August 9, Zanderij airport, Parimaribo, Suriname
first burst, fired from directly below the craft, tore
through the starboard wing of the single-engine Norseman.
Machine-gun fire. The throaty roar of the engine drowned
out the sound of the bullets ripping through the plane's
ancient fabric. The pilot, as if unaware of the danger
below, took no evasive action. Moments later, announced
by a terrible explosion, the second burst, streaming up
from a hill in the plane's flight path, shattered the forward
windscreen, killing the pilot. The plane, which had just
passed through three hundred meters on its ascent out of
Zanderij airport, shuddered and lost speed. Strips of tattered
fabric ripped away. The starboard wing dipped and began
to flap violently.
the cabin, strapped into a seat in front of the freight
compartment, the plane's owner, a Dutchman named Theunis
Kloos, struggled to free himself from his safety harness.
Blinded by the rushing wind, he screamed for help over
the engine's roar, but the pilot, a Bush Negro in his employ
for the last eight years, failed to respond. Blood from
the man's lacerated head splattered back through the cabin,
striking Kloos in the face with the force of hard-driven
rain. Panic seized the Dutchman. The quick release handles
of the rear exit hatch were within reach, tempting him
to jump. A chute! If only he'd worn a chute!
the plane was still flying, had righted itself as if on
hoor! He had a chance!
aircraft, a demilitarized C-64A transport, built by Noorduyn
to ferry freight and passengers in World War II, had seen
postwar service from the Canadian bush in the North to
the jungles of Suriname on the coast of South America.
For the past ten years in Suriname, Kloos had utilized
the plane for transport between the capital city of Paramaribo
and his plantations deep in the interior. It had suffered
its bad days, including a crash landing at Nieuw Nickerie,
but Kloos had lovingly restored it, and the original Pratt
and Whitney engine, a 600-horsepower Wasp, had not missed
bless the old beast! They were both too rugged to die.
the strength of a man twenty years younger, Kloos freed
himself from his seat and staggered to the cockpit. Shielding
his eyes from the wind, he looked at the dials on the instrument
panel. Fuel flow normal. Temps and RPMs okay. Oil and hydraulic
pressure steady. Kloos lowered the lifeless body of the
pilot to the floor and then slipped behind the stick. The
plane had swung slowly to the west, into the afternoon
sun. To the north, out the right window, Kloos could see
the aquamarine of the Atlantic shelf merging in a blur
with an aqueous sky. The polders along the fluvial coastal
plains, joined by silvery lines, leidings, narrow
canals for the runoff, reflected the afternoon sun like
shiny mirrors, and in mid-distance, patches of savannah
rose to meet the undulating hills and the rain forests
that lay to the south. With the skill of a man who had
flown for much of his life, Kloos brought the plane, juddering
violently now, around on its original heading. The landing
strip at Brokopondo would be the closest. He could already
make out the shimmer of the reservoir behind the dam. Below
him slithered the wide Suriname River, dark with tannic
acid, winding its way through the tropical jungle like
a fat water snake. An easy direction marker. And at worst
he could bring the plane down into its meandering current.
briefcase with the files . . . He looked over his shoulder,
straining to see. What had he done with it? Five minutes
ago, he'd been clutching it in his lap. And then, before
he could turn around, the plane started to come apart.
One corner of the V-shaped strut that anchored the starboard
wing to the central frame broke loose, and pieces of fuselage
started to flake away. The plane began a slow spiral to
the right, toward the jungle. Kloos fought to bring it
around, to land in the shallow river bed, but the controls
Norseman lost height quickly then, plunging down into the
thick mass of jungle. Before the undercarriage touched
the tree tops, the starboard wing ripped off and the plane
began to disintegrate. Kloos lost all sense of perspective,
the only sensations those of thunderous sound and darkness.
woke to a horrible scream that seemed to last forever.
When he realized it was his own voice, he tried to stop
but the agony in his back was unbearable. Somehow, in the
crash landing, he had been turned around in the cockpit
and a jagged edge of the control panel had gouged a seam
along his spine. When his scream finally diminished to
a prolonged moan, he heard shrill voices in the distance.
Shouted commands. The sharp, ringing notes filtered with
clarity through the still-silent forest. The guerrillas
would soon arrive.
the plane's canopy had been stripped back and laid bare.
The engine cowling was nowhere to be seen. Like the cords
of a collapsing parachute, vines rose into the dim expanse
stretching above him, hanging loosely from immense trees
whose tops were lost in leafy darkness. He reached up and
tugged on a vine. The gnarled liana straightened, held
his weight. The voices were closer now. Excited calls growing
louder as men hacked their way through the jungle's dense
undergrowth. Kloos knew who they were. Guerrillas. Hailing
each other in Taki-Taki, a pidgin mixture of English and
Dutch. Men who hated him. They had lain in wait for his
flight. Twice now, they had tried to kill him, angry at
his support for the government in power. When they found
him, they would torture and then kill him.
