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65 years old
Galloway Township, New Jersey
United States
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Pulp Fiction, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Jaws, The Exorcist

The Bible, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, A Writers' Presence

Photography, playing the drums or bass guitar, coaching and working with youth, fishing, video production

Simple Espionage
By Derek K. Cason, 42, Smithville, NJ written in 1999
Derek was studying Communications and Business Studies at Richard Stockton College.
Derek graduated with a BA in Economics



I could not believe that this opportunity had dropped in my lap, but here I was at Philadelphia International Airport waiting to board a flight for Japan. This was the dream of a lifetime. Not only was the thought of leaving the country for the first time exhilarating, but to think that I was being paid to make this trip made it even sweeter.
Just six short weeks ago I was wondering if I would ever leave New Jersey. Oh sure, I had done some traveling in the United States while serving in the United States Air Force and the band I was playing with had done some nice gigs around the country, but never anything like this.
I had not checked the messages on my answering machine prior to going to band rehearsal on the night that started this adventure. Little did I know that the message waiting for me would forever change my life.
It was about 10:30 p.m. when I arrived home from rehearsal. Even though I saw the light flashing on the telephone answering machine, I decided to eat a bowl of Cocoa Krispies and catch the last half-hour of Deep Space Nine. Because of my work in the community, I usually receive calls from people asking my help with some project or another. My pastor always said that if you want something done well, ask someone who's always busy and I was indeed "always busy". Right at this moment though, after a hard day at work and a long band rehearsal, I didn't want to hear any requests. I just wanted to relax with my favorite cereal and TV show.
By the time the cereal was gone, Lt. Commander Worf had rid the Klingon Empire of its evil dictator and late night news had begun. I decided not to ignore that flashing message light any longer, but instead of hearing a desperate voice begging me to perform some last minute task, the strong stern voice of Colonel Richard Johnson introduced himself to me.
Colonel Johnson explained to me that he represented the United States Department of Defense’s Entertainment Office and that he had heard very good reports about my band. He said that he wanted to discuss the possibility of us touring overseas to entertain troops for the Department of Defense. He requested that I call him at my earliest possible convenience. I thought it strange that the Colonel’s request also instructed that only I call him and not another band member, but overwhelmed by excitement, I didn't give it a second thought.
Colonel Johnson seemed delighted to hear from me when I contacted him on the next morning. He said he had been awaiting my call and he had all of my paperwork in front of him. Even though I'd never met the Colonel, he seemed to know a great deal about me. It didn't quite sink in when the colonel asked me to confirm my Social Security number, which he recited before I could answer him. He even knew my driver's license number, address and place of employment without me ever mentioning them. What really struck me though was when he began to ask questions about my military record and blood type. He noted that my records indicated that I was an expert marksman and he wanted to know what weapons I was especially proficient in. When I told him that I could shoot the testicles off of a cricket at 100 paces with any weapon that he gave me, he seemed especially pleased.
Similar questions about my ability to operate military vehicles and my knowledge of current world events piqued my curiosity, but the excitement of actually traveling overseas to play music had me in such a state of euphoria that his inquiries were dismissed without much deliberation.
It didn't take long for the band to agree to the tour. Every one of the members had been performing music for some time and was each looking for his or her "Big Break." During subsequent conversations with the Colonel, we had agreed to have our band equipment inspected by government agents prior to our departure. Again I thought this somewhat peculiar but the Colonel explained it off as something to do with tighter airlines security, and told us that the inspection prior to our leaving would help expedite our passage through customs and other checkpoints.
Even though I would not leave my baby, my bass guitar nicknamed Dawn, with the inspectors, I did allow them to take it into another room to do the "inspection". It seemed like a long time to do a quick check of my instrument. When I got home, I did not notice that the screws on my fret adjustment plate had been removed and replaced, but I did noticed that my guitar seemed to play so much better than before. I guess I just figured that since God had blessed me with this trip, that He had also increased my playing ability to go along with it.
We had to arrive at the airport hours before our departure time due to the enormous amount of equipment we were taking with us. Amplifiers, drums, microphone stands, and keyboards had to be checked through as well as our normal luggage.
Turning my guitar over to inspectors was one thing, but placing it under an aircraft in a luggage compartment for some twenty-six hours of travel time was out of the question. The ticketing agent didn't seem to care one way or another whether I carried my guitar on the plane with me. He almost seemed amused because of the large amount of carry-on luggage we had already. Our lead guitarist and saxophonist weren't having any of it either, and we all struggled through the terminal with our instruments and carry-on luggage.
