by W.E.B. Griffin
& William E. Butterworth IV
[ ONE ]
El Obeid Airport
North Kurdufan, Sudan
2130 31 January 2007
The small convoy — two battered Toyota pickups, a Ford F-150 pickup, and a Land Rover — had attracted little attention as it passed through Al-Ubayyid (estimated population around 310,000).
Al-Ubayyid was the nearest (seven kilometers) town to the El Obeid Airport, which was sometimes known as the Al-Ubayyid Airport. The town of Al-Ubayyid was sometimes known as El Obeid. In this remote corner of the world, what a village or an airport — or just about anything else — was called depended on who was talking.
The men were all armed with Kalashnikov rifles, and all bearded, and all were dressed in the long pastel-colored robes known as jalabiya, and wearing both tagia skullcaps and a length of cloth, called an imma, covering their heads.
The beds of the trucks each held one or two armed men. It was impossible to tell — even guess — what the cargo might be, as it was covered with a tarpaulin.
The convoy looked, in other words, very much like any other convoy passing through — or originating in — Al-Ubayyid on any given day. By whatever name, the town had been a transportation hub for nearly two centuries. First, there had been camel caravans. Then a rail line. Then roads — it’s a nine-hour, five-hundred-kilometer trip from Khartoum — and finally, six kilometers south of town, the airport with a runway nearly a thousand meters long.
As it approached the airport, the convoy slowed and the headlights were turned off. It moved near to the end of the chainlink fence surrounding the airport and stopped, remaining on the road.
A dozen men — everyone but the drivers — quickly got out of the vehicles.
The man who had been in the front seat of the Land Rover went to the floodlight — not much of a floodlight, just a single fluorescent tube — on a pole at the end of the fencing and quickly shot it out with a burst from a .22 caliber submachine gun. The weapon was “suppressed,”which meant that perhaps eighty percent of the noise a .22-long rifle cartridge would normally make was silenced.
He then quickly joined the others, who were in the process of quickly removing the immas and skullcaps from their heads and finally their long jalabiya robes. The discarded garments were then tossed into the Land Rover.
Under the jalabiya robes they had been wearing black form-fitting garments, something like underwear except these had attached hoods which, when they had been pulled in place, covered the head and most of the face.
Night-vision goggles and radio headsets were quickly put in place.
Next, they took from the Land Rover and the pickups black nylon versions of what was known in the U.S. and many other armies as “web equipment” and strapped it in place on their bodies.
The man with the .22 caliber submachine gun — the team leader — was joined by two other men equipped with special weapons. One was armed with a high-powered, suppressed sniper’s rifle that was equipped with both night vision and laser sights. The other had a suppressed Uzi 9mm submachine gun.
The laws of physics are such that no high-powered weapon can ever be really suppressed, much less silenced. The best that could be said for the suppressed sniper’s rifle was that when fired, it didn’t make very much noise. The best that could be said for the Uzi was that when fired, it sounded like a suppressed Uzi submachine gun, which meant that it wasn’t quite as noisy as an unsuppressed Uzi.
The sights on the sniper’s rifle, which was a highly modified version of the Russian Dragunov SVD-S caliber 7.62 x 54R sniper’s rifle, were state of the art. When looking through the night-vision scope — which had replaced the standard glass optical scope — the marksman was able to see on the darkest of nights just about anything he needed to.
And by sliding a switch near the trigger, a small computer was turned on. A laser beam was activated. The computer determined how distant was the object on which sat the little red spot, and sent that message to the crosshairs on the sight. The result was that the shooter could be about ninety percent sure that — presuming he did everything else required of a marksman since the rifle was invented, such as having a good sight picture, firing from a stable position, taking a breath and letting half of it out before ever so carefully squeezing the trigger — the 147-grain bullet would strike his target within an inch or so of where the little red dot pinpointed.
The team leader made a somewhat imperious gesture, which caused another man — who had been standing by awaiting the order — to apply an enormous set of bolt cutters to the chainlink fence.
Within a minute, he had cut a gate in the fencing through which everyone could — and quickly did — easily pass.
The runway was about fifty meters wide. An inspection, which the team leader considered the most dangerous activity of this part of the operation, was required. A good leader, he had assumed this responsibility himself; he walked quickly in a crouch down the dotted line marking the center of the runway toward the small terminal building.
The man with the suppressed Uzi walked down the runway halfway between the dotted line and the left side, and the man with the sniper’s rifle did the same thing on the right.
All the others made their way toward the terminal off the runway, about half on one side and half on the other. Most of them were now armed with the Mini Uzi, which is smaller than the Uzi and much larger than the Micro Uzi. The Kalashnikovs, as much a part of their try-to-pass-as-the-locals disguises as anything else, had joined the jalabiya robes and skullcaps in the Land Rover. They had gone about halfway down the runway when a dog — a large dog, from the sound of him — began to bark. Or maybe it was the sound of two large dogs.
Everyone dropped flat.
The man with the Dragunov assumed the firing position, turned on the night sights, and peered down the runway.
He took his hand off the fore end and raised it with two fingers extended.
The team leader nodded.
The two shots didn’t make very much noise, and there was no more barking.
The team leader considered his options.
It was possible that the shots had been heard, and equally possible that someone had come out of the terminal to see why the dogs were barking on the runway, or that they had come out — or were about to — to see why the barking dogs had stopped barking.
That meant the sooner they got to the terminal, the better.
But the problem of having to inspect the runway remained — that was the priority.
The team leader activated his microphone.
He spoke in Hungarian: “Trucks, lights out — repeat, lights out — to one hundred meters of the terminal. Hold for orders.”
There was no need to give orders to the others; they would follow his example.
He got to his feet and resumed his inspection, this time at a fast trot, still crouched over.
The sniper and the man with the suppressed Uzi followed his example. The men off the runway, after a moment, followed their example.
They came to the dogs, lying in pools of blood where the animals had fallen, about a hundred meters from the terminal building.
The team leader could now see the flicker of fluorescent lights in the terminal building itself, and in the building beside it, which he knew housed the men — four to six — and their families — probably twice that many people — who both worked and lived at the airport.
And he could hear the exhaust of a small generator.
That was powerful enough to power the lights he saw now, and the two dozen or so fluorescent “floodlights” around the perimeter fence, but it wasn’t powerful enough to power the runway lights.
He looked up at the control tower. There was no sign of lights, flickering fluorescent or otherwise.
Runway lighting would logically be on the same power as the control tower.
That meant he was going to have to find the much larger generator, see if he could start it, and see if there was enough diesel fuel to run it.
If he couldn’t get the runway lights on, the whole operation would fail.
He spoke Hungarian into his microphone again: “Change of plans. Cleanup will have to wait until we get some of these people to show us the runway lights generator and get it started for us. Commence operations in sixty seconds from . . .” He waited until the sweep second hand on his wristwatch touched the luminescent spot at the top “ . . . Time.”
The next stage of the operation went well. Not perfectly. No operation ever goes perfectly, and that is even more true, as the case was here, when the intelligence is dated or inadequate, and there has been no time for thorough rehearsals.
There had been several rehearsals, but there had been no time to build a replica of the airport and its buildings. And if there had been time, they had had only satellite photography, old satellite photography and thus not to be trusted, to provide the needed information.
They had improvised, using sticks and tape to represent the fence and the buildings, and guessing where the doors on the buildings would be.
But despite this, the team leader thought the operation had gone off — so far, at least — very well.
The man with the bolt cutters had opened the gates to the terminal area and to the tarmac. Then one two-man team had entered the terminal to make sure there were to be no surprises from there, and two teams of three men each had stormed and secured the building where the workers and their families lived.
The operator with the suppressed Uzi — who was the number two — had climbed up into the control tower.
