email us

NamehNegar Persian word processor

Puma jersey

Iranian books


Fly to Iran

US Transcom
US Transcom

Iranian books

Sehaty Foreign Exchange

Advertise with The Iranian

Cover story

 Write for The Iranian

Conspiracy at Desert One
A novel

By Bernace Charles
The Iranian

Chapter Fourteen

Day Two
Georgetown, 1999

In Georgetown, Wayne Phillips' wife was out of the house and Wayne was in a state of rage. "Damn it, David! The man is already lost! Somehow, Southgate met Walker before or after going to the rest home. We killed a man who may not have known a damn thing about this. We have to find Walker and do it soon!"

"The old man was dying. I helped him along."

Wayne Phillips stared at Rice. He was concerned about Walker's whereabouts and said angrily, "If Southgate told Walker the truth, and revealed Laleh's location, we have to find her. Fred sent Laleh into hiding with the only documents authorizing the operation. We'll have too much explaining to do if they get into this man's hands."

"I don't remember Fred having to force you to get involved."

Phillips continued, "I shouldn't have signed the authorization papers. It doesn't make a damn why I wrote them. The deaths in the desert were nothing to those that would have occurred if the rescue-effort had reached Tehran. We cannot discredit the agency. If Walker brings this forward, the Select Intelligence Committee will put two and two together and come up with the truth. The action papers written to cover this will blow it out of the waters. Southgate passed them to Laleh. The son-of-a-bitch convinced me to back the operation. It was a mistake. It was a mistake that has to be closed."

David Rice arrived in Washington at seven p.m. Three hours passed. He listened to Wayne and felt no remorse for killing Harold Rush. David said, "And where are we going to look for Walker? His answering machine says he's gone for several months. He took off to who-knows-where."

Wayne looked at Rice, and said, "We have to find him. If Southgate told anyone, it would be his sister. Thank God, we tapped the sister's telephone. Fred must have told her about Walker. I don't believe this telephone call about the woman's garage door opener. I'm going to get a damn voice analysis done on it."

"I'm supposed to kill Fred?"

"I want you in Chicago tonight."

Rice knew he would have to kill Fred. It wasn't a pleasant thought.

Phillips continued, "Fred was a seasoned operative and a detailed planner. He was capable of seeing all the angles. He recognized that Walker had made contacts so he can go underground. If he has, he's probably already done it. We have to catch up with him before a book shows up on the Times Best Seller list. If he manages to put one together on this, it'll be selling like ice water in hell. It'll happen the day it comes out. It'll be too late to touch him."

"Where do we start?"

"If Southgate told his sister about Walker, he may have told enough to say where he might work on a book. We may have to come back to her. Right now, I want Fred dead. His conscience hasn't done anything but open a wound that needed to be forgotten."

David stood, knowing he was going to Chicago on an evening flight. He said, "It'll be done. I regret getting involved with this. I don't like killing our own people. I worked with Fred in NAM and he's a good man."

Wayne said, "If he wants to cleanse his hands of the past, he can do it in a grave. I'm not going to jail for falling into an operation he developed. Our mistake was believing it was the right thing to do."

"We got rid of Carter who didn't understand the world stage. We got an actor playing to the armed services and the Cold War. His funding efforts destroyed the entrenchment of the Soviet Block."

"Yea, a frigging high cost if there ever was one."

"Look, I'm not happy to kill a man I've known for thirty years? Your hands have always been clean."

Wayne knew David was right. He said, "I'm sorry it's coming to this. Who would know Fred would find a conscience and try to reveal the story. How could we make certain the loadmaster killed in Atlanta was a needed killing? Many others have died during service to their country and never received an ounce of recognition for it. They weren't those possibly dragging the agency down with them."

"I didn't work with them."

"Damn it, David, if you can't handle it, I'll get someone else."

"Yea, right, we'd really be up to our necks in it with some amateur getting his ass caught."

Wayne studied David. He knew David would kill Fred and Fred wouldn't inform any one of Laleh Sanders' whereabouts. He said, "I'm sorry."

Rice walked to the door. Before opening it he said, "You damn-well better find out where this Wes Walker is. You're going to have to put some kind of bulletin out with the intelligence services. We need a cover story for his being sought and hope we find him before he can write a book."

David opened the door, stepped out into the summer night, and walked down a brick inlaid walk to a rental car. He soon headed toward Dulles International Airport and a tem p.m. flight to Chicago.


Fred Southgate sat in his home on Chicago's West Side. He watched television and thought about his sister who called to say she renewed her service contract on her garage door opener. As Fred wondered at what happened to cause Walker to not wait, and call at one-week intervals, a truth swelled within him. Something had taken place in Tulsa and Fred wondered what that something was. Like a tracer round passing near a man's head to throw him into battle mode or into penetrating fear, Fred knew Harold Rush was dead. It was the only explanation.

Though it was late, Fred dialed a number he previously memorized but never called in fear of what to say to the man. The receptionist at the Shady Elm in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, answered, and he asked, "Could I speak to a Mr. Harold Rush?"

The sound of the words coming back to him was hesitant, concerned, and desiring to say the right thing. Alice Welch said, "I'm sorry, but Mr. Rush died this morning."

For Fred there was no surprise at the words. He asked, "What was the cause of death?"

"The police say someone suffocated him."

Fred replaced the receiver and knew someone thought he had gone to the rest home after losing David. It was something he would have never done. The killing to cover the operation began before the Americans landed in the Iranian desert.


At midnight, David Rice parked a rented car a block from Fred Southgate's home. As he walked the quiet street, he thought of the times he spent in the home. There were times there for barbecues. At the time, Fred and Laleh were living together. However, things started going wrong the first minutes after landing in the Iranian desert. Men knew what happened the night a helicopter rotated its position of flight to hit a C-130 fuel carrier.

