Conspiracy at Desert One
By Bernace Charles
The voice through the telephone carried a guttural sound. "Meet
with me, Walker. You need the story . . . the story needs you."
Wesley Walker, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a man carrying the disputable
distinction of being a writer of fiction answered, "I'm not interested.
No one is. A military blunder is exactly that. It's a poor history."
Again, the words sounded as coming through a long, dark tunnel. The
shaft shaped them. "There was more to it, Mr. Walker . . . thirty
minutes . . . it's all I need . . . it's all you need to hear the story.
Men played a deadly game . . . the game caught them short. Meet me in the
vista parking lot at the Keystone Dam."
The telephone line returned to its unremitting tone. Wesley Walker clicked
off a cordless receiver. He then went to his bedroom to pull open a drawer.
From it, Wes took up a short-barreled, thirty-eight special, and loaded
He left the house to the garage dressed in a short sleeve, Brooks Brothers'
shirt, deck pants, and sandals. He was dressed for the coast but with no
ocean in which to lose himself. Deep blue eyes were weary and he failed
to comb his gray hair back. Walker didn't care about his appearance; he
wanted lost to the world. In the garage, he entered his Cadillac, placed
the revolver under the front seat, started the car, and punched the remote
to open the garage door.
Until tonight, and since his second wife's death, Wes was totally unproductive.
He wasn't now able to focus his writing. Sally Walker's death left him
stunned and dead on the inside. A drunk driver killed Sally and their unborn
son by smashing through the driver's side door of Sally's Corvette. The
car was a birthday gift.
Five minutes later, Wes wondered why he was driving to meet a mysterious
caller who insisted on meeting him outside Tulsa. The call was the second
one received from the unknown man. The first call instructed Wes to read
all he could on the April 25, 1980, failed, hostage, rescue-effort into
Iran. The first of the telephone calls from the mystery man expressed subtle
allegations of a CIA conspiracy. It first surfaced and rolled along with
the man's instructions. The call intrigued Walker to read all printed material
telling the public story.
He soon suspected Washington power brokers held much back. Subsequently,
he didn't give the brain twister much thought. He assumed some nut schemed
up the usual hoax to pique his interest before cutting him off to wrestle
with possible explanations. Walker's instincts said the meeting could possibly
lead to something; perhaps it would lead to another story to place him
behind his word processor.
As Walker drove out of Tulsa, and into the enclave of Sand Springs,
he took notice of the setting sun. His thoughts were far from the land
and the late evening sky. Before leaving Sand Springs Wes drove to a rest
home. The telephone call made him realize several weeks had passed since
he visited Harold Rush, an elderly resident who lived there.
Alice Welch looked up at the home's reception desk and said, "Hi,
Mr. Walker. I think Mr. Rush is already sleeping. He didn't get up today."
Wes picked up the visitor sign-in-sheet, placed a check mark next to the
time, and said, "I'll go down and see. If he's sleeping, I'll come
back tomorrow." After finding the man sleeping and five minutes later,
Wes was back in his Cadillac.
At this sad time in his life, Wes wasn't in the mood to play "I've
got a secret." He held no energy for some spook claiming to be an
ex-CIA officer. Nevertheless, what Wes did know was that he needed a diversion
from depression and boozing where he tried to drown his sorrows. If a breakout
from his melancholia cured or killed him, it did him a favor. Life was
empty. It had been for several months now.
The two calls from a man using the code name of The Raven came because
Wes Walker was one of those people unable to find a higher truth in life
and made it up as he went along. Two of Wesley Walker's past novels made
it to the New York Times best sellers' list. . . a novel that supported
the Irish Republican Army . . . the other a near-open endorsement of the
PLO's fanatical war of insurrection to establish a Palestinian State. The
not-so-fictional efforts earned him the title of a terrorist sympathizer
and caused an uproar in Israel. Consequently, the Israeli Government and
Mossad labeled him with the distinction of persona-non-grata status. Under
no circumstances was he to return to Israel.
As Wes drove the Keystone Highway, he questioned how much faith he could
place in the caller's allegation. He openly stated there was a lot more
to why the rescue attempt failed than the U.S. Government admitted. Both
Congress and the Select Intelligence Committee heard testimony and examined
the facts. The Pentagon published a white paper defending the militaries'
role in the rescue-effort. They blamed the failure on simple bad luck.
As a result, some officers involved found themselves assigned to remote
tours in Tule, Greenland, . . . hardly a reward for patriotism and valor.
Walker wondered how simple the truth might be.
Eight American aviators died on April 25, 1980 in the desert that night.
