The Saving Of America


Within days of Michael Aragón’s death, the calls began.  The world had come to know about the killings.  Answers were demanded, so the Federal Bureau of Investigation began its march toward finding the truth.  They sent a man named Denahy to see me.  Little did we know what games fate was to play with us.  God has a way of making men look foolish.  He has a way of humbling the good and the great.  Our Lord brings us to the fork in the road and forces us to make those most difficult of choices.  So it was that He sent Denahy to me.  

Over the weeks and months we came to know one another.  First, as investigator and potential witness, then, as friends and later as priest and parishioner.  This man was a casualty of the world.  The Devil himself had offered him the golden ring, and as always, stole it from him along with its promise.  Mr. Denahy never lived up to the promise that life offered him.  He became just one more of life’s tragedies.  

It was 6:30 in the morning when Special Agent Denahy of the FBI arrived at his office.  As always, he was the early bird.  His first order of business was to put on a strong pot of coffee.  His second was to have a cigarette at his desk before the others arrived.  He knew that it was against the rules, but he didn't care.  It was his little way of beating the system.  Denahy began to review the new case files that had been placed on his desk the night before.  One in particular caught his eye.  The name on the file was Aragón.  The first paragraph told him all he wanted to know.  The man was suspected of belonging to La Eme.  This is Hispanic for the Mexican-American Mafia.  The file described a massacre that had occurred the day before in Los Angeles.  Aragón and twenty-two others had been involved in a gangland shooting.  All twenty-three were dead.  

He had heard the CNN news reports and had watched an ABC expose which aired immediately after the killings on Monday night.  This was a massacre of great proportions.  It became the news of the week.  Every politician who had even the remotest interest became involved.  It was a field day for the law and order types.  

Another item in the file caught his eye, the fact that Colombian nationals had been among the dead.  This meant drugs.  As Denahy read further, he was interested to find that the man Aragón had no prior criminal record.  In fact, Michael Aragón was a highly decorated United States Marine.  The man's profile showed that he had served as a Marine Raider during World War II and had also fought in Korea.  “So why no record?” he asked himself out loud.  Attached, the file folder had the intra-departmental cover sheet which was marked priority.  There was a note scribbled in the margin.  Peter McKenna wanted to meet on the matter as soon as possible.  That meant today.  Denahy smiled to himself as he remembered Peter McKenna as the toe headed child he had once been those many years ago.  Denahy was fond of the kid.  He was a lot like his father.  As Denahy sat there thinking about the Senator, his mind began to drift to days gone by.

Brian Patrick Denahy was born in East Boston, Massachusetts, some sixty-two years earlier on a bright June day in 1928.  His childhood began and ended well before World War II.  The world of his childhood was simple.  His generation was caught between two worlds.  They were to be the post WWII, miracle generation; the rulers of the world.  He was one of those born too late for World War II and just in time for the Korean conflict.  His was the last American generation to understand the old ways.  When Denahy was a child, there were new bridges, roads, and dams built everywhere by the WPA.  The American government was seen as a helping hand.  President Roosevelt captured the imagination and loyalty of the American people.  Americans had faith in their government and its leaders.  The land of America had not yet been fouled.  Its people held onto the old traditions and values. The concepts of right and wrong were clear and understood by everyone.  Morality was something that you lived, and not a word to debate.  God was good and Satan evil.  Homosexuality was something foreign.  Marriage to one woman was the standard, and divorce was almost unheard of.  Sunday dinners with the grandparents were something to look forward to.  Baseball was as sacred as apple pie.  Drugs were dispensed by the local pharmacist and not by a street corner pusher.  

Denahy was a child of the Great Depression.  In his childhood years there was severe poverty.  His father was one of the lucky ones who had a job.  Having come over from the old country, his father was as Irish as they came.  For an immigrant, being a policeman meant belonging to the system.  It meant being an adopted son of America.  As a cop, his old man was both feared and respected by their neighbors.  The work was hard but rewarding.  The message was clear, even for a child.  Americans were in it together.  It was one for all and all for one.  Overcoming the fear of the stock market crash and the Great Depression was the goal.  You gave a helping hand to neighbors in need and you thanked God for what you had.

For an Irish Catholic family, the Church meant everything.  Priests were respected and nuns revered.  Every Irish mother had a secret desire and that was to have at least one of her boys become a priest.  Mother Church had meaning, and God was everywhere.  The thought of displeasing God was your guide before an action was taken.  Sundays were meant for church and the Mass.  For young Brian Patrick Denahy the Church had significance.  He was an altar boy.  Taught the sacraments, he understood the liturgy and the magical Latin words.  Denahy knew the priests as men of God who prepared for the Mass with great care and seriousness.  The sacraments had great meaning for Catholics.  Each utensil was cleaned and polished.  The altar was perfectly kept.  To the faithful, Mass was never seen as a theatrical production, but an offering of praise and worship to God.  

This was how life began for Special Agent Denahy.  The world he remembered had order and meaning.  Beliefs were simple and easy to understand.  You loved your God and your country.  Hard work at home and school was what you did.  Respect for your mother, father, and others was expected and you helped when you could.  Life was simple then.  He was taught early to make the sign of the cross and to do the pledge of allegiance with equal commitment.  In school, the days always began the same.  You placed your right hand over your heart and said the pledge of allegiance to your country.  The words had meaning.  The flag meant something.  Later that pledge took on a greater meaning.  In the early 1940's, signs for drives were posted everywhere you looked.  America was at war against the Japs and Germans.  Everywhere, Americans collected nylon stockings and metal for the war effort.  Everyone was expected to do his or her share, and everything was given up for the war effort.  If America was to win, all would have to sacrifice.  Already fathers, brothers, cousins, and nephews had been lost to the great quest.  Death of America’s young men had touched everyone.  The War was brought home to Americans every week.  Everyone knew someone who had been killed, their deaths had meaning.  

But that was yesterday and this was today.  Denahy’s idealized world of his youth was gone.  It was as though he was standing on the edge of a cliff somewhere in time, wondering how the fissure had formed in the continuum of American morality.  Deep in his heart, he knew the truth.  This was a new world that had trampled on and then discarded the old rules.  The new rules were like a vapor.  The vapor was there for the moment, only to dissipate into nothingness.  The new rules applied sometimes, but never always.  For Denahy and those of his generation, yesterday’s certainty was gone.  In this new world without rules, the bad guys were never wrong.  They were held to no set of regulations.  In this game, the rules were made up as you went along.  American courts suffered from a clouded confusion brought on by laws that seemed to be set in concrete, but it was as soft and dangerous as quick sand.  Truth and right fell daily through the cracks of the court system, allowing defense lawyers to protect their clients from paying the price for their evil.  

The American justice system was on trial, never the bad guys.  The burden of proof had always been on the system.  But today, the burden of proof had been made impossible to prove.  The bad guys had somehow been made to look like victims of the courts.  For every weak victory by the government, there were ten strong wins for the bad guys.  

Time, Denahy was told as a child, would cure all.  But time hadn't cured all.  Time had made things worse.  There had once been two roads to travel, one right and the other wrong.  Now, there was one road that intertwined good and bad.  It appeared to Denahy that Americans no longer knew where the one left off and the other began.  So good people and bad just walked along on the same road together bumping into one another as they shuffled about.  There was no right and no wrong.  Life was no longer black and white.  It was now one long gray shadow which fell on everything and everyone.  

