Sunday, December 17, 2006


We're holding a memorial for Kirk on January 14th. Kirk would probably think of it as his party. Friends who want to come, please email me at for details.

Friday, December 15, 2006

End of the Story

I've been struggling over where to end the story.

There's an argument for going on, for writing about what happened next: the phone call, the move and all the rest. After all, things did go on for us...

... but I started this as Kirk's story, and now we know that there is an end to it.

The difficulty is to place the punctuation, to put the full stop at the right point.

It's hard because it seems utterly obvious that the story is a tragedy. But I think part of the point of all of this is that his story is much more than that - that the tragedy (real, valid, true) is a part, but not the seminal part.

Kirk was (and that past tense is still not easy to use) a man of such life, such joy, that I would hate to think the tragedy of the end of the story overwhelms the enormous passion of the rest of his life.

I'm tempted to end it where it is - with a small Iraqi girl, and Kirk's delight in a new challenge.

After all, the rest of the story isn't his, and that wasn't the point, was it?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

One More Story

It was months after Kirk went missing, and there were CID agents in our livingroom. We were all sitting around the table, two dark-suited men, my mother and I. It had been a long and strange conversation. There are any number of stories that could come out of it, but there's just one I want to tell right now.

It was nearly the end of the whole interview. They had been kind, calm, reserved but suddenly they were uncomfortable. They shifted in their chairs and exchanged a look. Finally one cleared his throat.

There was one more thing, something that might be hard...

I didn't know what to think. If they knew what had happened to Kirk surely they would have said something at the start, not waited until the very end of a couple of hours of talk. Months of horrible imagined scenes came quickly to mind.

... there was talk (he said) ... someone had mentioned ... a Russian woman that Kirk might have become friends with.

And I think we shocked those poor CID men, my mother and I, because we burst out laughing. Real laughter, honest, genuine, true laughter.

It was utterly ridiculous to imagine Kirk, six weeks away from home, suddenly starting a torrid affair with a Russian seductress and... no, not Kirk. Not that I doubt the story - there probably was a Russian out there somewhere, and Kirk being Kirk would have delighted in talking to her. But unfaithful? No.

So why tell this piece of that afternoon? Because of the story. Just one of Kirk's many little moments captured, only this was the last one, during one of the very last phone calls, just before the last trip.

I have a confession to make, he said, there's... another woman.

Excellent, I answered, and how old is she?

He laughed. You didn't ask what she looked like!

I know you too well.

She was six, the daughter of the man who owned the house Kirk was staying in somewhere in Iraq. They had asked him in for dinner, and as he sat in their warm house, happily trying to communicate with broken English, Russian, Arabic and German, he felt a small hand on his arm, and turned to see a pair of enormous brown eyes. She was fascinated with this stranger, this American, and once she overcame her shyness she refused to leave his side for the rest of the night. He talked to her father about his own children, and they agreed that this was what was really important. The little girl finally went to sleep sitting with him.

Sorry, he said, he was in love.

No Russian woman, just one small Iraqi girl. One last story.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

We spent hours on Instant Messaging that last time in Turkey. Kirk had spent a lot of time talking to all sorts of people about his guard shack design, and there was enough genuine interest that the company wanted to move forward. They arranged for Kirk to meet with a Turkish guy - the owner of a large construction company. He offered to go into business with Kirk, set up something just to make these guard units.

Meanwhile things were moving in the company. C was making a move for more control, J was talking about striking out on his own and both were asking Kirk to be involved. Nothing like being wanted I suppose.

What Kirk wanted was simple - he wanted the chance to make his design, to go through the whole process from concept to conclusion. He wanted to spend more time in Iraq, time with people he was just getting to know. But he was also loyal.

He liked J, he was flattered by the Turkish guy, he would stay with C and the company. They were going to send him to Switzerland to meet with some people who made reinforced steel. C promised he would have the company structure figured out, and Kirk would actually have a contract to sign, formalizing his position with the company. Everything was going to get started, just soon as he got back from Iraq.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Coming back from that second trip into Iraq Kirk made up his mind. Before that, we hadn't told more than a handful of people what he was doing. He hadn't officially quit his job, so we just said he was out of town for a bit and left it at that. But coming back that time, he was sure - this was what he wanted to do.

