Richard and I didn’t speak again. When the staff car piloted by him arrived in the compound parking lot, the Staff Sergeant was appropriately waiting only a few feet from the outer wall doors He opened the back door to the car before I could let myself out, and then stepped over to the double doors and waited. One of the doors opened slowly. I walked the short distance through the open door, which closed immediately behind me. There were no Secret Service agents present which surprised me. The agents, when there, only spoke with one another, never to the bevy of workers, family, or visitors passing down the hall and on into the great room where Haldeman and Ehrlichman had their desks.

I walked in the only direction there was to go. The door that led through the gate to the residence was, thankfully, closed. It was already late at night so a meeting out by the pool probably would have been out of the question. On night beach patrols, no lights had ever been observed to be on outside of the residence where the pool was shoehorned between the giant rock line protecting the train tracks and the west side of the house itself.

I moved towards Haldeman’s empty chair, then looked to my left. A single man sat on the couch, which was facing me. A tendril of smoke rose by the man’s head. Henry Kissinger. A sliver of fear ran up and down my back as I slowly moved closer.

“Sitzen Sie, bitte,” Kissinger said, gesturing with the hand that held his cigarette before he put it out on the saucer, which if I recall correctly, was most likely mint tea, his favorite drink. He’d addressed me in idiomatic German. The more proper and stiffer way to invite a person to sit down in Germany would have been Sie Sitzen, bitte.

“No Secret Service?” I asked, quietly in English as I sat down while still looking around for anyone who might be in hearing range.

“I’m not a head of state,” he replied, which I didn’t truly understand then but I knew I soon would.

Only heads of state received presidential-style protection. That was interesting. Kissinger’s 1966 Lincoln Continental was fitted with bulletproof glass, but no protecting agents, or at least not Secret Service agents. I’d never seen the blue Lincoln, but the big monster of a car with an engine more powerful than that of Lieutenant Gates’ Marauder created talk among the people at or below my place on the compound totem pole.

“You did some work for me, I recall,” he said, with very little of his heavy German accent that always came through when he was being interviewed by T.V. commentators.

“You discharged me, sir,” I replied.

“It wasn’t like that at all,” he laughed. “Trust is long in the forge.” You might like a drink, to be hospitable, but there’s no one here. There’s no one to listen, no tapes being made, no recorders or anything like that.”

“Trust is long in the forge,” I said, wishing I hadn’t.

I liked nothing that I’d learned of the man. He’d deliberately extended the Vietnam War by nearly four years. How many Marines died in that time?

“You have distinguished yourself,” Kissinger responded, ignoring my cheap shot back at him.

There was no way I was going to admit anything ‘in the clear’ to this man but I didn’t have to let him know that. He was enormously brilliant, everyone said, and a gifted negotiator and an even better salesman. He’d sold the Nobel committee to the point where they gave the person whom I considered the biggest warmonger on the planet, the Nobel Peace Prize a few years back.

“You sell insurance on the side?” the man said like he was reading my mind.

He took a sip of his tea, using the same waving little finger held out as Haldeman did. Had they both gone to the same dainty classes in private schools to learn that? The same class of people also didn’t know how to make a real fist, or was that, like with the pinky thing, merely a way of belonging to a class above everyone else and having gestures that indicated what they were to others who were of them? The Masonic Order was like that, and there were probably a whole lot more of such tribal posers at the different social levels of power that were denied fiercely inside my own culture.

“Life insurance with Mass Mutual,” I replied. My General Agent, Tom Thorkelson, would love to have you as a policyholder but I don’t think I could get such a policy through underwriting.”

“Warum?” Kissinger exclaimed, putting his little cup of tea down, and staring into my eyes for the first time.

“Why?” I shot back. “Maybe because you have all that bulletproof glass in your Lincoln and no Secret Service protection?

“You have such a displeasing sense of humor,” Kissinger said, his eyes going black, clear and his stare penetrating.

I realized that I was skating on very thin ice. I breathed in and out slowly, wishing that somebody was around to serve up a glass of ice water or a Coke. My mouth had gone dry.

“Why am I sitting here with you, with no one to listen, no tapes being made, no recorders or anything like that,” I said

“Very excellent memory of the exact words I said. You will have usage, but you will need strong solid management,” he replied.

