The Ranch (Part 6)
Updated: Sep 24
Don Freeman moved down the long hall in wide strides. His pulse began to skyrocket. The surge from his heart had begun to cause jitters in his hands. Doctor Don Freeman was the founder and lead researcher for COSMOS, the Center for Observational Studies and Mathematical Observations. It was an ambitious undertaking, to say the least. COSMOS was a highly qualified, state-of-the art equipped team of scientists to deploy anywhere at a moment’s notice and investigate events of high abnormalities. Don’s issue was not the minds behind the research, but funding. Grants and donations were running short, and he was at his tail’s end in leads. That was, until Don received an invitation from a Robert Hernandez, a supposed billionaire real estate developer, who was interested in financing their continued operations. Don knew what it represented if he failed his pitch. He was a beggar at this point. If he could not walk out with funding, he would eventually have to disband COSMOS. Dozens of scientists and researchers would have to find employment elsewhere. The foundation of knowledge and experience will be gone with the wind.
Don pushed open the gray double doors to a boardroom with a wide view out of the El Paso desert. An elongated table with empty chairs lined the center of the room. Chairs he had expected to be full of other people sat with only the glittering sun coming in, but only saw a well-tanned Hispanic man at the far end. The man’s gray hair was swept back, a single defiant curl hung down on his forehead. He wore a slick, black, perfectly tailored sport coat over a white shirt that was unbuttoned revealing a toned chest underneath. He hung large aviator sunglasses from the shirt.
“Doctor Freeman! Right on time.” The man said with a surprisingly young sounding voice. The man locked a grin on his face and crossed the room to shake Don’s hand. “I’m Robert Hernandez. I’m very interested in discussing your work and how I may get involved.”
“Thank you. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Don responded. Robert motioned for him to have a seat and the two men sat at the table. Robert took a corner seat near Don and learned back with one leg crossed over another. “Mr. Hernandez, I do have to confess, I looked into your credentials before arriving and could not find your business dealings.”
“Good!” Robert clucked. “I fear fame. I think money and fame will turn an honest man into a cheat, and cheat into a monster. I do my operations out of shell companies. Most of my work has gone from commercial and residential to federal contracts.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Now COSMOS, this is a venture I hold very near to my heart, and when an acquaintance noted you were seeking investors, I knew I had to act. So let’s cut right to the chase. What would it take to keep your operation functioning?” Robert said with a smile that held a hint of deceit as he brought his fingers into a cage.
“Oh, well, to support a full year’s operation, it would take $6 million. The Center for Observational Studies and Mathematical Observations maintains leading minds in multiple fields. Many being PhD professors, qualified in subjects ranging from biochemistry and psychology to astrophysics and even veterinary science. I do have a breakdown of what this supports and the staff I have-“
“Unnecessary.” Robert cut him off. “Doctor, I am very well versed in what COSMOS does. To put simply, I believe why you are struggling to get funding, is many people see this as a venture into what is essentially researching paranormal and supernatural research. I see COSMOS for what it is, applying logic. So, you said six million?”
“Yes, and that’s-“
“Good, I will start with fifteen million, then.”
“Oh, my, my God, Mr. Hernandez, I don’t know what-“
“Tsk, tsk, not yet, Doctor. I think we all know the old saying, if it’s too good to be true, then it is. This significant funding will come with a stipulation, and these stipulations will be non-negotiable.” Robert came forward from his lean and his foot stamped, accenting the moment.
Don pushed his glasses up on his face and seeing this as the only relief from his strain, he just had one thought: at least hear him out. “Ok.”
“First, you are to dedicate the first quarter of the money to purchasing a ranch that is of interest to me. Second, you are to set up operations on this ranch and study the odd phenomena the current occupants are experiencing.” Robert paused, expecting Don to object, but Don nodded for Robert to continue. “Third, you are to provide me weekly reports of all your efforts and all of your findings. I want full privileges to review all reports, any data, or any images your team captures.”
“I understand, but what is this ranch and what occurrences are happening?”
“The past few months, the Green family has been experiencing missing cattle, property damage, and reports of unusual sightings. The local authorities seem to be dismissing the concerns of the family. A friend of mine has been monitoring the situation, and I know the ranch is currently up for sale. I am intrigued to learn if this family is truly experiencing otherworldly happenings. So, can I take it that you’re interested and willing to accept my terms?”
Don was enigmatic enough to know his own situation, and he leery enough to also detect when something was being concealed. Ultimately, it was his team’s future, and setting up operations on a ranch would only guarantee the funding he so desperately needed. “I am, and COSMOS looks forward to the challenge.”
“Wonderful.” Robert Hernandez stated standing, and offering a handshake. “I will have the paperwork arranged and provided to you within the hour.” The two men shook hands. Don got a sudden imperial, or government feel from Robert, but all business was government business in his line of work.