sinewy arms knotted in strain, he pulled himself out of
the cockpit and perched on the mangled frame. Each movement
sent a stab of pain up his spine. Gritting his teeth, he
slowly worked his way to the ground, landing in soggy soil
choked with jungle vegetation. What remained of the plane
was suspended in a tangled net of lianas, poised three
meters above the ground. With a frightened glance around
him, Kloos plunged into a swampy morass, moving quickly
away from the crash site. Buttress roots, thorny palms,
razor grass--a mass of tangled undergrowth impeded his
progress. A kingfisher shrieked a challenge, jumping from
branch to branch above his head. The murky water rose to
his chest. Its putrid smell stung his nostrils and the
back of his throat. Strands and clumps of rotting vegetable
matter swirled around him. Dusk would rob the land of all
light within a matter of hours. To survive, he would have
to spend the night in the forest, with poisonous insects,
spiny rats, and capybaras, with jaguars, crocodile-like
caimans, and twenty-foot anaconda, with the dreaded bushmaster
he halted. The guerrillas had reached the plane. He could
hear their excited cries barely fifty meters away. It would
take the men only a few minutes to search the plane. The
case! He'd forgotten to look for it in his mad scramble
from the smashed cockpit. Better for it to have been lost
in the jungle as the plane disintegrated in its mad plunge
to earth. If the guerrillas found it . . . He didn't want
to think about that. The case contained files that were
his livelihood, damaging evidence of past crimes of men
in power. Men and women were willing to pay to keep secret
what the files disclosed.
had to go back. Soon. In the darkness of night, the plane
would be impossible to find. When the men left, he would
come out of hiding and wait for daylight to search the
surrounding jungle. Finding the case was all that mattered.
He moved toward higher ground, crawled up a muddy bank
and crouched under the tangled roots of a manioc tree,
searing off through force of will the pain in his spine.
Moving slowly, skirting the edge of the swamp, ready to
slip into its depths if necessary, he approached the crash
site. From thirty meters away, he counted the guerrillas.
Eight of them, all heavily armed. They had cut the net
of tangled lianas. What remained of the plane lay flat
on the trampled vegetation. And then he heard the words
and his heart froze.
is het pak! De koffer!
found the case.
man emerged from the cabin with the leather satchel in
one hand. He raised it above his head and shouted in triumph.
felt his stomach cramp, overcome by a sickness that dizzied
him, left him feeling weak as if he'd been suddenly and
savagely emasculated. The adrenaline that had propelled
him away from the downed plane dissipated like mist in
a dry wind. In despair, he put his face down in the mud,
his fingers clawing the ground, the pain in his back, which
he had succeeded in beating down, now overwhelming. It
would have been better had he died in the crash.
lay on the ground, unable to move, while the men made a
desultory search of the area and then disappeared into
the undergrowth, their voices slowly waning. Kloos dreaded
the thought of what remained to him now--nothing short
of open, gut-wrenching war. They'd taken his livelihood. No
longer would he be able to work from behind the scenes.
No longer would others, in fear, jump to his commands.
The powerful would no longer automatically heed his call.
He choked down the madness that threatened to engulf him.
Control, he thought. Control! His jaw grew rigid
with the strain. He'd gone it alone before, he could do
it again. That was simply the way it had to be . . . .
August 11, the Virginia countryside near Washington,
night, the manor house rose like an apparition from the
crest of a gentle hill, its darkened, westward-facing windows
overlooking an Italian garden that lay spread out below
it like the pleated skirt of a woman at rest, her knees
two small knolls around which wound a long unpaved ribbon
of a driveway. The guards had completed one circuit of
the estate with their leashed attack dogs and were now
watching TV in a caretaker's cottage near the southern
wall of the property. The dogs were in a nearby run. They
were not allowed to roam, for they had fallen into the
habit of chasing and killing the miniature deer that ranged
the walled, fifteen-acre estate.
lights bathed the exterior of the imposing Victorian manse,
and occasionally a starburst of sparks flitted from one
of the massive chimneys and then died in the moist night
air. Unseasonably cool for summer. The fire came from the
master den, one of the colder rooms with its floor-to-ceiling
windows that faced the east and were soonest in shade.
owner of the mansion was in the den, sitting in a luxurious
teal-blue wing chair ten feet from the hearthstone, feet
stretched out toward the crackling pine fire, back to the
door that led into the second-floor hallway. As was his
habit at this late hour, he was sipping a cherry brandy
while reading a leather-bound volume from his magnificent
library, a work of history, which he took up and put down
as the spirit moved him.
industrialist, international gadfly, close friend and confidant
of the President, he was a vigorous man of medium height
with dark brown hair and an unlined face that belied his
seventy-some years. Among other things, he was founder
and former chief executive officer of S & A Amalgamated,
a conglomerate of steel and aluminum companies with subsidiaries
and affiliates worldwide.
in thought, he stared vacantly at the pine logs, his ears
deaf to the splutter and pop of the resin that oozed out
along the ax cuts, grew brittle in the heat, then exploded
against the metal screen. Above the marble mantlepiece
hung a row of framed ribbons holding medals won in the
Second World War. The old man's eyes settled on the medals,
so familiar as to be unseen. To him, they were all meaningless,
at best ornaments to impress his guests. The only medal
that mattered was one he could never display, awarded to
him in a secret ceremony in Switzerland, late in 1943.
war years . . . the undercover missions . . . the treachery
and betrayals. So long ago now, and yet so close.
noise outside drew his attention to the French doors to
his right. The tall glass panes gave out on the dark countryside
and reflected his solemn countenance. He picked up a gun
lying on the lamp stand to his right and pointed it at
the reflection. A lesser man--or one given to symbolic
acts--might have pulled the trigger, shattering the window
and erasing the worried vision that stared back at him.
A face frightened by the possibility of imminent failure.
old man laid down the gun and laughed dryly. He was not
a man of symbolic acts or vain gestures. When he pulled
the trigger--or, rather, when his men did it for him--someone
else would be in the gun's sights, someone else would die.