They died in a God forsaken desert nineteen years ago, and Wes knew one
of them. He knew Cal Lewis a C-130 pilot. The unclear reason for Cal's
death still haunted Walker. It was Cal Lewis' stepfather Wes stopped to
find asleep in the rest home.
But, the enigmatic caller was back with the conspiracy theory. He came
back saying the helicopter crashing into the C-130 at Desert 1 wasn't what
it seemed. Rather, it was part of a plan gone wrong.
These words played on Wes' mind as his Cadillac Coupe De Ville cruised
effortlessly over the dam highway. The reservoir lay to the west where
the waters of the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers joined to form Lake Keystone.
Now, and across the lake, the sun disappeared as dusk draped the dam's
goose neck lighting. Reaching the south end of the dam, Wes turned the
Cadillac into the entrance that opened the vista parking lot. In the dim
glow of the lot's lights a shadowy figure of a man stood and leaned against
a dark colored sedan. The man stared out on the black, lake waters. Wes
noted the car sat in a remote corner of the lot. Both were away from the
light of pole lamps. He wheeled his car around and parked in a space next
to the stranger. There, Wes shut the engine off and wondered if the man
didn't arrive first to see if he arrived with others. Not sensing any danger,
Wes forgot about the thirty-eight. He got out and started walking toward
the form. Walker could tell the man was nervous. He kept turning to look
toward the parking lot entrance and Wes now sensed the fear in himself.
The man's clothing was similar to what a prison inmate would wear: blue
cotton shirt, trousers, and black shoes. His clothing reminded Wes of characters
he developed in past novels. It was very different from the spit and polish
dress of a man claiming to be a former CIA officer. Wes asked, "Are
you The Raven?" The words gave Walker the feeling he was addressing
a petty renegade prison escapee in a dime store novel. The world was full
of them and another man's story wasn't going to be an easy manuscript to
According to his agent, Mike Corbin, in New York, it would be a waste
of time and struggle to put together any new story about the hostage rescue
attempt. No startling revelations about a cover-up would be electrifying
and believable in the public's eyes. In view of the top-secret restrictions
denying freedom of information requests, and muzzled testimony of the participants,
it would be fruitless to regurgitate the old circumstances of the failed
mission. As Mike put it, "There's nothing to capture the readers interest
in resurrecting the hostage story by creating a sham premise."
Now, looking at the figure leaning against the sedan, Wes wondered at
the true reason he was now in the parking lot. Perhaps it was because the
new Wes Walker no longer cared if he lived or died. He wanted escape .
. . escape from the fact he was drinking too much. If there was a nugget
of truth, the story might offer a deeper escape. Walker didn't know. If
a story were there . . . it was one the public should know; they should
remember the men on the rescue-effort and know why it failed. The government
owed it to those who both died and to those who returned. The Raven eyed
Walker closely and asked, "Did you tell anyone you were meeting me?"
Wes returned the scrutiny. "No, but why do we have to be secret
about it? If you have such hot information why haven't you gone to the
Senate or someone in Washington?"
"You dumb ass . . . you don't get it. Do you?"
Wes thought of returning to his car and leaving. Instead, he said, "You
mean why you didn't come by the house . . . no I don't."
"We're meeting like this because the CIA isn't the PLO or IRA.
It's bigger. If you take this on, you're going to be putting your life
on the line. My life is already there."
"What does any of this have to do with me?"
The Raven once read Walker's books. He looked away for a moment. It
wasn't just Walker's writing that drew him to Tulsa. It was because Walker
was once a close friend of Cal Lewis. Walker attended the memorial service
held in Arlington National Cemetery after the Iranian Government released
the bodies of the crew to America. The mission failure was the reason he
was outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, on a warm, summer night. As The Raven stared
at the dam's lighting he said in a matter-of-fact voice, "Mr. Walker,
I have a terminal, neuropathic, heart condition. It's a by-product of the
chemical known as Agent Orange. Whether I live or die is of no consequence.
There's little hope for a heart transplant. The VA doesn't recognize the
complaint." The Raven slowly panned from the lake back to Walker and
continued, "It's amazing what man can accomplish if he sets his mind
to building something. Perhaps it's why I asked to meet with you. You're
not aware of it, but we have two past memories that are linked."
"How do these so-called links have anything to do with the failed
Wes could barely see the man's smile through the darkness now enveloping
the two men. The Raven's voice was solid. "Mr. Walker, they do. They
have everything to do with it. It has to do with you having a place to
write the story. It also has to do with a woman you knew from Saigon by
the name of Lin Thi. You met her in Vancouver. It has to do with you having
been a friend of Cal Lewis. "
"How did you know Lin Thi?"
