Heading west, the Staffords, the Lijeks, Anders, and several Iranians avoided detection. They had almost reached the British embassy when they encountered yet another demonstration. A local in their group gave some quick advice — “Don’t go that way” — and then she melted into the crowd. The group zigzagged to Anders’ nearby apartment, at one point sneaking single-file past an office used by the komiteh, one of the gun-wielding, self-appointed bands of revolutionaries that controlled much of Tehran.
They locked the door and switched on Anders’ lunch-box radio, a standard-issue “escape and evade” device that could connect with the embassy’s radio network. Marines were squawking frantically, trying to coordinate with one another. Someone calling himself Codename Palm Tree was relaying a bird’s-eye view of the takeover: “There are rifles and weapons being brought into the compound.” This was Henry Lee Schatz, an agricultural attach who was watching the scene from his sixth-floor office in a building across the street from the compound. “They’re being unloaded from trucks.”
For the operation in Tehran, his strategy was straightforward: The Americans would take on false identities, walk right out through Mehrabad Airport, and board a plane. Of course, for this plan to work, someone would have to sneak into Iran, connect with the escapees, equip them with their false identities, and lead them to safety past the increasingly treacherous Iranian security apparatus. And that someone was him.
Each place they stayed seemed increasingly vulnerable. Eventually, Anders rang John Sheardown, a friend at the Canadian embassy. “Why didn’t you call sooner?” Sheardown said. “Of course we can take you in.”