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 Write for The Iranian

Conspiracy at Desert One
A novel

By Bernace Charles
The Iranian

Chapter Four

August 1999

Roya watched the crowd on the street and recognizing the Americans by a sixth sense. To their disappointment, tourists walking the street discovered they came to the city during the hottest time of the year. Spring was the best time to travel in Israel. In the Spring, the land was fresh, and the air was sweet. Now, and with the sun at its zenith, an incessant heat pressed down on the city. It did so as if to crush The Old City's spirit.

Seeing Louis serving a drink to a customer, Roya called, "Louis, will you watch the shop for a minute? I need to check on my mother."

Louis, whose family was Christian Jew, called back, "Sure, I'll be right there." After serving a customer, Louis quickly made his way across the narrow, crowded street to the shop.

Roya wished she had simply closed it. Louis would expect her to go for a walk with him after the heat lessened that evening. "I won't be long. If no one comes in . . . pull the door down. Your father might need you."

Louis declared, "My adopting father isn't my taskmaster."

Roya knew Louis couldn't provide her the male companionship she occasionally thought she needed. Though Louis served his national service to patrol the Lebanese border, Roya saw Louis as a boy with no idea how to make his own way. Christian Jews adopted Louis after a terrorist bomb killed his parents. Roya feared she might make the mistake young women her age made by falling in love at the wrong time. But, there was a deeper thought that pushed her. It was the Carmelite Convent on the Mount of Olives and a desire to serve within it. A life of prayer and hope offered a greater peace. Roya hadn't attempted to discuss the thought with her mother. She said, "I'll be back in a few minutes."

After leaving the shop to step to the narrow stairwell off the street, Roya unlocked its heavy iron door. She entered the narrow courtyard, closed the door, and ascended to the upper rooms. Entering her mother's bedroom, Roya was glad to see her mother napping.

Even with the day's heat pushing 107 degrees, the stone walls of the house kept the inside cool. Finding her mother asleep, Roya went into the kitchen. The home's small kitchen possessed an American refrigerator with an icemaker. She scooped a handful of ice cubes into a glass, filled it with a soft drink, and made a sandwich. In the process, Roya remembered a house in Reston, Virginia. She thought of a time that she and her mother had lived there. At that time, her mother was an interpreter for the CIA. Her mother was the senior linguist for the Middle East Section. At the time, it was ghosts and shadows, and Roya paid little attention to her mother's work. During that time, she and her mother were living with Fred Southgate.

Now, the memories of those years in Reston faded by the passing of time. Even from later years in Chicago, she remembered the man once being part of her mother's life. Fred Southgate was in both their lives until the day that her mother drove her to New York. There, Laleh and Roya boarded a plane under false names. Thus began a journey to London, across the channel to France, Zurich, Rome, and to Israel. Roya knew her mother changed names and passports no less than three times.

But Roya also remembered her mother being solemn and depressed during the first year in Tel Aviv. It was as though her mother left something and it were something or someone she would never again see. Roya took a bite of the sandwich and stepped down the stairwell. As she came down the stairs, Roya knew her mother missed Fred Southgate. He was part of her mother's life following her father's death in Vietnam. She was six months old at the time her father died. Now it was another man's face she remembered.


Minutes later and re-entering the shop, Roya said, "Thanks Louis. I appreciate the help. My mother is sleeping. "

Louis asked, "Mary, would you like to go for a walk this evening?" Thinking of the times she felt angry at life Roya said, "I suppose so. But not a long one . . . ok?"

"I better get back. I'll see you at eight."

Roya forced a smile and she wished she were in America. She wondered what Louis might think if she told him her mother and her reason for immigrating to Israel. Louis' family were city residents since 1945, before the formation of the country, and before the large flight of Jews from Europe. All of Louis' adopted father's family died at Dachau, and his adopted mother's family died in Belsen concentration camp. Years after their immigration to Israel, the parents converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Louis explained that their conversion came after the destruction of "Deir Yassin." His adopting father was part of the Jewish irregulars exterminating the Arab village.


At eight p.m. Louis Kolleck closed the door of a small cafe. He did so as the late afternoon sun began to cast darkening shadows along its length. After knocking on the iron door beside the Goldwaith's shop, he waited for Roya's answer.

