- The Way of Deception

The Way of Deception by Douglas V. Gibbs

Remember, this is an early draft, and still is in the process of being re-written and polished.


June 6, 1982, the Israeli Defense Force invaded Lebanon seeking to deal a major blow to the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Syria. Following the campaign investigators located miles of tunnels beneath South Lebanon containing Soviet war machines and documents in both Arabic and Russian. The papers revealed a plot to eliminate Israel's existence and to launch an urban guerilla warfare scenario in the United States by way of utilizing an intricate array of terrorist networks already operating in America. They also found thousands of pounds of coffee beans.

Chapter 1

Jarrod staggered through the biting brush, forcing away slender green branches with his bloody fingers. Water trickled along a stream in the early morning darkness. A mist from the creek rose to meet his face.

The pain in his battered hands matched the agony in his head. Blood dribbled from his hairline into his eyes, blurring his vision.

A stone dropped through his fingers, rolling along the bank and into the moving waters of the creek.

He collected another handful of large, oval, smooth stones. As a child he collected similar stones. Skipping stones. Smooth, flat, and available in many colors and sizes. His father stood over him, so long ago, hands in his pockets, watching his son collect the rocks.

Now, the birthing rays of sunlight spilled color along the horizon. In the newborn light he studied the stones in his hands. Wet, dark, and smooth.

"He who is without sin, cast the first stone," his mother often joked whenever Jarrod and his father skipped stones on a lake.

He who is without sin, indeed.

Up the creek, maybe a stone's throw away, Jarrod's pursuers crossed the water. He heard them helping each other up the bank. Grunting. Falling. Shouting orders.

Jarrod grinned, crossing back to the other side.

He walked slowly and deliberately along the opposite shore of the creek. It was an exquisite morning in a place somewhat like the jungles of southeast Asia, and nothing like the sands along the shores of the Persian Gulf. He inhaled crisp air under a clear blue sky, mottled with moist evergreen needles and yellowing deciduous leaves. He stuffed the stones into his pockets, allowing the creek's trickle to settle his mind. That's why he liked it here. It was a calm place.

He hopped over a steep, perpendicular ravine. The pocketful of stones threatened to rip the bottoms of his aged pockets, slide down his pant's legs, and drop into the water of the creek, gliding back and forth until finally settling on the sandy bed. No more than a couple dozen inches deep, and four or five feet wide, the stream raged like a miniature roaring rapids. White bubbles foamed around the sharp angles of the creek. Finger length fish swam along the current. He scrambled up a crumbling ridge and stepped into thick undergrowth. Warmth boiled inside. Jarrod dripped sweat in sixty degree weather. Droplets fell from the tip of his nose. Salty liquid drenched his eyebrows. He unzipped his jacket and took it off. The mild breeze chilled his sweating torso and bleeding fingertips. The cotton shirt clung to his chest. Going back home failed to be a viable option. The cabin, by now, surely swarmed with those men in black suits.

A breeze rustled through the leaves of the myrtlewoods. Some of the trees stood larger than others, possibly beginning as seedlings even before the European discovery of the North American continent. The only other place in the world these trees resided was in the Holy Land.

Standing on a long dirt path, guarded by myrtlewood sentinels, he imagined alert wildlife behind the trees staring at him with shiny black eyes as he dropped the flimsy jacket to the ground, not rationalizing it may serve as a marker for his pursuers.

Deer and elk watched as he moved along a bear trail, swishing their white-striped tails back and forth. The males lowered their racks of horns while the females stomped around to warn their children to keep away from the dangerous human. Cougars sniffed the air, picking up the scent of his blood.

His training at the National Security Agency never prepared him for this. Usually, he spent his time studying cryptologic history for any government agency that demanded his assistance. Shuffling through manuscripts, memoranda, studies, interviews, and any other material pertinent to the cryptologic history of the United States served simply as a side-step from reality. Nothing more than a distant dream. Life ends, and nothing he ever accomplished mattered. Like a lifeless automaton he performed his work by cell phone, fax, proxy, flipping through paper files and historical documents, and the occasional working vacation from Fort Meade, Maryland. Only true life experience taught a person how to find the way out of a tangled forest, but nobody really cared if he fell, just as long as they never heard his body striking the undergrowth.

The rough, overgrown trail led up a hill, climbing away from the creek toward a main road. Fifty yards up the trail the path widened, exposing two tire-worn trails with wild, wide bladed grass growing between the tracks. Amidst the myrtlewood trees the rising sun shortened the shadows.

At the top of the hill Jarrod reached the main road. Potholes littered the graveled thoroughfare. Wheel-marks lined worn paths through the chips of granite. Stones much smaller than the ones lying dormant on the bottom of his pocket lay along the way scattered as if shrapnel from an earlier explosion. Looking left Jarrod realized the road curved up another hill and then doglegged to the right. In the distance, beyond the sharp turn, Jarrod heard the whine of a lone vehicle approaching.

