Keith accepted the steak and the beers. He had his dinner. Afterwards he lay and tried to take a nap. He couldn’t because he was tense. All the shit about Cayman Operation, and its connections, came to his mind. He got up, anxious. He turned on the lights, walked round the room and finally sat at a table. He opened his briefcase and took out some sheets of paper. He made some drafts. He wrote a letter and made some notes about his discoveries. The letter addressed to Ralph would be posted the following day as a matter of security. The day was dawning when he fell asleep at the table.
As soon as he woke up, he searched for his watch and checked the time: 7:12 am. He went to the bathroom, washed his face and had a quick shower. He threw everything he had into a suitcase, put his notes into his hand luggage. He went to the hotel lobby, posted the letter to Ralph and ordered a taxi. He paid the bill, said goodbye in a friendly way, handed out a few tips and got into the first taxi he saw.
“To the airport, please.”
“Sure, senor,” answered the driver.
The boot was closed and the car get off. He was seeing the streets of San Salvador for the last time. That chapter of his life was over. He was going back to London, to a civilized country, where living was not so risky nor so difficult.
“Are you going on a trip, senor? ,” asked the driver.
“I’m off to Europe.”
“Ah, I could tell by the accent. Where’re you from?”
The driver, a fat man with long hair, continued with his questions. “Did you like being with us ? The night life ? What about las chicas?”
Keith answered in a friendly way. Words fell innocently from his lips. It was good to talk about different things. The world was lighter again. The streets were passing by. Keith felt himself released and sad. “You’re extraordinary people. Progress’ll be a reality here,” said Keith.
The traffic light turned red.
“Are you in a hurry?”
“A little bit, why?”
“I’d like to buy some cigarettes on the corner,” the driver said.
“Please, go and buy two packets,” answered Keith, handing over some change.
The driver stopped the car and got out. He bought the cigarettes and came back. He got into the car and took a long time to get it started.
“Anything wrong ?” asked Keith.
“I think so.”
A black long cane, pointed at the journalist’s forehead made him understand the situation.
“A second, senor. Don’t move and nothing’ll happen,” said the man.
A partner came out of the bar and entered the car by the rear door. He sat beside the journalist and pulled out a gun. The driver took his revolver and returned to the steering-wheel. The car moved off.
“What do you want from me ?” asked Keith, after recovering from the shock.
“A little conversation…”
“Do you want money?”
“That’s not a bad idea.”
“How much ?”
“How much are you offering ?”
“Come on, you have much more than this. We wouldn’t betray the organization for so little.”
“Who do you work for?”
“You’ll know some day.”
“Please, senor O’Brien, be quiet. Talking won’t help you. Cooperate with us and nothing will happen to you.” The car turned off the road to the airport and went towards the coast.
Ten o’clock in the morning. Antonia was getting impatient at the airport. She telephoned the Hotel Granada. It was almost two hours since Keith had left. Her hand was shaking as she replaced the receiver. She had a strange feeling.
The taxi was parked on a deserted road, near the sea. The three men walked through the vegetation to the edge of a high cliff.
“Hey guys, what do you want ? A thousand ? Three thousand ? …I’ve got much more. Do you want me to tell you anything ?”
Keith tried to speak. One of the men was pushing him forward with an automatic gun in his back. The other man with a gun in his hand wasn’t speaking. He was searching the journalist’s briefcase. Keith noticed something and shut up.
“Why don’t you finish it ?” he shouted at them.
He was pushed.
“Goodbye, Mr. O’Brien.”
The cliff was more than a hundred metres high. Dark rocks appeared in the sea below. Keith’s body whirled in the air. He turned slightly to the left. The journalist thought inside and forgot everything. Suddenly the body turned again and sank in the sea.
From the top of the cliff the two men continued checking the reporter’s leather briefcase.
“How much does he have here?”
“I’ve already found 1200 dollars.”
“And in this pocket ?”
“A lot of paper, certainly a report. Do you read English?”
” A little bit.”
“You, being from the Caribbean, should understand the foreigner’s language better.”
“I can read it. Give me those documents.”
The Russian passed the notes to the driver. Frowning, he tried hard to read. While he was testing his ability in English, the other cleaned out the briefcase and took what was worthwhile.
“Everything’s done. Let’s get out of here.”
“Yes, but first I need to tell you one thing,” said the driver, looking up.
“Come on, speak.”
“We’re trapped. The guy came here to find out the truth. This material contradicts the story he published.”
“Don’t bullshit me!”
“Me ? I wish I were. It says here that CIA was responsible all the time. And there’s proof. He says that Cayman Operation was one of the most successful operations in counter-espionage ever carried out. And we did this…”
The two looked at the document.
“We’re in trouble… And now? Let’s see the targets… If we take this to USSR …”
“…they’ll break our necks for killing the man.”
“Right. He’s disappeared. Let’s do the same with these documents. Nobody saw, nobody heard. Everything will be as it was.”
The two moved to the edge of the cliff and threw the papers away. In the distance, two men hidden in the trees were observing the scene through binoculars. One of them took out a cigarette, pulled out his lighter with the mandragore and smiled:
“The case is over. They did the job for us.”
