“An Accidental Spy”

Chapter 6

Credentials: You Talking To Me?

Well, you ask: “What are your credentials?” “Who are you to be buzzing The Intelligence Community?” Are you ex-Admiral Jim Woolsey, former CIA DoI and lately Israeli lobbyist? Aldrich Ames? Bob Baer, ex-CIA exposer of near-secrets?

Who then?

Sorry. I’m a nobody. My federal Form 171 runs 7 pages of solid rhythm, but no Navy Seals, no Green Berets, no DSC or CMoH, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, who’s on several “Baddie’s Lists of Bad Boys”, or in their “Who’s Who in the World of Espionage”. (For my FS-171, DD-214 and other info ask Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor.)

I was only an aircraft radio repairman from the P-51 Mustang era, so I am only fit as a “stringer”, like a freelance journalist who is paid for each piece of published or broadcast work, rather than receiving a regular salary—a/k/a/ “a contractor”.

[I was also a visiting instructor in the engineering graduate school of a major university, had skills from A to Z, and wajid public and private client foreign and domestic experience, but that didn’t count——no old school tie—–and I hated puffing my tobacco pipe!]

But there’s some music in that madness. If you think about it, “credentials” are the whole problem in this business: One recipe, few deviations. Easy to detect.  “Ivan my tovarich, pass me your Yale Yearbook for 1998, or 2004, or ….”

I am listed in “Nobody’s Encyclopedia of Nobodys”. Anonymous. Colorless. Featureless. Unknown.

In my case, no mole double/ triple/ foreign agent working as a GS-5 Intel or Pers clerk in Washing-Dick could do a midnight lookup on me (or other Anons] for their real employer(s)—whomever and wherever—and you would be surprised (maybe) that the multi-billion dollar grants you tax pay, go to “friendly nations” spying on us for their own political and financial advantage.

I was the creature of an anonymous old guy [Jim] who had reasoned that intelligent, technically skilled, stable people like me—also anonymous but without the Ivy League or West Point-do-or-die-pedigree—were your best intelligencers (*).  Apparently, [Jim] had been frequently trampled by the pipe-puffers and the old school tie flashers in The Intelligence Community who feared his radical vision.

And that’s a shame, because the effective snoops I knew were mostly ordinary people whose value was that they were endowed with extraordinary skills: Quick wit, tenacity, coolness and that rare ability to calmly focus on the mission when the large shit has already hit the fan. Conversely, the few flashy, easily identifiable James Bond types I knew about seemed to quietly disappear, their usefulness quickly drained.

I hope somehow [Jim] got some credit beyond personal satisfaction for his wisdom, because it worked.

SIDEBAR (*): Mind you, I am a mongrel, not an anointed Ivy League old school tie with pedigree.

My Da’ taught me how to shoot. He’d put the Mossberg bolt action .22 in a cardboard box to distract the curious and we would walk from our house on Mulberry Street to an industrial canal in an undeveloped area.

We’d shoot shorts, because they were quiet. Shoot rats. Shoot tin cans. Shoot anything floating in the slop. Slow. Careful. Accurate. Know your target. See your target. Shoot your target before it shoots you.

Iron sights; none of that telescope crap. If you don’t have the balls to shoot close up, go play with the girls.

Da’ and I drew a crowd one time at a shooting gallery on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. Knocked over everything that moved. The crowd buzzed.

I love the .22. One .22 Stinger into a hostile eye socket or an ear canal and you can tell Dirty Harry to stick his .44 Magnum up his ass–it’s way too heavy and way too noisy— sounds like a hand grenade going off. It will bring smoke down on you.

With the right caps, the .22 just goes ‘pop’ ‘pop’. Quiet.

One summer vacation from high school, I worked as a powder monkey (apprentice explosives loader) on a road construction job. Loved it. BoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoom. Almost quit school to do it full time. (Didn’t, but did learn to shoot a coffee can submerged in dirt about 100 feet skyward with only a 1/4 stick of 60% dynamite and a blasting cap.]

In Sand City, I gradually became an amateur cryptographer on the IBM mainframe late at night, with instruction books for help.

Taught myself how to pick locks. Burglarizing file cabinets, document theft, illicit photography, official lying, unofficial cheating, conscienceless sneak thieving and rampant bamboozling were On-The-Job acquired skills.

