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By Bill Granger
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What does Father Leo Tunney know?
Washington, Moscow, Vatican City and an international bank want to find out–at any cost.
So does a cool, clever U.S. agent: Deveraux–code name, the “November Man.” And one other: A beautiful young journalist who has her own way of prying answers from a tortured priest…a woman who might outwit them all…or become the ultimate pawn in a deadly game that could destroy the balance of world power!
Table of Contents
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In 1975–76, congressional investigations revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency had made use of missionaries, medical personnel, and news reporters abroad, recruiting them, for pay or patriotism, into espionage networks. In 1976, under new guidelines accepted by the CIA Director, it was stated that the Agency "has no secret paid or contractual relationship with any American clergyman or missionary. This practice will be continued as a matter of policy." However, by 1980, the Director admitted in Senate testimony that he had waived the guideline three times and argued that there can be "unique circumstances" in which clergymen and others are the only means available to operate as agents "in a situation of the highest urgency and national importance."
The late medical doctor Thomas Dooley was posthumously recognized as an intelligence operative in Laos. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Eisenhower in 1959, shortly before the doctor's death from cancer, but the Agency did not acknowledge his status with them until the late 1970s.
When it was chartered in 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency resolved never to spy upon American citizens and never to operate espionage missions on American soil. The Agency has since admitted that it has frequently broken its charter resolutions.
The intelligence community of the United States consists not only of the Central Intelligence Agency but also of various other intelligence groups, including the Defense Intelligence Agency. The National Security Agency generally acts as the "hardware and software" supplier for the intelligence services.
The Tridentine form of the Mass, largely constructed during the Middle Ages and known popularly as the "old" Mass or the Latin Rite Mass, was radically altered in liturgy following reforms dictated by the Second Vatican Council in 1961–64, held at Rome. Though not expressly forbidden in all its forms, at all times, in all parishes of the Roman Church, the "old" Mass has generally been suppressed by the Church hierarchy.
The Vatican State, the temporal presence of the Roman Church, has long operated intelligence-gathering functions through its worldwide network of embassies and special emissaries.
The Vatican State has followed a consistent policy of accommodation with the Communist-controlled governments of the Eastern European bloc countries, especially since 1975.
These statements are all true.
On the day it began, the Ambassador to Thailand was not even in the capital.
For the second time in six months, the Ambassador had flown back to Washington for consultations with the President on the "declining state of civilization" along the border separating Thailand and Cambodia. He had described it thus in his last message because understatement seemed the only weapon left to him.
Each day there had been new reports of armed skirmishes along the border and, as always, the dreadful daily reports on the stinking masses of refugees in the sprawling camps at the border, whose lives were spent huddling against the unspeakable terror coming from the jungles they had fled. There were no dogs in the region and had not been for a long time; nor birds or monkeys, nor any creature small enough and weak enough to be trapped and killed by those with sufficient strength of body and will among the largely lethargic starving refugees. The people were dying each day like leaves in autumn, slowly and surely tumbling to death as the season moved on. The bellies of the children were taut, bloated by starvation, and the bones of their little arms protruded grossly beneath the dull sheen of their yellow skin. All day, they lay in the shade with their immense eyes staring at nothing, the flies fastening themselves to their lips and nostrils like so many small, living black bumps on the flesh.
And all the while, the black market thrived, in the midst of the wretched camps, with the connivance and consent of the Thai soldiers stationed along the border. Winston cigarettes were for sale next to Bic lighters, the products displayed in rows on blankets thrown down in the sand. There were radios and batteries, too, and, most mysteriously, cases upon cases of Aunt Jemima pancake mix that those refugees strong enough to steal, to kill, those who found something still to barter, would buy and mix with cold water and eat without cooking.
"Intolerable," the Ambassador had fumed when he was sent to Thailand. He had not expected this at all when he agreed to take the post in exchange for his key support in the President's last primary campaign. He had expected the posting to be a reward, and so it could have been: Bangkok was still a strange and beautiful city, and the embassy could offer nearly every luxury. There was a glittering life to Bangkok separate from the stench of the refugee camps on the border; there were parties that went from embassy to embassy, night after night.