The sniper — who was the number three — had gone first into the terminal building to make sure that team had missed nothing, and then into the living quarters, where he checked to see that everyone had been rounded up and securely manacled. The operations scenario had used that term, but the “manacles” actually used to restrain the locals was a plastic version of the garrote.
The locals were frightened, of course, but none of them seemed on the edge of hysteria, which was often a problem with women and children. Another potential problem, language, didn’t arise. The team leader had been told to expect the locals might speak only the local languages, and the team had been issued hastily printed phrase books in Daza, Maba, Gulay, and Sara.
The trouble with phrase books was that while they permitted you to ask questions, they were not much help in translating the answers.
All four of the men the sniper had “manacled” in the living quarters spoke French. And so did most of the thirteen women and children, to judge by their faces and whispered conversations.
One of the men was a tower operator, and another was in charge of the generator. The former reported that the radios in the tower seemed to be operable, and that the runway lights could be turned on and off from the tower. The latter reported that if he had his hands free, he could have the generator started in three minutes.
The team leader signaled one of the operators to cut the plastic handcuffs from both. The sniper took the generator man to wherever the generator was, and the team leader took the tower operator to the tower.
He had just about reached the top of the ladder to the control tower when he heard the rumble of a diesel engine starting, and as he put his shoulders through the hole in the tower floor, the incandescent lightbulbs began to glow and then came on full.
There was a screeching sound from the roof as the rotating radar antenna began to turn.
All the avionic equipment in the tower was of American manufacture, and both the team leader and his number two were familiar with it. Nevertheless, the team leader ordered the control tower operator to get it running.
Dual radar monitors showed a target twenty miles distant at twelve thousand feet altitude. Just the target. No identification from a transponder.
“Light the runway,” the team leader ordered.
The tower operator threw a number of switches on a panel under the desk which circled the room. As the sound of the diesel engine showed the addition of a load, the lights on the runway and two taxi strips leading from it glowed and then were fully illuminated.
Number two dialed in a frequency on one of the radios.
“Activate transponder,” he said in Russian.
Thirty seconds later, a triangle appeared next to the target on the radar screen.
“I have you at twelve thousand, twenty miles. The field is lit. The runway is clear. Land to the south.”
The target blip on the radar screen began moving toward the center of the screen. The numbers in a little box next to the transponder blip began to move downward quickly from 12000.
The team leader pointed to something under the desk.
The tower operator looked confused.
Impatiently, the team leader pointed again.
The tower operator dropped to his knees to get a better look at what was under the table that he was supposed to see.
The team leader put the muzzle of the .22 caliber submachine gun against the tower operator’s neck at the base of his skull and pulled the trigger.
The short burst of fire made a thump, thump sound, and the tower operator fell slowly forward on his face. Then his legs went limp and his body completely collapsed.
There was no blood. As often happened, the soft lead .22 bullets did not have enough remaining velocity after penetrating the skull to pass through the other side. They simply ricocheted around the skull cavity, moving through soft brain tissue until they had lost all velocity. There might be some blood leakage around the eyes, the ears, and the nose, but there seldom was much and often not any.
A team member entered through the tower floor hole. The team leader ordered: “Stay until the plane’s on the ground. Then set these to twenty minutes.”
“These” were four thermite grenades. Each had a radio-activated fuse, and, for redundancy, in case the radio detonation failed, a simple clock firing mechanism. The team leader set the thermite grenades in place, two on the communications equipment, one on the radar, and the last on the spine of the tower operator near the entrance wounds made by the .22 rounds.
He took a last look around, and then spoke to his microphone.
“Commence cleanup,” he ordered. “Acknowledge.”
Before the team leader had carefully climbed completely down the ladder, there was about thirty seconds of intense Uzi fire as the site was cleaned of the remaining three men and their women and children.
The firing made more noise than the team leader would have preferred, but the options would have been to either garrote the locals, or cut their throats, and that was time consuming, often a little more risky, and this way there was less chance of messy arterial blood to worry about.
As he watched one of his men carry a box of thermite grenades into the living quarters, the team leader heard a rushing noise, and a split second later, when he looked up, he could see two brilliant landing lights come on as the aircraft approached the field.
A moment later, he could see the aircraft itself.
It was an unusual-looking airplane, painted a non-reflective gray, ostensibly making it invisible to radar. That was a joke. As soon as they had turned on the radar just now, they had seen it twenty miles distant. There were two jet engines mounted close together on top of the fuselage, where the wings joined the fuselage just behind and above the cockpit. This had made it necessary for the vertical fin and the horizontal stabilizers to be raised out of the way of the jet thrust. The tail of the aircraft was extraordinarily thin and tall, with the control surfaces mounted on the top.
The aircraft, a Tupolev Tu-934A, was not going to win any prizes for aesthetic beauty. But like the USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II — universally known as the Warthog — it did what it was designed to do and did so splendidly. The Warthog’s heavy armament busted up tanks and provided other close ground support. The Tupolev Tu-934A was designed to fly great distances at near the speed of sound carrying just about anything that could be loaded inside its rather ugly fuselage, and land and take off in amazingly short distances on very rough airfields — or no airfields at all.
It was also an amazingly quiet aircraft. The first the team leader had heard its powerful engines was the moment before touchdown when the pilot activated the thrust reversal system.
And even that died quickly as the aircraft reached braking speed on the landing roll and then stopped and turned around on the runway.
Number three, now holding illuminated wands, directed it as it taxied up the runway, and then signaled for it to turn. Before it had completed that maneuver, a ramp began to lower from the rear of the fuselage.
“Bring up number one truck,” the team leader ordered.
The Ford F-150 came across the tarmac and backed up to the opening ramp at the rear of the now-stopped aircraft.
A small, rubber-tracked front-loader rolled down the ramp. The driver and the four men riding on it were dressed in the black coveralls.
The team leader saluted one of the newcomers, who returned it.
“Problems?” the operation commander asked in Russian.
“None so far, sir.”
“Yes, sir,” the team leader lied. He had forgotten that detail.
“Well, then, let’s get it aboard.”
Instead of a bucket, the front-loader had modified pallet arms. To the bottom of each arm had been welded two steel loops. From each loop hung a length of sturdy nylon strapping.
The other two men who had ridden off the aircraft on the rubber-tracked vehicle climbed into the bed of the F-150, removed the tarpaulin which had concealed its contents — two barrel-like objects of heavy plastic, dark blue in color, and looking not unlike beer kegs. They then removed the chocks and strapping which had been holding the rearmost barrel in place.
That done, they carefully directed the pallet arms over the bed of the truck, until they were in position for the nylon strapping to be passed under the barrel and the fastener at the free end to be inserted into the loop on the bottom of the arm.
The strapping had lever-activated devices to tighten the strapping — and thus the barrel — against the underside of the pallet arm.
“Tight!” one of the men called out in Russian when that had been accomplished.
The front-loader backed away from the F-150, pivoted in its length, and then drove up the ramp into the aircraft.
The two men in the F-150’s bed now removed the chocks and the strapping from the other barrel, and very carefully rolled it to the end of the bed.
By then the front-loader had backed off the ramp, turned again in its length, and was prepared to take the second barrel.
“Bring up truck two,” the team leader ordered.
Truck two arrived as truck one started to drive off.
The procedure of taking the barrels from the trucks was repeated, exactly, for the two Toyota pickups. Truck four — the Land Rover — did not hold any of the barrels, but it held the discarded Kalashnikovs. These were carried aboard the aircraft.
“Set mechanical timers at ten minutes and board the aircraft,” the team leader ordered.
“Check your memory to see that you have forgotten nothing,” the operation commander ordered.
Thirty seconds later, the team leader replied, “I can think of nothing, sir.”
The operation commander gestured for the team leader to get on the airplane. When he had trotted up the ramp, the operation commander almost casually strolled up the ramp, picked up a handset mounted on the bulkhead just inside, and ordered, “Get us out of here.”