No one would keep him from getting what he wanted--the
highest office in the land. His ruthless ambition would
chew up the opposition like mud under tank tracks. There
were three men he feared. Three men from the past who knew
they'd been betrayed, but not by whom. Only now, after
all this time, it seemed one of them had stumbled onto
the secret. Had he told the others? Probably. If so, each
one would die--until there was no one left who knew, no
one except himself, and then the legacy of the past would
finally cease to haunt him.
glanced at his Patek Philippe pocket watch. Ten minutes
yet before his man Akkad arrived for a final briefing.
And then maybe he could get some sleep.
shook his head. Why now? The Washington Post lay on the
floor beside his chair, open to the page where he'd seen
the short article on guerrilla activity in Suriname. An
old Norseman shot down by leftist guerrillas, the bosneger pilot
killed, on board the owner of the plane, a man named Theunis
Kloos, whose body had not yet been found.
Dutchman had already blackmailed him once. But Kloos was
in South America, a right-wing, would-be dictator whose
man in Paramaribo, currently in charge of the government,
was as corrupt as he. The old man in the States had let
himself be blackmailed, buying with his contribution to
the Dutchman's cause not only protection for S & A's
bauxite mines in Suriname but silence. And now this . .
. A plane shot down in the jungle. The body not found.
A hint that certain files were missing . . . maybe in the
hands of the guerrillas.
would have thought Kloos would wind up in Suriname? Sure,
it was a former Dutch colony, and Kloos came from Holland,
but still . . . a stroke of bad luck that. The only one
of the three who had ever seen him face to face. And that
by accident--passing in the halls of the Vatican. And then
a second time, over forty years later, in Suriname of all
places, the two had met. Now, the old man's intelligence
sources had informed him that the Dutchman, for some reason,
was in touch with a Mafia don, ensconced in his villa in
the Sonoran desert south of Tucson. That made no sense--until
they told him the mafioso was a man named Beppe Aprico.
was then that the old man had begun to worry. Beppe Aprico
was a dangerous man, head of the Southwest's largest drug
syndicate, protected in his younger days by the CIA because
he had often provided the agency with illicit funds for
covert political action. If Kloos had gotten to Aprico,
that meant Thomas Gage would be next. The three of them
had served together in northern Italy, late in the war.
Aprico and Kloos had disappeared soon after, but Gage had
gone on to a twenty-year career in intelligence. They were
dangerous men, despite their age, and the old man, using
his contacts in the intelligence network, had acquired
a dossier on each.
Akkad listened intently as his boss talked. Half-Italian,
half-Lebanese, raised and educated by an English nanny
in one of the nicer suburbs of Rome while his parents,
actors both, cavorted around the globe, Akkad began his
career as a mercenary trained in a Libyan terrorist camp,
working deep cover--or so he claimed later--for SISMI,
the Italian military intelligence service. But to the men
who hired him in the years that followed, the details of
Akkad's background were of little concern; what mattered
were the results he promised--and then delivered; he was
a master of dirty tricks, not the least of which was murder.
listened while his boss told him about the three men--about
the plane that had been downed in Suriname--and then about
the grandson of one of the men, a kid who was an undercover
cop with a narcotics squad.
old man tugged on the loose folds of skin at his neck. "I'd
like you to start with Gage. Ex-CIA but he'll be the easiest.
He lives by himself in a cabin in the mountains outside
Durango. Every been to Colorado? "
shook his head.
he'll be miles from help and shouldn't be much of a problem.
Best of all, I don't think the others will learn about
it in time to react before you get to them. "
like to do the tough ones first--il padrone and l'Olandese,
the mob guy and the Dutchman, then the easy one. "
a question of geography. Take care of Gage first. Aprico
second. The mafioso's holed up in a villa in the desert
surrounded by men for protection. And the Dutchman isn't
going to be easy either. He's got his own army in the jungle.
A plantation up the Commewijne river in Suriname. The CIA
says the whole country's up in arms, so when you get down
there you'll be dropping into what may turn out to be a
war zone. "
about the kid?
kid?" The old man paused and stroked his jaw. Gage's grandson
was an unknown factor. "I've been thinking about him. "
don't like undercover cops. "
he won't like you either." He pursed his lips. "It's a
problem. He's been using his grandfather's connections
with Aprico to infiltrate the family. Aprico thinks the
kid's an accountant. "
kid, come si chiama? His name? "
Oh, ah, Nick Ferron. Gage is his maternal grandfather.
Ferron wouldn't even be a narc if it wasn't for Gage. The
old man pulled a few strings in Washington. "
he have to do that? "
man crossed his legs and sighed. "It's a long, complicated
it, then. "
it doesn't hurt to know the connections." He reached for
his snifter, swirled the cherry brandy, then set the glass
down without drinking. "Ever hear of the Grand Coulee Dam
shook his head.
was before your time. A famous case back in '66. Frank
Ferron, this is the cop's father, Franco Ferroni I guess
they called him then, came here from Italy to work on the
dam. He wound up marrying Thomas Gage's daughter, a girl
named Irene. Anyway, the guy went crazy--some kind of jealous
fit--and wound up killing his wife for talking to the neighbor.
They'd had two kids by then and he almost got both of them--Nick
and a younger sister. They testified against him in court. "
father in prison now? "
old man snorted. "Frank was sent to the Federal pen in
Washington. About two years later one of Aprico's hoods
stabbed him to death. The Feds couldn't prove it, but it
looked like Gage called in a favor from his old buddy.
