Sub Rosa

I always think it best to start with the disclaimers. I am not now nor ever was associated with any intelligence agency. Like most of my ilk, Folkie, I believe that intelligence and government agency represents a truly tactless oxymoron.
That, having been said, Billie and I were fixers, scroungers, and locators in a small way. We were not operating a racket. We were always running a little “commotion.” It was how we avoided gainful employment. We were careful to be just this side of legal, and we had a good sense of how far we could go and stayed to that line.

So there was a bit of trepidation when Brother Isaac pulled into our booth at the Harvard Gardens one evening.
Brother Isaac should not have been there. He was part of the Church of Revealed Disciples. They showed up once a month on a Saturday morning to attempt to lead the Teahead of the August Moon to salvation. The rest of us inhabiting the exclusive Grove street digs were never bothered, which was strange.
Brother Isaac sat down, grabbed the Teahead by the arm, almost spilling a beer, and just said: “Johnnie, it’s all over. Won’t be seeing you again Keep your nose out of bad snuff.” with that off rode Brother Isaac into the sunset, and it was the last heard of the Church of the Revealed Disciples.
Billie was sitting there with a bemused expression, but I just put it down to the healthy surrealistic life we lead those days. A Pooka could have appeared in the Harvard Gardens, and I would have given it a chance to explain itself. The world was a miraculous place for me then.
Over the next year or so, I found out more about my friends. Both of them tasted intelligence operations at some point in their military years. I had pieced that together from things unsaid, said, people met, and uncommonly odd bits of knowledge. Their long term association, our Folkie Flop House, our forms of making a living, and our endless traveling habits all said Folkie. But, it did not add up.

Years on the Teahead has become a conservative shock jock on the radio, Billie dies in an avoidable car accident in Baltimore, and I have begun to morph into a staid anthropologist. Then I went to grad school. I began drinking with a former marine. Who, after taking in enough bourbon to float the ark started talking about the Church of Revealed Disciples. It was a cover used by Naval intelligence for an operation. Not being as sloshed as he was, I coyly asked, ” So, how’s Brother Isaac doing these days?” All of a sudden, not quite so high, outshoots: “who’s Brother Isaac?” “You know – Church of the Revealed Disciples.” He claimed to have never heard of it, but the remainder of the night, he kept on looking hard and deep at me. I tried a shot totally in the dark – “Have you heard from Mike the Vike recently?” I thought he’d explode – ” Jesu Christi!” I smiled. The Vike had been another of the continual threads of life on Beacon Hill. The Vike was always in supply, always on the move and never who he seemed to be.
Over the next couple of days, I spiced life up by dropping hints in George’s presence that implied that I knew more than I did. His paranoia grew, but we became fast drinking buddies. Through him, I came to recognize who else in my Department were also former intelligence types.
But nobody made me. I was an enigma, and George, one night in a DC hotel, pulled a little pearl-handled .32 and point-blank asked me whose dog I was. I flippantly answered, ” the DAR’s.” Not long after this, George passed out, and I secured the thirty-two where he wouldn’t find it and went back to my room. Our friendship was at an end.
Life slipped into high gear after grad school. I eventually wound up working only a few miles away from the old digs on Beacon Hill, but the cognitive distance was enormous. I rarely thought of the Teahead of the August Moon, Brother Isaac, strange churches that were fronts, not even my friend Bill. I eventually wandered into working for the federal government.
And that’s where it gets funny again. I was a GS-12 programming officer. I did not need classified information, but they required that I get clearance. I dutifully complied with the request for data, but the inquiries always came back unanswered. What was wrong with me? And I answered that in truth, there was nothing. That was not wholly true. During my time in the Navy, I’d had a high-security clearance. Not because I was so essential a person, but because the work my squadron was doing was, and presumably still is sensitive. The reason they would not grant me a confidential was that my top-secret was still operational. This item pissed off the local hierarchy. If a secret document came into the agency, a lowly GS-12 would be the only one allowed to read it.
Thinking about this, it came home to me that the evening in a DC hotel was explainable. Somebody had run my file and found out that I was a total cipher with an impressive clearance. To people of a certain mindset that read intelligence agency. I was also a pretty bland sort who none the less had a history. Whose dog indeed?
Everyone I’ve written about in this is dead. Convenient. So we’ll never be able to check it out, but if you are out there, don’t ask about the Church of the Revealed Disciples, and whatever you do, don’t get involved with Brother Isaac.

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