The ramp door immediately began to close.
When it was nearly closed, the aircraft began to move.
Thirty seconds later it was airborne.
The operation commander pulled off his masklike hood and looked at the team leader.
“Don’t smile,” he said. “Something always is forgotten, or goes wrong at the last minute, or both.”
The team leader held up the radio transmitter which would detonate the thermite grenades. The operation commander nodded. The team leader flicked the protective cover off the toggle switch and threw it.
[ TWO ]
The Oval Office
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
0930 2 February 2007
The door opened and a Secret Service agent announced, “Ambassador Montvale, Mr. President.”
Joshua Ezekiel Clendennen, who had acceded to the presidency of the United States on the sudden death — rupture of an undetected aneurism of the aorta — of the incumbent twelve days before, motioned for Montvale to be admitted. President Clendennen was a short, pudgy, pale-skinned fifty-two-year-old Alabaman who kept his tiny ears hidden under a full head of silver hair.
Charles M. Montvale came through the door. He was a tall, elegantly tailored sixty-two-year-old whose silver mane was every bit as luxurious as the President’s, but did not do much to conceal his ears.
Montvale’s ears were the delight of the nation’s political cartoonists. They seemed to be so very appropriate for a man who — after a long career of government service in which he had served as a deputy secretary of State, the secretary of the Treasury, and ambassador to the European Union — was now the United States Director of National Intelligence.
The DNI was caricatured at least once a week — and sometimes more often — with his oversize ears pointed in the direction of Moscow or Teheran or Capitol Hill.
“Good morning, Mr. President,” Montvale said.
“Can I offer you something, Charles?” the President asked, his Alabama drawl pronounced. “Have you had your breakfast?”
“Yes, thank you, sir, I have. Hours ago.”
The President’s foot pressed a button under the desk.
“Would you bring us some coffee, please?”
He motioned for Montvale to take a seat on a couch facing a coffee table, and when Montvale had done so, Clendennen rose from behind his desk and walked to an armchair on the other side of the coffee table and sat down.
The coffee was delivered immediately by a steward under the watchful eye of the President’s secretary.
“Thank you,” the President said. “We can pour ourselves. And now, please, no calls, no messages, no interruptions.”
“Yes, Mr. President.”
“From anyone,” the President added.
Montvale picked up the silver coffeepot, and said, “You take your coffee . . . ?”
“Black, thank you, Charles,” the President said.
Montvale poured coffee for both.
The President sipped his, and then said, “You know what I have been thinking lately? When I’ve had time to think of anything?”
“Harry Truman didn’t know of the atomic bomb — Roosevelt never told him — until the day after Roosevelt died. General Groves walked in here — into this office — ran everybody out, and then told Truman that we had the atomic bomb. That we had two of them.”
“I’ve heard that story, Mr. President,” Montvale said.
“We had a somewhat similar circumstance here. The first I heard of the strike in the Congo was after it happened. When we already were at DefConOne.”
Montvale didn’t reply.
Clendennen went on: “And he never told me about this secret organization he had running. I heard about that only after he’d died. Secretary of State Natalie Cohen came in here, and said, ‘Mr. President, there’s something I think you should know.’ That was the first I’d ever heard of the Analysis Operations Organization. They almost got us into a war, and I was never even told it existed.”
Montvale sipped his coffee, then said, “It was called the ‘Office of Organizational Analysis,’ Mr. President. And it no longer exists.”
“I wonder if I can believe that,” the President said. “I wonder how soon someone else is going to come through that door and say, ‘Mr. President, there’s something you should know. . . .’ ”
“I think that’s highly unlikely, Mr. President, and I can assure you that the Office of Organizational Analysis is gone. I was there when the President killed it.”
“Maybe he should have sent a couple of squadrons of fighter bombers, the way he did to the Congo, to destroy everything in a twenty-square-mile area, and to hell with collateral damage,” the President said.
“Mr. President, I understand how you feel, even if I would have been inside the area of collateral damage.”
“Tell me about Operations Analysis, Charles, and about you being there when our late President killed it.”
“He set up the Office of Organizational Analysis in a Presidential Finding, Mr. President, when the deputy chief of mission in our embassy in Argentina was murdered.”
“And put a lowly lieutenant colonel in charge?”
“At the time, Carlos Castillo was a major, Mr. President.”
“And you and Natalie Cohen went along with this?”
“The Presidential Finding was issued over our objections, sir. And at the time, Natalie was the national security advisor, not secretary of State.”
“Where did he find this Major Castillo? What is he, an Italian, a Mexican?
“A Texican, sir. His family has been in Texas since before the Alamo. He’s a West Pointer — ”
“I seem to recall that Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who almost got us into a war in Nicaragua, was an Annapolis graduate,” the President interrupted. “What do they do at those service academies, Charles, have a required course, How to Start a War One-Oh-One?”
Montvale didn’t respond directly. Instead, he said, “Castillo came to the President’s attention over that stolen airliner. You remember that, Mr. President?”
“Well. An airliner, a Boeing 727, that had been sitting for a year in an airport in Luanda, Angola, suddenly disappeared. We — the intelligence community — were having a hard time finding it. Those things take time, something the President didn’t always understand. And as you know, sir, the President was very close to the then-secretary of Homeland Security, Matt Hall. He talked to him about this, and either he or the secretary thought it would be a good idea to send someone to see which intelligence agency had learned what, and when they had learned it.
“Hall told the President that he had just the man for the assignment, Major Castillo, who was just back from Afghanistan, and working for him as an interpreter/aide.”
“To cut a long story short, Mr. President, Major Castillo not only located the missing aircraft but managed to steal it back from those who had stolen it, and flew it to MacDill Air Force Base — Central Command — in Tampa.”
“I heard a little, very little, about that,” the President said.
“The President decided, and I think he was right, that the less that came out about that incident, the better.”
“And make sure to keep Clendennen out of the loop, right?” the President said, more than a little bitterly.
Montvale didn’t respond directly. Instead, he said, “The people who stole the airplane planned to crash it into the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. We would not have let that happen, but if the story had gotten out, the President believed there would have been panic.”
President Clendennen considered that a moment, and then asked, “So where does the Finding fit in all this?”
“The wife of one of our diplomats in Argentina. The deputy chief of mission, J. Winslow Masterson—‘Jack the Stack’?”
“I know who he was, Charles. Not only was he the basketball player who got himself run over by a beer truck, for which he collected a very large bundle, but he was the son of Winslow Masterson, who is arguably the richest black guy — scratch black — the richest guy in Mississippi. And they even — surprise, surprise — told me that Winslow’s son had been killed.”
“Yes, sir. First they kidnapped his wife. The minute the President heard about that, he sent Major Castillo down there. What Castillo was supposed to do was keep an eye on the investigation, and report directly to the President.
“By the time Castillo got to Buenos Aires, Masterson had eluded the State Department security people who had been guarding him, and gone to meet the kidnappers. They killed him in front of his wife, then doped her up and left her with the body.”
“What was that all about?”
“We didn’t know it at the time, but it was connected with the Iraqi oil-for-food
scandal. Mrs. Masterson’s brother was not only involved, but had stolen money from the thieves. They thought she would know where he was — she didn’t; there was enormous friction between her husband and her brother — and they told her unless she told them where he was, they would kill her children.”
“You didn’t know this at the time?”
“No, sir. But when the President learned that Masterson had gotten away from his State Department guards, and had been assassinated, he went ballistic — ”
“He had a slight tendency to do that, didn’t he?” the President said sarcastically.
“ — and got on the phone to the ambassador and told him that Castillo was now in charge of getting Mrs. Masterson and the children safely out of Argentina.”
