Special Agent Denahy visited me many
times of the many long months while he was investigating Michael Aragón’s
death in Los Angeles. 1991
found him traveling from the East Coast to the West, from D.C. to LA
Denahy was constantly vigilant. The year had Denahy and his task force
uncovering every lead. They arrested and interrogated. The team sifted
through mountains of paper, receipts, tax returns, and arrest records.
Every lead was followed to its logical end. La
Eme was hounded twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,
throughout the months to the year’s end.
When he visited, we drank the sweet
red wine together and he told me of his findings. One investigation he
conducted broke his heart. I know, because he came to me and confessed
his sins after a thirty-year absence from the Church. After his
confession, he spoke of his friends the McKennas. He was happy when the
year ended. Agent Denahy wanted nothing more than to be with Lisa and
forget his job. It had become a millstone around his neck.
On February 15, 1992, Denahy boarded a
packed plane from Los Angeles
bound for Boston. It was a late flight. The stewardesses looked tired
and irritable as Denahy buckled into his isle seat and settled in.
Denahy fell asleep as the plane rocketed into the dark, starless sky.
Brian was awake by the time the plane
landed. People were slow to get their luggage from the bays above the
seats, causing a long delay in his deplaning. His walk to the luggage
area and the wait was another twenty minutes. As he stood by, the bags
began to drop onto the moving metal conveyor belt. Collecting his pieces
of luggage, Denahy left. As he stood standing at the curb, a skycap
flagged down a cab for him and loaded his bags into the trunk. He tipped
the skycap, as he got into the cab. Giving the cabbie his hotel’s
name, they drove off. The cabbie was a talkative sort, but drove
carefully while chatting away.
Arriving at his hotel within twenty
minutes, Denahy registered and went up to his room. His first call was
to Lisa. While talking to her, the bellboy delivered his bags to the
bedroom. Tipping him with a
five dollar bill, he left the suite. After telling Lisa he loved her and
hanging up, Denahy went into the bedroom for a long, hard sleep.
The next morning, Denahy’s first
order of business was to call room service. They sent up a pot of hot
coffee and dry wheat toast. Removing the Wellington file from his
suitcase, he set it on the living room coffee table. Finishing the last
slice of toast, Denahy felt good about his new diet. And his doctor was
proud of him. At sixty-three, he had finally changed his eating habits.
He ate less and healthier.
Denahy showered and shaved. His gray
brown hair was thinning, but trimmed. After combing it, he dressed in
business casual. Wearing a white shirt, gray slacks, and a dark blue
blazer, Denahy’s brown penny loafers were shined. Lisa had a positive
impact on Denahy. Changes in eating habits and weight loss were directly
attributable to her loving care. Taking great pains to make low fat
meals and serve only wine, chicken, and fish were high on her list.
Denahy’s intake of hard liquor was now limited to four drinks a day.
Looking and feeling better than he had in years, Special Agent Brian
Denahy was a new man.
It was 10:00 a.m., and Denahy looked
forward to seeing Senator McKenna and his wife. Glad that the Senator
had recovered, he couldn’t wait to see his hero. Denahy phoned the
concierge and asked for a cab to be available by 10:30 a.m. The cab was
waiting for him fifteen minutes later. The cabbie drove to the McKennas
without the normal chit-chat. A thankful Denahy went over his file
notes. When the cabbie pulled up, the same two large men in business
suits met the cab. As they
walked cautiously toward the cab, the familiar chatter of security
radios filled the air. “Your name sir?” the larger of the two asked
firmly. Denahy gave his name and flashed his shield. The man nodded.
The Senator and Mrs. McKenna were
waiting inside as Denahy got out of the cab and walked up the stone
steps to the large front doors. A black man in his early fifties wearing
a tan suit answered the door. Denahy smiled at the bodyguard standing
behind him. As he was led into the study, Mrs. McKenna reached out to
him and took his hand in hers. Her shake wasn’t as vigorous as normal.
As she smiled at him, her eyes showed the strain of her husband’s
illness. Mrs. McKenna had
changed over the past year; she had aged badly.
After pouring Denahy a large Scotch,
Mrs. McKenna left quietly. Slowly sipping the drink, he walked over to a
wall of large bookshelves. Out of the corner of his eye, Denahy caught a
glimpse of a photograph in a small silver frame. Feeling his stomach
tighten, the policeman in him knew something was wrong. Then suddenly,
his mind raced back to the photo from the O’Neil home. It was a
picture of the second boy, Peter Wellington. As Denahy stood staring at
the picture, the door opened behind him. Turning to look, there stood
the Senator. His large frame was no longer fit, and the once muscular
body was now bent and frail. Framing a lined and drawn face, his curly
silver gray hair, was now worn shorter. The Senator’s rounded green
eyes were less alive, almost dull. McKenna, his hero, was now old and
Seating himself across from Denahy at
his large oak desk, Senator McKenna seemed remote, distant. They sat and
spoke of better times for over an hour. Suddenly, McKenna appeared tired
and in need of rest. The heart attack had robbed him of his health.
Denahy, not wanting to over stay his welcome, offered his thanks and
said his goodbyes. The Senator went off for a much needed rest.
