Charlie Madigan sitting on Khrushchev’s Grave, Novodievicy Cemetery, during a visit in 2006

The Joys of Journalism: Part Two

Understanding Vladimir Putin, and Russia, too

We go to Moscow…

By Charlie Madigan

1976 was a fine year for me. I was at UPI in Harrisburg, Pa., the bureau chief. I loved the staff and I loved the work. I had strong friends. My first son was born. My wife ran a program in Duncannon, Pa. for an interesting set of senior citizens. I had a good dog. I had three cats, including one with six fingers on each front paw. I had a spectacular house in the country.

I had a great life.

Then, I swapped it all to be a foreign correspondent in one of the most wretched places on earth, The Soviet Union. That was what kept me at UPI when I really wanted to go write politics at the Philadelphia Bulletin. The people at UPI knew me well enough to know I could not turn that down.

I liked risk. I liked challenges. I liked excitement.

Since that time, I have lost a big and engaging part of myself in the process of becoming a successful journalist and now, a professor. This is not a warning or a complaint, just a statement of fact. My connection to my life in the country has been gone for decades. I can still thrive in the woods, but not often enough. People wonder why I always carry a knife. I always have.

I never quite became big city, either. In truth, the only thing I had to do to succeed in journalism was to crush my old self and create an aggressive new me. But because all of these developments came at great cost, there was this reward.

I now understand two mysteries, Russia and journalism.

Each represents a particular set of disappointments.

UPI is mostly gone now and that is sad because it would have been ideally suited to tweet the shit out of everything and beat everyone to the punch, even as it got things quite right most of the time, which is more than you can say for most of the troubling gut reactors who play at journalism on the web these days.

It was fast, professional and passionate, the perfect trinity for web news work.

You belonged there and you knew it.

The Philadelphia Bulletin is as dead as the idea of an afternoon newspaper in a city that specialized in traffic jams. All that potential, all that promise of success, evaporated in just a few years.

Had I gone there, I would be among the many former Philadelphia journalists, lots of them great reporters and writers, who wonder what happened. Instead, I am among the many former Chicago journalists, lots of them great reporters and writers, who wonder what happened.

That is all I need to say about journalism.

Then there is Russia, an ancient place with a long, tumultuous history. This is my reward for getting so lost in my life. I know about Vladimir Putin and all those men who proceeded him. I know how they were, how they behaved.

I am not saying it’s the same place it was in 1976. Some people have fortunes. Some people have great cars and houses in the country. But there are some things that are exactly the same, the same as they were during Communism and the same as they were in the centuries before that.

Leaders will always do whatever they believe is necessary to stay in power.

In the modern era alone, we have Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, Afghanistan in 1979 and the First and Second Chechen wars, all of them reflections of Moscow’s insecurities expressed by invasion aimed at perceived threats on the border.

Does it surprise anyone who knows this history that Russian troops are lined up on the Ukrainian border? There is a perceived threat from the European Union and worse from the Kremlin’s perspective, NATO. The Soviet economy, so weak it collapsed, was built on myth. The Russian economy, tied to a single commodity, is fueled by oil. That is not going to last either. Putin’s power is certain to evaporate, and the Russian economy will evaporate with it.

Remember this warning: The worse the times, the worse the repression.

Since I left Russia midway through 1979, Brezhnev has died, Constantine Chernenko has died, Yuri Andropov has died, Mikhail Gorbachev ascended then was bumped violently off stage, Boris Yeltsin ascended and began a plummet into oblivion and also died. For most of them the place was like a conveyor belt that carried them from the comfortable obscurity of the Politburo to death.

The lovely strains of Chopin’s funeral march have echoed across Red Square many times. Criminals thrived and some became oligarchs, a curious word for the modern era. Lives improved. Declined. Improved. Declined.

But this is actually the same old story playing out over centuries.

This is why I believe I understand Vladimir Putin, understood that hopeless drunk Yeltsin, and understood lots of Soviet leaders before them. I studied. I read. I absorbed. I reported. I witnessed. I became smart enough about the Soviet Union to know I could never know enough to feel certain about anything there. I learned all about Communism and its history just in time for the whole thing to blow up like that wretched nuclear power plant in Ukraine, leaving me with a head full of useless toxic history.

Like some kind of strange Soviet era joke, what remained in the wake of the catastrophe that crushed the U.S.S.R., was Russia. Vast. Complicated. Troubled. Corrupt. Insecure Russia.

