AKA . . . the spy, who came out of the snow
Dear Rose of Sharon . . . This is a more complete answer to your email question earlier this week. It is a short story in the Southern tradition of “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O’Henry . . . but a true story. Despite what the CIA officer said, I could not possibly make up such a complex plot. Life is indeed, stranger than fiction.
It was in the second year of being homeless during the Great Recession. Unlike several of my friends in architecture or civil engineering, I elected to live in a tent in the mountains, rather than commit suicide. However, by this time I was sleeping on the concrete floor of the office of an abandoned chicken house. The concrete block structure had a wood stove, running water, electricity, telephone and internet service, so I felt like I was living in the laps of luxury. Nevertheless, during the first couple of weeks I lived there, I lapped up water from the spigot with my hands like a caveman . . . I had become so accustomed to living in the wilderness.
Union County, GA, however, was not a bastion of traditional Southern hospitality or particularly bountiful with drug-free single women. The owner of the very first shop I visited in Downtown Blairsville somehow knew, who I was. The first thing he said, before I could make a purchase, was . . . “Just keep on going, you’re not wanted around here!” Well, who was I kidding? No sane woman would be interested in a homeless man and his three big furry herd dogs.
In March 2010, while temporarily living in a cabin overlooking Fontana Lake, NC that was the former hideout of Olympic Games bomber, Eric Rudolph, I was named national architecture columnist of the Examiner. During the five years that I wrote for them, I never told the Examiner management that I was architecture-less (homeless). The assignment provided increasing, but still modest income. That income was augmented substantially by research assignments from former National Park Service Director, Roger Kennedy. No longer having to battle crazies, fundamentalist vigilantes and neo-Nazis, who had constantly attacked my campsite at night, I quickly became bored and so started writing books. In good weather, I took my three herd dog companions on hiking expeditions, which ultimately resulted in me discovering the Track Rock Terrace Complex.
I also surfed the web for entertainment. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime didn’t exist back then. YouTube was in a primitive form. One night I got myself in BIG trouble, when I stumbled across an ad from the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA announced that it was seeking to expand and diversify its personnel with college-educated men and women with a broad range of professional backgrounds. I decided that just for a lark, I would go through the application process.
Interested applicants were directed to a website, which first checked them for criminal or mental disease backgrounds. No problems there. Somehow, the computer knew that long ago, I had scored high on US Naval Intelligence aptitude exam. That bumped me up to a higher employment priority. I was sent a link to a multi-part upper-tier aptitude exam. It was really cool. By far, the longest section was essentially an interactive, virtual reality computer game.
It was amazing technology. Real people had been digitized, but the digitized “actors” would respond to the applicant’s decisions and actions in the game. You had to do things like “pick out the terrorist bomber,” “pick out the assassins and kill them before they killed you” or “find the electronic bug.” The other parts of the exam involved deductive reasoning, asymmetrical warfare tactics, world geography, world history and linguistics.
I thought that was the end of that, because obviously a crumb-bum, living in a chicken house, couldn’t compete with hotshots just out of Harvard or MIT. About an hour later I received a personal email from a CIA officer. He wrote that I had scored in the highest decile on the exam. I was to immediately fill out the attached questionnaire and then in the morning, call his agency to schedule an interview at the CIA’s Langley, Virginia headquarters. I was beginning to panic. The opening page of the questionnaire made it clear that one did not have a choice about filling out its questions. Once you took the aptitude exam, the CIA wanted to know who took the exam, to make sure that the applicant was not a foreign spy. Providing false answers or withholding information could result in up to five years in prison!
I emailed back that because of the Great Recession, I did not have the money to fly to Washington. Sorry . . . I will just have to wait awhile to interview. He quickly wrote back that because of my high score on the exam, his supervisor had approved for the agency to cover the travel costs. I was to contact the CIA first thing in the morning to arrange for a travel voucher and plane tickets being FED-EXed to me.
Lordy-mercy! What have I done? I decided to tell the absolute truth about my current situation and bizarre experiences in Virginia. Some of the earliest X-files programs, when the plots were located in Northern Virginia, were actually real-life events that I was involved with . . . in a big way. That would send those CIA bureaucrats running to the nearest exit and I would never hear from them again.
