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Operation Gladio - A Novel by Philip Cooper Chapters 1-3
March 12th 2012 - Berlin
The hotel suite was tightly guarded at all entrances by marines from Russia, Germany and Greece. Inside the room two men and two women were formulating a treacherous plan which if successful would make them all very rich. Themis Xenakis the Greek prime minister looked over at Elena Davilova the Russian economics minister, long shapely legs stretched out as she leant back in her armchair and let out a long stream of smoke from her cheroot. Xenakis noticed that Dominik Vogel the German economics minister had his bird like eyes firmly fixed on Davilova’s legs.
“Dominik,” said an exasperated Brigitte Neumann, the German Chancellor. “Themis needs an answer. Once we have decided who will replace Antonopoulos when he goes, we can review the plan and then go back to our hotels.”
Vogel tore his eyes off Davilova and turned to Xenakis. “Weren’t you roommates with your justice minister in Boston?” he asked.
“I was,” confirmed Xenakis.
“Can we manipulate him into replacing Antonopoulos?” asked Vogel.
“How? Short of blackmail I don’t see an answer.
“Do it,” chimed in Davilova. “He has a reputation for cheating on his wife, doesn’t he? So, catch him in a compromising position and use it as a bargaining chip. We’ve only six months before the announcement.”
“What if he doesn’t play ball and cheat on his wife?” said Xenakis.
Davilova looked over at both Vogel and Neumann and raised her eyebrows in exasperation. “Well fix it. You can use JD’s services for setting up blackmail traps as well as the odd assignation here and there,” she finished, grinning at Xenakis.
Xenakis wanted this badly, the ‘this’ being a successful partnership between the people in the room. He was not at all comfortable with talk of killings and blackmail. Had his greed for money and power led him down a path which he would later come to regret? Would he be able to stop events snowballing out of control? The other three felt comfortable with this kind of talk. He wasn’t surprised about Vogel and Neumann, because both their backgrounds were steeped in ruthlessness and callous brutality, however he was shocked by the apparent mercilessness of model like Davilova. He’d hate to be on the wrong side of her. More astounding was that she seemed to be the leader of the ‘trinity’ and the Germans were subservient to her demands. He pondered on what secrets Russia might be holding over them like the poised axe of the executioner.
“Right,” said Vogel. “The announcement will be made the evening before the ‘Oxi’ day celebrations in Greece. Kalfas will lead the press conference at the Bilderberg meeting in Athens on the 27th October. He will detail the agreements that we will have put in place by then, monetary, political and territorial. Agree?”
“Agreed,” said Neumann.
“Agreed,” repeated Davilova. “It’s up to you now Themis. Don’t let us down.”
The four leaders left the room one at a time, each one escorted by their respective marine guards. Once back in her hotel room Elena Davilova dialled the Russian Presidents mobile phone.
“Elena,” answered Igor Putilov. “How was the meeting?”
“Hello Igor, the meeting went as well as we could expect. Xenakis is the weak link as we thought. He has no stomach for violence or blackmail. He must be watched very carefully.”
“Not unexpected in light of his background. How about the other arrangements?”
“They agreed to split the extraction of the reserves in the Aegean and we have most of the eastern edge plus other reserves just south of Crete. We will also have sole licence for a gas pipe running across northern Greece.”
“Congratulations,” enthused Putilov. “How much does Xenakis want in return?”
“Debt clearance and some,” replied Elena. “A lot less than the assets however. It’s a good deal.”
The line went quiet as Putilov digested the information. Elena waited knowing that Igor was calculating the numbers with his finance minister. Twenty minutes later she heard the phone at the other end of the line being picked up.
“Okay, we’ll run with it for now. Once we have finished our surveys we will be in a better position to assess the monetary strategy. Enjoy your trip to the States Elena.”
Without waiting for a reply Putilov hung up. Elena stared at her phone for a few seconds. He could be so rude, she thought. Then with a shrug she signalled to her body guard to call a car to take them to the airport.
October 23rd 2012 - Russian Beach – Poros Island Greece
The small boat glided out of the little bay as it tracked the silvery road laid down by the half-moon in the night sky. Kostas Triandafilos scanned the high cliffs dominating two sides of the bay and then looked back at the trees which served as a backdrop to the small sandy beach that during the summer teemed with beautiful young bodies sunning themselves in the hot sun. Now however in mid-October the beach was deserted during the day and at night the beach parties had long since finished for the season.