A cab was called for Denahy. After the
Senator excused himself and went to his bedroom Mrs. McKenna came and
said her goodbyes. The heart attack had been a strain on her fragile
health, as well. Her body was now weak and tired. The once strong
vibrant woman had given way to the ravages of time. She too had grown
Once outside, Denahy waited for the
cab. He lit his one cigarette for the day as he stood admiring the lawns
and shrubbery. His thoughts shifted to the O’Neils and their Boston
East Side apartment. Taking his last drag, the cab pulled up to the
house. As he slid into the back seat, Denahy told the cabbie, 1432
Duncan Lane, East Side. The cabbie just nodded and took off down the
long driveway. The drive took twenty-five minutes which made Denahy
happy, although, he would have preferred that the trip take longer. When
the cabbie finally pulled up outside the familiar run down, five-story
brownstone apartment building, the sidewalks were their usual mess.
Denahy gave the man two twenty dollar bills and thanked him.
Exiting the cab, he stood for a few
reluctant minutes at the front steps of the old building, knowing what
he was about to find. Denahy was now sure of what had happened to the
second boy, Peter. Somehow,
the boy had become Peter McKenna, the Senator’s son. Before doing what
had to be done, Denahy lit a second cigarette. He needed the time to
mull over the irony of the situation. Life wasn’t gray; it was black
and white. A Mexican-American Mafioso
died, only to bring down an American icon. The Senator must have had his
reasons for what he’d done. Denahy’s difficulty was in reconciling
those reasons before destroying his friend and his family.
Walking up the steps, he found the
apartment building’s security door left unlocked. Making his way down
the darkened hall to apartment 22, he knocked. After a few seconds Mrs.
O’Neil opened the door. There she stood in her old tattered bathrobe.
Mrs. O’Neil asked Denahy what he wanted. This time he didn’t bother
to show her his shield, walking past her into the apartment. The now
familiar stench of decaying cat food and cat urine filled in the air. As
Mr. O’Neil sat in his wheelchair next to the large bay window staring
out at the brick building across the courtyard, he mumbled to himself.
Nothing had changed for the O’Neils. The carpet remained worn and
dirty, and the walls hadn’t been painted since his last visit. The
drudgery of their lives hadn’t changed. Not bothering to take a seat
on the old threadbare sofa, he asked Mrs. O’Neil and her husband one
question, the whereabouts of the Wellington boys. Receiving no answer,
he came to the point. Denahy wanted to know what happened to Peter
Wellington. Mrs. O’Neil
tried the same old tired line, telling him that she’d cared for them
forty years before, but couldn’t remember them or their father. The
old man turned his head at the mention of the boys then quickly looked
away. Denahy pressed the O’Neils for more information. Insisting that
she couldn’t remember, an extremely nervous Mrs. O’Neil tried to
excuse herself to make tea. Stopping her before she could rush off into
the kitchen, Denahy looked around the room until he found the cheaply
framed picture of Peter. He walked over to the wall of pictures and
grabbed the photo of the two very young children and moved across the
room to show Mrs. O’Neil the faded photograph.
While Denahy was pressing Mrs.
O’Neil to remember the two boys, the old man turned his head and
shouted, “Call Congressman McKenna. He knows where Peter is.” Denahy
then pressed her one last time for information about the boys,
particularly, Peter Wellington. He asked, “When and how did Peter
die?” The old man shouted back that he wasn’t dead. Then telling the
old man to shut up, Mrs. O’Neil recounted the story to Denahy.
Telling Denahy that before McKenna was
Congressman McKenna, he was a struggling young attorney living next
door. With a wife who wanted children, the young attorney felt
responsible. Unable to adopt, the McKenna’s became desperate. Mrs.
McKenna began drinking heavily. Soon their home became a battleground.
After their neighbor, Bonnie Wellington, became ill with cancer, the
McKennas came to know her husband Peter. As the relationship grew, so
did their love for the Wellington babies. Mrs. McKenna was always
available to lend a hand. When Bonnie Wellington entered long-term care,
she made time to help care for the baby boys. Once Peter Wellington left
for Korea, the McKennas made a point to spend time with the toddlers.
Visiting the O’Neils daily, they saw to any unmet needs. When they
found out later that the father had been killed and the children were to
be taken away, they panicked. Mrs.
McKenna was desperate. Drinking again, she fell into a deep state of
depression. Unwilling to let
his wife go off the deep end, Mr. McKenna allowed his wife to take
whatever steps she felt necessary. Then not wanting to arouse
suspicions, Mrs. McKenna paid the O’Neils for young Peter. In her poor
state of mind, she believed that to take both boys would have sparked an
investigation. It was McKenna’s wife who concocted the story of
Peter’s death due to polio. To convince the man from Los Angeles, Mr. McKenna had a doctor friend forge a death
Colleen O’Neil having finished her
story, Denahy pondered the situation. The apartment stench wasn’t the
only thing that reeked. Placing the small photo in his jacket pocket,
Denahy realized that he’d hit pay dirt. His only problem was the price
his friends the McKenna’s would have to pay. Warning the O’Neils not
to repeat the conversation to anyone, Denahy left. Once downstairs, he
waved down a passing cab. Struggling with his conscience all the way
back to his hotel, Agent Denahy looked out the window. As an FBI agent,
he had a duty to perform. As a friend, Denahy didn’t want to face what
he knew he had to do. Arriving at his hotel, Brian Denahy wasn’t a
happy man. He paid the cabbie and quickly exited the cab. The doorman
held the door for him hoping for a tip. A confused and angry Denahy
didn’t oblige. He knew that the visit to the O’Neils was about to
ruin several lives.
Once in his hotel room, he poured
himself a large Scotch. Then Denahy picked up the telephone and called
the Senator. The phone rang three times before Mrs. McKenna answered.
Asking if he could drop by and see the Senator, Mrs. McKenna said her
husband would be available that evening. Thanking her, Denahy said he
would be there in an hour. What Denahy had to say couldn’t wait till
the next day.
