Joe Wosniac was the product of Chicago ward politics who gained access to the Senate Intelligence Committee when his boss, Senator John Luinski, became Chairman.
He had spent eight years with Radio Free Europe and four with the Rand Corporation. His specialty was Jihadi’s and terrorist organizations.
There were people like him all over Capitol Hill. They developed an expertise because they sought to know far more than any other human about a particular area. In the case of Joe Wosniac, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of Jihadi’s, domestic and foreign, and well knew the interlocking ties between various branches.
If there was a trivial pursuits for terrorist information, he would be the person you would ask to write the questions and answers. He was bright, tough, and worldly, and this morning he had been awakened far earlier than he was used to being awakened.
“Oh...Christ...what time is it?” he said to no one as he looked over at the phone ringing on the nightstand.
“This better be good, dipshit, because you woke me up long before I was supposed to be us this morning.” Joe reached for his first of the seventy cigarettes he would smoke that day.
“Mr. Wosniac, I’m very sorry for waking you up early. This is Tommy Sanutti of Special Operations at Langley. We met several times during appropriations hearings. I’ll make this quick.
The President is currently being held hostage by the July 4th Strike Force at the White House. They’ve also struck at the Pentagon, Langley, and at any number of locations. We need you here to brief you about developments before we send you into a special ops team that is going into the White House via an old tunnel to free the President. Any questions?”
“Yeah. I got one. Who the fuck read a report I sent to you guys only eight months ago outlining just such a scenario? I want to see his analysis and I want an answer as to why he deep sixed it. Then I want his ass fired because he did such a lousy job acting on my recommendations.”
“I understand how you feel, Mr. Wosniac, but we have a job to do right now. We have to concentrate on getting the President out alive and taking back this country from the Jihadi’s who are killing any number of Americans as we talk.”
Tommy Sanutti signaled to his assistant to disable the recording devices he was using to record these conversations for later hearings he was sure would follow these events.
“Mr. Wosniac. They also have the President’s wife, family, and a number of other White House staff hostage. We’re still receiving incoming reports but we believe they may also be holding Senators, Congressmen, and high level American businessmen hostage at other locations.
They did their homework. Our files indicate that you know more about how this group operates than any of our people so we are asking your help on this.”
“Is that right? Well, then put this in your files. Record that I’m doing this for the President because I like the guy. Record that you’re tearing me away from a life I thoroughly enjoy to probably die in a mission I never should have had to undertake if you had instituted the recommendations I spent years developing only to have them ignored by your sorry bureaucratic asses."
"And record that once this operation is over I’m going to go after your goddamned agency first when it comes time for oversight and appropriations hearings....Ah, forget it! Jesus Mary and Joseph! The President’s hostage and we’re under attack on our own soil! That’s just great!”
Although he sounded like the owner of a saloon rather than the PhD in Greek philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania that he was, behind the tough talk was a fast and supple mind. Wosniac regularly took on the top brass of the various branches of the armed services, and the underlings who briefed them, and came out on top most days.
He would lure them in with questions of this or that fact which were insignificant sounding enough in the beginning until he slammed them with a fact that only they should know.
It was difficult to hide things from him because he had been in Washington long enough to develop his own alternative sources of information to the patsies from the Pentagon that tried to buffalo him. Then he drilled like a policy dentist until all the worst cavities were cleaned from American defense appropriations yearly.
He still had many of the Greek classics, in Greek, on his desk. When others in Congress failed to understand the constant battles over ethics and ethical and non-ethical choices, he would only smile and return to his office to consult the The Republic or whatever Greek work offered insight and answers to his current dilemmas.
“No doubt you guys have thought of everything, but I do have one very small question.” He fired up a second cigarette, puffed and exhaled. “Who else accompanies me on this mission you guys have so carefully planned?”
