Corey held snorkel, mask and fins under his arms as he walked across the talcum-powdered sand lining the secluded Love Beach. He waded into the warm, gin-colored waters and began snorkeling among the jetties, rocks and patch coral reef which lay a few yards offshore.
Things hadn't changed much since he was last here over a decade ago. Love Beach is off the beaten track and during most of the day you have the beach to yourself, the reason he chose it as the contact point to meet with Devon Ledard. Lounge chairs and beach mats lay stacked in piles by the Nirvana Beach Bar.
He took a deep breath and submerged to where the rock formations were. A large Stoplight parrotfish sought shelter from him under the shadows of the rock ledges. A seemingly never-ending school of Blue tang, perhaps 100 feet long, glided by him, seeking safety in deeper waters. Audacious Banded and Foureye butterfly fish ignored him while flitting about the rocks, while a peacock flounder fluttered on the bottom, pitching sand over its iridescent blue-spotted back. Corey observed its bright speckled pattern swiftly transform into a plain, duller disguise, appearing like a seamless continuation of the sandy bottom, save two raised eyes protruding out. It could see all while remaining hidden.
Suddenly, the bold butterfly fish darted into the rock crevices just as a barracuda glided into view above the jetties. It actually seemed to sparkle as the sun reflected off its silvery sides, but once over the nearby seagrass beds, it descended into them. Its flashy body mutated into a gloomy form of darkness, making the predator appear as a harmless shadowy extension of the murky seagrass beds.
Corey thought how CBIF's counterintelligence teams inadvertently replicate the deception, camouflage, and surveillance activity that takes place among the reef creatures, between predator and quarry. The teams are accomplished in the art of countersurveillance and at the moment four teams are positioning themselves in key choke points around Nassau. As Devon Ledard passes through these predetermined places, they will observe to determine if he is being shadowed...perhaps stalked or hunted down. If Sandoval found out about Ledard's double agent activities, he would torture, then murder him, his wife and kids...in reverse order. The red chalk mark Ledard scribbled on the Hibiscus Beach Inn welcome sign signaled he had an urgent message to report.
Corey flipped him and he seemed to be a relatively trustworthy double. Ledard detected a serious event either happened or was about to at Abaco Poultry, LTD and he dutifully wanted to disclose it. Corey checked his diver's watch. It was 1pm... Ledard would be notified to begin his trek along the surveillance detection route to Love Beach about now.
The couple walked across the Paradise Island Bridge to East Bay Street, then strolled eastward until they came to a hand-painted sign that simply read "To Potter's Cay." They dressed like most ultra-rich Americans staying at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island...upscale casual...resort wear, like they just dined at the Café Martinique. Expensive Louis Vuitton chronograph watches were strapped to their wrists and the lady wore cultured pearl floral earrings with diamond halos.
They peered down the walkway which led into the half square mile area called Potter's Cay. Local Bahamians were buying fresh seafood from the day's catch and wandering about the stalls piled high with fruits and vegetables of every color imaginable: cabbage, cassava, hot peppers, plantain, pumpkin, sweet pepper, sweet potatoes, avocado, coconut, mango, sour orange and pineapple.
The man wanted to continue on down East Bay Street to the Poop Deck and enjoy a view of Nassau Harbor while sipping a few signature martinis and munching on their famous Andros Crab Cakes and conch fritters, but his spousal facsimile, a fellow counterintelligence agent pleaded with him to explore Potter's Cay. Their performance was magnificent and he reluctantly gave in to his beautiful wife with long satin-black hair.
They sauntered down the entrance walkway just as a mail boat full of passengers and freight arrived from some far flung Bahamian outer island. Walking past Darnell Ferguson's fishing boats to view what was being unloaded off the mail boat, neither gave Devon Ledard a first glance. He was mending fishing nets on the bow of Darnell's boat, and immediately recognized them as the ones to contact. The instructions that Darnell gave him were to not stare at them, but to go to the next location they visited.
