NIC: Last week, we discovered a bunch of classified ads from the ‘50s, along with a Craigslist ad from earlier this year. As far as Tanis and the ads from the ‘50s go, they’re all disguised as adverts for used refrigerators, and they all appear to be guessing at possible locations for Tanis. None of the seventy-five ads mention the same location twice. It looks like, in 1953, some kind of Illuminati Tanis fanclub created a secret, global classified ad bulletin board system to try and guess at and discuss possible locations for Tanis. We’re still looking at that material, but the Craigslist ad was far more interesting, and we’re going to get to that soon, I promise. But for now, we’re tuning in the radio.
From Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, it’s Tanis. I’m Nic Silver.
We’ll be telling the story of Tanis in order, week to week, so if you haven’t listened to episode one, go back and start there. We’ll do our best not to get too far ahead by the time you get back.
I grew up with the radio. I used to sit in front of my tape recorder for hours, fingers poised over the buttons, waiting for my favorite new song so I could record it. I couldn’t afford to buy all the albums I wanted, so this was the only way I could hear these songs over and over again. Something I think is interesting now, looking back at that time, was how often I ended up recording the DJ’s voices as well. It felt like it was just the two of us, but on the radio that feeling was ephemeral, fleeting. I think that’s why I ended up recording their voices. I wanted to spend more time with these people. They had become almost like friends. That was the magic of radio. For me, radio was personal.
Have you ever stumbled upon something and had the feeling that you’re not supposed to be there? That you’re not supposed to be looking or listening? Something that feels secret? Forbidden? There was a time when you could turn on the radio, twist the dial, and discover something new and exciting: pirate radio. There were those famous boats in England playing unlicensed music just off the coast in the ‘60s. And more recently, a pirate radio station in London started by a group of sixteen year olds in 1994 was granted a commercial license.
But for me, it was Hard Harry, Christian Slater’s character in Pump Up the Volume. I loved the idea that maybe I could be a DJ, that I could play music for people like me, people at home with their headphones on listening to the radio while their parents were asleep upstairs. Instead of Hard Harry, they’d be waiting for me to choose the next song.
But the thing that I loved the most about the idea of pirate radio was that it felt mysterious, free, and authentic. Everything I hoped I might grow up to be in my adult life. How hard could it be? Why couldn’t my voice be the thing people stumbled across and found comfort in in the middle of the night?
Well, I never did start my own pirate radio station. And maybe this podcast is my way of making up for that. Speaking of this podcast, what do pirate radio and voices in the middle of the night have to do with the myth of Tanis? Well, like Tanis, pirate radio moved around. A lot. The stations would be raided or warned of a coming raid and suddenly, the signal you received clearly in your bedroom had moved. Now, you’d have to visit your friend on the other side of town in order to listen to your favorite DJ tell it like it is. We’re going to tune in to what radio has to do with Tanis in just a moment.
Last episode, I told you we’d placed a Craigslist ad that read, “Seeking Tanis. Runner wanted.” We received a response a few days later, from a man named Geoff van Sant. His reply to our ad was brief: four words of his own, “We need to meet.” So we did.
- GEOFF: Are you recording already?
NIC: That’s Geoff van Sant. He’s a thin man, about average height. His hair gives you the impression that he just woke up but his eyes are sharp, no nonsense. You can tell immediately that he’s the kind of man who’s never going to talk about the weather.
- GEOFF: Did you already get a drink?
- NIC: Not yet.
- GEOFF: Well, we should get that taken care of. What do you want? A beer? Couple o’ beers?
- NIC: Okay, yeah.
- GEOFF: Couple o’ beers! Be right back.
- NIC: Okay.
- NIC: So, like I mentioned on the phone, we’re making a documentary podcast.
- GEOFF: What kind of documentary?
- NIC: Well, actually it’s a podcast, it’s kind of, um, like radio on the internet.
- GEOFF: I know what a podcast is.
- NIC: Oh.
- GEOFF: What’s the subject of your documentary?
- NIC: Right. It’s… it’s about something called Tanis.
- GEOFF: Can you stop recording for a sec?
NIC: Geoff asked us to stop recording. He went on to explain why. It turns out that his brother Karl was the person who had placed the original Craigslist ad, or rather had Geoff do it for him. Karl had been arrested on a hacking charge years ago and was legally unable to use a computer. Karl passed away last month.