This is the question Sanutti dreaded Wosniac might ask before he got to talk to him in person. “He’s a reservist from West Virginia. He can hit a fly at 4500 yards. He’s a medic, excellent language skills, been all over the world, high IQ, usual special ops background. Did some hostage retake in Iraq, Bosnia, Colombia, and other countries. He runs a fruit orchard in West Virginia.”
Wosniac drew back. “Great. You’re sending me in to negotiate a hostage release with a guy who thinks about fruit all day but thinks that bullets are the answer? Forget it. Find me some nerd who fears for his life more than I fear for mine. I might live that way.”
Sanutti looked at his bugging accomplices of many years and nodded. The recorders went back on. “I’m happy then that you agree with the plan. We begin execution at 0800 tomorrow.” Sanutti nodded to his partner to stop the recording.
“I agreed to nothing Nimnod! And I’ll address that to your bosses if I can’t get it across to you! If you could botch the President’s security so badly I can only guess as to how bad your recapture plan might be. But what’s the ace? Every recapture scenario has an ace.”
Sanutti nodded to his partner again, who resumed the recording. “Well, it seems there’s a tunnel underneath the White House that was never filled in. The special op guy you’re going with happens to have a father who drove a trolley car through that tunnel for years. He knows every inch of it by heart."
"We’re hoping that he can pin point a large air duct that goes right to the President’s bunker. We’ve chosen a team with superior skills and we’re running every contingency through the team.”
“You guys can’t read a simple memo I sent you eight months ago and now you want me to trust you with my life? Did it ever occur to you that they may want to make a statement and that’s it? It’s happened before. Look up the Jihadi Chechen Boston Marathon bombers, for example. And I don’t want to lose my life for a statement. I’ve still got a lot of years left. I’ll be more valuable in the ideas war. Believe me.”
“Mr. Wosniac, there is no one else with your expertise. In a national emergency we are legally responsible to take whatever steps necessary to ensure the safety of the American public. That would include getting a direct order to force you to assist our efforts. As you are the most knowledgeable person on the July 5th Strike Force, that means you are who we need right now. The Acting President has authorized us to take you in if you refuse to cooperate.”
“No doubt on a recommendation by you, eh Boy Wonder? Then record this well! Your rescue plan is based on hearsay and the fading memory of an old man, a faulty premise, and even faultier intelligence. It is a desperate attempt to make up for your past mistakes and it will only compound them. After fifty years, tunnels can collapse. Vermin move in where men once tread. I’ll cooperate where I can, but not with this ridiculous plan, Sanutti.”
Sanutti looked at his watch. He quickly estimated how long it would take to convince Wosniac how long it would take for his men to carry him out of his house, into the waiting car, and to the Agency. He opted for the latter option. Nodding to the communications panel on his assistant’s computer, he indicated “Option Two.”
“Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Wosniac.” The assistant flipped the “Option Two” switch. Inside the waiting limousine, a red light flashed on the dashboard. Four men simultaneously leapt from the car and up the cast iron stairs of the Wosniac house. One of them inserted the electronic key into the door’s lock. Within seconds they were in the Wosniac bedroom.
“Just let me get a few things, boys. Anybody need a steroid?!”Of course not. You all take a dozen before you leave for work, eh? He quipped as he began to put together a suitcase. “I knew when your Fuhrer mentioned the car outside he was signaling me. I know the game. I’ll cooperate. But just remember how well you guys pulled off the exit from Saigon in ’75. For all I know the July 4th Strike Force knows about the fucking trolley tunnel too. I have to get a life...”
He picked up the phone again. “Fuck it, Sanutti. You win. Contact the nuns back at Holy Angels in my old neighborhood. Ask them to have the kids pray for me. God listens to the prayers of little children because they’re not cynical bastards like us Sanutti. Will you do that for me?”
“Whatever you wish, Sir.”
“Ok, then. Let’s go! I thought steroids were on the government’s list of forbidden drugs. You’d never know it looking at you boys. And talk like a human. Don’t say “Sir!” twenty-seven times in every sentence, will ya?!”
“Yes, Sir!” answered Sanutti. “Hot damned...YES SIR!!!"