And ruthless.

That’s what we all need to know about Vladimir Putin. He is actually the czar of Russia, no matter his title. God did not make the selection this time, but he behaves like a czar.

Putin is an insecure Russian, a creation of the old Committee on State Security (KGB), even without his shirt. He and, I, too, are living with the shattered memories of a Soviet place that no longer exists. A difference is he remembers greatness, but I remember how awful it was, despite the greatness of some of its characters, and how awful Russia was before it. It was hard studying the place, knowing the history, the behaviors, the betrayals, the grand lies.

Many of the things I have grabbed slipped right out of my arms. American politics. Russia. Journalism. My long and now-faded newspaper career.

Why didn’t I realize that? I was a gifted but insecure person and writer with an affinity for listening to people, but I could not resist this vast challenge, this chance to prove or destroy myself (or was it both?)

That’s your answer about who I was when we packed up for Russia.

Goddamn, I so envy confident people.

I prepared. I sold our house. I gave our dog to the mail man. The cats went where cats always go, away. Much of our stuff was auctioned off. I kept my guitar, my Mastertone banjo, my music collection. My wife kept her loom. We bought peanut butter by the case and an endless supply of toilet paper.

I took Russian lessons from a former military interrogator who taught me all about asking about the azimuths for artillery fire, whether someone dropped in by parachute, and whether, if there was a bomb, it was, indeed, an “atomic” bomb. I kept asking her to tell me how I would ask where the men’s room might be, and she wrestled with the subjunctive nature of my request. She was a chain smoker with a nagging, bone shaking cough followed by bouts of gasping, a Naval Intelligence girl long past her sailing days. I had decided after the first visit I would not try to revive her should she collapse. The best I could do would be to kill her wretched, ugly, yapping dog, too.

Her lesson plan, an official U.S. Navy interrogator’s package, was packed on the top of my books and opened first at Soviet Customs. I can only imagine the reports that flowed from that discovery.

So we went to Moscow, a place I had no business being for oh, so many reasons. But I was a strong reporter and I believed I would do well at it. I was perceived by my colleagues in Moscow to be some kind of a cowboy from the hustings of America. That was ridiculous because everyone knew the real UPI cowboy in Moscow was the soulful Texan, Joseph L. Galloway, my boss, a decorated Vietnam hero reporter, a brilliant writer, a veteran foreign correspondent, a role model and so many other great things I can’t mention them all here.

I should be such a cowboy!

There were good reasons for hating me.

People spent their careers trying to get to Moscow, decades of work and study and diligence. I walked in on a spin from a job offer. A lot of them hated me for that. Or at least hated the idea of me for that. They knew the nuances of that difficult language. They knew the depth of that sordid, hideous history. They knew how bad the place really could be, even on the most simple of subjects. They knew how easy it was to slip, to plummet, to crash in flames with the world watching. They pulled out their hair and wrecked their marriages and became too fond of alcohol, all just from the pressure.

Joe knew, too.

In a manner and drawl I came to love over time, Galloway (the master of all Dutch Uncle lecturers) gave me the most solid advice of all.

“Try not to fuck anything up.”

Then he pointed me to the proper people to talk to at the U.S. Embassy and elsewhere to get filled in on what was happening.

What a jolly array of spooks they had in Moscow; ours, theirs, the Brits, suspicious Germans, garlic-breathed Egyptians who would corner you and start each lesson with, “Let me tell you, my good friend…”, slick Italians and, of course, gray, old Americans who had been lost in Moscow since Stalin’s days, when they thought they were witnessing the birth of a worker’s paradise.

Week by week, I met the lot of them.

My wife and son and I ended up at Victor Louis’ spectacular dacha at Peredelkino, the writer’s village, after we had wandered off course in our little butterscotch colored Zhiguli and got pulled over by his wife and dragged to the amazing vintage wood cottage and a half where he sometimes lived. Chicken was served. Coca-Cola on the table sent the message about status (commoners had that lesser fizzy brown sugar drink, Pepsi). No pressure, just another name collected by a man notorious for collecting names.

Lots has been said and written about Victor Louis.