Behind the tree line Kostas could just make out the ruins of a large building which had once been the headquarters of the Russian fleet command in the Aegean Sea. In 1840 it was manned by over 200 naval personnel but now lay empty, a half-hearted tourist attraction during the summer months. It has served me well over the years thought Kostas. He had hidden himself from the eyes of the world many times in the last few years. Now he hoped tonight would be the last time. The tiny engine of the boat gave a small sputter and then resumed its steady low beat as Kostas steered it towards a small island just five hundred metres off shore. His destination was Daskelos (teachers) Island, a tiny island barely big enough to hold its small church, a few trees and two small jetties’, one facing Poros island and one on the seaward side.
Kostas was a full colonel in the Greek army and an ex-marine. At six-foot-tall with a full head of hair bleached blond by the sun, he belied the fact he was pushing fifty-five years old. Dressed in an old pair of jeans, a grubby shirt that had seen better days, he looked like one of the local fisherman, which was exactly what he wanted. On his head was an old beaten up captain’s hat, on his feet wellington boots and he sported an old black knapsack on his back - no marine fatigues for him tonight. His knapsack contained a small pistol, a hunting knife and his cell phone which was set on vibrate. He didn’t want it ringing as sounds carried a long way on a still night like this.
As the island became clearer in the faint moonlight, Kostas could just make out the church which stood forlorn in the centre of the island. He steered towards the jetty on the seaward side of the island and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw another small fishing smack moored to the jetty. When he was twenty yards from the wooden landing stage he cut the engine and allowed the boat to drift slowly towards the jetty. After securing his boat, he took his pistol and knife from his knapsack. The knife went into a shin sheath on his left leg and the pistol was held lightly in his right hand. He didn’t really expect trouble but it wouldn’t do any harm to be vigilant he thought to himself. A faint light came from within the church which confirmed to Kostas she had kept their meeting.
Two minutes later he was standing outside the church peering through the missing window pane. A woman and a man were inside the church. She was smoking and sitting on one of three chairs forming the first row which the congregation used during services. Nowadays the church was a popular summer venue for young couples to marry as they saw it as a romantic place, particularly as it was only accessible by boat. As the church was tiny with only forty chairs for a congregation, whenever a wedding took place most of the congregation listened to the service as it was piped from loudspeakers, out to the taxi boats, usually hired for the occasion and which anchored close to the shore around the island.
Kostas pushed open the door and stealthily entered the church. “Kalispera,” (good-evening) he said as he pulled a chair from the first row and sat down facing the woman, “Did anyone see you Ariadne?”
The woman got up and went over to Kostas, kissing him once on each cheek before replying. “We were very careful Kostas. I don’t think anyone saw us. Don’t be so anxious.”
“Things are coming to a head Ariadne,” said Kostas. He looked over at the man sitting next to her. He was also dressed as a fisherman and the fact he was unshaven heightened this impression, giving him a swarthy appearance. He was Theodoros Halkias, also an ex-marine. He was code named ‘the Gardener’ and he was Ariadne’s bodyguard, Lighthouse’s main asset in Greece.
“Are you ready?” questioned Ariadne.
“Yes I am,” answered Kostas. “All my resources are in place and ready for the word from Lighthouse. The identified targets can be taken within two hours of the go ahead if it comes.”
“It will come, don’t worry about that,” said Ariadne. “Lighthouse is confident that you will be needed to douse the flames of Gladio. Are you sure the men you are using are loyal to you?”
“They are and those that are not will be dealt with. I don’t expect any problems at all.”
Ariadne’s cell phone beeped from inside her clasp bag, interrupting their conversation. “I’ll take this outside,” she said, as she walked towards the door. Once outside she spoke softly into the phone. “I’m with ‘Tinos’ and the ‘Gardener” she referred to the code names of Kostas and Theodoros as she replied to the voice at the other end. “Are you positive?” she asked. Just at that moment she heard a shot coming from within the church, “There’s trouble, I’ll call you back.”
Ariadne ran to the church doorway, pulling a Glock pistol from her bag as she went. At the doorway she stopped and peered through the gap between the door frame and door. She saw Kostas, pistol in hand, standing over Theodoros who was lying spread-eagled on his back with blood gushing from a neck wound and a hunting knife resting in an outstretched hand.
