I sat on the couch, facing the television console, Julie on my left but not snuggled up to my side as she had proven herself to be not that kind of little person. Mrs. Beasley, however, was pulled close into her left side and Bozo made believe he was watching television seated on the end table, too close for comfort near my right side, but never violating the short distance between us. His remarkable ability to sit for hours on end, staring, or blinking ever so slowly, always amazed me and one day I’d look up why he acted that way, for the most part, instead of lying and sleeping his life away like most cats. Of course, I’d quickly come to understand that he was anything but a normal cat, any more than my wife was an ordinary wife or my daughter ordinary in any way.
The evening news came on, as I waited expectantly for more information on the fast-developing Watergate investigation that had turned into the Watergate coverup investigation. But the headline story was about anything but that. I watched the images crossing the screen of a burned-out passenger plane, its flame-blackened tail rising high in the air. United Flight 533 had crashed with no survivors flying into a small almost unknown airport called Midway, just on the outskirts of Chicago. Aboard the plane was a woman named Dorothy Hunt, wife of E. Howard Hunt.
My body relaxed and I began to breathe deeper, taking much longer to inhale and exhale. Julie, sensing something, reached her right hand, the one not occupied holding Mrs. Beasley close to her other side, and rested it on my left hand.
While my body went into a high-threat awareness mode my mind raced trying to put dates together. It was December 3rd. Dorothy’s husband, E. Howard Hunt, the supposed master planner behind the Watergate break-in, was alleged to be indicted or about to be indicted by a Federal Grand Jury. The bizarre plane crash was even more of that because of the backgrounds of some of the people connected. Bebe Rebozo, the man mafia-connected to Boss Trafficante in Miami had been a Pan American navigator and was proud of it. E. Howard had been a naval aviator. Coincidences were building up to a conclusion I was growing ever more uncomfortable with, and a bit afraid about.
I’d truly, since coming home, only really been afraid of either losing my job or not making enough money to support my family. I’d only thought about the danger of impending doom in a conjectural way, not as a possibility.
I liked the woman. She hadn’t been like June Cobb, a player, and therefore a person who might be expected to be in danger. She’d been like a regular woman of keen intellect and kindly open personality. Who would she have been a threat to if she’d remained alive? And who would kill 44 other people just to get her if that was the intent? I wondered if I was fast becoming, if I’d not already become, a part of a living moving beast of such coldness and analytical deliberation that I could neither withdraw from nor survive.
The feelings I was experiencing were complex, although their expression wasn’t at all. I felt bad at my core. Was it fear for me, now that potential terminal danger was lingering about, at least in an ever more convincing fashion? The three Marines were dead, it gave every appearance that their passing was anything but accidental. Now Dorothy Hunt, a person who was deeply involved in carrying money back and forth for the different subterranean characters working around the president, if not always on his behalf…or, at least to his knowledge. I also felt a sense of loss over the woman. She was a motherly type, the kind I hadn’t had in my upbringing. I wondered if her death was hitting me so hard out of selfishness or true care. Was I not afraid as well as feeling the loss of the mother I’d never really had? Or was it more than that?
I needed Paul to help me with that but I wasn’t due to see him for three more days. He’d seen me ‘off the cuff’ once but made it clear that that event had been one of exception and not one I should get used to in the future. I knew my wife, no matter how wonderful in so many ways, wasn’t going to take it kindly at all that I was feeling bad about Hunt’s death, or any other woman’s passing, for that matter.
Mary and I got Julie ready for bed, while Bozo exited through his screen to the outside world. He was nocturnal, and his night was our day, I knew, even though he’d changed much of his time inside the apartment and outside considerably since he’d been given to us. The old woman who’d found him, staggering up from one of San Clemente’s deep canyons, never returned to check on him or see how he was doing.
My wife and I went to bed without much comment, although my mind continued to trace and retrace my contact with Mrs. Hunt, June Cobb, and Richard. All three were more than they’d let on or claimed, although what they were, and if they were together in whatever it was, remained a mystery. I got out of bed and went downstairs, throwing on one of the blue cotton robes I’d taken from the hospital up in Oakland a few years earlier. The robes were the only items of personal cover that weren’t made of the cheapest, thinnest, and flimsiest of materials.
