Table of Contents  Last Chapter  Next Chapter  Home Page
 Chapter 31

A Leak and its Consequences


There had been a special JCS meeting on Sunday night, and General Maxwell Taylor was furious. Radford had sprung the DRI reports on him before he had even gotten the second one himself. And the first report, whose principal author was a man named Goldstein, had never, as far as General Taylor knew, gotten outside his safe. He had begun his inquisition not long before midnight, and some staff officers had found themselves answering some very pointed questions all through the night. Now, at seven in the morning, General Taylor's suspicions were beginning to point in a single direction.

It was at eight that a highly unusual call came in. It was from a former chief of staff of the army, now retired. He had been one of Taylor's mentors, and Taylor had himself never quite matched his reputation. The message was simple. There was at DRI a paper by a man named Williams which should be in Taylor's hands, but which was being supressed by the director of DRI. General Taylor, now in firm possession of his feelings, thanked the caller and said that the message tended to confirm his suspicions.

When Tom walked into Complab a little after nine, the rumors were already flying. The director had been fired. The whole place was being closed down. The computer had been sold to the air force. And so on.

Goldstein was just going out, on his way to the main building to check on the rumors, and Tom rode along with him. As they approached, Goldstein said,

"If Hollins is still here, you go talk with him alone. He'll tell you more than he will me."

When Tom, with a curious mixture of feelings, got to Hollins' outer office, he found the secretary crying and a large military policeman standing by the door to the inner office. Before Tom could say anything, another MP, carrying a large box, emerged from the inner office. After him came Hollins, smoking his pipe. He took it out when he saw Tom.

"Hi, Tom. These gentlemen are helping me move out."

Hollins seemed not at all disturbed. Tom asked only,

"Where are you going?"

"Joan and I are catching a plane for Sydney, Australia this afternoon. I have a standing offer from the university there, and I'm just now taking it up."

It wasn't surprising that Hollins had a fall-back position already arranged, and it was probably no accident that it was in Australia. While Tom attempted to mumble whatever was appropriate, Hollins drew him somewhat aside and asked quietly,

"You don't have any immediate plans for the next few months, do you?"

"I was going back to Michigan."

"Come with me. It's usual for new professors to bring students with them, and I can fix you up there. You'd have to switch from philosophy to history, but we can arrange some kind of joint program for you. Here's where you can reach me."

Hollins was writing an address on a scrap of paper when the MPs approached him from the back. While Tom stood with his mouth open, Hollins handed him the paper and was escorted out of the building.

There remained an MP guarding the door of the inner office, and Tom went up to speak to him.

"I have something with me that should really go to General Maxwell Taylor's office, but it may have been hidden from you.

"Just a minute, sir."

The MP disappeared into the inner office, and, just as quickly, an army captain Tom hadn't seen earlier appeared and asked,

"Mr. Williams?"

"Yes. How did you know?"

"We've been looking for you."

Before the captain had a chance to ask, Tom pulled out of his book bag a copy of his paper and handed it over. The captain said,

"I expected something a little more substantial. Are you sure this is what General Taylor wants?"

Tom assured him on that point, and, after taking Tom's address and phone number, the captain told the remaining MP to keep everyone out of Mac's office. He then went outside, hopped into a parked jeep, and made off at high speed.

A little later, with Goldstein, Tom told him some of what he knew. Goldstein replied,

"I checked around a little while you were in there. Some of the rumors aren't true. The place isn't being closed down, and the computer hasn't been sold. General Edwards has been appointed the interim director until a new one is found."

When they arrived back at the Complab building, they found General Edwards in the lobby in conversation with Sam Harris. The general said,

"We were just talking about you, Tom. Now that Mac's gone, we'll find you a new project. Anyhow, all you people have been working on the weekends. Take the day off, and we'll talk about it tomorrow."

