UNITED STATES PENITENTIARY, LEAVENWORTH
The man in the rumpled three-piece suit waited in front of Warden Hal Jennings’s desk. He stood with his battered briefcase clutched in both hands and was using it as if it were a talisman of some sort as he waited for his ruse to either pass muster, or for his deception to be found out. If he was found out it would be nothing more than an embarrassing episode and predicament he would eventually talk his way out of.
He watched the warden’s eyes as he read the letter. Without looking up at the man in the light blue suit, horn-rimmed glasses, and thinning red hair, the warden—who had been running the federal side of Leavenworth—placed his hand on his phone and picked up the receiver.
“Annie, connect me with the FBI field office in Topeka, I need a name run … Yes, tell Special Agent-in-charge Klinemann it’s for me, right. Thank you.”
The visitor in the blue suit smiled as the warden hung up the phone.
“Precautionary. It’s not that we don’t trust you … it’s more like—”
“It’s that you don’t trust me.” The man in the rumpled suit smiled.
The warden smiled and then relaxed. “Yeah, something like that. More or less. I was giving you a chance to back out of here without getting arrested if you’re lying to me. Trying to see this man you believe is here, if that man existed, could get you placed right next to him in an available cell, or worse.”
“Oh, the man exists. That’s what we do in our business, Warden Jennings—we make sure we have precise information.”
The phone buzzed and the warden picked up the receiver just as the door opened to the office and a large prison guard stepped in. He stood at the door with his eyes on the warden’s visitor. The speaker button was pushed and the phone was placed back into the cradle. Jennings wanted this man to hear his report firsthand from the secretary outside.
“Go ahead, Annie.”
“His credentials check out. Hiram Vickers, federal employee number 397-12-0989. Departmental information is unavailable but he is a confirmed employee at the Langley, Virginia headquarters facility.”
“Thank you, Annie, that’s enough. We just needed to match his identification with his story.”
The visitor watched the warden end his call and slide Vickers’s CIA identification back to him across the large desk.
“You will speak to Prisoner 275698 on his one-hour exercise period. If he refuses to speak to you that is his prerogative. The only men and women that have direct contact with him are corporate types or weapons theorists in which he has an obligation to speak to according to presidential order, and right now those orders do not include you. I am doing this as a favor to a sister agency. Any deviation from speech or any attempt to touch Prisoner 275698, and you will be shot without warning from the tower. If he refuses to speak with you there will be no comment, no persuasive banter. You will turn away from the exercise yard and exit where a guard will escort you from the facility. Are you clear on the rules?”
“Yes, very clear. I believe the man will wish to speak with me.” The visitor reached for his identification and placed it in his suit jacket.
“Then you have one hour. The guard will escort you to the exercise yard.”
The visitor smiled and nodded his head and turned away.
“Mr. Vickers,” the warden said, bringing the tall man to a stop before he reached the open door being held in place by the large guard.
“Remember, the prisoner you are meeting has no name, has no dossier; in general, he has no life inside or outside these walls. According to special order he does not even exist. If you attempt anything out of the range of description that I have outlined to you, you will be arrested and you will not leave here.”
“One of your special rules, I take it?”
“No, Mr. Vickers, not my rule at all but someone else’s. It’s another name that you may be familiar with—he’s called the commander-in-chief.”
Vickers smiled. “Yes, so I understand. But he is also a lame duck president who seems to have pissed a lot of people off.” Vickers smiled as he started to turn around but stopped and eyed the warden. “And he is also a president you may not want to align yourself so closely with in the near future. Tossing his name around will only make those men and women in power remember your name, Warden.”
The warden watched the arrogant man turn and leave his office with a smug air about him. The not-so-veiled threat hung in the air as the door closed. The man who had been in the federal prison system for thirty-one years wanted to go after the arrogant little bastard and slap him around, and for the life of him he didn’t understand why. His thoughts were interrupted by his door opening after a soft knock. It was his secretary.
“I’m stepping out for lunch, would you care for anything?” the small bespectacled woman asked.
“No, just let me know in an hour when our friend here is done speaking with our guest. I want to make sure he and our prisoner are still in place afterward.”
Annie nodded and left. She made her way downstairs and instead of heading for the lounge area staffed for the management end of Leavenworth, she went right and headed for the small area on the grass where men and women usually ate their lunches on fine days such as this. She didn’t have to look around as she sat. Lunch for most was after the noon hour, so she found herself sitting alone. She smiled and nodded her head at two passing guards and then easily brought the cell phone to her ear. She punched a preselected number—one she had never had to use before.
“Yes, this is Annie Kline in Kansas. Is this Mr. Jones?”
She waited only a moment until a voice answered at the other end.
“Yes, Mr. Jones, this is Annie at Leavenworth. We’ve had a visitor for our special guest that was not on the official rolls of authorized visitors. Yes, his name is Hiram Vickers, CIA. Yes, sir … yes, sir, one-hour visit. Before you hang up, Mr. Jones, this man won’t be in any sort of trouble, will he, because of my actions?”
She waited as a man she had never met explained the realities of life to her from afar.
“Yes, sir, the fifty thousand dollars will come in very handy, but I don’t wish to get into trouble. I’m just telling you about a visit to an unnamed prisoner. Yes, I will forward a copy of his ID to you at your office after the warden goes home for the evening. Thank you.” She ended the call and then looked up at the imposing structure of USP Leavenworth—and wondered if her small act as informant would go unnoticed in an ever-worrisome world.
* * *
The visitor was passed through no less than five security checks on his way to the meeting. Each set of guards eyed him as if he had requested to visit Charlie Manson. The man’s prison number drew looks of distaste from each and every man or woman he came across. He soon found himself standing in an enclosed concrete area with high walls and fences. There was no view of the grounds outside those walls and the only evident threat was a guard tower with a uniformed man watching him with a slung Ruger Mini-14 on his back. The eyes of the guard never left the visitor.
Hiram Vickers saw the man in the