Chapter One – Plain View

            Beginnings —                                          

 

 

            “He was killed by a hit and run jogger.”

            “What?!”

            “That’s not really funny you know,” said the third man at the table.

            “Yeah, but damn it you just can’t get morose.  As far as we can tell, Colonel Johnson was waiting for a cab at 21st and Pennsylvania when a man in a jogging suit bumped into him.  After the two collided, witnesses saw the jogger run off and Colonel Johnson fall to the ground in a heap.  He lapsed into a comma and never recovered.”

            “What happened to the jogger?”

            “In the confusion, he got away.”

            “Didn’t anyone give chase?”

            “No, happened too quickly.  Every there rushed to help Johnson.”

            “Was there an autopsy?”

            “Yes.”

“And?”

            “The toxic scan revealed a large amount of curare mixed with a neurotoxin of unknown chemistry in Johnson’s tissue samples.”

            “Were there any physical signs?”

            “Nothing except for a puncture wound, like a large hypodermic needle, with skin discoloration around it.  You know, like a botched up injection.”

            “Sounds like the Bulgarian attack on one of its exiled diplomats in London in the Sixties,” commented Mike Liu, who was sitting at the table in the coffee shop of the Four Seasons Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, near 29th Street on the fringes of Georgetown.

            “Yeah, that’s right,” replied Tom Jamieson, shifting ever so subtlety as he casually glanced about the small coffee shop.

            The third man at the small table who had been listening to the tale of Colonel Johnson’s demise was George Smith, the security chief for CSAC, an interagency group whose existence was a closely held secret of the United States.  Both Mike Liu and Tom Jamieson were Level One Agents of CSAC.  They had been called to this breakfast meeting by George Smith on orders from the Old Man, himself.

            Smith was dressed in a dark blue suit, black wingtip shoes, starched white shirt, and striped necktie.  His dark brown hair was closely cut and neatly combed in place.  The familiar scent of a popular aftershave hung over George Smith.  Smith’s eyeglasses were constructed of heavy black plastic, some say as a political statement harkening back to the presidential campaign of 1964.  Secretly, George wore these glasses in an attempt to copy the look of singer Roy Orbison, whom George greatly admired.

            Mike, in Washington to attend a conference on Independent Energy Producers, was a Managing Director of Franklin Smedley & Associates, a major investment bank in New York City.  He was the partner in charge of the investment firm’s project finance practice.  Because Mike’s practice was international he had to travel extensively around the world working on various project financing assignments, which served as an excellent cover for his long time clandestine relationship with CSAC.  As a Level One Agent, Mike could be called at any time by the Old Man to serve in the defense of his country.  In the past, these assignments have ranged from domestic matters to international matters of state.

            Mike was dressed in his customary dark gray pinstriped suit, brilliantly shined plain toed black shoes, a white buttoned down cotton broadloom shirt, and red and blue necktie.  His graying hair was combed severely back on his head.  Mike’s tanned countenance was the product of both heritage and hours spent fishing, his one secret vice.  Mike did not carry a scent, having decided some years ago to put his lime cologne in his closet where it was promptly forgotten.  Mike had been a member of CSAC since his days as a junior naval officer serving under Robert McHugh.  Admiral McHugh was now the Chief of Operations at the super secret agency.

            McHugh kept his Chinese-American protégé as a Level One Agent even after Mike finished his active service tour in the early Seventies to go work in private industry.  Mike remained a reserve officer in the United States Navy and now held the rank of commander.  However, his occasional duties for CSAC did not normally require activation.  For example, during the tense three week period five years ago in the Red Army affair, Mike was called to investigate and cauterize leaks in a secret government laboratory even though he was ostensibly there on a privatization study.  His duty was discharged with, as they say, “extreme prejudice.”  The leaks went away, far away, even as Mike concluded that the privatization did not make sense for his investment group.

Mike didn’t know nor did he care to know exactly what being a Level One Agent for CSAC entailed.  He just knew that he was accountable to no one except the Old Man.  That was enough for him.  Whenever the Old Man had an assignment for Mike, the beautiful and willowy Margaret Marston was always there with his orders and his .38 caliber seven shot Walther PP.  The automatic pistol had been Mike’s to use for the last twenty five years.  Despite the fact that Mike had “retired” from the agency in the mid-seventies, Mike had been seconded regularly by McHugh to work with civilian agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.

            Mike was intrigued by the tale of an army colonel killed by a hit and run jogger.  “What was Johnson doing that was so interesting?”

            After quickly glancing to satisfy himself that no eavesdroppers were about, George Smith replied quietly “Bill Johnson was with a special Marine detachment assigned to Operation Gabriel.”

            “Operation Gabriel?” asked Mike.

When George called to set up a meeting, Mike explained that although he was going to be in Washington for the Independent Energy Producers Conference, he was not going to be able to get up to CSAC headquarters, but he could meet Smith for breakfast at the Four Seasons.  Curiously, George jumped at the chance to meet Mike at the relatively open, and certainly not secure, coffee shop.  Mike had been taken aback by Smith’s eagerness to see him there rather than at the CSAC Washington Headquarters in Northwest Washington.

            “We’re not at liberty to describe Operation Gabriel unless we are secure,” interjected Tom Jamieson.

            Tom Jamieson, whose cover was as an international free lance stringer for the networks, was dressed in a brown wool tweed jacket, despite the warm weather in Washington.  He wore a blue all-cotton broadloom buttoned down shirt from his favorite sports apparel company.  His khaki cotton twill trousers were neatly pressed and were held on by a brown leather belt with hand cut patterns.  His brown loafers covered green cotton Argyle socks.  Jamieson preferred a popular aftershave, the scent took over the small booth in which the trio sat.

            Tom’s sandy colored hair was a bit on the long side, which annoyed the much more conservative Smith to no end.  Underneath his tweed jacket, a Beretta sat in a brown leather shoulder harness.  Tom had been called upon to use his seven shot Berretta many times during his career with CSAC, as did all other Level One Agents.  The training received by Level One Agents was among the most grueling of any in the world.  The Agents were taught to shoot first, ask questions later.  They were accountable to only Robert McHugh, Chief of Operations – CSAC.

            “Yeah,” joined in George Smith, as he pushed a manila envelope over to Mike.  “You will find out more in these declassified briefing papers.”

            “So what do we have to do?” asked Mike Liu.

            “The Old Man wants to know your availability,” replied George Smith.

            With that final comment the three parted company, Mike to attend the IEP conference and George Smith to CSAC headquarters in Northwest Washington.  Jamieson walked down Pennsylvania Avenue toward H Street, and after casually glancing back to make sure he was not followed, he stopped briefly to make a call at a corner pay phone.

            “Hello, Jamieson here.”

            “Yes.”

            “We had our meeting.”

            “O.K.”

            Jamieson’s pale blue eyes stared at the telephone for a moment.  He then turned and quickly continued his walk up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House.

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By philc44

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