Chapter Nine – to end
Marvin Jacks had bought a house in the town of Florida – emphasis on the “i” in Spanish – a suburb of Buenos Aires. He was now the International Air Transport Association’s Director of Security and Fraud Detection for the whole Western Hemisphere, but there was an Assistant Director in Miami who handled most of the North American cases, and reported to Jacks in Buenos Aires instead of directly to Head Office in Geneva. Jacks had fought tooth and nail to avoid being moved to head office, claiming he could do the job better in the field, which was certainly true. Finally it came down to a duel between him and the Finance Director, whose idea of efficiency was to move everyone to head office and let them perform their miracles with modern communications technology. Jacks finally won by getting the support of the president of the national carrier, Argentine Airlines, a general who owed him a favor. That particular officer is still in jail for human rights abuses, so it wouldn’t be politic to mention his name or the favor here. The Director General of IATA personally overruled the Finance Director, whom he hated, after receiving a telephone call from the general, during which he, the general, said Marvin Jacks’ continued presence in Buenos Aires was essential to the survival of the airline industry – or words to that effect. Argentine generals are known to exaggerate.
Florida was still partially a German town, originally settled by German immigrants at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Second World War saw an influx of Germans, war veterans who had no wish to live in a destroyed Germany, Nazis, a few Socialists who had somehow survived the Third Reich, and some Jews who couldn’t get into Israel because of the British blockade. There had been Jews among the original settlers, so it wasn’t unnatural that these post-concentration camp German Jews also inclined towards Florida, although the majority settled in Buenos Aires itself.
All that didn’t interest Marvin Jacks. He liked the place because it was clean and, at the time, property was relatively cheap there. Most of his time was spent traveling, but when he was in Buenos Aries at least he had a quiet place to sleep and restful weekends with a swimming pool and plenty of sun. Women occasionally served to assuage his solitude. They were mostly airline employees, at that time called stewardesses rather than the politically correct “flight attendants”, or the more grounded airport personnel. None became permanent, perhaps because Marvin Jacks wasn’t permanent himself.
For public relations purposes airlines often gave cocktail parties, each company at least once a year, which meant an average of two a month. As the IATA representative, Jacks was always invited. Sometimes he went, sometimes he didn’t. He was also invited to lunch, something he couldn’t refuse, although such invitations were seldom repeated because he never invited back. IATA had no budget for such things and he wasn’t selling anything anyway. The airline managers invited him in order to stay on his good side and, if possible, to obtain information. They received none, but Jacks did, and that was his main reason for accepting. The food didn’t interest him, it never did, but the wine, dessert and a good after-lunch Cuban cigar made everything bearable.
And that brings us to Freddy Hussein. Freddy was the Lebanese General Sales Agent for LAN Chile. An unusual position, because LAN had its own ticket office and Chilean manager. Why, then, did they need a General Sales Agent as well? GSAs normally existed when the airline didn’t have its own sales office. The reason, it was generally assumed, was that LAN wanted Freddy because he was a good salesman, but couldn’t very well have a non-Chilean as manager. Marvin Jacks didn’t buy that, but didn’t care because LAN was not an important player in the market. He wondered though, how a Lebanese who didn’t even speak Spanish could be a good salesman in a Spanish-speaking country, and decided it had something to do with politics. It didn’t occur to him at first that Freddy Hussein could be a spy. Although t should have, because Salvador Allende, the socialist, was still the President of Chile.
Freddy often phoned Jacks asking for interpretations of IATA rules, thereby admitting that he didn’t know much about the business. He also invited him to lunch every time he called. Jacks begged off with invented excuses, something he couldn’t do when an important airline manager was doing the inviting. Finally, at an Air France cocktail party, Freddy insisted so much that Jacks agreed.
There’s an excellent German restaurant in Florida,” he said. “Do you like German food?”
Marvin Jacks didn’t particularly like German food, pastries yes, but the fact that Freddy Hussein was inviting him to lunch in Florida caused him to put down his martini unfinished in order to be alert. Did Freddy know he lived in Florida? He hadn’t told any business associates, never gave out his home telephone number. Before he could think of a reply though, Freddy was telling him that he would pick him up at his office at twelve-thirty the next day. “It’s only fifteen minutes to Florida by car,” he said, as if Jacks didn’t know. So maybe he wasn’t aware that Jacks lived there.
Next day the phone rang at 12:25. Freddy Hussein’s secretary: “Mr. Hussein is leaving now, Mr. Jacks. He asks if you can wait downstairs so he won’t lose time parking.”
A chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz. Freddy Hussein did okay for the GSA of a third world airline. That was just one of the thoughts that ran through Marvin Jacks’ head as Freddy talked incessantly on the way to the restaurant “Die Glocke” in Florida. The chauffeur dropped them off at the entrance on Florida’s main drag and disappeared. The restaurant was small but well appointed. About twenty tables, each with fresh, real flowers in vases on them. An aging, white clad, bow-tied waiter with a German accent greeted them at the door, Jacks in Spanish, then, to Hussein in German: “So nice to see you again, Herr Hussein. I will tell Frau Marie that you are here.” He seated them at a corner table. Jacks’ instinct told him to keep his back to the wall, but the waiter was holding the back-to-the-door chair for him. Freddy Hussein, it seemed, had similar instincts. The waiter recommended Eisbein, the specialty of the day, which Hussein accepted but Jacks passed on and selected Grüne Sosse, a Frankfurt specialty consisting of potatoes covered in herb sauce.
Do you prefer German or Argentine wine, Mr. Jacks?” Hussein asked.
“Argentine, no contest.”
Hussein laughed. “A wise choice.”
“You speak German, Mr. Hussein?”
“Not really. Heinz greets all the guests in German, for atmosphere you know, like the waiters in Italian restaurants always say Bon giorno. Your Spanish seems excellent, I wish I could get the hang of it.”
“Well, I’ve been here a long time.”
“So I’ve heard,” Hussein said. “Isn’t that unusual? Foreign managers are usually transferred on after a few years.”
“Just fate I guess.”
Hussein laughed his high-pitched, hyena laugh. “Fate, yes, a wonderful concept. Do you think it exists?”
“I don’t know, but at least it provides answers to the imponderables of life.”
“That’s interesting. I’ve often wondered if what I do is really determined by me or…well…fate. Did you ever ask yourself that question, Mr. Jacks?”
Marvin Jacks had asked himself just that many times, but he wasn’t about to get personal with Freddy Hussein. “No,” he said. Hussein looked up from Jack’s gaze and smiled: “Ah, Frau Marie.” He jumped up and held out the chair between him and Jacks, who stood up for the coming introduction.
“Frau Marie, may I present my colleague, Mr. Marvin Jacks, a very important person in the airline business.” She turned her smile to Jacks and it froze. Her hand was out to be shook but Jacks didn’t take it until Freddy Hussein, as an afterthought, said, “Mr. Jacks, this is Frau Marie, the owner of this wonderful eatery and wife of the best chef in Buenos Aires, which means of course in Argentina.” Jacks took her hand, but couldn’t say a word, his head was whirling. Nor did she. “Please sit with us a moment, Frau Marie,” Hussein said. If he wondered why they were staring at each other without a word, he may have attributed it to hormonal fascination, for Frau Marie was indeed beautiful.
Hussein snapped his fingers for Heinz, the waiter, and asked him to bring another wine glass, then, when it arrived, proposed a toast: “To a meeting of cultures.” Marvin Jacks and Frau Marie, once known as Rachel Baumgartner and somewhat later as Anneliese Cornelius, drank considerably more than the traditional sip. Freddy Hussein was finding it hard keeping up three sides of the conversation, so decided to force participation. “Mr. Jacks is American but has been in Argentina a long time, isn’t it so, Mr. Jacks?”
“Yes, quite a long time,” Jacks mumbled.
“Oh? How long?” Frau Marie asked.
“On and off, a total of about fifteen years.”
“You must like it here then.”
“One gets used to it. How about you?”
She smiled for the first time. “On and off. We came here fifteen years ago, but those were difficult times, you know, so we went back to Germany after a while. We earned some money there and came back with the idea of opening a restaurant. And well, we did.” It was like a script she had often repeated.
“We?” Jacks said.
“My husband Karl-Heinz and I. He learned to cook in Germany.”
As though on cue, Karl-Heinz appeared at their table and greeted them with a slight bow in broken Spanish, and rushed back to the kitchen. Jacks had seen Lt. Cornelius through the one-way interrogation-room window at Camp King, but Cornelius, if he had ever seen Jacks at all, it was only as another soldier walking around the camp. Jacks thought he must have heard his name though.
Before the food arrived Freddy Hussein’s chauffer came rushing in and said something to him in Arabic. “Oh, dear, isn’t this awful,” Hussein said, standing up. “A crisis has arisen and I must go immediately. Most unfortunate, my deepest apologies, Mr. Jacks. Frau Marie, could you be so kind as to entertain my guest?” He scurried out. Jacks finished off his second glass of wine and said, in German, “Okay, so what the hell is going on, Anneliese?”
She said, in English, smiling: “Do you mind if I sit with you a while, Mr. Jacks? It gives me an excuse to rest before the lunch crowd arrives.”
Jacks blinked. Games. “Sure, be my guest, Frau Marie.” The waiter appeared at his side and refilled the wine glasses. They raised their glasses, staring into each other’s eyes, German style.
“Argentine wine is really very good, the reds at least. It’s a pity they aren’t better known outside the country.”
“Organization,” Jacks said. “You may have noticed that this country isn’t very well organized.”
She smiled and was about to agree, but Jacks said, “not like Germany.”
“Yes, that’s true. Germany is a bit too organized for my taste.”
“Is that why you’re here?”
“What’s the other part?”
“My husband inherited a piece of land here and we came to see about it and, well, we fell in love with the country.”
Her eyes frowned warning, but just for a moment, until she smiled again and said, “Yes, fate can sometimes be convenient.”
“But not always.”
She laughed falsely, as though he had told the funniest joke of the day. “Do you like philosophy, Mr. Jacks?”
“Not any more. I used to be an idealist, now I’m a naïve realist – they don’t care for philosophy. How about you?”
“Oh, it’s all too deep for me. I prefer novels.”
“Good, so do I. Too bad Goethe wrote so few of them”
Two middle aged, straight-backed men entered and bowed towards them. “Guten Tag,” Frau Marie called to them and waved. Gradually the restaurant was filling up. Jacks was served his Grüne Sosse> and another glass of wine.
“Actually, the Germans were very big in philosophy,” Jacks said, “until Marx at least.”
She said nothing, not liking this direction.
“Marx just about finished off German philosophy, except possibly for Rudolf Steiner, ever heard of him?”
She thought a moment, then said, “Yes, my father mentioned him occasionally.”
“Oh? Is your father an anthroposophist?”
“My father died years ago,” she said. “I don’t know if he was an anthroposophist. I don’t think so.”
“There’s a Rudolf Steiner School right here in Florida. Did you know that?”
“Yes, my daughter goes there.”
“Do you have any children, Mr. Jacks?”
“You’re not married?”
“How do you know about the school then?”
“A friend’s kid goes there.”
“Oh? What’s his name? Maybe I know your friend.”
“I don’t think so. Please don’t let me keep you from your duties, Frau Marie,” with ironic emphasis on her current name.
“Yes, I really must go now. We have excellent Schwarzwaldtorte for dessert.”
“Yes…but not by me.”
“In that case I’ll pass. Could you just send the bill, please?”
“Mr. Hussein has taken care of it.” She stood up. “We could advise you when we have specials, Mr. Jacks, and German delicacies, made by me, if you’ll give me your phone number.”
Jacks looked up at her and couldn’t help thinking of Ingrid Bergman. He hesitated, stood to be polite, then reached into his wallet and handed her a business card. “I’ll be leaving then.”
“You haven’t finished your lunch.”
“Potatoes are filling.” She offered her hand. “Should I kiss it?” he asked.
“That would be out of character, wouldn’t it?”
“Good bye, then.” He turned and walked out before the old waiter could hobble to the door to open it for him. Outside in the heat he felt like fainting, but he walked like a man in a hurry down the street intending to go home, shower and think. Hussein’s chauffer was calling him from behind though. He stopped. “Mr. Hussein told me to wait for you, Señor.”
“Give him my thanks, but I prefer to walk awhile.”
“I can wait.”
He walked past the street his house was on, circled around the block, making sure he wasn’t being followed, turned back and went home. Once inside, he walked through the living room, ignoring the blinking answering machine, shedding a piece of clothing in each room until he was in the garden in the rear. He gazed into the water in the pool – clear, limpid, uncomplicated, just how he wished his mind could be. As he was about to dive in, a breeze arose rippling the water and brushing aside the clarity. He dove naked into the irony. It refreshed him, but didn’t clear his confusion. He called his office and told his secretary that he wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be there that afternoon, she should let him know if anything urgent happened.
“Sorry, Marvin. Do you need anything?”
“No, Amalia, I’ll be all right in the morning.” Amalia would have loved to take a taxi to Florida and tend to her boss at home. Some other time, Jacks thought. He went to bed and, to his surprise, slept like a log.
At around four the phone rang. “Marvin, a woman called for you and when I told her you weren’t in she asked where she could contact you, that it was urgent,” Amalia said. “She was really insistent, as though it was a matter of life and death – so finally I said I’d ask you if I could give her your number. Was that all right? She’s going to call back soon.”
“What’s her name?” Jacks said after his daytime memory returned and wiped out an exciting dream forever.
