Vapor Where



Stan Mey­er is a col­lege dropout from Grove City, Ohio. He was nev­er a par­tic­u­lar­ly thought­ful man, just one in a long line of hard work­ers who thought that with a lit­tle bit of inge­nu­ity and a pair of strong hands, a man might be able to eke out a liv­ing. He worked, for a time, in any num­ber of indus­tries, includ­ing: roof­ing, weld­ing, mason­ry, pro­jec­tion­ist, door greeter, region­al strong man, plumber and mechan­ic. With each job, a new set of skills that his hands had mem­o­rized, a new wrin­kle in the brain where thoughts and ideas are stored.

After years of plug­ging things in, fuel­ing things up or toss­ing out bat­ter­ies, Mey­er began to let his hands and brain-wrin­kles work. Nights and week­ends, Mey­er would stay up for hours in his one-stall garage, bolt­ing and fus­ing and scratch­ing his head. Neigh­bors were hes­i­tant to call the man a mad sci­en­tist, if only because they knew he did­n’t have the fog­gi­est idea what a sci­en­tist actu­al­ly does. Instead, Mey­er would click in and unplug and flip switch­es and sand down things until his fin­gers told his brain-wrin­kles that it just felt right. For years, Stan Mey­er fig­ured that if he was sick of pay­ing his elec­tric­i­ty bill and get­ting gouged at the pump, some­one else was too. And if there were enough some­one else’s out there, and those some­one else’s could find out about him and what he was try­ing to do in his one-stall garage in Grove City, he might be able to change the world.

The idea for Stan Mey­er’s water-pow­ered car is so sim­ple, there’s no way a sci­en­tist could have ever come up with it. Instead of hand­writ­ing lines and lines of chalky equa­tions on some col­lege cam­pus, Mey­er thought that if he could just get an engine to run on water, there’d be no more need to bow down to cor­po­ra­tions who con­trol the ener­gy faucet. After all, what is H2O but Hydro­gen, a for­mi­da­ble ener­gy out­put­ter in its own right, and Oxy­gen, the bio­dy­nam­ic fuel that runs our dai­ly lives. All he had to do what build a machine that could split that H and that O right down the mid­dle. Use the Hydro­gen as a clean, hyper-effi­cient fuel source and let the Oxy­gen runoff refu­el the planet.

I too am from Grove City, Ohio, and just like Mey­er I need­ed to find some­thing to do with my time in a place where even the flies stand still in the sum­mer­time. Mey­er was my father’s best friend; the two had bond­ed over a nudie mag­a­zine they found in the bush­es at Dar­by­dale Ele­men­tary in the 1950’s, and remained friends for decades there­after. On week­ends grow­ing up, Mey­er and my father and I would take to the Sco­l­ia Riv­er in search of bull­head and a few qui­et hours. Some­times, they’d pull out that tat­tered old porno, just to reminisce.

Around our house, Mey­er would fix up a spent wash­ing machine or unclog a toi­let as if he owned the place. He was around our din­ner table so often you’d have sworn he had his own key, which the man may well have carved him­self. But even­tu­al­ly I grew old­er and found the thought of a neigh­bor­ly mid­dle-aged man drop­ping by my fam­i­ly’s house when­ev­er he felt like it to be a bit uncom­fort­able. There was nev­er any harm or ill intent in Mey­er’s ways, but when you’re try­ing to sneak a high school girl­friend out of your bed­room at 4 A.M. and you tip­toe through the kitchen to find an adult male sit­ting in your break­fast nook, chew­ing on a dry bale of Shred­ded Wheat and flip­ping through a man­u­al on car­bu­re­tors, it’s time for some­thing to change.

When my father died in 1978 from com­pli­ca­tions that arose dur­ing a stan­dard gopher hole demo­li­tion, Mey­er seemed to take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to move on. The two of us rarely spoke, and on grow­ing occa­sions we would pass each oth­er in the aisle of the local Aldi dis­count gro­cery chain, and nei­ther would say a word. I moved to New York City to pur­sue a career in either long form jour­nal­ism or break­danc­ing (whichev­er came first), and for all I knew Mey­er was back in Grove City, tak­ing apart radi­a­tors like an autis­tic kid. Then, in 1990, I saw the video.

