The Merkaba (1)
It came out of the sky due north as the air traffic controller spotted right in front of him. Pilot requested for permission to land at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale. ATC officer always knew where it came from but asked, “Where did the flight originate from?”
Pilot replied, “Las Vegas.”
“You’re clear to land.”
One passenger climbed down and the Douglas DC-6 took off without delay. Lieutenant Melville Bradley was received by a chauffeur and guided to a Buick. They drove off and in eight minutes arrived at a ranch in White Tank Foothills in the West Valley.
He was ushered to a large foyer with glass walls to view the desert land. Two others sat by the conference table. A four-star general stood looking out through the glass into the emptiness.
General Abrams uttered without looking behind, “Who authorised the payment?”
“I did, sir,” replied the lieutenant.
He turned to face them, “Be seated, Lieutenant Bradley. Two million dollars…that’s a large sum. Will you explain? These gentlemen would like to know. General Howe and Mr Hudson of ATS Command.”
Lt Bradley sat down and began, “Ben Rich of the Skunk Works in Palmdale insisted to forward these funds to Arizona State University in Tempe as the production is rushed. Those contracts are signed by Lockheed. Their usual supplier, Titanium Metals Corporation, got limited resources so CIA conducts universal search using third parties, Third World and dummy companies.
“Previously, we obtained shipments through this Spanish tour agency and due to lack of funds we delayed payments. Now they wanted full payment and topped as much as it’s depleted.
“This wasn’t a safe route but Catay provided us rutile ore in bulk load from Ukraine ordered to a weapon industry in Georgia and by train over the Caucasus reach Armenia. CIA operates an airlift to Souda Bay Naval Base in Crete from the point they call the Dive.”
“This production of reconnaissance planes that we know from ‘Project Archangel’ has been rushed,” said General Abrams, “Headed by the mastermind, Clarence Johnson, and based on his design. We obtained ninety-six million to launch the production of SR-71 as LeMay calls it. Remains top secret but it’s been announced all over by the President and politicians alike. We have secure routes to obtain raw material. There won’t be a limitation to the manufacturer but funds are wasted…”
“At the point of Call in Budapest, Catay arranges the payment upon confirmation of the delivery however,” Bradley continued, “this time the cargo was confiscated by the Armenian military and airlift called off at the point of Dive. We don’t know the quantity, I mean, on a freight train it cannot be more than ten tonnes and fifteen grand. University talks with Pier Sivils…owner of the agency. CIA runs it…”
“What do you think? Is this our problem…worth going after the money?” asked the general.
Mr Hudson replied, “It’s a large amount but if we consider the front in Soviet Union it is absolutely risky. It is not our problem in one way…on the other hand we lost the money and the goods...”
“Mr Hudson, you can inform Kelsey. If requested by ATSC, I can engage CIA to do an investigation. Kelly’s team would probably know. I can adjust funds and keep them rolling. I understand all these dummy firms get the ore from Russian mines. I can’t think what has happened there…too big a payment and fishy as it sounds. Anyway, it is my job to retrieve the money.”
General Howe suggested, “How about FBI?”
“No,” said General Abrams, “we have to leave the inquest for another time. This is damn too risky to probe University folks. Bradley, keep them pushed…they must send a guy after this Pier…”
“Yes sir,” replied Lieutenant Bradley.
“Jaco!” called Sasa at the counter, “A telex from Pier Sivils…”
He read the text directing him to pay an invoice for US$7700 in cash to Alexey at Hotel National.
Jaco entered his room. His escort this weekend lay asleep under the encrusted white quilt. “Hajnal! I have to go out for a moment…”
She moaned, “What time is it?”
“It’s early, Saturday. I’ll be back in an hour. We’ll have breakfast then…”
“Okay…” and she dozed off.
Jaco turned up the collars and grabbed a taxi. He arrived at Hotel National on the other side of the Danube. Met with this Georgian who produced an invoice. He paid the money in US dollar cash.