“María Alemán is what she said.”
“Did she have an accent?”
“A little bit, I think.”
“Give her my number when she calls,” Jacks said. “Thanks, Amalia.”
“Okay. You all right, Marvin?”
“Yes, fine.” He hung up.
It wasn’t until five-thirty that Amalia called again. “She didn’t call back, Marvin. I have to go now.”
“Any other calls?” Jacks asked, just to cover his disappointment. “Nothing that can’t wait.”
“Okay, Amalia. See you tomorrow morning.”
It may seem far-fetched to relate that these two people, Marvin Jacks and Rachel Baumgarten, a.k.a. Anneliese Cornelius and now, apparently, Marie Alemán or, as we shall soon see, Clement, should meet again in another, quite opposite part of the world. Much too fortuitous and convenient for this story to be believed. Nevertheless, such things happen more frequently than you’d expect. Marvin and the then Anneliese were truly in love back in Germany when they were both very young. When Anneliese seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth Marvin Jacks was devastated. Anneliese perhaps (how can we know?) even more so. The fact that they were living double lives spying on each other made them both suspect that they had been found out, which bothered their mutual consciences, although they were mistaken. Jacks had been ordered to keep an eye on Anneliese just in case she was more than an innocent East German refugee, and Anneliese, once her masters realized that Jacks was attracted to her, had ordered her to keep him on a string, find out what she could from him, even try to recruit him if it seemed possible. Now they were afraid that it might be starting all over again.
Anneliese, now Frau Marie, saw it coming as soon as she saw him, for she had been expecting Freddy Hussein to bring an American airline official to lunch in order to seduce him. Motive? They suspected he was CIA, at least Freddy Hussein had a hunch that he was. He couldn’t believe that an American who spoke three languages (he’d found out from the Lufthansa manager that Jacks spoke German), living in Argentina and flying around Latin America and other parts of the world in a job that seemed, to him, without tangible objectives, could be only what he claimed to be. The job could therefore be a cover. If he was right it would be a feather in his cap; if he was wrong…well…what did he have to lose? Certainly not Frau Marie’s virginity.
Marvin Jacks didn’t see it coming until he received a phone call the next morning from John Armstrong, the Panam manager, who asked him to stop by his office at his convenience, which usually meant asap. Such calls were routine and were almost always motivated by an airline manager wanting to complain to Jacks about a competitor giving discounts or ask for his interpretation of an IATA rule, although the interpretation could usually be handled by phone, so Jacks expected the former reason. He was reluctant to leave the office and possibly miss another call from Frau Marie, but couldn’t stall Armstrong, at least not in good conscience, so he told him he’d be right over. Panam was, after all, one of the most important airlines in the market. He told his secretary he’d be back in an hour.
Armstrong ushered him into his office, had him sit in one of the leather easy chairs in the corner near the large window overlooking the Rio de la Plata, and offered him Colombian coffee and a Cuban cigar. Jacks accepted the coffee, passed on the cigar. He knew the corner was reserved for government ministers, important travel agents and clients. So Armstrong wanted something, otherwise Jacks would be sitting across from him at his desk. He was a tall, thin man with a receding widow’s peak and hooked nose. His clothes had obviously been bought in the U.S. – loafers, pants not quite touching his shoe tops, button-down collar on a white shirt, regimental stripe silk tie.
“Marvin, we’ve known each other a long time now,” he began. “How long has it been? Years. And we’ve grown to respect each other as honorable men, Americans to the core.” Jacks was immediately wary. He remembered how a few years earlier a Latvian friend who also lived in Argentina had confided to him that he once did some work for the CIA, and that Armstrong was his handler. The friend was rabidly anti-Soviet, as were all émigrés from the Baltic countries, so the CIA had no hesitation in recruiting them. They paid him a hundred dollars a month to “keep his ears open”. He accepted the money for six months but never heard anything to report, so his employment was terminated. Jacks had forgotten about it, and was never sure if it was true anyway
“So I’m going to tell you something now in strict confidentiality,“ Armstrong continued. “Can I depend on your keeping this to yourself?” IATA’s policy was never to divulge the name of the complaining airline when information was given about a competitor's misdeeds. Armstrong knew this, so Jacks decided it was something else. But he said anyway, “You know our policy, John. That’s not a problem.”
“This has nothing to do with business, Marvin.” He opened an ivory inlaid cigarette box and offered it to Jacks, knowing he didn’t smoke cigarettes. Jacks shook his head, and took his pipe from a side pocket of his suit jacket. The pocket was strewn with loose tobacco and ashes, which he made a mental note to empty once outside. He took a tobacco pouch from another pocket, filled the pipe and lighted it with a Zippo. They blew smoke at each other and waited to see who would blink. It was Armstrong.
“Can I, Marvin?”
“I have to know what it is first, John. I’m sure you can understand that.”
“Yes, I can.” He sighed histrionically. “Okay, I know I can trust you Marvin, so here goes.” He took a deep drag on his cigar, let the smoke out from his nose and said, “I lead a double life, Marvin. You see, I also work for our government.” He waited. Jacks had to say something.
“I see. In what capacity?”
“Central Intelligence Agency.”
If he’d expected Jacks to fall over in astonishment, he was mistaken. Instead Jacks said, “Good for you, but what’s that got to do with me?”
“A lot, Marvin. We want you to help us.”
“Are you trying to recruit me, John?”
Armstrong laughed as though he were enjoying the repartee, which he wasn’t. “Not exactly…or in a sense yes, but just for one case…although if you were interested after that, well, who knows?” Jacks started to say something, but Armstrong wasn’t finished. “You will be paid for your time of course…and, Marvin, that’s the first thing I would like you to keep secret – my association with the Agency.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Good. Thanks. I know you were in military intelligence in the army and had a distinguished record.”
“That’s news to me,” Jacks said.
“That you were in M.I.?” Armstrong said, frowning, suddenly awake to the possibility that they’d checked the wrong man.
“No, that I had a distinguished record. Didn’t do anything distinguished that I can remember.”
“Well, let’s just say that your record is clean, that you were in interrogation, then special ops, meaning sending spies – I think you call them “sources” in the army – into East Germany, and debriefing them afterward. Right?”
“Something like that,” Jacks replied, thinking back to those times and, inevitably, Anneliese.
“I love that answer, Marvin. It shows reserve and a sense of confidentiality even now.”
This guy is too much, Jacks thought. Why don’t I politely tell him to fuck off and get the hell out of here. “Not much to be confidential about,” he said though, wanting to keep his options open while he pondered the alternatives. “We couldn’t find a gas mask in a gas mask store.”
“A gas mask?”
“Somehow the C.O. got information – probably from the Pentagon – that the Russians had a new gas mask that had been distributed to their troops in East Germany. So we were given the job of getting one. Why? Because it was there, I guess, like a mountain.” His pipe had gone out as it often did when he was talking, so he re-lighted it.
“So what happened?” Armstrong asked. “Did you get it?”
Jacks laughed. “No, we tried for over a year, until I left at least. Maybe they’re still trying.” He was curious about what they wanted him to do and that was so important that they checked his army record before even asking if he was open to the possibility. He decided to play it cool.
“I don’t know, John. I’ve had enough of that stuff, I think.”
Armstrong saw the opening in the last two words. “And I think you think wrong. It gets into your blood, man. We all know that.
Curiosity turned to apprehension and his heart jumped. Could this have something to do with Anneliese? Armstrong was wrong about his blood though. He had really had enough of the cloak and dagger circus and, most of all, the people involved who seemed to like it. But…
“What do you want me to do?”
Armstrong slapped him on the knee. “Atta boy, I knew you were a patriot.”
“Wait a minute, John,” Jacks said. “I only asked you what you want. I didn’t say I’d do it. First of all, why did you think of me?”
“Right, Marvin, I’ll open up – totally. You were seen going into a restaurant in Florida” – he opened a pocket notebook: “Die Glocke – the other day with Freddy Hussein. Tuesday as a matter of fact, at twelve-thirty hours. Hussein left at twelve-forty five, alone, and you left at thirteen-fifteen, also alone. You went into a house there in Florida via a circuitous route, walking. You had the key. Is that right?”
“Sounds right, so what?”
“Could you tell me why?”
“Why you went to that particular restaurant with Hussein.”
“What the hell is this, an interrogation? Should I call my lawyer? Why were you following me?”
Armstrong smiled, having expected this kind of reaction. “No, Marvin,” he said, “it isn’t an interrogation. But you asked me why we thought of you. And we weren’t following you. We were following Freddy Hussein.”
Jacks thought a moment, but he had already decided that he’d have to find out what was going on. “Okay, I was there with Hussein because he invited me for lunch. In fact he’d invited me several times, and I always gave some excuse. He’s a pest, you know. So finally this time I thought I’d get it over with. He picked me up at my office in his car and we drove to Florida. He said he knew a great German restaurant there. I didn’t have much choice.”
“What about the house?”
“In Florida? I live there.”
“You live in Florida?”
“Yeah, anything wrong with that?”
“No, of course not. But you have no family – as far as I know – so I expected you’d live in an apartment in the Calle Florida in town rather than in a suburb.”
“I like it there.”
“Sure,” Armstrong said, smiling falsely again. “No offense meant. Why did Hussein leave before you, and quite early?”
“His chauffeur came in and told him something in Arabic, some kind of emergency I guess, so Freddy said he had to leave, apologies, etcetera.” Jacks wondered if the conversation was being recorded. He guessed it was. So far he’d told Armstrong nothing but the truth.
“Uh, huh.” Armstrong looked down at his notebook. “Did anything happen in the restaurant?”
“Like anything. Did you talk to anyone?”
“Only the owner, a Frau Marie.”
“Marie Clement, wife of Karl-Heinz Clement. He’s the cook. What did you and Frau Marie talk about?”
“Small talk, nothing.” There goes the truth, he thought.
“Small talk isn’t nothing, Marvin. Think.”
“She was sort of filling in for Hussein after he left. I don’t know, she asked me what airline I was with, and I explained IATA to her. She told me this was the second time they’d been to Argentina, that she loved it but everything was complicated. The usual. Oh, that she’s from Hamburg I think she said.”
“No, some people came in and she went to butter them up, seems like a good hostess. Now what’s this about, John?”
“Just one more question first. Why did you take the long way home?”
“I wanted to walk off the meal. I was very tired and decided to take the afternoon off. Don’t tell my boss.”
Armstrong laughed as though it were the best joke of the season. “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t think of it,” he said. “Now, what this is all about.” He paused for effect, and looked Jacks in the eye for too long. “Freddy Hussein is a spy.”
“Doesn’t surprise me,” Jacks said. “For whom?”
“We’re not sure, probably one of the East European intelligence services.”
“Too dumb for the Soviets?”
“How do you know?”
“He goes frequently to Die Glocke, seems to know the Clements well, which makes us suspicious of them as well.”
“Any other reason to suspect them?” Jacks asked.
“Not really. Oh yes, according to one of our German sources she talks more like an easterner than a Hamburger” – he smiled gloomily at the little joke – “from Berlin perhaps.”
“Maybe she was originally from Berlin and moved to Hamburg.”
“Possibly. That’s about all we know, but we’d like to know more. That’s why I’m asking you to help us.”
“How could I help?” Jacks asked.
“Freddy Hussein takes you to Die Glocke. He didn’t know you live in Florida, right?”
“I wonder why. Any ideas?”
“He said the food was great.”
“Well, it’s probably the only restaurant in Argentina where you can get Grüne Sosse.”
“A German dish,” Jacks replied. “The food’s good there, but I’m not a gourmet.”
“He doesn’t have to go to Florida for good food, does he?”
“You’re American, you have good contacts in the airline business, the police, probably even S.I.D.E., a mysterious job. Why not try to recruit you? Or maybe you’re already one of us. Why not try to find out? If so, even better, try and turn you around.”
“I understand that Frau Marie is a very attractive, interesting woman.”
Jacks was surprised; he didn’t have to pretend. “Do you have any facts that lead you to such a conclusion, John, or is your imagination getting the better of you?”
“Why else would Hussein bring you out to Florida for lunch, introduce you to Marie Clements and disappear with a silly excuse? You tell me.”
Jacks’ pipe had gone out, so he lighted it again. Considering what he knew about the lady now known as Marie Clements, Armstrong was probably right.
“By the way, Marvin,” Armstrong said, “you might be out of a job soon, so that’s more reason to consider ...“
I received a telex from New York just before you walked in. Didn’t have much time to think about it, but it doesn’t look good. It seems the U.S. CAB has revoked IATA’s anti-trust immunity – or is about to; the wording isn’t too clear.
Jacks and Armstrong stared at each other. It meant that the airlines could no longer set fares among themselves under the umbrella of IATA’s anti-trust immunity. “Damn fools,” Jacks finally said.
“They’re political, fools or not. I mean the airlines. Anyone in the business with any sense could see this coming. But what did we do? Nothing.”
“What could we have done?”
“Bring the consumers – passengers and air freight shippers – into the process. I recommended it a year ago.”
“But no one listened?”
“They listened, but thought the European governments could pressure the United States not to go that route. They didn’t realize that the U.S. couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks. It’s gonna be dog eat dog now, John.” He was thinking that he probably had enough on his platter with security and fraud detection to keep working without tariff compliance. Panam, and John Armstrong with it, on the other hand was in deep trouble. Was it possible that they didn’t realize it yet?
“Yeah, well, back to Frau Marie,” Armstrong said. “We’d like you to contact her again somehow and try to see what she’s up to.“
“Right, if anything. What do you say, Marvin?”