Got the guy that killed his daughter. I don't think the
kids ever knew. The boy was only ten when it happened.
Gage raised the kids. Retired from the CIA and moved out
west with his wife. She died a couple years later. He ran
an insurance agency until the kids were old enough to be
out on their own. "
sat forward in his chair. "It sounds like I should do the
kid, too." He shrugged. "Raised by his grandfather, you
know, they gotta be close. You don't want any loose threads. "
old man nodded. "Just remember, the kid's a cop. You sure
you can handle this? "
he know--a little ka-ra-te?" Akkad waved his hand as if
brushing at a fly. "Maybe I can use the cop against the mafioso--especially
if the kid is already inside." He tapped the tips of his
fingers together for a moment, then looked up. "I could
set up a drug bust. "
complicate the simple. I don't want Aprico busted. I want
him dead." The old man's voice had risen a notch.
raised both hands in a placating gesture. "No problem.
I'll get in touch with some friends in the DEA." Thinking
it out as he spoke. "They can set up the bust, take this
cop Ferron out at the same time. Make it look like, you
know, he went in with il padrone." Akkad lay one
finger over the other. "Like they're together in bed. "
old man waited a moment, then spoke. "I don't need to know
how you're going to do it. Just take care of it. And one
other thing. When you're finished up here, when you're
down in Suriname and Kloos is out of the picture-- "
his files and destroy them. "
grinned. "È tutto? That's all? For free
maybe I take out the guerrillas too. "
old man frowned. Akkad was doing his James Bond impression
and his flippancy grated on the old man's nerves. "Just
do what you're told. I don't want any papers left. The
same goes for the guys in this country. If you find anything
that connects them, letters, papers, whatever, destroy
"È già fatto,
signore. It's already done. I'll use the corolla
di ombre. That'll take care of the problem. "
what the hell is that? "
little pieces of a flower." Akkad made a plucking motion
with his hands. "Shadows. My men are like petals. "
old man shook his head. "The corolla of shadows--will you
forget the fancy names, for Christ's sake. Keep it simple
and get it done. That's all I'm asking. "
got it," Akkad said. He counted out the targets on the
fingers of one hand. "Gage . . . Aprico . . . the kid if
he gets in the way . . . Kloos . . . the files." And then,
unable to resist, he unsheathed a twelve-inch, serrated
combat knife, kissed the blade, and added, "See you one
week from now. "
is always an unknown factor. That is the umbra."
Mussolini, after sketching a figure throwing a cone of
virtue is like precious odors, most fragrant when they
are incensed or crushed; for prosperity doth best discover
vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue. "
August 20, Sonoran desert near Tucson, Arizona
Torres leaned back against the wall of the ranch house. "Know
what the don did when I whacked his bodyguard? Splattered
the guy's brains all over the don's new suit? "
Ferron shook his head.
snorted. "Shit his pants. Stench was terrible, man. He
eyeballs me and then he says, 'You mind if I go to the
toilet?' And I go, 'It looks like you already have.' 'Yeah,'
he says, 'only I can't flush my shoes.' "
stroked the stubble on his chin. They'd been in the house
five days now. "Fucking guy figures he's next, still has
a sense of humor. "
Chicago for you," Ferron said. "Out here, they come to
the desert, their balls dry up. Like those little round
that shit. Don't never retire, man. Put you out of action. "
except for Aprico. He's different. He's got coglioni down
to here. "
mean cojones, dude. You ain't been around my sister
haven't been around your sister at all, Torres. "
well you need a little Chicana pussy, man. Forget that
Italian shit. Sound like you a mafioso or something. "
shrugged. Hey, that was how he'd done it. But no use telling
Torres. None of the guys knew he'd been undercover, that
he was the source.
he'd told the chief was that for the last two months Aprico
had been shacked up with one of the Columbian mules. A
girl who couldn't have been older than sixteen. Living
in his desert hideout where the medicine chests in the
bathroom held more pillboxes of coke than of aspirin.
long now, if the weather forecast was right for once.
days they'd waited. Twenty-seven men in the squad. Too
damn many. Packed into the abandoned ranch's bunkhouse
and a small adobe casa. The adobe had a ceiling of vigas
and saguaro ribs, with a foot of dirt packed on top of
that, but no air conditioning. It should have been cool,
but after a summer of relentless heat, the mud walls and
ceiling were like the sides of an oven, and the bunkhouse
was worse. Only one archaic shower, with almost no water
pressure. A quick shower every other day, the captain had
said, to which someone had grumbled, "Fucking going to
smell us coming a mile off. "
members of the MANTIS assault team were waiting in the
abandoned ranch for a monsoon storm that would be severe
enough to cover their entry into Beppe Aprico's desert
compound. They needed a lightning storm to explain the
sudden loss of power, a storm strong enough to last into
the evening when darkness would cover their movements.
Any advance warning of the raid and invaluable documents
would be destroyed by the men around Aprico. Once the monsoon
season's first storm broke and the captain radioed the
go command, an agent would throw a switch at the substation
south of Tucson, at which point the compound's electrified
outer fences and the alarm system for the villa itself
would fail. Ferron had reported that the portable emergency
generator ran only the interior lights. He'd seen to it
that the main backup generator had malfunctioned; it was
now in Los Angeles for repair.
days, while the forecasters kept saying the monsoon storms
would arrive that afternoon. Unbearable heat, the stench
of sweat, lousy food, general discomfort--a fugue state
that reminded him of a gloomy Futurist painting he'd seen
once in one of his grandfather's Italian books. What was
the title? Those Who Wait. He couldn't remember
the artist, just the vision of ghostly shadows in green
and gray waiting to be carried off.
of the Senior Agents provided by the DEA had told them
they could use the time to get to know each other better.