Fresh conch was offloaded from the mail boat and heaped onto a table where it was sold by the pound to vendors. Food and household goods on pallets marked "Destination Ragged Island" were hauled onto it. Ragged Island, population 84, was one of many Bahamian out island that is too small and too remote to receive airfreight. Roughly 17 mail boats operate out of Potter's Cay and they are, indeed, floating life-support systems for many of the isolated islets scattered through the 700-island Bahamian archipelago.
The well-dressed couple snapped some photos, then proceeded past Ledard again to a row of wooden food and fish stalls with hand-written names on them, like Doc Sands, Bethel Dem, Bones, Drift Wood Cafe and Old Q. Many of the shacks were small, take-away joints, but they walked into a larger one with a kitchen and full course menu, named McKenzie's.
Having gone over the interior layout with Corey the night before in his room at the Hibiscus Beach Inn, the couple strolled past the small bar in the front room to a small balcony in the back that overlooked the water. They sat at one of three small picnic tables surrounded by a guardrail. The other two tables were occupied by tourists from the same cruise ship, who just met and were washing down several plates of large grilled red snappers with the heads still attached, with Bahama Mamas and Nassau's Kalik beer.
The group of six were talking loudly enough for the half dozen locals in the bar and anyone else close by to overhear them. Their ship docked in Prince George Pier that morning and they boasted of the great duty-free purchases they made in downtown Nassau. Those seated at one of the tables walked the 1.5 miles to McKenzie's from the cruise terminal; their newly-acquired friends at the other table took a taxi.
The couple that walked over the bridge to Potter's Cay from the Paradise Island Atlantis Resort didn't have much in common with the cruise ship folks, so they sat in silence and admired the spotted eagle rays gliding by in the waters beneath them, the fishermen bringing in boatloads of conch, and the cook expertly cleaning conch before them. As designed, Devon Ledard strolled into McKenzie's fifteen minutes after they did. He walked past the bar and stood by the tiny back patio, hunting for a place to sit down.
The only seating available in the cramped patio was at the table occupied by the well-heeled tourists from the Atlantis Resort. Seeing Devon, the woman lifted her Gucci handbag off the empty seat next to her and gestured for Devon to sit with them. This was an everyday behavior at McKenzie's, due somewhat to the cramped space but mostly due to the sociable and gracious nature of the customers and staff. Many wonderful conversations between locals and tourists occurred here.
Devon gladly sat down and thanked them.
Corey finished snorkeling and sat at a barstool at the Nirvana Beach Bar. Love Beach lies directly under the final approach to the Lynden Pindling International Airport, so the tranquility is interrupted several times per half hour by incoming jets. It is an airplane spotters paradise. He ordered a Kalick beer and French fries, then retreated to the shade under a Caribbean Pine. Two of the local potcakes followed and sought shelter in the shade with him. He shared half his French fries with them while thinking about the countersurveillance operation and his pending meeting with Devon Ledard. OK, the Potter's Cay stakeout phase should be completed. By now, CI team #1from the Atantis Resort made contact with Ledard at McKenzie's and notified him where he is to go next...to the first surveillance detection point . Teams #2 and #3 from the cruise ship docks should be occupying the two other tables on that tiny balcony, so no strangers can enter the picture. Team #4, a single guy who is sipping some wine from a paper bag outside on a bench in a small park inside Potter's Cay is observing for suspicious individuals hanging around McKenzie's...especially Middle Eastern men. And, of course, my friend Darnell Ferguson is concealed in his boat cabin scanning the area with binoculars. If any third party rats from Abaco Poultry, LTD are shadowing Devon Ledard, they will be detected...and the meeting will be cancelled. Let's hope not...if Ledard has been compromised...there's not enough time to incorporate a more secure contact. He has something to tell me...a need to know message only...one that only I, not the CI agents, must be told. Ledard will be proceeding shortly along the surveillance detection route to the first detection point, which CI team #1 must be at, assuming cover, before he arrives. They've got to get a move on!