Marvin Jacks knew his answer would be yes, but he also knew how to play the game. “Let me sleep on it, John,” he said.
“Yeah, I’ll let you know tomorrow.”
“Madelaine Albrecht, IATA Geneva,” Jacks’ secretary, Amalia, called to him with her hand over her receiver. Their offices were so small that they only used the intercom system when someone from outside was present.
“Madelaine Albrecht – who the hell is that?” Jacks mumbled to himself as he picked up his phone. She spoke in English with a Swiss accent, but he recognized her anyway. “Good morning, Marvin. I’m arriving tomorrow morning on Swissair. Please don’t pick me up, Argentine Airlines insists on having that honor.”
Think fast, Marvin. “Fine, Madelaine, the Swiss get up too early for me anyway. What time and where should we meet?”
“Midday will be fine, I sleep badly on airplanes. You did make the hotel reservation for me I hope. Sheraton, wasn’t it?”
“Call me before you come in case I’m still asleep – and don’t forget to bring the pertinent files with you. We can have lunch in my room.”
“Even though it’s all in my head?”
“Yes, Marvin, even if it’s all in your head.”
“Have a good flight, Madelaine. See you tomorrow.”
She thinks my phone is tapped, Jacks thought. And if it is, whoever is listening didn’t hear any hotel reservation being made. “Amalia,” he called, “make a reservation for Mrs. Madelaine Albrecht at the Sheraton, in tomorrow for one night. IATA discount. I forgot all about it.
“Who is she, Marvin?”
“Some new consultant working with the Human Resources Director. The usual bullshit.”
“What usual bullshit?”
“Never mind. Just make the reservation – and get the room number.”
Dawn had finally arrived. Streaks of light probed stealthily through the room, hurried under chairs and tables like a spy with little time left. Marvin Jacks had hardly slept, so he was sitting in the dining room drinking his third coffee, thinking hard and getting nowhere or somewhere, he couldn’t decide which. One: Anneliese/Marie was playing it very cloak and dagger, pretending on the telephone to be someone from IATA Geneva. It was good, but not very. If someone wanted to check it would be easy to find out that no such person existed. But they’d have to be suspicious first, and why should they be. Two: the CIA, in the person of John Armstrong, was suspicious of her. Three: Marvin Jacks was also suspicious. Conclusion: she’s still a spy for the German Democratic Republic. Big question: Was the rendezvous with him today at the Sheraton part of her clandestine duties, or was all the caution because it was above and beyond duty? No answer. Four: Was Marvin Jacks still in love with her? His head told him he better not be; his heart chuckled and told the truth, for better or for worse. He was. Five: Was she still in love with him, or, more accurately, was she ever? No answer. Six: Did John Armstrong know more than he told Jacks? No answer, but probably not. Seven: How should he answer Armstrong’s offer to work for the CIA in order to find out about Anneliese? The answer would have to wait until after his meeting with her this afternoon.
Jacks had been writing it all down on a piece of paper like a question-answer quiz. The result was more questions than answers, but at least now he knew what they were. He held a match to the paper and let the ashes fall into an ashtray. His head leaned slowly onto his chest and his eyes closed. At nine o’clock the phone rang. Jacks shook his head to get his bearings and answered on the fifth ring. “Marvin,” Amalia said, “are you okay?”
“Basically yes,” he answered. “Slight headache, that’s all.”
“Mr. Armstrong of Panam already called twice. I told him you should be in any minute. He wants you to call him urgently.”
“If he calls again tell him that I had to go to…uh…Montevideo and that I’ll probably be back late this afternoon.”
“Sure. Just tell him that, Amalia.”
“I could say you’re sick.”
“Tell him what I just told you, it’s true,” Jacks insisted, thinking about the possibility that the phones were tapped. He hung up and turned on the answering machine in case Armstrong got hold of his unlisted home number, which wouldn’t be difficult. He had breakfast, showered, dressed, put Mozart on and went to his bookcase to select a book and kill time. To his own surprise he chose Plato over John Le Carré.
For I am quite ready to admit, Simmias and Cebes, that I ought to be grieved at death, if I were not persuaded in the first place that I am going to other gods who are wise and good (of which I am as certain as I can be of any such matters), and secondly (though I am not so sure of this last) to men departed, better than those whom I leave behind; and therefore I do not grieve as I might have done, for I have good hope that there is yet something remaining for the dead, and as has been said of old, some far better thing for the good than for the evil.
“Socrates was an optimist, Plato,” Jacks said to himself. Having lived alone most of his life, he had gotten into the habit of addressing authors out loud. “Or are you the optimist and Socrates just your fictional mouthpiece?” If so you did a good job. Know why? Because we’ll never know.” He straightened his tie and put on his suit jacket, then checked his appearance in the bathroom mirror. “How do I look, mirror, mirror on the wall? Good enough for whatever her name is?” He thought of shaving off his beard, which was showing signs of gray, to make himself look younger, then cursed himself for an idiot, slammed the bathroom door as well as the outside door and climbed into his red Mitsubishi. If it’s possible to tell a person’s character by the car he owns, Marvin Jacks would be pegged as a traditionalist, which wouldn’t be far from wrong.
He parked in his usual place, a parking lot around the corner from the office. “Little late today, Señor Hacks?” the attendant commented.
“Time is relative, Pedro. I could be early.” Pedro frowned at that. Then, as Jacks was walking out, he said, “Mr. Hacks, a question.”
“What is it, Pedro?”
“You have a moment?” Jacks looked at his watch. He had more than a moment. “Sure.”
“Well, you know the Banco de la Nación he is paying almost fifty percent interest on what you call them…time deposits?”
“I have some money saved, and I was thinking maybe…maybe I should put it in the Banco and then I have a lot more. What do you think?”
“I think it’s a big risk, Pedro.”
“Risk? Why? It’s in dollars.”
“They’re paying such high interest rates because no one wants to put their money there at normal rates. Fifty percent is for three months, the yearly rate is a hundred and eighty percent.” Pedro frowned harder. He didn’t understand.
“But that is the Banco de la Nación, Señor Hacks.”
“Uh, huh, and who is the president of the Nación? Never mind. Look, you might make some money on it, all I’m saying is that it’s a risk. Entiende?”
“Sí señor, muchas gracias.”
Thousands of people are putting their miserable little hoards in the bank, Jacks thought as he walked down Florida Street towards Retiro, the central train terminal. The big money is already out, moved to Miami or Zurich. If the Argentine treasury doesn’t go broke in thirty days and Pedro takes his double or nothing out then, he wins. If not he loses big, not much money, but all he has.
Retiro terminal is located directly across from the ex-Plaza de los Ingleses, now the Plaza de las Fuerzas Armadas, on the other side of which is the imposing steel and glass slab known as the Buenos Aires Sheraton. Why did she choose the Sheraton of all places? Jacks wondered. Maybe because of its proximity to Retiro. If she took the train to town she’d have only to cross the plaza and enter the hotel. Less chance of meeting people she knows. Could be that simple. It’s also where an IATA person would go. Would she know that? He walked into the terminal, a huge European style structure. It reminded him of the Milan terminal, the same people running about like ants. He shrugged, lit his pipe and went to the terminal’s café. He sat by a large window facing the bustling exhaust-filled street with a direct view across the plaza to the Sheraton. It was too far away to identify anyone entering, but he would certainly recognize her leaving the terminal and crossing the plaza.
Jacks’ mind had wandered back to Frankfurt and their room on Hamburger Allee, where they made love every day for a month before she disappeared, simply didn’t show up, and neither he, the German police, nor M.I. had been able to find her or her husband. He finished his breakfast of croissants – called medialunas, half-moons, in Argentina – juice and coffee, and concentrated more on the stream of people coming from the terminal and passing by his window. Because of the dirty-blond wig and sunglasses, he almost missed her. But he recognized her walk, something lopsided about it. He remembered her mentioning that one leg was a little shorter than the other. She didn’t cross to the park, but kept on the street parallel to it, waited with the crowd at the red light, crossed and headed up the hill towards Avenida Santa Fe, Buenos Aires’s main shopping street. Must be going on a roundabout route through the crowds in order to double back to the hotel, Jacks thought. Jesus, is she being careful, wig and all. He looked at the large clock on the opposite wall, and checked it with his watch: eleven o’clock. She said noonish, okay he’d give her an hour, then go to the Sheraton to see if she’d checked in yet. A perfectly normal question for him to ask about his colleague. She had no baggage though. How would she explain that? Well, she’s not dumb, that’s for sure. Of course, she couldn’t just walk in, she’d have to come by taxi, so she probably went to pick up a suitcase somewhere, then take a taxi back to the hotel.
Jacks paid for his breakfast and went into the terminal proper and walked through it slowly against the flow of arriving passengers. The flow would begin to move in the opposite direction after seven o’clock in the evening. It occurred to him that it was remarkable how one could walk through a crowd of moving bodies without bumping into any of them. Some kind of inner radar must be functioning. He had the sensation that he was inside his body instead of being a unity of outside-inside. “He”, Jacks, was like a pilot in the cockpit of his head and his body was on automatic, threading itself through darting obstacles, avoiding crashes. He, his “I”, was merely an observer. He felt he could have risen to the high arched terminal ceiling and continue watching from there if he willed it enough. But he didn’t try; he stayed inside his head. Then Anneliese re-entered his thoughts, not Frau Marie, but the younger Anneliese from the Frankfurt time, and his state of self-awareness popped. He looked up at the huge terminal clock which, however, wasn’t working, as usual. His watch read twelve o’clock. He had been wandering back and forth in the terminal for almost an hour.
It struck him as he was leaving the terminal that he didn’t have his attaché-case. Damn, he was supposed to be bringing some papers. Was it important? Only if his phone was tapped and he was being followed. Cursing himself for paranoid, he decided to go to the office and pick up his attaché-case and play the role to the hilt. It would only take fifteen minutes.
“Mr. Armstrong called again, Marvin,” Amalia said when he walked in. “I told him you were in Montevideo.”
Jacks opened the file cabinet in Amalia’s office and took out the file marked “Admin-expenses”, knowing that she would check on which file he took and that one was as good as any. “Be back later.”
“Mrs. Albrecht also called – about ten minutes ago.” Jacks turned and stared at her. “She said she was in the Sheraton, room…” she looked at a note paper on her desk “…712, and that she’s expecting you.”
Jacks left without acknowledging the message. He walked across the Plaza San Martin without looking at the huge iron statue of the Great Liberator pointing west on its pedestal. He walked through the hotel’s lobby, which could have been in any country in the world, to the elevators and pressed the button for the seventh floor.
He had it all rehearsed, what he was going to say to her, and how. All right, Anneliese, what’s this all about? For starters. He’d just stand there with his hands in his pockets, one hand anyway, the other holding the file. Cold, cool, the offended party. But it didn’t work out that way. She opened the door to room 712 and stepped back. The blond wig was off and her black hair fell to her shoulders. One hand was on her right hip. At first she looked as though she’d rehearsed the same attitude he had. Her hand dropped from her hip, his hand left his pocket and the other dropped the file. They stepped forward and fell into each other’s arms. He couldn’t help himself and he guessed she couldn’t either, although he wasn’t so sure of that. They stood that way for at least a minute, then he reached under the back of her legs and carried her to the bed. She had gained some weight but was still slight. He laid her on the bed and lay down alongside her. After a while she got up and went into the bathroom. He could hear the water running in the sink. When she came out she was naked. Jacks stood up and started to undress, she helped, unbuttoning his shirt carefully, smiling now, then she pulled down the bed cover and climbed under the sheet. They both remembered that little room years ago on Hamburger Allee in Frankfurt.
Afterwards they fell asleep, exhausted not only from the love-making, but also from the events of the past two days. The telephone woke them. Jacks looked at his watch, it was five o’clock. “Don’t answer it,” he told her. “It must be my secretary.” She went into the bathroom, turned on the shower, came out again and took his hand. They used to shower together in Frankfurt. It was like returning to a previous life, the water pouring down on them as they soaped each other with caressing hands. She giggled when an erection arose as she soaped his penis, then she mumbled something in German that he didn’t get, shook her head and let cold water run on it till it subsided.
They were dressed again, sitting across from each other in armchairs, sipping from a bottle of excellent Argentine wine from the minibar, both waiting for the other to begin the conversation they dreaded.
Jacks sighed: “Okay, Anneliese, or Frau Marie, what’s going on?” He tried to smile so it wouldn’t seem too much like an interrogation, but interrogators smile, too.
“Where do you want me to start, Marvin?”
“From the beginning, I guess.” The revelation that she and her husband were East German spies posing as refugees when they first met in Frankfurt didn’t surprise him. She also said that during their short lived affair both her husband and their handler knew about it and her mission was to get information from him and, if possible, to turn him, that is, to recruit him as a double agent. She fell in love with him though – an occupational hazard, it seems – and didn’t know what to do until the situation resolved itself through instructions from Berlin to go to Hamburg with a new identity, identities that is, for her husband and herself. Jacks interrupted to ask if her marriage was real or part of her cover. She said both, that it was cover, but had to be real in order to be convincing. But that she hadn’t even known Cornelius until they were ordered to marry. Her daughter was the fruit of the marriage but, she insisted, she still loved Jacks and even the child had originally been part of the cover. She was in tears now, so Jacks waited for her to recover, or seem to, before asking how Argentina came into the picture.