Special Agent Denahy of the FBI was a product of both the old and new Americas.  As a law enforcement professional, he had a policeman’s intuition and an FBI agent’s grasp of the scientific investigative method.  Denahy understood the streets and the bureaucracy and used both effectively.  Over time, he became a legend in the Bureau.  When an assignment became too difficult for the glory boys, it was given to him.  If a case had gone on too long and the road led nowhere, it became his.  Denahy was the go to guy, the clean-up hitter.  But he was also a dinosaur, a relic of days gone by.  Denahy didn't fit the new image of the Bureau.  He wasn't a Black male or a White female.  Neither was he Hispanic or Asian.  He wasn't young and shiny.  Instead, Denahy was politically incorrect.  The Bureau was now a playground full of children who got into the emotion of it.  They believed that to show that you cared, you had to be involved, excited.  If you weren't running around like a chicken with your head cut off, you were seen as an outsider.  His approach was different.  Unlike the younger agents, he didn't create an atmosphere of crisis.  Denahy simply did his job.  

Today’s world pointed its condemning finger directly at him and his kind.  As an older White male, he was held responsible for everything.  He and his kind were responsible for all of the sins of the past.  The world of today believed that his kind had abused the American Indian and stolen their lands.  White Anglo Saxon Protestant men were now held responsible for all the evils in this world.  They had stolen the western United States from the Mexicans and used the Chinese immigrants to build the railroads before callously deporting them.  In short, these WASP males had been thieves, liars, and cheats.  It was believed, that once these WASP males had completely dominated the North American continent, they moved on to enslave the rest of the world through the use of arms and trade.  Proof of their inability to properly lead the new world order was the fact that they used American wealth and power to enslave the peoples of the world.  

These WASP males were also found guilty of dominating and oppressing their own women, treating them as second class citizens.  For generations, American White women had been mistreated by their men.  During World War II, when women entered the work force, they were underpaid.  After the war, they continued to be abused by their male oppressors.  Executive suites had been kept out of their reach by the WASP male to ensure that he could continue to oppress.  Because of these WASP males, American minorities had to find remedy in the law to protect themselves.  The nineteen-sixties were the time for redress.  The WASP males had been found guilty of racial prejudice and injustice.  It was proven that they had willfully abused and demeaned their brothers and sisters.  They were no longer fit to lead America.  The doors to power in America had to be forced open for those more deserving.  A way would have to be made to give power to the minorities, one which also included the down trodden WASP women.  

Every problem in the world was now attributed to the White male.  He was responsible for war, floods, and famine.  The WASP males could have controlled disease, but had chosen not to.  Pollution of the oceans and land were his legacy to the world.  The WASP male had caused many animal species to become extinct.  Their incompetence had ruined the ozone layer.  Anything and everything which was wrong with America was his fault.  In Denahy’s mind, no one had bothered to ask the simple question.  When did these WASP males have time to get together and plan all of these evil deeds?  Everyone he knew was a workaholic.  They spent the majority of their time working to pay taxes to support an overly generous social system.  When these WASP men weren’t working, they were getting educated so they could get ahead.  This allowed them to work more hours and earn more money in order to pay more taxes.  Any money left over was used to get drunk or buy more toys.  These evil males needed the latter to help them to forget how oppressed they were.  This also allowed the dangerous WASP male to forget how stupid he was to have bought into the American dream to begin with.  Denahy had become a cynic.  

By the late 1980's, it was decided that WASP males should have no voice.  If he argued his case, the man was considered that much, more guilty.  The institutions that he had created were also tainted.  The WASP courts were biased against minorities.  These poor down trodden masses couldn’t be held accountable for their mistakes.  They were victims of the White Man's world.  If they used alcohol or drugs, it was because of the hopelessness brought on by the White Man's unfairness.  If they stole, it was because the system barred them from good paying jobs.  Minorities had been forced to give up on a better future.  Jobs were difficult to qualify for due to the poor educational system provided by the White Man.  Denahy had heard the liberals say that WASP males were stuck in the 1950's, and they couldn't or didn't want to learn the new ways.  They were still part of a “Good Old Boys” network, one that couldn't be penetrated.  If left to them, the world wouldn’t change.  And if these WASPs wouldn't change, what good were they?  

Yes, Denahy had been given a few breaks in life, but after that, he’d to earn everything he got.  As he saw it, the Good Old Boys Club hadn't done him that much good.  The harder he worked, the further behind he got.  The system was the same for everybody.  The more you had, the harder you had to work to keep it.  He saw life as a vicious circle.  Denahy didn't feel as though he was anything special.  The entire matter was beyond Denahy’s comprehension.  One morning he woke up and he was a criminal for no other reason than his ethnic background, gender, and religious affiliation.  The icing on the cake was the fact that he was in law enforcement.  This meant that he was kept at a distance at parties, due to the fear that the other guests might be overheard saying something illegal.  What a hell of a place the world had become, he thought to himself.  

This was the new world that Agent Denahy found himself in.  He was told that he had to play ball, if he wanted to play at all.  His value as an employee was now marginalized.  It was understood that Denahy would be tolerated as long as he knew his place.  And his place was in the shadows.  Denahy was to be seen and not heard.  His reports were sanitized by someone who was younger and more politically correct than himself.  Findings were now reported to a younger man, one who understood the complexities of a new and better world order.  He no longer fit in and he knew it.  Denahy was on his way out; rejected by a place that he had once felt a part of it.  

What they’d forgotten was that Denahy was a human being with feelings.  He was not some homogenous thing; he was an individual who had worth.  Denahy wanted to shout it out to the world.  But it was too late.  No one was listening.  Angered by the feeling of being a non-person, he wanted to shake someone and force them to listen to his side of the story.  As a new victim of the system, the difference was that he now had no voice.  No matter, in three more years Denahy was going to retire.  Hanging on until then would take some work, but he could put up with the bullshit.  Denahy had been doing exactly that for forty years.  Just three more years, then they could shove it.  There would be no more stupid people or tight ass bosses; he would be his own man.  At that point in time, someone else could take the heat and put their ass on the line every day.  How would these new kids handle being shot at and wounded?  How would they feel when the bad guys with good lawyers walked when everybody knew damn well they were as guilty as sin?  

The face of the new FBI agent had been found, and Denahy had seen the advertisements.  The new face was that of the younger FBI agents.  They were newly minted young men and women who understood, or so he had been told.  As college educated and politically correct team players, these Black, Hispanic, Asian, and female agents would save the world.  His kind were finished.  

Their professors had taught them how to act properly in this brave new world.  The catch phrases were different.  Reports would have to reflect the proper way of doing business.  Everything would be done by consensus.  There would be no conflict or disputes.  No individual would accept responsibility in the event of failure.  All would have to be done right.  

What bullshit this New World Order stuff was, it was just old world buck–passing revisited.  If everything was done by a committee, then no one person could be held responsible in the event of failure.  In this way, failure didn't exist.  If no one was responsible, then everyone was successful, except those who did the suffering.  This wasn't team playing; it was buck passing clear and simple.  

