Operation Gladio - Chapters 4-6 - A Novel by Philip Cooper

Chapter 4

October 23rd 2012 - Athens

It was only two days earlier that Alex had been called into the office of the Prime Minister in the Megaro Maximou on Herodou Attikou Street in Athens.

“Alex do come in and sit down. Would you like anything to drink?”

“Do you mean a beverage or a real drink?” Alex answered feeling slightly stupid.

“You’ll need a real drink to lessen the shock of what I’ve got to say to you Alex,” laughed Themis Xenakis. “What will it be?”

“Well if you insist I’ll have a gin and tonic,” he replied without much conviction. “Now tell me why I need a drink or should I wait until I’ve taken a few sips?”

Alex was feeling quite anxious now and he started combing his memory banks for something that he might have done which prompted this call to the Prime Minister’s office. He was even more anxious when Themis treated his question as rhetorical and buzzed out to his secretary to bring him his gin and tonic.

Themis and Alex went back years. They had both studied in Boston and shared a student rooming house. However, most of the Greek media had them both attending Harvard when in fact Alex had attended Harvard and Themis, Boston University. Themis was still slim and tall and quite distinguished, although up close the slight tic in his left eye rather spoilt the overall picture of the leader of a beleaguered people. The door opened and Rena the Prime Minister’s personal secretary brought in Alex’s drink, setting it down beside him on a small side table.

“Thank you Rena,” he said and his politeness was rewarded with a wide smile, as indeed he had hoped it would be. Alex watched her leave the office and as she shut the door he turned towards Themis who had sat opposite him in a large leather chair. A smile was playing around his lips; no doubt he had caught him staring at Rena’s shapely rear. He was right.

“I see you’re admiring one of Rena’s many assets, probably her best. Doesn’t Melina get fed up with your wanderings? I’m sure she must suspect what you get up to when you’re away from home.”

“You misjudge me Themis. I have never strayed from my marriage vows. Occasionally I might look at a beautiful woman but that is all.” Alex lied.

Themis roared with laughter and when he’d calmed down said, “You’re a consummate liar Alex. You have lied your way through life without regret or guilt and even when we were roommates in Boston you lied when I accused you of having sex with my girlfriend.”

“I didn’t fuck her,” Alex interrupted. “She gave me a blow job and I fondled her breasts. That was all there was to it,” he finished lamely.

“You’re as bad as Clinton. However, that is exactly why I invited you to my office. I have a proposition for you which will enable you to use your prowess as a liar and will probably also satisfy your sexual appetite at the same time. But I must warn you it’s not going to be easy. It will mean hard work, a clear mind and a lot of energy.”

Alex stared at Themis not believing his ears. His major failings were suddenly becoming assets, tools of his trade. What was his trade to be? Was he being promoted to run the Greek secret service, was he to become the Greek equivalent of 007, licensed to lie and to cheat all in the name of the Greek Republic.

“Are you offering me a new post?” Alex inquired.

“Yes Alex, I am. Antonopoulos is handing in his resignation at four o’clock and you will be replacing him in my cabinet.”

“But he is the Chancellor of the Exchequer Themis, and I know nothing about economics. My degree from Harvard was in law, you know that and its perfect for my job as Minister of Justice. Now you want to appoint me as your economics minister. Well I’m sure there are far more qualified ministers or indeed members of parliament than me who could do the job. You can’t be serious?” he ended in almost a plea.

“That’s just the point Alex. Yes, there are far better qualified people than you who are economists, but unlike you they don’t or won’t tell lies and they are not womanisers, you are the best qualified in those departments. This is your opportunity to completely pull the wool over the Greek people’s eyes and the rest of the world for that matter,” Themis ended with a flourish and looked him in the eye.

Alex stared back, his thoughts racing, why would I have to lie, he thought? Something did not add up here. The PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist) party had only just won the election so why would Themis force Antonopoulos to resign so soon? Had he done something wrong? Was there something about the numbers PASOK had inherited from the New Democracy party that were causing a problem?

“Is there a bigger problem with the economic situation in the country than people realise?” he questioned.

“Yes Alex,” grinned Themis, “Greece is not in good shape. Our biggest problem is that Greece has the beginnings of a debt mountain which we have to get rid of.”