The footage is blocky and flat, as if tele­vi­sion in 1990 was still a rel­a­tive­ly new medi­um. The anchors from Action 6 News, Tom Ryan and Gail Hogan with their per­fect­ly quaffed blond manes, seemed gen­uine­ly excit­ed about a local sto­ry that they hoped would pick up some steam. The piece cen­tered around one man; a lanky, eccen­tric fel­la with a mid­west­ern drawl and a dune bug­gy the he claimed could run sole­ly on water. And there it was, in sta­t­ic glo­ry, Stan Mey­er twist­ing the gas cap to his mod­i­fied bug­gy com­bus­tion engine, pour­ing in a gal­lon of water, and rid­ing off with a jos­tle into the long Ohio horizon.

Exact­ly as anchors Tom Ryan and Gail Hogan would have hoped, the video quick­ly sprung up the local and region­al news lad­der, even­tu­al­ly land­ing in the lap of a pro­duc­er for ABC News, which chose to air the seg­ment nation­al­ly. Just like that, Stan Mey­er was a star.

With talk of Pen­ta­gon inter­est and car man­u­fac­tur­ers chomp­ing at the bit to get a look at Mey­er’s sig­na­ture “water fuel cell”, I was riv­et­ed. From my dusty walk up apart­ment in Hel­l’s Kitchen, I would scour what­ev­er news­pa­pers I could find for word of Mey­er and his improb­a­ble inven­tion. Com­ing back from long late night break­danc­ing ses­sions near Colum­bus Cir­cle, I would pile up all of the news­pa­per clip­pings I could find and scour each one for updates, turns of phrase that would indi­cate the new future of water-based engi­neer­ing. Sure­ly the future was at hand, and Amer­i­ca’s depen­dence on for­eign oil would be a thing of the past.

But with­in three months, the news dried up, and Stan Mey­er had dis­ap­peared. Pri­or to his absence, news­pa­per reports had begun to drop in lit­tle tid­bits about his grow­ing mania; tales of Mey­er show­ing up late to press events in his rick­ety old Dat­sun, the water-fired dune bug­gy nowhere in sight. He took to crit­i­ciz­ing the petrol indus­try direct­ly and would off-hand­ed­ly refer to Judo-Amer­i­can impe­ri­al­ism in the auto­mo­tive indus­try. Only one true sci­en­tif­ic out­let — a young start­up lab­o­ra­to­ry known then as Flu­id Com­bine Indus­tries — had ever actu­al­ly come out in praise of the dis­cov­ery. Every­one else was a skeptic.

Towards the end, Mey­er had become so errat­ic, the only news blurbs I could find about him would come from the The African Encore, a sleepy East Vil­lage-based pub­li­ca­tion with no actu­al reporters on staff and a pen­chant for repur­pos­ing old hoax­es as fact. Twelve weeks after Stan Mey­er changed the world, that’s exact­ly how the world had come to regard him: as a hoax.

Now, in 2013, I don’t break­dance much. I still have the old shell-top Adi­das hang­ing in my clos­et and it’s hard for me to look at a piece of card­board with­out get­ting nos­tal­gic, but there’s no room in the street cor­ner dance game to a mid­dle-aged writer with a sticky hip. I’ve long since giv­en up the dream of becom­ing the next Flashy Mike, Ashy Ron or Bub­ble­Ba­by, the kings of street dance style when I was com­ing up. Now, I write about what­ev­er the world sends me.

Bleary-faced and sport­ing a pro­nounced limp, Mey­er knocked on my door at 11:30 P.M., car­ry­ing a duf­fel bag full of scat­tered papers. The first words he said to me were “It’s been a long time,” as he moved past and into the liv­ing room. He set the duf­fel bag on the floor and blacked out every win­dow with garbage bags, explain­ing that he’d been watch­ing my apart­ment for near­ly a week. When I final­ly picked my jaw up off the floor long enough to ask where he’d been for 23 years, Mey­er stat­ed sim­ply “in the head­lines, but you just could­n’t see me”, then asked for a glass of water.

What­ev­er had hap­pened to Stan Mey­er, he was in a con­stant­ly rat­tled state. My phone would beep with the sounds of mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy, and Mey­er would twitch ner­vous­ly in the direc­tion of the sound, grab­bing at the han­dles of his duf­fel bag. Unsure of what else to do with the disheveled man, I ordered up some Per­sian food from a menu that had been slipped under my door. It was a place I had­n’t heard of before, but I fig­ured that get­ting some­thing in our stom­ach­es would help to set­tle us down.

