Former CIA agent Kirk McGarvey is living in Lausanne with his girlfriend when a couple of top operatives from ""the Company"" show up. They desperately need his help as the Russians are up to something and it seems there may be a mole in the upper levels of the United States government. And McGarvey is the only man who can find him... At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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June 14, 1997
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Excerpt from Without Honor by David Hagberg
Flight 451 left Miami International Airport at two-fifty in the afternoon. On time. It was Tuesday, October 13. The weather was warm, in the high eighties, under clear blue skies with a gentle wind from the southeast. Signs were posted here and there throughout the busy airport warning that it was a federal offense even to joke about air disasters or hijackings. But it had been months since any incident had happened anywhere in the world, and even longer for Miami, so there was only a simple, relaxed watchfulness among the security people.
By three the DC-10 had climbed out over the Florida peninsula, the sun glinting on its silvery tail and wings, the cocktail cart beginning to move up the long aisle.
There were only ten persons in first class, among them two Mexican government employees returning from vacation; a professor of languages from the University of Mexico who had come to Miami to attend a conference on ancient cultures; three businessmen from AT&T (one of them of Mexican descent) on their way to talk some sense into the Mexican minister of communications about joint funding of a new satellite that would improve telephoneservice between the two countries; and two American couples on their way to Mexico City on assignment with the U.S. Agency for International Development, which had gotten a new start six months earlier.
They were served by two stews. One of them, Maria Gonzales, a pretty young girl from La Paz, clearly remembered the American couples because they seemed to be in such high spirits. They joked and laughed across the aisle with each other. And Senor Arthur Jules, the older of the two men, tall, husky, balding, was telling the most outrageous jokes about American-Mexican relations, which even the somewhat taciturn language professor seemed to find amusing.
No, she had not actually been close enough at any time to hear exactly what was being said by Senor Jules (he and his wife, Bernice, were seated in 3A and 3B), or by the other AID employee, Ted Asher (he and his wife, Janice, were seated across the aisle in 3C and 3D), but overall her impression of the two American couples was that they seemed pleasant, very aware, and apparently genuinely interested not only in each other, but in the other passengers in first class, especially the Mexican gentlemen.
Had she any idea why the two Americans in first class had been singled out by the hijackers? She would not even venture an opinion. The very same question was, of course, also asked of the other passengers, most of whom had not even the slightest awareness of the goings-on in first class.
There were three couples from Des Moines, Iowa, who had been vacationing together for the past four days in Miami and Key West, and were on their way to Mexico City on a lark. They had never done anything like this in their entire lives. Howard S.Morgan, the farm implement dealer in Saylorville (a suburb to the north of Des Moines) had come up with the idea in a bar in Key West the night before. They knew nothing about the happenings in first-class. None of them had ever gone first class in their lives and had no interest in ever doing so, but they all saw the killing.
Marjory Dillard, a woman from Duluth on her way to see her son in Mexico City, sat one row behind and across the aisle from one of the hijackers. Throughout the first part of the incident, she had been busy taking photographs with her Instamatic. The flash unit on the camera did not work, but technicians were able to produce images from the film nevertheless, which proved to be of inestimable value. She never gave first class a thought, and later she was so frightened that one of the two men who had taken over the aircraft would find out what she had done and kill her that everything seemed to pass her by in a blur.
Donna Anderson, just forward of the smoking section, who also saw the killing, was traveling with her two young children on the second leg of her trip to Acapulco, where her estranged husband was said to be living on company funds he had stolen. She was going to him, with the children, in an effort to make him see the light of day and return home to Tallahassee with her. The company was willing to forgive, if not forget, should he return of his own accord and promise to make restitution. Throughout most of the hijacking she was so concerned about the safety of her children that she, too, had little or no awareness of anything or anyone outside her own personal sphere.
Of the others, all of them were naturally aware that they had been hijacked, but only half of themactually saw the shooting take place twenty-five yards from the plane on the runway outside Havana.
By four that afternoon, while flight 451 was still fifteen minutes away from landing at Havana, the FBI Miami office had secured the passenger and crew list from the airline (via computer) and had immediately transmitted the list to its headquarters and archives in Washington, D.C. Who aboard the hijacked aircraft could be the hijacker ... or hijackers (it still was not known how many were involved)?
A scant fourteen minutes later, as the DC-10 was on its final approach, the passenger list had made its way from FBI Headquarters in the J. Edgar Hoover Building to the State Department on 21st and C streets. This transfer of information was done for two reasons. First, many of the passengers aboard the Aeromexico flight were foreign nationals: did State have anything on any of them? Second, two of the American passengers, Arthur David Jules and Theodore Alvin Asher, were employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development, a State Department operation.
Both men's names were flagged in State's computer. It was true, in a technical sense, that they worked for AID: But that simply was their cover. In actuality both Jules and Asher were field operatives for the Central Intelligence Agency.