The thing that had Geoff more than a little freaked out about Tanis and about our placing a similar ad is that Karl passed away the day after he posted the words, “Seeking Tanis. Runner available,” on Craigslist. I ended up sitting in that bar talking with Geoff van Sant for six hours. After a lot of conversation and quite a bit of Guinness, he decided I wasn’t a threat, and he agreed to let us visit his home in Everett, Washington where he’d spent the last twelve years living with his brother.
- [A door can be heard opening.]
- GEOFF: It’s not much, but it’s home, you know?
- NIC: Oh, well, thanks for being so generous with your time. I really appreciate it.
- GEOFF: What else am I gonna do? Come on in.
- NIC: Okay.
- GEOFF: Is this good? You wanna sit here?
- NIC: No, this is good.
- GEOFF: Okay.
- NIC: So did your brother ever mention the word Tanis to you?
- GEOFF: Uh… not that I can remember. But, you know, we didn’t really talk about that kind of stuff.
- NIC: Sorry, that kind of stuff?
- GEOFF: His stuff.
- NIC: Right. Right. Um… what about the word “runner,” did he ever use that?
- GEOFF: Well, he wasn’t a runner, I’ll tell you that. He’d get winded going up the stairs to get the mail. Guy loved his conspiracy magazines, he got like two or three a month.
- NIC: So, you and your brother, you - you’ve lived here for quite a while?
- GEOFF: Well, Karl didn’t live up here.
- NIC: Oh no?
- GEOFF: This is my place, he lived in the basement suite.
- NIC: Oh.
- GEOFF: I mean, I don’t go down there, really ever.
- NIC: So, would you say your brother was a private person?
- GEOFF: I’d say he was a crazy person.
- NIC: Oh.
- GEOFF: Yeah. Um, he moved in after his divorce. She kicked him out because he’s… obsessive. A few months after he moved in, I had to let an electrician into the basement suite. That’s… pretty much the last time I went down there. ‘Til I, uh, had to take the police there when he died.
- NIC: He died here?
- GEOFF: Yeah.
- NIC: Or downstairs?
- GEOFF: Yeah, he hung himself with his belt.
- NIC: Jesus. I’m sorry.
- GEOFF: Thanks.
- NIC: Um… Well, so what was it that Karl was doing downstairs?
- GEOFF: I dunno. I didn’t wanna know. I mean, to call the guy a hoarder would probably be too kind.
- NIC: Oh.
- GEOFF: Yeah, he was really into electronics: shortwave radio, computers, of course. But that was before his arrest.
- NIC: Right.
- GEOFF: He was a naval communications officer. Before he was discharged, he spent a lot of time in Russia.
- NIC: Russia?
- GEOFF: Yeah.
- NIC: Um… Karl was older?
- GEOFF: He was 11 years older, yeah.
- NIC: Would it be possible to take a look downstairs?
NIC: Geoff agreed to take us to the basement. After one more beer.
- GEOFF: So there’s really no way to prepare you for this, so I’m just gonna open it.
- NIC: Okay.
- [A door is heard opening, a lightbulb is turned on. There are footsteps.]
- GEOFF: After you.
- NIC: Wow.
- GEOFF: Yeah.
NIC: It was probably larger than it felt inside. To say that it was cluttered would be severely understating it. The first thing I noticed were the walls and ceiling, because they were on the floor, in pieces. Somebody, presumably Carl Van Sant had stripped all of the drywall and plaster from the walls and ceilings leaving bare board and wires. What was left of the walls and ceiling was on the floor or piled into buckets.
The second thing I noticed were the cassette tapes. They were everywhere, hundreds of milk crates filled with numbered cassettes littered the floor and the walls were covered floor to ceiling in cassette tape shelving. It looked like there were tens of thousands of them. There were also hundreds of radios: shortwave, AM, FM, radios of all ages, shapes, and sizes. And there was writing on the walls: maps, numbers, and hastily scribbled notes. It was extremely dirty and chaotic. But it was also fascinating. Like stepping into somebody’s secret and extremely messy world.
- NIC: This is amazing.
- GEOFF: Is it?
- NIC: Yeah.
- GEOFF: Not the word I’d use.
- NIC: Um… What, uh… So what are all these tapes?