Denahy was now directed by a younger, more politically correct man.  His name was Peter McKenna, the new Deputy Director.   He was a graduate of Harvard Law School.  His father's position and power had served him well.  The son of a United States Senator, Peter was a rising star in the Bureau's hierarchy.  It was nice to be connected.  Everyone knew that this young liberal was the new FBI.  Denahy and McKenna had a love/hate relationship.  The boy was like a son to him.  But Peter’s perfection irritated Denahy.  McKenna had it all; he was tall and handsome, well-mannered, and well-groomed.  The new Deputy Director came from the right family and the right schools.  Everything about him was correct.  Dressing for success, his clothes were always quietly elegant.  Reflecting in every way the New World Order, his assistants were appropriately female and of all minority groups.  His office reflected the new face of America and the Bureau.  His handsome face could be found in magazines and newspapers.  McKenna had become the darling of the liberal press, the poster boy for the Bureau.  When he appeared on television, he was the perfect package.  The camera loved his piercing, ice blue eyes.  Peter’s blonde hair was neatly trimmed to reflect his office and the Bureau.  His delivery was easy and controlled.  And it helped that he knew the reporters on a first name basis.  

Denahy felt that McKenna would some day follow in his father's footsteps.  Peter’s friends at the State Department, Justice, and the White House knew that he would run for political office.  There had been no youthful indiscretions, no skeletons in his closet.  His father, Senator McKenna, had taken great pains to keep his son's record clean.  There had been no cheating on exams.  Peter had always been at the top of his class and had passed the Bar on his first try.  Before entering the Bureau, Peter had practiced law with a prestigious law firm in Washington D.C.  At night and on weekends, he gave the poor pro-bono legal aid services.  Peter McKenna cared about the poor almost as much as he cared about his career.  He was everything his father had expected him to be.  He was perfect.  

His father, Senator Gregory McKenna, was a Washington institution.  The Senator had served President John F. Kennedy during his administration.  He had been a war hero.  His was a household name.  The Senator’s voice was known for what is right.  During the Watergate hearings, it was his crafty hand that brought down Nixon.  Being a ranking member of the Senate's Judicial Committee, he served his country well and with honor.  

Denahy had always respected the Senator.  He was a good man whom Denahy called a friend.  The two had known each other since the days immediately after the Korean War.  The Senator had been severely injured in an automobile crash and had gone into cardiac arrest while Denahy was on duty as a beat cop.  It was Denahy who had reached him first, on that early morning in 1954.  Denahy's quick thinking and excellent training had saved the Senator's life.  Denahy had kept him alive until a doctor arrived on the scene.  He had no knowledge that the man whose life he’d saved was a United States Congressman.  Denahy would have done the same for anyone else.  It was just the luck of the draw, that he was walking his beat on that Boston street corner.  

During that time, Denahy had been attending law school at night.  By day, he was one of Boston's finest, a dedicated cop.  A big man, Denahy was six foot three, two hundred and fifty pounds of muscle.  Hard and tough, he didn't shy away from the use of force.  Patrolling his beat with professionalism, he ran a tight ship.  Crime on his beat was almost non-existent.  The street punks knew him and respected his turf.  He was an honest cop, and he was fair.  The business owners appreciated his hard work and diligence.  The people on his beat liked him.  

He was genuinely surprised when he received a commendation for saving the Congressman's life.  Denahy had done something similar before, saving a young man’s life.  But nothing had been said about it afterwards.  Several months later, he was surprised to receive an invitation to attend a dinner party at the Congressman's home.  Asking his sergeant what he should do, Denahy was told to attend the dinner party and make the force proud of him.  The evening of the dinner party, he dressed in a new suite and tie.  That day, he’d gone to get a haircut and a shoeshine.  Driving onto the long estate driveway, he arrived at an elegant three-story home.  When he pulled up to the large house, a tall, light skinned, Negro doorman walked quickly toward his car.  “Thank you,” the doorman said, firmly shaking Denahy's hand.  The man smiled broadly at him.  It was clear that the Congressman was well liked by his household staff.  Led up the stone steps to the large front doors of the home, a young maid answered the door with a wide, sincere smile.  She reached out to him and took his hand in hers, shaking it vigorously.  The maid also thanked him for saving the Congressman's life.  

It was then, that he first saw Peter.  The boy grinned at Denahy as he stuck his head out from behind the maid.  The little boy was a toe head, with long wavy hair worn in a pageboy style.  His blue eyes sparkled with mischief as he ran over to him.  He was tall for his age.  The little boy grabbed Denahy's hand and led him from the foyer into a large study.  Then he left quietly without saying a word, shutting the door behind him.  Not wanting to seem impolite, Denahy stood admiring the furnishings in the study, rather than taking a seat.  Walking over to a wall of large bookshelves that housed hundreds of books, he was fascinated by the fact that anyone would have a library this large.  More than that, the books were leather bound volumes and obviously expensive.  After admiring them, Denahy moved across the large room to admire an oil painting depicting an American Revolutionary War scene.  As he stood admiring the fine oil painting of the founding fathers, he was startled as the door opened behind him.  Turning to look, there stood a beautiful young woman.  “Hello, I'm Alyson McKenna.” She said, with a wide smile.  “And you are the fine police officer who saved my husband's life.”  With those words, she reached out with both hands and shook his hand.  Kissing him on the cheek, she had tears in her wide set, coffee colored eyes as she moved toward him.  “We owe you so much.”  She said, moving away from him to stand at a comfortable distance.  Denahy couldn’t help but notice her beauty.  Mrs. McKenna’s high cheekbones, narrow face, and elegant long neck reminded him of those models he saw in magazines.  Tall and fit with long arms and legs, her skin was tanned to a golden hue.  Her light brown hair was worn in a bouffant style.  Wearing a pink, low cut evening gown, she exposed just a hint of her ample breasts.  Denahy didn't know what to say.  Smiling at her, he said only that he was happy that the Congressman was well.  

After some small talk, they walked together into the dining room.  There stood the Congressman and his young son.  McKenna was a large man, six foot four inches tall with a well-kept, muscular frame.  His reddish blonde curly hair was worn longer than the usual businessman’s haircut.  His handsome face was dominated by large bushy eyebrows and rounded green eyes.  A reddish colored, walrus style moustache gave him a Teddy Roosevelt like-look.  

As the two moved across the room toward Denahy, the Congressman held out his hand toward Denahy.  The two men felt awkward as they shook hands.  The Congressman thanked him for saving his life.  Both men knew that the debt of life was one not easily repaid.  McKenna motioned Denahy to the seat next to him at the elegant dinner table.  The first few minutes were uncomfortable for Denahy.  He didn’t want to say or do anything that might embarrass himself or the Department.  As they sat, the little boy watched Denahy intently.  The Congressman sensed Denahy's discomfort and did his best to make light chit-chat.  His wife asked Denahy about his job as a police officer.  They spoke of the dangers involved and the difficulties that policemen had in their line of work.  Denahy discussed his beat and the people there.  He talked about the responsibilities he had to the people on his beat.  

The three had sat at the dinner table for the entire evening never bothering to move into the study.  Impressed with his intelligence and his wit, the Congressman and his wife liked Denahy.  To be sure, he was charming and able to carry a conversation.  As the night progressed, Denahy became more comfortable.  It was one of those intimate dinner parties that flowed well.  When Denahy looked up at the clock, it was already midnight.  Peter had been taken to bed by his nanny several hours before.  

It had been an interesting evening for all.  Denahy had won their hearts and they had found a special place in his.  As Denahy left that evening, the Congressman asked him if he would dine with them again.  The Congressman's wife asked for his office telephone number to ensure that their guest could be reached.   Little did he know that this evening was the beginning of a life-long friendship.  

By 1955, Denahy had graduated from law school.  The newly elected United States Senator decided to give Denahy a graduation party.  The Senator invited several of the Boston Police Department's brass to the affair.  Another important member of the celebration was a representative of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  McKenna had ensured that the FBI was aware of young Denahy.  Their closeness was not lost on the Agent.  

