The Revenge of the Imam (Short Story by PLN; December 1979)

TEHRAN

The minarets of Tehran poked gracefully through the reddish haze of a Persian sunset. The whine of the Paris-bound 747’s engines masked the sounds of turmoil on the ground below where thousands of Muslim faithful scurried to the mosques, but it could not mask the turmoil on the faces of the two Iranians seated in the aircraft’s upstairs lounge. A third man, a Frenchman, stared out the window and reflected on the events of the previous several weeks

Fools, he thought to himself. They should have realized that you cannot terrorize Americans.

It had been nearly three months since the young Muslim radicals had captured the American Embassy, three months since the impasse had begun. And still there was no sign that either side was ready to weaken. The youngest of the Iranians, black-bearded, lean, with the unmistakable look of religious fire in his eyes fidgeted nervously and stared at the Frenchman. As one of the radical students, he realized only too well the futility and hopelessness of the situation. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the hated Shah, was not to be returned. There would be no revenge for the Imam Khoumeini and his legions of faithful.

“So it is your opinion, then, Monsieur LeClerc, that we have failed? That we have underestimated the Americans? That they will not, under any circumstances, return the Shah?”

“Yes, my friend, that is my point exactly. The most recent word that I have received through my people in America is that Carter will soon offer asylum to the Shah and that he will be allowed to live in exile somewhere in the United States.”

“Bastards!” The young man’s knuckles whitened as he gripped the arm of the seat. “Do they not understand why we must have the criminal Pahlavi returned? Are they not aware of the horrors our people were forced to endure under his oppressive regime? Have they no soul?”

“You still do not understand, do you, my fiery young friend? Americans become most bull-headed and stubborn when they are confronted with situations which violate their sense of values.”

“Sense of values? You talk to me of values? Americans are Satan! They have no values.”

“You must forgive my young companion, Monsieur LeClerc.” The older gray-bearded Iranian interrupted with a soft, gravelly voice. “His soul is still tortured by the fury of the revolution. He has not yet accepted the fact that Pahlavi was eluded our grasp.” He paused to ponder his thoughts, then continued. “Let us speak of more practical approaches. You said earlier that it would perhaps be possible to obtain the services of one who could, for a price, effect revenge for us. Is there such a man who would be able to crack even the security forces of the United States?”

The Frenchman nodded. “Yes, there is such a man. He has penetrated the security forces of many nations and is, in fact, much feared by even such organizations as the Soviet KGB. He is so elusive, so . . . shall we say . . . shadowy, that he has become known throughout the world as le Fantome, the phantom assassin.”

“But how can he do this? How can he work so freely where the rest of us would be so immediately apprehended?”

“He works under the blanket of total anonymity. And while it is true that he is ‘most wanted’ by nearly all governments, the fact is that no government has any idea as to who he is or what he looks like.”

“And how can such a man be contacted?”

“I have, in the past, been able to act as an intermediary. If it is your wish, I shall see if I can locate him.”

“And what are his charges? Certainly a man such as you describe must command a substantial fee.”

“His fee is one million dollars, payable in gold coin or bullion.” LeClerc paused to allow the gray-bearded one time to consider the magnitude of the cost of revenge. Are you still interested?”

The plane droned on through the rapidly darkening sky. The old Iranian stared silently out the window while his young companion muttered under his breath in Farsi. Finally, after many moments had passed, the old one said, “Yes, Monsieur LeClerc, we are still interested.”

“Good. Contact me at this number in Paris in exactly one week.” He scribbled a phone number on a scrap of paper. “Ask for Henri.”

GREEN PRAIRIE

In February, the fertile farmlands of southern Minnesota lie frozen under a blanket of snow. The small villages and towns which dot the landscape take on an almost postcard appearance as their quaint church steeples project proudly above the whitened prairies. And life goes on without interruption, no matter how distressing the news from foreign capitals may be. Green Prairie, population 931 (according to a sign posted at the city limits) was certainly no exception to the rule.

It was dark. Most of the town was sleeping; only a few homes were still lit up. Mel Phillips, the local Chief of Police, was making his rounds in the Village’s Police Cruiser. As he drove down Main Street, he kept a close eye on all the businesses which lined the two-block-long ‘downtown’ area. He thought he spotted a light in the rear part of Simpson’s Rexall Drug. It’s probably just Herb workin’ late, he thought to himself, but he decided he’d better check it out anyway. He parked the Police Criiser out front and walked to the door. He peered through the glass pane as he gently tapped on it with his gloved hand. A moment passed; a light in the front part of the store switched on, and a pleasant-looking man appeared. He peered through the glass, recognized Phillips, smiled, and opened the door.

“What’s up, Mel?”

“Not much, Herb. I just happened to see a light in your back room as I drove by, thought I’d better check it out. Not too many o’ you guys got the bad habit o’ workin’ this late.”

“Well, you know how it is, Mel. Hey! You look cold. Come on it and join me in a cup of coffee. I just started a fresh pot.”

“Don’t mind if I do, Herb. Thanks.”

Herb switched out the light up front as he and the Chief of Police walked toward the back room; he grabbed an extra cup from the shelf over the sink in the Pharmacy on the way. “Let’s see, Mel–you take cream, right?”

“Right.”

The coffee steamed as Herb set the cup down in front of Phillips, who took a quick sip, then asked, “So, what’s new, Herb? Anything exciting?”

“Oh, not much, Mel. I’m still looking for someone to buy the store.”

“Y’ are, huh? Don’t mind tellin’ y’, Herb, that most folk here’d rather y’ not sell, myself included.”

“Well, Mel, I really appreciate that. You know I do. But since Ellie died last year, things just aren’t the same. Know what I mean?”

“Yeah, guess I do. I s’ppose times get kinda hard, lonesome ‘n all that.”

“You’re not wrong there, Mel. Seems like every time I walk through my house or the store, I see something that makes me think of her. I don’t really even like to go home at night any more.”

“I guess I can appreciate that well enough. I sure can’t imagine what it’d be like if Molly wasn’t around.”

“That’s the thing, Mel. You can’t ever know till it happens to you. And, let me tell you, it’s not easy.”

“So, then, what’re your plans?”

“Well, tomorrow I’m going to St. Paul. I think I may have found a fellow that’s interested in the store. If he’ll make me the right offer, I’ll jump at it.”

“Then what? Figger you’ll stick around town? Or leave, maybe?”

“I’m not really sure, I guess. I’ll probably not even decide right away. I’d sort of like to travel a little bit, at least until the weather here warms up some. Then, we’ll see.”

“Well, Herb, you know how I feel about it. I mean, I wish you luck tomorrow, and all, but don’t pull up stakes completely without thinking’ things over first.”

“I won’t, Mel. I won’t.”

Mel glanced down at his watch, then stood up and said, “Well, time’s flyin’. Guess I’d better get a move on. Take care, Herb.”

“Ok, Mel, sure will. Thanks for stopping by.”

Herb locked the door after Mel Phillips had left, then decided that he, too, might as well ‘get a move on.’ It was late, he was tired, and tomorrow promised to be a big day. He put on his hat and coat, shut out the light, and walked outside, locking the door behind him. It was cold, bone-chilling cold. He hurried to his car and headed for home.

NEW YORK

“Roger Dunbar . . . Roger Dunbar . . . Roger . . . Ah! Here it is. 1723.” The uniformed messenger pushed the button under 1723 and waited.

“Yes?” A man’s voice crackled over the intercom.

“Telegram for Mr. Roger Dunbar.”

“Yes, of course, come on up.”