“What happened?” shouted Ariadne.
“He came at me with a knife,” replied Kostas. “The crazy malaka!
“That was Lighthouse on the phone. They were suspicious that Theodoros may compromise the operation. It looks as though their reservations were well founded. Fortunately, he didn’t know all the details but I may be in danger now; however, I imagine that you are still in the clear. We’d better get going. Get rid of the body and get back to Athens. If something happens to me Lighthouse will communicate with you direct.”
Ariadne kissed Kostas and left the church. An hour later the calm sea was once again broken by the passing of two small boats as they glided silently into the shallows of Russian Beach.
October 23rd 2012 - London
Sir Peter Bogart sat behind his antique mahogany desk, his laptop was open in front of him. He was playing Angry Birds and was good at it, proud that at the age of seventy-two he was as computer dexterous as his favourite grandson. There was a knock at the door and his secretary Janet popped her head around.
“Sir, Gregory is coming up in ten minutes. He said it was about Gladio,” she said. She secretly wondered how a man in his position could possibly enjoy computer games, although it was a thought that she never voiced, as you never knew what ears were listening in the building. It was rumoured that the building had more bugs in it than a world health organisation laboratory for dangerous diseases.
“Send him straight in,” said Sir Peter, “Oh and give him my morning coffee as he passes you, will you?
“Yes sir,” replied Janet.
Sir Peter watched her walk out and reflected on their brief fling twenty years earlier. He had headed MI6 in those days and he had taken her on several foreign trips before the inevitable happened and they had an affair lasting six months. He ended it when he was asked to set up Lighthouse, a government agency that reported to the prime minister and the foreign secretary. Their brief was to conduct covert operations independent of any ally, especially America. He had been surprised when Janet had agreed to be his secretary at Lighthouse given her feelings towards him, but it had worked out fine. Janet never mentioned the affair and never treated him informally, retaining her prim and proper persona for the past twenty years.
Sir Peter’s career had been pretty spectacular to say the least. Educated at Cambridge where he studied politics and foreign affairs, his professor soon realised that he had an uncanny knack for ‘best option analyses’. This in layman’s terms means that he could analyse a situation and come up with the best option to move events in the favour of the interested party he represented. Two days before he graduated he was recruited by MI6 as an analyst. Recognising his leadership qualities, he moved up the ranks at unprecedented speed and by the time he was thirty-eight he was ‘C’s’ number two. C was the acronym given to the head of MI6 after the initials of the first head of MI6, Captain Mansfield Smith Cumming. Unlike the ‘M’ depicted in the James Bond books. After C died of cancer Peter was promoted to head of MI6 becoming ‘C’ at the age of fifty-two. Knighted soon afterwards, he had ten successful years before being asked to head up Lighthouse.
Lighthouse was involved in a very delicate operation in Greece. Great Britain like America had not been happy that Greece was leaning towards Russia with its future energy and financial plans. Greece was practically bankrupt and the weight of the Troika’s austerity measures were lowering the Greeks standard of living every day. This was motivating the people towards two extremes, the left wing Siriza party or the right wing Nazi party - The Golden Dawn – and these extremes were causing social unrest.
“Good morning Sir Peter,” greeted Gregory stepping into the office before striding across the room and placing a cup of coffee on Sir Peter’s desk. Sitting down he stretched his long legs out on the thick pile crossing them at the ankles and sipped his coffee. Gregory had been head hunted from M16 three years ago by Sir Peter, who made him his number two at Lighthouse. He was proud of his decision as over the last couple of years Gregory had proved himself a reliable field and case officer. Sir Peter had asked Gregory twice to go into the field and sort a problem out and both times Gregory had been successful. What’s more he didn’t flinch at eliminating those responsible for the problem, the details of which were never recorded in the official report, only verbally to Sir Peter, who did him the service of not recording their conversations as possible leverage in future years.
“We have a problem in Greece,” continued Gregory, “there was a mole in our team there.”
“What do you mean by ‘was’,” asked Sir Peter.
“Tinos killed him,” said Gregory, “it seems that ‘Gardener’, the mole, had decided to take matters into his own hands and failed. According to Ariadne, if he had blown the whistle he had no need to try and kill Tinos as his superiors could have simply arrested him or made him disappear.”