The hot topic of discussion during the party was the Negro boycott of the segregated city bus lines in Montgomery, Alabama.  All agreed that it was about time.  The Negroes of the South were poorly treated and everyone knew it.  Yet, there was a feeling of apprehension that the Negroes had taken to the streets.  

The Senator brought the party to a halt, making a speech thanking Denahy for having saved his life a few years earlier.  Denahy then made a speech of his own, extolling the virtues of the Senator and speaking of his love for the McKenna family.  He then thanked the McKenna’s for all they had done for him.  

The party had been a hit in more ways than one.  The introduction to the FBI agent had paid off.  The next day, the Senator received a note from J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI.  Hoover was an institution that the Senator had always paid homage to.  The note was simple.  Hoover was very interested in the recruitment of those individuals with previous law enforcement experience.  Denahy’s future was now secure.  The note also suggested a luncheon with the Senator to discuss the matter.  A luncheon was scheduled and the two met the next week.  They had been on friendly terms since their first meeting many years before.  Hoover was always concerned about his friends on Capitol Hill, making every effort to keep those friends close.  Making a practice of keeping a certain number of FBI positions open for friends of friends, Hoover was ready for just such an occasion.  The deal was struck that day at lunch.  By the end of the year, Denahy was to be Special Agent Denahy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  

Denahy joined the Bureau at a time when America was beginning to understand the meaning of power.  It was America’s golden age.  The mid-nineteen fifties found America at a place in time when she was grappling with the notion that she was a true international power on the planet.  The past war had destroyed Europe’s ability to compete with the United States.  America was enjoying the spoils of the conqueror.  But the world outside was beginning of change.  It was becoming a dangerous place.  The United States was about to be severely tested.  For Denahy, this was a time of accomplishment and good feelings.  He was a man on his way up the ladder of success.  

By 1958, America was facing problems abroad.  Though the Bureau was only responsible for domestic law enforcement, it kept abreast of world developments; particularly any international problem that might result in domestic disruption.  America had many enemies and they had to be watched.  Many countries were attempting to redefine themselves.  The Western Hemisphere was not immune from these changes.  Central and South America were now becoming breeding grounds for insurrection.  The Russians were funding communist cells in the regions.  These corrupting cancerous cells began to grow and threaten the Latin body politic.  The Bureau saw this as a direct threat to American interests in the hemisphere.  

Everywhere in the outside world things were changing.  New governments were being formed, old ones being overthrown.  Their peoples wanted to share in the new wealth.  Long held European colonies of the Third World were ripe for takeover.  Western powers forced to rebuild after the destruction of the last war could no longer afford to keep their colonies in line or pay for the cost of controlling a civil war.  

By 1959, Cuban President Batista was forced to flee to the Dominican Republic.  Fidel Castro won his long guerilla campaign and was named premier.  Soon after his successful revolution Castro announced to the world that his was a Communist country.  This announcement sent shock waves throughout the country and the Bureau.  The Director was now committed to the destruction of communism.  Castro had made his “A” list when Cuba appropriated American owned sugar mills.  The crackdown on Communists within the United States by the Bureau had begun anew.  Denahy was now assigned to investigate anything that looked red.  Cuba wasn’t the only institution to fall that year.  Denahy's marriage to his wife Linda ended.  He’d married her the same year he joined the Bureau.  He quickly found that they had little in common.  Linda enjoyed the Washington cocktail circuit and booze.  Linda drank too much at Bureau functions, offending some.  Even the Senator had cautioned Denahy that Linda might be a potential threat to his career.  They had begun fighting over her fondness for booze.  As the fights became more frequent the marriage began falling apart.  Finally, after a month of bruising battles, Linda served him with divorce papers.  She then moved out to a home of a friend.  The marriage was over.  

It was 1960, and Special Agent Brian Patrick Denahy had received his five year Departmental service pin.  The world was looking up.  Men of his generation were about to take upon themselves the mantel of power.  John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected the 35th President of the United States.  Denahy and others in the Bureau were excited at the thought of the young President taking office.  Eisenhower had become old.  His recent heart attack had reminded many that someone more vital was needed in the office.  That someone was Kennedy.  It was a time when the old had to make way for the new.  Yet, there was uncertainty about the future.  The leaders who led the world of the past were now old and unable to chart a new course.  America was looking for someone with promise to lead her.  With each day came a new crisis.  Though the people were ready, the institutions of state were not.  But those that had guided America through both world wars and Korea were not ready to step down.  They were not unlike a prize fighter who doesn’t realize that his time has passed.  

In Kennedy, America was receiving its first taste of American royalty.  The pre-inaugural gala was a sight to behold.  The $100–a-head guest list for the National Guard Armory gala was impressive.  The list of entertainers was even more impressive.  The show's impresario was Frank Sinatra.  Among the performers were Kelly Smith, Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte, Ella Fitzgerald, Alan King, Gene Kelly, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, and Milton Berle.  Others included Frederic March, who read Lincoln's pre-inaugural address and Laurence Olivier who delivered a British tribute.  There was one obscure FBI agent in the crowd that evening, Brian Patrick Denahy, attending with Senator McKenna and wife.  America’s future burned bright.  

Kennedy seemed to live up to his promise, he’d weathered the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion failure, the Cuban missile crisis, and the Soviet threats to take Berlin.  His leadership was grappling effectively with the rising tide of Communism in the Far East.  Even the Negro segregation problems of the American South were not beyond his ability to cope.  But on that day of November the 22nd, 1963, life changed.  Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  Denahy had been eating lunch at a small restaurant in the Negro part of DC.  He heard the news report on the small, tinny radio.  It was announced that the President has been shot in Dallas.  Denahy quickly left and drove back to his office.  When he arrived the place was in a panic.  Bulletins were being issued on a minute-by-minute basis.  Agents were being assigned to various Federal buildings for security.  Denahy was assigned to Senator McKenna's office.  

When Denahy got to the Senator's office, he could see the mass confusion and panic.  The staff was listening intently to the television news broadcasts.  Quickly ushered into McKenna's private office, he found a very distraught friend of the President.  They had served together as freshman Congressmen in 1946.  McKenna and his wife had been frequent guests at the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port.  The Senator had been one of several who had introduced a young Congressman, John Kennedy, to his wife Jackie.  Senator McKenna and the President went back a long way.  Over the course of that afternoon the two spoke little, occasionally looking to one another for comfort.  It was enough for them to be together, alone in the Senator's office.  They were friends with a special bond.  McKenna owed his life to Denahy.  Denahy owed his success in life to McKenna.  They spent the last several hours of daylight together, alone and in silence.  When night fell, McKenna went home to his wife and son.  Denahy went to a bar to drown his sorrows.  

After Denahy arrived home, it took an entire bottle of scotch to send him off into dreamland.  Denahy wanted only to forget what the world outside was feeling.  He knew what they were feeling; he was feeling it too.  Camelot was gone.  Kennedy had been their symbol of leadership in a brave new world, giving the people a sense of direction.  The President had been an able captain charting the nation’s course to open, rough seas and then home again to safe harbor.  And the people believed that he knew the seas.  They also believed that with him as their captain, the ship of state would not end up on the jagged rocks of history.  But instead it would chart courses to new lands, open up the world to greater wealth and influence for Americans and the rest of mankind.  Now Johnson would have the mantle of power placed on his broad shoulders.  