His ride out to the McKenna’s place
was nothing less than hell on earth. Confronting his life-long friend
and mentor wasn’t going to be easy. The confrontation would be a
direct attack on the morals and ethics of an American political icon.
Denahy understood the consequences of his actions. The revelation of
such an illegal act would bring down the Senator.
The news that Kenneth Aragón, the reputed head of the Mexican-American Mafia,
was the brother of Peter McKenna, Deputy Director of the FBI, would be
too much for the public to accept. An emotional act made forty years
before would destroy a lifetime of good works and public service. The
ramifications of this sordid affair would give the press a field day. It
was better than a Hollywood movie. As the cab approached the house,
Denahy threw money to the cabbie. Leaving the cab, he bounded out and up
the front steps of the McKenna home. The startled security guards pulled
their weapons. Flashing his shield, they walked away as he opened the
door to the home. The third guard drew his weapon as Denahy barged into
the house. Denahy again flashed his shield.
Mrs. McKenna came upon the men as the
bodyguard was holstering his weapon. She asked if Denahy was all right.
He answered with a quick, yes, and pushed passed her. The Senator was in
the study when Denahy entered the room. Having received a call from Mrs.
O’Neil only minutes before Denahy’s arrival, McKenna was visibly
shaken. “You know?” He asked Denahy sheepishly. “Yes, I know. And
let me just say Senator, I am shocked. No, I’m flabbergasted. How in
the hell did you think you would get away with it?” Angered and
hurting for the Senator, Denahy could say no more. The Senator looked
past Denahy, to his distraught wife. Wild with fear, Mrs. McKenna stared
at Agent Denahy. Understanding the magnitude of the situation, she was
in a state of distress. The McKenna’s life together, their successes,
were now suddenly about to be taken from them. Everything they had built
was now about to be destroyed. McKenna
stood up from his chair and walked over to his wife. Holding her in his
arms as she cried, he could only blame himself for what was about to
The McKennas were silent for a long
while. They understood clearly that their entire life’s work and worth
had been compromised by a stupid mistake made forty years earlier. Both
were at a loss for a remedy that would not destroy all they’d worked
for. “Brian,” Mrs. McKenna began, “what should we do?” She was
calm and collected as she asked the question. Alyson McKenna was now
past the fear. She was pleading with Denahy without saying the words.
Their entire life hung in the balance. Their friend of many years, Brian
Denahy, held their family’s fortunes in his hands. “First, I have
more bad news. Please sit down. You will not like what I have to say
next.” Denahy’s words fell on a silent room as the grandfather clock
struck three. As the McKennas sat down on the couch, Denahy poured
himself a large Scotch and drank it down in one long gulp. He wanted to
give them assurances, but it was too late for that. He had to make it
hard and fast. “Kenneth Aragón is Peter’s brother.” Denahy had forced the
hurtful words out. “What
are you saying? That Mexican can’t be Peter’s brother.” The
Senator wasn’t a racist; he was simply recoiling from an impossible
concept. His only immediate response could be anger.
Realizing that the Senator was being irrational, Denahy
couldn’t afford to stress him too far. It was then that he handed the
McKennas the photo taken from the O’Neil’s home. They were clearly
stunned by the revelation. The entire story seemed too impossible to be
true. Unfortunately for all
involved, it was true. Giving them the details of his investigation,
Denahy explained the contents of Peter Wellington’s last will and
testament. Once the McKennas understood Wellington’s personal
relationship with Michael Aragón,
Denahy outlined Kenneth Aragón’s life in East Los Angeles.
The entire story defied believability.
A distraught Senator McKenna walked
over to his large ornate desk. Reaching into the top drawer, he grabbed
a tiny key. Opening the bottom left hand drawer, he removed a small
black box. Holding it in his hand for a moment or two, he placed it on
the desk. Before opening the box, Senator McKenna smiled at his wife.
Summing up all his courage, he opened the box, removing several old
faded photographs of the Wellington children. He then compared the photo
given to him by Denahy. There could be no mistake; the other child in
the photo was Peter’s brother, Kenneth.
The Senator collapsed into his desk
chair. After a minute, an exhausted McKenna looked across the room.
“It’s true.” He told his frightened wife. She simply shook her
head and looked away. After
several long seconds, McKenna asked Denahy what they should do. The room
was deadly silent as Denahy pondered his friend’s heartfelt request.
It was one of those moments that we all dread. It was a problem so great
that it couldn’t be walked away from or swept under the rug. A time
when doing what’s right will destroy a good man. None of us want such
a burden. Indeed, we all run
from such difficulties. But here it was a problem with Denahy’s name
Walking over to the liquor cart,
Denahy poured himself another Scotch, sipping it slowly as he
contemplated his next course of action. Denahy looked at his favorite
painting, wondering what General Washington would do in such a case.
“Senator, Alyson, we won’t be able to keep a lid on this. If I know
anything, I know that something this explosive can never be covered up.
Time has a way of letting the genie out of the bottle.” Denahy stopped
talking for a moment. It was as if he were mulling over what he’d just
said. “First, Peter will have to be told. It won’t be easy.
I’ll do it. Senator, you and Alyson wouldn’t be able to
present what happened in a language Peter would understand. I’ll
explain it in the context of the Aragón
investigation. We can’t allow him to blow up over this. It has to be
presented just right.” The thankful McKennas agreed as their friend
finished his last sentence. “Secondly, Senator, at the right time
you’ll have to go public. The timing of the disclosure will be
critical to Peter’s run for the senate.” Denahy’s words made
sense. The McKenna’s nodded their approval. Denahy then went on to
discuss his view of the O’Neils. He wasn’t concerned with their
going public at this time. However, he couldn’t count on their silence
As Denahy finished his drink and said
his goodbyes, the three ended the meeting feeling relieved but anxious.
