The Place to Stand:

 

 

 

 

 

By Robert Lukens

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Archimedes said of the mechanical powers may be applied to reason and liberty: "Had we," he said,” a place to stand upon, we might raise the world." -- Thomas Paine


 

 


 

 

CHAPTER 1

TUESDAY - DAY 1  

THE BEGINNING

 

 

 

Clinton Randolph slowly opened his eyes. As his mind processed the unfamiliarity of the airplane's first class cabin, the drone of the engines, and the other passengers performing routine, early morning activities in the dust-filled shafts of early light, that mixture of anticipation and anxiety that had been with him since this whole affair began swept into his consciousness, instantly dispersing any inclination to linger in the tranquility of drowsiness.

Pulling himself erect and snapping the back of his seat upright, he yawned and shook his head, as if to rid himself of the remnants of sleep. A glance at his watch told him it was 1:10, back in Florida. Mechanically, he set his watch forward six hours to 7:10, Spanish time. They must be over Spain now, he thought, if they were going to land in twenty-two minutes. With only two or three hours of poor quality, intermittent sleep, he could only hope that he wouldn't have to make any critical decisions today. But he could hardly speculate on that, could he? After all, he hadn't the slightest idea why he was going to Spain, or what to expect when he got there.

Yesterday morning, an old friend, Norman Jefferson, had called from Marbella, the classic 'in' place on Spain's Sun Coast. With characteristic bluntness, Jefferson had said, "Clint, we must talk, and not on the phone. You'll have to come to Spain."

"You can't be serious, Norman," Randolph had said, thinking his friend was joking. When Jefferson quickly made it clear that he was quite serious, Randolph replied, "Norman, this is a really bad time. I have several important things going on, and I simply can't afford to go to Spain-not right now."

"Believe me, Clint, you can't afford not to. You'll have to take my word for it," had been Jefferson's terse and emphatic response, delivered in a way that implied, "For God's sake, don't question it. Just do it."

 

There had been a long silence while Randolph puzzled over why Jefferson might say such a thing. There were extremely few people whose word Randolph would remotely consider taking on such a matter. But Norman Jefferson was definitely one of those few people. So here he was, headed for Spain, filled with more apprehensive curiosity than he felt comfortable with, lured to a meeting concerning he knew not what.

"Would you like some coffee, sir?" The steward's voice and the tantalizing aroma of fresh, hot coffee interrupted his thoughts.

"Definitely," said Randolph. "But I'll have some in a few minutes, when I return." The worst part of waking up, he thought, was the atrocious taste in your mouth.

Pulling his briefcase from beneath the seat, he removed a small toiletry kit and an electric razor. It felt good to stand up and stretch his legs. As he made his way down the aisle, he felt the airplane tilt beneath his feet. The descent to Madrid had begun.

When he returned to his seat a few minutes later, his hair was neatly combed; his face was clean-shaven; his mouth was filled with a fresh, spearmint taste; his eyes were no longer bloodshot; and, in the air about him, lingered the subtle fragrance of Georgio Armani's after-shave cream.

He caught the steward's eye. "Could I have that coffee now, please?"

"I'm so sorry, sir. I'm afraid it's too late. We'll be landing in a few minutes," said the steward, with a sympathetic expression.

Less than two hours after landing in Madrid, his second flight, Iberia's Flight 13 to Málaga, crossed the mountain range along Spain's southern coast, swung out over the Mediterranean, and back toward the airport on the coast. The airplane's wheels met the runway with little more bounce than a sparrow landing. Moments later, the airplane taxied to the terminal.

Inside the terminal, a cluster of people awaited the arriving passengers. In the front of this cluster, a short, middle-aged man, wearing a well-tailored, black uniform with bright, brass buttons on the jacket, stood stiffly "at attention," watching the passengers file past him. In one hand, he held a chauffeur's cap; in the other, a placard that read, "Mr. Randolph." To every man, even remotely matching the description he had been given-tall, dark-haired, about forty, and American-he raised the placard and called out, "Mister Randolph." As a pair of nuns walked by, the man nodded and bowed almost imperceptibly. Since nuns now looked almost like everyone else, he treated them almost like everyone else. He waved his sign at the man following behind the nuns, although he didn't think he was American.

"Mister Randolph?"

"Yes, I'm Randolph," was the response.

Already looking further down the stream of passengers, the man in uniform, thrown off guard for an instant, hesitated, then quickly regained his composure.

"Welcome to Spain, Mister Randolph," he said, with that blend of Spanish and British accents not uncommon in Spain, where British instructors teach most of the English classes.

Randolph handed over his suitcase, but when the man in uniform reached for his briefcase, he said, "I'll keep the briefcase." Today, there was nothing of importance in the briefcase, but keeping it in his possession was automatic.

"As you wish, sir. Your car is outside. If you will, follow me, please."

A large, silver Mercedes was parked at the curb outside the terminal's entrance. With a practiced flourish, the man in the black uniform opened the rear door and held it for Randolph.

As the Mercedes pulled out into traffic, Randolph leaned forward and said, "Driver, you know my name, but you didn't tell me yours."

"Sorry, Mister Randolph. My name is Alberto. I work for Mister Tashogi."

"Adman Tashogi?" asked Randolph.

"That is correct, sir."

This was surprising and interesting, thought Randolph, but it told him nothing about why he was there. Adman Tashogi was one of the richest men in the world, and it was not remarkable that he and Norman Jefferson would know each other. No use worrying about it. Everything will be cleared up soon enough. He sat back, vowing to relax and enjoy the trip, hopefully without wondering what was so important and so secret that he had to travel five thousand miles to hear it.

Once they left the terminal area, he ran down the heavily tinted window, to have a clear view of the mountains and the countryside. Now, he was truly back in Spain. In Madrid, he had been in Spain, technically; but he had seen nothing but the airport, and the airport was hardly emblematic of the nation. Here in the open, with the mountains looming only a few miles away and the foothills rising just beyond the airport, he could feel the essence of Spain. The cloudless Spanish sky, seen through crisp, dry air, was a profound blue. Randolph recalled a reference to that intensely blue sky, in an ardent poem by Alfonso, the Wise, a sixteenth-century Spanish monarch. But the nagging enigma of his reason for being in Spain cut his reverie short. He raised the window and leaned back, again intent on relaxing.


***

 

With restrained irritation, Moishe Perlman shut the door to his office. He took out his keys and locked it. Every time he looked at his door, it revived his bitterness over the fact that neither his name nor his title appeared on the door. He firmly believed that one of the essential trappings of authority was one's name on one's office door, with a prominence related to one's position. Instead, he was supposed to be content with a modest, readily replaceable, plastic strip on the wall beside the door, identifying him as Moishe Perlman, Minister of Defense.

Today his reaction to the door merely intensified an anger that had been building for hours. At nine-twenty that morning, he had been leaving his office for a nine-thirty appointment with the Prime Minister, when his secretary informed him that the meeting had been delayed and that he was to stand by and wait to be called. It was almost noon, and he had just now been summoned to the Prime Minister's office. Having canceled a luncheon meeting, he would probably end up with no lunch. But he would bet a month's pay that the Prime Minister would enjoy a long, leisurely lunch.

He marched toward the Prime Minister's office. The sound of his leather heels striking the marble floor echoed up and down the hall. He thought he had discovered why the military was so enamored with marching: it stimulated belligerence in the marcher.

The Prime Minister's secretary was coming out of the Prime Minister's office, and, seeing Perlman approaching, held the door for him. He strode into the office, his gait losing its martial sound on the plush carpet.

"I need a response to a memo that I sent you over a month ago. The one about Nanotechnology," Perlman blurted out, without preamble or pleasantries. His measured emphasis on the words "over a month ago," was enough to be noticed, but not quite enough to be unquestionably insolent.

"Yes. I remember that memo," said the Prime Minister, toying with a pen, as he spoke. "When I read it, I had no idea what you were talking about. I assumed that if it were important, you would ask me about it, and then you could explain it to me." He consciously ignored Moishe Perlman's arrogance. The man was good at his job, which was why he had appointed him. He found arrogance more acceptable than incompetence, though Perlman sometimes strained his limits. He sensed that Perlman was going to make him nervous. Lest his habit of playing with his pen be taken as a sign of that nervousness, he opened the center drawer of his desk, dropped the pen into it, and pushed it shut.

"Nanotechnology," began Perlman, wishing he could recall the exact description in the memorandum, "deals with fabrication at the atomic and molecular level. Normally, to manufacture an item, we assemble components of metal, glass, plastic, or whatever. In Nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular engineering, it's the same, except the components are individual atoms and molecules. Current research is limited to microscopic and sub-microscopic items. It will be a long time before anyone produces a worthwhile product, and a much longer time, before they even think about large systems. Theoretically though, with this technology, anyone could manufacture any item, anywhere, simply by loading the proper program and raw materials into something called a replicator. Every item produced would be absolutely identical-completely impossible to distinguish one from another."

The Prime Minister listened intently, nodding occasionally. Perlman paused for a moment. When the Prime Minister asked no questions, he went on.

"In science fiction, there are often devices capable of transmitting objects from one location to another. Presumably, such devices completely analyze the structure of an object, break it into atoms and molecules, then transmit either the atoms and molecules or, more likely, the blueprint of the object's structure to a distant device, which reconstructs the object or creature. Nanotechnology would work similarly, except that countless copies could be made without destroying the original. They wouldn't even need an original, but could work from a design in a computer."

"Are you implying that, with this Nanotechnology, you could duplicate people?"

"Possibly someday, if they can ever generate a complete molecular blueprint for a human being. Right now, scientists would be happy to duplicate a blood cell. As might be expected, they will start with very small and very simple items and gradually increase their scope. Recently, a major breakthrough was achieved," continued Perlman, his tone becoming less condescending and more serious. "One segment of Nanotechnology deals with microscopic devices would that interact with living organisms. Tiny computers in these devices would control them, telling them how to act and what to do, much as the nucleus controls a cell. One scientist has made devices that resemble living cells and are even capable of reproducing themselves, much as living cells do. You could think of such devices as trained germs. Someday, such trained germs, programmed to recognize and kill disease germs or cancer cells, could cure, even completely eliminate most diseases. On the other hand, there could be quite sinister applications. A device designed to act as a smart, dangerous microbe could make people sick or kill them, just as living microbes do. That is the application that interests the Ministry of Defense."

Perlman was still standing. Apparently, the Prime Minister wasn't going to ask him to sit down. That wasn't helping his mood. He sat down, uninvited, in a chair in front of the Prime Minister's desk.

"Let me see if I have it straight," said the Prime Minister, enjoying the intellectual thrill of learning of such a revolutionary new concept, and oblivious of the seating problem. "You are saying that these things are microscopic machines with computers built into them; they resemble germs; they could be programmed to attack real germs or cancer cells; and they could also be programmed to kill. Is that right? So far?"

"Yes, sir," said Perlman. The fool must listen better than he reads. But then he would, with those big, protruding ears and those little, beady eyes. As Ambassador to the United Nations, he had been incompetent; as Prime Minister he was a joke. Only the Americans had a worse leader, in their disgusting Slickwill.

"They reproduce as germs do?" asked the Prime Minister.

"Essentially, they do. More precisely, they build copies of themselves, in a process called replication."

The Prime Minister turned his chair, and stared out the window. He was very tired. Lately, he was always tired. No matter how much he slept, he woke up tired. He knew it was stress, something unavoidable in his job. Outside his window, in Tel Aviv and beyond, millions of Israelis went about their business, oblivious of his problems. Yet, those problems were more theirs than his. When his term was up, the problems would still be theirs, but they would cease to be his. Once he completed his term, he wanted only to enjoy what was left of his life. He would never listen to the news, read a newspaper, or think about politics. In the two years he had been in office, he had expended more worry and stomach acid than anyone should have to use in a lifetime. What a fool he had been to fight tooth and nail, making a superhuman effort, to come from far behind in the polls and get a job that would surely shorten his life.

"What would we use these electronic germs for?" he asked.

"To neutralize our enemies," said Perlman. How much more civilized it sounded to "neutralize" them, rather than to "annihilate" or "slaughter" them. It wasn't really more civilized, of course; it merely sounded that way.

"Could those things distinguish between a Jew and an Arab or a Palestinian?"

"I think not, unfortunately. But, unlike real germs, you could limit their life span by putting clocks or counters in them. Therefore, you could create a deadly epidemic in a region, with 'germs' programmed to die out, actually, shut down, in a few days more than it takes to eliminate the population. After that, it would be perfectly safe to enter the region."

"I assume it is the United States that has these things."

"A scientist-yes, an American, at Yale University-has made devices capable of reproducing themselves. He has even made one that destroys a particular type of bacteria, in a dish. Now, he works on making one to kill the same bacteria in mice. He also works on secret experiments for the American government, to develop devices that kill the mice. At least a dozen laboratories are working on the technology, but as far as we know, this man is the only one who has had any success whatsoever. However, the others could be keeping their progress secret. We have no way of knowing. Israel must have a capability in this technology. Imagine being able to wipe out whole cities, even nations, with the cause untraceable and possibly unknown."

"What about risk to our own people?" asked the Prime Minister.

"There would always be a chance that someone infected with such a device might infect some of our people; but the device would probably already be well along in its life span, meaning that it wouldn't spread very far. We could lose a few people, accidentally. But that seems an acceptable risk, if we can eliminate our enemy, especially if we can do it with no evidence of our involvement."

"Are you suggesting that, through what would appear to be an act of God, the Palestinian situation might cease to exist?"

"I doubt that we could eliminate the Palestinians without losing some Jews. They are too close to us," said Perlman.

"We lose Jews constantly because of the Palestinian problem, do we not? But, about this work at Yale, how do we happen to know about it? Aren't they keeping it secret?"

"We have a contact in an agency of the American government, DARPA. DARPA or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency secretly funds the search for the killer germ. Apparently, no one else at Yale knows about the attempts to develop a device that kills the host animal. The scientist hides that work in his other experiments. Except for the secret work for DARPA, much of his work has been published in scientific journals. He doesn't give the details of how he created the devices; he discusses only the way they function. Since he was recruited by DARPA, he hasn't published anything. It may be that he never thought of his devices as weapons, until he met DARPA."

"So," said the Prime Minister, "the United States government is financing secret work on an electronic germ, programmable to kill people. Naturally, killing mice is only a first step toward killing people. How very interesting. Tell me how we are going to obtain this technology."

"You don't want to know, sir," warned Perlman. "I just wanted to be sure we would use it, before I went to the trouble to get it."

"I was afraid of that," said the Prime Minister, with a sigh. "Why all the hurry, if these things are still in the developmental stage?"

"It is my feeling that the sooner we get it, the better."

"Do you expect me to approve of stealing technology from the Americans, possibly risking the loss of many millions of dollars in aid, just because you have a feeling?"

The Minister of Defense bit his tongue, silently counted to ten, and said, "I would hope that you never approve anything unless it is in the best interest of Israel. However, I would think we definitely want this technology, sooner or later. If this American scientist succeeds in developing a programmable killer germ, the devices and the documentation will immediately be under the heaviest security possible, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to get them. I think we should get what we can, before that happens."

"That does make sense," the Prime Minister admitted, grudgingly. "If we have people capable of working on this, we can't afford not to go ahead. If we sit around and wait, one of the Arab countries may buy the technology, and that could be the end of Israel."

He felt like some evil leader in a sophomoric spy movie, plotting to steal a secret weapon that would give him the power to obliterate great masses of people. And, like those evil stereotypes, he was discussing it as dispassionately as he would discuss whether or not to paint the walls of his office. Another analogy popped into his mind, but he banished it in horror, a chill racking his body-his parents had died in a concentration camp. Was this callous person really he, or was it another being that had grown within him, sharing his body, but quite distinct from the real him that his wife and children knew and loved. For a moment, he wanted to take his body back and be, once again, the idealistic, romantic, feeling person he had been before becoming a politician. The moment and the heroism quickly vanished, and the small, as yet uncorrupted part of him withdrew into silent abeyance and watched in disgust, as the political part resumed control, doing what had to be done. "Do we have the necessary expertise to make use of this technology?"

"We have a few people that we think are qualified and others capable of learning," said Perlman. He had what he wanted, and if he could, he would leave now. But, painfully aware that this cretin, whose only rational act had been to appoint him as Minister of Defense, could easily replace him, he feigned interest in what the man had to say.

"Needless to say, all this has to be top secret. Isn't that right, Moishe?" One good thing about anything being top secret was that there wouldn't be countless political enemies criticizing him for having done it. Maybe the Americans didn't care what their president did, but at least half the people in Israel complained about everything he did, didn't do, might do, or might not do. And no one ever praised anything he did, except his wife, and even that was rare, anymore.

"Absolutely," said Perlman.

"The last thing I want," said the Prime Minister, in his best authoritarian tone, "is one of our agents being caught stealing American secrets. The Americans give us enormous sums of money. We do not want to jeopardize that. If we can't do it without getting caught, we don't do it. Is that perfectly clear?"

"Perfectly. Maybe we can recruit some Chinese spies, and the Americans will just give them the technology."

"They've probably given it to the Chinese already, and you would do well to look for a suitable Chinese Jew to steal it from them," said the Prime Minister, taking advantage of a rare opportunity for a bit of humor. How surprising that his sense of humor hadn't withered away from lack of use. "Barring that, I want to know the entire chain of command, before we make a move. That way, if anything goes wrong, my axe will know where to fall. In the past, we haven't had to worry much about America, but this Slickwill would cut off aid to his grandmother, especially if he could get his hands on the money. Everyone involved is to know that they will be in serious trouble, if they compromise our relations with the Americans. Maybe that will keep things from going wrong."

"Yes, sir," said Perlman, thinking that it could very well keep anything at all from happening. If things did go wrong, the Prime Minister himself might be gone before he could swing his axe. The thought brought a smile to Perlman's face. The mission could be a success, no matter how it turned out.

"I'm sorry to have to chase you away, Moishe," said the Prime Minister, softened by the rare smile he saw on Perlman's face. "I have a luncheon meeting with an Egyptian envoy. God only knows why he is here."

"No problem," said Perlman. "I'm anxious to get some lunch anyway."

 

***

 

 The silver Mercedes sped along the N-340 Autovia, a highway cut into the foothills along the Spanish coast. Around every curve, Randolph confronted another picture from his past, flooding his consciousness with pleasant memories. His old fondness for Spain returned in full force, undiminished by his years of absence.

"I can't believe how much Benalmádena has grown," he said, referring to the town scattered along the coast below them. The typical architecture of white buildings with barrel-tile roofs seemed so appropriate. It complemented the semi-arid landscape in a way that wooden-frame houses with shingled roofs never could. Yet, he couldn't understand why that was so.

"All the coast grows without stopping," said Alberto. He rarely conversed with a passenger, but it would be rude not to respond when spoken too. "Too much, I think. From Málaga to Gibraltar, soon every square meter will be developed."

"In some ways, that is a pity," said Randolph. "When I first came here as a boy, most of what little there was of Benalmádena was up on the side of the mountain. In those days, a trip along the coast was magnificent. In spite of its long and turbulent history, the Costa del Sol was still incredibly pristine. In only two dozen years, developers and tourists have destroyed a quality, which, for over two thousand years, successfully resisted the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Moors, and even the communists. It is still beautiful, but it's a very different beauty. I love natural beauty, and I also love what we call civilization—man adapting to his environment. What a pity that the two are so often incompatible." Nature is never really ugly, he thought, but civilization sometimes-

"I understand what you are saying," he heard Alberto say, truncating his train of thought.

"I was born not far from here in Alhaurin," Alberto continued, "and I've lived all my life on the coast. I have seen many changes. Some good and others bad. Under Franco, everyone complained that we had little liberty and little money, but life was good. Now we have more liberty and more money, but the life is not as good. We have many material things, but we lost something. I don't know what. When Spain became a democracy, everyone believed that we would be like America. Spain is not as I thought it would be. Sometimes I believe we took the worst of America and kept the worst of Spain."

"I understand," said Randolph. It occurred to him that he was using conversation with Alberto as a distraction. "Spain had a perfect opportunity to begin anew with the lessons of history to guide them. Ideally, Spain would have done well to consider what America's founders intended, studied the mistakes we made, and avoided making the same errors. The men who started America were brilliant; their intentions were honorable; and their effort was valiant-the best ever made, in spite of their errors. Since no men had ever been truly free, they had nothing to guide them except their vision and their intellect. Unfortunately, they grossly underestimated the ferocity, the tenacity, and the ingenuity of government; and they overestimated the responsibility, vigilance, and concern of the citizens. Their efforts to limit government were pitifully inadequate and failed miserably. Today much of what remains of the Americans' once legendary freedom exists more in rhetoric than in substance-it is more in their minds than in their lives. Originally, the American people were supposed to be free to do whatever they wanted, as long as they didn't violate anyone else's rights. Little by little, the government usurped that freedom until, today, the government is free to do whatever it pleases, and it routinely violates everyone's rights."

"Understand, Mister Randolph, I love my country, but sometimes I worry about what is happening in Spain."

"Never apologize for worrying about your country's problems," said Randolph. "For some strange reason, many people not only mistakenly think that it's unpatriotic to acknowledge their country's problems, they get angry with anyone who does mention them. You certainly can't resolve a problem that you don't know about or won't admit exists. If there is a problem, it's best to admit it exists, identify it, study it, and do something about it, rather than sit by and wait for death or destruction to occur."

"I agree," said Alberto.

"Furthermore, loving your country absolutely does not mean loving your government, in spite of what the government would like you to believe. The truth is that loving your government is generally the opposite of loving your country. The government is not the country it governs, any more than the referee is the football game he monitors, or the watchdog is the home it guards."

"But we cannot avoid having a government. Can we?"

"Some government may be a necessary evil," said Randolph, "necessary to protect the citizens from each other and from outside attack, and evil because its very existence endangers our liberty. It's like living on an island with no water, and having a nuclear-powered plant to convert seawater to drinking water. Without the nuclear plant you die. Without constant vigilance, the plant that keeps you alive can kill you. It's the same with government. Government is a dangerous tool that we may need to have a safe and orderly society, but we must be constantly vigilant, if we are to keep government from harming us."

"I never thought about these things in such ways," said Alberto. "Someday, I would like to learn what those men tried to do when they started America." Alberto liked Americans. He looked at Randolph in the rear-view mirror. Only an American would discuss such profound matters with a chauffeur.

As they passed through the community of Los Boliches and the highway passed Avenida Acapulco, Randolph caught a glimpse of the apartment building in which his parents lived when they were in Spain. From the archives of his mind, that fleeting view triggered the release of myriad memories of some of the happiest times of his life-eleven carefree summers that he had spent in Spain, between the ages of ten and twenty. These memories temporarily supplanted conversation with Alberto as a distraction.

For very little money, by the then prevailing American standards, his parents had purchased a three-bedroom apartment in Los Boliches. As both his parents were schoolteachers, with three months of summer vacation, the Randolph family had been able to spend every summer in Spain. But once Randolph finished college and started working, the steadily increasing demands on his time decreased the frequency and duration of his visits to Spain.

How ironic, he thought, that the first time he had come to Spain in years, his parents were in Florida. Since their retirement, they ordinarily lived in Spain from April through September. This year, however, the serious illness of an old friend kept them in Florida later than usual. While his parents were in Florida, only forty miles from his West Palm Beach home, he usually saw them at least once a week. While they were in Spain, he never saw them anymore. They were getting older, and the window of opportunity for spending time with them was narrowing. He resolved not to let another summer pass without visiting his parents in Spain.

Randolph stiffened suddenly. His parents lived in Spain. Could this business with Jefferson have something to do with them? Were they in some sort of danger? Anything was possible. But what could they possibly be involved in that couldn't be mentioned on the telephone? It was time to start talking with Alberto again. He glanced at his watch. It was three minutes after ten. With a sigh, he recalled that, as far as his internal clock was concerned, it was three minutes after four in the morning.

 

***

  

Jane Nelson looked at the clock radio on the night table beside her bed. Three minutes after four. She hesitated, then shook her husband.

"Fred, wake up," she said.

"What's the matter?" asked Fred Nelson, groggily. It was dark, except for the red glow of the alarm clock on the bedside table.

"I don't feel good, Fred." She hadn't felt quite right when she arrived home, after a day's work as a secretary, at a small mortgage brokerage office in downtown Fort Lauderdale. As usual, she had set to work cleaning house and preparing dinner. She had finished in two hours, just before Fred came home, exhausted from ten hours of laying concrete blocks. She had gone to bed early, but slept fitfully. Now she was awake and feeling considerably worse.

"Do you want me to take you to the doctor, Honey?" asked Fred dutifully. He looked at the clock. It was 4:04.

"I think so, if you don't mind," she said.

"Of course I don't mind," he said, suddenly realizing that it wasn't anything trivial, if she wanted to go to the doctor. He jumped out of bed and turned on the light in the closet.

Jane sat on the edge of the rumpled bed. In the oblique light from the closet, she looked so incredibly frail. He grabbed a shirt and a pair of pants and pulled them on. "You feel really bad?" he called to her.

"I feel weird," she said. "I don't hurt, but I never felt like this before. Just give me my robe. I don't want to get dressed."

Fred stopped being concerned and became worried. For Jane to go out in a bathrobe, she had to feel terrible. When she tried to stand, her legs buckled and he had to grab her to keep her from falling. An icy bolt of fear shot through him. Tears welled up in his eyes, but wanting to be strong for her, he fought them back. He grabbed her old, blue chenille robe, and helped her into it. Noting how worn and faded it was, he wished he had bought her a new one for her birthday. She wouldn't buy one herself, he knew. To light their way into the hall, he turned on the bedroom light. With one arm around her waist, he took her hand to steady her. They were on their way out the front door when their nineteen-year-old son, Jack, stumbled out of his room.

"What's happening? Where are you going?" asked Jack.

"Your mother doesn't feel good. It's probably nothing, but just in case, I'm taking her to the emergency room and letting them check her out."

"Can I go with you?"

"Can you get dressed in a hurry?"

"Thirty seconds," said Jack, disappearing into his room.

Fred Nelson had helped Jane into their eleven-year-old car and was sliding behind the wheel, when Jack locked the front door of the house, ran to the car and jumped into the back seat.

With traffic almost nonexistent, they traveled rapidly. The eeriness of the deserted streets added to the surrealism intrinsic in such emergencies.

Please, God, don't let anything happen to Jane, Fred said silently. In the rear view mirror, he could see Jack buttoning his shirt.

Eight minutes later, father and son helped Jane Nelson into the Emergency Room entrance to Holy Cross Hospital. The nurse on duty, seeing them supporting her, brought a wheelchair.

"What's the matter, Honey?" asked the nurse, helping Jane into the wheelchair.

"She's feeling strange," said Fred. "She has trouble standing up."

"Do you have insurance?" The nurse knelt and placed Jane's feet on the wheelchair's foot rests.

"Yes," answered Fred.

"You'll have to go down the hall to Admissions-the second door on the left. I'll take care of your wife." She backed the wheelchair through a swinging double door.

Fred was uncomfortable leaving Jane. He wasn't afraid for her. She probably had a bug of some kind. He simply hated leaving her alone in such a threatening environment.

"I'll park the car and come back," said Jack. He couldn't remember anything ever being wrong with his mother. She was always taking care of everyone else. Now she was the one needing care. It seemed outside the province of reality.

 

***

 

Thirty kilometers west of Randolph's parents' Spanish apartment, the silver Mercedes entered the larger and more exclusive town of Marbella. Leaving the Autovia at an off-ramp marked "Puerto Banus," they went downhill through western Marbella toward the sea.

Randolph looked out one side, then the other, taking it all in. It looked as though the growth in Marbella had been less detrimental, perhaps even beneficial.

Once they reached the Mediterranean, they turned right, drove west a short distance, and entered chic Puerto Banus. They proceeded at a crawl, along the drive that divided the Puerto. To their left stretched a row of picturesque, low-rise apartment buildings with the ground floors dedicated to upscale boutiques and numerous restaurants and bars. To the right was a large marina filled with expensive yachts from around the world. Using a car phone, Albert called and told someone they were arriving. When the Mercedes could go no farther, it turned right, and they stopped at an empty boat slip.

"They are coming to pick you up," said Alberto.

Randolph looked out and saw what he estimated to be a forty-foot cabin cruiser heading their way.

A moment later, the boat pulled up to the dock, and two crewmembers quickly tied it to the pilings and laid a gangplank from the boat onto the dock. A tall, slender, black man with short, gray hair, wearing sharply creased, white trousers and a tee shirt with blue and white horizontal stripes, walked down the gangplank and toward the Mercedes.

"Clint," called the tall man, extending his hand, as Randolph stepped out of the Mercedes and into the bright sunlight. "How good to see you again."

"It's good to see you, Norman," said Randolph, shaking his friend's hand. "I wondered what had become of you. I've heard nothing from you since you left Washington. How have you been?"

The two men had met years ago, when Norman Jefferson, then a two-star General at the Pentagon, was in charge of setting up a major computer network for the Department of Defense. Jefferson discovered a young company whose computers were superior to anything else on the market. The then fledgling Randolph Computers was asked to bid on the contract. But even though they offered the best computers and the lowest prices, Randolph Computers did not get the contract. Too young and too small, the bid committee had said. Realizing that what amounted to bribery by the competition had been the real reason, Jefferson had burned with anger. To a true patriot such as Jefferson, sacrificing national security for personal benefit was treason, pure and simple.

Jefferson and Randolph had gotten along well from the beginning. Over the years, they became good friends, keeping in contact by telephone and meeting when an opportunity presented itself. On several occasions, Jefferson attempted to use Randolph's computers. However, Randolph refused to make the required "contributions" to the necessary people. Therefore, the military invariably purchased inferior equipment from more accommodating companies. Jefferson greatly admired Randolph's integrity, realizing that it cost him many millions of dollars.

Jefferson had suppressed his opinions about the rampant corruption connected with military spending, and he consistently did his best in every assignment. After a series of frequent promotions, he became the youngest five-star general in history, and attained the highest military rank possible when he was named the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces. After that promotion, he had tried to make sure that the armed forces bought the best equipment it could, at the best prices. It was impossible to cut out all graft and corruption in the huge military bureaucracy. He concentrated on the most important and the most expensive items, and every success made him powerful enemies.

Jefferson received one final promotion: he was appointed Secretary of State, taking him out of the military, into civilian life. The armed forces immediately ceased buying Randolph's Computers; all unfilled orders were cancelled, and inferior systems were ordered from Spartacus Computers. However, the State Department began purchasing the best computers on the market, until, halfway through his third year as Secretary of State, Jefferson resigned. After his departure, the State Department reverted to their previous policy, very much like that of the armed forces.

"I've never been better, Clint," answered Jefferson. "As you know, my term as Secretary of State was controversial, to say the least. I really think they believed that just because I I’m black, I'd be so grateful for the job that I'd be their boy, and do anything they asked me to do. Well, they had the wrong boy."

"Were they expecting you to do something dishonest or unethical?" asked Randolph, with a smile.

"Are you serious? Once I saw what was really going on behind the scenes in Washington, I tell you, Clint, I was stunned. It truly sickened me. I suddenly realized that the greatest threat to America was its own government, and I was part of it. I knew that there was a lot of self-interest involved in what went on in government, but I always thought that most politicians basically loved their country and wanted what was best for it. Was I ever wrong. Nothing has less influence on political decisions than what is best for America and the Americans. My position became morally untenable. I couldn't just bite my tongue any longer. I charged right in, did what I thought was right, and let the chips fall where they would. Almost immediately I was back in the defense business again. Only, this time, I was defending myself-from the President's cabinet, the media, and every other left wing group or organization in the nation, including both the Republican and Democratic parties."

"You classify both parties as left wing. Are you becoming a libertarian?"

"I don't know if I'm a libertarian or not. But I'm ashamed to admit that not until I was the Secretary of State, did I discover that most of the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is in the eye of the beholder, not in the parties. Really, it is probably in the ear of the beholder, because they do talk a different game. But in what they actually do, they are almost indistinguishable."

"I can't argue with you on that," said Randolph.

"Fortuitously, almost miraculously, someone warned me that the President's entire cabinet was plotting to set me up for a disastrous fall. To this day, I have no idea who warned me. But thanks to whoever it was, I evaded their trap. Still, at every turn I saw public servants screwing the public they were supposed to serve. If I even so much as mentioned it, I was attacked from every quarter. My frustration eventually got the best of me, and all I wanted was out. I wanted to get far away from Washington and get rid of the horrible taste in my mouth. I retired, and, since then, I've been bumming around, visiting some of the people I got to know over the years. I was in south Florida for a few days, last November, but you were out of town. Right now, I'm visiting Adman Tashogi and staying on his boat-should I say ship?" With his right hand, he made a sweeping gesture toward a huge boat moored out in the open water at the entrance of the marina. "What a boat! I believe it's the largest private boat in the world. It's too big to moor in a slip in the marina. The longest slips are a mere fifty meters."

Alberto was standing with Randolph's suitcase in his hand. Jefferson motioned for him to take it on the boat.

"Let's not stand out here in the sun," he said to Randolph. "Come aboard."

"My briefcase is in the car," said Randolph. "I always carry it myself."

"I don't know how well you and Adman know each other," said Jefferson, holding the limousine's door open for Randolph, "but he said that he'd met you, and he was really sorry he wouldn't be here when you arrived. He hopes to see you this evening, when he gets back."

"We met a couple of times and exchanged small talk," said Randolph, retrieving his briefcase. "I believe he comes to Miami occasionally. While I don't really know him, I admire him for what he's accomplished, especially since I understand that he started with next to nothing. I've heard that he's scrupulously honest, which would set him apart even more than his wealth would."

"That's all true. He's a super person, too. The whole family is great," said Jefferson, as they walked onto the waiting boat. "You look well, Clint. Maybe a little tired. Jet lag?"

"You know how you sleep on a plane."

"On Tashogi's plane you would have slept as well as you would at home. It makes a big difference in the way you feel the next day."

"I feel relatively good. But, Norman, you look better than I've seen you in years. Retirement must agree with you."

"I never thought I would, but I love it, Clint. I feel better than I have in years. My ulcer's gone and forgotten. I have time for swimming, walking, relaxing, conversing, thinking, and reading. I've read all of Tom Clancy's books."

"In a way, I envy you having the time for that. I love to read, but only have time for the most necessary items, never for pleasure."

With a grin, Jefferson added, "I do have to admit that once in a while, I'd give anything for a crisis or two. But I'm getting over it."

They quickly reached the huge, gleaming, white yacht trimmed with royal blue and gold. Two large helicopters, also white and trimmed in royal blue and gold, sat on the stern of the yacht. On deck, a crewman, on seeing them arrive, disappeared through a doorway.

As they stepped onto the large boat, Jefferson put his arm around Randolph's shoulder. "Clint, I'm sorry to drag you all the way across the Atlantic, but I have something important to tell you. It was either you coming here or me going there, and I think it's safer with you coming here."

Safer? The implication of danger heightened Randolph's eagerness to hear what Jefferson had to say.

"You may think I'm a little paranoid," said Jefferson, "but my policy is that it's better to be too safe than not safe enough, and, as you can understand, it's impossible to be exactly safe enough."

"You'd make a poor general or politician, if you thought any other way," said Randolph.

"It won't take long to tell you what I got you over here for. Once that's out of the way, we'll run over to one of those sidewalk cafes and have some lunch. But right now, I'd guess that your curiosity is bigger than your appetite."

"Much bigger," said Randolph, thinking what an understatement that was.

Inside, the yacht was even more luxurious and spacious than it had appeared from without. They went through a large salon and down a long corridor, passing several rooms. At a door marked "Library," Jefferson stopped. "I thought this would be the best place," he said.

"I've seen some large yachts, but this is a small cruise ship," said Randolph.

"Like I said, it's the largest private yacht in the world."

Shut in the yacht's library and facing Jefferson across a table, Randolph could wait no longer. "This sounds quite mysterious, Norman. I'm anxious to know what it's all about."

"I understand that, Clint, but I absolutely have to fill you in on some background. Even with the background, what I'm going to tell you may seem incredible. Without some preliminary explanation, it could sound absurd. So please bear with me."

"Okay, Norman. Shoot."

"You don't get to be Secretary of State without being in the Commission on Foreign Relations and, preferably, the Trilateral Council as well."

"I've heard of them. Are you implying that you are or were in both?”

"Affirmative," said Jefferson. "Do you know anything about them?"

"Left wing extremists, favoring an omnipotent, global government." Actually, Randolph knew more, but saw no reason to say more, since Jefferson was surely better informed about the organizations than he was.

"They like any government," said Jefferson, "communist, fascist, democratic, whatever, as long as it is in total control of the people, the industry, and especially the currency, and-this is crucial-they can somehow manipulate it. But put yourself in their place. If you wanted to seize control of the world's automobile industry, would you prefer taking over two hundred widely scattered manufacturers, or a single monopoly?"

"I can see the logic of that," said Randolph. "Are you inferring that the push for a single world government is a business decision?"

"I think every decision they make is a business decision."

"Surely the new world order movement isn't strictly a CFR and Trilateral plan."

"Of course not, there are many others involved. Castro wasn't the only one involved in taking over Cuba, nor was Hitler alone in taking over Germany, and later Europe. The CFR and the Trilaterals are merely the best known and the most pervasive members of a massive, global network of intertwining and interlocking organizations," said Jefferson. "Think of that network as a pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid are thousands of rank and file workers, including politicians, educators, union leaders, journalists, movie stars, demonstrators, et cetera. The majority of these worker bees probably haven't an inkling of the grand scheme they are caught up in. Everyone is in it for his own reasons-his own special interest. The primary glue that links them all together is a belief that an omnipotent government is desirable to force the people to do whatever it is that each individual thinks people ought to do. Everyone struggles to get a more powerful government, but the people at the top control the government, and so enjoy the ever-growing power. The higher you are in the pyramid, the more of an insider you become, meaning the more you influence and capitalize on the activities of those below you. Those near the top are insiders with a capital 'I.'

"If the Insiders do eventually take over the world, most of the people that made it possible will regret it to their dying day. That's exactly what happened in Cuba, and every other place where communism has prevailed."

Randolph nodded. He remembered talking with a few Cubans who helped Castro overthrow Batista. They had no idea what they were putting in Batista's place. When they found out, it was too late. They left Cuba in disgust and shame.

"Toward the top of the pyramid," continued Jefferson, "you'll find the engineers of the master plan, the leaders of the CFR, the Trilateral Council, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and such. At the very apex, supposedly, a group of nine men oversees those beneath them. They are the board of directors, so to speak, attempting with varying success, to impose their will on those in the lower echelons. These nine men and the "upper management," most of which are relatives or employees of the top nine, directly rule the more dominant organizations in the network, and, through their financing and its influence, exercise significant, though hardly total, control over the balance of the pyramid. This explains the otherwise inexplicable cooperation and collusion they achieve. Those in the upper part of the pyramid are some of the wealthiest people on earth. I'm talking about a few dozen families with an aggregate fortune of seventeen figures."

"A trillion dollars or more," said Randolph. "That's impressive."

"It's probably quite a few trillion," said Jefferson.

"I've heard many rumors about much of what you're telling me. It sounds as though I should have paid more attention."

"This is a case of there being smoke, said Jefferson, "and fire. If you're tempted to think I'm exaggerating, don't. It's virtually impossible to exaggerate their power. Nothing is left to chance. The CFR dominates American politics; other western countries have their counterparts; and the Trilateral Council ties them together, coordinating efforts in the US, Europe, Canada, Japan, and Russia. Generally, they don't concern themselves with the day-to-day workings of government, only those activities that can seriously affect their wealth and power. But when it's important to them, they can control almost any function of the government, including the passing, the enforcement, and even the upholding or striking down of laws. Every US president since Calvin Coolidge has been a member of the CFR, although Reagan supposedly resigned his membership before becoming president. That tells you a lot about the differences between Republicans and Democrats. The top positions in the administration, the Supreme Court, the congress, and most government agencies are filled with CFR members. It's easy to see how they can control most governmental activity or inactivity.

"Until recently, the CFR kept the lowest possible profile. The Internet has changed that. After very damning information about them began appearing on the Internet, they started a public relations effort. They even have a radio program, on public radio."

"Naturally, it would be on public radio," said Randolph. "I've never understood how businesses and seemingly sensible individuals could support government media that spews out such obvious anti-business, and anti-liberty propaganda. They do occasionally have a decent cultural program, but, then, even Hitler had some good points. In neither case, would I consider the good qualities redeeming. I had thought that the businesses, especially, must contribute out of ignorance and some sort of misguided public spirit. Now I must consider the possibility that it really is the message they're supporting, rather than the messenger."

"You're getting the picture, Clint. Anyway, the CFR now passes itself off as a think tank. I guess you could call it that. It does control the government's thinking, and it's determined to control the public's thinking. Yet, over ninety-five percent of the American people-the people it manipulates with such disdain-never heard of it. But in government, everyone who's anyone knows about them; because if you get on their shit list, it's close to impossible to get anywhere in government."

"This is sickening, Norman. If they have the government in their power, and the government has us in its power. That puts us in their power."

"Now you have got it," said Jefferson. "They're not all in the government either. You'll find them running some of America's largest companies-probably the ones that most support public radio and TV. In many ways, the worst of all is that they're running and ruining the educational system, and, through it, creating a future populace conditioned to accept the new-age feudalism they want to impose on the world. Benefits for supporting businesses include preferential legislation and policy, advance information on coming government actions, strategic data on competitors and enemies, and, to some extent, immunity from prosecution. The higher you are in the pyramid, the more you benefit, meaning the more you can get away with. They looked at you a few years ago, Clint, but your philosophy was as wrong as it could possibly be. I believe that Jerry Osgood and Everett Perkins made an exploratory call on you."

"I did talk with them," said Randolph. "But they never mentioned any of this. When they left, I couldn't figure out why they'd been there."

"Once they saw where you stood, they weren't about to say anything to you."

"Norman, I trust you implicitly, but the influence you say these people have on our government sounds incredible," said Randolph.

"It was precisely because all this is so counter to conventional wisdom, that I felt I had to cover it. But apparently, it's not registering. Listen again, Clint. I'm not telling you that they influence the government's economic policy; I'm telling you that they control economic policy, and, if necessary, they control other policies. Since the government is riddled with them, their stamp is on everything, but when they flex their muscles and take full control, it's something really big, and it generally involves economics.

"What do you mean by 'really big? Give me an example."

"Well," said Jefferson, "how about the establishment of the Federal Reserve Bank; the sixteenth amendment to the Constitution, which gave us the income tax; the abandonment of the gold standard, and more recently silver; the fall of the Berlin Wall; the apparent collapse of communism; the Gulf War and every other armed intervention by the US and the UN; the GATT treaty; and the North American Free Trade Agreement, establishment of the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. Are those big enough for you?"

"They'll do, Norman," said Randolph. "It's hard to believe that a single group of people brought about all those events. But, of course, someone is behind everything. Everything starts as an idea in the mind of one person. These people are obviously extremely good at getting their ideas implemented." Randolph was essentially thinking out loud, talking to himself as much as to Jefferson.

"They finance all the environmental groups, and, therefore, control them. None is too weird for them. Quite wisely, they spotted the environmental movement as something no one can oppose without being vulnerable to accusations of being against clean air and water. They adopted the idea and made it a movement, adapting it to their purposes. They picked up global warming from some fruitcake and gave it a propaganda blitz. They magnify everyone's worst dreams about environmental Armageddon. Now they're using the movement and the eco-whackos to push for global environmental treaties, which will set precedents for more and more treaties in other areas. They don't give a damn about the environment. It's merely a tool for power grabs. Some, like Maurice Lobrau, a power behind the UN throne for years, see it as an excuse for reducing the world's population to two billion. Only he and God know what his real reason is for wanting to kill off over four billion people. Personally, I think he's completely and dangerously insane.

"But the environmental treaties are a major threat because of the Supremacy Clause in the US constitution, which says a treaty becomes the Supreme law of the land, taking precedent over the constitution itself. Push through a few seemingly innocuous global environmental treaties to get your foot in the door, and ramp it up from there. In a generation, two at most, there'll be global treaties on everything imaginable. Everyone, except a few people like you and me, will think it's normal for the UN to have total control over America and every other country. I don't have to tell you who controls the UN. If you read the fine print in existing treaties, the UN could just about take over America now. They're afraid to exercise that authority, until the American people are ready to accept it-meaning, until they're disarmed. Maurice Lobrau has said publicly that it's the UN's responsibility to bring about the collapse of the industrialized civilizations, in order to save the planet. How does it strike you that in a few years he or someone like him may reign over the US?"

"It strikes me as repugnant and frightening," said Randolph, with a shudder. "The tiny spark of freedom that remains in the United States is the only hope for escaping the type of Brave New World that Huxley and Orwell predicted. If the US goes completely over to sub-human socialism, the entire world is doomed. Every human being, except the select group running things, will be no better than a farm animal or a beast of burden. If all these incredible things are true, these men are the embodiment of evil, and they pose an inconceivable threat to the entire world."

"It's all true," said Jefferson. "And you're certainly right to call them evil. They're an aristocratic Mafia."

"What they're doing is far worse than anything the Mafia does."

"They're also the epitome of inside traders. Since they essentially own the Federal Reserve, they know which way it will drive the stock market, and when. They can make billions on every major swing. They also have advance knowledge of everything the government does. They use legislation to transfer money from the outsiders to themselves, the insiders."

"It looks as though everything they do puts someone else's money in their pockets."

"Exactly," said Jefferson. "Yet their greatest tool may be the wealth they merely control: the government's money. Controlling wealth can be as good as owning it, because you can use it to accomplish your goals. They are even becoming adept at controlling money while the people still have it. Consider forcing businesses to hire people that otherwise couldn't get or hold a job. That's a vote-purchasing scheme that shrewdly bypasses taxation. Someday, we'll have to talk about controlling wealth without taking it, because it's the reason for more of what goes on in government than you could ever believe possible."

"Try me. I might believe it."

"We can get into that another time. I brought you here for something more pressing."

"Believe me, Norman. I'm positively dying to hear what all these terrible things have to do with what you brought me here for," said Randolph, with complete sincerity.

"These people are dedicated to expanding the government's power, because the government's power is their power. At the same time, they want to guarantee themselves perpetual control of the government. The US Constitution has been a major obstacle to both of those goals. They've been chipping away at the Constitution, for years, hoping to eventually abolish it. Through controlled education, they're creating a populace that knows next to nothing about the Constitution-perhaps less than nothing, since what they do 'know' about it probably isn't true. The second amendment alone is sufficient reason for a new constitution, as far as these people are concerned. Lately, in their gun control drive, or their gun confiscation drive, they're trying to repeal the second amendment. So far, they only have a handful of the most liberal bootlickers and mindless followers on that bandwagon, but, throughout history, a lot of horrible things have started with similar support. Any new constitution will lock them in forever and give them the totalitarian government they want. They've dumbed down the population enough to get anything by a majority of them. Already, there's a call for a constitutional convention well under way, and it's been approved by about half the states."

"I haven't heard about a constitutional convention," said Randolph. "And I read a lot."

"You don't read the right things," said Jefferson. "The mainstream American media damn sure won't mention it, not until it's a fait accompli. I really shouldn't speak of the 'American' media, but the 'un-American' media. Most of our media is about as un-American as it can be. Most people in the media would suffer eternal torture rather than see the people control the government, instead of the government controlling the people. As far as I know, the Internet is the only place you can find anything about it, even though twenty-three states have signed on. But very few people are going to search on 'constitutional convention.' Besides, they're calling it a Conference of the States, to obscure its purpose. Even so, it's a major legislative effort, essentially in secret. Over three-quarters of the states are involved to some extent. If you find out who's pushing this in the various states, you'll have identified some of your enemies. I don't think anyone but a core conspirator would be involved in anything so subversive to conventional American values. If they do manage to put it over, most of the American people won't have the slightest idea of what hit them. Given the current level of political sophistication in the country, it'll make taking candy from a baby look like climbing Mount Everest in a wheelchair. Not only will the majority vote away every freedom they ever had, without batting an eye, they'll never know they did it."

