Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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 Chapter 13

Mr. R. Blakey-Fenton

"Reggie", as he called himself, invited Jones to lunch at his club in order to discuss the new journals. They had previously met only briefly, and Jones had little idea what to expect. Taking in Reggie's longish blonde hair, his utterly relaxed posture as he sipped his wine, and his obvious amusement at meeting a close friend of his wife, Jones offered,

"I really can't see why you'd want to print these journals."

Reggie laughed,

"To please Tensy, of course. I do hope you don't call her by some of the absurd names she occasionally gives herself."

"I've never been quite sure what to call her."

"She's Hortense Schultz, daughter of a publican in the western part of the city. I'm Reggie Blakey, the belated only child of a Newcastle shipbuilder. I met and married Tensy in the course of becoming American in late thirty nine."

"Weren't you in the RAF?"

"I went back and flew bombers, but I'd already moved as much money as I could here. I knew that the old world was finished. I particularly liked Tensy because she's so American. Also good at sex and extremely clever."

"She's much smarter than most of the people who teach at the university here. With her own journal, she'll have them completely bewildered."

"Which will make her happy, which will make me happy."

"Yes, I see."

"That would be reason enough, but I also have plans for you, Jones."

Reggie's smile was not altogether disarming. Jones could hardly imagine what he might want. Could he possibly want someone to help him satisfy his wife sexually? Or was there some business connection? Reggie continued,

"We've both done our bit, you with a PT boat and myself as an elderly bomber pilot. As I see it, the only thing left is to enjoy ourselves and make money. And, of course, there's no harm in wielding a little influence here and there."

Jones was used to commanding officers, but he was aware that Reggie, without commanding, was sweeping him along more effectively than any. He agreed easily to the statement of goals, and Reggie said,

"You're going to have some power and influence before terribly long. I'll put it to good use."

"I can't imagine any way I could help you."

"No, you're very young and just starting out. But you've made a first class start. I've also heard about your sinking the YAMASHIRO."

"Everyone was shooting at her and launching torpedoes at the same time."

"Of course. We claimed to have shot down German fighters that everyone else was shooting at as well. In the future, when someone mentions the YAMASHIRO, just nod modestly and change the subject."

This was essentially Adams' advice, but it was a little more than advice in this case. Reggie went on,

"Tensy also told me about your navy job. That sounds interesting."

The security people at JOAD always said,

"If anyone asks you what you do, just say that you solve operational problems for the navy."

That, of course, didn't satisfy Reggie. As the conversation went on, it began to seem to Jones that JOAD really didn't have any secrets. There were things like the speed of torpedoes, but, as Reggie pointed out, those could be looked up in JANES or BRASSEYS. For illustration, he produced a few such facts. Jones wondered if he always kept such things in his head, or had prepared for the present interview.

As they were leaving, Reggie remarked,

"I would have immensely enjoyed having a peek at your little episode with Tensy behind the Coca-Cola machine."

Jones managed only to make what he knew was a very strange noise. Reggie carried on,

"It's better to realize that Tensy tells me everything."

"Did she also tell you that we agreed not to have an affair?"

"I believe she did. I don't object to an occasional little adventure on her part, but your joint forebearance probably does simplifly things in this case. In case, of need, I can direct you to some excellent young ladies, paid for by various of my businesses."

"Really? Your wife got it out of me that I've dallied with chambermaids in the Phillipines."

"Yes, that's foreign service for you. But these ladies would be quite different. And, of course, they have no sort of claim on one. Tensy would approve. She knows that they aren't competition."

"I am in a somewhat awkward situation. There's a young lady in Washington, but she's a refugee from the Nazis, and her nerves aren't terribly good. Any kind of sexual thing puts her off."

"Did the Nazis rape her?"

"I don't know. She probably wouldn't like to be asked about anything like that."

"They probably did. And they often threw in random brutality. They deserved every bomb we dropped on them."

"So did the Japs, including the big one."

Reggie raised an imaginary glass of champagne, and, with a wave, strode down the street toward the banks and brokerage houses.

The final orals were quite strange. Wilson Adams had asked Jones in advance to give him questions to ask. Jones tried to produce ones that Adams might conceivably ask, but they sounded awfully improbable as Adams read them from little cards. At one point, he had trouble with Jones' handwriting, and had to be quietly prompted. No one laughed.

