“It’s all the same conversations. The same words and ideas keep reappearing everywhere…confident, monotonous repetition is mind control.”

“I’ll give you an off-the-record agreement, sir.”

Alphonse smirked, then looked away. Lorenzo was approaching them; his aura parading annoyance and anxiety.

“I’m not trying to disrupt anything, but I’m trying to get away from this weird wise guy who tried pulling some Houdini magic on me.”

“What was he trying to do,” Alphonse asked.

“I don’t know; he just kept laying his hands on me, being weird about it. I think he’s following me around.”

The guard engaged, inquiring, “What does he look like, sir; do you see him around?”

“He’s got this really ugly face, and this—aw, Christ, here he is now.”

“Look, I’m only coming to apologize,” Gaspare said, approaching the three near the wall. “I didn’t mean to set you off like that, and I want to formally ask that you forgive me.”

“What were you doing?” Alphonse asked.

“I wanted to show him some of the rituals I learned from the Orient, since he expressed a fondness for Vedic texts.”

“What kind of rituals?”

“They’re more of a trance, but they help one discard the ego and tap into unrecognized potential from the unconscious mind.”

Everyone stared at him blankly.

The guard took another drag of his cigarette, nearing its end.

“Show me,” Alphonse said to Gaspare.

Surprised, the guard turned and looked at him.

“Monotony’s end?”

“Certainly, sir; thank you for cooperating,” Gaspare said, looking at Lorenzo.

Gasoare turned to Alphonse and laid his hands on his shoulders. “Now I need you to close your eyes and hold your arms akimbo to the side.”

Alphonse complied, chuckling with hesitation. “Okay, what now?”

“Now I need absolute silence.” He pressed his thumb onto his forehead, maintaining a grip on Alphonse’s shoulder. He inhaled with his eyes closed and spoke as a sage: “Now when I finish speaking from the Gita, you won’t remember your name.”

Alphonse smirked, “That seems a tad—”

“Silence! Now listen to these words: ‘Om Sahnavavtu Sahnobhunktu Sahviryam Karvavahe.’”

At that moment, Gaspare removed his hands and said, “Now open your eyes.”

Alphonse complied.

“Nice to meet you, what’s your name?”

“My…my name?” In bewilderment, Alphonse’s eyes darted to Gaspare, then to Lorenzo, demanding an answer to the inquiry.

The guard finally spoke up. “Your name’s Pierre.”

“I’m sorry, I’m just confused. Maybe I had too much to drink.”

Gaspare snapped his fingers in front of Alphonse’s face. “Nice to meet you, what’s your name?”

“A pleasure, sir: Pierre is my Christian name.”

There was a silence that drowned out the gala. Taking a final drag, the guard’s staring eyes beamed at the scene like the lights from the airship above.

“Nonsense,” Lorenzo said with disdain. “None of this is real; it can’t be touched or felt, there aren’t any rules.”

Gaspare chuckled, then said, “If you’re so adamant about this skill’s uselessness, then you should have no issue testing it.”

As they argued, Alphonse glanced away, hoping to find their privacy maintained.

In the 200th degree of a scanning arc, he saw another guard approaching them, walking at a steady, calm pace, but squinting to discern their purpose.

Then, seemingly from thin air, Keller intercepted him with a request for a cigarette light. throughout his obliging compliance, the other guard kept eyeballing them.

Alphonse looked to Lorenzo, who was still arguing with Gaspare, but with a noticeable nervousness.

“I’ll bet you ten francs this guy won’t get hypnotized,” Alphonse said, leaning toward their subject.

He looked to the Basetti brothers, then looked back, smirking. “Deal.”

“Alright,” Alphonse said with an attuned urgency, “Let’s see if you can resist his hypnotization.”

Lorenzo agreed under conditions. “Very well, but I want to learn new information rather than forget it.”

“What do you know of aeronautics, then?”

“Nothing, compared to finances.”

“Well, we’re here for an airshow, so let me bring up knowledge hidden beneath your conscious awareness. Close your eyes.”

Alphonse looked back to Keller.

The guard was walking away from him toward their ruse. With a bold grip, Keller reached out and tugged on his shoulder to prevent the guard approaching any further.

Gaspare laid both hands on Lorenzo’s shoulders, then moving to his chest, then to his waist in very religiously deliberate motions, all while reciting supposedly sacred syllables. “Now open your eyes and tell me how to fly an airplane.”