I rolled his words around in my mind, not being able to put them together to make much sense. I knew he had something in mind but for some reason, he had to be expressing his thoughts in such an arcane way that it was not understandable to me.

I looked closely at the dangerous and powerful man across from me, wondering once again how much chance contact had brought me before him. I liked the fact that no one had searched me, patted me down, or asked security questions before this interview. Kissinger had no fear of me, and that meant he didn’t know much about me or he was misinterpreting many factors in my spotty background.

I had no violent intent toward the man and I was very satisfied that he didn’t see me as a physical threat. Even with no intent, I was most definitely a physical threat to this hardened, not warrior, make-believe macho man who had killed more people than I’d ever commanded or had even thought of. I had my wife, Julie, Bozo, and my new friends, like Elwell, Bartok, Thorkelson and so many more. I wasn’t ready to surrender my new life with them to anyone, including the clever man in front of me, who wasn’t as clever as I imagined. At least I wasn’t sitting in front of him with some kind of ‘hitman’ assignment awaiting me.

“You are here because I suspect that you found something out that you should not have and now cannot rid yourself of,” he said, talking out to the empty room more than me.

I didn’t know what to say. It was another of those non-question questions that I seemed to be faced with so often, particularly since my inclusion into whatever loosely held, but tightly managed, club I’d somehow become a member of.

I said nothing, wondering just how technically superb the surveillance equipment and operators were that might allow them to know that I had the tapes and was listening to them. Why else was I here, sitting in front of a man who was one of the most powerful humans on the planet?

“What is it that you think I know?”, I asked, then holding my breath.

“And there’s the conundrum,” he replied, “I cannot tell you what it is without you finding out what you possibly don’t know. You cannot tell me because that might mean, with the importance of your special knowledge, and the keeping of it secret, might involve you leaving the planet before your time.”

There was no question that I was afraid. I looked around some more but nobody came forth from the walls, like the Mud Men on Planet Mongo in the
Flash Gordon television serial series.

I sat in front of him without replying, thinking, maybe thinking more deeply than I ever had before. They were not threatening me. That meant that I was already far down the road to being trusted by them, whoever they were. But I wasn’t about to walk away from this meeting, which the ‘greatest negotiator of all time’, until Kissinger arrived, had put together, was going to get what he wanted so badly, the request that hadn’t been stated yet, and I was to get nothing.

“Silence,” Kissinger said, filling in the silence.

“Silence,” I repeated and then waited some more.

“This whole assembly of cards is about to tumble down, not on your head but on so many others. You will be secure in that administrations will come for you in importance and honor. I can assure you that, I will likely remain rather immune to the current dire circumstance.”

“I’m not doing anything, including silence, unless I know one thing more of what you are withholding, even if you assume I already know. Consider this a test question.”

“You are in no position…” Kissinger began, but I cut him off.

“Was the ‘unseeable” not of this world, as described?” That last part of my expression was a lie.

I’d only listened to two of the six tapes I had, and neither had revealed what the ‘unseeable’ really was. I, however, had to know in my gut that it was as I suspected, or some kind of fixation I was having over what might be nothing. I’d never believed in UFOs or alien creatures, but I was still open to finding out that much of my information might have been given to me by people and organizations that had a very directed mission of my not knowing anything.

For the first time in our ‘interview,’ I observed Kissinger becoming discomforted. He moved around on the couch, and reached for what I thought was another cigarette in his suit coat pocket, but found nothing there.

“I don’t presume that you smoke,” Kissinger finally said, before rising to his feet.

He stepped toward me and then leaned over until his face was inches from my own.

I shook my head very slightly.

“Yes, to your question,” he whispered, but then added, “but it’s not at all like you might think. Over time there will be more. Silence and wait.”

With those final words, he pulled back and walked away toward the door at the end of the hall.

I didn’t know whether to stay where I was and wait for his return or leave. After a few minutes, I decided that I’d been dismissed with no words being said.

I followed Kissinger, although, by the time I reached the end of the hall, there was nothing to be seen. However, the normal contingent of two Secret Service agents stood by the doors at the other end of the hall. They let me out without comment.

Richard waited in the staff car without getting out, for some reason, when he turned his head to look at me, he was smiling broadly.
I entered through the rear door but said nothing.

“You’ve become an important person if you were meeting the person I think you were meeting,” he said, looking back at me through the vehicle’s overly large rearview mirror.

