Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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Fletcher E. Driscoll felt the day getting warmer. He was in the back seat of a Land Rover, blindfolded. It must be noon, he thought, bouncing along what seemed to be a crude jungle road. Every so often he felt the vehicle dig into soft ground, and heard the splashing of water. Streams were being crossed, thought Driscoll. He began counting them, but lost his place between 17 and 18. Driscoll felt hungry and took several fresh donuts he had brought with him for the journey out of the pocket of his J. Press tropical seersucker. The intense heat had melted one chocolate donut. Driscoll felt the chocolate in his pocket. He saved what he could with his fingers.
This was Driscoll’s first field assignment as an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. After six years of seasoning at Headquarters, he was on station in the Philippines on a highly sensitive mission.
“Here!” someone screamed, as the Land Rover came to a sudden halt.
Driscoll felt several hands on him, guiding him out of the vehicle. Other hands took off the blindfold, and Driscoll was facing a devastatingly beautiful redheaded woman.
“I am The Tooth Fairy,” said the woman. Life leaped from her eyes. “Are you Driscoll, the American spy?”
“Actually, I’m only empowered to say that I’m Fletcher Driscoll and I’m a salesman for Johnson Real Estate and Personnel Service, Box, 109, New Orleans, Louisiana,” said Driscoll. This is the cover he was told to use at Headquarters. But, looking at the radiant Tooth Fairy with her red hair and yellow beret, he had to add, “You know how it is, Miss Fairy.”
Fletcher Driscoll was recruited into the CIA while a senior at Brown University. He was typical of the CIA’s intelligence agents since its creation in 1947. He was from an Ivy League background, an acceptable prep school, he had been a Life Scout as a Boy Scout, but this had more to do with several liaisons with merit badge counselors than prowess at Scout skills.
He had no notion of morality as the principle is generally understood. He would pursue any thing any way.
As an individual, Driscoll had some flaws, it was widely agreed. His closest friends would describe him as a disaster looking for a place to happen. He was the kind of person people instinctively moved away from in a movie theatre. When alone, he’d yack and yack to himself.
At Brown, he was an agriculture student, attempting to develop a flammable milk. He went to see the CIA recruiter visiting the campus, a Mr. A Hoey. Driscoll felt naked as he walked into the little office, Mr. Hoey’s eyes scanning his body, up and down, back and across, diagonally and in circles. Driscoll directed his gaze out a window. It was Spring, the grass on the Brown campus freshly green.
“There ain’t no cheap labor no more,” said A. Hoey.
Driscoll thought he’d like to sit. He stared at a chair.
“I remember the Pharaoh’s whips,” said Hoey.
“Jesus,” murmured Driscoll.
“Let’s go,” said Hoey. He directed Driscoll to a chair, not the one the young man had been looking at but another, next to a wall. Hoey took some wires from a black briefcase next to the chair, which he taped to Driscoll’s nose and wrists and, after rolling up his pants, to his knees.
Hoey explained, “You have been wired for truth.” At the CIA Driscoll would for many years take polygraph tests. He would roll up his pants virtually every time he went in to see anybody.
“So you want to be a spy?” Hoey asked Driscoll.
“Have you ever fought anything?”
“I fought pimples, sir. I fought pimples plenty hard.”
“Skin — you’ve had trouble with your skin?” asked Hoey. Driscoll looked closely at the intelligence man’s face. He had dark, piercing eyes and a green nose, as green as the grass outside the window.
Then, Driscoll himself asked, “Can being a spy be dangerous?”
“Hardly ever,” said Hoey. “Spies don’t ordinarily kill each other, you understand. We in the CIA, the KGB, the apparatus in China and so forth — we kill other people, a good deal of other people, and we use our noggins about how to kill more, but we don’t kill each other. Spies don’t kill other spies.”
“That’s good, sir,” said Driscoll.
“Certainly,” said Hoey. “If one spy killed another spy that could prompt the associates of the dead spy to kill you and your associates, and this would change the entire game — lead to a whole new situation.”
It was an odd existence for Driscoll working out of Headquarters for the next six years. He knew few people in the agency, virtually nothing about anybody he worked with other than Richard, with whom he shared an office. But Driscoll didn’t know Richard’s last name. He knew, however, that Richard had gone to Princeton. They were chiefly involved in reading and computing reports filed by informants within the Saudi Arabian Forest Service. He was briefly involved in an attempt to get energy from the common Popsicle. Then, suddenly, Driscoll got his first field appointment.
A secretary in a department Driscoll had never heard of (Code Word: Polyester People) telephoned to tell him to report immediately to Room A-139-b. Driscoll headed up and down several corridors, took several elevators, rolled up his pants, and walked into the room.
An N. Rugoff, the briefing officer, told him his target was a wily Filipino guerilla dubbed The Tooth Fairy. The Tooth Fairy and her gang of men and women were rampaging and burning. The CIA was concerned for the local bamboo.
