This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. Inspired by true events. Names, dates and locales as well as Standard Operating Procedures and tradecraft have been changed to protect the innocent, and in the interests of national security.
By Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM
All rights reserved
MY favourite song is that sung by Edith Piaf, aka “la mome” or the “Sparrow of Montmarte”. “Je ne regrette rien!” she sang with pure passion. No regrets, I have no regrets about what I did. I did what I had to do. It was not for patriotism, it was not heroic. I was terrified a lot. I got paid for it. Not as much as I liked but enough. I like to think I made the world a little better. Maybe I did. Maybe I did not. Who knows? Maybe only God knows, if he exists…It was a crazy time. Isn’t it always? I was just a small cog in a very big machine. Carlos the Jackal was making headlines with his audacious hijacks, the IRA was bombing and killing in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Well, the people I worked for did some killing too. They were experts in the art. They never called it killing. It was TWEP. Terminate with extreme prejudice. Tweep for short. I digress. Better start at the beginning.
It all started at The Farm. How such an innocuous name could hide such a big secret. Incredible. It is near Williamsburg in Virginia. Tourists go there for a taste of colonial America. I went there for a taste of The Company.
I boarded the plane in London. It was June 197_. The exams were over. It was the 3rd year of the BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) Degree program. I hoped I passed the exam. I had taken a train from Newcastle upon Tyne to London Kings Cross station. It took just over 3 hours. I was lucky. The Communist and KGB infiltrated British Trade Unions were not on strike.Swine like Arthur Scargill! Can’t stand them. At the station, I went to a locker. The key to which had appeared in an innocent looking letter to me in the student Hall of Residence. The location of the locker and its number were printed on a small piece of paper. Inside were my airline tickets. London Heathrow to Washington DC. Nothing is ever quite what it seems in the world of spooks.
It was the kind of paper you could eat or burn. I burned it. Memorize and burn…the golden rule.
The plane landed at Washington Dulles airport with a bump and a jolt. The Boeing 747 Jumbo jet is still one of the safest and best planes today. I went to collect my suitcase. At the INS counter (Immigration & Naturalization Service), the officer keyed in the details on my passport. As the information came out, his eyes opened a touch wider and his ears pricked up like a dog. “No registration of entry to Continental USA. No:L____________/CIA” The name on the passport was Daniel Wong (not my name). My name is Bong, Derek Bong. It is a typical Baba or Peranakan family name.
“So this is the United States.” I thought in my mind. I was impressed. Everything was BIG. Big men, big women, big hair on big women with big bosoms… The bus was big too. I came out of the Airport to be met by a tall man who was tight lipped. He only said four words. “Hi, this way please.” We went to the bus together. There were other men and women inside. After a short wait of about 18 minutes, two more men came. They got inside. The door closed. We moved off. You could not see outside as the windows were tinted. The Company is located in Mclean, Virginia in the suburb of Langley. The Farm is at Camp Peary. It is akin to a University for spies. It even has its own secret airport. If you have seen the classic movie ‘From Russia with Love’, Colonel Rosa Kleb of the KGB played by Lotte Lenya goes to Spectre Island to interview Grant the psychopathic assassin. Col. Kleb is taken of on a tour of the training area and we see the recruits training in Karate & small arms. The Farm is like that, only bigger. Much bigger. Art imitates life and life imitates art. CIA officers have a 12 month course in tradecraft with 6 months at the Directorate of Operations Special Training Facility, better known as The Farm. I had to do a special intensive course of only 3 months. It included one month at the John F. Kennedy School of Special Warfare in Fayetteville, North Carlina. Based at Fort Bragg, it is the home of the US Army Special Forces. Brave, determined and courageous men whose motto is “De Opresso Liber”. They wear the “Green Beret” with honour & panache.
Room without a view
My room was spartan. A bed, a desk, a chair and ensuite toilet with shower. No windows, no view. Cleverly concealed CCTV cameras monitored my every move, even in the toilet. The walls a dull blue. I found out later there were hidden speakers. They played inaudible subliminal messages whenever the recruit was in the room. At night, the sleeping recruit was bombarded with a variety of things, including foreign language training. You may say it is brain washing but it works. I found eventually that I could speak German. Very well. It was the top secret MKULTRA program. Also known as mind control.
The subliminal alarm woke me up. I washed up and brushed my teeth. Good oral hygiene had already been instilled in me at the Dental School. I put on the black uniform and jump boots.