“It was 1973, when Perón returned to Argentina,” she said. “It was chaos here and they – Wolfe, the Stasi chief, I mean – wanted us to come and help the leftist groups, you know, the revolution. In Berlin, and Moscow too probably, they thought Argentina might be ripe, probably because Che Guevara was Argentine, I don’t know.”
“Seems vague,” Jacks said.
“Isn’t it always? We were also to establish an identity here and eventually emigrate to the United States.”
“Ah, and it didn’t work?”
“It worked, but they wanted us back in Germany for something else, so we went and then returned to Argentina three years ago.”
Jacks was wary, not sure why she was telling him all this, or even if it was the truth; but he wanted to believe her. If you can’t believe the one you love, you can’t believe anyone. “With the same identity?” he asked.
“Yes, we still had our National Identity Cards, which never expire.”
“And the same mission?”
“Essentially yes, but now I know that the revolution cannot succeed here, so I at least help people who are wanted by the police and armed forces escape, get out of the country.”
She foraged in her handbag and came up with a crumpled package of local cigarettes, black tobacco. Jacks checked his pocket for a lighter, but couldn’t find it. She found a box of matches in the bag, offered him a cigarette, which he declined, and lit up. She held the cigarette as she always had, between her thumb and index finger, like a dubious insect.
“You mean the ERP people?” ERP meant Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo, a Marxist group which had started by hijacking trucks carrying food and clothing, and distributing it to the poor. Then they decided they needed money, so robbed banks and kidnapped people for ransom. They also killed some generals, which was definitely a no-no. After the military coup the generals began a campaign to wipe out all resistance. They didn’t bother with concentration camps, they just murdered everyone even suspected of having a connection with the insurgents. This finally caused a reverse migration to Europe, mostly to Spain and Italy, not only of insurgents and their friends, but also journalists, scientists, teachers, psychologists, even some Catholic priests after six of their colleagues were murdered and they realized that the Church hierarchy not only would do nothing to defend them, but acquiesced in the state terror. As Anneliese and Jacks sat talking in the Sheraton, that cleansing “proceso”, as they called it, was in full swing.
“For example, yes,” she said, “the ERP people.”
“That’s very dangerous, Anne…er..what is your name, by the way?”
“Call me Marie so you won’t slip when someone is around. And I know it’s dangerous, yes, I know.”
“But your real name?”
“Rachel. Rachel Baumgartner.”
“Oh.” A long pause while Jacks searched in his pocket for his pipe and tobacco and tried to think of what to say next. She beat him too it.
“What about you, Marvin? You are Marvin, aren’t you?”
“Yes, yes I am.”
“Really not married?”
“Well, legally yes, still, but it’s over, she’s in Switzerland.”
“No, Argentine, it’s a long story.”
She sighed as if relieved by one complication less. Then: “We’re quite safe though. My husband’s name is Clement now, a native Argentine who emigrated to Germany as a very young child, and has now returned with his German bride. Very romantic, but all in order, papers and everything – and it explains his accent. He even learned to be a cook.
“You’re not as safe as you think, Rachel.” He used her name consciously; he had to have something real. She didn’t object.
“What do you mean?”
“Yesterday…no, back in Frankfurt I was also spying on you. They suspected you, at least one sergeant did, so I was assigned to accidentally meet you off duty and try to find out.” He thought she’d be shocked, but she only blew a smoke ring and said, smiling, “I knew.”
“You mean you guessed.”
“In this game guessing is as good as knowing, darling. You were very obvious.”
“But I really fell in love with you,” he protested.
“I knew that, too. Give me your hand.” she held it in both of hers and kissed it. “I fell in love with you, too, Marvin, and I’ve never loved anyone else.” Their knees were touching and she kissed his hand again. Tears came to his eyes, but he held them back. He didn’t know what to do, or even to believe her, that was the worst part.
“I didn’t tell them about the room on Hamburger Allee though…but then you disappeared.”
“Yes, we were ordered to Hamburg to support the Rote Armee Faktion, but I don’t want to talk about that. I couldn’t tell you I was a spy, it was impossible, but I was so sorry.” At that moment Jacks made up his mind to believe her, a leap of faith.
“Okay, anyway a guy from the CIA contacted me yesterday.” Her eyes opened wider, very attentive now. “They suspect you, Rachel.”
“Freddy Hussein, they seem to know a lot about him and they’ve been following him. They saw me go with him to your restaurant the other day and they know he’s been there often.”
“Verdammt Mal, I knew that guy was trouble, a complete idiot.”
“Yeah, well, that’s why they talked to me, want me to find out what he – and you – are up to. It’s dangerous, Rachel, all they have to do is tip off the Argentine S.I.D.E., who know how to get everything you know from you, and then ‘disappear’ you afterwards.”
She sat there staring at her hands which rested between her legs. Finally, “I know,” she said, “but I don’t know what to do.”
“I’ve been thinking about it,” Jacks said, ”and I see two possibilities.”
Her eyes asked him what they were.
“Go over to the CIA, ask for protection in exchange for information. I could arrange that.” She didn’t say anything, waiting for the second choice.
“Or,” he said, “leave the country, escape.”
She smiled. “They both sound so easy, Marvin, but I don’t think they are.”
“I didn’t say they’d be easy, but let’s examine them anyway. First, the CIA…”
“They would certainly want more than information,” she said, without the smile. “They’d want me to be a double agent, and I’m not prepared to do that – or do you think I should? Never mind. And I wouldn’t want to give them information either. I’m not a traitor, Marvin.”
“This is different, Rachel. You must know by now that the German Democratic Republic is a corrupt satellite of the Soviet Union, and sooner or later it’s going down the drain. Thousands have defected to the west. Why not you?”
“I…I don’t know. I’m not just someone, one of the thousands, I’m a professional spy for God’s sake, Marvin.”
“Okay, let’s just look at the second alternative for a moment.”
“Escape? Where would I go? And Micaela?”
“Oh, well, she’d go with you of course, to Mexico and finally across the border to the States – for example. There are other possibilities I’m sure.”
“They’d find me, Marvin. I know too much.”
“Not if the CIA gives you a new identity and takes care of you there. I can talk to them, Rachel, say you definitely won’t be a double agent, but you’ll tell them all you know in exchange for getting out, new identity and protection. I can at least ask.”
She smiled at his naiveté, which wasn’t really that, just grasping at straws. “That would be telling them what I am. They may suspect now, but they don’t know.”
He took one of her cigarettes, started to light it, threw it down and tried to relight his pipe. She leaned forward and took his hand. “Let me think, Liebling, I need to think. Now I must go. Don’t call or come to the restaurant. I’ll contact you. She stood up. Ich liebe Dich, Marvin.”
“I love you too, Rachel, and…” She held her hand up, palm out like a policeman directing traffic, and said, “Don’t get up.”
“The room is still available,” he said. “Can you come back?” She shook her head, turned and walked out the door.
He waited until the next morning to pay the hotel bill, pretending that Ms. Albrecht of IATA had stayed the night.
The next morning Marvin Jacks received a telex from his boss Ian Payne telling him to go to Geneva right away for an important meeting. Rachel had said not to call her, that she’d contact him. She was right of course, so all he could do was tell his secretary to tell when Ms Alemán called to tell that he had to leave on a business trip and would be back in a few days.
When he did return Amalia gave him a list of calls: airline managers mostly, including Armstrong of Panam, a few personal ones, but no Alemán. Maybe she didn’t identify herself. He asked Amalia if anyone had called without giving their name. His secretary thought a moment, then said no, not that she could remember. “Only a guy name of Rodriguez who wouldn’t say what he wanted. Said he’d call back. Do you want me to call anyone now, Marvin?” He shook his head. “Dictation?” He always dictated a report on his return from trips. He shook his head again, went into his office and when he was about to close the door she asked, “mate cocido?” – the bitter tea she knew Marvin liked. “Yes, thanks, Amalia.”
There was a knock on the door – three times, with determination. “I’ll go,” Jacks said. He looked through the peephole, one was careful those days because of the kidnappings. A short man stood in the hall in a rumpled suit under an open trench coat, cigarette dangling from his lips a la Bogart, only lacking the fedora. He seemed to be alone. “Sí?” Jacks called through an intercom. The man looked around for a microphone. “Just speak up, I’ll hear you,” Jacks said. The man took a wallet from his breast pocket, flipped it open and held it up to the peephole. “Rodriguez, S.I.D.E.” The Argentine state intelligence service. Jacks swore to himself and opened the door. “Sr. Hacks?” the man asked. He actually looked a little like Bogart, but his voice was more Peter Lorre.
“Yes. What can I do for you?”
“May I come in? I’d like to ask you some questions.”
Once in Jacks’ office, he closed the door, much to Amalia’s disappointment.
“You are an investigator for the IATA?” Rodriguez said, something he obviously already knew.
“Yes,” Jacks replied, “And you are one for the S.I.D.E.?”
“Yes,” Rodriguez smiled, “so in a way we are colleagues, except for pay scale.”
Jacks smiled back, doubting that Rodriguez depended on his salary alone. “Would you like a mate cocido?
“Yes, thank you.”
“Amalia, two mate cocidos,” Jacks called out, letting Rodriguez know that the door was thin.
“Sí, señor,” she called back.
“You are of course wondering why I am here, Mr. Hacks.” Jacks often had visits from police detectives investigating travel agency rip-offs or airline security, but this was the first time a S.I.D.E investigator had wanted to see him, so he was curious – and nervous. During the course of the past month he had become involved with STASI, CIA. and now S.I.D.E. He hoped that they weren’t all connected, but feared they were. Amalia came in with two cups of mate cocido on a tray with a sugar bowl and a few cookies. The water must have been already hot, Jacks thought. When she left, leaving the door open, Rodriguez frowned and whispered, “This is very confidential, Sr. Hacks.” Jacks nodded. He called Amalia who appeared immediately in the doorway hoping to get in on the dirt. “Sí, señor?” the “señor” being for Rodriguez’s benefit.
“I forgot about your mother being sick. You can take the rest of the day off.”
“But…” Jack was glaring at her with his chin high. “Muy bien, gracias,” with acid in the last word. She didn’t exactly slam the door behind her, just closed it with more force than necessary. They were silent until they heard the outside door close, with a definite slam.
“Thank you,” Rodriguez said and sipped from his cup. “I don’t wish to take up more of your time than is necessary, Sr. Hacks. So can you please tell me if you know a Karl-Heinz and Marie Clement?”
Jacks thought a moment, then shook his head. “No, I don’t think so.”
They are the owners of a restaurant, Die Glocke, in the town of Florida.”
“Oh yes,” Jacks said with a slight smile, remembering his anti-interrogation techniques, which essentially consisted in remaining calm, “I do know them slightly but didn’t know that name.”
“You live in Florida, isn’t that right?”
“And you have been to the restaurant?”
“Yes, but only once.”
“Isn’t that unusual?”
“No, you see basically I only sleep in Florida. I eat in the city.”
He smiled. “Very understandable. But your name and number is listed in their telephone book, so we thought you might know them better.”
“I gave Frau Marie my card when she was introduced to me, something I am too much in the habit of doing I’m afraid.”
“Who introduced you?”
“Freddy Hussein. He invited me for lunch there.”
“Why did he invite you for lunch?”
“He’s in the airline business. Airline managers often invite me for lunch. Do you know him?”
“Not personally. And how well do you know Sr. Hussein?
“Not well at all.”
“I see you smoke a pipe, Sr. Hacks,” He was looking at Jacks’ row of pipes on his desk. Do you mind if I smoke?”
“Not at all.” Jacks took one of the pipes from the rack and went through the tobacco filling ritual while Rodriguez lit a cigarette.
“I tried to switch to a pipe once, but couldn’t get used to it,” Rodriguez said.
“It takes a while.” Get on with it, you bastard, Jacks thought.
Rodriguez blew a noxious cloud of smoke from his blacks into the room and Jacks puffed mightily to cover the smell.
“We suspect that they are spies,” Rodriguez said suddenly, and Jacks had to concentrate to show the right mix of surprise and innocence.
“We know that Hussein is a spy, for anyone who will pay him, including us. Mr. And Mrs. Clement – Frau Marie, you know? – we suspect that they are East German spies.”
“East German spies – in Argentina?”
“Oh yes, we have all kinds of spies here, Czech, Polish, British, American and etcetera and etcetera, so why not East German as well?” Despite his Bogart appearance, this guy was a Peter Lorre type to the bones, complete with an oily smile. Jacks smiled back as though appreciating the joke.
“What did you and Frau Marie talk about?”
“Nothing much. Let me think.” Yes, let me sift the weeds from the grain. “She told me they’d been in Argentina twice, from Hamburg I think, that the restaurant was doing well, that kind of thing.”
“And the husband?”
“No, we shook hands and he went back to the kitchen.”
“I think so, yes, that’s all.”
Rodriguez squeezed his nose, scratched an eyebrow and pulled an earlobe in classic interrogator coming-to-the-point mode. “Sr. Hacks, your country and mine are allies in the fight against communism, and it is for that reason that I am sure you will cooperate with us here on our battlefield.” He waited for Jacks’ reaction.
“Of course – and I’ve already told you all I know.”
“Yes, but we would like you to take advantage of your contacts with these people in order to find out more.”
“Sr. Rodriguez,” Jacks began, throwing caution to the wind, “I dislike communism as much as you do, but I also dislike military dictatorships, and…”
“But, Señor, we are in complete agreement,” Rodriguez said, smiling. “I also dislike dictatorships – except when they are necessary, when there is no other choice. And we have no other choice if we don’t want our country to be taken over by the Bolsheviks, and then the domino effect of the rest of the Latin American countries falling one after the other. You see that, don’t you?”
