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 Chapter 10

Frank Collins

    Swede, at the hotel in Oxford, was unbelievable. As unlikely as Vic was to be taken for an Englishman, the odds on Swede were much greater. However, as he was greeted in the lobby, Vic recalled that Swede’s heritage was, in fact, purely Swedish. His parents had been born in Sweden. He was, in a sense, almost a European. But, on the other hand, no way, negatory!

     Joan couldn’t have passed for an Englishwoman, but, unlike Swede, her mere appearance didn’t call into question everything that England believed in. Vic, embarrassed by the looks of those around them, was drawn into a little parlor in which tea was served. Joan immediately reported, “Vicki called us just before we left. We would have brought her with us, but she likes staying with the professor and his wife, and can hold on a bit longer.”

“Her mother was causing some problems.”

“But her mother doesn’t know where to find her. Vicki told me about her father’s dismissal, but it’s pretty clear that there’s nothing anyone can do.”

Vic replied, “Then, I’ll get everything ready for her when she does come.”

Swede, temporarily bottled up, burst out, “I was much taken with what you said on the phone, but I couldn’t hear very clearly at times. Tell me more about Elizabeth.”

Vic said a few things, but it was again Joan who asked the probing questions. She then said that they might want to hire Elizabeth, and also that they might be able to get her into America more quickly. Vic replied, “She’s intelligent, well-educated, and attractive, but I’m not sure what jobs she could do for you.”

“For the moment, we’ll just keep her in mind. Tell us more about the other people you’ve met.”

That took some time. There were questions about Kennedy, and about the various people that Vic had met at Upper Heyford. Joan was particularly interested in the Polish lady doctor.

     When Vic mentioned the drinking of coffee from glass cups at the cafe, both Swede and Joan laughed, Swede loudly. Joan then asked, “So you’ve found your elegance?”

“In a way. But the café isn’t foolish like that restaurant you took us to.”

“Would you say that this doctor is worldly and sophisticated?”

“Very much so.”

“Do you know how she got out of Poland?”


“That must have been tricky. So, in addition to her other qualities, she’s enterprising. Is she well-dressed?”

“Nothing fancy, but she’s good looking.”

“And, of course, the glass cups. Will she give Vicki competition for your attention?”

“No. I’ll take Vicki to meet Toni. You, too, if you’d like.”

Swede didn’t seem interested, but Joan did.

     Just as it seemed as if their interview would end, Joan said, “Well, Vic, you must be wondering about our presence here, and our curiosity about your acquaintances. Swede and I do have some government connections. We aren’t spies, but we’re a little like the English gentlemen who sometimes help out their Foreign Office on a voluntary basis. Sometimes to facilitate a trade or diplomatic connection, sometimes something with military implications, and so on.”

As she spoke, Swede sat there smiling. He added only, “It’s a dangerous world, Vic, and we have to anticipate threats.”

“Do you think there are threats to America here in England?”

Joan replied, “Not at all. Even the English who have little sympathy for American policies don’t want to attack us. But there are ways in which they can disturb some harmonious arrangements.”

Vic, smiling, asked, “Do they center around our airbase at Upper Heyford?”

Joan replied, “Whenever there are military forces stationed in another country, even a friendly one, there’s bound to be friction with the civilian population. Often over soldiers dating, and sometimes marrying, local girls.”

Vic, remembering the ladies he had met, knew that the problem didn’t concern local girls. For one thing, there couldn’t be many in tiny Upper Heyford. Mentioning the peace activist ladies, he suggested, “Elizabeth might be able to act as a mediator in some cases.”

Joan then asked, “Do you think she actually prefers this man, Kennedy, to her husband.”

Vic denied any idea of such a thing, but, from the descriptions given of Elizabeth’s husband, he had long suspected that Kennedy was more interesting and attractive.

     At breakfast a couple of mornings later, Elizabeth had a surprise. “Last night, Seth got a call from Washington about a terrific high-paying job at some sort of institute there. There’s an interview, but, of course, he’ll make a good impression and get the job. He left in a great hurry, and was particularly sorry that he didn’t have a chance to see you. But he’ll write.”