Roya heard the knock from the upstairs kitchen. She walked to her mother's bedroom to check on her mother. Her mother was lying in the bed and watching an American television program. Roya said, "Mother, I'm going for a walk with Louis . . . probably to Gethsemane. I won't be long. I'll take a flash light with me."

Laleh Sanders made an effort to smile. She spoke slowly, her words coming out slurred, "Be careful."

"Don't worry, Mother. I will. Louis isn't going to try anything funny. If he does, I'll pop him one."

Laleh's face split into a lopsided grin as Roya stepped to the bed to kiss her mother on her forehead.

Roya added, "I'll be back soon. Don't worry. Everything will be fine. I'll always be here to take care of you. "

"OK." Laleh watched her daughter with tired and worried eyes as Roya turned to leave the bedroom.

Roya went down the outside stairs to the door at the street. At the door, Roya unlocked it to push it open. To Roya, The Old City and its metal roll-up-doors or heavy iron ones gave it a siege atmosphere. It seemed that stone and metal made up the entire Old City. It did so as though drawing into itself to defend its past and resist any hope for the future.

Louis stood in the light of a single light bulb extruding from a recess in the rock wall. He asked, "What would you like to do? We can walk to Gethsemane or anywhere you like, but let's get out in the open where we can get some fresh air."

"I'd like to go over to the Mount of Olives where we can look back on the city."

Louis knew it was one of Roya's favorite sites. From it, one could take in the glow of the city in the setting sun. Roya loved the way the day's late light reflected off The Dome of the Rock; she loved how the evening sunlight spread across The Old City; she loved the way the sun shined on the newer sections that rose into the night sky. Roya wore the Levis, white blouse, and sneakers she wore through the day.

As they began making their way down Christian Street toward David Street, Louis asked, "Mary, I've always wondered about something."

Roya glanced at Louis and asked, "What?"

"Why you didn't go to a university here or return to the United States? You don't find many Americans giving up the good life to immigrate to Israel."

It was the first time Roya could remember Louis speaking about her immigration. She said, "I don't have any desire to go to a university. All I want is to find where I fit in with this life. Just because one doesn't attend a university doesn't mean they don't have something to offer in life. I'm still undecided about becoming a Carmelite."

Louis knew Mary once attended the largest high school in Tel Aviv, could act, and as her mother once did, Mary could speak several languages. He saw her act in a play at the Khan Theater. It was before her mother's stroke. Louis once listened to Laleh rattle off sentences in a half dozen languages.

Louis asked, "Have you thought about getting married and sharing your life with someone?"

"No, Louis, I'm not interested in getting married. I have my mother who needs me. I have no intentions of leaving her."

"Maybe you haven't given love a chance."

Roya turned to Louis and said, "Louis, please don't get serious on me. We're simply going to watch the sun set. Don't even think of asking me to get seriously involved or to marry you. Your parents need you as much as my mother needs me. Besides, I might become a Carmelite."

Roya turned back to make a turn off the Street of the Chain and cut down a narrow side street into the Jewish Quarter. Remaining silent, Louis walked beside her as they walked in the shadows of stone houses and stone arches. From the Jewish Quarter they emerged from Dung Gate and passed out of The Old City to walk the road through the Valley of Kidron. After passing down a narrow street, they climbed the Mount of Olives. Fifteen minutes later, they sat and looked back at The Old City. They sat in silence and each harboring private thoughts.

As Roya took in the sight, she wondered if she would again see America. There was a home off Lake Reston outside Washington, D.C. Roya forced a change of thought, turned to Louis, and said, "Louis, it isn't that I don't like you. I don't like talking about marrying, going steady, or getting engaged. I'm not who or what you might think. On some days, I wonder if my mother and I will live to see the next sunset."

Not knowing the meaning of Roya's words, Louis said, "We all live in fear. We all have to die. But we have to try and live."

Roya tried to smile for the young man setting between her and the setting sun. She said, "I don't know, Louis. Too many people are killing each other in this country. I don't think there will ever be peace. It seems the hatred pushes it beyond anyone's grasp. It's why I might join the Carmelites. But not while my mother needs me. I won't leave her."

"I think this country will one day find peace. God will see to it."

Roya wondered if Louis really felt a sense of hope.