In the initial part of the questionnaire, I described my current situation as a former goatherd with eight years of college, who was currently homeless and living in an abandoned chicken house. I was only partially employed as the architecture columnist for a national news website. That should be enough to scare them away, but the interactive questionnaire wanted details of my life experiences.
I started the second licensed goat cheese creamery in the United States. It would have been first, but North Carolina stalled for year, trying to decide what the licensing requirements would be. Most of our cheese ended up going to the Middle Atlantic states and there were far too many architects in the Asheville, NC for the amount of work available. We moved our operation to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where my architecture practice exploded and the creamery thrived. My wife moved up there a couple of months before I did, in order to start a teaching job.
The first night, I was in Virginia, the body of 17-year-old Timmy Conner, was found in an overgrown lot next to our house. It had been stored in a deer carcass cooler for two weeks. Exactly four years later, Sheriff Marshall Robinson would be charged on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show with ordering his murder. Timmy had gone to the state police to complain about sheriff deputies selling drugs to teenagers. Robinson rung our front door bell at the very moment that he was being charged on national TV.
A few weeks after my arrival, the body of a young nurse was found in her driveway, crushed under her car with the engine running and her dog in the car. No one was ever charged and her husband quickly moved to Alaska with the children. I was given her three goat kids. One of those kids grew up to be Samson, a massive 330-pound buck. The story does not end there.
Three years later, I woke up during the night because of voices in the pasture next to the house. I felt drugged, but was awake enough to see about a dozen people in monk’s robes, chanting Dominus, Dominus, Dominus. Samson was in the center of their circle, apparently in a trance. Thinking that I had experienced an especially vivid nightmare, I checked on Samson in the morning. He had a purple circle painted on his forehead! It really happened.
Oh yes . . . one beautiful starry night, I and several hundred other people watched a dog fight between three small UFOs and a larger UFO over the Shenandoah Valley. The larger UFO crash-landed into the backyard of the county treasurer on Little North Mountain. It was soon retrieved by a large mother ship. In the next day’s newspapers, the county treasurer described the damaged space ship in detail. Other witnesses described the battle as the UFO’s zipped back and forth at incredible speeds across the sky. However, that afternoon, the men-in-black showed up and confiscated every copy of the newspaper that they could find. The newspaper editors denied ever writing the articles, while the county treasurer claimed to have no knowledge of a space craft on his lawn.
What then happened was that our colonial farm was designated a key property in the proposed Shenandoah Battlefields National Battlefield Park. A close friend of President George H. Bush, who was in the Houston Mafia, decided that he wanted my farm . . . cheap . . . so he could sell it for a big profit to the National Park Service. “Someone” arranged for US Army Rangers, stationed at Fort Deidrick, MD to make numerous night time attacks on our farm, where they vandalized the cheese-creamery, cut fences and injected biological weapons into our goats and sheep. The attacks lasted for two years.
In 1990, the rogue soldiers injected a hybrid mycoplasma maloides microbes into many of our goat kids. The microbe samples were sent to the Virginia State Laboratory in Richmond. The microbes were found to be laboratory-created pathogens, in which the DNA of several lethal diseases were injected into the nuclei of an especially large type of mycoplasm. Normally, mycoplasma are difficult to grow in a laboratory, but these not only thrived, but jumped into the other petra dishes and ATE the other pathogenic bacteria. Eventually, the mycoplasma took over the whole building and it had to be completely disinfected.
This incident became a plot for an X-files show, except that the hybrid microbe was supposedly created by extraterrestrials. What the X-files didn’t tell you was that the following year, that same microbe got into the bodies of over a hundred thousand combatants in Operation Desert Storm! No one knows how, but suspect that they were dumped into the drinking water.
In 1991, the rogue rangers switched to shooting our best goats with curare, then squirting pure listeria toxin down their throats. Someone with intimate knowledge of the dairy operation was giving them the tag numbers of our best milkers.
Soon I was able to find the radio frequency of their walkie-talkies and fight back . . . to the point where the rangers refused to go on our farm anymore. Before then, though, a US Army Colonel and Major, wearing combat fatigues, from Fort Deidrick would regularly show up early in the morning in their gold Jeep Cherokee at the end of our driveway, trying to figure out why their boys had gotten their tails whipped by a Creek Indian goatherder.