The Englishman’s body, his briefcase and his notes weren’t found. In the letter addressed to Ralph, written in the hotel on the eve of his disappearance, there was this report:
“Ralph, old chap,
The living always reappear! I’m still taking risks because of what I’ve discovered these last few days. I’m off to London tomorrow morning and I can’t wait to tell you everything I know. I was a victim of a damned trick arranged by the CIA, Cayman Operation, executed with the purpose of spoiling the Soviet’s policy of glasnost. I arrived today in San Salvador, coming from the mountains. You can’t imagine what I went through and how happy I am knowing that I’ll escape on flight 734. After this thing, I’ll change my life. Closeness to death makes us think twice.
Adventures? Only with life insurance. I’m stubborn, but I’ve thought recently about quitting. Ralph, what about investing money in something related to international business? You’ll know personally what I’m talking about. “I can’t sleep and I need to kill time. So, I’m trying to formulate my ideas. The CIA wanted someone important in the international press to give credence to their plan. Guess who was chosen? I not only put out the story, but I did more, I defended it with all my strength. The CIA planned and executed the Operation, Ralph! How? Well, how! The counter-espionage Agency convinced Yuri to change sides at the beginning of the year for a few million dollars. What a good bribe can do to the best of spies! Yes, but the idiot didn’t get his hands on it. He, who was a bridge between the KGB and the European Terrorist organizations, started to play the American game. The staff from Special Operations and from the Latin-American Service did a good job. They made Yuri contact men from the European left and mercenaries who were sent to El Salvador thinking they were taking guns to the guerrillas. What happened, in fact, was that the CIA was buying sophisticated weaponry on the European Market, which today is in the possession of the Salvadorean army. This load arrived at the correct destination, breaking the embargo on military aid for the El Salvador government.
“Guns for the army, prison for the European terrorists (specially guerrillas from the People’s Army) and the scandal that undermined the process of detente with the Soviets, everything weakened the guerrilla movement and restored North-America’s reputation. For that they counted on the”capacity” of a brilliant man who was used to transmit false news. Is it possible to continue in journalism after that? Ralph, have you ever thought of doing anything else in your life? You stay there, sitting in your room, collecting data… it doesn’t help. This information doesn’t form a coherent picture. Sometimes it just seems to be a war of words. Life, old chap, is missing from the pages of your newspaper. In Central America, you must be on the right side. The information we have access to as journalists could be a good earner in the business world. Later you can help the side you want to win the battle. But that’s another story. Do you want to know more?
“While the transport operation and the contracting of men was organized, the journalists who were going to Central America were certainly following the story. The rest is easy, isn’t it? As I was chosen to break the news, they didn’t allow me to have contacts with the other side. I was constantly followed. The meeting with the guerrillas, arranged in a brothel in San Salvador, had to be avoided. They killed everybody. Enrique,”the guerrilla”, who passed information in La Guardia, didn’t have anything to do with the left wing. He was connected to the Agency and was killed to destroy”the file.” And the men who were guarding the barns where the special containers were managed to escape. They are”disappeared” till now. They were, by an amazing coincidence, men trusted by the Agency. One of them was my cell-mate when I was arrested by the guerrillas.
“Yuri is the other one who was screwed. He was betrayed by the CIA. He was left without the million dollars that he expected to be paid after the operation and at the end of the story he was sent to prison and condemned in El Salvador. He’ll be killed soon, for sure. Domingos was also involved in the trap. In charge of escorting me, he was the one who took me to the performance in that abandoned farm. Domingos played his role perfectly. Later, he received his”payment” from the Americans and went to spend the money in Europe. If I hadn’t met him accidentally in the South of France, I would never have discovered the truth.
“We gringos, as they say here, can’t lose, Ralph. You’ve never been far from the comfort of your armchair. You can’t imagine how much it costs to have the pleasure of smoking your favourite cigarette. In prison, I discovered that I was born to own things. Everything, Ralph, it doesn’t matter which side you’re on.
“Day is breaking. Despite all this craziness, there’s still Antonia. I found out that she was used, like me. By the way, very few people knew all the truth about the operation. Who is the son of a bitch that is laughing now in Washington, thinking he is a genius?
“There are a lot of pieces in this puzzle of bad taste called Cayman Operation. I’ve passed many hours racking my brain to understand the trick. Where should I start my next article ? From what Yuri told Philippe ? No, it doesn’t make sense. You can’t imagine how much I got in that cell ! Poor guy… What a man won’t say when he is close to death…He talked a lot, explained many things. My return to London will be brief. I’ll be anonymous when I arrive. This is what I’ve got to do at this time. I’d like to meet the wife of the American prisoner and tell her what happened. Evellyn… I’ve got her address. There is also a contact with an agent that I must try. I should say that there are new clues in the case. Maybe there won’t be a new story. I don’t want to be divided anymore, half journalist, half human being. Ralph, there are other things that interest me in that circus in Latin America. “I’m sleepy. I want to sleep but I can’t. I’m going to wait till the day begins. Now I only think about flying to London… Put on some of the weight I’ve lost…I want my CD playing Night and Day, the enchanting sound of Lee Konitz and one whole night with Antonia.”
1989 – Copyright of the Portuguese version by