It was after five p.m. when I got on the train toward home from Grosvenor Square. I decided to grab something to eat on the way. Not that I was hungry. I had that apprehensive feeling I someTimes get just before the bottom drops out of my life.
In the pub in Bayswater I ate sullenly. I drank water instead of beer. I was going to write tonight. I wanted to make sure my head was clear.
I put the key into the lock of the door to my flat at 6:30. I was wondering why there was no mail downstairs on the table in the foyer. My mind leapt to the present moment. The key was turning in an unlocked door. The lights were all on. There was just one man. He was seated in my desk chair, facing the door, reading my mail.
"Who the hell are you?" I demanded.
"Sit down, please, Mr. McGlashan. My name is Austin. I'm with the Special Unit Counterterrorism."
I made no move to sit. "Scotland Yard?"
I sized him up. Tall and patrician-looking. Not the cop type. Tough, though, by his eyes and probably pretty strong by the way his fancy-cut suit hung around the shoulders and arms.
"British Intelligence," I speculated.
"I'm not at liberty to say."
"What are you doing here?"
"Sit down, please. I must ask you some questions."
"What if I don't feel like answering questions? This is my place. It puts me in a bad mood to have people breaking in."
"I have a warrant. I also have a warrant for your arrest should it be necessary to exercise it. Why don't you sit down?"
I decided to sit. "What do you want?" I asked.
The antiterrorist reached inside his suit Jacket and pulled out a report. "Your passport was taken from a man arrested for smuggling arms into the port of Larne in Northern Ireland on July 7. How did he get your passport?"
"My flat was ransacked, and my passport was stolen. I reported it to the American Embassy."
"They have no record."
"They screwed up. I called and reported it stolen."
"The day it happened. It must have been Wednesday, July third. Ten days ago."
"We have reason to believe you are an IRA sympathizer, perhaps even an active member of the so-called Irish Provisional Army."
"That's ridiculous. I write about terrorism. Where did you get that stuff?"
My mind was searching for an answer as to who might have tried to smear me. It probably wasn't the IRA guys who kidnapped me. As far as I knew they still thought I was dead. The Secret Intelligence Service man, I was sure that was what he was, looked at the report on his knee.
"I cannot divulge who gave us that information. Let's just say it is from a usually reliable source.” He let me sweat. “However, the information is inconsistent with what we know about you. I read your magazine reports on terrorist networks. They were fairly accurate."
"We've decided not to arrest you at this time. This decision is based on the assumption that you will tell us everything you know about the Provos, including the Harrods bombing on June eleventh."
The man took out a small tape recorder and placed it on my desk. "Are you ready to tell what you know?"
"Yeah, but it won't help you much. I'm not exactly an expert on the Provisional Arm of the IRA."
The man turned on the tape. "What do you know about the bombing of Harrods Department Store on 11 June 1991?"
"I know I got blown up when it went off.”
"What were you doing there?" the man asked.
"I was going to buy a present for a lady."
"Would you mind telling us the name of the woman for whom you were buying the present?"
"It doesn't matter. I never bought it. I haven't seen her." I didn’t count the chance meeting in Hyde Park.
"We need to know her name."
"We’ll be discreet."
"I can't do it. Forget it."
The man looked up in disgust, then continued his questioning. "You gave a report to Scotland Yard to the effect that you were abducted by members of the IRA. What led you to that conclusion?"
I didn’t answer immediately. I was thinking as far ahead as I could to where the questions were leading. "I'm doing a story about where the IRA gets its weapons and explosives. Maybe they heard about it."
"Who would have told the Provos about you?"
"As I told the detectives from Scotland Yard, I think it was a guy named Edmund Price who works for a big arms dealer here called Omni Arms. It was right after I went to Omni Arms that my flat was broken into."
"You talked to Price?"
"No. I talked to the director of the London branch of the company. I couldn't get an appointment with Price."
"You didn't actually talk to Price?"
"What is the name of the man to whom you spoke?"