The next several hundred hours were a blur.  Denahy remembered with sorrow those days that followed the President's death.  He recalled that cold, clear day and the First Lady's solemn face.  She and the children followed the flag draped casket in a cortege to the rotunda of the Capital.  The black laced mantilla framing her exquisite face exaggerated the look of a lost little girl which shown in her eyes.  Time had ceased as she walked out of the White House and up the thirty-two marble steps of the Capitol.  Denahy remembered the cortege which carried the President's body, first from the White House to the Capitol, then to the funeral mass at Saint Matthew's Cathedral.  The sun shown brightly on that clear, cold day as the caisson was drawn by three pairs of matched gray horses.  

As the world watched the First Lady's grief, Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused killer of the President, was shot by Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner.  Television had come of age.  It was now the eyes and ears of the ongoing tragedy.  Oswald died soon after.  The circle was closed.  There would be no more questions, no more indictments.  Denahy was happy to see the little commie bastard get his.  But always, in the back of his policeman’s mind, there was that little voice.  It had all happened too neatly, the play too well-written.  There were no loose ends.  

Later, Lyndon B. Johnson was elected President.  The win had been expected.  America was willing to support the man who had served as Kennedy's Vice President.  Johnson was also a party man.  Every Democratic politician had supported him.  The consummate arm twister, Denahy had heard several times that Johnson was feared rather than respected.  What he couldn't get through the use of crude charm, he forced out of his victims.  

While America was escalating its efforts in Vietnam, the Russians were found to have provided arms to Hanoi, signaling that the Soviets were becoming active players.  This also meant stepped up surveillance of the Soviet Embassy personnel in Washington.  The Bureau was now redoubling its monitoring of the Russian embassy personnel's comings and goings.  Denahy was assigned to those duties.  This meant long days and even longer nights.  The duty was hard on him, but even harder on his new wife.  He hadn't spent much time with her before.  Now, he was never home.  They had become distant.  Denahy couldn't remember the last time they had slept together.  When together, they rarely spoke.  He and his wife were like two ships passing in the night.  

For Denahy, the whole damn world was a mess.  The kids were protesting the war.  Everyday there was something on television about the youth culture.  The war protests had become violent.  There were pitched battles in the streets.  Next came Watts.  Severe race riots in the Watts district of Los Angeles, California, had erupted.  Thirty-five deaths occurred.  There were over 4,000 arrested and more than 40 million dollars in damage.  The Negro problem was no longer non-violent.  The word at the Bureau was that a more radical element in the Negro community was now in control.  The Bureau's already strained resources were asked to begin investigating the Black Power movement.  This new workload proved too much for Denahy's already strained marriage.  His second marriage was now over.  Susan had given it all she had.  It was a combination of his heavy boozing and lack of attention that had caused her to find comfort elsewhere.  Denahy tried to hold it all together, but it was beyond his ability.  Assigned to a task force involved with the investigation of the anti-war movement, he didn't have the time to mourn the death of his second marriage.  This engagement demanded all of his time and emotions.  

The Bureau and its agents were under a terrific strain.  To men like Denahy, it appeared that America had run out of answers.  The lessons of the past were valueless in a world made up of new, more complex problems.  No one knew who the enemy was anymore.  The kids viewed the Establishment as the enemy.  The Bureau saw the kids, radical Negroes, and Communists as the enemy.  The Blacks saw the Whites as the enemy.  One group had remained on target.  The Communists had always known who their enemy was, it was the United States.  For Denahy, 1966 ended at a New Year’s Eve party.  He found himself confused, angry, drunk, and alone.  One thing was for sure, he would wake up to another bad year.  

1967 brought out the cynic in Denahy.  He had once believed in his country.  The past had taught her leaders nothing.  America was carrying on an unpopular war thousands of miles away from her shores.  The attack on Hanoi by U.S. bombers was another example of a war gone out of control.  It appeared that the military was above the fray.  No one was listening to their sources.  The word on the street had always been the straightest.  The streets were saying to stop the war.  No one in the Bureau wanted to tell the truth or hear the truth, so they all lied, even to themselves.  The lies became the mantra for American purpose and the War kept going.  

By 1970, US troop strength in Vietnam fell below four hundred thousand.  The streets were still on fire.  At Kent State University of Ohio, four students were left dead during a protest.  The National Guard troops were inexperienced and lost their heads, firing on the students.  This symbolized what had gone wrong with America.  Denahy and other Agents were shocked when they heard the news.  He couldn’t believe that these cowboys had been allowed to carry live ammo.  Even more than that, how could they have loaded those weapons knowing what could result.  The battle lines had been drawn in the streets.  The American public was now at war with its own military.  With the Bureau’s hands full investigating the anti-war types and Black extremists, dissention started in the ranks.  Denahy and others at the Bureau were becoming more vocal in their feelings about the war.  He was by now was becoming totally discouraged.  His once orderly world of the past was unraveling before his eyes.  Everywhere he looked there was violence.  

Then, J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director since 1924, died.  The word came to Denahy, first by the television and then by telephone call.  Senator McKenna delivered the news.  Hoover’s death ended an era of power for power’s sake.  He and others like him had first coveted and then stolen their power.  This group of madmen believed they were entitled to it.  In the end, it was all they had.  Their souls had grown cold and hard through years of its worship.  

Soon, Denahy was assigned to a case in Florida involving the shipment of weapons and drugs across state lines.  To Denahy, everything else in life had become a backdrop.  He had found his calling.  While America and the rest of the world had been eating themselves alive, others had been making money from drugs and arms.  It was into this world that Agent Denahy had been placed.  Denahy now had a reason for being.  He had seen, firsthand, what drugs were doing to America.  The new Counter Culture, as it was called, was propagating the use of drugs.  The loud rock music and rebellious fashions of the day were the first signs of the new culture.  The movement made drugs in vogue.  But the darker side of the drug phenomenon was beginning to rear its ugly head; drugs meant money, and money meant power.  And everyone wanted a part of the action.  The source of the drugs was the problem.  The game was international.  The biggest player in the game was Colombia.  

Realizing that D.C. and its pursuit of power for happiness’ sake was insanity; Denahy preferred to leave the myth behind and turned his back on the Bureau and the power structure.  The Director's death and the mining of North Vietnam's ports meant little to him now.  There was no America, only men in love with power.  The institutions of state were now run by men who had no honor; Nixon had proven that.  Everything Denahy had been taught to believe in was a myth, a lie.  Hoover had been a cog in a wheel.  And that wheel was part of a powerful machine now out of control.  The levers of control had once been the American people.  Those levers had been disconnected and turned over to specialists.  These specialists only cared about power.  To him, they were all men like Hoover, vain, shallow, and self-serving.  Now operating on his own, he’d become a cowboy within the Bureau.  Denahy understood that he’d crossed over the line.  

Denahy had been told by years end, less than 24,000 U.S. troops would be left in Vietnam.  Realizing Nixon, Hoover, and the rest had played a cruel game with American lives, he no longer cared.  In government, there was no honor.  If it existed at all, it was in a man’s heart.  He would find his own road to honor.  Now a bottle a day man, Denahy started his days with a nip and ended them with a bottle.  Working hard and drinking harder, he knew what he had become.  An angry, disillusioned man, work became his life.  The romantic in him was dead.  There were no more Camelot's, no more Kennedy's, only life and its ugliness.  Brian Denahy had seen too much and knew too much.  Even the 1974 milestone in American history Nixon’s resignation had little effect on him.  On August 9th, Gerald Ford became the 39th President of the United States.  Another more important event of the year occurred in New Orleans, DEA agents were stunned to find twenty-four tons of marijuana on a single ship.  Denahy had been following up on an earlier case that was somewhat connected.  That is to say, that the Colombians had been implicated in both.  This had become his war, not Vietnam.  America's new war was the war on drugs.  Denahy sensed that this was the more dangerous of the two.  This war would be fought on American soil by many men of greed against a very few men of principle.  The enemy would be hard to identify and capture.  In this war, American would be fighting against its own citizens.  

