Conspiracy at Desert One
By Bernace Charles
The ride tired Laleh. A tremendous feeling of relief swelled within
both her and Karim for making the right decision in traveling the secondary
road to the northeast. Nevertheless, the cross-country ride, and the graded
road caused Laleh's head to ache as though the great clanging sound returned
to reverberate through it.
Miles of desolate, sterile land removed them from human kind and penetrated
as though passing through a membrane taking them away from life. At three
p.m. Karim turned the motorbike off the road. He turned off the engine
and listened to a hot silence.
Laleh climbed out of the sidecar and took two morphine pills. She and
Karim had traveled two hundred and eighty-seven miles. The desert temperature
was unforgiving and reaching more than a hundred degrees. Laleh stretched
and looked at the open expanse of area of dry earth. Sparsely positioned,
tightly grouped bunches of stubble grass sat tortured in the sun. A barren
mountain range gave its dark, purplish outline in the far distance. Laleh
said, "I hope they don't come."
Karim sat astride the bike and studied the flat stretch of desert. He
pulled the compass out and checked the direction of the road. He answered,
"Our hopes aren't going to change anything. We have to live through
it." Karim knew the area made a perfect landing zone for a C-130.
The Iranian Air Force also used the American built plane. If the crust
below the sand was solid, the plane might stir up a good deal of blowing
sand, but it could land.
However, Karim wondered if the coordinates were false. Men had kept
him out of the loop of any rescue-effort. He asked, "It's hard to
believe they're going to land along the road unless they are going to meet
others. If they're going to refuel helicopters . . . why here? Why aren't
they closer to Tehran or a safe distance from the damn road? Are you certain
the coordinates are correct?"
Pulling the map from a pocket, and checking it, Laleh said, "Yes
. . . I'm sure. I wish I weren't. This is the only section on the map with
a true northeast and southwest. This must be it."
An old, dust laden, Mercedes from the sixties drove through the stretch
of road. It passed with its driver paying no attention to Karim or Laleh.
Laleh watched the car as it stirred up a curtain of dust and continued
to the southwest toward Yazd.
Karim knew the Americans ran the risk of someone driving straight through
their operation. He also knew the position for the refueling of the helicopters
would be a concern. He and Laleh also required a knoll or wrinkle in the
barren land where they could cover the landing. It was obvious any security
troops would take up positions on the road and wouldn't expect anyone to
be waiting from the interior side. Now, Karim wondered how the Americans
planned to see the desert floor beneath them. There would be a partial
moon. If the Americans turned on their aircraft landing lights, they would
risk someone passing on the road and observing them. Before restarting
the motorcycle, Karim said, "We'll take a position to the southwest.
We need to leave the bike at least a mile off the road. We'll have to hike
back. If it's covered there's doubt they'll spot it. I'll have to sweep
As Karim restarted the motorcycle, Laleh climbed back into the sidecar.
She said above the sound of the engine, "There are two blankets I
took from the lining of my suitcase. They're to keep them from seeing any
infrared image. The cycle will cool at dusk."
After driving three-quarters of a mile off the graded road and into
the barren land to the southwest, Karim turned the motorcycle down a shallow
roll in the land. After coming down its western side, out-of-site of the
road, Karim brought the motorcycle to a stop. He turned off the engine.
As they crossed the flat, Laleh had looked back to notice that the motorcycle
left one-inch tracks. But Laleh's main concerned was the pain that nearly
stunned and racked her brain. The morphine pills hadn't yet taken effect.
Karim said, "The bike should be out of sight here. We'll walk back
and find a position to the southwest. We need a decent position for observing
Laleh climbed out of the sidecar. She would wait for the cycle to cool
before disassembling the sections making the rifle. She said, We'll have
to cover it after it cools. She pulled two paper-thin blankets from beneath
the back of the Islamic dress before opening the false bottom of a camera
case. From it, she took out three projectiles and handed them to Karim.
Karim pushed them into a pocket.