It was a wonderful brisk day, and Tom needed little encouragement. His first move was to stop by Elaine's apartment to tell her the news. He guessed that she wouldn't be thrilled to have unannounced visitors in the morning, but, in the event, she bore up pretty well. When he told her what had happened, she didn't seem terribly surprised, saying only,

"Powerful men hate having information kept from them more than anything else. You can depend on a strong reaction when that happens."

"But you said you didn't know General Taylor. How did you reach him?"

Elaine replied,

"I keep your secrets from other people, but I also keep their secrets from you. Let's just say that, while a lot of the influential people I know are retired, some of them still count."

"Anyhow, you'll be glad to know that Mac's landed on his feet. He's leaving this afternoon to take up a professorship in Australia."

"I am glad, although I never really imagined that he wouldn't land on his feet. But I guess I couldn't call up and wish him bon voyage without feeling a little hypocritical."

"I felt a little odd when he offered to take me to Australia with him."

"Like an adopted son?"

"Not quite, maybe an adopted nephew."

"I can say that, if you should choose to follow Mac, you'd probably prosper in life. He has an amazing talent for making himself at home in the world. But you won't go with him, of course."

"No. I'm going back to Michigan. I might, or might not, come back here next summer."

"Well, I'm leaving tomorrow for a few days."

"Where are you going?"

"The Dominican Republic of all places."

Elaine hesitated, and then said,

"I can tell you why. It's a secret, to be kept secret, but it's not the sort that I can't share with you."

It turned out that Mrs. Eisenhower was about to take an extended vacation in a resort near Santo Domingo and wanted Elaine to help her get settled in. Tom asked,

"Is it some sort of good-will visit with cheering crowds, and so on?"

"No. It's being kept confidential and unofficial so that there won't be any cheering crowds or official dinners. She can't really handle that kind of thing, particularly on her own. It'll just be quiet teas with the women of the Trujillo family, and so on. But she has trouble meeting strangers, and wants me to help. Then, when I leave, she'll be left along with her Secret Service retinue."

"That doesn't sound so bad for either you or her."

"It isn't bad. It's just that she doesn't want to go and thinks her husband wants her out of the way. She even thinks he might have a mistress. But I'm sure it's not that. It could be, though, that they have some sort of alcoholism treatment planned for her, and wanted it to be in an out of the way place."

"I guess we know the real reason, don't we?"

"Sure. It's a tense time, and the president wants her to be safe."

"I guess he hasn't told her."

"No, and I can see why. It's not something you tell someone as nervous as she."

"The trouble is that this could go on for months, even a year. She can't stay there indefinitely, can she?"

"No. I think the planning is, as they say, short-term."

Just then, Tom remembered that Hal Holmes was coming down that day to meet him for lunch. It occurred to him that Elaine might like to meet Hal. Although his other friends hadn't liked Hal, Elaine would be different. She was used to money, would be tolerant of Hal's quirks, and would know how to put him at ease. When he invited her to come along, she checked her book and agreed to meet them later.

Tom came up behind Hal as he walked along the street, thumped him on the shoulder, and said in a gruff voice,

"See here sir, you can't do that!"

Hal jumped about a foot, but seemed pleased to see Tom just the same. When Tom told him about the luncheon, Hal seemed doubtful but not entirely rebellious. He asked,

"Who is this woman?"

Tom knew that Hal was likely to be deterred by attributes that would attract others, and so he described Elaine quite casually, only giving the impression that she was somewhat younger than Tom knew her to be. He also realized, as he was speaking, that Elaine would be likely to know Hal's father. That alone might easily send Hal in the opposite direction, so he said nothing of it.

They were to meet at a place Elaine knew which didn't require coats and ties. Tom and Hal got there first, and, when Elaine walked in smiling a little later, Tom thought that she looked quite nice. Indeed, the initial impressions appeared to be good on both sides. Tom hoped that, not having told Elaine anything about Hal, things would go better than they had on similar occasions in the past.

It wasn't long before Elaine discovered that she did know Hal's father. Hal, however, didn't seem to particularly mind. He even discussed his father in a normal off-hand way without criticizing his general orientation to the world.