A Marine Colonel and a Navy Lt. Commander (both winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor) had given me a two-week crash course in jungle survival and carrying out independent recon assignments in neutral or hostile countries, just before I went to Mexico the first time. Of course, they had taught me how to take stealth photos, so the two Fort Deidrick officers were often on the goatherd version of candid camera.
Living in the X-Files
Eventually, these creeps began attacking the farm of the famous author, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, which was also in our county. The FBI then took me very seriously. An investigation of the many murders of innocent young people and four journalists in the county were combined into a major investigation by the US Department of Justice Task Force on Local and State Corruption.
Someone knew that I had “unofficially” done “chores” for US Naval Intelligence overseas as a young man. I had signed 20-year non-disclosure agreements so no one in my family or friends knew. I became an “asset” for 2 years . . . experiencing everything that you saw in the John Gresham movies, “The Pelican Brief” and “The Firm.” The headquarters of the investigation team was over a bakery-café in Georgetown. One had to go through the kitchen then through a fake pantry then press your palm against a scanner then go up a coded elevator to reach their offices.
My job was to get eyewitness accounts of the corruption in our county to the FBI. My go-between was a very pretty young attorney in Winchester, VA who was a sister-in-law of an FBI agent in Washington, DC. She also was a covert Dept. of Justice attorney. We were to fake an affair so no one would think we were involved in the investigation. My wife had been having an affair with her principal since before I moved, so no one would think it odd that I also would be having an affair. In fact, my wife had treated me like dirt trying to force me into an affair so she could divorce me, claiming that I was the bad guy.
Our handlers wanted us to make public shows of affection so that the crooked cops, watching us in unmarked cars, would think that it was a legitimate affair. I was to slip her photographs, audiotapes and hand-written intel from honest cops in our county, while embracing her in a parking lot.
We chose the Wayside Inn, halfway between us in Middletown, VA as the meeting point, where we would regularly have lunch together. My fake paramour was a devout Christian and claimed to be a virgin. At 25, she couldn’t hold on to boyfriends because of her refusal to “get physical.” Barbara considered it the patriotic duty of both of us to fake an affair, but it became the hardest emotional challenge of my life to play “pretend.”
I was being bullheaded. Even though my wife had been periodically asking for a divorce for five years and I was not getting any nurturing from her, whatsoever, I determined to not let her manipulate me into being immoral. That decision was one of the worst mistakes in my life.
Barbara and I both began having strong feelings for each other, yet we both pretended that we didn’t, because of religious beliefs. Barbara confessed that she was doing things that she never did with a real boyfriend. She began pushing for us to make-out longer in order for the crooked cops not to get suspicious. Eventually, for the same reason, she suggested that we should move to her car and “steam up the windows.” At that point, our faked fake physical contact was really more in the realm of Bill Clinton’s definition of “everything but” intimacy. I realized that she was wanting me to be more aggressive so she wouldn’t have to feel guilty about losing her virginity. I was still being bull-headed, though.
After our phase of the investigation ended, we stopped seeing each other regularly and were miserable. Whenever we did meet for lunch at the Wayside Inn, Barbara insisted that we continue with the public show of affection so the people about to be indicted wouldn’t get suspicious. I didn’t put up much of a fight about that request.
A couple of months before I was to leave Virginia unexpectantly, forever, Barbara was drugged by an agent for the drug ring, posing as a real estate developer at a bar in Charlottesville, VA then raped in a motel room. She woke up the next morning with no clothes or car keys, when she was supposed to be in Washington, DC testifying at the offices in Georgetown.
She eventually got the nerve to call me up just before Easter in order to tell me what happened and to point-blank tell me that it was no longer necessary for me to worry about her losing her virginity. She wanted to know how soon could get together some place more private . . . like a mountain meadow, filled with wild flowers. However, my wife had been pressuring me to go visit my parents in Georgia on Easter Weekend in a few days.
While I was gone, my wife cleaned out our bank accounts, ran the charge cards to the limit and filed for a separation . . . while I was visiting my parents in Georgia. It would be several weeks before I had the money on hand to drive back to Virginia and stay in a motel. I didn’t dare contact Barbara, because my wife was paying for detectives in Atlanta to case my parent’s house, several times a day, where I was staying. She was desperate to find any dirt she could to neutralize her longtime affairs with her principal . . . and other men, I later learned.