"Unfortunately," said Randolph, "the minority that understands what's going on will be enslaved right along with the dupes and the morons."

"We're almost there, Clint. Bear with me a minute more. There isn't time to cover their strategy to stifle independence. But it is important to what I'm getting to. I'll just say that it's complex; it's deeply entrenched; and it's extremely effective. Basically, their strategy is to keep as many people as possible content, ignorant, distracted, and totally dependent, while they surreptitiously siphon off their wealth. The key words are "ignorant" and "dependent." The last thing these people want is any glorification of independence or knowledge. Of course, they'll never say that. To hear them talk, they're always dying to improve education, but the more they 'improve' it, the worse it gets. The educators are, however, achieving precisely what is planned for them to achieve: an ignorant, dependent, apathetic populace. Dependence and ignorance. Ideally, the public would be completely ignorant about freedom; the founding fathers’ America, with all the restrictions on the federal government; individual rights and liberty; and what is really taking place behind the scenes in America. Teach people the minimum required for them to make a taxable income. Anything after that is indoctrination. Do you see where I'm going?"

"I can see your direction. You're painting a very ugly picture, Norman."

"Well, Clint, that ugly picture is the background. From here on, it's all about how this affects you, personally."

Randolph took a deep breath. At last he was going to hear the point of all this. It was going to be bad; bad with a capital 'B.' "I'm as ready as I'll ever be, Norman. Let's have it."

 

 


 

CHAPTER 2

TUESDAY - DAY 1

THE UPSHOT

 

 

"Someone pretty high up in the CFR decided that you, Clinton Randolph, pose a potential threat to their plans," said Jefferson.

"That's ridiculous," said Randolph. "I didn't even know what their plans were, until now."

"Starting from scratch, you single-handedly created several of the largest businesses in the country. You own all your businesses outright, with no shareholders or partners. Even with the government fighting you every step of the way with confiscatory taxes and crippling regulations, you managed to make it big, very big. As far as anyone knows, you are, by far, the wealthiest individual in the world. The top insider families went to a lot of trouble to keep that from happening."

"Why should they mind my being wealthy? Aren't they all rich?"

"Are they ever. In their personal fortunes, they may have only token amounts. But for them, token amounts may be quite a few millions. Their big money is in trusts and foundations."

"Yeah, I've heard that," said Randolph.

"Early in the twentieth century, while the wealthiest and most powerful families were working on consolidating their positions, they began thinking that they would like to pull the ladder up behind them, keeping out the riff-raff. There was no income tax and anyone willing to do whatever it took could get rich. To shut newcomers out, they would have to make it more difficult, hopefully impossible for them to acquire great fortunes. That they would devise such a plan and attempt to implement it tells you a lot about them. That they successfully implemented their plan, tells you a lot about their power."

"I'm getting the impression that these Insiders, as you call them, see themselves as a form of royalty, and everyone else as a commoner," said Randolph. "The global political system they hope to impose on the world is nothing but feudalism, as you called it before. The global government fills the role of an emperor or a king, while the top Insiders are a secret royalty. The leaders are the power behind the throne, and their supporters hope to be a hierarchy of lesser nobility. The only things missing are the titles, Duke, Count, Marquis, and so on."

"I've never thought of it that way, Clint, but there is a correlation there."

"You know how I feel about my money, Norman. I enjoy having money, and I enjoy creating wealth. It's satisfying to know that my ideas and my efforts are worth a lot of money to my customers. But, I'm much the same person I was when I didn't have any money. I haven't changed my lifestyle that much. True, I never have to think about money as a necessity. No matter what I want, I can easily afford it. But I don't wallow in luxury. I never worried about not having money, nor did I worry about having too much-until now."

"I've always been impressed by how unpretentious you were, and how simply you live, Clint, considering how you could live. It should be inconceivable that anyone should ever have to worry about having made too much money. But when it comes to these people, most of what they do should be inconceivable."

"Sorry to interrupt, Norman. Continue."

"Sure, some people managed to get really rich in spite of the efforts to prevent it. But, think how many Americans might have gotten rich and how much better off every single honest citizen would be, if the government hadn't been working to hold people back.

"Every American obviously suffers from the actions of these people and the government," said Randolph, "although probably few realize it. Ninety-nine out of a hundred would say that none of these things affect them. The truth is that their standard of living could be much higher than it is, with no additional effort on their part, were they not being robbed, whether they realize it or not."

"Reagan's so-called tax reform put a crimp in their plans, cutting the highest percentage of confiscation, to twenty-eight percent. Even though it removed most deductions and actually raised the tax bite on the middle class, its reduction for the high producers started the greatest surge in prosperity ever seen. Because prosperity generally means an expansion of the middle class, it also turned the Insiders against Reagan, and they set the media against him. I'm truly surprised they didn't eliminate Reagan. Perhaps they thought it would be wiser just to undo the damage he did. Notice that the next presidents quickly increased taxes again. Slickwill raised taxes more than any US president in history, but he spread it more evenly over the middle class. He only jacked the top rate up to thirty-eight percent."

"I wondered about that," said Randolph. "It seemed like a change in policy."

"I think there was some change in policy, and I must admit that I don't know what they're up to. But we’re off on a tangent. Even if some people did get rich, no one approached the big boys, until you came along. Had you thought like them, they might not have minded your success, and would probably have invited you to join them. But, not only are you unlike them, you're against everything they're for. You put a high value on integrity. You are the epitome of independence. You are learned and brilliant. You make a natural role model for countless entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs, who, in turn, can influence still others, and so on. Your success contradicts the propaganda that nothing can be accomplished without the help of government. That counters their years of effort to convince people that the only intelligent decision they are capable of making is to periodically elect someone to make all their other decisions for them. Everyone is supposed to need the government to make sure they eat the right things, read the right things, think the right things, learn the right things, know the right things, buy the right things, and so on and on and on and on.

"What if you turned to politics, Clint, like a few other rich men, which you could buy and sell with your petty cash? Which brings us to what I think worries them more than anything else about you: you are a Libertarian. Had you been a Republican or a Democrat, they might have merely hated you. But as a Libertarian, you are potentially very dangerous. Were you to throw your money behind the Libertarian Party, they might become serious contenders. As it is now, the Insiders don't have to waste massive amounts on Democratic or Republican candidates, because both are on their side. They just spend enough to buy loyalty. They generally don't give a damn which one gets in."

"I take most of the apparent competition between Republicans and Democrats with a grain of salt," said Randolph.

"But," said Jefferson, "a Libertarian government would be another story, entirely. A major Libertarian victory would put the government back where it belongs, as a servant of the people. No longer would people work four or five hours a day for the benefit of the government. Overnight, the bureaucrats and the CFR, along with all its allies and subsidiaries, would be out of business."

"For them to be the power behind the throne, there must be a throne," said Randolph.

"Absolutely. The Insiders would lose scores of billions in direct annual income, billions more from the loss of insider information and influence, in addition to losing control over trillions of dollars of the citizen's money."

"I may be a Libertarian," said Randolph, "but I'm hardly an activist. Sure, I vote Libertarian, simply because I believe that voting any other way is idiotic, even masochistic. I donate money to the Libertarians too, but not much. From the way this is shaping up, Norman, I don't think I'm going to like what you're going to tell me, one bit."

"I didn't think you would, Clint." Jefferson leaned across the table toward Randolph. He was obviously distraught by what he was about to say. "Now, brace yourself for the punch line-the reason I had to get you over here."

Randolph took a deep breath, and braced himself. He had been impatient to hear this. But the buildup had convinced him that he was about to get some really terrible news. "I'm braced, Norman. Let's have it."

"The CFR's leadership has appointed a three-man committee to come up with a strategy for eliminating you as threat. You can be sure that whatever the CFR's executives eventually decide to do will be done. There will be no way to stop it. I only hope you can benefit from this advance warning."

Randolph sat motionless, as Jefferson's words sank in. If this is true, it's bad-extremely bad. "Norman, you seem to be telling me that these megalomaniacs are set on destroying me, and there is no way to prevent it. Is that what you're saying?"

"Yes, they are set on destroying you--at least bring you down a lot--and I seriously doubt that there is anything you can do to prevent it, short of killing enough of them to shut them down."

"That's an idea. If all else fails," said Randolph, grimly. He stood up and walked around the room. "You're a member of both these organizations, Norman, yet, you're telling me this?"

"Come on, Clint. You know how I think, and you know I don't subscribe to any of their crap. I joined to help my career, the way some people join their local country club to get ahead in business. These people turn my stomach, but the way I looked at it, they were going to do their dirty work, whether I was a member or not. I knew I'd be better off on the inside, knowing what they're up to, than on the outside wondering what was going on. If I weren't on the inside, you'd have had no warning at all. Think of that. I consider you my friend, Clint, and I wasn't about to just stand by and let them destroy you-not if I could help it."

"Thanks, Norman. I've long considered you my friend too," said Randolph. "Thank you for warning me. I didn't mean it that way. I was concerned that you might be putting yourself at risk, by warning me?"

"If you don't tell anyone that I told you," said Jefferson, "I don't see how they could ever know. This boat is checked for bugs regularly. This room is soundproof, and there are no windows to use a laser microphone on. You and I have been friends for many years, and we always get together, whenever we get the chance. Our meeting shouldn't look suspicious. If they overheard our telephone conversation the other day, they might suspect something, but I doubt that they did. I certainly hope not."

You mentioned David Crocker. Who are some of the other principal characters in this plot?"

"The entire Ruffson clan is up there at the top. Some people in the know think Baron Nathan Ruffson is the number one man in the network, although it might be David Crocker. In the US, names like Morgen, Sheff, Wartburg, Alldrich, Harraman, and Bowen come to mind. In other countries, there are more Wartburgs, Hambors, Bering, Mattiolini, Abst, Rosenblum, Hinkel, Hartbern, Borachov, and Lobrau. These are only a few. Oh yes, George Plant. No women anywhere near the top, as far as I know. They're a very chauvinistic bunch."

"President Plant?" asked Randolph.

"None other. He's not up there with the Crockers and the Ruffsons, but he's in on some things, like political strategy. As for people like Slickwill and his cabinet, the Supreme Court justices, and the like, they're worker bees. On things of major interest to the Insiders, they merely implement policy. Well, Clint, now that you've heard what I had to say, I think you'll agree that I was right in telling you that you couldn't afford not to come to Spain."

"You were absolutely right, Norman," said Randolph. Shaking both fists in the air, he growled. "You've known me for a long time, Norman. You know I'm not a violent person."

"You are one of the least violent people I've ever known."

"Right now, I'm feeling extremely violent. I would enjoy seeing those CFR vermin stamped out like the bunch of cockroaches that they are. My God, this is infuriating. Yet, even as I burn with anger, it's chilling to realize that such powerful adversaries are out to get me. You make them sound like financial and political supermen that rule the world. I'm just one man. A very angry one, but only one."

"I understand your anger, Clint. But you have to think of them as a very dangerous, virtually omnipotent business competitor. Anger will be counterproductive."

"Don't worry. I'm well aware of that, Norm. I'll get a grip on it. But if I don't fume for a while, I'll explode." He stomped around the room for a moment, walked back to his chair, and sat down again. "On the way here, I tried to imagine what you could possibly have to tell me. Believe me, I could never have dreamed up anything this bizarre. These people are beasts straight out of Hell, with the intention of destroying everything that is good and beautiful in mankind. Any rational person with an infinitesimal speck of personal morality and integrity, regardless of any religious beliefs they may or may not have, would be recoiled by the pure, unmitigated evil of these people."

"Sounds like you've got them calibrated, Clint," said Jefferson. "And I only gave you a brief overview. You know how it is with the federal government's budget: no one human being could ever begin to know everything that's in it. These people are doing so many horrible things that no one person could ever begin to be aware of all of them. That's another aspect of their overall strategy. They lay siege to our freedom in thousands of individual attacks. Almost no one would ever believe that all these seemingly unrelated assaults are actually elements of a coordinated onslaught."

"It's easy to understand why most people would find it hard to believe that anyone could have the gonads to undertake such a monstrous scheme," said Randolph. "But, with enough 'worker bees,' as you call them, you can accomplish anything. Enough ants can consume an elephant. Hell, enough bacteria can eat an elephant-and often have, I'm sure." His mind was racing. All this was impossible to confirm. He had to assume it to be true, unless he could somehow find credible evidence to the contrary. And that was almost certainly impossible. "It would be bad enough," he continued, "to have enemies that I can fight, but you're telling me I have an enemy that I can't fight."

"It may not be impossible, Clint-don't we always say that nothing is. But fighting these people is as close to impossible as you can get."

"Your revelations put many things in a new light, Norman. Suddenly, things that seemed to defy reason make sense. I've wondered, for example, why it is that when the minority party becomes the majority party, it does the same things it opposed when the other party was doing them; why so-called conservative congressmen vote away our freedoms, just as readily as avowed socialists do; why the government constantly grows, no matter who's in office; why the government does such idiotic things; why the simple fact that something is the right thing to do never seems to carry any weight with any politician; how anyone in their right mind can countenance, much less defend continually paying the same proven incompetents to educate our young people; why is it that almost no one in mainstream television or radio seems to have any sense or morals at all; why is it that every celebrity the media heaps praise or attention on is, essentially, a Marxist?

"Suddenly, I can see clear logical answers to these questions and a great many more I'm sure. It must be a lot like Copernicus' theory that the planets revolved around the sun. No one wanted to believe that the earth wasn't the center of the universe, but in light of Copernicus' theory, a lot of puzzling things about the solar system suddenly made sense. And, obviously, the fact that most people didn't want to believe it didn't affect its being true. Today, no one wants to believe in a conspiracy to rule the world, but it is amazingly consistent with a great many otherwise puzzling observations. Now, as then, the fact that no one wants to believe in the conspiracy won't cancel its existence. To tell the truth, the fact that the vast majority of the people won't believe it almost confirms its existence. I always say that if everybody agrees with me, I must be wrong."

"The most discouraging thing for me," said Jefferson, "is that they are gaining ground every day, and nothing can stop them. They attack on so many fronts that it's impossible to think about all of them, even if you knew about them. What I know of them makes me want to cry, and yet, I'm sure that they're much worse than I know about."

"Even more discouraging," said Randolph, "is the fact that most people, if they were told what was going on, wouldn't believe it, and even worse, if they did believe it wouldn't care, or might even think it beneficial. When you began explaining about the Insiders, I saw them as a major conspiracy, which I suppose they are. But, the members of most groups, especially political groups, are conspirators, are they not? The Democrats conspire to defeat the Republicans; the Republicans conspire to defeat the Democrats; the NAACP and BAAL conspire to further their agendas; the Christian Coalition conspires to further theirs; and so on, for every group you can think of. There are millions of overt conspiracies active at any given instant, and probably just as many covert ones. The word 'conspiracy,' like a great many other words, has been so perverted, that it's practically useless in public discourse. When the media uses 'conspiracy,' they usually mean to infer something that exists only in the minds of the paranoid, meaning that if you believe in any conspiracy whatsoever, you must be paranoid. Who could be responsible for this semantic perversion, and why would they do it? Common sense says it has to be the conspirators, and they even have the power to change the English language."

"I told you they were worse than I knew that they were," said Jefferson, with a grin.

"Any time anyone openly suspects a major conspiracy, such as the Insiders behind the CFR and the rest of the Network, I'm sure every propaganda technique available is used to belittle the suspicions. If a given conspiracy theory were truly without basis, few people would waste time or money refuting it. For instance, who would waste time or money refuting the arguments of the Flat Earth Society? The mere fact that people bother to refute a conspiracy theory at all lends credence to it. If they make a major effort to refute one, they essentially verify its existence. I've heard a lot of seemingly normal, intelligent people who ridiculed even the idea of a conspiracy-any conspiracy whatsoever. Even without knowledge of any conspiracy, I immediately lower my estimation of those people. History is rife with conspiracies. I see no reason to deem them extinct."

"As long as there are people, there will be conspiracies of every caliber," said Jefferson. "Anybody who says otherwise is either an idiot or a conspirator."

"Your big boys and their lieutenants may conspire much more effectively than most groups, but, in theory, they aren't all that different. In practice, I'm sure they are terribly successful-'terribly' being chillingly appropriate in this instance. They may have the American populace brainwashed to a degree approaching hypnosis. Unfortunately, the doctrine of majority rule makes no concessions for a hypnotized majority. On the contrary, it handsomely rewards those who manage to mesmerize the majority. Moreover, it's not merely the countless billions of dollars of taxpayer's money that they've spent brainwashing and 'dumbing-down' the public, but the generations they've been at it. Conceivably, it could take just as long to reverse the damage and turn their victims into rational, mature human beings. At any rate, time is surely too short to even consider conventional political opposition. Without some major epiphany, it could take decades of honest education and truthful, unbiased news coverage to create an informed and rational public, without which, victory could be elusive."

"I'd say your assessment is dead on, Clint."

"I'm only putting them in perspective, as to their being one conspiracy among many. As to my assessment of them, I'll stick with what I said before about them being the embodiment of evil. The more I've learned about them, the more evil I believe they are. In fact, I can't think of any individual or group that approaches them in pure evil. And I include Hitler, Genghis Kahn, and any other examples of evil-even excluding their thoughts of annihilating four billion people, I feel that way. What they are doing to the living is worse than killing them. In order to make the people more manageable, they are attempting to repeal evolution and turn men back into animals. They not only want to strip away every liberty, they intend to take away the people's humanity."

"Everything they do, they do essentially unopposed. Nearly everyone with any significant power is on their side. Those who aren't are targets, or will be," said Jefferson. "They ruthlessly destroy any serious opposition. Personally, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes. My advice would be to concentrate on saving your ass, and put your wealth and your businesses second."

"Right now, I don't have the slightest idea what I'll do or try to do, Norman. It's going to take a lot of thought, and some inspiration would come in handy. I don't want to be in these particular shoes either, but I am. Thanks to you, I have some time to try and come up with a defense. I only wish I knew what they have in mind."

"I don't think you have to worry about them killing you."

"It's about time you gave me some good news," Randolph said, with a wry smile.

"My guess is that they'll use the power of the government, perhaps to cripple you economically and probably destroy your image in the process. They could even put you in prison on some fabricated charge, using falsified evidence. You could probably come up with better ideas about that than I could. Since I'm no longer in a position of power, I'm not privy to nearly as much as I once was. It was strictly by chance that I heard about their plans for you, and I may or may not hear any more. If I should hear anything at all, I'll let you know."

An antique clock, in the center of one of the bookshelves, softly chimed twelve times, interrupting them. Randolph thought that, on balance, he was relieved. The news had been extremely bad, worse than he could have imagined. But the problem was identified, and a solution was theoretically possible.

The stark mission of their meeting was accomplished. At the moment, there was nothing either of them could do about the problem. As morning turned into afternoon, they turned into two friends who had not seen each other for some time, and their conversation turned to personal matters.

After they had chatted a while, Jefferson said, "Why don't we get some lunch?"

The launch took them ashore. They strolled over to a sidewalk cafe, and, over a leisurely lunch, continued their catching up.

"There's no flight from Madrid to Miami until tomorrow," said Jefferson, as the waiter brought them two glasses of Duque de Alba brandy. Why don't you stay here tonight, Clint? We can have some time together, and you can see Tashogi."

"I'd truly love to," said Randolph, "but I want to be in Paris by eleven tomorrow morning to catch the Concorde to New York. I'd need to find a flight from Málaga to Paris early tomorrow morning. I'm sure you realize that I can't help being preoccupied with my newfound problems. I don't have even a vague idea about where to start. My mind keeps churning through what little I know about my situation, even while I'm talking. Unless I come up with some kind of an idea, some starting point, it will be hard to think about anything else."

"I'd be amazed if it were any other way," said Jefferson. "There's a travel agency a few doors down. Let's see what they can do for you. If you can stay over, I can fill you in a little more on the Commission on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Council. Not only that, but if you were seen at dinner tonight with Tashogi, your visit with me could have been incidental to your 'visit' to Tashogi. Know what I mean?"

"You know I'm interested in finding out more about these monsters," said Randolph. "Furthermore, if it will make things safer for you, I'll stay over, no matter what. But I would be happier, knowing that I had an early flight from Málaga to Paris."

 

***

 

 

 To Fred Nelson and his son, Jack, it seemed that they had been in the waiting room for a very long time, but the clock contradicted their judgment. Even so, Fred had learned the entire waiting room. He knew every detail of the bland, watercolor prints in stainless steel frames; the bent bamboo sofa and chairs, with textured beige upholstery; the tightly woven, dark green carpet; and the usual handful of tattered magazines. The doctors were running tests; there was nothing to do but wait for the results.

"Your mother's a strong woman," said Fred. "I don't know anyone who's been so healthy. She hardly ever gets a cold. I'm sure it's nothing serious." His declaration was as much to convince himself as it was for Jack's benefit. When they had left the house, Fred had believed that Jane probably had some kind of flu. That seemed unlikely now, but he still refused to let himself consider the possibility that her condition might be serious.

"I hope so," said Jack.

A young woman came into the room. Recognizing her as the person he had talked to in the Insurance Office, Fred stood up.

"Mr. Nelson," said the young woman, "do you know Mrs. Nelson's social security number? You left it blank on the form."

"Hello, Sharon," said Jack Nelson. "I didn't know you worked here."

"Hi, Jack. Is Mrs. Nelson your mother?"

"Yes."

"I hope everything turns out okay, Jack. Do you know the number, Mr. Nelson?"

"No. I haven't the slightest idea."

"Don't worry about it. I'll get it from the insurance company," she said. "I'll see you, Jack. I have to get back."

"How do you happen to know her?" asked Fred Nelson, when they were alone.

"From AUF. She's been in a few classes with me," said Jack. "She's a pretty smart girl."

"Very pretty too," said Fred. The words came automatically, spoken just to be saying something.

A man came in, looked around, and said, "Mr. Nelson."

"Yes," said Fred, everything in him praying for some good news.

"I'm Doctor Barker. Your wife seems to have an aneurysm, commonly known as a brain hemorrhage. In order to determine what action needs to be taken, we are going to run a CAT-scan to see how bad it is and exactly where it is."

"What does this mean?" asked Fred Nelson. "You can fix it can't you?"

"Your wife's situation is critical, Mr. Nelson. Just how critical we'll know after we run the scan and analyze the results. Probably thirty or forty minutes. But an aneurysm of this type is extremely serious. A blood vessel has burst in her head, and blood is seeping into her brain. It will certainly need surgery, and it's a very delicate operation. Not every surgeon is qualified to address this condition. I really must go. I'll be back as soon as we finish the scan and see the results."

Father and son were quiet, each with his own thoughts, concerns, and hopes about Jane Nelson. After a while, Fred stood up. "I guess I should call your Uncle Max and tell him what's going on."

Twenty minutes later, Jane's brother, Max Carson, burst into the waiting room. Fred told him nothing had changed since he'd talked to him on the telephone. Max sat down and joined them in their vigil.

Finally, the doctor returned.

"Mr. Nelson," he said.

"Yes," said Fred. All three men sprang to their feet.

"We've reviewed the results of the scan, and your wife definitely has an aneurysm."

"Will she be all right, doctor?" asked Fred Nelson, his voice strained by his anguish.

"We're trying to find a doctor that can perform the operation. It's in a very difficult spot, and there isn't a lot of time. We are contacting everyone we can. We should find someone shortly. Until then, there's nothing we can do. I'll let you know the moment we locate someone." With that, the doctor left abruptly.

A few minutes later, Sharon, from the Insurance Office, came into the waiting room.

"I'm through for the night," she said. "I had to work half an hour over, because the day girl showed up late. Is there any news about Mrs. Nelson?"

"She has an aneurysm," said Jack. "They're looking for a doctor to operate."

Sharon looked around. "I probably shouldn't tell you this," she said, almost whispering, "and, if anyone asks, please don't tell them I did. The nearest place that there are specialists for Mrs. Nelson's condition is in Gainesville, at Shands. We asked her HMO if they would cover flying her there in an air ambulance and the operation at Shands; they said no. Without going there, or someplace like it, her chances are slim, at best. At least that's what I heard the doctors say. Could you pay for it on your own?"

"How much is it?" asked Fred Nelson.

"It might run more, but I think they're talking about around thirty thousand."

"Can it be paid on time?" asked Fred.

"I don't know about Shands' policy, but I'd guess you could make some arrangements. You may as well try for as long as you can get. And if you don't pay it on time, what can they do except ruin your credit. But first, you need for the doctor to recommend it. Since it was what he wanted to do, that should be easy. Ask him what he can recommend as the best possible treatment. If he doesn't mention Shands, tell him you talked to a friend who had a relative who went there for the same problem."

"How can we find the doctor?" asked Jack.

"Go to the nurses’ station, and ask them to page him."

"Let's go, Dad," said Jack. "Thanks a million, Sharon."

"I hope it works out okay," said Sharon.

"I'll go with you," said Max Carson. "Don't worry, Fred; I'll help you pay for it. We'll manage."

 

***

 

 In Boca Raton, Florida, at almost nine o'clock in the morning, a meticulously restored, Prussian blue, 1967 Triumph Spitfire turned off broad and busy Mayato Road, into the entrance to the Atlantic University of Florida. On this ideal Florida morning, the Triumph's top was appropriately down. Being twenty-one, blonde, slender, good-looking, and clean-shaven, Jeremy Worth, the young man behind the wheel, was well suited for the car. But his neat, stylish clothes, shined shoes, and short, wind-tousled hair made him pleasantly noticeable, even remarkable on a contemporary, American college campus.

Jeremy glanced at his watch. He would be lucky to make it to class on time today. While it wouldn't impair his learning to be a few minutes late, Doctor Glass was a fanatic about punctuality, and, in a borderline situation, the instructor's personal feelings about a student could affect the decision on whether to round up or round down a letter grade. Jeremy had left his home in nearby Fort Lauderdale several minutes later than usual, and, as everyone knows from experience, that is enough to assure that every traffic light will be red and every driver over seventy-five will scurry to pull in front of you and slow down. Still, he might just barely make it to his nine o'clock class. He pulled into a parking space and jumped out over the door, not even pulling the tonneau cover over the steering wheel. Being on time was more important than keeping the black leather seat from being either unbearably hot or soaking wet when he came back. He sprinted to the Science Building, and raced up the single flight of stairs, two stairs at a time. Quietly opening the classroom door, he slipped into a seat near the door. Doctor Glass was still calling the roll.

"Tuttleman," called Doctor Glass.

"Here," said Clifford Tuttleman.

"Worth," said Doctor Glass.

"Here," said Jeremy. He'd made it, thanks to the roll being called in alphabetical order, and his name being the last one.

The roll call completed, Doctor Glass began to erase the blackboard at the front of the room. "I hope you all remember your Hilbert Transforms, because we'll be using them in this next section."

A low, collective moan filled the classroom. Jeremy made no sound, but began racking his brain to recall the Hilbert Transform.

Apparently assuming that some students would not remember, Doctor Glass continued, "As you will recall, this is the form of the Hilbert Transform." He proceeded to demonstrate.

When, near the end of the class, Doctor Glass was assigning homework problems and everyone was gathering up their books, Sarah, the secretary of the Mathematics Department, quietly entered the classroom. Jeremy, sitting beside the door, looked up at her. Sarah was a slight woman, around fifty, with delicate features and walnut-colored hair. She stopped at Jeremy's desk. "Jeremy, can you come outside with me for a minute," she whispered to him.

"Sure," said Jeremy, picking up his books and following her outside. He noticed that she wasn't smiling, which was unusual. Jeremy had always liked Sarah, partly because he thought she had to have been uncommonly attractive when she was younger, but mostly because she was always smiling and so pleasant that he often wondered if she even had a temper to lose.

Out in the breezeway, she put her hand on his arm. "Jeremy, your father is sick. They said to tell you he'll be all right, and his condition is stable. He had a heart attack, and they took him to the hospital. Remember, they said he'll be okay."

Jeremy turned pale, and leaned against the wall.

"Thank you, Sarah," he said, weakly. "I'll leave right away. Did they say which hospital?"

Afraid he would pass out, she gripped his arm. "Are you all right, Jeremy? Maybe someone had better drive you."

"No I'll be all right. It-it just came as such a shock." Straightening up, he began to regain some of his color.

"I'm so sorry," she said. "I didn't know any way to break it gently. Your father's in intensive care, at Holy Cross Hospital, in Fort Lauderdale. Do you know where that is?"

"Yes, I know where it is."

He started toward the stairs, then turned and called to her, "Would you please tell Doctor MacRae for me?"

"Of course," she said. "I hope your father gets well soon, Jeremy."

"Thank you, Sarah," he called, as he disappeared down the stairs. The loud clanging of a bell signaled the end of the nine o'clock period. Students poured out of the classroom doors.

Sarah made her way through the milling students, back to the Math Department's office, where Doctor MacRae was standing by the coffee maker, pouring a cup of coffee and talking to one of the instructors.

"Doctor MacRae," she said.

"Yes, Sarah." Doctor MacRae, a burly, redheaded, red-bearded, Scotsman, was the head of the Department of Mathematics, and he was Jeremy Worth's faculty advisor.

"Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Sure," he said, leading her into his office. "What is it, Sarah?"

"It's Jeremy Worth. I just took him out of Combinatorial Analysis. His father had a heart attack, and is in intensive care. Jeremy wanted me to tell you that he'd left the campus."

"Oh no," said MacRae. "What a shame. Shouldn't someone have taken him to the hospital? He'll be so upset; he might have an accident. Tomorrow, we could be visiting him in the hospital."

"I asked him if he wanted someone to drive him, and he said no. The first thing I told him was that his father's condition is stable and they said he would be okay. Hopefully, he won't be as worried, knowing that."

"Thank heaven," said MacRae, with a sigh. "Let's hope that's the case."

After Sarah left his office, Doctor MacRae sat quietly for a moment, and then he picked up the telephone to call home. His wife, Elsa, had stayed home with a cold today; he wanted to see how she felt, and to tell her about Jeremy. Although Elsa had never met Jeremy, she had heard quite a bit about him. He hesitated and put the telephone down, deciding to drive home instead. He had three hours before his next class, and he was in no mood for office hours. He locked his office, walked to the faculty parking area, got in his car, and drove away.

Doctor MacRae lived a few miles north of Boca Raton, in Delray Beach. Even though he and Elsa very much valued their time, they so loved the small town atmosphere of Delray Beach that they considered living there well worth the extra ten or fifteen minutes, each way.

After he exited I-95 at Atlantic Boulevard, and approached downtown Delray Beach, he noticed, with a twinge of sadness, a large lot being cleared for construction. He and Elsa were painfully aware that everything they liked about Delray, as it was abbreviated locally, was slowly vanishing. Delray was on the northern edge of an urban sprawl that reached north from Florida City, just above the Florida Keys, to Boca Raton. Greater West Palm Beach, to the north, was growing rapidly, both northward and southward. In between these spreading urban areas, were the two communities of Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, where residents clung desperately to a small town lifestyle, which had about the same prospects as an ailing octogenarian. Within twenty years, the entire southeastern coast of Florida would undoubtedly be one massive metropolitan area, he thought.

A few blocks from the Intracoastal Waterway, he couldn't help noticing a building, bedecked with colorful bunting and balloons. As he passed it, he saw it was a grand opening of a new bank.

 

Drawn by Delray Beach's rapid growth, the Sunshine State Bank, the fastest growing bank in Florida, had, just over an hour ago, opened its newest branch. Leonard Fisher, the president and sole shareholder of Sunshine State Bank, was there for the grand opening. Fisher felt very good about the way things were going for him. Twenty years ago, he had acquired a small, failing bank, turned it around, and made it eminently successful. Happy with the results of this strategy, he repeated it again and again. This new bank was his twenty-eighth. All the Sunshine State banks were exceptionally prosperous, as was Leonard Fisher.

Fisher greeted every person who came through the door, telling them to be sure to stop by the bank's Coffee Bar for free coffee and donuts. Most other banks have six or eight desks on the floor, with only two or three of them ever occupied at any one time. Fisher's banks had four desks, all occupied, a few tables and chairs, and a Coffee Bar. A few years ago, Fisher had negotiated with the John Valdez coffee chain for a special franchise that let him put a John Valdez booth in every Sunshine State Bank. Everyone doing business at the bank received a token good for a free beverage-coffee, tea, or hot chocolate-and a free donut. Anyone could drop in and get the same offer for a dollar, or, if they had an account at the bank, fifty cents. The booths also sold the same bulk coffee and coffee paraphernalia that were available in all the John Valdez Coffee stores across the country. The coffee and donuts served three purposes: attracting new customers, thanking existing customers, and making money.

Initially, the people at John Valdez hadn't thought much of Fisher's idea, and they had insisted on a number of guarantees, before agreeing to it. When these booths outperformed some of the John Valdez stores in malls, the company wanted to put booths in other banks, but during the negotiations for the guarantees to protect themselves, they conceded a few things, which, at the time, they considered of little or no value. Now they found they required Fisher's permission to put booths in any banks other than his. Thus far, Fisher hadn't given that permission.

 

***

 

Jeremy Worth parked his car and ran into Holy Cross Hospital. He stopped briefly at the Information Desk to ask how to get to Intensive Care. On the way to the elevator, he passed Fred and Jack Nelson and Max Carson. Jack Nelson registered with Jeremy as someone he vaguely remembered seeing at AUF. The young man and the two older men looked so sad that Jeremy wondered if they had lost someone. He took the elevator to the third floor, and headed down the corridor. When he entered the waiting room, his mother stood up, making an obvious effort to look brave.

"How's Dad?" he asked, putting his arms around her.

"They think he'll be all right. His doctor called in another doctor, and they're reviewing your father's tests. When they finish, they'll let us know." She sat down again, and clasped her hands together.

"What happened?" asked Jeremy, sitting beside her.

"He went to work, just like any other day," she said. "About nine-thirty, Ginger called and said he'd collapsed on the shop floor, and they'd called 911. The ambulance brought him here. Thank God that the shop is only ten or twelve blocks from the hospital, and they got him here quickly enough to save him. Ben's here; he came in the ambulance. He just left a minute ago, to call the shop and tell everybody what's going on."

The door to the waiting room opened, and Jeremy and Mrs. Worth looked up expectantly, to see Ben Carpenter returning.

"Hello, Jeremy," said Ben Carpenter, putting a hand on Jeremy's shoulder. "Still no word?" he asked, looking at Mrs. Worth.

"Nothing," said Mrs. Worth.

"I suppose no news is good news," said Ben, dropping into a chair. Ben Carpenter was only six years older than Jeremy. Twelve years ago, as a skinny, fifteen-year-old, he had walked into the Worth Machine Shop, asking for work. It turned out that his father had recently died, and his mother was hard pressed to support her four children. Ben wanted to help. Mr. Worth felt sorry for him, and gave him a job cleaning up the shop every day after school. Ben was bright, hardworking, and learned quickly. By the time he graduated from high school, he was ready to work full time as a machinist. Over the years, he had worked his way up to second in command. Mr. Worth had been like a father to him, and Ben idolized him.

Mrs. Worth jumped to her feet, as Doctor Rudel entered the waiting room. "It appears that there's been no serious damage," he said. "We're optimistic about his chances for a full recovery. Unless something unforeseen happens, he should be out of intensive care tomorrow, and go home in another two or three days. He can probably be out and about in a few days, and we encourage a certain amount of exercise. He won't be going back to work for some time though-not if you want to keep him around. We'd like to see him stay home for three to six months. Remember that it's still early and our prognosis could change. But, at the moment, that's the way we see it. If there's any change, we'll let you know."

"Can we see him, Doctor?" asked Mrs. Worth.

"He's asleep now and he'll probably sleep for several hours. You should be able to see him in a few hours."

When the doctor left, Mrs. Worth began to cry. Jeremy put his arm around her and tried to console her. "I'm just so glad he's going to live," she sobbed. "I was so afraid."

"I'd better get back to the shop," said Ben, affected by Mrs. Worth's display of emotion. "There's nobody there to handle things."

"Thank you so much, Ben," said Mrs. Worth.

"No one could help anybody more than Mr. Worth helped me. I'm glad to do anything I can for him. I just wish it wasn't under these circumstances."

"I'm sure he knows that and appreciates it," said Mrs. Worth.

 

***

 

 Well satisfied with the opening day of his new bank, Leonard Fisher drove south on I-95, on his way home. In Fort Lauderdale, he took the Commercial Boulevard off-ramp and drove east to Bayview Drive, where he turned south. He was listening to a local news station and thinking that they rarely had anything good to report. As he turned onto Intracoastal Drive and saw his house, half a block away, the newscaster began talking about a new law concerning banks. Fisher turned up the volume, pulled into his driveway, and sat listening to the report.

The announcer was saying, "...and the new fee is being imposed on banks, in order to build up the Federal Deposit Insurance reserves. Senator Winter, the bill's co-sponsor, said this new fee is necessary to assure the FDIC's ability to guarantee protection to depositors. To make sure the fee is assessed fairly, the rate will be indexed to a bank's profitability. The most profitable banks will pay a higher percentage, and less profitable banks will pay less. According to Senator Winter, this was essential for the protection of marginal banks, which serve the poor in depressed areas."

"I can't believe it," cried Fisher. "They're either idiots or crooks?" He switched off the ignition and leaned his head against his hands on the steering wheel. "They're damned sure not idiots," he groaned.

 

***

 

 "What's happening with Kit?" asked Fred Nelson, breaking nearly half an hour of silence, since the last nervous exchange. Fred, Jack, and Max had flown to Gainesville, with Jane, in the air ambulance. They sat huddled in the waiting room at Shands Memorial Hospital, waiting for her to come out of surgery, where she had been for almost four hours.

"His court martial should begin any day now," answered Max Carson. Kirby "Kit" Carson, Max and Jane's younger brother, had made international news recently, when he had refused to wear a UN patch on his uniform. With four purple hearts, a Bronze Star, two silver stars, two distinguished service crosses, and the Congressional Medal of Honor, he was the most decorated soldier on active duty. Not even a reprimand on his record, and he was about to be court-martialed for not wanting to break his oath of allegiance, by serving a foreign power.

"Jane's been real worried about him lately," said Fred. "I wonder if that could have brought on her aneurysm."

"You'll never know, but it damned sure didn't do her any good," said Max.

A doctor entered the waiting room; he hadn't removed his surgical mask, merely slipped it down, under his chin.

"Mr. Nelson, I'm Doctor Wilcox. Your wife is in the recovery room. The aneurysm has been corrected. We can't say yet how she's going to come out. If she had gotten here sooner, I would feel a lot better. As it stands now, I would say that her condition is critical. She won't be conscious for some time, but you can see her shortly, if you like. All we can do is wait and see."

"Thank you, Doctor Wilcox," said Fred Nelson, not even trying to hold back his tears. "What are her chances?"

"I would say that she's certainly on the best side of fifty-fifty. A little longer getting her here and you would surely have lost her," said the doctor. "A nurse will come for you, shortly. I have to get back. I have another surgery in a few minutes."

Fred Nelson embraced his son, then his brother-in-law. All three pairs of eyes were wet.

"All we can do is wait," said Fred Nelson. "Jane is a strong person. She'll pull through. I'm glad that I didn't tell her about the house; she would have worried about that, and the worry could have affected her." He had promised the hospital that he would sell his house to pay the bill. "What good would the house be without Jane, anyway?" He had done a lot of thinking today, about things that should have been said and done, but weren't, and things that were said and done, but shouldn't have been. From now on, things would be different; he would be different.

"You can always get another house," said Max.

Fred looked at him and nodded, mentally adding the rest of the statement: he could never get another Jane.

"I've got a vacancy coming up next month," said Max. "If you want, you can move into it. You don't have to pay me."

"I couldn't do that," said Fred. "You and Matilda work your butts off, making payments on those apartments. I know you need all the rent you can get."

"You could pay that part of the mortgage," said Max.

"We'll see, Max. Thanks. Thanks a lot."

 

***

 

 In New York City, on opposing corners of the intersection of Park Avenue and 68th Street, are the New York offices of the CFR and a large suite of offices used by the Russians for trade purposes-so they say. On the top floor of the New World Bank Building, conveniently located just up Park Avenue, the New World Bank's chairman, David Crocker, greeted the two top officers of Spartacus Computers: John LaGrange, the president, and Walter Evans, the Chairman of the Board.

"Have a seat, gentlemen," said David Crocker.

David Crocker was the leader of the Crocker family and the Crocker dynasty, as some called it. Besides being chairman of New World Bank, he was Chairman of General Oil Corporation; de facto emperor of the Commission on Foreign Relations, the CFR, and the Trilateral Council, which he had founded; and a director of several dozen major companies. Through enough layers of isolation to make everything legal, he also managed the immense fortune of the Crocker family. Actually, that fortune was so immense and so intricately structured that no one, not even Crocker himself, could determine, with any precision, how much the Crockers were worth. The Crocker fortune was, of course, far beyond the ability of the entire family to ever spend, even if that were their only task in life. Yet, David Crocker worked assiduously at making it grow, for the Crocker billions represented far more than a family fortune. The Crockers' money, in unison with several other major fortunes, essentially formed a vast treasury, surpassing that of any country on earth. That treasury financed two principal projects: first, an audacious and highly successful effort to make itself grow; and, second, the formation of an international, multi-trillion-dollar super treasury to finance the establishment of a world government through which the Crockers and all their fellow insider families would assure themselves of even higher positions of power and influence, forever.

"What did you want to see us about, David?" asked Evans.

"Spartacus," said Crocker. "I'm very unhappy with the performance these last two years. What's wrong, Walter?"

"Our main problem is Randolph Computers," said Evans. "We introduce a new line, and they bring out a better one. We haven't had a chance against them. It's been a string of bad luck."

"Come on, Walter. You have a captive market in every governmental unit in the country, and still you can't compete. Does Spartacus need some new blood?"

Evans and LaGrange stiffened at the question. Crocker's New World Bank and its subsidiaries owned a significant portion of Spartacus' stock, and the Crocker Foundation owned an enormous block. Moreover, New World Bank had extended a great deal of credit to Spartacus. When David Crocker spoke, Spartacus listened, intently.

"I don't think that will be necessary," said Evans. He considered mentioning that their inside track with the government made them number one, as long as the government bought the lion's share of computers. Little by little, the share purchased by the private sector had grown rapidly, dwarfing the government’s purchases. But Crocker might take that as making an excuse for failure; not that it was, of course.

"Please tell me why it won't be necessary, Walter."

"Because I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get an edge on Randolph Computers, and I do mean whatever it takes."

"You'd better get started doing whatever it takes soon. If you don't do something, I will."

"John and I will take care of it. I assure you," said Evans. "Won't we John?"

"Absolutely," said LaGrange. "Clinton Randolph needs some slowing down, anyway." LaGrange was surprised to see Crocker talk so harshly to Evans, given what he understood to be Evans' standing in the CFR and in the Trilateral Council. But, he reasoned, Crocker wasn't where he was because he was soft.

Evans had sponsored LaGrange for CFR membership, for which he would be eternally grateful. Membership in the Trilateral Council might be forthcoming; Evans had hinted at that. LaGrange's ultimate dream was to join the Illuminati-a secret organization, founded in Italy some nine hundred years ago and, after waning into obscurity, revived on May 1, 1776, by Adam Weishaupt. Weishaupt was a Jesuit priest, turned anti-religious by the Pope's dissolution and banning of the Jesuit order in 1773, because of their widespread political activities. All Illuminati members had an alias, and Adam Weishaupt was better known by his: Spartacus Weishaupt. The Illuminati was reputedly responsible for the founding and the early growth of the Communist Party. Evans hadn't actually said that he was a member of the Illuminati, but as he had confided that he had named his company after Spartacus Weishaupt, LaGrange guessed that he must be a member.

"I agree that Randolph needs to be slowed down, at the very least," said Crocker. "But, surely, he doesn't design and build his computers, himself. He hires people to do that, and he manages them. You should be able to do that, too, Walter."

"Randolph doesn't have a union to contend with," said LaGrange. "That's a major difference."

"Why is it that you have a union, and he doesn't, John?" asked Crocker.

"I don't rightly know," said LaGrange. "Our workers organized, and his didn't. Also, we are a lot more compassionate than Randolph."

"Maybe you should look closer at what he does, and try doing it yourself," said Crocker.

"Actually, we are announcing a complete new product line tomorrow," said LaGrange, in a calculated, off-hand manner. "It's the best thing we've ever done. I think it will be hard for Randolph to top it."

"Let's hope you're right," said Crocker. "Randolph seems to dominate every field he enters. If he keeps on expanding, he'll eventually dominate everything in the country. Such a concentration of power and wealth is unhealthy."

"That's true," said Evans, sensing that this was a point of particular interest for Crocker. And how hypocritical of Crocker to say that a concentration of power and wealth was unhealthy. Mentally registering this new information, he continued, "Randolph needs to be stopped before that happens."

"Well," said Crocker, pushing his chair back from his desk, "get out there and stop him."

"Yes, sir," said Evans, standing. The meeting was over. It was time for them to go.

Once he had hustled Evans and LaGrange out the door, Crocker opened his desk drawer and pulled out a notebook, opened it to a tab labeled "MEDIA," and picked up his telephone to call those on the list found there. The first line of the list read: Paul Phipps - ABS.

 

A short time later, in the Manhattan office of the American Broadcasting System, ABS, Richard Crutchfield, vice-president of News, pressed the button on his intercom. "Yes," he said.

"Mr. Phipps is on line one," said his administrative assistant, Terry Bentley.

"Thanks, Terry," said Crutchfield. "Hello, Mr. Phipps. What can I do for you?" Paul Phipps, the CEO of ABS, was Crutchfield's boss.

"About that new banking fee that was announced today, are you covering it?"

"Yes, sir. I understand there'll be a brief reference to it at six and eleven"

"We want to make sure it comes across as being done because of the growth in deposits, and that its purpose is to protect the people. Also, if you mention that the fee is based on profitability, be sure to say that the reason is to keep marginal banks from pulling out of the poorer parts of cities and depriving less fortunate citizens of local banking. And, be sure and take care of it yourself. This isn't just any news story. Understand?"

"Yes, Mr. Phipps."

"I'll catch Hell if you drop the ball on this one, and if I catch Hell, you can guess what you'll catch."

"I'll see to it, sir," said Crutchfield. Phipps demanded unquestioning loyalty; therefore, if Phipps wanted it, so did he. He regarded Phipps with a blend of admiration and envy. If he reached his goals, someday he would be as well connected as Phipps. It didn't get much better than that. But Crutchfield also knew that Phipps' connections were a direct result of his control of ABS, with its ability to sway millions of voters. Take that away and Phipps would be just another nice guy, not worth knowing.

"Also, no editorializing on this," said Phipps. "The analysts and commentators should just leave it alone. Got that? No follow-ups either. I'm not asking you not to cover it, just use it to show the administration is taking care of business and looking out for the disenfranchised."

"Yes, sir." Crutchfield guessed that this new law must be important in the scheme of things, and what the public thought or didn't think about it must be important too. He figured there weren't many people from which Paul Phipps could catch Hell. It must be the President or the CFR brass intervening directly. He couldn't understand what could be so important about this new fee, but he had faith in his superiors, when it came to political strategy.

"That's all," said Phipps. "We have to do what we can to put things in perspective for the people. Keep up the good work, Crutchfield." He hung up.

Crutchfield looked at his watch and sighed. The six o'clock news would air in eighteen minutes. He went to the door. "Terry can you come here?"

"Yes, sir."

"Bring your pad."

On the way to his desk, he said, "This is going to be a change for tonight's six o'clock script." On his computer, he punched up the current script and read it quickly. He dictated a new script about the bank fee. "Enter that and get it into the system immediately. When you're done, come back. We need to distribute a position paper on this subject."

"Yes, sir."

"Thanks, Terry," he called to her, as she left. He could have entered the script himself, in the same time it took to dictate it. But one had to keep one's image in mind.

