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Operation Gladio - Chapters 9,10 and 11 - A Novel by Philip Cooper
October 25th 2010 – Langley, Virginia
In the operations room of the Balkans Overlook team in the CIA building, several people sat round an oval desk chatting aimlessly about anything but the situation at hand. They were waiting for Barry Lightfoot the Balkans Station Chief and their boss, who was being briefed by the Head of Operations European Region about the situation in Europe but specifically Greece. Laura Foot couldn’t contain her excitement and tried hard not to show the others how eager she was to contribute to whatever project was about to be set in motion. She had been in the department as Head of Operations for just 5 days and now she had a major event to handle. Not bad, she thought, for a gangly girl from Westerville, a small town twenty or so miles from Columbus, Ohio.
No longer a gangly girl, she had filled out nicely, although tall at five foot seven without heels. Laura favoured above the knee skirts showed off her toned thighs to maximum effect. Lately she was aware that men eying her up and down. This was far cry from her university days at Ohio State where she was the only girl in her year who never had a steady boyfriend. It wasn’t that she was ugly, but boys tended to be intimidated by her intelligence and shunned her.
Laura had once attempted, in a clumsy way, to ask a third year student to go out. He was fit, but she wasn’t the only one to think so, most of the girls fancied him. After going out on a date they were sitting in the campus bistro. She had taken great care with what she wore that night, choosing a slightly transparent blouse without a bra, knowing her nipples would be noticeable. Her skirt was short, and her heels high, giving her gangly legs some semblance of a womanly shape. They talked, he about sport and family, she about physics, electronics and politics, all the things she loved.
Whilst she was talking the strangest thing happened. She had been bored with his small talk and he was obviously not interested in what she had to say, but as she talked and took over the conversation, she started to become turned on by her own words and she felt herself becoming wet, her thighs becoming moist. Still engaging him with conversation she suddenly grabbed his hand and before he understood what was happening had placed it on the moist patch on her thigh. Her very first orgasm was instantaneous and strong and she could barely stop herself from groaning, letting out a barely perceptible wheezing sound.
The boy looked at her in bewilderment as he pulled away his hand and asked “Are you alright Laura?”
“Err…yes…I mean no…. I had an orgasm”, she blurted out as her face coloured a deep red, “I’m so sorry”, she finished lamely.
Laura didn’t wait for the boy to say anything else. Getting up from the table, Laura threw a ten-dollar bill down and rushed out of the bistro, leaving the astonished boy staring after her. She didn’t slow down till having reached the safety of her dormitory room where she burst into tears as she threw herself on the bed. Ten minutes later her analytical mind had reasoned out why she had cried and what had caused the orgasm. The tears were not because she felt embarrassed or that she had ruined her reputation, they were because she had become a woman. She also reasoned that she should be dating older men, men who could discourse on her level and excite her, men with the experience to satisfy her sexual desires. Laura did exactly that, three months later found her having an affair with one of her university professors.
It was he who had pushed her to become a CIA analyst. His brother worked as a political analyst for ‘Overlook’ South America and after she had gained her master’s degree in Political Science and International Relations, he invited her into Langley for an interview. She impressed everyone and was immediately offered the position of deputy Head of Overlook Operations Panama. Six days ago Laura was promoted to Head of Overlook Operations Balkans, just four years after joining the CIA. Now her department were in the middle of a European crisis and she couldn’t wait for the meeting to begin. Her thoughts were disrupted by the sound of the door opening and Barry Lightfoot, the Balkans Station Chief, walked in.
Barry sat down at the head of the oval table, opened his briefcase took out a file and then called the meeting to start.
“Good morning”, he said as he loosened his tie. “We have a lot to cover today so the first decision is what you want to eat during our working lunch. Write down what you fancy and I’ll get someone to order it in. Laura could you please sort that out whilst Jim gets hold of David in Athens? Jim the line needs to be completely secure and also set up for an incoming encrypted SCIPTS call”.
“Who is calling in?” questioned Laura as she punched a button and at each place at the table a panel opened and a flat screen monitor silently rose into view. Laura chuckled to herself as she thought about the Satellite Communications International Protocol Telephony System -SCIPTS. It was the most popular free internet telephone and messaging system in the world and nobody knew what it stood for, that is except CIA personnel. As a CIA stealth tool and one of their greatest successes, it enabled them to listen in to every internet conversation taking place over SCIPTS and nobody had a clue.
“We have activated an asset, in fact two assets. The caller is Alex Kalfas who has just been appointed the successor to Antonopoulos. He has no idea who the other asset is yet”, said Barry. “I haven’t got a written agenda but I think the day’s proceedings should go something like this”.