Set­tle us down, indeed. After bad­ly tip­ping the clean-shaven deliv­ery man while Mey­er tucked him­self out of sight in a clos­et filled with my old break­danc­ing stuff, the two of us sat down to eat silent­ly in my liv­ing room. He ate rav­en­ous­ly, like a man who could­n’t remem­ber his last meal and was­n’t sure when the next one would be com­ing. Instead of for­ti­fy­ing our­selves for a night of intense con­ver­sa­tion, the halal kebabs lured us into a much need­ed heavy sleep.

After what felt like days, I woke to find Mey­er splayed out on my couch, clutch­ing his duf­fel bag to his chest. Soon, he wres­tled him­self awake, and I made a pot of Fol­gers. Mey­er began to recount to me the most fas­ci­nat­ing tale of espi­onage, mur­der for hire and life on the run that I’ve ever heard. And after he had fin­ished, I under­stood why he’d tracked me down in my stu­dio apart­ment in Bush­wick. I was lit­er­al­ly the last per­son on Earth who could help Stan Meyer.

With­in days of unveil­ing his water fuel cell on Action 6 News out of Colum­bus, Ohio, Stan Mey­er was uneasy. The sto­ry had gained so much trac­tion so fast (and why would­n’t it, giv­en the impli­ca­tions), that men in dark suits and sun­glass­es had begun knock­ing on his door at all hours of the day and night. Con­vinced that if he slept, the dune bug­gy would be pulled from his one-stall garage and dis­ap­pear for­ev­er, Mey­er took a chain­saw to the side of his ranch-style home and parked the thing in his liv­ing room. There he would sleep, hand­cuffed to the fuel cell with the rest of his body stretched out onto a sleep­ing pad and, for a pil­low, a brand new duf­fel bag filled to the brim with his soon-to-be-filed patents.

First, it was the Pen­ta­gon that came call­ing. Nice­ly at first. A fed­er­al Defense offi­cial intro­duced him­self to Mey­er as Mr. Block, and began to inquire as to the nature of Mey­er’s inven­tion. Smil­ing and chat­ty, he hap­pi­ly poked through the ins and outs of the machin­ery with Mr. Block, who took copi­ous notes and would cluck at the roof of his mouth at the slight­est bit of design inge­nu­ity. Mr. Block thanked Mey­er pro­fuse­ly and promised to return with news from the Pen­ta­gon that might make him a very hap­py — and poten­tial­ly wealthy — man.

After that came a Buick full of gas com­pa­ny exec­u­tives. Men from Shell, SUNOCO and British Petro­le­um, walk­ing lock step in grey wool suits despite the tem­per­a­ture. They were, nat­u­ral­ly, a lit­tle more curt in their assess­ment of the bug­gy, but had to admit that the thing ran pret­ty damn smooth, and the only emis­sion com­ing from the tailpipe was good old Amer­i­can oxy­gen. The men left frumpi­ly, unsure of their next steps but des­per­ate to know more about the water fuel cell that so nat­u­ral­ly con­vert­ed H2O into raw power.

In the dizzy­ing weeks that fol­lowed, Mey­er’s front lawn took a beat­ing. Big city reporters crowd­ed around his mail­box, hop­ing to catch a glimpse of the inven­tor at work. Mean­while, vice pres­i­dents from Dupont, GE and Boe­ing would glide up onto the grass in black town cars and ask for a momen­t’s con­gress with Mey­er, per­haps a demon­stra­tion or two. Often there were so many sci­en­tists and schol­ars at his door, from Flu­id Com­bine Indus­tries to MIT, that they had to wait in line. A neigh­bor boy would sell lemon­ade at an aston­ish­ing $1.25 a glass.

After that came the flood of state offi­cials from the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Chi­na, from Rus­sia and Eng­land, from Cana­da and France and Ice­land, a nation over­flow­ing with water and des­per­ate­ly in need of an eco­nom­ic boost. Each busi­ness tycoon and glob­al head of state, in their turn, left Grove City with a very real fear: Stan Mey­er may have changed the world, and he may not have our com­pa­ny’s or nation’s best inter­ests at heart.

Lit­tle more than a month in, Mey­er woke to find a masked man stand­ing over him, try­ing to work the hand­cuffs loose from the water fuel cell as he slept. A short scuf­fle ensued, but when the harsh news cam­era lights flood­ed the room dur­ing the com­mo­tion, the intrud­er had van­ished. That was per­haps the last night of real sleep Stan Mey­er would get in thir­teen years.