As Terry left, Crutchfield called Bill Baxter, the producer of the Six O'clock News program. "Bill, Crutchfield here. I've got Terry entering a change on the new bank fee script. I just wanted you to know. There wasn't time to go through you."

"What's the change, Dick?"

"Not much, just a little rewording to emphasize that it was done for the public good and to show the rate method was strictly to help the ghettos to keep their banks."

"Okay. By the way, did you see the education special yesterday?" asked Baxter.

"Yes, I did," said Crutchfield, although he had seen only part of the beginning, the middle, and the end, less than a quarter of the program. "It was excellent. Wouldn't it be nice if more worthwhile things were like education, in that no one dares to say anything against it?"

"I sometimes wonder if there's any limit to what can be gotten away with in the name of education. It's even better than the environment. I don't think there's anything that you could do to kids, that, given enough time to work on public opinion, not only could you get away with it, you could make people think it was wonderful."

"That's an interesting thought," said Crutchfield. "It sounds ridiculous, but if you had told my grandfather that the schools could ever be the way they are today, he would have had you committed. And he could have, since he was a judge."

"We were joking about this the other day, trying to come up with the most farfetched thing we could think of that we thought could be sold to the public. Carla Weston topped everyone, when she suggested sex labs, with the students actually having sex."

"Surely you don't think you could get acceptance for that?"

"We all think it could be done," said Baxter. "It would take several years, but we could do it."

"I wonder about you, Baxter. Fortunately, I know you wouldn't use the power of the press to instill anything so perverted in the minds of the public. Our job is to make sure the people know what is best for them, and protect them from themselves. While we do use fictitious statistics and studies from time to time, we don't make them up. That would be unethical. We find someone else to say what we want said, and then we merely report that they said it. Furthermore, we never discuss the truthfulness of what they said. We only report that they said it. We never attest to the truth of anything. We only use false 'facts' for a good cause, and that's what's important. The end justifies the means. We have so many important messages to get across. Let's see if we can get general acceptance for them. Okay? Why don't you have your group put its talents into getting the second amendment repealed?"

"It was just a hypothetical issue anyway, Dick. In reality, I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. My God, if we got the public to buy it, it would soon be mandatory in the schools. I damn sure wouldn't want my kids having sex in school. We might be able to brainwash everyone else, but we can't brainwash ourselves, even if we wanted to. It was just something we tossed around, for fun. But it is satisfying to think that we could manipulate public values enough to put something like that across."

"That's true," said Crutchfield. "Keep that attitude. Someday, we may need to sell a particularly difficult concept to the people. You never know."

 

***

 

Bob Adams pulled into the large circular driveway of his home. Three workmen were putting the finishing touches on his new sprinkler system. As he got out of his car, the foreman walked toward him.

"Hello, Mr. Adams," said the foreman. "We're almost ready for a final test, before putting the sod back. Maybe another fifteen minutes."

"I'll change and come back out." Adams walked toward the front door. His wife, Betty, heard the door and stuck her head out of the kitchen to see who had come in.

"Hi. You really did come home early," she said, giving him a kiss.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Right now, I'm making a casserole for tonight. Why? Did you have something in mind?"

"No. Not right now, anyway. I'm going to change and go check the sprinklers." Looking out the front window, he watched a blue Ford van driving very slowly by. "I just wanted to make sure you weren't doing too much. You have to rest for two, you know."

"How could I forget," she smiled. Tapping her protruding belly, she added, "I have a constant reminder right in front of me, wherever I go."

"I don't think I'll be long. They said they'd be ready in about fifteen minutes," he said, heading toward the bedroom.

Even though she sometimes complained about his constant concern, she appreciated it. They had married six years ago, shortly after he got out of the Army, postponing children until his marketing business got off the ground and they thought they could afford and properly care for a child. His business had done well, and eight months ago, they bought a house in the relatively expensive Coral Ridge area of Fort Lauderdale. When they moved into the new house, they decided it was time to have a child. She was seven months pregnant with their first child.

Adams watched as the sprinklers were cycled on and off a few times and seemed to work well. With a few minor adjustments, they covered the lawn completely.

"We just have to fill the trenches and replace the sod," said the foreman, "and we'll be all done. It won't take long."

"Just let me know," said, Bob Adams, "and I'll give you a check."

Just as he turned to go in, he saw a blue Ford van go by. It looked like the same one he had seen earlier. This one had one all-black tire and one white-walled tire and a bent antenna. He got his checkbook from his briefcase and sat in an easy chair, next to the window, watching the men laying the sod.

A few minutes later, he noticed the blue van ease slowly by and pull over and stop, two houses down the street. He went to his den and came back with a pair of binoculars. It was the same van. He wrote down the license plate number. He could clearly see the driver, who had a gold ring in his left nostril, another in his ear, and tattoos on his arm. He kept looking toward the Adams' house and talking to his passenger. Finally, they drove away.

Adams put down the binoculars. One bad thing about living in an expensive neighborhood is that you signal that you have money, especially if you spruce up your place, making it stand out a little. Perhaps he was being paranoid, but his instincts told him the men in the blue van were up to no good. Four years as a military police officer had made him uncommonly mindful of what went on around him, especially anything suspicious. In his opinion, the two men in the blue van looked as though they were casing his house. Living in this neighborhood, he should have a gun. It wouldn't be just the two of them any longer. The baby would be there before he knew it.

He called around and found a nearby store that had a regulation .45 caliber pistol. If he were going to buy a pistol, he wanted the gun that he knew, the gun that he could break down and reassemble with his eyes closed, and the gun that he had been a marksman with.

After he paid the foreman for the sprinkler system, he went into the kitchen. "How long before dinner?"

"Close to an hour."

"I'm going to run out to a store for a few minutes. I'll be back for dinner. The place is less than ten blocks away."

He drove to "Firearms Plus," a large gun dealer.

"Hello," he said to a clerk, behind the counter. "I called about a regulation forty-five caliber sidearm."

"Yes, sir," said the clerk. He led Adams a few feet down the counter. He opened a door behind the counter and removed a pistol and placed it on the counter in front of Adams.

Adams picked it up, checked it out, and said, "I'll take it."

"There's a five-day waiting period," said the clerk.

"Five days? Is that a state law?"

"State law is three days. Most counties have gone to five."

"I think a couple of scroungy guys are casing my house and my wife is seven months pregnant. I was a military police officer for four years, and now I can't protect my home. For some reason, I don't have much confidence that the police will do much to protect me."

"The government seems more interested in protecting the criminals," said the clerk. "They even protect them from their victims. If you did get a gun and shot a burglar, they would probably electrocute you. On the other hand, if the burglar shot you, he'd be out in a couple of years-if they ever caught him, and he didn't get off on a technicality."

"It's discouraging, isn't it?"

"Sure is. Do you still want the gun?"

"Yes."

"Fill out these papers, and pay eight dollars for a background check. The five days are five working days, meaning a week."

"It figures."

On the way home, he got angry all over again. Damned government. I'll sleep a lot better, once I have a gun in the house. After the Magellan presentation, Thursday, I'll see about getting an alarm system.


CHAPTER 3

WEDNESDAY - DAY 2

 

 

The Concorde leveled off after its ascent from Paris and raced toward New York City, at nearly 1400 miles an hour. Clinton Randolph sipped his Manhattan, oblivious of his speed and his surroundings. Thanks to the several hours he had spent with Norman Jefferson, while they waited for Adman Tashogi, he knew a little more about his new enemies. Under almost any other circumstances, the evening with Jefferson and Tashogi would have been pleasant, even fascinating. But Randolph had been so preoccupied with his problem that he occasionally had to force himself to maintain an interest in the conversation. Yet, on the way to Paris, he had forced himself to deal with some other business. He wanted to push this new problem from his mind for a while. He felt that was necessary if he were going to approach it with a clear, objective mind. Now, free of distractions, in the tranquility of the Concorde, he would seriously contemplate his situation.

He leaned back and closed his eyes to shut out visual stimulation. His first task, he decided, was to clearly state the problem. He took out his pocket notebook and wrote out the problem as he saw it. The CFR wanted him out of the way. They had the United States government, a most efficient and virtually omnipotent instrument of coercion that they could use against him. He had no idea what their strategy might be. If he waited until he knew, it could very well be too late. If he waited until it was too late, he could only lose. To be sure of winning, he must develop a strategy that would work, no matter what the CFR decided to do; and he had to implement his strategy, or at least have it prepared, before he knew what they were going to do, whenever that was.

So there was the problem. Usually, he would then sort facts from opinions. In this case, that couldn't be done. There were no confirmed facts, only assumed facts. Now the solution. He sat for half an hour without a trace of an idea. He swore under his breath. He had to come up with some sort of an idea-even a bad one. With difficulty, he suppressed the urge to consider ways to get back at them. He couldn't waste time thinking about getting even, at least not until he had resolved the immediate problem. He needed every cell in his brain and his entire being focused on this problem. This would surely be the most difficult problem he would ever encounter. God help him if he ever had a worse one. Never, had he felt so inadequate. Did an acceptable solution exist, and, if a solution existed, could he find it? Solving a problem with no more information than he had was like driving blindfolded through a minefield. There was a deadline for finding a solution and implementing it, but there was no way to know how much time he had. He had to assume the deadline was upon him and act accordingly. He could feel his mind straining to come up with something-no matter how ridiculous. He could take out contracts on the CFR's leaders. That would be effective. While it wasn't compatible with his moral standards, it was an idea, so he wrote it down. "Physically eliminate opponents." He had thought that Machiavelli had been wrong when he said that times would come when it was necessary to set aside our morality, or lose. Was this such a time? Hopefully, an equally effective, yet morally acceptable idea would supersede this first one. If not. Well, it would be self-defense."

 

***

 

Michael Keller paused in front of The Magyar Computer Store, in downtown Budapest. Perhaps they had a CD on Hungary. He would much rather have a CD than a book; and it would occupy much less space in his already overfilled suitcase.

Inside the store, he found a shelf of CD's and was browsing through the few with English titles, when a clerk approached him. The clerk spoke no English, and the few words of Hungarian that Keller had picked up proved useless. He had already discovered that his phrase book didn't have a single technical term. Fortunately, another client overheard them and said, "Maybe I can help."

"You're an American." Keller was pleasantly surprised. This was the first American he had met in the four days he had been in Hungary, although he had encountered numerous Hungarians who spoke varying amounts of English.

It turned out that there was a CD on Hungary, but it was in Hungarian. Nothing in English.

"Thanks, anyway," said Keller.

"Glad to be of help," said the stranger. "Are you visiting, or do you work here?"

"Just visiting." said Keller. "My paternal grandparents were Hungarian, and I always wanted to see Hungary. With the Iron Curtain gone, there wasn't much of an excuse not to."

"How do you like it?"

"I like it very much. If I understood Hungarian, I'd enjoy it a lot more. But it was hardly worth learning the language for a two-week visit."

"It isn't the easiest language in the world, either," said the stranger. "Do you work with computers in the States?"

"I'm a software engineer, with AP&P," said Keller. "Lately, I've been doing WinDose applications."

"I worked for MicroShaft for years," said the stranger. "I worked on several versions of WinDose and started on the current version. I quit and came over here and set myself up as a consultant." He looked at his watch. "I have an appointment this afternoon. If I'm not careful, I won't have time for lunch."

"I don't want to hold you up, but maybe you could recommend some places to eat.

"Why don't you join me for lunch? I can tell you about some places that you might not see otherwise. I don't meet many Americans here; it would be a welcome change." He extended his hand. "My name's Peter Sandoz."

"Michael Keller. I'd be glad to join you for lunch." He began to wish he hadn't said it, but banished the thought. Back home he would hardly consider going to lunch with someone he had just met in a store. But meeting someone from home, halfway around the world, it seemed a normal thing to do. It occurred to him that he had all his money and his passport on him. Should Peter Sandoz turn out to be a mugger, or if he led him to a gang of cohorts, it would be a very unpleasant situation. I'm being silly, he told himself.

 

"I've been in Hungary four days," said Keller, after he had finished his lunch, "and this is the best meal I've had. I can't eat another bite or drink another drop. Thank you, Peter, for bringing me here. On my own, I would never have stopped in a restaurant called Café New York."

"It's been here since 1985," said Sandoz. "A lot of writers and artists come here"

"The atmosphere's nice too." Keller was a little amazed at the amount of wine Sandoz had put away, but he had heard that Europeans drink much more wine than Americans do.

Out on the sidewalk, Keller watched Sandoz walk. Sandoz had drunk much wine, regardless of his nationality.

"Everybody loves this place," said Sandoz, as they stood on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, preparing to go their separate ways. "If you like gypsy violins, there's a place that's great for dinner."

"You'll have to tell me where that one is," said Keller.

"I'm going right past it, if you don't mind walking a few blocks," said Sandoz. "It's on the way to my appointment."

"Let's go," said Keller. "I don't mind walking here. I think I've walked more in the last four days than I walked in the last four years at home. This town does something to me; it's like stepping back in time."

"I love it-or them. Buda and Pest were originally two cities, and in many ways, they still are." said Sandoz. "You know, Michael, I think the wine has gone to my head. Maybe I was too excited seeing a fellow American, and I had one glass too many. Sorry."

"Don't worry about it. One thing, Peter, if you don't mind telling me. How did you happen to leave MicroShaft and come to Hungary?"

They stepped off the curb, and a motor scooter came around the corner, causing them to jump back onto the sidewalk.

"This may sound a little strange," said Sandoz, "but I stumbled across something at MicroShaft, something that they apparently didn't want anyone to know about. I found a bunch of undocumented functions in the new version of WinDose. I mentioned it to another programmer, and he asked his boss about them. The next thing he knew, he was fired. Not only did they fire him; they accused him of stealing. He swore that he never stole anything. He thought they just said that so that if he told anyone about the hidden functions, they'd be able to say he was a thief, trying to get back at them for firing him. They told him that they wouldn't prosecute him, if he kept his mouth shut. I was upset and angry. I felt responsible for him losing his job, and at the same time, I was afraid that they might find out that I knew. Working there eventually became so uncomfortable that I quit and came here."

"Why Hungary?"

"My parents were born here; I have some relatives here; and when I was little, I learned Hungarian before I learned English. While I didn't speak Hungarian all that well, it wasn't much of a job to fill in the gaps and polish my grammar. There's plenty of opportunity for a good programmer here. But the important thing is that I love it here."

"Do you think you'll ever go back to the States?"

"I don't really know. I might. I'm still a US citizen. I have thought about going back long enough to build up my Social Security enough to live on when I retire. It would go a lot further here than it would back home."

"That's for sure. About those functions you found in WinDose, what kind of functions are they?" Keller didn't know whether to believe Sandoz or not. He could be some kind of nut.

"One of them is a directory routine. Remember when it came out that MicroShaft was downloading a directory of your hard drive, when you registered your WinDose software by modem?"

"Yeah, I remember reading about that."

"There are a couple of dozen other functions they can invoke, if they wanted to. Anyone who knew the command protocol and how to use it could invoke any of the functions. For instance, once they have the directory, they can compress and download any file on your hard drive, they can transfer files back and forth in the background; they can do a lot of things, including wiping all the data off your hard drive."

"That's pretty incredible, Peter," said Keller. "First of all, why would they want the ability to do all those things to any computer using WinDose software? Second, why would they be hidden? Besides, you'd think someone would have discovered them, and they would be common knowledge."

"Who knows why the functions are there, or why they're undocumented. But it's easy to see why no one would discover them. WinDose takes up millions of bytes on the hard drive, and the undocumented functions are a tiny fraction of one percent of that. Besides, they're embedded throughout the standard program. When the standard program runs and comes to an embedded function, it jumps around it and goes on. No one would ever know that they're there."

"Then how did you happen to find them?"

"The first one was strictly by accident. When I tested a program I'd written, it wiped out my hard drive. I didn't know what to think; there was nothing in my program that could do that. I restored my backup, ran my program, and wiped out my hard drive again. I restored it again and carefully reviewed the last change to my program. I found a typographical error in a branch address and corrected it. Now my program ran perfectly. I knew that when I branched to the erroneous address, something there erased my hard drive. Naturally, I was curious about that, and I went into that address, to see what was there. I found a tiny routine for wiping the hard drive. In the memory location, just before the routine, there was a command to jump to one address past the end of the routine. I figure that someone had embedded it so they could use it, but it would be invisible to anyone else, since the WinDose program would detour around it. You would have to know exactly where to go, in order to use the program and erase the hard drive. Later, I got to wondering if there were other hidden routines. I wrote a little program to search for others, and I found a couple dozen of them." He stopped and held up his hand. "Here's the restaurant that I was telling you about. It's called Sipos Halászkert. It's a little expensive, by Hungarian standards, but not for an American. The food is excellent, and the music is fantastic. Do you know where you are?

"Yes I do."

"Do you like music, Michael?"

"As a matter of fact, I'm a music-lover," said Keller.

You should pick up a Koncert Kalendarium, for a listing of all the concerts for the month. Your hotel probably has it. "There are two or three concerts, almost every night. I'm sure there's no place in America that has as many concerts as they do here. If you want some folk music, take the metro to Ferenc korút Station and take tram number four to the end of the line."

"Concert Calendarium. Ferenc korút Station. Tram number four to the end of the line," said Keller, as he wrote it inside the cover of his phrase book.

"I'm going to turn down this little side street. Good luck, Michael. Give me your e-mail address and I'll drop you a note."

They exchanged business cards and e-mail addresses.

"I wouldn't mention those functions to anyone, if I were you, Michael. Just to be safe."

"Before you go, Peter, just out of curiosity, I'd like to know how your program to find the functions works, so that I could duplicate it."

"Sure," said Sandoz. "There are more elegant ways to do it. I just run through the program until I found a jump to a higher address, and tried to run from the next address, with trace on. If it ran, I'd check it out carefully. You'll hang up a lot, if you don't provide a way out. Otherwise, start over, taking the jump before the address that made you hang up. I've really got to run. I have an appointment that may lead to a good contract. Good-bye, Michael. Enjoy your stay in Hungary."

Michael extended his hand. "Good-bye, Peter. Thank you so much for everything. I'll send you a note when I get back. If you ever need anything from the States, send me a message."

Walking back toward his hotel, Keller wondered how much, if any, of what Peter Sandoz had told him was true. WinDose was, after all, the most popular program in the world. Peter had seemed normal, but he might not be. Besides, he had admitted that he'd had too much wine. Even if MicroShaft had put the functions in WinDose for some in-house testing purpose, that they would punish someone for discovering them was highly unlikely. Keller decided that it was much more likely that Sandoz was, at best, a little weird.

 

***

 

As Jeremy Worth turned into the entrance to the Atlantic University of Florida, everything may have looked much the same as it had hundreds of other mornings, but today was very different. Jeremy was different: his usual optimism was gone, displaced by depression.

Wanting to talk with his advisor, Doctor MacRae, Jeremy had arrived earlier than usual. He found Doctor MacRae's door half-open. Jeremy knocked on the doorframe. Doctor MacRae was almost lying, rather than sitting, in a massive desk-chair, his feet propped upon his cluttered desk, with a statistics examination resting on the mound of his belly.

"Hello, Worth" he bellowed, swinging his feet off the desk and letting his chair snap to the upright position. "Come in. How is you father doing?"

"Good morning," Jeremy answered. "My father is as well as can be expected. Thank you. He comes home today. I came a little early because I had to see you."

"You sound pretty serious," said MacRae. He waved his hand at the chair in front of his desk. "Move those books somewhere, and sit down."

"It is serious," said Jeremy. "I'm afraid I'll not be able to go to school, this next semester. At least next semester, it may be longer."

"Umm. That is serious," said MacRae, his bushy, red eyebrows arching. Leaning toward Jeremy, he asked, "How come?"

"It's because of my father. It looks like he'll be okay, but he won't be able to work for quite a while. His foreman will be running the shop, and, even though he would never ask for it, my father feels he has to pay him something extra, for all the additional work. I think my father's going to need a nurse for a while. Things will be a little tight. College was never a trivial expense for my parents, even before this. I can't just keep on going to school and letting him pay for it. He'll be worrying enough, without having to worry about paying for my school. I've decided to go to work and save some money and come back to school when I can."

As MacRae listened attentively to Jeremy's tale, a scowl came over his face. "I can understand your position," said MacRae, with a sigh. "And only one semester from graduation too. Well, the courses you need aren't offered this summer, so you'd have to wait until the fall semester anyway. Can you make enough this summer to come back in the fall?"

"I doubt it seriously," said Jeremy. "That would give me only three months. I'd think that next spring is more like it, if all goes well."

"Do you have something lined up?"

"Nothing yet. I just made the decision last night."

MacRae opened a desk-drawer, pulled out a battered pipe, put it in his mouth, and puffed on it. Although he had quit smoking years ago, he still puffed on the empty pipe when he was nervous or when he had a difficult problem. He leaned back in his chair and looked up, seemingly somewhere beyond the ceiling, and puffed on the pipe. He felt sorry for Jeremy. Not just for his current situation, but for all he had to learn about life. Many young people and some not so young have never had serious discontinuities in their life. When one does come along, they can't gauge its seriousness well enough to react rationally. It's too bad that maturity is not as automatic as losing baby teeth. But, if we are lucky, we can have the immaturity knocked out of us, with a minimum of hard knocks. Although he knew adversity was often beneficial, he wanted to help Jeremy, if he could. Someone as gifted as Jeremy had the potential to accomplish great things, and the sooner he got started, the more he could do.

Jeremy sat and waited. Eventually, feeling uncomfortable, he began to fidget a little. Just when he was beginning to wonder if he should say something, MacRae let his chair snap upright.

"Can you hold on for a couple of days before you do anything, Worth? I might be able to come up with something for you. Just a day or two?"

"Sure," said Jeremy. "A couple of days won't matter, since there isn't much I could do until after finals. He was aching to ask MacRae what he had in mind, but felt that he shouldn't."

"I'd rather not say anything, until I can check it out," said MacRae, answering Jeremy's unasked question. "Just stop by the day after tomorrow. Okay?"

"Fine," said Jeremy. "I'll be grateful for anything you can do, Doctor MacRae. Would this same time be okay?"

"Sure. Thursday morning. Same time." MacRae stood up, signaling the end of the meeting. "Would you shut the door on your way out, please. I need to make a phone call."

After Jeremy left, MacRae picked up his telephone. "Sarah, see if you can get me a Clinton Randolph. Try Randolph Enterprises, in West Palm Beach. If he's not there, they probably know where he is."

A few minutes later, Sarah called him back. "Doctor MacRae, Mr. Randolph isn't in today. He'll be there tomorrow."

"Okay," said MacRae. "Would you remind me to call him tomorrow morning, in case I forget?"

"Yes, sir," she said, writing a note on her calendar.

 

***

 

A little after eleven o'clock, the time it had been in Paris when the Concorde had taken off for New York, Randolph's Mitsubishi jet, which had been waiting for him in New York, landed at West Palm Beach International Airport. As Fran Benson, the Mitsubishi's pilot, lowered the plane's steps, Randolph's limousine pulled up beside the plane. The chauffeur ran around the car and opened the door.

Randolph came down the steps. "Hello, Perry," he said, as he stepped into the vehicle.

"Good morning, Mr. Randolph." Perry Carmichael had been Randolph's chauffeur for nine years.

A moment later, the limousine drove away. From the car, Randolph called Alicia Pendleton, his administrative assistant.

"Good morning, Alicia. I'm on my way from the airport. I'm back, but I won't be 'in' today. As far as I know, I'll be in my office tomorrow. I need for you to download everything you can find on the Internet about the Committee on Foreign Relations or the CFR, the Trilateral Council, the Federal Reserve, David Crocker, Maurice Lobrau, and the Ruffson family. Also, check and see if you can find anything about a constitutional convention, going by the name of 'Conference of the States.' I'll be busy for half an hour. Put whatever you have ready in half an hour in my IN file, and I'll pick it up. Then I can pick up more when I've gone through that."

"Yes, sir. Will you want your messages?"

"Is there anything urgent?"

"No, sir."

"Then hold them for tomorrow. Thank you, Alicia."

At the apartment, he took a shower and changed. He asked Arthur Chadwick, his general-purpose servant, to prepare a pot of coffee and bring it to his penthouse office. He logged onto the private network, consisting of his two offices and a terminal at Alicia's desk. Recalling that a background of baroque music supposedly enhanced learning, he put on a few CD's of baroque music. It wouldn't hurt, and he could certainly use all the help he could get.

Altogether, he spent a little over four hours sifting through the information Alicia had found on the Internet. The more he read, the more thorough his disgust and frustration. Finally, pushing his chair back from the desk, he called Arthur on the intercom.

"Arthur, would you please make me a pitcher of Manhattans and take them out on the terrace?"

"Right away, sir."

"Thank you, Arthur." He removed the baroque CD's and replaced them with a dulcet mix of a CD of Alfredo Krauss and another of Kiri Te Kanawa. He had learned enough about his enemies for today. This angelic combination would help put those demons out of his mind for a while. He shut out all thoughts of his problems and went out on the terrace. After a couple of Manhattans and an early dinner, it was dark, and he was too tired to even think.

The next morning, he was up at seven, well rested and ready to go. While taking a morning run along the bay in front of the Randolph Building, his thoughts turned to his problems with the CFR.

You're stuck on this, he said to himself. The only solution you can think of is to kill all your adversaries. What do you do when you're getting nowhere? You need to look at things from a new viewpoint. Stop searching vertically, and try horizontally. Instead of digging the same hole deeper, try digging somewhere else. In his mind, he tried to spread his problem out over a large area, and to look at different facets as possible weak points, where he might attack it.

After his run and a shower, he didn't have any new ideas, but he had several new avenues to look at. Over breakfast, he made a list of tasks for the day and prioritized it. Working from the list, in order of priority, he first called SIA, a Miami-based security firm that Norman Jefferson had recommended to him.

"Hello, my name is Clinton Randolph. I'd like to speak to someone about engaging your services."

"Good morning, Mr. Randolph," came a voice, a moment later. "I'm Phil Matthews, the president of SIA. What can I do for you?"

"SIA was highly recommended by Norman Jefferson, and I'd like to spend some time with you or a representative, defining and filling my requirements for my personal security and that of my business premises."

"You're in West Palm Beach, aren't you, Mr. Randolph?"

"Yes."

"I can be there this afternoon, if that's convenient. Would one-thirty be okay?"

"One-thirty would be fine. Do you need directions?"

"No, Mr. Randolph, not if you're in the Randolph Building."

"That's it," said Randolph. "Check in with the receptionist; she'll send you up to me. I'll see you at one-thirty."

He held the telephone switch down for a moment, then dialed Elliott Winslow at Randolph Software.

"Elliott, Clint here."

"Yes, Clint. What can I do for you?"

"I want you to find the best person you can to beef up security on our in-house computer networks, including my personal network. I want them impenetrable. If anyone tries to get in, I want to know about it and who they are. This needs to be done immediately, if possible."

"I'll get right on it. Off hand, I think Bob Trenton will be the one I'll send you. Give me a few hours to look into it."

"Just give me the best, Elliott."

"Will do. I'll call you back."

A few minutes later, Alicia called and said that George Elman, the General Manager of Randolph Computers, was downstairs and wanted to see Randolph, on an urgent matter. Randolph told her to send him up.

"Want to sit down?" asked Elman, when Randolph let him in. "I've got some bad news."

"If it's that bad, George, come over here, and we'll both sit down." Arthur appeared, carrying a tray with a thermal pot and a cup. "Want a cup of coffee, George?"

"No thanks."

"Just leave it here, Arthur," said Randolph, moving a telephone to make room for the tray. "Okay, George, let's hear your bad news."

"Spartacus held a press conference this morning, announcing a new product line. It sounded very similar to our Nine Thousand line. I managed to get one of their brochures faxed to me. Clint, it's not similar to our Nine Thousand line, it is our Nine Thousand line. Every spec, every option, every detail is identical. It's as if they took our documentation and put their name on it."

"Are those papers the brochure?" asked Randolph, indicating the papers Elman held in his hand.

"Here," said Elman. "Look at them."

Randolph studied the papers for a few moments. "This is hardly a coincidence," he said. "And, it's a pretty bold move on Spartacus' part. They had to know that we would know that they stole our design." It was an audacious move. It was even worse, coming when he was so preoccupied with his big problem. Could the two be related? He recalled seeing Walter Evans and John LaGrange on the list of known CFR members. Possible? Yes. Probable? Maybe. There was no way to know. He suspected that there was never any way to know with these people.

"How could they have done it?" asked Elman. "Announcing a product line identical to ours, a week before we announce our own. How could they get our design?"

"I'd say one of our employees is also one of their employees," said Randolph, sipping his coffee. "Any idea who it might be?"

"None at all," said Elman, "but it seems it would be someone in engineering."

"That seems logical." Randolph got up and walked around the room. "Who, and how to identify him." He was just saying the words, trying to stimulate an idea.

"It might be someone who used to work for Spartacus," said Elman. "He could have had some friends still there, or he could have come here strictly as a spy."

"That's a good start, George," said Randolph. He sat down again, and finished his cup of coffee. "We might be able to narrow our search, if that is the case. There is a technique that I don't like to use. But there are times when circumstances call for whatever works, and this is one of those times. Besides, I can't think of any other way."

"What's your idea?"

"First of all, identify everyone who once worked for Spartacus, if anyone did. Get Rick Foster to call them into his office, one by one. He can talk to them a while and bring up the Spartacus question, in some innocuous way. Record their conversations; then we can use a voice stress analyzer and, hopefully, identify the culprit. If we don't find anyone among the ex-Spartacus employees, we'll have to interview every engineer."

"Where do you get a voice-stress analyzer?"

"From a security company. Try the ones around town. If you can't find one locally, I've seen a place in Fort Lauderdale called the Spy Store, or Spy Shop, or Spy something. If you have trouble finding one, call SIA, in Miami, and ask them for help. I don't have to tell you that this is a priority project. Let me know when you have the tapes; I want to be there when we analyze them. It will be just you, me and, if you think it advisable, Rick. Come to think of it, we'd better make a tape of Rick. See if you can arrange it for this morning, certainly by this afternoon."

"I can't believe it could be Rick," said Elman.

"I hate to believe any of our people could do it," said Randolph, pouring another half cup of coffee. "But it has to be someone. Until we know who it is, we don't want to risk tipping our hand."

"Isn't there any legal action you could take against Spartacus?" asked Elman.

"The government almost never buys our computers. They buy many thousands of Spartacus' computers, though. You know it's not because their computers are better than ours."

"That's for damn sure," said Elman.

"Spartacus donates a lot of money to political campaigns," said Randolph. "Were I to do the same, I could get government contracts, even easier, since our computers are certainly superior to anything Spartacus ever made-until today. I choose not to do that. Spartacus obviously has a lot of friends in the government, and any legal action against them by such a blatant non-contributing outsider would be doomed before it started."

"You're saying the government is crooked," said Elman.

"Does that surprise you?"

"No, but I thought the courts might be fair."

"The government extorts money from Spartacus in exchange for buying their computers with money taken from me. The government and the politicians have a lot in common with the Mafia. They borrowed the idea of progressive taxation from the Mafia, which also takes a bigger percentage from the wealthiest victims. Like the Mafia, the government offers protection, whether you want it or not, at rates the Mafia would be embarrassed to charge. And like the Mafia, they back up their demands with force. They charge exorbitant sums for services, which, if rendered at all, are usually rendered only to the extent that they benefit the government. The government is far worse than the Mafia, since the Mafia is at least honest about what it does; it takes a much smaller cut; and the Mafia gives you the protection that you pay for."

"Surely there must be something good about the government," said Elman.

"Relatively little," said Randolph, not wanting to continue on the topic.

"I'd better get going on tracking down our Judas," said Elman, standing up.

"Let me know when you've got it all ready," said Randolph. After he saw Elman to the door, he walked onto the terrace and looked out over the bay, to Palm Beach. He liked to take time out to appreciate some of the beauty around him. Such agreeable moments were a necessary punctuation of time, setting off the more disagreeable events. This news about Spartacus was well worth bracketing. But Elman was gone and his list of tasks was long. Besides, compared with the news Norman Jefferson had given him, this wasn't so bad. If the CFR was involved in this, they may be moving faster than he had expected. Perhaps he was being paranoid. He would probably start seeing the CFR in everything that went wrong.

 

 

***

 

"Have a seat, Senator Nichols," said Doctor Mark Selby. "They told me you just wanted to talk with me. What's on your mind?"

"While I know my problem is outside your field, Doctor Selby, I also know that you're an advocate of alternative medicine, and I'm hoping you'll be able to suggest someone or something.

"What's the problem, Senator?"

"I've been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, and the doctor told me that I have six months, maybe a year."

'"I'm very sorry to hear that, Senator. Did you bring your records with you?"

"Yes, I have them in my briefcase." Opening the briefcase, he removed a folder, and handed it to the doctor.

"Excuse me a moment, while I look through this," said Doctor Selby.

"Surely," said the senator. He watched Doctor Selby's face, as he scanned the papers. Senator Nichols knew several congressmen who'd had heart attacks; and, by following a diet and exercise regimen prescribed by Doctor Selby, they were in better shape than they had been in the last twenty or thirty years. The doctor's face seemed awfully grim. Bracing himself, he whispered under his breath, "God, let him tell me he can help."

"Senator, it says here that you're a relatively heavy drinker. Is that so?"

"I did drink several drinks a day. I wasn't an alcoholic. When the doctor told me to quit. I shut it off with no problem."

"Being an alcoholic has little or nothing to do with how much you drink; it has to do with why you drink. Senator, you're sixty-one years old. I assume you drank for about forty years."

"Yes, sir. That's about right."

"I tend to agree with you oncologist, Senator. If you were younger, a transplant might merit consideration. The best I can do for you is to tell you what I would do, if I were in your situation. While it isn't hopeless, I have to tell you that it's a long shot."

As he wrote, Selby went on, "You need to know, Senator, that everyone gets cancer thousands of times in their life, but their immune system generally destroys it before it gets out of hand. For the cancer to get the upper hand, your immune system has to be compromised. Your body could still overcome the cancer, but everything would have to be operating at an optimal level. Most of the things I list here will help bolster your immune system, so that it can work harder to kill off the cancer. But, absolutely nothing is more important than your attitude, the way you feel about yourself and your illness. Naturally, it's going to be extremely difficult to have the right attitude, given your situation, but it's imperative that you do. Otherwise, you'll be like most people who go straight downhill, after discovering that they have cancer. I'll list a few books and two movies. The movies are primarily to show the importance of attitude and maybe give you some pointers. If you think you can't beat it, I would give you no chance at all, no matter what you do. If you convince yourself that it can be beaten and work at beating it, you may have as much as a ten to twenty percent chance, possibly more.

"I guess I should resign from the Senate and work full time on this. Right?" Ten to twenty percent, thought the Senator. Not much, but a whole lot better than he'd expected. "I'll make it or die trying," he said with a smile.

"Absolutely. You should work full time on your recovery. But, before you resign, Senator, I have a suggestion. If you can prevent others from ending up in the same situation, it might very well help you with your own recovery."

"What do you think I could do, Doctor, leave my body to science?" He couldn't believe the stupid things he was saying.

"While that might not be a bad idea, it's not what I have in mind. I happen to know, Senator, that you've been a strong supporter of the FDA and the BATF. It might interest you to know that if it weren't for the BATF, it's quite possible that you wouldn't have gotten liver cancer, not for another twenty or twenty-five years, anyway. And I don't mean just a remote possibility, I mean a good probability."

"That's a pretty strong statement, Doctor," said Senator Nichols. He had heard a lot of arguments against the FDA and the BATF before. None of them had ever swayed him, and the doctor was probably out of his element here. The doctor knew about medicine and health, but he knew about the FDA and the BATF.

"It's not an unfounded one, Senator. I happen to know that the liquor industry wanted to add antioxidants to their product. These antioxidants would greatly reduce the harmful effects of alcohol on the liver and the brain. But, the BATF, for no logical reason, wouldn't allow it. In addition to drinking, I noticed that, until recently, you smoked. In low tar cigarettes, the tobacco industry wanted to replace the nicotine lost when they remove the tar. The BATF refused to let them do that."

"They just wanted smokers to be more addicted, so they could make more money," snapped the senator. Strange that he hadn't heard anything about antioxidants in liquor.

"Did you smoke a low tar cigarette, Senator?"

"Sometimes I did. But most of the time, I didn't. When I smoked low-tar cigarettes, I smoked twice as many."

"Think about what you just said, Senator. The reason you smoked twice as many was because when they lowered the tar, they removed a far greater percentage of nicotine. When you smoke a low-tar cigarette, you don't satisfy your craving for nicotine, unless you smoke twice as many. Since low-tar and regular cigarettes sell for the same price and they could sell twice as many low-tar cigarettes, by keeping the nicotine low, how can it be more profitable to add nicotine and sell half as many?"

"I guess it's not."

"But tar causes the lung cancer and heart trouble, not the nicotine. So, with the majority of smokers smoking low-tar cigarettes and smoking twice as many, any benefit to low-tar cigarettes is lost. The result is a higher incidence of cancer. So the BATF insured that more smokers got lung cancer and heart problems. Now, here's a big kicker, Senator: people that both drink and smoke don't just add the probabilities of cancer and other illnesses from tobacco and alcohol separately, they multiply them. The addition of the B1 or other anti-oxidants would likely eliminate this multiplicative characteristic. So you can thank your friends at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms for your cancer. And you aren't the only one. If, as the government itself is so eager to point out, when it's extorting billions from the tobacco companies, a hundred thousand people, a year, die from tobacco induced illness, probably at least half, if not far more of those deaths, can be blamed on the BATF. Give them credit for another twenty or thirty thousand from alcohol, and the BATF is in the running for the honor of being the number one cause of death in this country. The FDA, though, which never gets considered, as a cause of death, is probably responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths a year. From a sincere medical viewpoint, its primary goal seems to be to reduce the population, which it does with grisly success, making the eco-whackos ecstatic and reducing the drain on social security. Because of the FDA, trillions of dollars have been spent to get drugs approved. Yet there is no hard evidence that they have, in any way, justified their existence. In fact, all the evidence is that the public would have been better off without the FDA. The companies that manufactured safe products that the FDA 'mistakenly' took off the market would certainly have been better off, and so would their employees. Remember cyclamates and tryptophan? Cyclamates were artificial sweeteners that were taken off the market because saccharin manufactures influenced the FDA to say cyclamates caused cancer. They didn't. As it turns out, saccharin is a known carcinogen, but it somehow-we know how, don't we, Senator-got a free pass. I suspect it cost even more to buy a free pass for sodium aspartame, which had so many long-term side effects, only great sums of money could possibly have gotten it through."

"What could I possibly do about all this?"

"Even though the BATF is under the Treasury and the FDA is under the president, any regulations they make are with the authority of the Congress, and don't tell me they aren't. Even forgetting the oversight function, Congress is the only branch of government with authority to make laws. Any other agency that makes laws or regulations can only do so with authority granted it by the Congress. Congress can delegate authority to an agency, but it can never delegate its responsibility. The buck, with every regulatory agency, stops with Congress. You should shut the BATF and the FDA down, at least the part that kills people like yourself. Think about it, Senator. Aren't you responsible for your own cancer? You not only allowed the BATF to kill people, you were one of those who encouraged and supported them."

The senator sat slumped in his chair, his head hung. When he raised his head, there were tears in his eyes. "My Betsy died five years ago from lung cancer," he said. "If you're right and my cancer is my fault, so was hers."

Doctor Selby lowered his gaze. He wasn't about to give him an argument on that. He looked up and directly into the senator's eyes and said, "All the fault isn't yours, Senator, and it's not too late to atone for your Betsy and hundreds of thousands like her, by saving thousands of others. In the past, you may not have realized the far-reaching effects of the BATF's actions, but now you do know. I can almost guarantee that, if you fix this, you'll feel better about it than you've felt about anything you've done in the last thirty years. That feeling alone could give your immune system a significant boost."

"You can be certain, Doctor, that I'll do everything within my power-which may not be much. But, by God, I'll try."

"No one can do more that," said Selby.

 

***

 

"They can have the armored limo here in a week or so," said Phil Matthews, holding his hand over the mouthpiece of the telephone. "It's possibly more than you need, but it's better to have too much than not enough. Besides the standard armor, the underside of this limo is built to withstand a grenade or even a land mine going off under the car. It has a labyrinth-type guard in front of the radiator, so bullets can't hit the radiator. It has an air purifying system that makes the interior of the vehicle one big gas mask. Under a central seat, there is a sizeable compartment for storing weapons."

"I hope that's more than I need," said Randolph. "But I want to be prepared for anything that might come along."

"It has thirty-one thousand miles on it, and is in immaculate condition. But since it's used, it's only ninety-five thousand. "

"I'll take it," said Randolph. "I certainly don't want to wait four to six months for a new one."

Matthews closed the deal and hung up. "I'll have it delivered the minute it arrives in Miami," he said. "Do you have a chauffeur?"

"Yes."

"Do you plan to keep him?"

"Yes, I do. He's been with me for a long time."

"Can he help defend you, in a pinch?"

"I think he can, and he would."

"It would be a good idea to arm him."

"That might be a problem," said Randolph. "He's an ex-convict. Can he get a gun?"

"Probably not, legally. What was he convicted of?"

"Violation of civil rights. He had a store in Miami, and it was broken into several times and robbed. He set up a booby trap for the robbers, and one of them was caught in the trap and died of a heart attack. He was tried and acquitted of second-degree murder for defending his property. After his acquittal, the federal government charged him with violating the civil rights of the burglars. He was convicted there by a predictable jury of non-peers."

"That's the American way, these days. The only ones that the government wants to protect are the criminals. I guess it's that birds of a feather-"

"You're being pretty hard on the criminals, grouping them in with the politicians," said Randolph.

Matthews chuckled. "In the new limo, you're going to have a cache of arms in the compartment under the seat. If you were to be attacked, even a convicted felon should have the right to protect himself. Besides, you can keep a gun in the glove compartment, and in the same circumstances, he can use it. I think you should check with an attorney. He was convicted in a civil court, and that may not keep him from owning a gun. But, these days, you never know. They will do almost anything to give violent criminals an advantage over innocent citizens."

"I'll look into it."

"Are you sure you don't want the bodyguard right away?"

"If you can come up with the right person, I might," said Randolph. "I have some hectic days ahead of me, and I don't want someone getting in my way, while we get used to each other. But I realize that I should have a bodyguard. If you find someone you think is ideal, send him for me to look over. I travel a lot, and he'll have to travel along with me. I have a lot of extremely confidential things going on, which he might overhear; that means he has to be trustworthy. Don't bother sending anyone, until you have someone really appropriate."

Matthews looked at his notebook. "Your people will contact us regarding the alarm system. Right?"

"I'll assign someone to the project. He will contact you. I don't want a commercial alarm system, but prefer to come up with a state of the art engineered system. My man will work with you, using the best commercial system available as a starting point and see how he can improve on it. If he can't, we'll take the commercial one. If he can, we'll make it as good as we can. In the interim, we'll make some arrangements."

"I take it that you have quarters here for the bodyguard or bodyguards."

"I have plenty of room."

"You are going to see to changing your windows to bullet-proof glass, new reinforced doors, and having a small armory built in. I will work with your bodyguard on the weapons he will carry and those for the apartment. I'll select some for the car too. I think we have you pretty well covered. Is there anything further? Any questions?"

"I have a question about SIA," said Randolph. "I already know that your staff is primarily former FBI and CIA people. I'd like to know why you and your colleagues left civil service."

"Let's just say," said Matthews, "that we all had some major differences of opinion with our former employer. Generally, we felt that we were being asked to do things blatantly against the interests of the people we were supposed to be serving."

"Then I take it you aren't inclined to share information with the federal government."

"Hardly," said Matthews.

"That's certainly in your favor," said Randolph.

"I have a question. I don't know if you want to answer it, but I'll ask it anyway. First of all, I'm surprised that you have had so little security up until now, given your wealth and position. Many entertainers have a lot more security than you have. Has something happened that has caused your sudden interest in stepping up security?"

Randolph thought for a moment. "The reason that I have had so little security, is that I am not a public figure, as entertainers are. In spite of my wealth, I don't attract attention. I'm not a playboy. I'm not a corporate raider. None of my companies are public companies. So there is little about me to attract attention. As to my newfound interest in security, let's just say that I believe that I have recently attracted some attention, and in order to err on the side of safety, I've decided to take some precautions. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."

Matthews read his answer as meaning that something had happened, but Randolph wasn't going to say what it was. He would let it rest for now, and ask again later. Maybe Randolph would feel more like talking about it, another day.

 

***

 

David Crocker leaned over his desk, as if to lend a personal touch to what he was about to say, even though he was on the telephone.

"Paul, I want to thank you for taking care of the banking fee story the other day."

"Think nothing of it, David," said Paul Phipps. "ABS is a team player."

"I hate to bother you, Paul, but I need another favor. This one is a little bigger." As he spoke, Crocker drew overlapping circles on a sheet of paper, filling in the area where they overlapped.

"What is it, David?"

"We need a major media assault on someone, Clinton Randolph, to be precise. I thought maybe we could use your man, Parvell, to start the ball rolling."

"Pat is good at destroying people," said Phipps, "especially when he's worked up to a frenzy. The only thing is that it's sometimes hard to get him to that frenzy."

"I guess that's where you come in, Paul," said Crocker. "Will you work on him, for me?"

"I'll do my best," said Phipps.

"What more could I ask for, Paul. Let me know how it goes."

"Will do. Is there anything else?"

"No, that's it for now. Thank you, Paul, and good-bye." The initial recommendation of the three-man committee was in the works.

"Good-bye, David."

The instant Crocker hung up the telephone, his Executive Assistant called to tell him that Charles Easton, the National Chairman of the Republican National Committee, had arrived to see him.

"Send him in," said Crocker.

"Hello, Charlie," he said, standing when Easton entered the office. "How's the wife?"

"She's coming along quite well, David. Thanks for asking," said Easton. "She's very happy with her new knee."

"I asked you to stop by, Charlie, because I wanted to discuss the preliminary platform you sent me," said Crocker. "I like everything in it. The only thing I have against it is what's not in it. The word 'world' never appears, as an adjective. World peace should be important to the Republican Party. But you can't have lasting world peace without world law and a means to enforce it. You should have some references to 'world peace,' and taking care that minor squabbles don't get out of hand, maintaining order in the world, getting along with our neighbors, world trade, and that sort of thing. 'Global' is okay, too. I'd really like to see several references to world government in the platform. We need to keep the global theme before the people. Hammer, hammer, hammer. That's how you train people, Charlie. You can sell people on anything, if you're willing to hammer it into them long enough and hard enough. You can find a way to say it and still appear differentiated from the Democrats. I know it's only a platform and has little or nothing to do with what will actually happen, but it's an opportunity to push some ideology, Charlie. If we lose an opportunity, however small, we deserve to lose the battle. Remember that, Charlie. In the field of ideas, victory goes to the most persistent. Right or wrong, weak or strong, good or evil has nothing to do with it, compared to persistence."

"I don't have any problem with that," said Easton. "Other than that, you approve of it then?"

"Pretty much," said Crocker. "I'm not concerned with petty details. Thank God, we have a well-grounded individual like you running the RNC, giving details the right slant." Butter them up, then tell them what you want, he thought. "I will tell you that regardless of who gets in, I want the UN Bio-Diversity Treaty ratified. If we have to clear out a lot of dead wood to get it done, we will."

"That's a tough one," said Easton, clearly understanding Crocker's implied threat. "That treaty potentially turns the whole country over to the UN."

"I would hardly go that far," said Crocker. "But, as I said, you can't have world peace without world law and the means to enforce it. For decades, the cursed second amendment has stymied every effort to eliminate public ownership of guns. This treaty calls for adherence to UN and World Trade Organization regulations, which forbid anyone owning a gun, without government authorization, which is given only in special circumstances, meaning practically never. And, as a treaty takes precedence over the Constitution, it can override the second amendment. How can we possibly have order with half of the citizens armed? We need that treaty ratified."