The McKenna’s knew Denahy and trusted him. They were tied together by
the history of four decades of true friendship. He’d never let them
down. After hugging them both, the McKennas excused themselves and left
Denahy to his thoughts. Denahy called for a cab and had one last Scotch.
The cabbie arrived twenty minutes later.
He returned to his hotel a little
. Worn out, the emotions of the day had drained him.
Everything he’d believed in and trusted had been tested. His
friends, the McKennas, were in the worst trouble of their lives. They
needed him. Peter McKenna was the wild card. Denahy didn’t know how
Peter would react. If Peter couldn’t or wouldn’t accept what had
happened or was about to happen, the whole damn thing would blow up.
These were the thoughts going through Denahy’s mind as he walked into
his hotel suite.
Denahy’s first order of business was
to report in to Lisa. Calling her, he got no answer.
Disappointed, he left a long message on the answering machine. As
he cradled the telephone receiver, it rang. Robertson was on the other
end of the line with very bad news. Aaron Gómez had been found shot to death execution style in Santa
Barbara an hour before. Denahy felt the hurt of it in his soul.
Thanking Robertson for the call with a voice cracking with emotion, he
hung up. His next thought was of Gómez’s wife, Anita,
and his boys, Roberto and
little Johnny. The tears ran down his face as he pictured the boy’s
faces. It took everything in him to make into the bathroom. Staring at
his stubbly face in the large mirror, his red eyes gave away the
emotions he tried so hard to mask. His heart had one large gaping hole
As the anger in his soul turned to
hate, Gómez’s death now
made the case personal. His tears dry, Special Agent Denahy swore a
blood oath to himself. La Eme
was going down. Shutting off the bathroom light, Denahy made his way
into the bedroom. Picking up the phone, he held it in both hands for a
moment. It took the last of his sanity to dial the number. In a
trembling voice, Denahy left a second message for Lisa, he was coming
After leaving word for Peter McKenna,
Denahy boarded a plane for Los
Angeles that night. In LA by three in the morning, he went straight
to Lisa’s house. She was up waiting for him as he walked through the
door. Lisa ran to him, burying herself in his chest as he wrapped his
arms around her. They cried together for Aaron Gómez
and his family. Denahy had nothing left inside. Hating what the bastards
had done to Aaron, his feelings turned to rage. At that moment, the icy
cold need for vengeance made its way into his heart. Both now exhausted,
they walked into the bedroom and went to sleep. Denahy’s last thoughts
of the night were the total elimination of La
Eme. The true evil of the thing had shown its face.
The next morning found Denahy and
several field agents in Santa
Barbara. Personally taking charge of the investigation into
Aaron’s death, he and his team arrived at Santa
Barbara PD. He wanted answers, but the PD had none. The captain
offered Denahy his condolences. All cops understand what it means to
lose a partner. Then he showed Denahy the crime scene photographs. From
the angle of the two gun shots to the head, Gómez
had been shot from behind while kneeling. His hands and feet had been
tied together behind his back. The Coroner’s report noted blunt trauma
to the head and neck area, which meant one hell of a beating before his
execution. One other thing surfaced; his pants had grass stains on the
knee areas, but Aaron was found in a construction site gravel pit. The
captain had nothing else for them.
The strike force was made up of twenty
personnel, five FBI agents and fifteen local detectives and black and
whites. Denahy ordered complete investigations of Aaron’s apartment,
neighbors, and local hangouts. Gómez’s
picture was distributed at supermarkets and restaurants. Working the
streets to pick up leads, after three long days, they had nothing. No
one knew him or had seen him around town. The neighbors didn’t recall
him. The strike force had hit the wall.
Returning to Los Angeles empty handed,
Denahy was a beaten man. Aaron was dead and his investigation into
Michael Aragón’s murder was stalled. Still facing a difficult meeting with Peter
McKenna to talk about his gangster brother, nothing had gone his way.
Denahy’s world had been turned upside down and he hadn’t landed on
He came to the rectory that night
wanting to make his confession. His pain was great and weighed heavily
on him. There were no answers, only more questions. After his confession
we drank wine and talked. His questions were of faith and death. As if a
child, Denahy asked if Aaron was in heaven. I assured him that Mr. Gómez was with the Lord. That answer seemed to give him solace. He
left the rectory at two in the morning a broken defeated man.
The following day, he made his way to Santa
Ana. It was a difficult drive. His thoughts were filled with hate
and anger. Life no longer made sense. Killing had become too easy. Men
like Aaron Gómez and his
cousin Kiki were taken too
early in life. They’d stood for right against wrong and had lost. As
he pulled up to the Gómez
house, he felt the tears. It took him several minutes to pull himself
together. This was always the hardest, facing the wife and kids. It took
every last bit of his strength to get out of the car and walk to the
front door. But there he stood ready to do his duty for a fellow cop. He
had done it for Kiki and now he would do it for Kiki’s
cousin, Aaron. Denahy rang the door bell and waited, hoping they
wouldn’t be home. Anita came
to the door dressed in black. She hugged him tightly in the doorway,
sobbing as he held her tenderly. Remaining strong and stoic, he never
revealed his feelings. Denahy had to be strong for her. Inside, his big
Irish heart was breaking. He was doing well until he saw the boys
standing in front of him, looking like lost puppies. There was something
cruel about the way life had cheated them out of their father. Motioning
for the boys to come to him and Anita, the kids rushed into them. The four stood in the doorway
holding each other. Denahy could feel their little arms holding onto his
legs. He’d become the mountain they needed to cling to. After a few
minutes, Anita regained her
composure and wiped the tears from her eyes. She offered Denahy a cup of
coffee. As she did, the boys left the room.
