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 Write for The Iranian

Conspiracy at Desert One
A novel

By Bernace Charles
The Iranian

Chapter Forty-Nine

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 the tracks."

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 this madness."

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 into despair."

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. >>> Go to Chapter Forty-Nine

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