Laleh hadn't known the truth until a night of heavy drinking drove Wayne Philips to tell her the full story knowing it wouldn't go further than Laleh's hearing. Laleh was angered to find Fred used her in an operation she hadn't fully understood. Soon after that night, Fred and Laleh separated. It was a week later when Laleh and Roya disappeared. David was certain Fred arranged it knowing Laleh could be a target because of the information she knew.


Turning up a dark walkway to a porch, Rice thought no one observed him as he approached the home. He pushed a doorbell. Fred Southgate had been sitting on the dark porch and watching the street. He saw David pass beneath a street-lamp a half-block away before he slipped back into the house. Now, he turned the porch light on to answer the door and his eyes fixed on David. Fred said, "Come in. I've been expecting you." Before going to the door Southgate turned the television on and took thirty codeine tablets. His mind and body would soon become numb.

David thought the words strange but realized Fred must know of the killing in Oklahoma. Entering the home's living room, he saw the television broadcasting the nightly news.

Fred said, "I guess it's too much to expect them to report the murder of an innocent man outside Tulsa." With those words, Fred sat in a sofa chair facing the television.

David moved to stand before the mantle of a fireplace and rested an elbow on it. He asked, "Why did you have to go?"

"Because it's time the truth is known."

"Do you think this damn country cares about the truth?"

"Why did you kill him?"

"We thought you went to see the old man. But it wasn't he you spoke with . . . was it?"

"You don't know?"

"Yes, we know. But you tell me."

Fred lighted a cigarette and leaned back in the chair. Exhaling smoke he said, "I was wrong. We were wrong." The codeine hadn't yet numbed him, so he was aware of Rice's words.

"You don't believe we succeeded in getting someone into office and receptive to the military and the agency's needs?"

"I've come to believe it's all bullshit."

"It's bullshit that fifty thousand Americans died in NAM?"

"I didn't send them there."

"No, but you were there, and you know what we believed in and what we hoped to accomplish."

"Beliefs change. Why don't you get it over? I'm dying anyway."

"I know. I don't think I could do it if it were otherwise."

Fred again exhaled smoke, "So, you're free of guilt? You killed an old man who was dying. Now, you can do the world a favor and do it for another. That leaves you, Phillips, a few men once doing military service. I must have been insane to set the operation in motion."

David reached inside the sweater he wore. From his back, he pulled a twenty-two-pistol with a silencer. He held the gun at his side. "The others won't talk. They don't know the details. Where is Laleh?"

"I don't know."

Rice raised the pistol and fired a gun that produced a soft, huffing sound. The slug buried itself into Fred Southgate's left shinbone. It sent a streaking and racking explosion of pain up his left leg. Southgate grabbed the leg grimacing from the pain. He knew the codeine hadn't totally numbed him though he was beginning to feel its effect. He let go of the leg to ask, "Do you really think I'll tell you? I'm not the one who got drunk and told the truth that night."

"It was a mistake."

Ignoring the pain as blood from his leg filled his shoe, Fred said, "You might as well get it over with. I lost track of her a long time ago. She didn't want anything to do with me after finding out we had used her. Who could blame her?"

"I don't believe it. She loved you. It was written in her face." David raised the pistol and fired a round into Fred's right leg.

Again, the nerve-racking pain caused Fred Southgate's face to turn to a grimace. Knowing the worst was yet to come, he said. "You know, Rice, you're full of shit. You know damn-well I'm not telling you."

"What you don't know is . . . we're aware of the man you met in Tulsa."

"Really, who did I see?"

"A man by the name of Walker. Wayne found his photograph on a tape made at the memorial service. It seems he showed up and someone allowed him to attend. It must have been a left-winger guarding the perimeter that day. They show up in all the services like a quiet plague waiting for their day. They'll never have it."

"Why would I see someone named Walker? I've never heard of the man." Fred thought of his sister's earlier telephone call.

"Cut the bull. We know you saw him. It was Walker who stopped at the rest home before you met with him."

"You know, I should've let the Vietcong take you the night I saved your life."

David remembered the night along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. North Vietnamese Regulars shot his C-130 out of the sky. He was the only one on board to survive. Fred had been on board the helicopter coming for him. The chopper took multiple hits as The Raven lowered to the jungle floor. There he grasped him before the chopper rose and headed east with the two of them dangling more than seventy feet below. It was The Raven's strength holding fast to him. There wasn't time to get a safety strap secure. Rice said, "Maybe you should've let me die. Where is she?"

"Screw you. I'm dying. You think your damn pain makes any difference. Have a seat and watch me bleed to death."

David knew Fred was right. He wasn't going to tell where Laleh moved to raise her daughter. He pointed the twenty-two at Fred's forehead. At the least, he owed the man the decency of not making him suffer. With pressure against the trigger of the weapon, the gun made its huffing sound. Fred's head went back and his body fell limp to one side.

The shot in the middle of the forehead produced a neat hole. The slug's power didn't explode the back of the head. It only buried its self in his brain. A trickle of crimson colored blood oozed out the hole to run down his face. Rice stepped over to Southgate and placed a finger on the carotid artery to feel for a pulse. A slight one soon stopped. David crossed the room, turned the lights off, and stepped out onto the front porch. As he walked to his car, he noticed it was a clear night with stars shinning brightly. No matter the night sky, he needed to find Laleh Sanders. Wes Walker was undoubtedly traveling in her direction. >>> Go to Chapter Fifteen

* Back to "Conspiracy at Desert One" main index

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to the writer Bernace Charles

 Send flowers

Copyright © Abadan Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved. May not be duplicated or distributed in any form

 MIS Internet Services

Web Site Design by
Multimedia Internet Services, Inc

 GPG Internet server

Internet server by
Global Publishing Group.