I sat at the Sears and Roebuck dining room table, with only the kitchen light casting the dimmest of rays from its distance to my right. The light seemed more gray than yellow, but it had to do. If I turned on all the downstairs lights I knew my wife would be down in a jiffy, wondering what was wrong. Me, wandering the apartment in the night she didn’t like and wasn’t comfortable with, but at least she accepted as somewhat normal to the reborn creature who’d come back from the Valley of No Return.
The security I had in place was inadequate. The apartment jutted out over Avenida Cabrillo in a very distinctive way. Our Volks was in the driveway still loaded with rebreathers and a pound of C-4 high explosives. I’d made the decision not to burn or toss the one-pound bar into the ocean. Along with the fuse cord, det-cord, percussion, as well as electric primers. Even the Tetryl supplementary charge, used to give added power to the main charge, weighed in at almost a third of a pound. Thinking about the ballistics of the pyrotechnics made me feel safer and more comfortable, despite how poorly the rest of my security situation was. I was going to keep the materials for my use in case of a critical need, or at least to tamp down my feelings of paranoia, but I had to think a lot deeper and better prepare for the best way to keep and store them all the while making sure they were readily available in some time of need. To get the security we needed, I finally decided, we needed to move to somewhere, close by, but with much better native security than the wonderfully huge, but so very open apartment, could ever provide.
Returning to bed, I lay awake for a long time, wondering just how many people were feeling as bad as I was about the death of Mrs. Hunt. I’d not gotten to Cobb’s yacht in time. I just knew it. I had, and would likely never have, any confirmable idea about Bebe’s involvement in the woman’s death, but I’d had an inkling, and I should have run with it much sooner than I had. It reminded me so much of Macho Man, the helicopter Marine with his Thompson submachine gun in the valley. I’d let a few minutes slip by, as he’d been allowed to walk straight to his death, unknowing, with my figuring out what was going down too late to save him.
The next morning, after a fitful night’s half-sleep, I waited over at the Galloways. It’d been days since I’d made it back there, a fact that I regretted every time I thought about going there but not being able to make the time. I’d left home early, although I had no real plan of the day except for wanting to hear another of the tapes and know more. There were so many holes in my knowledge. Each time I filled one of the holes it seemed that three more opened all around me, however. But I couldn’t stop. To have a secure place to set up the machine, spool the tape, and not be interrupted or discovered in any way I needed to be in the apartment alone. That wouldn’t happen if I told my wife what I was up to. She didn’t share the same blazing curiosity I did in what might be on the tapes, but hers was pretty intense anyway.
My plan to select a time alone required that Bob Elwell be on duty at Lifeguard Tower Zero in the morning. It turned out he was there when I called the headquarters, catching him just before he left the headquarters building. Bob’s job was to call me at Galloway’s when Mary and Julie were firmly settled in on the beach since Mary only ever used the part of San Clemente Beach not very far from the south base of the pier.
I received my coffee from Lorraine, as always, right when I sat down. I knew there’d be no bill for it but it wouldn’t matter as Lorraine had nefarious, arcane, and brilliant ways to collect money, at least from me. As if reading my mind, she came back to my Del Mar Avenue-facing table and placed two slips of paper under my saucer, while I pulled the cup’s lip up slightly away from my mouth to stare at her.
“The next two,” she said, before laughing and heading back toward the kitchen.
I looked at the slips laid down in front of me. I held the coffee out and then took a few more swigs. The slips denoted two businesses and their owners. Lorraine had written times for each to be visited. One business was the city’s only canvas sail company and the other was the Italian restaurant located just as the PCH twisted north and headed along the railroad tracks toward Capistrano Beach. Neither of the businesses seemed like the kind that I would ever have visited, at least not for being prospects for the purchase of life insurance policies. I looked behind me, as Lorraine approached once again, her pot ready to fill my near-empty cup. She was smiling broadly.
“Lorraine,” I began, as she refilled my cup. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to convince these men I don’t know to buy anything. What did you say to them to get the appointments? Most of my clients, even the ones I’ve gotten through you, have been in positions where they had to buy for reasons other than family protection or even saving money.”
Lorraine set the Bunn pot next to my cup and leaned in close to my right ear.
“I told them that you were the Commander of the beach patrol and that you’d make sure they got any tickets taken care of if they got them in the future.
They’re eager to buy right now.” She picked up the coffee pot and headed back to the kitchen without saying another word.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” I whispered, staring down at the slips of paper.
