Conspiracy at Desert One
By Bernace Charles
The Oklahoma morning offered no alternative. It was another sultry day
as the heat punched its way into a bright hot sky. The heat would soon
be near suffocating. At eight-fifteen a.m., David Rice exited the Tulsa
Airport. He wore a false beard and brown contacts. Wearing a short sleeve
shirt, baggy beach pants, and sandals, Rice gave the appearance of a Californian.
He hailed a cab, slipped into the back seat and said, "Take me to
Sand Springs. The name of the place is The Shady Elms. It's a rest home.
I have an hour before catching a flight to LA." The connecting flight
was a lie.
A cab driver answered in a Southern drawl, "Sure, I can get you
there in about ten minutes." With the cab pulling into traffic, David
Rice hoped Harold Rush hadn't had a visitor the previous day.
Fifteen minutes later the cab turned up the Elm Street off-ramp into
Sand Springs. At the end of the street a rest home sat built in a horizontal
V and with a glass-door entrance at its apex. David Rice said as he exited
the cab, "Wait here. I need to make a quick check on an uncle."
Ann Thurman sat at the reception desk. Rice extended a, "Good morning.
My name is Walter Jones. I'd like to visit with a Mr. Harold Rush. My brother
was supposed to come by yesterday to let Mr. Rush know I would be stopping
by. Can you tell me if anyone visited him yesterday?"
Ann Thurman checked the prior day's visitor log and answered, "Yes,
but whoever signed in did so by only filling in the time. It was at eight-thirty
p.m. I can't tell who stopped to visit Mr. Rush. I wasn't on duty."
"It's like my brother to forget to do the simplest of tasks. Is
it OK if I run down to say hi?"
The girl pointed down the hall and said, "Mr. Rush is in room 65
in the north wing. Just follow the room numbers. You can't miss it."
"Did Mr. Rush get the private room he wanted?"
"He has a private room. You can visit with him as long as you want."
Ann, casting a sad expression said, "He won't be able to get up. He's
been bedridden for some time now. He's probably watching TV. He likes to
watch the morning talk shows."
David Rice asked, and pointing to the hallway, "This way?"
As Rice walked along the tile floor, he thought of how it carried the
sterile appearance of a building in Langley, Virginia. Reaching room 65,
he pushed the door open, stepped inside the room, and closed the door behind
him. As he did, his eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room. A hospital bed
was near a curtained window. No one had opened the curtains to the day.
David Rice was thankful for that fact as he stepped toward an elderly man
with white hair, and drawn, tired eyes and face.
Harold Rush looked up at Rice with a bewildered expression. The meaningless
interchange of a talk show emanated from a television. Harold Rush was
a patient having to use an oxygen bottle. Stepping to the bed, Rice said,
"Mr. Rush, I'm glad to meet you."
Harold Rush answered with effort, not turning the television's volume
down with the remote he held in his right hand. "Do I know you?"
Rice made no reply as he reached for the tube providing oxygen. He moved
it aside before lifting the old man's head off his pillow. Rice pulled
the pillow from beneath the old man and pressed it over a tired face.
Six minutes later David Rice closed the door of the room and returned
to the reception desk. He spoke with Ann Thurman. "Thank you. Mr.
Rush is sleeping. I didn't wake him."
"That's odd. He's usually awake. I know he was awake for breakfast.
Would you like for me to wake him?"
"No. He probably dozed off during a commercial. His television
was on. I turned it off. I have to return to Tulsa following a week in
Houston. I'll stop by next Thursday."
Ann Thurman watched David Rice leave the building and enter the waiting
cab. She noticed the cab was yellow and she knew it was out of Tulsa. Sand
Springs didn't have a cab company. Once inside the cab, Rice said, "I've
decided to stay in Tulsa for a couple of days. Take me to a car rental
The driver glanced in the rear-view mirror at his passenger and said,
"No problem. The cheapest are on North Memorial at the airport."
"Fine." Rice glanced quickly at the rest home as the cab
swung around to reenter the street and head for the Cross-Town Expressway.
Walker spent the morning behind his word processor. It hadn't been a
good morning and he knew it. The hours were ones isolated in torment. He
was tired of trying to concentrate on a story that didn't hold his interest.