Then he said something that caused Alex to shudder as if someone had walked over his grave.

“With your help we are going to convince the world that Greece needs a lot more monetary help than it really does. We are going to fudge the numbers and call in the International Monetary Fund who of course will not trust our numbers and decline to help. We will then turn to Germany and Russia and with their help we will all become rich while Greece grows from strength to strength. Except…. well…apart from the collateral damage.”

Alex sat there speechless for a full minute.

“I would be party to one of the biggest frauds Europe or even the world had ever seen,” Alex blurted out. Then he had a sudden thought. “What if I decline now that you have told me the truth?” Alex looked Themis straight in the eye. “Will I have one of those suicides that look like accidents?”

Themis stared at Alex and then suddenly burst out laughing. “No Alex I would not hurt you if you declined. Somehow I don’t think you will,” continued Themis as he passed a buff folder over to Alex. ““You have no choice Alex. Take a look at these.” Inside were several photographs showing Alex in compromising positions with Zoe Lafazanis, the current deputy minister of finance.

“If these ever got into the public domain your career and marriage would be destroyed. As well as Zoe’s.”

Alex looked at Themis and for the first time noticed a hardness in his eyes. Yes, he thought Themis wasn’t making an idle threat.

“No need for these to leave this room,” said Alex. “I’ll do it.”

“Good,” agreed Themis. “I hope I never have to use those photographs. Why don’t you keep them as a reminder of your loyalty and your addiction?”

Alex thought that was a little low but didn’t give Themis the satisfaction of seeing him embarrassed or ashamed in reaction to his comment. Admittedly women were his weakness, well actually much more than a weakness, more of an addiction, but he would never admit to that. He often berated himself for cheating on his wife. Any other man would not dream of even thinking about another woman. She was tall, taller than Alex in high heels, slim and wore her clothes very well looking good in minis or long evening gowns. She had the most piercing green eyes Alex had ever seen and wore her auburn hair shoulder length. Her body was perfectly shaped except perhaps her breasts which were slightly smaller than most men liked but in a tight pair of jeans, high heels and a halter top she turned more heads than the passing of a Hollywood star. Melina was also a little subservient in the bedroom and did whatever Alex commanded. He knew he was an idiot for going astray time and time again but like cigarettes he wasn’t ready to give up his addiction just yet.

“Have you heard of Gladio, Alex?” said Themis interrupting Alex’s thoughts.

“No I haven’t,” replied Alex. “What is it?”.

“Gladio is a code name taken from the Italian word - Gladius - a type of short Roman sword - for a clandestine NATO ‘stay-behind’ operation in Italy after the war. It was set up to continue anti-communist resistance in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion. ‘Operation Gladio’ as it became known was used as an informal name for all stay-behind paramilitary organisations in Europe, whether CIA, MI6 or BND backed. When Greece joined NATO (in 1952, the country's Special Forces, the LOK (Lochoi Oreinōn Katadromōn, or ‘Mountain Raiders’) were merged into the European stay-behind network. This network stayed in place until just before Greece joined the Eurozone at the turn of the millennium.”

“I’m sorry,” interjected Alex. “Who or what is BND?”

“It’s the German federal secret service.”

“What happened in 2000?”

“The CIA and MI6 closed down their ends and left Gladio to LOK and BND to run, probably thinking that a united Europe had nothing to fear from extreme left wing ideologies.”

Alex pondered Themis’s revelations. “So the military coup in 1967, the attempted assignation of Makarios in Cyprus and the November 17th self-styled terrorist group were all sponsored by Gladio?”

“Spot on Alex! Of course not all the twenty-five assassinations conducted by the November 17th group were sponsored by the CIA. Once the CIA had left the building LOK and BND sanctioned targets associated with the American Embassy, including CIA operatives, in a clean-up operation.”

“I have often thought it odd that the November 17 group targeted Americans, now I see why, they were leaving no lose ends.”

“Exactly,” agreed Themis. “Back to the business at hand. As both the Germans and Greece control Gladio we can now manipulate it to form a solid economic partnership with Germany and Russia.”

“What’s the plan?” enquired Alex.