The conversation then turned to education. Noting that Tom and Hal had both gone to Harvard, Elaine replied,

"I went to Smith, but it was a little too good. Even at the time, I thought that I'd be better off at Skidmore, but I didn't have enough initiative to make the change."

Tom, a little shocked, replied,

"I didn't think it was possible to go to a college that was too good."

"Oh yes. Smith soon convinced me that I was, if not stupid, a little dim. I'm really not. I've gradually discovered that my intelligence is a bit above average, all I need for solving the problems I'm likely to encounter. But it took me years to get over Smith."

Hal surprised Tom by replying,

"I had the same experience at Harvard. I was going down-hill the longer I stayed there, at an increasing rate of speed, and I may just be nearing the bottom now."

Tom objected,

"Your grades only went down-hill because you wrote papers questioning the general cultural assumptions of the professors."

Elaine said,

"I thought Harvard professors liked having their assumptions questioned."

Tom explained,

"An economics professor might like to have his assumptions about economics questioned. Hal questioned the motives of anyone who wanted to go into economics in the first place."

Elaine smiled and gave Hal a particularly sympathetic look, one that reminded Tom more of Anna than Elaine. In the easy atmosphere that followed, Tom began to see Hal in a somewhat different light. Elaine obviously liked him, but he suddenly understood why many other people hadn't.

After lunch, Tom asked Hal if he had liked Elaine. Hal responded quite favorably and asked if Tom had any designs on her.

"I'm not sure. She's much older, of course."

"She's still very attractive."

"Yes. I'm realizing that more all the time. Perhaps something can be managed."

After crossing F street, Tom remarked,

"Both sides are trying to get their nearest and dearest to places like Mexico and the Caribbean to get them out of the way of the nukes. My boss is just about now leaving for Australia."

"I didn't know it was that bad. There's been the stuff about Khruschev signing a treaty with the East Germans, which looks threatening down the road, but it doesn't seem to be immediate."

The expectation was that, if Khruschev gave East Germany control over the access routes to Berlin, they would try to strangle the city, and hence bring about war. Tom replied,

"Of course, the Soviets would like to wait until they've got their ICBMs deployed, but, if they think we're going to hit them before they can do it, they'll have to strike now with what they've got."

"Have they got enough?"

"Enough for a surprise first strike. Maybe not enough to hurt us too badly if we strike first."

"I take it that you aren't getting out yourself?"

"I guess not. But what about you? You're always on the verge of quitting teaching anyway, and I bet you have enough available money to go live anywhere you like."

"Well, a man would feel pretty foolish if he went off to live in Guatemala, and then nothing happened."

"I guess it's not dishonorable if you have some sort of independent reason for going. As it happens, I have two offers, one to go and be a graduate student in Australia and the other to accompany a Soviet double agent to Mexico City."

"Is that the woman you go out to see in Virginia?"

"The same."

"Have you slept with her yet?"

"No, but I think that's part of the deal."

"I'd go to Mexico."

"What I really ought to do is go back to Michigan and start working on my thesis."

"Couldn't you work on it in Mexico?"

"Up to a point. But, with Elizaveta around, I probably wouldn't get too much done. You could take her. I bet she'd go with you. She might do the other thing, too."

They had just reached Twelth Street, and were about to cross. Hal, apparently a little surprised at Tom's offer, looked back at him as he stepped off the curb. A bus, coasting to a stop in the curb lane, but still coming fast, hit Bob squarely and sent him flying into a knot of people waiting to board the bus. Several of them were knocked down, and, when Tom came running up, it took him a moment to see which figure on the ground was Hal.

Hal was on his back, trying to sit up, and there was profuse bleeding from his forehead. Tom knelt behind him, his shoulder against Hal's head, and put his hand over the source of the blood. He knew that it would take pressure, and, even though he used his other hand to support the first, the blood still came welling out.