Before settling in for their wait and before moving back northeast to
find a position in the night's wait, Karim took the broom and set off to
sweep the tracks of the motorcycle. He returned to find Laleh lying on
the warm sand in an effort to get her head to stop pounding. She had taken
a cassette player from her shoulder bag, pushed a Googoosh tape in, and
pushed the play button. Laleh listened to the sound of a Persian love song
sung in the voice of a singer whose career Laleh had followed as a teenager
living in Tehran. Laleh closed her eyes to the heat. The sweet sound of
lost love filled the immediate desert around Laleh and Karim. Karim listened
to the notes, to the plea of the words, and he thought the world mad.
Russ Camron woke early on the island of Masirah. He spent the morning
going through a routine aircraft inspection. There would be a last briefing
for the coming night. Having time to wait, he managed time to walk to a
beach southwest of the American's forward camp. There, on a beach littered
with the skeletons of sea turtles, Camron looked at a large skeleton head.
As he did, he hoped the men making the flight didn't imitate the turtles
and end dead in the desert. Several minutes passed as he stood on the beach
and listened to the waves and the wind. Cameron knew the hours grew short.
A single lead Talon would lift off the island at dusk. He and others would
fly out an hour later.
Several hours passed since arriving at the coordinates passed to Laleh.
Karim had placed one of the infrared blankets over the motorcycle, and
he and Laleh had hiked back in the direction of the landing zone. Laleh
now lay halfway up a roll of sand and Karim sat beside her. Even with the
late day remaining hot, and her in the Islamic dress, Laleh managed to
sleep for several hours after the morphine took effect. She now lay awake
with her head resting on an arm. The rifle lay on the thermal blanket next
to her. She said, "This is madness. I wonder if it should be done."
Karim watched to the west. The hot air dropped from being near blast
furnace hot but remained warm. "If we don't stop it . . . who will?"
Laleh thought of the times her father and mother drove across sections
of Iran's vast expanse. She loved the open country. Except for past trips
to Qum, Esfaham, Shiraz, and to the ancient ruins of Persepolis, she hadn't
before traveled so deep into the immense desert country. Most of the long
ago trips were in the country's north, along the mountains, or along the
Caspian Sea. She said, "There's no one. That's the pity of it. It
wouldn't be taking place if your revolutionary council released the hostages."
"No one will die. We disable three helicopters. The Americans leave.
The hostage mess sorts itself out."
Laleh realized it was the first time Karim called the hostage crisis
a mess. She wondered if he were beginning to think the entirety of it was
a mistake. Laleh asked, "Tell me something . . . how do you fit into
the embassy takeover?"
"I was one of those leading it. I don't need the daily attention
of holding a news conference. Vanity and pride may kill those. The revolution
may turn on them. I've never needed to be the center of attention."
"What did you expect to gain from it?"
"It was the CIA bringing the shah to power. Forty-five percent
of this country's oil revenues went to the British. A good percent went
to the Americans. Why should it surprise the Americans that we want them
out of our country? The shah's family grew rich. The poor remained poor."
Laleh knew Karim spoke the truth. An American CIA operative aided in
bringing the shah out of exile and to the throne of what was Persia. The
price was the shah reversing the nationalizing of the oil companies. Laleh
said, "It kept the Marxist out."
"Maybe so, but the American's have little toleration for an extended
crisis. They are self-centered and wanting their toys while the world sinks
Laleh turned her eyes to the beginning light of near stars. She said,
"I don't know that every American thinks that. Maybe we should all
serve God . . . learn to be kinder to one another." Laleh knew she
was trying to find a sense of hope. She took a further morphine pill, and
she now worried she might become sleepy from its effect. Karim remained
silent. Laleh turned her thoughts back to wondering how men planned to
cover their presence in the desert. Any torn-up desert near the graded
road ran the risk of someone seeing it.
The first of six C-130s lifted into the evening's late light. They lifted
off the island of Masirah off Oman and in the Indian Ocean. Aboard it were
its flight crew, Delta Force members, their leader, Army Rangers, combat
ground controllers, and Colonel Keller. As the plane made a banking turn
to the northeast, Colonel Keller hoped that nothing came out of the night
to interject itself into the rescue-effort. The flight to Desert 1 would
take four hours. >>>
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