Denahy had followed the DEA's reports of the drug trafficking trade since the mid-seventies.  By the 1980's, it was a Colombian show.  The Mexicans had long since fallen by the wayside.  Columbia's Caribbean ports had a tradition of smuggling that went back to the days of piracy.  Smuggling had been the bread and butter for thousands of the coastal people, or Costenos.  The Bureau knew that by the 1960s and 1970s, the Costeno smugglers had observed the money being made by the Mexican marijuana boom.  They were talented and knew how to beat the Mexicans at their own game.  The Colombians offered better product and packaging and paid local farmers of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Martato to grow the superior cannabis.  Colombian marijuana had become big business in Colombia.  Its people had become dependent on American drug dollars.  The Marta Gold sold for $400 to $600 a pound, wholesale.  Soon, Santa Marta gold, distinctive, mellow-yellow marijuana was being smoked at Ivy League colleges and swank parties in Manhattan.  

The preferred port of entry was the eastern seaboard of the United States, where the Mexican drug networks were weak.  As far back as 1974, the Colombians had refined shipping techniques and were able to ship vast quantities undetected.  As the drug trade grew, so did the technological sophistication used by the smugglers.  In addition to using old DC-3's and DC-8 aircraft, the smugglers established command centers with long-range radios.  They had bulldozed airstrips in the desolate stretches of the Guadalajara peninsula.  By 1977, Mexican competition disappeared, a result of the use of the deadly poison paraquat by the Mexican government to destroy their cannabis.  The Mexicans continued to harvest and ship the marijuana tainted with the poison to the United States.  When Joseph Califano, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, announced that paraquat tainted marijuana posed a serious risk to pot smokers, Mexican sales fell off.  By 1978, Colombian Gold accounted for seventy-five percent of the marijuana sales in the United States.  Total sales were estimated at $1 billion a year.  But the true threat was cocaine, and Denahy knew it.  

For a time, the Bureau wasn’t actively involved, but it was kept informed.  By 1980, a concerned FBI joined the DEA in its view that cocaine had become a serious threat to national security.  Cocaine was viewed by many in D.C. as a problem to be dealt with immediately, so the Bureau formed a task force responsible for providing monthly briefings to the Director's office.  Denahy was the lead agent for the task force.  He soon developed an impressive knowledge of the drug problem.  It was Denahy who uncovered the greatest threat.  Specializing in the wholesale end of the business, his intelligence on the drug trade included names, dates, and a detailed organizational analysis of the drug traffickers impressing many.  The head of the snake was to be found in Medellin, Colombia's second largest city.  Through Denahy's considerable network of informants, he’d followed the growth of crime syndicates.  First, they began building cocaine laboratories.  Access to electric power, equipment, trained personnel; air transportation, communications, and international banking were all available in Medellin.  Every indication was that the mainstreaming of the cocaine trade was about to begin.  The main traffic route was from the staging areas on the north coast of Colombia, to Miami, some eleven hundred miles from Barranquilla.  The use of light planes for transport was the preferred method.  The product was placed in plastic bags and loaded into the holds of the aircraft.  It was then sent via airmail to Miami's Little Havana.  There, the Cuban traffickers awaited shipment.  Once the product arrived in Miami, the Cuban retailers distributed the cocaine through their networks of pushers and dealers.  There was always a demand.  Denahy and his task force projected that the Colombians would begin their own retail operations on the West Coast of the United States within five years.  On subsequent briefings, Denahy discussed the probable Colombian retail stratagem.  The theory was simple, the Colombians would move from wholesale to retail.  Miami was the logical point of entry for them due to the large Cuban, Spanish speaking population in the area.  Given this fact, the Colombian infiltration would go largely unnoticed by local law enforcement and undetected by the Cubans until it was too late.  

Later, Denahy would find that the strategy used by the Colombians was the same as he’d proposed to the Bureau brass.  The task force had been proven correct in its preliminary assessment.  The Colombians began their movement into Miami with retail specialists, transporters, and money handlers.  They soon began their war on the Italians, Cubans, and anyone else who might be a rival.  The Miami expressway and Dadeland Mall were witnesses to the escalating drug war.  Pitched battles, fought with automatic weapons were a daily occurrence.  The killing was so savage that the morgues had to rent additional storage space.  The war was on, and the DEA's Miami field office didn't have the manpower to keep up with it.  

The Colombians were cowboys at first, no more than marauding bands of thugs striking out blindly at anything that moved.  By comparison, the Italians and Mexicans were tame.  Colombian Cartel soldiers were made up of the poor mestizos from the coastal areas of the country.  The soldiers were rugged and by all accounts, vicious.  Determined to takeover the retail trade in Miami and the rest of the East Coast, they did so in short order.  In each city they hit, the Colombians were both feared and hated.  The locals knew that they were dealing with animals.  Most of the local dealers gave up the business to save their lives.  Some held on for a while, until they too paid the price of resistance.  The war in the streets had become a blood bath.  The resulting backlash brought about a set of Senate hearings by the Subcommittee on Permanent Investigations.  The committee hired the chief counsel, Martin Steinberg, to head a crime strike force.  Steinberg pressured the Treasury Department to bring the Customs Service and Internal Revenue Service into the investigations.  The intent was to track money trails, identify money launderers, and seize assets.  It was clear that the traffickers had developed a new service industry.  Dirty money had to be made clean.  It had to be made usable for conducting business.  Without this, the traffickers were unable to maintain their hard earned empire.  

By January of 1981, the two agencies were ready.  Vice President George Bush announced the formation of the South Florida Task Force.  This was a multi-agency effort to interdict drug shipments and arrest and prosecute smugglers.  It was comprised of the DEA, FBI, Customs, Coast Guard, and Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms personnel, who were temporarily assigned to Miami.  In August of 1981, the DEA had become an official arm of the FBI.  Mullen of the DEA asked for Denahy's temporary assignment to the DEA, and it was granted.  The United States government was finally serious about the drug trade.  It was now war and Denahy was an American general who had to fight on many fronts.  

Based on intelligence gathered from informants, it was learned that a new generation of Mexican traffickers were on the move.  The new drug lords were Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Manuel Salcido Uzeta (Cochi Loco), and Jose Contreras Subias.  These three names came up repeatedly in any conversations having to do with the new Mexican drug trade.  One important source of hard intelligence came from Kiki Camarena, a DEA field agent assigned to the Fresno, California office.  Kiki was a personal friend of Denahy's.  Camarena spent many nights drinking beer and gathering intelligence at various Fresno barrio hangouts.  He negotiated deals with many drug wholesalers whose pilots flew in drugs to the American side of the border.  The smugglers used the isolated airfields of the San Joaquin Valley.  The results of these meetings were several drug busts.  The DEA made many arrests and obtained valuable information.  The pity was that Fresno was small time.  It was just a way station between the border and the larger markets of Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Camarena learned that there were three men in Guadalajara who were considered the Mafia Dons.  These men were transplants from the Sierra Madre Mountains, known to move frequently between Sinaloa and Guadalajara.  These men were the Guadalajara Cartel.  They were there because of the city's international communications and banking facilities.  They were Ernesto Fonseco Carrillo, Rafael Caro Quintero, and Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo.  