Upon arriving in Winchester, VA I met with my wife’s psychologist, who warned me that I should stay away from her. She was a dangerous person, who was driven to destroy any man, who got near her. Under Virginia law, the psychologist was required to tell me (as still her legal husband) that she had been doing things throughout our marriage to prevent having children, including several abortions. The big shocker was that prior to our knowing each other, she had a child out of wedlock.
Later that afternoon, I went by the farm. My wife gave me a cup of tea, laced with cadmium and arsenic. It put several hundred holes in my intestine. The doctors in Atlanta couldn’t figure out why I was still alive two days later. I still have a nylon mesh in my abdomen, because that wonderful experience. Attempted murder is grounds for divorce in anybody’s Bible! That I did without hesitation.
I never saw Barbara again. While drugged in Charlottesville, she had also been infected with a hybrid version of the STD-HPV virus that causes cancer in women. She soon came down with an aggressive form of cervical cancer and died a martyr for democracy a couple of years later, despite the best possible medical care that the US Department of Justice could provide. The truth is that if Barbara and I had consummated an immoral affair, she would have never gone on that date in Charlottesville and probably would be my loving wife and mother of our children today. Ethics is a tricky thing and we live in a X-Files world.
My honesty backfires
I figured that with those sorts of experiences, I would never hear from the CIA. However, at about 9:30 the next morning, a senior administrator at the CIA called me up.
His first words were, “Richard, can you fly up here tomorrow? We need you right now! Do you realize that you scored higher than most of the people in this building, including myself . . . field officers with 20 to 30 years experience? You scored a hundred on your visual intelligence test. Very few people have ever done that.”
“Well, we also need you here for your sense of humor. That application that you sent us last night is a hoot. It has been passed around all over the building this morning and everybody is rolling in the floor laughing . . . goat farmer living in a chicken house in the Georgia Mountains . . . how did you dream that one up? And the thing about the investigation into the organized crime in the Shenandoah Valley . . . are you writing a novel? It is going to be better than anything that Tom Clancy ever wrote. You’ve been there and done it. Clancy’s novels about the CIA are pure fiction. ”
“Okay, humor aside . . . who do you actually work for now? . . . NSA? Homeland Security? We know that there are a lot of domestic terrorist groups down there in the Southern Appalachians.”
I responded, “Just as I told you, I am a homeless architect, living in a chicken house in Union County, GA. That questionnaire said that I could go to prison, if I lied.”
He laughed. “Okay, you can’t tell us. We understand. We have people here, who can’t tell the public where they work. However, when you get up here this week, you will have to submit an actual application. I will get you a security clearance so you can tell us where you work.”
“Where did you get all that combat experience? You scored close to a 100 on asymmetrical warfare. The Defense Department has no record of you being a combat veteran. Are you a former mercenary?”
I responded, “I guess that was from fighting Army National Guardsmen and Rangers from Fort Detrick on my farm in Virginia. You know that was the site of the Battle of Toms Brook in 1864.” He laughed uncontrollably and said, “Okay, okay, okay . . . you can’t tell us up here.”
“There is one other thing. You had a bogus birthdate on your application. We have a photograph of you and three dogs taken by the FBI last year, while you are camping in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. We could tell that you were not just out of college, but your funny descriptions of intelligence work experiences seemed out of proportion to a person your age. What is your real age?”
I told him that my age on the application was correct and he cussed a bit. He said that his program was primarily for recruits 30 years and younger . . . at the max 40 years old with special qualifications. He said that I could be a CIA contractor and that he would recommend me to the department that handles recruitment of new contractors.
I was transferred on the phone to his counterpart . . . who was laughing his head off, when he picked up the phone. He said that with eight years of college and two professional certifications, he could contract with me at the rate of a senior professor with a PhD – specializing in Mexico, Central America and Scandinavia. That would be $85,000 year plus a housing subsidy. Could I live with that figure for awhile, until I proved myself? Seems that my application had reached his department too.
I filled out the forms for being a CIA contractor, but never heard back from them. Nevertheless, the unusual analytical skills that I gained while living in the Land of the X-Files would become useful in a couple of months. I would discover the Track Rock Terrace Complex and soon be totally immersed in the journey to discover North America’s true history. And now you know!