The Merkaba (2)
At the Department of Justice, FBI Headquarters, the great man sat behind his desk, sipping hot coffee, in partial darkness and total isolation. Light falling from the ventilation above. His phone rang.
The person on the telephone said, “Adams, sir. I thought you should read this article in The Washington Post, ‘An FBI agent assassinated in Budapest’ on page 9.”
He reached for the papers neatly stacked on his desk. Grabbed the daily and turned on the page, “Do we have a commitment?”
“This first came out three days ago in Népszava, Hungarian Trade Union paper. It says Robert Maxwell was tailed by two gunmen. He tried an escape, ran out of the hotel but shot near Chain Bridge by the Danube. He was carrying an FBI badge and an American passport, IDs and numbers scratched on the papers. The gunmen fled. He was staying at Hotel Grub, happened five days ago on 27th March. His room was searched by those stalkers before he was killed.”
“Commies got him!”
“Looks like they did.”
“Run a scan and find this chap.”
Chief glanced at the grainy photographs in black and white. One that portrayed his face and few shots of Maxwell lying in a pool of blood.
Adams ran a computer scan that took four hours to complete. He even called the Foreign Mission to see if an inquest was made. He reported to the boss, “We have found no match. He’s not one of us.”
“Huh!” cried the boss on the edge, “It’s CIA, I told them not to use us as alias. I’ll call them and see if I can find anything. If it’s the Black Ops…I can find nothing.”
It was a cold night. Tyler dropped in bed to catch an early sleep. Lit the bed lamp and read some notes he scribbled. He retired the US Air Force as a captain seven years ago. Since then he began writing story books. Tyler Friesen wrote six novels. Two hit the bookstands and sold over a hundred thousand copies.
On a radio show he talked about his new project to write his experience in the Berlin Blockade. In the post-war Europe, Germany fell under occupation zones. It was one of the major crises of the Cold War era. Soviet Union blocked land access to the areas of Berlin under Western control. In response, Allies organised the Berlin Airlift to carry supplies such as food and fuel to the Berliners and flew over two hundred thousand flights over a year. Tyler Friesen was a young pilot in the cockpit of a Douglas DC-3 variant – C-47 Skytrain. It could only carry 3 tonnes and flown it back and forth through a narrow corridor, flights landing in Berlin every 90 seconds, and through the nasty weather and hazards.
He was thinking how to call this book. ‘Airlift’ or ‘The Airlift’…he scratched them out. Why was it termed a ‘blockade and not ‘embargo’ – because USSR pushed it. He laughed remembering…I’ve Got Sixpence…
His front door bell buzzed. Beep! Beep!
He jumped down from bed, knotted his robe and peeped through the eyehole. A young gentleman stood in the cold, “Captain Friesen!”
“General Howe would like to meet you.”
“Joseph Howe?” he unhooked the door.
The general climbed down from the Buick and reached his steps, “Tyler!”
“Congratulations!” he greeted.
“I am still a lieutenant…” general replied, “May I come in?” He carried an attaché case and hands in gloves. “Sorry to bother you at this hour.”
“Come in, sir. I wasn’t sleeping. What would you like to have?”
“Bourbon,” he removed his overall and sat down, “Where’s your family?”
“In Hartford, Connecticut. I am here in New York to sign a new contract with my publisher.”
“I heard you on radio talk show. Dug you out and rushed. You wrote few novels on the Eastern Front? How is this writing stuff doing?”
“Very well,” he passed a glass of Bourbon.
“This new project…remember…we were there in Berlin. Cheers!”
“Let me get to the point. This may help a tour to the Eastern Front if interested. It began with this news in Washington Post,” he produced the paper, “An FBI agent killed in Budapest…a fabricated story. He’s Spanish and a representative of Catay Tours in Barcelona. This agency involved with Arizona State University to obtain titanium from Ukraine through a Georgian weapons firm and CIA operates pick up by air from a point in Armenia.” General dug out a wrapping in cloth from his case and unfolded. “Flat bars of Grade 5 titanium. 45% lighter than steel but as strong. Twice as strong as aluminium but 60% heavier. It resists corrosion in seawater. Its melting point is 3034 degrees Fahrenheit…it is resistant to high temperatures. A tough metal, biocompatible and hard to work…”
Tyler picked a piece and glanced at its shine.