 Cholly Bogus & The Smiling Alligators;

 [Ever See An Alligator Smile?]

Mr. Vincent Schiavelli, actor, who died in 2005, age 57.  Cholly Bogus strongly resembled the late Mr. Schiavelli…

When I got to [Miami] on the way to Sand City, I checked in early for my B747 flight to London on British Airway’s 001. The ticket agent told me I “had a message from my office to go to Gate 34 and wait”.

Huh? Office? OK. A long walk would help my leg cramps.

34 was deserted. I stood looking out the big window smoking a Marlboro when I saw the reflection of a young man appear very quickly behind me. I spun around just as the guy pulled at my sleeve. “C’mon, kid—let’s walk”. [“Kid”? I was 42?!]

He was tall and spindly inside his airline mechanic’s coveralls. His hair had been hit by a windstorm yesterday. He was not ugly, but he looked intimidating. His head was long and narrow, like it had been caught in a vise and squeezed from both sides. He had a permanently sad look on his face.

 “I’m Charley Bogus,” he said sticking out his hand after he unlocked an unmarked door. Except “Charley” came out “Cholly”, so Cholly it was. We galloped down some stairs, through another locked unmarked door into a head-high long tunnel with aircraft fuel supply pipes mounted on one wall and overhead.

“Don’t smoke in here kid. One spark and we’re flying to Cuba wit’ out the plane.” He carried an explosion-proof flashlight.

“Mr Bogus, I have a question,” I puffed, half—running. “Another recruiter called last week and asked questions that make me think I’m in a spook outfit.” Cholly turned slightly to face me and gave me an odd look. “You are, kid. You are. And don’t call me Mister, the name’s Cholly.” “You want out?” he says. “No” I replied.

We walked—ran a long time through that semi-dark tunnel without talking any more, until we came to a fixed metal ladder on the wall that went up to nowhere. We climbed. Cholly pushed a hatch open above and we were blinded by the sunlight and the prop-wash from an airplane sitting on the taxiway directly above us, engines running. What the hell?

Cholly grabbed my sleeve again and pointed me up a short ladder into the airplane.

I think it was a war-surplus B25. Didn’t see it good. No time to look. He motioned to the co-pilot who was watching us and the plane started to roll. He pushed me down onto a tiny ledge on a bulkhead. “Hang on tight, kid, there ain’t no seat belts back here!” We were on the left side of the bomb bay! God, the engine noise was incredible!!

 Gradually, my eyes became accustomed to the shifting shafts of sunlight in our darkened space. I could see several long black plastic bags wrapped with masking tape, in the racks where the bombs usually went.

We flew forever [I don’t know how long; I was using both hands to hang on and couldn’t see my watch], and then started to descend.

Suddenly, there was a loud screech of metal on metal and the-bomb-bay-doors-right-in-front-of-me-started-to-drop-open! Dear God, what’s happening? I just hope the wind doesn’t suck me into that hole!! Please!

The wind was howling and smashing me, and the plastic bags were flapping like insane sails, when I noticed an arm sticking out of the bag nearest me! It was a woman’s left arm; it had a gold wristwatch, gold rings and painted nails. And it was moving up and down, like it was waving at me.

I wanted to reach out to grasp the hand. I don’t know why, maybe to comfort the creature attached. But I knew if I did Cholly would tumble me down into that noisy hole. So I looked away.  [I told myself that it was the terrible wind force moving the arm, but that I will never know.]

Looking down, there was a blur of palm trees and grass that seemed to want to come up into the plane. Suddenly there was a series of loud clicks and the bags began to drop by ones and twos. The bags were all gone in a few seconds. With another screech of metal on metal,  the bomb bay doors began to close while the engines roared like an insane windstorm.  We circled once, then climbed.

We flew back to [Miami] without talking and exited over our hatch to the tunnel. (I was proud that I didn’t ever vomit. Actually, I was more glad than proud; because my jaws were so clenched the stuff would have come out my ears!).

Cholly said it all as we walked back through the tunnel: “We don’t have time to bury our discards and the regular funeral route would be impossible—way too risky. Besides, those [Everglades] alligators gather by the dozens to wait for feeding time!”

 “The pilots say they’ve actually seen some alligators smile!”

 Dear God in Heaven, what have I gotten myself into?


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