After drinking the cup of coffee, he
sat with her for several minutes before telling her he had to leave. He
told her that he was proud to have been Aaron’s partner. Denahy asked
if there was anything she needed. Anita
answered, “Yes. Kill the fucking bastards that killed my Aaron. I want
those sons of bitches to pay for stealing my life from me. I want my
sons’ father avenged.” Anita’s
eyes showed no emotion, only the look of steel in them as she finished
her last word. Denahy
nodded, yes. With a final hug and kiss on the cheek, he left. His first
duty was done. Denahy’s
second duty awaited, he would destroy La Eme and Kenneth Aragón.
Spending a few more days with Lisa
before returning to D.C., he was now ready for his meeting with Peter
McKenna. Lisa had nursed his broken heart back to health. Her love had
given him the courage to do what had to be done. Life once again had a
purpose. It was time to face the devil. Peter would have to know the
truth about his brother, Kenneth Aragón.
The call was made early in the
morning, about 8:00 a.m. Peter McKenna was busy, but he would make time
to meet with Denahy. About to run for his father’s senate seat,
McKenna was full of himself. As Denahy entered his office, Peter was on
the phone. With feet propped up on the desk, he was accepting
congratulations from a Boston politico. He motioned Denahy to take a
seat at the conference table. McKenna finally completed the call and
joined Denahy at the conference table. “Peter, we have to talk. It’s
personal and it involves you.” Denahy’s words were firm and to the
point. “Agent Denahy, I don’t care for your tone.” McKenna said
almost condescendingly. “What’s this about?” There was smugness in
his voice. Denahy looked McKenna square in the eyes and delivered the.
“Peter it’s about your brother.” The words hit Peter McKenna like
a ton of bricks.
Beginning his discussion about the Aragón investigation and where it led, Denahy drew
McKenna a picture of the last forty years. Glued to his seat, Peter
strained to hear every word. Listening
for ten minutes without interruption, as the story unfolded Peter
McKenna was dumbfounded, not knowing what to say or think. After Denahy
finished, the two sat at the table for several more minutes before
exchanging a word. McKenna was first to speak, asking to see the photos.
Denahy slid them across the table. Looking at them, McKenna seemed
engrossed in the improbability of it all. He had only one question of
Denahy. “Are you sure?” Shaking his head, yes, Denahy offered
nothing else. After a long period of silence, McKenna asked a few
questions about his namesake, Peter Wellington. He seemed pleased that
his father had been a hero of two wars, but saddened that the man had
died. Then he asked Denahy where his mother was buried. Denahy
apologized and told him that he didn’t know.
Deputy Director, Peter McKenna’s
next questions were about Kenneth Aragón,
wanting to know what kind of a man Denahy thought he was. Denahy had
only one cold hard response, “Dangerous.” McKenna’s demeanor went
from shock to depression. Thinking it through, his sense of survival
told him he was in trouble. The news Denahy had brought to him was
damaging on all fronts. Struggling with how his parents must feel,
McKenna asked Denahy how they’d taken the news. Telling him that it
had been painful for them, Denahy looked away, his thoughts drifting
back to Aaron Gómez’s family.
Grappling with McKenna’s crisis was enough, but handling Aaron’s
death at the same time had taxed his abilities to cope. It was then
that, Peter McKenna humbled himself, asking Denahy what he should do.
The question was a sincere, heart felt cry for help.
Fighting an avalanche of emotions with
every fiber of his manhood, Denahy began to crack. His facial muscles
twitched as he fought back the tears. Turning back to look directly at
McKenna, he was a wounded hurting man. His tightly controlled world was
unraveling. Peter was shocked by what he was seeing. The man in front of
him had always been a mountain of strength. To see Denahy in tears was
too much for McKenna. Standing up, he walked around the table and put
his hand on Denahy’s shoulder. “Buck up now.” McKenna said softly.
With those words he excused Denahy.
Before returning to his office, he
told McKenna that he had a plan, but wasn’t prepared to share it with
anyone yet. Denahy wanted to help. He liked Peter McKenna and loved his
parents. Asking McKenna to call his parents, Denahy recommended that
Peter tell them they’d spoken. As he left the room, he told McKenna to
tell his parents he loved them.
As he sat at his desk, Denahy said a
silent prayer to God for help. He felt the weight of the world on his
shoulders. The investigation was stalled, Gómez
was dead, and McKenna’s brother was a Mafioso.
Life really was stranger than fiction. Denahy sat there feeling sorry
for himself. At sixty-three years of age, he was up against the greatest
challenges of his life. With nowhere to turn for answers, he slipped
further into his pity party. As he did, the phone rang. The gruff voice
on the other end of the line gave his name as Judge Thomas Wolfe of Santa
Barbara. An exhausted Denahy asked how he could help. The Judge’s
response was simple, “Get the hell back to Santa
Barbara and pick up this search warrant. I want those Eme gangsters out of my town. Get them out now and keep them out. Do
you get it agent?” These were just the words Denahy needed to hear.
“Yes sir, Your Honor.” Denahy’s response was from the heart. With
nothing else to say, the Judge hung up.
Denahy’s next call was to Robertson,
instructing him to contact all members of the task force.