- GEOFF: I dunno, man. Sat in front of his radios, day and night, recording these tapes, for years. Never really left the house.
- NIC: Um… You mind if I take a look at some of this stuff?
- GEOFF: Oh, yeah, knock yourself out. I’ll be upstairs. You want another beer?
- NIC: Thanks, uh, maybe in a bit.
- GEOFF: Yeah.
- NIC: Thanks!
- GEOFF: Yeah, no problem.
NIC: I spent just over an hour in Karl’s apartment. Geoff was kind enough to let me take some of Karl’s cassettes home, along with a few boxes of documents. We took photos of the writing on the walls as well.
We’ve been going through everything, but there’s just so much audio. It would take us fifty years to do this on our own. I asked a new friend for advice.
- MK: Ninety thousand tapes?
- NIC: Yeah, uh, best guess.
- MK: Jesus.
- NIC: Yeah, it’s a lot.
- MK: No shit.
- NIC: Any thoughts?
- MK: Analog’s not really my thing.
- NIC: Right.
- MK: What’s on the 90,000 tapes?
- NIC: Well, apparently he was recording radio broadcasts from all over the world. A lot of short wave and unlisted private stations. I’ll play a sample from you, this one’s from Slovakia. He’s numbered the tapes. This is from one of the tapes numbered 47, there are a lot of 47s, for some reason.
- [A voice is heard speaking Russian; there is radio static.]
- MK: Wow. Great song.
- NIC: Yeah, it’s certainly interesting.
- MK: If you say so. Sounds like typical numbers station bullshit to me.
- NIC: Numbers station? That - so those were numbers?
- MK: Obviously. And they’re Russian, by the way, they’re not Slovakian. You do know what a numbers station is, right?
- NIC: It’s like a Cold War spy signal thing, maybe?
- MK: That’s one broad theory. You’ve never heard of The Bored Man or Bulgarian Betty?
- NIC: They don’t ring a bell, sorry.
- MK: Wow. Okay. So, these short wave station broadcast numbers. They’re encrypted messages to somebody somewhere. There are thousands of numbers station in almost as many languages using extremely high-powered antennas. They broadcast globally.
- NIC: Any idea why they’re doing it?
- MK: No, they never say who they are or why they’re doing it. It’s a mystery. You’ll probably love it.
- NIC: You may have just found my next show.
- MK: Yay.
- NIC: [laughing]So that’s all they do? Just broadcast numbers?
- MK: Well, normally there’s an interval signal to help tune in. Then there’s the header which is usually followed by some sound or, um, like a series of sounds to let you know the header is over. Then it’s just numbers, over and over. Like the sample you played me. Unless… unless that was the header. I’d have to hear the entire tape to tell you for sure.
- NIC: You - you seem to know an awful lot about numbers stations.
- MK: Yeah, well, I know a lot about everything. Numbers stations were part of an unsolvable encryption challenge when I was in high school.
- NIC: Oh.
- MK: These broadcasts are one time pad ciphers. Totally unbreakable. Each pad is used once and then destroyed. Only the sender and receiver sees the pad. It’s a perfect system.
- NIC: Oh, okay. So?
- MK: So what?
- NIC: So did you break the unbreakable cipher?
- MK: How could I? I just said it’s unbreakable.
- NIC: Oh.
- MK: But I did win the contest.
- NIC: How?
- MK: Trade secret, I’m afraid.
- NIC: Okay, fair enough. Um, I’m guessing you haven’t been able to dig up anything else on Tanis?
- MK: Well, I’m working on a few things. I’ve got some leads.
- NIC: Great.
- MK: Should be later today, maybe tomorrow at the latest.
- NIC: Okay, cool. I’ll give you a call later to check in.
- MK: Cool. I’ll wait by the phone.
- NIC: Okay.
NIC: It turns out recording numbers stations is a fairly common practice. There are a large number of short wave radio fans and conspiracy theorists interested in these mysterious private messages sent over such a public medium. Was Karl van Sant simply recording numbers stations, and if so, was that recording related to a search for Tanis in some way?
We found something else, something interesting in the documents we received from Karl Van Sant’s brother. It was a framed letter addressed to a Seattle man named Edgar Hayes asking if Hayes had found the SSS and, if so, could he receive he and Anna early next month. It was sent from London and dated March 6, 1925. It’s an interesting letter, not because of the content specifically, but rather because of who it was from. It was signed by a man named Charles Forte.