Lorenzo began a condensed lesson, speaking like a prophet about optimally shaped fuselages, of the differences between wooden frames versus more modern metallic hulls, of the forthcoming pulse jet reaction engines lacking propellers, and a variety of other topics requiring aeronautical acumen and experience.

Alphonse looked back to Keller again.

Two other guards and a superior officer had arrived to interrogate him. Keller was frantically trying to defend his actions, pulling down the collar of his jacket and shirt to show battle scars from the War.

Gaspare snapped his fingers. Lorenzo immediately stopped his aeronautics lesson, blinked a few times, then stared angrily. “Well, are you going to hypnotize me or what?”

Reaching into his pockets, the guard pulled out a small handful of coins worth a dozen lira and slapped them into Alphonse’s hand, which unexpectedly accepted them. All the while, the guard’s focus was fixed solely on Gaspare.

“Okay,” he eagerly began, “now hypnotize me. I want to learn about the stock market.” He closed his eyes and waited.

For the first time, Gaspare had a look of uncertainty and even fright, turning his head to Alphonse for approval. Alphonse peered over his shoulder, back at Keller, who was now laughing with the small group of security personnel, all either hunched over, slapping their knees, or bent back holding their chests.

From beneath a furrowed brow, Alphonse stared momentarily at the sight before continuing his search for anyone watching back. By then, though, people were either drunkenly unaware or deeply engaged in other conversations.

He nodded to Gaspare, who then spoke.

“Listen to these words and imagine reams of telegraph paper: ‘Tejasvi Naavau Adhiitam Astu Maa Vidvissaavahai.’”

Gaspare started feeling the guard, moving his hands from his shoulders, to atop his chest pockets.


He moved to his waist, trying to get an idea of what was in his trousers.

Nothing, except a pocket watch and a pack of cigarettes.

Gaspare looked back to Alphonse, shaking his head.

Taken aback, Alphonse gestured for him to step aside. In impatience, his own hands were laid on the chest-pocket of the guard.


He moved down to the pants-pockets.


Gaspare and Lorenzo began looking over their shoulders, suspiciously. Alphonse stepped back more anxious than confused.

A fingertip tap then fell on his shoulder, inciting Alphonse to spin around.

Keller was leaning forward, making a subtle cutting motion across his throat to all three of them.  His mouth mimed, “We go with them,” throwing a thumb over his shoulder at the group of guards, who were smoking among themselves and kicking their feet.

Gaspare sprung back into character, motioning for everyone to stand back. “Open your eyes.”

The guard’s open eyes were beaming like the Moon’s image cast into the deep.

“I’m sorry,” Gaspare said, “But you’re too intelligent for this to take. It only affects those of weak wills and…well…you have too strong a will to be tricked.”

Alphonse and Lorenzo expressed indignation at the implication of their intellectual inferiority and walked away, with Keller following behind.

The guard, with realization gradually rising, demanded confirmation from Gaspare, “What do you mean it won’t work?”

“What won’t work?”

“Being hypnotized to understand stocks, of course.”

In a direct and plain tone, with complete eye contact, Gaspare stated, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” then walked away, following Keller.

The guard watched them and considered chasing. But before he brought about action to the thought, a different idea paralyzed him. He might actually be hypnotized still. He looked at his hands, then looked inward, standing in a simmering stupor.

Gerald and Arthur watched the four compatriots shake hands with the senior officer of the guards, who introduced them to their driver-escort. They followed him a short ways west, away from the party, to a gravely parking lot where a small contingent of taxis were parked, their chauffeurs lounging. Alphonse made sure they were seated and prepared before bidding them farewell and handing the lira to Lorenzo. As the car started, he watched it drive away, then went back into the crowd.

“Okay, time to move our position,” Gerald told his son. They gathered themselves together and crawled backwards to the far side of the hill, into the depths of the dark. When their silhouettes were out of view, they ran west, crouched, tracking the car.

“Father,” Arthur asked.


“Why were they touching the soldier like that?”

“I’m sure there’s a reason, son, but I don’t want to know.”