"I've heard of that strategy," said Easton, "setting aside the Constitution, by treaty. You might get away with it, strictly due to voter ignorance and apathy. But, even if the people are too ignorant to know it, you and I know the Constitution is written to limit the power of government, not the rights of the people, which are inalienable. Whether you can repeal an inalienable right by treaty, is going to be open to question."

"Horse manure, Charlie. Do you think, for one minute, that as many as 10% of the people would believe you if you told them the purpose of the Constitution is to limit the powers of government?"

"No, I'm afraid I don't."

"Then it's a non-issue," said Crocker. "Isn't it?"

"The Supreme Court might decide that inalienable rights really are inalienable."

"I'm not concerned about the Supreme Court. When the time comes, they will do what needs to be done. We have to look out for the people, Charlie. They can't or won't look out for themselves. The treaty has to be ratified."

"Don't get me wrong. I'm all for it, and most of the Senate is all for it, but there are a lot of Senators who will never vote for it. They're afraid it could be political suicide. Most of them are likely to be around for a long time."

"Get me a list of those Senators that you think will oppose ratification. I'll see to them."

"Okay," said Easton, with a sigh. "I'll fax you a list, David." He felt the same way about it that Crocker did: the people had no business having guns. But in most states, the majority of the people still believed they should be able to own a gun. Even those who didn't own one and probably never would own one wanted the right. Senators who voted their rights away could be out of office forever. Why couldn't Americans be like Europeans? The Europeans didn't have a libertarian bone in their body. All their governments had to do was tell them how it was. They might piss and moan, but that would be the limit. Even those who wanted to change the status quo usually wanted to merely change oppressors. Like most of the rest of the world, they wouldn't lift a finger to be free, but might risk their lives to get a bigger government handout. America was catching up, and fast. Even though it was a source of sorrow to him, he and every other politician took maximum advantage of the situation.

 

When Easton had gone, Crocker called in Conrad Goerstein, his lifelong friend and right-hand man. Goerstein knew everything that went on in Crocker's business and nearly everything in his personal life, as well. He was completely devoted to Crocker and somewhat less devoted to Crocker's cause. Goerstein's family had been lower middle-class, and only through hard work and a scholarship, had he been able to attend Harvard, where he met David Crocker. The two became close friends, and, when they graduated from college, Crocker took Goerstein with him, into the family business. Goerstein was street-smart, and he had used that ability to help Crocker out of numerous uncomfortable situations. Over the years, he took care of the tough tasks, the ones that called for things that a Crocker just didn't do.

"We've got to get that treaty passed, Connie. I'm getting a list of senators that need to be convinced. I want you to work on them."

"I'll do my best. If there are any boy scouts, they could be hard to turn around," said Goerstein.

"Boy scouts in the Senate. Are you kidding? There are probably more boy scouts in Sing Sing than in the Senate."

"It will take a while to dig up enough dirt; they're good at hiding it. I'll get right on it, the minute you give me the list."

"More and more often," said Crocker, "we find ourselves needing information on someone. We could certainly use a database of detailed information on everyone."

"I've heard that the government has fifty files on every American," said Goerstein.

"But they aren't linked together, and they aren't complete. Not complete enough for what we need for those senators. You know that I've always thought that the government should have a comprehensive, in-depth file on everyone-well, nearly everyone-excepting you, me, and a few friends and relatives. It would identify the reactionaries, so they could be eliminated before they cause any trouble."

"You're never going to get that," said Goerstein. "It smacks of Gestapo."

"Twenty years ago, I'd have agreed with you that it was impossible. Today, I'm not so sure. I think the level of consciousness has dropped considerably. Look at the attitudes toward White House scandals. Even so, with the damned Internet, we're in danger of losing ground. With the database, we might be able to weed out troublemakers before they do any harm. You're right about the sensitivity to such an idea though. Still, I think all we need is a good excuse. Look at how much my father and his friends accomplished because of the depression."

"Maybe you should bring on another depression," said Goerstein.

"Don't think we haven't thought about that," said Crocker. "Probably the main reason we haven't done it is that most of us are so old, and it takes a long time to really capitalize on a depression, because the big money is made coming out of it. We didn't get out of the last one, until World War II. But another one would let us get much of what we want, even if we didn't live to make a financial killing on it. Our families could still make the money. Prince Hartbern thought a depression was too risky. He was afraid that we might trigger a revolution. Personally, I don't think there's any chance of that, but I'd feel a lot more secure with the treaty ratified and the guns taken away from the American people. Then we can do anything."

"What kind of an excuse do you need to get the database?"

"I don't know. Some sort of danger. That's always good. Maybe a terrorist attack. Something that could justify, to twelve-year-old, the creation of a national database with complete information on every citizen-except, of course, you and me and a few friends.

"Twelve being the level of development of the average American." said Goerstein.

"Right. Do you think I overestimate them?"

"Possibly."

"We've had the bill drafted for a long time, and Slickwill will jump at the chance to sign it into law. All we need is a good excuse to drive it through the cowards in Congress. I've discussed it with several people. Hopefully, one of them will come up with the answer."

"By the way, David, have they come up with a way to get to Clinton Randolph?"

"Actually, I just got the ball rolling on the committee's first recommendation. We're setting up a media wide blitz of Clinton Randolph. Tarnish his image, then trash it. His influence on others will be reduced automatically. Politicians, even Libertarians, won't want to be associated with someone getting a barrage of bad press. Then when we come up with something to really hit him with, everyone will be in favor of it, since he will have been identified as a bad guy. They're still working on a more extensive strategy. With someone like him, you need to be sure before you make your move. God help us, Connie," he said, wearily, "there's so much to be done, and it all takes so much time, because it's a struggle every step of the way. It seems like we make a lot of headway, but things never get any easier."

 

***

 

"For God's sake, Margaret, your column today is a disaster. You didn't let me go over it before you turned it in," Patrick Parvell barked at his wife. "How come?"

He didn't begrudge his wife her measure of success; on the contrary, he was proud of her success, as he considered himself responsible for it. He firmly believed that her success as a columnist was due primarily to her marriage to a famous television news personality. Furthermore, he considered the quality of her column very important. After all, it reflected on him. With equal conviction, he believed that without his reviews and constructive criticism of her columns, she could never have made it, even with the advantage of being his wife. He diplomatically let her think that she'd made it on her own. Why not let her be happy. It didn't cost him anything, and it made his life more pleasant.

"You weren't around," said Margaret Parvell. She knew that by "a disaster," he meant that he disagreed with it.

"You could have paged me," he said.

"I'm sorry, Pat. I didn't think of it."

"What else is new," he muttered, stretching out on the white leather sofa.

Their apartment was decorated in white, with other colors used only for accent. Margaret had decorated it, and, as she had said, on numerous occasions, she must have done a good job, because people were always asking for the name of her decorator.

Margaret Parvell was a youthful forty-two, blonde, with blue eyes, childless, and one of the few genuine intellectuals in that morass of mediocrity, the media. Her relationship with Patrick Parvell was considered unfathomable, by everyone with enough sense to recognize the gulf between them. When they had met in college, both had been more moderate in their political views. He had been brash and competent; she had been subdued and brilliant. Her clothing, then as now, seemed calculated to hide the fact that she was quite attractive, and her timidity had kept her dating to a minimum. When Patrick Parvell, attracted by her shy submissiveness, showered her with attention, she was bowled over. They were married, while still in college. Over the years, their basic characters changed little. She was a profound and independent thinker-except when it came to her marriage. He was superficial and co-dependent, and if he had ever had an independent thought or idea, he had kept it to himself. It was an incongruous relationship, in every way. Those who found him appalling found her appealing, and vice-versa. He was unfaithful; she was faithful. He was a pseudo-intellectual; she was a true intellectual. Politically, he had devolved from moderate to ultra-left wing liberal; she had evolved from moderate to conservative.

"Oh, by the way," she said, "Dick Crutchfield called and wants you to call him."

"Why didn't you tell me when I first came in?"

"You've only been here two minutes, Pat."

"That's no excuse," he said, picking up the telephone to call his boss.

"Hello, Dick. Pat here. You wanted to talk to me?"

"Oh, yes, Pat. I want you to do a major interview of Clinton Randolph."

Parvell sucked in his breath and held it for a moment. "Clinton Randolph? Whatever for?"

"He is the richest man on earth. Isn't that enough?" said Crutchfield, with evident sarcasm. "A lot of people, including Mr. Phipps, wonder why you haven't interviewed him already."

"Now that you mention it, it does seem odd that I never got around to him," said Parvell. "I'll set it up."

"Fine," said Crutchfield. "I love that 'can do' attitude, Pat."

"Just an interview. I do them all the time."

"Let me know when you have it arranged, Pat. I may want to discuss it with you. Got to go. I'll see you at the office."

Parvell hung up the telephone and stood there, transfixed.

"What's wrong, Pat?" asked Margaret Parvell.

"Nothing's wrong. I'm going to interview Clinton Randolph. That's all."

"Really? I thought he didn't do interviews."

"He's never been asked by me. No one turns down Patrick Parvell. I've interviewed a hundred people who never do interviews. No one's turned me down."

"You're right, of course, Pat."

He went into his office and, after calling information for the number, called Randolph Enterprises.

"Randolph Enterprises," answered the operator.

"Clinton Randolph, please."

"One moment please."

"Mr. Randolph's office," said Alicia Pendleton.

"This is Patrick Parvell, with ABS. I'd like to speak with Mr. Randolph."

"I'm sorry Mr. Randolph isn't in today. Would you care to leave a message, Mr. Parvell?"

"No. When will he be in?"

"He is expected to be in tomorrow."

"All day?"

"To the best of my knowledge."

"I'll call back tomorrow.

 

***

 

"Kitty, find Earl and ask him to come to my office as soon as possible," said Stacey Morgan, into her intercom.

"Yes, Miss Morgan. I saw him at the copy machine a second ago," was the response.

Stacey Morgan was the CEO of Morgan Shipyards. Generally judged as demanding, her position was that she was easily satisfied with excellence. Her high standards contributed to her being unmarried at thirty-eight.

"You wanted to see me, Stacey?" Earl Cartwright called from her door. Cartwright had been Manager of Operations at Morgan Shipyards for the last five years.

"Come on in, Earl. We've received another request to bid on a tanker for General Oil."

"Really? Is it just like the one we bid on two years ago and lost to Nippon?"

"Exactly. It's hard to say whether they want another Japanese ship and need a mandatory second or third bid, or they're unhappy with the Japanese ship, and we have a real shot. No matter what, we have to bid."

"At least, we have the old bid. We can update that, so it won't cost much."

"Will you keep an eye on Marketing, and let me know if you see a problem there?"

"Sure, Stacey. But unless General Oil is unhappy with the Japanese ship, it'll be impossible to compete with someone who's building a second identical copy."

"I know. It's even worse that the Japanese have an automated shipyard and the programming has already been done. But you know we have to try."

"Right. I know."

"I'm going to review the old bid carefully, to see if I can get any ideas for cutting costs. I'd like for you to do the same."

"I'll do my best. But, you know we haven't been doing well, when we compete with an automated shipyard."

"Especially when you can't even get a day's work for a day's pay, and you have the government making sure that you can't," she said, slamming shut the notebook on her desk.

"You're so right," said Cartwright, on his way out. When she started talking about union problems, she would be in a bad mood for a while.

Stacey got up and went to her office door.

"Kitty, no calls, okay?"

"Yes, Miss Morgan.

She closed her door, sat down in the big swivel chair and put her feet on her desk. She let her mind wander, just to get it on something new. Looking at her shoes, it occurred to her that she hadn't been shopping for almost a year. She would have to go to Atlanta soon. She preferred a classic style in all her clothes, but especially when she dressed up. She liked Chanel and anything that looked like it. She seldom bought a fashion magazine, being repelled by the drugged-slut appearance of so many of the models and the grotesqueness of many of the clothes. Her work clothes, she bought in Savannah, but her serious clothes required a trip to Atlanta or Miami. Her mother's tastes were similar to hers, and they usually shopped together.

Lately, her mother seemed more and more bored with life. Even though she wanted to spend more time with her mother, she had trouble getting away from work. Her line of thought prompted her to call home.

"Hi, Mom. How'd you like to have dinner somewhere on Jekyll Island this evening?"

"I'd love it. What time do you want me to be ready?"

"How about seven?"

"I'll be ready. But, remember, if you can't make it, be sure to call."

"I'll make it. You know I'm sorry about making you wait three hours the last time." She still felt guilty about that. Not only had she forgotten her appointment with her mother, but she had been angry, when her mother complained about it. She had later thought better of it and apologized. "I'll tell you what, Mother, just to make sure I don't get caught in another union problem, I'm going to leave right now. I have a stop on the way, but it's not business. I'll be home by six. You be ready, and we'll go early and have a cocktail. Maybe two."

On her way home, Stacey stopped at the cemetery where her father was buried. She knelt beside his tombstone, placed a bouquet of flowers at its base, and held her hand on the grass over his grave.

"Hello, Daddy. I miss you, and so does Mom. I worry about her. She doesn't seem to have much interest in anything lately. I've been working so much that she doesn't see much of me. If it weren't for the union, I'd have some free time. And you know all about Troy. No change there, as far as I know. I haven't heard from him for over two months, and I have no idea where he is. I don't expect to hear from him until he runs out of money again.

"I'm sorry if I'm a little down, Daddy. I was thinking today that I haven't been shopping for clothes for a year. I don't have a life, outside the yard. I haven't had a date for nearly two years. How did you do it? You were home more than I am. You had a lot less problems with the union than I do. Maybe because I'm a woman, they think I'm easier. Well, I'm not. I'm tough. But the union problems are almost constant. I'm getting fed up with them.

"Well, I feel better. You were always a good listener, Daddy. I love you, Daddy. I may be a tough bitch to the rest of the world, but I'll always be your little girl. Good-bye for now." She put her hand to her lips, then touched the grave.

An hour and twenty minutes later, Stacy Morgan and her mother were in the Golden Isles Restaurant, seated by the window, looking out across the bay.

"Do you know, it's been at least a year since I've been out here?" said Mrs. Morgan.

"That's terrible, Mom. We have to get out more. Lately, I feel like I'm so busy that I don't have time to live."

"When your father first started the shipyard, he worked like that-probably the first eight or ten years. But then it got better.

"I'd like to know how he did it," said Stacey. "But please, let's not talk about work. I want to get away from it. Have you heard from Troy lately?"

"Not for close to three months. Have you?"

"About the same. I was thinking about him today. I wonder where he is."

"In his case, I'm sure that no news is good news. When we do hear from him, it will likely be because he's in some kind of trouble, and financial would be my guess."

"That's exactly what I thought," said Stacey.

"If he didn't look just like your father, I'd swear the hospital switched babies on me. I don't know where he got his outlook. You two couldn't be more different."

"Was he always so different?"

"No. When he was little, he seemed perfectly normal-all the way through high school. He was bright, alert, and interested in everything. Just as much as you were, maybe even more so. When he was in college, something snapped. In fact, I think it must have been in his last year. It was almost as though he left home as Troy and came back someone else. Didn't you notice it? You were a sophomore."

"I thought I remembered it that way, but I wasn't sure any more."

"I'm not sure-how could I be-but I've always thought that the change in Troy weakened your father, and maybe brought on his heart attack. It certainly didn't do him any good."

"Mother, what a terrible thing to say. Even to think."

"I know. I don't want to think it. I just do."

 

***

 

Sound asleep, at three o'clock in the morning, Bob and Betty Adams were totally unaware that two men had scaled their fence, cut through the screen enclosing the pool area, covered the glass pane in the bathroom door with tape, smashed the glass and lifted it out with the tape, then reached in and opened the door. Using a tiny flashlight, the intruders made their way up the stairs. Entering the open bedroom, they located the sleeping couple and found the light switch. When one of the two men switched on the light, Betty Adams stirred and turned over. Bob Adams opened his eyes and saw a man standing at the foot of the bed. The man had a gold ring in his left nostril and another in his ear; it was the man he had seen driving the blue van. Bob Adams sprang from the bed. There was an explosion, and he was hit in the chest and knocked backwards. He heard Betty screaming, and he realized he had been shot, but he didn't feel it. He started to get up again. There was another shot and the feeling of being struck a terrible blow to the head. Adams felt a blackness collapse upon him, shutting out the world around him, mercifully sparing him any awareness of the grisly events that took place thereafter. He couldn't feel his pregnant wife's body fall across his, nor her blood flowing over him, soaking into his pajamas, blending with his own. Neither he nor Betty was aware of the necrophilia that followed.

 


CHAPTER 4

THURSDAY - DAY 3

 

 

Far more police cars and emergency vehicles than could possibly be justified filled the Adams' driveway and lawn, and overflowed into the street in front of the house. Downstairs, in the living room, two police detectives talked to an ashen-faced man, slumped in a chair.

"How did you happen to discover the bodies, Mr. Clark?"

"I knew Bob wouldn't stay away this morning for anything," said Ed Clark. "He was going to sign the biggest contract the firm had ever had. When he didn't show up, I called. The phone rang and rang, with no answer. The office is only a few blocks away; so I drove over to see what was going on. No one answered the door, but his car was in the driveway. The front door was unlocked, so I went in." He shuddered. "The rest you know."

Two men walked up to the detectives.

"It looks like two perpetrators," said one of the men. "They cut the screen around the pool and came in the bathroom door-taped it and smashed it. Apparently, they took care of the occupants first, so they could empty the house in peace. There's blood on the door from the dining room to the garage, and on the garage door. They must have opened the garage door and pulled in and loaded up the stuff they stole. They might have had a truck or a van."

In the upstairs bedroom, paramedics checked the bodies.

"She's dead," exclaimed one paramedic. He pressed his fingers to Bob Adams' neck for a moment. "Maybe," he said, slipping his stethoscope into his ears and held the end to Bob Adams' chest. "Hey, this one's still alive, barely."

They rolled Betty off of her husband.

"My God, look at the blood coming out of him," exclaimed the second paramedic. "Her weight must have saved him, by pressing on that hole in his chest. We better get him out of here."

Forty-eight seconds later, the ambulance was on its way to Holy Cross Hospital, some two and a half miles away.

Another detective approached the group around Clark. "She's been dead for around five hours. He still had a heartbeat-just barely."

"He's alive?" cried Clark.

"So far," said the detective.

"He bought a gun yesterday," said Clark. His voice was weak. "But he had to wait three days to pick it up."

"He probably wouldn't have had a chance to use it," said the detective. "They were almost certainly surprised in bed. At the most, they had a couple of seconds. Even I wouldn't have had much chance, and I know how to use my gun, and I have fast reflexes."

"So did Bob," said Clark. "He was an officer in the Military Police for four years, doing what you do. I wonder how many people are killed in this country because they couldn't get a gun, or weren't allowed to have one on them. No criminals; that's for sure. Only law-abiding citizens. Anyone with any sense at all knows that all the gun control crap isn't to prevent crime or deaths. They want guns taken away because the government's afraid that someday people will get fed up and revolt. If they can take away everyone's guns, then, no matter how oppressive they become, they won't have to worry about a revolution. If the British had taken all the guns away from the colonists, there would never have been an America. They don't want anything like that to happen ever again."

One of the detectives walked away. Here and now, he couldn't bring himself to spout the standard lies. He and every honest policeman in the world knew Clark was right, but he could be in serious trouble for saying so.

"They should have had an alarm system," said the second detective.

Ed Clark stood up and looked at him, sadly. "Yes, I suppose it was their fault, for not having an alarm. What were the poor murderers supposed to do when Bob and Betty made it so easy for them to get in? Maybe they should pass a law against tempting criminals. Hell, there probably is one. I hope you aren't too hard on these poor guys, if you should accidentally catch them or they turn themselves in. After all, it's not their fault. Their parents were probably divorced too. Good-bye. I'm leaving. If you want me, you can reach me here. I hope you don't. You make me sick." He handed them a business card and left.

 

***

 

To those aware of the enormity of Randolph Enterprises, the most striking feature of the Randolph Building is its size. Only four stories high, including Clinton Randolph's penthouse home, it is much smaller than branch offices of many smaller companies. Furthermore, it isn't in Manhattan, or Boston, or any metropolis known as a business center. Able to locate anywhere he wanted, Randolph chose West Palm Beach, the bourgeois neighbor of posh Palm Beach, which it faces, directly across the bay.

In his third-floor office, at a black, marble-topped table, beside the wall of glass that overlooked the bay, Clinton Randolph was sitting down with his friend, Leonard Fisher. The office was small, for someone in Randolph's position, but it was elegantly furnished in sleek marble, stainless steel, and leather. Hanging on the walls were three paintings, which hardly seemed chosen as furnishings, since they didn't particularly go with the decor. One was a competent copy of Fragonard's Fair-haired Boy; one an impressionistic portrait, vaguely reminiscent of Rembrandt's Man in Armor; and the third depicted a group of flamenco dancers. All three were signed "CR," for Clinton Randolph.

Leonard Fisher, at forty-five, a close contemporary of Randolph's, was not only Randolph's banker, but was his friend as well. A major portion of Randolph Enterprises' funds was deposited in Fisher's bank, where it constituted a significant percentage of total deposits.

"Just when you think maybe they have done all the damage they can for a while," said Fisher, "the bureaucracy finds a new way to screw things up."

"The Winter-Nichols Act?" asked Randolph.

"Yes, those two would make outstanding commissars. I estimate it will cost me at least two million, this year."

"When I heard about it, I knew it would hurt you. Fill me in on what it really is."

"I'm sure you've heard about the rising number of bank failures, Clint, even though you don't see much about it in the mainstream press."

"Yes," said Randolph, nodding.

"The FDIC never had enough to cover more than about four percent of the amount it insures," said Fisher. "A typical level of coverage over the years has been 1.2 percent. Today, it has less than one half of one percent of the amount covered, and that's dropping fast. One medium-sized bank failure and the FDIC would be broke. Printing money for a major bailout of the banking industry, on the heels of the savings and loan debacle, might be construed as an indication of poor policy on the part of someone."

"There might be some who would suggest that," said Randolph.

"You and I among them," said Fisher, with a laugh.

"I always thought it misleading to call it the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The way I see it, the FDIC encourages the very thing it is supposed to insure against-bank failures."

"Everyone in the banking industry knows that, but you're the first outsider I've heard mention it," said Fisher. "The FDIC is the last resort, turned to after the failure of all the other government programs to enable the banking cartel to do things that would otherwise put them out of business or in jail. All banks are insured equally, regardless of their business practices, and, until now, everyone has been charged the same. It's about as sensible as charging everyone the same for disability insurance, whether they work as a mercenary soldier or a librarian. The administration should address the problem, but instead of trying to stop the disreputable bankers' recklessness with their depositor's money, the government now wants to take money from the good banks to cover the losses of the bad ones."

"That doesn't surprise me," said Randolph. "Not one bit." He could see that Fisher was quite upset; his face was flushed, and he was gesticulating more than usual.

"But, basing the rate on the profitability of a bank, is unconscionable. The government's reasoning-" He paused, looked at Randolph, and they both smiled broadly at what he had said. "The government's rationalization," he continued, correcting his previous error, "is that they don't want to cause any additional bank failures, by putting too much of a burden on marginally profitable banks-the ones causing the problems in the first place. What they're doing is punishing good bank managers, like me, by confiscating their profits. I don't think any bank will have to pay a higher a rate than I do. The big banks can do accounting tricks so that their profit appears to come from their side businesses, outside the regulator's reach. I could do that, too, on a much smaller scale. I could put my bank buildings in separate corporations and lease them to the banks. If a given bank made a million dollars in a year, I could charge them that amount in rent, and break even. It's legal, and I'll probably do it. Since it was surely their idea, the insiders will have already acted before the new fee was passed. It won't even affect them."

Randolph struck the table with his fist and got up. He stood by the window, looking out across the water toward Palm Beach. "Another tax on success," he said, almost to himself, "to subsidize and protect mediocrity, or worse. Will it never end, this obsessive biting of the hand that feeds them? We saw communism fail because it tried to prevent anyone making a profit. We may see our system fall because it tries to prevent incompetents and criminals having a loss. Actually, Leonard, I think this piece of legislation is calculated to squelch competition for the major banks. If they drive you to desperation, they can offer you a low-ball price and buy you out. Sometimes, Leonard, I get so frustrated, I don't know what to do."

"You're frustrated," said Fisher. "Think how I feel. I'm the one they're ripping off."

"The money they take from you and the other honest, efficient bankers might have financed the discovery of a cure for cancer, or perhaps an automobile engine capable of running on air, but, instead, it will be used to replace money lost through bad decisions, theft, and waste by crooked or incompetent bankers. Behavior rewarded-in this case, waste or theft-tends to be repeated. Behavior punished-in this case, honesty and productivity-tends not to be repeated."

"I agree," said Fisher.

"Yes," said Randolph, "those are the results that this law produces. But that isn't why this law is wrong, or evil. It's evil because it's your money, not theirs, and it's being stolen just as surely as if it were taken by a relatively 'honest' bank-robber. The identity, intentions, and popularity of the thief aren't parts of the definition of theft. It doesn't matter who does it, why they do it, nor how many people think it’s a good idea; if your money is taken against your will, it is always theft, and it is always wrong. Anyone who isn't criminally insane or mentally incompetent should see that; and if they think about it, they will understand why they have supported thievery. There is no good theft, and there are no good thieves. Why are so many people ready to believe that it's okay to steal, cheat, kill, whatever, as long as it is being done to someone else, and as long as enough other evil, immoral people agree with them?"

Fisher laughed. "Answer that question, Clint, and you'll know why there are street gangs, lynch mobs, communists, and socialists-even liberals."

"There is strength in numbers. A lot of people seem to think there is also absolution in numbers, for any sin." Randolph went back to the table and sat down. "Excuse me for getting up on my soapbox, Leonard. I've been extremely cognizant of many similar things lately, and your problem irritates an already open wound."

"Don't apologize to me, Clint. I couldn't agree with you more. Although, as you said, it is so frustrating that we don't know what to do, if there is anything to do."

"There are things to do, and they should be done," said Randolph. "But, they require a bit of moral fiber, something that is in short supply these days, and nowhere more so than in Washington. By the way, this reminds me that there's something I want to take up with you, before you leave."

Alicia Pendleton interrupted them. Patrick Parvell was on line one. She didn't know if she should interrupt Randolph or not. But because Parvell was such a well-known news commentator, she was afraid not to let Randolph know. Mr. Parvell had called yesterday, but hadn't wanted to leave a message.

"I'll talk to him," Randolph said. He went to the desk and picked up the telephone.

"Randolph here."

Parvell told Randolph that he wanted to tape an interview for later broadcast on his television program.

"As a matter of policy, Mr. Parvell, I don't do interviews, and I especially won't do recorded interviews," Randolph said.

"Understand," said Parvell, in a patronizing tone, "I almost never call a prospective interviewee myself. That is nearly always left to someone on my staff. So far, no one has ever turned them down. Out of deference to your importance, I've called you myself. Presidents, Vice-Presidents, many senators, congressmen, and heads of state have been asked to tape interviews for my show, and I have never been turned down."

"Well, Mr. Parvell, you have now. But, thank you for asking me. Was there anything else?"

Parvell sputtered a little, said there was nothing more, and hung up. Randolph went back to the table and Fisher.

"Wouldn't an interview with Patrick Parvell be an opportunity to speak to millions of people?" asked Fisher.

"If it were a live interview," said Randolph, "I might consider it, even with such an arrogant, little upstart. An acquaintance of mine did a taped interview for his show, and when he saw the show, he couldn't recognize his own comments. You would be surprised at what they can do when they edit those interviews. A person can say, for instance, 'No one can say that I hate children.' By cutting out the 'No one can say that,' when they air the interview, he would be heard to say, 'I hate children.' Every viewer will believe that he hates children, because they heard and saw him say it. But, he didn't say it. Moreover, regardless of the type of interview, the people who most need to hear the truth about what's going on wouldn't be watching anyway. You know that, Leonard. The threshold of concern these days, for most people, is personal catastrophe."

The intercom buzzed. It was Alicia again. She was sorry to interrupt, but Doctor MacRae was on the line. Doctor MacRae was on the priority list, and when anyone on the priority list called, Randolph wanted to know, no matter what he was doing.

"Excuse me a minute, Leonard." Randolph picked up the telephone again. "Good morning, Doctor MacRae."

"I have to be going anyway," called Fisher, waving good-bye.

"Just a minute, Doctor MacRae," said Randolph. With his hand over the receiver, he said, "Leonard, I hate to hold you up, but I have something I want to ask you. This call will be brief, I'm sure. Can you stay a little longer?"

Fisher nodded.

"Okay, Doctor MacRae," said Randolph. "How are you?"

"I'm fine, Clint. And you?"

"Fine," said Randolph, "And how is Mrs. MacRae?"

"She's very well, thank you. She got her Ph.D. last semester, and now she can teach real math courses."

"That's great. No more of those demeaning Math Education courses," said Randolph.

"Clint," said MacRae, "I know you're busy, and I hate to interrupt you."

"I'm never too busy for you, Doctor MacRae."

"Thanks, Clint, I appreciate that. I'm calling about a student of mine, Jeremy Worth. He's the best I've seen in years, but he has a family problem, and he has to drop out of school. He only has six credits to go for his Bachelor's. His family was paying for it, but his father recently had a heart attack and will be laid up for some time. Jeremy has to go to work and save some money for school-at least he feels that he must. I was thinking that you might have a place for him in your company."

"You say he's the best student you've seen in years?"

"I'll say. Even if he didn't have this problem, you'd be interested in him. He has a 3.85 grade point average. He would have finished this semester, if he hadn't taken a few too many electives-like someone else I know."

"Someone we both know. If he's as good as you say, I'm sure I can find a spot for him. I assume he's at home with a computer."

"Some of the electives that he took were computer programming courses," said MacRae. "Others were things like Geology and Poetry."

"He sounds normal enough to me. Look, Doctor MacRae, see if he can get up here next Wednesday morning, at eight o'clock. If, for any reason, he can't make it, be sure and let me know. Otherwise, I'll expect him in my office at eight, next Wednesday."

"That's wonderful, Clint," said MacRae. "I'm sure he'd get back to school on his own, eventually. But, I hate to see his contribution to the world held back, by a couple of math courses. I didn't know if you had much use for a math major, as opposed to one of the physical sciences. Thanks a million."

"Thank you, Doctor MacRae. I always need supermen, and it sounds as though Jeremy Worth might be one. I have a Ph.D. in math and I never use any mathematics I learned after my freshman year. I know you wouldn't want to hear it, but had I known that I would be going into business for myself, like many entrepreneurs, I probably wouldn't have finished college. But, I did enjoy it, and I wouldn't have majored in anything else, for the world. Nothing would have helped me as much as mathematics has. In no other subject do you get so much practice in problem solving. You learn to look at things from every possible angle, trying to find the way to get where you want to go. Mathematics develops the skills necessary for successful living."

"I know you're right, Clint. I only wish that were common knowledge. I'll see to it that Jeremy is there next Wednesday. Well, I'll let you get back to work. Thanks a million.

"You're always welcome, Doctor MacRae. You don't have to have to wait until you have a reason to call, you know. Today, I am pretty busy. I would have called you soon anyway, because I have something to take up with you. I don't have time to go into it right now. I do have to run, but I'll be in touch shortly.”

Turning back to Fisher, he said, "Sorry to hold you up. Doctor MacRae and I go way back. He was my advisor in college."

"No problem, Clint. What's on your mind?"

"For some time, I've been contemplating the implications of the information age, which came into its own with the Internet, and which I firmly believe will be the successor to the industrial age. The information age has the potential to effect enormous social and political changes. It could bring about the end of the welfare nation-state, and give people a new freedom, even beyond that envisioned by our founding fathers. I want you to really consider that, Leonard, now, while you're upset about an abusive government."

"You noticed that I was upset, did you?"

"Many productive people are likewise upset. Contrary to natural law, the government is intruding on every aspect of human existence, and everything they touch, they usually ruin. But even if that weren't the case, the infringement on the rights of the individual would still be immoral and evil. Nozzick-amazingly, a Harvard professor—argued rather brilliantly in his book, 'Man, State, and Anarchy,' that, logically, we do need a government, but for one purpose only-to protect us from attack. He contends that if there were no government at all, and each person had to provide for his own defense, some weaker people would be hard pressed to defend themselves from a stronger attacker. Protection agencies would spring up, protecting people for a fee. People would always want the strongest and best agency, and it would enjoy great success, make much money, and grow even stronger. Eventually, one agency would dominate all others. That agency would be, in effect, filling the role of a government, protecting its clients. Nozzick is truly an intellectual rose in the Harvard onion patch, and I believe that he was right.

"Governments overcharge for their protection and for their superfluous services, by orders of magnitude. In the past, they got away with it, because the people that produced the wealth were reasonably concerned about losing the fruits of their labor and even their lives. They may be worried about the same things today; but now, the government itself is the greatest threat to their wealth; and their fellow citizens, far more than foreign soldiers, are the predominant threat to their lives and their safety. Large numbers of productive people will be moving to tax havens, and setting up businesses on the Internet. As the oppressive governments recognize this, they'll become extremely belligerent, and they will attack the tax havens. Since 1995, Americans wanting to leave have to buy their freedom, much like slaves did before the civil war. No, it wasn't Fidel Castro, or the leader of an iron curtain country, it was William Jefferson Clinton, who, by royal decree, declared American citizens to be property of the state, until they buy their freedom with forty percent of their assets. The emancipation proclamation needs to be proclaimed again. That our government thought it necessary to impose such a ransom tax tells me I'm right. It implies that they already know that productive people have a reason to want out, if they could find a place where they could be free. Note that essentially no one condemned or even commented on Clinton's declaration that the people are property of the state. Not even the Libertarians. Such apathy is bound to foster government's natural tendency to be even more confiscatory and more tyrannical in the future. I had thought there would be more time, but this and other forays into despotism, on the part of our government and those that control it, indicate that the time may be quite short. The problem is huge and the alternatives are infinite. Coming up with a solution calls for a concentrated effort. I want to establish a Mastermind, as advocated by Napoleon Hill in 'Think and Grow Rich.' Are you familiar with that concept?"

"I read the book," said Fisher. "But I don't recall anything about a Mastermind."

"It's a specialized, dedicated, brainstorming team. You assemble a group with a common interest and an assortment of talents, and they focus their attention and their talents on the achievement of a common goal. Charles Schwabb used the technique to make U.S. Steel the powerhouse that it was. The theory is that synergy makes ten heads working together, better than twenty, thirty, or more working separately."

"I would imagine that that's true," said Fisher.

"I'd like you to be part of my Mastermind group, Leonard."

"Thank you, Clint," said Fisher. "I'll be glad to. I'm honored."

"We need to develop strategies, and the task is too big for any one person. We need to protect ourselves, and, while we're at it, why not make some money from the transition to an information age?"

"Why not, indeed? But it's not enough to make money, the trick is to keep it from being sucked into that bottomless pit in Washington."

"I know you're in a hurry, Leonard, so I won't hold you up any longer. I'll be in touch with you. I'll be adding others to the group, and we'll all get together soon."

"I'm with you all the way, Clint. I really have to run though. People are waiting for me."

"Good-bye, Leonard," said Randolph. He had been affected by his own diatribe. After his friend had left, he sat thinking about what he had said.


***

 

Patrick Parvell rummaged through a desk drawer. "I know I have some anti-acid tablets here, somewhere," he said, holding his hand to his stomach. "God, I wish I hadn't eaten that Mexican crap for lunch."

His boss, Richard Crutchfield, smiled inwardly, knowing full well that Parvell's stomach was upset, not because of anything he ate for lunch, but because, earlier in the morning, Clinton Randolph had turned down his request for an interview.

"This Randolph must be as arrogant as they come," Crutchfield said, "to turn down an interview with the number one news personality in the nation. Who does he think he is, anyway?"

"God, that's who," whined Parvell. "That worthless son-of-a-bitch thinks he's God."

"I don't think 'worthless' is the proper adjective for Clinton Randolph," said Crutchfield, pausing for effect. "But then, you have had some pretty wealthy people on your show, haven't you, Pat?"

"Damned right I have," said Parvell. "Old John Paul Getty. Steve Forbes. I even had Bill Knorrs on. He's the next richest, after Randolph."

"A long way after Randolph. As I recall, you really were pretty antagonistic with all of them. Maybe Randolph was afraid you'd give him a hard time." Crutchfield looked out the window, so Parvell couldn't see the smile on his face.

"He should be afraid of me," Parvell growled. "I would have been hard on him. All that money. I hate his rich guts. It's obscene for anybody to have that much money and that much power."

"It's really too bad that he is so rich and so powerful," said Crutchfield. He sensed Parvell was about as worked up as he would ever be. It was time to push him to attack Randolph. "He's such a big man, I don't wonder that no one has the guts to take him on."

Looking as if he would explode any second, Parvell glared at Crutchfield. Crutchfield had never seen anyone foam at the mouth-a dog once, but never a person. Yet, he almost expected Parvell to start at any moment.

"I doubt that even you," Crutchfield went on, "as great as you are, and you are the greatest, would be a match for Randolph. And-well-if he's too much for you, he's certainly too much for anyone else. What a shame there's no one at all, capable of putting the great Clinton Randolph in his place." Crutchfield looked downward and shook his head from side to side, emphasizing the desolation that this fact gave him.

"That's what you think, is it? I'll have you know that no one is too big for Patrick Parvell," he cried, tapping his index finger on his chest. "The person hasn't been born that's too big for me. Not only could I take Randolph on, but, by God, I will. Hell yes, I'll fix that rich bastard. He'll be lucky if he doesn't get life in prison, after I get through with him." He picked up his telephone and punched at it violently.

"Okay, get this," he shouted into the telephone. "Our new target is Clinton Randolph. I want the works on him. No holds barred. Understand?" He was vehement. "I want it thorough, and I want it now. Drag your feet and you're history. Understand?" He slammed the phone down.

"You're a brave man, Pat," said Crutchfield. "It sounds like all-out war."

"That's exactly what it is, Dick, war. Once upon a time, as the fairy tales start, the charter of journalists was to inform the people; today it's to protect the people and to teach them how to live. I intend to teach them to hate Clinton Randolph. Because of what he is, rich and successful, it will be easy. Because of what he is, rich, successful, and Libertarian, every journalist will join me. I won't even have to ask them."

Richard Crutchfield closed the door behind him. Once in the hall, he grinned openly and broadly. He was well satisfied. He was going to look good to Mr. Phipps.

 

 

When Patrick Parvell went home that evening, following his show, Margaret was curled up on the sofa, reading a book.

"Hello, Pat. I watched you tonight. You were very good."

"Thanks."

"Be sure and let me know when your interview of Clinton Randolph airs. I really would like to see that."

His eyes narrowed to slits, as he stared at her. "There won't be an interview of Clinton Randolph," he said, icily.

"Then I guess it's true that he doesn't do interviews."

"That arrogant bastard turned me down. I interviewed every American President since Kennedy, dozens of European leaders, everyone who is anyone, and that lousy S.O.B. breaks my record. Do you know what he said, when I told him that I had interviewed presidents, senators, kings and queens, and that I had never, ever, been turned down?"

"What?"

"He said, 'Well, Mr. Parvell, you have now.'"

Margaret Parvell coughed slightly and put her hand to her mouth to hide the smile she couldn't suppress.

"Don't be too upset, Pat. You went a long time with a perfect record, but nothing lasts forever."

"Upset? Me? Ha. Are you serious? Why should I be upset? If anyone should be upset, it's Clinton Randolph, and he will be, by God. I'll see to that."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I'll crucify him."

"Just because he wouldn't give you an interview, you're going to crucify him. Aren't you overreacting a little?"

"It's not because he turned me down," said Parvell. "It's because he's a no-good, rotten son-of-a-bitch. He came from some little one-horse town in Florida, without a pot to piss in. Now, he owns dozens of huge companies, not just controlling interest in them, but outright-lock, stock, and barrel. He's the richest man on earth. The combined income of all the people in the bottom twenty-five countries in the UN is less than his net worth. He needs to be brought down, way down. And, by God, I'm the one to do it."

"I can see that you think that," she said. "But, if it's not because he turned you down, then I really don't understand why. The only reason you gave is that he's enormously successful and terribly rich. Is that why you hate him?"

"Of course not. Although he is so god-damned rich that, that alone is reason enough to hate him."

"Come on, Pat. You'd have that much money, if there were any way at all for you to get it. By most people's standards, you're a rich man yourself."

"Some of us, who are financially secure, have a great sympathy for those less fortunate. I dedicate myself to improving the lot of the poor and downtrodden."

"How many downtrodden have you improved lately, Pat?"

"My help is at a higher, philosophical level. I form public opinion in favor of the losers in life's lottery."

"Forming that public opinion is what made you rich. If you weren't getting paid for it, I don't think you'd give the poor and downtrodden a thought. Randolph got rich by producing things that people wanted enough to spend their hard-earned money for. He put thousands of people to work, in good-paying jobs, tangibly improving their lives. At any rate, you're both rich."

"I may be rich by some standards, but certainly not by his standards," he sneered.

"Oh, I see," she said. "He's richer than you are. That's his crime. Now I understand."

"You never understood anything in your cotton-pickin' life," he said. She was confusing him. He stormed from the room, calling out as he left, "I'm going to my den, where I don't have to listen to this kind of crap." He sometimes called the room his office and, sometimes, his den. Right now it was a den, where the lion could lick his wounds. For several minutes, she could hear him slamming things around. Then it was quiet, and she went back to her book.

She read a few lines, but, unable to concentrate, set the book aside. Her husband had destroyed quite a few men with his crusades. In many cases, it could be argued that they deserved destruction. In this case, there was no indication of Clinton Randolph deserving annihilation. Clinton Randolph had significantly more stature than the others did. Perhaps, unlike the others, he could and would fight back, even successfully. Her husband had an enormous advantage in being on ABS news. Few people could withstand an assault by a major network on prime time television. If the other networks joined in, possibly no one could survive such a concentration of power. She firmly believed that the public was so susceptible to suggestion that the media could convince a majority of the population that a flat earth was the center of the universe. But Clinton Randolph wasn't just anyone. He was, after all, the richest man on earth. Could her husband, of all people, defeat a Clinton Randolph? Could someone like Randolph be destroyed merely because he turned down a television interview? She realized that she was hoping he couldn't be. She felt a little guilty for wanting her husband to fail. But, would he?


***

 

Jane Nelson was lying in her hospital bed, when she heard a knock at her door. Looking up, she saw her husband, Fred, her son, Jack, and her brother, Max.

"Hi," she said, feebly.

Fred gave her a kiss. "How are you feeling, Honey?" The sight of her head, wrapped in bandages, filled him with compassion.

"I feel weak," she said, in a whisper. "But I'm optimistic. The doctor said that he thinks I'll be getting better from now on."

"That's fantastic," exclaimed Fred. "You do look better than yesterday."

"It sure is fantastic," said Max.

"I can't remember yesterday," said Jane.

"You were so doped up, we couldn't tell if you were conscious," said Fred.

"Whatever they did to me must have worked," she said, "I'm glad to be back in the world. Aren't you missing classes, Jack?"

"Yes, but I'll make it up." I'll go back Monday."

"We wouldn't want you to lose out, this close to the end of the semester," she said.

"Don't worry, Mom," he said. "I'll do fine."

"Have you heard anything about Kit, Max?" she whispered, her voice getting weaker and weaker.

"Yes, I talked to him last night," said Max. "I tried to call him yesterday morning, but had to leave a message. He called me back last night."

"Well, what's going on?"

"Because of all his decorations," Max said, "they decided not to court-martial him, if he'll resign. They'll give him an honorable discharge. He said he accepted it."

"He shouldn't have," she cried, her voice was squeaky. "I would have fought it. I would have made them expose what they're doing. Kit was a Green Beret and the second most decorated serviceman in history. He had a perfect record. When he insisted on living up to the oath they had him take, not to serve a foreign power, they throw him out of the service. Because he wouldn't trade his American uniform for a UN uniform, and serve under a Russian commander, he's called un-American. The traitors that ordered him to do it are the ones who are un-American."

"His lawyers told him he couldn't possibly win in a court-martial, and, unlike a civilian trial, the press wouldn't see it or even the transcripts, so he could get a dishonorable discharge and maybe even jail time, for nothing. So he decided to take their deal. He said he'd be home in a week or so," said Max.

"At least, we'll get to see him," she said. "I'm happy about that, but not very happy about the circumstances." Her eyes closed. She was motionless.

"Believe me. Kit's not happy about it," said Max. "Not a bit." His voice trailed off.

"How could he possibly be," said Jack. "I'm glad they did away with the draft. I wouldn't want to be in a military that wasn't even American any more. I heard they gave a questionnaire to Marines, in California, asking them if they would be willing to fire on American civilians, if a UN commander ordered them to." Jack sincerely admired his Uncle Kit. Even though he doubted that he would ever be brave enough to volunteer to go to war, he admired those who could and did.

"What did the Marines say?" asked Fred. He motioned them away from her bed.

"A quarter said they would; a quarter said they wouldn't; and half were neutral, whatever that means."

"Why on earth would they ask something like that, in the first place?" asked Max.

"Maybe they plan to turn our armed forces over to the UN and let them take over the United States. Who knows?" said Jane. "Slickwill gave the Chinese our missile guidance technology and our atomic secrets. People have gone to prison and even been executed for lesser treason. With a traitor like that for a president, you can imagine what kind of people he's appointed to key positions. What they're doing to Kit is merely evidence that the Commander-in-chief's corruption has reached the upper echelons of the military."

"At least, now, Kit won't have to shoot us," said Max.

"I think Kit would be on the other side, with me and the other American patriots, shooting at the UN," said Jane. "If it came to that."

"Is getting worked up like this good for you, Jane?" asked Fred.

"I don't know," she said. "I'll have to ask the doctor. But I think I'll stop for now. I'm so sleepy." She closed her eyes and fell asleep. 


***

 

"Got a minute, Ted?"

Senator Theodore Winter looked up to see his long-time colleague, Senator Wilbur "Nick" Nichols, standing in the doorway.

"Come on in, Nick." Turning to his aide, he said, "We can finish this later, Scott. Tell them not to disturb me."

"Hello, Senator Nichols," said Scott on his way out.

"Hello, Scott," said Senator Nichols, closing the door behind Scott.

"What's up?" asked Senator Winter.

"Did Liz say anything to you about not running?"

"Not a word. I was shocked when I heard it. Why?"

"Nothing. I just wondered. Three days ago, she and I were discussing her campaign strategy, and she seemed all fired up and anxious to run. The thought of not running seemed the farthest thing from her mind."

"She said it was for personal reasons," said Senator Winter.

"She's the fourth Democratic senator this year to say they weren't going to run for re-election. Bull Henderson makes it five-four Democrats and a Republican. That's gotta be some kind of a record."

"It is unusual," said Senator Winter. "Every one of them was completely unexpected, too."

"There have been eleven in the House. There have been a lot of resignations too: two in the Cabinet, the Chief of Staff, the Directors of the FDA and the FCC, even some top career people in Commerce, Justice, and State. What the hell is happening? Is there an epidemic of cold feet, or what?"

"I doubt that. I'm sure it's just a weird coincidence."

"I've been in Washington thirty-five years, Ted, and I've never seen anything like it. Almost all of them are on our side. Do you suppose it might have something do with the president's problems? Are they rats deserting a sinking ship? I have to admit, I worry about the situation now and then, myself, but not enough to bail out-not for that reason."

"I suppose that's possible. The career people wouldn't have anything to worry about though. They could just be normal attrition. Then, too, maybe there's something that hasn't come out yet, and they all know about it. I can't believe all these people are involved with him. But, Hell, who knows? Nearly everything about him is unbelievable."

