Large pieces of memory were coming back to me. Clearly. Like awakening from a dream with absolute detail. Four men repeatedly calling me Mr. Porcello. Four men repeatedly asking why I was in Las Vegas. When was I meeting my handler? Where were the documents? "You have the wrong man," I insist. "This can happen two ways - The easy way or the other way." "I'm not Mr. Porcello. You've mistaken me for someone else." "You're not going to like what comes next Mr. Porcello." And in that moment, I went from being The Bearded Man to Mr. Porcello. All it took was one injection.
The man in the dark suit was growing impatient, slowly laying the photograph on the bed. "Are you sure you don't recognize any of these men?" "I'm sure." Pieces were beginning to fit, but with a few unyielding sharp edges. Kidnapped and held in a white room. By who? Escaping, only to be picked up by four men. Men I had not seen in the white room. In both cases drugged. In both cases referred to as Mr. Porcello. Ending up in a hospital, with a man in a dark suit sitting across from me. A man who also refers to me as Mr. Porcello. A man who is walking toward me with a needle in his hand. "Time for playing games is over Mr. Porcello. I need to know the names of the four men in the photo. Why did they hide you? What information did you give them?" He grabbed my arm with force and as the needle began to puncture my skin, a man wearing a cream Panama hat entered the room. "Put down the needle Agent Scriff. Now."
The man in the Panama hat walked up to me and gently rested his hand on mine. He was clean shaven and I picked up a soft scent of aftershave. His glasses reflected the ceiling's white light, making his eyes inaccessible. His clothing carried no labels. "Good evening," he said before sitting on the edge of my bed. "My name is Federal Agent Turnstill. I know that you are not Mr. Porcello. Let's start there." The cheek of man in the dark suit twitched. He was clearly uncomfortable. "I need information," said Agent Turnstill in a flat voice. "I need to know what happened in the white room." "I've told this gentleman everything I can remember. I didn't really interact with anyone. I was held against my will, but I was never interrogated or punished. It was as if they were simply housing me for someone else. Was it for you?" He showed no recognition of a question having been asked. "Did they ask you any questions about documents?" "No." Do you know why you're here?" "No." His hand was still on mine when he said, "There has been a mistake."
"Mr. Porcello is a foreign national wanted by several agencies in connection with espionage," said Agent Turnstill. "You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You match the description given to us by Interpol. You see, we've never actually made contact with Mr. Porcello." Agent Turnstill was emotionless. "I had you taken to the white room. We allowed you to escape - notwithstanding the shots fired by Agent Scriff. There was no intent to harm. The white room was intended as a psychological primer for what came next." As I listened, I felt as though I had been inserted into a Tom Clancy novel. What happens now that they know I'm not Mr. Porcello? Do I represent a threat? "Mr. Porcello was captured in Chicago last night. He was carrying documents in the frame of his glasses. He intended to hand them off to a Pakistani diplomat. Before I entered your room I was handed a photo. This is Mr. Porcello." He reaches into his shirt pocket and unfolds a regular sheet of paper. Before handing it to me he smooths the creases. "It's an uncanny likeness. I'm sure you'll agree." I sit up in bed and take the photo. I'm nervous. I turn the sheet over and staring back at me is a black and white photo of me.
I've been driven to a remote parking lot, secured by tall chain link fence with razor wire resting on top. Agent Scriff and Agent Turnstill sit on either side of me in the back seat of a black Suburban, driven by a young man with a perfectly squared hair cut, just above his collar. As we get out of the vehicle, an older man in jeans and a sweatshirt that said HARVARD on the chest, shakes Agent Turnstill's hand and nods to Agent Scriff. "Tom," said Turnstill. "It's over here," said HARVARD. "We've replaced what we damaged in the work out and detailed the rest. That's a hell of a nice RV you've got there sir." "Thank you," I said, still reeling from the past 24 hours of this Clancy-like affair. Turning to me Agent Turnstill extended his hand. "Here's my card. If you're ever in DC, give me a call. I owe you one." The smallest hint of a smile crept across his lips. "Thank you, I will. But right now I just want to head home. I still have a couple of blank spots and I hoping time on the road will help fill them in." I shook hands with all three gentlemen and opened the door to my Sprinter. They were still standing there when I looked in the rear view mirror and turned onto Interstate 15.