A buzzer sounded and unlocked the door. The messenger pushed it open and walked down the hall to the elevators. A moment later he was on the seventeenth floor, looking for 4723. He found it at the end of the hall, adjacent to another door marked “STAIRS”. He knocked on the door. There was a pause, followed by the sounds of bolts being thrown and keys being turned. The door opened; a moderately tall, well-dressed man appeared.

“Telegram for Mr. Roger Dunbar.”

“Yes, I’m Roger Dunbar.”

“Sign here, please.”

Dunbar signed the messenger’s tally sheet, then slipped him a five dollar bill as he accepted the telegram.

“Thank you, sir. THANK YOU!”

Dunbar closed the door with no reply. He walked back through the spacious foyer, past a pair of suitcases which stood in the hall closet. As he walked, he opened the telegram and glanced down at the message. It read, simply, “Contact LeClerc.” He crumpled it into an ashtray and set it afire, then walked across the room and picked up the telephone. “Overseas Operator, please. Yes, Operator, I’d like to call Paris. Montparnasse-6397. Yes, I’ll wait, thank you.” There was a lengthy pause, then, “I would like to speak with Henri, please.”

“Oui, Monsieur, moment s’il vous plait.”

“Henri.”

“Dunbar here.”

“Ah! Monsieur Dunbar. I’ve been waiting for your call. Can you be in Paris by tomorrow evening?”

“Yes, if it is urgent.”

“Good. And yes, my friend, it is urgent. I shall reserve a room for you for tomorrow evening at Hotel Royale Montparnasse, on Rue Iberville. I shall meet you for dinner at, shall we say, nine o’clock. Oui?”

“Yes, Henri. Nine o’clock, then.”

“Until tomorrow, mon ami.”

LACKLAND AFB, TEXAS

“So there you have it. The rumor that the State Department has offered the deposed Shah of Iran political asylum and permanent exile in the United States has been confirmed. The Shah will be leaving shortly for an as yet unannounced destination, where he will remain until a permanent domicile can be prepared and secured. For CBS News, this is Michael Kennedy, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.”

PARIS

“My name is Roger Dunbar. I believe you have a room reserved for me.”

The desk clerk flicked through a loose-leaf stack of papers, selected one, and said, “Ah, oui Monsieur Dunbar. Your room is ready. Please fill out the register and present your passport.”

Dunbar filled out the register, then handed it back to the clerk along with his passport. The clerk dutifully entered the passport number as he checked the rest of the information for agreement with the registration form. Dunbar was well aware of the French law which required all foreign hotel guests to present positive identification; he was also aware that the Surete and the SDECE (Service de Documentation Exterieure et de Contre-Espionage) regularly checked hotel lists, especially if there were problems afoot. But he had no reason for concern; he was, as always, operating openly.

The clerk rang a small bell on the desk. “The Bellman will assist you, Monsieur Dunbar. You will be in Room 401.”

“Yes, merci. By the way, what is the correct time?”

“Exactly seven minutes past eight, Monsieur.”

“Thank you.” Dunbar followed the Bellman to the elevator and rode to the fourth floor. Room 401 was just around the corner from the elevators, and across the hall. The room itself was modestly appointed; it contained only a bed, a chair, and a small table. There was a small closet and a private bath . . . a pleasant added touch, and quite unusual in small European hotels such as the Royale Montparnasse. Dunbar glanced around the room, found it in order, and handed the Bellman a five Franc note.

“Merci, Monsieur, merci.” The Bellman left and closed the door behind him. Dunbar loosened his tie as he walked across the room to the window. He pulled the curtain aside, and stared intently at the scene below. His room faced the street, and was approximately straight above the hotel’s main entrance. The cobbled Rue Iberville was narrow, and its flanks were lined with rows of three and four story brown-stoned buildings which contained small shops at street level and apartment flats on the upper floors. The buildings were occasionally separated from one another by darkened and narrow alleys. He noted that Rue Iberville curved a hundred meters beyond the hotel, and that two blocks distant in merged with a wide, well-lit street, the Boulevard Montparnasse.

He quickly showered and shaved, then dressed in a clean suit. He was to meet LeClerc at nine o’clock, but he wanted to look briefly around the hotel before they met. He locked the room as he left, glanced up and down the sparsely furnished corridor, then rode the elevator to the ground floor. The lobby was large, well-lit, and, he thought, rather ornate for a small hotel. In the center was a carpeted area on which were placed several tables, chairs, and a large leather-upholstered sofa which seemed to hearken back to a more gentle age. The entrance to the Royale’s bar and dining room was just beyond a darkened alcove, five meters to the left of the elevators.

Dunbar walked over to the carpeted area, selected a chair which allowed him an uninhibited view of the lobby, the desk, and the front doors, and sat down. It was two minutes till nine; LeClerc would arrive shortly.

At precisely nine o’clock the front door swung open and a short, round-faced, middle aged man in a heavy overcoat walked into the lobby of Hotel Royale Montparnasse. He glanced about as he removed his gloves, spotted Dunbar, and hurried over to greet him. “Monsieur Dunbar, “ LeClerc said as he extended his hand. “We meet again.”

“It’s been a long time, Henri.”

“Too long, mon ami, too long! Come. I have planned a sumptuous feast. We can walk, it is only a few blocks.

Dunbar dropped off his key at the desk, and he and LeClerc walked out of the hotel. Neither man took notice of the young black-bearded man who stood in the shadowed alcove near the entrance to the Royale’s bar and who watched them intently as they began their walk down the Rue Iberville.

As LeClerc and Dunbar walked the two blocks to Boulevard Montparnasse, LeClerc briefed Dunbar on the events of the previous week. “And the man with whom I have so far dealt is Yamani Sadr, the Iranian Minister for Islamic Affairs.”

“Does he act on behalf of the Iranian Government? Or is his a personal vendetta?”

“According to my sources in Tehran, Sadr is one of the few government officials who has the immediate ear of the Imam Khoumeini. Sadr was with the Ayatollah in France during most of the years of exile. He also most certainly harbors personal grudges against the Shah, though he has not spoken to me of them. His principal interest seems to be revenge for the Imam.”

“And what of his traveling companion? You earlier mentioned that Sadr was not alone when you first met.”

“Yes. He was with a young student from Tehran University, one of the Muslim fanatics involved in the capture of the American Embassy. His purpose for coming to Paris was not made clear, though he seems to be a constant companion to Sadr.

“A bodyguard, perhaps?”

“Yes, perhaps.” LeClerc paused in front of a small café on the Boulevard Montparnasse, glanced around, then offered the door to Dunbar. “We have arrived, mon ami. Ah, smell the delicious aromas!”

The interior of the café was small and smoke-filled, and there was indeed a pervading aroma of pungent sauces and fresh pastry. “LeClerc,” Henri announced to the Maitre’d.

“Oui, Monsieur, this way, please.”

He led them to the rear portion of the restaurant and seated them at an isolated table set for four. “There will be two more guests,” Leclerc said to Dunbar ans they sat down. Dunbar nodded.

A few moments later, the Maitre’d returned, followed by a gray-haired bearded man in traditional Middle-Eastern dress. LeClerc stood and greeted the Iranian with a slight bow. “Monsieur Sadr, meet Mister Roger Dunbar. Mr. Dunbar, please meet Yamani Sadr, Minister of Islamic Affairs for the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

“A pleasure, Minister Sadr.” Dunbar and Sadr shook hands as each formed first impressions of the other.

“And where is your young friend? We were expecting him to accompany you.” LeClerc’s voice suggest a slight irritation.

“He offers his apologies, Monsieur LeClerc, but he was taken ill this afternoon at his hotel.”

“Nothing serious, I hope?”

“No, not serious.”