"Yeah, who knows." Senator Nichols hadn't told anyone of his own plans to retire. If the news leaked out, he couldn't even get a motion to adjourn passed, since other senators would know they couldn't expect any future favors from him, when it came to pushing their own bills through. Would his retirement be seen as part of the strange exodus? He didn't care. He would quit as soon as his bill on the BATF and the FDA came up for a vote. Clapping Senator Winter on the shoulder, he said, "I'll see you Ted. I have to go."


***

 

Phil Matthews switched off his wireless telephone and dropped it into a holster on his belt. He left his office and headed for the conference room and a meeting that was waiting for him. Opening the conference room door, he announced, "Gentlemen, Senator Liz Dearborne just announced she wouldn't run for re-election,"

The announcement evinced cheers from seven men dressed in white shirts and ties, as they rose to their feet.

"Where did you hear it, Phil?" asked Clyde Zimmerman.

"Marcy called-it was on SNO."

"Who is Marcy?" asked Bart Connors, the newest member of the team.

"Marcy's my wife," said Matthews.

"SIA was primarily her idea," said Dave Larson.

"The whole thing?" asked Connors.

"The whole thing," said Matthews.

"Damn. Has she been in our business?" asked Connors

"Hardly," said Matthews. "She's a commercial artist. She has some strong feelings about government corruption though. Some years ago, her parents bought a couple hundred acres, in West Virginia. Their plan was pay for it, build an A-frame on it, and spend part of the year there, after they retired. They scrimped and saved and finally paid for it and started saving for the cabin. Someone suddenly took an interest in the property and managed to have it declared a wetlands reserve. The place is fifteen hundred feet above sea level and has a stream, less than a foot wide, which has a couple of inches of water in it, three or four months a year. It's about as realistic to call it a wetland as it would be to call Miami Beach a glacier. Her parents still own the property, but they can't use it for anything. They can't even build a campfire on it or plant a garden or a flowerbed. Furthermore, they can't sell it; who would buy land they can't use?"

"I didn't know about that. Why would anyone do that?" asked Zimmerman.

"I'm not sure," said Matthews, "but it's adjacent to a large parcel that the Crocker family has a lodge on. Perhaps the Crocker's wanted to have nothing but pristine woods, as far as they could see. Marcy's found that, in the last few years, something like that happens just about every day. No hearing, no anything, just take people's property, or, as in her parent's case, not take it, but prohibit its use."

"I'd be really pissed," said Ira Lincoln, the only black man in the group.

"They were pretty angry," said Matthews. "But let's get on with the meeting."


***

 

Rick Foster, the Engineering Manager of Randolph Computers, finished interviewing the four engineers who had previously worked for Spartacus. He had spent almost half an hour with each of them, reviewing their projects, talking for a few minutes about whatever came up, and ending with a few seemingly casual questions about Spartacus. He slipped the tapes of the interviews into an envelope and called George Elman. "George, the tapes are ready. Want me to take them to your office?"

When he arrived at Elman's office, just down the hall, Elman was on the telephone with Randolph. "It's no problem. We'll be there as soon as we can. Probably thirty to forty minutes. Okay."

Rick Foster handed the envelope to Elman. "Are we taking them to West Palm?"

"We're on our way," said Elman, turning off the light in his office, shutting the door, and locking it. "Clint is waiting for us. Working a little late isn't going to create any serious problem for you, is it?"

"No. Not at all."

 

 

Arthur ushered Foster and Elman into the living room, and told them to have a seat. Within seconds, Randolph, wearing comfortable, casual clothes, came in to greet them. "Why don't you take off your ties and make yourselves comfortable," he said. "I'm sorry to keep you after hours, but the situation demands immediate attention."

After they told him not to worry about it, Randolph summoned Arthur.

"I've asked Arthur to take your orders for dinner. Even though we have work to do, we still have to eat. It will probably take thirty to forty minutes. Meanwhile, we can get started on the tapes."

Once they had made their selections from the menu Arthur had given them, they began analyzing the voices on the tapes. They calibrated the stress level on the innocuous conversation early in an interview, then skipped to near the end and the Spartacus questions. The analyzer measured the effects of stress on the vocal cords, which increases significantly, when intentionally lying. After the second tape, they had their man. They analyzed the two remaining interviews, but there was only the one culprit. Just to be sure, they weren't misjudging that one, they rechecked his tape and played the whole interview. There were no unusual readings until the questions about Spartacus.

"I was afraid that we might need an expert to go over the tapes," said Elman, "but there's no doubt whatsoever; it's clearly Al Gorp. He worked on the new system; his previous employer was Spartacus; and he clearly lied, when answering the questions about Spartacus."

Arthur announced the arrival of the food. Randolph led them out onto the terrace. "Arthur has prepared a table for us, here under the stars, with this magnificent view of Palm Beach across the bay. We even have a boat, just offshore, bobbing in the moon's reflection. We've found our man. Let's set work aside for a while and enjoy our meal. I believe in focus, regardless of the activity. While working, focus on work; while playing, focus on play; and now we can focus on relaxing and enjoying the meal."

They enjoyed a pleasant meal, a bottle of fine wine, and eclectic conversation. A little over an hour later, when the meal was over, and Elman and Foster were ready to leave, Randolph turned the conversation back to work.

"Don't let on that we know Gorp is working for Spartacus. Rick, I want you to find an excuse to send him as far away as you can, for at least a month. The minute he's gone, I want you to start a crash program to enhance the new line, as much as possible, given the time constraint. We all know that every time you design something, new ideas crop up during the process. You know you could do it better, if you had it to do over. Well, we have it to do over, to a limited extent. Let's review the design completely and see what can be done to make it better. The minute we know what our new specs and features are, we'll announce the product. The idea is to stop people from buying the Spartacus product, even if they have to wait a little for ours.

"I want a special emphasis on anything to do with communication and the Internet. I firmly believe that the transition from the industrial age to the information age began, not with any technological advance, rather it began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent breakup of the Soviet Union. With the end of the superpower struggle, the weakening and possible demise of the nation-states, the rush into the information age takes on a significance of such enormity, as to be incomprehensible at this stage. We must be at the forefront of that rush.

"What we're doing and the reason for it has to be top secret," added Randolph, before they could respond. "Don't mention it to anyone, not even your wives. Don't even talk about it between yourselves, unless you're certain that it's safe to do so. Get someone to sweep your offices for bugs, and learn how to do it yourselves. The individual engineers aren't to know the big picture. Obviously, everyone will know that something is going on, but we need to minimize what they know. Let each engineer think that we found a few bugs in another part of the system, and, as long as we have to take the time to clear them up, we may as well take advantage of the opportunity to refine their part of the design. Tell them that we're merely trying to make our product as good as we possibly can. Progress reports, I'll want them daily, if not more often. No more than thirty days to have the enhancements blocked out and no more than ninety, from today, to ship the first system. No exceptions. No excuses. No negatives. Are there any questions?"

"Is overtime okay?" asked Foster.

"I would think that it's essentially mandatory," said Randolph. "The more the merrier. But, if anyone gets punchy, send them home to rest. Otherwise, they can live at work. They can work at home, if it's productive. That might even be better, if it's practical and it works out. Keep close tabs on everyone's progress and let them know the instant you even suspect a problem, and let me know too. Obviously, this is going to be harder for you two, than for anyone else, if only because you know what is really going on. If you need any kind of help, let me know. If you hit an overload condition or any bottleneck whatsoever, be sure and let me know the instant you even suspect it. If anyone in the outside world asks about signs of unusual activity, just say that, in a pre-release product review, we discovered a few minor changes that would enhance the product, and we decided to incorporate them.

"While Gorp is away, bug his office phone. We may find out about any new plans that Spartacus might have for him-or us. Remember, never let on that we know about him. Notify the operator that if he calls in, not to connect him with anyone other than one of you."

In the elevator, on their way out, Foster said to Elman, "Do you think he was planning that strategy, while we were having dinner?"

"I don't know," said Elman. "It is possible, I suppose. I read somewhere that they ran brain wave tests on Einstein, while he was working a math problem. They found that different parts of his brain had different waveforms. In anyone else, all the waves are essentially identical. They said that indicated that different parts of Einstein's brain worked independently, each working on a different part of the problem. If Randolph's brain works like that, one part could have been working out the strategy, while the other was attending to the dinner and the conversation. He's really only had thirty-some hours since he first found out about this. But you have to admit; it's a pretty good strategy. What else could he have done to salvage the situation?"

"I can't think of anything, but I'm sure that, if there are alternatives, he considered them. You know, George, I think we also got a little insight tonight about where the world is headed."

"You mean that part about the nation-states and the importance of the information age being incomprehensible?"

"Yeah," said Foster. "Does that mean he thinks the United States is going away?"

"I don't know," said Elman. "I hope not."

"God, I wish I could be inside that head for one day. In one day, we could set ourselves up in some business and be set for life."

"That's just a fantasy, Rick. But, seriously, I think we're two very lucky guys. If we stick with Clint, we'll end up better off than we could ever hope for without him."

"I have to agree with you there," said Foster.


CHAPTER 5

FRIDAY MORNING - DAY 4

 

 

James MacRae unlocked his office and shook his umbrella vigorously before going in. Jeremy Worth was coming this morning. He was fond of Jeremy. Most teachers have an understandable tendency to develop a fondness for their best students; and Jeremy was the best student MacRae had seen in a long time, certainly the best since he left Harvard five years ago.

His move to AUF had been costly, in terms of money, but he valued the increase in free time much more than the lost money. His response, when anyone asked why he had left Harvard to come to AUF, was to say, "You can always make more money, but you can never make more time." He could never remember where he had heard that sentence, but when, after churning about in his subconscious for an unknown period of time, it finally seeped into his consciousness, it changed his life.

Much of his new free time was spent in research and the study of mathematics. While some might consider that a busman's holiday, MacRae considered it doing what he loved to do. He had even had time to fall in love. When he first met Elsa Miller, a pert little blonde, twelve years younger than he was, she had but a master's degree in mathematics. This academic shortfall kept her from teaching "real" mathematics courses at AUF, meaning that she was restricted to teaching Math Education courses, those for future high school mathematics teachers. After their marriage, with his support, she obtained her Ph.D. in Mathematics, enabling her to teach "real" mathematics courses to "real" mathematics majors.

While dating MacRae, she had confessed that she almost felt guilty about even being connected with the Math Education courses. To James and Elsa MacRae, teaching was far more than just a livelihood; it was a vocation that they both took seriously. The dismal quality of Mathematics Education, and all other Education curricula, for that matter, genuinely distressed both of them. If a "real" mathematics major took a Math Education course, it couldn't be counted toward graduation, even as an elective. It wasn't because the course material was deficient, although it often was. In all Education courses, grading was on a curve. The curve was usually so skewed that most scores that should have received an "F" easily received a "C," "B," or even an "A." Grades in any Education course meant absolutely nothing, since passing a course often required little or no knowledge of the subject matter.

As much as they liked AUF, otherwise, he and Elsa had seriously considered moving to another university, because of the Education programs. A few inquiries soon changed their minds. They found the problem wasn't unique with AUF, but a national problem that was fast spreading throughout the western world. No wonder, they thought, that education had been declining in America for the last forty years. But why, they wondered, was an educational system known to fail and proven to be disastrous in every conceivable way, not only continued in America, but was replacing known successful systems around the world. To the MacRaes, this was truly a perplexing situation. It seemed as if there were a concerted effort to make sure that elementary and secondary school students learned next to nothing.

"You have to appreciate someone like Jeremy, considering what the high schools are turning out these days," Elsa had told her husband, the night before, when he had told her about Jeremy and his situation.

"There will always be some who will learn on their own, even without a teacher. But I'll bet that Jeremy's math teachers were older," he had said, "old enough to have graduated when you still had to know something to get a degree in Education. It's either that, or they have math degrees and went into teaching. Maybe the supply of Jeremys won't end when the older teachers are gone, but there'll surely be fewer of them. You're right, we had better enjoy them while we can."

An hour later, as they read quietly, he had said, as if thinking aloud, "You know, Elsa, I like Jeremy. The really good students are usually likable. The bad ones tend to be disagreeable. I wonder which is the cause and which the effect."

Jeremy was so eager to see Doctor MacRae that, in spite of the pouring rain, he arrived more than half an hour early. Since he had time to spare, he sat in the Spitfire for a few minutes, waiting to see if the rain would let up. The rain slowed to a slight drizzle, and Jeremy made a run for it. Just as he reached the Science Building, it began to pour again.

Doctor MacRae looked up when Jeremy knocked at the open door, "Worth," he said. "Come in. Sit down."

Jeremy sat down in front of MacRae's cluttered desk. "Good morning, Doctor MacRae."

"You don't look all that wet. You must have run between the drops," said MacRae, with a chuckle. "How's your father?"

"About the same," said Jeremy, forcing a smile in response to MacRae's humor. "Which I guess is pretty good, from what I've heard. They say that fifty-percent don't survive their first heart attack." Jeremy took a deep breath. "I got lucky with the rain; it almost stopped, for a necessary and sufficient interval to make it in from the parking lot."

Jeremy's use of the mathematical phrase "necessary and sufficient." brought a laugh from MacRae. "Well," he said, pulling himself up straight in his chair, "I have some news for you." A big grin spread over his face.

The grin told Jeremy it must be good news, and he leaned forward in anticipation.

"You know who Clinton Randolph is, don't you?" continued MacRae.

"Everyone knows who he is," said Jeremy, "if you mean the Clinton Randolph."

"Yes, I do mean the Clinton Randolph," said MacRae. "Well, I was his advisor, and he took several courses with me, at Harvard. We got to be pretty good friends, and still are. Actually, he was partly responsible for my coming to AUF, when I left Harvard. Anyway, I discussed your situation with him, and I told him what sort of student you are. He wants you to go to West Palm Beach to see him, next Wednesday morning at eight o'clock. He thinks he can work something out for you in his company."

"That's great," said Jeremy. "I don't know what to say." He shook his head, as if to clear his thoughts. "Clinton Randolph. Wow! Thank you, Doctor MacRae. Thank you so very, very, much."

"My goodness, I only arranged the meeting," said MacRae, almost embarrassed at Jeremy's gratitude. "It'll be up to you to sell yourself to him. Here's the telephone number of his company, so that you can get directions."

"I hope I don't get so nervous that I'm tongue-tied," said Jeremy, taking the paper and putting it in his wallet. "He's a pretty big man."

"He's an important man, in many ways," said MacRae. "But, he's only human. In fact, he is about as human as you can get. He's also very easy to get along with, and very understanding. How much do you know about him?"

"I know he's supposed to be the richest man in the world," said Jeremy. "He has a lot of companies, too. That's about it."

"Look, Worth, you got here early. We still have quite a while before nine o'clock. Let's go down to the cafeteria. We can have a cup of coffee, and I can tell you a little about Clinton Randolph."

Jeremy knew there was coffee available outside the office door. He assumed his advisor either wanted to get out, or he didn't want anyone to overhear what he had to say.

"Sure, Doctor MacRae, I could stand a cup of coffee, and some air too. And I do want to hear more about Clinton Randolph."

MacRae led Jeremy to a table in a quiet corner of the cafeteria. "You are so fortunate to have this chance to meet Clinton Randolph, Worth," said MacRae, as he sat down. "Not just because he can help you, but because he's a very unique person. Yes, he is the richest man on earth. He has dozens of companies, and he owns them all outright. But, that isn't the most remarkable thing about him."

Jeremy's attention was complete. MacRae's enthusiasm made him seem like a different person than the reticent mathematics professor that Jeremy had known these last four years. He noticed that MacRae hadn't touched his coffee.

"Clinton Randolph," continued MacRae, "is an intellectual phenomenon. His IQ is four or five times average, possibly much more."

"Four or five times average," exclaimed Jeremy. "An IQ of a five hundred. Are you serious?"

"I couldn't be more serious. Of course, it can only be estimated. IQ tests aren't capable of measuring a person like him. Five hundred is a conservative estimate, others say that his IQ might be a thousand, fifteen hundred, or even higher."

"Doesn't IQ lose its meaning as you get older?" asked Jeremy.

"In a way," answered MacRae. "If Randolph had an IQ of 500 at age five, he was where the average person takes twenty-five years to get to; his mental age is five times his chronological age. Does that mean that at 40, his intellectual age is 200? That's meaningless, of course. The concept of IQ wasn't meant for people like Clint, but I think you could say that, with an IQ of 500, he learns things and grasps concepts five times as fast as the average person with an IQ of a hundred does. After all, intelligence is only the capacity to learn, not how much you have learned. Intelligence certainly facilitates education, but education doesn't change your intelligence, it merely uses it."

"I never heard of anything like him," said Jeremy. "He must be an incredible person."

"When he came to Harvard," MacRae continued, "he was on a Putnam scholarship. He took the Putnam Test, turning in the only perfect paper ever. It was beautiful, not a correction on it. Everyone immediately thought he had to have cheated somehow. I called the head of the math department, here at AUF, where he did his undergraduate work. He assured me that Clint hadn't cheated, that he had no need to cheat. He said Clint read and grasped abstruse mathematical concepts, as easily as if they were sentences in an elementary school reader. He told me, too, that, in spite of his intelligence, he was seventeen years old when he came to AUF. Apparently, the Florida public school system wouldn't let him skip grades, no matter what. Maybe that was for the best. Who knows? It gave him a normal childhood, which he wouldn't have had, had he gone to a university when he was ten or twelve years old.

"When he first came to AUF, he came with his father, looking for advice, because it was the closest university for them. Somehow, they ended up in the office of the Director of the Math Department, who quickly realized he had a brilliant student on his hands. AUF was still young, and offered only junior and senior courses, giving graduates of the regional junior colleges somewhere to continue their education. The head of the department took Clint under his wing; he set it up to for him to take exams for all the prerequisites, so that he could start in his junior year. Think of it. He came from a small town school, straight into his junior year, skipping freshman and sophomore years. He had only the summer to study for all the exams. The department head suggested Clint start with differential equations, even though he hadn't had calculus."

"How could he take differential equations without calculus?" asked Jeremy. "I know they say calculus is where you learn your algebra, and differential equations is where you learn your calculus, but could you possibly understand differential equations without a knowledge of calculus?"

"Ah," said MacRae, with a smile. "I didn't say he wouldn't have a knowledge of calculus. The department head gave him a calculus book-the big, red Thomas book that they were using then-and told him to go through it at home, at the same time he was studying for eighteen or twenty final examinations, for courses he had never taken. He passed them all, by the way. His tests weren't perfect, but he got all A's and B's, and had a 3.5 grade point average going into his junior year."

"Unbelievable!" said Jeremy. "How did he get to be so smart? What kind of parents did he have?"

"They were both high school teachers," said MacRae. "Chemistry, the father. History, the mother. Smart enough, I guess. But not enough to explain a son like Clint. There is no explaining him. Yet, when you think about it, people with an IQ of ten aren't all that rare. In fact, the definition of an idiot isn't a person who would vote for President Slickwill again-although they're probably a subset-it's a person with an IQ of ten or less. It would seem reasonable to expect that if there are people an order of magnitude below normal, there would be some an order of magnitude above normal. As you know, that would be a thousand. But there are essentially none near 200, at the high end of the linear bell-shaped curve. Except for Clinton Randolph, none beyond 200. The two highest, before Clint, were John Stuart Mill, with an estimated IQ of 180, and Goethe with 200. Anyone with an IQ above 150 qualifies as a genius. Recently, a few people have supposedly been found with IQ's of 200 or even more. However, I doubt that they surpass Mill and Goethe. The tests have been altered since Terman did his work, in keeping with the trend to make mediocrity look better. Mill translated eighteen volumes of history-I don't remember if it was from Indian to English or vice-versa-at the age of ten."

"That means Randolph is somewhere between three and ten times as intelligent as he would need to be, to be considered a genius," said Jeremy.

"Right," said MacRae. "Almost scary, isn't it?"

"Apparently he didn't burn out, like they say child geniuses do."

"That's balderdash," said MacRae. "Most of the stories about geniuses are myths, or maybe sour grapes. It's a fascinating topic. If you want to do some interesting reading, get hold of Terman's Genetic Studies of Genius." Terman, a Stanford professor, is the one that modified the original IQ test developed, in France, by Benet, into the famous Stanford-Benet test. There must have been some good genes in the Terman family; his brother wrote what, for many years, was the most widely used electronics text in history. Anyway, Terman give his IQ test to every student in the state of California. Then he followed the top five-percent for years. There are several volumes to the study, the most fascinating one being the last one, in which he revisits the top five percent, after thirty years. His data certainly contradicts a lot of popular ideas about gifted children, and intellectuals in general. They make more money; they have less psychological problems; less divorces; and less alcoholism. Perhaps the most surprising is that the majority of them were conservative in their politics. The idea that intellectuals tend to be liberals is hogwash. I could have told him that, myself. The two things are mutually exclusive, unless you go back to the original definition of 'liberal.' Today liberal has come to mean something close to communist, and no true intellectual could possibly be in that camp."

"I would like to read that," said Jeremy. "I wonder if they have it in the AUF library."

"I don't know, but if they don't, they can surely get it."

"About Mr. Randolph, though, how did he get so much money?" asked Jeremy.

"Well, he got his Bachelor's at 19, went to Harvard, and got his Ph.D. when he was twenty-one. He went to work for World Business Machines, where he came up an idea to improve the way they made computers. WBM wasn't interested in a revolutionary idea from a twenty-one-year-old whiz kid. So, he quit, got it to work himself, and patented it. Every computer made since then has paid a royalty to him. With the money from the royalties, he started Randolph Computers. Then Randolph Automation, and so on. Today, he has dozens of companies, hundreds of patents, and more money than anyone else."

"I can't wait to meet him now," said Jeremy. "With an IQ like his, he must have a vocabulary like a dictionary. Can mere mortals understand him?"

"He didn't get where he is by not being able to communicate," said MacRae. "He's intelligent enough to know that most people have a more limited vocabulary than he does. You don't use the same vocabulary with everyone you talk to. Neither does he. If he reads you as reasonably intelligent, he speaks to you accordingly. I admit that once in a while, he might overestimate you and expect you to understand something that you don't. If he does, just tell him. That's what I do." As an afterthought, he added, "Just make sure you're there by eight a.m."

"Don't worry," laughed Jeremy. "I'll be early."

"Speaking of being on time, we'd better get to our classes," said MacRae.


***

 

Rick Foster called Al Gorp into his office. Rick was thirty-three, and he knew that Gorp was forty-five. He stared at the older man, wondering why he would work as a spy for Spartacus. Then, fearing that his face might reflect his thoughts, he brought his mind back to the task at hand.

"Al," Foster began, “we’ve got a serious problem."

"You got a mouse in your pocket?" quipped Gorp.

To himself, Foster thought that, while he didn't have a mouse in his pocket, he did have a rat in his chair. "It's Benz Flight Simulators, in Munich, they're designing a flight simulator around our 8020 and they're having difficulties interfacing their analog control boards with our system. Since we expect them to buy between thirty and fifty 8020's a year, it's obviously in our best interest to help them with their design problem. I know it's a tremendous inconvenience, but I want to send you to Munich to give them a hand. Is there any reason you can't go?"

"I don't know," said Gorp. "How long are we talking about?"

"Probably four or five weeks, I'd say," said Rick.

"My old lady will kick and scream," said Gorp, "I don't see how I can go. Can't you send someone else?"

"We don't want to cause marital problems for you, but you're the most qualified for this particular task."

"You asked me if there were any reason that I couldn't go. I told you my reason."

Foster cursed Gorp silently. He hated to have to give him an ultimatum. If Gorp called him on it and quit, he might upset Randolph, and he didn't want to do that. "Wait a minute," he said. "Do you have vacation accrued?"

"Three weeks."

"I don't want to tell you what to do with your vacation time," said Foster, "but what if, when you get down to the last week, you let us know, and we could send your wife over. She could finish out the last week with you, and, if you wanted, you could take a week, or more, of vacation in Germany or somewhere in Europe, with your round-trip fares to Germany on the company?"

"Damn, that's shrewd," said Gorp.

"Do you think she'll kick and scream, if you do that?"

"I'll run it past her," said Gorp, sounding a little hesitant. "My wife's never been much of a traveler, but you know how women are-completely unpredictable."

"Okay," said Foster, "How would you like to go home and ask her?"

Gorp looked at him, as though trying to decipher the question. "When do you want me to go?"

"If tonight is too soon, how about tomorrow morning?"

"You don't fool around, do you?"


***

 

At the Morgan Shipyards, in Savannah, Georgia, Stacey Morgan was talking to Earl Cartwright, her Manager of Operations.

"We're going to steadily go out of business," she said emphatically, "if we don't do something to make ourselves more competitive. This is the third contract we've lost to the Swedes, and two to the Japanese. I suspect that we'll lose the one we're working on for General Oil. We simply can't compete with the automated shipyards any longer. We have to automate."

"It'll cost a fortune," said Cartwright. "A huge fortune at that."

"It'll cost me my company, if I don't," said Stacey. "If I lost the shipyard, my father wouldn't just turn over in his grave; he'd rise from the grave and haunt me."

"Can you afford it?" asked Cartwright.

"I don't know, but I don't see how I can afford not to," she said. "I don't even know how much it costs, but I intend to find out."

"I have a ten o'clock meeting. I've got to run." Cartwright moved toward the door.

"Go ahead," said Stacey, waving him out the door.

She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes for a minute, breathing deeply. This was something her father did and had told her to do.

"Take a couple of minutes every hour and just go limp," her father had said. "It will recharge your batteries and make a bad day better."

She couldn't always do it every hour, but she tried. She opened her eyes and relaxed another minute, staring at a picture of a Jamaican waterfall. Her office had so many personal items that it looked like a home office. If anyone ever mentioned it, which was very rare, given her position, she said that she almost lived here, so why not make it homey. That she practically lived in her office was all too true, lately. The union was constantly creating a commotion over some insignificant detail. Her days were becoming so unproductive, because of union squabbles, that she found herself staying late at night, to accomplish what she should have been able to accomplish in a normal day.

Her two minutes of relaxation over, she tried to recall where she had the information on an article on automation. Thinking that she remembered putting a note in her computer, she brought up an Infoselect screen, entered "g" for Get, and then began to type in the word, "automation." By the time she reached the "m," a frame appeared on the screen. Inside the frame, were the company name, "Randolph Automation," the name "Clinton Randolph," and a telephone number. About a year ago, she had read an article about Randolph Automation automating a mining operation, and she had put this note into her computer. She recalled that, from the article's brief profile of Clinton Randolph, she had thought he must be a very interesting person. She dialed the number for Randolph Automation.

"Hello, I'd like to speak to Clinton Randolph."

"Mr. Randolph isn't at Randolph Automation. You should be able to reach him at Randolph Enterprises."

"Then I'd like the number of Randolph Enterprises," said Stacey.

She dialed again. "Hello, I'd like to speak to Clinton Randolph, please-Stacey Morgan, of Morgan Shipyards in Savannah."

"Hello, Mr. Randolph's office," said Alicia.

"This is Stacey Morgan, of Morgan Shipyards. I'd like to see if Randolph Automation is interested in automating our shipyard."

"One moment, please."

There was a brief wait. Stacey assumed that her question was being relayed to Mr. Randolph.

"This is Clinton Randolph, and I am quite interested, I assure you, Ms. Morgan. Randolph Automation has never automated a shipyard, although I've always wanted to. I've long thought it strange that the United States has no automated shipyards. I've wondered how we compete with Sweden and Japan."

"Just barely, if at all," said Stacey. "Which is why I'm calling you. Maybe you could have someone put together a preliminary proposal for me."

"In your case, I'll come myself," said Randolph. "I assume you want a rough order of magnitude proposal, to give you an idea of the investment required, then if you find that acceptable, we can work up a detailed proposal. Does that sound right?"

"Precisely what I need," said Stacey. "When can we get together?" After a brief exchange, they settled on a date eight days away.

Stacey looked at the telephone, then hung it up. She could hardly believe they had settled everything in less than two minutes. She hoped this was indicative of future dealings with Randolph Automation. She liked people who were as businesslike and as professional as she was.

Ordinarily, Randolph would have been so elated by the prospect of automating a shipyard, that he would have had trouble thinking of anything else. But conditions were not ordinary, and his thoughts went back to wondering what he would do, were he someone else given the task of attacking Clinton Randolph. What were his vulnerabilities? It occurred to him that his parents were a weak point. Someone could try to get to him through his parents. His problem could possibly endanger them. Living out in the country, they were extremely vulnerable. Not wanting to worry them, he hadn't planned to tell them about his situation, but without knowing the reason, he doubted that they would agree to the necessary security measures. Besides, they needed to know, in order to plan their own activities intelligently. 


***

 

The Knights of Columbus Hall in Stuart, Florida is a simple rectangular building, set back from the road, on the outskirts of town. Inside, an abundance of blue and white bunting created a festive atmosphere. Blue and white were the school colors of Stuart High School. The hall was starting to fill with participants of a class reunion for Randolph's graduating class.

Randolph arrived in a company car, instead of his usual limousine. When he got out of the car, Randolph said, "I'm sorry you have to wait for me, Perry. I know that I'll be a couple of hours, at least. If you want, you can run into town and I'll call you when I'm about ready."

"No problem, Mr. Randolph," said Perry.

"I appreciate your giving up your Friday evening, Perry."

"Don't worry about me, Mr. Randolph. I'll be fine."

"Clint Randolph?" asked an attractive woman standing just inside the door.

"Betty Carter, how are you?"

"It's Betty Taylor, now."

"A new name, but still the same lovely girl," said Randolph.

"Thank you, Clint. Everyone knows what's happened to you; now you can find out what's happened to us. Already, two people have asked me if you were here: Jim Reese and Art Cook."

"I haven't seen them since graduation," said Randolph.

"They're right over there," she said, indicating a table across the room.

"It's great to see you, Betty," said Randolph. "I think I'll work my way over to Jim and Art, but I hope you save a dance for me."

"Didn't I always?" she said, with a smile.

Working his way across the room proved to be a slow process, as he stopped several times to talk with other classmates.

"Hello, Jimmy, and Art," said Randolph, exchanging warm handshakes with two old friends.

The two men introduced their wives to Randolph.

"Looks like you won, Clint," said Reese.

"Won what?" asked Randolph.

"Don't you remember, the last day of school, we said we were all going out to climb the ladder of success, and the one who climbed the highest would be the winner."

"Now that you mention it, I do remember that," said Randolph. "The three of us, T.J., Chester, Dan, Ray, and Ed. The old Great Eight. Have you seen any of them here?"

"Not yet, but it's still early," said Cook. "Dan Holt won't be here. Don't you know about him?"

"No," said Randolph. "What about him?"

"Remember Susan Holt who figured in the scandal with President Slickwill?"

"Dan's wife?" asked Randolph.

"Right. She could supposedly link Slickwill to a Colombian drug cartel. Dan was with her when her car was blown up. They never discovered who did it, just like the others who could have testified against Slickwill, but died mysteriously. I'd guess the Redneck Mafia eliminated them. They killed our Dan to protect their Don."

"No, I didn't know," said Randolph. "I suppose that at a reunion like this, there will always be some who are no longer around."

As the room slowly filled, the rest of the Great Eight, except, of course, Dan Holt, appeared. Three women-once girl friends of several of the Great Eight-arrived with their husbands and joined them. They had a large table, all to themselves. As in every class reunion, the conversation was dominated by recollections of moments past.

Following a simple meal, a disk jockey appeared and lights were dimmed for dancing.

"Hello, Clint." A melodic, feminine voice came from behind Randolph.

Randolph turned, and the intervening years vanished. "Francesca," he said, slowly rising from his chair.

After a long, silent moment, he stammered, "May I have this dance, Francesca?" He took her by the hand and led her onto the floor.

"So, you didn't forget me," she said.

"I'm more likely to forget the universe, than to forget you, Francesca. Even in the dim light, I can see that you still blush easily."

"You haven't changed much either. You're still a very smooth talker."

"Believe it or not," he said, "smooth talker is the last thing most people would say about me. But, in rare circumstances, I seem to think and speak differently. Tell me about yourself, Francesca. I know that you are no longer Francesca Constanza."

"I'm Francesca Monroe; I live in Dallas; and I have a daughter, Angelina."

"And, I hope, you are deliriously happy."

"I don't know about the delirious part; but I am happy."

"I'm glad," he said. "I wondered what happened to you. I could have found you, and, if I hadn't heard that you were married, I would have."

"You never married, Clint?"

"No. I don't mean to imply I was pining away for you all these years. I did some pining for a long while, but I grew out of it. Although, when I looked up and saw you tonight, I felt the same way I did at the Senior Prom."

"I know," she said. "I think everyone else knew it too."

"Sorry, if I embarrassed you. When I looked around and saw you, it was like a vision. How long are you going to be in town?"

"I'm going back next week-Saturday morning."

"Perhaps you and your husband could join me for dinner one evening."

"I came alone."

"Would you honor me with the pleasure of your company for dinner one evening?"

"I'd be happy to join you-for dinner."

"Would one day be better than another?"

"I'm staying with Roberta Brooks. You'll remember her as Roberta Porter. She works, and I'd like to be with her on the weekend. So a week-day would be better."

"How about Thursday."

"Thursday's fine. That gives me the last night with Roberta."

"Since Roberta works, maybe we could make it lunch and dinner."

"What would we do between lunch and dinner?"

"Have you been to Nassau, lately?"

"I've never been there."

"I'll pick you up at ten-thirty and we'll hop over to Nassau and spend the day and come back after dinner."

"I'd like that."

"You'll have to give me Roberta's address."

"I'll have to get it from Roberta. I know how to get there, but I don't know the address."

When the music ended for their second dance, he escorted her to her table. He met Roberta and the others at the table, and left with Roberta's address.

"Goodbye, Francesca. I'll see you Thursday morning at ten-thirty."

Before the evening was over, many fires of friendship had been rekindled. Randolph and his friends exchanged addresses, telephone numbers, and for those who had them, e-mail addresses. What was left of the Great Eight agreed that those who could would meet once a year, and every five years they would all make it, if at all possible.

 


***

 

SATURDAY - DAY 5

 

Leaving a huge cloud of dust behind it, Randolph's limousine drove along the unpaved road to his parents' property. Perry stopped at the entrance, took a transmitter from the glove compartment, opened the gate, and drove through, up the drive, toward the house. It was a modest house, considering Randolph's wealth, but, as his parents had told him many times, it was what they wanted. It was quite comfortable for two people. Moreover, it was surrounded-almost hidden-by hundreds of plants, shrubs, and trees, which were among the few things Randolph had no trouble getting his parents to accept. Preferring a simple life, they had a resistance, almost an aversion, to ostentation. As might be expected, they had instilled similar tendencies in their son.

As the limousine approached the house, his parents came out to meet it. After a few minutes for embraces, kisses, and the usual inquiries as to health and happiness, they all got into the limousine and were on their way to lunch.

Thirty minutes later, in the tiny community of Rio, just north of Stuart, they were sitting on the terrace at Jack Baker's Lobster Shanty. Although there were numerous excellent restaurants much closer to his parent's home, all three of them preferred a place on the water. While they awaited the arrival of their drinks, they enjoyed a view of a small marina, and beyond it, a magnificent, panorama of the wide St. Lucie River. Ann Randolph touched her husband's hand and said, "Barry, I think Clint has something to tell us."

Randolph stared at her. "Why should I bother," he said, with mock chagrin. "Surely you already know what I'm going to say."

"You still get that same look," said his mother, "that you used to get when you were trying to think of the best way to ask for something-for money or the use of the car."

"I hope no one hires you to negotiate with me on their behalf," said Randolph. "I wouldn't stand a chance."

As the waitress approached them with a tray of drinks, Randolph said, "You're right though. There is something I want to discuss with you."

He gave them a condensed version of what Jefferson had told him in Spain.

"It sounds like you have a real problem, Clint," said Barry Randolph. "Have you come up with any ideas?"

"I wish I had," said Randolph. "I have an idea that's starting to form, but it's still somewhere between tenuous and evanescent. If it ever coalesces into something promising, I'll tell you about it."

"I'm worried about you, Clint," said his mother. "Just because Norman Jefferson doesn't think they'll try to kill you, doesn't mean that they won't. If these people are as evil as they sound, you can't take any chances. I think you had better take some measures to protect yourself, and soon."

"I'm way ahead of you, Mother. Even though I doubt that there is any need for it, I'm getting a bodyguard, and I'm installing a new security system in the penthouse. I think I'll get armed guards in the building. I've got a new armored limo coming next week. It's almost a tank."

"I'm certainly glad to hear that, son," said Barry Randolph.

"So am I," said Liz Randolph.

"I hadn't planned to mention any of this, because I didn't want to upset you two," said Randolph. "But, in the process of reviewing my vulnerabilities, it occurred to me that they could try to get at me through you. I need to consider your safety too."

"I think that's a good idea," said Mrs. Randolph. "Besides, with your money, you never know when someone might try a kidnapping for ransom. I'm surprised you didn't do it a long time ago."

"I agree," said Mr. Randolph. "It's a form of insurance."

"And I've been worried that you would resist security around your property," said Randolph.

"Why would you think that?" asked Mrs. Randolph. "You don't get more reckless with age-just the opposite."

"What kind of security did you have in mind, Clint?" asked Mr. Randolph.

"An alarm system, to start with, including some kind of perimeter alarm. I thought a large dog would be good, maybe two. Then, and here is where I thought you might balk, I thought I could build a cottage, maybe garage apartments and get a maid and a security guard that could keep an eye on things."

"I don't relish the idea of someone around all the time," said Mrs. Randolph. "But that doesn't mean I oppose the idea."

"Your mother's right," said Barry Randolph, "we moved out here in the woods for the peace and quiet. But things are different now; your position has certainly changed; and my ability to fight off an intruder is even less than it used to be. I wouldn't oppose it either."

"I'm very happy with the parents I selected," said Randolph. "I don't know how I would have imagined you might have acted any other way. It's a most unfortunate situation when my parents can be at risk because the people that call the shots in the United States of America see my success as a threat. It's bad enough that there is a power behind the throne, or even that there is a throne for them to get behind. What ever became of government by, of, and for the people?"

"Son, are you sure that there is such a conspiracy?" asked his father. "There are some people that see a conspiracy around every corner."

"Dad, the administration itself asks you to believe in a vast right wing conspiracy dedicated to making them look bad. Their only evidence is that every time they do something wrong, someone generally comes forward to point it out. Inevitably, they defend themselves by attacking the messenger. There probably is a right wing conspiracy, many of them in fact. But the left wing conspiracies are far more ominous.

"As to whether or not there are conspiracies, there have always been conspiracies to take over countries and their governments. Many of them are well known, such as the conspiracy to kill Julius Caesar, or the CIA's conspiracy to overthrow the government of Chile, but the known ones are surely few, compared with those that remain unknown. The conspirators that I have to contend with see taking over the US as a part of a much larger plan to take over the world. I'll grant you that taking over the world is a very ambitious goal, but these guys aren't the first to aim so high, and they won't be the last, unless they are extremely successful. Hitler, Napoleon, the Romans, and Alexander, the Great, all set out to rule the world. It's not at all surprising that there are conspiracies to rule the world. It would be far more surprising, if there weren't. The men in this particular conspiracy are far more sinister than were the Nazis. Very few people know what they are doing, and their control of the media prevents the masses from hearing about it. Their dominance in the US government gives them power over two trillion dollars a year. Businesses and individuals conspire and compete to get their hands on little parts of that huge pool of money. Once the conspirators have arranged for a politician or a bureaucrat to award government funds or a contract for questionable reasons, they have something on both parties to the transaction. That makes the further feathering of their own nest that much easier. Although these elite conspirators derive untold billions a year from the exercise of their control over the government, money is secondary to their quest for power. Don't you think the ability to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to yourself and to control the economies and industries of the major western nations is enough to motivate potential conspirators?"

"That kind of money and power will appeal to almost anyone," said Barry Randolph.

"I'm glad you agree," said Randolph. "The government would have you believe that everyone outside of government is bent of robbing you, and only the government can prevent their success. No one has any trouble believing that two or more widget manufacturers will conspire to fix prices in a market of a few million dollars, to make a few thousand extra dollars. Yet it's supposed to be unthinkable that men would conspire to run the world and to get their hands on trillions of dollars, especially when the trillions are clearly up for grabs. As long as there has been wealth, there have been those who conspired to take it. As governments came to have a monopoly on force and confiscation, the easiest and most obvious way to attain great power and wealth was to manipulate the government. The opportunity, inherent in an omnipotent government, automatically begets those who would use it to their advantage. To believe otherwise is to be a naive victim of the conspirators. By itself, that characteristic of all-powerful governments should be sufficient reason to never have one. It's of little consequence to fear such conspiracies, if they don't exist; but it's suicidal not to be aware of them, if they do exist. It's like looking for cars before you cross the street. If you look and no cars are coming, you have lost little. If you don't look, you might be okay a lot of the time; but there are many occasions when it can be fatal. People who look for conspiracies that would take away their wealth and their freedom are no more frivolous than those who look for oncoming cars before crossing the street are. I am truly ashamed that I wasn't nearly as vigilant as I should have been."

"Don't feel bad about that, Clint. No one is," said Barry Randolph.

"Stupid behavior is hardly less shameful, just because it's widespread," said Randolph. "Given the effects of the 'dumbing down' of the population by the efforts of government in education, it would be wise to question any popular position, especially one that you see being continually 'sold' and resold to the public."

"In a democracy, that's a bad situation," said his mother. "If the majority of the people are wrong, for whatever reason, they are going to make the wrong decisions at the ballot box."

"Wrong for themselves, but right for someone. Precisely the reason every plan for totalitarian government calls for taking over education and the media. As teachers, both of you have seen the deterioration in American education. If you think about it, you'll see that the decline began when the federal government became involved in education, and the more involved it became, the worse the education."

"That is pretty much the case," said his father.

"And that's just one facet of their many-faceted plan," said Randolph.

"Anyone who can accomplish such ambitious goals, using our government, is not only powerful, they are extremely astute," said Liz Randolph.

"Powerful and extremely astute. Not the characteristics I would choose for an enemy," said Randolph. "And it's not just an enemy; it's an army of enemies, a mighty army of powerful enemies. They have consistently managed to get the majority of the American people in their camp, no matter what they do. That means they can do as they please, with impunity. It's not a pretty situation. But that's the way it is. And those are the people that are out to get me."

His mother held back her tears, but Randolph noticed the increased sparkle in her eyes. He knew what caused it, and a raging hatred for the CFR and its leaders burned in him. He hated them intensely, not only for what they were doing to him, but for what they were doing to his mother, America, the world, and, ultimately, to the whole human race. Hate was new to him, but he was instantly good at it. With these people it was easy.

 


CHAPTER 6

Monday - Day 7

 

 

Randolph's penthouse apartment was, in some ways, an extension of his official office. In addition to the private elevator that ran between the third floor and the foyer of his penthouse, another personal elevator connected his third floor office with an unofficial office in his apartment, allowing him to move unnoticed between his apartment and his office. Though he had a room designated as an office, wireless equipment allowed him to use his laptop computer anywhere in the apartment, while connected to the internet, the company's computer network, the wide-area-network for all the companies of Randolph Enterprises, or his own private network consisting only of the computers in his two offices. This made working at home very convenient, and he did so quite frequently.

From his apartment office, Randolph called downstairs to Alicia Pendleton. "Good morning, Alicia," he said. "If anything comes up, give me a call. I'll be upstairs."

Arthur brought him a small tray, with a tall glass of what looked like a milkshake, but was a blend of soymilk, soy protein powder, lecithin, and an apple. Also on the tray was a small dish with a handful of vitamins and nutritional supplements. This was his breakfast on most days, when he was at home. The only thing that varied was the fruit in the drink.

"Thank you, Arthur," said Randolph. He alternated between the pills and the shake, using the drink to wash down the pills.

"Will there be anything else, sir?"

"I'd like some coffee, please, Arthur."

"Right away, sir. Any particular kind?"

"Costa Rican would be nice."

"Very well, sir."

Randolph called SIA and asked Phil Matthews to come by or send someone to talk to him about security at his parents’ home.

He checked his list, and picked up his telephone again.

"Tom, this is Clint. I have a personal project that I want you to handle for me." Tom Merrill was the manager of the Fort Pierce office of Randolph Construction.

"Name it, Clint."

"I need a four-car garage with a couple of apartments over it. I want something solid, but fashionable, with a terrace on the roof. My parents have a place in Martin County, and this is for them. I need it as soon as possible. How soon can you get me a few sketches to choose from?"

"Let me put it to the architects. I would guess we could have something tomorrow or, at the latest, Wednesday."

"That's good," said Randolph. "E-mail me the sketches or the files if it's something we can handle. I'll be out of town tomorrow, but I should be back the day after. After I've seen them, I'll get back to you. You can go ahead and line up the manpower and order any material you are sure to need. I really want this as soon as possible, without compromising quality."

"You've got it," said Merrill. "Only a genie could do it any faster than we will."

"Good. By the way, Tom, I want to complement you on the plans for the Rockledge development. I can't imagine a better value for the dollar. I really like everything about it. It's one project I can't wait to see. If it turns out like I think it will, we will repeat it many times, many places. Thanks a lot."

"Thank you, Clint. I'm glad you liked it."

 

 

"Thanks for coming so soon, Mr. Matthews," said Randolph, standing to greet Phil Matthews. "This time, it's about my parents. They live in Palm City, in the middle of twenty acres. I want to secure the property, and I'm building a multiple-car garage with two garage apartments over it. I'd like a couple of people there to protect them. With two, one should be able to be there at all times."

"Sounds simple enough," said Matthews. "Isn't Palm City near Stuart?"

"Yes."

"Is the property fenced?"

"Barbed-wire. Should it have a wall?"

"Unless you make it eight or ten feet high, it doesn't matter," said Matthews. "Anyway, people can get over it, no matter how high it is. The main thing is to discourage them and to know if they do come over. We can electrify the fence and with a radio-frequency signal on the wire, we can sense when anyone comes through. Rain is a problem with the sensing. With lasers, we can supplement the sensing and make it good in all weather. There will be false alarms, from wild animals, but that's unavoidable."

"Would it be possible to find a woman who could help my mother with chores and still protect her?"

"Most people capable of protecting them would be reluctant to do domestic chores," said Matthews.

"No matter how much you paid them?"

'I wouldn't go that far," said Matthews. "I'll see what I can do."

"Let me know. If I have to, I'll get a bodyguard and a maid separately. It's just that, for years, my mother has resisted my hiring a maid for her, and this is a chance to get her to accept the idea of having one, incidental to protecting her. After she gets used to it, maybe we can let an ordinary maid take over that part."

Matthews looked Randolph in the eye. "I take it you think someone may try to get at you through your parents."

"It's a possibility," said Randolph.

"If you have reason to expect anyone in particular to try to get at you or your parents, it would certainly help if you told me who it was. It's always easier, if you know whom to expect."

"Norman Jefferson seemed to think you are totally trustworthy. I tend to be a very private person, but I want the best protection I can get, especially for my parents. Anyway, I suppose I'm already entrusting our lives to you."

Randolph gave Matthews a summary of what Norman Jefferson had told him about the CFR and the Trilateral Council.

"Wow," said Matthews, when Randolph had finished. "I think you're up against some tough people. What you've told me helps me to understand a few things I've run across lately."

"What do you mean?"

"If you were sent to me by Norman Jefferson and you've taken a chance with me, I guess I can take a chance with you and probably put to rest any worries you might have about trusting SIA and me. You'll have to give me your word not to repeat what I'm going to tell you."

"You have my word."

"Have you noticed an unusual number of public officials resigning or suddenly deciding not to run for re-election?"

"Why, yes. I have. I've wondered about it."

"SIA is responsible for much of it. We try to catch public officials breaking the law. We follow up on rumors, gather evidence of their wrongdoing, and anonymously send them a copy of the evidence, with a warning that if they don't resign or announce that they won't run for re-election, we'll make the evidence public. Now, I can understand some of the activities we've come across. "

"That's a very patriotic thing to do," said Randolph. "Are you financed by a third party?"

