Every kid goes through a lot of first-time experiences. You know, first long pants like my older brothers had, first adult-size pillow, first bicycle, first BB gun and many other firsts a kid has to fight for and can almost taste before he gets them.
At the outer fringes of my youth and well over sixty years of age, I am still a kid a heart. So I really was interested in my first Spook event. No, it’s too late for Halloween, I mean another kind of spook, entirely.
You see, I was at a hamburger place recently. I agreed to meet with a fellow radio Ham and a man who said he had once been with the CIA. I wanted background material for my next book, which is highly complimentary of the CIA and US Intel agencies. I had asked the CIA and others for help with the project, so I know they know what I am doing. I have no secrets. A little advertising is always a lot of help.
So I got to the restaurant and waited for the other two men to show up. The Ham came first. Having worked in the electronics industry, George is a few years older than I and has many more years of electronic experience. I don’t know what he worked on. He isn’t allowed to tell me and he doesn’t. Maybe he didn’t even work on electronics.
We started with a pair of lemonades while we waited for Jack, the third guy. George and I sat in a booth in the back of the restaurant where we hear but could not be overheard. He chose the booth. We talked for a few minutes and I made notes. It was subtle, but I noticed that George changed topics and began to tell me about things he had mentioned before. Soon he was telling innocuous stories about physics. It was hard for me to follow. Something was plainly wrong. I thought it was because Jack had not showed up and he was stalling for time.
Eventually Jack arrived and sat down. He was very vague as well. He went to get himself a lemonade. I noticed a man sitting in a booth facing ours. He was reading a girly novel and holding the book in a peculiar fashion. I thought little about him.
When Jack returned he suggested moving to another booth. There, he sat against the wall where he could see out across the room. He and George made remarks to each other that I did not understand. I told them, “You guys are like twins who have your own private language. I wish I knew what was going on.” At that moment, the reader stood and called for a waitress. He told her there was a package under the table where we had been sitting. She came over and got it to put in their “lost and found” drawer. It belonged to Bill, so he asked her for it.
George and Jack laughed. Jack said “I’ll tell you in a minute.” He waited until the book reader left. Then Jack said, “We’re being watched. George and I are used to it. There were two men in here keeping an eye on us. One just left. He could have just given that package to us, but he didn’t want us to look at him. We can go ahead and talk now.”
Of course I asked about the two men. I felt dumb because I wasn’t aware of all that was going on around me. (I usually am aware of my surroundings, but I was focused on getting answers to questions about Spookisms I had generated while writing.)
We talked for quite a while. Another man came in, a radio Ham whom George and I knew, but Jack did not. We made introductions. And then George began chatting with the new guy. Jack said out of the corner of his mouth, “George is keeping him busy so we can talk, so go ahead.” It was such a smooth transition that neither the new guy nor I had noticed it. Once again, I was angry with myself because I missed the maneuvering.
Nevertheless, I learned new things to put in my book, which is nearing its last chapter. When the interview was about over, I gave Jack a copy of my last book and wrote a dedication in the cover to him. George wanted him to read it. He thought it might have enough interesting material in it for a documentary film. Jack produces films on the side.
Jack thanked me for the book. He was interested in my unfinished book, he said, for its documentary value. He didn’t know about Ploughshares, my current book about Caltech and its secret operations during WWII.
I looked around for more watchers, didn’t see any, and left the restaurant, happy that I may have obtained enough material to complete my next book.
I couldn’t help but wonder at whom the spooks were really directing their attention and how they knew we would be at that restaurant at that time, and so on.
It was later that I realized I had experienced another “first.” It was the first time I had been “spooked.” Getting a new bike is more fun.