He had big cars, great quarters in town and out and travelled frequently and freely in an era in which anyone of controversy could go just about nowhere. The simplistic notion was that he was some kind of KGB-enabled intermediary living in the zone between freedom and repression, collecting chits in both directions. He was a stringer for a few London newspapers, a leaker of reliable Kremlin information for some westerners. His wife published “Information Moscow,” the only directory of names for the foreign community. His real name was Lui, he spent 5 years in prison under Stalin and emerged to work as a translator for the reporter Ed Stevens.

Then he branched out and became, well, Victor Louis.

But I still don’t really know who he was, and the beauty of that is that I know that I don’t really know. He was buried years ago and took his story with him. Fantasy fills in blanks like the ones surrounding that kind of character, then that mutates into rumor which somehow becomes accepted as fact. It makes for good short story writing. All I know is the man served a lovely chicken in a lovely house with Coca-Cola, which was a sign of good connection. He seemed to glide through the shit of the collapsing Soviet Union like a sleek eel, all shiny and slippery and sharp toothed.

He became valuable because he dribbled out little pieces of significant information at exactly the right time, like a public relations mouthpiece for a tight-lipped despot. He was that worst kind of shill, the one who makes you feel special just to know him, eager to suck up those little news crumbs to get that scoop no one else has (or maybe no one else wants).

But the truth of it was that if a foreign airliner went down under fire in Siberia and an awkward Kremlin needed to get the word out that it was a mistake, Victor Louis would be your man to ask. Anything messy, he could usually point you in the right direction, which made him one of the most suspicious men in Moscow.

I avoided him the way a sensible soldier would avoid a poxed hooker.

My favorite reporters were the Brits. I had none of that latent Irish hatred for them, being primarily German at heart. They were by good measure the most interesting characters I had ever met. The legendary Dick Beeston was there. Wore a paisley ascot like he was born in it and was never more than two fingers of drink away from a story you just could not stop listening to. They would all start something like this, “I was in waiting for a war to start in (fill in your favorite troubled country) when…”

I can’t remember the exact wording, but I believe he actually got to write this lede on a Sunday story, making himself as important as the other character, indeed:

“’Dicky Beeston, as I live and breathe!’ It was the spy Kim Philby…” and so on. Beeston ran into the nortorious traitor at the Bolshoi. He knew Philby from one of Philby’s stints as a reporter between spying gigs. Such a romantic character Beeston was. He would sneak into the bureau late at night and ask to read your latest news stuff. Then he would write his own version. It was not quite, “I watched in amazement as (pickup wires)…” but it was close. It was important that everything out of Moscow had a companion piece that backed it up from some other medium.

The Reuters people were so embarrassingly great at what they did I was shy about saying even hello. David Shipler from the New York Times may have been the kindest person I met in journalism, and by some measure the strongest reporter. Kevin Klose from the Washington Post, bold and strategic about his role in Moscow, accepted me as a cowboy and let me sing ‘You are my sunshine,’ for one of his daughters, which was just fine.

The contrast between the friendly reporters and the rest of the characters was vast and, ultimately, uncomfortable, for me. It never seemed to stop. I knew what it was like to be feared, but not to be hated by people who did not know me. It made me suspicious of everyone, which was a good thing. I believe I would have made a spectacular spy because, first, who would think it, and second, no one could figure out what I was up to. This is essentially because I did not know, but did not show that very often.

It was the acting role I was born for.

The simple message from the spooks I think I talked to (you never really know) was that to know what the Russians were going to do in any given circumstance, look at the last similar circumstance and track it step by step. This was invaluable. They never did anything new. I concluded after a few months that the Russians under Stalin had either wasted at war or slain the best people of their generation. Of course there was an elite, scientists, KGB officers, authors. But almost everyone else was not them. Not at all. It was an ill-informed nation fed on propaganda and full of foolish notions about how the world was. Judging from the support Putin has won at home on the Ukrainian effort, that is what it remains.

I know that it is not fair, but it was a supportable thought. Worried about an invasion of the west? Look for painted lines so the tank drivers would know where to go. A vast army of conscripts too dumb to act without strong and cruel leadership. Listen for wild stories, Jews drinking the blood of Christian babies in Siberia among them. They weren’t true, but they meant that anxieties were rising for reasons you might only guess about and they were reflected in these strange peasant mythologies.

Potemkin rockets. That’s what rolled through Red Square. I went down one night before a November big parade and looked at the business end of a weapon that had lost its plastic cover. Hollow right up to the nose.

As were a lot of the leaders.