You may or may not be aware, but there’s a well-known American researcher of the same name. The term “Fortean” is often used to accompany the search for anomalous phenomena. I showed the letter to Geoff van Sant and he told me that this letter was indeed from that Charles Forte and that it had been one of his brother’s most treasured possessions. Apparently, Karl van Sant bought it at auction back when he still had a job, well before he went on disability and moved into his brother’s basement; well before he began his obsessive recording project.
I took the letter to Morris Stevenson, an expert in all things Fortean, to see if it was genuine.
- STEVENSON: It’s the real thing, or at least the best forgery I’ve ever seen.
- NIC: What about the… the details? The dates?
- STEVENSON: All correct.
- NIC: Really?
- STEVENSON: Charles Forte was living in London with Anna in 1925.
- NIC: And what about this, uh, SSS?
- STEVENSON: The Super-Sargasso Sea.
- NIC: Sorry, the Super-Sargasso Sea?
- STEVENSON: Charles Forte believed, or pretended to believe, or joked, depending on who you ask, that there was a dimension into which lost things go. The name alludes to the Sargasso Sea which sits next to the Bermuda Triangle. Most people believe that Forte proposed this ridiculous theory as a kind of Socratic dialogue. Just something to get people talking. But Theodore Dreiser didn’t think so. He believed Forte had been looking for the Super-Sargasso Sea for most of his adult life, and that he proposed his theory as a way of kind of… hiding in plain sight. Do you mind if I take a photograph of this letter for my collection?
- NIC: Not at all. Go ahead.
- STEVENSON: Thanks.
- NIC: No problem. And thank you so much for taking the time out to do this, I really appreciate it.
- STEVENSON: Any time.
NIC: I borrowed a bunch of material on Charles Forte from Professor Stevenson. The only thing I could remember about Forte myself was something about frogs falling from the sky. Some of Stevenson’s research indicated that before Forte died, he’d been working, via letters, with Dreiser on a book. Stevenson believes that Forte and Dreiser were convinced they were close to finding the location of the Super-Sargasso Sea. Stevenson also believes, based on what he’s been able to piece together over the years, that Forte’s late-period research indicated that the Super-Sargasso Sea wasn’t necessarily located in water at all.
- NIC: Sorry it took me a little while to pick up, I’m actually driving.
- MK: Okay. Are you cool to talk?
- NIC: Yeah. I’m hands-free.
- MK: Well, that’s great. I found something you might be interested in.
- NIC: What is it?
- MK: Okay, well I had a few bots trolling some Russian and eastern European bit buckets for the word Tanis.
- NIC: Okay?
- MK: I got a hit this morning. It might be nothing. It’s a few weeks old, um, but somebody in Kiev posted something to a now-defunct bulletin board.
- NIC: What was the, was the post about?
- MK: Some guy looking for his sister.
- NIC: Some guy looking for his sister?
- MK: Yeah.
- NIC: I don’t -
- MK: What?
- NIC: I don-
- MK: What?
- NIC: I don’t understand.
- MK: Okay, well, apparently this Canadian guy living in Kiev named Sam Reynolds’ sister went missing, she was working for the, hold on, uh TeslaNova Corporation on some kind of top secret project.
- NIC: Well that’s, that’s interesting.
- MK: Yeah. Somebody posted the word Tanis in response to his last message and then of course it was deleted right away.
- NIC: They deleted the response right away?
- MK: No, they deleted the entire message board.
- NIC: Wow.
- MK: Yeah. But it looks like Reynolds posted three times before the board was disabled.
- NIC: Could you send me those messages?
- MK: Yeah, I did it.
- NIC: You did it?
- MK: Yeah.
- NIC: Oh! Well, thanks. Great.
- MK: No, there’s more, hold on.
- NIC: Okay.
- MK: Three audio files were uploaded as well.
- NIC: If you don’t mind sending those over when you get a chance, that would be awesome.
- MK: Already done.
- NIC: Great. Well, thanks a lot.
- MK: Nothing to it. Later.
NIC: Meerkatnip was turning into an invaluable resource. Both the message board posts and the voice messages were waiting for me when I got back to the office. I’ll be reading the posts by Sam Reynolds, and I’ve recruited Alex Reagan again to read the posts from his missing sister. The messages that prompted Sam Reynolds to track down this message board and reach out in the first place.