They were to be packed and ready to leave for Santa
Barbara that afternoon. Then, he called LAPD, asking to have
officers dispatched to Santa Barbara with the Eme
traitor, Ramos, and the
drawings of the villa. Denahy wanted to know the location of the stash.
The Hollenbeck Division sent Officer Johnson and a second black and
white. His last call was to SBPD to inform them of the early morning
raid. They would hit the villa in the early morning hours, before the Eme
soldiers were awake. Captain Greger was happy to be of help, telling
Denahy he had the search warrant in his hot little hands.
Denahy briefed his agents on the
flight that night. They would serve a search warrant on the villa
sometime after midnight, once everyone was ready. By the time he and his
agents arrived at the Santa
Barbara PD headquarters it was 11:30 PM. The Captain and his men
were waiting in the war room. After a few brief hellos, Denahy got right
to the point. They would hit the villa at exactly 2:15 a.m. The team
would surround the house and make their way in through the main
entrance. It was understood that there would be at least five seasoned Eme
soldiers. Denahy then told
the agents and black and whites that the Eme
soldiers would be heavily armed with automatic weapons. He then ordered
all personnel to check their weapons and wear protective gear, this
meant helmets and vests. Denahy then gave the jump-off time as 1:30 a.m.
Everyone was to be ready to roll within two hours.
The task force vehicles parked two
blocks from the villa, hoping not to alert the Eme men. Breaking into
four squads of five members each, Denahy took Chan, Stevens, Captain
Greger, and Johnson with him. They were to lead the assault. The task
force was in place at 2:29 a.m. Denahy
and Johnson were at the front entrance with the hand-held battering ram.
At exactly 2:30 a.m., they were through the wrought iron gate at the
front wall and rushing the front door. Denahy and his squad made the
front door within five seconds. Shouting, “Federal agents.” Denahy
held out his badge. His answer came quickly, as automatic gunfire rang
out. Firing his weapon at
the lock on the front door, Officer Johnson then kicked it in. Chan and
Stevens were first through the door. Chan took a round in the leg as
Stevens dropped the first Eme
soldier where he stood. Johnson grabbed Chan, dragging her to safety. As
he did, another Eme soldier
began to fire down upon them from the second story landing.
As Denahy and the Captain rushed the
staircase, Greger was hit. He dropped to the floor bleeding from the
neck. Denahy got off several rounds before being forced to dive for
cover behind a large couch. Losing his radio as he dove for cover,
Denahy’s squad was in trouble. Firing
several rounds, Johnson ran through the doorway to Greger. Picking him
up, Johnson shot his way back outside. From behind the couch, Denahy
watched as Stevens returned cover fire as a soldier opened up on the
second squad coming through the front door. Two squad members were down.
Shots were now ringing from everywhere in the villa. Up on his feet,
Denahy rushed the staircase. The soldier on the landing opened up on him
with bursts of automatic weapon’s fire. Charging up the staircase at
the man, he felt the searing pain in his right arm. Downing the Eme
soldier, Denahy shot him a second time in the head. Seeing he was
hit, Stevens was right behind him. Together on the landing, she radioed
for a third squad, whispering for them to use caution, the front door
was covered by cross fire.
The black and whites were better
trained than Denahy’s agents. They instinctively knew to come in
through the windows. The third squad deployed along both sides of the
villa, coming in through the windows within ten seconds. The hunt was on
as the cops moved cautiously through the first floor. Attempting to
sight their targets, Doami and the officers moved quietly through the
downstairs. As they did, a fourth Eme
soldier opened up on the third squad in the dining room. Two more
cops were down and Doami was dead. Denahy’s people were being whittled
down fast. Cutting off the lights, the Eme soldiers did their best work in the dark.
Trained ex-military, the Eme men were very good at their jobs. Denahy had never guessed that
his squads would see this kind of resistance. They were fighting a
guerilla action. Police departments were not ready for armed resistance
of this caliber. It was now kill or be killed. There
could be no prisoners. Working their way further into the second floor,
Denahy and Stevens began a room-by-room search. Making it past the
fourth bedroom, an Eme soldier
opened up on them. Stevens caught two rounds in the leg. Grabbing her,
Denahy pulled her to the safety of a bedroom. Then he worked his way
through the adjoining bathroom door and back out into the hallway.
Standing in the hallway, he could hear
intense gunfire in the downstairs. Judging from the number of rounds
popped off, he estimated there to be at least three Eme soldiers down there returning fire. As he made his way through
the pitch black hallway, he heard Stevens shout and fire off a volley of
rounds. Then he heard the Uzzi open up. Racing toward the bedroom, he
was just in time to catch the soldier reloading. Denahy got off three
rounds before he could finish. The
Eme soldier was dead and so was Stevens.
His revolver now empty, Denahy needed
more fire power. Taking the Uzzi from the dead Eme soldier, he backed into a bedroom. Stevens was his second loss
to La Eme so far, he promised
himself that he would have no more. Tired and fading due to the loss of
blood, Denahy was in trouble. But he had to go on. Finding his way to a
back staircase, he crept quietly downstairs. It had now been six
minutes. When Dunaway, Mitchell, and the fourth squad broke through the
back door, they found Denahy near the kitchen. Almost firing on him, he
was lucky their flashlight beam hit his shield. This was the first bit
of luck he’d had all night. The squad members were hyped up with fear
and adrenaline. Radio communications were sporadic and confusing. The
squad leader told Denahy that he’d called in, telling HQ that all hell
had broken loose up at the villa and several officers were down. The
squad leader said that there were two choppers in the air and troops on
their way, estimating five minutes to get up through the canyon to the
Denahy broke the squad into three
teams of three men each, ordering them to hunt and kill one soldier
each. They broke up and went hunting. Dunaway was the first of her team
to die. The same Eme
soldier later killed Mitchell. As Denahy and his buddy made it through
the kitchen, they found a wounded officer Johnson and a dead soldier.