The crunch of fresh gravel popping under the rubber seemed synchronized with the rumbling of the engine as the car slowly stopped in front of the barbed-wire perimeter of the short airstrip. A sentry approached the vehicle with a cautious uncertainty; hand balancing the rifle strapped over his shoulder. On cue, the driver handed documents to the sentry at the gate, who examined them, looking back and forth between the passengers and the papers. Keller and the Basetti brothers sat straight, without their backs touching the seat, all appearing respectful and collected.

Their driver explained their intent, as related to him by his officer: “Captain Lucchese has ordered me to escort these veterans, who wish to observe the test planes.”

The sentry squinted at the car again before answering, instinctually hesitant.

“You can pass, but keep them in sight. Nothing is to be touched or moved or measured, and absolutely no photographs.” He then looked to Keller. “This is not to offend your good intentions, sir, and I wish you well throughout the rest of the evening.”

Keller nodded, thanking the sentry.

The gate opened and the car drove through without salute, the gravely perimeter giving way to a modest expanse of obsidian, unmarked tarmac. And with a star-pocked sky above, and the double-bay-doored hanger directly ahead, between them, distance diminishing, they felt surrounded by blackness except for the grey rectangle growing on the horizon. The Moon became visible again from behind the looming airship, as if the wind from the open aired drive had wiped the gala away and all that remained was the present purpose, pulsing in their hearts; some anxious and fluttering, others rigidly paced, as a melting glacier forms streams in itself.

As they arrived, parking obliquely beside a small, man-sized door on the side, a few nearby sentries glanced at them before continuing their patrols. The bay doors were to their left, the gala behind them, and a stretch of barbed-wire fence a short pace to their right.

“Gentlemen, I don’t want to rush or add any demands to your time here, but please, I ask that you don’t dally inside.”

“Of course,” Keller agreed.

Their driver opened the hanger’s side door and the three men all filed inside. An oblong, tapering shape of light stretched across the floor, leading them as their shadows interrupted it.

Oil cans, wrenches, and rags scented off the fresh concrete.

The light-switch was flipped.

The character of the hanger was suddenly revealed in a flash.

Four sleek, metal monoplane fighters of blue, green, red, and white were motionlessly waiting, two-by-two. In profile, they appeared as slender, stout, rounded rectangles pointing out at an angle, like a scale weighing heavy from the way they were resting. In the middle of the fuselage’s length was the cockpit, stepping up from the space between it and the propeller on the nearly-flat nose, and maintaining the step back to the tail empennage. Twin .30 caliber machine guns were mounted in each forward-swept wing.

“They’re beautiful,” Keller muttered.

Gaspare and Lorenzo were the first to begin walking around, clacking across the concrete floor. There were only a dozen yards from the aircraft to any edge of the hanger, which was a thin, metal structure, like flared cat whiskers in a silver soap bubble or crab-legs squeezing a tin can. Keller took a few steps forward and the echoed clack behind him signaled their escort was following a short distance.

In an investigative flurry, the Basetti brothers walked straight to the blue plane, admiring it with their arms behind their backs.

Keller stopped and the escort moved beside him, carefully eyeing the two boys.

From the corner of his eyes, Keller sized him up. “I’m sorry,” he said with earnest seriousness.

Their escort turned in a furrowed gaze, mouth slightly ajar.

He was instantly thrown into a headlock, mouth covered, and legs kicked out.

The Basetti brothers ran back to Keller, helping him subdue the man, who was thrashing and trying to shout.

Soon, however, he was incapacitated and unconscious on the floor.

“Find rope and a gag; I saw some stuff in the corner over there,” Keller quietly commanded, pointing. “And don’t grab an oily rag; get one of the clean ones.”

Lorenzo made a lap to some rope and back. Gaspare searched through a pile of cloth on a workbench until he found a match to Keller’s requirements.

Their tuxedoed leader moved his ear to the door, listening…

Nothing. So he forced a wooden chair under the handle.

Feverishly, Gaspare laid claim to one of the planes while he dragged their bound escort to hide him under a workbench. “I want the blue one.”

“That’s the one I wanted,” Lorenzo quietly exclaimed.

“Gaspare, get in the red one. Lorenzo, get in the yellow.”

They begrudgingly obliged, moving to the two planes, the yellow model in front of the red. Preliminary items on the aircraft exteriors were scrutinized before opening the hinged cockpit domes and hopping inside.

“These are so sleek,” Gaspare said, staring at dials and switches.

