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Authors: Randy Wayne White

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I said, “But if I don’t nail down a flight—”
“Read the newest updates. We can’t really talk unless we’re both on the same page, now can we?” The woman hung up.
I zipped my carry-on closed, checked the room and headed down the hall toward the elevator, telling myself there was no reason to be suspicious of my pal Hooker. But it was okay to call him. We were friends, right?
I dialed. No answer, and I didn’t leave a message. Next, I did what the lady suggested and opened the updates.
SIGNET-D Communiqué (Level: Classified + Secret + Brown)
Summary Report #12, Prepared by staff of Hon. Barbara B. Hayes-Sorrento, United States Senate, 1 Billings St., Washington, D.C., 24 January, Saturday, 11:00 EST.
SUBJECT A: William J. Chaser, minor male, missing as of 22 January, Thursday, 16:00 EST
SUBJECT B: FBI Addendum issued 10:00 EST
SUBJECT C: NYPD Addendum issued 10:30 EST . . .
It was a typically staccato rendering, but it didn’t take long to get to something interesting. As I pushed through the lobby doors headed outside, I was reading:
SUBJECT H: Jettisoning of Superfluous Chattel Properties of the late Castro, Fidel A., via Military Aircraft over an area yet to be designated . . .
Jettisoning?
It was government-speak for delivering the ransom. Castro’s much-coveted personal files had been officially redesignated as trash. The military didn’t know where they were dropping the stuff, but the cover story had been established.
I didn’t smile, but it brightened my day despite the concrete chill of another New York afternoon. With any luck, it would be my last for a while. One way or the other, I was returning to Florida. If I couldn’t arrange a special flight, I would have to fly out of Kennedy International ninety minutes away.
I told the concierge desk I needed a cab, then skimmed the text, finding other interesting tidbits.
SUBJECT H/Para. 4: Transport of Superfluous Materials: Aircraft: H130 Hercules Cargo Aircraft, USAF, has been assigned as Disposition Platform.
Crew is on standby, Dulles Air Base, three watches, 8-hour rotation. The H130 was assigned despite the small amount of Superfluous Materials because the disposal area has yet to be designated.
Aircraft range: 1800 nm+/- (BRC) with refueling aircraft on station. Status: Alert Orange . . .
 
 
SUBJECT H/Para. 11: Superfluous Materials consist of three (3) Industrial Cartons containing approximately 2.3 metric tons. Loading of Superfluous Materials is being finalized pursuant to variables of an undetermined disposal area . . .
 
 
SUBJECT H/Para. 14: Industrial Cartons have been mounted on skids and fitted with LALO parachutes for wet drop or dry drop. Final Go Confirmation expected by 1900 hours EST.
FBI awaiting contact with Civilian Clients via VHF Marine Radio or electronic mail and will then advise USAF crew . . .
Civilian clients
were the kidnappers. Castro’s possessions had been loaded on a long-distance aircraft and rigged for a parachute drop. Everything would be packed and ready to go by five p.m., which was fifteen hours in advance of the deadline. Good!
Or was it . . . ?
I thought about it as I waited for a cab. What suddenly bothered me was that several normally inefficient bureaucracies had hammered this package together, meshing all the complicated pieces, in an extraordinarily efficient way.
Had I ever heard of a joint project being completed ahead of schedule? Hell, I had never even heard of a project that was finished on time.
Weird.
A few minutes later, sitting in the back of a cab, headed west on the road out of the Hamptons, my phone began buzzing: Barbara.
 
 
 