“For whose sake?” a male voice said, from behind me. “I didn’t know you were religious.”
It was Mike Manning’s voice, his tone of derision so cutting it could have been nobody else. I folded the little slips of paper and put them in my pocket, wondering whether I shouldn’t simply toss them at my earliest opportunity. I needed the production, that much was certain, but there was no way I could fix tickets given out by other officers, or even my own once they were written into my triple copy ticket book. Those books got turned in after every shift and there were no changes allowed once the tickets were started, not without fiery backlash I didn’t want to receive or even think about. I also didn’t want to alienate Lorraine, although I had to wonder how she could do such a thing without understanding the position she was putting me in. Just telling the business owners what she’d likely told them could be career-ending for me if the conversation in the community headed in the wrong direction.
Mike and I bantered over a variety of seemingly unimportant subjects while I waited. Finally, Lorraine, after performing the same coffee service for Mike that she had done for me, came back but this time putting a bill for Mike’s coffee in front of me while she whispered into my left ear.
“The coast is clear,” she said, and then headed back to the kitchen.
“What was that?” Mike asked, but I ignored the question, instead taking out a couple of dollar bills and putting them on the table. I put my two prospect slips of paper into my pocket. I would have to go visit those two businesses later in the day, if for no other reason than to please Lorraine. There was no way I could live up to what she had promised, however, so I didn’t want to deal with the situation at all. I said my goodbye to Mike and left the shop to head for home with a rueful smile crossing my lips. Life back home was so many times like life had been down in the valley. I couldn’t move forward, back, up, or down…so where was I supposed to go to survive?
Once home, I went immediately up to the closet in our bedroom. I pulled the small cardboard box of tapes down, gathered the bigger box with the machine in it under my other arm, and headed downstairs to spread everything out on the dining room table. I breathed in and out deeply before opening the box.
One tape, with its strange burned in cursive letters, caught my immediate attention as I surveyed the remaining compound-derived tapes. I knew I was avoiding that particular reel that had the words heat-burned into its plastic side. The cursive letters formed words that scared me more than anything I thought might be on the others remaining. The tape I was avoiding had to do, I knew in my heart of hearts, with a potential violence that could consume my life, my family’s life, and those of everyone who lived on our planet, that what might be on that particular tape was almost too fearful to even consider. If a potential pardon wasn’t granted by the incoming president, who would have to be the Speaker of the House in the event of a presidential resignation, if my memory was correct, then Nixon might do what in retaliation, or possibly as a motivator? Only one weapon came to my mind and whatever had gone down inside the containment chamber at San Onofre that had cost the 3 Marines their lives snaked around that potential like a coiling Burmese Python snake. There was so much I didn’t know but that meant little when it came to worrying about the potential of all of what had happened and why it might happen very soon. The word ‘unseeable’ returned to my mind. I was listening to material that very well might be termed ‘unhearable,’ in the same sort of way.
Instead of the dreaded tape, I chose the one that read: “Kiss Haven Hal”, labeled to either indicate that the conversation taped was between Kissinger and Haldeman, or that some strange humor was at work in whoever made the original tapes. I did not know who ‘Haven’ might be and I was curious about that.
The tape hissed and crackled for a bit before Henry Kissinger’s voice could be made out, his accent fully evident and identifiable, as well as his very cold and analytical style of speaking when he was doing so with the people who were junior to him, which I had come to understand meant just about everyone.
It took me only about one minute to figure out who “Haven” was. It wasn’t a person at all. Kissinger was speaking to someone, more than likely Haldeman, about tax havens overseas. He referred to them a second time as offshore accounts. I had no idea what he was talking about, but then Kissinger’s tone changed, and the volume of his talking went so low that I almost couldn’t make out his words.
“We must get everything to the Channel Islands. We can’t have accounts, the attorney firm we purchase over there must have the accounts. We will own the attorney firm so there will be no attribution. The taxes are immaterial. We cannot ever have anyone know, or even be able to ask, where the monetary amounts have come from.”
I stopped the tape machine.