Tom was vaguely aware of being in the middle of a crowd. An injured woman was crying nearby, but most of the people were gathered around him in a perfect circle, none dangerously close. As he pressed with his hand, everything was hopelessly slippery. Blood was coming out against his palm, between his fingers, and everywhere else. Hal was making noises as Tom spoke reassuringly, wanting to be certain that Hal knew he was there. Then, Tom called out for a handkerchief, or any piece of fabric. Not one person moved. No one said anything. Tom asked again. A man replied,

"It won't do any good."

Then, when Tom asked a third time, a woman approached with some Kleenex. She held it out with one hand reaching, so as not to get close, and Tom took it and applied it to Hal's forehead. Cloth would have been much better, but he thought it would do. It was then that Hal began to speak. Except that it made no sense at all. For a moment, Tom wondered if it could be some exotic language Hal had learned as a child. It went on, and he seemed to be addressing someone, perhaps Tom himself. But it was, Tom realized, no language at all. Then it stopped. Hal's whole body seemed to be in a convulsion. Tom hung on desperately as they bounced and moved, aware all the time that they must be fascinating the crowd with their horrid spectacle. Then, as the convulsion stopped and Tom finally got the bleeding under control, a policeman who had rushed up and ripped open Hal's shirt spoke to Tom.

"You can stop now, he's dead."

Tom, still holding on to Hal's hot body, looked up in confusion and said,

"The bleeding's stopped."

"Yeah, his heart's stopped. That cut had nothing to do with it. Must've been internal injuries."

As Tom let go, he wondered how he could possibly tell Hal's parents that their second son was dead. But, if he didn't call them immediately, they'd hear it from the police.

Before Tom could do anything, he became involved in something that was obviously a routine process. The policeman stuck his head inside the doorway of the nearest shop and asked them to call the station. He then pulled out a pencil and pad in a leisurely fashion and began taking statements. He began with the bus driver because, as he told Tom,

"We'll never get the traffic unblocked until we get the bus out of here."

The driver was very much shaken and angry. He kept saying,

"He stepped right infronta the bus."

The policeman hadn't himself seen the accident, and didn't appear to be convinced. That set off a new verbal explosion from the driver, and the policeman waved him away and said,

"Get the bus outta here. You'll be called later."

He took some other statements, and then, just as the ambulance arrived, he turned to Tom and said,

"Hang on a minute, buddy, and I'll get your statement."

Tom had been standing only a few feet from Hal's body, and, looking down at its peculiar distorted form, he saw that many bones must have been broken. Bob's face, without glasses, looked somewhat unfamiliar, but, even covered with blood and open-mouthed, it didn't show pain or distress. Tom couldn't guess what Hal might have been trying to say, but he did know that Hal's life hadn't been, on the whole, a happy one. His face, in death, didn't show any regrets.

When the body was gone and the policeman returned, Tom attempted to make it clear that Hal had, indeed, stepped in front of the bus, and that it wasn't the driver's fault. He even added,

"If I hadn't spoken to him at the wrong moment and distracted him, he would've seen the bus."

The policeman looked sceptical and replied,

"Don't worry about it. If it hadn't been that, it would've been something else. We've got his name and address from the wallet, but do you know where his people can be reached?"

Tom, relieved, gave him the various phone numbers. After all, he couldn't refuse a policeman. Then, suddenly, that was it. The policeman thanked him and walked off. Tom was free to go anywhere he wanted.

As it turned out, Tom ended up at the National Gallery, the place that had continued to be his home in downtown Washington. It was only when a child pointed to him that he remembered that he was covered with blood. He got most of it off in the men's room. There wasn't much he could do about his shirt, but the blood had dried brown, and most people would probably think that it was paint. And, anyway, there weren't many people around on a weekday mid-afternoon.

It was only after he had gone through a half dozen galleries that Tom remembered about calling. He supposed, in the circumstances, he could call collect from a pay phone. When he got to the phone, he instead called Elaine.