The questions from the others were all over the lot, many of them absurd, but Jones answered them all with great gravity.

Midway through, it became clear that Professor Ennis had decided to be quietly amused by what was fairly obviously a charade. The other faculty members were very definitely not amused.

There were a half dozen spectators at what was, in theory, a public performance. Miss Sarah Swift was also amused, not quite so quietly as Professor Ennis. She was flanked by Sam and Milton, both ernestly and enthusiastically serious. Jones almost expected them to shout,

"Way to go, Jones!"

Also present was Mrs. Blakey-Fenton. For once, she looked as if she belonged. Everyone, with the predictable exception of Sam and Milton, was dressed up. But she was the smoothest one present. In a physical sense, her surface was clothed in fine silk, a modest amount of make-up, and the best coiffure money could buy. More important, she alone had the kind of sophistication which allowed her to recognize broad farce while, at the same time, showing by example the importance of pretending it wasn't there. It was all implicit in the almost imperceptible movements of her shadowed amber eyes and her thin sensitively outlined mouth. Jones thought that it might have something to do with the fact that she was now a journal editor.

The whole thing ended, mercifully, when Preston Jenkins, one of the older faculty members, blew his nose. It usually took more than a nasal snort to end an oral. However, this violent blowing by a red-faced almost apoplectic gentleman, so clearly only a partial release of dangerously high pressure, caused Adams to give him a concerned look. Adams then asked if there were any more questions in such a way as to suggest that there shouldn't be. And, of course, there weren't.

After being congratulated with varying degrees of sincerity, Jones caught up with Mrs. Blakey-Fenton as she picked her way, with evident disgust, through the muddy parking lot flecked with the remains of a snow storm.

"Hi, Tensy, how'd you like the show?"

Almost losing her balance in surprise, she replied,

"Let's get out of this mud and into the car. I'll warm it up and we can talk."

They got in without mishap, and the engine roared into life. Jones asked,

"Do the heaters in Packards really work?"

"They damned well do. You'll see in a minute. Anyhow, I know you had lunch with Reggie. What did you think of him?"

"Very impressive indeed. I was hardly prepared at all, and he ran all over me without half trying."

"Oh Jones, Reggie's just a playboy."

"He said he's the son of a shipbuilder, just plain Reggie Blakey. But he's come a long way."

"He does misrepresent himself so! His father never banged rivets into ships. He was the owner of a great whopping concern, and he spent his time riding to hounds. Besides, Reggie's mother has a title. I bet he didn't tell you that."

"No, but I know one thing. Reggie's very far from being a playboy."

"He's an English type that you haven't encountered. All upper-class English people know how to handle and manipulate their own lower classes and all Americans without even trying. It isn't anything deep, it's just second nature."

"He seems to have had quite a war, more than I did. Wouldn't a real playboy like Bertie Wooster have found a way to avoid that?"

"No. English playboys have to be gallant. But they make a game of war, with lots of jokes along the way. Did he tell you about the French admiral?"


"Well, there was a French admiral who was also a bit of a politician. Realizing that the Germans were going to lose the war, he wanted to leave Nazi-occupied France and join DeGaulle in England. So Reggie went over in a little plane and landed in a field. The admiral was there, very big and fat, and also quite pompous. He insisted on loading aboard trunks with all his fancy uniforms and knick-knacks. Reggie said it would make the plane too heavy and refused. The admiral insisted, and so Reggie told them to get another pilot."

"I thought Reggie flew bombers."

"Yes, this must have been a sideline. Anyhow, they did get another pilot, a Frenchman who was willing to take orders. They tried to take off, but couldn't clear the trees with all the weight. The plane crashed and burned, and both men were killed. Reggie seems to have been rather amused, but he had to wait weeks until another plane was sent for him. I'm pretty sure he put the time to good use with the local maidens."

"Does he still play with the local girls?"

"He as much as admits going to prostitutes, but they're high- priced and careful about disease. I'm not thrilled about it, but it's better than his having affairs with my friends and acquaintances. And, of course, he's very generous with me."

"Yes, I can see how that would work out."

"You'll soon be able to afford prostitutes, Jones. I bet Reggie could steer you in the right direction, and it'd keep you out of trouble."

"I'll think about it."

