During the first week of June, not long after my trip to Geneva, I met John H in Chicago. He greeted my United Airlines flight from Washington, D.C. and escorted me to a small conference room in the bowels of O'Hare Airport.
I had traveled to Chicago to loan moral support to National Press Books' launching of Safe House at the American Booksellers Association's annual convention.
Thus far, reviewers nationwide had ignored the title; consequently, sales were dismal. Joseph and Sultan joked sourly that its poor showing must have been due to a CIA-plotted conspiracy to bury Edward Howard's book.
Meantime, John H and Bob G had solved their evidence crisis by dragging Howard's wife, Mary, before a grand jury in Albuquerque to question her for the first time in ten years. Bob G found a legal loophole to preclude her from refusing to testify against her spouse, and this time Mary incriminated Howard for laundering cash received by the KGB.
When Howard heard about this development, he assumed it to be a retaliatory FBI response to the publication of his book, and he responded with outrage.
"Once again, they're taking it out on my family," Howard ranted to me over the phone. "Mary has to tell them what they want to know to keep herself out of the can. It doesn't matter, because they can't get me anyway. That's our strategy."
John H told me otherwise: When Howard learned that his wife had been spilling her guts, he demanded she send him divorce papers.
U.S. Attorney Bob G now had what he needed. It was time to press the top brass at the Department of Justice for a green light to reel Howard in. Especially as we now had him poised to travel to a variety of convenient destinations.
For the benefit of a senior Chicago FBI agent who had laid on the logistics at O'Hare, John H detailed the mechanics of how our extraordinary rendition would play out:
Howard would arrive at the airport of our designated location. At Immigration, before officially entering the country (a no-country zone known as an international corridor), Howard would be asked by Immigration officers to "come with us." They would escort him to a room. John H would be waiting there to make the arrest. He would then escort Howard to a U.S. military jet for a stealthy flight home.
By this time, I had received from Howard a proposal, in English, of what Vladimir Kryuchkov would write.
It was wonderfully enticing. This I passed to John H. He was equally intrigued, but remained focused on Howard.
And why not?
We were getting so close, he could practically taste victory.