Thursday, February 3, 2011

week forty-three: ugly duckling

It's January 15th, 2010 in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

My partner doesn't know my name and I don't know his. After graduating from “the academy,” I was given a set of cards with a series of false personal details details on them including a new name. Since my partner, who, to me is Mister Patrick Greenfield, is in the exact same position as I am, I can only assume that I know nothing about him. It's strange because it seems like we're some of the best of friends. But there is nothing real to it. When I talk to him, it's my cover talking. The wife and kids I have at home aren't real; I'm single. Sometimes I can't tell if Patrick is lying or not. I like to believe that he isn't. Sometimes I like to believe that I'm not lying either.

My name, that is my agency name, is John Brunell. My partner and I work in a special branch of the Central Intelligence Agency we've nicknamed the ugly duckling department. Our job isn't to infiltrate the enemy with covers or assassinate people or any of the stuff people seem to think field operatives do. Our job is to look like we're the kind of evil masterminds you see in the movies; the kind of black-suits who go out and manipulate people. We go out and find terrorist or criminal organizations, then we claim to be CIA “representatives” who want to help them out because they fit our top-secret agenda. Our job is to look like a conspiracy theorist's wet dream.

And they all play right into it. The world has this image of CIA agents being what we pretend to be. We pretend to be these bosses who sip whiskey and control the strings. In reality, we're pretty powerless in terms of what we say we do. We say we can use our CIA magic to bring down entire governments or change oil prices at the snap of our fingers. But in reality, we've got nothing.

Our existence serves quite a few purposes. The first and most important is that we serve as a blind for the real field operatives out there. The scum and governments (usually the same thing) of the earth keep their eyes one us, which turns their attention away from the real operatives. The second reason is more legitimate. We get close to the leaders of these organizations and they try to work with us. They almost never really trust us and they never give up too much, but few people can actually get closer than we can. A third reason is that the CIA likes their image as a crazy group of suits who bully everyone with their conspiracy nonsense. Why?

Well, it's a complicated answer best given by the PR liars more close to home. The way I understand it is that if they think we're one thing, then they won't know what we really are. It's pretty brilliant in my opinion.

My partner and I step off our private jet and onto Haitian soil. We decided to arrive at night just to make it seem like we were being mysterious. The small airport we were at didn't look as bad as the pictures you'd see of the earthquake aftermath. There was the occasional mess, but my first thought was that the media was over-blowing the whole thing.

Awaiting our arrival was a man who insisted on the cover name the Australian. We came into contact with him after we figured out he was running a whole smattering of scams after the 2005 tsunamis over near India. Before that, he ran a couple of “business” in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was more before that, but this guy is a classic example of a disaster profiteer. He operates in the shadows and lives comfortably in an illusion of anonymity.


Actually, we know everything there is to know about this guy. His real name is Charlie Verne and he isn't even Aussie; he's from New Zealand. He's unmarried, he's got four homes across the globe, his net worth is somewhere around eighty million dollars, the most common color in his wardrobe is khaki, he owns nine cars, his mother is of Polish ancestry and his father of English, and he's had three separate STD cases. But Mr. Verne believes that he's playing us for fools.

He isn't.

You see, our job is to make him feel like he's powerful and playing some angle with us, meanwhile we're just patsying him. Yes, he is taking money from people and exploiting charity, but our job is actually pretty noble this time around. You see, we have to keep the Australian under control. If we just shut him down, then someone else would take his place and then we would have to go through the whole process of assessing this new person and learning how to work him. Meanwhile, while we did this, the new guy could do all kinds of damage we wouldn't even know about. So, if we keep Verne under control, we can keep him from doing any real damage.

So there's Verne standing outside a red van with a pair of guys who must be security guards. It's pretty obvious that he's trying to look important to us. Since he's out of earshot, Patrick whispers to me, “What do you say we shoot him now and get it over with?”

I seriously considered it as we walked down the stairs.

“Gentlemen, welcome!” Verne exclaims to us. “I trust your flight wasn't too bad?”

“Not at all,” Greenfield replied. “I trust you have something for us?”

“Just like I said,” he pulled an envelope out from his, you guessed it, khaki sport coat.

“Keep it,” Greenfield said with a wry smile. “You really think we couldn't get the location of Haitian's military units on our own?”

