?
Where is what?
The flash drive.
What flash drive?
A syringe of pink liquid.
I squirm.
He injects the syringe in my IV.
I scream. .
And that’s when I wake up.
It takes me a long minute to calm my breathing. It doesn’t help that I am in a strange
bed, in a strange bedroom. I’d seen pictures of the room where I would wake up, but it is
still a shock to the system. The master bedroom — one of three bedrooms in the
expansive cabin — holds a King-sized bed resting in a frame of shiny logs. Across from
the bed is an oak dresser, with a wide mirror. Heavy champagne blinds guard guests from
the blistering sun that will rise in mere minutes. To have made it here meant everything
went seamlessly: the eleven-hour flight, being transported by wheelchair to the waiting
van, the twenty-minute drive to the cabin on the bank of the Chena River, and being
dumped onto the aforementioned Sleep Number.
I jump out of bed and throw on the jeans and gray sweatshirt Ingrid has laid out for
me. After slipping on my shoes, I spend a long minute in the bathroom, wiping the sweat
from my brow and ear-marking a soak in the Jacuzzi tub with Ingrid in the coming days.
I exit the bathroom and follow the smell of sizzling bacon.
“Hey, Sleepyhead,” Ingrid calls from an exquisite kitchen of oak and marble.
“Good morning,” I say.
“Are you okay?” she asks, her head cocked to the side.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”
I don’t want to tell her that I had another nightmare. That I’d been having them ever
since I was waterboarded. Ever since I was strung up by my wrists and beaten. I didn’t
want to tell her that the nightmares were getting worse. That last night’s was the worst
yet.
Lassie sits on the marble island, eating a plate of bacon and eggs Ingrid has prepared.
I give him a scratch behind the ears, then pull Ingrid into my arms. She appraises me for
a long second, making sure I’m not lying, then hands me a plate and says, “Hurry up and
eat.”
I toss a piece of bacon in my mouth and survey the rest of the cabin. It is wide and
spacious, logs running the length of the twenty-five-foot ceiling. It is filled with all the
amenities and luxuries one would expect for the $4,000/week price tag: giant flat screen
television; suede couches; antiques, picture frames, and vases that were surely haggled
over at auction houses all over the world. Four windows have been cut from the ceiling,
revealing the dark denim that is the sky.
Four minutes until sunrise.
Lassie has already finished his breakfast and stares at me with sad eyes. I crack a
piece of bacon in half and feed it to him.
“What have you two been up to?” I ask.
Ingrid gives me a quick rundown of how we had landed at Fairbanks International
Airport at 11:30 a.m. — it was an eleven-hour flight, but we gained four hours going west
— and then arrived at the cabin forty minutes later. Once I was situated, she and Lassie
headed to downtown Fairbanks — which was only a short-mile upriver — to buy groceries
and hit the shops. She did some cooking and then went to sleep around 9:30 p.m. She
woke up an hour ago.
“What’s on the menu?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “It’s a surprise.”
I hunt for the refrigerator, but all I see is oak in every direction. Ingrid pulls one of the
oak panels open, unveiling a fully stocked refrigerator. She removes a smoothie and
hands it to me.
I take it from her as though it is made of Uranium. “Why is it green?”
“I added a little kale to Isabel’s recipe.”
Isabel is my house-keeper/executive assistant/personal shopper/cook. She not only
prepares smoothies for me, but also every meal I eat. She finds small ways to save me
precious seconds throughout my “day,” — from having my toothbrush pre-pasted, to
writing down the closing numbers of some of my more important stocks, to ordering the
bug spray that I would need for this trip.
I take a drink and cringe.
“What is your definition of a little?”
“Okay, a lot. But it’s good for you.”
The last month or so, Ingrid had grown increasingly curious about my condition — I’m
Henry Bins and I have Henry Bins — and in turn, decided to take a more vested interest
in my health. Being asleep for twenty-three hours a day, she couldn’t believe I drank


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