“Which he did. The President sent a Globemaster down there to bring Masterson’s body and his family home. And when the plane got to the air base in Biloxi, Air Force One was sitting there waiting for it. And so was the Presidential Finding. The President had found that the national interest required the establishment of a clandestine unit to be known as the Office of Organizational Analysis, which was charged with locating and terminating those responsible for the assassination of J. Winslow Masterson. Major Carlos Castillo was named chief.” He paused. “That’s how it started, Mr. President.”
“ ‘Terminating’ is that nice little euphemism for murder, right?”
“Well, that explains, wouldn’t you agree, Charles, why the President didn’t feel I had to know about this? He knew I wouldn’t stand for it. There’s nothing in the Constitution that gives the President the authority to order the killing of anybody.”
Montvale thought: Well, he knew you wouldn’t like it. But there is nothing you could have done about it if you had known, short of giving yourself the floor in the Senate and committing political suicide by betraying the man who had chosen you to be his Vice President.
Being morally outraged is one thing.
Doing something about it at great cost to yourself is something else.
And if the story had come out, there’s a hell of a lot of people who would have been delighted that the President had ordered the execution of the people who had murdered Jack the Stack in front of his wife. And even more who would have agreed that the murder of any American diplomat called for action, not complaints to the United Nations.
The only reason Clendennen said that is to cover his ass in case the story of OOA gets out: “I never knew a thing about it. When DNI Montvale told me the story, after I had become President—he had been forbidden to tell me before—I was outraged! Ask Montvale just how outraged I was!”
“The security was very tight, Mr. President,” Montvale said. “The access list, the people authorized to know about OOA, was not only very short, but extraordinarily tightly controlled.”
“What does that mean?”
“There were only two people who could clear others for access to OOA information, Mr. President. Major Castillo and the President himself. I was made privy to it, of course, but I was forbidden to share what knowledge I had with anyone else — not even my deputy or my secretary — no matter how many Top Secret security clearances they had.”
“That isn’t surprising when you think about it, is it, Charles? When you are
ordering murder, the fewer people who know about it, the better.”
Montvale didn’t reply.
“Just how many bodies did this Major Castillo leave scattered all over the world, Charles?” the President asked.
“I really don’t know, Mr. President,” Montvale said. “He reported only to the President.”
“And now that there’s a new President, don’t you think it’s time somebody asked him? Where is he?”
“I don’t know, Mr. President.”
“You’re the DNI,” the President snapped. “Shouldn’t you know a little detail like that?”
“Mr. President, will you indulge me for a moment? I think it would be useful for you to know what happened vis-à-vis the Congo.”
“I think a lot of people would find it useful to know what happened vis-à-vis the Congo.”
“On Christmas Eve, Mr. President, there were several assassinations and attempted assassinations all over the world — ”
“By Major Castillo? On Christmas Eve? Unbelievable!”
“No, sir. Directed against people with a connection to Lieutenant Colonel — by then he had been promoted — Castillo. A newspaper reporter in Germany, for one. An Argentine gendarmería officer, for another. A Secret Service agent on the vice presidential detail — ”
“Which one?” the President again interrupted.
“His name is John M. Britton, if memory serves, Mr. President.”
“Black guy,” the former Vice President recalled. “Smart as hell. Funny, too. I liked him. I wondered what happened to him.”
“Well, sir, immediately after the attempt on his life, he was of course taken off your protection detail.”
“Sir, if someone was trying to kill Special Agent Britton and he was guarding you, standing beside you . . .”
The President stopped him with a gesture. He had the picture.
“What was Jack Britton’s connection to Castillo?”
“Britton was a Philadelphia Police Department detective, working undercover in the Counterterrorism Bureau, when Castillo was running down the Philadelphia connection to the stolen airliner. Castillo recruited him for OOA.”
“Then how did he wind up in the Secret Service on my protection detail?”
“I believe you know Supervisory Special Agent Tom McGuire, Mr. President?”
“He used to run the President’s protection detail? Yeah, sure I know Tom. Don’t tell me he has a connection with Castillo.”
“The President assigned McGuire to OOA to act as liaison between the Secret Service and Castillo. He was impressed with Britton, and when Britton was no longer needed by Castillo and couldn’t return to Philadelphia — his identity was now known to the terrorist community — McGuire recruited him for your protection detail.”
“Apparently, Special Agent Britton could not understand why an attempt on his life justified his being relieved from your protection detail and being assigned to a desk in Saint Louis. He said some inappropriate things to his supervisors. McGuire decided the best thing to do under the circumstances was send him back to OOA, and he did.”
“Why did they — and who is they? — try to kill Britton?”
“Castillo believed the assassinations and assassination attempts on all the people I mentioned were retaliatory actions ordered by Putin himself.”
“I find it hard to accept that Vladimir Putin would order assassinations any more than I would,” the President said. “But on the other hand, once we start murdering people, I think we would have to be very naïve or very stupid — how about ‘stupidly naïve’? — to think the other side would not retaliate.”
“Yes, sir. Well, Castillo was apparently delighted to have Britton back. He put him on an airplane and sent him and Mrs. Britton to Argentina to get them out of sight and then loaded some — most — of the others on his Gulfstream and flew to Europe.”
“On his Gulfstream? He had access to an Air Force Gulfstream? Jesus Christ!”
“Yes, sir. He had access to an Air Force Gulfstream — and he had a document signed by the President that ordered any government agency to give him whatever assets he asked for.”
The President shook his head in disbelief.
“But the Gulfstream on which he flew to Europe was a civilian aircraft, leased by OOA,” Montvale said. “He kept it at Baltimore/Washington.”
“Where did the money for that come from?”
“Mr. President, I wasn’t in the loop. I just know he had the airplane.”
The President exhaled audibly.
“And?” he asked.
“Well, according to Castillo, shortly after he arrived in Germany he was approached by two very senior SVR officers — ”
“What’s that?” the President interrupted.
“Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service,” Montvale explained. “The two officers were Colonel Dmitri Berezovsky, the SVR rezident in Berlin, and Lieutenant Colonel Svetlana Alekseeva, the SVR rezident in Copenhagen. They said they wanted to defect.”
Montvale paused, and then went on: “I have to go off at a tangent here, Mr. President. At this time, our CIA station chief in Vienna, Miss Eleanor Dillworth, a highly respected long-time Clandestine Service officer, and her staff had for some time, and at considerable effort and expense, been working on the defection of Lieutenant Colonel Alekseeva and Colonel Berezovsky. These arrangements had gone so far as the preparation of a safe house in Maryland to house them while they were being debriefed.”
“So why did they contact Castillo?”
“According to Castillo, they didn’t trust Miss Dillworth. Castillo said when they came to him, they offered to defect to him in exchange for two million dollars and immediate transportation to Argentina on his plane. This whole transaction apparently took place on a train headed for Vienna. So he made the deal.”
“Shouldn’t he have gone to the nearest CIA officer, either this Miss Dillworth or some other CIA officer? Was he authorized to make a deal like that?”
“No, sir, he wasn’t, and yes, sir, he should have immediately contacted either me or someone in the CIA.”
“Yes, sir, it is,” Montvale agreed. “When this came to my attention — Miss Dillworth reported to CIA Director Powell that the defection of Colonel Berezovsky and Lieutenant Colonel Alekseeva had blown up in her face and that she suspected the presence in Vienna of Castillo had something to do with it — ”
“She knew about Castillo? Who he was?”
“By then, Mr. President, the existence of the OOA and the identity of its chief, was not much of a secret within the intelligence community.”
President Clendennen nodded and motioned for Montvale to go on.
“DCI Powell reported the situation to me. I immediately realized that something had to be done.”
“So you went to the President?”
“At that stage, Mr. President, Colonel Castillo was the President’s fair-haired boy. I decided the best thing to do was go to General Naylor.”