"I don't know. Let me look in my notebook." I thumbed the pages. "His name is Hale Wattle. He's an American too."
"Like Price. Price is American. He used to be in the CIA."
"But you didn't talk to him."
"What makes you think this Mr. Price is selling arms to the Irish Republican Army?"
"I have information."
"Could you please divulge that information."
I thought about how much to reveal.
"I had a friend who was in Special Forces with me in Vietnam."
"What is your friend's name?"
"Jim Fick. He knew I was writing about terrorists. He was working with an organization in Libya that got plastic explosive from America. I think he was working for the CIA. He may have been there to inform the CIA of what Qaddafi was up to. The name he gave me led me to Price. He mentioned a man named Charlie Stoat who worked for Price."
"Your friend named Price?"
"No. The name he gave was an alias. A code name. Rand.
"How did you identify Price?"
"I'd rather not say."
The man turned off the tape recorder.
"I'm afraid you must say," the man insisted.
There was a long silence.
"All right," I said.
The tape recorder began again.
"Who was it that connected the name your friend gave you to Edmund Price?"
"It was a man named Teller who used to work for MI-5."
The SIS man's eyes went wide when he heard the name, but his voice proceeded without wavering. "From whom did you learn about Teller?"
"I learned about Teller from George Cruikshank. It was Cruikshank who finally connected the phony name of Rand to Price."
The SIS man stopped the tape recorder again. His aplomb was somewhat askew.
"You went to see George Cruikshank?"
"You mean the George Cruikshank?"
"I think we're talking about the same man, yes."
"Oh my God. What did he say?"
"He didn't say much about Price."
The man was on the verge of putting another question to me about Cruikshank, but his professional self thought better of it, and he started the tape recorder again.
"So it was Cruikshank who put you on to Teller. How did Teller know about Price?"
"Rand. Teller knew him as Rand along with his gorilla, Charlie Stoat, in Turkey and Greece, in the Seventies. Teller was running a network in the Balkans. I guess Price was doing the same thing for the CIA. Stoat did his dirty work."
"Teller told you this?"
"And you hope to write a newspaper story about it."
"Yes. Maybe even a book."
"Where were you going the night of your abduction, July sixth?"
"What day was that?"
"The sixth. Only a week ago. It seems like six months. I was headed for a pub in Notting Hill near Portobello Road."
"Why were you going there?"
"I was going to get a pint of bitter and some supper."
"Are you aware that the proprietor, an Irishman named Eoin Cogan, is known to have strong IRA sympathies and may be involved in terrorist bombings?"
"I know Eoin. He makes no secret of his sympathy for the IRA. I always thought it was just talk. I don't think he ever blew anybody up."
The SIS man gave me a look that said you're either stupid or lying. I didn't know exactly why I was covering for Eoin. It wasn't just that I knew I wanted to deal with the Irishman alone. It was also that I had the suspicion it wasn't Eoin who turned me in, that it might even have been Eoin who prevented my being killed outright instead of being thrown down a hole to be strangled in sewage. Eoin and I had had many good talks. Eoin was my friend, or I was his, which isn’t the same thing. If Eoin was roughed up because of his connection to me, then I owed Eoin an apology. If Eoin named me to the Provos, then I would eventually tell the Secret Service. Or maybe I’d kill him.
"Can you identify the men who attacked you on the way to the pub?"
"Can you identify the men who you say kidnapped you?"
My mind pictured the man with the handlebar mustache. "I remember only one. I saw his picture before. Tiny little eyes and a big handlebar mustache. I think it was Charlie Stoat."
"That's the name you gave Scotland Yard, isn't it?"
"And he's the man you linked to Edmund Price."
"Why do you think it was he?"
"I have a picture of him from a magazine. It's just a Xerox. Let me get it."
I got up from the couch and went toward the desk. The man turned off the tape recorder and got up. I pulled open the top center desk drawer and pulled out a manila folder. The picture was at the top of the pile of papers. "Unless I'm mistaken, this is the man who drugged me and threw me down a hole to die. I saw him before I passed out."