While Barry talked Laura was gathering her thoughts. With her IQ of one hundred and seventy, she had no problem in listening and thinking at the same time. She knew that Barry would ask her for her analysis on the situation and she was quite confident that her analysis would be spot on. After all she had unique informants, dangerous at that. Suddenly Laura’s ears pricked up as she heard Barry say that Geoffrey Stevens, the Head of Operations European Region, wanted their section to stop monitoring the whole Balkan region and concentrate on Greece and the key individuals involved in Germany, Greece and Russia. Another section would temporarily take over the rest of the Balkan countries. This must be really big, thought Laura realising that her analysis couldn’t be complete because there was a lot of information which she didn’t possess.
“Jim we need birds covering Athens and Berlin and maybe Moscow as well as key individuals. Geoffrey has given us the clearance to commandeer any satellite whether it is ours or an ally. We need full satellite coverage by the end of the day. Now, I’ll give you the intelligence we have available. Jim is David listening in?”
A tinny voice boomed across the room. “I’m here Barry; carry on it’s a clean line”.
“Right”, said Barry, “jump in if you have something to add. It seems the one thing which we were afraid of happened. After the CIA pulled out of Gladio and left it to LOK and the BND to run, they have completely ignored its original ethos and under its umbrella covertly moved down the opposite path from its intended direction.”
“You’re right,” agreed David. “It does look like they are moving over to the other side of the street.”
“Also becoming greedy for natural resources and green energy. The only untapped resources left in Europe are the oil and gas reserves under the Aegean and Ionian seas and the abundance of land which is owned by the Orthodox Church,” interjected Barry. “Russia is keen to have a foothold in Eastern Europe and Germany is keen to get their hands on cheap resources. To do this they need to do two things. Firstly, discredit the United States and secondly they must destroy the economic potential of the country. The discretisation of the USA started with the assassination of Antonopoulos and the admission of the killing by the November 17th terrorist group. According to the Greek authorities this group was supposedly destroyed when the ring leaders were tried and imprisoned in 2002. Over the last few days’ sources in the Greek government have been leaking snippets of information which discredits the USA. Do you have any more on that David?”
“Yes, I do”, confirmed David. “Greek parliament members have always been keen to appear on television and most days will see four or five on each of the main stream channels. They like hearing their own voices but more than that they get paid appearance money of one hundred and fifty euro per appearance. It’s a tremendous supplement to their income and analysts estimate that many members of parliament earn an extra fifty thousand euro in untaxed cash payments each year from their television channel appearances. However, in the last few days there has been a huge increase in appearances on political chat and news programmes by senior members of the government. All, either directly or with innuendo, making sure the general public know which country is behind November 17th. Only today there were violent demonstrations outside the American Embassy in Athens”.
David paused as a phone was heard ringing in the background. He excused himself and answered the phone. They heard him talking and seemingly asking for clarification on several points. The phone was put down and David came back and said. “Alex’s mother is dead”.
The room went silent and no-one moved for a moment. Then they all spoke at once.
“How?” asked Barry.
“Was she murdered?” questioned Laura.
“What playing field should I be mapping?” asked Jim.
“She was found at the bottom of the rocky escarpment on which Achinos cemetery is situated”, said David. “It appears she wandered behind the cemetery while she waited for Alex to go down the hill yesterday and missed her footing in the dark. That’s the official statement anyway”.
While Jim mapped the satellites which had passed over that area of Greece yesterday, Laura started to piece together the intelligence they had so far. They hadn’t expected another death and even though it still might be an accident, Ariadne had been one of their assets in Greece, albeit a sleeper until a few months ago. Ironic thought Laura that she is now sleeping forever. Was Alex one of their assets she asked herself? According to David he had met with her at the cemetery and shortly after that she was dead. What had they spoken about? If Alex was one of theirs they had a senior Greek minister in place to cause some damage, but what could he do? Were there strategies in place that she didn’t know about? If there was, Barry would know and most likely put them on the table today. “Is Alex one of ours?” asked Laura to no-one in particular.