Robert had not been kidding. The paper work was at his office with a currier ready to take it back and start the offer on the ranch as Don arrived back at his own office. The paperwork was far more extensive than the conversation they had earlier in the day. 136 pages, all laying out the depth of information Robert and his associates could request on the research conducted at the ranch. If this offer had been greater than just the one request, Don would consider it a massive violation in his team’s work, but the documents only sought information and research on the Green’s ranch and laid out a thorough expectation of the work to be conducted. Don signed and read, read and signed, and finally he finished after nearly three hours of work. His next step was to arrange his team, and get a preliminary assessment of this ranch.
Sherman had worried after the first month of listing the ranch under market value that his property was too tainted and his family’s doom was sealed by the land. An offer finally came, right at asking price, not from an individual or rancher, but from a funny sounding organization called COSMOS. His realtor assured him it was a legitimate offer from a legitimate agency, and the organization was not offset by the reports from his family over the previous months. In fact, they were intrigued. The buyer, or buyers, as it was an organization, was willing to meet the same day to talk with Sherman, and he agreed to the meeting, which is how Sherman ended up with Don Freeman and two of his associates sitting at his dinner table. Don explained to Sherman, that COSMOS was compromised of 25 members, mostly from the scientific community, but there were also security personnel recruited, generally from prior military circles. In turn, both Sherman and his wife Amy explained the occurrences happening at the ranch since their arrival.
With the detailed explanation of the lights, one of Don’s colleagues, named Colm Knapp, took out a journal and began to document the story with his pen. Sherman and Amy had tried at great lengths to avoid anything in their language that would make it seem they believed in UFOs, or any sort of conspiracy like belief. It was difficult speaking of flying lights without some lunacy appearing. Amy also explained to the men that her going to the newspaper was not reflective of their story, and that she and Sherman had avoided calls from the agency after the unethical story was published.
“What about military technology?" Colm inquired over his pen.
“I don’t know. I have not seen anything that makes me think that. We don’t want to be associated with the protestors that have been in the area.” Sherman came back. “I know nothing of the waste facility they all claim to be such an issue.”
Colm and Don’s eyes met, and flickering there was a shared suspicion.
“You two think it’s the government doing this to us?” Sherman asked.
Colm sucked in air as he twirled his pen between his hands, considering his answer. “We don’t want to rule it out. Are you familiar with Edward’s Airforce Base?”
“No.” Sherman was honest.
“You likely know it as Area 51. A lot of speculation around that area comes from the government trying to hide their advanced research on the next generation of aircraft. We hope that our work here can throw aside any belief of alien visitation, or folklore, and get whoever is responsible to be revealed or at the very least, back off.”
“If you learn it’s the government, you tell me. That means Uncle Sam owes me a few million for my butchered animals.” Sherman stated briskly.
“This is a tantalizing opportunity for us, Mr. Green. A laboratory here, away from the general public, and we can study a wide variety of occurrences happening on a regular basis. That being said, I would like to make another offer, and know this will have no impact on or willingness to purchase your land. I will require a property manager, and given your intimate knowledge here, I would like to offer you that role.”
“I’ll accept that, even just to see what answers you might dig up.” Sherman shot back immediately.
“Sherman-“ Amy started.
“No.” Sherman cut Amy off. “I’m not being run off my land by ghosts. We’ve suffered. I need to get this closure, at least.”
“I would also like to purchase your remaining livestock.” Don added.
“That’s what they are for, but why?”
“Bait.” Colm answered without hesitation. Sherman’s arm flexed, and Amy set her hand atop of his. His fingers grasped hers, tightly.
“Fine.” Sherman finally said back.
It was only within a week of their meeting that COSMOS had delivered their observation trailer and mobile laboratory onto the property. Amy and Terry had effectively moved off the property with the majority of the family’s belongings. Five scientists and five assistant investigators would remain in the on the property around the clock. The field teams would collect and analyze evidence and then present it on a monthly basis to Don and Colm, who would, in turn report the findings to Robert Hernandez. The first priority for the team was to run a battery of tests. Don and Colm had agreed that the phenomena described by the Green family was too varied to be a singular explanation. This they had to agree that there was a possible psychological or environmental consideration.
One of the first questions that had to be answered was: Is the family’s drinking water contaminated? Water was taken from multiple sources, at different points throughout the day. The first series of test on the water revealed no unusual findings. Next, the team wanted to rule out plants that may be producing hallucinogenic spores. While no hallucinogenic spores were found, the team came across a soft green fern that appeared out of place for the area, and more alarming, a series of redwood trees that were on the north end of the property. Their botanist confirmed the trees were sequoia sempervirens, the oldest living trees on the planet, and only native to the Sierra Nevada mountains and parts of California. More concerning was the fern.
“Are there any properties you found of interest?” Don asked Colm as he had just finished analyzing the chemical makeup of the fern.
“No, it’s very average.” Colm stammered. “No, just odd. Our botanist believes is this Osmunda Claytoniana which is a distant relative to ferns found in areas along the eastern United States, Canada, and Asia. But-“ Colm trailed off as he sat the test down and rubbed his eyes.
“Our botanist claims this particular strain went extinct some 200 or 250 million years ago.”