“Good,” said LeClerc. “Then let us be seated and proceed with our business. I have taken the liberty of ordering our food and drink in advance so that we may devote our attentions to the matters at hand. Minister Sadr, I have briefed Monsieur Dunbar of your interest in his talents. Have you any questions which you would like to direct to Monsieur Dunbar?”

“Yes, I have some. If I may be direct, Monsieur Dunbar, your fee as quoted by Monsieur LeClerc seems a bit high. First of all, was my friend Henri correct when he spoke of one million US dollars in gold?”

“Yes, Minister Sadr, he was quite correct.”

“In what way would you expect payment?”

“One half million in advance, one half upon successful completion of the assignment, all payable directly to my account in Switzerland. If we come to an agreement, I shall advise you of the particulars regarding bank, account number, method of transfer, etc. I shall proceed only after the initial deposit has been confirmed.”

“A half million in gold represents a substantial investment. What guarantee do we have that you will complete your part of the arrangement?”

“You have no guarantee at all, Minister Sadr, other than that which is implicit in the fact that you are dealing with the one referred to the world over as Le Fantome, and that I have yet to fail a client.”

“I see. And what assurance do we have that you are the man Monsieur LeClerc has proclaimed you to be? How can we be certain that you are, indeed, ‘Le Fantome’?”

Dunbar stared intently at the old Persian. His steel-gray eyes grew cold; they looked almost sinister in the flickering candle light. “You have no assurance of that, Minister Sadr. You have only the guidance of your instinct to rely upon.”

Yamani Sadr sat silently, deep in thought. Several minutes passed before he finally spoke. “Mr. Dunbar, after considerable moments of agonizing thought, I have decided to accept your terms. I accept them with some degree of personal reservation, but, under the circumstances I can see no other way for the Iranian People to gain their revenge. I see no other way for Imam Khoumeini to avenge the years he spent in exile. I shall direct my people to make the proper arrangements with your bank in Switzerland. When will you begin?”

“When I judge the moment to be correct.”

“May we offer you assistance” We have access to PLO operatives all over the world.”
“I work alone. Any information which you obtain and feel may be of importance to me you should first provide to Monsieur LeClerc. He will see that it is properly forwarded.”
Henri LeClerc cleared his throat, then nodded affirmatively.

“And now, gentlemen,” said Dunbar as he slowly rose to his feet, “please forgive my haste, but there is much to be done. I shall be in touch, Henri. Minister Sadr, it has been a pleasure.”

They shook hands, and Dunbar turned, left the table, and moved quickly to the foyer. There, he donned his hat and coat and walked outside into the chilled Paris night. He breathed deeply, buttoned his coat, then began walking toward the Rue Iberville intersection a couple of blocks away. His mind quickly filled with visions of the events he foresaw to be forthcoming across the next several weeks. His preoccupation caused him to not notice the black-bearded figure slip into the shadows as he approached the corner of Rue Iberville where he turned and walked in the direction of the Hotel Royale Montparnasse.

His senses sharpened in the relative darkness of the side street; his perceptions changed and he was suddenly much more aware of the immediate surroundings. He passed beneath a relatively dim streetlight, and as he did so the corner of his eye caught a fleeting glimpse of a shadow just ahead . . . an alien shadow, he thought . . . a darting shadow that quickly vanished into the darkness ahead. He paused for a split second, his senses now sharp, then proceeded with no apparent change in pace. A scant twenty meters ahead, he noticed a dark gash between buildings–one of the narrow alleys he’d spotted from his hotel window. He slowed his pace; when he reached it, he suddenly, senses honed, veered his course and darted into the enveloping darkness. And there he waited.

A silhouette appeared at the entrance to the alley. It was barely illuminated by the dim street lamps, but still Dunbar could see enough detail to make it out. A moment passed as a lean, dark-bearded man paused at the alley’s entrance. Dunbar slowly and silently backtracked into the penetrating darkness of the alley’s recesses. He watched as the silhouette’s hand reached for a knife–he saw the final glint of light on the blade before the darkness engulfed. Dunbar continued his slow and deliberate retreat into the shadows until suddenly his honed senses reacted and he grabbed at a barely discernible shadow. There was a brief scuffle, then a barely audible gurgling sound echoed softly off the enclosing walls. A moment later, Dunbar emerged from the alley and continued his walk down Rue Iberville. The young black-bearded Iranian lay in the alley shadows, face down in a pool of blood. His knife was by his side, his throat cleanly cut.

Dunbar walked into the lobby of the Hotel Royale. His demeanor offered no clue to suggest anything was awry, to reflect the events of the previous few moments. He walked to the desk and said, “Key to 401, s’il vous plait.”

“Ah, yes, Monsieur Dunbar. Did you enjoy your evening?”

“Very much, yes. Thank you.”

Dunbar went straight to his room and immediately to bed. He was tired, and in the next few days there was much to be done. He welcomed the opportunity to sleep.

He was awakened a few hours later y a brisk knocking on the door. He rose cautiously, as was his habit, and moved toward the door. “Yes?”

“It is me, Henri.”

Dunbar opened the door slightly, looked out, and recognized the round face of LeClerc in the hallway. “Come in,” he said as he swung the door open.

“I am relieved to see that you are all right, my friend. I understand that you encountered a small problem as you returned to your hotel last evening.”

“A small problem, yes.” Dunbar replied. “Word of small problems travels rapidly in Paris.”

“The bumbling fools of the Surete keep me well-informed, in their own inadvertent manner.”

“Who was the young man?”

“Minister Sadr offers his apologies. Apparently his young friend, the one who did not show up at dinner last evening, did not believe that Roger Dunbar was Le Fantome, and he set out to prove that Yamani was an old fool.”

“I see. And what is the Minister’s mind now?”

“He has no countenance for young fools. He will cable your bank in the morning. A confirmation of deposit should be waiting for you by the time you return to New York.”

“So, then, we begin.”

“Yes, we begin. I have made arrangements to supply you with current and up-to-date information on any movement or occurrence which may be of influence to your plans. I have allowed the fools at the SDECE to become aware of my movements of late. They will, of course, assume that Le Fantome is active and will notify Interpol, who will, in turn, notify police agencies around the world. The FBI will then keep you informed of their movements as well as those of the Shah.”

“And how will they do that?” Dunbar was certain that LeClerc had made such arrangements, because he knew full well that LeClerc had a passion for information.

“As I said, Interpol will notify the FBI. This type of case . . . that is, a case involving cooperation with Interpol and the SDECE . . . will be handled by a Bureau Chief named Matthew Volnick. Mr. Volnick is currently enjoying an affair d’amore with his comely secretary, Miss Joan Woodcock, who is, of course, one of my people. She will feed all information to your contacts in America.”

“Henri, your genius remains unsurpassed.”

“Of course. But one problem arises from all this. By the time you are back in New York, Roger Dunbar may well have been tentatively identified as Le Fantome. I suggest you take appropriate measures.”

Dunbar nodded. The two men stood up, shook hands, and LeClerc slipped out of room 401. A moment later he tipped his hat to the desk clerk, whom he recognized as an agent of the SDECE, and then left the Hotel Royale Montparnasse. Dunbar, meanwhile, packed his bags and took a cab to the Paris airport.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

As Matthew Volnick walked into his office in the Headquarters building of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he had no inkling that this day would be anything other than routine. For some months, now, in fact, he had begun to wonder whether he’d been wise to accept the promotion from Field Chief Inspector to Bureau Chief. He missed the daily action and considered paper shuffling a poor substitute.

“Good morning, Mr. Volnick.” Volnick’s private secretary was already busy preparing the day’s reports. He appreciated her constant attention to all those unpleasant details which he found so easy to overlook. He also appreciated the attentions she had been paying him of late. She was, as far as he was concerned, the only good thing he had found in Washington.

