The Endgame – A Memoir

Strategists & Blackmail

Before I delve too much further into my early years, I’ll ask that you don’t get too hung up on the personal aspects of the low-level individual abuse and exploitation that make up some of the next few chapters. I’ll only highlight a few instances as examples to lead to a deeper understanding of the larger landscape. They are not where this is leading, but they are some of the stones on which the path is set. 

I don’t need pity regarding the parts that involve myself, and honestly, I wouldn’t know what to do with pity. It’s an uncomfortable type of emotion to respond to. There is already a high level of discomfort simply in sharing some instances (and I’ve left many of the worst ones out due to that squemishness – for the sake of the reader as well as myself). Abuses in this stage are some of the most difficult topics to write about, and potentially the most discrediting. It’s much easier to believe a child has an active imagination than it is to face the severity and clinical psychopathology of some abuses. 

Thus, for a victim, it’s often easier to stay in silence about these things rather having to battle twice – once in living through it and again in having to explain it to someone who may choose to lash out in disbelief. One battle is already at an intolerable level without doubling it. 

These few early chapters are on my direct interactions with someone who was also interacting much the same way with the world on a larger scale, with nearly unlimited freedom to act and massive military research budgets. As they say, if you give someone a hammer, everything becomes a nail. Their patterns of behavior grow well beyond those felt on an individual level, until they become like an ever-expanding nuclear explosion on the horizon that burns us all. 

Problems start small before they grow. 

Individual abuses and regional politics are only the first symptoms, although I do wish any part of our global civilization was healthy enough to stop things in the early stages. The fact is it isn’t, and thus these next pages exist. 

The memories from those early years are a mix of waking nightmares from which there was no escape. I was stuck with the woman I was now forced to call “mother” by society. It turns out that people will easily accept “She has an active imagination” as a reasonable excuse from the adult who you just said was your kidnapper. They accept it just as easily as they accept, “Oh, he’s drunk,” when referring to a man drugged against his will. I wish I were joking about that. People are very unlikely to help in a situation in which there is even the slightest amount of doubt, personal danger, or a chance of causing an imposition. As I found out firsthand, and was devastated by, this is true even when it involves a nervous child asking for help. 

As a child, the worst of those experiences, and one that still stings to this day, happened in a hallway. The recruiter was in a meeting with a man in what may have been a consulate (I’m not entirely sure, but the building did have that feeling and architecture), and I was left alone in the hallway to wait. At that point, I had already spent several months in the recruiter’s unlit living room, watching television, and had seen enough public service announcements during the commercials to know that if you are kidnapped, you are supposed to tell an adult or police officer. So, when a woman I had heard speaking Spanish walked by me in that hall, I finally pushed through my massive wall of anxiety and shyness. I stopped her and tried to explain, in Spanish, that the woman I had entered the building with was not my mother and that I had been kidnapped. 

Her response left me muted on the subject for years. It removed just about every bit of hope that I had in finding freedom before I was an adult. She told me, “But you’ll have good schools here.”

She absolutely understood what I had said and yet still chose to do nothing. 

My plea for help may have been some of the last words I ever spoke in that language. The utterly devastating betrayal felt in that moment made clinging to Spanish feel pointless. It became a useless language. What is the point of speaking it if that is the response? Even as an adult, I struggle to pick it up again. The deep sense of betrayal and loneliness the sound of the words elicit can be difficult to work through. 

Society has been fully trained to err on the side of deferring to deceit. Allowing the government to lie without the need for apology or admittance of guilt within an official’s lifetime, on top of that, creates a social seal protecting semi-concealed criminal behavior by authority. It is a seal that is almost impossible to break because everyone does their part to maintain it, even the victims and witnesses. 

Remember the story of the fire in Argentina and the behavior of the prisoners, the prison guards, and the witnesses? Ever wonder what level of crime it is to keep several hundred people locked in a burning building because they have a different political ideology than yours? There were hundreds of people there, in all three of the key positions – victim, perpetrator (yes, even authority can wear that crown), and witness. Not one of them unlocked the doors before the bodies were charred. That behavior is par for the course. Many will claim otherwise, but it’s still the reality. 

Around the time we visited that possible-embassy was also about the time when the recruiter started using me as a door opener. She would send me up to office buildings with security guards that she could not get past, and instruct me to tell the guards that “my mom is inside.” That would almost always gain me access, despite my stuttering and inability to answer simple questions such as “Who is your mom?” because I hadn’t been told what to say if any questions were asked. From there, I was expected to find certain offices and people and to give them messages or envelopes. It was a fairly simple task, but it wasn’t one I was comfortable with nor did I honestly have the people skills and bold personality that were necessary, especially not between the ages of three and six, when the majority of those tasks were thrust on me. As I have come to understand it, the recruiter had used her sons in a similar manner before she lost custody of them. Now, instead of two boisterous boys with each other for support, it was just me facing the task alone. I was too shy to deal with it all and I was terrified.