“Let’s just say I understand the argument,” Jacks replied, not wanting to get into a debate he had already had with many Argentines and Americans – especially not with a guy who could “disappear” people at will.
“Good,” Rodriguez said dryly, “at least that. But back to our spies – or should I say “alleged” spies. You see, for you alleged means nothing has been proven yet, but for us alleged is enough. We could simply arrest them and find out most of what we want using…mmm…other methods? Yes, we could do that, as some of my colleagues are recommending, strongly. But I? Well, I prefer more subtle methods. I like to find out more before the trail gets cold, which is what would happen if we arrested them now. And you can help me win the argument with my less subtle comrades. Do you follow me?”
Jacks stood, walked to the window and opened it wide to let some smoke out of the room. “Yes,” he said. Rodriguez, professional interrogator, understood and waited. Jacks’ thoughts went something like this: If I agree now it will seem as though I want to protect them, or at least Frau Marie and if I hardly know her why would I care? Why would I want to do that? So he breathed deeply at the window, then returned to his chair and looked at Rodriguez.
“So what do you say?” Rodriguez asked.
“You can all go to hell for all I care,” Jacks said as calmly as he could.
Rodriguez smiled. He seemed to really enjoy the little cat and mouse game. He had tried one avenue, but the mouse was more slippery than he thought. So he would fall back on a more effective trap. “I have no doubt that we are all in grave danger of going there, Señor, but I have faith, you see. You are not a Christian, I assume?”
Jacks knew that by “Christian”, he meant Roman Catholic, and he said, “No, but I was once.”
“Once a Christian, always a Christian.”
“You mean Catholic.”
“Of course, yes, thank you for correcting me: Catholic. You see, I hope to avoid hell no matter how much time I must spend in purgatory, for I know my goal is true and the same as the Mother Church’s.”
God, thought Jacks, the man is mad. “Your confessor told you so?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. But I would have continued on the same path whatever he told me.”
“Or changed confessors.”
Rodriguez laughed out loud. “Yes, yes, I’m so glad to talk about such things with a man who has a sense of humor.” He sighed. “Unfortunately we haven’t time to go more deeply into such things, even if they are extremely important. Now, my apostate friend, please understand that we can make things difficult for you here.”
A direct threat, Jacks thought. Better. And for the first time it occurred to him to wonder if Armstrong had something to do with this visit.
“Really,” he said. “How?”
“Never mind how,” Rodriguez said. “Trust me, we can.”
They sat there for at least a minute smiling idiotically at each other. Rodriguez thinking that Jacks’ was imagining the terrible things they could do to him. Jacks, however, thinking, hoping, that he was bluffing. Jacks was, after all, a U.S. citizen, an ally with connections to his embassy and the representative of an important international organization of which Argentina’s national airline was a member. But he knew that there were certain unimaginably horrible things they could do to Rachel Baumgartner if they discovered her real identity and chose to take that avenue.
“Let me think about it,” he said, finally.
Rodriguez stood, still grinning, shook Jacks’ hand, said, “Gracias por el mate cocido,” and left.
Jacks’ first impulse was to phone Armstrong, but then he thought the bastards might have his phone tapped, so he decided to take the subway for the two stops to Panam’s office. He bought a subway token for twenty centavos, but put it in his pocket and decided to walk. It would give him time to think. He made his way down Avenida Santa Fe in bright autumn sunshine. A visitor who didn’t keep up with the news and who walked down that luxurious shopping street could never know that Argentina was run by a brutal military dictatorship and that the city of Buenos Aires was surrounded by a ring of shanty towns called villas miserias. When he reached Avenida Corrientes, a main traffic artery full of buses belching clouds of exhaust smoke and honking taxis, he turned right towards the obelisk at the Plaza de la República. He didn’t notice anything around him, for he was thinking of what he would say to Armstrong. He had to contain his anger first of all because he wasn’t sure that Armstrong was behind the S.I.D.E. guy’s visit and also because it wouldn’t do any good. He was also more fearful than ever about Rachel’s safety. Now he could tell her that not only CIA but also the S.I.D.E. was on her trail and she had to move – and quickly. Not that easy because her phone was certainly tapped. He turned left automatically at the Plaza de la República when he reached the obelisk, walked down Diagonal Norte dodging pedestrians, crossed it and stepped into the Panam building.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Jacks,” Armstrong’s secretary said in perfect Anglo-Argentine English. “How are you today?” Jacks wondered if she was also CIA; after all, it would be hard to keep secrets from a personal secretary; better to recruit her.
“Fine, Beatríz, thanks.” Jacks knew the value of being on good terms with secretaries. They could open or close doors. “Gotta see John.”
“He’s in a meeting right now, Mr. Jacks,” she said apologetically. “You didn’t have an appointment, did you? We’ve been trying to contact you.”
“Who’s he meeting with?”
“The sales manager.”
“Tell him I’m here and I have to speak with him urgently.”
“Well…” She frowned, all an act Jacks knew.
She smiled. “All right, Mr. Marvin Jacks.” She swivelled towards him revealing slender unstockinged legs and a peek at her panties under a mini-miniskirt, stood and walked into the boss’s office. A minute later she came out, followed by the sales manager, a harassed looking guy whose name Jacks had forgotten, who shook Jacks’ hand, gratefully it seemed, because he got him out of Armstrong’s clutches.
“You can go in now, Mr. Jacks,” the secretary said, but he had already walked past her into the inner sanctum.
“Hi, Marvin,” Armstrong began, “You know, airline seats are the hardest things in the world to sell. They’re intangibles for godssake. Maybe I should go into the used car business. Sit down, what can I do for you?”
“Let’s go downstairs for a coffee,” Jacks said.
“What? Why? We have better coffee here…oh, I getcha. Don’t worry, pal, this place is debugged, completely and forever. So sit down and relax. He pushed the intercom button: “Bea, bring us two coffees, the Colombian stuff.”
Jacks remained standing. “A S.I.D.E. guy came to see me.” He watched Armstrong’s reaction, which consisted of a raising of eyebrows.
“No kidding,” he said. “What the fuck do they want? Sit the hell down, will you. You’re making me nervous.”
Jacks sat in an armchair across from Armstrong in the VIP corner and frowned at him. “They want me to work for them, find out about Frau Marie.”
“Jeez, that’s interesting,” Armstrong said. “Tell me more.”
“When I demurred he threatened me.”
“That’s what I asked him. He said I should trust him, they could do it.”
“I trust him,” Jacks said. “And I want to know if you had anything to do with it.”
“Me?” – The secretary walked in without knocking, carrying a tray with two cups of aromatic Colombian coffee, cream, sugar, the works. She set it down on the table between them. “Thank you, Bea,” Armstrong said with a smile. You could cut the silence until she left. “Why would I do something like that, Marvin?”
“You want me to do the same thing. Maybe this is a less than subtle way of saying I’m better off working for you than for them.”
“What exactly do you mean by ‘demurred’?” Armstrong asked.
“I said I didn’t like dictatorships.”
“Nice. Did you outright refuse?”
“I said I’d think about it.”
“Same answer you gave me. Okay, Marvin, I categorically deny having had anything to do with this. Furthermore…”
“I’m asking you yes or no, John, goddammit. I‘m not interested in categorical denials.”
Armstrong stared at him a moment, then said, “No, definitely not, Marvin. I wouldn’t do that and I didn’t. That good enough for you?”
“Are you the boss here?”
“What do you mean – the boss?”
“Of the CIA in Argentina is what I mean.”
“There’s a Station Chief at the embassy of course. He wouldn’t do it, Marvin.” He paused and looked at the tray. “Our coffee’s getting cold. Cream and sugar?”
Armstrong poured, half filled his own cup with sugar, then said, “Well, maybe he would, but not without telling, er, consulting me.”
“Get them off my back, John,” Jacks said as calmly as he could.
“We didn’t put them there, Marvin…but don’t worry, we’ll talk to them. What’s the guy’s name?”
“Rodriguez, here’s his card.”
“I’ll tell them you’re working for us then?”
“Don’t fuck with me, John.”
“I have to tell them something. Look, Marvin, we didn’t set it up, but it just turned out that way. We work with those bastards, sure, we have no choice, but that doesn’t mean we like them, or that they like us. So the only way we can convince them is to say that you’re already on the case – for us.”
Jacks wasn’t surprised at this turn of events, in fact he expected it. It was, after all, logical, whether the CIA was behind the S.I.D.E. intervention or not. All he needed now was for the KGB to show up.
“All right, John,” he said, trying to sound resigned. “What do you want me to do?”
“That’s my man!” Armstrong said. “We’re gonna drink to that.” He jumped up and pushed the intercom on his desk.
“Yes, sir,” his secretary answered,
“Bring in a small bottle of champagne – the French.”
They sat in silence waiting for the toast. Jacks filled his pipe. When the champagne arrived a minute later, already opened with a white towel around it, Armstrong poured, handed a glass to Jacks and said, “To you Marvin; you won’t be sorry.”
Jacks sipped first, then downed the champagne in one gulp. “So what do you want me to do?”
“Suck up to Frau Marie, you’ve already got one foot in the door. Find out what they’re up to, who they really are, her and her husband I mean.”
“And you’ll call off the Argentines, the S.I.D.E.?
“Right, I’ll take care of that right away, don’t want them fucking things up.”
“You better call them off Frau Marie and hubby as well,” Jacks said. “I can’t very well find out anything if they’re hanging by their toes in some clandestine torture cell.”
“Good point, not as easily done, but good point. This is good stuff, isn’t it. The French may be assholes, but they sure know how to make champagne.” Armstrong looked at his watch. “How about lunch, Marvin?”
“No thanks, John. I have a week’s backlog of work back at the office.”
But Jacks didn’t go back to his office. It was almost lunch time and he knew where he was going to eat. They – the CIA and the S.I.D.E. – were watching Die Glocke, but now that he was, theoretically at least, working for them both, one directly the other indirectly, there was good reason for him to go there. Time was of the essence, he had to warn Anneliese…Rachel...Marie. He asked Armstrong’s secretary if he could use her phone. She, thinking it was an excuse to flirt with her, said of course he could, and pointed to the phone instead of pushing it across the desk to him, so he had to walk around and stand next to her while he dialled. She pressed her naked thigh into his and bent over to look at some papers in order to reveal an ample cleavage.
Frau Marie answered. “I’d like to reserve a table for lunch today,” Jacks said in German, sure she’d recognize his voice and slight accent. Silence. Then, “Under what name?” “Schmidt,” Jacks replied, feeling silly. “Jawohl, Herr Schmidt.” Jacks hung up the phone slowly, letting his arm touch the secretary’s breast. “See you soon, Bea.”
“Auf Wiedersehen, Herr Jacks.”
Do you speak German?” he asked her.
“No, but I saw The Sound of Music three times,” she giggled.
Outside on the street Jacks wondered if he was being followed, not that it mattered now, but he wanted to know. He knew something about surveillance techniques from his M.I. training. There are several levels: if you want the target to know he’s being watched you stay very close on his tail, and one person can do it; if you prefer that he not know, but it’s more important that he not be lost, you stay close but not too close and you need at least two people, one on each side of the street. If you don’t want the target to know that he’s being tailed you need at least three people, preferably four, to keep changing positions. Jacks also knew something about avoiding surveillance. In Germany he had often gone through the motions but never really knew if he was being followed. The Stasi, Germans in Germany, were experts. The M. I. people, like him, were amateurs, but losing a tail, called counter-surveillance, was much easier than doing the tailing. Like so much else in life, negation was the easy way.
He crossed the wide Diagonal Norte with the traffic light and walked south in the general direction of his office. After a block he came to the subway entrance. He was at the hub of the Buenos Aires subway system where all the lines crossed and downstairs it was like a human beehive. He stopped before a men’s clothing store and gazed into the shop window. In the glass’s reflection he saw a man directly across the street from him looking into the window of a store, a women’s lingerie shop. He was undoubtedly watching Jacks in the reflection. Good. Now Jacks turned his head left in the direction from which he had come. It wouldn’t do at all for a tail to stop as well and be identified. No, he would continue walking, pass the target, then turn a corner and wait for the target to pass him. The guy across the street would signal which way the target was going. Jacks kept his head turned left, watching everyone who passed him; he was waiting for everyone a half-block behind him to pass, with one eye on the guy across the street. When he was satisfied that everyone had passed and had time to get a safe distance beyond him, he turned and quickly walked down the steep stairs to the subway. He felt into his pocket for the token he had bought an hour ago but luckily hadn’t used. If he’d had to wait on line for a token they’d have had time to catch up. He pushed through the crowd, inserted the token into the turnstile and walked quickly to the line going north. When he got to the platform he was again lucky for a train was just pulling in. He boarded it, certain that he’d shaken his followers. He’d be picked up again at Die Glocke, but at least they’d know he was not to be fucked with.
Cerrado read the sign hanging slightly askew inside the upper glass part of Die Glocke’s door. What the hell, Jacks thought, it’s lunch time, how can they be closed. Something’s wrong. He peered through the glass and saw the old waiter sitting alone at a table reading the Freie Presse, a fascist German-language daily. He knocked on the window. The waiter looked up, startled and stared wide-eyed at the door. When he recognized Jacks he put down the paper, smiled, stood up heavily and opened the door after unlocking it.
