Dead To Rights. A David Elliott Mystery
Note to readers: This blog presents excerpts from Chapters 1 and 2 of the newly rewritten and soon to be published version of Dead To Rights. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to comment. Thanks!
Chapter 1 September 14, 1952. Betchworth House, Surrey, England.
CIA Special Systems agents Lawrence Clark, Ph.D. biochemist, and Victor Eggers, Ph.D., inorganic chemistry, are present to officially observe a drug-infused interrogation of a suspected Soviet spy. When the CIA Special Systems chief interrogator orders a second injection, Clark jumps to his feet, shouting, “No, no! For God’s sake! You’ll kill him!”
They ignore Clark’s warning, and 23 minutes later the prisoner dies a violent death. He was not the first, nor would he be the last person to die at the hands of the CIA Special Systems drug-infused interrogations.
Clark realizes that his career with the CIA must end, and that he must report the illegal and immoral secret work of Special Systems to the U.S. Congress. Victor Eggers agrees that Clark has to leave, but warns him not to do it alone. Eggers volunteers to contact Stan Kronisch, an Internal Affairs officer with the CIA. Eggers assures Clark is trustworthy. Reluctantly, Clark agrees this may be the wisest procedure.
We pick up the story three months later.
Lawrence Clark lounged on the steel-blue rolled arm sofa in the Cochran Fleming Suite of the Hotel Nevin in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. He and Professor Steven Jeffrey used the Nevin as their living quarters on weekends and holidays.
Clark’s relaxed posture belied the serious subject he was discussing with Steven Jeffrey. “Vic Eggers assured me that Kronisch and Thorn are trustworthy.”
“So Agent Eggers says,” Steve said, without bothering to disguise his sarcasm. “When you first told me about the upcoming meeting this March, only one CIA Internal Affairs officer would be present. Now you’re saying a second affairs officer, Richard Thorn, will be there.”
“Vic thinks Thorn will provide cover for Kronisch, corroborate Kronisch’s decision.”
“One more question. Why did Thorn and Kronisch decide to meet in a room at the Drake?”
“Actually, Steve, I have no qualms about meeting in a hotel room. Especially at the Drake. It affords privacy.”
Chapter 2. Tuesday, March 31, 1953. The Drake
Wednesday, April 1, 1953, April Fool’s Day, became the longest day in the life of Lawrence Clark. The interrogation – there was no other word for it – began right after hotel staff removed the breakfast table and dishes.
Thorn opened the discussion. “Larry, this will be an informal but confidential inquiry. It won’t be recorded. Stan will take some notes for our accurate recollection of your words. When we’re finished, he’ll give you the notes for your review and possible corrections. Okay?”
Clark nodded. “Can you pinpoint an exact experience which caused you to begin doubting your ability to continue working at your post?”
“My discomfort developed into serious doubt and concern when I saw that we were experimenting with as yet unapproved mind-alternating formulas on individuals who were imprisoned without valid reasons.
“I saw men, women, even kids undergo brutal interrogations for no other reason than they were Romanians, Poles, Communists, German, and occasionally, Soviet prisoners of war, or individuals suffering a form of mental illness, and homosexual individuals. Later I learned that some of these innocents died as a result.”
Thorn asked, “Did you ever discuss this with anyone in your family?” Clark shook his head. “How about Steve? Ever tell him about any of this?”
His question struck Lawrence Clark like a fist full of brass knuckles. He stared at Thorn, shock draining color from his face. How could the CIA have known about his relationship with Steve Jeffrey? He was sure they had left no trace. Kronisch stepped into the silence. “Larry, of course the agency knows about you and Dr. Jeffrey. Richard is merely trying to get the full picture from you. This conversation is off record.”
“No. I have not violated my oath of absolute secrecy.” God, I’ve put Steve in the cross-hairs. ‘Off record’ my foot! I’ve got to warn him! But how? They’ll have bugged the phone and placed a hidden camera in my room, probably the bathroom, too. No way would Kronisch or Thorn let me out of their sight for more than a few minutes.
The questions continued for three hours. “You look beat,” Thorn observed. “I think the three of us could benefit from a break. Let’s knock it off for thirty minutes. By then the sun will have sunk below the yardarm and we can reconvene for pre-dinner libations. Do I hear a motion to adjourn?”
Clark headed for his room.
“Leave your door open, Larry,” Kronisch said flatly. “See you in 30.”
That evening, Kronisch and Thorn lace Clark’s Martini olives with LSD. They inject him with sodium amytal, a truth serum. Kronisch interrogates Clark.
“Listen to me, Lawrence Clark. I want you to answer some questions. Have you told Steven Jeffrey why you need to leave the Central Intelligence Agency?”
Clark blinked. “Yes.”
“You said to Steven, ‘when the chickens arrive at the henhouse, be sure to check your six’. What does that mean?”
“Stay alert. Make sure no one’s following you,” Clark whispered.
“What signal tells the chickens to go to roost?”
“When I give my report to the newspapers and Congress disclosing the violation of human rights perpetrated by the CIA.”
“Where is your report?”
Clark didn’t answer. He was unconscious. Kronisch prepared a second dose of sodium amytal, and injected Clark. In a matter of minutes, Clark’s eyes blinked open, staring at Kronisch.
“Larry, you trust me. Tell me the name of the book, Larry.”
“Don’t know the name.”
“What’s the title of the book?”
Kronisch looked at Thorn. “He’s unable to lie under amytal,” he whispered. “He doesn’t know the name of the book.”
“Larry, you can trust me. Tell me the name of the library.”
Stan Kronisch, still holding the hypodermic syringe, walked to the window. He looked out for a few seconds. He spun around. “Jeffrey has the report.” He laid the syringe on the coffee table and picked up the phone. When he had a connection on an outside line, Kronisch uttered a three-word code, then said, “Steven Jeffrey needs your special attention to keep the chickens outside the henhouse. Now. Hotel Nevin, Sewickley, PA, or Passavant College, Green Hill, PA.” Kronisch hung up the receiver.
“What about Clark?” Thorn asked.
“I’m done with him. Get him out of here. You and Vic take him to the elevator. I’ll pack up his other stuff.”
When Thorn and Eggers returned, Kronisch punched a key for an outside line and dialed a memorized number.
A man’s voice said, “Yes?”
“Well, he’s gone.”
“That’s too bad. Sorry to hear it.”
They hung up simultaneously.