Barbara told me, “Castro was a neurotic, that was my first surprise—I’m talking about surprises in the last day or so. He was insecure when he took power in ’fifty-nine and the man never changed.”
I said, “Neurotic, hmm,” listening to the woman avoid discussing Nelson Myles by sharing revelations about the Castro Files. She hadn’t mentioned who interrupted our conversation either. Why was she being evasive?
“Castro kept two bags packed with collectibles, ready to go, in case he had to escape in the middle of the night.
Valuables
”—her smile was audible—“is not the right word for what that man had squirreled away. It’s
treasure,
the pirate variety. I’d heard that he formed a team to salvage shipwrecks around Cuba. Now we know it’s true. There are some beautiful pieces from the seventeen hundreds: Spanish gold crosses, emeralds and jade. Small, not too heavy. Probably worth millions, and all of it easily converted into currency. There’s an emerald necklace—my God, you’ve got to see it.”
I said, “Spanish treasure, that’s always interesting.” She couldn’t avoid discussing Myles, or getting me on a plane, forever.
“There are some political shockers, too. Three boxes of files on Meyer Lansky and what was called the
Jewish Mafia.
They controlled most of the gaming in Havana. If the documents are made public, some of our Middle Eastern friends are going to be upset about how Israel was financed in those early years. Everything’s being photographed, of course. Still, without the original documents . . .”
She let me figure out the significance and moved on. “The Catholic Church takes a big hit. There are documents that prove—well, that suggest anyway—that some priests entered into an alliance with Castro . . . a sort-of
covenant.
But I can’t go into specifics, sorry.”
I didn’t need specifics. Barbara was referring to a secret meeting that took place in Havana in 1966 between ten activist priests and Fidel Castro. In return for Castro’s political blessing, the priests activated a plan to encourage and fund Socialism in Central and South America. Over the next two decades, newspaper readers in the United States would puzzle over the political assassinations of nuns and priests in the region. It seemed outrageous to a citizenry that knew nothing about the covert wars going on worldwide, so they suffered with mental images of murdered Flying Nuns and kindly Bing Crosbys.
I said to Barbara, “A covenant with the Catholic Church, that
is
a surprise. Was it around the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion . . . or the assassination?”
She thought she was being properly evasive, replying, “We found documents our intelligence agencies aren’t going to like. One or two people could face prosecution. Men in powerful positions who betrayed us, their country . . . I mean, if the information’s accurate.”
I said, “Bay of Pigs. An informant gave Castro’s people the landing date and time. Didn’t the informant go by a code name? I’m trying to remember . . .”
Barbara said, “Why do you do this? Instead of manipulating me to get information, why not come right out and ask?”
“Okay,” I said, “who was the traitor?” If it was Tinman, would she have even mentioned it?
The woman said, “I can’t tell you.”
“Lady, you can be so frustrating—”
“Not on the phone. There were two informants. At least two—not related to the assassination, so don’t assume that please. But there is something
very
interesting I learned about the day Kennedy was shot.”
The woman had lowered her voice. She was enjoying this, I realized, which I found heartening because it reminded me that I was still her confidant . . . and probably always would be her confidant. We shared an ultimate secret, the secret of her blackmail video. Barbara Hayes-Sorrento might try to distance herself from me, but if she slammed the door she would lose the one person in the world to whom she could say any damn thing she wanted to say with no fear of retribution.
“Castro kept the phone logs from the morning President Kennedy was shot,” Barbara said, her voice still low. “There were more than two dozen calls to his residence within twenty minutes.”
I wasn’t just listening now, I was interested. I waited a few seconds before I said, “And . . . ?”
“And,” she said, “that’s all I can tell you right now.” Her tone became more formal. “Besides, I thought you called to ask for a favor, not chat about the files. We’re busy here, you know.”
The woman was maddening.
I started to say, “You’re the one who went off on a tangent,” but dropped it, saying instead, “Okay, fine. I need transportation to Florida . . . Sarasota, ideally. What can you do for me?”
“I thought you agreed to stop pestering Mr. Myles.”
“No,
you
suggested it. I didn’t agree.”
“But you expect me to back you? After the hoops you made me jump through to exhume those two dead horses? Waking up judges, calling in favors—for what? And you’re still not convinced!”
I started to say, “You’ve got to trust my judgment on this—”