The waiting area was extremely crowded, and our instruments and extra baggage caused us to stick out enough, but our lead singer wore this ridiculous looking hat and shirt that made her look like a reject from an old Hawaii Five-O TV show audition.
While waiting to board our flight, I noticed a distinguished looking Oriental gentleman. He probably would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the feeling that he kept looking our way. At first, I thought that it was that ridiculous looking shirt, but the longer we waited, the more he seemed to be looking at me.
It had been four hours since we arrived at the airport before we finally started to board the 747 that would take us to Japan. I couldn't wait to board the plane, store my guitar and luggage and settle in for my first flight to the other side of the world. Everything was going just fine when this flight attendant, who looked as though she should have retired not long after the Wright brothers last flight, began eyeing our instruments and baggage. By the time we reached the door of the aircraft, she had summoned the co-pilot and had taken on the posture of an angry pit bull.
The discussion that followed intensified quickly with the flight attendant, who seemed to feel like she personally owned the aircraft, imploring the co-pilot not to allow us to board with so much carry-on baggage. Our guitarist, saxophonist and I refused to part with our instruments. It had gotten to the point where I started to believe that we wouldn't make the flight when the Oriental gentleman who had been watching us walked over to the co-pilot and began to whisper something into his ear. After a few moments the Oriental gentleman turned to us and bowed, turned back and entered the plane.
Shockingly, the co-pilot turned to us and said, "We're sorry for any inconvenience folks, Please come on board and enjoy your flight. If you have any other problems, please ask Miss Turner, your flight attendant."
At that, Miss Turner's mouth dropped open, but before she could say a word, the co-pilot added, "and if she doesn't assist you, please come get me personally.
We boarded the plane with big smiles on our faces, but I wondered whether we should check our meals when served as Miss Turner looked none too happy.
I wanted to thank the Oriental man but strangely enough, as we walked through the plane to our seats, he was nowhere to be found. I figured he was either in first class, which Miss Turner had quickly turned us away from, or in the lavatory. Either way, it was a long trip and I knew that I would see him again.
The flight was otherwise uneventful. The many lakes fascinated me as we flew over Canada. We went up over Alaska and out over the Aleutian Islands. I was also amazed that since we were traveling west, we never saw darkness for the entire twenty-six hour flight.
Just before we began our descent to Kansai Airport, I remembered that I had not seen the Oriental gentleman the entire flight. We had become friendly with a number of the flight attendants, and even Miss Turner had lightened up some when she realized we weren't some sort of terrorists intent on blowing up the plane. So I asked one of them if I could go into first class to say hello to our anonymous benefactor. To my surprise, even though I walked through the entire section of the plane, on both levels, I did not see the gentleman.
Kansai Airport is a beautiful International Airport located on an island just outside of Osaka, Japan. Colonel Johnson had arranged for us to have a few days of sightseeing and relaxation prior to our rigorous performance schedule. I had told him that I couldn't wait to experience the culture of the Japanese as well as visit the Blue Note Jazz Club, which is renowned for its high caliber of American jazz artists.
Two enlisted servicemen in civilian clothes met us at the airport. They ushered us through Customs with our equipment without incident, and we headed for a mini-bus that was to take us to our hotel. As we were leaving the airport terminal, I heard a voice say, "Excuse me." When I turned to see who had spoken, there was the Oriental man who had eluded me for the past twenty-six hours. I smiled and said "hello." His expression never changed, but he looked me straight in the eye and said, "Do not leave your guitar unattended. Look for Mr. Yu."
Before I could respond he was gone, blending into the mass of humanity streaming through the airport. When I turned back towards the outside, the servicemen were motioning for me to hurry and join them. We finished loading our equipment on the bus and headed into a section of Osaka called Namba.
Our second night in Osaka we were picked up by the servicemen as prearranged and taken to the Blue Note. The Blue Note was a large nightclub bathed in glitter and neon lights. Joe Sample was performing on this night, and I was excited to see him perform live. We perform a number of songs written by Joe Sample and the Crusaders, so I decided to take my bass guitar with me just in case they would allow me to sit in.
We were seated at a table close to the stage after the maitre'd asked us if we were musicians. Our waiter approached as soon as we were seated and said "Yokoso, I am your waiter, Mr. Yu. Please allow me to serve you." A smile crossed my faced as I thought back to the previous days' conversation with the mysterious Asian man. Sure you can assist me, Mr. Yu, by seeing if I can sit in with the band tonight," I said hopefully. Mr. Yu, without flinching said, "We will see what can be done, now may I take your drink orders,"
Joe Sample was in great form on this night and as the jazz flowed through the club, so did the drinks. I had forgotten about my previous request when Mr. Yu tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Sir, please come with me and bring your bass guitar".