Hotel Grub stood with a narrow entrance facing the crossroads in the heart of Buda’s Castle District. The tower of Matthias Church faced this entrance. A modest hotel Jaco stayed frequently. A tiny room arranged with white furniture, a large bed and a bulbous thick mattress with pale greyish-green draperies.
Someone climbed the balcony carrying a pry bar and fists in black leather gloves. Forced the window open and entered the room.
Hajnal couldn’t hear a noise and the guy did not see her under the quilt. She felt the coolness and turned to mutter, “Jaco!” The intruder harshly turned to face her. She jumped on top of the bed stark naked and began to scream. He swung the bar inches from her. She screamed like hell. He dropped the pry bar and pulled out his gun, “Tivka!” There were some taps on the door and he moved back to open.
Someone entered and spoke in a foreign tongue, “Koi e ova?”
She was a small lady with curly long black hair, trembling to hold a footing on the heavy mattress – a full-frontal exposure in a burst of tissues.
“Spušti…Vanco…” the second guy warned.
Vanco put aside his gun, “Znaeš Jaco?” Two guys advanced from both sides of the bed.
Vanco swore in Magyar, “Bolgár csikló…”
Suddenly, she dived in between them and landed on the floor. She was up on her feet, grabbed the bar and made for the door. She swung open but the second guy leaped and grabbed an ankle. She fell half out, half in. He pulled her into the room to face the bar she swung that blew off his knuckles. Vanco caught the bar and pulled. She rose suspended on it. He struggled to get it free. She dropped on the bed and he landed on her top. He shoved an elbow in her jaw and the bar came free. He swung it high. She coiled crossing her hands on her head and eyes closed but the blow terminated.
He grasped her wrists and seized from behind. “Daj mi raka!” he asked for a hand. A knee firmly placed on her back thighs.
“Jas nemam…” his companion cursed in agony not having a hand…he saw her clothes hung on the chair and tossed them to Vanco.
Vanco grabbed a blue bra and bound her wrists. Stuffed her black panties into her mouth. They pulled her to a chair and tied her legs with her white pants – those items within reach. They covered her face with her black T-shirt. “Kurva!” he swore and threw her overcoat on her body. They were exhausted.
Milos pulled his head out, “Brzaš…Vanco!”
He hastily emptied the drawers and searched the cupboards. Vanco picked some documents. Jaco kept his valuables in the safe. He was stuck at it.
“Zeme…zeme…” Milos cried.
“Teški…” It was heavy.
Milos took another glance out of the door to find Jaco walking up the corridor, “Jaco!”
And he saw Milos. Jaco turned and darted out of the corridor. He ran out of the hotel entrance.
Vanco pushed the heavy safe back to its position with a knee and joined Milos. They ran after him.
Jaco ran all the way down Tárnok utca towards the Danube. Milos shot him in the park near Clark Ádám tér. Jaco dropped his attaché case and continued to limp on. He was shot a couple of times.
Vanco picked the case.
Jaco passed the worker statue and reached the Széchenyi Lánchid – the Chain Bridge. He dropped at the head of the bridge and blood spilled from his back. Milos and Vanco briefly paused beside him. Then they fled the scene in a black GAZ car that suddenly hopped to aid the muggers. Police arrived at the scene. Jaco died on the way to the hospice.
An investigation was launched. Jaco Ferre came from Barcelona, 34 years old representative from Catay Tours.
Next morning it appeared in Népszava that an FBI agent was killed in a chase on foot from Hotel Grub by two gunmen who fled in a car. He was carrying an FBI badge and a passport. Nothing said about the girl at the hotel room.
Through diplomatic means both nations shared information and the dead body would be repatriated to the largely neutral Spain after examination. There was a matter of national security violation and Hungary wanted not to share it with a third country. Even with differences in views Franco’s Nationalist Government upheld it.
Catay Tours was on the brink of collapse, several payments outstanding and Pier Sivils prepared to file his agency for bankruptcy. He received this news with shock and just because he knew the nature of the operation he was involved made him plan to become a fugitive. There was a very narrow margin at this point to escape.