Con­vinced that one or more multi­na­tion­al enti­ties were clos­ing in on him, Mey­er took to hid­ing the bug­gy in the back woods and hollers that dot the land around Grove City, show­ing up to press con­fer­ences in his trusty Dat­sun instead. But no mat­ter what he said, peo­ple did­n’t want to see the old man with the worn hands and his slop­py Dat­sun, they want­ed to see the water-pow­ered car.

And then some­thing strange hap­pened: the news turned on Stan Mey­er. A false report of his eccen­tric anti-Amer­i­can car indus­try spout­ing had been passed around to var­i­ous news wire ser­vices, and when com­bined with his increas­ing­ly edgy behav­ior, how­ev­er jus­ti­fied, the media began to regard Mey­er as lit­tle more than a lunatic with a good sales pitch. Soon enough, July 1990 would arrive and bring with it the reuni­fi­ca­tion of East and West Ger­many. Sud­den­ly, the news had big­ger sto­ries to cov­er, and when cou­pled with the U.S. inva­sion of Pana­ma in Jan­u­ary of that year, the rest of the world seemed a lot more impor­tant than Grove City, Ohio.

No one want­ed to talk to Stan Mey­er any more, but there were plen­ty of peo­ple who would be fine with steal­ing from him. Alone in his home, chained to his water fuel cell at night, Mey­er began to real­ize how vul­ner­a­ble he was. In the pre-dawn hours, Mey­er slipped away. Who­ev­er fol­lowed him would be close behind, always, and they might not have his best inter­ests at heart.


First, he tried the sand-whipped nation of Iraq. With a fail­ing gov­ern­ment and access to oil mon­ey, Mey­er thought he might stand a chance of work­ing out a busi­ness deal with a local tycoon to mass pro­duce his water fuel cells for use in the harsh desert cli­mate. After all, who bet­ter to under­stand the pow­er of water than those arid civ­i­liza­tions who had relied on it for cen­turies? But soon after he arrived near the Kuwaiti bor­der, Mey­er began to notice that he was being fol­lowed. White men in large black SUVs had tracked him here, and were snoop­ing around the vil­lage he had tak­en refuge inside.

Feel­ing threat­ened, Mey­er decid­ed to leave across the desert in the dead of night. His pre­cious dune bug­gy and the water fuel cell that had put a tar­get on his back were still hid­den well away back on Ohio. All he had left were a duf­fel bag full of design pages and patent forms, those crag­gy hands and his brain-wrin­kles. On Jan­u­ary 17th, while try­ing to seek refuge in the city of Urfa­ta on south­west Irag, he and his camel were fired upon by a man who looked sus­pi­cious­ly like Mr. Block, the man from the Depart­ment of Defense. The camel was fatal­ly wound­ed and dropped to the ground, giv­ing Mey­er the chance to escape on foot with his duf­fel bag. In the mêlée a lone Iraqi boy was shot through the chest as he walked to morn­ing prayer. Iraq news out­lets called the shoot­ing an act of war by Amer­i­can aggres­sors, and as Stan Mey­er slipped north into Syr­ia, the Unites States ini­ti­at­ed Oper­a­tion Desert Storm.


Three years lat­er, Mey­er emerged in Detroit with an updat­ed plan to take his patents direct­ly to the biggest Amer­i­can car man­u­fac­tur­ers. The idea was to mass pro­duce his water fuel cell tech­nol­o­gy and make the Unit­ed States a leader in clean, cheap ener­gy. The results would pull the world out of pover­ty and save us all from let­ting the tech­nol­o­gy fall into the hands of the U.S. — or any — gov­ern­ment, who could wield the pow­er with unfore­seen force. On his way to an ini­tial meet­ing, Mey­er (dressed in dis­guise as a tall, thin, androg­y­nous per­son with a wig of black hair) was walk­ing past Cobo Are­na when he bent down to tie his shoe. Look­ing up, he saw a six foot mad­man approach­ing fast with a thick black club in one hand. Act­ings fast, Mey­er ducked into a side hall­way of the are­na and sprint­ed towards the appar­ent ice rink at the end of the tun­nel. Think­ing bet­ter of the open space, at the last moment Mey­er and his flow­ing black wig hid behind a drap­ery as the assailant ran past. A quick thud and a loud wail soon fol­lowed the assailant, and Mey­er was able to sneak away through a laun­dry chute. It was only the next day, walk­ing past a Radio Shack store­front, that Mey­er learned the truth of the inci­dent: after con­fus­ing Nan­cy Ker­ri­g­an for Mey­er in his dis­guise, the assailant clubbed the ris­ing fig­ure skat­ing star, drop­ping her to the ground. Real­iz­ing his mis­take, the assailant reversed course and ran back through the are­na, only to slip away in the back seat of a tint­ed Chrysler with tags that belonged to the GM Corporation.