And yet, because the Ambassador was a man of rare passion, he could not keep himself away from the camps, he could not stop himself from experiencing over and over the pall of hopelessness and death that hung over the camps like fine red dust. He had wired the President from the beginning; he had telephoned the White House too often; he had lobbied privately with his wealthy and powerful friends still in America; he had boldly invited the television networks to come and see what he saw, giving them every courtesy. He enraged the diplomats at the State Department with his unorthodox concern and reportedly made an enemy of the National Security Adviser with his actions; and at every turn, he implored the government in Bangkok to save the children at the very least, to move them away from the camps to the interior of the country, to feed them.
The response to this last line of appeal had puzzled him most and troubled him the greatest because he had come up against the bar of color and caste and national hatred that pervaded the East as surely as it did the West. He was not without skill and would have understood in his own country the subtle nuances of racial animosity yet affinity in rural Mississippi between the redneck and the black, but he could not understand the basic contempt of the Thais toward the Cambodians and their absolute hatred of the Vietnamese who had driven the refugees into the arms of an unwilling host.
"Intolerable." He had said it again and again, and everyone in the embassy agreed with him, everyone in Washington agreed with him, all his old friends agreed with him, the press agreed with him. At every turn, he met a yielding wall of pity for the refugees, for the starving ones, for the children with their bloated bellies and sad, unseeing eyes. No one wanted them to starve—of course not; no one wanted that.
And beyond the border itself was Cambodia, wasted and dead, Carthage of the East salted by war and self-destruction and genocide so that nothing should live there again. The jungles were silent and brooding, returning inexorably day by day to the primeval. Everywhere there was a feeling of death; everywhere the stinking, rotting death, the horror.
But something must be done, the Ambassador had said, and so he was on his way to Washington again. The Ambassador had changed in his three years in Thailand: His face was burned black by the sun yet there was still a quality both pale and fragile in the haunted blue eyes; his hands shook; he drank too much, for the climate and for his age. He had trouble at night sleeping alone in the darkness of his air-conditioned room on the second floor of the embassy. Sometimes at meals he would fall into a sort of reverie, staring across the table at his companions but not seeing them, looking beyond the present to some middle distance of past or future, forming words silently on his lips. The others would be embarrassed at these moments and look away and pretend not to notice, though all conversation would cease until the Ambassador came back to them.
He had stood at the top of the ramp and waved to the two of them from the embassy before boarding the whining 747, and the Assistant Press Officer had returned the wave. Then the APO had said to his companion: "There is a man who cares too much." The remark was intended to be profound and sophisticated because the APO believed himself to possess these qualities in abundance.
The remark was answered and agreed to by the Visa Secretary, who added that there was nothing that could be done and that was the pity of the matter. Both of them were sensible young men of the world and they saw the world for what it really was. The Ambassador was a good man, surely, but he was old, and indignation of an old-fashioned nature had clouded his eyes.
The APO had driven the Visa Secretary back to the embassy and along the way raised the point that perhaps the Ambassador was becoming a nuisance to the President. Certainly, he had made an enemy of the National Security Adviser. The President had his own problems with his domestic program, more complex and more politically serious than the plight of people seen only on the evening news. The APO wondered aloud if the fall from favor of the Ambassador might mean a shakeup in the permanent embassy personnel. The APO longed for a London posting.
On the following morning, October 2, when the Ambassador was still in a restless, drugged sleep in his own home in Fairfax, Virginia, the matter began half a world away from him.
Corporal Rafael Lopez, United States Marine Corps, stood at the outer gate of the embassy in the late morning sunlight and watched the figure hobbling up the street. The man did not walk with a cane but he appeared to need one; he shuffled along, his feet barely raising themselves above the pavement. The shuffle of his lower extremities did not match the rigid posture of his body. He walked with his arms straight down at his sides like a prisoner, his thin shoulders thrown back in a parody of a military man on parade.
Corporal Lopez of Amarillo, Texas, watched the man for a long time because the street at this point afforded a long view and because there was nothing else to watch. The pretty Thai women were gone from the street for the morning, were in their offices or homes or in the markets. Lopez had his own woman, of course; it was the first thing he had acquired after his transfer to Bangkok for embassy duty, and she pleased him as much as she could, but Corporal Lopez wondered at times if she were pretty enough or if he were missing something by not finding another woman.
At the moment, however, it was the man who interested him. He guessed that he was old, though he might have been young but have gone through some ordeal. His hair was absolutely white, which was not usual in the Orient and yet, because it was thick and unkempt, he might be young. Age was a difficult guessing match in the East.