She challenged, "We live in a city with a history of more conquerors than whole countries . . . and you think there might be peace?"

"Yes," Louis contended, "I do. If there isn't hope . . . what is there? There would be nothing but despair. What would we have to look forward to? We all might as well fall on our swords and die."

"I hope you're right . . . not about falling on our own swords . . . but that there might be peace some day."

Louis took Roya's left hand in his right. Roya didn't pull it away but allowed Louis to hold it. Roya did so and knowing Louis Kolleck was her only friend.


American Airlines Flight 206 lifted off the runway in Tulsa. Fred Southgate was sitting in an aisle seat and examining the back of a man's head three rows in front of him. The head belonged to David Rice. David Rice, an Ex-agency killer followed Fred Southgate to Tulsa. If Southgate could've seen David's face, he would've seen frustration. David was too aware he lost Fred for several hours and he feared Southgate managed to meet with someone . . . someone he didn't know.

It was this fear of not knowing whom The Raven may have met now driving David Rice's thinking. The disclosure of Iran Gate brought great embarrassment to the Republicans on The Hill; disclosure of another intelligence effort in 1980 could be a near death nail for the agency. Special planning took place outside the effort of the Joint Task Force of the Pentagon then planning a way to reach the hostages held in Tehran.

As David pondered his thoughts, Fred Southgate wondered why David hadn't gotten a seat number next to his. The fact that Rice followed him to Tulsa wasn't a needed lie.


A man sat in a home in Georgetown, Maryland. The home was a block off Rock Creek Park. Wayne Phillips, an Ex-CIA Station Chief and a past, resident, Middle East Specialist, studied the crew names of each plane, helicopter, and ground support team having been at Desert 1. A man once directing the operation gaining knowledge of Israel's atomic weapon's program studied the listed names and their home states and cities. No one in the agency knew of his involvement in the case. Minutes earlier, a call informed him of The Raven losing David Rice in Tulsa.

As he scanned names, Wayne Phillips found what he suspected to be the reason for Fred's trip to Oklahoma. A crewmember on the ill-fated EC-130 tanker was from Tulsa, Oklahoma. His stepfather was now in a rest home outside the city.

Focusing on the name, he picked up the desk telephone in the study and called a number in Chicago. David Rice had reached an apartment building on Chicago's north side after landing at O'Hare Airport. After David answered the telephone, Phillips said, "I want you to return to Tulsa in the morning. Get some sleep and fly out early. The stepfather of Cal Louis lives in a rest home in Sand Springs. It's outside Tulsa. Find out if anyone visited him yesterday evening. If you suspect that Fred met with him . . . call me."

David massaged the tired but thick mussels of his neck and asked, "If we kill him, what's going to prevent someone putting two and two together?"

"Don't do anything until you find out if anyone visited the man. Call from a pay phone and let me know. Do you understand?"

"Yea, I understand. "

"Return under another name. I don't want this connected to anything outside Tulsa."

Phillips replaced the receiver and wondered if Fred contacted the dead man's stepfather. He didn't know of any report on The Raven's health as there were on the man killed in Atlanta. But Wayne Phillips knew there was a reason for Fred's flight to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He sat thinking a moment before recalling David Rice. After David came on line, Phillips said, "I want you to find any doctor Fred might be seeing and find if there's anything physically wrong with him. Do it after you get back."

The telephone line went dead and David again replaced the receiver. What Wayne Phillips didn't know was that David knew about Fred Southgate's heart condition. He hadn't passed the information on and wanted to forestall any action against a man he knew through many years.

After taking a new driver's license and photo ID from a different state out of a wall safe, David went to the bedroom to lay the identifying documents on a dresser table. He then lay on the bed to get a few hours sleep.


Early the next morning, Wes Walker woke with a hangover. His head throbbed and felt as though it would explode. After managing to get his eyes open, he made his way to the bathroom.

There, he stared into the vanity mirror and thought of the past day. He thought of the man he once knew and of his death in the Iranian desert. Walker wondered if anything told him in the Keystone vista-parking lot were true. If it was, what good did it do to bring it out now? Feeling the way he did, Wes felt grave doubts about the past night's conversation.


A half-hour later Wes picked up a telephone in the home's kitchen and dialed a number in New York. The woman answering the telephone was proper and friendly. Wes knew there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell getting past the woman unless she knew you. He said, "Hello Katy, its Wes. I need to speak to Mike. Is he in today?"

