Conspiracy at Desert One
By Bernace Charles
Wayne Phillips sat in his living room in Georgetown. The home sat a
block off Dear Creek. He sat in front of the television with a VCR playing
a tape of a memorial service in Arlington. As he studied the individual
frames, he studied them with the intent of one making preparation for combat.
Somewhere in the crowd was the face of someone related to Desert 1 or
one of the men killed there. Phillips didn't know the name, but he felt
certain it would relate to Fred Southgate's trip to Tulsa. He was certain
someone attending the service, but not sitting with the family members,
and not one of those with an official invitation, was in the audience.
He stopped the frame five times as it swept past a column of the amphitheater.
A face showed for a single second. It was a face he didn't recognize from
any of the official photographs taken that day. It was a face he was certain
he knew, but he couldn't place it.
Martha Phillips stepped into the room. She said, "I'm going out
to do some shopping. Is there anything you want?" Bending to get a
better view of the television screen she said, "That's Wes Walker.
Why are you studying him?"
"Wes Walker. . . the writer who caused such a stir with the Israeli
"You've seen this guy before?"
Martha stepped to a shelf of books. After pulling a novel out, she said,
"If you'd read anything other than Aviation Weekly, the Congressional
Quarterly, or Field and Stream you might know about him."
"What has he written?"
"Have you read his writing?"
Margaret referred to their daughter. Sue Phillips lived in Denver and
worked for an airline company. "Sue lent me a copy of one of his books
the last time I went to see her. I read most of it on the plane coming
"Is he any good?"
"I enjoyed it. I think he's from Tulsa, Oklahoma. A couple of his
books were on the New York Times best seller list." Martha turned
the novel over to check its back. There was a photograph of Wes Walker's
face superimposed over a light background. She handed the book to her husband.
Wayne studied the photograph and turned the book over to read its title,
"A Heart once Broken." He asked, "What's it about?"
Martha took the book and placed it back on the shelf. "It's about
the PLO. Somehow, the man manages to get into things that nobody else would
even try to get into. It's undoubtedly the reason he's been successful.
Now, is there anything you want from the store?"
"No, there's nothing I need."
"Okay . . . I'll try not to be too long." Martha turned leaving
her husband in worried thought.
When he saw the car back out of the drive Phillips returned to the bookshelf
to read the biography of an author he didn't know. He was beginning to
draw the correct conclusion. Fred Southgate went to Tulsa to see Wes Walker.
But why? It took only another second before he knew the answer to the question.
Fred met with Wes Walker to tell him about the incident in the desert.
Walker would write the story into a novel and present it in a way to implicate
Again, sitting back in front of the television he moved to the edge
of the chair and stared at the face on the screen. It was a younger face,
but it was the same face, and Wayne Phillips knew he needed to find Wes
Walker. If Fred contacted Walker to tell the story, and if Walker believed
it, he would soon be off to find Laleh Sanders. That search would lead
the man to a woman lost from the public eye more than ten years ago. Never,
had Fred Southgate's travels compromised Laleh's residence. No mail betrayed
it. Wayne knew Southgate sent Laleh into hiding. He had the knowledge and
access to those capable of creating a cover history.
Laleh Sanders was somewhere within their reach. He was certain of it.
Her daughter would now be in her middle twenties and wanting to make a
connection back to the States. A child raised in the States, and making
a cultural change would now be at an age wanting to return to America.
American pop culture and upscale decadence gave its appeal in its freedom.
That very sense of decadence held its attraction for youth. That attraction
might break through the layers of security around Laleh Sanders and Roya.
But, Phillips wasn't certain Laleh and her daughter weren't in The States.
The issue was to find Walker. David wouldn't be flying in from Oklahoma
City until later in the evening.
Phillips picked up the telephone. When an operator's voice came on he
said, "I need Sand Springs, Oklahoma's, area code, and the telephone
number of the Shady Elm Rest Home." He gave the instructions fearful
of what he would hear. After the operator gave the number he dialed it
and said, "Good afternoon, I am trying to reach a Mr. Rush. I believe
he's a resident there. I need to review his social security file with him."
There was a pause before the words, "I'm sorry. If you're asking
for Mr. Harold Rush, he passed away this morning."