On October 14, 1982 , President Reagan unveiled his new conglomeration of twelve organized-crime strike forces.  America was preparing to win against the cartels.  By December, Customs agents were tipped that a money-laundering group was operating in San Diego, California.  They found that Mexican smugglers were moving large amounts of cash from San Diego to Tijuana, Mexico.  The Cartel needed large sums of legal funds because cocaine was capitol intensive.  Clean money was needed to pay for the product, trucks, bribes, and airplanes, so Denahy recommended that the FBI and DEA concentrate on the money trail.  The case led them to fashionable Rancho Santa Fe, California.  In a house located on the bluffs high above the city, the raiding agents found a Cartel operation.  The house belonged to Mexican-American relatives of Rafael Caro Quintero.  Agents found documents which showed that Ernesto Fonseca had been staying there.  The official report stated that the traffickers living in the fashionable home had been using a paging service and beepers to manage the delivery of cocaine and heroin to Los Angeles.  

Denahy informed the Director that the Mexican-Americans or Chicanos were now backing their Mexican cousins in the drug business.  The Southwest was alive with Mexican-American traffickers.  They were now working the streets of San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco, and Phoenix, Arizona.  Who they were wasn’t provable.  The Bureau had many leads, but few arrests.  

During an investigation by the DEA, a trail was discovered.  It was a cashier check drawn on the Bank of America's, San Diego branch.  The records were subpoenaed.  $20 million had been moved through the Cartel's account in one month’s time.  The Cartel was capable of running $220 million dollars a year through this one account.  The fact was that the Cartel probably had many such accounts in many countries told the Bureau that the Cartel could be making a billion dollars a year.  Because everyone wanted the good press, infighting between agencies now included local law enforcement.  The local agencies wanted to control the drug busts.  Federal agencies would have none of it.  Denahy and others were concerned that the agencies were now at war with each other.  

By 1984, the drug problem was totally out of control.  The FBI and DEA were under intense pressure from the White House to produce results.  Denahy invited a friend from the DEA, Johnny Phelps, to Washington to brief senior officials at the Bureau.  Phelps had been the senior DEA agent in Colombia from 1981 through 1984.  His briefing was insightful.  Phelps profiled the Colombian law enforcement officials for those present.  He explained that the Colombians, unlike the Mexicans, earned their positions.  Where the Mexicans obtained their positions through a system of patronage and gratuities, the Colombians were selected and promoted through a national police academy.  Phelps’ presentation went a long way to explain the situation in simple nuts and bolts terms.  There was no bureaucratic nonsense, only the cold hard facts.  One other fact of importance had been discussed.  A new breed of smuggler had emerged.  The new traffickers were more sophisticated.  According to Phelps, they had conceived a plan to mass-market cocaine across the United States.  Cartel planning called for the use of vertically integrated conglomerates that controlled the business from beginning to end.  Colombian cartels would manage the business from coco paste production in Colombia to street distribution in American cities.  The man behind the plan was Pablo Escobar Gaviria.  It was said that his net worth was $2 billion.  His accomplice was Carlos Lehder, another young Colombian.  Both men were known to be ruthless and cunning.  The new American enemy was now sophisticated, educated, organized, and deadly.  They possessed a corporate business mentality.  The cartels could afford the best money could buy.  An organized cartel structure allowed them to squeeze out strangers, settle differences, and form a strong front against both governments.  The operating duties had been divided up.  Murder was assigned to one family.  Another had the labs, transport, and distribution.  The others loaned soldiers and technical support.  The Colombian cartels now controlled 80 percent of the cocaine trade.  

In 1984, drug seizures in the Southwest were five times greater than in 1981.  But the DEA's approach lacked a cohesive structure.  The Guadalajara office was actively pursuing its prey, but operated without centralized support.  Denahy had been informed of the DEA headquarters black hole joke.  Everything went into headquarters and nothing came out.  To make matters worse, the Mexican trafficking problem had no senior management oversight at DEA.  Mid-level managers became involved on a helter-skelter basis.  The Mexican thing was a mess.  It was believed that Mexican government officials were on the take.  No one had full responsibility and no one cared, too.  Mexico had always been a political football.  Now the most difficult problem for the war on drugs to overcome was the United States government itself.  The government wanted to believe that the drug war in Mexico had been won.  But Denahy and others at the Bureau now felt that the connection between the drug traffickers and Mexican government officials had to be dealt with.  In 1985, the Mexican DFS had a new leader, Jose Antonio Zorrilla Perez.   It was well known that Perez had close ties to the American intelligence community.  The intelligence relationship between the DEA, CIA , and FBI had continued to grow stronger due to the war on drugs.  However, the DEA saw this relationship as damaging.  Using traffickers as information sources against the Communist guerilla movements in Latin America, the CIA was at odds with the mission of the DEA.  As such, they wanted to protect their assets.  The President’s only war was with the communists.  He would not entertain any other.  His vice president supported the DEA’s cause, but too little avail.  This left the DEA the odd man out.  

The DEA knew that the Mexican DFS was made up of two groups, the good guys in the Capital of Mexico City and the bad guys in the provinces.  The comandantes in the provinces were said to accept bribes from traffickers and send a monthly payment back to their superiors in Mexico City.  That’s why the DHS provincial jobs went for such exorbitant prices.  The jobs were being sold to the highest bidder.  The zone commanders controlling the borders with the United States were even worse.  It was a well-known fact that Daniel Acuna Figueroa, the commander in charge of the Tijuana-Mexicali corridor had built a Chinese pagoda-style mansion and swimming pool in the downtown slum area of Mexicali.  It was funded by drug money.

Figueroa's name had surfaced in June of 1984 in connection with a DEA investigation in Los Angeles.  The Los Angeles office had received a tip that led them to a motel room in Anaheim, California.  They found two money-counting machines and $4 million in bills.  Scraps of paper found in Anaheim led DEA agents to bank accounts in San Ysidro, Laredo, and El Paso.  Later, it was learned that Figueroa was offering protection to the Gallardo mafia.  A second zone commander, Rafael Chao Lopez, DFS zone commander of the North Mexico region bordering on South Texas' Rio Grande Valley, was as thick as thieves with the Cartel.  It was learned that he had acquired properties with Cartel money in the United States valued at $300,000.  Lopez had clear connections to the Cartel.  

Then came November 1, 1985, DEA agents had been tipped to a processing complex in the Chihuahua desert.  The DEA and MFJP formed a raiding party.  They raided the complex at the village of Bufal, Chihuahua.  The dimensions of the place were staggering.  Ten thousand tons of high-grade marijuana was seized.  The place had drying sheds as large as football fields.  It belonged to Rafael Caro Quintero.  It was said that he had sunk $20 million into the complex.  If the dope had reached the street it would have had a street value of $2.5 billion.  It was the bust of the century.  The Bureau and the American public stood up and took notice.  There was no getting around it; the Mexicans were now major players in the drug business.  