What was left after the bloody pulping of the Great Patriotic War and Stalin’s purges were people like Leonid Brezhnev, a walking cortisone experiment, Andrei Gromyko, mysterious and grim, the boozer Yeltsin and too many other gray old men to bother to pay much attention to. There was corruption everywhere, and yet they still found reasons to give everyone medals. No wonder the Soviet Union was full of cynical liars! You could not listen to the propaganda, watch the parades, scan the terrible selection of canned fish and beets in the market or sit down to soup that looked just like bucket water from floor scrubbing and not lie to yourself.

For a brief time, there were rumors (published by the Italian news services, of course) that President Brezhnev had become overstimulated while eating peas at a state dinner and stuck a fork in his face. I chased this rumor for a day or so. Then an invitation came from the Kremlin. I was to show up at Spassky Gate (the big one at the corner of the Kremlin wall) at 10 a.m. and I would be ushered in to visit with Leonid himself. I showed up. So did 50 or so fraternal socialist journalists from what were then called the “satellite” countries. We were lined up side by side in his office, like we were getting ready to leap from a plane. Doors opened and there he was. I saw no fork marks on his cheeks, he was that close. “Nice shoes, American” he said to me. In fact, I was the only person he spoke to. “Thanks,” I replied. I was attacked by western media just outside the gates. They wanted to know if he looked like he was medicated. “How does a person who is medicated look?” I asked. “Did his face look like it was full of cortisone?” I skittered away from that as rapidly as I could. But it was a measure, again, of Russian insecurity that they felt the need to trot the big leader in front of me to show he was not dead, injured in a dinner accident, or in any other way obviously infirm. It was a very shaky country in the 1970s.

I feared there would be a revolution.

On the other hand, I had some Russian colleagues who were the best you could find. They could keep clapped out cars running for years, fix anything with a coat hanger and could set a table to delight even a deep skeptic when it seemed they had no food for themselves. When you have one child and a second on the way, the Russians fairly melt for you. I thought that was sad, that they envied our parenthood so obviously when we took it as just part of the way things went.

“Where is little man?” My first son was known as “little man” by the office driver. In turn, he called the driver “Victor Russian.” It was one of the few redeeming elements I found in Russia, their kindness toward my children.

The translators, supplied by the government, knew they were supposed to spy on us and we knew they were supposed to spy on us and both sides knew the terms, so it was about as friendly as it could be. On occasion, that would be revealed in a rude and troubling way. Cartoons that had been hanging in the office for decades suddenly became defined as anti-Soviet and offensive.

You didn’t want to do dissident work through the translators. That was risky for everyone. Neither did you want to break any rules with translator help, because that would go right into the file. At the same time, giving them just enough Anti-Soviet crap so they could report would prove their loyalties to the state. And giving them just enough western boodle to keep them at a level above the rest of the Soviet peoples would bond them to you, sort of. Champion Spark Plugs were the Godiva Chocolate of that place at that time. They were just starting to get cars, but their spark plugs sucked. So did most of their cars, but they sucked much less with Champion Spark Plugs.

The other piece of spooky advice I got on arrival was that I should just do what I wanted to do and not worry about it. If the Russians wanted to get me for something, I was told, whether I did it or not would not be part of the formula. On the other hand, if they were not interested, you could steal the place blind and nothing would happen. The only problem was that if you were on one side of that description, you could never tell when the terms might shift and put you on the other side, as I would find out. You were always building evidence they might choose to use at some point.

Soviet money was ridiculously overpriced, ugly orange and, essentially, not worth the paper on which it was printed. They wanted $1.79 for each ruble that had a value of, let’s see….nothing! I learned about this right away. One problem is there is nothing anyone might want to buy with Soviet money. Cabbage at the market and great hunks of bread, but not much else. I had some gray Soviet clothing so I could walk around and not stick out. People seemed to thrive on dissident art. You could buy that. I thought a lot of it was terrible, kind of faux critical stuff with saints floating in the sky. A lot of disrespectful Russians would pry the Orthodox crosses from the tops of tombstones at cemeteries. One correspondent bought them on the black market and had them turned into light switch covers. I hated that guy.

