Edge of Apocalypse: pages 85-90 (Chapter Seventeen)
And we meet back with Agent Gallagher. He’s cooling his heels waiting on the post-mortem of his interrogation of the radio shock jock “Ivan the Terrible”:
“Agent John Gallagher was alone, patiently waiting inside the media conference room of the FBI’s New York office, slouched in one of a half dozen black padded chairs that surrounded a large glass table. An imageless HD flat-screen filled one of the room’s walls, where agents would routinely gather to watch and dissect recorded witness interviews and review surveillance footage. Gallagher’s video interview with New York’s favorite shock-jock radio host, ‘Ivan the Terrible,’ was cued up and ready to go.”
Note the spiffy technology with HD flat-screen TVs. 😛
We learn, however, that his boss might not be so pleased:
“Zadernack was a rule-book fanatic. Straitlaced to the hilt. Gallagher’s investigative techniques, though effective, were admittedly eccentric at times. And if there was one thing that his boss, Miles Zadernack, couldn’t stomach, it was anything that strayed outside the pages”
We also have a sort of oddly populist nod to the intended audience. This next paragraph harks back to some allegations made a few years ago that 9/11 emergency workers were not warned of the likelihood of toxic chemical exposure – burning insulation, dust particles, that sort of thing. Again, I’m reminded of the people featured in Sicko who had poorly treated symptoms the government was not paying attention to.
“Gallagher took a couple of gulps from the carton of milk he’d brought with him. It was the only thing that could stop the crushing, burning sensation in his chest. The doctor called it gastric reflux. Job-related stress…but that was for the yuppie-types on Wall Street, not for him. Gallagher had his own personal diagnosis and figured the stuff he’d inhaled on 9/11 had finally caught up to him. So he didn’t bother filling the prescription. Downing some milk seemed to help. That was good enough.”
They always tell you not to drink milk when you have to deal with an upset stomach or things like that, but fact is, I’ve found it helps me, too, on those occasions. Milk is slightly alkaline and has a texture that seems to soothe the throat better than plain water.
We get some banter between him and his boss:
“‘Teretsky, the talk-radio guy, better known as Ivan the Terrible,’ Gallagher began. ‘I videoed my interview with him. Couldn’t believe he agreed without a fight. And no lawyer with him either. That was a shocker.’
‘I see the man enjoys litigation,’ Miles replied, glancing through Teretsky’s investigation file. ‘They must know him pretty well down at the clerk of the court’s office.’
‘Yeah, I hear they had to build a new wing just to store all the files from his lawsuits,’ Gallagher quipped.”
And the interrogation tape starts:
“On the screen, Ivan was sitting in his studio chair. Just before speaking he reached up and pushed the boom microphone out of the way so he could look straight into the eyes of his FBI interrogator.
Ivan was bald-headed with a full black beard and a slightly wild, roaming look in his eyes. Ivan adjusted his dark-rimmed glasses.
‘Okay, Mr. FBI man,’ Ivan began. ‘You called for this party. So let’s p-a-r-t-e-e…'”
I’m sorely tempted to roll my eyes at the painfulness of this cliche, but I’ll mightily restrain myself and move on. The preliminaries are established: Gallagher is questioning the man not as a suspect, but as a material witness, so no Miranda rights are invoked at this stage. Now for the meat of the sandwich:
Then Gallagher started into the details of that day. The time Ivan got to the studio that afternoon. The time he first learned about the missiles. And more importantly, how he found out about them.
‘A telephone call,’ Ivan said. ‘It was from some woman.’
‘She said her first name…like I was supposed to know her or something, which I didn’t. Can’t recall her name now. I think I blanked it out of my head ‘cuz of what she said next.’
‘She started talking really intense at me, but not loud, sort of whispering like she didn’t want anyone else to hear, and she said, ‘Get out of New York now’…or if I couldn’t do that then I was supposed to head for the basement. That there were two North Korean missiles heading for Manhattan. Then she hung up.'”
So, someone, somewhere, panicked and tried to call the radio station. The plot thickens…
“‘You went on the air with the fact that New York was under nuclear attack based on a phone call from some woman you didn’t know?’