During those first few critical moments it very nearly leaked that the two Americans were undercover. However a bright supervisor of some years experience at State, whose name was never mentioned on any report, picked up the telephone and called his friend Robert LeGrande, chief of the Western Hemisphere Division of Operations at Langley, to advise him that a couple of "friends" were involved as passengers in a hijacking. Even asthey spoke, the State Department supervisor was deleting the flags from the operatives' names, assuring their anonymity at least for the moment. State would continue to make all the appropriate noises as if the two were in fact AID employees, but the CIA would take their debriefing in hand if and when they were returned, which of course never happened because they were murdered.
Stewart Burger, a junior AID official working out of the Miami office, was immediately dispatched to the airport to take charge of Bernice Jules and Janice Asher. He knew nothing other than that they were the wives of the two murdered AID employees, although Albert Thompson, a CIA operations man who happened to be in Atlanta that afternoon, was flown by military jet to Miami where he tagged along, unobtrusively, to ensure nothing was said by either woman.
By early evening of that same day, a special investigative unit of the FBI was set up under the direction of John Lyman Trotter, Jr., who was acting assistant director of the bureau's Special Investigative Division. Trotter was a fairly rare breed in that he not only had the slick political savvy necessary for survival in Washington, but he had genuine talent as well, though over the past few years he had found himself bending his own principles with increasing frequency in order to satisfy an insatiable bureaucracy. He was tall and thin (almost cadaverous), and anything but good-looking, behind thick, wire-rimmed glasses perched atop a huge, misshapen nose. By way of compensation for his looks he had very early on become good at what he did ... which was finding out things that had to be found out. His wife, who had killed herself three years ago (or so the rumor went) had done so because she could not bear the strain of living with such a highly chargedman. He literally drove her crazy, which in some odd, perverse way, had increased his reputation as a power in Washington; as a man with such a devout, all-consuming singleness of purpose that not even his private life came before his work.
Trotter drove immediately from his home in Arlington to his office, where he began gathering his staff, who in turn began feeding him the first bits and pieces, just as they came in.
"Don't worry about analysis, or any sort of sophistication. I want, I need, details. Now!"
The media had gotten on to the business, of course, and already the networks were not only reporting the hijacking and the mysterious killing of two Americans, they were all trying to analyze what this meant in terms of the very complex U.S. relationship with Cuba.
Trotter was of no mind for such nonsense. He had begun his investigative career some years ago in the CIA, transferring to the bureau during the shake-up in the Carter years, when pragmatism was a dirty word. He had a very good idea, early on, that Jules and Asher could very well be Company men using AID as their cover. Two telephone calls to the State Department, including one to a very angry under secretary, produced the grudging admission that Jules and Asher may have been more than anyone was being told. A third call, this one to Lawrence Danielle, deputy director of operations at Langley, verified the fact that Jules and Asher were indeed Company operatives who had been on their way to Mexico City where they were to have taken up AID posts at the embassy.
"Is there a connection between their identities and their murders?" Trotter asked. "I just want to know that much, Larry, because it looks goddamned suspicious to me."
"We're working on it, John, believe me. Donald has got this place secured like a fortress. We're at war here. Can you understand that?" Danielle said it as if he were out of breath.
"Apparently the Cubans themselves shot them down right on the runway. Them, as well as the hijackers. What the hell was going on down there?"
"We had no indications, I assure you. Otherwise we would have made different arrangements to get them to Mexico City."
Trotter sighed deeply. "I'm taking charge of this investigation from here. Personal charge. You and I will have to liaise on this."
"Don't go charging off in all directions. Donald is going to want to talk to you," Danielle said hastily. Until Donald Suthland Powers had been appointed director of Central Intelligence by the president, Danielle had been acting director. There was universal agreement in Washington (in itself a rare thing) that Powers was the right man for the job at the right time. Things were getting done.
"We'll have to set up a common ground," Trotter said.
"It'll be on your turf. We have to keep the investigation out of our corner. At least for the time being," Danielle said. "I'll talk to Donald now."
The anonymous little man from across the river showed up that night. He was given clearance and a security badge, over Trotter's signature, and the nonpublicized collaboration between the FBI and the CIA began its intense, eight-day run. Trotter was in charge, with the help of his "expert," as Danielle came to be known, and if anyone could produce results it would be such a team. Within the first twenty-four hours they had brought together most of the facts, leaving the refinements and their ramifications to be worked out on the run.
In one sense, the hijacking could not have happened at a more propitious time for the United States. We had bungled the Bay of Pigs business in the sixties; we had muffed the rescue of our POWs from the hellish prison camp outside Hanoi in the seventies; and of course the Iranian hostage situation was still painfully fresh in everyone's minds. But America was on the road back. The Reagan administration had taken a hard-line stand with a hostile world. Had the Iranians grabbed our embassy in 1985, the hostages would have been freed within twenty-four hours; probably over a lot of dead bodies, but freed nevertheless. We were beginning to stand tall, and this incident seemed tailor-made to show our new strength of purpose. In another, larger sense, however (certainly no one could have predicted this), the hijacking ultimately resulted in arguably the most sinister and certainly most tragic of consequences.