“Naylor is a very good man,” the President said. “Please don’t tell me Naylor was involved with the OOA.”
“Only in the sense that Castillo was a serving Army officer, and that General Naylor had recommended Castillo to the secretary of Homeland Security. There was a legality involved, too, Mr. President. So far as the Army was concerned, Castillo was on temporary duty with the OOA from his regular assignment to the Special Operations Command. The Special Operations Command is under General Naylor’s Central Command.”
The President’s face showed that he could easily have done without the
“And?” he said impatiently.
“Well, General Naylor, on being apprised of the situation, agreed with me that the situation had to be brought under control.”
“By ‘the situation,’ you mean Castillo?”
“Yes, sir. And General Naylor and I were agreed that our first priority was to spare the President any embarrassment that Castillo’s actions might cause. And the second priority was to get the two Russians into the hands of the CIA.
“After some thought, it was decided that the best thing to do with Castillo —
and, incidentally, the best thing for Castillo personally — was to have him retired honorably from the service. A board of officers was quickly convened at Walter Reed. After an examination of his record, it was decided that he was suffering as a result of his extensive combat service — his chest is covered with medals for valor in action — with post-traumatic stress disorder that has rendered him permanently psychologically unfit for continued active service and therefore he should be medically retired. The board awarded him a disability pension of twenty-five percent of his base pay.
“General Naylor appointed an officer, a full colonel, to present Lieutenant Colonel Castillo with the findings of the board. Taking him with me, I went to Argentina in a Gulfstream with the intention of bringing Castillo home and to place the defected Russians into the hands of the CIA. I took with me two members of my protection detail to guard the Russians, and, frankly, in case Castillo proved obstreperous.”
“And did he prove to be ‘obstreperous’?”
“Oh, yes, Mr. President. ‘Obstreperous’ doesn’t half cover it. Our ambassador, Juan Manuel Silvio, told me that he hadn’t heard Castillo was in Argentina, and that he had heard nothing about Colonel Berezovsky or Lieutenant Colonel Alekseeva.
“The words were no sooner out of his mouth — we were having lunch in a restaurant around the corner from the embassy — when Castillo walked in.
“I asked him where the Russians were. He said at the moment he didn’t know, but if he did, he wouldn’t tell me, because they had changed their minds about defecting.
“Letting that ride for the moment, I explained his position to him, and the colonel handed him the document he was to sign which would see him retired.”
Montvale drained his coffee cup, put it beside the silver pot, then went on: “Castillo said, ‘I will sign that when the President tells me to. And only then.’
“I told him that that was not an option, and pointed to the Secret Service agents, who were sitting at a nearby table. I informed him that I was prepared to arrest him, and hoped that wouldn’t be necessary.
“He pointed to some men sitting at a table across the restaurant and said they were officers of the Gendarmería Nacional. He added that, at his signal, they would approach anyone coming near him, and demand their identification. They would not permit his arrest, he announced, and if the people approaching him happened to be armed, Ambassador Silvio would have to start thinking about how to get them out of jail, since the Secret Service has no authority in Argentina and is not permitted to go about armed.
“Castillo then said a restaurant was no place to discuss highly classified matters, and suggested we move to the embassy — presuming Ambassador Silvio would give his word that he would not be detained in the embassy.”
“And what did the ambassador do?”
“He offered us the use of his office, and gave Castillo his word that he would not be detained if he entered the embassy. So we went to the embassy, where Castillo almost immediately told us what the Russians had told him about a chemical warfare laboratory-slash-factory in the Congo. And that he and everybody in OOA believed the Russians.
“I told him that the CIA had investigated those rumors and found them baseless. He then said, ‘Well, the CIA is wrong again.’
“We then called DCI Powell at Langley, and raised the question to him about a germ warfare laboratory-slash-factory in the Congo. DCI Powell repeated what I had told Castillo. The rumors were baseless, what was there was a fish farm.
“To which Castillo replied that the CIA was wrong again, and that there was obviously no point in continuing the conversation.
“I gave him one more chance to turn the Russians over to me and to get on the Gulfstream. When he laughed at me, I turned to the ambassador and said that it was obvious Colonel Castillo was mentally unstable, and therefore, the ambassador could not be held to his word that Castillo could leave the embassy.
“The ambassador replied that the last orders he had had from the President vis-à-vis Colonel Castillo were that he was to provide whatever assistance Colonel Castillo asked for, and he didn’t think that meant taking Castillo into custody.
“The ambassador then pushed the secure telephone to me, and said, words to this effect, that I was welcome to call the President to see if he could be persuaded to change his orders, but that if I made the call he would insist on telling the President that he could detect no sign of mental instability in Castillo — quite the opposite — and that in his personal opinion, I and the CIA were trying to throw Castillo under the bus because they had somehow botched the defection of the Russians and were trying to make Castillo the fall guy for their own incompetence.”
“My God!” the President said.
“As I could think of nothing else to say,” Montvale said, “I then returned to Washington.”
“Let’s call a spade a spade, Charles,” the President said. “ ‘As I could think of nothing else to say, and I didn’t want the President to know I had gone behind his back, at least until I had time to come up with a credible reason, I then returned to Washington.’ ”
Montvale flushed, and realizing he had flushed, was furious, which made him flush even more deeply.
“The CIA does have a certain reputation for throwing people under the bus, doesn’t it, Charles? Especially those people who have embarrassed it?”
Montvale decided to wait until he was sure he had his emotions under control before going on.
“Silvio was right, Charles, and you were wrong,” the President said. “The President gave him an order, and he was obeying it. Disobeying it, getting around it, would have been damned near treason. And you were wrong to ask him.”
“Mr. President, I was trying to protect the President,” Montvale said.
“What you should have done was go to the President,” Clendennen said. “It’s as simple as that. You’re the director of National Intelligence, Charles, not Benjamin Disraeli!”
“I realize now that I was wrong, Mr. President,” Montvale said.
The President made another impatient gesture for Montvale to continue.
“The next time I saw Castillo,” Montvale said, “was in Philadelphia. The President was giving a speech. I didn’t know Castillo was coming. The last word I’d had on him was that he was in Las Vegas.”
“In Las Vegas? Doing what?”
“I have no idea, Mr. President. I’m not even sure he was in Las Vegas. Anyway, Castillo showed up at the Four Seasons Hotel. The President gave him the opportunity to explain his incredible chemical warfare factory scenario. The President obviously didn’t believe it anymore than anyone else did, but Castillo still had enough remaining clout with him for the President to turn to DCI Powell and direct him to send somebody to the Congo.
“Castillo said, ‘I’ve already got some people in the Congo, Mr. President.’
“The President said, ‘Jesus Christ! Who?’
“And Castillo told him Colonel J. Porter Hamilton, and the President asked ‘Who the hell is Colonel Hamilton?’ and Powell, who was really surprised, blurted that Colonel Hamilton of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute at Fort Detrick was the CIA’s — for that matter, the nation’s — preeminent expert on biological and chemical warfare.”
“Are you telling me that Castillo, on his own authority — or no authority — actually sent an expert on biological warfare into the Congo?”
“Yes, sir, and not only that, he put him on the phone — actually a secure radio-telephone link — with the President right there in the Four Seasons.”
“How the hell did he manage to do that?”
Montvale said: “I really have no idea, sir.”
Montvale thought: But I’ll bet my last dime that Lieutenant General Bruce J. McNab of the Special Operations Command was in that operation up to that ridiculous mustache of his.
Still, I’m not positive, and certainly can’t prove it, so I’m not going to tell you. I have been painfully cut off at the knees already today by you, Clendennen, and once a day is more than enough.
“And what did this expert say?”
“The phrase he used to describe what he found in the Congo, Mr. President, was ‘an abomination before God.’ He said that if it got out of control, it would be perhaps a thousand times more of a disaster than was Chernobyl, and urged the President to destroy the entire complex as soon as he could.”