Barry looked up and nodded. Before Laura could get a follow up question in, Jim announced that he had located yesterday’s satellite pictures for the area of central Greece where Achinos is located and was about to put them on the video wall. Everyone turned towards the video and watched in silence as it showed Alex leaving the small church at the cemetery and starting to walk down the cobbled road towards the village. They then saw his mother leave the church and walk amongst the gravestones before stopping at a particularly ornate grave. She tidied up the flowers which had been spilled onto the grave from an upturned vase and lit a couple of candles. She then walked to the far side of the cemetery and slipped in-between a broken section of the low wall which surrounded the cemetery. As she sat down on a low rock at the side of the escarpment a male figure detached himself from a group of people who were gathered outside the gates of the cemetery and made his way around the outside towards Ariadne. As he approached her she stood up and appeared to talk to him. It was obvious to the Overlook team that she knew him. They talked for a couple of minutes until the man pointed at something in the distance. Ariadne turned to look at what he was indicating and as she did so the man shoved her in her back and she disappeared over the edge. The man then wandered back to re-joined the group still talking outside the cemetery gates.
There was silence in the room. Only the hum of the air-conditioning could be heard. Barry clearing his throat addressed the room. “So it was murder and not an accident”. It was a statement not a question.
“Jim it’s almost 18:30 in Berlin, our asset should be calling in on the half hour, clear all traffic and make sure the line is secure”, said Barry as he signalled to the others to stop talking by making a zipping motion over his lips.
October 25th 2010 – 18:30 Berlin
In his room at the Adler, Alex dressed and shaved, opened his laptop and the SCIPTS application. He clicked on the dialling window and entered the first five numbers of the sequence he had memorized in the church at Achinos. He heard a ringing tone which lasted five seconds and then a metallic like voice said “Secure, enter your ten-digit code”. Alex complied and heard a sequence of pings similar to a submarines sonar system. Then a voice said, “Good evening Alex, you’re through to Overlook. Speak freely; you are on a secure network”.
Alex’s voice boomed across the room. “Good evening gentlemen”. Nobody mentioned that there was a lady in the room. “I’m afraid I’m completely out of my depth here. I haven’t a clue what I’m supposed to do or accomplish or even how to go about it”.
“Calm down”, said Barry. “You are not alone. You have a whole team of people who are watching your back plus we have someone on the ground not far away from you. Now tell us about your meetings, any clues as to why Antonopoulos was killed?”
“He must have found out something about what Themis Xenakis was planning to do and was going to let the cat out of the bag,” surmised Alex.
Alex then began telling them about his meeting with Themis Xenakis, the Prime Minister. He emphasised the point that he had been told he was required to lie about the financial state of Greece, although he didn’t know to what degree, however, all should be clearer at the Bilderberg meeting. He also told them about the blackmail and assured the room that he did not sleep with Lafazanis.
“We know that,” interrupted Barry. “We set that up. All doctored photographs, brilliant.”
“Xenakis certainly believed them,” continued Alex. “How on earth…….
As Alex was talking it occurred to Barry that perhaps Alex didn’t know about his mother. Now Barry was preoccupied with whether he should tell him or not. Certainly telling someone that their mother had died over the phone was not the best of ideas but there was no doubt in Barry’s mind that Alex should be told. He would get their other asset to do it. After all she was seeing him in a couple of hours. Barry scribbled a note and handed it to Laura. “Get this to her as quickly as possible”, he whispered.
Laura glanced at the note and blanched. She nodded her assent and turned to her computer. So Gitta is our other asset she mused. How on earth had they managed such a high level insertion without the German government getting a whim of what was going on under their noses?
Alex was still talking when Laura received an email from Gitta which simply said ‘affirmative’. She signalled Barry that Gitta had agreed, then turned her thoughts to trying to analyse what was going on in Greece. She felt sure that Barry was going to ask her to offer her analysis while Alex was still on the line.
Alex meanwhile was talking them through the Bilderberg meeting. “Is Gitta going to be there with you?” asked Barry.
“Yes she is”, said Alex. “I suspect she is there to keep an eye on me and make sure I toe the party line”.
“Do you know what the party line is?” asked Barry.
“As far as I can gather I’m supposed to be the deliverer of bad tidings to the world, highly overstating Greece’s debt mountain and current account deficit. Unfortunately, I don’t know why the Prime Minister wants these numbers to be published and also why Germany is becoming such a close ally in this matter. Perhaps you know more on the why? I must admit I’m feeling threatened especially after the demise of Antonopoulos”.
“Laura will give us her take on this in a while Alex. Meanwhile we will assess your risk profile and try and mitigate as much of the danger as we can. In the worst case scenario, you may never be able to go back to Greece again. However, we believe that if anyone wanted you dead, they would not attempt anything outside of Greece. The Greek police are not renowned for their criminology skills, so assassinating you in Greece gives them their best chance of getting away with it. Outside of Greece the police were more advanced and are better equipped to deal with the situation particularly in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States”.
“That’s a relief”, laughed Alex. “I can probably live a danger free life as long as I avoid my home country”.