The actual hijacking itself was an incident whose moment-by-moment details few of the passengers seemed able to agree upon. The consensus collated from the testimony of everyone on board did, however, allow investigators to come to a number of generalized conclusions and quite a few reasonable assumptions.
It went smoothly. All seemed to agree on at least that singular fact.
"We didn't really know anything was happening, at first," and variations on that theme were quite common statements.
The woman with the Instamatic shot one frame of the hijacker who had been seated near her. It showed him with a large, ugly-looking automatic in his left hand. Analysts later were able to identify thegun as a Graz Buyra, the KGB's weapon of assassination. But it was eight days before they realized how the two hijackers got their weapons on board, information which was, of course, never made public. An Aeromexico employee, Manuel Garcia Lopez, had brought the guns onto the aircraft the day before, while it was down for maintenance in Mexico City, stashing them in the waste paper-disposal compartment in the aft, port-side head. Lopez was never apprehended. It was believed he made his way to Cuba the very evening of the hijacking.
The most serious conclusion, at least in the early days, was that the two hijackers had had help. Organization. Backing. Planning. One of them had been tentatively identified (from the woman's photographs) as Eduardo Cristobal Valejo, a small-time hood who had overseen a wide variety of illicit transactions out of Mexico City ... anything from smuggling a few grams of cocaine to an occasional truckload of marijuana across the border at Piedras Negras into Texas. This hijacking was too big for him to have planned it. And how did a small-time hoodlum come to possess a Soviet assassination device in the first place? The other man was never identified. The woman's photographs of him were unclear and showed only the back of his head. Nor were the Ident-a-kit drawings made from descriptions by the crew of any help. So, for a time before the investigation began to be overshadowed by other, larger concerns, the second hijacker came to be known simply as the mystery man, a title that perhaps did him too much justice, for almost certainly he, too, was a small-time hood and not some international terrorist.
The actual time of the hijacking was one of the few facts that was nailed down solidly. At exactly 3:23 P.M., when flight 451 had flown nearly a hundredmiles out over the Gulf of Mexico off Florida's west coast, the two hijackers (who had already retrieved their weapons) got to their feet.
Valejo, seated near the rear of the plane, walked to the aft galley where he showed his automatic to the two stews there, telling them the flight would be diverted to Havana. There was no noise, no fuss or bother, and none of the passengers, at that point, suspected anything untoward was happening.
At the very same moment, the second hijacker, the mystery man, got up from his seat, moved carefully through the first-class section, and opened the door onto the flight deck. The door had been left unlocked in flight, contrary to regulation. He closed and properly locked the door, pulled out his weapon, and announced in clear English but with a Mexican accent that this plane was being taken over and would head immediately for Havana's Jos? Marti International Airport.
In the retelling the crew on the flight deck were quite clear and concise. They were professionals, trained for such an eventuality, so that at no time did they attempt to do anything that would create any further danger. They treated the hijacker with the utmost respect and regard, they told investigators.
Captain Vincent May (the only non-Mexican member of the crew) immediately radioed Miami Flight Control, advising them that they had been hijacked and were being diverted to Havana. No mention was made of a bomb, or of weapons, or of the number of hijackers on board. The Miami controller who took the call turned all his flights over to other controllers so that he was free to handle only this flight ... standard operating procedure. His supervisor immediately telephoned Havana Air Traffic Control to advise them of the incoming hijacked flight,and then in quick order he telephoned the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Miami, the Mexican Air Control Authority, the Aeromexico representatives at both airports, and finally Miami International Airport security.
The subsequent events seemed to gather their own terrible momentum. At the very same moment that Lawrence Danielle marched up to the seventh floor to inform the DCI of the event, flight 451 rolled to a stop on the far side of the terminal at Jos? Marti International Airport. Within seconds the plane was surrounded by a dozen military vehicles from which emerged more than a hundred soldiers and civil police officers, all armed, all at the ready.
It was like a dream after that, Maria Gonzales, the first-class stew, told investigators. The forward hatch of the aircraft was opened, boarding stairs brought up, and she clearly remembered the thick, damp odors of the warm, tropical day, intermingled with the harsher odor of burnt jet fuel. The hijacker who had stationed himself in the aft galley hurried forward, the big automatic in his left hand raised so that everyone would be sure to see it and therefore try nothing silly. He was met in the first-class compartment by the hijacker who had issued the orders from the flight deck. There was a bit of confusion at this point. Maria Gonzales told investigators that the hijacker who had been aft pointed his gun at the two Americans--Senors Jules and Asher--and motioned for them to get to their feet, which they did without a fuss. Janice Asher, who had been hysterical all through the incident, nevertheless gave her version in which her husband had leaped up in an attempt to disarm the hijacker, who struck her husband in the head with the weapon. Asher had to be helped off the aircraft. Bernice Jules, on the other hand, told authoritiesthat the hijacker who had emerged from the flight deck had pointed his gun directly at her, right between her eyes from a distance of less than fifteen feet, and motioned for her husband to get to his feet, which he naturally did. She could not remember if Ted Asher had gotten up or not. Of course, he had to have, because he was shot down on the tarmac.