The briefing was concise but short. The Company Trainer was a female with short hair. She was not a butch lesbian. She was feminine but I could tell she was tough, hard as nails. Mary (not her real name) was a veteran of many missions in the back alleys of the world, keeping the normal people safe in their beds by the nasty things she did. I found her strangely attractive. “Today, we are going to teach you how to defend yourselves in the field…”
It was H2H (Hand to Hand) Combat training. Not your stylised Sport Karate or Tae Kwon Do in white pyjamas, but the real thing. Gutter fighting. Kill or be killed. Hit-below-the belt-nasty moves to cripple and kill the enemy in seconds.
Theory was in a big auditorium. There were just 10 students. We were not encouraged to fraternise. I could see they were from many different countries. A pretty girl who looked South American caught my eye. “I must talk to her…” I thought in the Hokkien dialect.
We were taught to fight with everything and anything. From stones, to clubs, knives, improvised weapons like a blackjack made from [redacted for security reasons] and flamethrowers constructed from [redacted for security reasons]. Bare hands to punch, poke, strangle, maim and blind were but some of the less nasty things we were taught. It became a subconscious reflex, automatic. I could do it without thinking. It was not Karate per se or Hwa Rang Do or Ju-Jitsu. It was an ecletic mix of all forms of martial arts. The techniques had one thing in common. They worked. They always worked. There was only one rule. There were NO rules. Biting, kicking, scratching…we were trained to use every part of our body as deadly weapons. One afternoon, there was a hushed expectancy. I could tell the instructors were excited, edgy…Clearly something special was in store for us. A large man that was somewhat overweight came into the room. He had the confidence of a man who could kill with one hand, and he could. I learned later he was the legendary Colonel Rex Applegate. He had trained with Captain William Ewert Fairbairn and Captain Eric Sykes. IN World War 2, Fairbairn and Sykes were the experts who trained the British Commandos and Special Operations Executive SOE) in hand to hand combat and killing techniques like sentry silencing. Colonel Rex Applegate trained the OSS or Office of Strategic Services officers in hand to hand combat and other deadly techniques. OSS was the forerunner of CIA. Applegate was old but still bold. He could move like greased lightning depite his size. The instructors treated him with reverence and much respect. Applegate had honed his methods on top secret missions behind enemy lines in Nazi occupied Europe in World War 2. I was fascinated by his eyes. They were the eyes of a cobra, ever alert, noticing everything. Cold, devoid of emotion. I saw these same eyes in the men and women I worked with later in my career as a covert operative. You see these eyes in people who have killed…a lot.
I was trained to fire, maintain and field strip and reassemble every modern small arm there is from the ubiquitous but crude Avtomat Kalashnikov 47 assult rifle to the Danish Madsen Submachine Gun (SMG) to the Uzi 9mm SMG and many more. Pistols too, from the 13 round 9mm Browning Single Action Hi-Power to the Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver to the classic Colt .45 caliber autoloader and the Beretta 92FS 9mm and plenty more. The Walther PPK in 7.65mm fascinated me until I found that it was actaully an obsolete weapon in the 1970s and was the favourite weapon of the dreaded and monstrous Nazi Gestapo or secret police. Gestapo stands for Geheim Staatspolizei. Hours and hours at the range. Thousands of rounds fired. I thought, “My god, this must cost a lot of money!” The instructors were all veterans. Professional soldiers or killers who had worked for the Company in the field. Small unit tactics too. How to take cover. How to shoot and scoot. Never to fire from the same position for long. How to shoot the enemy in the back. Cowardly but highly effective. This was combat for the real world, not Disneyland or stupid Hollywood movies. With PT (Physical Training) and endless runs around the Farm made me exhausted at the end of each day. Silent killing too. How to kill with bare hands, with a garotte or a knife. Various knives were on offer for training. The Gerber, no, not the baby food., the fighting knife that looks a lot like the Fairbairn Sykes stiletto. The Fairbairn Sykes Fighting knife with its distinctive Coca-Cola handle. The USMC KaBar knife and more…Some days we were given only 4 hours of sleep a night! I lay in bed at night a very short time before sleeping, thinking, “What the hell am I doing here? I want to go home..” There was no way out. There was no going home. It is like the Triad or Chinese secret society, like the La Cosa Nostra. Once you are in, you are in for life.
I had to do two jumps. Static line parachute jumps. Terrifying! I felt every hair and cell in my body come alive.