“I want you to stay away from Nelson Myles,” she interrupted. “The man has been patient so far, but you will put both of us in a dangerous position if you keep pushing. On nothing but a hunch? I’m sorry.”
I said, “Dangerous legal position?”
“Yes! But also in terms of public opinion.”
“Public opinion,”
I said. “Is that code for
getting reelected
?”
“Don’t get smart, Dr. Ford.”
“One of us needs to. What happened, Barb? Why are you suddenly scared of Nelson Myles?”
“Power, that’s why,” she said. “It doesn’t scare me, but I respect it. Let’s don’t even get into the damage it could cause to some of my working relationships. But if I doubled my fund-raising schedule starting today, I still couldn’t compete with the kind of money Myles and his friends have. Even if I had ten years left in my term, instead of only two. Plus—and this is the absolute goddamn truth—I respect the opinions of colleagues who know the man.”
I was tempted to say, “
Respect
—another political euphemism for
power
?,” but instead I asked, “Are some of your colleagues Yale graduates? Members of Skull and Bones maybe?”
“The fraternity? What does it matter? The point is, all I care about is getting the boy back alive, and you’re wasting time.”
I said, “If you’ve made up your mind, there’s nothing I can do. I’m open to suggestions.” I was going to Sarasota no matter what, but why tell Barbara and risk putting the man on alert?
“Doc,” she said, “I value our friendship.” There was nothing phony about the way she said it, but I didn’t reply.
“The best thing for you to do—for both of us, in fact—is to stay close to me. I need your moral support more than anything, so let’s let the FBI handle it, okay? I can’t sleep, I’m a ball of nerves.” She let that settle, then added,
“You’re maybe the only man in the world who really understands how hard it is for me to relax.”
Nothing phony about that either, nor was there any bawdy subtext. The woman was in trouble, isolated by her own office as much as by the anxiety associated with the kidnapping. That fast, I liked her again.
I said, “How about this? I’ll go home from here, spend a few days, then we can get together after this is done.”
Her reply surprised me. “How far is Busch Gardens from Sanibel, a couple of hours? Could we meet there tomorrow night?”
“What?”
“I wanted to fly Mr. and Mrs. Guttersen into D.C. at my expense. You know, to be near them until this is over, but Dan O’Connell beat me to it by inviting them to tour Busch Gardens. His family has a winter home near there.”
She added, “The Guttersens are meeting him in Tampa tonight—both of them, hopefully, if Ruth isn’t coming down with the flu. It will be good for all of us, to see this thing through together. Plus the military base at Tampa is our primary intelligence center. It can’t hurt to be within driving distance.”
“Senator Dan O’Connell?” I said.
“From Minnesota. He was the friend who asked me to meet William at the airport and take him to the UN. Dan’s got a place on the beach, a house and a couple of guest cottages. I won’t stay with him, I’ll book a suite of rooms nearby. My staff will communicate by phone and Internet. Can you meet me there?”
My brain was scanning for a way to work it to my advantage. I needed a reason why I had to return to Florida this afternoon, not tomorrow. I said, “I’d love to see you, but I’ve got so much catching up to do at my lab. But . . . if I could find a faster way home to Sanibel—”
“You’re doing it again, trying to manipulate me,” she interrupted. “I’ve made the offer. I need you, Doc. But you’ll have to fly commercial just like everyone else. If you change planes in Atlanta, you might run into the Guttersens. Otto Guttersen is a real character, Dan told me. A military background, a real tough guy . . . You two would hit it off.”
I was trying to picture the ex-pro wrestler Outlaw Bull Guttersen plowing his wheelchair through sand on some Gulf beach, as Barbara added, “Dan was just here, that’s why I had to call you back. Mr. Guttersen has been through some really bad times in his life, but nothing’s hit him like this.”
I said, “I was surprised by how emotional he sounded on the phone,” still scanning for a way to finagle a special flight. If I flew out of JFK by three, I could be in Florida by dusk.
“It would mean a lot to me, Doc, if you were there. It would be good for the Guttersens, too. Give Mr. Guttersen someone to talk to. In Florida, at least, he and his wife can get outside instead of sitting around going stir-crazy waiting for news. Dan told me it’s been freezing cold up there. Something like fifteen below in Minneapolis . . . not counting windchill.”
23
O
ver the hours, Will dozed, he reminisced, he raged and cried, and occasionally slept, but never for long because he was awakened by nightmares.
Sometimes, Will imagined that his box was moving. Or possibly it did move, although never very much. The boy couldn’t be sure because his dreams, his thoughts, his memories were all so tangled by the relentless darkness and the drug Ketamine that was still filtering through his veins.
BOOK: Dead Silence
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