Alex wasn’t feeling like laughing, he suddenly felt very lonely. He suppressed an urge to call his mother; little knowing that he would never call her again. He shut the lid of his laptop effectively ending the communication.
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October 25th – 2010 – 19:30 Berlin
Alex had poured himself a small brandy when the phone rang and the concierge asked him if he was expecting a Gitta Lehrer. Alex said he was and asked them to send her up. He suddenly felt a little excited about seeing her again and soon forgot the anxiousness he had felt when talking to Langley. Alex left the door of his suite open and sat down in a chair which offered him a view of the open door.
Gitta pressed the button for Alex’s floor and her thoughts turned to breaking the news of his mother’s death. She knew that Alex and his mother were close and Alex had always been anxious whenever she was involved in any operation for the CIA. Gitta was sure that Alex had only allowed himself to be recruited because of his mother’s persuasive skills. Now she was dead. There was a danger that because of her death, Alex would just decide to not go along with the CIA and follow the instructions of his Prime Minister to the letter. On the other hand, perhaps he would want to get back at the people who had eliminated her. Her thoughts were interrupted by the doors of the elevator sliding back. She stepped out into the luxuriously carpeted corridor and walked towards Alex’s room.
When she was a few feet from the double doors of Alex’s suite she noticed the doors were slightly ajar. She was immediately suspicious and stopped in her tracks, listening intently for any sounds coming from the room. She heard none. Now alert, adrenalin flowing through her veins she slid her hand through the slit in her knee high dress and pulled a small Beretta from the holster sitting between her thighs. Checking the safety was off; she crept silently towards the double doors. She noted that the doors opened inwards and the right hand door was the one that was ajar. Gitta eased up to the gap in the doors, careful not to cast any shadow into the room and alert anyone who might be in there.
Her view of the suite was very limited, all she could see was a partial wall and curtained window but at least the lights were on, albeit not that brightly. She reasoned that she needed a brief distraction to enable her to enter the room and have a chance at the first shot if needed. Quietly opening her bag Gitta pulled out a small lipstick applicator. This will do, she thought. With the applicator in her left hand and gun in her right she positioned herself beside the gap in the double doors. She took a deep breath; flicked the applicator as far she could into the room as a distraction; then in one fluid movement she threw open the right hand door, dropped down on one knee holding her gun in the normal two handed grip, scanned the room from right to left and then back to the centre of the room. Alex sat wide eyes with astonishment having just shattered his brandy glass in his surprise at suddenly looking down the barrel of Gitta’s gun.
Gitta put a finger to her lips to indicate that Alex shouldn’t say anything. She saw that the door leading to the bedroom was open and she moved very quickly to the wall adjacent to the door and flattened herself against it so she was hidden from whoever was in the room.
“Hello Gitta,” said Alex. “Why the James Bond act? There’s no one here you know.”
Gitta breathed a sigh of relief and slipped her gun into its thigh holster. “Your door was ajar,” she explained. “I was just being careful. I could have been anyone; you should always close the door to your room.” She sat down opposite Alex as she rebuked him. She stretched her legs out flexing her ankles to ease out the dull ache caused by her crouching entrance, at the same time giving Alex a view of her perfectly shaped legs as her skirt rode higher.
Alex momentarily forgot his nervousness as he took in Gitta’s long legs. Then he walked to the bar, poured another brandy and took a long gulp before asking. “How does the assistant to the German Minister of Finance know how to use a gun and what’s more know how to enter a room ready to use a gun in earnest?” Alex giggled, the brandy must be getting to me he thought to himself. “Don’t tell me you’re a female equivalent of James Bond and you work for MI6?” Alex expected Gitta to laugh out loud at his half-hearted attempt at humour.
“Not MI6,” said Gitta, “the CIA.”
Alex stared at Gitta. How many people I know work for the CIA, he thought. Gitta, my mother and I for starters, I wonder how many people I have met during my life also work for the CIA that I have no knowledge of.
“I know it’s hard to believe and your brain must be frazzled with the speed of events that have carried you through the last few days,” said Gitta.
Alex said nothing as he stared into her eyes. His mind was racing and not for the first time he felt he was very much out of his depth. I’m an amateur compared to these people he thought. A reluctant spy who’s had no training in analysis, martial arts or firearms. I’m simply a man who has been thrown into the deep end by a strong mother and her CIA buddies and who because of a reputation as a womaniser and general ‘bad egg’ as the British would say, elected into a political job that was beyond him.
“Yes,” said Alex. “I’m very much out of my depth, very frightened and not at all sure who my friends are, or indeed if I can pull off…. whatever it is I’m meant to do.” Alex spoke the last few words in a rush and immediately took a long swig of brandy as if to quell the torrent of words.