That was a laugh. Ferron had no interest in baring his
soul to strangers--especially cops. He had no friends on
the force--not even Hector Torres--and didn't want any.
The job had cost him his wife. Made him feel sorry for
himself and that made him angry. Hadn't he always hated
cops when he was a kid? They hadn't done anything to stop
what made him think MANTIS would be any different? He'd
joined the undercover squad because it allowed him to work
alone. And now he'd been ordered to take part in a major
raid. He worked intelligence, not assault, he'd told the
chief. "And, besides, I've just cracked the surface. We
wait and we can round up the whole ring. We got suppliers
outside the country. We got mules that transport the drugs.
There's gotta be somebody who oversees the transaction
at the other end. Shoot, we won't even be coming close
to the distributors in the West and Southwest. "
chief had listened, but in the end, what with pressure
from higher up, there'd been no choice. Aprico was too
important--a big name--a supposedly retired Mafia don.
Congress and the newspapers would love the news. Senator
Sprague would be out in a flash, his mug on the evening
news. One more capo brought to justice. But with
Aprico out of the picture, Ferron said, someone else would
step in to fill the breach. At most, MANTIS would gain
a month or two of leeway. The chief shrugged. The decision
had already been made.
was going on. Too much interference--agents from the DEA,
FBI, Customs Service, and the Border Patrol, Federal and
State prosecutors, an officer from the Criminal Investigation
Bureau of the State Police, IRS investigative accountants,
and a woman from the Federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement
Task Force. And Senator Sprague would take credit for everything.
His men were hovering in the background, making sure the
Senator would be available for any photo ops. The MANTIS
agents were beginning to feel like the ugly kid sister,
along for the ride but stuck in the trunk.
the five days had passed like blood dripping through a
awhile, to pass the time, the guys told jokes. When those
they ran dry, they traded horror stories, each one trying
to outdo the others. Nick could have told his own--from
his childhood--but no one would have understood.
thrown a rock and hit his younger sister on the head,
and now his dad was beating him. They stood in the kitchen,
face to face, the boy with his arms crossed in front
of his chest, protecting his stomach while his father
slapped him back and forth. The blows stung, but he was
afraid to raise his hands higher for fear his father
would slug him in the belly and knock the wind out of
him. He was asthmatic and if he lost his breath, the
panic would start. So he protected his stomach while
his dad taunted him in his strong Italian accent, told
him he would teach him to pick on someone smaller than
him, asking him see what it's like?
began to spurt from his nostrils. His head swung with
the blows and the blood splattered the white kitchen
walls to each side. His father asked him why he didn't
protect his face, but the boy said nothing in response.
He avoided the angry eyes, just stared at the massive,
hairy arms, at the thick fingers of the hands that struck
him. Waiting it out. The blows stopped after a while,
and finally his father left the room, shaking his head
in disgust. The kid stood there silently, unable to move,
blood dripping down his lips and onto his shirt. And
then instead of words came silent tears.
tuned out after awhile, thinking about his dog. He hoped
the high school kid he'd hired to feed and walk Rowdy was
doing his job. After Sharon had packed up and returned
to her folks in L.A., divorce papers in hand, the golden
retriever was the only one left he could talk to. And the
nice thing was, the dog never talked back. Just gave him
that quizzical grin with one side of his upper lip stuck
on his gums.
was another matter. She'd called again a week ago, wanting
to rehash the past, trying to get him to talk when he didn't
feel like it. It was over! He was tired of talking.
Hell, he was tired of being manipulated. That's when she'd
exploded. Tried to blame everything on his past.
His dad had fucked him up, she said, not her.
What could you say to that? Maybe it was true. He hated
what his dad had been--a vile beast: wife beater, child
abuser, murderer. Hated him more when he recognized the
same anger in himself--only he'd never taken it out on
others, just turned it in on himself. But most of all,
he hated not being able to kill a man who was already dead.
call wasn't the only one he'd received last week. The day
before the squad was locked up in the ranch, incommunicado,
his sister had telephoned from Durango. Barbara had told
him that Wolf, their grandfather's Australian shepherd,
had turned up in town without him. She was worried.
long's Gran Babbo been at the cabin?" he asked. Gran Babbo
was an affectionate term for their grandfather. In the
early years, when they were still young and Thomas Gage
was the only dad they had (forget the monster locked up
in prison), no matter how often he told them Gran Babbo
was incorrect Italian, that they should call him "nonno," the
name stuck. "Great Daddy." That said it all. He was the
only man Ferron had ever loved.
only been there a few days," Barbara said, "but I think
I'll send Richard up this weekend. Make sure everything's
all right. Did I tell you Gran Babbo spent a week in Washington,
kidding. The way he talks I didn't think he'd ever go back? "
said he'd got a letter from someone in South America. He
didn't want to explain, just said something about it putting
him back on track. "
track for what? "
wouldn't say. And he left for the cabin once he got back.
Said he'd spent the week in the National Archives. He didn't
look happy. "
wish he'd talk more about what's bothering him. It's like
he's still trying to protect us."
didn't say anything for a moment. She took a deep breath. "I'm
worried he might have had a heart attack. "
heard the quaver in her voice. "He's too strong for that."
he's seventy-four. "
never seen a healthier guy for his age. He'll be tramping
up the hills for another twenty years." He paused. "Any
snow in the mountains yet? "
and you know Gran Babbo can handle snow. He's got enough
food up there to last a month. "
what's the big worry? Wolf probably just wandered off.