After the events in Iraq and Detroit, Mey­er knew that the Unit­ed States would pro­vide him no safe haven. Still, with the sum­mer Olympics being held in Atlanta, he saw no bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ty to safe­ly bring his peace­ful inven­tion to a for­eign dig­ni­tary. Back-chan­nel talks with Ice­land had result­ed in an agreed pub­lic meet­ing; Mey­er would bring his duf­fel full of secrets, and Ice­land would pro­vide a nation­al offi­cial to dis­cuss the safe, con­struc­tive use of his water fuel cell. After sit­ting down on a bench beneath a sound tow­er inside bustling ALICE Park, Mey­er looked down at his feet and noticed an exact repli­ca of his duf­fel bag already sit­ting there. The fea­tures were an iden­ti­cal match, down to the black stitch­ing and Far­mAid patch that hung slight­ly off of one end. It was a setup.

Mov­ing quick­ly, Mey­er stood and began to take long strides away from the bench, shoul­der­ing through peo­ple want­i­ng to see the head­lin­ing band Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. With­in sec­onds, the repli­ca bag tore open with the force of three pipe bombs, launch­ing nails and ball bear­ings for two hun­dred feet in each direc­tion. Shield­ed by the cor­ner of a build­ing, Mey­er’s only wound was a nail that embed­ded itself inside his right calf, leav­ing him with the pro­nounced limp he came to my apart­ment with. CCTV footage of the man respon­si­ble for the blast show a tall, strap­ping, dark-haired man in an Ice­landic track jack­et, but in the after­math of the bomb­ing secu­ri­ty guard Richard Jew­ell was wrong­ly fin­gered for the Cen­ten­ni­al Olympic Park bomb­ing in Atlanta. Years lat­er, under mount­ing pres­sure from an ill-informed pub­lic, a staged arrest was made of a man by the name of Eric Rudolph, who looked sim­i­lar to the Ice­landic bomber.


Hold­ing out hope for some phil­an­thropic back­ing, Mey­er agreed to meet with John F. Kennedy Junior at Martha’s Vine­yard. The cau­tious but charm­ing Kennedy flew in with two sci­en­tists pos­ing as his wife Car­olyn and her sis­ter Lau­ren Bes­sette. The group met at a rus­tic barn that the Kennedy fam­i­ly had owned for years, and for the first time Mey­er believed he may have found a home for his water fuel cell. The Kennedy clan promised pro­tec­tion and the safe­guard­ing of his idea. He was told that, with the Kennedy’s polit­i­cal con­nec­tions world­wide, his inven­tion could be used for good to pro­mote the well­be­ing of all glob­al cit­i­zens. Mey­er stayed behind at the Martha’s Vine­yard com­pound as Kennedy and his under­cov­er sci­en­tists were deter­mined to reach New York by morn­ing to begin prepa­ra­tions for the water fuel cel­l’s true media debut. Over open waters, his plane was inca­pac­i­tat­ed and crashed into the sea, killing John F. Kennedy Jr. and, for all the world knows, his wife and sis­ter-in-law. Boe­ing, the man­u­fac­tur­er of the Kennedy air­craft, pub­lished a report of the crash and full details on the plane’s mal­func­tion two hours before it actu­al­ly takes place.


After spend­ing years on the run (“in the bush”, as Mey­er would say repeat­ed­ly), he emerged in Thai­land in late Decem­ber 2004. The plan was to meet with Chi­nese offi­cials off­shore, in a boat that Mey­er spent two years craft­ing him­self. The inter­ven­ing years made him cau­tious, and Mey­er was­n’t about to board the boat of a for­eign enti­ty in inter­na­tion­al waters. Not if he ever want­ed to make it home alive. After wait­ing just off shore near Ao Nang for near­ly two hours, Mey­er grew increas­ing­ly wary that the Chi­nese would­n’t show, or worse, are wait­ing for his defens­es to soft­en so they could strike.