“Good morning, Joan. Anything happening this morning?”

“You have only one message, sir. Field Inspector Samuels wants you to call him at his office.”

“Did he say what it’s about?”

“No, sir, he didn’t.”

“OK, well, get him on the line for me then. I’ll take it in my office.”

He walked into his office, sat down, and opened his briefcase. He had just begun to remove and arrange its contents when his intercom buzzed and Miss Woodcock’s voice announced that Joe Samuels was holding on line one.

“Hello, Joe. Matt Volnick here. What’s up?”

“Mornin’, Matt. Not a whole lot. I just thought you should know that I got a Telex from Interpol this morning. Seems that they had a line on some activities in Europe that the figured we should know about.”

“Concerning?”

“Well, you remember a few years back when the French were trying to track down that political assassin they thought was operating through a French intermediary?”

“Oh, yeah. The guy they called ‘the Phantom’, or something like that. Seems to me they never got him, though, if my memory serves me right.”

“No, they never did. In fact, they didn’t come up with a damned thing except a suspicion that this ‘Phantom’s’ intermediary was a little guy in Paris named LeClerc. Never could prove anything about him either, but the SDECE has been keeping him under routine surveillance ever since. Anyway, LeClerc has apparently surfaced again, and the SDECE wanted Interpol to apprise the rest of us.?

“Why? Was there something that made them think we should be involved? Sounds so far like it’s a French matter.”

“Well, apparently LeClerc just returned to Paris from Iran in the company of a couple of Iranians. One, a government official of some sort named Yamani something-or-other, also a young radical that was involved in the Embassy take-over.”

“Yamani Sadr. Khomeini’s Minister of Islamic Affairs?”

“Yeah, he’s the one. Anyway, about a week after they hit Paris . . . yesterday, in fact . . . Sadr and LeClerc met with a guy name Roger Dunbar. He apparently flew to Paris from New York at LeClerc’s request.”

“Is Dunbar American?”

“No, British. At least he travels on a British passport. But he did fly back to New York this morning.”

Volnick paused to consider what he’d been told so far. It still didn’t add up. In fact, he figured he could care less if some Limey dude was hanging around with a Frenchman; he’d always felt that combination deserved itself anyway. “So, what’s the rub, Joe? I still don’t get the connection.”

“Well, nothing is really too clear yet, but apparently the SDECE isn’t as concerned with any single event as they are with the trail of circumstances that seems to suggest that Dunbar may be the Phantom, ‘Le Fantome’ as their report says. Just last night, for example, after Dunbar and LeClerc met with Sadr, the Surete found Sadr’s young companion in an alley about a block from Dunbar’s hotel with his throat cut. They’re pretty sure that Dunbar wielded the knife.”

“Sounds to me like the little bastard got what he deserved. And now Dunbar’s supposedly heading back here? Maybe we oughtta hire him to go over to Iran and kick some asses for us.”

“The SDECE seems to think that he was hired, all right, but by Sadr and the Iranian Government, probably to help them dispose of the Shah. And, since we’ve just given him asylum, they thought we should at least be aware of LeClerc’s movements; that maybe we could look into this Roger Dunbar character, etc.”

“Yeah, well, I guess that all kind of makes sense. I don’t say there’s enough to warrant anything drastic on our part, at least not yet. But we’d better look into it. Tell you what. Get Scotland Yard to run down this Dunbar character, and have some of our people in New York see if they can come up with any information on Dunbar’s current whereabouts. If we can locate the guy, at least we can keep our eye on him for awhile.”

“Yeah, OK. I’ve already started most of that, so I’ll let you know if anything turns up.”

“Good show, Joe. Let me know if nothing turns up too, OK?”

“You got it, Matt. Talk to you later.”

As Volnick hung up the phone, Miss Woodcock brought him his morning coffee and some reports that needed his signature. He watched her intently as she leaned over his desk, and forgot, for the moment, about Le Fantome.

NEW YORK

“Mr. Roger Dunbar . . .” The Customs Inspector’s glance alternated between the passport in his hands and the face before him. “Anything to declare?”

“No, sir, nothing.”

“How long will you be in the United States?”

“Not long. A week, perhaps two.” Dunbar paused. The inspector was eyeing him suspiciously. “Is there anything wrong?”

“No, nothing’s wrong. I just always thought that you Englishmen were supposed to have a Limey accent. What happened to yours?”

“I was raised in the United States. My father was assigned to Washington . . . to the British Embassy . . . during the war.”

“Ah, makes sense,” the inspector muttered. “Go ahead and give your bag to the young lady at the next table. She’ll check ‘er over and you can be on your way.”

“Thank you.” Dunbar presented his bag for inspection. After a few haphazard pokes, she said, “OK, sir, you’ll find ground transportation just beyond the doors on your right.”

Dunbar nodded, walked outside, and hired a cab to take him to his apartment in Midtown. Half an hour later, he unlocked the door to 1723. He set his bag in the foyer, poured himself a gin-tonic, and picked up the phone. He dialed an ‘800′ number from memory, then waited as the call rang through.

“Good afternoon, Commodore Associates.” The pleasant voice of the young woman on the other end was familiar.

“This is Dunbar.”

“This is Marie.” There was a pause. “Welcome back.”

“We are active. Have you been briefed?”

“Yes. I received confirmation from Paris this morning.”

“Good. Have you heard from Washington?”

“Yes. The Bureau has been contacted by Interpol. They have directed their New York agents to attempt to locate Roger Dunbar. Their aim is, for the moment, surveillance.”

“I see. And when was this operation begun?”

“The New York offices were called and alerted at 1030 hours this morning.” Dunbar glanced at his watch; it was just barely past one PM. The FBI was probably at Customs now.

“They are more efficient than I had hoped. Thank you. I shall be in touch.”

He hung up the phone and pondered his course. It didn’t take him but a moment to conclude that Roger Dunbar must disappear, and quickly. He gathered up those few personal items which were not currently packed, and placed them in a small valise. He put on his hat and coat, then took a final look around. Satisfied, he picked up his bag and valise and left, locking the door behind him. He took the stairs; he reasoned that if the FBI was indeed on his heels, they would be watching the elevators. He hurried down the eighteen flights to the parking garage, then out to the street. A short walk put him in the Americana Hotel from where he could hail a cab anonymously. And as Roger Dunbar departed Midtown for the last time, a black sedan drove up to the apartment building and three Federal Agents began a search for Le Fantome . . . a search that would soon span half the globe. On the corner nearby, the afternoon edition of the New York News hit the streets. “SHAH RUMORED HEADING FOR EXILE IN HAWAII” the headline blared.

GREEN PRAIRIE

It was dark. The clock on the Firehouse said 12:35. A lone pair of headlights moved slowly along the main street. Not too bad, Herb thought to himself. Not bad at all, considering how damned icy the roads were.

Herb continued along the darkened street, past the County Garage, and turned left on Sixth Street. Another block and a half put him in front of a modest little house very near the edge of town. He pulled into the driveway and parked his car. The driveway had, he noticed, been cleaned of the recent snowfall and the sidewalk was shoveled all the way to his front door. “That damned Mike Barrister,” Herb muttered out loud. “Guess I owe him one.”

He unlocked the front door, walked into the small foyer, and set his bags in a convenient corner. The house was cold, so he adjusted the thermostat before he walked into the living room. “What a hell of a week,” he said as he arranged the wood in the fireplace. “A fire’s really going to feel good tonight.” He touched a match to the kindling and stood back for a moment to enjoy the warmth the fire generated. He then walked into the kitchen, poured himself a glass of Grand Marnier, and glanced through the stack of mail on the table. Nothing caught his eye, so he went back to the living room and plopped himself down into a large overstuffed chair near the fireplace. It felt good to be home, to relax. He finished his drink and then dozed.

He was awakened several hours later by loud knocking on his back door. It was light outside; he looked at his watch, noted that it was after 8:00 A.M. “Damn!” he said as he walked toward the door. He slid the curtain aside and looked out. Lucy Barrister, Mike’s wife, stood on the stoop bundled up and smiling. He opened the door and said, “Come on in, Lucy.”

“You sure look like hell in a handbasket, Herb,” she said through an impish smile. “How come you like sleeping in that chair so much? We’re going to have to find you a woman! You know that, don’t you?”

“Yeah, Lucy, guess you’ve got a point. You got any plans for tonight?”

“Why, you old devil!” she replied, laughing. “And after Mike cleaned the snow off your driveway, yet!”

“Well, you can’t blame a guy for trying, can you?”

“Here!” she said. “I brought you a thermos of coffee. I was pretty sure that you’d need it!” She poured him a cup. “Drink up now!” She paused as Herb took a sip. “How was your trip?”

“Long and tiring,” he said. “Long and tiring.”

“Did you sell the store?”

“Nah, he didn’t want to buy the place, he wanted to steal it. I’m not in that big of a hurry.”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t sell, Herb. Mike will be too. Green Prairie wouldn’t be the same without you.”

“Yeah, Lucy, I suppose you’re right. My problem is that it’s not the same without Ellie, either.”

They both sat in silence for several minutes. Finally, Lucy said, “I’m so sorry, Herb, I didn’t mean to . . .”

“Ah, it’s not your fault, Lucy. I’m just still feeling sorry for myself, I guess.”
“Have you made any plans?”

“No, not really. I’m beginning to think that I’ll just turn the store over to Karl for awhile, then maybe travel a little bit. I’ve always wanted to see Hawaii anyway, and this time of year a warm climate sounds awfully inviting.”

“Well, if you need someone to carry your bags . . .” She smiled as she stood up. “But in the meantime, why don’t you come over for supper tonight? You look like you could use some home cooking.”

“Thanks, Lucy, I might just take you up on that.”

“Good! Come on over around seven. We can all have a drink or two and you can tell us about your trip.”

“Sounds good, Lucy. Seven o’clock, then.”

“Good, Herb. We’ll be looking forward to it. Bye.”

“Bye, Lucy. Oh! Thanks for the coffee.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Matthew Volnick hadn’t gotten much sleep either. He was, in fact, tired and feeling rotten when he arrived at his office. Miss woodcock was, much to his surprise, busily typing a report when he walked in. “I’ll never know how you manage to look so spritely when I feel like I’ve been run through the wringer! You were up as late as I was, you know.”

She looked up at him, smiled, winked, and said, “Good morning, Mr. Volnick.”

He shook his head in disbelief as he walked into his office. He had no sooner sat down when his phone rang. “Never mind, Joanie, I’ll get it.” He picked up the receiver. “Hello, Matt Volnick here.”

“Yeah, Matt, Joe Samuels. How’re things?”

“Don’t even ask, Joe. Don’t even ask.”

“Rough night, huh?”

“You could say that, yeah.”

“Say, Matt, the reason I called is this ‘Phantom’ business. Our people in New York finally traced down Dunbar, but they were a little late. He’s apparently blown town.”

“Fill me in.”

“Well, several things. First of all, a mister Roger Dunbar did arrive in New York from Paris yesterday around noon. One of the Customs Inspectors at Kennedy remembered him because he was traveling on a British passport but didn’t have any accent. Anyway, he cleared Customs OK, then took a cab to his apartment in Midtown. But by the time our people arrived, he’d apparently cleared out, and in a hurry.”

“In a hurry?”

“Yeah. He didn’t even bother to check his mail. Our agents on the scene waited and watched for several hours, then said ‘t’ hell with it’ and got a Federal Warrant to examine the premises. The apartment was bare, picked clean.”

“Fingerprints?”

“Yeah, plenty of them. The lab boys are still working on them, but I don’t figure they’ll find much.”

“Why not?”

“This bird is as cool as a cucumber. I don’t think he’s the type to screw up like that.”

“You sound pretty convinced.”

“I’d give odds. Anyway, we did come up with one thing that’ll really blow your mind. A cable from a bank in Switzerland . . . the Commerz-Bank Geneve’ . . . arrived while our people were going over the premises. It was a confirmation of deposit for, now get this, a half-million in gold bullion, US dollar based, to a numbered account. How’s that grab you?”

There was a long pause. Finally, Volnick said, “Jesus Christ! Do you know what that means?”

“Le Fantome?”

“Le Fantome! Better put out an ‘all points’ on Dunbar. He’s our man, and he’s sure in hell up to something big.”

“Good as done, Matt. I’ll be in touch.”

LOCATION UNKNOWN

The gloved hand deposited fifteen cents into the pay phone, then dialed an ‘800′ number. There was a pause.

“Good morning, Commodore Associates.”

“This is Dunbar.”

“This is Marie. The FBI knows that Roger Dunbar is Le Fantome. They’ve checked your New York Apartment, and are currently awaiting the results of lab tests for fingerprints, etc. They have, of course, no idea of your current whereabouts, though they have issued an ‘all points’ in your behalf.”

“And the Shah?”

“Only rumors so far, but Hickham Field, Hawaii, seems a good bet. We’re currently waiting for confirmation.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes. The FBI intercepted a cable from the Commerz-Bank Geneve’ to Roger Dunbar which confirmed the deposit of a half-million USD in gold bullion.”

Dunbar laughed. “I’ll be in touch.” He hung up the receiver and chuckled to himself as he stepped out into the snowy air.

CAMP H.M. SMITH, HAWAII

“Headquarters, CINCPAC.” The sign fronted a rather unimpressive building at Camp H.M. Smith in the hills overlooking Pearl Harbor. Inside, a conference was underway involving Treasury Agents Michael Green and Daniel Baker, and Colonel Harold “Hap” Williams. Williams was speaking.

“I still don’t approve of the State Department saddling me with this crap, but they have, so we might as well get on with it. What sorts of arrangements have you guys made so far?”

“Well,” said Green, “we want to get him out of your hair ASAP. Our current thinking is, as we’ve indicated, to take out a long-term government lease on the top two floors of the Kahala Hotel: the top floor for his deposed Highness, the next floor down for staff and security.”

“OK, fine, but how the hell are you going to make a place like that secure?”

“We feel that security will be substantially easier to maintain in a high-rise hotel than in any other alternative we’ve been able to develop so far.”

Hap’s face was getting red. He never could countenance State Department interference in his affairs, and he was doubly angered this time. Not only was he now ultimately responsible for the safety of the Shah, a man about whom he knew nothing and cared even less, but he also had to put up with a couple of nincompoops from Treasury who had obviously never been involved in anything serious before. “That’s bullshit,” he finally said, “and I’m gonna tell you why. First of all, the Kahala is a popular place. Tourists visit there from all over the world to spend a lot of money, and high rollers don’t usually appreciated a bunch of dudes in dark suits and shades prowlin’ all over the place. Secondly, any terrorist outfit that worth shit can isolate and liquidate the top two floors of a high-rise like the Kahala before those dark-suited dudes can even get their guns out.”

“Well,” said Green, “we’re certainly open for suggestions.”

“I’m sure you are,” Hap replied sarcastically. “OK. Tell you what I think you’ve got to do. First of all, you got to get him the hell away from Honolulu, maybe even off Oahu. Find a place that’s remote but defensible. Hell, for what you guys are figuring on spending at the Kahala, you could build him a goddamned castle on Molokai or Lanai, moat and all.”

“There’s no time for that. We’re under orders to get him moved and secured by the end of the week, at the latest. If we discount the Kahala, we’re going to have to come up with an alternative in a hurry. There doesn’t happen to be a castle already built on Molokai, does there?”

“No, but there is a place over on east Maui, near the little town of Hana. It used to be a hotel, but then the environmentalists got that part of the island slated for inclusion in a National Park. The owners were bought out by Interior, and as far as I know, it’s vacant. It might just be what you guys are looking for, the more I think about it. It’s even got a landing strip adjacent. Why not call Interior? They’ll know the details.”

“What do you think, Dan? Sound reasonable?”

“Yeah, it sure does, Mike. Especially if we can get him there in a few days. How long has the hotel been vacant?”

“Only for about six months. And it should be in pretty good shape, too. Interior was planning on using it for Park HQ in a few years, so they’ve been maintaining it.”

“Let’s look into it, Dan, OK?”

“Sounds good. Thanks Colonel. We’ll be out of your hair soon, I’m sure. Come on, Mike, we’ve got lots of details to attend to.”

Green and Baker rose, shook hands with Colonel Williams, then walked out to their car.

“Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out,” Hap muttered under his breath.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Volnick’s office. Oh, sure, Mr. Samuels. One moment, please.” She buzzed the inner office and announced, “Mr. Samuels on line one.”

“Yeah, Joe, whatcha got?”

“Just heard from Scotland Yard.”

“Good. What’ve they got on Dunbar?”

“He’s dead.”

“Dead?”

“Yep. He died in 1937 when he was four years old. In Cornwall.”

“Christ!” Volnick paused to consider what Samuels had just said. They were, he was now convinced, dealing with a very dangerous man. He undoubtedly had any number of fake identities into which he could slip at the drop of a hat, and it was a pretty safe bet that none were on file with any police agencies anywhere in the world. “Anything else?”

“Yeah. We also got the lab reports back on Dunbar’s apartment. None of the prints were on file . . . anywhere, Europe included. This guy is giving new meaning to the word anonymity. Officially, he just plain doesn’t exist.”

“I’m beginning to get a bad feeling about this thing. Where the hell is the Shah, anyway?”

“Hawaii. Right now, he’s at Hickham AFB waiting for Treasury to arrange permanent quarters and security. I’ve already contacted the T-boys, but they just sort of laughed everything off.”

“Yeah, I’d expect as much from those assholes. But keep ‘em up to date anyway, OK?”

“Will do. Anything else?”

“Keep me posted.”

“Sure thing, Matt. Talk to you later.”

If Volnick would have been a second or two slower in hanging up the phone, he might have heard a tell-tale ‘click’ as Joan Woodcock gently replaced the receiver in the outer office. She smiled as she left her desk and walked to a pay phone in the women’s lounge to dial an ‘800′ number.

GREEN PRAIRIE

Herb pulled on his coat, then picked up the bottle of wine he’d bought earlier in the day and walked across the back yard to the Barrister’s. It was nearly seven as he rapped on their back door. The kitchen light came on and the door opened. “Hey, Herb, you old devil, come on in!”

“Good to see you again, Mike. Here. I brought you something good to serve with dinner . . . I remembered what kind of wine you usually have!”

“Thanks, Herb. Trying to tell me something, are you?”

“Only ‘thanks’ for cleaning the snow off my driveway and sidewalk.”

“Any time. Come on into the living room. Lucy’s got some toddies ready for us. Look here at what the cat dragged in, Lucy.”

“Hi, Herb. You look a lot more together tonight than you did when you first got up this morning.”

“I’m not even gonna TRY to figure that one out!” Mike said with mock exasperation. “So, Herb, Lucy says that you didn’t sell your store.”

“Nope. Not yet, anyway. I guess I’ll just let Karl run the place for awhile. He’s gotten pretty good at it.”

“Have you considered selling it to him?”

“Yeah, the thought’s crossed my mind, but I haven’t talked to him about it yet. I’ll probably wait till I get back from Hawaii and see how he does without anyone looking over his shoulder.”

“Hawaii, huh? Sounds real inviting.”

“What I’m really looking for is some place that’s warmer than Green Prairie.”

“That leaves you lots of leeway. I don’t think I can ever remember such a cold snap as we’ve had the last couple of weeks.”

Lucy got up and began busily rummaging around in the kitchen. A few minutes later, she said, “OK, guys, supper’s about ready. Why don’t you come and sit.”

They sat at the finely decorated table, and Lucy began carrying in what looked to Herb like the makings of a genuinely fine home-cooked Southern Minnesota company’s-coming feast. She finally joined them, and after a few words of Grace they all enjoyed the type of home cooking that most people only read about. Throughout the meal, they talked, laughed, and reminisced. By the time Herb finished the last fork full of pumpkin pie, he was enjoying the kind of warm and satisfied feeling that he hadn’t known for nearly a year. He was glad he’d come.

After dinner all three went to the living room and enjoyed a liqueur in front of the fire. Finally, Herb looked at his watch and said, “Folks, I’ve really got to start thinking about digging out my old swimming trunks. If I can get a reservation, I think I’ll head for the Tropics the day after tomorrow.”

“You’re sure you don’t need someone to carry your bags, Herb?” Lucy smiled impishly.

“I couldn’t do that to Mike, not after he shoveled my sidewalk!” They all laughed.

Herb donned his hat and coat, thanked his hosts again for a most pleasant evening, then walked home. He went straight to bed; he was, indeed, bushed.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Matt Volnick got out of bed and flipped on the TV, hoping to catch the eleven o’clock news. Joan came back into the bedroom and flopped down beside him and said, “come on, Matt, let’s turn off the lights. We can worry all day tomorrow about what’s going on in the world.”

“Yeah, in a minute. I just wanted to see if the networks have picked up on the latest about the Shah.”

“Why?” She asked. “Is there something to pick up on?”

“Yeah, he said. “I talked to Samuels late this afternoon and he said that Treasury has found a place to quarter the guy for awhile, maybe permanently?

“Oh really? Where?”

“Out in Hawaii, on Maui. There’s an old hotel near a place called Hana where they figure he’ll be safe, at least until this Embassy crap blows over and the world settles back down again.”

He didn’t say anything about the search for Le Fantome. Some things were too sensitive for even your trusted secretary’s ears. Joan reached over and turned out the lights. “Come on, Matt, turn that thing off and come see me.”

LOCATION UNKNOWN

“Good morning, Commodore Associates.”

“This is Dunbar.”

“This is Marie. The Shah will soon be moved from Hickham AFB to an old hotel on Maui, near the town of Hana. Our people in Hawaii have located the place as the old Pau Hana Inn. It used to be the headquarters of a sugar plantation, then became a hotel when the plantation was converted to a cattle ranch. It’s now owned by the Interior Department; it’s located on land slated to be included in Haleakala National Park. The building itself is in the center of a walled compound, and sits on the tip of a rocky promontory about 800 ft. above the surf line. It is considered easily defensible by Treasury, as they can control the traffic on the lone road in with only a handful of agents.”

“When will he be moved there from Hickham?”

“The day after tomorrow is their current schedule.”

“Very good. Anything else?”

“Yes. The FBI has learned that Roger Dunbar died in 1937.”

“They can move when they have to, can’t they? Thank you. I’ll be in touch.”

Le Fantome hung up the phone for a moment, then picked it up and dialed another number. “Yes,” he said, “I would like to arrange passage to Hawaii either later today or tomorrow. Is there anything available?”

“One moment, sir, I’ll check. Will you be traveling alone?”

“Yes. Alone. And I guess tomorrow would be best.”