He's more used to the house in town than the cabin. "
was silent for a moment, a low hum on the telephone line. "Two
men came by to see him," she finally said. "I told them
where the cabin was." Sensing his displeasure, she hurried
on. "They said they were acquaintances. Friends of his
former comrades in the OSS. "
didn't like that. The cabin was private. Family only. Not
even for old wartime buddies or their friends. "Have they
come back? "
that I know of," she said.
then, if anything's gone wrong, they'll help him. "
the more he thought about it, the more it bothered him.
Three weeks before the raid, in a telephone conversation,
his grandfather had told him to contact a man in Durango
if anything strange were to happen to him. Ferron had tried
to press him for information, wondering if his grandfather
was worried about repercussions from Aprico, but Gage had
just joked about his paranoia resurfacing. A sign of senility,
he'd said. At the time, Ferron had dismissed his grandfather's
fear. They hadn't even raided the compound yet. Aprico
was no threat. But perhaps his grandfather had been thinking
about someone else. Ferron didn't know anybody who called
themselves "former comrades in the OSS" and he'd been to
several of the reunions in Switzerland with his grandfather.
Were those just his sister's words? And the letter from
South America bothered him. As far as Ferron knew, Gran
Babbo had never mentioned having friends south of the border.
All his old pals were in Europe. It was Beppe Aprico who
had the contacts with South American drug cartels.
days now to think about what his sister had said. Five
days with no news. Fucking weather! When in hell was
it going to rain?
February 13, 1943, Rome, Italy
his imagination the first thing he saw was the Tiber, turbid
and slow in the dusky haze of a summer evening. The plane
trees on the embankment towered into the sky in full leaf,
their trunks mottled by the play of light and shadow. Along
the Trastevere, the windows of the apartment houses were
open to catch the evening breezes, and white muslin curtains
wafted inward, bearing the scent of flowering wisteria.
At one casement a woman leaned out to greet him, her hair
floating in the breeze like silk strands in an underwater
it was just a dream . . . a summer fantasy . . . an idyll.
in the harsh light of reality, on a winter day, what he
noticed first were the boots and the black shirts, and
the vision that came to mind was a memory of marching.
Not the passo romano--the Italian version of the
goose-step, instituted in '38 to impress il Duce. No, what
he remembered was the clomping of the Blackshirts in their
knee-high boots during the march on Rome in 1922. Five
years old, perched on his father's shoulders outside the
Embassy on the Via Veneto, watching the ragged hordes pour
into the city in jubilation. Against his will he thought
of the moment now, in the washed out light of a late afternoon
in February, as the car drew near the Ponte Salaria on
the outskirts of Rome. At the access to the bridge, four
jackbooted members of the Blackshirt militia, armed with
carbines and revolvers, were stopping traffic and asking
sight caused his heart to flutter, its pace quickening
despite the deep breaths he took. His name was Thomas Gage
and he was twenty-six years old, but that was not what
his papers said. His papers said he was Alberto Griglia,
thirty-two, a season veteran. Though not new to war, Gage
had the looks of a teenager--hair cut close to the scalp,
with a cowlick jutting over his forehead, a finely chiseled
face that at the moment, with his gaunt cheeks and thin
lips, tended to the haggard, and a wiry body that only
hinted at his strength. It would not pay to look young
car was a ten-year-old Bianchi Torpedo, a four-seater with
folding seats. The driver, a short, heavy-set man named
Antonio, bald-headed but with a thick black mustache, had
papers allowing the vehicle to be driven from Genoa to
Rome on business. A tag in the window showed him to be
a member of the Partito Nazionale Fascista, the
PNF. In the buttonhole of his suitcoat, he wore the PNF
pin. When he had rendezvoused with Gage at a farmhouse
near the coast just south of Civitavecchia, he had pointed
to the pin and joked about the letters. "Per necessità familiare," he
said. Out of family necessity.
no foul-ups, would be more like it, thought Gage.
papers had been cobbled together two weeks earlier--at
least the first set he would show, not those hidden in
the lining of his coat, which were artful forgeries identifying
him as an Austrian aristocrat. The papers in his hand,
a booklet he had not expected to use, were those of a solder,
his own photo attached in place of the original. Alberto
Griglia, a caporale in the Italian 35th Army Corps,
former Ardito, a member of the Death's Head Brigade,
in reality a prisoner-of-war captured at El Quattara in
the battle for El Alamein. The last line in the papers,
followed by a military stamp, had been altered to show
him on leave to attend to family business in Milan. Under
il Duce, family business came before all else; those who
had prepared the papers knew enough to take advantage of
any chinks in the armor of fascism.
was dressed in a soiled tweed suit, a dark felt slouch
hat at his side. Beneath his feet was a dilapidated cardboard
suitcase. The false bottom, only a quarter-inch thick,
hid five hundred in Gold Seal dollars. Around his waist,
in a thick money belt, he had another two thousand in lire.
let us through, he thought. If they let us through, I will--
I will what? A grin appeared despite the tension. Another
memory . . . his father had taken him into the basement
of the university library when he was ten. Standing at
the urinals in the men's room, he read the graffiti left
by the students. If I pass biology, I will return and
kiss this urinal. And then by another hand: If
I pass anatomy, I will go to the train station and kiss
the dirtiest of the shitholes there. And finally,
in small block print: If I fail physiology, I will
kill Benito Mussolini. And enough people had tried.