“Has it compromised the operation?” asked Sir Peter. Gregory had been warned that Sir Peter could be ruthless but until now had not believed that his normally kindly eyes could look so cold and steely.
“I don’t believe it has,” replied Gregory, “according to Ariadne ‘Tinos’ is ready and has his men in place. He is waiting for our signal to go ahead.”
“Are the Americans in play yet?”
“Yes, but they don’t know about our operation. They’ve brought Ariadne’s son Alex into the game by default, as he has just been made Greece’s economic minister. The asset they have been nurturing in Germany is standing by to mind Alex. They have no idea that Ariadne is working for both sides of the Atlantic. The trigger is still in place. The moment Alex goes public we will set the wheels in motion and Tinos will move his men into position.”
“I don’t think the Americans will dislike the successful outcome of the operation at all. They might publicly condemn it, but in private they will be reassured that Greece is still in the fold.”
“I agree sir,” Gregory said. “Is there anything else?”
“No Gregory, just keep me in the loop will you. I want to know every detail, especially after you’ve given Tinos the green light.
“Right, I’ll arrange for ops to provide you with a satellite phone so we can do face time.”
“Why do I need that Gregory? Are you going into the field on this one?” asked Sir Peter, with a look of puzzlement on his face. “Surely your unique skills are not required for this one.”
“We can’t leave anyone alive that could point to any ‘Lighthouse’ involvement sir, so I have to be in the field and make sure that whatever the outcome, our assets don’t become liabilities,” reasoned Gregory.
Sir Peter gazed at Gregory without saying anything for a good twenty seconds. He hated violence and needless deaths. However, he realized that Gregory was right. The Americans must never suspect Britain’s role in this operation. Unfortunately for their assets, who were risking their lives willingly for their beliefs, were going to lose their lives whatever the upshot of the operation. Rather reluctantly he said. “I agree with the strategy but tread with care; nothing can be traced back to us, absolutely nothing.” With that he dismissed Gregory with a wave of his hand, resuming his game of Angry Birds.
October 25th 2012 – Berlin
Alex was as nervous as hell. Not only was it his first meeting with the German Finance Minister but it was his first official meeting in his new capacity as the Finance Minister of the Hellenic Republic. He was cold and shivering from his nervousness. Alex also had a problem with understanding complex economics, but it was more the thought of meeting with the stone faced, hook-nosed, former East German. Before the fall of the Berlin wall he had been a member of Stasi, the feared German secret police, and had suffered gunshot wounds which confined him to a wheelchair.
The limousine crawled slowly through the early morning commuter traffic towards the German department of finance. Alex decided to call Melina his wife and let her know his flight had been uneventful. He occasionally felt guilty that he was not the perfect husband to Melina. Although he was certain that he loved her and he knew that he was a lucky man to have married one of the most beautiful fashion models that Greece had produced, he could not help but wonder. He was a womaniser but was it his fault that women found him sexy? He wasn’t an ‘A’ typical sexy guy, he wasn’t tall, average at five foot ten, not slim, no six pack, in fact he was a little chunky with a glimmer of a rounded tummy. He had great hair though, dark and curly bordering on unruly. Alex always knew that his eyes were his best feature, a vulnerable dark brown. Women loved his seeming defencelessness and the way his eyes appeared to be on the verge of crying.
Alex had first realised that women were attracted to him in his late teenage years when he was still at private school in Georgetown Washington. He was staying overnight at a school friend’s house. His friend Josh had an absolutely drop dead gorgeous mother with legs to die for. At least that was Alex’s opinion and by all accounts half the neighbourhood too. That night Alex slept in his usual rooms when staying with Josh. It was fairly secluded from the rest of the house as it was set above their double garage. Comprising a small den, a shower room, separate closet and a double bedroom Alex always felt comfortable there.
This particular night Alex had gone up to his room just after eleven. He showered then got into bed and watched several recorded episodes of the Big Bang Theory, his favourite TV show. He must have fallen asleep because he awoke with the realisation that somebody, to be more precise, a woman, was next to him. (The next section has been deleted to comply with hub-pages policy)
His thoughts were abruptly brought back to the present when the limousine slowed to a halt outside his destination.