Denahy felt that the situation was hopeless.  There were just too many bad guys and not enough good guys.  To make matters worse, his friend Kiki Camerena, the young DEA agent, was now dead.  Kiki had been a target of the Cartel, having been too successful in his private war against them.  It was a savage ordeal.  He’d been tortured and the final indignity had come with a sharp object being driven into the side of his skull.  His death made the war a private matter for Denahy.  Using all of his influence and friends, Denahy made Kiki's death a call to arms.  At the end of it, all of the Guadalajara Cartel members had been arrested.  But this had done little good.  Others were ready and willing to take their place.  The Colombians and Mexicans were in the United States in force.  It would be a long war and Denahy knew it.  When billions of dollars were at stake, many would take the risk.  

Over the past several years the DEA and FBI had learned a great deal.  The Mexicans had forced the Colombians out of the Southwest.  But the Colombians maintained their bloody monopoly over the East Coast and Miami in particular.  The locals wanted relief from the Colombians who had chosen not to work out a mutually agreeable division of the spoils.  The Colombians were greedy.  The Mexicans were less blood thirsty than their Colombian cousins.  This hadn't made them weaker, only smarter.  Practicing and preaching loyalty, they knew that fear could go only so far.  This allowed them to loosen the grip of the Colombians in one barrio after another.  In the end, a showdown was coming.  Becoming desperate, the Colombians were willing to allow the Southwest and Midwest to fall to the Chicanos, but the rest of the market was another matter.  The true battleground would be in the South.  Miami was to be the final reckoning.  

By 1989, the Bureau's battle plan was finally ready and Denahy was given the green light to begin.  The approach would be to develop a comprehensive list of targets.  These were the Mexican-American barrios in the Southwest and Midwest, followed by the Puerto Rican barrios of New York and New Jersey, and finally, the Cubans in Florida.  Denahy had established a strike force made up of both DEA and FBI agents.  The task force was called, Home Grown.  

Denahy had concluded that the Mexicans were quite different from their Mexican-Americans cousins the Chicanos.  The Chicanos were home grown, therefore more dangerous.  They understood the system, giving their Mexican cousins an advantage over the Colombians.  The Mexican Cartel had married with the Mexican-American barrio gangs.  The latter were now a power unto themselves, having established strong organizations within the prison systems of the United States.  They offered protection to those behind prison walls.  Once released, these ex-cons became soldiers for the local Mexican-American Mafia families.  It was here that Denahy's strike force would develop organizational charts and member profiles.  It wasn’t easy, because the Chicanos were a tight knit group and they didn't break easily.  

The Bureau had excellent files on the Mexican Cartel, but little information on the Chicano barrio mafias.  Denahy and his task force began their work.  They had a place to start.  Local law enforcement officials had kept intelligence on repeat offenders.  The sifting of information had begun.  Names were listed by gang affiliation.  Gangs were listed by barrio.  Barrios were cataloged by city.  City entries were associated by county, and then state, and so on.  What emerged from the assessment was staggering.  There were hundreds of gangs in every major city of the Southwest.  Each city had dozens of gangs located closest to the metropolitan centers.  Access to communications, transportation, and banking was ample.  The gangs had every edge.  While law enforcement hadn’t been co-opted, they were busy with a deteriorating society.  Local cops were unable to stop the highly organized barrio dope machines.  

Denahy believed the key to winning the war was the gangs.  At the center of each web of influence, in each city, was a ready-made army of soldiers.  These soldiers carried out the orders of their superiors, doing what was necessary both on the streets and in prison.  It was murder incorporated married to the drug syndicates.  The Mexican-Americans received the drugs and peddled them on the streets, but kept out of the transport competition.  Denahy felt that this was no accident, believing it to be a highly organized, evolving effort.  But names didn’t constitute an organization.  The Bureau brass believed the Mexican-Americans to be unsophisticated hoodlums.  They wouldn’t accept his assertions, viewing Denahy as a cowboy, not a polished researcher and analyst.  Still, Denahy felt that there had to be a planning unit somewhere.  

But that was the then and this was now.  Denahy’s coffee had grown cold while he had wandered through the past.  Picking up the file labeled Aragón, he began to review the information with renewed purpose.  He noted three things.  First, the man Aragón had no record, not even a speeding ticket.  Secondly, the man was a war hero with solid business acumen.  Finally, Michael Aragón had been successful.  His financial profile showed him to be a millionaire.  The file had several photographs.  There was a strikingly beautiful, older blonde woman standing next to Mr. Aragón in one photo.  The background data listed her as Mrs. Aragón.  There was also a handsome younger man with blonde hair in a second photograph.  The profile listed him as Kenneth Aragón, the man's son.  The young man reminded him of someone, but he couldn't put his finger on who.  There was also the photograph of the man, Aragón, and the woman, standing with a Catholic priest.  The dossier listed one Father Ignatius Michael O'Brien, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.  The address in East Los Angeles was on the photo.  Later, Denahy told me that he found it interesting that an Irish Catholic priest would serve in East Los Angeles.  

A fourth photograph was of Michael Aragón and a taller, urbane man.  The well-groomed man was listed as César Romero, an international businessman, of Miami Beach, Florida.  The last photograph was of an older man of medium height and build.  He appeared to be in his late sixties, perhaps early seventies.  He looked well kept for his age.  With graying hair and some traces of blonde, the dossier had him as Rolf Grover.  Grover's address was in Beverly Hills, California.  Then Denahy saw the notation, “Asset” giving the contact name as Mullen, Special Agent, FBI.  Denahy always found it interesting that government intelligence agencies such as the Bureau were always limited in their information gathering activities.  And yet, when something like this happened, there it was on your desk.  Where the photos came from, he didn't know and didn't want to know.  He was just happy that he had them.  As always, it gave him a place to start.  It was a face, a friend, someone to help put the pieces of the puzzle together.  

He felt that he was now prepared for his meeting with McKenna.  The reason for the meeting could only be that the Aragón case had to be solved quickly.  The media was on it already.  McKenna was sure to be pissed off over the thing.  It was clear that the Bureau had nothing on Mr. Aragón.  The man was too clean, no priors, no traffic violations, and no income tax problems.  The young man was also squeaky clean.  The woman was a model citizen.  “Who the hell was Michael Aragón?  And, why had the Colombians taken him out?”  Denahy wondered out loud.  Denahy now understood why the case was given to him.  The man was a successful Chicano, a war hero.  This one was a political hot potato.  The Chicano community wouldn’t stand for any Mexican bashing.  They wanted answers.  There was also the hint of La Eme.  He expected that McKenna would want an action plan.  First, would be the briefing.  This, Denahy knew, would include an investigation strategy.  McKenna would expect a written overview and an accompanying list of contacts.  Next, a tactical plan for interviews was needed.  Always expecting immediate answers to questions, these young guys thought answers grew on trees.  They didn't realize the complexity of these cases.  The brass forgot that Miami and Los Angeles were on opposite sides of the damn country.  This meant lots of travel on the red eye.  Denahy began his action plan, typing the overview which amounted to one paragraph.  The action plan included thorough background checks on all contacts and the normal search for priors.  Finally, his interview schedule would be included.  Denahy would visit Los Angeles first, where he had four contacts, Mrs. Aragón, Kenneth Aragón, Rolf Grover, and me.  His second flight would be to Miami, to interview César Romero.   Before leaving Washington, Denahy would call his old friend Mullen and get a briefing on Grover.  After that, he would call Jaime Kuykendall.  He remembered that Jaime had told him something once about a Romero in Miami.  Maybe this César was the same guy.  After two hours, his report was finished.  It would never be exactly what McKenna wanted, but it would have to do.  This thing was hot.  Denahy would have to catch the next plane to Los Angeles right after his meeting with McKenna.  There would be no time to waste.

04/23/2016 05:16 PM