Four in 1926 alone. Too bad no one had succeeded.
Blackshirts were beating a boy they had dragged from a
three-wheeled truck at the head of the bridge, just four
vehicles away now. Two of them carried the limp body to
a troop transport parked nearby and tossed the boy into
the back. In a few minutes, the Bianchi Torpedo was first
in line. The fascist militiamen surrounded the car and
suddenly a layer of cold sweat broke out on Gage's body.
He brushed the moisture off his upper lip, then rolled
down the window.
voice was gruff.
reached into the inside pocket of his suit coat and handed
the man his booklet.
militiaman was of medium height with rough-shaven cheeks,
crooked teeth, and a scar on his forehead. He flipped to
the last page and read the most recent annotation. "What
was the nature of your family business?" he asked, bending
down to look into the car. His breath smelled of garlic.
mother's funeral. I'm an only son. "
your father living? "
shook his head. "He died in the last war."
your uniform? "
left it in Rome with my cousin. I'll pick it up there before
I report back. "
in the suitcase? "
change of clothes . . . and some books. "
do you need the books for? "
were my mother's . . . Some of D'Annunzio's poetry. It's
all I have left of her. "
out of the car, please. "
He turned to look at the driver. Antonio shrugged. His
papers had already been returned to him.
opened the door and stepped out." What's the problem?" he
asked, shutting the door behind him.
a moment," the militiaman said. He walked around the car
and over to a civilian standing by the truck.
now? Antonio was still sitting in the car. Gage looked
around, gauging his chances of escape if he should need
to make a break for it.
this was what he had asked for, wasn't it? A chance to
work undercover in Rome. Bill Donovan had been scouring
the prisoner-of-war camps for Italians sympathetic to the
Allied cause. He'd looked in the States for Italian-Americans.
He'd talked to General Clark at the training center in
Port-aux-Poules, near Oran, where the newly constituted
Fifth Army was practicing the new invasion techniques.
The OSS now had the authority to operate in sabotage and
guerilla operations. And what had Gage done? Convinced
his boss that he was the best man for the job. His Italian
was as good as a native's. He knew the country well.
graduate of Yale University, he had been raised from the
age of four in Rome, where his father, a former professor
of international law, had been an attaché in the
U. S. Embassy. Fluent in Italian, German, and English,
with a smattering of classical Greek, some Latin, and passable
French, Gage had been recruited by the British Special
Operations Executive in the summer of 1940. Following his
training at Camp X, located in Canadian bushland on the
northern shore of Lake Ontario, he had been sent to Greece,
where he worked with remnants of the Venizelist party,
organizing an intelligence network that reported on the
Italian military situation in Albania. When the British
were finally forced to withdraw from Greece, he was posted
to Cairo, where he interrogated Italian and German prisoners
captured during the British counterattack in Cyrenaica.
In December of '41, he returned to Washington, D.C., to
be with his wife and three-year-old daughter. From the
SOE, it was a simple matter to pass to the new intelligence
service set up by Colonel Donovan in January of '42. And
from a desk to action, first in North Africa--at the glorified
rank of Major, now in Italy.
his job wasn't sabotage. General Clark had other ideas
for him, all now in jeopardy. The two men at the truck
were joined by a third, who was slowly flipping through
Gage's papers. In a moment, one of the men came over and
said, "Which suitcase is yours? "
pointed to the cardboard case in the car.
man opened the passenger door, retrieved the case and took
it around to the others. From where Gage was standing,
he couldn't hear what the men were saying. Suddenly, one
of the Blackshirts motioned to the driver. "Avanti! "
opened the door to get in and said, "What about my suitcase
and papers? "
you," the man said. "You stay. "
need to get to Rome. My cousin's expecting me. I still
have a week of leave. "
any more," the man said. "Change in orders. You're needed
at the front immediately. "
watched in dismay as Antonio shrugged, then put the car
in gear and drove slowly across the bridge. To protest
was to court disaster.
here." The militiaman joined his comrades.
was wrong with the papers? He recognized the fear creeping
over him. He had seen it often enough in the eyes of prisoners
captured in Africa. At least they had fellow soldiers
in camp for moral support. He was alone--his own
identity, everything he relied on from the past, lost to
him. He thought of the mission that had brought him back
to Italy. Two weeks ago he had met Colonel Donovan at General
Clark's temporary headquarters in Port-aux-Poules. Already
it seemed a lifetime ago . . .
January 30, 1943, Port-aux-Poules, Algeria
camp was located in a grove of pine trees and the pungent
scent of resin merging with an odor of kerosine had produced
a queasy feeling in his stomach, not helped by the foul-tasting
concoction that passed for coffee. Outside--with the sun
blazing down, igniting the desert sand and the sea--he
had seen a dozen jerry-cans with WATER FOR DRINKING painted
in white on their sides. That accounted for the taste of
tin in his coffee. And the heat was unbearable--it should
have been winter and it felt like summer.
had listened while the two men talked about sending agents
behind the lines, recruiting informers, organizing coup
de main groups, and searching out leaders to be subsidized.