"Why do you think Stoat would want you dead?"
"My theory is that Price has been selling arms to the IRA. Price learned that I was getting close and put Stoat out there to dispose of me."
"You have proof?"
"I'm working on it."
"You know that Stoat is an international fugitive?"
"I know he was convicted in the States of training terrorists in Libya," I said. "They went to Libya from all over: Palestine, Syria, Africa, maybe Iran and Iraq."
"Yeah. Qaddafi has a real soft spot in his heart for the IRA. He hates British Petroleum, the ones who used to run his oil wells. He probably thinks they cheated him."
Austin made a face, but the tape recorder couldn't pick it up. "If what you say is true, the IRA and Stoat will try again to kill you."
"I expect so."
"Is there anything more you can tell me about the Harrods bombing, your abductors, or this man Price?"
"No," I said. "Wait. One thing. The Harrods bombing was done with American C-4 plastique. Right?"
The man's upperclass jaw dropped wide open. He turned off the tape recorder.
"What makes you think that?" the man asked, but it was obvious from his expression that I was right.
"Price sold twenty-one tons of American C-4 plastique to Qaddafi. Check it out. Even if half of it has gone bad in the desert, Qaddafi has enough junk explosives to keep the civilized world hopping forever."
"You realize that merely knowing this information could get you killed." The man looked at me with genuine concern.
"We'll see, won't we?"
The man looked at me as if I were already dead.
When Austin left, I sat down to write. I was beginning to feel surrounded. I had to get what I knew down on paper. I could feel a healthy fear building inside, and I used it as if it were a deadline. Deadline. I remembered the original meaning of the word: Andersonville. A line around the perimeter of the prison camp. Anyone going over the line was shot. I thought it was a good word for my situation. I was over the line already.
Well, here goes, I thought. I had two stories in mind. One was on the American C-4 plastique. It would feature the revelation that American C-4 blew up Harrods. The story was mostly based on information from Torsky. The other story was about arms producers and where the arms ended up. This article was from the Omni Arms computer, along with background information I had in my files.
The story on bootleg plastic explosive practically wrote itself. It ran to almost five thousand words, and I had it done by nine o'clock. I would fax it to Toronto to a friend who was international editor of a Canadian weekly news magazine that was a clone of Time. They had published my stuff before, as a stringer, but I was listed as a special correspondent.
The other article was harder. There was more data, and by its nature it was a much longer story, not as immediate and more complex. The SIS man's questioning had cut into my writing time. I wanted the story of arms merchants selling to Third World countries to go to Rolling Stone, but I saw I wasn't going to have time tonight to get it going because before midnight I wanted to surprise Eoin Cogan as Eoin closed up his pub.
So I only wrote an outline and opening paragraph for the long article, and then I wrote a piece for a newspaper announcing that Harrods was blown up with bootleg C-4 from the U.S.A. I phoned the London bureau of one of America's few great newspapers and got the night editor, who was an acquaintance, to buy the story if I could get it there within an hour. I gave the newspaper two names to corroborate the story: Austin the SIS man and Torsky. I figured the newspaper would get a neither-confirm-nor-deny from each of them, but I had worded the story as an allegation based on reliable sources.
Then, to the outline of the long article for Rolling Stone I attached a note: "This will be better than the Tour de France. Do you want first dibs? 10,000 words. Jack."
The only thing left was to get to my friendly all-night fax machine in Paddington and send off the three stories. I then mailed my originals to my landlady, Mrs. Gardiner.
This done I headed toward Eoin Cogan's pub in Notting Hill. It was half past eleven. My relief at getting safely rid of the articles turned to apprehension as I walked toward Portobello Road. I knew the back door to Eoin's pub was always locked. You had to go out the way you went in. As I neared the place, my steps slowed. I watched the street in both directions and quietly slid into a doorway, diagonally across from the pub's Victorian façade. Eoin would be coming out that door. I wanted to make sure no one was left inside. I waited for him to come out.