“You called for a reservation,” he said in German, “nicht wahr?”
Jacks nodded. “Why is the restaurant closed? Has something happened?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.” He pulled out a chair from the table he had been sitting at. “Please sit down, señor, I have a mensaje for you from Frau Marie,” he said in “Belgrano-Deutsch”, a mixture of German and Spanish used by long time German residents. Jacks remained standing while the waiter hurried into the kitchen and returned immediately clutching a piece of notebook paper. He smiled. “They let her write it when she said it was instructions for picking up her daughter at school. They told me to translate it. They are really stupid, because if it was for me, which she said it was, why would she have to write it out. Anyway, here it is.” Jacks read it. err Jacks, Bitte, holen Sie meine Tochter von der Schule ab, um halb-eins: Rudolf-Steiner-Schule, Warnes 1331. She signed it: Marie Clement
“She told me to give it to you,” the waiter said.
“What happened? Where is she? What’s your name, by the way?”
“Knoblauch – Federico Knoblauch,” the waiter answered, somewhat intimidated by Jacks’ height and staccato questions. He, like us all, wanted to be loved.
“Now what happened, Federico?”
“They came about a half hour ago and took Frau Marie and Herr Clement.”
Jacks sat down to calm himself. The waiter considered it a friendly gesture and sat across from him.
“Who took them?”
The waiter shrugged: “S.I.D.E. They didn’t say so, but you could tell by the green Falcon they parked outside, everyone knows that. Herr Clement went out the back door, but one of them was waiting out in the back, he must have entered through the neighbor’s garden, and brought him back in. He said he had gone out for a breath of fresh air, but I think he was trying to get away. Are you a friend of theirs? I remember seeing you here once.”
“Yes, a friend.”
“Will you pick up their daughter like she asks in the note?”
Jacks look at his watch: 12:15. “Yes, of course. The note says at 12:30, I’ll have to hurry.”
“What do you think will happen?” the waiter asked, wringing his hands. “What should I do?”
“It’s probably a mistake,” Jacks said. “You might as well go home and check here tomorrow to see if they’ve returned.”
“But what if they haven’t returned?”
Jacks stood up, said “Auf Wiedersehen, danke,” and strode to the door.
“Ich danke Ihnen, señor,” the waiter said as he let Jacks out.
The Rudolf Steiner Schule stood out in the neighbourhood because of its unusual design – nothing was square, not even the windows. The place looked like it had been built by a drunken bricklayer. Yet somehow it was stimulating. Jacks marched into the room marked Oficina and handed the note to an oldish, hard-looking matron who read it myopically. She took off her reading glasses and stared at him a moment, then went into the corridor and yelled, “Herr Schmidt-Kameserl!” Jacks looked around the small room cluttered with files and books, all in German. A large photo of a serious looking gent stared down at him from the wall over the lady’s desk: Rudolf Steiner. A few moments later she returned followed by a tall thin elderly man with gray hair touching his shoulders in a black suit with a black silk flowing artist’s bow-tie. Jacks glanced back at the photo and saw the same tie on Dr. Steiner.
“Please have a seat, Herr Jacks,” he said in German.
“No thanks, I’m in a hurry really, must make a phone call.”
“You can use our phone if you like.” Jacks hesitated. “Frau Fintelmann and I will be glad to step outside while you’re calling.”
They left the room and Jacks dialled Panam. The secretary told him that John Armstrong was at a meeting.
“Get him on the phone, Bea, it’s urgent.”
“He’s not here, it’s a Board of Airline Representatives meeting.”
“Ok, give me the B.A.R. number, I don’t have my address book with me.”
“Oh, it’s not at the B.A.R.”
“Where is it then?
“At the Sheraton?”
“The Sheraton? Why there?”
“Every year they have what they call a working lunch at some big hotel. You remember, Mr. Jacks. Mr. Armstrong never comes back to the office afterwards, so I guess they do more than work.”
“Give me the Sheraton’s number, Bea,” Jacks said, feeling desperate. She took forever finding it. And it took Jacks forever to finally get Armstrong on the line. He sounded half-bashed. “They took them already, John,” he began…
“Took who? Who took whom?”
“This phone isn’t secure, goddamn it –“
“Well this one sure as hell isn’t either.”
“They took the people we’re interested in … in Florida.”
“Oh, Frau Marie?”
What an idiot! “Yes, Frau Marie.”
“Yes. Did you do anything to avoid that?”
“Jeez, Marvin, we only talked about it an hour or so ago.”
“So you didn’t.”
“I couldn’t know it was so urgent.”
“Well, it is. So please get on it now to release them.”
“I’m undercover, Marv, can’t do that directly.”
“Even to S.I.D.E.?
“Even to them.”
“The guy at the embassy then.”
“He’s in Washington, I think.”
Jacks took a deep, frustrated breath. “They got telephones in Virginia, John. Call him and tell him to get on it. It’s easy.”
“Well, he might be at important meetings there, and I –“
“This is important. You can’t get information from dead people.”
“Come on, Marvin, they’re not gonna kill East German spies, for god’s sake.”
“Maybe not…but everything but. For those guys gang rape is an interrogation method.”
“You seem inappropriately concerned, old buddy. The big man’ll be back in a few days, and… ”
Jacks stopped listening. Armstrong was right. He shouldn’t be so worried. “Look, John, let’s put it this way. Do it for me as a personal favor.”
“Don’t tell me you got the hots for her already. Man, you’re slipping.”
“Not already. I knew her from before.”
“Never mind that.”
“Whose side are you on anyway, Marvin?”
“Ours … but just do what I ask and I’ll get what you want.”
“Every fucking thing you ever wanted to know about the GDR intelligence service. But that’s not the point. I’m asking you as a favor, John.”
Silence, then: “Okay, I’ll do what I can … and you’re gonna owe me big, buddy.”
He was sitting there with his head in his hands when Herr Schmidt-Something stuck his head in the door. “Are you finished telephoning?”
“Oh… yes, sorry.”
Frau Finkelfuck pushed in behind him glaring.
“How much do I owe for the calls?” he asked, just being polite.
“Two local calls, eighty centavos,” the dragon lady said.
“Oh,” Herr S-K said, “I’m sure we can absorb that, Agnes.”
“We can’t absorb anything, Herbert. “
Jacks fished in his pocket and came up with a peso. “No, she’s right, here.”
She took the peso and opened a drawer in her desk. She dropped the peso in and started to hand Jacks twenty centavos change. “That’s all right,” he said generously. It was almost insulting, like offering a tip. She dropped the twenty centavos back in the drawer without a word. Herr S-K opened the door and nodded to a child, who entered the room and fastened her eyes on Jacks. A miniature Anneliese.
“Do you know this gentleman, Micaela?” Herr S-K asked her. She didn’t answer immediately and Jacks was about to explain why she didn’t know him, when she said, “Sí!”
“Who is he?” Herr S-K asked.
“A friend,” she said, this time in German.
“Gut, you’re to go with him today,” Herr S-K explained. ”Your mother is busy…I assume. Is that right, Mr Jacks?... Mr Jacks?”
“Oh, yes, she’s busy.”
Micaela continued to stare at him with her large brown eyes.
“Well, we better get going,” Jacks said. He shook Herr S-K’s hand, bowed barely perceptively at the Frau Dragon and stepped out into the midday sunlight followed by the girl. She took his hand and they walked along the street like family.
“Did you know that the sun is always north of us?” Micaela said in Spanish, grasping his hand tightly.
“I haven’t really thought about it, but yes, I suppose it must be.”
“It’s because we’re south of the equator,” she explained. “If you lived in the northern hemisphere it would always be to the south of you.”
“Why did you say that you know me, Micaela, and that I’m a friend?”
“Oh that. Well, you were in the Die Glocke once and I was in the kitchen watching you. You didn’t see me though. And after you left I asked Mamá who you were. She said you were a friend.”
“Well, that explains that,” Jacks said – and thought: Now what the hell am I going to do with you?
“You speak both Spanish and German very well,” he said, just to make conversation.
“Yes, but I prefer Spanish.”
“Because I like the people better who speak Spanish – except for Mamá of course.”
She didn’t answer. Jacks thought about that for a moment, then had an idea. “I know some people who mostly speak German, but are very nice.”
“Yes, but older. The lady cooks very well, too.”
“I don’t know, probably simpler things.”
“That’s nice, I like simple things to eat.”
They got to Jacks’ house where he gave Micaela a glass of water (she didn’t want coke), then he told her they were going next door to meet the nice people he told her about. The Altmann family were German-Russian Mennonites who were forced to leave Russia when the Soviets came to power, after their forbearers had been forced to leave Germany a century earlier because of religious persecution. Some finally settled in Canada, others in Paraguay. The “Canadians” prospered, but those who went to Paraguay had a very hard start carving out the jungle for their settlement. The Altmanns belonged to the latter group. They bore the Paraguayan hardships as long as they could and finally settled in Argentina where a relatively comfortable life was possible for people who knew how to work hard. The father was a mechanic and the four grown children all worked and contributed to the household economy, even though two of them had their own families to provide for. The father’s brother, Uncle David, a crippled old man who lived with them, was the most fundamentalist religious one, determined to keep their Mennonite beliefs alive. The children, however, were uninterested, including the youngest, an attractive heathen who liked to jump the fence separating their property from Jacks’ and right into his bed. This was a scrupulously kept secret, because her family would have been scandalized, might have thrown her out of the nest and certainly would never have spoken to him again. But what the hell, she was over 21.
While Micaela was engaged in conversation with Uncle David, who was enchanted by children who spoke German, especially because his own grandchildren, although able to understand him, no longer spoke the language, Jacks explained the situation (not exactly truthfully) to Frau Altmann and asked her if Micaela could stay with them until her parents’ problems had been resolved. He felt a bit guilty doing it, because he knew beforehand that she would agree, being a real Christian who would never refuse to help a child. When he mentioned money, she interrupted, saying that they could never accept payment for such a charitable deed. But he insisted, maintaining that he wasn’t paying her for a service, but only covering expenses, and that he couldn’t accept her generosity otherwise. She finally agreed. He also promised himself to stop screwing her daughter.
Jacks went back to his house, into the back garden, stripped off his clothes and plunged into the pool. He had a gardener, and the only thing he did himself back there was pool maintenance, which meant sweeping the bottom with an aquatic vacuum cleaner and polluting it with chlorine. He swam underwater the length of the pool and back, trying to be reborn, but it didn’t work. When he emerged he was as scared as ever just thinking of Anneliese – no, he resolved to call her by her real name – Rachel, in the hands of those beasts. Maybe the water did connect some neurons though, for he remembered Brigadier General Domingo Darío Santamaría, currently CEO of Argentine Airlines. Survival and success in Argentina had always depended on who you know, and it was more true than ever now with the military gorillas running the country. He got dressed, got his Mitsubishi out of the garage and sped onto the Panamerican highway, only a few blocks away, in order to loop around the city and into downtown Buenos Aires as soon as possible. It occurred to him that he didn’t even know if General Santamaría was in his office or even in the country, which showed how nervous he was and he made a mental effort to calm down.
He parked in a restricted area a few blocks from the airline’s head office. A parking ticket didn’t bother him; he only hoped they wouldn’t tow away the car. A year previously he had arranged for an intermediary to buy an Argentine Airlines test ticket at a fifty percent discount. Airlines and travel agents may give discounts to win passengers, but fifty percent is impossible unless something more serious is going on. He suspected that the ticket had been stolen, which was the only way he knew for such a large discount to be profitable. But he was mistaken. It turned out that the General, president of the airline, had been supplying his mistress – or mistresses – with free tickets, and one of them had turned such a freebee over to a travel agent for resale. When Jacks discovered this it presented a problem. If he followed procedure and filed a complaint against the airline and the travel agent, he would have to tell the whole story, step by step, in a sworn affidavit, including the result of his investigation, that the General had simply given the ticket away. He would of course deny everything despite the overwhelming evidence. There would be a huge scandal which could have resulted in Jacks being declared persona non grata in Argentina. In fact, that very thing had happened to an over-zealous colleague in another country. However, he couldn’t simply forget about it, because some people in the airline’s accounting department knew that their President had authorized the issuance of the free ticket which, although technically prohibited, was fairly common only when important political or military figures were the beneficiaries, which was far from the case here. Furthermore, he had already spent IATA’s money to buy the ticket and it had to be accounted for.
So he had gone to the General, showed him the evidence and asked if he had an explanation. Santamaría’s face got very red, but then he took a Havana cigar from a humidor, offered Jacks one and they smoked in silence while he sweated in thought. Jacks hoped that one option wasn’t opening a trap door for him to fall through. Finally, though, the general said that he had obviously made a grave personal mistake and asked Jacks if there was anything he could do for him that would convince him not to proceed. He was offering a bribe, but all Jacks wanted was a way out. He told him he didn’t want to embarrass him, but didn’t see a way out because those other people in his airline knew about the ticket, as did IATA. General Santamaria almost jumped out of his chair and opened a cabinet behind him, selected a bottle of Napoleon cognac, poured for them both and said: “Mr. Hacks, they will be silent; I guarantee it.” Jacks believed him. And from that moment on the General owed him.
He got General Santamaría’s secretary on the phone, an accomplishment in itself. He identified himself, something she already knew because he had gone through three sub-secretaries to get to her. She told him (naturally) that the General was in a meeting, and asked what the subject of his need to speak to him was. “De qué asunto es?” a perennial question in the Spanish language business and political worlds. Jacks told her to please announce him, that the subject was confidential and extremely urgent. She told him to hold. It seemed like a half-hour, but was probably only a few minutes later that General Santamaría came on the line. She probably had to wake him up.
