Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Killers Among Us

Thriller Guy's pal Syd Jones over at The Scene of the Crime has a very cool blog up that seems to be about Syd being recruited by the CIA back in his salad days as a young man in Vienna. Check it out. Syd's not saying that's what is going on, and I know for sure that the man is an excellent fiction writer, but still it sure sounds like, well, never mind, read it and see what you think.

This reminded TG of long ago in the days of yore when he was a long haired hippie with a wife and small child. TG's days were spent roaming the streets of DC looking for work, anything to pay the rent. TG saw a small ad in the Washington Post for an editor's job, just a bare bone's notice with a phone number. TG called, a resume was requested and sent (snail mail, this was the olden days) and pretty soon a note came in the mail offering a time to show up for an interview. The address was in Virginia. TG fired up the old Ford wagon (bought for $200.00 off a lot in West Virginia some months before. When asked about a guarantee the salesman sneered and gave TG two and twenty. That was two miles and twenty minutes once he got it off the lot. The car ran for four hard years. Take that, sneering used car salesman.)

So on the appointed day, TG drove to Virginia. When he arrived at the given address he found a large empty field. There must be some mistake. TG called the phone number (after finding a public phone, remember, there were no cell phones in those days) and received a new set of directions. After bumbling around the countryside for awhile, TG found himself in a small town in front of an abandoned building. Another mistake, right? No, a voice said after another phone call, TG was doing fine, here's a new set of directions -- which eventually led to another vacant lot. Another new set of directions and a half an hour brought him to a large, square, black concrete and glass building perched atop a giant mound of raw dirt. No grass, no trees, no greenery of any kind. The exterior was ringed with high powered lighting. On entering the lobby, TG was pointed toward an elevator with no buttons, which seemed to ascend upward several floors and opened on a plain hallway and a waiting soldier dressed in some sort of generic fatigues and carrying what looked like a light machine gun. By now, even the clueless TG (hey, TG was just a kid) knew something was up. This was not your standard job interview.

TG was escorted down a long hallway lined with oil paintings depicting every kind of military combat imaginable. Lots of explosions rendered in violent oranges and yellows. Finally, TG found himself in a strange dark office with a pudgy little man seated behind a grey metal desk that was piled high with file folders. In fact there were file folders stacked on the floor, windowsill (the windows were heavily curtained) and just about everywhere there was floor space. There then ensued an interview that TG can no longer remember, except for two bits of information. The pudgy man said if TG worked out editing raw material into readable reports, in time he might earn a spot in “the field” rather than behind a desk. Great. Then the pudgy man leaned over the desk, smiled and closed by saying, “We don't actually kill people here, but we certainly hope we're helping to.” TG was offered a job on the spot. TG demurred, saying he needed time to think about it. And fled.

It took hours to figure out where he was and wend his way back home to the safety of Dupont Circle. Early the next morning a city gas man showed up saying there had been a report of a gas leak. TG, wife and child were told to wait outside on the street while this was checked out. After an hour the family was allowed back inside. False alarm. That afternoon a man showed up from the electric company to check out the wiring in the hallways and our apartment. Everything appeared to be in order.

You have to understand, these were, in many ways, simpler times. John LeCarre was just beginning to publish his great spy novels. There was no archive of espionage literature. TG and his friends spent their days protesting the war in Vietnam and attempting to create great art; the nights were occupied with drinking. Lots of intense conversation. We were young, and TG now understands, foolish.

That evening, when the wife and babe were tucked away in the back room, sleeping soundly, TG sat in the only chair in the apartment, an old beat up kitchen chair that had been found abandoned on the street. The only real amenity in this sad apartment was a big bay window on the second floor that looked out onto P Street. TG left the inside lights off. The street was lined with cars, as always. Two shadowy figures sat in a blue sedan half a block down the street. Their cigarettes glowed, tiny red dots behind the dark windshield. Finally TG grew tired of watching the watchers and went to bed.

In the morning, TG called the number he had used to find directions on his odyssey of the day before. He wished to decline the job offer. He had no desire to kill anyone, or even to help to kill anyone, no matter how good the pay might be, or how hungry he and his family became.

The number rang and rang, then was finally picked up by a hollow, disembodied voice that said, sorry, the number had been disconnected. Hang up and consult your directory for the correct number.

No thank you.

1 comment:

  1. NSA? Oh what the hey--why does it have to be an acronym? Lets just call them what they are--Spooks Beyond Borders. Now from that there is no easily managed manly acronym. We--your readers that is--can only be happy that you were deemed, well... The glow of cigarettes in cars of obvious watchers is flashback material.