I stood there in the semi-darkness of the London night, the streetlight glow merging into the electric-lit overcast. I thought about the black darkness of Iona with its canopy of stars in a moonless sky.
The dim lights of the pub went off one by one. I began to cross slowly to the other side of the street. The thick form of Eoin Cogan emerged into the darkness. No one was with him. Just as the pubkeeper turned to pull the door closed, I approached, wrapping a forearm around the man's neck with a quick inward movement against the windpipe. At the same time I nailed a knee to his spine.
I grabbed the door handle, and we both fell forward into the darkened pub. He turned on me, and I hit him in the face. The man staggered backward and caught himself on a stool.
I closed the door.
"Ya bastard ya," Eoin said, feeling his left cheek.
"We need to talk," I said.
"It's you, is it," Eoin said, a note of surprise in his voice.
"Who did you think it was?"
"I thought maybe you was dead."
"If it was up to you, I would be dead, wouldn't I?"
"That's the question."
"Yeah. That's it," I said. "What's the answer?"
"I ain't saying."
"You've got to say, or I'll kill you."
"Is that so."
"That's so. Or maybe I'll just turn you in to the Brits and let them work on you."
Eoin sat down on the stool he had been clinging to. It was dark, but lights from outside shone in the windows. I could see the man's eyes and the contours of his face. Eoin was thinking how to get himself out of this. The truth might not be the first thing to fall to his tongue.
"Someone informed," I stated.
"It wasn't me," Eoin offered.
"That occurred to me."
"I warned you," Eoin said.
"So who then?"
"I don't know," Eoin dodged.
"Cut the bullshit."
He said nothing. The darkness hung between us.
"How about a beer?" I said.
"This is a pub. How about a beer? Better still, how about a dram? I'll buy."
"Your ass," Eoin growled.
"I've got a theory," I said. "I figure someone else informed your IRA buddies that I was on to them. The theory says you tried to deny it. The theory says you're the reason I'm not dead. That you persuaded your Provo mates to dump me in a sewer instead of putting a bullet in the back of my head. So how about a drink to my theory?"
Eoin looked at me in the darkness, trying to make out what was going on.
"Let's drink to it then," he said.
I let the man go behind the bar and followed him to make sure there was no gun and no tricks. Then I went back around the bar and sat on a stool, putting my feet on the brass rail. I let Eoin do the rest.
"So what'll you have?" Eoin asked, putting two glasses on the bar.
"How about a double shot of Black Jack?"
"American whisky comin' up."
Eoin bustled into action, pouring lengthy doubles of Jack Daniel's best into two glasses.
We raised our glasses in the dark. After a long sip, Eoin Cogan broke the silence. "Where is Tennessee?" he asked.
"Beats the hell out of me," I answered. "Never been there. Someplace south of Virginia. The furthest south I ever got was Fayetteville, North Carolina. The map says Tennessee is west of there."
"I read once that they make this whiskey in a place where it's illegal to drink it," Eoin said.
"No. I swear. Jack Daniel's bourbon whiskey is made in a place where you can't even buy it."
"You mean a dry county."
"Parched, yes," Eoin agreed.
"That could be," Jack said. "They brought the still with them from Ireland. They use corn instead of barley. Then there's the religious tradition opposed to alcohol. I guess the two groups came to an accommodation. The deal was that you can make it here, but you can't sell it here. Let's drink to it."
We drained our glasses, and Eoin refilled them. I decided to put the question again.
"So who's trying to kill me?"
"We'll probably both be killed just for you being here. You're like the plague now, you know."
"So who is it?"
"I can't tell you."
"I'll tell you then. It's an American. His name is Charlie Stoat. He's mean as a snake, and just about every country in western Europe has a warrant out for his arrest. He's tall and thin with lank hair and a big handlebar mustache."
"And a lovely tattoo of a rose on his forearm," Eoin said.
"His forearm sports a big beautiful rose, right there." Eoin pointed to the back of his own right forearm.