So, the second time she asked me to do it, I smiled, nodded, and agreed. And then I went and hid under a bush along the pathway to the building for several hours. This would lead her to think I wasn’t obedient enough (I was obedient in everything, but sometimes my fear overruled my ability to follow orders). Her thoughts on that would cause her to attempt a variety of overzealous, unethical, and cruel ways to turn me into an obedient little subservient. Methods that would, in some cases, even bring international outcry when used on adults at Guantanamo Bay. She clearly did not comprehend child-rearing, or I simply wasn’t a child to her. I get the feeling, when considering what she would put me through, that she still saw me as more of an enemy combatant. But I’ll get into a few of the more oppressive and bizarre methods of control that she attempted, later. 

In the meantime, I was brought along to a myriad of labs, clandestine meetings, and for simple ordinary tasks, often among people who had the potential to do as much damage as the person I was there with. Sometimes the lines blurred, and no real distinction could be made between ordinary life and the recruiter’s work. One such experience was when we were visiting a man in the late evenings. The two of them would talk in another room while they left me sitting on a barstool in the kitchen watching Tales from the Darkside or The Twilight Zone (I can’t honestly remember which, the two shows were so similar) on a small television. It seemed like an ordinary meeting between two people who knew each other, except for the late hour. Even that seemed ordinary enough. 

One night when they were taking much too long, the show I was watching ended. I got bored and started wandering the living room. There, I found something that I have since been informed is so rare that it’s only heard of in rumors. It was a lampshade with a tattoo. I brought it up to the light and examined it, appreciating how beautiful and flawed it was. When they came into the room, they told me it was made from a woman. The man returned it to the box I found it in. I still loved it and wished I could have a tattoo like the one I saw on it. I was a child. I didn’t honestly understand the implications. It was just something slightly unique that stood out in a room that was otherwise standard worn furniture, musty sleeping bags, and classically male with no real care for decor or cleaning. How was I supposed to know that the person the recruiter was speaking to might be directly related to the higher rankings of the German SS? There were no obvious indications other than his choice in lighting. He was the recruiter’s age, not the same age as the depressed scientist I had met. He also seemed anything but depressed.  

Back in the daylight, the recruiter and a work friend of hers were theatrically whispering together one time while looking at me. I wanted to know what the secret was. So, they told me I was a French princess but I couldn’t tell anyone at all, that it was a secret and if people knew there would be grave consequences. I was young. By the end of the week, every kid at my preschool knew I was a “princess.” Obviously, the tale they had told me about my being a princess was a lie. They just wanted to know if I could keep a big secret. That was when they decided I couldn’t. 

As a result, and for other purposes as well, the recruiter would spend her spare moments at home creating a strong and unpleasant-tasting homemade mix of drugs from nature, with datura and poppies among the main ingredients. When she thought she had the mixture right, she would invite me over to where she sat with her mortar and pestle to test it for her. She made me consume that awful mixture by the spoonful. As my vision became that of a carnival mirror room, with my body parts going through uncomfortable waves of seeming both incredibly large and small, she would inform me that I had a fever. 

I’ve had many legitimate fevers in life – what I experienced after I consumed her mixture was not a fever. 

What was more concerning than her using a child as the tester for her homemade drug experimentation, was that she was not the only one to go that far. Around that same time, she brought me to a language school somewhere in central Connecticut. As we walked through a room with sinks on the left and plain children’s hospital beds on the right, I became frightened. As I clung closer to her, she told me not to worry, that it would be fine. We passed through that room and, eventually, I was brought to another. I crawled up onto the examination chair and they restrained me. 

They talked amongst themselves about how children don’t remember, how what they were doing was more humane than leaving us attached to an inferior language and a memory full of atrocities. I get the feeling they were only trying to hide behind enough professionalism and false concern to convince themselves. 

What would follow was a series of strong electrical shocks directly to my temples, simultaneously on both sides, an absolutely excruciating process from which I squirmed, desperately trying to find any escape from the pain. I discovered that if I squirmed just enough that they were not exactly equal on my temples, and if they pressed against the edge of the bone of my skull rather than the soft and unprotected flesh of my temples, then the pain was slightly diminished. Thus, I fought to squirm down and tilt my head that little extra bit. If you look at my temples even today, the electrical burn scars are still there and one is a little higher than the other. I had succeeded. However, even my attempt to escape some of the pain was not enough to stop the voltage from doing its job. 

Eventually, the pain would become so intense that it would leave, and I would find myself in this white, empty, seemingly vast space inside my head. There was no language there; it appeared like emptiness, and my thoughts functioned freely in it without words, making boundless connections. I found it beautiful. I wish I’d never been in the situation to discover it, but it was beautiful. When back “home” with that woman I was now forced to call “mom,” I would often wander into the back garden alone, sit in the grass or on a rock, and reminisce about that vivid empty space in my mind and how free my thoughts had been without the constraints of language with its limited and fixed definitions. I grew to hate the concept of language and its imposed limitations.  

