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 Write for The Iranian

Conspiracy at Desert One
A novel

By Bernace Charles
The Iranian

Chapter Eleven

Georgetown 1999

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?"

"It's who?"

"Wes Walker. . . the writer who caused such a stir with the Israeli Government."

"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?"

"Several novels."

"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 back."

"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 the agency.

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, "One moment."

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."

"My pleasure."

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. >>> Go to Chapter Twelve

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