I sat in silence for a minute. "How did he get involved?" I asked eventually.
"That's the question. The boys were hoppin' for him, I'll tell you. He tried to call all the shots. If it was up to him, you'd be dead now."
"I thought so," I agreed. "They beat you up then?"
"Yeah. Somewhat. Nothing serious. It's dangerous business. But he's an outsider."
"So where does his influence come from?"
"I've got my ideas, but I can't say," Eoin said and was silent.
"Let me try this one on you," I said. "Stoat is working for a company that supplies the IRA. Maybe it's broader than that. Maybe Stoat is working for a foreign country like Libya or more likely a whole network."
Eoin bristled. "The IRA are patriots," Eoin said.
"How would you get rid of the oppressor then?" Eoin demanded.
"Killing Englishmen is not the answer."
"You don't know what you're talking about," Eoin answered. "We're talking about power.
"Nobody gives up power without a fight."
"It's not working."
"It's that we're too principled," Eoin said.
"That's disgusting," I said and drank my bourbon.
"If we were really barbarians, we'd be blowing up the whole English world."
"You're blowing up innocent people," I said.
"I know," Eoin agreed. "It's terrible."
I was flummoxed.
"It weighs on my soul," Eoin said, sipping the whiskey. "The sovereignty of Ireland. It's a noble goal, but people are dying who have nothing to do with it. Lately, I wonder whether the means justifies the end."
"All I know is if you want the means, someone will supply it. Death is good business."
Eoin took a big pull on his bourbon. "Maybe I'll end up in hell," Eoin said.
"I thought you were an atheist," I said. Then I added, "Maybe you'll find a different way."
"Yes, maybe the Brits will just decide to come home."
"If your friends find out I've been here, you'll get hurt."
"Don't worry. I'll tell them you've been here."
"Thanks a lot.”
"You're welcome. They probably know by now you're not dead. I'll just tell 'em, so they know for sure," Eoin said, finishing his whisky. "You'll need to find a safe place."
"So why did you take a beating for me?"
"It was nothing noble. I saw the beating was coming. The boys were upset, and that bastard was just looking for an excuse. I figured I was going to get it one way or the other, so I just said my piece. I told 'em you were writing a story, not spying for the British government. That man Stoat didn't like what I said."
"Who did he say I was?"
"He said you were CIA, looking to turn us all in to the British Anti-Terrorist Unit," Eoin said.
"They don't want it to come out that the explosives the IRA has been using came from America by way of Qaddafi in Libya."
"That's where some of the boys know him from."
"Your friend Stoat," Eoin said. "He taught 'em how to make bombs."
"Like you said. Libya," Eoin answered.
"That would have been about ten years ago," I said.
"Maybe that long," Eoin speculated. "They didn't say."
"That's why Stoat is on the run. There's been a warrant out for him for the past six or seven years, but nobody's been able to catch him. The heat's going to be on him again pretty soon though. If you see him, tell him for me that I'm looking for him."
"I hope I don't see him, but if I do, I'll tell him," Eoin said.
"And one more thing. Tell him to read the papers on Sunday. There's going to be a story about where the plastic explosive came from that blew up Harrods. Stoat's name is going to be in it. The London papers should have picked it up by then."
"You're a cheeky bastard, ain't you," Eoin stated. "I'll be sure and come to your wake."
"I’d appreciate it."
"Meanwhile, you owe me sixteen quid."
"Sixteen pounds? What for?"
"For the drinks," Eoin said. "You said you were buying."
I paid up.
"You're a thief, Eoin. You know that."
Eoin put the money in his pocket.
"Thanks, Yank. Have a nice day."
"It's two in the morning," I observed.
"Yes, it is. And if you'll just sneak out of here, I can close up and go home. I could lose me license for serving you after hours, which will be the least of my worries if your friend Stoat sees us together."
"Take my advice and get out of the terrorist business. There are better ways to be a patriot."
"So you say."
I slipped out quietly, leaving the Irishman standing in the dark.