"No, we finance it ourselves. Actually, it was one of the reasons for starting SIA. Public acceptance of government corruption was so frustrating, we decided to do something ourselves. Half of the time, the crooked politicians don't even try to hide their actions. They have such confidence in the ignorance and the apathy of the majority of the people. Unfortunately, they're right. Far too many people are in such a stupor that they don't notice a hand in their every pocket. Worse yet, most of those that do notice are so apathetic that they ignore everything they see. Those people don't deserve what we're doing for them; but we do it for ourselves. We do deserve it. When the politicians do drop out, it certainly isn't because they are afraid of losing at the polls. They're afraid they might go to jail."

"Unfortunately," said Randolph, "we all have to live with the government that the majority deserves. In America, all men are born to a glorious heritage and unlimited potential, both of which are, more often than not, completely wasted. Overseeing that waste seems to have become a primary concern of our government."

As he left, Matthews knew he was going to get along well with Randolph. It made him feel good to know that the man, generally acknowledged as being the most intelligent person that ever lived, agreed with him. What would he have thought if Randolph had been just the opposite, like so much of academia and nearly all the media? And what did it tell him about those so-called "intellectuals?"


***

 

"It's amazing how much light there is with only a sliver of a moon," said Frank Norris, driving the black Ford Bronco, without lights, through an exclusive area of expensive beach homes, on the northern New Jersey coast. "It must be the glow from New York and maybe some from Newark. Driving without lights isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It does take a bit of concentration though."

"I don't like this job at all," said Martin Parker, his partner and sole passenger.

"I suppose you think I do," said Norris.

"What possible justification can they have?" asked Parker.

"How in hell should I know?" responded Norris. "You know better than to question orders. Anyway, I'm sure they have a reason. This isn't exactly the kind of thing anyone would do just for the hell of it." He said that because it was his job to say it. Of course, it was true that they really couldn't question orders-not out loud. But, down deep inside, there was an inner voice telling him that they were going farther and farther, and they had long ago passed "too far."

"There's a car coming up ahead," said Parker.

"I'll pull in by that house." Norris eased off the road, then he could make out the driveway. The headlights were racing toward them. "I don't think we have enough time, he's coming too fast. I'm going to park right here in the driveway." He stopped the car. "Get down Martin. Quick, get down."

The car sped by. Once again all was dark and quiet. Norris eased the Bronco back onto the road. After driving about half a mile, he slowed down.

"It should be right along here. I think it's that one," said Norris. There was a driveway marked by white posts and a chain across the entrance, with a white sign. He turned on a flashlight and aimed its beam at the sign. It read "Private - No Trespassing." Swinging the light to the mailbox, the name "Calderone" stood out clearly. He switched the light off.

"This is it."

Parker got out and lowered the chain to the ground and Norris drove over it. Parker snapped the chain back into place and got into the Bronco. The driveway ran some fifty yards back to a two-story house. Parking the Bronco beside the house, Norris felt for the radio transceiver on the seat. He got out and looked around, listening carefully. The house was supposed to be vacant; he wanted to be sure. He pressed the Transmit button on the transceiver and said, "We're here." The only response was a little tune of three tones.

Meanwhile, Parker had opened the rear door of the vehicle and taken out a long tubular case. They walked down a sandy path to the beach.

"You were saying how light it was. Hell, it's so dark I can't see what I'm doing," said Parker, as he unpacked the case, removing a loaded rocket launcher.

"Then it's a good thing you can do it with your eyes closed," said Norris.

Parker removed the shipping pins, enabling the rocket for firing. He removed the cover for the infrared sensor that guided the rocket. He pressed a self-test button, and, after a moment, a flashing green light told him the rocket was operational.

"It's ready to fire," he said.

"We're ready," Norris said into the radio. The same three tones were heard again.

They stood there in the darkness and waited, for half an hour.

"Maybe it's called off," said Parker. "I hope so."

Almost as if someone had heard them, from the transceiver came the tune "Three Blind Mice."

"It's on its way," said Norris.

Parker flipped a switch from standby to armed, put the launch tube on his shoulder, adjusted it for comfort and put his finger on the trigger. The green light stopped flashing and was constantly on.

The three tones were heard again. "There it is," said Parker, pointing to the red lights in the sky.

"We see it at about ten o'clock, facing the sea. Confirm," said Norris into the transceiver. And the three tones were heard in reverse order.

"Okay, do it," said Norris.

The rocket blasted out of the tube. An instant later, the rocket fuel ignited, spewing a trail of fire behind the rocket as it sped toward the red lights in the night sky. Norris and Parker were already back at the car, when there was a massive explosion in the sky. The whole countryside was illuminated, as they sped toward the gate. Parker jumped out and dropped the chain, replaced it after the Bronco rolled over it, and jumped into the Bronco.

They are just entering the Holland Tunnel when the music on the radio stopped suddenly and an excited voice said, "We interrupt our regular programming for a special announcement..." Just then they were in the tunnel, and the radio station faded away.

"I wonder what the special announcement was," said Norris.

"I'll give you one guess," said Parker.

When they came out of the tunnel on the other side, the announcement was over, music had returned.

"See if you can find the news," said Norris.

"There's an all-news station around here somewhere. It should be on a lot of stations." Parker pressed the SEEK button several times. Then he found it.

"...the control tower at Newark International Airport reported that the airplane disappeared from the radar screen. Witnesses on New York and New Jersey coasts report seeing a fireball in the sky. The best information we have is that there were 237 passengers on the airplane, which had just left Newark for Miami." Norris could feel the acid pouring into his stomach. Could he live with this? He had killed a few friendlies over the years, but 237 was a big crowd of people.

"The Coast Guard is on its way and should arrive momentarily," continued the announcer. "An American Airlines spokesperson, said they have no information at this time, but will have a hot line set up as soon as any information becomes available."

"That's it," said Parker. "We just shot down 237 people, of which 236 were probably innocent victims, if not all 237 of them. How could they ever justify something like that?"

"Maybe the one was worth it," said Norris. "Who knows? Maybe he had some kind of deadly virus. Maybe he was going to set off hidden atom bombs around the country. How can we know what their reason was? I assume that they had no alternative."

"I hope you're right," said Parker. "God, I'd hate to think that the American government would shoot down its own people for anything less than absolute necessity."

"I could never believe that, not for a minute. We both know that they do some pretty abominable things sometimes, but generally to foreigners."

"Up until now-and as far as you know."

They drove in silence for a several minutes, each haunted by his own thoughts about what they had done. Then Parker said, "If you think about it, whatever or whoever they wanted to shoot down could have been intercepted on the ground. The airplane had just taken off. We were already there waiting for half an hour, while it was still on the ground. Whatever it was, they should have been able to get it on the ground, without killing all those people. Wouldn't you think?"

"It would seem that way," said Norris. He wished he had an antacid pill. Parker was right. It certainly did seem like they should have been able to accomplish whatever they wanted, on the ground, before the airplane took off. Even if a few people got killed, it would certainly be less than 237.

They entered a dark, deserted, warehousing area. There was no sign of life anywhere. Norris turned down an alley, and paused by a garage door.

"Get the opener, Martin."

Parker took a garage door transmitter out of the glove compartment. He pressed a button, and the garage door opened. Norris pulled into the garage, parking beside a late model, blue Ford Crown Victoria. Norris got in the Crown Victoria and drove it out into the alley. On the wall, by the garage door, Parker found the button to close the garage door. He pushed it, ducked out, and got into the Crown Victoria. As soon as the door closed completely, Norris stepped on the gas.

As they had been instructed, Frank Norris dropped Parker at the Waldorf and drove to the Plaza Hotel. He knew that before dawn, the Bronco would disappear from the garage; it would be compacted in some junkyard and become part of an artificial reef out in the Atlantic. The rocket launcher would be dropped into a vat of molten iron and end up in a slagheap. Even the blue Crown Victoria would disappear before morning. Tomorrow, Norris would fly to California and check in at a Palm Springs timeshare apartment, for a week of rest and relaxation. Parker would go to Kennebunkport, Maine, and spend a week in a bed and breakfast inn.

 

 

TUESDAY - DAY 8

 

"Just so you know, Bob, we got the Magellan Cruise Line contract. When you get back, it will all be waiting for you. I wish you were there to get us started on Magellan, but we'll manage." Ed Clark paused to compose himself. Bob Adams was in a coma, breathing only with the help of a respirator. He had been in surgery for seven hours, while they patched him up and stopped the internal bleeding. According to the doctors, it was a miracle that he was alive at all. They agreed that his wife's body lying on him, applying pressure to his wounds, must have slowed the bleeding enough to keep him alive. Still, they wouldn't give him an even chance to survive.

"I saw Betty a little while ago," Clark lied to the still figure on the bed. "She's doing really well. You'd better hurry up and get well, so you can see the baby; it's due any minute. Given what you and Betty went through, it'll be a cesarean birth." It wasn't easy to say, but Clark thought these lies might reach Bob Adams at some inner level and give him a little push toward recovery. It certainly wasn't going to hurt him. If he came to, and began to heal, he could deal with the truth then. Right now, the truth might kill him, by disabling his will to live. He knew his boss was a fighter. He wanted to make sure that he had something to fight for.

 


***

 

"You can take your cap off, Jane," said Fred Nelson. He was helping her into the house. He was so happy that she had snapped out of her near comatose condition. The doctor said that her body had shut down, using its energy to recover. Now she was expected to get better as time went by. In a few weeks, she should be better than new. He had rented a car to drive her home.

"I think I'll wear it," she answered. She wasn't too happy with the way she looked, with no hair on the back of her head.

"Well, you have to sit down or lay down. Which do you want to do?"

"I think a little of each," she said, lowering herself into the recliner. "You will let me to use your chair, won't you?"

"You know I will, Sweetheart," he said. "Do you want something to eat or drink?"

"A glass of water would be nice."

He brought her a glass of water and sat down on the sofa, bracing himself for what he had to tell her.

"There's something I haven't gotten around to telling you, Jane," he began.

"What's that?" she asked. "My aneurysm isn't going to come back is it?"

"Heavens no. Nothing like that. It's just that the insurance didn't cover your operation, and we have to pay for it."

"How much was it?" she asked, knowing it was going to be astronomical.

"Quite a bit."

"How much?"

"Altogether, forty-six thousand."

"Oh, my God," she wailed. "How are we ever going to pay for it?"

"In order to get them to do it, I had to promise them I was going to sell the house."

"You shouldn't have done that," she cried.

"It was that or let you die," he said. "What good would the house be without you?"

"Come over here," she said. When he came over to her chair, she pulled him down and kissed him. "If it had been you, I would have sold everything. We don't need the house anyway, do we?"

"Some people have suggested that I could renege on my promise, and there wouldn't be much they could do to me. I wouldn't feel right doing that."

"I don't blame you," she said. "I wouldn't either. I'd rather we lost the house than our self-respect."

"We'll make it," he said. "I'm not worried. Max said he would make us a good deal on an apartment."

"They didn't tell me how long before we could make love," she said. "I'll ask the doctor tomorrow. By the way, don't forget that I have to go to a local doctor tomorrow."

"Unfortunately," he said. "I'm going to have to go to work. If I don't, I won't have any work to go to. Maybe Matilda could spend some time with you, and maybe take you to the doctor." Matilda was Max's wife and Jane's sister-in-law. She and Jane had always gotten along well.

"Why don't you call her, and let me talk to her? She works too, you know. If she's working at night, she could sleep here. I only need someone, in case something goes wrong. If you could get me a bell, I could call her, if I should have a relapse or something.'

They were lucky; Matilda was working nights. Like many other nurses, her schedule changed periodically. Each morning, until her hours changed again, she could arrive about 7:30, spend a little time with Jane, then go to bed, sleep about seven hours, and spend some time with Jane, until Fred came home. If Jane had to go to the doctor, she should try to set appointments in the late afternoon. She told Jane that Fred should pick up an air horn at a marine store. If Jane needed her, she could blow it, and no one could possibly sleep through one of those blasts.

 


***

 

A black Lincoln limousine stopped in front of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City. The chauffeur got out and opened the rear door. David Crocker stepped out and walked up the stairs and into the building. Once inside, he went directly to the Chairman's office.

"Good morning, Mr. Crocker," said the Chairman's secretary. "Mr. Sheff is expecting you. He said for you to go right in."

"Hello, Felix," said Crocker, as he entered the office of the man who was often referred to as the most powerful man in America, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

"How are you, David?" asked Sheff.

"Pretty good, considering," said Crocker. "I've reached the point that if I feel really good, I must be overlooking something."

"My, do I know what you mean," said Sheff.

"I think that's why I feel so driven to see some real progress toward my goals, Felix. I can see the darkness at the end of the tunnel, and I don't feel that there's anyone to carry on the fight, after I'm gone. I don't see any young people with the will and the ability to carry on? I feel that I have to get it done before I go, or all our efforts will have been wasted."

"What about your son? He seems to be doing quite well."

"He's good at making money," said Crocker. "Now that banks are into everything, stocks, mutual funds, investment banking, insurance, I'm glad to have someone like John to handle those side businesses. I love banking, but to an old banker like me, selling insurance and securities seems so pedestrian. We make a lot of money, and that's always wonderful, but we had all the money we could ever need, the day we were born. The only reason for making more is to accomplish our dreams. Anyone can make money, but only a few are equipped to run the world. I could be wrong, but, when it comes to plans on the grand scale, I don't think I see the foresight in John that our generation and our forefathers' generations had. My father must have quoted Horace to me a thousand times–as did his father to him–only to show me how much better we were than others, who saw things as Horace did. 'Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare longam,' or 'Life's brief span forbids the beginning of hopes that reach beyond us.' In the past, the Crocker's and several other families had hopes and plans reaching generations ahead. But I don't see that in the young people. They are too shortsighted. I hope that I'm wrong. What a shame it would be, if our dreams should never come true, after we've come so far and gotten so close. I worry a lot about that. I worry about it so much that I drive myself to try to get everything done before I go."

"You had better be careful, my friend," said Sheff, "or you'll push yourself so much that you'll go a lot sooner than you should. You need to pay attention to the way you live, if you want to live longer."

"You're right, Felix." Crocker sighed heavily. "I know it."

"Remember what Abraham Lincoln said; 'If I had six hours to cut down a tree, I'd spend four hours sharpening the ax.'"

"What did you have on your mind, Felix?" asked Crocker.

"I really want to get out of here for a little while, David. Let's go for a walk."

Crocker knew it had to be something important. "I can see through you, Felix," he said. "You're trying to get me to exercise. Okay. I know it's good for me. Let's go. We'll walk a while."

As they approached the elevator, Sheff spoke to the armed guard, standing nearby. "Jimmy, we're going for a walk. Come and walk along behind us, just to keep an eye on us."

They walked out the front door, onto the sidewalk.

"We'll turn at the corner, and there's a little park just a block away," said Sheff.

The two men sat on a park bench. The armed guard sat about twenty-five yards away, on another bench.

"I told the President, the other day," said Sheff, "that I thought we're in for a big slump in the next few years. Nothing goes up forever. He'd rather have a recession now, so we can be over it and recovered, well before the election. I told him I would consider it and let him know what I thought. I wanted to check with you. I didn't know if you wanted to keep Slickwill for another term or not. And, I wanted to make sure a small crash now won't upset some master plan."

"How do you feel about it, Felix?"

"I think it's a good idea, if you want to keep Slickwill. He's all right politically, but what a schmuck he is, personally."

"Think of him as a tool," said Crocker. "A rusty, corroded, hammer can drive a nail, just as well as shiny, new hammer-and it's much cheaper."

"So, what about the crash, David?"

"I don't know. What's the lead time?"

"You can't be that sure," said Sheff. "I think the market is teetering on the brink. If I just frown when I say the word 'market,' it has a bad day. I would expect it to fall around thirty to forty percent in month or two, with eight or ten percent the first week or so. If it goes well, it would recover in another three to six months. I don't think we want a protracted bear market."

"These days, it's not a simple matter to set things in motion to take advantage of a crash," said Crocker. "There are too many computers watching for trading patterns. We have to rotate things to work through different brokers and accounts around the world, so there's no recognizable trading pattern. It's a lot of work, but it has to be done. If the market drops by a third, we should make at least fifteen billion over those six or eight months--possibly a lot more."

"That makes the work worthwhile, doesn't it?" said Sheff. His share of fifteen billion would be one and a half billion. He could have demanded more and gotten it, but he didn't need any more, and Crocker would use a major share of what he made to advance the goals of the CFR and the Trilateral Council. Sheff could no longer devote his time to a cause. Running the Federal Reserve took too much of his time and energy. He was too old and too materialistic. Besides, he had a young wife that made significant demands on his time, energy, and money. To Sheff, the cause was still important, but not even in second or third place.

"I can't argue with that." Crocker grinned. "However, there is a bigger picture to consider. We're trying to reach parity between the dollar and the Euro. Right now the dollar is too high, but if the US stock market crashes too far, the dollar will suffer. I think we should forego a bit of short-term profit for a much greater one in the long term. What if you had a twenty to twenty-five percent drop?"

"That would probably do it. It's hard to pinpoint the swing, as you know. We can aim for twenty. If we don't get at least seventeen or eighteen, I may have to hit it again. If we get too much, we might hurt your plans, but for a lesser time, I'd guess."

"Nothing is perfect," said Crocker. "Not in our line of work. I'll set things up to take advantage of a twenty percent drop."

"You seemed a little down, before," said Sheff. "Is something bothering you?"

"The job is so enormous," said Crocker. "Everything takes so terribly long, and I keep getting older. There are so many variables and they keep changing constantly. I have to get the Bio-diversity treaty with the UN ratified. It's a major step. Probably the biggest single step we've taken in my lifetime, except for setting up the UN the way we wanted it. If I can just get that treaty ratified soon, there's a chance that I'll see a real world government, in my lifetime."

"That is a tremendous step," said Sheff. "Don't you think it's risky, though? There's already a small movement to get America out of the UN. If the American people figure out what this treaty really means, and they revolt, it could be the end of the UN."

"I know," said Crocker. "It's a terrible situation for me, too. But, my plan is to get the treaty ratified and take a very gradual approach to the implementation. First, we get the American people accustomed to seeing the UN as the ultimate authority. After all, that's the only purpose of the treaty anyway. We don't give a damn about bio-diversity."

"I know," said Sheff. He looked down at his feet.

"What's wrong, Felix? Now you're the one that looks despondent."

"It'll go away," said Sheff. "I get that way sometimes, when I look at the big picture."

"What is it that bothers you?"

"People. The human race. It's hard to think that you and I are of the same species as the majority of the population. Look at those people out there. The young couple sitting on a blanket. If we sat down and talked with them, they would, in all likelihood, be reasonably intelligent people. That man on the bench reading-he could even be reading one of my own books-also intelligent. Yet, nearly all people go through life completely ignoring the things that most affect their existence.

"Sometimes, I feel guilty for participating in what's done to them. But then I realize that they keep asking, even begging for it. They have the opportunity to complain, to alter their situation, to prevent their exploitation, but they don't. They throw themselves at our doorstep, with 'WELCOME' painted on their body, begging to be stepped on. Someone is going to take advantage of the situation. In the end, we're either the ones who do it, or we're one of them. For my part, I'd rather be dead than be like they are. They're like farm animals, content, as long as there's food in the trough and no visible predators in the barnyard."

"I think we all have moments like that," said Crocker. "Although, I admit that I seldom have them anymore. Sooner or later, you have to realize that everyone's life is going to be controlled. If you don't take control of your life, someone else will. If I drop a wallet full of money in the street, it's only natural that someone pick it up and make use of the money. If you have a life full of potential and toss it away, it's only natural that someone try to make some use of it. It's the same thing. If you see the wallet, and don't pick it up, someone else will. To the man who dropped the wallet, it doesn't matter who picks it up. If no one picks it up, the money will rot and never serve any useful purpose. The same is true of the people who throw their lives away by not bothering to do anything with them. If someone else doesn't get some benefit from their life, they will have lived and died, for no useful purpose."

"Maybe, from their point of view, they live their life the best possible way, with no interference from anyone else. They may feel very strongly about that," said Sheff.

"They couldn't possibly feel strongly about it," said Crocker. "If they did, they wouldn't let someone else take over their lives."

"You're right, of course. It's just so hard to believe that they would put up with it all," said Sheff. "We wouldn't."

"They don't see what's going on," said Crocker.

"It's right out in the open, under their nose," said Sheff. "They have to see it. Sooner or later, they have to see it."

"People will believe almost anything about businessmen and the very wealthy," said Crocker. "According to them, we fix prices; we rip off our customers; we exploit our workers, but most people are little people. Little people have little ideas.  The idea of us getting together and planning to run the whole show is too grand an idea for a small mind. Yes, we do capitalize on their limited mental ability, but tell me, Felix, who is better equipped to run the world? Certainly not the masses that take no interest in running their own lives. It would be like letting the village idiot teach school."

"You're absolutely right."

"Fortunately for us, the people are constitutionally incapable of believing that almost nothing major happens in this world without our support. Could some fanatic little paperhanger take over Europe, without money? Hell no. Could a handful of shabby conspirators defeat the Czar of Russia, without enormous financial support? Hell no. Could a bearded crackpot take over Cuba, without financial support? Hell, no. Without our financial support of Hitler, there would have been no World War Two, and without World War Two, there could never have been a United Nations. It's unfortunate, but it's true. If only they'd gotten the League of Nations to work, World War Two would have been unnecessary. Even without the war, we could have gotten every country except the United States, but that would have been worthless, just as the European Community would have been worthless without Germany. That's another victory for us. We could never have gotten the individual European countries to surrender their sovereignty to the UN, but we managed to get them to agree to a Common Market to compete with the US, then escalated it to the more powerful EC. After a few years, the peasants will have forgotten their sovereignty, and we can let the EC turn control over to the UN."

"But," said Sheff, "some people see what's happening, and they point it out. Why won't anyone pay attention to them?"

"Naturally, there are those who notice, and they do cry conspiracy. We just heap ridicule on them. The fear of ridicule is second only to the fear of death. They say it's public speaking that's second after death. Actually, it's the possible exposure to ridicule associated with public speaking that is feared. No one will agree with the handful who see what we're doing, for fear of being subjected to the same ridicule."

"I know you're right, David. And that's precisely what makes me sad sometimes. It seems so terrible that most people live and die, and apart from their family, no one knew they were here. Because they don't think, they die without having lived. The treasure they're born with is buried with them, untouched and unnoticed.

"I believe that the ability to think is no different than the ability to play a musical instrument," said Crocker. "You need to learn how and then practice. There will always be some people who will do it better than most, but almost everyone can become somewhat competent at it. Most people never learn how to play an instrument. Many of those that are shown how, never practice enough to be any good at it. Likewise, most people never learn how to think, and most of those who are taught how to do it, never do enough of it to become competent. In both instances, it's laziness and lack of interest. In the case of the musical instrument, the consequences are generally negligible. In the case of thinking, the consequences are devastating."

"You can learn to play an instrument at any age," said Sheff. "People could learn to think at any age."

"I agree. We know, however, that most people who learn to play an instrument, learn when they are young. Why would thinking be any different? You can teach an old dog new tricks, if the old dog is sufficiently motivated. People aren't motivated. As you said, if we can keep food in the trough and the predators out of the barnyard, they're content, which seems to be all they want. Just be glad you learned to think, Felix-to play that priceless instrument between your ears."

"It's as sad as it is true. What a terrible waste. But, you have to accept the universe," Sheff said shrugging his shoulders and raising his hands, palms upward, emphasizing his resignation. "I'd better head back. I'm late for a meeting." He stood up, adding with a smile, "But they won't start without me."

As they started back, Sheff took Crocker by the arm and said, "David, you've got to promise me that you're not going to make yourself sick, worrying about fixing the world before you die. Just do the best you can and enjoy life as much as you can. The odds are that you'll live a lot longer. When I get old, I'd like to have you around to talk with."

"I promise," said Crocker, looking at the wrinkled hand that clutched his arm. "You have to promise you'll stop wasting your sympathy on people that wouldn't have the slightest idea why you would feel sorry for them."

"I'll promise. But believe it or not, I feel sorry for a bug when I step on it." 


***

 

The Reverend Willie Washington walked through the lobby of the national headquarters of the Black American Advancement League. He had been there several times, and each time, he was overwhelmed by the opulence of the building. Formerly a commercial building, home to the Washington offices of several of the Fortune 100 companies, BAAL purchased it, the year that the federal government began openly subsidizing them, as a reward for their part in delivering the lion's share of the black vote to Democratic candidates. That was the same year that the Association of American Retired People went on the payroll of the same government from which they ostensibly protected their members. With one hundred and five million dollars of the taxpayer's own money, the government bribed the dominant advocate of senior citizens in the United States.

"God Almighty." The phrase escaped Washington's lips, when he walked into the president's office. But he had said it low enough that he didn't think he was heard. This was the first time he had seen this office, and he was shocked. He had been in the Oval office in the White House, several times. But this was so palatial that it would make the President of the United States sick with envy. Washington estimated the office to be fifty by thirty feet, larger than a lot of houses he had seen. The decor was African, but Washington doubted if there were any office on the continent of Africa that was as opulently decorated as this one. A few years ago, he had run for the job of president of the United States. Maybe he should have tried for the job of president of BAAL, instead.

"How do you do, Reverend Washington," said Isaac Ward, the president of BAAL, as he stood behind a monstrous, ornately carved desk, his hand extended in welcome.

"Mr. Ward," said Washington, clasping his hand. "It's truly an honor to meet you, sir."

"Please, have a seat, Reverend Washington," said Ward, sitting down himself. "I understand you have a proposition for us."

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do," said Washington. "I take it you are familiar with Alvin Walters."

"If you mean Alvin Walters, the economist, writer, and professor, I'm sorry to say that I am."

"I understand," said Washington, smiling broadly and displaying two gold teeth. "That is precisely why I am here. Did you happen to read his article in Minority Matters this month and see his last two shows on BTN?"

"I read the article, and, while I didn't see the two shows, I sure heard plenty about them. What is it about Mr. Walters that brings you here, Reverend Washington?"

"I admire a man who wants to get right to the point, Mr. Ward. I want to call for a black boycott of BTN and Minority Matters, until they rid themselves of Alvin Walters. Naturally, it would be a great help to have your support, since BAAL is the foremost black organization in the world."

"Well, I don't know as how I can support that," said Ward. "Everybody at BTN is black, as is their audience. If we boycott them, we'd be hurting a lot of innocent black folk."

"Believe me, I understand that," said Washington. "However, Mr. Ward, it is precisely because so many blacks do read Minority Matters and do watch BTN that I'm proposing this. Alvin Walters is preaching a doctrine diametrically opposed to what every respectable black leader in America espouses-including, of course, you and I. Through the leading black magazine and the leading black network, he reaches a captive audience. Now, don't get me wrong, Mr. Ward. If I thought for one minute that what he advocates would really work, I'd be all for it, even though the success of such a strategy would mean that you and I, and all other black advocates would be out of a job. It's all well and good to tell blacks to work hard and all that, but to tell them to quit thinking of themselves as blacks and think of themselves as human beings is ridiculous. Just thinking that you are as good as anyone else, isn't going to make it true. You and I both know that blacks need government assistance to put them on an equal footing with whites. Only then they can be successful. On their own, they'll never catch up. We know that it takes groups like BAAL and people like us to force the government to make our people equal. I'd join Alvin Walters in his crusade and find some other way to supplement my modest income as a pastor, if I thought his ideas were in the best interests of black America. And I'm sure you would too, even if it would mean that you would have to look elsewhere for employment."

"Of course I would," said Ward, stiffening somewhat in his chair.

"I knew that, even before I met you, Mr. Ward, from your impeccable reputation. Since Alvin Walters is constantly undermining the message of mainstream black leaders, like you and me, I think we owe it to our flock to stop him."

"I suppose you are right, Reverend Washington. Besides, I expect that both Minority Matters and the Black News Network would drop Walters like a hot potato, the minute we announced a boycott. That way, there would be no damage done, except to Mr. Walters, of course."

"That's the way I would expect it to go," said Washington. "Then I have your support?"

"Indeed you do, Reverend Washington. Indeed you do. I'll call a meeting of my staff. Perhaps you could attend, and we can coordinate our efforts."

"It will be my pleasure, Mr. Ward. Yes, indeed." The Reverend Willie Washington took a deep breath. He had been marvelous-even better than usual.

 


***

 

"I'm glad you were free for lunch today, Leonard," said Randolph. "We don't have much time these days for just a quiet lunch, do we?"

"I'm afraid not," said Leonard Fisher. "Somehow it doesn't make sense to just make money. After all, money is only useful for buying things and living well."

"Well said, Leonard. I agree. Let's forget business for a while."

Fisher had seen promise in Randolph, from the beginning and had loaned him money to get his first business off the ground. At that time, the amount involved had been significant to both of them. Randolph remained loyal to the man who took a chance on him.

While they were having a friendly, animated conversation over lunch, in the French Quarter Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Randolph noticed two workers, across the street, building a wall. After a while, he interrupted his conversation with Fisher, to say, "Leonard, do you see those two men across the street, laying concrete blocks?"

"Yes, I see them. What about them?"

"Watch the fellow in the gray shirt. He lays twice as many blocks as the other man, and I think he's doing a better job. I love excellence, and I think that fellow has it. Besides, just watch the way he moves; no wasted motion."

"He does look rather better than the other fellow," said Fisher.

After lunch, as they walked out into the sunshine, Randolph said, "I'll be in touch, Leonard. I want to talk to that fellow laying concrete blocks."

"Whatever for?" asked Fisher.

"He should be working for me," said Randolph.

Fisher laughed. "You never miss any opportunity, Clint?"

"Not if I can help it," said Randolph. "Why should I?" He walked across the street and approached the man.

"Excuse me, sir," said Randolph.

"Hi. What can I do for you?" asked the man, looking up for an instant, then returning to his work.

"I couldn't help noticing how you work," said Randolph. "Do you always work like that?" Randolph looked closely at the man's work. It was perfect.

"Pretty much," said the man. "I get paid by the block. As long as I have to work, I might as well earn as much as I can. Doesn't that make sense?"

"Absolutely," said Randolph. "My name is Clinton Randolph, and I own a construction company. I'd like to get your name and phone number, so that my manager can get in touch with you and make you an offer good enough to get you to work for him. Would you mind that?"

"Certainly not," said the man.

Randolph took out his pocket notebook.

"What's your name?"

"Fred Nelson."

"Your telephone number?"

"Area code 954, 629-5512."

"I'll see to it that they call you this evening, if that's agreeable to you."

"That's fine with me."

"Thank you, Mr. Nelson," said Randolph, "and good-bye."

"So long, Mr. Randolph. And thank you."

Back in his car, Randolph called Tom Merrill at Randolph Construction.

"Tom, Randolph here. I found a man I want you to hire, assuming you find him acceptable. He's the fastest concrete block layer I've seen, and his work looks perfect. Put him on the project at my parents' house. See if you can use him to increase the output of the other men."

"I'll take care of it, Clint," said Merrill. "What's his name and number? Got it. By the way, Clint, I faxed five sets of sketches to you, for the project for your parents." Randolph very seldom recommended hiring anyone, but when he did, the person invariably turned out to be outstanding. Randolph always had an eye out for good people, and he expected all his people to do the same. Merrill made sure that everyone knew the words Randolph drummed into his managers: "If we're lucky, we're judged by our average person; we must strive to elevate that average. At the worst, we're judged by our worst person. We must strive to make sure our worst people are excellent ones."

"I'm on my way to the office, Tom. I'll give you a call as soon as I've looked them over.

"I sent a copy to your parents."

"Good. That will save me time and trouble."

 

 

"I really like design number three, Tom," said Randolph, when he called Tom Merrill. "So do my parents. It'll do nicely." He was calling from the limousine. He had called Alicia and had her forward the sketches to the fax in the car. Then he had conferred with his parents.

"Good," said Merrill. "I'm glad we had one you liked."

"I do have a few additions to it. First, I want ample provisions for secure cabling between the house and each apartment and between the apartments. I want provisions for cabling from the roof-for satellite dishes and cameras-to each apartment. Second, I'd like a fire-pole, from each apartment-maybe in a closet-to the garage below and an exit from the garage. Also I need a secure passageway from the garage to the house with a push-button combination fire door on each end. I want the windows of the apartments of bulletproof glass, with plain glass inserts or some other provision, for shooting from inside the apartment. I want a generator in the garage to supply electricity to the house and the apartments, and which will kick in automatically, in the event of a power failure. Finally, I want the garage door locks much more secure than normal-as secure as possible. Any of this which will delay the construction can be added later, but plan for it all, at the beginning. Did you get all that, Tom?"

"Sure did, Clint," said Tom Merrill, after a pause. "I recorded it. We'll get right on it. We've already seen the property and met your folks. I've ordered blocks, cement, and most of the normal things. The bulletproof glass and the fire-poles might take some time. I doubt if anyone makes a standard fire-pole any more. We'll do our best."

"How long do you think it will take?"

"Do you want all the overtime we can get in?"

"I surely do."

"I think we can have the apartments habitable in four to five weeks, and the rest done in ten or twelve. I assume that you want the apartments first."

"You're right. That's fine. If you can get it done any faster, I would greatly appreciate it."

"Like I said, Clint, we'll do our best."

"That's all I ask, Tom. Thanks a lot. I'll be checking back from time to time."


CHAPTER 7

WEDNESDAY - DAY 9

 

 

Jeremy Worth poured himself a glass of milk, and was drinking it, when his mother, wearing a peach-colored, terry cloth bathrobe, appeared in the kitchen.

"This is early for you, Jeremy," she said, looking at the clock on the microwave oven. "You've been getting up early a lot lately, haven't you?"

"You know I have to go to West Palm today, for my interview with Clinton Randolph," he said.

"Yes, I know," his mother said, "but what has that to do with the question? You're answering like a politician."

"You got me," he smiled. It was a game they played. They each tried to catch the other in logical or semantic errors. But, either she almost never made an error, or he was far less attentive than she was, because he very seldom caught her. She, on the other hand, caught him quite often. "I'm a little nervous about the trip, otherwise, I wouldn't have done that."

"That's just when you need to be most careful," she told him. "When there's a lot at stake, we all have a tendency to get nervous. But, it is precisely when there is a lot at stake, that we need to be aware of what's being said, particularly by us. Remember, listen, think, and then speak."

"I know," he said. She was right, as usual. He certainly didn't want to look like an idiot when he saw Clinton Randolph, who was certain to be even sharper than his mother. "While I'm there, I'll just pretend he's watching my every word, the way you do. I'd better get going; I want to be there with plenty of time to spare." He picked up his coat, kissed his mother on the cheek, and left.

"Good luck," she called to him through the door from the kitchen to the garage.

As Jeremy drove northward on I-95, he barely noticed the morning rush-hour traffic; he was trying to prepare himself mentally for his meeting. He had gone to the AUF Library, trying to find out something about Clinton Randolph. Other than a mini-profile in Who's Who, there was little to be found. On one of the library's computer terminals, he had logged onto CARL, the database at the University of Colorado, where he discovered that numerous magazine articles concerning Clinton Randolph had been published recently, but most were in magazines not available at AUF. In Fortune, Time, and U.S. News and World Report, which the AUF Library did have, he found eight articles. Two were in Fortune's annual lists of the richest people in the world. The accompanying articles said the size of Randolph's fortune could only be estimated. Since his companies were privately owned, they weren't required to file annual and quarterly reports, as were publicly held companies. Not only that, but many of his companies were such leaders in their fields, that there were no truly comparable companies with which to equate them. They had to take the value of a smaller competitor and make an educated guess as to what an appropriate multiplier would be. But how much had he taken out of the companies, and of that, how much had he saved? How much invested? How much had he made on his investments? No one knew. They said they were very conservative in their estimate. This conservative estimate put his personal fortune at a hundred and eighty billion dollars. They added that other estimates ran as high as two hundred and seventy-five billion dollars. The conservative estimate put him well ahead of Bill Knorrs, who was in second place.

As he left I-95, into West Palm Beach, Jeremy noticed a man on the street-corner, with a sign that said, "WILL WORK FOR CASH OR MERCHANDISE." People with signs asking for money and offering to work were hardly unusual at Interstate exits, but this man didn't look like the others. He was clean-shaven; his hair was combed; and his clothes, although obviously worn, looked clean and pressed. He looked out of place. Driving past the man, Jeremy looked at him, and their eyes met. The man's gaze was steady and unemotional; it touched Jeremy in a way he couldn't understand. Concern over his forthcoming interview must be making him edgy.

Bartlett Drive, which Randolph Enterprise's switchboard operator had told him to take east, until it ended at the water, had ended. Turning right, he began watching the street signs. In a few blocks, he knew that before the next corner, he should see his destination. Then he saw the sign: "Randolph Enterprises."

He looked at the building. It was unusual, but surprisingly small, with only four stories. He knew, from one of the articles, that the whole top floor was Clinton Randolph's penthouse residence. It seemed incredible that an empire the size of Randolph Enterprises could be run from such a small building. Of course, all the divisions must have their own headquarters; this was only the one that tied them all together.

It was only seven-thirty. He drove slowly around the block twice, turned into the parking lot, and parked in a visitor's space. It was now seven forty-five. He checked his hair and got out of the car. He put on his coat, brushed it with his hand, and walked slowly to the entrance. Once inside, he walked up to the receptionist, gave her his name, and told her he had an appointment with Clinton Randolph. He waited, trying not to be nervous, or, at least, not to look nervous. The receptionist made a call, then told him to wait. In a minute or so, an attractive, middle-aged woman came out of the elevator and walked toward him. Her hair, which she wore pulled back tightly in a bun, was dark, almost jet-black, with a few traces of gray. He guessed she would be Clinton Randolph's secretary. She wore a simple navy blue suit, with white piping, reminiscent of classic Chanel, a fact that, although it was lost on Jeremy, had the effect of making him think that, rather than looking like a secretary, she looked more like someone who would have a secretary.

"Mr. Worth," she said, making it a question, but extending her hand, assuming the answer, there being no one else in sight. Her hand was soft and feminine, as she shook Jeremy's hand and said, "I'm Alicia Pendleton, Mr. Randolph's Administrative Assistant." Her warm and friendly manner put Jeremy a little more at ease.

So, he thought, she's not a secretary. He hadn't any idea what an Administrative Assistant was.

In the elevator, on the way to the third floor, Jeremy couldn't ignore the scent of her perfume. He glanced at her, and was struck by the perfection that he saw: every hair in place and creases that would pass boot camp inspection. He glanced again, looking for some overlooked detail, but found none. He didn't think he had ever seen anyone so impeccable. She led him to Clinton Randolph's office. It was five minutes before eight o'clock, when they entered to find Clinton Randolph sitting behind his desk.

Randolph got up and walked around the desk to greet Jeremy. "Good Morning, Mr. Worth. I'm Clinton Randolph. I'm glad to meet you." As he spoke, he turned the two chairs in front of the desk ninety degrees, to face each other. "Please, have a seat."

Alicia Pendleton left, closing the door behind her.

"Good Morning, Mr. Randolph," Jeremy said, as he sat down. He was nervous, but not about his interview. He couldn't help thinking of all the things Doctor MacRae had told him about Clinton Randolph. His state was one of such awe that he essentially forgot to worry.

Randolph sat in the other chair, facing Jeremy. "Doctor MacRae spoke very highly of you, Mr. Worth. He said you might be interested in working for Randolph Enterprises. I have great confidence in Doctor MacRae's opinion, but he told me very little about your background and experience. Could you tell me what you've studied so far and what you think are your best attributes, so I can determine in what capacity you might best serve my organization?"

In spite of his awe, in the presence of the richest and the most intelligent man on earth, Jeremy was soon at ease. He felt Randolph's respect and interest in him were genuine. Within a few minutes, Randolph had elicited Jeremy's academic history, his hopes and aspirations, and his opinions on a multitude of topics.

Suddenly, Randolph assumed an air of solemnity that unnerved Jeremy. He looked directly at Jeremy and said, "Doctor MacRae told me about your problem and your having to drop out of school. From what he said, I gather it's primarily a financial matter. Would you accept a donation, covering the expenses of your last semester, so you can go ahead and graduate? Then we could talk about your working for us, after you graduate"

"No, sir," Jeremy stammered. This was one thing he had never anticipated. "I really appreciate the offer, Mr. Randolph, but I'm afraid I wouldn't feel right about doing that. It might take me a bit longer, but I'd rather do it on my own."

"Excellent," said Randolph. "I wouldn't offer you a donation anyway. That's the answer I hoped to hear." He looked at a notepad in front of him. "I understand this is your fourth year at AUF, Mr. Worth. Since you've been going full time; shouldn't you have finished this semester?"

"You're right," said Jeremy, apologetically. "I took a few classes that I probably shouldn't have, and then, later on, I couldn't get the ones that I had to have."

"Interesting," said Randolph. "What were the courses that you probably shouldn't have taken?"

Almost sheepishly, Jeremy answered, "Geology, Roman Civilization, Latin American History, and," he lowered his eyes, "Poetry."

"Not many other math majors in any of those classes, I'll bet," said Randolph.

"None. No math, science, or engineering majors."

"In my opinion, those courses make you better educated than other math majors," said Randolph. "I feel that our universities have become vocational training centers, rather than centers of education." He shifted his position in the chair. "By the way, apart from your academic skills, what do you think might be something that sets you apart from others of your age?"

Jeremy thought for a minute. "I suppose, and I hope, that I'm more logical in my thinking than the average person." He explained to Randolph the game his mother played with him.

"You are fortunate to have such a mother," said Randolph. "She's giving you a valuable habit. Being a math major will also contribute to being logical." Randolph had been leaning toward Jeremy. Now he pulled himself back and erect. "Look," he said, "I would like to spend more time with you, but I must go to Sarasota, today. I'd like for you to come with me, and we can talk on the way. Is that possible?"

Jeremy was caught off guard again. Although this was his first employment interview, he sensed that it was anything but conventional. But then, why should Randolph be conventional? If he acted like everyone else, wouldn't he be like everyone else? What good would it be to be the smartest person in the world, if you acted like everyone else? "Yes, I can go to Sarasota," he said. "I'd enjoy that very much." He meant it. For days he had been looking forward to just meeting Clinton Randolph. Now he was going to travel across the state with him.

Never having been in a limousine before, Jeremy was excited, even by the drive to the airport. They drove straight to Randolph's private Mitsubishi jet. Jeremy had never been in a private airplane either, much less a private jet. By so much, so fast, he was definitely overwhelmed. When they were seated in the airplane's cabin, which, to Jeremy, looked more like a lounge than a passenger airplane, Randolph said, "I have to do a little work to prepare myself for Sarasota. Could you occupy yourself for a few minutes?"

"Of course," said Jeremy. He picked up a copy of Fortune Magazine from a pocket on the table in front of his seat. It wasn't easy, but he forced himself to read an article. It was about a man who had gone to great lengths to protect his privacy. A security consultant, in less than ten minutes, was able to tell him much of what he had been trying to hide for ten years. He knew where the man worked, his salary, how much he owed on his home and his car, where all his previous jobs had been and how much he made at each job. The consultant said that given a little more time, he could discover much more.

After the few minutes it took to read the article, Jeremy put down the magazine and looked out the window, seeing what had to be Lake Okeechobee, the huge lake that dominates central Florida. From time to time, he glanced at Randolph. Randolph would stare into space for a while, then write a few words in a notebook. After repeating this sequence numerous times, he put down the notebook, leaned back, and closed his eyes for three or four minutes. Then he sat up straight, seeming to return from the realm of thought.

"That's finished," said Randolph. "You see, Mr. Worth, in Sarasota, I'll be meeting with Octavio Sanchez, the owner of a company called Florida Nucleonics. I want to buy his company, but I don't think he wants to sell it. I've just been going through that meeting, in my imagination."

"Why would he sell, if he doesn't want to?" asked Jeremy.

"What reason can you think of?" asked Randolph.

"He might need the money badly," Jeremy speculated.

"Very good," said Randolph. "He does need money. But, his company is making money. It's really quite profitable. That's one of my reasons for wanting to buy it. So, if he is making money, and he doesn't really want to sell, why would he still consider selling it?"

"Maybe his company isn't making enough money for whatever he has in mind," said Jeremy. "Something like that."

"You're right on track," said Randolph. "I'm assuming that when he started Florida Nucleonics, he had something more than just making money in mind. I know he worked for two nuclear companies. Neither company seemed to be interested in some ideas he had for controlled nuclear fusion. So he left, and started a nuclear instrumentation company. I'm guessing that he did that primarily to generate enough money to pay for the research he wanted to do on nuclear fusion. It's my belief that he's getting close to completing his research, but he needs a lot of money for the next step. So much money that it would take him several years to accumulate it, with Florida Nucleonics' present income."

"Wouldn't he prefer to wait a few years, rather than give up ownership of his company?" asked Jeremy. "I think I would, if I were in his place."

"So would almost anyone. But, what if you knew that other people were working on the same problem, and if you waited a few years, they might very well beat you to it?" Randolph watched Jeremy as he considered the situation.

"Well, if he waits, he might be beaten to it, but then he might not. If he sells, it's certain he won't be the first one to do it, assuming he needs his facility to perform the work. Isn't that so?"

"Good thinking," said Randolph. "Now, if I want to buy the company, and Octavio Sanchez wants to be the first to achieve practical, controlled nuclear fusion, how can we both get what we want?"

"Oh," said Jeremy. "Why not. He sells to you. You let him keep working on the fusion. The money from you pays for the research."

"We're going to get along marvelously," said Randolph. "Do you mind if I call you Jeremy?"

"Of course not," said Jeremy. "That's beautiful. You both get what you want. Not only that, but if he does come up with a process for controlled fusion, you own it."

"Precisely," smiled Randolph. "I'll have to put up a lot more money than his little nuclear instrumentation business is worth. But, if he can do what I hope he can, it will be a great bargain. So much so that I would have to see to it that he shares in the profits. Of course, Sanchez may tell me to go fly a kite. In his position, I think that would be unwise, and I think he's a very smart person."

The pilot announced that they were approaching the Sarasota Airport. To Jeremy, the trip had been so interesting that it seemed they had just taken off. It occurred to him that the casual conversation had been a part of his interview.

 

 

Sitting beside Randolph at a conference table, Jeremy tried to hide the fact that he had understood next to nothing of the conversation for the last ten minutes. He knew only that they were discussing technicalities of Sanchez's nuclear fusion project. For the first hour, he had no trouble following their discussion of the finances of the business and of the future plans for Florida Nucleonics. But now, he was concerned about looking as lost as he felt. He sensed that by the time they left, Randolph would know everything there was to know about Florida Nucleonics. If Sanchez hoped to hide anything, he needed a perfect memory and superb mental agility. Randolph had introduced Jeremy as his Special Assistant, who was to sit in on their meeting. Jeremy had expected Octavio Sanchez to be younger, but he now estimated him to be a few years older than his father.

"Look, Octavio," Randolph said, suddenly, after a moment of silence, "Let's get down to business. Florida Nucleonics is worth between three and four million. You tell me you need six million to wrap up the fusion project. We both know that the six could easily become twice that or more. If you get it to work, it will take many times that amount to go into production. I'll make you one offer; you can take it or leave it. I'll give you three and a half million for Florida Nucleonics. I'll fund the fusion program with whatever it takes, as long as I can see promise in it. You stay on as General Manager of the nuclear instrumentation business, and you run the fusion program. Your salary will be nominal, seventy thousand a year. In addition, each year that there's an increase in net profit, you will receive a bonus of twenty percent of the increase. If the fusion doesn't pan out, you always have the three and a half million, plus salary and bonuses. If it does, you'll have a lot more. I will fund the production. If and when the controlled fusion becomes profitable, from then on, you'll receive seventeen percent of net profits. That's my offer. I think it's fair. What do you say?"

"I need some time to think it over," said Sanchez, obviously taken by surprise. "Why don't we break for lunch? I'll get a driver to take you and Mr. Worth to a nice restaurant and bring you back about one forty-five. That will give me two hours to consider your offer."