The receptionist of The Corbin Literary Agency replied, "Hi, Wes. How are you doing? How is the weather in Tulsa?"

"Fine, Katy. I need to speak with Mike if he's in."

"Just a minute. I'll see if I can get him on the phone."

Wes waited only a short time before he heard, "Wes, what are you up to? You don't happen to have a chapter or two of the book you're supposed to be writing . . . do you?"

Wes paused a moment before answering, "Listen, Mike, I need to know something, and I want the truth. Did you send some guy around to talk me into writing a story about a conspiracy associated with the hostage rescue-effort into Iran in 1980?"

"Wes, I told you the last time you asked about this . . . I wouldn't take anything on like that. There's no proof. We've already discussed it after you first listened to this nut. Forget it."

"I needed to check."

"Wes, The damn publisher is pushing me to push you on the story you're supposed to be writing. How is it coming?"

"I'm working on it. I have fifty pages or so. I don't know . . . I haven't looked at it for a couple of days."

"Maybe you need to get away. Why don't you take a trip?"

Wes knew Mike was talking about Sally, and he didn't like the way the words sounded. "Damn it, Mike, Sally has nothing to do with it! I'll write the damn story!"

"Wes, I wasn't involved in attempting to send you off on a wild-ass chase. You have an imagination without me dreaming up some damn conspiracy."

"Then there's someone who knows something the American Public doesn't know."

"Damn it, Wes! Don't go chasing after some conspiracy that'll take all your time and energy. You have a deadline to meet and it's coming up in three months. That means a totally written and revised manuscript with all rewriting completed."

Wes stared out the kitchen window at the swimming pool built for Sally. He brought his study off the past and back to the counter. On it was a teakettle with quilted cover that Sally had bought. He responded, "Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere. After this story, I'm through with writing."

Mike heard these words in the past. He knew Wes Walker would never stop writing unless someone cut off his hands. Even then, he would probably find some way to write with his toes. For Wes Walker not to write would be like shutting down the human mind.

Mike said, "Fine, Wes. Finish the new novel. Finish it and take a break."

"Thanks, Mike. I'll let you know how it's going in a week or so." Wes replaced the receiver, and walked to the patio door. He slid it open and stepped out into the humid morning air.

There, he sat in a patio chair and lit a cigarette. Staring at the blue water in the swimming pool, he thought he might give the story he was writing another week. If he didn't feel right about it, he would go to Jerusalem.

As Walker sat, he thought of The Raven, and he wondered if he returned to Chicago or if he remained in Tulsa. His thoughts quickly turned to the time he stayed in the Holyland Hotel in Jerusalem with its large model of Herod's Jerusalem. From the hotel, he ventured to the West Bank where he met a Palestinian woman of grace and beauty. She once suffered at the hands of Jewish Irregulars. The resulting book gained notoriety, offended Israeli officials, and found the country denouncing his writing as outlandish fiction.

Walker learned the first part of the story from a man who fought with Jewish Irregulars. The man participated in the massacre at the Arab village of Deir Yassin. The early immigrant arrived in Palestine from Europe before the Second World War. He made certain that the child survived the massacre. Jacob Kolleck hid the girl among those killed. He had returned to take her to the safety of another village.

Wes now wondered if Jacob Kolleck was still alive. Men had taken Walker to a crowded home within The Old City of Jerusalem. They took him there while blindfolded. But the blindfold partially fell away. He had caught a quick glimpse of the outside as men muscled him back into a small car.

At this time of his life, Wes wanted to believe all lives connected and one couldn't separate one person's pain from another's. With his eyes still fixed on the swimming pool, Wes concluded that the problems of the world were the direct results of man's folly.

Now, he knew he was part of the foolishness. He was drinking too much; smoking too much, and his irregular eating and sleeping habits were damaging. As tired as his body was the thought of the potential story awakened inner senses. The only restraint in him was the knowledge of the enormity of the task. There was also something about the man he met at the Keystone Dam Parking lot. The physical meeting revealed the intensity of The Raven's words. He had seen his withdrawn appearance in the depth of his eyes. His words were true; Walker was certain of it >>> Go to hapter Five

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