Olen Steinhauer

An American spy



There had been signs, and it was more a measure of luck than intelligence savvy that Erika Schwartz was able to put them together in time. For instance, the military counterintelligence office, MAD, could easily have left her off the distribution list for their April 17 report on EU-related anomalies-a list they only added her to because they were preparing to ask for the use of an Iranian source in return. When the report came, it would have been easy to miss number 53, an item from Budapest. In fact, she did miss number 53, and her assistant, Oskar Leintz, had to draw her attention to it. He came into her new, large-windowed office on the second floor of the Pullach headquarters of the BND, the German Republic’s foreign intelligence agency, slapping the report against his palm. “You saw the bit from Budapest?”

She’d been sitting, uncharacteristically, with a salad on her desk, staring out the window where, just over the trees, she could see distant storm clouds. Since her promotion two weeks earlier, she still hadn’t gotten used to having a view; her previous office had been on the ground floor. She hadn’t gotten used to having resources, nor to the look on people’s faces when they walked into her office and shuddered, having forgotten that this obese, ill- humored woman now sat at Teddy Wartmuller’s desk. As for poor Teddy, he was in prison. “Of course I saw the bit from Budapest,” she said. “Which bit?”

“You haven’t touched that salad.”

“Which bit from Budapest, Oskar?”

“Henry Gray.”

Of course, she’d seen number 53, but she hadn’t connected the name because she’d only seen it once before, months ago, on another report from the same source, a journalist named Johann Thuringer. Now, with Oskar’s prodding, it returned to her. She opened her copy of the MAD report. 53. JT in Budapest: On the night of 15 April, Henry Gray (American journalist-see ZNBw reports 8/2007 amp; 12/2007) disappeared. His romantic partner, Zsuzsa Papp (Hungarian), insists he was kidnapped. Her suspicion: either the USA or China. When pressed, though, she refuses to go into details.

“Gray is connected to Milo Weaver,” Oskar helpfully reminded her, now stroking his thin mustache.

“Tangentially,” she said, then noticed that she’d gotten some Caesar dressing on the report. She remembered Thuringer’s observations from 8/2007 and 12/2007. In August, he reported that Mr. Gray had been thrown off the terrace of his Budapest apartment and was in a coma. The December report noted that Gray had woken in the hospital and eventually disappeared on his own. Soon afterward, an AP stringer named Milo Weaver had arrived asking questions about him. Gray had so far eluded the man… until now, at least.

She put in a call to a friend in the Hungarian National Security Office, the NBH, but there was no record of Gray leaving the country. There was, however, an old woman’s bedroom-window eyewitness report of someone matching Gray’s description being stuffed, dazed (perhaps drugged), by an Asian (Chinese?) into the back of a BMW on Sas utca, a five-minute walk from Gray’s apartment. Though the witness didn’t understand a word, she recognized English being spoken.

It was through another friend, Adrien Lambert in the French DGSE, that Erika learned that on the same night as the supposed abduction, at Budapest-Ferihegy’s Terminal 1, someone in a Plexiglas-covered stretcher had been loaded into a private twin-engine plane. The aircraft was registered to a Romanian company called Transexpress SRL, a known CIA front. Passengers weren’t listed, and while its destination was noted as Ruzyne-Prague Airport, there was no record of it ever landing there. Henry Gray had, in a bureaucratic sense, vanished from the face of the earth.

The little mystery gave her an itch, and she called Cologne and asked MAD for direct contact with Johann Thuringer. Their immediate yes was a shock. Life on the ground floor, with requests taking weeks to be summarily refused, had steeled her for rejection. Acceptance simply wasn’t part of her worldview.

So, giddy with power, she talked to Thuringer on a secure line to the Budapest embassy on Sunday, April 20. As per instructions from MAD, he had stayed most of the previous night with Zsuzsa Papp who, after enough drinks and terrified rants about how no one could be trusted, finally began to open up. She did not open up completely, he admitted, but along the line one name slipped out: Rick. It’s not a secret, I guess, Papp had told him. Not anymore. Henry worked with a Chinese spy named Rick. Spent an entire month with him. But in the end …

“In the end, what?” Erika asked.

“Well, in the end she fell asleep. What I can piece together is that the CIA actually was after Henry because of this Chinese Rick. However, they left him alone for the past month, so why take him now? That’s what Zsuzsa wondered. In the end, she believes the Chinese took him. I do, too.”

Because of the Transexpress plane, Erika doubted that was true, but she didn’t bother to correct him-partly because she didn’t want to share with someone who would quickly report it back to another agency, and partly because of Andrei Stanescu.

Three weeks ago, Stanescu had flown to Brooklyn, New York, to shoot a man named Milo Weaver-payback for the death of his fifteen-year-old daughter, Adriana. Andrei had been helped in his endeavor by a Chinese man named Rick-or, more properly, Xin Zhu.

When names connect so flagrantly, it pays to sit up and take notice.

If asked, Erika would hardly have been able to put her thoughts into words, but she did tell Oskar to keep an eye out for questionable American activity within the borders of Germany, particularly around the Berlin region, where Andrei Stanescu and his wife lived. By Monday morning she received an e-mail that pointed to two American passports-Gwendolyn Davis and Hector Garza entered the country through, respectively, Stuttgart and Frankfurt on Sunday, yet checked into the same Berlin hotel, the Radisson Blu. Neither name rang a bell with her or Oskar, but when the photos came through Oskar pointed at the black woman with large eyes. “Oh, shit,” he said. “That’s Leticia Jones.”

Leticia Jones was one of two known Tourists, members of a peculiar CIA fraternity known as the Department of Tourism. It had for decades been a fable, a myth of a secret American department composed of otherworldly agents, who could enter and leave a city without a trace, but always littering destruction in their wake. It was the kind of tale you told spies before they went to sleep: the bogeyman. At the end of February, however, she had learned that it was more than just an intelligence-community legend, from a man named Milo Weaver, while he was tied up in her basement. Later, she’d sent a five-person team to America to keep distant surveillance. She wanted to know where this department resided, and who its members were.

The results had been interesting. Weaver met in a Washington, D.C., hotel with Minnesota senator Nathan Irwin, members of his staff, and Alan Drummond, the director of the Department of Tourism. Also in attendance were a man and a woman they later identified as Zachary Klein and Leticia Jones. A long night bled into the next day, taking these people to Reagan International Airport, then by car to 101 West Thirty-first Street, Manhattan. That building’s twenty-second floor, they realized, housed the headquarters of the Department of Tourism.

However, this success was short-lived, for a week later secure moving vans appeared, and large men with shoulder holsters, watched over by plainclothes agents wearing more guns, gradually emptied at least three floors of that building so that by now only cockroaches remained on the twenty-second floor.

Leticia Jones was one of the famed Tourists, just as Weaver had once been. Now she was in Berlin with a man who could be another of them. Berlin, where there resided a Moldovan immigrant the CIA wanted for the shooting of one of their own. Add to that last week’s renditioning of a man in Budapest who was, like Stanescu, connected to both Milo Weaver and Xin Zhu, and this was an arrangement of players that she could not ignore.

She rubbed her face hard, then looked up at Oskar, who was already grinning. He had an Easterner’s joy of watching misery. “I suppose you’re gassing up the car,” she said.

“You’re the big boss now,” he told her, “which means I’m more than just an underling. Someone else is gassing it up.”

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