General Howe continued, “Now, I cannot tell you reasons and whys they wanted the rutile ore to produce titanium. Rutile ore is a very sandy soil. Titanium is used in a top secret project. We leave it at that…something like NASA…spacecraft…
“Two million dollars were paid to Catay Tours to obtain these shipments. That would pay off roughly 1500 tonnes of rutile ore. It’s over budget…
“On this day Jaco Ferre was killed, some 5 tonne load of shipment was confiscated by the Armenian army. Four days later, Pier Sivils disappeared. He’s the boss of Catay Tours…an agency close for liquidation. We have all the resources in Spain to look into the case and of course the Arizona State University. However, we cannot involve FBI or a US authority in the Eastern Bloc. They fabricated this story because they knew something about the nature of the deal…
“We believe Pier Sivils is in Greece. I want to find him. You can travel freely as a writer. I will give you ten thousand dollars for the trip. When you come back with a positive result, you get another ten.”
Tyler emptied his Bourbon, “Where do I start?”
“The plan is all yours…”
“Interesting,” said Tyler, “let me think it over.”
“It’s not going to be easy,” said the general, “here is the phone number of my assistant. He can supply you with surveillance devices, firearms, passports, anything you need...
“And this address of a violinist…Samvel Salazar, in Armenia. He will assist you. You have a week, Tyler, go back home and get ready to write a book.”
He arrived at Budapest in the third week of April with no pseudonyms attached and carrying his authentic passport. His Royal typewriter in a leatherette box case comprised hidden compartments holding a Colt M1911 and other Hartford gadgets.
Tyler checked in at Hotel Grub and soon learnt of a girl involved in the incident. He obtained some local papers dating back two weeks and browsed the pages. He couldn’t read but her name appeared – Hajnal.
A cold morning it gave an opportunity to sneak up to the English-speaking counter girl seated alone. He greeted, “Szervus!”
“Good Morning, Mr Tyler!” she replied.
“Sasa…I was thinking…were you here when the shooting took place?”
“Jaco!” she cried, “yeah…”
“What happened? What happened to the girl?”
She told him the story and mentioned a telex she passed to Jaco Ferre early that morning.
“Do you know him?”
“He comes frequently. A representative of Catay Tours. They send Spanish clients to the hotels around in Budapest…”
“Do you have some brochures of Catay Tours?”
She passed an issue of the 1964 catalogue, “You can keep it.”
“Thanks,” returned Tyler, “I am captivated with the architecture around Castle District. Hotels, museums, colosseums…this city is a wonder. Gothic-style Matthias Church in front of us…it’s mesmerising…
“Sasa…tell me about the girl…Hajnal?”
She shrugged, “She’s an escort…”
“I was thinking if she could escort me. You don’t know her?”
She shook her head.
“You passed that telex…you probably saw what was in it…”
“I’m afraid, Mr Tyler…”
“I’m curious here…I need to know…”
She paused for a brief moment wearing a blank face and swiftly entered the office. She returned with the carbon copy. They always filed the correspondence.
Tyler asked, “Can I keep it?”
“Thanks,” he dropped a ten-dollar tip.
“I know the girl,” said Sasa, “she’s a kindergarten teacher. Her Montessori is few miles from here. She does serve customers. I can call her.”
“Can you, please!”
“Sure, I have her number.”
“Send her to me…I’ll be in my room.”
Tyler dropped in bed and glanced at the pages of the 1964 colour issue. They catered for hotels around the Mediterranean and East Europe – Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy…
Pier Sivils could be anywhere. He read the text in the telex. Alexey…possibly Russian. Could he be at Hotel National! Possibly not. Police would have chased him but not if documents were missing. Jaco was directed to pay US$7700 and if it was rutile ore…it could be roughly six tonnes.