“You will meet with Vogel on the twenty-fifth and then attend the Bilderberg at the Astir Palace on the twenty-seventh. Vogel will explain everything. I’ll see you at five-thirty in the office of the President of the Greek Democracy, for the ceremony to swear you in to the office of Minister of Economics.”

“I’ll be there,” confirmed Alex. Although he did not feel very comfortable with any of it. But what could he do? He was backed into a corner with no escape.

Themis looked surreptitiously at his watch. Time was getting on he thought to himself. I can’t give the team the go ahead while Alex is here. Alex is no fool and once he heard the news about Antonopoulos he would realise that I was involved. It was already 16.00 and Antonopoulos would be leaving his office in the parliament building fairly soon. He should get Alex out of here in the next few minutes.

“Good, let’s talk again Alex. You should leave now before Antonopoulos gets here. I’ll see you later.” With that Themis rose from his chair and proffered a hand to Alex and guided him towards the door. He opened it and beckoned Rena to escort Alex to his car.

Once he was sure that Alex had actually left the building he went back into his office, shut the door and walked swiftly to the phone on his desk. He dialled a number and on the third ring the phone was answered. Themis uttered one word ‘Sheepskin’ and put the phone down. That one word started a chain of events that would eventually rock the foundation of democracy in Europe.

Chapter 5

October 23rd 2012 – Athens, Greece

As Christos Antonopoulos left the parliament building through the doorway which led down onto the expansive rear garden of the building, he wondered why he had been summoned to the Prime Minister’s Office. Over the last few months he had become more and more disillusioned with the way that the Eurozone were demanding more and more from Greece. Germany in particular were bleeding Greece dry with their demands to buy German goods and services, which Greece didn’t need; nor could pay for, placing them in the position of having to borrow money from German banks to pay for them.

He was convinced that if Germany could re-arm they would have re-occupied the country, even perhaps the rest of Europe. But because they had no army they were conducting an economic war of the most hurtful kind, both unfair to the poorest in the Greek population and destructive for the future economic strength of the country. However, what caused him more concern than anything was an email he had received from an anonymous Hotmail account, warning him to watch his back.

Christos knew that there were certain elements in the Greek cabinet that had met with Elena Davilova in an attempt to persuade her to persuade Igor Putilov the Russian premier to support Greece’s application for a substantial loan to complete major urban and countryside infrastructure projects. This program had already been halted by the European Union because they had correctly suspected that the funds had been diverted into other areas of the economy which directly benefited ministers and other interested parties in the country.

He had vowed to himself not to give in to peer pressure as he was certain that there was a hidden agenda which would not bode well for Greece. From now on he would be very careful and not commit himself in any way until he had formed strong alliances in Europe. That was the purpose for his upcoming visit to Brussels and his unofficial meeting with the director of the International Monetary Fund, Madame Christine DuPont. On the quiet he would meet with her and attempt to use her as an ally against a cabinet which, he suspected, were leaning more and more towards new Russian money to avoid more of the severe austerity program which was currently crippling Greece.

Nor did he trust Themis because he was sure that he was behind the increasing Russian influence in Greece which was gaining a lot of momentum. In the last few weeks there has been unrest in several towns in western Thrace. That region had become very important to both America and Russia and also Germany, since huge deposits of oil had been discovered just offshore in the western Aegean. Western Thrace was also the region where the gas pipelines from Russian and American interests entered a terminal where the gas was then routed into the huge gas pipeline that traversed northern Greece before going under the Ionian Sea into Italy and on into Europe.

The unrest seemed to emanate from the ethnic Muslim minorities who lived in the region. It was reported that the minority Turkish Muslims were behind the unrest, but Christos believed otherwise and had recently vented his scepticism in cabinet meetings, theorising that pro-Russian elements were trying to destabilize the region for their own agenda. All this rushed through Christos’s mind as he walked through the parliament building’s gardens.

Today Christos had his usual two body guards with him, but as they were very sure that he was in no danger on a walk he and many before him had made many times in the past, they walked a few metres behind him. The garden at the rear of the parliament building is split by a hundred metres of path bordered with rhododendron bushes, and the path runs down to the Harry Truman gate, which opens out onto Herodou Attikou Avenue, there guarded by the statue of Harry Truman. This tree lined avenue borders the length of the parliament building gardens and is blocked at both ends by metal barriers, guarded by presidential guards.