On the other hand, we all wanted belt buckles from the Soviet military store (which were illegal for us to have) and you could always get them with the right collection of bribes. I still have a couple of them. I would never wear them because I so despise what they represented. Marlboro Reds were premier bribes. Good vodka (hard to believe, huh?). Instead of using Russian money, we could buy coupons that were good at the diplomatic Beriozka, the specialty stores. Bananas, for example, were specialities. What kind of a nation has bananas as a speciality? Word would slip out somehow and the race would be on. Generally, Arabs seemed to get the banana news first, because you would see them leaving the stores with shopping carts full of bananas, like there were hungry chimps back at the shack or something. I am told there were grapes. I never saw one. Cuban cigars were there for the taking. I hate Cuban cigars. But you got them anyhow, just to flash them around.

The only Soviet products I found worth the money were cheese curds covered in bittersweet chocolate and any fresh loaf of bread. That was the best. But eating more than one cheese curd was like inviting Dr. Heart Attack in for the weekend or, as bad, just packing plaster in your small intestine. The imported Pick Hungarian Salami was great when it was available. I developed a jonesing kind of thing for it that I have to this day. Anytime I see Pick, I am on it. It was best with moist Russian black bread, mustard and a pilsner. Everything else on the Russian market was essentially poisoned either by mishandling or abysmal quality. Most stuff was just plain stupid. Military stuff was neat, but how many compasses do you need? If you wanted to buy a barrel of cabbage shredded into great wads and let it mature into a fine sauerkraut, that was your place. Birds would shit on the sides of beef hanging in the market, even as they picked away at the suet. In the holiday meat markets, the animals had their feet on so you could tell you weren’t buying someone’s cat. Fat nutria were on sale in the pet markets so you could raise one for a hat. They bite.

There was only one way to get around the fact that the Soviet authorities were robbing you on the exchange rate. That was the black market. We were strictly forbidden, first by UPI and then by the Russians, to deal on the black market. However…I’m not paying $1.79 for a crisp new ruble worth nothing when I could get thousand of them for a couple of hundred bucks. Economics is always the most compelling motivator, I have found. I couldn’t do that through my friends, my colleagues. So I went to a group called “the Arabs” with some brand new Sony equipment I had purchased on dollar credit from the Beriozka. You could get, what, 3,000 rubles for a $150 tape deck. I liked those terms. You would end up with a fat wad of filthy old rubles good for anything on the Russian market. The commission stores, where Russians dumped their stuff before vacation, were good. Old clocks. Trinkets. The folk art stores, where camel covers, primitive rugs and oodles of brass things lived, just as ripe for old money, too. We got some things. I am certain the authorities knew all about it. How could they not? We took 100 new rubles from the bank each week just to look decent, but we spent lots more than that all the time on all kinds of things. I was building a solid foundation for a prosecution on financial fraud charges.

But they didn’t want me, at least not for that, so it never happened.

I look at this stuff now and think, “What did I want that for?” The answer is “because it was there, and I was there with it.”

I don’t want to imply we coasted through the first year. I made lots of mistakes. I also made some friends who, it seemed, didn’t actually hate me but didn’t understand how I got there. The Russians poisioned my wife in the eighth month of her pregnancy, so she move to Helsinki to have the baby. I stayed behind. It was the pineapple juice. Canning was not a Soviet strength. The week before the birth, I left, caught the baby boy at Midwives Hospital in Helsinki on Finnish Independence Day, then prepped everyone for a return to our Moscow home. In retrospect, I am happy we were not firearms owners, because if I were my wife, I would have plugged me in Helsinki, surrendered and rested firm in the knowledge that no jury would ever convict.

I was that bad.

The Russians were starting to notice it, too. I had a way of hopping over clearly established boundaries. I had a tiny Minox camera I used for just about everything. I gave what I could to UPI, then sold the rest to Time Magazine or anyone else buying. It was a good way to supplement income. I became facile in the dark room so I could develop photos privately. I photographed militiamen climbing over the fence at our apartments to steal Christmas trees. I loved doing that. I got a spectacular photo of Anatoly Scharansky’s mother, Ina Milgrom, during his trial in the Proletarsky District in Moscow. I photographed lots of things you were not supposed to take pictures of, just to see if I could. I sold a picture of a rough looking druzhiniki (a “friend” of the police) who was on a barricade at a dissident event. I went to Siberia three times. I got drunk in a yurt with a collection of fraternal Soviet and socialist journalists on a tour of agricultural lands. I played the Soviet National Anthem on a broad grass blade. Almost all of them laughed, but some didn’t. I played the Stars Spangled Banner too, just to balance it out. No one laughed at that but me.

That wasn’t all.