Soon, a slow rum­bling from beneath the boat turned into a mael­strom of sea waves and crush­ing futil­i­ty, as Chi­nese-direct­ed seis­mic activ­i­ty along the ocean floor pushed tril­lions of gal­lons of water towards the Thai­land shores in the worst tsuna­mi in record­ed his­to­ry. Near­ly 200,000 peo­ple were killed, while Mey­er’s skill­ful crafts­man­ship allowed his boat to stay afloat long enough to reach the shore­line, where he was able to grab the fronds of a stand­ing palm tree and wait out the water among the debris with his duf­fel bag. Eight years lat­er, the movie The Impos­si­ble would be loose­ly based on this event in his life.


Fol­low­ing Chi­na’s attempt to mur­der him and cap­ture his secrets, Stan Mey­er made his way to the Ital­ian coast. He learned the native tongue and took a job fix­ing Fiats at a local auto mechan­ic shop. Need­ing to save some mon­ey and hop­ing to fall in with a group of fresh-mind­ed indi­vid­u­als, Mey­er accept­ed in a young Amer­i­can study abroad stu­dent to take over the sec­ond room him his quant Ital­ian apart­ment. The woman, known to him as Aman­da, was young and stun­ning. She seemed to nev­er need to go to class, and instead became more inter­est­ed in Mey­er’s pre­vi­ous life and world­wide tra­vails. Despite his being more than twice her age, the two fell hope­less­ly, roman­ti­cal­ly in love. They soaked in the sights of Peru­gia and the near­by coun­try­side. Mey­er took to drink­ing wine and stay­ing up late with Aman­da. For months, Mey­er report­ed to his mechan­ic job with a smile on his face, and his Atlanta bomb­ing limp even seemed to fade slight­ly. Even­tu­al­ly, over a plate of pas­ta at an al fres­co café, Mey­er came clean about his past: the water fuel cell, his time on the run and the many attempts at his life. “There is a duf­fel bag”, he said, “that out­lines every detail of my inven­tion. And it’s so dan­ger­ous that I can nev­er tell you where it is, because some unknown demon might get you.The less you know, the better.”

Lat­er that night, after falling asleep in her arms, Mey­er woke up to Aman­da and anoth­er unknown female at his bed­side. The scene recalled his har­row­ing night with an intrud­er while chained to his beloved dune bug­gy back in Grove City, Ohio. The two women, believ­ing Mey­er to be still asleep, whis­per in Ital­ian of their plan to tor­ture him until the duf­fel was recov­ered. Aman­da, for her part, regret­ted that her affec­tions had­n’t been enough to extract the need­ed infor­ma­tion on behalf of the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment, but knew that the twelve-inch kitchen knife in her hands would be more than enough. Upon hear­ing that, Mey­er jumped to his feet. In the strug­gle, the unknown female with Aman­da was stabbed through the chest, blood pool­ing into the mat­tress and onto the floor.

After a tense stand­off, Aman­da with the knife and Mey­er clutch­ing the duf­fel that he’d pulled from the chim­ney flue, she fell into his arms and wept. Her job was sim­ple: use her fem­i­nine wiles to win the mind of the uomo d’ac­qua, Stan Mey­er, at any cost. But she had­n’t planned on actu­al­ly falling for him. After all those hours spent hold­ing each oth­er in the Ital­ian moon­light, she just could­n’t com­plete her mis­sion. Not with­out tear­ing her­self apart in the process.

As Mey­er slipped out a back door and away down the cob­ble­stone alley, the woman every­one knew as Amer­i­can exchange stu­dent Aman­da Knox stood over the body of her unknown female asso­ciate, cov­ered in blood. The sounds of Ital­ian police sirens echoed clos­er and closer.


After a few nomadic years among the tribes­men of Mon­go­lia, learn­ing their leather craft trade and bet­ter sup­ply­ing him­self for the harsh north Asian sea­sons, Mey­er slipped into Rus­sia in mid-2011 with hopes of join­ing one of the many move­ments that had bub­bled up in oppo­si­tion to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. Since Putin left pow­er, there had been grow­ing dis­con­tent in the Sovi­et, and Mey­er believed that, per­haps like nowhere else, he could turn his inven­tion over to forces of change that may help to bring free­dom to the world in a way that exist­ing regimes and glob­al cor­po­ra­tions would nev­er dream of.