"I knew her before she moved to Vancouver. She's the reason I know
you as well as I do."
"Are you always comfortable intruding into other people's lives?"
"I was once . . . not anymore. We happen to have two people we
both know or whom we knew. One is dead. We both know where Lin Thi is.
Someone else filled my emptiness. I lost that someone because of the rescue-effort."
"What about the congressional hearing? What do you think they failed
"It's not what they revealed. What they failed to do was know the
truth. They told what they knew. You have a place in lower Scotland where
you can sort it all out into a proper story. Fiction? Maybe yes and maybe
Walker now realized how tired he was. He wasn't able to find the words
for a novel he was attempting to put on paper since Sally's death. The
effort was to take his mind off her loss. It wasn't working. Even Mike's
prodding calls from New York weren't connecting, and Wes knew he was quickly
losing interest in writing. He wondered if maybe he wasn't losing interest
in just about everything. He said, "I'm sorry, but I'm not the one
to take this on. You need an investigative journalist. You need someone
with contacts to get past the stone walling of the military services involved."
The Raven knew Wes Walker was interested in spite of his words. He was
interested or he wouldn't be meeting with him. "Mr. Walker, you were
at the service in Arlington. The man I'm speaking of talked to me before
the rescue-effort. They killed him in Atlanta. Cal Lewis talked with him.
He specifically asked me to contact you if anything happened to him. The
man felt something was going to go wrong, and it did. He was CIA and trained
as a loadmaster on one of the EC-130s. He survived the mission. Now, he's
dead too. Someone killed him in Atlanta. It was a setup to look like a
robbery gone wrong."
"Why are you telling me about this? Do you think a novel can tell
it when a novel is a fictional premise?"
"Yes, I do. It's a story that someone needs to tell. Men reveal
the truth in different forms. Your friend buried in Arlington knew about
your writing. He believed the story would eventually come around to you.
As I said, you have a place in lower Scotland to write. No one knows about
it except Lin Thi, her father, and me. I needed to check it before approaching
"If any of this is true, why didn't you contact me years ago?"
"The political climate wasn't "receptive" in years past.
You need the story. Those using the crisis to turn national anger on Carter
accomplished their purpose."
"So . . . now the time is right and that'll cause the public to
stop and think?"
"Mr. Walker, to be perfectly honest, I've wondered about you having
a political agenda. After reading your book built around the Kennedy assassination,
I don't think you'd do anything less than search for the truth. I know
you spoke out against the war in NAM when it wasn't a popular thing to
do. Your novel on the Irish Republican Army and its ongoing fight for self-determination
leads me to believe you have gained people's trust. You carefully researched
the novel and you apparently managed to reach the IRA's inner circle. You
also managed an equal feat by writing of the plight of the Palestinians.
I know you did the writing in lower Scotland. This story can be done there."
"You're an intrusive bastard."
"You also took part in the 1968 Chicago demonstrations. I know
they arrested and held you without just cause and you once identified yourself
with the counter culture. You moved to Vancouver after the shootings at
Kent State. It was where you met Lin Thi."
"Am I suppose to be impressed you know things anyone who's read
my writing would know? The only thing you can add is where I did the writing."
"What I'm saying is, you don't have an agenda other than searching
for some measure of truth. I have nothing to gain from it. You, on the
other hand, have everything to lose. If you take this on, you might lose
Wes focused on the dark face as The Raven lit a cigarette. "So
. . . you're a conspiracy nut out to expose a truth no one knows? I don't
"I know that an accident in the Iranian desert may not have been
one . . . it's what I want you to use your investigative skills to discover;
it's why I've contacted you."
"And what do you think I might find?"
"If I'm right, I won't die of a failed heart, Mr. Walker. I won't
make it through many more weeks."
"Why is that?"
The Raven wondered if Walker cared one way or another about his reasons
for meeting with him. He said, "Mr. Walker, others will kill me like
the poor bastard who died in Atlanta. He developed lung cancer, and once
known, someone made sure he didn't cross the line by bringing the story
forward. I'm one of the few knowing the truth. Believe me . . . they won't
wait for me to die from a failing heart. A man followed me to Tulsa; I
lost him in the city. If someone picks up on our meeting you won't live
. . . it's that simple."
"What's your cover for being in Tulsa?" Walker asked the question
and suspected he knew the answer. It was obvious if one gave it a little
"To find physical healing. Isn't that why so many people make their
pilgrimage to your city?"
Walker didn't answer.