Ordering his buddy to get Johnson outside, Denahy moved forward toward
the gunfire at the front of the house. Hearing sirens in the distance,
he made his way cautiously toward the gunfire. As he did, a figure in
the dark was making his way toward Denahy. It was an Eme
gunman. Opening up on him, Denahy dropped the soldier with three rounds.
Quickly rushing the man, he found him dead. He also found Dunaway and
Mitchell. The Eme soldier had
done his dirty job well. The firing had stopped. It was silent when a
shattered Denahy leaned against the wall wondering what the hell had
That was where the black and whites
found him. With no pulse or heart beat they worked on him for five
minutes. Chan was first to hear the word--he wasn’t going to make it.
On the phone with Peter McKenna, she gave him the bad news. He’d lost
too much blood and his age didn’t help.
After being flown to the hospital,
Denahy was being operated on. Calls came in from the Senator’s office.
The Bureau brass were on the phone. All wanted to know if he would make
it. He flat lined twice during surgery. Believing he wouldn’t survive
the day, they called me to administer the last rights. When I arrived, I
was ushered into his room. There I found Lisa broken and sobbing. She
grabbed my hand. Together we prayed for his recovery. There was little
of him left; he’d almost given up. It was his age that made it
difficult. A younger man could have survived more easily the great loss
of blood. His skin pasty white, and vital signs ebbing, Denahy looked
finished. I asked Lisa to go to her hotel room and get some rest. One of
the many policemen waiting in the hallway escorted her. Alone with him,
I administered the sacraments. Once done, a nurse entered and asked me
to leave. As I left the room doctors came running, he’d flat-lined
again. I left expecting the worst.
To my surprise, he hung on for those
first crucial hours. Against all odds, Denahy woke up a week later in
the intensive care unit of Santa
Barbara Memorial Hospital. Opening his eyes, he found Peter McKenna
asleep in the chair next to his bed. It took him awhile to get past the
grogginess and the shock of the wires, tubes, and machines connected to
his body. Choking on the tube in his throat, Denahy began coughing
loudly. Peter McKenna was on his feet shouting for a doctor. Rushing in,
the nurses were quick to remove the tubes and lend assistance. Within
minutes he was resting comfortably.
Doctor Omori, the head of surgery,
consulted with Denahy the first day he was able to understand his
condition. The doctor informed him that he was a very lucky man. The
bullet had entered through his arm and lodged in his chest cavity,
within an inch of his heart. The first bullet had entered and passed
through the fleshy part of his right arm. After telling Denahy that he
would live, Dr. Omori left.
After a few days, Denahy was allowed
visitors. Lisa was the first one to see him. She insisted that he
couldn’t die until after their marriage. Next came the McKennas, the
Senator and his wife were reserved but genuine. They brought him a
basket of flowers. Finally, a string of Santa
Barbara PD officers and agents came by. Purposely, he wasn’t given
any news. Their visits were kept brief. Everyone wanted him to get
better before he heard. After his second week in the hospital, Peter
McKenna came to see him. It was McKenna who gave him the bad news.
Captain Greger, Officer Johnson, Shonita Stevens, and the rest
were dead. Only Chan was left alive and convalescing. Two black and
whites were also killed. The task force had taken out five Eme
gunmen. McKenna was firm and to the point, Denahy was lucky to be alive.
Background searches were done on the
dead Eme soldiers. They were
all ex-Special Forces people. Then McKenna gave him the good news.
Denahy’s mission had been a complete success. The strike force had
found the stash just where Ramos
said it would be. Three million dollars in cash and banking and shipping
documents were located. The following day after the villa was raided, an
warehouse was searched and it was found to be used to store cocaine. Two
hundred pounds of high-grade stuff was seized. McKenna told Denahy that
Kenneth Aragón was arrested on
Denahy asked McKenna how it had turned
out. McKenna’s face turned pale. Taking a deep breath, he calmly
explained that Kenneth Aragón
had been held, but was released on bail.
When Denahy came unglued, McKenna told him that bail was not all
there was. Denahy sat silently waiting for the rest of it. McKenna then
pulled out a document from his jacket pocket.
Clearing his throat, he began to read. Kenneth Aragón
left the courtroom at
. He was observed entering the first floor, east wing restroom of the
courthouse. After three minutes, he exited the restroom and proceeded
out the side entrance of the courthouse into a heavy downpour of rain. A
black stretch limousine was observed parked at the curb. Kenneth Aragón was
seen getting into the vehicle. At
, the limousine departed the courthouse. The vehicle then exploded,
killing Kenneth Aragón
and the driver. Death was estimated by the Coroner at
. McKenna had read the words without emotion, almost mechanically.
Denahy understood why. McKenna had lost the only brother he had
ever known about. Having said all he had to say, McKenna left.
Denahy felt sorry for Peter. But he
felt more sorry for Kenneth Aragón. The
boy had never had a chance at a good and decent life. Fate had given him
to a wounded soul who had raised Kenneth Aragón to
live for a twisted sense of honor. Kenneth might have done something
great for the world had he been given a fair break. Adjusting his pillow
for a nap, Denahy heard a knock at the door. As he began to say enter,
Robertson walked into the room with a bouquet of flowers.