Now, the thought of another seemed to roll over him to carry him along
as a twig in a rampaging flood. At twelve-thirty, the telephone rang. Picking
up the receiver Walker droned, "Yea, I'm here."
The voice was official, "Is this Wes Walker?"
"My name is detective Miles. I work for the Sand Springs Police
Department's Homicide Division."
"How can I help you?"
"Mr. Walker, the night receptionist told me you visited Harold
Rush at the Shady Elm Rest Home yesterday evening. She said you did so
around eight but only entered the time on the register."
"Yes, I visited Harold. Is there anything wrong?"
"I'm sorry to inform you that Mr. Rush is dead. Some one killed
him this morning."
"Are you sure Mr. Rush didn't die as a result of his emphysema."
"No, Mr. Walker. He died after someone stuffed a pillow over his
face. He died from suffocation."
"This happened this morning?"
"Yes. I don't need you to come in now for any statement. What I
do need is to know if Mr. Rush said anything leading you to suspect someone
would want to kill him. It doesn't seem logical someone would kill an old
man. The staff said that the killer took nothing. There's something not
right about it. Employees here confirm he was alive earlier and ate his
breakfast this morning. He died around 10:30. A man came by claiming to
be a friend of the family. The staff didn't discover Mr. Rush's body until
noon when they brought lunch to him."
"You have to be kidding? Someone killed Harold?"
"Mr. Walker, all that we have is a composite drawing from a cab
driver and the young lady working at the rest home's front desk. I don't
know if it'll help anyone."
Wes stumbled for the words as he lit a cigarette, "I can't think
of anyone who might want to kill Harold. I went to high school with his
stepson. I stopped by to see him but he was sleeping."
"You would have no idea why someone might kill him?"
There was a pause. The officer asked. "You said you were a friend
of the man's stepson? The director of the home said his stepson died. Do
you know what happened to him?"
"He died in Iran. He was part of the mission attempting to rescue
the Americans held in Tehran back in 1980."
"When you said his stepson died . . . do you know if there are
others involved in the rescue-effort who also live near Tulsa?" Wes'
mind sprang into a total defense mode. "No. Mr. Rush has only a sister."
"Thank you for your time. If I need to speak with you I'll call."
"I have no plans to leave town."
"It seems you have fans at the rest home."
Walker remembered the times different staff members had asked him to
autograph one book or another. He said, "Yes, I have." Wes placed
the receiver of the telephone in its stand. Like cold water washing through
his veins, he realized the reason for the murder. Whoever followed The
Raven to Tulsa must have thought The Raven gave him the slip so he could
talk to Harold Rush about Desert 1. The realization burned a deep anger
into Walker's mind. The man with the code name said someone followed him.
That someone must have thought he went to the rest home before the meeting
outside the city. Wes stood and as he crossed the room to the patio door,
he thought about the danger of calling the number in Chicago.
Recalling the name and address of the home in Jerusalem, Walker gazed
out the door in thought. He turned away presenting a look of intense concentration.
He was coming back to life. He needed papers from his safety deposit box.
He needed to ditch Wes Walker and emerge with a new identity.
It was late when David Rice reached Oklahoma City. He drove the rental
car to the busy downtown area. There, he parked the car, walked to the
nearby bus station, and entered the men's room. He came out no longer wearing
a beard. Exiting the station, he took a cab to the Oklahoma City Airport.
Inside, he purchased a ticket on American Airlines to Washington, D.C.
It was three p.m.
In a Tulsa bank, Wes stepped up to the safety deposit box counter and
spoke to the clerk by first name. As he handed the woman his numbered key
he said, "Hi, Judy, I need to get some papers out of my box."
"Hi, Mr. Walker. How are you?"
Judy Baker registered the number on the registry, opened a low door,
and Walker followed her into the vault. Judy asked, "Do you have another
book coming out soon, Mr. Walker? I enjoyed the ones I've read."
"Maybe in a couple of months. I'll have to wait and see how my
editor responds to it."
Judy took her master key and unlocked Walker's safety deposit box. She
pulled it out and stepped to a counter divided by partitions. She sat the
box down and said, "Here you go. Let me know when you're finished."