It was then that Donovan turned to him. "Tom, we're going
to be sending you to Rome." Gage couldn't help grinning. "We'd
like you to cultivate the friendship of antifascist leaders
in the area. And we need more information on Italy's war
status, someone to verify the activities of the SS. "
had straightened in his chair. "The SS, sir? "
right." Donovan paused and wiped his brow. He was an unassuming
man who spoke in a soft, slow voice. "We know they're now
under orders to operate directly in Italy. "
Clark rested his elbows on his desk. In contrast to Donovan,
who had round cheeks grooved by deep lines running from
his nose to the corners of his mouth, Clark was a tall,
slim man, neat in manner and efficient in action. At forty-six,
he was the youngest lieutenant general in the history of
you heard of the OVRA, Major? "
sir. Mussolini's secret police. "
general pounded the desktop. "I can't get the slackers
in G-2 to tell me what the damn acronym means. "
repressed a grin. "Even the Italians don't know, sir. Some
say it stands for Opera Vigilanza Repressione Antifascismo or Organizzazione
Vigilanza Reati Antistatali. "
general frowned. "Translate those terms for me, Major. "
first means something like the 'League of Vigilance for
the Repression of Antifascism' and the second refers to
an 'Organization of Vigilance for Crimes against the State.'
I don't think the meaning matters, sir. I've talked to
some people who say the whole thing's a psychological ploy--that
the initials mean nothing. Just a trick of Mussolini's.
Adds to the fear, they say. "
general rubbed his cheeks. "I ask, Major, because there's
one other thing I'd like you to do in addition to what
Bill has outlined. Ike is concerned about the fascist government
destroying documents before we can get there to save them.
We'd like to see if you can't get in touch with someone
in the OVRA willing to work with us--to save his own skin.
If we can keep them from destroying their files, we'll
have dossiers on the activities of every Fascist of importance. "
a difficult task, sir. The agents of the OVRA wear civilian
clothes. No one knows who they are. "
know where their headquarters are located, right? "
true, sir. In the Viminal. Along with the Ministry of the
I suggest you start with a clerk in the Ministry--or a
police official. Bill tells me you have contacts in Rome
. . . with antifascists. Perhaps they know people opposed
to the regime. Someone serving in an official capacity.
Mount an operation to steal the files if you can. Have
a team ready to assault the Viminal when and if the invasion
mentioned stealing the files, sir. I've heard estimates
that they number more than two hundred thousand. "
That many? "
afraid so, sir. "
raised a finger to get their attention. "If you find someone
with access to the files, Tom, they might concentrate on
the fascist hierarchs. We can provide a list of over thirty
ministers, past and present. I assume the files are organized
just it, sir. No one really knows, do they? "
general's brow furrowed. "Do your best, Major, that's all
anyone is asking. These bastards deserve to be punished. "
other item, Tom," Donovan said, as Gage nodded toward General
Clark. "I picked you not only because of your contacts
in Italy and your command of the language. The Brits have
been vetoing some of our proposals for infiltrating the
mainland--their sphere of influence and all that. I figured
since you served with the SOE before coming with me, they
might take kindlier to helping you out. "
I going in alone? "
nodded. "At the start. "
going to need a pianist in Rome. "
been arranged. We've already dropped a wireless in to the
team that will pick you up. Radio Fenice, they
call it. "
Phoenix. At the time, he had imagined the W/T man huddled
in a nest somewhere in Rome, in a small room at the top
of an apartment building, cold ashes coming to life, wings
poised, waiting to be reborn. Finally . . .
that, they had talked of his mode of entry. They couldn't
risk a parachute drop. The Germans had intensified their
A-A batteries around Rome. So they'd sent him by submarine
to a point off Sardinia and then by motor torpedo boat
to the coast just south of Civitavecchia. That was where
Antonio had picked him up.
had got him this far. Now it was up to him to do the rest
. . .
Blackshirts had finished talking, all but one moving down
to the next cars in line. The militiaman with his papers,
a middle-aged guy with a swarthy complexion, motioned to
Gage. The American walked over to the truck, eyeing his
suitcase at the man's feet.
mother lives in Milan? "
looked up and nodded, his eyes tightening.
why do you speak in Romanesco? "
tried to swallow, his mouth suddenly dry. He knew his Italian
was perfect, but the accent was Roman. He hadn't thought
about that. But he'd told them he had cousins in Rome,
that he still had a week of leave. He cleared his throat. "After
my father died, I was raised in Rome with my cousins. "
man stared at him. "When did your father die? "
Caporetto. In 1915. "
questions struck him with a physical force that left him
gasping for air between responses. The cover story he'd
memorized drifted in and out of his mind. "The 19th . .
. I think. "
was just a baby. I never really knew my father. "
militiaman tapped Gage's papers in the palm of his hand. "What
do you think about the Germans? "
frowned. "The Germans? "
shrugged. "They're our allies-- "
they killed your father. "
the last war . . . yes. "
militiaman smiled. "And now we fight with the swine, right?
I fought against General Stein in the Battle of the Isonzo.
In the IV Corps just like your father. Only I was in the
46th Division. The 19th was annihilated. Caught between
Stein's 50th Austrian and the German 12th Division. They
never had a chance. "
nodded numbly. "I was too young to remember it. "
Blackshirt closed the booklet and handed it to him. "For
you, we make an exception. Get your uniform and report
before curfew tonight. You're needed at the front by tomorrow.
Sorry about the car. You'll have to walk." He straightened
and tossed off a salute. "May you fight as gloriously as
your father. "
—Reprinted from League
of Shadows by Ron Terpening by permission of Stuyvesant & Hoagland.
Copyright © Ron Terpening, 2005. All rights reserved.
This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced