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Saturday, August 16, 2014

20. LONDON INTERLUDE



In Memory:  Mike McKenzie
"Sweet Music"


Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence

July 1994


Breakfast aboard British Airways from Moscow to London was without flavor, but I managed to wash part of an omelet into my system with a quarter-bottle of champagne.  A celebration seemed in order for an assignment well done. 

After checking into my room at The Britannia Hotel, opposite the U.S. Embassy on Grosvenor Square, I picked up the phone and touch-keyed 1-6-0. 

"Are you here?" asked John H. 

"You mean has the eagle landed?" I said.  "Yup." 

"How did it go?" 

"Swimmingly.  I'm in room 137.  Come over whenever you're ready." 

"You kidding?  I'll be right there!" 

Minutes later, my door knocked.  I let John H in, closed the door behind him. 

"Well?" he asked in high anticipation. 

"Did you know Howard was in Santa Fe recently?" I deadpanned this. 

"Really?"  John H feigned nonchalance. 

"Yeah." I paused.  "It's a restaurant in Moscow." 

John H laughed, relieved.  "I'm expected at the embassy in a little while to make some calls," he said.  "What I need from you is the essence." 

Essentially, Edward Howard was prepared to travel around Central Europe, unguarded, to research Spy’s Guide. 

John H’s eyes sparkled, a broad smile. 

"And you're not going to believe what he told me about Ames." 

John H hunched over a notebook and scribbled into it like mad as I spoke. 

Some of his FBI colleagues were in town, he said, did I mind if they joined us for dinner? 

“You kidding?”  I buzzed the concierge to amend our dinner reservation at Quaglino's from two to four persons; John H split to the embassy.  

A few hours later we assembled in the lobby:  Me and John H, Les and Jim, from Headquarters.  We exchanged greetings. 

"So how'd it go at the embassy?" I asked John H. 

He beamed.  "Everyone's satisfied."   

The three G-men climbed into the backseat of a Range Rover; I got up front with my driver, a Rasputin look-a-like I call Mister Five because he enjoys all five symptoms of schizophrenia. 

The maitre d' at Quaglino's led us to a table and I ordered a vintage Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

John H’s colleagues had a focused interest in Aldrich Ames, not least because Les had led the investigation that busted the CIA turncoat.  They lapped up what I'd learned from Edward Howard more hungrily than their spiced lamb and garlic mashed potatoes. 

We walked out into the night, still light at 9:30. 

"You guys fancy a nightcap?" I asked. 

Mister Five drove us to the Savoy Hotel while I pointed out Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Strand.

Mike McKenzie tapped ivories and ebonies in the American Bar as we strolled in and plunked ourselves at table next to his grand piano.  

"Sweet Music, Mike." 

He obliged me with his own composition. 

The others called out tunes:  As Time Goes By and Cavatina.  We drank single malt scotch whiskey, joked and laughed.  

Needless to say, it was a more relaxing than Russia. 


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