Saturday, September 16, 2006

As Promised: Spy Conference Cheers--Where Nobody Knows Your Name

As promised earlier....

Wednesday 9:08AM
My contact’s voice came on the radio and the codeword was spoken,

“This Wednesday to Thursday the International Spy Conference will be held in Raleigh at the NC Museum of History. Tickets are still available. For more information, please go to or call 962-9862. This is WUNC 91.5 Chapel Hill, 89.5 Rocky mount…”

I had been activated. From the scant information in the brief, I began formulating my plan. First I assembled the knowns.

1. A conference for international spies was being held.
2. It was being held in Raleigh.

From there, I entered into the speculative conjecture, jotting down questions as they arose.

1. What kind of spy would go to a spy conference?
2. What kind of spy would go to a spy conference in Raleigh?
3. Will there be intrigue?

I quickly stopped pontificating. It could go on all day and really, no one would be any closer to the truth. Thus I steeled my resolve. I was the only one who could provide a definitive version of the truth. Yes. This was my mission. I was going to infiltrate the spy conference.
It was Wednesday morning 9:23AM. A quick look at the conference agenda showed me my target of opportunity: The gala cocktail reception on Thursday evening. Bingo. It presented the perfect opportunity to mingle amongst the spies, a chance to see past the tuxedos and martinis, a chance to determine if any of them were actually remotely attractive. I sure hoped so.
I didn’t care what vile tricks I played, what disguises I donned, what women I seduced, I was going into this gala, all else be damned. The next twenty-four hours were spent planning. I researched this year’s conference topic: Fidel Castro. I read the dossiers of all the event organizers, I used my alias as a magazine reporter to request press passes, and should all else failed, I prepared my waiter disguise.
The plan was arduous, highly complex, and extremely thorough. I submitted it to my station chief before making my final preparations. His reply came just as I was wiring myself up with my hidden recorder.

“I applaud, humbly. An excellent plan. Part of the charm of which.... that it will almost certainly fail in wonderful fashion,” he wrote.

Ha, we’ll see about that, I thought, as I tucked the spare waiter shirt, lapel camera, and forged name badge into my pack.

Zero hour approached. My accomplice and I parked the car a few blocks east of the venue after having made several reconnaissance passes. The plan was simple. We would walk through the front door and demand press passes. If that failed, on my cue, she would faint causing a marvelous diversion. Should both plan A and B fail, I would hastily retreat behind the building to don my waiter guise. If that too failed, then I was left with my last resort: bribery. I was all out of grappling hooks dammit.

We approached the perimeter. Previous surveillance had already spotted a significant police presence. Unmarked black cars were hastily delivering their “cargo” to the main entrance before disappearing into the night. Halfway up the steps, I spotted the first obstacle, a guard at the perimeter. It was go time.
The guard stopped us as we neared.
“Can I help you,” he questioned.
“Uh, Um, We’re uh here for the spy gala,” I hastily improvised.
“Oh, go right on in,” he answered, pulling the door open.
We were in. An excellent plan indeed.
A quick glance at the surroundings told me everything I needed to know. Big burly men in tan suits wearing panama hats, svelte suave gents in charcoal suits, dames in evening wear, indoor palm trees, and a Latin jazz combo. The waiters were dressed in khakis, as per the Cuban theme. Damnit why hadn’t I thought of that. My contingency plan was blown.
I tried to compose myself as I made out the rest of the environment. A bar in the center dished out mojitos and cigars. As a consolation to my previous failures, I made a mental note to hit that up hard.
But we weren’t out of the woods yet. A lady in a red dress greeted us in the reception area.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“We’re uh, here to cover the gala for Matter Magazine,” I said assuredly. “I talked to this afternoon, she said it’d be fine for us to come,” I added, name dropping one of the conference planners.
“Oh ok, sure,” the lady said. She handed us nametags with our names written on it. And then I saw it. The entire table was covered with nametags of all the guests yet to arrive. FOOLS! I said to myself jubilantly. Now your identities shall be known. To me! I hastily snapped a few pictures with my hidden camera. HQ would definitely be interested in this list of names I held before me.

The lady returned back to the table and left us to our own devices. I activated my hidden recorder. Testing testing, I said to myself, making sure all was functional. Good, I thought.
I turned to my accomplice, “Alright,” I began, “We need to talk to every weird person in sight and we gotta find out who’s a spy. And if they say they’re not a spy, that’s just spy talk for of course I’m a spy. So don’t take no for an answer, and get out as much information as possible.”
We split up. She headed toward a group of well-dressed gentleman calmly discussing international politics as they cooled themselves with Castro fans (see attached photo).

And, note the striking likeness of the Castro fan to the real Castro; can it be a coincidence?

I think not. When you have worked for the "Company" as long as I have, you stop believing in coincidence. Hell, you stop believing in anything.

Avoiding both the Castro fans and the fans of Castro, I headed for the bar. On my way, I saw a large man in a beige suit commanding the attention of a group of ladies. He waved a cigar around violently as he animated his speech. A man clad entirely in black with a long full beard reaching his stomach stalked silently in the corner. Serious spy material. Possibly Mossad, I thought.
There were groups dispersed throughout the mezzanine, I noticed some academic looking types congregating by the buffet. Just as I reached the bar, an elderly man and his wife cut me off.
“Two vodka tonics!” He shouted in a raspy voice. As the bartender obliged their order, I heard the wife remark, “Stop hogging up the bar and lets go dancing!”

They toddled off through the potted palms onto the dance floor. The band was riffing out a halfhearted rumba as tipsy spy couples danced. It was almost too much. I ordered a scotch and soda from the bar. Before taking my first sip, I casually asked the bartender if he had figured out who was and who wasn’t a spy.
“It’s hard to tell,” he said, “but I’m pretty sure that British guy over there is a spy.”

I quickly turned to see a tall British fellow in chummy conversation with a few other folks. An attractive brunette leaned on his side. I coughed and damn near choked on my drink.
I’m better than that, I said to myself, trying to regain my composure. I threw down half the drink in the next gulp and wiped my lips. I made my way for a nervous looking lady sitting by herself at the edge of the party. The night was about to unfold. It was to be spectacular.

(Raleigh Spy Conference Web Site)

The Raleigh Spy Conference

I am going to be syndicating the spy/writing stylings of one of Duke's finest and newest alumni. I am not at liberty to reveal his name, but his initials are "Charles Lin."

CL wanted some advice on how to crash the Raleigh International Spy Conference. He called me, one of the highest compliments I have ever received. He and I thought of a plan for safely crashing the door without using money, violence, the truth, or actual press credentials. The plan didn't work, of course. But he made it anyway, and....well, I'll let him tell the story in the coming week or so.

Watch this space for "Spy Conference Cheers: Where Noboby Knows Your Name"