So we told some friends, and started to plan the move. I only had two real ground rules: we were to be done with the move before Christmas, and I would not move alone, not again, not this time. He was going to have to come back from Turkey to help.

He promised. We would leave together, in November.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wealth is Relative

On that second trip in, Kirk was finishing up a number of contracts - delivering the buildings and collecting payments. To complicate matters, the payments were all made in cash. It sounds utterly insane, but I think a lot of small contractors worked that way. It meant they could pay employees easily... or something... nope, it still sounds utterly insane.

By the end of the trip Kirk found himself driving north to the Turkish border carrying something a little over a million dollars. A. Million. Dollars. Cash.

He was supposed to drive through the border, head on to the airport and fly back to Istanbul. But things went a little wrong. Kirk had to declare the money he was bringing in to the country, which was fair enough, but the border official then insisted on publically, slowly, LOUDLY counting the money out. Then he looked around the roomful of men and carefully spelled out the make,model, color, and registration number of Kirk's car. Now, Kirk was a highly trained intelligence officer with experience in dangerous situations, so he was able to figure out fairly easily that this was not a good thing.

I have no idea how he got back to Istanbul, but I know it didn't involve that car, or the plane ticket the border agent had examined. He called me that night from the office. He was sleeping, he said, with his head about two feet from a million dollars.

'Wow,' I said, 'vicariously wealthy.'

'Yeah... Hey, did I tell you what C said to me? He said I look like I've dropped ten years since I got here.'

'You're doing what you want to do, aren't you.'

'Yup. It's a little crazy, but it's what I want to do.'

'okay then. We'll settle for vicariously wealthy and ten years younger.'

'Goodnight. I love you.'

'Me too.'

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Back To Iraq

The second trip to Iraq was a sort of watershed. The first time in the country Kirk was trying to get a feel for things. He still wasn't totally committed to the company; he had the option to return to his old job if he wanted. He wasn't exactly looking for reasons to say no - he wanted this to work - but he didn't want to blindly dive in either.

He came back to Turkey with a fistful of contacts and a lot of enthusiasm. He had talked to local Iraqis and to military commanders. He had figured out some of the delivery problems, renegotiated a few deals that were in crisis, and run his guard shack design ideas past a few people who had been unanimously enthusiastic.

He also had driven the roads and walked the street. Before he went in I know he had been nervous - excited and challenged of course, but understandably edgy about heading into a war zone. When he came back he had real experience to lay against those fears, and perhaps he felt he understood them at least a little bit.

What I know about that second trip in is anecdotal as usual - Kirk once again telling the story, sketching out the most exciting or interesting pieces of his adventure. Like the afternoon he spent as a German eye doctor.

There was a road block apparently, tying up dozens of local Iraqis, and Kirk. I don't know if he was alone - I got the impression that he had an Iraqi employee with him - but I do know the cars were being searched, and Kirk had no desire to produce his American passport and id in front of a mixed group of Iraqi men. He was already in a bit of difficulty because he had a hand-gun with him, and the guards were talking about confiscating it. Apparently this was a positive thing for him though, because it roused the sympathy of the men around him.

Still, when asked for his name and nationality he didn't want to trot out his US background. So he said he was German. It can't have been the hardest sell in the world, to convince a group of bored American guards and a mixed lot of Iraqi nationals that you are actually Herr von Ackermann from Germany. Ah, but why was Herr von Ackermann there? Well... it's really Herr Doktor von Ackermann sir... and I'm a ... doctor... an eye doctor. Yup, I'm here in a humanitarian effort to see that the fine Iraqi people do not go another day without opthamalogical help.

It was a brilliant ruse, and worked beautifully. He was allowed to keep the gun, he was not asked for papers, and the guards stopped searching the car.

However he had to spend the next hour solemnly examining the eyes of every last Iraqi man at that roadblock.