It was summer. The summer of 197_.
They were kind to me. My training was always after my BDS term ended for the year. The new term started in October.
It was sunny with blue aquamarine skies. I was in the USA again. For more training…
The Company has a secret airfield in Virginia. From there I was flown to North Carolina…near Fayetteville. The home of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School…
Intensive Condensed Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC)
The SFQC consists of five phases (II-VI). If you complete this training, you will be a Special Forces Soldier who is a Professor of Warfare, one of the Army’s experts in Unconventional Warfare.
The individual skill phase (II) consists of land navigation, small unit tactics and live-fire training.
During the MOS training phase (III) you will be instructed on your specialty skills, which will be based on your background, aptitude and desires.
This phase (IV) consists of Special Forces doctrine and organization, Unconventional Warfare operations, Direct Action operations, methods of instruction and both Airborne and airmobile operations. Location: Uwharrie National Forest, North Carolina, for an Unconventional Warfare exercise. There you will perform as a member of an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA). Your specialty and common skills will be evaluated.
Language training (phase V) is a key phase of the qualification course. Proficiency in at least one foreign language is part of being a Green Beret. Arabic, Spanish, Chinese and Russian are just some of the languages learned.
The Evasion and Escape (E&E) course will end your training in the SFQC.
Fort Bragg, near Fayetteville, North Carolina
“Down for 2o!”, the lean, mean Green Beret Instructor in worn and faded tiger stripe fatigues snarled. He did not shout, but when he spoke it was very clear what he wanted. There was always a menacing undertone in his words.
I dropped and did the 20 push ups. The other 3 with me did the same. My arms and shulders ached. A Hispanic man was the weaker of the 4 man team. The instructor called John (not his real name) picked on him sadistically. he decided to put his jungle booted foot on the man’s back, between his shoulder blades and press on him. “Jorge, you’ve got to be tougher if you’re gonna be a spook.” Then he kicked him. Just hard enough to cause pain and bruising but not hard enough to break a rib. Jorge yelped in pain. The Green Beret grinned wryly.
Then the run continued. Through the rugged forests of North Carolina we ran. As we rang we sang, “Die Gedanken sind frei, Wer kann sie erraten…” It was a very old song since 1170 and was Hitler’s favourite song. Ha! Ha! I jest. Hitler shot anyone who sang it during his rule. Sophie Scholl of the White Rose dissident movement against Hitler was shot for singing this song, among other things. It means “Thought are free”. John like it a lot, He taught it to us. John told us if we did not learn it, it would mean more push ups. John ws fascinating. An ethnic German, his German accent still showed when he spoke. A veteran of Korea and Vietnam and more wars in between. Wars that never even saw any headlines in any newspapers. An expert in Heavy Weapons and Demolition, he could blow up a car, a house, a bus, power lines…with explosives made from soap, aspirin, fertiliser and flour, among other things. He was, and is a dangerous man. Hell, they all were. And they were training us to be just like them.
One evening after training, I saw John alone. He leaned against a tree. So till he was like part of the tree. He was smoking a cigar…very slowly. “Don’t come behind me boy.”
“I kill people who come back of me.” I believed him. He said it in such soft even tone that the message was even more frightening.
“Out with it.”
I could only reply, “Sir?”
“What do you want boy?”
“I wanted to ask…why do we have to sing that song? Die Gedanken sind frei?”
John grinned. He looked human suddenly. “I’ll tell you, son. That song will keep you alive and fighting wherever you are. It means even if the F_____Commies put you in a tiger cage in the Mekong, you’ll escape and kill the B_____”
I was impressed.
“You know German…I know that. You are on the Program.”
“Some of it, Sir, not all of it.”
“Well, son, that verse that goes “Und sperrt man mich an im finsteren Kerke…” That means even if your enemies put you in the deepest hellhole they can find, your thoughts will be FREE and you will find a way to escape and kill them all!”
I saw with a shock that John had tears rolling down form his eyes. I realised they wre not tears of grief or sorrow. They were tears of joy that our thoughts will always be FREE no matter what. I felt so inspired, tears came out of my eyes too.
He patted me on the shoulder. It was so hard I almost fell down. I did not mind. I understood what the song meant. Your thoughts will always be FREE, no matter what. The tears clouded my vision. I wiped them away and looked for John. He was gone, as if he had never been there.