Lopez began a mental game: The feet were old; the back was straight like a young man's. Perhaps he had been a soldier? Perhaps he was victim of the jungle rot that ate at the flesh of the feet first?
Left, right, left, right. There you go, thought Lopez. Hup, two, three, four. Hup. Yer hup. Swing it along, mister.
But the mental cadence he counted for the old man was too slow and he lost interest in that game. Of course, he had to be a gringo. You couldn't mistake the features, even under the layers of burned skin. He should have seen it at once from the eyes, blue eyes like the Ambassador's, but the old man had been too far away.
Blue eyes. A goddam blue-eyed gringo sonofabitch in black pajamas just like a fucking Cong.
Hup, hup, hup two three four.
Lopez was thirty-one years old and he would acknowledge that he had seen nearly everything in his brief life, including a tour in Nam. Once he had even been busted in rank but he had come back. He had deserved the demotion for trying to kill some bastard in a bar off base instead of waiting until the prick came out into the alley to piss. But Lopez had been younger then and not so patient and he had been caught and done his time, hard time in the Corps, man. Still, the service was not a bad life and, like the swabbies said, you got to see the world.
The old man stopped on the sidewalk ten feet from Lopez, and Lopez felt his body stiffen involuntarily, the way it did when he had been a recruit in North Carolina, when the D.I. would come up to you with his lean, mean face and stare at you, looking for goddam flyspecks on your nose or something. The blue eyes of the old man were watching him. Smart marine, in his smart uniform, rifle at ease: What the fuck are you looking at, old man? You never seen a goddam United States fucking Marine before?
"Is this the American embassy? Please?"
He spoke English. Lopez let his lazy eyes open wide but he didn't move. English but it sounded like a slope talking English, it had that peculiar inflection, an Asian singsong that accented the words evenly and in the wrong places. Lopez stared at the black pajama trousers streaked with ancient red dirt and at the sandals fashioned from old tires. The old man wore a white, loose blouse without a collar. The face was black from the sun and clean-shaven, all bones and hollows.
Lopez thought he could have been a bastard, maybe a mulatto out of a Thai mother with an English or French daddy. He was too old to be of American stock, but the colonials had been in Asia for a long time. The American bastards were still too young.
"Is this the embassy of the United States, please?"
God, he hated the way they talked, the slopes, even his own woman, whining all the time, their little voices like wind chimes. Was this the fucking embassy? What do I look like, a fucking slope? Lopez realized that his curiosity in the old man had turned to annoyance.
"You got it, pardner," Lopez said at last.
"The American ambassador I would like to see, please?" The voice of the old man was still slight, gentle, humble, and its singsong quality had definitely gotten on Lopez's nerves. So that was it: Some bum wants a free ride back home, back to Big Sam. Lost his green, lost his ready, wants a freebie.
"He ain't around, pardner," Lopez said, a slow smile breaking across the brown face like a stain. "He's gone back to the States."
"Then whoever is here, please? In charge, please?" The old man stopped and frowned, as though searching his memory for the right English words.
Lopez gazed at him while he considered. Lopez was there strictly for show; anyone could go inside. Christ, even after Tehran, they still didn't give him bullets for the fucking rifle. But the old man offended him.
"I told you the Ambassador, he's a big man, he ain't around, didn't I? You out of bread, man, is that it? You American?"
The old man seemed to consider this question gravely. After a long pause, he said, "Yes. American. Yes, I am."
"Well, you lost your passport then or what?"
The old man smiled suddenly, a dazzling smile that cracked the darkened face, and Lopez was annoyed by that as well. He wasn't going to be patronized by a goddam gringo fucker looks like a Cong.
"Yes," said the old man. "A long time since, I have lost it."
Suddenly, as sudden as the smile, Lopez wanted to be rid of him, to get the blue eyes off his uniform, to push the old man away. "Go on in then, passports is on the left but you ask at the desk."
"May I enter, please?" the voice came back, rising a note on the scale of the wind chimes.
"It's a free country, man," Lopez said.
Again the old man smiled and again, Lopez felt annoyance. He knew the smile of the Anglos, the mocking smile, he knocked that goddam smile off their faces for them. And then he saw the gentle line of the lips, the open expression formed by the eyes, the white, even teeth. No, this was not the mocking smile. This was something else, like Tío's smile had been when he was a child.
"You got troubles, pardner?"
"A Marine," the old man said, the smile lingering as though relishing a nostalgic moment. "Never to change, the uniform. It has been so long."