Judy Baker turned to leave Wes alone.
As he went through the box, Walker removed ten thousand dollars in cash.
He kept the money there so he could travel without worrying about having
his movements tracked by using a credit card. He also took out a false
passport, driver's license, and social security card. Wes read the address
of a print shop in London. The print shop was a front for the Irish Republican
Army. After reading the address on London's Edgeware Road, Wes took his
cigarette lighter and lighted the paper. When the paper burned, he crumpled
the ashes to allow them to fall into the safety deposit box. He then studied
a brief note about a contact in Israel and burned it also hoping he didn't
set off a smoke detector. He quickly lit a cigarette to cover the smell
of burned paper.
Judy Baker entered the vault room and said, "Mr. Walker, you should
know you can't smoke in here."
Walker pretended to have a mental lapse and knew the woman would tolerate
his oversight. He said, "I forgot." Wes put the cigarette out
by pressing its end against the base of his gold lighter.
After Judy placed the safety deposit box in its slot, Walker followed
the younger woman out of the vault. She extended to Wes his deposit box
key saying, "Try to remember the rules next time . . . OK? I don't
want to lose my job."
"I will. I promise." Walker turned to leave.
Leaving the bank, Wes found himself thinking of days at a training facility.
He spent those days in the hills of Northern Ireland. Men trained him to
use multiple weapons. Now, Wes wondered if he was insane to begin a search
that took him into the heart of an organization shunned by the world community.
The same was true of the men on The West Bank after they spirited him into
southern Lebanon. He spent three months moving from one training camp to
another before he ended up in Syria. All his sources remained anonymous
and nearly cost him his passport with the State Department. Freedom of
speech won out when he decided to place the stories on a personal level.
Stepping into his Cadillac, Walker thought of how the money and movie
rights to the two stories assured an income giving him financial security.
Now, he was thinking of going back to Israel. Wes knew, that if the story
told him by Jacob Kolleck were true, his life would find itself in danger
from two directions. He promised not to return to The Old City. The death
in the rest home in Sand Springs testified to The Raven's words being true.
Yet, Walker couldn't conceive of the CIA running a dual-purpose mission.
The reality of an American agency wrecking havoc on the Desert 1 effort
Yet, The Raven came to Tulsa, and someone followed him there. That person
killed Harold Rush. Wes knew he would be running a desperate race. Now,
there wasn't time to wait for The Raven's death to start a search. If he
waited, those who killed Harold Rush would make a connection between them.
He would now become a non-person. There was a reason to fight for life.
But, without Sally, life was bare and empty as the day he stood over a
closed grave and mourned her loss.
Ten minutes later Walker returned home. He called a cab to take him
back into town. There, he exited the taxi without any luggage and walked
four blocks to the bus station. Thirty minutes later he boarded a bus for
Roya was unable to sleep. She had awaken fifteen minutes earlier and
left her bedroom. The room was above the shop with a window that afforded
a view of Christian Street. It also faced Louis' bedroom that was across
the street and above his parent's cafe. Roya stepped through a narrow doorway
leading to a small storage room and through another door opening to a narrow
terrace. There, she slipped into a plastic deck chair. As she sat in the
cool night, she looked east toward the Muslim Quarter. She wondered what
was to become of her if her mother should die. She thought about where
she might go and how she would get there. She wondered if she would find
the courage that she would need if she decided to return to America. Roya
wondered if she would join the Carmelites.
Concentrating, Roya drew on bits and pieces of her past. She recalled
birthday parties and dance recitals and she remembered her youthful ambition
to become a dancer or actress. Dancing was once her mother's dream. Her
mother enrolled her in dance classes in both Reston and Chicago. Now, she
only imagined the moves while wondering if all aspects of her life were
the same as the dance steps she once practiced. The dance steps came and
left her as having no meaningful purpose.
The dance routines went away with the change in her life. They were
like the great religions claiming the city that constantly went through
the process of discovering themselves. The difference for her was having
no certainty. As she sat gazing into the sky, Roya soon brought her eyes
back to the city's rooftops. She remembered the time her mother left her
to travel to Istanbul. >>> Go
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