Alex alighted from the limousine and entered the modern building on Friedrichstrasse. No bodyguards for him this trip as he was not well known to the general public and not a danger to anyone – not yet anyway. Slowly he climbed the stairs, avoiding the lifts and also getting some exercise, making his way to the third floor which held the offices of Dominik Vogel his counterpart in Germany. Alex’s mother who had lived through the German occupation of Greece had told him many stories about the occupation and the German officers and soldiers she had met. None of the stories painted a good picture of the German race. Unfortunately, they had left Alex with a strong dislike of them and consequently he always tried to steer clear of Germans in Greece.
It made him nervous that he was meeting a man whom he would be working with. Could Alex cut through the bias and behave as if there had been no violent history between their people? They were after all quite bizarrely Greece’s main partners in Europe.
Alex pressed the buzzer next to a plaque engraved ‘German Republic Ministry of Finance’ and smiled into the camera positioned above the door. The door was opened by a long legged tall blonde girl wearing a white blouse and a blue skirt barely brushing her knees and exposing her long shapely legs. On her pert left breast was a name tag informing Alex she was Gitta Lehrer. In German ‘Lehrer’ means teacher and Alex thought being taught anything by Gitta would be a delight.
“Good morning Mr Kalfas, welcome to Berlin,” she said, showing Alex a set of flawless white teeth. “My name is Gitta. Can I take your coat?”
Alex locked onto a set of beautifully expressive green eyes which remained cold and bore a look of disdain as she caught him staring too hard.
“Good morning Gitta,” Alex replied. “Yes, thank you very much,” as he pulled off his coat and handed it to her.
“Come this way, Mr Vogel is expecting you.”
Alex did as she requested and kept his eyes on her impeccable rear as it sashayed its way towards the set of double glazed glass doors that led into Vogel’s office. She drew back the doors and stood to one side to let Alex pass. She had hardly left him enough room and his arm inadvertently brushed against her right breast.
“Thank you Gitta.” Alex smiled at her and although her teeth smiled back her eyes didn’t.
“Hello Kalfas, please come in.”
Vogel was sitting in his wheelchair behind a huge red mahogany desk. As Alex entered the office Vogel wheeled towards Alex. He thrust out a hand and held Alex in a vice like grip, wanting to show that although he was in a wheelchair he was as strong as any other man.
“Welcome to my ministry,” He said. “Did you have a good journey? It must have been very rushed for you, short notice wasn’t it?”
“Thank you and well…yes it was short notice but the flight was fine and although it’s a little cold at least the weather is good,” Alex replied, trying not to stare too hard at Vogel’s nose, which was hooked like the beak of an eagle. In fact, his whole posture even in his wheelchair was one of a bird of prey. He was tall, slim and bird like with eyes that bore into you but did not give a clue as to what he was thinking. Even his name ‘Vogel’ translated to bird in German.
“Sit down over here.” Vogel said indicating a leather chair opposite his. “Have you been briefed by your Prime Minister?”
“I have,” Alex replied. “I am fairly well versed on the forthcoming closeness of the partnership between our two countries at the expense of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, although I haven’t been told who will replace them, if anyone.” then he lied, “But I am confident that we can move forward without any problems.”
“Never mind for now,” expressed Vogel impatiently as he moved behind his desk and opened a file that had the word ‘Hellas’ stamped in a deep blue on its cover. He felt a little uneasy because he did not detect sincerity in Alex’s reply. Not that he cared that much because he was quite certain that Alex would be persuaded to do everything asked of him. As he began looking through some of the papers in the file, Alex took the opportunity to study Vogel’s desk. He had seen one exactly like this before. He had to know.
“Your desk is very similar to a desk that Marcus Opel the former chairman of Swiss Bank had in his office. Is it from the same carpenter?” Alex enquired.
“You are very observant.” Vogel replied. “In fact it is the same desk. He gave it to me as a gift on the day that Union Bank of Switzerland merged with Swiss Bank Corporation and he was forced to resign. Now will you excuse me for a few minutes while I catch up with some of these documents which the ECB has prepared for our meeting? Gitta, does Mr Kalfas want a coffee?”
Alex turned round in his chair and realised that Gitta had never left the office. She smiled at him and asked. “White or black?” “Black with two sugars please,” he replied.
While he waited for his coffee and for Vogel to finish reviewing the documents Alex reflected on how he had arrived at this point in time.