She was horrified and appalled at what had happened, but she recovered quickly and asked him where he was. He told her, and said,

"I was just on the point of calling his parents."

"Come and call from here. I know them, particularly his mother, and I'll talk to her. Take a taxi right off."

When Tom arrived, Elaine gave him a hug. She then said,

"Let's get it done with. I've often had to do it, and the best thing is to begin by saying that you have bad news about Hal. Then you tell them what happened. If it's his mother, she might want to talk to me, but don't press it."

It turned out to be Bob's father, and he had already heard. He sounded sorrowful and resigned, but not shocked. He asked Tom how he was. When Tom said that he guessed that he was more or less all right, Hal's father replied,

"We'll have the funeral down there very soon. We'll let you know when and where."

That was it. Tom told Elaine what had been said, and she replied,

"The poor man has had to do all this before. Thank God this one wasn't a suicide."

As it was then mid-afternoon, Elaine suggested going to the local French cafe to settle their nerves. When they arrived, they found Anna Entner there and joined her. Anna said to Elaine,

"Our director fell victim to a commando raid this morning, and the organization is all at sixes and sevens. So most of us left early."

Elaine said,

"I've known Mac for some time. I think he'll be all right."

Anna hadn't heard about Hollins' migration to Australia. When Tom told her, she replied,

"Isn't that rather leaving us in the lurch?"

"I was there when he was escorted out of the building by MPs. He couldn't have stayed even if he'd wanted to."

"I know, but this sounds as if he had it all planned to bug out months or years ago."

"Well, he's one who's always predicted a nuclear exchange. I guess he just suits his actions to his beliefs."

Anna, still not satisfied, replied,

"I don't think there's going to be a nuclear exchange, and, even if there is, I'm not going to leave a house that I just had completely re-decorated."

They laughed with Anna, but there was something impressive about her that Tom hadn't taken in before. If asked whether she or Hollins were the more gallant, Tom decided that it would have to be Anna. And then, of course, Elaine had no plans to go anywhere after settling Mrs. Eisenhower down in her banana republic. Each woman could have set herself up in style in Australia with lots of local investments in case the northern hemisphere zapped itself out.

It wasn't long before it came out what had happened to Hal, whom Anna had never met. She was, however, all sympathy. At one point she said,

"I was terribly upset at what happened to Pete, but this must be so much worse for you."

"Well, even if Hal was rather strange at times, I guess I assumed that we'd always be friends. And now there just isn't anything."

It did occur to Tom, in his most private mind, that life might now be a little simpler for him. He also wasn't sure that Hal's influence on him had been good. Hal had wanted both of them to cut themselves off from their society, their country, and from all the assumptions of their generation. In their place there would have been a rational structure, something Descartes would have liked.

Tom's natural bent in philosophy, on the other hand, tended toward something purely abstract with little or no connection with daily life. It had been Hal who wanted to justify his actions. Tom had always been happy simply to act as he pleased. He mentioned these things to his companions, and, at the end, Elaine said,

"I think Hal would have been increasingly unhappy if he had lived."

"It's quite possible. Could you tell that when you met him?"

"To some extent. Of course, I know the family, and I knew that it wouldn't be enough to succeed in the ordinary way. It didn't seem to me that he quite had it in him to succeed in some alternative or extraordinary way."

When Tom told them of the reactions people had had to Hal in the past, Anna said,

"People are profoundly uneasy when they're confronted with someone who has tragic possibilities. They want to be somewhere else as fast as possible, and, if they can't quickly escape, they get frustrated and angry. It's the same with Pete."

Tom managed not to show shock. There had been no similarity whatever between Hal and Pete. But, in view of what Anna had been told, it wasn't an unreasonable remark. And then, too, he remembered Hollins telling him that Pete came from an establishment family that had come down in the world. That was what Hal had been trying to do. Was Pete's father like Hal? If Hal had produced a son, would he have been like Pete? Tom had to laugh at some of these thoughts, and his companions seemed to take that as a sign that he was recovering from his earlier experience.