Lopez thought the old man spoke like someone who had forgotten a language and was struggling to recall it.
"You go in there, pard, right through there, there's a desk there, you tell them who you are, what you want." He pointed to the door of the embassy, which was embossed with the Great Seal of the United States, portraying a triumphant, angry eagle holding arrows in its claws, its wings spread wide.
The old man bowed in a graceful, Oriental way, and Lopez, his nature made gentle by the smile, saw that he was just skin and bones. Maybe they could fatten him up, maybe he had been a planter in Cam, maybe he had just escaped. The old man shuffled into the compound and to the door and disappeared inside and Lopez turned back to face the street. But it was empty for the moment and there was no one else to watch and so he thought of the old man for a minute longer.
Inside the embassy, the old man shuffled to a desk where a young man with horn-rimmed glasses sat writing in a notebook. When he looked up, the young man had automatically set his face into the universal look of the bored official interrupted by a member of the public. The look hardened perceptibly as he regarded the ragged state of the visitor.
"Something for you?"
"I beg your pardon, please?"
"Something? You want something?" He said the words slowly and distinctly, the way a person will speak to a young child or to an idiot.
"Please, I would like to see the Ambassador." The words came slowly and oddly.
"You would? Really?" The official at the desk tried a smile that was not well-meaning. "Who are you?"
"My name is Leo Tunney."
Because it made him happy to do so, the young man wrote the name down in his notebook. There was no reason to do this but it was what he always did first. "And business? Your business with him?"
Leo Tunney gazed at the young man for a moment. "I don't know him. But…" He stopped, apparently confused for a moment. "But he will see me. He will want to see me. Yes." He paused again. "Yes, please." The whole of the statement seemed to have tired the old man and he now rested one bony hand on the polished cherrywood desk and smudged the oily finish. The young man instinctively leaned back in his chair, as though the old man might be about to faint and fall across the table. And then he said, "Would you please take your hands off the desk, you're smudging it."
The old man looked up, looked at his hand, and then gazed again at the young official. His eyes seemed sad. He pushed himself erect with the help of the hand on the desk and removed it. "Please," he said. "I'm sorry." The voice was dull and gentle and the official felt a rare sting of regret at his rudeness.
"Now, what can we do for you?"
"I want to see the Ambassador. No, that's not right." The old man uttered three words in a sort of rough Cambodian and then closed his eyes for a moment, pinching the bridge of his nose with his one hand. "No," he said. "The Marine. He said he was not here. I would see the man who is head man, please?"
"I have to know what this is about." Spoken gently this time, as though something vulnerable in the old man had come out to soften the hard shell of the official's everyday voice.
"My name is Leo Tunney," he repeated. "I want to go home. It is time for me to go home."
All rightie, the official thought with satisfaction. He understood this, this was straightforward business. "You lost your passport, is that it?"
The old man stared at him, just as he had stared at the Marine at the gate.
"Passports," concluded the official without further confirmation. Something about the old man unsettled him; he wanted to get rid of him. "Go down to the room at the end of this hall, that's visas and passports, they can help you out down there. You have some proof? Of your citizenship, I mean? Well, they can sort it out in any case, right down there, that's room one fifteen."
Again, a look of immense sadness crossed the blue eyes and then passed. The thin shoulders were straightened again with effort, the body made a slight Oriental gesture of acquiescence and without a word, Leo Tunney proceeded along the waxed corridor, his shuffling feet leaving marks on the shiny tiles.
So, for the first hour of his return, no one could help him.
It was partly a matter of the problem of his speech. At times, his words were nearly incomprehensible, the English becoming tangled in a thicket of awkward syntax. At other times, the speech would emerge clearly but without inflection, as though spoken by a computer. The words were obscure and clear by turns, like the sound of a shortwave radio station picked up half a world away. A woman took down his name and asked him to sit on a bench and wait. He waited and others came up to speak to him, to listen to him. Some made notes and some did not. If it had not been for the accidental intervention of Victor Taubman, the return of Leo Tunney might have been delayed for hours or even days longer.
Unlike the Ambassador, Victor Taubman was a career diplomat in the Department of State. He had gone into State from Harvard in 1946 and for thirty years, he had been in Asia. He was one of the few old China hands not destroyed in the witch-hunt days of McCarthy and the Truman Administration in the early 1950s, days when men who told the truth about the East and what would happen there were called communists.