CI team #1 relayed to Ledard, while they chowed down on a scrumptious conch salad at McKenzie's, where he was supposed to go next, and when and how he was to get there. Then, they paid their bill and left without glancing at the cruise ship folks, who were actually CBIF CI teams #2 and #3. Upon leaving Potter's Cay, the opulently dressed duo flagged down a cab which delivered them back to the Atlantis Resort where they walked to an adjacent parking lot and climbed into a worn-out Dodge Durango SUV with tinted windows. Inside, they quickly switched to a totally different dress and appearance. The woman agent climbed into the backseat while her male companion drove around Paradise Island. In about the same time it took a flashy peacock flounder to transform itself into a colorless, imperceptible creature, she removed her long, raven-black hairpiece, revealing short-cut, blond hair, and replaced her expensive earrings and watch with cheaper versions bought at the straw market. Next, she shed her expensive, tight-fitting resort-style garb and slipped a loose-fitting maternity dress over her head, inserting shoulder pads to make her physique appear larger. She strapped on a large-size bra with foam inserts and tied a pregnancy pillow to her abdomen.
Because pregnant women have a 'glow' due to taking extra vitamins and increased blood flow, she quickly wiped off her "sexy" makeup and proceeded to make herself appear as a maternal vessel of life bearing child. She didn't overdo the makeup, since few pregnant women have the time to doll up. Instead, she merely added a pink blush to add a healthy 'glow' to her cheeks and put on matching pink lipstick.
The man pulled into a vacant lot and crawled over to the front passenger seat while his pregnant partner took over driving to the surveillance detection point. He reached into the back seat, retrieved an electric razor and shaved off his stylish shadow beard. Then, he pasted on a pencil-thin mustache and donned a black baseball cap with attached pony tail that had a sprinkling of grey/silver hair. He opened a small vial of gel and applied the contents over the exposed hair on each side of his head under the cap. It dried immediately, tinting his hair to resemble that of the pony tail. Next, he quickly took off his 3-inch elevator dress shoes with insole lift and Donald Trump slacks and shirt, and slipped into a cheap pair of jeans and Bahamas Goombay Punch T-shirt.
Lastly, he reached into his disguise box in the back seat and retrieved two matching tattoos, peeled off the plastic covers and stuck one onto his right forearm and the other onto his female companion's forearm while she continued to drive. They both applied even pressure to their tattoos with the opposite arm hand for several moments, then the male agent covered both with a wet towel until the paper was completely saturated. In 30 seconds the water released the tattoos from the papers and he removed the wet towels and peeled the corners of the tattoo paper away.
The female agent looked at her tattoo, which displayed an arrow pointing to a comic-faced father smiling broadly under the caption, "He did this to me!". She looked over at her CI colleague and calmly said, "You bastard."
Both slipped off their Ray-Ban sunglasses and replaced them with a low-priced pair...their masquerade was complete. If anyone shadowed Devon Ledard at the Potter's Cay stakeout and noticed the CI #1 team couple there, they would not recognize them at the next surveillance detection point where Ledard was about to journey to.
As instructed, Ledard left McKenzie's after finishing his conch salad, walked out of Potter's Cay and turned right on East Bay Street. After 350m he turned left and proceeded for about 1 km on Dowdeswell Street, then made another left onto Burnside Lane. After a short walk he turned right at Shirley Street, then made a left onto Elizabeth Avenue. He was to ask the security guard at Princess Margaret Hospital where the entrance to the Queen's Staircase was, which he did. They guard obligingly pointed up a hill to where the poorly-marked entrance was.
The Queen's Staircase was originally known as the "66 Steps" and is part of the Fort Fincastle complex. The admission was free, so Ledard walked directly up the steps which were carved out of solid limestone rock 250 years ago by over 600 slaves. The staircase can be accessed from Fort Fincastle so the nobility had an escape route if the fort came under attacked. When Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, she abolished slavery and the "66 Steps" were renamed the "Queen's Staircase" in her honor.
Lush vegetation lined the tall limestone walls and the place was much cooler than on the streets of Nassau just a few steps away. Ledard watched the tropical birds flitting about the palm trees and ferns that lined the way to the staircase. The shade, cool air and aroma of ancient limestone blending with fauna didn't lower his anxiety level.