“Yes, Mr. Hacks, how are you and what can I do for you?”
You might think that Jacks should have just gone to his office and barged in. But you would be wrong. That would have been an inexcusable lack of etiquette in dealing with a person of his self-esteem. Furthermore, he wouldn’t have gotten past the guards on the ground floor. Jacks told him that he had to see him immediately, that the future of his airline and the nation was at stake. He implied it at least.
“Well, let me see…” the general began as though looking through his appointments schedule.
“I’m across the street, General, if you’ll advise the guards I can be in your office in two minutes.” This was unheard of, but as the fog dissipated from his brain he was remembering that Jacks knew something which he didn’t want anyone else to know. “Bueno,” he growled, “make it five,” and slammed down the receiver.
Jacks left the public phone booth and sprinted down Avenida Colón. The guards asked for his ID, frisked him and let him ride up to the fifth floor in the elevator, but not alone; one of them accompanied him. They were exceedingly polite, figuring that anyone important enough to be seeing the General must have at least some residual importance. Santamaría kept him waiting fifteen minutes, something important people always do. The waiting calmed Jacks though, and he was prepared to say what he had to say.
General Santamaría sat behind his enormous desk smoking a Havana cigar and wishing that Jacks wasn’t there. Jacks told him that the S.I.D.E. had fucked up by arresting Frau Marie and hubby because he was just about to get really top secret information from her for the CIA that would deal the Commies a blow they wouldn’t recover from that millennium, if ever. Yes, he was undercover CIA. What he didn’t mention, but was lurking in the noxious air, was that he still knew about the free tickets the general gave to his girlfriends. He listened pulling on his earlobe and scratching his balls and when Jacks finished he said, “Those guys (meaning S.I.D.E.) think they own the country,” He thought a moment, then added, “Call me in an hour – at this number, from a pay phone.” He scribbled a number on a slip of paper and handed it to Jacks. “Mil gracias, General,” Jacks mumbled as he backed out half-bowing.
Jacks walked around close to the Plaza de Mayo telephone center during that interminable hour. When he called Santamaría, he said, “Well Señor Hacks, she’s out, but they wouldn’t release the husband, he’s a KGB officer. Anyway, they did me the favor. I hope it helps you.” Meaning that Jacks owed him now. Jacks controlled his elation and assured the general that it would help. Was he glad that her husband hadn’t been released? Yes. Did he feel guilty about it? No.
Jacks decided to call from the same phone booth first Die Glocke, then her home, although he doubted that she’d be either place so soon. Then, if there was no answer, he’d go to his house, where she’d be looking for her daughter – and maybe even him. But she answered from Die Glocke after the first ring.
“I’d like to make a reservation for tonight,” he said in German.
“I’m sorry but we’re closed tonight,” she answered.
“This is Marvin Jacks.” They’d be expecting him to contact her anyway; now they’d have to record the conversation and find someone to translate it, which would cause at least a short delay. “In that case perhaps we could go some place together for dinner.”
“Yes, that would be nice, Herr Jacks.”
“But you’ll probably want to go home first to change.”
“That would be a good idea…er, do you know where my daughter is?”
“Yes, of course. I’ll bring her with me in, say, an hour? Oh, and I thought we might go to the seashore for the weekend. What do you think about that?”
“Yes. Thank you very much.”
“Good, then you can pack some things for Micaela and yourself.”
“See you in an hour then.”
Jacks wanted her to pick up their passports, but didn’t dare mention it on the phone. He went home, threw a few things in an overnight bag, put his passport in his breast pocket and strapped a 22 pistol around his ankle. If they ever got on an airplane he’d have to ditch it, but he wouldn’t be needing it by then anyway. Then he went to the neighbor’s, the Altmann’s, to get Micaela. She was sitting at a table in the patio under the grapevines drawing a picture with colored crayons. It was such a peaceful setting that he experienced a tinge of doubt as to whether he should take her away from such safety into the dangerous situation her mother and he were about to face. But it wasn’t for him to decide. If Rachel wanted to leave her, which he doubted, they could always stop by to drop her off before leaving for good.
“What are you drawing, Mica?” he asked her.
“Hola, Marvin.” He hadn’t told her his name, she must have asked Frau Altmann, who probably was surprised that she didn’t know it. “Don’t you see? It’s an angel.” Indeed it was.
“Yes, I see, and a beautiful one at that.” You’ll need him now, he thought, we all will.
“Let’s go, we’re going to pick up your mamá.”
She dropped the crayon and jumped up. “Is she all right?”
“Sure she is. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know, she’s been kind of nervous lately.”
“Will Micaela be coming back here?” Frau Altmann asked. “She’s a delightful child and we’re glad to have her.”
Jacks hated to lie to that kind lady, but had no choice. “Yes,” he said, “We’re just going to Mar del Plata for the weekend.”
Rachel was ready to go when they got to her house. “I only packed a few things,” she said, still speaking in German, as though it were a continuation of their telephone conversation, probably because of the possibility that her house was bugged, “for the weekend.”
“Yes, that’s fine.” Jacks took a pen from his pocket and signalled for paper, then wrote, in English, passports? She nodded
They left the house smiling (on Jacks’ instructions) with Micaela between them. Jacks opened the Mitsubishi’s doors and looked to the front, nothing, and behind. There it was – a green Ford Falcon with three goons in it. He had a crazy impulse to take out the 22 and shoot at them. Are they stupid or are they stupid? It was a dead giveaway that they were being followed. Well, maybe they didn’t care about that. But that car was the fastest tractor on the road and he could easily lose it. Now they’d have to head south towards the seashore, instead of north to freedom.
An hour later they were on the highway approaching Chascomus, a sleepy town almost halfway to Mar del Plata. There was, as usual, a lot of Friday afternoon traffic. Jacks gunned the Mitsubishi and left the Falcon way behind. He knew the road well and after a curve he pulled off the highway into Chascomus, went through the town and got onto a secondary road going back north. It was slower and they probably could have gone back to the highway, but why take a chance. What if they’d been seen pulling off and the cops were already watching for them in both directions? There were police controls on the highways, but very few on secondary roads. It took them two hours dodging potholes to get back to Buenos Aires, skirt around it and continue north. It was dark by then and it had already been a long day.
The moon was full though, or almost full. It occurred to Jacks that the moon would be full regardless of what happened to them, whether they escaped and lived happily ever after, or were captured, tortured and killed. That selfish moon, like Rhett Butler, doesn’t give a damn. Is death like that or is it alive like the sun and the stars? Jacks glanced to his right at his companion, who had been silent for a while, and saw that she was asleep, mouth slightly open, eyelids fluttering. “Frau Marie, Anneliese, Rachel – who cares about your name,” he whispered, “I love you, and I’ll tell you so when you’re awake,” although he knew he wouldn’t, not yet. He wasn’t so sure.
They drove all night on flat, bumpy secondary roads, through somnolent towns. Rachel took over the wheel for the last two hundred kilometres while Jacks tried to sleep. Micaela had no problem sleeping all night in the back seat. At sunrise they entered the border village of Puerto Iguazú, squeezed onto a narrow tongue of land between Brazil and Paraguay. They stopped and got coffee and stale croissants at a gas station café. While tanking up Jacks asked the attendant for directions to Foz do Iguazú, Brazil.
“You’re going to Ciudad del Este, I bet,” the attendant said with a toothless smile. Jacks confirmed that they were, although they were going farther than that, to the capital city of Asunción where there was an international airport.
“The immigration assholes probably won’t be awake yet, so you can probably get by without a tip. I don’t know about the Paraguayan ones though, they’re hungrier.” Jacks had been to Asunción several times, but never to the infamous “triple frontier” where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. He knew, however, that Paraguay is the contraband capital of the world, where you can buy anything tax-free and stolen. Most of the new cars stolen in Brazil and Argentina – and they are legion – wind up in Paraguay, where you can buy them at cut-rate prices in police stations. Hundreds of pedestrians and cars cross the bridges every day to shop and the border police and immigration officials are well paid to keep the traffic moving, not to intercept thieves and smugglers, who are welcome. And it was the perfect place for fugitives, like them, to leave Argentina.
As they approached the bridge over the Rio Paraná to Foz do Iguazú, they saw that the gas station attendant was right – not an immigration soul in sight, so they drove over to Brazil. A half hour later they were at the next bridge over the same river, already full of cars and pedestrians crossing without the immigration people, who were ensconced in the booths slurping mate, paying no attention to them. On the other side was Paraguay. Rachel put her hand on his arm and said, “Stop for a minute, Marvin.” He pulled over to the side of the road. “They’re not stamping passports,” she said.
“No, not even looking at them,” he replied.
“Yes, but if we intend to fly out of here we have to show our foreign passports that have no entry stamps.”
“We can say we came in here, over the bridge.”
“I know something about this place, Marvin,” she said. Micaela was listening carefully to this serious conversation. “Remember my real profession.” Her real profession, spy, wasn’t something she wanted her daughter to hear.
“Go on,” he said.
“This bridge is for people who cross with or without documents and who leave the same way at the same place. Air travel is different. They won’t let us leave without entry stamps.” She paused, waiting for a reaction.
His head was empty. “So what do we do?”
“We ask the immigration guy to stamp us in, that like most tourists we like stamps in our passports.”
Jacks nodded, then said, “But what if they’re looking for us?”
“The Paraguayans won’t be – not yet at least, I hope.”
“Okay, it’s worth the risk”, he said. “Give me your passports.”
She didn’t move.
“I think it would be better if you gave me yours. I’ll go in with Micaela. You stay in the car sulking because you think it’s silly to waste time for stamps. That’s what I’ll tell him.”
It was obvious that she could charm the pants off any macho, so he nodded approval and handed her his passport. She put a twenty dollar bill inside it. They drove past the Brazilian immigration booth and stopped at the Paraguayan one fifty yards further on. Rachel and Micaela got out of the car and walked in. Jacks watched her smiling at the guard and explaining, then pointing to him with a laugh. He scowled appropriately. The guard had stood up politely. He was talking now, and pointing back at the Brazilian side. Rachel looked serious. She shook her head and pointed at Jacks again. She picked up the passports and came back to the car clutching Micaela’s hand. She leaned into the window.
“He said he couldn’t stamp us in without a Brazilian stamp and for that we’d have to have an Argentine one stamping us out,” she whispered. “He said we should go back and get the Brazilian and Argentine stamps first. I said you were already angry and I didn’t want to infuriate you, but that I’d ask you.”
Jacks’ brain started working again. “I don’t think it’s good idea.”
“Nor do I.”
“Get in and let’s get out of here.”
Rachel turned back to the guard, shook her head, shrugged her shoulders and got back into the car with Micaela.
“Have a good visit to Paraguay,” the guard called out, happy to have earned twenty bucks for nothing. After she and Micaela were in the car Jacks drove off after wiping the sweat off his hands on his trousers.
“It’s suspicious,” he said.
“Yes, but he’s an idiot.”
“But what do we do now without entry stamps?”
“I know a place in Asunción where we can get passports,” she said calmly.
“With different names? Great!” Jacks said, thinking that the Paraguayan airport police, also servants of a dictatorship, would be more efficient and might already have their names.
Following Rachel’s directions, Jacks drove to a slum section of Asunción and stopped at what looked like an oversized box made of rusty corrugated tin. They got out of the car and Micaela held her mother’s hand as they walked into the box without knocking. A skinny guy was working on a lathe so didn’t hear them come in until they were almost past him. Then he turned off the lathe, stepped in front of Rachel, who was in the lead, and said “Señora?”
“We’re going to see Augusto,” she said.
“Ah, is he expecting you?”
“No, just tell him that Marie from Buenos Aires is here.”
“Tell him,” she replied with an authority that surprised both the skinny guy and Jacks. He turned and walked to the far end of the box, about ten yards away, and knocked – two shorts and a long – and entered. They waited two minutes and the door opened and Augusto came out with a big smile on his fat face. He was wearing a tie and jacket, which he had probably just put on because the shirt under it was soaked with sweat, while the jacket was fresh.
“Señora Marie!” he gushed in Spanish, such a pleasure to see you again.” He took her hand and kissed it, must have seen that in a movie. He patted Micaela’s head, looked at Jacks, then inquiringly at Rachel. “Un amigo,” she said.
“Ah. Well, please come into my den, said the fly to the spider.” He laughed alone at his own joke and led the way back to the den, a luxuriously appointed office in fact. He sat behind an oak desk and motioned for them to sit. Rachel remained standing, so Jacks did as well.
“We need three passports, Augusto,” she said, “pronto!”
His smile vanished. Business. “I see. For you three?”
“Any particular nationality?
“What do you have?”
“Paraguayan, of course, then …let me think…German?”
“German will do.”
“I don’t have a child’s passport though.” Silence. So they were stolen passports and all he changed were the photographs. “But I may be able to get one. Wait.” He picked up his phone and pressed a button on the console, then spoke in a language Jacks guessed was Arabic. It took quite a while, but when he hung up he smiled his cheesy smile and said, “No hay problema.”
“When will they be ready?” Rachel asked.
“After the photos, about an hour. You realize of course that the child’s passport will cost a bit more because…”
“The same price as always, Augusto, if you want to keep dealing with us.” Cold – she really didn’t like this guy, which was easy to understand.