Victor Taubman was now coming to the end of a long career that had been neither distinguished nor banal; it was absurd, but he was about to play his greatest role—"the man who discovered Leo Tunney" is the way Time magazine would later phrase it.
The accidental intervention came about because the Ambassador was in Washington and because Taubman was in nominal charge of the embassy during the absence and because Taubman was puzzling over a serious problem—the matter of the missing passports.
Nine passports were missing from the safe box and presumably they had been stolen and were now in the dark stream of the black market. The theft meant that someone in the embassy itself had arranged to steal the documents. How had it happened and who had done it? Taubman had devoted the morning to the tedious problem and now he was in the visa and passports section when he noticed the slight, stooped figure sitting on the wooden bench in the foyer.
Who was he? Taubman asked the Visa Secretary, who said he did not know. He had wandered in that morning from the street and no one could quite make out what he wanted or who he was and they just didn't have time at this moment to deal with him.
"An American?" asked Victor Taubman, who was somewhat old-fashioned in his ideas of service to his fellow countrymen abroad.
"I don't really know. I mean, he claims he is but he doesn't talk like an American." Usually, the Visa Secretary was faintly supercilious when talking to Victor Taubman—Taubman was an old hack, he was getting ready to pack it in, Taubman thought everything should run like it did in '49—but the matter of the nine missing passports had struck at his self-confidence this morning. He was willing to answer all of Taubman's questions in a helpful way.
"Did he give you his name?" Taubman bored on.
"Loretta. Loretta took it. Loretta?"
The clerk was a black woman with a wide face and a deep Southern accent that at times comically counterpointed her serious demeanor. The Visa Secretary had often thought that Loretta looked like the face of Aunt Jemima on the empty boxes of pancake mix they found in the refugee camps. "H'yall says he's Lee Turney, h'yall says he wants to see the Ambassador."
"Lee Turney," said Victor Taubman. "Well, someone should take care of him."
"Lee Turrrrrrney," corrected Loretta and she handed him a copy of the name written on one of her cards.
It was the final coincidence of the morning. Though Victor Taubman was an old Asia hand now, perhaps the name might not have meant anything to him if he had merely heard it; after all, it had been a long time. But the mispronunciation by the clerk had exaggerated the name in his mind as though it were a clue to a puzzle he could not quite understand. And then the sight of the name, written neatly on the piece of paper, made a connection in his memory, jogging awake a long dormant chip of recollection.
Taubman glanced across the rows of desks that separated him from the old man with white hair sitting on the backless bench in the foyer.
Taubman understood in that moment. It was Leo Tunney. But that was impossible. How long had it been? Leo Tunney was dead.
Victor Taubman stood at the low wooden railing separating Leo Tunney from the rest of the office. Taubman looked down at the thin face, gazed at the blue eyes turning toward him. He spoke the name aloud.
The blue eyes seemed to ignite.
The voice struggled on, soft, nearly inaudible: "I am him," he said.
"Leo Tunney," Taubman repeated, as though the name had become an incantation that would recall the past. "But you were dead."
Slowly, a smile crossed the darkness of the face, opening the mouth of white teeth. The eyes were alive now, shining in the darkness of the weathered skin.
"No. As you see." Another pause and then the voice came from a distance: "I thought that too. Sometimes. I suppose I expected they would have to think that, that I was dead. Not dead."
"More than twenty years," Taubman said, scarcely moving his lips. "You must have been—" But he could not speak for a moment. Behind him, the Visa Secretary and the clerks crowded around, not making a sound, witnessing the strange, broken dialogue but not understanding it.
"Father Tunney," Taubman said at last.
"But how could you have lived all this time?"
"By the grace of God. Or His curse."
"My God, man," Taubman said, pushing open the little gate on the railing and entering the foyer, reaching down to him and touching the old man to make certain he was not an apparition. He felt a bone in the arm of the old man beneath the white cloth.
"But who is he?" the Visa Secretary asked.
"Father Tunney. Leo Tunney," Victor Taubman said, repeating the name idiotically; they must know that name, the name told everything. But the Visa Secretary stared back at him and Taubman realized that none of them knew, they were too young; twenty years was not the mere past but ancient history to them.
"He came back like a ghost," Taubman said.
And he touched Leo Tunney on the arm again, to make certain the dream was real.
- On Sale
- Jul 29, 2014
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Grand Central Publishing