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.