“All right, sir, I show one seat available tomorrow on Northwest Orient, to Hilo via San Francisco, arriving Hilo at 3:30 PM.”

“Yes, that will be fine. My name is Harris. Walter Harris.”

“OK, Mr. Harris. You are confirmed. Will you be needing ground transportation or hotel accommodations?”

“No, thank you.”

“How about a return flight?”

“No, I’ll attend to that later.”

“OK, Mr. Harris. Have a nice trip.”

“Thank you.”

CAMP H.M. SMITH, HAWAII

Hap Williams smiled as he read the communique he had just received from Treasury. “At least they’re gettin’ that I-ran bastard outta my hair,” he said to himself. “By tomorrow at this time he’ll be someone else’s headache.” He walked out of CINCPAC Headquarters and headed for home. As he left Camp Smith, he paid scant attention as the late afternoon sun sank beneath the amber crest of the Waianaes.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

The next morning, Matt Volnick read the same communique. I sure hope those assholes were listening to Samuels when he briefed them on this Phantom guy, he thought himself. He thought about the problem for a few minutes, then said, “Joan, would you come in here for a moment, please?”

Joan Woodcock walked into Volnick’s office, pad and pencil in hand. “Yes, sir?” she asked.

“Put in a call to Treasury, will you? Tell them to be sure and pay attention to the information that Samuels sent them the other day.”

“What was the information concerning, sir? In case they ask.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right. You haven’t been briefed, have you. Well, just tell them that it concerns a possible attempt on the Shah’s life. They’ll know what you’re talking about. And then I guess you’d better send them a memo to the same effect. At least or asses will be covered if anything happens.”

“Yes, sir, right away. And if they should call and want to talk to you?”

“I’m not in.”

LOCATION UNKNOWN

Roger Dunbar snapped the lid of the small suitcase shut, then reached for another bag marked PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT, DO NOT X-RAY. He opened it and surveyed its contents. Everything was in order. He closed the case, stood up and put on his hat, coat, and gloves, picked up both bags, and drove to the airport. He parked the car and walked to the terminal where he purchased his ticket to Hilo. He checked the suitcase through, and retained the photographic equipment bag as a carry-on. When he reached the security counter, he asked that the bag be hand-examined. A uniformed young woman grudgingly obliged. She opened the bag and stared quietly at the contents. She noted a 35mm camera body with lens, a telephoto lens, and a tripod. In a small pocket near one corner of the bag were sever boxes of film. She poked at the bag’s foam lining, then removed the telephoto lens and looked through it. She decided everything was in order, closed the bag, and motioned for Dunbar to proceed. He walked to the boarding gate and waited.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Volnick’s office. No, I’m sorry, he’s out for the rest of the day. May I take a message?”

“Yeah, this is Joe Samuels.”

“Oh, hello, Mr. Samuels.”

“Tell Matt that Treasury finally listened. They’re postponing moving the Shah until 0800 hours tomorrow. He’s being transported from Hickham directly to the strip at the Pau Hana. They decided to use prop-driven aircraft since there aren’t any runways on that part of Maui that can accommodate jets.”

“I’ll sure pass the word, Mr. Samuels. Anything else?”

“Yeah. Tell him that by tomorrow at this time we’ll all be able to breathe easier. The T-boys say that old hotel is damned near impenetrable.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Samuels. Bye now.”

She hung up the phone and immediately went to the pay phone in the women’s lounge. She deposited fifteen cents, then dialed an ‘800′ number from memory.

HILO, HAWAII

Roger Dunbar, alias Walter Harris, watched out the window of the aircraft as the twin snow-capped peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea rose gradually out of the Pacific. “We’ll be landing in Hilo in about fifteen minutes,” the flight attendant’s voice advised.

He looked at the map of the Hawaiian Islands which lay unfolded across his lap. He noted that the small town of Hana, Maui, was about forty miles due north of and across the channel from a rocky cape on the Big Island called Upolu Point. He also noted that a landing strip was indicated on the Point. He re-folded the map and sat back to formulate his final plan of attack. Tomorrow, he thought to himself, the Shah will die.

There was a slight bump as the wheels of the Jumbo Jet touched ground in Hilo. Dunbar hurried into the terminal, claimed his baggage, and walked over to an Air Taxi counter. “When can you take me to Kahului?” he asked.

“Any time you’re ready, sir. We’re not scheduled.”

“Good. How much is the fare?”

“Thirty-five dollars.” Dunbar paid for the ticket with cash, picked up his bags, and walked out to a twin Cessna on the tarmac. A moment later, he was headed for Maui.

As the Cessna climbed out of Hilo, Dunbar again unfolded his map of the Hawaiian Island chain, and spread it across his lap. A quick glance out the window told him that they were already approaching the saddle area between the two great volcanoes, and ahead through the bluish haze he could begin to make out the bulk of Maui’s major mountain, Haleakala. A few minutes later, they passed over the vast sprawl of the Parker Ranch, and he could see a landing strip on a rocky peninsula. Upolu Point, he thought to himself.

They crossed the channel and passed over the small west Maui town of Hana. Near the southern edge of town he saw a white, two-story building perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the Alenuihaha channel. Nearby, a short landing strip had been carved out of the jungle.

Fifteen minutes later, they landed at the Kahului airport. Dunbar immediately hired a cab to take him to “the nearest motel or hotel where there’s likely to be a vacancy.” The driver obliged, and moments later they pulled up in front of the Wailuku Inn, a mainland-style motel. Dunbar paid the driver and walked inside. “My name is Walter Harris. I would like a single room for the night, please.” The desk clerk slid the registration form in front of Dunbar. He filled it out, paid cash for the room,, and picked up his key. Before leaving the lobby, however, he stopped at a phone booth and placed a call to an ‘800′ number on the mainland.

“Good evening, Commodore Associates.”

“This is Dunbar.”

“This is Marie. The Shah will leave Hickham at 0800 hours tomorrow, and will be flown directly to the landing strip at the Pau Hana. His ETA is approximately 0900 hours; they’ll be using prop-type aircraft because of the short strip length. He will, immediately upon arrival, be escorted into the walled compound.”

“OK.” Dunbar paused while he considered the problem. “Contact LeClerc,” he finally said. “Tell him that I shall require the use of a private jet tomorrow morning. Tell him that the aircraft must be waiting, take-off ready, by no later than 0900 hours Hawaii time, at the landing strip on Upolu Point on the Big Island. I shall be arriving by helicopter, and I suspect that I’ll be in a hurry. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.” She read the message back in full.

“Good,” said Dunbar. And remember, the plane MUST NOT BE LATE.”

“Yes, sir. Anything else?”

“No. I’ll be in touch.”

KAHULUI, MAUI

“Good evening, Papillon Helicopter Services.”

“Good evening. My name is Walter Harris, and I would like to charter helicopter tomorrow morning to take me to the crater in Haleakala.

“Yes, Mr. Harris, that should present no problem. What time would you like to leave Kahului? The trip to the crater takes about fifteen minutes.”

“How about eight o’clock?”

“Yes . . . let me check . . . OK, good, eight o’clock is available. Our rates are $250.00 per hour. Will you be going anywhere besides the crater?”

“No, I don’t think so. I’ll want to land in the crater, though. I’m a photographer.”

“No problem. We’ll see you at eight o’clock, then. Thank you for calling Papillon.”

“My pleasure.” Dunbar hung up the phone, then went straight to bed. It had been a long day, and tomorrow promised to be even longer.