"I’m posting here because I don’t know where else to turn. It all started with an email I received from my sister. Her name’s Tara Reynolds, and she’s been working up near Seattle. She was contracted by TeslaNova Corporation more than a year ago. Kind of a retainer situation. About a month or so ago, she finally received a call. There’s quite a bit of security and secrecy surrounding the project so her messages have been limited and monitored. She’s an archaeologist specializing in new energy, so a bit of security isn’t all that unusual for her. Here’s her first message."
- ALEX: (reading) "From: Tara Reynolds. Tuesday, June 8, 2015 11:57 AM. Subject: You’ll get a kick out of this.
- “Hey, kid, I talked to Steph last night. She bought a sailboat last night, crazy. I can’t wait to make fun of her when it sits there unused for three years. I hope you’re well, I miss you.
- “Things are getting pretty interesting up here, exciting, although the bugs would drive you crazy. I won’t be able to communicate as much as I’d like. They took our phones this morning and after tomorrow we’re only allowed one hours of monitored internet use each week. But it’s a fair trade. You wouldn’t believe the funding. We’ve got everything. The food is amazing. Better than any other placement. Better than the Cryptography Training Institution outside Paris, if you can believe it. This is post-grad living at its best. Talk soon, love you, Tara."
NIC: The next message came a few days later.
- ALEX: (reading) "No way you’re going to believe this. You know how I told you we’re not allowed phones, cameras, or recording devices of any kind? Well, I kind of made a pinhole camera out of one of those mini cereal boxes, Frosted Flakes-style. I’ve attached a photo I took with the cereal camera to this message.
- “This is probably the last email you’ll receive from me for a while. They stepped up security around the area as soon as the cabin appeared - out of nowhere, by the way! I’m not kidding. One day the woods are empty, the next day a tiny old wooden cabin. Some kind of rare hardwood, too. I heard the experts mumbling something about it, but all the senior team members are Russian. My Russian is pretty far from outstanding, as I’m sure you remember. I can’t wait to sit down in a pub and tell you all about it. They outlawed anything with a camera, so the guards all carry old flip phones. There’s one guy who leaves his coat unattended for hours. I’m sure his phone is in his pocket. If I can get his phone, I’ll give you a call. If I can’t get a signal, I’m pretty sure that phone has a voice recorder. I had the same one in high school. I’ll try and send you an audio file. Anyway, this is awesome. You’re going to lose your mind. Love you."
NIC: We uploaded the photo Tara took from her cereal box pinhole camera to our website in our notes section. Sam says he didn’t hear anything from his sister for a few weeks, and then... this:
- ALEX: (reading) "Hey, Sam. I hope you got my picture. It’s been crazy, I couldn’t get away. I stole the guard’s phone, but I was almost caught. It was close.
- “We’ve only been allowed sporadic access to the cabin, mainly to examine some ancient text carved into the floor and walls. It’s amazing. I wish I had a camera. A video camera would have been perfect, but it’s too late now. The cabin disappeared. We woke up and it was just… gone."
NIC: A few days later, another message.
- ALEX: (reading) "Something is happening. It didn’t disappear, it moved. It took a few days, but they were able to track it somehow.
- “A man just arrived this morning, an American. Apparently he’s been working with the Russians for a while. He seems to know a lot about whatever this is, whatever’s happening. It looks like he’s in charge of the whole operation now. He’s smart, and also not that hard to look at. He has some kind of electronic device he consults. I’m guessing he’s using that to track the cabin somehow. The theoretical science they’re looking at here is bonkers. I’ve seen some things up here… you wouldn’t believe it. I don’t believe it."
NIC: Then nothing for a week until...
- ALEX: (reading) "It’s insane. There are so many people here now. They don’t trust each other, and I don’t think they trust any of the outsiders. I’m scared. I can’t even walk to the food tent without an armed escort. I’m still working on one of the guards. Sometimes they leave their bags when they shower. I might be able to get the phone, but I don’t know for sure. They definitely have some way of at least guessing where this thing might end up, this thing being the cabin. If what I overheard yesterday is true, which is unlikely because it sounds nutso, they’ve been tracking this thing for ages, all over the state. Part of me can’t wait for this contract to end, but, and this may sound crazy, I really want to get back in to examine those markings."