“That’s great. I hope we can stay in touch.”

“These days, with everyone travelling around, there are always chances to re-connect.”

Following instructions, Vic mentioned the arrival of his friends, Swede and Joan from America. “I met Swede playing football, and I still have bruises from playing against him.”

Elizabeth was always happy to meet people, particularly Americans, and seemed to find nothing odd in the situation. Vic wasn’t sure whether he was supposed to say that Swede was the man who owned the properties in Upper Heyford, and so passed to other things.

     The meeting with Frank Collins in a pub that afternoon was instructive. Vic had given him some proofs, and Collins’ reaction was, “Some good results, but the assumptions you make!”

Vic wasn’t sure what he meant until he pointed out examples. One involved a proof by contradiction, and Collins remarked, “It’s pretty lazy to prove something that way when you could have given a constructive proof. And there ought to be lemmas at the places I’ve marked. Some of these things won’t be as easy to prove as you think.”

It was all good humored and Australian. Collins was like a football coach pushing him onward and upward, and urging him to try things he hadn’t imagined. Even on the spot, Vic managed a few things that met with approval. “See, you can do it if you just try!”

     It seemed that Collins alternated mathematical enthusiasm with beer drinking and general pub activity. As with Billy Penderby, he seemed poised to ask, “Where did you spring from, laddie?”

In fact, he reminded Vic strongly of Penderby. There was the same suspicion of the rich, and Collins would obviously support the left-most candidate in any election.

     As usual, Vic explained his position in the world, again to the exclusion of hiding from the Mafia. When he got to Swede and his wife, Collins asked, “In return for supporting you financially, exactly what do these people expect you to do?”

“I’m not sure. Yuri Litvinov said he had a White Russian countess as a patroness when he was young. He seemed to find it natural for me to have something like that.”

Collins laughed heartily, “Ah Yuri. I can imagine it. And so he thinks another bright young man can follow the same path.”


“The world has changed since then, my friend.”

Vic wasn’t going to say anything about the bombers in Upper Heyford, but he did say, “It might have something to do with Cold War politics.”

“The Cold War. Have you looked at it from the point of view of game theory?”

Vic, not knowing what game theory was, shook his head. Collins said, “Without all the baggage, you can compare the strategies to something simple like driving behavior.”

Drawing an imaginary road through the spilled beer on the table in front of them, Collins continued, “In this country we drive on the left. I intend to and expect you to.”

He then, with his fingers traced the imaginary paths of two cars along the road. “In analogy, the Americans and Soviets generally refrain from nuking each other. When there are no crises, each expects the other to keep its bombers at home. But what happens if, out of the blue, you expect the other driver to cross over for no apparent reason?

“If there’s no side street to turn into, I’d stop the car, get out and run.”

“And in the cold war case?”

“If I didn’t have time to get to Australia, I’d attack immediately in order to forestall the other’s attack.”

“The saving grace is that we don’t ordinarily have such expectations. We couldn’t keep driving if we did, and, in other case, the world would have long since blown up. But suppose you think that the other driver thinks that you yourself might cross over?”

“If I did something suspicious, he might cross over himself to avoid me.”

“And the moral?”

“I’d drive slowly and cautiously close to the curb so as not to alarm him.”

“Right. The saving grace is that you generally don’t think he’ll be that easily alarmed. You don’t think he’ll really believe that you’ll do something that crazy. So you can speed carelessly along without worrying.”

Vic was beginning to see, and said.“If the Soviets think that we think they’re about to attack us, they’ll expect us to strike first. So they’ll have to beat us to it and strike.”

“Your General Curtis LeMay speaks of beating the enemy to the draw. If the enemy thinks that LeMay is about to beat them to the draw, they’ll have to try to strike even more quickly.”

“Both sides do lots of things to create suspicion, and the Soviets may be paranoid to begin with. Why hasn’t there been a nuclear war?”

Collins smiled and raised his beer. When he put it down, he replied, “I don’t know. It may be because neither side has the balls.”


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