I became intrigued by a Soviet drug called aminazine, which was administered in mental hospitals. It was their version of thorazine, I suspect, but badly made, badly measured and badly administered. The human rights people in the west said the Russians were using it to “cure” dissidents. The Russian argument, I read in a document I got from somone, was that dissent was solid evidence of mental illness, because what was there to dissent about in the Soviet Union? I saw one of its victims in the street at the Scharansky trial, a man who said he had been one of the original signers of a Moscow TV letter years ago, one of the earliest post-Stalin dissident acts. He looked like walking dead coming up the street in the rain, his hair plastered down on his forehead, shuffling. He told me he had documents at his apartment to prove he had been given the drugs. He would show them all to me if only I would come for a visit.

He lived in the forbidden city of Xhimki, the chemical workers’ town.

I knew how I would pursue this story in the United States, and I decided, what the hell, I would try to do it the same way in Moscow. That was a mistake. The people who own the country make the rules. They also enforce them in their own way. A reporter friend and I talked a lot about this and decided we would pursue it together. That meant a trip to Xhimki.

Here is what you learn when you pull a stunt like that in a despotic police state. You can drive around and be as circumspect as you can, take lots of varying routes and evade every police car. You can use a lot of gas and time up getting to Xhimki.

In the end, you find out no one was watching you at all.

They were watching him. They were also most likely listening when we were talking about the story, and certainly were listening when we made arrangements to meet this man at his place.

At some point in this process, I shifted over that invisible line and became someone the authorities would take interest in.

The Russians can be immensely subtle about their threats. We talked to the man and his wife in their near empty apartment. He told us his son was being sent by the KGB to kill him with knives. His wife noted that they had no children. Whatever they put into that poor man toasted his circuits so badly he could present nothing that could be counted on.

And you don’t build stories on that kind of a foundation.

When we got back to the car, which had been locked, all the knobs were removed from the radio, the switches, everything that could be stripped, and put in the glove compartment. The car was still locked. We put all those things back in place and got out of there.

About a month later, bad things began to happen. My wife would get calls when I was not at home from women claiming to be my mistresses. (No. I had no mistresses.) There were hints about being watched, then calls to visit the Foreign Ministry to discuss anti-Soviet behaviors. To this day, I don’t know whether this was attached to my visit to Xhimki, or to a general need on their part to slap UPI around because of its level of spunkiness.

I just knew it was time to leave.

Fortunately, The Chicago Tribune stepped up and offered me a job. I left Moscow after about two and a half years. We were held up at Customs on the way out for three hours because we had not declared my wife’s high school ring when we came in. Because it was gold, they believed it was contraband.

“How many New Oxford, Pennsylvania high schools are there in the Soviet Union?” I asked the Customs people.

We said farewell.

I went back to Moscow years later when Communism was collapsing. I thought fresh air would be coming in, but after about six weeks, I thought again. There are people who are destined to be ruled from above, which makes a place ripe for General Secretaries and Czars. No one gave me any shit, which I appreciated. No one shot or mugged me, which I also appreciated. But someone stole my Swiss Army Knife at the once spectacular Ukraina Hotel. It was a big knife with all the fixings. I’m sure someone lusted after it. That was my fault. In a place like that, you don’t leave yourself or your Swiss Army Knife exposed.

My final trip was late in 2006, at just after someone was killing the reporter Anna Politskovskaya, who had been so bold and effective in her coverage of warfare in Chechnaya and her criticisms of Vladimir Putin. I was there to give a speech about U.S. Presidential Elections on the horizon. They called me “professor” and treated me with some respect, which surprised me. They also paid me in cash, $2,000 in brand new bills.

Of course on the surface, the place had changed. The old GUM department store on Red Square was spiffed up quite a bit with all the big European fashion folks selling stuff to Russians with lots of cash. There was a mosaic of the Virgin Mary staring across Red Square at Lenin’s Tomb, now all but hidden behind a giant Christmas tree and an inflatable hockey ring.

The minute I got home, I sent the money to the Committee to Protect Journalists, asked the ghost of Anna to forgive me for even showing up, and resolved that the dishonesty, corruption and evil that was so apparent in 1977 was still there, although better dressed.

Something like 14 people were convicted in connection with her death.

No one knows who ordered the killing.

(I hope you liked this story and will recommend it by pushing this little “recommend” button at the bottom of the page. Thank you! Charlie Madigan)
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