"I'm watched. I know the routine. It comes out of a CIA training
"So I'm to assume you were CIA? You weren't with the Marines, Navy,
or Delta Force?"
The Raven appreciated the question. It showed Walker did some basic
research. He answered curtly, "Yes . . . I was with the Middle East
"What do you want told?"
"Remember . . . you could die. I was part of the failure."
"Great! Now I have to worry about some crazy bastard coming around
and trying to kill me?"
"I lost the man following me. He shouldn't have a clue about your
Wes turned to survey the parking lot entrance. He said, "I'm not
digging into CIA business and getting myself killed for it."
The Raven's voice turned cold. He asked, "An old high school friend
isn't worth the effort? You're like me, Mr. Walker. Your wife is dead.
You've lost both her and your unborn child. Does it really matter whether
you live? Life kills each of us. I suspect you're already dead. It's the
worst to be alive, alone, and want death to come."
Fully realizing that nothing mattered, Walker rebutted, "You're
damn straight it matters. I drive out here to meet with some conspiracy
nut to find I might get myself killed for it!"
The Raven studied the dark shadow before him and knew Walker was interested
in what he heard. Walker's last novel hadn't sold well. The famous writer
needed another blockbuster and knew when one came to him on the proverbial
silver platter. "Mr. Walker, the helicopter crash wasn't an accident.
Some one caused it, but it happened with far worse consequences than expected.
Eight men died because the chopper collided with one of the C-130s. It
wasn't just a matter of positioning to take on more fuel. It wasn't supposed
to happen the way it did. The Select Intelligence Oversight Committee didn't
hear the truth. Two other men and I are the only ones knowing what happened.
There's a woman who was a single part of the operation. She has gone into
hiding and buried herself deep enough so that I'm the only one who knows
where she is. I've never contacted her for fear of others. She may have
told her daughter."
Walker asked, "This woman knows the details?"
"Yes. She has a copy of the action paper authorizing it. The agency
always dots its Is and crosses its Ts. To my knowledge, it's the only directive
in existence. I can tell you the story, but it's worthless without proof.
The woman has it. She also has photographs taken that night."
"And where is she now?"
"She's living in Jerusalem under an assumed identity. She's an
U.S. citizen but born in Tehran. She's one of few who know my code name.
At the time of the effort we were involved."
"How does she play into this?"
"She was an interpreter for the agency and was in the Iranian desert
that night. Other than those watching me, she and I are the only persons
alive and who know what happened. Now, you know part of it. You need to
find her. The only thing you have going for you is that no one knows we've
met. You must find the woman, get her out of the Middle East, and write
the story she has to tell. Write it so she and her daughter can reclaim
their lives. You can give the story a human face."
Walker could feel the dull sensation of a headache as it was creeping
into his forehead. He said in near amusement, "So I go to the Middle
East and run around looking for some woman I'm not sure exists. I convince
her to go to Scotland, pick her brain, and write a novel about the CIA's
screw-up in Iran? I'm to do this while trying to avoid getting bumped off
by someone I don't know?"
"It goes back to the days of the shah. It isn't a simple history."
"And when in hell am I supposed to do this?"
"You'll do it after I'm dead, Mr. Walker. I'm returning to Chicago
tonight. I have a sister and I'll leave her number with you. You'll call
her in a week. If I'm alive, she'll tell you she doesn't want to extend
the warranty on her garage door opener. If I'm dead from other than heart
failure . . . she'll agree to extend it. You need to call once each week
from a pay phone where no one can trace the call. I don't know if anyone
is watching her or if they have her phone tapped."
"And if she says you're dead, what do you expect me to do?"
The Raven reached his right hand out to grasp Walker's right arm in
a hard hold. "I expect you to go to Jerusalem, Mr. Walker. I expect
you to find the woman. I expect you to listen to her and write a novel
. . . a novel to do honor to the brave men who died because something went
terribly wrong. If you don't, Mr. Walker, my sister will tell the agency
her brother contacted you."
Walker's words exploded, "Damn, You! What gives you the right?"
Wes attempted to break The Raven's grip but failed to break free.
"It's not a game, Mr. Walker. The story will put you back on the
best seller list." He pushed a folded piece of paper into Wes Walker's
right hand. "Call the number, Mr. Walker. Wait a week and call the
number from a pay phone. Memorize the name, the number, and the street
address . . . memorize it and burn the paper." The man turned and
walked around the green sedan and got into a car stolen in Tulsa.
Walker waited until the car left the parking lot and crossed the dam
before he entered his Cadillac. There was a sense of relief felt by seeing
no car following the sedan >>>
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