He ascended the staircase, keeping a close eye out for suspicious bystanders while thinking about how Sandoval's thugs followed Sidney Fowler to Nassau from the Abaco poultry operation and gunned him down on Parliament Square in broad daylight. The same could happen to him...here...right now.
A couple were climbing the steps ahead of him. The woman was pregnant and her pony-tailed husband assisted her up the steep staircase. Ledard scrambled past them and arrived at the top by a little straw market. His instructions were to buy a straw hat and intermingle with the shoppers there for five minutes, then proceed to Fort Fincastle. One sweet Bahamian lady was selling straw hats for $20 each. Ironically, the well-heeled couple back at McKenzie's slipped him two $10 bills as they left. During their conch salad dinner, they gave him instructions on how he was to proceed through the complex.
Ledard offered $10 for one of her hats, but she insisted on the full $20 price. He told her that was all he had on him, so she relinquished. While he hung around the straw market for five minutes, the pregnant tourist and her helpful husband had walked to the nearby Fort Fincastle, where they found a volunteer guide to give them a "free" tour. Actually, the man was an opportunistic local who talked about the full history of the place... for a tip.
However, the neighborhood capitalist was well-versed in the many sagas surrounding the citadel's past. He showed the couple spectacular views of the entire city from the cannon battery, the highest point on New Providence Island. It was a stunning view of the cruise ships docked in Nassau Harbor, the government buildings in Parliament Square and of Paradise Island and Potter's Cay, where they just came from.
The pregnant lady appeared moved by the vista and moved her hand from the new Baha Mar Resort on Cable Beach far below them on the left to the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island on their far right. The tour guide took photos of them sitting on one of the mortar cannons, then they tipped him $5 and returned to the large courtyard to sit on a bench and rest. They were people-watching, as many tourists enjoy doing, when Ledard strolled past them and paid $1 to enter the fort. The three members of CI team #2 followed a few minutes later, wearing different attire, appearing unlike they did a half hour ago at Potter's Cay. The only thing the five members of team #1 and #2 had in common were the concealed .45 caliber Glock 30 semi-auto handguns loaded with hollow-points they carried.
The serenity of Love Beach was again broken by a commercial jetliner flying low overhead on final approach to the airport. Corey observed a local band arrive and begin practicing in the Nirvana Beach Bar courtyard. Their music brought back memories of Danielle and feelings of sadnesss mixed with distress crept up inside him. He wasn't feeling sorry for himself, but the traditional songs they played were what Danielle loved to hear when they frequented the pubs and nightspots of Abaco and Nassau. She could have been with him here, right now. He knew her murder was not the result of a home burglary when she flew back from Abaco to their home in Severna Park, Maryland. It had something to do with their profession, their activities...intelligence they knew or possessed that could be harmful to people in power.
So why didn't they kill me, too? Why just Danielle? They certainly must fear that whatever she knew...I would know, too. The reason must be because Danielle was a best friend with Duane Colliers mother..Joan Collier. Joan was abducted from her home in the U.S. and taken to the Abaco poultry operation and used as bait to lure Duane there. They both were murdered...and Dr. Slesman's forensic report shows Duane etched "Penumbra Database" on an aluminum gum wrapper, then swallowed it. There is no other plausible reason for my wife's murder other than her being the best friend to Joan Collier. The killers must have thought Danielle had the Penumbra Database in her possession...that she was hiding it for Joan. Drew Collier, husband to Joan and father to Duane, was a CBIF mole working inside the Pentagon alongside the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was planted there by General Morrison and worked on some undercover assignment that Morrison would certainly know about...the Penumbra Database. Abaco Poultry, LTD holds the key to the mystery of my wife's murder...and much more.
The music flowing from the Nirvana courtyard was the Bahamian genre that Danielle enjoyed, a trace of African rhythm and Caribbean calypso. Since the Bahamians were under the rule of Great Britain up to 1973, the melody carried a tinge of European colonial influence and fast-paced Goombay as well. It was a rake and scrape band emulating the distant past when African slaves were too poor to create instruments. They beat on drums made from pork barrel and goatskin, scraped a carpenter's saw with a metal file, shook maracas, banged rhythm sticks, and plucked away on a bass violin made from a washtub and string. The 5-member group carried on the tradition, mostly for show, since they also played modern instruments as well.