President Clendennen didn’t reply.
“The mission was launched almost immediately, Mr. President, as you know.”
“And we were at the brink of a nuclear exchange,” President Clendennen said pointedly.
“That didn’t happen, sir.”
“I noticed,” the President said, thickly sarcastic. “So, what happened to Castillo for rubbing the nose of the CIA in chemical-biological waste?”
“Right after the President ordered the secretary of Defense to immediately have an operation laid on to take out the Fish Farm, he told Castillo that OOA was dead, had never existed, and that what Castillo was to do was make himself scarce until his retirement parade, and after that to disappear from the face of the earth.”
“Castillo and the military personnel who had been assigned to OOA were retired at Fort Rucker, Alabama, with appropriate panoply on January thirty-first. There was a parade. Everyone was decorated. Castillo and a Delta Force warrant officer named Leverette, who took Colonel Hamilton into the Congo and then got him out, got their third Distinguished Service Medals.
“And then in compliance with their orders, they got into the Gulfstream and disappeared from the face of the earth.”
“You mean you don’t know where any of these people are? You don’t even know where Castillo is?”
“I know they went from Fort Rucker to Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, and from there to Cancún.”
“And from Cancún?”
“I simply do not know, Mr. President.”
“Find out. The next time I ask, be prepared to answer.”
“Yes, Mr. President.”
“And where are the Russians?”
“I don’t know, Mr. President. I do know that the President told the DCI that the attempt to cause them to defect was to be called off, and that he was not even to look for them.”
“Why the hell did he do that?”
“I would suggest, Mr. President, that it was because the information they provided about the Congo was true.”
The President considered that, snorted, and then said, “Well, Charles, that seems to be it, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, sir, it would seem so.”
“Thank you for coming to see me. We’ll be in touch.”
[ THREE ]
Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th Street, N.W.
1530 2 February 2007
No one is ever really surprised when a first or second tier member of the Washington press corps walks into the Old Ebbitt looking for someone.
For one thing, the Old Ebbitt is just about equidistant between the White House — a block away at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. — and the National Press Club — a block away at 529 14th Street, N.W. It’s right down the street from the Hotel Washington, and maybe a three minute walk from the Willard Hotel, whose lobby added the term “lobbyist” to the political/journalistic lexicon.
Furthermore, the Old Ebbitt’s service, menu, ambiance, and stock of intoxicants was superb. The one thing on which all observers of the press corps agreed was that nothing appeals more to the gentlemen and ladies of the Fourth Estate than, say, a shrimp cocktail and a nice New York strip steak, plus a stiff drink, served promptly onto a table covered with crisp linen in a charming environment.
This is especially true if the journalist can reasonably expect that someone else — one of those trolling for a favorable relationship with the press lobbyists from the Willard, for example — would happily reach for the check.
Roscoe J. Danton — a tall, starting to get a little plump, thirty-eight-year-old
who was employed by The Washington Times-Post — was, depending on to whom one might talk, either near the bottom of the list of first-tier journalists, or at the very top of the second tier.
Roscoe walked into the Old Ebbitt, nodded at the ever affable Tony the Maître d’ at his stand, and walked on to the bar along the wall behind Tony. He continued slowly down it — toward the rear — and had gone perhaps halfway when he spotted the people he had agreed to meet.
They were two women, and they were sitting at a banquette. The one he had talked to said that he would have no trouble spotting them: “Look for two thirtyish blondes at one of the banquettes at the end of the bar.”
The description, Roscoe decided, was not entirely accurate. While both were bleached blonde, one of them was far closer to fiftyish than thirtyish, and the younger one was on the cusp of fortyish.
But there being no other banquette holding two blondes, Roscoe walked
to their table.
Roscoe began, “Excuse me — ”
“Sit down, Mr. Danton,” the older of the two immediately said.
The younger one patted the red leather next to her.
Roscoe Danton sat down.
“Whatever this is, I don’t have much time,” he announced. “There’s a press conference at four-fifteen.”
“This won’t take long,” the older one said. “And I really think it will be worth your time.”
A waiter appeared.
The older woman signaled the waiter to bring what she and her companion were drinking, and then asked, “Mr. Danton?”
“What is that you’re having?”
“A Bombay martini, no vegetables,” she said.
“That should give me courage to face the mob,” he said, smiled at the waiter, and told him, “The same for me, please.”
The older woman waited until the waiter had left and then reached to the fluffy lace collar at her neck. She unbuttoned two buttons, put her hand inside and withdrew a plastic card. It was attached with an alligator clip to what looked like a dog-tag chain. She pressed the clip, removed the card, more or less concealed it in her hand and laid it flat on the tablecloth.
“Make sure the waiter doesn’t see that, please,” she said as she withdrew her hand.
Danton held his hand to at least partially conceal the card and took a good look at it.
The card bore the woman’s photograph, the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency, a number, some stripes of various colors and her name, Eleanor Dillworth.
It clearly was an employee identification card. Danton had enough experience at the CIA complex just across the Potomac River in Langley, Virginia, to know that while it was not one of the very coveted Any Area/Any Time cards worn by very senior CIA officers with as much élan as a four-star general wears his stars in the Pentagon, this one identified someone fairly high up in the hierarchy.
He met Miss Dillworth’s eyes, and slid the card back across the table.
The younger blonde took a nearly identical card from her purse and laid it before Danton. It said her name was Patricia Davies Wilson.
“I told them I had lost that when I was fired,” Mrs. Wilson said. “And kept it as a souvenir.”
Danton met her eyes, too, but said nothing.
She took the card back, and put it in her purse.
“What’s this all about?” he finally asked when his silence didn’t elicit the response it was supposed to.
Miss Dillworth held up her finger as a signal to wait.
The waiter delivered three Bombay Sapphire gin martinis, no vegetables.
“That was quick, wasn’t it?” Eleanor Dillworth asked.
“That’s why I like to come here,” Patricia Davies Wilson said.
The three took an appreciative sip of their cocktails.
“I was asking, ‘What’s this all about?’ ” Danton said.
“Disgruntled employees, Mr. Danton,” Patricia Davies Wilson said.
“Who, as you know, sometimes become whistleblowers,” Eleanor Dillworth said, and then asked, “Interested?”
“That would depend on what, or on whom, you’re thinking of blowing the whistle,” Danton replied.
“I was about to say the agency,” Patricia Davies Wilson said. “But it goes beyond the agency.”
“Where does it go beyond the agency?” Danton asked.
“Among other places, to the Oval Office.”
“In that case, I’m fascinated,” Danton said. “What have you got?”
“Have you ever heard of an intelligence officer-slash-special operator by the name of Carlos Castillo?” Eleanor Dillworth asked.
Danton shook his head.
“How about the Office of Organizational Analysis?”
He shook his head, and then asked, “In the CIA?”
Dillworth shook her head. “In the office of our late and not especially grieved-for President,” she said.
“And apparently to be kept alive in the administration of our new and not-too-bright chief executive. But that’s presuming Montvale has told him.”
“What does this organization do? What has it done in the past?”
“If we told you, Mr. Danton, I don’t think you would believe us,” Eleanor Dillworth said.
Danton sipped his martini, and thought: Probably not.
Disgruntled employee whistleblowers almost invariably tell wild tales with little or no basis in fact.
He said: “I don’t think I understand.”
“You’re going to have to learn this yourself,” Patricia Wilson said. “We’ll point you in the right direction, but you’ll have to do the digging. That way you’ll believe it.”
“How do I know you know what you’re talking about?” Danton challenged.
“Before I was recalled, I was the CIA’s station chief in Vienna,” Dillworth said. “I’ve been in — was in — the Clandestine Service for twenty-three years.”