It was dark backstage and I never saw who it was that grabbed me from behind and placed a strange smelling handkerchief over my mouth and nose. I never had a chance to struggle before drifting off into a chemically induced sleep.
When I began to come to, I could recognize the steady drone of an aircraft engine. My eyes opened to the inside of some type of cargo plane. Three murky images looming above me soon turned into the faces of Mr. Yu, the Oriental man and an American military officer. As soon as the American officer asked if I was okay, I recognized his voice as that of Colonel Johnson.
The conversation that occurred next was almost too much to believe. The Colonel said that he was actually working for the CIA and that the United States government to assist in a covert operation of the highest level had recruited me. It had something to do with my blood type.
When I asked where we were going, the Colonel told me to rest, I would know soon enough. As I faded back off into sleep, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my guitar case with the top open. That was the last image I remembered aboard that plane.
This time I came to in a room. It was a room with a smell like rotten cabbage. The door to the room was locked, and the one small window in the room stared blankly at a brick wall.
I could hear voices but I couldn't tell what they were saying, or even the language they were speaking, for that matter. My arm was sore and when I looked under my sleeve, a bandage covered the soreness just above my forearm.
It was only a few minutes before the door opened and in walked my three captors. Mr. Yu carried in my guitar case and sat it by the door. At no time during this ordeal did I feel threatened. I had lost track of time, and my feelings were more that of trying to establish my situation, than to immediately try to escape.
The Colonel was the first to speak. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah...I'm okay," I responded, as I sat up on the futon which I had been laying on. "Where am I? What's going on?"
"You are in South Korea. You will be reunited with your band members soon. But first, the United States Government needs your help." After a brief glance at the Oriental man, he continued. "Your blood type has been identified as the same as that of a very important person. A new serum, vital to world stability has been developed. An experimental medical procedure has been used that requires the serum to be in close proximity to a certain blood type for one week prior to its use. Our research indicated you were the person we needed."
"So you want me to carry some serum around?" I asked.
This time, the Oriental man spoke. "You already have been, for the last four days. We knew that you would not let your guitar out of your sight, so we planted the serum inside its back cover plate. We did not want to take the chance of telling you for security purposes."
"We apologize for transporting you to South Korea this way, but we needed to do tests and do a transfer of your actual blood to complete the serum and test its effectiveness."
Before I had a chance to protest, he continued. "Of course, we are extremely appreciative of your contributions. We have established a bank account in your name. What we consider to be a fair sum has been deposited in it for your trouble." He reached into his pocket and handed me a bankbook with the name "Royal Bank of Sweden" printed on it.
When I saw the number printed in that book, I almost passed out. The first thing that crossed my mind was that this sum of money would pay for my entire college education. Then it started to sink in that it would pay for a lot more than that.
The Colonel then said that all that was required of me was my total silence. He said that I would be contacted again, but that it may not be soon. And then he said something even more peculiar. He said, " The entire free world thanks you."
I met up with my band members that night at Youngsan Army Base in Seoul. They had been told I had taken ill at the club in Osaka and that I would meet them to start the tour in Seoul.
We performed our first show of the tour at Panmunjom on the border of North Korea. The troops there are on remote assignment on the last cold war front in the world. They look across the border each day at a façade erected on the border of North Korea. As propaganda blares across both sides of the border through gigantic loudspeakers, day and night, they stand guard. Waiting for any sign of an attack from the north.
The troops really enjoyed themselves during our performance, but a sense of wariness was apparent in the air. Though there had not been any incursions across the border, ongoing talks between North and South Korea over nuclear armament were being planned in the next week. At the next two camps that we performed, uneasiness could be felt at the thought of nuclear weapons stationed in North Korea, right across the border.
The fourth day of our tour required us to travel to Chin Hae, a naval installation on the southern tip of South Korea. It was a long seven-hour drive in ninety-degree weather. Our mini-bus had an air conditioner but if we turned it on, the bus would start to overheat.
After about four hours of stifling heat and near misses, due to what I consider questionable driving tactics by everyone but our driver, he heard something on the radio that made him gasp. He pulled over to the side of the road, clasped his hands together and began to pray. After a few moments, he turned to us. "I must take you to the nearest military base. All Americans are being recalled to their bases."
"What has happened? Please tell us what they said on the radio? We don't understand Korean," I said.
"The Premier of North Korea, Kim Il Sung has just died. The North Korean news agency is reporting that he was poisoned. They kept saying something about his blood type."
So began the reign of Kim Jong-il.
© 1999, Derek K. Cason


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