NIC: Sam tells us that the next three messages he received were blank, but each had a brief audio file attached. We’re going to play them in order. This is the first message.
- TARA: [hushed, whispering] I bribed one of the guards to go down the hill to smoke so I only have a few minutes. I brought a small flashlight and a tape measure. Just stay with me, it gets good, I promise.
- I noticed something that the other archaeologists missed. Everyone is thinking in such a linear way, but I saw something in the ancient writing just a few inches of blank space at the end, and it’s gonna sound crazy, but I’m sure it wasn’t there yesterday. So, you guessed it. I’m measuring the cabin. Inside the cabin, the south wall is exactly thirty-one feet, four inches long.
- [There is a pause; Tara can be heard walking.]
- I’m back outside in front of the south wall. Are you sitting down? Outside measurement of the south wall is exactly… twenty-six feet! Sam! I don’t know how, but thing is bigger on the inside than the outside. I’m - I’m not making this up! Do you have any idea what this could mean? Yeah, me neither.
- [Voices can be heard speaking Russian.]
- Shit! I have to go!
NIC: The next audio file was sent two hours later.
- TARA: [hushed, whispering] I - I don’t have long. I got back to my tent and I couldn’t sleep. I forgot to mention that nobody can agree on the age of this thing, which is really odd. Carbon dating puts it, well… it must be a mistake. There’s no way it’s that old. Something else is bugging me, a symbol on the cabin wall. I came back and I snuck passed the guards. Sam, two hours ago the south wall measured five feet longer than the inside wall. And now, Sam, the south wall measures ninety-four feet! The exterior is exactly the same! It’s incredible! And inside the cabin, the air is… cool, and feels thicker, or maybe just different, or maybe it’s just me, but there’s a slight metallic smell in the air. Sam, I think I can hear them outside, I’m gonna have to...
NIC: It cuts off there. Her last message comes in just a few seconds later.
- TARA: [hushed, whispering] I’ve been inside the cabin for the past four hours. I’m using the light of the phone, I - I didn’t notice something. The wall was ninety-four feet, but there was a new corner. I couldn’t see it until later, a hallway. Sam, I’ve been walking for ninety minutes through a maze of halls and rooms. It’s - I don’t know where I am. I tried to go back, but - I’ve been using the light of the phone and the battery’s about to die. Sam, I love you! And I’m scared! I’m -
NIC: There’s a lot to think about here. Is she overtired? Is she maybe experiencing a kind of a garrison mentality? A lonely wilderness type of madness? That seems unlikely, as there were other people in the camp. And what about the cabin itself? She seems convinced that its measurements make no sense. In addition, her last two messages come in only seconds apart, but she believes she’s already spent four hours wandering, lost inside a twenty-six-foot square cabin. Sam’s last post on the message board reads:
“That’s the last I heard from Tara. That was three weeks ago. They’re treating it like a missing persons case. The police have been supportive generally, I suppose. I really don’t believe they’re taking her messages or recordings seriously. They believe she was sick because she stopped taking her medication. She’s on Lexapro for very minor general anxiety, nothing like this. She’s not crazy. If she says it was bigger on the inside, then it was. She doesn’t have a boyfriend or husband, and there’s no family but me. She’s all alone out there. Please help me find my sister.”
We’re still looking into it, but at the moment that’s everything we have on Tara Reynolds. Which brings us, as it often does, back to Meerkatnip, who found something very interesting on the internet this morning.
- MK: Heya.
- NIC: Hey, how’s it going?
- MK: I don’t have long to chat.
- NIC: Oh.
- MK: Sorry, softball game.
- NIC: Oh, all right, well then, uh, yeah, let’s get right to it then.
- MK: I got a Tanis search term hit from an archived cache system in Australia from a PDF.
- NIC: Oh, you can search text in a PDF?
- MK: I can.
- NIC: Okay.
- MK: It was something called a galley, I guess that’s some kind of a book?
- NIC: Yeah, it’s like a pre-release.
- MK: Like a beta release?
- NIC: Yeah, kind of.
- MK: It looked like one of the chapters featured the word Tanis more than twenty times.
- NIC: It looked like?
- MK: Yeah, I wasn’t able to get that one. Somebody snatched it before I could reassemble the bits
- NIC: Really?
- MK: Mmhmm. Crazy tech.