Corey ventured up to the Nirvana bar and ordered a Bahama Mama. The two potcakes followed him from the beach, sat on each side of him, and gave him that super-eager, pleading look that only canines can convey.
"Sorry, guys. I'm just ordering a drink...no more French fries."
Monique, the bartender, laughed. "They be hanging out here fo' years. Don't worry, we fed 'em lots of stuff scraped off the bottom of our cookin' pots."
Corey smiled back at her. "Thus, the name 'potcakes'."
Just then his hidden ear peace buzzed, almost inaudibly. It was the pregnant lady from CI team #1. "A cloudless day, clear day. Principal ETA in five." It was code indicating that Devon Ledard was not being tailed and he would be at Love Beach in five minutes.
He thanked Monique and retreated back to his lounge chair underneath the shady Caribbean Pine. The potcakes didn't follow him, comprehending that snack time was over. They stretched out in the shade of the bar and patiently waited to curry favor from the next credulous visitor.
Corey had confidence in his CI teams, for he trained them well in countersurveillance. They skillfully observed and became keenly aware of the human activities at the Potter's Cay stakeout, and retained images of suspicious individuals there. Instead of using different teams, he had the same operators at the initial Potter's Cay stakeout change appearance and arrive at the designated surveillance detection point, the Queen's Staircase, before Ledard got there. Having different CI teams at each detection point would be manpower intensive and require them to take photographs to compare and ferret out if the same suspicious person appeared at the different locations. Using the same CI operators at different detection points enabled them to straightforwardly confirm if the same suspect showed up a number of times at the unrelated locations where Devon Ledard was sent to.
The tactics that Corey devised required the CI team operators to leave the initial stakeout before Ledard did, disguise themselves, and arrive at the next surveillance detection point before Ledard showed up. Since it is much easier to take off a disguise than to apply one, the team #1 couple appeared at the Potter's Cay stakeout elaborately dressed with ornate jewelry. When they advanced to the Queen's Staircase detection point, they simply shed their rich attire and heavy makeup and quickly slipped into loose-fitting clothes and deceptive add-ons.
Devon Ledard was puzzled that he didn't see the agents he met at McKenzie's show up at the Queen's Staircase or at Fort Fincastle. Still, he followed their instructions. At the fort, he checked the rear leg of the rusty-colored howitzer mortar cannon. Sure enough, a folded candy bar wrapper was there with a note telling him to immediately leave Fort Fincastle, walk towards the Government House and take the path at the far end of the fort.
When he reached the bottom of the path a blue minivan with tinted windows pulled up. The sliding side door opened and he was beckoned in. He recognized the three occupants inside, but didn't know they were formally referred to as CBIF CI team #3. They were among the cruise ship passengers seated at the tables next to his on the outside patio at McKenzie's. Unlike their fellow operatives, they didn't change disguises since their sole job was to stay inside the air-conditioned minivan and hide behind the windows that were tinted to a level that would violate most state tinted window laws. They parked the van along Shirley Street and observed the human activity around Ledard as he walked past them on the way to the Queen's Staircase from Potter's Cay. Their final job was to pick Ledard up when he emerged from the path after leaving Fort Fincastle and deliver him to Love Beach. Like the six other agents working the countersurveillance detail, they also carried concealed Glock 30's loaded with .45 caliber hollow points.
A Bahamian male wearing a straw hat and red T-shirt entered the far end of Love Beach and walked toward him. It was Ledard. Corey slid an empty lounge chair next to his and sipped the Bahama Mama Monique so expertly concocted. He was confident that Devon Ledard was not compromised and that no one tailed him. Proper countersurveillance is time consuming and costly, but it assured that Ledard arrived at the contact point unharmed and guaranteed his double agent status would not be exposed. Critical HUMINT was about to be learned about the Abaco Poultry, LTD operation...and maybe much more.
Robert Morton, Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes the online spy novel series "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean". The views expressed on this site do not represent those of any organization he is a member of. Contact him on the Secure Contact Form