"That will be fine," said Randolph. "I'd prefer the Columbia, on St. Armand's Key."

The driver took them on a scenic route to St. Armand's Key, a chic little island, between the mainland and the littoral islands that border so much of Florida's coast. He let them out at the Columbia Restaurant, saying that he would be waiting for them when they came out.

Inside, Randolph and Jeremy were seated quickly. While they waited, Randolph asked Jeremy, "What do you think Sanchez will do?"

"I bet he takes it?"

"I'd make the same bet. In fact, I just did, didn't I? It's a good deal for him, and for me. He would be wise to take it."

"I couldn't understand much of the discussion about the fusion process," Jeremy said.

"I've been studying up on fusion," said Randolph, "otherwise I couldn't have understood it myself. Don't feel bad about it. Not many people know anything at all about nuclear fusion, other than that it's the opposite of nuclear fission, which makes the atom bomb work, and that it's what makes the hydrogen bomb work. All the existing nuclear power plants use nuclear fission, and they can be extremely dangerous. With controlled nuclear fusion, there would be far less danger overall. According to Sanchez, he thinks he's just about there. That doesn't mean he will make it, he could approach success asymptotically."

"Never quite making it," said Jeremy.

"Exactly," said Randolph, "but I think the odds are good and the benefits of success so great that it justifies the risk."

 

 

Back at Florida Nucleonics, Octavio Sanchez was sitting in his office, staring out the window, watching a mockingbird chasing a blue jay away from its territory. He was fifty-five years old, and he had put everything he had, and much that he didn't have, into Florida Nucleonics. If he sold to Randolph he wouldn't have to worry for the rest of his life, nor would he have to give up his dream of creating controlled nuclear fusion. The fact that, if he could swing it on his own, he would have much more, if he were successful, was enticing. But he might not be able to swing it, and he might not be successful. He had decided to sell to Randolph, but he had to talk it over with his wife, Karen. They had been married for twenty-five years, and even if there were only one option to choose from, he would discuss it with her, as a matter of respect. They lived five minutes away, in a highly mortgaged two-bedroom house. To be sure that she was at home, he called her.

"Hi, Karen. Why don't you make me a sandwich and I'll be home for lunch, in a few minutes."

"You're coming home for lunch? Are you feeling okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Not that I'm not happy about it, but what's going on?"

"I have a big decision to make, and I want to talk it over with you. I'll tell you all about it when I get there. I'll see you in a few minutes." He hung up.

 

 

When Randolph and Jeremy returned at one-forty, Sanchez was in the conference room, waiting for them.

"How was lunch?" he asked.

"Very good," said Randolph,

"Good," said Sanchez. "My time was well spent too. I've considered your offer, and I think we're close to an agreement. You said Florida Nucleonics is worth between three and four million. I think it is worth closer to four than three. Make you offer three-point-seven-five, and we have a deal."

"Three-point-six."

"Three-point-seven."

"Three-point-six-five."

"Done."

"Good," said Randolph. "My offer is contingent on my controller reviewing your books, and confirming what you've told me, and on Sean Michaelson, of Cal Tech, reviewing the fusion project. I can't trust my understanding of it."

"No problem," said Sanchez. "Sean and I have known each other for years. I'll want him to sign a non-disclosure agreement."

"Absolutely. Contract him as a consultant, locking him up even more. There is one other thing," said Randolph. "I want to reserve the right to move the company or the fusion program, or both, to another location. Even though, at the moment, I have no intention whatsoever of moving anything, I want to keep that option open."

"We're not talking Moscow, or Beirut, or anything like that, are we?" asked Sanchez.

Randolph laughed. "I don't think so. We're not talking anywhere, at this time. But, as I said, it is an option I want. It definitely wouldn't be any place that I wouldn't live."

"Okay," said Sanchez, "I'll go along with it. You certainly don't have a reputation for being arbitrary or irrational. There is one thing I want to make sure that you know before we close this deal: If we are successful in developing controlled nuclear fusion, it is possible that the government would take it away from us."

"I am well aware of that," said Randolph. It was comforting that Sanchez had divulged that possible drawback without prompting. "We will see what we can do about that when the time comes, if not before."

The two men shook hands. They agreed that their attorneys would work up the papers, and that they would get together again, if there were any obstacles.

As he and Jeremy were gathering their belongings to leave, Randolph turned to Sanchez and asked, "Can I reach you by e-mail?"

"Of course," said Sanchez. "Here's my card. The e-mail address is on it."

"Do you get your own e-mail, or does someone get it for you?"

"My secretary prints it for me, after deleting the junk."

"Do you have a private address that no one sees?"

"No, but I'll set up one and notify you of the address."

"Good," said Randolph. "You also need to install PGP, Pretty Good Privacy, encryption software. We may want to have some confidential communication. If you aren't in the habit of checking your mail daily, or until you are, if I send you any confidential mail to the private address, I will also send a message to your current address, and say something about the message being confidential. That will tell you to check your private e-mail. I have several private addresses that all forward to a private address that no one knows. That way, if one address gets out, the rest are still okay. I have set up a private address, just for you. It's on this card. Please keep it out of sight."

"Do you have problems with industrial espionage, Clint?"

"Oh, there are always people trying to find out what we are doing, but that isn't the only reason to use secure e-mail. It's available; why not use it? Just suppose you got controlled fusion working, and you called me or sent me a message by unsecure e-mail. How upset would you be, if the following day, when you walk into your office, everything is gone, including all your notes and records?"

"You have no idea how upset I would be."

"But, if you send me secure e-mail, even though the US Government and others can probably break it, it would take them quite a while, and we would have set up comprehensive security measures by then."

"You know I would never have thought of that. As you say, it exists; why not use it?"

"Precisely. In the next ten to twenty years, the advances in the Internet and related technology are going to turn the world on its ear. As widespread as the impact of the introduction of controlled nuclear fission for power plants and vehicular propulsion might be, the impact of the Internet and the advances in telecommunication will be much greater. I think they will change the entire world. The distribution of wealth around the world will not be anything like it is today. We're entering a period of equal opportunity, the like of which the world has never dreamed of. At the individual level, discrimination is difficult on the Internet. A small company can establish a competitive presence on the Internet for next to nothing, and a poor third world country, by adopting a government and policies to take full advantage of the opportunities, could conceivably outstrip any currently leading nation, within a generation or two."

"Really," said Sanchez. "I have been so involved in my own little world here, that I truly don't know what is happening in other fields. It looks like I need to look into it. As you might guess, Clint, I did some research on you. I have to respect any advice you give me."

 

 

Once they were airborne, on their way back to West Palm Beach, Randolph asked, "What did you think of the day, Jeremy?"

"It was an education," Jeremy responded. "You certainly read Sanchez right. It went like clockwork."

"Theoretically, there is never a conflict of interest between rational men, Jeremy, and I think that Sanchez and I are both rational."

"I don't understand about the government taking it away from you," said Jeremy. "Can they really do that?"

"Not legally," said Randolph, "if by legally, you mean constitutionally. But our government pays lip service to the constitution and does anything it wants."

"That's terrible."

"It certainly is. Not exactly the kind of thing you would expect in a free country," said Randolph. He paused briefly. "It's time to speak of you, Jeremy, and your reason for being here today. I'm offering you a job as my special assistant, and you can start immediately." Randolph held up his hand, to halt any response. "Before you say anything, let me elaborate a bit. This is not a routine administrative position. Much of your work will be highly confidential. You will have to be extremely aware of that and act accordingly. Because I have such respect for Doctor MacRae's opinion, I anticipated offering you some position. So I took the liberty of checking up on you. Furthermore, the position would be full time, not a summer job. If you work at it, as I assume you would, the potential is unlimited. Your only limitations would be those you put on yourself. As for your degree, I understand you have only six credits to go. If you wish, you could complete your degree part time, once you have completed the special projects I have in mind. You can attend class on company time, since the courses aren't likely to be offered after work. The company will pay for your tuition and books." He pulled out a small notebook and wrote something in it. He tore out the page and handed it to Jeremy. "This would be your starting salary. Now you may respond."

Jeremy looked at the paper, and said nothing. He seemed frozen. It was more than he had ever dreamed of. He was having trouble believing it.

After a long moment, Randolph said, "Jeremy."

"I-I'll take it. Thank you, Mr. Randolph. I have finals next week. I can't start before finals. But I accept."

"Good. After your finals will be fine."

 

 

That evening, an ecstatic Jeremy Worth burst into the house and immediately began telling the story of his day. His mother and father had eaten, but had saved dinner for him. Before his mother could get him to consider dinner, they had to hear all about the Randolph building, the impeccable Alicia Pendleton, the interview, the limousine, the Mitsubishi Jet, Florida Nucleonics, Octavio Sanchez, the Columbia Restaurant, Clinton Randolph, and most of all the job offer with the incredible salary and the opportunity to finish school. His exuberance was infectious. The melancholy that lately had been so noticeable in Gerald Worth seemed to melt away. Even in his excitement, Jeremy was aware of the change in his father. He saw pallor replaced by color, stony glumness give way to radiance, and his father becoming his old self. Jeremy's excitement and joy were magnified. His day was now perfect in every way. The depression he had felt of late was gone and forgotten.

The doorbell rang, and Jeremy answered the door. It was Greg Morrison, their next-door neighbor. The Morrisons and the Worths had lived next door to each other for over fifteen years. Jeremy could barely remember the Morrisons not being there.

"Hi, Jeremy," said Mr. Morrison, "How did your interview go?"

"I got the job. It's perfect," said Jeremy. "I couldn't hope for a better job."

"What is it?"

"I'm special assistant to Clinton Randolph," said Jeremy, beaming.

"Well now! That's wonderful, Jeremy. Congratulations," said Mr. Morrison. "It's too bad you had to quit school and go to work. But, as long as you did have to, it's great that you got something you're happy with. I just stopped by to see your dad for a few minutes. He must be really happy for you."

"He is," said Jeremy. "Is Emily home? I might run over and tell her the news, while you visit with Dad."

"She's there, playing the piano," Mr. Morrison said. "I'm sure she'll be glad to hear your news."

"Jeremy, your dinner," his mother called, her tone anything but scolding. Patricia Worth was as happy as her son, for all the same reasons.

"Mom, I'm too excited to eat right now. I'll eat when I get back."

Emily Morrison was a few months older than Jeremy, and, like him, was an only child. Having grown up together, each frequently in the other's house, they treated each other as though they were brother and sister.

Jeremy knocked on the Morrisons' front door. When a pretty, blond girl with big, blue eyes appeared, he said, "Hi, Emily. I got the job."

"That's fantastic, Jeremy," she said. "Come in, and tell me all about it." 

 

 

Thursday - Day 10

 

Randolph's taxi pulled up in front of Roberta Brooks' house. It was ten twenty-nine in the morning.

"Wait," Randolph told the driver. "I'll be right back."

He went up the walk and knocked on the door. Francesca opened it.

"Good morning, Clint. I'm ready," she said. She closed the door and checked to make sure it was locked.

"You look happy this morning," he said.

"I am."

The taxi took them to Witham Field, the airport where the Mitsubishi was waiting.

"Are we going in that little plane?" asked Francesca.

"Yes," said Randolph. "Does that bother you?"

"I guess not. I've never flown in anything, other than a big airliner. But, there's a first time for everything."

"It's a very short flight," said Randolph.

Once the plane was aloft and leveled off, Francesca said, "I like this plane. Is it yours?"

"Yes. I'm glad you like it."

"I was a little nervous, at first, but I wouldn't have admitted it."

On the short trip to Nassau, Randolph found out that when he had left for Harvard, Francesca had gone to Rice University in Houston, the only place, at that time, with a degree program in space technology. There she had met her husband, Jack Monroe, who later became a lawyer, then a state congressman, and, finally, a US senator from Texas.

"Of course," said Randolph, "Senator Monroe. I know his record well. He's a good man. But, then he would be, if you picked him, Francesca."

They landed at the Nassau Airport, at 11:35. A Jeep and a driver were waiting for them. After driving along the beach for a while, they happened upon a small hotel that had a few tables on a porch-like terrace, overlooking a tranquil, palm-fringed beach. It seemed made to order for a quiet, leisurely lunch. It proved a wise choice, for the food and the service were in keeping with the atmosphere. They ate and talked at length, revisiting their years together in high school.

 


***

 

"They're all done, Doctor Pierce. I entered it in the book. We're up to number 278," said Carol Bates, Doctor Dennis Pierce's attractive and brilliant graduate assistant. "Do you think you'll ever get what you're looking for?" She had just injected six white mice with batch number two hundred and seventy-eight of electroenzymes, as Pierce called them.

"I hope so, Carol," Pierce said. He was already working on a new batch. Pierce was in charge of the Nanotechnology Center of Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut. The project, known as "Tom Thumb," was, as far as everyone at Yale except Dennis Pierce knew, strictly an attempt to create microscopic devices to cure diseases, including AIDS. He alternated, processing one batch for devices that cured, then a batch for the government, for devices that killed.

"Carol, you need to update the computer files. Another thing, we're getting low on mice. Could you order another batch, sometime today?"

Carol looked at her watch. "I'll take care of it right after lunch." She slipped out of her lab coat and hung it over the back of her desk chair, then took her purse and left.

Pierce sat down at his desk and called his wife. "Hi, honey. How's it going today?"

Kathy Pierce was over eight months pregnant, and he called two or three times a day to check on her.

"Hi, Dennis. We're doing fine. Don't forget, I have a doctor's appointment, at two-thirty."

"I'll come home and take you."

"I can still drive, Dennis."

"I know you can, but I'm coming home to take you. It's time I started driving you. The last couple of weeks, you shouldn't be going too many places anyway."

"I certainly don't mind you driving me, but you don't have to, you know."

"I know. I'll see you about two. I love you."

"Love you too."

Pierce walked over and checked the mice.

"Oh my God!" he cried. "Oh my God, I knew this would happen someday."

 

 

"Dennis," cried Kathy Pierce, "you scared me half to death. You said you were coming about two, and it's not even one."

"I'm sorry, Honey. I have something I wanted to talk to you about. Are you ready?"

"Almost. What did you want to talk about?"

"I'll tell you in the car. Go ahead and finish getting ready."

Ten minutes later, he helped her into the car and drove to a little park a few blocks from the house. He parked in front of the playground, where several small children were playing.

"It won't be long before you'll be coming here," he said.

"Probably a year," she said. "They don't do those things before they can walk"

"No, I suppose not."

"Is that what you wanted to talk about?"

"No," he said. It was difficult to get started. He didn't want to upset her in her condition. He wasn't supposed to tell her, but he had to tell someone. He took in a deep, bracing breath.


CHAPTER 8

 

 

Kathy, there's something about my work that you don't know," began Dennis Pierce. "You know that I've been working on making microscopic devices that acted like living cells that replicated themselves, and were in some ways like a germ or a virus. You also know that two years ago, I made the first one that reproduced itself."

"Yes, Dennis, I know that."

"I was thinking that I might be on my way to the Nobel Prize, but it's too early to tell. Anyway, do you remember when I had to go to Washington, last year?"

"Yes, I remember."

"Well, I went to talk with some people from a group called DARPA. DARPA stands for Defense Advanced Research Project Association. They wanted part of my work kept quiet for reasons of national security. At the time, I had already programmed devices to recognize red and white blood cells and T-cells, and I had gotten it to attach itself to white cells. I was hoping to eventually get it to recognize the AIDS virus. But, I preferred starting on less dangerous bacteria-E-coli. I figured that if I could wipe out one microbe, I could use the same strategy to kill others. I finally got it to kill the E-coli bacteria, in a Petri dish. DARPA read my article about that and called me. They wanted me to work on a parallel secret project, to create a device that would act as a deadly microbe and kill the host animal. They offered me a huge government grant that would have to appear that it was for the search for a cure for AIDS. Obviously, that would help me a lot at Yale, so I said I'd do it. So, for close to a year, I've been doing a batch designed to kill E-Coli in the mice, one day, and a batch to destroy the mice the next day. As far as I know, no one at Yale knows anything about this. I had to take all kinds of oaths not to tell anyone."

"That's awful of them," said Kathy. "If you can make one to kill mice, you can make one to kill people. That has to be what they have in mind."

"I think you're right-now. When I was at Washington, I really felt honored that my government took such an interest in my work. I felt all warm and patriotic about the idea. Six months ago, Lou Cooper gave me a book called "None Dare Call It Conspiracy." That book raised a few doubts. I dug deeper, and things started looking more than doubtful. The more I looked, the worse things appeared. As I gradually became aware of some of what's really going on in our government, I grew sick at heart. Now, the idea of the government's interest in my work is chilling. The last thing I want is for them to have my work to do their dirty deeds. That's why I wanted to talk to you. Today, the mice died."

"Oh my God, Dennis, you've done it then. You've made a killer microdevice."

"About thirty minutes after being injected with the electroenzymes, two of the mice were dead and the other four were in convulsions. A few minutes later, they were all dead. For a minute or so, I just stood there. I started to call Doctor Fields at DARPA. But I kept thinking what I would be giving them, and I couldn't do it. I incinerated the mice and put six new ones in the cage. I had to get out of there. So, I came home early."

"I don't blame you. What are you going to do?"

"I don't know. That's why I wanted to talk to you. I've been trying to attack something in the bloodstream that is necessary for life. The last few times I aimed at the red blood cells thinking it would disable them. I think I succeeded. The red cells carry the oxygen to the other cells of the body. If my device disables enough of them, the mice would die from lack of oxygen."

"Could you modify it to attack human red blood cells?"

"Sure, it probably wouldn't take more than a few weeks, if that."

"Could someone else do it, if you gave them what you have now?"

"It would take them a while to figure out how to program the thing; but they could do it. It would be relatively simple, with all my data."

"Dennis, what can you do?"

"I don't know. I put a counter in the device, so it can only replicate so many times. Each one it produces can replicate one time less until at last they can't replicate any more. This limits how many there can be. Otherwise, I could create a bug that would grow until it covered the world. Even though the chances are extremely slim, a gamma ray could hit the counter circuit and disable it, then the devices would replicate as long as they could find the necessary elements, which exist in almost any living thing. So, that's another reason for not wanting anyone else to have them. I wouldn't even take it out of the lab myself, until I could design in sufficient safeguards to make sure it couldn't possibly run amuck. Even then, I don't want the government to have it. I wouldn't mind it being used as a weapon by a truly moral and trustworthy government, for our defense. That excludes any government that I know of. I don't know why I agreed to do it in the first place."

"Can this thing tell one person from another?"

"If you programmed it to, it could. It looks for certain atomic shapes and structures to attach itself to, just as an enzyme does. You could program it to function only on people with certain genes. You could make it active only on women, for instance, or diabetics, or maybe those with certain eye colors. Anything that is due to a specific gene pattern that you can identify. Actually, you could program it to work only in one specific person, by testing the DNA, before it went to work."

"Does that mean you could eliminate a race?"

"I think so. Yes, I'm sure you could. If you took out the counter and programmed it to function only on a certain race, that race would die off. I don't know how well it would spread from place to place. You might have to introduce it in various areas. You'd have to put something in it to cause it to self-destruct within a certain time period, or you might get too many of them. We could have what we call 'the gray goo problem.'"

"That's horrible," she said. "This whole thing is horrible."

"I know. The thing is though, that you could just as easily program it to kill AIDS viruses, cancer cells, and any specific germ. Once we got proficient at it, we could cure any disease caused by a microbe of any kind."

"Surely, you don't think you can trust the people at DARPA to do the right thing. Do you?"

"What do you think? Why do you think they wanted something that kills the mice? They weren't at all interested in curing a disease."

"We've got to leave for the doctor's," she said. "We'll have to think about this, Dennis. There must be a way out."

He started the car and backed out, heading for the doctor's office. 


***

 

Patrick Parvell was high, not on drugs or alcohol, but on enthusiasm and purpose. He could feel his blood racing through his veins, warming and exciting him. He was like a thoroughbred horse before a race. The source of his exhilaration: his new campaign against Clinton Randolph.

He was working on the script for that night's show, having finished the first draft hours ago and rewritten it several times since. It was good; he knew it was. He had an extraordinary talent for making people hate someone. Crutchfield had been right about him. He really was the best.

Margaret Parvell stuck her head into the room. "I'm leaving, Pat," she said. "I'll see you later. Good luck with you show tonight."

"Bye," said Parvell, without looking up.

He sat back and looked at his computer screen. This would have to do. He couldn't keep on rewriting it forever. Never, had he spent so much time on a script. But, new, brilliant ideas just kept popping into his head. No one realizes what a tremendous effort goes into a character assassination, and this was an extraordinary case. His staff had yet to find a single bit of dirt on Randolph. This meant that he had to rely solely on innuendo. While for ninety percent of the audience this made no difference, there would be some who could see through it. That bothered him-not what he was doing, but that he couldn't hide it from everyone. He had threatened to fire his entire staff, if they didn't come up with something on Randolph, and soon.

Stiff and aching from sitting so long at the computer, he got up, stretched, walked over to the window, and looked down at Fifth Avenue. He loved New York City, and he loved the New Yorkers; there were so many of them. The sidewalks below were full of them. Many of those little creatures scurrying along Fifth Avenue would be watching him on their televisions tonight. They were so busy with their petty little worlds that they didn't have time to keep track of what was going on in the real world. Not that they would understand much of it, if they had the time. They needed someone to tell them what was happening, what was important, what to think about, and then what to think. He was the someone they needed. Filling those needs was his mission, and he was dedicated to it.

He glanced at his watch. This would be a good time to call. He opened his address book, picked up the telephone and called his friend, Vincent Cleary.

"Vincent, Patrick Parvell here. How are you?-Good. Look Vincent, I called to tell you to be sure to watch my show this evening. There's a segment that I know will interest you."

Vincent Cleary was the president of the National Federation of Labor. He and Parvell had a lot in common. They both were in a position to tell a great many people, who couldn't or wouldn't think for themselves, what to think. Each of them believed it was up to him to look out for all those so inferior as to be incapable of looking out for themselves. In each of their minds, this meant just about every other human being.

"What's the subject?" Cleary asked.

"The one that will interest you is Clinton Randolph," said Parvell.

"That son-of-a-bitch," said Cleary.

"You don't like him, I take it," said Parvell, coyly.

"Like him. I hate his guts. He's got thousands of workers, and not one union member. When we try to organize his people, they just laugh and say they love working for Randolph, and they make more money and have better benefits than any union workers. The worst part is they're right. Randolph makes it impossible for unions, when he gives his workers high wages and good benefits, without us forcing him into it."

"Such conduct is un-American," said Parvell. "After all, what would become of the unions, if every employer treated their employees the way Randolph does?"

"You got that right."

"Well, do be sure and watch, Vincent. I think you'll love it. Give me a call after the show, and let me know what you think. Good-bye, for now. I have to get to the studio." He was already looking up the next number.

He pushed down the button on the telephone and dialed again. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Winter. Patrick Parvell here. Is the Senator in?-Fine. I'd like to speak to him for just a minute, please. Hello, Senator Winter. Patrick Parvell. Congratulations on the Winter-Nichols Act.-I just wanted to tell you that you might be interested in a segment of my show this evening.-Why not be surprised. With an election year coming up, we know your party could use a shot in the arm. We both know everyone is paying far too much attention to a few minor incidents in the White House. What the public needs is something else to hold their attention. You just might get a great idea from my show tonight. If you do, be sure to call me and let me know. Bye-bye, for now. I have to run to the studio."

 

 

***

 

 After lunch, Randolph and Francesca had gone to the center of town, where they boarded a surrey for a tour of Nassau. Afterwards, the jeep's driver took them around the island. Stopping occasionally for walks along the beach, or for drinks, they came to a fine hotel. After having a drink on the terrace, they walked into the hotel's restaurant for an elegant dinner. Then, the driver took them back to the airport.

"Well, how was your day?" asked Randolph, on the way back.

"Don't ask me that," she said, "for I can't begin to tell you. Today, even beyond its own perfection, brought back some memories that were even more perfect. You'd never guess what I recalled dozens of times today."

"Us at the piano in your house?"

"You did guess. I'm amazed."

"Why should you be amazed? If you'd remember it, why wouldn't I? I remember those moments as though they had happened yesterday. 'Give me your hand, Zerlina, and I will pledge with mine. Yours to command, Zerlina, if you will but be mine.'" He recited the first lines of Don Giovanni's duet with Zerlina.

"I dare, and yet, I dare not. I've made mistakes before. I care, and yet, I care not, for what may be in store." She answered with Zerlina's response.

"See how well we remember it. I'll bet you haven't heard those words since then."

"No, I haven't, not in English. I've heard the duet numerous times, but always in Italian. I wouldn't expect two different people to remember the same thing out of so many different things."

"Unless they were alike in their thinking and their feelings-on the same wavelength-then it might be expected."

"That's true," she said. "We seldom, disagreed, did we? I can't remember even one argument. There must have been some harmony there."

"Harmony? I was head over heels in love with you, Francesca. My love was young and immature, as was I. It was, though, very real. I'm no longer 'in' love with you; it's true. Yet, in this brief day, I've encountered, in you, not just everything that I once loved, but a fetching melody that's become a symphony. I realize that you and your friendship, along with my memories of you are still very dear to me. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Absolutely, better than anyone could," she said. "But that's to be expected; is it not?"

"I've read that a seed from the pyramids will grow, after so many centuries. Can't a seed from the fruit of our past, planted today, grow into a new and lasting friendship? I certainly hope so."

"I, too, would like a friendship with you, Clint. But that's all it could be."

"Don't speak as though friendship were in some way inferior. I know many people, yet I have few friends. Those that I have, I treasure, and I was never in love with any of them."

"You know what I meant."

"Yes, I do. You've got a deal," he said, extending his hand. She took it and they shook hands.

Before the airplane landed, they had exchanged addresses and telephone numbers and promised to keep in touch, on a regular basis. He called ahead and ordered the cab, so that it was waiting for them. When he walked her to her door. He took her hands in his.

"Thank you, Francesca for a most memorable day."

"That's my line, Clint."

They stood under the dim light, for a full minute, just looking at each other.

"That was nice," she said.

"I agree," he said. "I'm so glad to have found you again."

"Me too." She kissed him on the cheek, and they embraced. "Good night, Clint."

"Good night, Francesca. Have a good trip." 


***

 

Jeremy parked his Triumph in the carport, next to his father's car. He pulled the tonneau cover flap over the steering wheel, zipped it up, snapped the outer edges in place, and went inside. His father was in the family room, watching television. "Jeremy," his father said excitedly. "Come over here. Patrick Parvell's talking about Clinton Randolph."

Jeremy sat on the arm of the sofa and watched the television screen.

"Quite a few countries have far less money than Clinton Randolph," Parvell said. "The money he makes from exploiting his thousands of employees, he uses for his own greedy purposes. Mr. Randolph, when contacted by me, refused to consent to an interview."

"I don't know why they say he's exploiting his employees," interjected Jeremy.

Parvell continued, "For one individual to have more money than it costs to feed all the homeless in the country for years, more than the budget of the United States under any president through Kennedy, while millions and millions of Americans are starving and homeless, is truly obscene. If there isn't a law against it, I, for one, can't understand why there isn't, and I call on our lawmakers to correct the omission.

"In Randolph's empire, there are many thousands of employees: not a single one of them has the protection of a union. This is America. Such exploitation is unforgivable in the land of the free. Again, I cannot understand how this situation has been allowed to go on year after year. Has America ceased to care about such things? Have we really sunk so low?" Parvell hung his head in mock shame, as a commercial for Japanese automobiles came on the screen.

"He really tore into your boss," said Jeremy's father. "You missed most of it."

Mrs. Worth had come out from the kitchen, when she heard Jeremy arrive. Standing in the doorway, dishtowel in hand, she had seen as much of Parvell's diatribe as Jeremy had. "What exactly did he accuse Clinton Randolph of?" she asked.

"Of being rich," said Mr. Worth.

"And of not having union employees," added Jeremy.

"Since when is being rich illegal or immoral," she said. "And, as I understand it, over eighty-five percent of American workers are non-union. That means that being a union member is relatively unusual these days. If you don't count government employees, you will find the percentage of union employees probably drops to well below five percent. Moreover, if Jeremy's salary is any example of how Mr. Randolph pays his employees, you can bet the union would have no chance at all of getting into his companies. If all the workers were happy, why on earth would they want a union? If their pay were so high that they needed to get rid of some of it and the best way they could think of were to pay union dues, they might consider it. When you get right down to it, I didn't hear Parvell say one bad thing about Clinton Randolph. It wasn't what he said, but the way he said it that made it sound bad."

"You're right," said Jeremy. "Obviously, though, he doesn't like Mr. Randolph."

"That's an understatement," laughed Mr. Worth.

"It seems unfair, that he can sit there and say nothing bad at all, and he still makes Mr. Randolph sound terrible," said Jeremy.

"But, Jeremy," said Mrs. Worth, "he didn't make Mr. Randolph sound terrible, you did."

"Me," exclaimed Jeremy. "How can you say that?"

"If Parvell didn't say anything bad about Mr. Randolph and you still interpret it as sounding bad, it isn't what he said, but your interpretation that puts Mr. Randolph in a bad light."

"You're right, of course," said Jeremy. His mother never lost an argument, as far as he could remember, at least not on the merits of her argument. "But you know that nearly everyone who saw the program will think Randolph is some kind of monster."

"Of course they will," she said. "But, why?"

"Because they don't think," said Mr. Worth.

"Precisely," she said. "They are influenced much more by the inflection and the tone than they are by the words. They are much like two or three-year olds watching a Disney movie: most of the words go right over their head, but they understand the inflection and tone, and they come up with their own version of what might be going on. And that, you can bet, is exactly what this Parvell person counted on."

"How can people be so stupid," groaned Jeremy. "You're saying they watch the television news with the same level of comprehension they had when they were two or three years old and watching Snow White. I can't believe that."

"You just told me that nearly everyone who saw the program would think Mr. Randolph is a monster. Correct?"

"Yes," admitted Jeremy. He could see where this was going. "If I thought it made Randolph look bad, why should I be upset that others look at it the same way?

"How else could you explain it? You admit that Parvell told no lies. He could have said exactly the same words and made your Mr. Randolph sound like a heroic role model, had he used a completely different style of delivery. Isn't that true?"

"Yes." Jeremy knew his argument was lost.

"I would think," said Mr. Worth, "that it's also a matter of just not paying attention. People get conditioned to think something is bad when the words are spoken in a manner usually used for bad things. If you don't listen to the words, but sit there unfocused, you miss it all except the tone. Just as in a movie, sinister background music makes you thing something bad is about to occur."

"True," said Mrs. Worth. "But, you still have to be in an intellectual stupor, for that to happen. Because, if you have a scene in a movie in which someone just won the lottery, and he and his friends are jumping up and down, celebrating, you know what is going on, no matter what kind of music they play in the background. Sinister music would imply that something unexpected is going to happen, but after this scene, which is not sinister."

"After all," said Jeremy, "we didn't get misled by the delivery method. So, it's obvious that if you pay attention to what is being said, you can see through the attempts to force a misinterpretation."

"The inference being that very few people pay attention to what is being said," said his mother. "I think that to really pay attention requires a certain amount of analysis. If Parvell said that sixty percent of the people love President Slickwill, thirty-percent hate him, and twenty percent are undecided, those who don't notice that his statement can't possibly be true aren't really paying attention. If you watch almost anything political, be it those Sunday morning shows like 'Fake the Nation,' or election ads, you'll think politicians must assume they are talking to people functioning at a grade school level or below, and will believe anything, if you only say it the right way."

"That's pretty discouraging," said Jeremy. It makes everybody sound like such-. I can't think of the word. And I'd rather not think about it, it's so depressing."

His father looked at him. "Be careful, Jeremy. Start talking like that, and you'll be one of them."

Jeremy grinned, a little sheepishly. "I guess it's all right to be discouraged, as long as it doesn't make you one of the discouraging."

"That's a very good line," said Mrs. Worth. "I like that." 


***

 

When the "ON THE AIR" sign went out, Parvell pushed his chair back and smiled. "That's the end of round one," he said.

In the hall, on the way to his office, he passed his boss. "Great blast at Randolph," Crutchfield said. "Right on the chin."

Parvell heard the telephone ringing inside his office, as he reached the door. He hurried in to answer it. Which will it be? he asked himself.

"Hello, Senator," he said. "How'd you like the show?"

"Pretty good, Patrick. But, do you have anything real on Randolph?" asked Senator Winter.

"I'm working on it," said Parvell. "I'm sure you can come up with a strategy with or without it."

"It would surely help if you had him dead to rights on something," said the Senator. "Anything."

"Just pretend he's a Republican," said Parvell.

"You mean he's not?" asked the Senator in disbelief.

"He's worse than a Republican," said Parvell. "He's a libertarian."

"Yuck. One of those."

"But, he is successful. In fact, he's the epitome of success. And if there is anything the people hate, it's a successful person. There's nothing more popular than an attack on a truly successful person," said Parvell. "John Q. Public loves underdogs and hates successes."

"Successful people remind them of what clods they are," the Senator said, in explanation. "They jump on any bandwagon for the dirt poor and the homeless, because it makes them feel superior, and who else could the poor bastards feel superior to. Well, I'll work on it and see if I can come up with a plan. But if you do get anything concrete on him, be sure and let me know."

Less than a minute after Senator Winter had hung up, Vincent Cleary called. Cleary was loud and excited. "Great program," he cried. "I loved the way you nailed that SOB."

"I think it's incomplete to call him an SOB," said Parvell, his voice calm and calculating. "You must say 'arrogant SOB' He is incredibly arrogant, and he needs to be taken down a notch or two, which is exactly what I intend to do. I hope you noticed my emphasizing that he has no union workers."

"Yeah, that was the best part."

"By the way, Vincent, do you know Senator Winter?" Parvell asked, although he knew full well that the two of them had often worked together, in more ways than one.

"Yeah, sure I know him. Why?"

"Well, he doesn't like Randolph any more than you do. It's always good to make points with a senator. I suggest you call him and let him know you'd go out of your way to help bring Randolph down. Randolph is a big man. To bring him down, we'll need all the help we can get."

"I'll call him tomorrow," Cleary said. "Him and me get along just fine. We go way back."

"Good," said Parvell. "I'll keep in touch. Just keep listening to my show. I'll be hammering on Randolph, every day."

Parvell was feeling very good. He had two powerful allies already, and this was only the first day. He was about to leave and head for the "Chez Gueverra," a chic little bistro, frequented by people in the trade. Just as he was leaving, the telephone rang. He started to close the door and ignore the telephone, hesitated a moment, and went in to answer it.

"Parvell."

"Hello, Patrick. This is Willie Washington. I caught your excellent show tonight, and I just had to call and tell you how much I enjoyed it."

"Hello, Willie. I haven't heard from you in a long time. I'm happy that you liked the show. Was there something special that interested you?"

"Why, yes. Now that you mention it, I thought the part about Clinton Randolph was particularly well done."

"Really," said Parvell, sitting down in his chair. He may have had a better start than he thought. Willie Washington, the self-appointed savior of the Afro-American community, would be a valuable ally. "Do you know Clinton Randolph?"

"I know of him, very well. I know that the complexion of his companies doesn't quite reflect the complexion of this nation-if you know what I mean."

"With all the other things I know about him, it doesn't surprise me that he's a bigot as well."

"It's too bad you didn't know that," said Washington, "you could have mentioned it tonight."

"Don't worry Willie, there will be plenty of opportunities to mention it.

"Well, well. I could take that to mean that you are beginning to pay particular attention to Mr. Randolph."

"You could and should, Willie."

"We need to get together for lunch, Pat. One day, real soon. In fact, the sooner the better. We may be able to help each other."

"Are you going to be in New York any time soon?" Parvell asked.

"Actually, I'll be there a week from today. I'll call you. Take care."

"You too."

Parvell rubbed his hands together. I'm off to a great start. 


***

 

When Randolph walked into his penthouse apartment, it was a few minutes after ten. Hearing him, Arthur came out to tell him that his father had called about half an hour ago, and he wanted Randolph to call him, if he didn't get home too late.

"Thank you, Arthur," said Randolph. "Anything else?"

"No, that's all, sir. Can I get you anything?"

"No, thank you, Arthur. I'm fine."

"Then I'll say goodnight, sir."

"Goodnight, Arthur."

Randolph wanted to change, but thought he should call his father, before it got any later. He picked up the telephone and entered his father's number.

"Hello, Dad. You called?"

"We've been concerned about you, Clint. After what you told us the other day, we were wondering if you've had any luck in your search for a solution."

"Nothing significant," said Randolph. "I told you before that I have had one idea. But it's such a Herculean notion that the only reason I've not discarded it is that it's the only one I've got."

"Want to talk about it?"

"Not on the phone, Dad. Besides, it's still pretty nebulous. Let me refine it a little more. Until I come up with something better, I have to run with this one."

They talked a few minutes more and said goodnight. Randolph had already taken off his shoes and socks and his shirt. Now he could take a shower. Afterward, he could listen to some music and see if he could come up with a better idea or, at least, amplify the one he had. He already knew what music he would put on: excerpts from Don Giovanni. What else, after a day with Francesca. It had been such a pleasant day, why not prolong the pleasure. He had a CD of Francesca da Rimini, but, apart from the name, it had no connection with her.

Tomorrow, Jeremy Worth would be starting work; he was slightly concerned about giving such an important job to someone so young and inexperienced. But he felt Jeremy could handle it. Naturally, he had contingency plans. After all, this could be the most important project of his life.


CHAPTER 9

FRIDAY - DAY 11

 

 

In Provence, in southeastern France, at one of the smaller estates belonging to the Ruffson family, the parking area contained half a dozen limousines and luxury cars. Three armed men patrolled the grounds, and one stood guard at each door of the house.

Inside, in a large, sunny, high-ceilinged room, five wealthy and powerful men were gathered. Four of them stood watching the fifth, Baron Nathan Ruffson, who held up a bottle of wine.

"This Bordeaux, gentlemen, is as fine a wine as you will ever taste," said the Baron. He handed the bottle to the servant, standing beside him. "It is perfect for a toast among gentlemen assembled, as we are, to discuss such lofty matters."

The servant opened the bottle, poured a little wine in a glass, and offered it to the Baron, who tasted it with restrained drama, before pronouncing it magnificent. The servant then filled all five glasses, and distributed them among the men.

"To our new world," said the Baron, lifting his glass. The other men rose, holding their glasses high. "To our new world," they echoed, and drank their toast. Then they all sat down in ornately carved chairs, which were arranged in a circle, some ten feet in diameter.

"Welcome to my home, gentlemen," said the Baron. "And welcome to my first time visitor, Mr. Theodore Trobak, who has come as a guest of David Crocker."

"Thank you, Baron," said Ted Trobak. "I'm honored to be here."

"Well," said the Baron, "let us get to the subject of our meeting: an informal report on progress in the United States. I will be visiting all the European leaders-I try to do that once a year-and they always ask about America. Once I complete my tour of Europe, I'll meet with our leaders from the rest of the world, getting a good picture of where we stand, overall. I don't do that every year. I would if I were younger, but it's a major undertaking. Fortunately, some of them come to see me, saving me a trip. Since I started meeting one on one, with each leader, I have a much better sense of where we are, and what our problems are.

"In recent years, we have made some real progress in America. Unfortunately, George Plant was unable to make it-a minor illness. We owe an enormous debt to George for breathing new life into our hopes for America and for the great forward motion he brought to our cause there. His implementation of the Gulf War was a giant step toward a powerful United Nations' army. President Slickwill, while he may be struggling on many fronts, has also done well by us. From what I can see, things are beginning to look very promising in America. There was a significant slump in progress between the surge under Roosevelt and the resurgence under Plant. David, can you bring us up to date on the United States?"

"As you pointed out, Baron, George Plant really got the ball rolling. George began putting American parks and shrines under UN control. I'm happy to announce that, under President Slickwill, we have expanded significantly. We now have nearly a hundred million acres of the United States under UN control-an area about the size of our state of California. Of particular interest are the Everglades National Park, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, and the Smoky Mountains. There are a substantial number of people in the Smoky Mountain area, and we are not yet in a position to relocate them. President Slickwill has expanded the original 4400 acres of the Yellowstone Ecosystem under UN control to the entire two million acres in the park and we control eighteen million acres surrounding the park."

"How did he accomplish that?" asked Maurice Lobrau, a Canadian billionaire and, for all practical purposes, the overseer of the plan to expand the United Nations to a single world government. Officially, he served as vice-president of the UN, and he was in charge of restructuring the UN to make it more efficient and effective.

"By edict." said Crocker, with a smile. "The official term is 'Presidential Directive.' Over the last few decades, our Congress has become virtually irrelevant. While they rant and rave, like a small town woman's club, the real work of the nation is accomplished by the President, by decree, and by a large group of dedicated men and women who publish regulations in the Federal Register. The courts have blessed UN control of this land, setting important precedence, by upholding the closing of the New World Gold Mine-how ironic that name-on private property, five miles outside the Park, even in the face of the US Forestry Service's testimony that the mine posed no threat to the environment. Fortunately, the court agreed with our side's argument, that the question wasn't whether the mine posed a threat, but whether the UN had the authority to restrict human activity in areas declared "Managed Use Areas," the buffer zones around the "Protected Areas.

"I must emphasize the need for caution," continued Crocker. "All this is completely unconstitutional. Fortunately, almost no Americans are aware that this is happening, much less that it is unconstitutional. If a significant number of them ever become aware of it, we might have some serious resistance. Right now, a few radicals in the government of the State of Kentucky are making a lot of noise about the UN taking over the Smoky Mountain National Park and much of the land surrounding it. We may have to take drastic measures to silence them. While we abhor violence, we won't shirk our duty.

"It's imperative that our Senate ratify the Biodiversity Treaty with the UN. Once that is ratified, under the Supremacy Clause in our constitution, it will take precedence over the constitution itself, giving us absolute control over most of the land in the United States. When I say 'us,' I mean, of course, through the United Nations."

"Are we making any progress on getting the treaty ratified by the Senate?" asked the Baron.

"Not much," said Crocker. "So far, we don't have enough senators with the courage to vote with us. We need several more Republicans. Democrats, in general, vote our way, as a matter of course, but even a handful of Democrats are too cowardly to support us. By the way, I'm sure you all know that Congressman Don Paul had introduced legislation to take the United States out of the UN."

"What can we do about these two problems?" asked the Baron.

"I'll try to turn public opinion our way," said Ted Trobak, the head of the media conglomerate, Sextant News Organization, known as SNO and several television cable channels. "Apart from slanting the news and giving the issue major exposure, I'll try to make some movies emphasizing the evil of those who want to risk the loss of our environment, et cetera."

"That is the slow way and the wrong way," said Mikhail Borachov, former premier of the former Soviet Union. We tried for years and years to control public opinion in the United States. Yes, we made a lot of progress in sixty years, but sixty years is a long time. These days, the problem with trying to change public opinion is that most of the public has no opinion to change, especially in America. If they do have opinions on global events, those opinions have as much effect on their actions as do the variations in temperature of some distant star. Fortunately, Baron Ruffson convinced me that we were all working toward the same goal, and the United States had a much better strategy. In Russia, we grabbed all the production for the state and milked it to death. The US lets the people own the businesses and work themselves half to death to make money, and then takes their money. In Russia, no one had any motivation to produce. In America, many of the people are motivated by the rewards of producing, and the government lets them keep enough to make them work even harder. Since Russia began to work with the Trilateral Council, ending the cold war, creating the illusion that communism was dead, and globalizing the United States' strategy of quietly creeping socialism, we have made much more progress toward world socialism than we did in the previous sixty years. We have drained enormous quantities of wealth from the United States, pulling it slowly down toward the level of the rest of the world, and setting it up for its final destiny. No longer are we trying to convince the people to think what we want them to think, we just do what needs to be done and depend on the people's apathy and ignorance to let us get away with it. To be truthful, I was skeptical about the claims that ending the cold war would create a tidal wave of apathy, but I was wrong. Before we agreed to let the Berlin Wall come down and communism appear to die, the Americans would have had a revolution, if their government had tried to put American troops under a Soviet commander. Just a few years later, President Plant simply did it, and the Americans people said nothing. True, most of them never knew it. From what I hear about education in America, the Americans probably have no idea that the UN Charter specifies that the supreme commander of any UN forces will always be a Russian officer; but even if they did, it wouldn't matter. Their little minds are under control. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that you should ever stop your brainwashing through the media. You need that to work on the minority who do read and watch the news--maybe even think. I'm only saying that when it comes to action, just do it. Do whatever needs to be done."

"We are working on getting the Biodiversity Treaty ratified," said Crocker. "We have investigators looking for things that we can use to 'convince' enough senators to vote for ratification. It takes time."

"If you don't get enough that way, simply eliminate enough senators who are against it," said Borachov. "Your CIA does that sort of thing all the time."

"They don't do it to senators," said Trobak.

"Not to American senators, at any rate," said Lobrau. "Can you use the CIA or FBI to get something on these senators?"

"Impossible," said Crocker, "and unwise, even were it possible."

"I happen to know," said Borachov, "that, in Miami, a group of former CIA and FBI agents have a security company called SIA. You might think of using them, since your investigators don't appear to be adequate.

"I'll look into it," said Crocker. "As for Don Paul, I don't think we need even concern ourselves about that libertarian. He sees what we're doing, but I don't think he has any idea about why. Libertarians receive zero press coverage, we see to that. He'll get no support from the Democrats or the Republicans, we'll also see to that. To get back to progress in America, I think one of the last things President Slickwill will do in his last term," under his breath he interjected, "if it's not pardoning his wife," then continued in a normal tone, "will be to give us a lot more land. We expect to get full control of an additional hundred and forty million acres in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. We may get some flak there, as seventy million of those acres are privately owned. It's still a long way from the half billion acres we're shooting for, but this hundred and forty million acres is twice the area of New England, meaning New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, combined. But, when it comes to clearing all that land, I don't know how we are going to get millions of people to hold still for moving them off their land."

"Just take soldiers and trucks, and move them," said Borachov.

"You have to be careful," said Trobak. "As apathetic as Americans are, their concern has some threshold, however high. Exceeding that threshold could be fatal."

"You merely have to take all their guns away," said Lobrau. "Then you don't have to worry about placating them. There's nothing they can do."

"To a certain extent, the UN's holding us up, on taking their guns away," said Crocker. "President Slickwill is hoping to use the UN study on small arms to help him disarm Americans. We have a tough time with guns in America; our Constitution acknowledges specifically the right of Americans to have guns. If we had a plausible emergency, we might be able to take the people's guns. We've an agency called FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency. When it was set up, provisions were made for suspension of all personal rights under any government-declared emergency. But it would have to be something catastrophic."

"President Slickwill should be able to dream up a catastrophe," said Borachov. "He's phenomenal at dreaming up ways to draw attention away from his own wrongdoing. I still think that if you just go out and take people's guns, you will have minimal resistance. I find it hard to believe that the American people will put up a struggle."

"Didn't you say that a treaty takes precedent over the constitution?" asked Lobrau.

"Yes, that's right," said Crocker.

"Then it's simple," said Lobrau. "The GATT Treaty provides that each government must ensure that its laws, regulations, and administrative procedures conform with its obligations under the treaty. That should be ambiguous enough to validate any law they can dream up. We should be making new laws for America, right now, under the GATT Treaty. There's also the World Trade Organization; its charter specifies that member nations must have strict gun control."

"Obviously," said Ted Trobak, "You don't understand either the US Constitution or the American character. Unlike any other constitution in the world, our constitution was written solely to limit the power of the government, not the power of the people. Fortunately, probably over ninety percent of the Americans don't know that. Even so, until you are prepared to kill half of the Americans, you'd better not push them too far, too soon."

"I would be completely prepared to kill two-thirds of the population of the world, if I thought it could be accomplished with any discrimination whatsoever," said Lobrau. "I subscribe wholeheartedly to President Carter's Global 2000 Report, which demanded a sixty percent reduction in the world's population, by the year 2000. Not only was it not reduced by then, it grew. Unfortunately, those who can won't, and those of us who would, can't. Eventually, that will change."

