He Was a Real Life Shape Shifter

January 13, 2009 at 9:13 am (General)

I met a real shape shifter. Yeah, right. You’re thinking that’s the fevered dream of a writer who loves paranormal. But let me tell you about it.

I knew him for years. But I only found out who he was last month as I was staring at my laptop screen, contemplating the action climax of my WIP. Across the room, my husband startled me with a burst of laughter.


With a strange look on his face, he handed me the front section of THE BALTIMORE SUN. The headline said, “Laurel Man an Iraqi Spy.”

An Iraqi spy in the town of Laurel, Maryland, made famous by the 1972 shooting of George Wallace? Yeah. From my husband’s reaction, I was pretty sure who it had to be. The grandfatherly guy who owned Gourmet Shish Kebab, the restaurant where we sometimes stopped for lunch or dinner. The place was decorated with artificial flowers and plastic hanging plants. The tables and chairs would have been at home in a VFW hall. Service was cafeteria-style from an open counter. But what the place lacked in ambiance, it made up with the food. Since we’re on a low-carb diet, Mr. Al-Dellemy, the proprietor, would obligingly fix us a plate of mixed kebabs–with cabbage and salad instead of rice and pita bread. He called it his “protein special.”

Gourmet Shish Kebab attracted quite a mix of people. Soldiers from nearby Fort Meade. Defense Department types from NSA. Moslem families. And groups of Middle Eastern men who turned out to be from the Iraqi Intelligence Service, stopping by for the hummus and the sensitive information collected by the proprietor, codenamed Adam. According to the SUN article, he’d been spying for the Iraqi government since 1989. Now he could spend five years in jail.

Adam, who always sat behind the cash register, was the perfect shifter. Hiding in plain sight. Starting with his nicely spiced kebabs and the easy conversation. He knew how to chat you up. To find out what you did for a living. And where you lived. He said he had a PhD in psychology. So why was he running a kebab joint? That should have been a clue there was something off kilter at Gourmet Shish Kebab.

Did I tell him anything he could pass on to Baghdad? Probably not–unless Saddam Hussein wanted my recipe for low-carb Key Lime Pie.

Maybe you’re thinking it’s ironic that the author of more than fifty suspense novels, many of them paranormal romantic suspense, couldn’t recognize a real life shape shifter when she stumbled over him. I’ll go with–his restaurant owner form was so perfect. He was the last guy I’d expect to be funneling information to a foreign power. Yet he must have been using his customers from Fort Meade and NSA as sources of information.

After reading the newspaper account of his activities, I was tempted to stop by and see how Adam is doing. Is he still sitting behind the counter, next to the cooler with the Cokes and bottled iced tea? On second thought, maybe I don’t need to have my picture snapped by the FBI agents in the parking lot.

Instead, I’m going to turn the tables and make use of the old spymaster. Of course, his name will be changed.. From Adam to Arnie? But how about a restaurant owner in one of my books who charms state secrets out of his patrons and passes them on to a hostile government on another planet. Or in the parallel universe I’ve created. Will you believe it when you read it? Or will you say–that could never happen?

And now about the Key Lime Pie. It’s one of my favorite desserts. And if you’d like to try my low-carb version, I’ve put it on my Web site (www.rebeccayork.com) under “Cookbooks.” If you don’t cook much, you probably don’t realize that one of the main flavor ingredients, in addition to key lime juice, is condensed milk, which is very high in sugar. I figured out that I could get the same taste with evaporated milk and whipped cream. Unfortunately, I’m making myself hungry now, so I may be running out of the house soon to get a bottle of key lime juice.

Rebecca York



  1. Karin said,

    He definitely chose a good location, or had it chosen for him, for spying. If he was that close to Ft. Meade and had people from the NSA visiting all the time. It would be interesting to see how the people from the NSA and Ft. Meade who used to go there are being investigated into what they may have unwittingly passed along.

    I would definitely believe a story that had a similar premise for spying. It’s always the ones people don’t suspect or who are always in plain sight that are the trickiest.

  2. Angela H. said,

    I know what you mean.. my neighbor for 10 years was serial rapist. Talk about a shocker, made me wonder just how often my number was almost up. I remember one afternoon he came in my parents backyard while I was swimming in the pool and my lab went balistic. Tabby who had never bitten anyone ripped his jeans and caused him to have 10 stitches, I always wondered why he never got angry about it. I later heard that he wasn’t caught because he followed signs if he was distracted or it didn’t seem like the right time he left and came back later.. ugh. Gives me the willies to think about it. Thank God for Tabby, but she mysteriously died the week I went to college, I guess he wanted a clearer path next time he tried. He was caught fall my freshman year. You just never know about people.

  3. Rebecca York said,

    Wow, Angela, that gives me the willies! Thank God for your dog.
    Karin, dh worked at NSA when we used to go there. He was always careful not to talk about his job, though.

  4. Angela H. said,

    yeah I am firm believer that animals know more than we do. I found this site last month and I have really enjoyed the blogs and book previews I just wanted to say thanks I hope you have a great night!

  5. Teresa D'Amario said,

    OMG Angela, you are one lucky girl! Labs are special creatures, and when they don’t like someone, WATCH OUT! And Rebecca, some of the stories we heard in the military about spying, and how they piece things together is enough to terrify anyone! It’s not what ONE Person says, it’s what 10 people say! Scary!

  6. angloam said,

    I keep wondering if I should go back. I wonder if the FBI is really taking pics of people going in and out still.Or if it seems disloyal.

  7. vivisi said,

    this has nothing to do with real life shapeshifters… i ma a shapeshifter and this has clue of what is possible or not instead everyone want to act as if they know something about us

  8. B said,

    Very interesting views. I heard a story once from a guy who could shift shape. He was a 13th generation shifter, reportedly and well documented in his family history. The constraints of modern society and drugs prescription/immunisations have left the mind unable to cope with the change of shape.
    Unable to except the possibilities, the realisation. The truth is out there.
    Impossible is just an opinion. Not a ….

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