Only official cars were allowed onto Herodou Attikou and the two shorter avenues which formed a ‘T’ with Herodou Attikou. All had guard houses preventing access by public traffic, except official and diplomatic cars belonging to the many embassies set back from the road in their capacious private gardens.

At one end of Herodou Attikou stood the Prime Minister’s residence, just two hundred yards from the Harry Truman gate. At the opposite end stood the Presidential Palace.

As Christos neared the Harry Truman gate he noticed that the barriers at the end of Likiou Avenue, which formed a ‘T’ with Herodou Attikou, had opened and a black Nissan Navara Black Star was being let through. If he had stopped and continued watching, he would have seen a figure run out of the guard house and leap into the car. The car began to pick up speed and the barriers remained open. He saw none of this as his view was obscured by the Harry Truman statue. It was only as he exited the gate and turned right and started walking towards the Prime Minister’s residence that he noticed that the Nissan had almost reached the corner. His guards must have sensed something was not quite right because they began to quickly close the gap between themselves and Christos, but as the Nissan turned right onto Herodou Attikou Avenue, its rear window, which had been hidden from view until then, was fully open with an ugly looking AK-47 protruding out that immediately started to spit a hail of lead towards Christos and his body guards.

One of the body guards managed to throw himself in front of Christos and took five lethal bullets in his chest. As the guard fell to the ground leaving Christos exposed to the gun fire, Christos threw himself to the pavement wincing in pain as a bullet passed through his neck at the instant the second body guard landed on top of him. With his breath knocked out of him and an excruciating pain in his neck Christos suddenly realised that he should attempt to get back into the parliament building gardens and try to escape. He noticed quietness had descended on the street as if someone had turned the sound off on the television, but the picture still played. The Nissan had stopped a few yards from where Christos lay and in the distance he could see the presidential guards streaming out of their barracks towards the Nissan. Christos tried to push the motionless bodyguard from on top of him but only managed to get his upper torso free of the dead weight. Suddenly a cacophony of sounds split the silence; the Nissan’s wheel’s screeching as the driver attempted to reverse at speed, and the shouts and gunfire coming from the presidential guards who were only fifty yards from the scene. The Nissans wheel’s gripped the road as the driver threw the steering wheel to the left and the car reversed up onto the pavement. Too late, Christos realised that the car was reversing towards him. With a superhuman effort he tried to free himself from the bodyguard. One leg came free and then the other but it was too late,

The last thing Christos saw was the deep treads of the Nissans rear left wheel a split second before it passed over his head crushing the life out of him.

Chapter 6

October 23rd 2012 – Langley, Virginia

Laura Foot stared hard at her screen. For several days she had been watching Athens because there was intelligence about impending violent demonstrations against austerity in Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament building. She was head of operations for the Balkans region and had only been in the Balkans section of ‘Overlook’ for three days. She realised that something was going on. She needed confirmation, she needed more eyes.

“Jim,” she shouted, to a large man who had a tuna and mayo sandwich in one hand and a coffee in the other, “I need another birds eye view of Athens. I’ve got GEO37 online; can you get another one that’s just passed over Greece?”

Jim was the sections geek, although he didn’t look anything like a typical geek at all. At least not to his colleagues. He was a large man, not overweight but muscular. Laura suspected he worked out in his spare time. He wore a round face with brown unruly hair continually falling into his eyes so he was continually swatting it away from his forehead. He rarely came into work in a suit even though he obviously owned a few as he quite often spoke about the dinner parties he had been invited to through his current girlfriend, the daughter of a Washington socialite. His favorite casual wear was old fashioned corduroys and long sleeved checked shirts. Jim certainly knew his technology, machines were his passion as was jazz, this he let slip one evening when he, Barry and Laura had an after work drink to celebrate his forty second birthday last month.

“On it, Laura,” confirmed Jim, “what do you think you’ve seen?”

“Something’s going on behind the parliament building. It’s not clear but I thought I picked up muzzle flashes. GEO37 got a side view, I need an overhead. Have you got one?”