I was out of my element, but I instantly understood, as well, that I had no real place to gain more knowledge about such things as owning attorney firms aboard, offshore or tax haven accounts, or any of that. I pulled the reel from the machine and examined it closely. There was no date whatsoever or anything else burned into the plastic. There were no tags, like on the first tape. I sat back to think. I lived across the street from the San Clemente Library. That would have to be my research center of operations. Somehow, I was beginning to feel, that the entire confluence of events that I’d cast myself into might just be coming down to money.
Dorothy Hunt was dead. Bebe Rebozo was somehow involved, which means the president was likely involved, or at least in the know. Kissinger was moving money. Hunt had been a mover of money, as had been Cobb. That much I knew. President Nixon, as astounding as it was to consider, was going down. Money was going to play a huge role in all the lives of those around him, as well as for him. Where was that to come from if he was out of office and they, those powerful men all around him, lost their jobs, and contacts or even served some time behind bars? Cash, wherever it was being drawn from, was being gathered to be put someplace it could be accessed but no one could find out about it, nor its amount, its origins nor its distribution.
I placed the tape into its box without further listening, picked everything up, and replaced it in my closet ‘hiding place.’
Mary was at the beach with Julie, Bozo was nowhere to be seen. I called Bob and was put through to tower zero by Sheridan Byerly himself, the assistant chief. Sheridan asked no questions, not even my identity, which told me that he recognized my voice. I fully expected that he would be listening to whatever Bob and I spoke about. When I got through, Bob confirmed that the ‘subjects’ were still out in the sun, down at the beach before him. I thanked him and hung up.
I went down to the Volks and headed for Dana Point. If Paul was there I’d find a way to talk to him. I was moving, and that bothered me. I was comfortable in the apartment we were in and had no place to go. I knew all that would come but my sense of worry, about that, about what had happened to Hunt, the likelihood of world destruction and even offshore accounts, was so deep, and I had nowhere to take it. Paul wasn’t that place. Mary had agreed to meet with him but, so far, I hadn’t arranged the get-together. I didn’t know if I was worried about that on top of everything else. I was a bit of a mess, and I had to get myself together.
I pulled into the lot and headed the Volks over to my semi-clandestine parking slot.
“Next to the garbage dumpster, how very appropriate,” I said to myself, as I got out of the car. I was laughing out loud at my conclusion, and I wasn’t comfortable with that either. I went inside, wishing that Paul had left his sign out front so I’d know whether he was there or not.
I walked straight down the hall and turned into his office. The door was open, and he was sitting behind his desk like he’d been waiting, although I knew that was impossible. I almost laughed aloud at that mental conclusion, as well, since it seemed that in the last few months, particularly the last few weeks, days, and even hours, the word impossible was being stretched to an extent I would never have believed up until now. I plopped myself down in one of the chairs in front of him.
“Why are you here?” he asked, rocking back his executive chair.
“No particular reason,” I answered, truthfully.
I was there for all kinds of reasons but couldn’t think of any one reason to discuss with him. It simply felt better to sit in front of him, as if he was some sort of bastion of security against a frightening array of overpowering forces swirling around just outside.
“Dorothy Hunt was killed in a plane crash,” I finally blurted out when Paul didn’t reply.
“You don’t have an appointment,” Paul replied, his tone one of irritation.
I looked at him across the desk, my body relaxing and my breathing occurring at an ever-slowing rate. We must have sat looking at one another for a full minute, but it seemed like a lot longer.
“I think the President of the United States if he resigns but does not get a pardon from the incoming President, who would be Gerald Ford, might launch a nuclear strike,” I said the words calmly and slowly. Neither Paul nor I blinked while I talked.
Paul broke our mutual locked gaze, then rotated his body around to allow him to look out the window. He scratched his head slowly with his left hand, before rotating himself back to face me. He didn’t look me in the eyes, however, instead staring down at the top of his desk.
“You have grief issues about the loss of someone close to you, which is to be expected after all you’ve gone through.”
I stared at the man, wondering what I’d expected. It was like he hadn’t heard the potentially devastating information I’d given him about the end of the world. I didn’t say anything, as he hadn’t asked a question. I knew I was in the wrong place. I got up and went to the door.
“You’re right, I don’t have an appointment,” was all I said, before I exited his office, headed down the hall and toward my car.
I had to get home, whether Mary and Julie were back from the beach or not. I could no longer avoid what I had to do. I had to listen to the ‘End of the World’ tape, no matter what the tape held. I simply could not go on functioning normally, if at all, without knowing.