He imagined what possible types of vehicles may be steaming along around the corner. Perhaps a military Jeep of some kind carrying camouflaged adorned troops hanging over the sides with rifles slung over their shoulders and grenades in their hands rolled down the hill. He imagined it may even be a crazed group of terrorists with bloodshot, spiral eyes driving an armored tank down the winding, myrtlewood lined roadway toward him and his grass-ridden path. Dark, maniacal faces bent on death peered through a small, rectangular slit below the loaded turret mounted atop the dark instrument of destruction. Red and black flags with green stars and sickles waved madly behind the cannon. Inside the metal coffin the madmen kept their hands on the triggers, ready to cut down the notorious historian before he mounted a daring escape, shouting obscenities in their tongue-wagging language.

The scenarios he imagined proved much less strange than the budding truth. Reality was, in the morning hours, the vacation cabin on the Oregon Coast was ambushed by United States National Security. Men in black suits and loaded weapons descended upon him before the sunrise. Rogue agents, he assumed. Jarrod somehow found himself smack-dab in the middle of something huge.

Familiarity of the local terrain, for no other reason than that he lived in this part of the country for many years before his transplant to the east coast, allowed the ease of his escape. Now, as the men in bureau-style black suits and dark sunglasses hunted him through the acres of woodlands, the main thing rattling around in Jarrod's mind was getting to Mister Harburnocker's house. Currently on vacation with his wife in the everglades, the old man left his house empty and unattended. Jarrod also knew that Harburnocker fostered a number of weapons, and a working telephone inside that empty house.

He slipped behind a small, flowering bush in hopes that the wild-eyed terror in the tank-like vehicle up the road cruised on by without even noticing his presence.

The vehicle came into view, clanging over the potholes. He waited until he saw their faces. Their darting eyes searched for movement in the brush. The passenger's hair twisted wildly, all set in pink plastic curlers.

It turned out not to be a green military Jeep, or the menacing tank Jarrod had expected, nor a two-seater scout machine built to navigate such treacherous landscape. A menacing metal grill frowned between two yellowing headlights. The faded yellow sedan with a cracked windshield assembled some time in the early nineteen-seventies bounced down the road violently. Apparently the driver's concern neglected to consider whether or not hitting the potholes dead-on may damage his vehicle. He'd already replaced two front-ends this year. How much more trouble for the next repair job? A sweet, diminutive, gray-haired lady, with her locks wrapped in plastic rollers, rolled down the passenger-side window and stuck her head through the dusty opening. She brought her eyes directly upon Jarrod.

Or so he thought.

Dust filled the cab of the old Nova, and the old man began slinging profanity at her. The old woman rolled up her window, and the car continued on down the gravel coated dirt path to another main road where it turned left and headed westbound to the harbor. Jarrod walked around the bush that had served his purposes and hiked across the road into a new mesh of brush.

Up on the hill, dark and alone, stood Mister Harburnocker's house.

The rogue agents had regrouped, apparently. The scattering fragmented shuffles of their movements through the landscape informed Jarrod they were on his side of the creek. He needed to pick up the pace.

Jarrod emerged on a short road below the house, kicking up rocks and dust as he ran, tearing the fabric on the tips of his shoes. The creek trickled faintly in the distance whence he came. Evergreen douglas fir trees and deciduous alders surrounded the small house on the hill. A river of fog lined the nearby miniature mountains on this late spring morning in Southwest Oregon, thirty degrees cooler than his childhood home in Southern California during this time of year, and a lot less humid than his current home back east near the District of Columbia.

The house was his, for the time being. Jarrod relieved his bladder on the tall alder at the far end of the deck. He admired the Stars and Stripes waving on a wooden pole at the corner of the terrace as carpenter ants zigzagged around his feet, and a blue jay stood on the rail at the other end near a rotted, mosquito infested hot tub, and his pee-tree. The flag seemed more majestic flying over the myriad of douglas firs, rather than on top of the off-white, pale, governmental buildings hopelessly infested with deep-pocketed politicians and deeper-pocketed lawyers.

Near the top of the short, homemade flagpole hovered a hummingbird. The bird levitated over the top of the pole with blurred wings and miniature legs. It had a pointed bill, and colorful plumage. The hum from the beating wings was vibrant. Marvelous. No longer interested with the flagpole, the bird zipped over to a feeder full of reddish sugar water hanging near one of the windows of the house.

At the foot of one of the piers supporting the elevated, wooden deck slithered a fat and juicy banana slug.

Jarrod never noticed the slug below the deck. His priorities focused upon tugging on the stubborn doorknob, preferring not to use the stones in his pocket.

The doors and windows were all locked.

He pulled out the first stone, clutching it like a major league pitcher wrapping his fingers around a baseball. Jarrod feared that the sound of the shattering glass may alert his pursuers, but he needed to get inside the house and to the phone as soon as possible.

Jarrod threw the stone at one of the small windows in the main door. The smooth rock bounced off the glass, landing harmlessly on the deck.

He threw another, and it bounced off the glass as well.