His usual clumsy self, Robertson
dropped the flowers on the floor while handing them to Denahy. To make
matters worse, he slammed into the side table, spilling a water jug as
he tried to retrieve the flowers. Denahy started to laugh at the sight
of a confused and frustrated Robertson, but the pain in his chest put an
end to that. Denahy told Robertson to relax and take a seat before he
destroyed the room. Robertson thanked him and sat on the edge of the
bed, slamming into and hurting Denahy’s wounded arm. An angry Denahy,
ordered Robertson to sit in the chair against the wall. Once he was
settled, Robertson told Denahy he was happy he was alive. Denahy gave
Robertson a grumbling thank you. Pulling a crumpled envelope from his
coat pocket, Robertson smiled like the cat that ate the canary. An
unhappy Denahy ordered Robertson to tell him about the contents of the
envelope. It was then that Robertson gave him the second bombshell of
the day. Interpol had just forwarded a dozier on me, one Ignatius
Michael O’Brien. The dossier stated that I had been a fugitive from
English justice since 1916. The
dossier had me listed as an IRA assassin. Denahy was stunned, not
knowing quite what to say. Closing his eyes, he wanted the world to go
away. Remaining silent for a moment before dealing with the issue, he
finally told Robertson to bury it for now, explaining him that he would
deal with it personally. Robertson agreed. A tired Denahy needed rest.
He asked Robertson to leave and call him later.
Three days later, a very sore Denahy
left the hospital for the peace and quiet of Lisa’s home.
McKenna gave him a three-week paid leave of absence. His
homecoming was all he had expected it to be. Lisa had prepared the house
with everything he needed. Explaining to all who called that Denahy
needed rest, he would not be having guests. Recovering well over the
next three weeks, his strength was back. He’d lost fifteen pounds
through the ordeal. Denahy was healthier. In love and happy for the
first time in his sorry life, he now looked forward to the future.
Not having had a cigarette in a month
and only two Scotches over the time he had been convalescing, Denahy was
ready for work. It was mid-April when he returned to his office. D.C.
was the same old insane chamber of horrors. Robertson was every bit as
wacky as always. Denahy’s
team had been disbanded since the death of Kenneth Aragón.
McKenna was looking forward to his run for the Senate. And Denahy was
ready to meet with me.
Flying to Los Angeles the following
day, the weather was pleasant and the smog levels low.
Taking a cab from LAX to my parish, he arrived at the rectory in
the late afternoon as the sun began to slowly fade into the night sky.
Hearing the knock on the door as I sat for dinner, Flora,
my cook, walked out of the dining room and went to open it. Calling to
me, she told me I had a visitor. I walked into the living room and there
stood Agent Denahy. He’d lost half of his weight, yet he looked fit
and well. Inviting him into my home, I asked if he was hungry. He
nodded, yes, and we walked into the dining room. Flora
served him one of her fine burritos
with beans and rice. She’d prepared my favorite flour tortillas.
Denahy said little as we ate the hot spicy food.
It wasn’t till we were finished with our meal and outside in
the garden sharing a bottle of wine that he got down to it.
Pouring himself a second glass of
wine, Denahy tossed a dog eared envelope to me across the lawn table.
Putting on my reading glasses, I opened the envelope and began to read
its contents. “Is it true?”He asked in a soft tone of voice. It was
almost apologetic. “Yes.” I said, having nothing to fear. As he sat
back in his chair and looked around my garden at the roses, there was a
sadness about him. The moment was an awkward one. Neither of us knew
what to say, so we sat there together in the darkness saying little. Flora
had turned on the porch light, but it gave little light. Then he asked
me, “Why, why did you do it?” I thought for a good long time before
answering him; I owed Denahy that. “I’ve had three lives really; my
life as a young Irish Republican Army assassin, my life as a priest, and
my life as a friend to Michael Aragón. Each
was distinct and apart, and they never met. Well, perhaps the priest and
friend did. And now, you’ve come along. You know I’ve lived a lie.
My life has been a carefully crafted play with myself as the savior. On
the surface, I was a parish priest from the Barrio
of East Los Angeles tending
his flock of sainted followers. But deep inside, I was a murderer,
killing for God and country. I’ve spent my entire life doubting the
very god I pretended to serve. To this very day, I hate the bloody
English. I swore upon my sainted mother to hate them until the day I
die. I’ve never wavered from that oath. They killed my brother,
Patrick. They killed my father. They raped my homeland. No amount of
scripture or dogma will ever make me forget that. So in the end, I
suppose I’m a fraud.” I continued on, explaining to Denahy the story
of how I had become the man the Interpol sheet claimed I was.
My story had been a long one. Agent
Denahy had hung on every word. Reaching his trembling hand into his coat
pocket, he pulled out his handcuffs, laying them on the table in front
of me. Then he asked me,
“Was it worth it?” I sensed his words were meant to help him
understand. I told Denahy my youthful indiscretions and barbarity are a
curse from God. The knowledge that I might be found out haunted me
still. I prayed for some kind of relief. But I must forgive the English
and their evil deeds if I wish forgiveness for my own sins. This I can
never do. No, this I shall never do.”
Looking directly at me, Denahy stood
up from the table and asked to use a phone. When he returned, Agent
Denahy picked up his handcuffs and walked over to my side of the table.
Standing next to me for a moment, he looked away. “I placed a
call to one of my agents. He’s to call Interpol in the morning and
inform them that the man they are looking for is dead. As far as I’m
concerned, he paid for his sins. Good night, Father.” The Agent’s
words trailed off into the night as he walked out of my garden and out
of my life.
03/24/2017 10:35 AM