“Do you have your flight plans?” Keller asked in a hurried tone.

Both brothers pulled intricately noted maps out of their jackets. “Got them.”

Lorenzo added, “These planes have electric starters, too.”

“Perfect,” Keller said, jogging to the double bay doors. “We can all leave at the same time.”

On the hill, in their new position, Gerald and Arthur were talking again.

“You see, everything makes sense from way back here; the world is surrounded by the lens and nothing affects you. But the sense it makes isn’t the truth; it’s too removed to be applicable. We still only have one angle. We don’t know those soldiers down there. And if I pull this trigger, what would happen? Would they have the same reaction as we would if some animal snuck up behind us, now? Would our friends get caught and exposed? You don’t know…when the crisis is surrounding you, the crisis we were made for, you don’t carefully reference your grammar or logic lessons. You react. You don’t act superior being removed from the scene, but still affecting it; that’s what they do. So honing the instincts already inside you as part of the scene is a higher wisdom than learning of or observing the scene…does that make sense?”

“I think so…yeah, it does,” Arthur answered.

Gerald smiled and returned to his rifle.

He refocused himself and noticed the sentries around the hanger were gone. Bodies were lying neatly in a row near the parked car by the side-door, where a small group of men had gathered. Some were holding MP-28 submachine guns, others prepared briefcases set atop the car’s hood, pulling fuses from their pockets.

“Look,” Arthur alerted.

“I know, I see them,” Gerald responded in a monotone seriousness.

“Who are they?”

“The Traditionless Enemy. Get ready.” Reaching, he rotated the bolt on his rifle, pulling it back, pushing it forward, and positioning it back down, as mechanically as the sounds the movement made.

Inside the hanger, there was a small lock where the bay doors met, no larger than an apple. Keller was trying to quietly jostle it, hoping in vain to rend it from the doors.

Then, he heard a similar metallic noise to his left. It was coming from the door.

Someone was strangling the handle.

Lorenzo and Gaspare looked to Keller, who waved his hand for them to be quiet and still.

Silence punctuated the hanger…then—

The door burst open, the chair was displaced, falling to the floor, and a man in a grey frock coat holding a Luger fell through, stumbling a few steps before noticing Keller by the bay-doors.

Four other men, armed and eager, came in quickly behind him.

Nobody moved or breathed.

The Basetti brothers were slunk down in their cockpits, trying to avoid attention. Keller stood still, like a statue of a lion.

Then the frocked intruder spoke.

“Sergeant? Is…Sergeant Keller, is that you?” His jaw went slack and he blinked.

In equal awe, Keller realized who it was that recognized him. “Niemann?”

They both smiled subtly and scoffed once.

“Sir, in the planes!”

Attention shifted to Lorenzo and Gaspare.

In sync, Niemann and Keller looked back at each other, staring motionless.

Under his breath, Niemann let out a weary and frustrated, “Damn it; no, don’t do it.”

Keller quickly produced a revolver from his tuxedo.

Just as swiftly, Niemann’s luger was charged and pointed out.

“Start the planes,” Keller shouted, aiming his revolver at the bay door lock and pulling the trigger.

The latch broke, the cockpits thrown shut. The engine pistons started pumping, and the propellers slowly turned, like hands on a clock as time dilated.

Briefcases dropped, weapons drawn, the group of intruders aimed at Keller, who lunged at the bay doors, slipping through to the outside as he muscled it forward, exposing the night. Bullets ricocheted off its surface, some indenting, some passing through. Keller kept pushing until it had enough momentum to finish the distance itself.

But then he was left facing them, exposed.

Keller started firing wildly at the assailants, his gunshots popping through the roar of the engines.

One of the stray bullets pierced a briefcase on the floor.

The detonation drowned out everything and time stopped and skipped.

Amidst the party, Alphonse’s laughing was cut short by the explosion, which caught everyone’s attention. The music stopped and the guards straightened their poise, like interrupted elk.

A second and third explosion discharged in consecutive bursts. Hazy smoke rose into the dark distance. Everyone looked anxiously toward the hanger, muttering to themselves, but Alphonse alone looked away, eyes racing. They happened to be caught by the general’s eyes, which gave a disapproving gaze.

Some guards calmly reassured the crowd, while others were ordered to rush to the scene.