Jarrod pulled the screen off of one of the living room windows, and commenced throwing rocks at the window. As with the glass in the door, the stones bounced off, and fell innocently to the ground.

Shaking his head, Jarrod decided to run at the doorway and slam his shoulder into it. The door reflected him, bouncing him back to the deck. When he fell, the remaining stones fell out of his pocket and scattered.

Jarrod ran around the house. Located Mister Harburnocker’s old, gasoline driven tractor. It was just like the one his father owned.

Reaching down behind the differential, he pulled out a metal pin and kicked the sway-bar aside. After disconnecting the rear blade, Jarrod pushed the small tractor soundlessly around the house, urging it slowly up on the deck and near the door. Jarrod planned to keep the noise-maker running for only a short moment. He didn’t want to attract the pursuing men’s attention. But he had to get into the house, no matter what it took.

With the tractor pointed at the doorway, wheels at the ready on the wooden deck, Jarrod hot-wired the tractor, threw it into high gear, and drove it into the doorway, not stopping until the damn thing ran all the way across the living room and rammed into the bar that separated Jarrod from the kitchen.

He pulled the kill switch and allowed the old grading tractor to sputter and die. He hopped off the machinery and began rifling through Harburnocker's cabinets, frantically searching for his hidden phone. Any hidden phone. Surely, the old man kept a telephone somewhere. Everyone did.

Suddenly, a distant ringer sounded. A jarring song that danced its rhythmic tune somewhere in the vicinity.

Glancing through the gaping hole where the tractor entered the house, Jarrod hoped the phone didn’t reside deep inside the pocket of an approaching black-suited rogue agent.

Wrong direction. The ringing came from the opposite angle. The phone lay hidden somewhere in the master bedroom. It sounded like the ring of a cell phone. Mister Harburnocker left behind his cellular phone, and now someone was calling it.

The phone ceased its song before Jarrod located it, but then it decided to vibrate as well. He followed the hum of the buzzing vibration, and pulled the phone out from its hiding place under the mattress in time to see that a text message had been sent to it.

A small town kid when he arrived in the District of Columbia, Jarrod received more than his fare share of ribbing. Simply fodder for the big-wig politicians in Washington, they considered Jarrod lower than the toe-jam between their toes, or the whale feces at the bottom of the deepest ocean. Twenty-four years of existence never prepared him for the madness of the National Security Agency, or the Center for Cryptologic History in Fort Meade, Maryland. Yet, the government, no matter how insignificant his position, expected him to work as diligently as ever for the safety of the nation while on duty at Fort Meade. What was it they said? "Cryptologic History plays a critical role in the outcome of all major conflicts, altering the course of this nation's history and ensuring a free and safe America, especially when it comes to signals intelligence."

Nothing more than the head historian's assistant’s gopher.

"Go-fer this, and go-fer that."

He pushed the buttons on the face of the cell phone and allowed the characters of the text message to be exposed.

Jarrod flashed a quick glance to the windows, hoping that the men in black suits were not yet in the area. All he saw was the hummingbird continuing to drink from the feeder.

Lucky bastard. A life of looking good, flying around aimlessly, and drinking free sugar water would be good enough for me.

The text message read, “Jarrod answer the next call.”

Panic set in. How could anyone possibly know that he currently stood in Mister Harburnocker’s house, clasping the old man’s cell phone in his hand?

He carried the phone into the living room, waiting for it to ring again.

The ringing began. His fists clenched, tightening with each ring.

"Everything is fine," he said to himself. "You're on vacation. The men with guns in black suits are only a figment of your imagination. Even the President of the United States could not have pinpointed your exact location, nor locate this phone number, as fast as this."

Besides, since when did anyone, let alone the Commander in Chief, ever care more than a plugged nickel about an NSA historian's assistant to an assistant of an assistant to do anything for him? Jarrod manned the bottom of the food chain. The one time the White House even considered contacting him they asked him to fetch a fresh roll of toilet paper, expecting him to get it to them discreetly through only the proper, military channels. The only reason anyone ever cared about Jarrod in the offices at Fort Meade was when the staff searched for a misplaced file that he may, or may not, have had his hands on in the last year, hoping that he had the foggiest idea where in the damn office it may possibly be.

Jarrod pushed the green button on the phone as it rang and vibrated again.

"Hello?" he said.

The person on the other end of the line remained silent.

"Hello? Is anybody there?"


"This better all be a joke. My parent’s cabin is shot up, and men with guns in black suits are crawling around looking for me through the forest."

"Please hold for the President of the United States," said a female voice on the other end of the line."

He turned his head out of habit to make sure nobody without a proper clearance was around to listen to the upcoming, top secret, conversation. Thundering reality shook a wave of unexpected excitement through him. The Executive Branch of the United States of America had contacted him while he hid from a butt-load of rogue agents on the Oregon Coast.

"Vacation is over," mumbled Jarrod.

His muscles failed to relax as a slight grin of hope spread across his face.