HICKHAM AFB, OAHU

It was 0730 hours when the official entourage of the deposed Shah of Iran left their temporary quarters and were transported via black limousine to the Makai runway at Hickham. The limo stopped on the tarmac apron, and a graying, thin, almost frail-looking man climbed out and stood before the Cessna twin which was parked a few meters away. He was surrounded by guards and personal staff, and looked much out of place. He was not wearing a dark suit; he was, rather, attired in a colorful Hawaiian ‘aloha’ shirt, and he stood out plainly.

A few moments later, the doors of the Cessna swung open and the Shah, his wife, and three bodyguards climbed aboard. Agents Green and Baker took a final look around before they closed the doors and prepared for the short flight to Maui.

KAHULUI, MAUI

Dunbar paid the taxi driver and walked into the small building at the Kahului airport which served as the Operations Center for Papillon Helicopters. He identified himself as Walter Harris, and after a few moments of paperwork and payment, he climbed into the front seat of a four-passenger Bell Jet-Ranger helicopter. He nodded at the pilot and they took off. Dunbar looked at his watch; it was 0810 hours.

The helicopter flow low over the pineapple fields which covered the fertile saddle between the mountains of west Maui and the ten thousand foot peak of Haleakala to the east. In a few minutes, they were climbing through some wispy clouds, and the dormant volcano’s summit lay dead ahead. The pilot brought the helicopter over the crest of the mountain, and they seemed to pause for a moment before they began a short descent to a small plateau inside the crater itself. The helicopter landed on a flat and sandy area. Dunbar got out and looked around; the landscape was eerie.

He walked about twenty-five meters, then set down his bag and began to assemble the equipment it contained. He attached the telephoto lens to the camera, then affixed the combination to a mounting plate on the tripod. He checked the time. It was 0830 hours.

OVER KEALAIKAHIKI CHANNEL

The Shah of Iran stared out the window of the Cessna as the island of Maui slid by on the starboard side. The top of Haleakala was plainly visible in the distance when he felt the aircraft begin a left bank and slow descent. The Cessna’s chronometer showed 0830 hours.

HALEAKALA CRATER

The helicopter pilot slumped to the ground from the crushing blow to the back of his head. Dunbar tossed the blood-smeared rock aside, then loaded his gear aboard the chopper. He jumped into the pilot’s seat, eased forward on the stick, and held his breath as the Jet-Ranger edged upward into the gathering mists at the summit of Haleakala. A moment later, he had cleared the rim of the crater and was coursing down the eastern flank of the great volcano. As he broke through the mists, he could see the tremendous mass of Mauna Kea across the channel. At his feet lay the tiny town of Hana.

He spotted a small clearing about thirty meters from the landing strip adjacent to the old Pau Hana Inn. He slowly eased the helicopter down until he felt it settle into the moist grass. He shut off the engine, and again unloaded his gear. It was 0845 hours as Dunbar headed through the heavy jungle-like brush in the direction of the Pau Hana.

ABOVE MAUI

The Cessna swung out over the Alenuihaha Channel, and the Shah of Iran stared out the window at what was soon to be his home. How different, he though. The hills are green, and everywhere there is water. Thoughts of his parched homeland occupied his mind, and he found only slight consolation in the awareness that his ordeal would soon be over.

The Cessna’s chronometer read 0853.

UPOLU POINT

The private jet dropped down on approach to what appeared to be a small deserted landing strip. The pilot, a semi-retired ‘wildcatter’ from Honolulu eased back on the throttle and thought to himself, this sure beats runnin’ heroin from China. The jet touched down, then taxied to a ‘take-off’ position at the far end of the runway. The chronometer read 0900.

PAU HANA

Dunbar reached the cleared area adjacent o the Pau Hana strip, and he took refuge in a clump of Pandanus while he prepared for the moments ahead.

He grasped the camera-tripod combination in his left hand. With his right hand, he loosened a thumb nut on the tripod, then swung the camera forward. It clicked into place at a point where the lens axis was precisely parallel to the still-folded tripod legs. He then attached a canvas strap to the far end of the bottom tripod leg and wrapped it snugly about his forearm. The other end of the strap attached to a hook near the camera’s base. He held the viewfinder to his eye and adjusted the focus. Then he flipped a small lever on the upper portion of the lens housing; a pair of cross-hairs appeared in the field of view. Finally, he grasped a lever on the upper end of the tripod, twisted it to the right, and pulled back. The triple breech of a large caliber rifle was exposed. He loaded each of the three chambers with a .270 cartridge and closed the breech. Then, last but not least, he attached what appeared to be a small aluminum ‘crutch’ to the tripod’s upper end It extended backward from its point-of-attachment approximately eighteen inches; its cupped end rested comfortably against Dunbar’s shoulder as he began his wait.

A few moments later, Dunbar heard the drone of an approaching aircraft. He tensed as he lay prone beneath the Pandanus. The Cessna banked heavily a few hundred meters offshore and began its final approach to Pau Hana. It jerked momentarily as it touched down on the soft earth of the grassy strip, then settled into a smooth final taxi to the disembarkation area near the end of the short runway.

The Cessna’s door opened, and a metal gangway protruded from beneath the floor and dropped to the ground. Agents Green and Baker emerged from the aircraft and glanced nervously about. They moved down the steps and took a position at the base of the gangway. Then the Shah of Iran appeared in the door and paused for a moment before taking his first step in the direction of freedom and security. Dunbar squeezed the trigger; a split second later, the Shah slumped forward. Green and Baker heard the shot and dropped into a crouch not daring to believe what their senses were telling them. Dunbar squeezed the trigger twice more, and agents Green and Baker each fell to the earth where they lay face down in the moist grass of Pau Hana. Neither had the time to draw his weapon.

Dunbar hurriedly retraced his steps through the brush. Within minutes he was in the Jet-Ranger, lifting off, and bound for Upolu. As he passed over the Pau Hana strip, he saw a body clad in a brightly-colored shirt hanging over the rail of the Cessna’s gangway. The Shah of Iran– King of Kings, Light of the Aryans, the deposed heir to the Peacock Throne–was dead. As Dunbar steered to a heading toward Upolu, he listened to the radio voice of the Cessna’s pilot repeat, steadily, “MAYDAY, MAYDAY! THIS IS CESSNA NC-ONE-NINER-FOUR. WE ARE UNDER ATTACK! MAYDAY! . . .”

Dunbar switched the radio off and headed full throttle toward Upolu. Twenty minutes later, he set down at Upolu strip and hurried to the waiting jet. And in a few moments, Le Fantome watched as the islands of Hawaii disappeared in his wake.

GREEN PRAIRIE

Several days had passed since the world had been stunned by the news of the Shah’s death. The circumstances were still muddled, in fact, and mysteries and rumors prevailed.

“. . . and the State Department spokesman maintained that the man responsible for the Shah’s assassination would soon be apprehended. He stated that the FBI was leading a massive manhunt, and that police agencies around the world were joining . . .”

Lucy Barrister turned the volume of the radio down as she said, “Look Mike, Herb must be home. There’s smoke coming out of his chimney.”

And she was right. Herb was back, sitting in front of a cozy fire, sipping a glass of Grand Marnier. He was tired. It had been a tough week. He glanced over at the fire and smiled with satisfaction as he noted that a passport issued by Great Britain in the name of one Roger Dunbar was nearly consumed by the flames. “Yep,” Herb said out loud. “Scotland Yard was right. Roger Dunbar is dead.”

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About frugalchariot

How Frugal is the Chariot That bears the Human soul. (Emily Dickinson)
This entry was posted in Revenge of the Imam. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Revenge of the Imam (Short Story by PLN; December 1979)

  1. 2ebbandflow says:

    Always holds the interest and has the element of surprise at the end.

    Enjoy reading your well written thoughts – I want to wander around your brain – it is so vivid and full of ‘great stuff’…

    Really do appreciate your willingness to share…we are the better for it!

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