“Before that bastard got me fired,” Patricia Wilson added, “I was the agency’s regional director for Southwest Africa, everything from Nigeria to South Africa, including the Congo. You will recall the Congo is where World War Three was nearly started last month.”
“ ‘That bastard’ is presumably this Mr. Costillo?”
“ ‘Castillo,’ with an ‘a,’ ” she said. “And lieutenant colonel, not mister. He’s
in the Army.”
“Okay,” Danton said, “point me.”
“You said you were going to the four-fifteen White House press conference,” Dillworth said. “Ask Porky. Don’t take no for an answer.”
John David “Jack” Parker, the White House spokesman, was sometimes unkindly referred to — the forty-two-year-old Vermont native was a little the far side of pleasingly plump — as Porky Parker. And sometimes, when his responses to questions tested the limits of credulity, some members of the Fourth Estate had been known to make oink, oink sounds from the back of the White House press room.
“Okay, I’ll do it. How do I get in touch with you if I decide this goes any further?”
Eleanor Dillworth slid a small sheet of notebook paper across the table.
“If there’s no answer, say you’re Joe Smith and leave a number.”
[ FOUR ]
The Press Room
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
1715 2 February 2007
“Well, that’s it, fellows,” Jack Parker said. “We agreed that these would last one hour, and that’s what the clock says.”
Ignoring muted oink-oink sounds from the back of the room, he left the podium and headed for the door, where he was intercepted by Roscoe J. Danton of The Washington Times-Post.
“Aw, come on, Roscoe, this one-hour business was as much your idea as anybody else’s.”
“Well, screw you,” Danton said, loud enough for other members of the Fourth Estate also bent on intercepting Porky to hear, and at the same time asking with a pointed finger and a raised eyebrow if he could go to Parker’s office as soon as the area emptied.
Parker nodded, just barely perceptibly.
Danton went out onto the driveway and smoked a cigarette. Smoking was prohibited in the White House, the rule strictly enforced when anyone was watching. And then he went back into the White House.
“What do you need, Roscoe?” Parker asked.
“Tell me about the Office of Organizational Analysis and Colonel Carlos Costello. Castillo.”
Parker thought, shrugged, and said, “I draw a blank.”
“Can you check?”
“Sure. In connection with what?”
“I have some almost certainly unreliable information that he and the Office of Organizational Analysis were involved in almost starting World War Three.”
“One hears a lot of rumors like that about all kinds of people, doesn’t one?” Parker said mockingly. “There was one going around that the Lambda Legal Foundation were the ones behind it; somebody told them they stone gays in the Congo.”
“Shame on you!” Danton said. “Check it for me, will you?”
[ FIVE ]
The City Room
The Washington Times-Post
1365 15th Street, N.W.
2225 2 February 2007
Roscoe Danton’s office was a small and cluttered glass-walled cubicle off the large room housing the “city desk.” Two small exterior windows offered a clear view of a solid brick wall. He had wondered for years what was behind it.
His e-mail had just offered him Viagra at a discount and a guaranteed penis enlargement concoction. He was wondering whether he could get away with sending either or both offers to the executive editor without getting caught, when another e-mail arrived.
The message gave Danton a number of things to think about. He would not have been surprised to receive a one-liner — “Sorry. Nothing. Jack.” — and this one meant that Porky had spent a lot of time, of which he understandably had little, coming up with this answer.
FROM: White House Press Office <email@example.com>
TO: Roscoe J. Danton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
SENT: 2 Feb 19:34:13 2007
After you left, I had a memory tinkle about Costello/Castillo and the Office of Organizational Analysis, so I really tried — with almost no success — to check it out.
I found a phone number for an OOA in the Department of Homeland Security with an office in the DHS Compound in the Nebraska Avenue complex. When I called it, I got a recorded message saying that it had been closed. So I called DHS and they told me OOA had been closed, they didn’t know when. When I asked what it had done, they helpfully told me my guess was as good as theirs, but it probably had something to do with analyzing operations.
At this point, I suspected that you had been down this route yourself before you dumped it on me. So I called the Pentagon. You would be astonished at the number of lieutenant colonels named Castillo and Costello there are/were in the Army. There is a retired Lt Col Carlos Castillo, and he’s interesting, but I don’t think he’s the man you’re looking for. This one is a West Pointer to which institution he gained entrance because his father, a nineteen-year-old warrant officer helicopter pilot, posthumously received the Medal of Honor in Vietnam.
The son followed in his father’s footsteps, and before he had been out of WP a year had won the Distinguished Flying Cross flying an Apache in the First Desert War. He went from that to flying in the Special Operations Aviation Regiment, most recently in Afghanistan. He returned from there under interesting circumstances. First, he had acquired more medals for valor than Rambo, but was also a little over the edge.
Specifically, it was alleged that he either had taken against orders, or stolen, a Black Hawk to undertake a nearly suicidal mission to rescue a pal of his who had been shot down. Nearly suicidal, because he got away with it.
Faced with the choice of giving him another medal or court-martialing him, the Army instead sent him home for psychiatric evaluation. The shrinks at Walter Reed determined that as a result of all his combat service, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder to the point where he would never be psychologically stable enough to return to active service. They medically retired him. His retirement checks are sent to Double-Bar-C Ranch, Midland, Texas.
I suggest this guy was unlikely to have tried to start World War III from the psychiatric ward at Walter Reed.
Sorry, Roscoe, this was the best I could do.
If you get to the bottom on this, please let me know. My curiosity is now aroused.
Possibility One: His curiosity had been piqued and there had been time to
do what he said he had done.
Possible but unlikely.
Possibility Two: This was a carefully thought-out ploy to get me off the track of a story which might, if it came out, embarrass the President, the White House, the department of State, or the Pentagon. Or all of the above.
Possible but unlikely.
There was a hell of a risk, as Porky damned well knew, in intentionally misleading (a) The Washington Times-Post and/or (b) Roscoe Danton personally. A short “Sorry. Nothing. Jack.” e-mail maybe. But not a long message like this one. Including all the details of this Castillo character’s military service.
So what do I do?
No. I smell something here.
The thing to do is find this Castillo character and talk to him; see if he has any idea why Meryl Streep and the other disgruntled whistleblower, whose thigh “accidentally” pressed against mine twice in the Old Ebbitt, are saying all these terrible
things about him.
But only after I talk to Good Ol’ Meryl and her pal, to see what else I can get out of them.
He tapped keys on his laptop, opened a new folder, named it “Castillo” and downloaded Porky’s e-mail into it. Then he found the piece of paper on which Good Ol’ Meryl had given him her phone number. He put this into the “Castillo” folder and entered it into his BlackBerry.
Then he pushed the CALL key.
[ ONE ]
La Casa en el Bosque
San Carlos de Bariloche
Río Negro Province, Argentina
1300 3 February 2007
“I believe in a democratic approach when having a meeting like this,” Lieutenant Colonel Carlos G. Castillo, USA (Retired) announced. “And the way that will work is that I will tell you what’s going to happen, and then everybody says ‘yes, sir.’ ”
It was summer in Argentina, and Castillo — a well-muscled, six-feet-two, a hundred-ninety-pound blue-eyed thirty-six-year-old with a full head of thick light brown hair — was wearing tennis whites.
There were groans from some of those gathered around an enormous circular table in the center of a huge hall. It could have been a movie set for a motion picture about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. When this thought had occurred to Sandra Britton, Ph.D., Dr. Britton had thought Castillo could play Sir Lancelot.
Two people, one of each gender, gave Castillo the finger.
“We told quote unquote those people in Las Vegas that we would give them an answer in three weeks,” Castillo said. “Three weeks is tomorrow.”
“Go ahead, Ace. Let’s get it over with,” Edgar Delchamps said.