“The free world,” the briefing officer said, “requires a stable supply of saxophone reeds.”
The Philippine bamboo The Tooth Fairy band was tramping and setting fire to represented the best saxophone reed material outside Southern France on the entire planet.
Driscoll stayed at the Holiday Inn in Manila. He then rented a dug-out canoe, for a three-week minimum, and headed up river to the town of Bagulo. Once there he lunched at the local Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise with Imo Efluvio, the Bagulan informant. Efluvio thought that the breath of this American agent smelled like the exhaust pipe of a Mack truck. The informant pointed out to Driscoll various other agents in the room, from other nations, and Driscoll nodded — in a nervous first try at an introduction in these matters — about the room. He didn’t know any of the other agents, of course, this being the first time out in the field, but he knew that someday he would know them all in the great fraternity of intelligence.
The next morning, Driscoll was in the back of the Land Rover heading into the jungle north of Bagula, being taken to the hide-out of The Tooth Fairy by some members of her gang. Imo Efluvio had made the arrangements.
And now, his blindfold removed, the Tooth Fairy stood before him.
“What handsome trousers you have on,” The Tooth Fairy said.
“What is it you’d like?” said the woman.
“My firm,” said Driscoll, “would like it if you stopped stomping all over and setting fire to the bamboo around here.”
“How would you like your face cast in chocolate pudding?” declared The Tooth Fairy.
Driscoll was taken back. “What is that you mean?” he asked.
The Tooth Fairy marched off abruptly, leaving Driscoll to decide his next move. For the next three days he stayed inside one of the orange umbrella tents which composed the camp, listening to the gang play the William Tell Overture on garbage cans, but making no contact with The Tooth Fairy.
Then, on the fourth morning, Driscoll rose to the smiling radiant face of The Tooth Fairy peering into the front flap of his tent, saying: “Fletch.”
She had intense indigo eyes. One eye was pointing a little too far to the right, and the effect was minutely crossed eyes, Driscoll mused. But what eyes nevertheless! Her lips, thought Driscoll, had the delicate contours of Chinese china. Just to kiss them gently!
“Would you like to go with us today?” asked The Tooth Fairy.
“Yes, that would be OK,” said Driscoll.
Driscoll had no luggage. He had an extra pair of socks, a plastic model he was planning to assemble and a vial of Sandfly Fever venom.
Of course he had no gun.
“Would you like to borrow a gun?” asked The Tooth Fairy.
“No, not at all,” said Driscoll. He explained how “in the intelligence game” agents don’t routinely carry guns. “We try to do it like the Bobbies,” said Driscoll, unless a gun was a required for a special “contract.”
But, Driscoll explained, his little vial of Sandfly Fever venom could kill 10,000 people.
Driscoll followed The Tooth Fairy to where her gang had assembled, and they marched off into the jungle, followed by a 1946 De Soto sedan filled with bottles of wine.
“As to this matter of bamboo,” Driscoll persisted.
“Well, on that,” said The Tooth Fairy, “if you do what we want — I’ll do what you want.”
“What is it you want?” asked Driscoll.
“Money,” said The Tooth Fairy.
“Well, that’s the easiest thing of all,” said Driscoll. “One thing we have plenty of is money. My company has oodles of money. How much do you want.”
To stay away from the bamboo, $60 million,” said The Tooth Fairy.
“Why not $75 million?” said Driscoll.
“Fine, $75 million it’ll be,” said The Tooth Fairy.
That night, when the gang made camp, Driscoll placed his blankets next to the Tooth Fairy’s. Under the eerily glowing Philippine moon, they made love — or tried to. Driscoll had some difficulty.
“You should really take Vitamin E,” said The Tooth Fairy. Driscoll said it was because he was nervous.
The next day the gang held up a truck carrying Danish butter cookies from Luzon to Bagulo. Driscoll stayed back in the jungle, well hidden, while the heist went on. Later and into the night they feasted on the cookies and wine.
The gang left Driscoll on the highway, and headed back to the camp with the truck. Driscoll promised he’d arrange for an air drop of a large check.
He strode along the hot highway for many hours before coming upon a little village where he drank nearly a gallon of Coca Cola, and made a call to Imo Efluvio in Bagulo. Efluvio picked him up on his Lambretta scooter.
The next evening Driscoll was back in Reston, Va., being de-briefed by N. Rugoff.
“You’ve done well,” said N. Rugoff, as he took the wires off Driscoll’s nose, wrists and knees.
The agent was advised that his next assignment would take him to Antarctica. “You’ll be on your own,” said Rugoff to Driscoll, “but we know you can do it.”
Driscoll left Room A-139-b at Headquarters with a lilt in his gait. He had done his first mission, he had performed his nation’s business and he had met and petted to climax with a beautiful woman.