I noted that he used the word ‘person’ instead of ‘him’. Richard had no real idea of whom I was meeting with and was fishing for information to either confirm what he suspected or provide him with new data. There was no point in discussing any of it with him. I needed to get home, get showered, talk to my wife, and get some sleep, hoping that the progress of one strange event after another would at least slow down in coming at me, if not disappear.

When I got home I realized that there would be no welcoming hot shower. Mary was upset, having guessed that whomever I was meeting with under such late-night circumstances had to have something to discuss; either a critical need, some sort of threat, or even my termination from working with the people at the compound.

I sat on the couch next to Julie and Mrs. Beasley with Bozo ever on guard on his favorite side table. The television was on but I wasn’t paying attention to whatever was on. Mrs. Beasley remained uncommonly silent, Julie and Bozo watching the television or making believe they were. It was obvious that there was emotional stuff going on and I knew, even from my short experience with small children and cats, Bozo in particular, that they were magnets for anything that was emotionally out of the ordinary.

I told her about Kissinger, figuring that building another lattice of lies would only hurt me further down the road.

“The tapes and what’s possibly on them,” she said, halfway through my story. “What does he want and how does he know to ask or order you around about them?”

I didn’t have a credible answer. Trying to explain Richard’s role in the situation, or even since I’d come into contact with him just didn’t seem credible. Richard was something, very likely CIA or one of the other intelligence agencies home based in Washington D.C. but I had no real admission or proof of anything.

“I don’t know, although I now understand that they know an awful lot, most of which I don’t think they care about. This all started over the bizarre death of the three Marines, and then the even more bizarre coverup by almost everyone concerned.”

“They know your background, but they don’t know the half of it, do they?” she asked.

“What half of it are you talking about”? I asked back, in surprise.

“That those were your Marines…are your Marines. After what you went through you can’t leave them behind, even if they’re dead, but somehow, we’re probably going to have to survive all this with anything like a normal life.”

Her comment was analytically correct but her tone was accusatory, as if my conduct was serving as a threat to our family.

Julie kept watching the television without turning her head, although she pulled the string on Mrs. Beasley for the first time since I’d been home.

“He’s an honorable man,” the artificial voice said. The phrase, and her inserting it at the seemingly right moment, made me feel better. Julie was defending me. I looked over at Bozo, who was staring at Julie and Mrs. Beasley, as if to say, “I’m with them.”

“Silence was what Kissinger asked for, and I’m going to give it to him. Bob Elwell and Gularte are the only ones who know much of anything at all. There’s no need to bring the Dwarfs further into this so I’ve got to back up a bit there. Hoodoo is going to come back with the information from the coroner that the autopsy results were not competently or completely provided the first time around, and that’s going to be trouble, as there will be fear from some involved that the coverup isn’t holding up. I need to get the same silence from Bob and Jim Gularte, which I don’t think will be a problem. Hoodoo is a jaded old-time gumshoe and silencing him is going to be a bit more problematic.”

“But you’re going to do it, right?” Mary asked, her tone going from accusatory to hopeful.

“Yes,” I replied, getting to my feet, realizing for the first time that the one-way street I was heading down gave every appearance of being a dead end, with emphasis on the word dead.

“There’s one other thing I’m really worried about,” I said, deciding to share a little bit more with her.

“Bebe Rebozo is looking for Dorothy Hunt, one of the women who carries cash for whomever is running things. She and Cobb have been staying on Cobb’s boat in the marina, not far from Richard’s slip and yacht.”

“What about her?” my wife asked.

Rebozo is mob, or so rumor has it,” I replied. “If Rebozo is looking for her and not exactly keeping the information top secret, then the woman could be in real trouble. If there’s money trouble it wouldn’t likely be because of missing amounts, would be my guess. It’d be about attribution. Where the money’s coming from and such sources wanting to keep that from having anyone know. I don’t think Richard knows she’s holed up there, if she is, or if he’d reveal the information should he know it.”

“This is all such a confusing mess,” Mary replied, shaking her head.

“Do you think I should get over to the marina in the morning and warn her?”

“How can you not,” my wife said, “but are you sure you want to wait until morning? And I don’t necessarily believe you about the Marines. You could do nothing for so many of them down in that awful valley, just as you can do nothing for these men. It’s hard for me to believe that you’re going to just let it go by because of ‘the family comes first’ thinking. You are dead set on trying to help everyone you meet who’s in trouble. This may be one of those cases where that old seemingly irrational saying might apply: ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’”

“No, I don’t think anything will happen in the night and I’m exhausted.”