There, in the ear-ringing daze of the exposed hanger, half-lit and open from the side like a broken ribcage, the assailants staggered, gathering themselves together. Keller threw his shoulder into the other bay door and Lorenzo began moving his plane forward.

Niemann’s contingent opened fire at the yellow aircraft, putting holes through it to the hangar hull on the other side, near Keller.

He ran back inside, past the moving plane between him and them, toward Gaspare, who opened his cockpit, pointing an M1911 at the nearest intruder, and shot.

It passed through his skull, causing his limp body to drop.

Niemann reached down, grabbing his fallen compatriot’s weapon, and fired at Gaspare. It struck him in the collarbone, shoulder, and ear, causing him to drop his pistol, which fell onto the wing and slid off, onto the concrete.

Lorenzo and his yellow fighter were moving down the runway at a steady pace, slowly gaining speed. One of the intruders ran outside the hanger doors, aiming his submachine gun at the back of Lorenzo’s plane.

Suddenly, a hole appeared in his chest, then, a moment later, another in his stomach, and he fell to the ground.

Gerald cocked the bolt on his rifle. “Call it out.”

Keller hid behind the wheel of Gaspare’s red plane, engines screaming. Its pilot struggled to move, but closed his cockpit again and pushed forward on the clutch, ducking down to avoid any more injury. As the wheels rotated, Keller dove for the fallen pistol, grabbing it and pointing it at Niemann, who was already standing above him, pointing his gun in Keller’s face.

Niemann shouted something inaudible through the chaos of gunfire, motors, and moaning agony.

A distant crack rang out and he was hit in the leg, tripping him down to his knee.

Keller kicked the gun out of his hands and ran to the white fighter. He jumped inside, threw the cockpit closed, and started the engine.

Niemann was crawling toward his weapon, reaching out for it.

Another shot hit him, blowing his hand into mangled meat.

Instinctively, Niemann pulled his arm back, close to his chest, and looked over his shoulder to see the yellow plane in the air, the red plane taking off, shaky, and the white plane lining up on the runway.

From the cockpit, Keller looked at Niemann, who was staring back in disdain, breathing heavy, holding his spurting wrist as a puddle formed around his leg.

One of his compatriots hobbled over, beckoning him to stand and retreat. Niemann reluctantly agreed, being pulled up to his feet.

They turned away and disappeared into the dark of smoking flames, limping.

As Keller broke bonds with the ground, a squad of security arrived. Some fanned out through the burning hanger wreckage; others watched as the white plane was absorbed by distance into the dark.

“Alright, let’s go,” Gerald said, rapidly gathering their things.

Gerald and Arthur scooted back the far side of the hill into full concealment before standing hunched and carefully plodding their way down the rocky rear face. The pebbles they displaced fell ahead of them, reaching the sand of a tiny, dirty beach down a short precipice in advance.

The rocks were reaching up, clawing at their ankles and heels, trying to trip them as they moved down to the beach, which was hardly visible in the insipid lunar light.

Then, all at once, the sand below was instantly illuminated from a source on the waters.

“Alright, beware the drop. Lets jump.”

They fell onto the patch of lit sand, rolling onto their sides.

An engine started.

They waded into the waters and climbed into the floatplane waiting for them.

“You boys all good?” a voice asked from inside the plane, reaching out to help them inside.

“We’re fine, Cecil, let’s go.”

Cecil asked what had happened.

“Long story: Gaspare’s torn up. Let’s get in the air.”

From a seated stance, Gerald helped Arthur in, shutting the door behind him. “I’m proud of you; you did excellent.”

Some partygoers were climbing atop the faux-fountain of stone blocks, calling out what was happening at the hanger. Alphonse watched and listened. Casually though, now.

He had counted three airplanes. He knew his friends escaped.

Like a flash, he remembered Gerald, Arthur, and Cecil, and snapped his attention in the opposite direction. Their floatplane was launching southwest, coming out of the hills on the shore, unnoticed by everyone else. Alphonse smiled and let his heart rest.

He took a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed the disheveled widow’s peak at the top of his forehead. It came back from his hair black with shoe-polish.

Remembering his disguise, he scoffed and reached for his mustache.

It hadn’t fallen off.

Alphonse chuckled. “All according to plan.”


For all installments of “Accordion Plan,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1


“Accordion Plan” is an excerpt from Jim Bonner’s new novel in progress.