”Course not. What, do I look stupid to you? Naw, we then put a call in to a Pentagon contact. He sounded a tad nervous and refused to comment. We made one more phone call, to the woman at the local emergency preparedness office. I posed as an NYPD officer and acted like I knew what was going on…she spilled the beans in two seconds flat.'”
There’s probably a basis to charge Teretsky with impersonating a police officer, but it’d be a nuisance charge at best, I think, considering the revelations in this chapter.
We learn Teretsky got the call on a phone line known internally and not the line the public normally calls in on. So whoever called in was either in a panic and simply called the first number that came up on their computer search/Allfone master list/whatever, or they didn’t know the public access number. Or they knew someone at the radio station.
Gallagher, realizing something like this is probably up, starts asking for some info.
‘I’d like to see a list of all your guests for the last twelve months,’ Gallagher requested from the other side of the camera. ‘And all your tech people. Anybody with access to that number. Let’s start there.’
‘Are you nuts?’ Ivan blurted out. He was now sitting perfectly erect in his chair, as if he’d just received a low-voltage electrical charge.
‘That’s confidential information,’ Ivan said. ‘We got rights. My lawyer says we got a journalist’s privilege not to disclose information to people like you.'”
Over on the Heathen Critique (link in my Blogroll) and over on Fred’s Left Behind blog, one thing that has come up is the way LaHaye + coauthor tend to sometimes fall into a classic fan-fiction trap: making one character look egregiously stupid in order to push a plot or to make their preferred person look better by comparison.
LaHaye and Parshall are getting close with the way this Teretsky guy is portrayed. No lawyer would use the term “journalist’s privilege” – there’s no such thing. There is a First Amendment case-law basis which might be invoked, as I understand it, to protect Teretsky’s sources, but this would be a matter for some legal wrangling in the courts, not a one-on-one with an FBI agent.
Gallagher starts bringing out the big guns:
“‘Tell your lawyer to go back to law school, Ivan,’ Gallagher fired back. ‘The guest list is public information because you’ve already aired it. And probably put it up on your website. Besides, I could get it from the FCC or from your public file. Do you really want to play the legal game with me? I can have you served with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury. Then you can be forced to testify. Unless you want to claim your Fifth Amendment right, that is. So, do you want to claim your right to remain silent because you might incriminate yourself, Ivan? You feeling guilty about the deaths of those New Yorkers who were killed in the melee that happened because you opened your big mouth on the air without talking to us first?'”
At this point, Ivan Teretsky basically loses his shit. Gallagher’s boss, however, is not amused by the heavy-handed tactics, even though Gallagher got that master list of names and numbers he was after:
“‘Your approach is not protocol,’ Miles said matter-of-factly, but his eyes were closing nervously as he spoke. ‘You know the standard procedure. You go to the U.S. attorney’s office. They go to the DOJ and get permission for a subpoena to the telephone company for a listing of the telephone calls to Mr. Teretsky’s studio. Set a court date. The telephone company responds–‘
‘My way’s quicker.’
Miles pointed at the video screen. ‘I don’t like what I just saw,’ he warned. ‘I’ll have to decide whether I write you up because of this.'”
We then get some hints some bigwigs may want to shut this investigation down:
“‘If this investigation continues,’ Miles threatened with a little less monotone than usual. Then he stood up. ‘Please secure that videotape in the evidence room,’ he demanded and turned to leave.
Gallagher was stunned. He had to chew on that for a minute while he remained in his chair. Finally he reached over and snatched up the papers off the table. He couldn’t believe what his boss was suggesting. That the FBI would actually drop an investigation into leaked information which compromised national security.
Come on, Miles, what’s going on here?“
So at this stage, we’re starting to see the hook get baited with some shadowy behind-the-scenes conspiracy maneuvering, and we’re gonna bite. Because darn it all, I will get through the entirety of this book. 😛
And to be honest, this isn’t bad as far as your template detective-thriller goes – the lone man or woman against people he/she may or may not know who are trying to keep him or her from achieving justice for all. 🙂
Next chapter we’ll move to Davos and meet some more people.