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Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know

December 11, 2017

That’s how Lady Caroline Lamb described Lord Byron.

I have met some men in my time who were mad. Not the angry kind, althought many of those, but the crazy type. I have family that could be considered mad. And they would find the label apt and laugh at it.

I’ve known a few bad men. Not as many as think they were bad, but a few. Some were bad as in dangerous. Some were bad as in mean. Some were just untrustworthy.

Yesterday, I met a man dangerous to know. I don’t know if he’s mad. I kind of hope he is. It would make the stories he told more palatible somehow. He was certainly a bad man, at least in his youth. And not, gang related bad. More like “overthrowing countries” bad.

It was a fascinating and terrifying conversation. He is an old man now. He let drop comments in casual conversation that seemed. . .telling. He’s the first person I’ve ever met who used the word “the company” to refer to the CIA. And it was not a brag, it was part of a description. Slipped into a conversation as casually, as he might say, “The postman,” or “The baker.” He knows guns. Able to talk at length and in detail about the various aspects of sniper rifles, ballistics and aiming systems.

His hearing is going, “Too many years firing weapons systems,” so mostly he talked and I listened. He spoke knowingly about revolutions in Asia, in South America. “The ones we put in were no better than the ones we took out, but they were ours.” He spoke of being a “frogman.” That was the WWII group that became the Navy Seals.

Was he boasting? Maybe a little. Despite being on supplemental oxygen, his voice was firm, but not loud. He also seemed always just about to say something else. But, rarely did. But, I don’t think it was a boast. He seemed wracked with guilt. “I’m not proud of much of what I did.” He seemed surprised to be an old man. “When I turned 35, I had achieved the life expectancy for someone in my position. When I turned 70, well, I had doubled it.”

He also seemed anxious to share, to teach, to warn. “When I was working with people, I said, ‘listen up,’ I’m only this old because I am good at figuring out how to stay alive. I literally wrote the book on dirty tricks.” I believed him.

I’m sure you are reading this waiting for the payoff. Waiting for some bit of juicy detail or anecdote that would validate his statements. I don’t have any. Honestly, after a half hour, I didn’t want to know any names, dates or people. And after an hour, I wondered if he was armed, sitting in his rocker with his oxygen tubes sticking in his nose. And after 90 minutes, I didn’t really want to ask any more questions.

He dropped a few consiracy theory phrases that made me a little suspiecious. He’s a ballistics expert and claims the information about the assassination of Kennedy in the Warren Report is false, because it’s impossible. Oswald was killed to keep him from talking. He said that JFK was the only Kennedy that he respected. He named names of those whose actions led to the decision to kill Kennedy. Jokingly, I asked, “But, we went to the moon, right?” I think I disappointed him. He paused a moment and said rather quitely, “Yes, we went to the moon.” And then, he said the most insightful comment I’ve ever heard about conspiracy theories. He almost chuckeled as he said, “Just remember, conspiracy theories are created by professionals. . .on purpose.”

Where do old spies go to retire? I never really considered it. I won’t tell you where I was, or give any informaiton about who he was. He didn’t tell me that I had to keep it quiet, but it seems like a wise idea. I’m sorry I can’t tell you who he was or where we met. Probably nothing would happen. Probably no one would care. Probably.

As I said, he’s an old man now. I would estimate he is 85 or so. Based on his story, I think he was born in the 1930s. As we said our goodbyes I reached out to shake his hand. His grip was a vice, like granite. “Come back anytime. You’re always welcome.”

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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