Augusto scowled, but said, “I will make the sacrifice for a lady.” He stood up with some effort and pulled back a curtain at one side of the office. “You first, young lady,” he said to Micaela, who looked at her mother. Rachel nodded and the child stood against a cream-colored plaque against the wall. Augusto snapped her picture and then the others.
“Deliver them to us at the airport,” Rachel said, forcing a smile. “We’ll pay the messenger. He’ll know us by the photos”
“As you wish, Señora Marie”, Augusto said. “Oh, by the way, I have the new passports here for your two friends, Barkarian and Wilson.” He opened a drawer in his desk and took out an envelope. "Do you want to take them with you or shall I send them?"
“Send them the usual way,” Rachel said.
“Why don’t we take them with us?” Jacks said in German. “It’s faster and safer.” Augusto may or may not have understood him, but in any case he sounded like a boss from East Germany, he hoped.
She looked at him, surprised, and said. “Ja, natürlich.” Jacks held out his hand to Augusto. He looked at Rachel, who nodded, and he gave Jacks the envelope.
While they were driving to the airport, she asked, “Why do you want us to take those passports?”
“Who are they?” he asked.
“Couriers, of no importance.”
“We may be able to use them, you never know.”
“How much will the passports cost?” Jacks asked her once they got to the airport and saw that there was a Lineas Aéreas Paraguayas flight leaving in two hours for Miami.
“A thousand dollars a piece.”
He whistled. “Do we have that much?”
“Maybe, but I have no intention of paying that bastard Augusto that much.”
“How will we get the passports then?
“You’ll see, come on.”
She went to the currency exchange booth and changed a hundred dollar bill for small denominations, mostly singles. She bought a large envelope, put hundreds at both ends and singles and fives between them and sealed the envelope with strong glue.
“Won’t the messenger check?” Jacks asked her.
“I don’t think so. We’ll soon see.”
He didn’t. It was a kid who came on a motorbike. They were sitting near the entrance so he spotted them right away. “Señora María?” he asked.
“Rachel held out her hand and the boy put an envelope into it. She handed him the other envelope and a ten dollar bill. “For you,” she said. “Gracias, señora,” he said smiling, put the envelope in his backpack and sped off. They looked at the passports. Rachel and Jacks were Herr and Frau Müller and Micaela was Inge Schulz.
Rachel looked at Jacks. “Mein Gott, your passport name is different from your credit card name.”
Jacks smiled. “No hay problema.” He took the passports and strolled over to the L.A.P. ticket counter. After waiting for the ticket agent to finish with a passenger, he handed her the three passports and his credit card. “I want tickets for these three passengers, Miami, one-way, open.” She would have to think he was some kind of unofficial travel agent and there was no law against buying tickets for clients. She made an imprint of the credit card, wrote out the tickets (L.A.P. couldn’t afford machines, apparently), he signed and said, “Oh, what’s the phone number of reservations again?”
“I can make the reservations for you,” she said.
“Yes, but this is for future reference, I’m travelling too and forgot my address book.” She wrote the number on a slip of paper. “Gracias,” he said. “Gracias a usted., señor.”
He strolled over to the telephone booths, which were all occupied. He waited. Finally a woman came out of one wiping her eyes. He dialled the number the clerk had given him and asked for three seats on the flight leaving in one hour for Miami. She asked if they could make it to the airport in time. Yes, he said, we’re very close. Reservations confirmed. He beckoned Rachel and Micaela over and they checked in for the flight. The agent checked her computer, revalidated their tickets and asked about baggage. Only carry-on, Jacks said. Unusual, but so what. “Let’s get through immigration before Augusto comes looking for us,” he said to Rachel.
…We will be arriving at Buenos Aires International airport in approximately two and a half hours,” the intercom on the old Boeing 707 blared almost unintelligibly in Spanish and English. Jacks’ heart jumped and he pressed the overhead button for the flight attendant. There were no three seats together available, so Rachel and Micaela were seated a few rows ahead of him. Rachel was speaking to her daughter, and didn’t seem to have paid attention to the announcement.
“I thought this flight was going to Miami,” Jacks told the flight attendant who was holding onto the overhead baggage rack as she leaned down to hear him.
“We’re stopping in Buenos Aires first, señor,” she shouted into his ear, “to pick up passengers.” And she scuttled down the aisle to other passengers who probably had the same question. Of course, Jacks thought, L.A.P. didn’t have enough passengers from Paraguay directly to Miami, so they took a long detour in the opposite direction to pick up passengers in Argentina, where they sold tickets at hefty discounts. He’d forgotten about that.
He knelt alongside Rachel and told her that they would be landing in Buenos Aires, but would be in transit, so no problem. Her eyes opened wide as this sunk in, then she just shook her head and sighed, so he went back to his seat.
The transit area at Ezeiza, Buenos Aires’s international airport, was chaotic. Hundreds of British passengers were milling around looking nervously at their watches, yelling at their kids to sit still, don’t get lost, conferring with each other in whispers. Rachel, Micaela and Jacks sat facing the window looking out to the runways so their faces couldn’t be seen by passers-by. Refuelling would take an hour. An elderly English woman passed in front of them, stopped to look out the window then turned to Jacks, apparently mistaking him for a compatriot and said, “I wonder what’s delaying it. Have you heard anything?”
“Do you mean you haven’t heard?”
“I guess not.”
“The Argies have invaded the Falkland Islands. Can you imagine? We’re tourists. They said we can leave, but the British Airways airplane should have been here an hour ago..” She put her hand over her mouth. “Oh! You’re not Argentineans, are you?”
“No,” Jacks said to her immense relief.
An immaculately dressed man about her own age who had been listening from the row behind them came forward and approached her. In accented English he said, “Madam, I am an Argentinean and I assure you that we have nothing against you and you have nothing to worry about. When this terrible nonsense is over I do hope you will visit us once again. You will be most welcome.” He bowed slightly and walked away. The woman, astonished, scurried back to her group with the news.
A few minutes later a man crossed Jack’s view and sat next to him. Jacks didn’t look at him until he spoke sotto-voce, in English, American accent.
“Hi, Marvin, or should I say Lt. Jacks, retired.” After Jacks looked at his profile it took a moment for recognition. He faced forward again and in the same tone said, “Master Sergeant Jack Quinn I presume – without the stripes. What a coincidence.”
“I don’t believe in coincidences, Jacks; didn’t I ever tell you that?”
“Yes, and I’m beginning to agree. So why are we meeting again in this unlikely place?” He was keeping up the tough guy chatter, but his palms were sweating.
“I’m looking for a guy with your name who fits your description to a T, accompanied by a woman and a child who look like the two subjects on your right.” Micaela was next to Jacks, asleep with her head in Rachel’s lap, who couldn’t hear their conversation.
“Doesn’t sound like a coincidence then,“ Jacks said.
“Let me guess. CIA?”
“Good guess. Station chief, Rio.”
“This is Buenos Aires.”
“Also me. When I got the request to advise all Brazilian entry points to pick up your little family and you on sight, I decided to come on down and look myself, since I can identify you. Our Argentine colleagues are still checking the roads, but I happen to know that you’re a frequent flyer.”
“So you’ve finally made it to the officer class,” Jacks said.
Quinn turned his head and looked at Jacks, “You’re not makin’ a very good impression, Marvin. And I think you’ll want to, under the circumstances. Goin’ to Miami?”
“Yes, obviously, I hope.”
“She’s defecting, Jack.”
“To you?” Quinn growled. "Who the fuck are you?"
“No, to you.”
He laughed. “Good one.”
“No, I mean it, I’m really glad to see you.”
“I should turn you, them that is, over to our friends here, and get them later when its our turn.”
“S.I.D.E.?” You mean you’ll get what’s left. Give us a break, Jack.”
“How’d you get out of Asunción? They’re looking for you too.”
“I promise we’ll go straight to the CIA in Miami. In fact, you can give us the address.”
“Seems your girlfriend’s important, Marvin, runs the East German covert operation in Latin America.”
“Not her husband?
“Her! the hubby’s a hit man. You seem to be attracted to female spies. I remember something similar happening in Germany way back then.”
“It’s the same one, Jack.”
Quinn looked over at Rachel. “No shit? See what I mean? No coincidences.”
“Give us a break, Jack.”
“You got no problem,” he said. “Just a stupid American bystander.”
“It’s more complicated than that.”
“Okay, let’s have it.”
“We’re travelling with false documents.”
Quinn nodded. “So that’s how you got out of Paraguay.”
Jacks reached into his carry-on and pulled out the envelope the Paraguayan forger had given him. “That’s right, and here are forged passports for two East German couriers, with their address in Madrid. And in a minute I’ll give you the name and address of the forger in Asunción.” Rachel was tapping on her armrest nervously. Quinn glanced at the passports, put them in his pocket, and said, “Let’s change seats.” They switched seats and Quinn said to Rachel, in German, “Are you defecting to the United States of America?” She didn’t bother to look at Jacks for confirmation, just said, “Jawohl.”
“Trust me, Quinn,” Jacks said, “we’ll check in at the CIA on arrival.”
“I trust you, Marvin, so much so that I’m gonna leave you alone here for a few minutes while I go downstairs to buy a ticket on this flight. Here’s my card. If anyone bothers you – this place is crawling with S.I.D.E. looking for the horde of British spies they’re imagining – tell them you’re waiting for me.” He stood up and started to walk away, then stopped and sat again on Jack’s side away from Rachel. “Are you sticking with her, I mean for good?”
“I guess so,” an answer that surprised even Jacks by its lack of enthusiasm.
During the long flight to Miami Marvin Jacks had another revelation. He had been in love with Anneliese Cornelius a long time ago, who wasn’t real then, and was even less real now as Frau Marie Clement. He didn’t know her very well and wasn't sure if he wanted to know Rachel Baumgartner, super spy, all that well either. Oh he’d stick with her all right, through her CIA interrogation hell, which would be a hell of a lot more comfortable than a S.I.D.E. one. A defector is treated much better than a captured spy; one is a repentant friend and the other a recalcitrant enemy. He was confident that his old buddy, ex-Master Sergeant Jack Quinn, would see to it that she was a defector. Although he said a few words to her and she responded with only one, the gleam in his eye when he looked at her indicated that he would much prefer to have her as a friend. She’d have a secret identity in the U.S. for a while, until the German Democratic Republic and its obscene Berlin Wall collapsed, which wasn’t so far in the future, Jacks assumed, and then she’d want to go back to Germany, which wasn’t his cup of tea.
In 1989, a few days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Marvin Jacks read about her in a syndicated newspaper column. A young reporter in Madison, Wisconsin had learned about her years before that, but the CIA convinced his paper to hold the story, not only for national security reasons but also for her safety. But when the German Democratic Republic ceased to exist for all practical purposes, there was no reason to hold the story any longer. The problem was that so long after the facts it was no longer a hot story. The reporter had moved on and had become nationally syndicated, so he ran it as human interest directly connected with the fall of the Wall, which was covering the front pages of the world.
Rachel Baumgartner had been living in Madison with her daughter in a defector protection program, working as a German teacher in a Steiner school, where her daughter was a pupil. The Stasi somehow found out who and where she was – something which was never supposed to happen – and sent a hit man to eliminate her. They were pissed off. As an experienced spy, when she defected she was able to give the CIA information about the Stasi infrastructure, modus operandi, names, etc. The hit man (let’s call him Hans as the reporter unimaginatively did), was on his first job and wasn’t really a hit man. They’d sent him because their experienced assassins, knowing that the regime was wobbly, were either disappearing into West Germany or were afraid of getting caught trying to enter the U.S. so late in the game. Hans, however, had entered the U.S. on several previous occasions on minor missions with a genuine Spanish passport. His father was a Spanish communist and his mother a German one. He was born in East Germany and had never been to Spain, but his Spanish (as well as his English) was fluent, so he easily passed for the real thing.
Hans wasn’t stupid. When he got to Madison, instead of killing Rachel he telephoned (from a public phone far from his motel), and told her who he was and what his mission was and that he had never killed anyone in his life and preferred to join her rather than kill her. She figured that if she refused to help him he might feel forced to carry out his mission. So she said Ja – and told him to call her the next day. She got in touch with her old buddy Jack Quinn, now a section head (to a large extent thanks to her defection) at Langley. Quinn flew to Madison, something he did frequently when off duty because of an illicit relationship with her. So when Hans rang her doorbell Quinn was sitting there on the couch with a big smile and another agent was behind a curtain with a rifle pointed at the door. A third agent was behind a bush in the garden ready to plug Hans if he were to take out a weapon when she opened the door. It was all unnecessary though. Hans was unarmed and wanted nothing more than to throw himself into the arms of the CIA with defector status.
Until he read the story not even Marvin Jacks knew where she was. At the time of her defection he had passed up the opportunity to continue as her lover because…well, maybe this was one too many identities for him to swallow. Life is complicated enough, he told himself. He knew that Quinn had also been hot for her, but that kind of relationship between an agent and a defector is definitely frowned upon by the CIA. Now, having just separated from another partner who, though beautiful and rich, was dull and bourgeois boring, Jacks felt that perhaps he had made a mistake. So he called Jack Quinn and asked him about Rachel.
“She’s leaving for Germany tomorrow, Marvin,” he said.
“Ah.” (It didn’t surprise him.) “For good?”
“Looks like it.”
Quinn obviously wasn’t in the mood for chitchat and neither was Jacks, so that was that…or not.
Despite the demise of the Soviet Union, spying has not lost its allure, nor, as far as we know, has love.