He was a nondescript man in his late fifties. The oldest man in the room, he was wearing slacks with the cuffs rolled up and a dress shirt with the collar open.
“I would like to suggest that we appoint a chairman for this, and a secretary, and I recommend Mr. Yung for that,” Castillo said.
“Cut the crap, Ace,” Delchamps said. “Everyone knows you’re calling the shots, but if you’re going to make Two-Gun something, I more or less respectfully suggest you make him secretary-treasurer.”
Men who have spent more than three decades in the Clandestine Service of the Central Intelligence Agency tend not to be impressed with Army officers who had yet to make it even to West Point while they themselves were matching wits with the KGB in Berlin and Vienna.
“Two-Gun, you’re the secretary-treasurer,” Castillo said to David William Yung, Jr.
Yung was a round-faced, five-foot-eight, thirty-six-year-old, hundred-fifty-pound
Chinese-American whose family had immigrated to the United States in the 1840s. In addition to a law degree, he held a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania, and was fluent in four languages, none of them Asian.
Before he had become a member of the OOA, he had been an FBI agent with a nearly legendary reputation for being able to trace the path of money around the world no matter how often it had been laundered.
Before his association with OOA, Yung had never — except at the Quantico
FBI base pistol range — taken his service pistol from its holster. Within days of being drafted into the OOA, he had been in a gun battle and killed his first man.
But the “Two-Gun” appellation had nothing to do with that. That had come after Delchamps, who was not authorized at the time to be in possession of a firearm in Argentina, had Yung, whose diplomatic status at the time made him immune to Argentine law, smuggle his pistol across the border. Yung thus had two guns and was thereafter Two-Gun.
Two-Gun Yung signified his acceptance of his appointment by raising his
balled fist thumb up, and then opening up his laptop computer.
“First things first, Mr. Secretary-Treasurer,” Castillo said. “Give us a thumbnail picture of the assets of the Lorimer Charitable and Benevolent Fund.”
Two-Gun looked at his computer screen.
“This is all ballpark, you understand,” he said. “You want the history?”
“Please,” Castillo said.
“We started out with those sixteen million in bearer bonds from Shangrila,”
Shangri-La was not the mythical kingdom but rather Estancia Shangri-La, in Tacuarembó Province, República Oriental del Uruguay. When Castillo had led an ad hoc team of special operators there to entice Dr. Jean-Paul Lorimer to allow himself to be repatriated, Lorimer was shot to death by mercenaries seeking to recover from him money he had stolen from the Iraqi oil-for-food scam, for which he had been the “bagman” in charge of paying off whomever had to be paid off.
His safe had contained sixteen million dollars’ worth of what were in effect bearer bonds, which Castillo had taken with him to the U.S. When this was reported to the then-President of the United States, the chief executive managed to convey the impression — without coming right out in so many words — that justice would be well served if the bearer bonds were used to fund the OOA.
The following day, the Lorimer Charitable & Benevolent Fund came into
“Into which Charley dipped to the tune of seven-and-half million to buy the Gulfstream,” Yung went on. “Call that eight million by the time we fixed everything, and rented the hangar at Baltimore/Washington. Et cetera.
“That left eight, into which Charley dipped for another two point five million to buy the safe house in Alexandria. That left five point five million.”
The house in Alexandria was used to house members of the Office of Organizational Analysis while they were in the Washington area, and also to conduct business of a nature that might have raised eyebrows had it been conducted in the OOA’s official offices in the Department of Homeland Security compound in the Nebraska Avenue complex in the District of Columbia.
“To which,” Two-Gun went on, “Mr. Philip J. Kenyon the Third of Midland, Texas, contributed forty-six point two million in exchange for his Stay Out of Jail card.”
Mr. Kenyon had mistakenly believed his $46,255,000 illicit profits from his participation in the Iraqi oil-for-food scam were safe from prying eyes in a bank in the Cayman Islands. He erred.
The deal he struck to keep himself out of federal prison for the rest of his natural life was to cooperate fully with the investigation, and to transfer the money from his bank account in the Cayman Islands to the account of the Lorimer Charitable & Benevolent Fund in the Riggs National Bank in Washington, D.C.
“There have been some other expenses, roughly totaling two million,” Yung continued. “What we have left is about fifty point five million, give or take a couple of hundred thousand.”
“That don’t add up, Two-Gun,” Edgar Delchamps challenged. “There shouldn’t be that much; according to your figures, we’ve got two point something million more than we should have.”
“There has been some income from our investments,” Two-Gun said. “You didn’t think I was going to leave all that money in our bank — our banks plural; there are seven—just drawing interest, did you?”
“Do we want to start counting nickels and dimes?” Colonel Castillo asked.
“Or can we get to that later?”
“ ‘Nickels and dimes’ ?” Sandra Britton, a slim, tall, sharp-featured blackskinned woman, parroted incredulously. “We really are the other side of Alice’s Looking Glass, aren’t we?”
Possibly proving that opposites attract, Dr. Britton, who had been a philologist on the faculty of Philadelphia’s Temple University, was married to John M. Britton, formerly of the United States Secret Service and before that a detective working undercover in the Counterterrorism Bureau of the Philadelphia Police Department.
“I was going to suggest, Sandra,” Charley Castillo said, “that we now turn to the question before us. Questions before us. One, do we just split all that money between us and go home — ”
“How the hell can Jack and I go home?” Sandra interrupted. “Not only can I not face my peers at Temple after they learned that I was hauled off by the Secret Service — with sirens screaming — but that the AALs had turned our little house by the side of the road into the O.K. Corral?”
Dr. Britton was making reference to an assassination attempt made on her and her husband during which their home and nearly new Mazda convertible were riddled by fire from Kalashnikov automatic assault weapons in the hands of native-born African-Americans who considered themselves converts to Islam and to whom Dr. Britton referred, perhaps politically incorrectly, as AALs, which stood for African-American Lunatics.
“If I may continue, Doctor?” Colonel Castillo asked.
Dr. Britton made a gesture with her left hand, raising it balled with the
center finger extended vertically.
“I rephrase,” Castillo said. “Do we just split that money between us and go
our separate ways? Or, do we stay together within what used to be the OOA and
would now need a new name?”
“Call the question,” Anthony “Tony” J. Santini said formally.
Santini, a somewhat swarthy, balding, short, heavy-set man in his forties, until recently had been listed in the telephone book of the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires as an assistant financial attaché. He had been, in fact, a Secret Service agent dispatched to Buenos Aires to, as he put it, “look for funny money.” Before that, he had been a member of the vice presidential protection detail. He had been relieved of that assignment when he fell off the ice-covered running board of the vice presidential limousine. He had been recruited for the OOA shortly after it had been established, to “locate and eliminate” the parties responsible for the murder of J. Winslow Masterson.
“Second the motion,” Susanna Sieno said.
She was a trim, pale-freckled-skin redhead in a white blouse and blue jeans. She looked like she and the man sitting beside her — her husband, Paul — should be in a television commercial, where the handsome young husband comes home from the office and chastely kisses his charming young bride after she shows how easy it had been for her to polish their kitchen floor with Miracle Glow.
Actually, between the Sienos, they had more than four decades of service in the Clandestine Service of the CIA — Paul having served twenty-two years and Susanna just over twenty — which had been more than enough for the both of them to have elected to retire, which they had done ten days before.
“The motion having been made and seconded,” Castillo said mock-formally, “the chair calls the question: ‘Do we disband and split the money?’ All in favor raise your hand and hold it up until Two-Gun counts.”
“Okay,” Castillo said a moment later, “now those opposed, raise your hands.”
Yung again looked around the table . . .
From THE OUTLAWS — Book
VI in the best-selling THE PRESIDENTIAL AGENT series.
Published 29 December 2010.
Order copies here.
©2010 W.E.B. GRIFFIN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.