As for the language school part, it was indeed a school in the sense that, after wiping our minds nearly as clean as snow, they taught us. I met some of the other children who had occupied the beds I’d seen when I first entered the space. I spent long hours side-by-side with them as the teachers brought us through the entire English language, reading and reciting the words in groups and in order until we knew the language better than the native speakers in the area. 

And as for my Argentine-government-approved kidnapper’s particular homemade mixture of drugs, she eventually discovered that an effective way to hide it was in chocolate and strong beverages. She would mix it into my hot chocolate, which she made with copious amounts of intensely-flavored unsweetened dark baker’s chocolate, heated milk, and honey. I began to become anxious about how I would feel after consuming a beverage she had given me, and I started to switch our drinks. It took me a while to realize it was only in the thicker beverages. I wasted quite a few of my attempts at sleight of hand on switching our water glasses.  

Despite my novice lack of attention to details, by determination and luck, I finally got it right. 

I switched our mugs of hot chocolate while she had her back turned, with her attention on a rarity – a bear and cub outside the kitchen window. When she returned to the table, we drank. Several minutes later, I stood in that kitchen horrified, as she began to act like a panicked and trapped wild animal, fighting both me and the drugs. She clawed at me with her nails still dirty with turpentine and garden soil. I stood panicked and frozen until eventually running to hide in my room for hours. The long red scratches she left on one of my arms would inflame and infect long before they healed. She tried to drug me again to forget the incident, but pain holds memories more tightly than a mother holds her child. The soreness of the swollen scratches and the rapid beating of my heart from heightened anxiety sliced right through the fog of the drugs. 

Mind you, the recruiter didn’t always need to be drugged in order to go through fits of rage. Every few months, I would wake up to loud smashing in the kitchen, as she would spend at least an hour systematically going through and throwing each plate at the floor until the entire kitchen was covered in broken dishes, and only two dishes and two cups remained (even in these odd fits of rage, she still remembered to leave us just enough to eat and drink from). During the cacophony of her screams and the sounds of breaking glass and ceramic plates, I would sneak outside and go to the edge of the property to avoid becoming a victim. 

She eventually began to test her homemade drug on adults, with varying results. When I was along, she would make sure I knew which drink was mine, often by marking it in a way I would recognize. So, even if we were all taking Coke bottles from the same ice bucket, I would know to look for the one with a small indent on it. Sometimes, she used that method to drug me. Other times she used it to drug everyone else, leaving me there sober and aware as the people in the room began to act strange or drop their faces into their plates. If I was drugged or if everyone else was genuinely depended on the situation, what her goal was, and who needed to be compliant for that goal to be reached. 

The drugs would cause some of her targets to become compliant and some to become violent. She brought them to the house in both conditions and maneuvered them in front of a shiny silver tarp that was hung on a wall. There, she would pose me with them for inappropriate photographs, and use the Polaroids for blackmail. One of them was Joseph, a man the recruiter had intentionally moved in next door to on Judd Farm Road around the time I was turning five years old. He was the head sheriff for New Haven County at that time. I was never comfortable with the situation, and I will never be comfortable enough to discuss any of those situations in detail.

No matter how many times I was told it was fine and normal, I was never comfortable in any of those situations. 

By then, I had already been present when the haggard-looking woman from Argentina was shot at point-blank range after she came to the United States to confront the woman who had stolen me from my country. 

She drove up in her wood-paneled station wagon and parked behind the office of the raw materials plant we were frequently at during that time period (the industry-massive piles of sand and other raw construction and concrete materials were an effective cover for major drug smuggling, primarily cocaine, being done by the business owner). The recruiter told us kids, myself and the children of the owner, to hide on the ground floor of the building. My friends found spots to hide. I stood frozen in the center of a room, not that far from the back door. The recruiter, my false mother, went through that door to the rear of the building and got into a screaming match with the woman who was likely one of my actual family members. Then I heard something that sounded a lot like thunder but not really. What I had heard were shots fired from the recruiter’s handgun. 

After the shots rang out, the recruiter came flying through the building, her hands shaking (ironic that she could poison and bomb people without flinching but that pulling the trigger on a gun made her visibly shaken, but that’s how human psychology is – killing is often easy and elating except when its a combination of immediate and personal). She pushed us kids in the direction of the side door. The few other people who had been in the office ran to get into the company owner’s pickup truck and another vehicle. We all sped away. I asked why we were leaving in such a hurry. Someone, probably the recruiter, told me it was because there was a dangerous storm coming. From the open back of the pickup truck, I looked up into the sky. It was blue. There wasn’t a cloud in sight. I never spoke about it, but I knew we weren’t running from the weather that day.   

I still wonder how the deceased woman who had driven the station wagon was related to me. I often think of her as my grandmother. We age the same, something that I both adore in that I can now see the reflection of family when I look in the mirror and also abhor because it comes along with etched lines in my skin. 

She wasn’t the only would-be savior of mine who I saw harmed or worse. The guilt ate at me. So did the growing sense of loneliness.

Next: Domestic Research Subject Recruitment