“Get a hold of yourself,” said Gitta. “I’ll be around to make sure you don’t get into trouble.”
“You mean you are my guard, guardian angel or whatever the official CIA term is? Talking of CIA, you’d better tell me how you came to be involved with them. I need reassurance that you are as professional as you looked when you made your James Bond-esque entrance.”
Gitta realised that Alex needed the whole story otherwise he was going to go to pieces. She dared not tell him about his mother, not now at least. She thought about getting clearance from Langley especially as they had tasked her to tell Alex about the murder of his mother. In his current state that news would probably finish him off so better not chance it. She would clear it with Langley later. She had to calm him down and show him that he was in good hands.
“Handler….” Gitta smiled, this time the smile reached her eyes. “Pour me a drink…. a whisky,” she said, “sit down and make yourself comfortable. If you don’t mind, I need to use your bathroom to clean up. I’ll be five minutes.” Before Alex could say anything Gitta had grabbed her bag and disappeared into the ensuit of the bedroom.
As Alex poured Gitta her drink he reflected on how he had arrived at this uncomfortable moment in his life. It was only a few days after his twelfth birthday when his father had sat him down and explained that the person he had always known as ‘mother’ was in fact a surrogate. He wasn’t told about the affair between his real mother and his father but was told that his mother was unable to keep him in Greece and was forced to send him to America with his father. His father had married soon afterwards and his wife had accepted Alex as her son. Alex was schooled in a private Georgetown school where he proved to be an able student with an aptitude for languages. He learned ancient Greek, Latin and Modern Greek with some ease and by the time he reached his fourteenth birthday he was fluent in all three classical languages.
In 1976 on his sixteenth birthday his father took him out of school after morning assembly and drove him to his office. Already waiting there was a woman. She was introduced to Alex as his mother, a mother he had not seen since he was a baby. Alex felt nothing towards her but he did find that he liked her so he was friendly towards her. She stayed a week spending most of her time with Alex, talking, walking and telling him that he was going to be a hero of Greece one day. Alex warmed to his mother more and more throughout the week and by the time the week was up he had become very fond of her. On the day before she left they were sitting in one of Georgetown’s most elegant patisseries enjoying iced Lattes and a Greek styled truffle.
“There is something that I have to tell you,” said his mother. “You know of course that your father works for the Central Intelligence Agency?”
“Of course I do,” interrupted Alex impatiently.
“Well there is no easy way to break this to you,” smiled his mother. “So do I and you will too when you are ready.”
Alex stared at his mother in total disbelief. “Is this a joke mother?”
“Unfortunately, it’s not a joke Alex. I paid a price for having you out of wedlock. Your father was an officer in the American Armed Forces and attached to the CIA. I was nothing; a simple peasant girl.” Ariadne spread her arms as if in submission, then she took Alex’s hands. “I wanted more for you. If I had kept you with me in Greece, you would never have had the education your father has been able to give you. To give you a decent start in life I had to let you go for a while. I had to agree to work for the CIA and I had to promise that I wouldn’t stand against your father’s wishes that you too work for the CIA.”
“Have you been involved in any operations yet?” asked Alex. He was gradually warming to the idea that his mother was a spy. What would he tell his friends he thought? Bad idea was his next thought. He couldn’t tell anyone because he would become a spy too. His thoughts were interrupted by his mother’s reply.
“Only one……I helped the Americans make sure that the colonels overthrew the then unsteady government of Greece in 1968. Greece became a stable country under the colonels despite the people’s protests. Economically there was growth and more important everyone had jobs and the country did not owe anything. Now Greece has Karamanlis and democracy is back and the country is being Europeanised. It was unfortunate about the invasion of Cyprus of course but Turkey had to be given a carrot by the west.”
“What happens now?” questioned Alex.
“When you are eighteen your father will induct you into the CIA and you will become what is commonly called a ‘sleeper’. Your studies will groom you for a life of politics in Greece. Your father reasoned that if we could place you in a high government position we could monitor what was going on much more efficiently. The CIA will train you in truth avoidance and behavioural sciences. Don’t worry, you won’t need to do anything physical or have to carry a gun. You won’t be a spy in the field. All you will be asked to do is observe, report and lie to whoever you are having a relationship with; be it girlfriend, lover or wife.”
Alex’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of Gitta returning from the bathroom. He placed her whisky on the small table beside her armchair and sat down opposite her. He noticed that even though her skirt was revealing a good portion of her thigh there was no sign of her thigh holster or her gun. Alex waited expectantly for Gitta to tell her story.