Safe House in Vienna
Mireille brought out the fist course. Coquilles Saint Jacque a la normande. The aroma was mouthwatering. I sat at the pine dining table and my tummy rumbled. We were in the safe house in Vienna. In a small road very near the Schloss Belvedere with its priceless collection of Gustav Klimt paintings is a house with a huge dark green door door. A small panel has the door bells and names of the residents. The safe house was labelled: W. Putzengruber. The mansion had been divided into several luxury apartments. One of them was the safe house. Furnished and outfitted with all mod cons and state of the art security including CCTV, courtesy of Uncle Sam. The many hidden cameras were very hard to spot unless you were really, really good.
Mireille came out to join me from the kitchen. She was ravishing. Half French, half Vietnamese, she could look like either, depending on her make up and clothes. She could speak, read and write in 6 languages. “Bon appetit!” She said softly. I ate some of the sexy, succulent scallop. She saw my reaction on my face and smiled. “I’m happy you like my Coquilles Saint Jacque…I’m trained by CIA you know.”
I nodded, “I know…Langley…The Farm”
She chuckled, “Non, Daniel, I mean the other CIA.”
“Other CIA?” I was puzzled.
She looked at me like a mother looks at her favourite son.
“The Culinary Institute of America. It’s a Universite for Chefs and wine experts.”
I laughed, “I see, I didn’t know.” I was mesmerized by her big brown eyes so full of life and intelligence. I realised I was fallng in love with her.
The main course was served. The aroma of the beef tenderloin was intoxicating, just like her perfume by Hermes. It was the best Tournedos Rossini I have ever tasted. “Wow!” I thought. The side dishes included Potatoes dauphinois spiked with brunoise of black truffle and flecks of freshly ground pepper…black pepper from Sarawak. Small flakes of parsley sprinkled on as a garnish. The rich foie made me think of her lips…and how much I wanted to kiss her.Badly. Music played in the background. It was Mireille’s favourite opera. “Die Dreigroschen Oper”…”Und der Haifisch, der hat Zaehne, und die traegt der im Gesicht…Und Macheath, er hat sein Messer…doch das Messer, sieht man nicht…The singer rolled his Rs as he sang in German. He had a Berliner’s accent. We drank a German Riesling. The winemaker was Hugel. Mireille liked expressive German Rieslings. I liked whatever she liked. If only the US taxpayers knew how the Company spent their tax dollars. Ha! Ha! What the hell, we had to do the dirty stuff in the back alleys of the world. We deserved to live well when we had the chance. The fact that ordinary people could sleep peacefully in their beds every night was…due to our work. The best part was…the Company was paying for it.
I looked at her. I stared. I could not help it. She was so beautiful. Her eyes, so big and full of intelligence. Her lips, shaped like an English longbow. Very little make up. She did not need any. Her soft brown hair cut short like Purdey played by Joanna Lumley in the hit TV series, “The New Avengers”. Yes, it is a cliche…but how true. I felt a stirring in my loins. More than a stirring, more like an earthquake. Mireille disappeared into the kitchen. It was small but well equipped. I listened to ,Die Dreigroschen Oper’. I suddenly realised that Frank Sinatra sang it in English as “Mack the Knife”. The German singer, I don’t know who rolled his “r”s… I liked the German version better. It was wierd. After the Farm, I could speak German, liked German food and wines and somehow knew a lot about Germany and Austria… I learned later it was a feature of the MKULTRA program. Subliminal input 24 hours 7 days a week had literally brainwashed me.
Mireille came out of the kitchen. She had on a black apron. I must have been half drunk I thought…because she seemed to be wearing nothing under her apron. I could see the tanned muscle of the shoulders. Reminded me of Cameron Diaz. She was holding a small bowl with something inside… “Panna Cotta all’ Badia a Colti Buono…there are raspberries on top…glazed compote…” Her voice was different, husky..melodious… Mireille put a spoonful in my mouth. The tart taste of the raspberry compote caressed and seduced my tastebud. My palate awoke. Then the smooth panna cotta, which is actually cooked cream, slid down my throat very pleasurably. Mireille put a big spoonful in her mouth. She closed her eyes, “Ahhhh…it’s so good…” I looked at her beautiful face. I felt my heart pounding. She held both my hands and looked deep into my eyes. I felt hypnotized. “Ich bin heiss…”. she whispered. Her lips drew nearer to mine. We kissed. I felt the warmth of her lips. I could taste the delicious Italian panna cotta on her lips…made with full cream milk..the raspberries…creamy…
To be continued…