“I think we have two overheads, one is ours, GEO41, and the other belongs to Turkey.” I’ll download the video from forty-one straight away. What’s the time window?”

“Ten minutes either side of 4pm GMT plus two,” said Laura. “Ask Barry to pull in a favour from the Turks so we can get confirmation.”

“Right, I’m feeding the video to the wall now. I’ll split screen it with your stuff and we can compare. I’ll call Barry.”

Laura, watching the video from GEO41, saw a figure walking through the gardens at the rear of the parliament building in Athens with two men about two yards behind. She also saw a black Nissan pass in front of the three figures as they turned right onto the street. The muzzle flashes were coming from the back left hand side of the Nissan. All three figures fell to the pavement and then the Nissan reversed onto the pavement and seemed to run over the three figures lying on the ground before speeding away up the road from where it had come.

“Can we get in closer?” asked Laura as she moved over to where Jim was typing furiously on his computer console. It had to be someone important she thought as she knew there were a series of high level meetings in the area of the parliament building today. The door opened and Barry Lightfoot, Laura’s boss and the Balkan Station Chief in Washington, walked quickly towards her.

“What have we got?” Barry said to the room in general.

“Looks like a shooting in Athens,” answered Laura, “but we don’t have any details just yet. Jim is trying to get us a closer look and also bring a Turkish bird on-line. I’m guessing it’s a government minister with two security guards.”

“Damn,” vented Barry, “can you enhance Jim?”

“I’m trying sir, but even if I get a clear frame, the subjects face is looking down and we won’t capture any recognizable features.”

“Body type…is the subject slim, portly, short or tall? Can you tell?”

“Difficult to tell but I would say portlier than slim. Wait, the Turkish bird is now on-line so maybe we can get something more concrete,” replied Jim, as he turned towards the wall screen pointing out the fresh video being streamed in from the Turkish satellite.

They watched as Jim manipulated the incoming data to show the three men actually leaving the rear door of the parliament building. He centred on the leading man and started to zoom and enhance so that within a minute they had a clear picture of Christos Antonopoulos.

“It’s the Greek Economics Minister,” exclaimed Laura, “why would he be an assassination target?” she asked.

“He was a friend, that’s why,” exclaimed Barry, “too good a friend it seems. I wouldn’t mind betting there has been a major policy change in Greece with regard to allies. Can you get hold of the Athens Station Chief, what’s his name? David something isn’t it?”

“David Page sir,” answered Laura, “I’ll call him now.” Laura punched in a set of numbers on her cell phone and then placed it in a speaker phone cradle. After five rings it was answered and a voice sounding as if it was coming from a tin can penetrated the room.

“You’ve seen it, that’s why you’re calling,” stated David at once.

“We have David and we’re puzzled. Why would Antonopoulos be an assassin’s target? There is no logic to such an act; can you shed some light on this dreadful event?”

“I’ll try,” said David. “There have been rumours around for a few weeks now that Antonopoulos had stumbled across some information and he was about to talk to IMF. No-one is clear what he had found out, but it must have been big because he wanted Brussels to know about it. He was on his way to the Prime Minister’s office when it happened. We are hearing that a major policy change is about to take place. What it is exactly we don’t know, but obviously it has something to do with the beans that Antonopoulos was about to spill. Interestingly enough, Elena Davilova was in Athens yesterday meeting with Xenakis and not with Antonopoulos, so that might point to a move towards former allies. On the other hand, we are also hearing that Germany is looking for more natural resources and is looking towards the Aegean, so we aren’t sure where Greece is heading but something is definitely brewing. My guess is that within a few hours a group will claim responsibility for the assassination and soon after that some evidence of CIA backing will emerge.”

“This could be messy, and just as we thought it was safe to holiday in Greece,” he chuckled. “Do we know who will step into Antonopoulos’s shoes?” he asked.

“No idea,” said David, “but I would imagine we will learn very soon. I’m going to make a few phone calls and if I get anything new I’ll get back to you.”

“Thanks David, see what you can find out,” reiterated Barry and signalled to Laura to cut the connection. “Okay, I’ve got to take this upstairs, how soon can you put a package together?

“One hour tops,” replied Laura. “I’ll have it on your desk at one o’clock.”

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