"Of course, Reggie has had other sorts of women. Recently we've been having visits from various aristocratic English ladies and their husbands."

"He can't do much with the husbands there, can he?"

"No, but he has serious talks with the women in the garden just out of earshot. He's had some sort of involvement with them in the past."

"That could be almost anything."

"Sure. I'm really not worried. Anyhow, you've had quite an effect on Reggie, Jones, more than you probably realize."

"I didn't think I had any at all."

"On the contrary, he saw that you're a very smart young man, and he likes your sort anyway. But he isn't used to the kind of military people he respects also being academics. He usually doesn't think much of professors. But you kindled some kind of spark, and he's looking forward to being a publisher of learned journals."

"Yes, he did seem happy about it. But we hardly talked about the journals. He seems to be leaving the details to you."

"Not entirely. He went out and hired the best designer in the city to design the journals."

"I didn't know that journals needed to be designed."

"Academics pooh-pooh that sort of thing. They say that the appearance of the journal doesn't matter, only the content. But, in fact, the appearance affects them deeply without their realizing it. As it does other people. Reggie is very conscious of the packaging and appearance of anything he manufactures."

"Again, that goes way beyond playboyism."

"Not the way he does it. He'll drop in casually on one of his companies, as if on his way to the golf links, and make a few humorous comments about the operation."

"And, when he leaves, the people fall all over themselves to put things right."

"Perhaps. Anyhow, these journals will be printed beautifully on good paper, and the covers will be models of tasteful elegance. Yours, SIMULATION, will have your name on the cover as editor. It'll be in small black letters, but it'll be the only name on the cover. We'll have to do something about your name."

"What do you mean, do something about my name?"

"We can't just say, 'edited by Jones', as if you're being pursued by the police."

"My journal articles do have my first name on them."

"Edward Jones isn't good enough. I think we'll make it Edward St. Paul Jones."

"You can't just print that!"

"Don't argue. Reggie and I'll handle this side of things. You just edit."

"If I get any submissions to edit."

"You will. In the announcement we're sending around, we'll specify some nice little royalties for contributors. Academic journals usually don't pay their contributors anything, so we'll attract the best papers. Academics will jump through hoops for a few hundred dollars."

"The junior half-starved ones will."

"Even the senior ones are often in debt trying to live an upper middle-class life. They'll give our announcements a second look."

"This will cost the earth."

"It's petty cash for Reggie. My journal is going to be LANGUAGE and THEORY. The editor is Hortense Schultz."

"I thought you'd suppressed that name."

"Reggie says that a ridiculous name has reverse snob value. And people remember it."

"Yes, I don't think I'll forget it."

"I've also talked with your friend Leo, and a couple of the other Melancholy Boys. Their journal is going to be, MYTH and FACT: False Gods and Genuine Devils."

"Jesus! Trust Leo."

"He's charming and witty. It'll be a great success. It may be banned in both Boston and Cincinnati."

"Are you going to change Leo's name too?"

"No. He's perfect. Leo Levi Rabinowitz."

Jones started laughing and asked,

"Can you imagine Edward St. Paul Jones, Hortense Schultz, and Leo Levi Rabinowitz all in the same room?"

"There's also your little friend in Washington, the one who's too traumatized to have sex."

"I gather Reggie told you about her."

"Yes. He wants to meet her. What will her journal be?"

"She's a terrific mathematician, but also does logic and operations research. A good general title might be something like 'Proof and Prediction.'"

"That sounds good. What's her full name?"

"Heike Herrnstein."

"Americans might not recognize that as a woman's name. How about Heike Annaliese von Herrnstein?"

"I'll warn her, and then put her in touch with you."

"That'll give us a nice little group of four journals, each with its own look, but all published by the Hon. Reginald Blakey-Fenton, offices in London, Paris, and Cincinnati."

"Does Reggie really have offices in all those places?"

"His companies do. It would also be nice to have a journal on French literature and culture entirely in French. Isn't one of the Melancholy Boys I met French."

"That's Claude. I don't think he's welcome back home, but he says that, since the French explored so much of this country, America owes him a living."

"That's intended as a joke, isn't it?"

"Yes. He's actually fairly energetic."

"Good. I'll speak to Reggie about that. I can imagine one of those soft-covered European publications. It'll have articles about the French version of angst."

Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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