When they stepped out and Anna headed for her home, it seemed assumed that Tom would accompany Elaine to hers. When they got there, Elaine casually took off her dress. She then helped Tom undress, remarking that there was also blood on his trousers. When they went to the bedroom, the phone rang. Elaine said,

"I won't answer it. It's probably Boris, but he'll have to do without me tonight."

"Why don't you answer it and tell him that you're in a rush to see Mamie?"

Elaine did so. It was Boris. Still in her slip, Tom watched her as she spoke with his friend. He thought she looked very nice, but not spectacular enough for Boris. When she hung up, she said,

"He sounded relieved that he didn't have to talk any further or come to see me."

"I thought that might do it."

As Elaine approached him smiling, she lifted a hand to remove an earring. He was amazed at the whiteness of her bare shoulders and ran his hands over them. As he held her and kissed her neck, he was aware that she was reaching down to remove things. She murmured,

"I hope you don't mind if I keep some things on. At my age, it's better."

Tom pulled the straps off her shoulders, and saw, for the first time, a woman's nipples. They were little and pink, and, as he touched them, they got bigger and harder.

Elaine never did take off her girdle, but it rolled up and caused no difficulty. Tom felt himself being guided to the right place, and then had the extraordinary sensation of actually being inside another person's body. Animal spirits took over, and everything went fine until one side of the bed collapsed. Elaine cried out, evidently more in alarm than in pleasure, as they rolled on to the floor. They wound up side by side, but they were still coupled and Tom saw no reason not to continue.

After it was over, Elaine said,

"Now you know. Was it nirvana?"

Tom gasped,

"It was damned good."

"I liked it too, even if we did end up on the floor. I'll fix some coffee."

"Okay. I can't believe it finally happened. You can't imagine what I've gone through trying to get to this point."

"Immature women create endless difficulties. After Boris finally gets whatever he wants, I'll have plenty of time for you."

"I suppose I should tell Mr. Desmond what you told Boris."

"Will he want to know about our other activities?"

"I suppose he'll guess, but I don't see any need to tell him explicitly. I can call him and stop by tonight."

"If we go to that same restaurant where I met him, he'll probably be there. It looks as if he picks up young men in the lounge."

"So you also think that he's homosexual?"

"I should certainly think so."

"It's kind of funny because none of these organizations, still less the CIA, is supposed to hire homosexuals. The conventional wisdom is that they can be blackmailed."

"He may not have been one, at least openly, when they hired him. But I bet he is now."

Desmond was, indeed, at the lounge. Now that Tom looked more closely, he could see that his lounge personality was strikingly different from his office one, and even from his home personality. He was relaxed in all circumstances, at least when he wasn't with Kublaikov, but, in the lounge, he was positively adventurous. One felt that he might suddenly go to Australia, not to escape nuclear war, but to join a particularly appealing yachting party. They sat down with him in the lounge, and Tom said quietly,

"Boris called while I was with Elaine. On impulse, I suggested that she tell him that she was just off to interview Mamie Eisenhower."

"We never have figured out why he has this fixation on Mamie, have we?"


"So far, no one's called the special false telephone numbers we gave him, supposedly the ones for the various illustrious people in Miss Kittredge's book. I had one of those phones put in my living room with an extension in the bedroom, but there hasn't been a tinkle."

"I guess we should assume that his two concerns are connected. Mamie is an important person, even if she's a passive one, so to speak."

"You know, at some point we might have Miss Kittredge tell Boris that Mamie's gone out of town, we needn't say where. We might then get some action on the phones."

Elaine replied,

"She actually is going on vacation. I'm going with her for the first two or three days."

"I see. Have you told him you're going away?"


"Try to be as casual as you can about it, and don't say you're going with Mamie, at least as yet. I'll look into the matter and tell you what to say about her shortly."

Table of Contents  Last Chapter  Next Chapter  Home Page