- NIC: What was, uh, what was it called? The galley?
- MK: The document was titled, uh hold on, Pacifica.
- NIC: Pacifica?
- MK: Mmhmm.
- NIC: Are you able to remember anything else?
- MK: My system usually captures an image of everything that hits my desktop.
- NIC: Cool! Uh, usually?
- MK: There are a few organizations that frown upon that kind of tech and take precautions. Usually some kind of after-the-fact encryption. I never know until I try to pull up the captured files.
- NIC: Wow. And?
- MK: Somebody did not want me taking pictures. I was able to save one page using the camera on my phone.
- NIC: Well, can you send me that photo?
- MK: You know I will.
- NIC: Cool, thanks. Um, well, I’ll try and work on some of the...
- MK: I gotta run! Okay?
- [Skype disconnects.]
- NIC: Oh, okay.
NIC: Meerkatnip sent the image. It looks like the first page of a galley. A fictional novel, maybe fantasy or science-fiction based on the writing style. I’ll include a copy of it in the notes section on our website at tanispodcast.com, but basically it’s an introductory paragraph, nothing revelatory. But there is a header that mentions the title, the writer’s name, and the date. Pacifica by A. Ellis, March 19, 2003.
The publisher wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the document, and they were either unable or unwilling to confirm any involvement with a book called Pacifica. And they also told me that there isn’t now, nor has there ever been, somebody on their roster writing under the name A. Ellis. I asked Meerkatnip if she could look into it. One of our executive producers, Paul Bae, went to school with one of the senior editors of that publishing company. He got in touch with her to set up a meeting.
- BAE: Okay, so, my contact told me that nobody at the company’s ever heard of a book called Pacifica. Or a writer named, um… Okay, so this is where I think it gets really interesting.
- NIC: Really? Okay?
- BAE: Okay, so what she told me is that there’s no one- nobody there’s ever heard of a writer named Avery Ellis.
- NIC: SO - Okay, all we have on the document was...
- BAE: A. Ellis.
- NIC: A. Ellis.
- BAE: Yeah, right. Exactly.
- NIC: Well, okay, but Avery Ellis is Cameron Ellis’ daughter. It could be a simple slip-up.
- BAE: That’s exactly what she told me. A. Ellis is like M.K. Olson or P. Hilton, a simple mistake.
- NIC: But?
- BAE: Yeah, but, I’ve known her for a pretty long time, something doesn’t feel right here. So I tried to push, but I think it’s a dead end.
- MK: Avery Ellis? The rich bitch?
- NIC: Yeah. Is there any chance that she wrote that book?
- MK: Well, I don’t think so, but outside of the society stuff I can’t find much on her. I do know she paid a cleaner to scrub her off the web after that nude photo came out a few years ago.
- NIC: A cleaner?
- MK: Yeah, they did a pretty good job. There’s still a shit load on there, but most of the real information was buried.
- NIC: Wait. You can do that? Erase yourself from the internet?
- MK: Kind of. There’s two kinds of cleaners. There’s ones who change the story and bury the bad stuff under page after page of good stuff, and then the other kind, the kind she used. People like me go in and... clean. We can rewrite your entire history, if you want.
- NIC: And they call that “cleaning?”
- MK: Yeah, and it’s expensive. Like two commas expensive.
- NIC: Wow.
- MK: Oh, before I forget! I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the meeting. It’s not because I don’t want to meet you in the flesh. I just couldn’t get out of my other gig in time.
- NIC: [pause] I’m sorry, what meeting?
- MK: Um… did you smoke a huge bowl earlier? You set up a meeting for coffee with me this morning.
- NIC: Um, not me.
- MK: You didn’t send me an email asking to meet for coffee to talk about another job?
- NIC: No. I didn’t.
- MK: Well, somebody used your computer to send me a message.
- NIC: Somebody used my email account without me knowing?
- MK: Not just your email, they used your computer.
NIC: So who used my computer? Who sent Meerkatnip a message posing as me, asking for a meeting? And why?
On the next episode, our investigation uncovers a very strange story about death, water, and another mysterious cabin in the Pacific Northwest. It’s Tanis, I’m Nic Silver. Until next time, keep looking.
SITE NOTE: Thank you to the wonderful Melissa and her editorial eye. This transcript has been updated with minor corrections.