The Ordinary Spy
I was raised watching James Bond, reading Nick Carter and several other fantasies regarding spies and assassins. Most are fanciful tales of fiction, some are closer to reality but none of them match what some of us get to do.
The number one trait for a good ordinary spy is being able to lie with a straight face. Look someone in the eye and tell them the sky is green and make them believe it - then you have the ability to be a good spy.
It started a long time ago.
I was in my senior year at high school and trying to decide what to do with my life. Should I continue in my father’s footsteps and work on the dying railroads? I liked taking things apart and putting them back together so an engineer seemed to be a better fit. We used to take tests to help you determine what you’re best suited for; mine told me I would be best for the social services, a nurse or something. What 18 year old boy, 6 foot 2 inches tall wants to be a nurse?
I went and talked to several councilors and decided to try the Air Force. I took the entrance test and scored high enough to get a guaranteed job. I finished high school and off I went to basic.
During basic training they came and told me there were no current openings for electronics and I could elect to get out of the Air Force, basic training was 3/4th done by then, or I could select another field. They stated they had a special job for me in mind but I had to talk with a recruiter for the job. It was supposed to be top secret so I had to wait “a little while” for my clearance to go through. I really did not want to be a cook or play in the band, and returning home did not seem the right thing to do. I told them I would check it out and proceeded to complete my basic training.
Basic training was about 6 weeks and we were all counting the days to graduation. On day 28 of the 30 I was told to report to the squadron commander’s office. I figured my clearance had fallen through and I was about to be discharged or something.
I approached the commander’s office 5 minutes before the meeting and told the sergeant who I was and stood by at parade rest. I was not offered a chair and being in basic you did not ask for one. I was shortly told to enter the office so in I went.
I opened the door and walked within 2 feet of the desk as prescribed by military protocol, stood at attention waiting to be recognized. I knew there was others in the room but did not look around. You don’t do that standing at attention.
Shortly the commander glanced up at me and I stated, “Sir, Airman Basic Shafer reporting as ordered, Sir” He told me to stand at ease. (Still no chair)
“Airman Shafer, do you know why you are here?” He asked.
“I do not know Sir, but I believe it would be related to my lack of a job to go to in 2 days.”
“You are right Shafer. These officers want to talk with you about that. Repeat this conversation to no one except those in this room. Do you understand me?”
“Sir Yes Sir!” I said.
“If this gets out your career and your freedom are forfeit. You will spend the next 20 years in Leavenworth breaking big rocks into small rocks. Do you understand me?” he stated.
“Sir Yes Sir” I replied although a little quieter. What had I gotten myself involved with I thought.
Then to my surprise the commander got up and left the room. A light cornel took his chair and stared at me.
“Sit” he stated as his companion, a captain, came and sat next to my chair. I sat.
“Your clearance investigation and tests taken during high school and basic have shown some very unique traits. You have also shown a unique wit about you and you can lie with the best of them.”
He paused to see my reaction to this last statement.
What was I to think about what he had just said? He was calling me a liar and while I may have lied in the past I was not sure I liked the tone or implications. However, I was very much aware you did not start offering explanations or apologies too soon. It was better to wait and see what you had to ask forgiveness for rather than spill the beans about something they don’t know about. So I sat and waited.
“We have a unique program you may be interested in, however we cannot tell you what it is or explain it until you have accepted the challenge and agreed to take it on. However, if you do take the job it will be yours until we let you go – which is not likely to happen. You will keep your activities a complete secret from everyone, your wife, girlfriend or mother. Do you understand? Do you want the job?”
I started, “What happens if…”
“No” he interrupted “There is no “what happens if”. If we accept you and you accept the job that is it. If it leaks out there will be no excuses or exceptions, just the consequences.” Consequences sounded ominous.
There was no joking around in his voice or his eyes, they were dead pan serious. “When do I have to decide?” I asked.
He looked at his partner, then his wrist watch and said you have 2 minutes.
I fidgeted, looked at my shoes, the wall and then said quietly, “I accept”
They got up, shook my hand and said let’s go.
A little confused, a little worried, and a bit excited I followed and left my old life and all my personal stuff in the barracks behind. I found out later those that asked from my basic class were told I had been transferred out to a special class for those without any special talents. (Nice)
to be continued...