"I'm very sorry. Has any family been to see him? I'm with the regional
Social Security Office. We've discovered there's been an underpayment of
his benefits for the past year. Maybe someone has been there to discuss
it with him." Phillips felt enraged. David killed the man without
first calling him.
"I think there was only one person who visited Mr. Rush. Mr. Rush
didn't have any family here in the city after his wife died."
"Do you know the person's name? Maybe he could help in straightening
out the payments. We don't have a list of surviving family members.
Wanting to be of assistance, Ann Thurman replied, "Yes, his name
is Wes Walker. He lives here in Tulsa. Do you think he could help?"
"We'll get in contact with him. I'm sorry to hear of Mr. Rush's
passing. Do you know the cause of his death?"
Ann Thurman answered while thinking she was conversing with a government
official. She said, "Someone killed Mr. Rush this morning."
"Do they have any idea who Mr. Rush saw?"
"I'm sorry, the police have told us not to discuss details. You'll
have to call them."
Phillips said, "Thank you. Perhaps I can get in touch with this
Mr. Walker." Phillips replaced the receiver. Staring at Wes Walker's
face, he was sure Walker met with Fred. He was also certain the meeting
took place after Walker visited Harold Rush. The times overlapped. He checked
his watch. David was to fly into Washington later that day. Wes Walker
would have a short time to disappear. Not knowing Walker's writing, Phillips
didn't know the skills nor contacts Wes Walker learned from both the IRA
and the PLO. He didn't know Wes Walker, in effect, died before he boarded
the bus to Paris, Texas.
The bus arrived in Paris, Texas, at five in the afternoon. Wes knew
the First National Bank would close at five-thirty. The bank sat on the
corner opposite the bus station. Walker stepped to a counter. He presented
a key and said, "I need to get some papers from my safety deposit
box." He presented a false Texas driver's license, and a false Social
Security card. Both documents bore the name of an infant that died in southwest
Texas some forty-five years ago.
Melody Lee glanced at the documents before she pushed a clipboard with
a form for Sam Brown to sign. Melody Lee checked the signature against
the driver's license. Looking up to meet Walker's eyes, she said, "Please
follow me." Melody opened and stepped through a counter. She crossed
a tile floor to the heavy door of the vault. She pulled it open and said,
When Melody returned, she was carrying a metal box. She sat it on a
counter with dividers. Her next words came with a warm, friendly air. "There
you go. Call for me after you finish."
"Thank you. I won't be long." The woman left him. Wes opened
the box to take out eight thousand dollars, several false passports, and
other papers. After pushing the money and items into his jacket pockets,
he closed the deposit-box lid. Wes motioned to Melody Lee that he was finished.
He said, "Thank you. You've been most helpful."
Walker left the bank. Outside, the low evening light continued to be
warm. As he walked several blocks to a hotel, Wes thought of what might
await him in Jerusalem. As he moved down the sidewalk, he realized he hadn't
had a cigarette since his visit to the bank in Tulsa. He also noticed he
didn't have a desire for an early evening drink. Now, life presented meaning,
and its singular purpose was in understanding the story before him.
When he entered a hotel built during the early part of the century,
Wes thought about calling the number in Chicago. Somehow, he sensed The
Raven was either dead or soon would be. He thought about the man telling
him of his sister's order to call the CIA if he failed to pursue the story.
Deciding to call the number and reverse the direction of the question,
he went to a lobby phone booth to make the call. There, he dialed the number
and waited for the charges. He received them and slipped the proper number
of quarters and dimes into the slots. An older woman's answer came and
he said, "I'm calling about the warranty on your garage door opener.
I need to confirm that I have extended the warranty. It'll save me from
having to make a later call."
Wilma Southgate understood the words and replied, "Thank you for
calling. I appreciate your taking care of it." She replaced the receiver
and thought of the man her brother told would call her. Sixty-five years
old, Wilma Southgate now knew the man her brother contacted in Tulsa accepted
the challenge of writing about Desert 1. He did so before her brother's
death. Wilma knew that Wes Walker's call might help bring closure to the
nightmare her brother lived through the years. >>>
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