Once in Moscow, Mey­er picked up a boot­leg DVD copy of The Sopra­nos on a whim, and imme­di­ate­ly became hooked. He spent the next three years catch­ing up on the last two decades of tele­vi­sion that he had missed. He real­ly liked sea­son two of The Wire, even though a lot of peo­ple thought it was the worst one. He gave up on Lost mid­way through sea­son 4. “It just became real­ly clear that they were mak­ing it up as they went along,” Mey­er not­ed, although he’s cur­rent­ly real­ly into VEEP.

The retelling of all these sto­ries takes hours, sweat­ing over the sort of details that would con­vince any­one that Stan Mey­er is telling the truth. Plus, there’s a good 45 min­utes where he just sat there, think­ing silent­ly about the sex­u­al escapades that he and Ital­ian infor­mant Aman­da Knox had. It occurs to me then that nei­ther of us had seen sun­light for days, and walk over to the win­dows to remove the black trash bags that had been shield­ing us from pry­ing eyes. I tug off the mask­ing tape, and sud­den­ly I feel like I’m float­ing. Instead of the apart­ment build­ing across the street that has been my view for the past six years, there is noth­ing but dark­ness. I pull down the next black trash bag from its win­dow frame, but still noth­ing. Mey­er, sens­ing my pan­ic, turns and stares into the emp­ty black­ness beyond my win­dow panes. He whis­pers “what have you done”, but it’s too late.

Blind­ing light floods in through the win­dows — my win­dows — and the front door splin­ters under the weight of a com­bat boot. As body after body of armed per­son­nel flood over me, I catch a glimpse of the world beyond what I had assumed was my front door. It is a ware­house. Some­how, my entire apart­ment has been dupli­cat­ed to the finest detail, or trans­port­ed and reassem­bled paint lay­er by paint lay­er. I can­not imag­ine the time involved in such a process, let alone how some­one could pos­si­bly have got­ten me inside this doppelgänger Bush­wick walk up with­out actu­al­ly walk­ing me up any stairs. Then I remem­ber the Per­sian food, with its cata­ton­ic qual­i­ties that left Mey­er and I in a deep sleep. We had been drugged, and not with the runs that Per­sian food usu­al­ly gives you.

With a boot on my throat, I croak out the req­ui­site “what’s going on” ques­tion, but no one’s in a hur­ry to answer. Mey­er, for his part, strug­gles might­i­ly against two very tough-look­ing gun thugs in black fatigues as a third picks up his tat­tered duf­fel bag and hands it off to a stun­ning young brunette in a pantsuit. She looks up from the hand­off, and I know that face: Aman­da Knox.

With Mey­er gagged and sub­dued and me face down on the car­pet­ing, I can bare­ly make out what’s hap­pen­ing. Knox moves towards Mey­er and kiss­es him on the lips, slow­ly and pas­sion­ate­ly, but with­out a hint of the under­ly­ing emo­tion that Mey­er had strug­gled with in his retelling of her por­tion of his tale. “I always knew we’d find our­selves togeth­er again”, Knox says as she con­tin­ues to lean in close. “You’re upset about what hap­pened in Italy in 2009, and I don’t blame you. But you’re real­ly going to be mad at me when I tell you that I was­n’t even real­ly work­ing for the Ital­ians. There are more impor­tant peo­ple that want your water fuel cell, Stan, and I’m here to give it to them. Now where is that dune bug­gy you’ve been hid­ing all these years?”

And in a flash of pierc­ing neck pain, I’m gone. When I wake up, I’m back in my Bush­wick walk up, and the view is exact­ly the same as it’s always been. There are no Per­sian food con­tain­ers, and when I redi­al the num­ber from my cell phone the restau­ran­t’s line is dis­con­nect­ed. There’s no trace of Mey­er, and if I had­n’t found that old nudie mag­a­zine under a couch cush­ion that he and my father used to jack it to, I’d be doubt­ing my own sanity.

Stan Mey­er is out there some­where. Whether he’s alive, I can’t say. Why I’m still alive is any­one’s guess. Who took him, I won’t spec­u­late (see above). But Mey­er, that water-pow­ered dune bug­gy and a duf­fel bag full of the sort of secrets that thou­sands have died for, they’re all very real. And who­ev­er col­lects all three is going to be a very, very pow­er­ful person. ♦