I got up and went to the stairs, motioning for Julie to follow. It was past her bedtime by far and putting her to bed always soothed my frayed nerves. She was simply a delight. Bozo never got involved in the ‘putting to bed’ process, always waiting until she was tucked in before he came to sleep on the very end of her bed. She didn’t ever seem to mind, always kinking her left leg and pulling up that foot so he’d have room.

In a few minutes, it was my turn to shower and go to bed. I hit the mattress and fell instantly to sleep. I got up and showered again, leaving everyone else in the apartment still down, if not asleep. I had five missions for the day ahead, all of my creation. Bob, Gularte, Hoodoo, Hunt, and beach patrol later in the early evening. With any luck, my phone wouldn’t ring, and I wouldn’t be summoned again by the fluctuating and strange leadership of the Western White House.

I put on my usual attire of shorts and a “T” shirt with running shoes I’d paid too much for but were clean although not truly broken in.

The drive to the Dana Point Marina was without incident, as it was early. I’d have preferred to visit Galloway’s place for coffee and maybe run into Mike Manning, but the mission to try to help Dorothy Hunt occupied most of my thinking.

I pulled up before Butch’s trailer and beat on the door. He answered immediately.

“Coffee” he asked, as his greeting, standing in boxer shorts, flip flops, and a ‘wife beater’ shirt.

“The ramp’s a mud mess, so you must have done some work there,” I said, stepping in.

“Army Corps of Engineers came in with two barges and steam shovel last night, not to mention about twenty workers of all kinds. They dredged the bottom taking the wreck of that car with them, and piles of mud.”

I accepted the cup of black coffee, served in what appeared to be a used paper cup. I didn’t bother to ask for cream and sugar, merely taking a couple of swigs to be sociable while I thought. The project to recover the car had been expensively put together in very little time, and although not unexpected, was worrisome. What detail were they going to find when they dug into the mess?

“You’re not here about that though, are you?” Butch replied, drinking from his own used cup and sitting on the only stool or seat in that part of the trailer.

“No,” I said, telling him the truth. “I’m here to see the women in Cobb’s boat about something.”

“Missed them,” Butch said, drinking more coffee. “Strange stuff going on here these days…and nights,” he said, shaking his head. The deadly duo took off for San Diego, and there were suitcases involved so I presume one or both are flying out, San Diego being a much better choice than LAX.”

“Richard over there?” I asked, knowing there was nothing more I could do, except maybe hang around and look too suspicious.

“Don’t know, as he rarely comes out. What do you suppose he does aboard that thing all the time? It’s equipped like one of those phony Russian trawlers. Electronic everything.”

I said my goodbye and a hearty thank you for the ‘cop’ coffee and headed toward Richard’s boat, the departure of Dorothy Hunt bothering me more than I thought it should. I wasn’t responsible for most of the people I was meeting and dealing with, but my wife was right again. I was in way too deep with many of them and would have to figure out how to retreat a bit.

I climbed aboard the yacht and knocked on Richard’s cabin door. It opened immediately.

“Been expecting you,” he said, turning and heading back to the big couch mounted into the starboard side of the hull.

I joined him on the couch, noting just how different it was to meet with this well-dressed and formal gentleman than with Butch. I decided that I liked the battered but very real Butch even more.

“The girls left?” I asked although I was about certain that Richard would have observed me visiting Butch before arriving at his door.

“Yes, and I talked to them,” Richard replied, with a wry smile on his face. “Something is going on with Dorothy Hunt so I advised her to ‘hunker down’ and wait it out, but she wanted to get with her husband in Washington just as soon as she could. There you have it.”

“What’s it all about?” I asked, not knowing what else to ask.

“The tapes,” Richard replied. You saw the mess they left at the ramp.

“Yeah, I did,” I said, uncomfortably.

“What’s on them?” Richard asked, but in a way that sounded more like he was talking to himself.

I wasn’t about to reveal anything. My mind went to the next tape I’d pulled out before going to bed. I’d left it in the box, not liking the heat-inscribed writing that was carved into the side of the reel.

“Nix Hal Ehr alternative to pardon failure.”

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