“I suppose not,” Verne said as he motioned for his men to open the doors on the van. We climbed inside. It was nothing special and clearly made to blend in as much as possible. “So, why'd you have me go through the trouble?”

“To test you, Aussie, to test you,” Greenfield told him firmly. “You really think we'd work with a guy we couldn't trust?”

“Again, I suppose not,” Verne said from the passenger's seat. The shorter of the two bodyguards got behind the wheel, while the other sat in the back of the van behind me and Greenfield. “So, I have to ask, what exactly is your angle in our little arrangement?”

“You don't need to know that,” Greenfield argued as the van started moving. As me moved closer and closer to the city itself, I saw that I had been wrong before. Port-Au-Prince was hell. “You just need to know that we're here to make sure that you get where we want you and that you play nice. You just do as we say and make business as usual and then we'll make sure you stay in business as usual. That's it.”

“That easy?”

“Never,” Greenfield put it bluntly. “But you can handle it.”

“But I don't trust CIA spooks like you,” the van turned away from the city. “Maybe I've got a better idea.” We pulled into an empty lot and the van stopped. Verne pulled a pistol on us and ordered, “Get out of my van.”

Greenfield rolled his eyes, “Christ, you're even stupider than you look.”

Get. Out.

I looked over at Greenfield and sighed. We did as we were told. The bodyguards drew submachine guns from their jackets and kept them trained on us. Greenfield tried to reason, “Look, you shoot us and my boys will find you. What are you getting out of this?”

“On your knees,” the Aussie said calmly. He pulled a flare from his jacket, lit it, and threw it to the ground.

“Oh, damn, you're selling us out,” Greenfield cut it sarcastically as we got down on our knees with our hands to our heads. “You think we haven't seen this before? You're being played.”

“Shut up,” Verne ordered. I knew that he was doing this stupidly. For one, he had failed to retrieve our sidearms. For two... when does this ever actually work out?

You guessed it: never.

Suddenly, from the shadows, a group of men dressed in Russian special operations uniforms emerged. They had their weapons, which were standard carbine AKs, drawn and ready to shoot at whatever. One man in their group, however, had no AK. This man wore the same uniform as the rest, but instead of a military-ready, tight-sphinctered combat strut, he pranced like an officer. With a thick Russian accent, the officer asked, “These the guys?”

“Yeah, this is them.”

“How we know for sure? What proof you have?”

“You didn't ask for proof. Just my CIA spook friends.”

“We give you half.”



“No, you'll pay me full. CIA blokes like these aren't easy to come by. We got what you wanted-”

“You not give proof, we not give money. Simple.”

“Now, hold on just a minute-”

The Russian officer snapped his fingers and his men opened fire. Both bodyguards and Verne went down in a snap. The officer didn't even flinch. I was impressed. We had been given a lot of training to resist fear, but I have to admit... being a Russian prisoner for espionage was not exactly somewhat I wanted to do. We had all heard stories of the prisons and labor camps. Such horrors. And to think... we were going to that for free.

But then, something happened.... the officer spoke in a clear accent with a touch of New Jersey, “Well, that was a bit easier than I expected?”

“Wait, what the hell?” Greenfield came to his feet. “What just happened?”

“Our orders were to kill Verne. You were the bait. You did good.”

“The hell? Are you kidding me?” Greenfield snapped.

“We told him that we were Russians and wanted to buy some American spies. Just so happens that you were in the neighborhood doing your stupid ugly duckling thing. It all worked out.”

“You couldn't have told us?” Greenfield clenched his fist as I came to my feet.

“Couldn't risk you knowing.”

“Oh, you couldn't risk us?” Greenfield was pissed. I decided it best to let him argue it out. He was the better talker. I was always more of a partner to his lead. As they argued, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my pack of Camels and lit one. I puffed long and I puffed hard. A good cigarette can-

My neck suddenly burst with indescribable pain to the sound of a gunshot. As my legs buckled, more gunfire erupted. I saw that it was Verne. He had survived his previous wounds and turned to strike one last vengeance. Why on me? Simple. I was the easiest target.

From my experience in medicine, I knew that the bullet had hit spots where I wouldn't recover. I knew death was only seconds away. Greenfield soon stood over me and coolly, “Hey, John, look, you're gonna be okay, we're gonna get you-”

With my last breath, I muttered, “Craig Howard.” My real name.

No comments:

Post a Comment