"We've increased our UN army from 4,400 to 100,000 in eight years," said the Baron. "But we are a long way from being able to even consider putting down a revolution in the United States. This is a matter that we have studied in great detail, since it is crucial to reaching our goals. From questionnaires given the American Marines, we know that we can count on only a quarter of the American armed forces being willing to shoot fellow Americans, in support of the UN. We estimate that of America's 300,000 troops, 100,000 would side with the UN and 200,000 would be against us. The American organization known as the National Rifle Association would probably be a more formidable opponent than the American armed forces. The computer models of the American National Security Agency indicate that we would have victory by killing 200,000 of the American military and as few as 2.5 million civilians. But, if we can disarm the citizens, we might not even have to fight, merely move in 'peace-keeping' troops, at the request of the American president. After victory, serious dissidents would have to be eliminated, of course. When we finally have it in our power to do so, we will swiftly and finally do away with dissension, before anyone has time to complain about it. If we can do it secretly, so much the better. It would be perfect if we had something we could add to the water supply that would make the people submissive and obedient. I keep hoping for that. But, we have a lot of work to do before we can take guns away from the Americans, with impunity. We can use any help we can get. Will you try to speed up the Small Arms Report, Maurice?"

"Of course," said Lobrau. "And I'm sure you will like the conclusions of the 'study.'"

"I have a suggestion," said Mikhail Borachov. "The environmental issue is serving us well. No, 'well' is too timid a word. The environmental issue is serving us magnificently, wonderfully, miraculously. Almost no one dares speak out against anything remotely connected with saving the environment-even the stupid global-warming idea. My suggestion is that we find another issue that could serve us as well as the environment has. That way we could move much faster. I would love to see world socialism in my lifetime."

"Wouldn't we all," said Lobrau. "That is a fantastic idea, Mikhail, if there is such an issue to be found. Perhaps a health crisis-the Ebola virus or something like that-could be hyped into something. I think we should all work on coming up with ideas and see what comes out. If we came up with several issues of similar utility, we could save a lot of work and money."

"I agree," said Ted Trobak. "Maybe I could run some sort of a survey on SNO, identifying people's worries and fears. Working on an existing, widespread fear should be easier than generating a fear. Although I admit, we have done extremely well in generating environmental fears."

"By the way," said Borachov, "as you Americans say, give credit where credit is due. I must complement our American comrades on the brilliant tactic they used: taking a two thousand-page report that said global warming may very well not exist; and even if it does exist, there is no evidence that human activity affects it; and creating a seven-page summary saying the report says there is definitely a global-warming crisis, and humans, primarily Americans, are causing it. Naturally, not one person in many thousands reads anything other than the summary. The report itself may as well not exist. Machiavelli himself couldn't have topped that one. You Americans have my sincere admiration for such a beautiful move."

"I think the beauty of the environmental issue," said Crocker, "is that it affects everyone, yet, virtually no one knows anything about it. So, you can say anything, in the right setting, and call it fact. We use 'social scientists,' who couldn't tell you what the word 'science' means, to testify to global warming. But, the people are even more ignorant, so they believe anything. If the people had any knowledge, the whole issue would be useless to us. If you want another golden issue, you need to find one that affects everyone, but no one understands, except, perhaps, a handful of experts, and you may have another winner."

"Gentlemen," said the Baron, standing, "I think we should break for lunch. We can stretch our legs a bit; take care of any necessary tasks; and in half an hour, we will have lunch, on the terrace that you see, there through the window. You will find it quite pleasant. The breeze wafts through the adjacent rose garden, bringing their fragrance to our table. We need to be back and ready for a videoconference with President Slickwill at two o'clock. I have the latest MicroShaft equipment for that conference. We might want to consider recruiting Mr. Knorrs for our group. I get the feeling that he is somewhat apolitical, but he has the potential to influence a large block of people."

"I have met Bill Knorrs," said Ted Trobak. "He's what we call a nerd, meaning you're probably right about him being apolitical. Even if he were sympathetic to our cause, I don't know if he would go for eliminating three and a half billion people. That takes some getting used to. It requires the ability to see the really big picture."

The group broke up. Ted Trobak wandered out into the rose garden, where Maurice Lobrau made a point of "casually" encountering him. Lobrau wanted to size up this newcomer. He knew the public figure; but being a public figure himself, he knew that the man was probably something quite different.

"Mr. Trobak," said Lobrau, "I haven't had the opportunity to personally welcome you. Allow me to do so now. I also wish to thank you, personally, for your most generous gift to the UN."

Trobak had recently stunned the world, when he donated two billion dollars to the United Nations.

"Please call me Ted," said Trobak. "And thank you, for your welcome. My gift was to make a public statement about the importance of the UN."

"You are a very unique man, Ted."

"Thank you. I was wondering what Mr. Borachov was talking about when he mentioned draining money from the United States and setting it up for its final destiny. Could you explain that?"

"I'm afraid I don't know what he was trying to say," said Lobrau. "Sometimes his English is a bit confused." Lobrau knew exactly what Borachov meant, but he didn't feel this American should be let in on it. "Where do you live in the United States, Ted?"

"Atlanta-most of the time."

"Aren't the blacks abundant in that area?"

"Yes, they are. Don't tell me that you're a racist."

"I never evaluate anyone on the basis of race," said Lobrau, "only on what they do, or don't do. The figures I have seen indicate that the birth rate of the American blacks is four times that of whites. I would find it hard to go to sleep, in Atlanta, thinking of thousands, or millions, of blacks, all around me, procreating like savages, creating a geometric growth of like creatures. The color of their skin is irrelevant, but because they multiply like flies, their growth must cease. All procreation should be controlled, just as guns should be controlled. A license should be required to have a child; those who are substandard should be denied a license, regardless of their race, national origin, et cetera."

"I don't know that I'd go that far," said Trobak.

"I can understand your thinking," said Lobrau. "My position can sound callous, I know. For many years, I felt the same way you do. But, if you get involved in the UN and begin to see what is happening in three-quarters of the world, because of people that swarm over the land like locusts, their life consisting only of eating, defecating, and reproducing, consuming the natural resources and destroying their own habitat-and ours as well-you will have to agree with me. The Carter Commission Report calculated that the earth couldn't optimally sustain more than two billion people. That means we have four billion too many; and the number is growing rapidly, not from people like us, but from people more like chimpanzees, living like chimpanzees, from day to day, off the bounty of their surroundings, contributing nothing but devastation. Unfortunately, their only links to civilization are our science and our charity that save them from the natural attrition that chimpanzees face."

Trobak looked at him. He felt inadequate in the presence of such a man as Lobrau. Perhaps his own upbringing so perverted his thinking that it was difficult for him to accept such high principles; or maybe his daily contact with so many capitalists distorted his vision. He must work harder on that.

Lobrau looked at Trobak. The man donated two billion dollars to the UN. He had to be grateful for that, and he was, but the man was living proof that making large sums of money does not require culture. They said he wants to join the Bilderbergers. His billions may gain him entrance to the CFR, but they aren't enough to make him a Bilderberger. However, one must take care not to anger the master of SNO. Were he to take revenge, knowing what he knows, there is no telling what damage he might do with his worldwide news network. At the first sign of a falling out, should that ever occur, Trobak would have to be eliminated. Elimination was the only way to handle any turncoat that had enough knowledge and enough audience to endanger the movement or its leaders. Fortunately, that was very rarely necessary. He excused himself and went to find Ruffson. He found him showing his prize roses to Borachov, who seemed ever so slightly interested.

"Mikhail," said Lobrau, "I think it would be better if you didn't refer to our controversial long range plans when we have a guest. Or is Mr. Trobak to become one of us, Baron?"

"It's too soon to know if he will become part of the inner circle," said Ruffson. "I noticed Mikhail's reference to leveling the US economy, but it was so vague that I didn't think it was a problem."

"Trobak asked me what he was talking about," said Lobrau. "I think the less people in on that, the better. We had to tell Mikhail to convince him that it was better to let the Soviet Union collapse, but there is no reason to tell Trobak."

"I'm glad I was convinced," said Borachov. "We worked for many years trying to undermine the US, but your strategy is far better. Letting the USSR seem to merge into the world economy and government, succumbing to the UN and participating in the supposed wave of unity sweeping the world, will make it much easier to bring the US into the fold. But when are you going to have their economy collapse, creating the trigger that will make the Americans receptive to the assistance of the IMF and the World Bank, and, hopefully peacekeeping troops, if the expected riots take place?"

"Patience, Mikhail," said Ruffson. "We have been working on this for generations. The destruction of the American economy is but one alternative. If the American people are submissive enough, it may not be necessary. At the moment, we are testing them, progressively, until we see some resistance-if we ever do. If they resist and we need it, then we will act. Even so, before we let the American economy collapse, we wanted it to soar to incredible heights, then the contrast will be much more alarming to the people. They will beg for outside assistance, regardless of the strings attached. Besides, we are still using the economies in America and the major industrial nations, to funnel money into the IMF and the World Bank. Some of that money, not much, to be sure, goes to the third world countries, making those governments mere puppets, dependent on us for handouts. At the same time, it is bleeding America and the major European nations, making them weaker and weaker. Their standards of living are still high, but only because more and more people are working longer and harder to make ends meet. We hate having to do it, but until these nations are almost in ruin, they are unlikely to willingly give up their sovereignty to a world organization. In the end, however, we will be able to buy them with their own money. All this is necessary to get a single currency, under our control. Once we have that, we have it all. We have arrived. Then we can let the world economy prosper-with the proper controls. Unfortunately, until then, there is a price to pay, for America, Europe, and Japan."

"Please tell me you're not going to let Trobak in on this," said Lobrau. "The man is not in our league."

"Very well," said Ruffson. "I see no need for him to know. Outside of the bankers that will be involved, I see no need for anyone to know. The type of secrecy that surrounded the planning of the American Federal Reserve will be observed. Will that make you happy?"

"Quite," said Lobrau. "I could hardly ask for more."


CHAPTER 10

MONDAY - DAY 14

 

 

"Marta, would you care to join me for lunch?" asked Michael Keller.

Marta Frazier looked up from her computer terminal, obviously surprised by the question. A certain amount of computing was taking place under her short, chestnut-colored hair. During the three years that she and Michael had worked together, the only times they had been together outside the office had been at employee get-togethers. Since he hadn't let on that he realized she was a female, she had even wondered if he liked girls. She once considered asking him to go to a party, but she couldn't get up the nerve. She smiled. Maybe she was looking at this the wrong way. Perhaps he wanted to recruit her for a multi-level, marketing scheme.

"Sure," she said, hoping it wasn't a multi-level, marketing scheme. "Is it lunch time?"

"It's close enough," he said. "Let's go."

As they walked to a nearby restaurant, she asked, "How was your vacation in Hungary?"

"It was great. The only time I had been outside the United States before was when I crossed the border to Mexico, at El Paso. Hungary was like another world-a pretty good world, though. I loved the food and the music, but most of all, there was something that I can't define that I liked the most. Since I don't speak Hungarian, I couldn't understand anything, except the few people with a limited vocabulary in English, but I got the impression that they are more serious than Americans. I don't mean about work. We're very serious about our work. But, I think the Hungarians seemed more serious about life, apart from work."

"That's interesting. When you think about it, people should be more serious about life than about work. But, I think most people that I know are more serious about their job than they ever are about their personal life, except, maybe, in the narrowest of terms. I think they may be serious about their spouse or significant other, but they don't see life as the big picture. Is that what you mean?

"Exactly," said Keller.

"I can see how that would be an attraction. I wonder what happened to the Americans. Work should be a part of life, a way to make the money to afford the rest of our life. It shouldn't be our life."

"You're not part Hungarian are you?" he asked.

"Not that I know of. But it might not be just the Hungarians. It might be Europeans, or even more foreigners than that. There was a French girl in college, and she was like that too. From some of the foreign movies that I've seen, I get the impression that they may be a lot more that way than we are. Look at the Spanish and their siestas. Can you imagine things here shutting down for a three hour lunch?"

"No way," said Keller. "Maybe I should travel around the world and make a study of this,"

As they ordered and completed lunch, Marta kept expecting to hear some reason for his having asked her to lunch, but none was forthcoming. The conversation was completely desultory; she might as well have been a little old lady that just happened to be sitting at his table. Over coffee, she began thinking of a way to broach the subject.

"How about computers?" she asked. "Did you see any Hungarian computers?"

"I went in a computer store to see if I could get a CD on Hungary, but there weren't any. There were a lot of computers for sale, but no American brands. I met an American, who used to work for MicroShaft, or so he said. I think he was some kind of nut."

"What do you mean?"

"He was talking about a bunch of hidden, undocumented functions in WinDose. He said he stumbled across one, then looked for, and found others. He told some other guy at work, and when the other guy asked his boss about the functions, they fired him. He was upset and finally quit and went to Hungary, where his folks were from, and became a consultant. He said that that these functions were accessible by those who knew how, such as MicroShaft, and they could execute them, if they wanted to, any time anyone with WinDose connected to them, by fax, Internet, or bulletin board."

"Did he say what kind of functions they were?"

"Some of them. He said a directory, file compression and upload, and one to wipe your hard drive."

"That's something if it's true."

"I doubt if it's true," said Keller. "First of all, the guy drank half a bottle of wine with his lunch, and I think it went to his head. Second, why would MicroShaft put functions like that in WinDose?"

"I can think of several reasons, Michael-most of them bad. Did you try to find any of these functions?"

"No, why waste my time. The guy was a whacko. Very nice, but a whacko."

"Too bad you didn't find out how to locate the functions. I'd like to check it out."

"Oh, he told me how to find them. You write a program that jumps to an incrementing address and work your way through the program. He said the routines are embedded in the program and branched around in program execution. You will hang up a lot, unless you have some good error-handling routines, but that's to be expected."

"I'll try it at home and see what I find."

"I think it's a waste of time," said Keller.

"I'm still able to truthfully say that I've got more time than money," Marta Frazier said, jokingly.

As they walked back, she still hadn't come up with a way to casually broach her question about his motive for asking her to lunch. She just came right out with it: "How come you asked me to lunch, after three years, Michael?"

"When I was over there in Hungary, I saw how much more the Hungarians were concerned with living their lives. And this was true, even though, I thought they had a lot less than we do. I realized that I had a lot, compared with most of them. Yet, I thought they were probably enjoying life more than I was. Since then, I've been thinking about that. It seems to me that if I'm enjoying life less, it's my own fault. It may be the 'American way;' but it doesn't have to be my way, and it's not going to be. I'm going to enjoy my life much more than I have been."

She thought about what he had said, wondering how this was supposed to answer the question she had asked. In most of the possible interpretations, it was complimentary. By majority rule, she took it as a compliment. 


***

 

Jane Nelson was happy: her brother Kit had arrived half an hour ago. After he brought her up to date on the details of his refusal to wear the UN patch on his uniform and his subsequent discharge, she filled him on the matter of her aneurysm and her operation.

"Jesus, Jane," said Kit. "How come nobody called me?"

"It all happened so fast," said Jane. "Then, once I had the operation, there was no urgency. Why bother you? You had problems of your own."

"I noticed a 'For Sale' sign in the front yard," said Kit. "Are you going somewhere?"

"We had to sell the house to pay for the operation," said Jane.

"Oh no. I'm sorry to hear that, Jane."

"As a matter of fact, we have an offer on it. If it goes through, we may move into one of Max's apartments."

"You didn't have any insurance?"

"Oh, we had insurance, but they wouldn't pay for it," said Jane.

"That sounds incredible. What kind of insurance is that? I want to make sure I never get that kind."

"An HMO is what you don't want," said Jane. "Apparently, my HMO thought it was too expensive. A friend of Jack's works at the hospital. She told us that the doctor wanted to send me up to Gainesville, and the insurance company said they wouldn't cover it. She told Fred that if I didn't go to Shands, I wouldn't have much of a chance. So Fred told them to send me, and we'd pay for it."

"What good is insurance that won't pay for your operation?"

"Since then, I've heard that they call HMO medicine veterinarian medicine. If you had a dog and the vet told you the dog was going to die, unless he had this complicated operation. When you ask him how much the operation costs, he tells you forty thousand dollars. What would you tell him?"

"I’d tell him no dog is worth it. No matter how much I loved him, I'm not spending forty thousand dollars on a dog."

"Right," said Jane. "The HMO feels the same way. With an HMO, you are the dog and the HMO is the one that has to pay. If the bill is too high, they decide not to pay it. And they don't love you, at all."

"I'll never have an HMO," said Kit.

"In a lot of places, where the employer pays for insurance, it's an HMO or nothing, because nothing's cheaper than an HMO. A few years ago, when President Slickwill tried to socialize medicine, he tried to make all insurance HMO's."

"That jerk. The country's going down the tubes," said Kit. "If there was ever any doubt, the Slickwill mess proves it beyond any doubt."

"What do you mean?"

"The polls showed that two thirds of the people believed he was a crook and they still voted for him for a second term. Believe me, I'm happy to be out of the service. The American armed forces may be used against the American people any day now. Besides, if a majority of the people approve of a president that's a crook, a rapist, and probably a traitor, what does that tell you about the people, I don't want to put my life on the line for people like that. To Hell with them. If there is a war and they get killed, I might feel sorry for them, but not sorry enough to die for them. I feel sorry for them right now-poor, stupid bastards."

She listened patiently, thinking it would help him. When he seemed to wind down a little, she asked, "What are you planning to do, now that you're a civilian?"

"My C.O. gave me a letter to a company in Miami. He said they might give me a job."

"What kind of company?" she asked.

"It's a combination of high-class security and detective agency. According to my C.O., most of them are ex-CIA and FBI, but they might have a spot for me, my being a Green Beret and all. It won't hurt to give them a try." 


***

 

WEDNESDAY - DAY 16

 

"Your experience is very impressive Mr. Carson," said Phil Matthews. "My colleagues and I are in agreement that you would be a welcome addition to SIA. I have a special job in mind for you, if you're interested. You'd be working for a private individual, through SIA. You would be under contract to SIA and paid by SIA, although you report to the individual. You would be based in West Palm Beach, but you would be required to travel extensively from time to time."

"What exactly would I be doing," asked Kit Carson.

"You'd be a bodyguard for a very wealthy man. Of course, you have to have an interview with him, and assuming that he finds you acceptable, you can probably start right away."

"Can you tell me who he is?" asked Kit.

"Yes, of course. If you go for the interview you would have to talk to him anyway. The man is Clinton Randolph."

"I've heard the name, but I can't say as I know anything about him at all," said Kit.

"He is in his early forties, and extremely brilliant. He is the richest man in the world, with no one even a close second. Protecting him could be a challenge at times."

"It sounds good to me," said Kit. "I wish you hadn't told me how rich he is. I'll be much more nervous in the interview."

"He can't be any more scary than an enemy platoon, can he?"

"I guess not."

"I spoke to Mr. Randolph, and he's expecting you this afternoon at one-thirty. Can you make it to West Palm Beach this afternoon?"

"I certainly can," said Kit, "but I'll need directions to get to his place."

"Certainly," said Matthews. He pulled a sheet of paper from his desk drawer and began to sketch a map.

 

 

Randolph had spent twenty minutes with Kit Carson and he was satisfied with his background and his personality.

"As far as I am concerned," said Randolph, "the job is yours, if you want it. You have to realize that I travel a bit and you'll have to go along. Those who travel with me seldom complain. I have my own plane, and it's quite comfortable. Because I'm on the move a lot, I would prefer to have one person, who could be with me, wherever I go, day and night, instead of two or more in shifts. That would tie you up quite a bit, but when I have a full day scheduled in my office or in my apartment, you can usually have a free day. Also, you would be well compensated for your sacrifices. What do you think?"

"I think I'd like it very much, Mr. Randolph."

"Good, I'll call Mr. Matthews and make the arrangements. Can you start Monday morning at eight?"

"I certainly can," said Kit. "I'll be here bright and early."

"Right at eight is fine," said Randolph. "I'll see you Monday. Have a good weekend."

"Thank you, sir. You too. One thing," said Kit, as he headed for the door. "Will I have health insurance?"

"Of course."

"Will it be an HMO?"

"Hardly," said Randolph. "I wouldn't insure a dog with an HMO. You will have the same health plan that I have, if that's any consolation."

"Thanks again. Good-bye."

 

After Kit had left, Randolph called Matthews. "I'll take Mr. Carson, but I have some conditions."

"Such as."

"He starts Monday at eight. I want him to be my employee, not yours. I'll pay you a fee for finding him, after that, you have no connection with him. I'll pay you five percent of his annual salary now, and ten percent at the end of each of the next two months. If I decide I don't want him, he's gone, and so is your cut, which will be prorated up to his severance. I don't anticipate that or I wouldn't accept him. Unless he's seriously misled me, he'll probably be with me for a long time. Well?"

"I agree to your conditions," said Matthews. "I've already made a bundle off you."

"I'd feel better, if you said you'd earned a bundle," said Randolph.

"I'll remember that," said Matthews. "I trust that I have earned it, or we wouldn't be talking."

"I'm well satisfied with everything you have done for me," said Randolph. "Keep up the good work."


CHAPTER 11

Friday - day 10

 

 

It was Friday morning, and Jeremy Worth was to report for his first day as a Randolph Enterprises' employee. His parents had thought it strange that he would start on a Friday, instead of a Monday. But, as he told them, Randolph had called and asked him to start as soon as possible. His last final examination had been yesterday morning, and when he had told Randolph he could start Friday, Randolph had answered that Friday was perfect.

"Besides," he had told his parents, "I don't think convention is ever an obstacle for Mr. Randolph-maybe not even a consideration."

As he exited I-95, Jeremy again saw the man with the sign, "WILL WORK FOR CASH OR MERCHANDISE." As he waited for the traffic light, the man was standing beside his car. Their eyes met. Jeremy thought he saw a sign of recognition in the man's eyes. That hardly seemed possible. He must see thousands of people go by every day. He could scarcely remember one person. The light changed and Jeremy moved on. Perhaps the man recognized the car. There weren't many Triumphs like his. He hadn't seen another one for well over a year.

When Jeremy arrived, Randolph was standing in the doorway of his office. "Good Morning Jeremy," he said. "Welcome aboard. I've been anxious for you to get started."

"Good morning," responded Jeremy. "I've been anxious to get here."

"How did the finals go?"

"Pretty well, I think, except for Combinatorial Analysis. I know I didn't do so well on that one."

"Not that it's any consolation, but I never knew anyone who did extremely well on a comprehensive Combinatorial Analysis final-myself included."

"That's some consolation," laughed Jeremy. He wondered if Randolph were being condescending, given what he knew about his abilities.

"Not that I flunked my Combinatorial Analysis final," added Randolph, "but it was definitely the worst final of my college career." Randolph had been sitting casually, with one arm on the chair, and the other resting on his desk. He leaned forward, putting both hands on the desk. "Things have been happening, Jeremy, and the project I have in mind for you is becoming urgent.

"We don't have a personnel department," he continued, as he leaned back in his chair again. "Wendy Maxwell, down on the second floor, handles personnel, among other things. You need to see her and get your ID, your insurance stuff-the standard kit. When you're through, come back here. Just go down the elevator, or the stairs, and ask for Wendy. It won't take long to learn your way around; we're quite small. But don't let that fool you; we accomplish a lot for our size. We just avoid useless activity."

Jeremy left, and Randolph stopped at Alicia's desk. "Alicia," he said, "I'd like for you to get me a copy of a book called The Great Reckoning. Find out, too, if the authors have written any other books. If they have, get me copies of them too. If you have to order them, get them overnight. Send someone for anything available locally. If none are available locally, try the library. I plan on going fishing this weekend, and whatever you can find today, I'll take with me."

Forty minutes later, having finished with Wendy Maxwell, Jeremy went back upstairs, to find that Randolph had gone. Alicia told him that Randolph had gone to the Palm Beach Gardens plant, and that he wanted Jeremy to meet him for lunch, in Palm Beach. Since it was still too early to go to lunch, Randolph had asked her to take Jeremy around and introduce him to everyone. By the time that was finished, it would be about time for him to leave.

Randolph was inside, waiting, when Jeremy arrived at the dining room of the Breakers Hotel. After ordering his lunch, Jeremy looked around. He was hardly accustomed to such expensive restaurants. If Randolph didn't pay for both of them, he was in trouble.

Randolph interrupted Jeremy's concern. "With any luck at all, you will appear to be a routine assistant, Jeremy. That is strictly for show. I don't want anyone to suspect what you're really doing. You may need to work some strange hours, once in a while-quite soon, as a matter of fact. Could you work this weekend?"

"Sure," answered Jeremy. He was in a constant state of surprise, and this was only the first day-the first half of the first day.

"Actually," said Randolph, "You won't need to work the whole weekend, but you can call it that, if you wish. I want you to meet me in Marathon tomorrow. I suggest you fly down to Key West, rent a car, and drive up to Marathon. Then, if you want, you can go back to Key West, enjoy yourself for the rest of the weekend, and fly back Sunday evening. That way, you can get a little compensation, for giving up your Saturday. Everything's on your expense account, of course. If you want, you can take a friend along. However, no one is to know that you are meeting with me. When you come to see me, your friend-should you take one-would have to either stay in Key West, wait somewhere in Marathon, or wait somewhere along the way. If you prefer, you can, of course, return home immediately after we finish. It's entirely up to you. Can you do it?"

"Of course," said Jeremy.

"How well do you know Marathon?"

"Not well. I've been through it a few times, on the way to Key West."

"One thing about the Keys, it's virtually impossible to get lost there," said Randolph. He took out his small notebook, removed a page from it, and handed it to Jeremy.

"You might want to take some notes on the directions. I suggest that when you get back to the office, you pick up a little loose-leaf notebook, like this one. It's invaluable. When you come up from Key West, start watching right after the Seven-Mile Bridge. On your right, you'll see a place called the Silverado. Turn right there; continue past a trailer park on your left, and, a little farther, on the left, you'll see the entrance to Faro Blanco's houseboats. 'Faro Blanco' is Spanish for white lighthouse. You'll see a white lighthouse on the sign. Turn in there and park. Find houseboat number ten, which is actually upstairs over number nine. I'll expect you between twelve-thirty and one. If you want, you can go down tonight. That might be easier, and we could make our meeting earlier. Say between ten-thirty and eleven. I doubt that you'll be there much more than an hour. How's that?"

"That's fine with me," said Jeremy, with complete sincerity. If this was any indication of how working for Randolph was going to be, he was going to love his job.

"By the way, if anyone asks, you're going to Key West for pleasure. Call it a hiring bonus. When we get back, just ask Alicia to take care of your travel arrangements. You can stay wherever you want, but I can recommend the Pier House, at the end of Duval Street in Key West, or if you want a little more seclusion and elegance, Hawk's Cay to the north is very nice. Depends on what you have in mind. At your age, you might prefer Key West. Tell Alicia, she'll make the reservations and arrange a cash advance against expenses. Just keep a record of your expenses. Later, you'll get a credit card, but that takes time. That's enough of business. Here comes our lunch."

 

 

When they returned from lunch-Randolph paid for both of them--Randolph took Jeremy to his new office, across the hall from the entrance to the anteroom of Randolph's own office, where Alicia had her desk. Randolph told him that, once his travel arrangements were completed, he could go home and pack. There was no use starting him on anything now. After their meeting tomorrow, he would have plenty of work to do.

"Just make yourself at home in your office," said Randolph, "rearrange it, if you want. I'll send Alicia in to see about the trip. If you need anything, like a notebook and anything else, tell her. She knows as much about this place as I do, if not more."

Jeremy sat at his desk, savoring the feeling of having an office and wondering what he should be doing.

Alicia appeared. "Mr. Worth," she said, "Will you want to leave from Fort Lauderdale?"

"That will be fine," said Jeremy.

"There's a flight at seven-thirty, this evening. Will that do?"

"That's fine, said Jeremy.

"Where will you be staying?"

"I believe the Pier House will do," Jeremy said.

"Will you be alone, or will there be someone with you?

"I don't know yet," said Jeremy. "I just found out that I was going, and I haven't had time to make any arrangements."

"I'll make it for two, just in case. You should call the airline as soon as you know, if you need to cancel one reservation. As for the hotel, I'll get a suite. Will that be satisfactory?"

"Yes."

"I understand you're returning Sunday, is that correct?"

"Yes."

"There are several flights. Do you wish to come early, late, or what?"

"Not too late," he said. "Do they have anything arriving in Fort Lauderdale, say, around nine or ten?"

"I'll see what's available and get as close as I can," she said, and she disappeared.

Jeremy was uncertain in his new situation, though hardly uncomfortable. He leaned back in his chair and tried to think whom he might ask to join him for a weekend in Key West. He couldn't think of a girl that he would want to take, who would go, if he asked. He knew some who would probably go, but he didn't feel like asking any of them. He could have asked some of the guys he knew, and any of them would have jumped at the opportunity. But he didn't feel like having any of them along either. There was something special about this trip; he could feel it. After all, why would Randolph have him go all the way to Marathon and meet him on a houseboat, for just an hour?

He might go alone. The excitement, that would ordinarily accompany the prospect of a weekend in Key West, paled beside the mystery of tomorrow's meeting with Randolph. There was a knock on his door. "Come in," he said.

It was Alicia again. "It's all settled," she said. "Here is your itinerary. Your tickets will be waiting at the Key-Air counter, at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. You leave Fort Lauderdale at seven-thirty this evening. Leave Key West at 8:45 Sunday. You are staying in a suite at the Pier House. A Lincoln Town Car will be waiting at the airport. You need to stop by Vic Hampson's office on the second floor and get some money. The airfare, hotel and car are being billed to the company, so you need only spending money. If you know how much you'll need, I'll see to it that Vic has it waiting for you, when you arrive."

"I don't know," said Jeremy.

"Why not take more than you think you might need, and bring back the rest," she said. "How about five hundred? Will that do?"

"I'm sure it will," he said. It was several times as much as he would have spent ordinarily.

"Vic Hampson is just two doors from Wendy Maxwell, where you went this morning. I'll set it up with him and call you, if there's a delay. Otherwise, it should be ready in ten minutes or so. Okay?"

"Fine," said Jeremy, impressed by Alicia's efficiency. Of course, Clinton Randolph wasn't going to have a bimbo as his administrative assistant, not from what Jeremy had heard and seen of him. "By the way, Alicia, I need a little black notebook."

"I'll get you one. Everyone here uses one. I keep a few in my cabinet."

Jeremy called his mother to tell her he was going to Key West for the weekend. He wasn't sure if Randolph's instructions concerning the reason for his trip applied to his parents. Just in case, he told his mother that the trip was a hiring bonus, with all expenses paid. Then he picked up his money and went home to pack for the trip.

 

 

Clinton Randolph called Alicia to his office. "Alicia," he said, "please see if you can find copies of the agreements between Great Britain and China, for Hong Kong and Singapore. You might try the Internet, first. Also look for any commentary, analysis, or criticism of those agreements. While you're on the Internet, download and print anything you can find on cybermoney, maybe called cybercash, or digital money. Have Perry get my suitcase from Arthur, then pick up Ron Borden, at his house in Stuart. I'd like to have them back and waiting for me, by three-thirty, if possible."

When three-thirty came, Randolph was on the telephone with George Elman, checking, for the third time that day, on the progress of the upgrade of the new computer line.

"I'm glad everything is going so well, George," he said. I'll be in the Keys this weekend. Don't think I won't call you from there. You can call me on my mobile phone, if there's an urgent need. I don't usually take a telephone with me when I go fishing, but this weekend, I will."

He hung up, picked up a box of books that Alicia had brought him a few minutes ago, and went downstairs. Perry was standing beside the limousine, holding the door open for him, and Ronald Borden was waiting inside.

"Hello, Ron," said Randolph. He set the box of books in the limousine, then climbed in and sat down opposite Borden. "How have you been?"

"Great, Clint. You know that I love riding in a limo. It's one of the few things about being wealthy that sparks a bit of envy in me."

"To me, it's more a mobile office than a car," said Randolph. "I can sit back here and read, think, call, compute, rest, or whatever. I told you that I had to read something on the way down." He rummaged in the box of books. "This is the one I was going to read, The Great Reckoning, by James Dale Davidson and Lord Rees-Mogg. But there's a newer one," he held up a book titled, The Sovereign Individual, and I think it's even more appropriate for what I had in mind. I think I'll read it first. Maybe you'd like to read The Great Reckoning."

As they pulled out of the parking lot, a burgundy Mercury Grand Marquis, parked around the corner, started its engine. The Grand Marquis fell in behind them, following them closely.

"I read that, several years ago," said Borden. "It's a book you're sure to enjoy. There's an earlier one, by the same authors, that I haven't read, titled, Blood in the Streets. It's out of print and I haven't gotten around to trying the library."

"Here's a copy," said Randolph, reaching into the box. "Alicia found it somewhere. If you want to, you can read it while I read mine. Once we get down around Key Largo, we can stop reading and enjoy the trip. It's not very scenic until then anyway. I would love to sit and talk, but I really need to read this book. I don't have enough time to do all the things I would like to do."

"Don't worry about it, Clint. I'll be glad to read Blood in the Streets. I've been wanting to, since I read the Great Reckoning.

The Grand Marquis followed them onto I-95, where it dropped farther back. At the Boynton Beach Boulevard exit, the Grand Marquis exited.

Borden and Randolph settled back, reading their books, Randolph, almost without pausing, while Borden took occasional breaks. The first time Borden put down his book and looked out the window, Randolph asked him if the book was dull.

"Not at all," Borden said. "Sometimes I get so frustrated that I have to stop for a minute to steel myself for the next stint."

"I know exactly what you mean," Randolph said.

"How about yours?" asked Borden.

"Fantastic. Perfect for what I wanted. Much of what he says, I've thought on my own, but he arranges it so well that everything meshes in an exciting view of what the future may be."

Borden and Randolph had been close friends, since they were in high school together. After graduating, as an agricultural chemist, Borden had been doing well, and his future looked promising. About a year after graduation, he became interested in current events. Slowly, he became aware that most things were not as they seemed, nor as they were portrayed in the media. As this awareness grew and he found more and more sources of enlightening information, he felt less and less in control of his life and his destiny. Then his mother and father died in a car accident. He wasn't even past the early stages of grief, when the evils of empire, descended upon him, proving, beyond all doubt, that he truly was helpless.

Ron's father, Seymour Borden, had come to America from Budapest, at the age of fifteen, with fifty dollars and instructions to save two thirds of everything he earned. Upon arriving in New York, Seymour found work as a bellhop in an exclusive hotel. He worked as much and as long as they would let him. It was very difficult to save two out of every three dollars, but he did it. By the time he was twenty, he had worked his way up to night manager, and it was slightly easier living on one third of his income.

One day, Seymour heard some men saying that one of the clients was a genius at investing in the stock market. Seymour made sure that he did everything for this client, giving him the best service anyone ever received. When the client checked out, he gave Seymour a sizable tip. Seymour said that as much as he appreciated the tip, he would much rather have investment advice. After asking how much money Seymour had to invest, the client spent fifteen minutes explaining to him what he should do with his money. Seymour did exactly as the client recommended.

Seymour didn't see the investor for a long time. In the interim, he fell in love with and married Kathryn, the sister of a Hungarian friend. Ten months later, they had a son, Ronald, who would be their only child. Seymour was promoted to day manager. His investments gradually grew to the point that he was making almost as much from them as he was making as a salary.

A few years had passed when the investor returned to the hotel. He was glad to hear that Seymour had followed his advice and had done so well. He was setting up a new venture and invited Seymour to put some money into it. Seymour would own a piece of the company, a very small piece to be sure, but he would surely make money. Seymour was a cautious man, and he was reluctant to put all of his money in the investor's company. He'd had good luck with the advice he had been given, but the investor was still a relatively young man. In the end, Seymour did put half of everything he owned in the investor's company. He was, by far, the smallest participant, but his small position of Hathshire Berkaway made him a wealthy man. Seymour kept investing in stocks, following the investor's original advice, and he kept going up the ladder in the hotel business.

When his son was ten years old, Seymour was offered a job as manager of the most exclusive hotel in Palm Beach. According to him, he couldn't afford to live in Palm Beach, so he bought a house in Stuart, a small town, forty miles north of Palm Beach. His son, Ron, went to public school in Stuart, where he became a classmate and a good friend of Clinton Randolph.

Ron Borden was twenty-eight years old, when a police car, traveling at in excess of a hundred miles per hour, with no siren and no flashing lights, spun out of control, crossed the median and hit his parents’ car, head on. It never was discovered why the policeman was travelling so fast, only that he was in pursuit of something or someone. Ron was shocked to discover that his father had been wealthy. As far as he had known, they had always been comfortable middle-class, nothing more. Seymour Borden's years of economizing had so conditioned him that he lived entirely from a portion of his salary. Except for the time he sold stock to buy into Hathshire Berkaway, he never sold a share of stock in his life, and most of the value of his stocks was a huge capital gain. By the time the IRS, the State of Florida, and the legal system got through with the seven million dollars’ worth of stock, Ron Borden got $742,644, or less than eleven percent of his parent's estate.

Ron had been furious. He was also frustrated to the point of despondency. It wasn't his loss of the money that angered him, but that they had stolen what his father had struggled and sacrificed so long and so hard to accumulate. He could see no justification for the confiscation of the fruits of his father's lifetime of sacrifice and labor. Many times, Borden had heard how hard it had been, as a bellhop, living on next to nothing, eating old bread, smeared with a thin coat of butter, asking the waiters and busboys to save food that the customers hadn't touched, so that he could take it home. The theft, essentially at gunpoint, of his father's life-savings, along with all the terrible things he had discovered about the government in the past few years, turned Ron Borden completely against the government. The fact that a significant portion of his father's hard-earned money would be used to support a horde of human parasites only infuriated him more.

Over the next two years, Borden grew more and more distressed over what he perceived as governmental crimes, until, finally, he quit his job and dropped out. He lived in the family home, and, on the fifteen acres of land surrounding it, he raised flowers, partly for income and partly because he enjoyed it. With the income from the remains of the inheritance and the profits from the flowers, he maintained a comfortable existence. He wanted nothing more, because he wanted to minimize what the government could extort from him. Although Randolph disagreed with his friend's decision, he understood the reasons for his bitterness and respected his right to do as he pleased. They continued to be close friends.

When they reached Key Largo, Randolph closed his book. "I feel almost exhausted from reading this book," he said. "I only got about two-thirds of the way through it. It's slow reading because it's so thought provoking. I don't know how many times it sent me into lengthy deliberation. How about stopping for a drink and relaxing for a while?"

 

"Great idea," said Borden.

Randolph tapped on the window, and Perry opened it. "Stop at the Paradise Club, Perry. We're going to have a drink."

They picked a table in a quiet corner.

"This place probably hasn't changed much since they used it for that movie with Humphrey Bogart," said Borden. "I suppose they don't dare change it, for fear of losing business."

"Probably not," said Randolph. "I'm so glad that I discovered this book, Ron. I've seen hints of some of his ideas, in other books. I had a lot of ideas that were extrapolations, revisions, and derivatives of what those other authors wrote. This is the type of book I wished had been written. The tie-in to history was unexpected, but very pertinent. It's an excellent book. You have to read it."

"My book has a lot of historical references too. It reminds me of many of the things that made me drop out," said Borden. "I don't know if that's the proper phrase or not."

"Let's say that you minimized your vulnerability to the slings and arrows of outrageous government," said Randolph.

"I'm still quite vulnerable," said Borden. "You can't get away from them, not even by dying. When I decided to 'minimize my vulnerability,' things weren't nearly as bad as they are now, and I thought they were atrocious then. I wonder how long it can keep getting worse."

"That has become the question of the era, here and around the world," said Randolph. "No semi-rational person can doubt that the American hegemony will end, as have all others before it. As things stand now, there is no other power ready to take our place, and, while this hardly means that we have to wait for a replacement, it may mean a prolonged dwindling of dominance, as opposed to a precipitous collapse." It occurred to him that his new enemies had some ideas about filling that void. "In fact," he continued, "the book I was reading points out that the dwindling began with our debacle in Vietnam. I would say that it began even before that, with our embarrassment in Korea. Britain dominated the world for two hundred years, and its decline was evidenced with World War I. No country was strong enough to take their place until we did, during and immediately after World War II. You know what came in between-the depression. Before we even began our period of world dominance, our once enviable freedom, which, ostensibly, was what we fought so many wars for, had been perverted by a socialist president and a bevy of socialists and communists ensconced in nearly every position of influence. We began our decline even before we became the dominant nation. The history books, if they are honest, which I doubt, will have to say that the demise of America's global leadership was a suicide, not a murder. We began poisoning our great republic almost as soon as it was born. In 1932, we began intense decimation. Only because America was once so grand and strong, is it still alive at all. But it's only a matter of time, barring some sort of political miracle."

"I agree with the suicide concept," said Borden, "but how can you say our decline began before we took over from England?"

"Actually, erosion of American's freedom began far earlier, but in the twentieth century things really started racing downhill. The War Between the States showed a federal government willing to slaughter millions of its own people to get the power it demanded."

"I thought the Civil War was over slavery."

"The conventional wisdom about the War Between the States has little or no basis in fact. Strictly speaking, it wasn't a civil war either. A civil war exists when two or more factions fight over who is going to control a country. The War Between the States was the northern states wanting to conquer the sovereign southern states, which they did. Until that war, every state was sovereign. The Union was, to the states, more or less what the European Community is to its member nations. If France, Spain, and Italy should decide they want out of the EC, and the rest of the nations were to attack them, conquer them and occupy them, you would have the equivalent of our War Between the States. After a hundred and forty years of adulterated history, the people can be convinced that it was over anything you wish. But the War Between the States had precious little to do with slavery.

"There was considerable dissension between the two factions. The northern states drove the southern states out of the union with onerous laws, which benefited the North at the expense of the South, then went to war with them when they left the union. The southern states produced nearly all the agricultural products in the Union. They were trading their produce with Europe for manufactured goods. The more populous northern states had more votes in the Congress and they said NO to the barter that the southern states were carrying on with Europe, because they wanted the southern states to buy goods manufactured by the North. They also stopped the practice of the foreign ships bringing goods into the South, picking up agricultural products, and taking them to the northern states. The northern-dominated Congress passed a law requiring that any ship, transporting goods from the South to the North, be a US ship, essentially making it a northern ship and raising shipping costs for the South. There was no income tax, and the majority of income for the federal government was from excise taxes, especially on exports and imports. A very disproportionate share of these taxes came from the sparsely populated southern states. Having fought a revolution less than a hundred years ago against an oppressive British king, the southern states now found themselves under the thumb of an even more oppressive, northern-dominated, US government. Such oppression is virtually inevitable when those producing the majority of the revenue are a minority, and the majority rules. The southern states withdrew from the Union, as was their right as sovereign states. The northern states, seeing the loss of the majority of the income to the federal government, completely ignored the rights of the southern states and went to war.

"But, what if I told you that everything I told you about the War Between the States was merely the excuses for the war, but that the whole thing was manipulated by American and international bankers for their profit?"

"After some of the things I've learned about what goes on in this country, very little surprises me. Is that what happened?"

"The North did all the things I mentioned. But many of their actions were manipulated by private interests, for the purpose of starting a war. The main culprits were the Ruffson family. When Amschel Ruffson began the Ruffson dynasty, he did extremely well, by loaning money to the local government. He decided that loaning to national governments would be much more profitable. He had five sons, and he sent one to Paris, one to Vienna, one to Frankfort, one to Naples, and one to London. The sons set up banks in each city, and business went very well. With the constant bickering between countries, there were wars that had to be financed and, in most cases, the Ruffsons financed both parties. Very quickly, they gained control of the central banks of the countries they financed. Their influence grew enormously, and soon they were able to manipulate the governments. It was one of the five sons who said, "Let me control the money in a country, and I don't care who makes the laws." When things were quiet for too long, they began to maneuver the governments, to cause a war for their own profit. Only God and the Ruffsons know how many wars they created.

"The US, due to the freedom of its people, had become a substantial economic power. In 1837, in the depths of a financial panic, as depressions were called then, the Ruffsons sent a representative to America, to make some money for them. The representative was August Belmonte. Belmonte bought up all the extremely depressed US bonds he could get his hands on. He bought at the absolute low of the panic. When conditions soon improved, Belmonte had made a fortune. He spread some money around and managed to get himself appointed Financial Advisor to the President. As you can see, things haven't changed all that much. The Ruffsons wanted very badly to set up a central bank in the US, but unlike Europeans, the American people had a voice in what went on. They weren't having anything to do with a central bank. The Ruffsons reasoned that a serious crisis would be needed to get people to agree to a central bank. They decided on a war; wars had worked quite well for them in Europe. But who would make a suitable adversary for the US? Nearby countries were too small and too weak. The European countries were terribly far away, making it extremely difficult. Russia was outside the Ruffsons' control, since it had no central bank and they couldn't control its currency. Noting dissension between the northern and the southern states, they decided to try to foment a war between these two factions.

"Through discreet funding, they already controlled a political group, known as the Davidians. They created a new secret society, the Knights of the Golden Circle, to provoke the two sides to go to war. These two groups were chillingly similar to the CFR or the Illuminati. And like those counterparts, they worked very hard and were very successful. One by one, eleven southern states seceded from the Union. They formed a Confederation of States, in a 'united we stand, divided we fall' move, not unlike the original Confederation formed by the thirteen colonies, for their mutual defense. Having seen how bad their membership in their last confederation, the United States, had turned out for them, they planned to stay united, only until the war or threat of war was over. After that, they would withdraw from the Confederation and exist as independent, sovereign nations. The Ruffsons loved this plan, for if the South won, they could set up a central bank in each of the eleven states. Therefore, they wanted the South to win. To that end, they began working behind the scenes to get England and France into the war on the side of the South. Lincoln sought to counter this effort by getting Russia on his side.

"This is where slavery became an issue. Russia had recently freed its serfs and its current mood was against slavery. Although Lincoln had no strong feelings against slavery-he said the reason for the war was to preserve the Union, and if he could do that without freeing one slave, he would-he desperately needed Russia on his side, if he were going to win the war. To warm Russia to the idea, he gave in and signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and loudly denounced the South for its slavery.

"Lincoln was vaguely aware of what the Ruffsons were doing, although he didn't seem to know any details. He only knew that the war was being brought on by banking interests, and he said so on numerous occasions. The Ruffsons and their American banker allies were set to make a killing, loaning money to both the Union and the South. They wanted to finance both sides using bonds, and to set up a central bank and run it. Lincoln foiled them, by not issuing bonds, as they proposed, but by issuing greenbacks, money with no backing and no debt. This way, the banks would make nothing from the North. The Ruffsons were furious, and they wrote letters to all the major banks telling them how unconscionable Lincoln's actions were, and how it would hurt the banks. Secretary of War, Stanton, a member of the plot, aided by some seventy other conspirators in the government, masterminded a well-financed plan to kill Lincoln, Vice-president Johnson, and Secretary of State Seward. Had they been successful, Stanton would have become President. Only Lincoln was assassinated; the other attempts failed.

"When Andrew Johnson became President, and the North won, one of the conditions of amnesty and surrender was the South's repudiation of the debt incurred to finance the war. This hurt and infuriated the Ruffsons, who were already angry over having lost the opportunity to make a fortune from the North. They quickly set the Davidians against President Johnson. The Davidian senators, almost totally financed by the Ruffsons, began impeachment proceedings against Johnson and were only one vote short of convicting him. The Knights of the Golden Circle, who boasted among its members John Wilkes Booth, Jefferson Davis, and Jesse James, who reputedly turned to robbery strictly to try to finance a second civil war, created a military arm called the Ku Klux Klan. The words Ku Klux are derived from the Greek word for circle: kuklos. The KKK's goal was to provoke the blacks into revolting. In several instances, they killed groups of black people hoping to provoke them into an uprising. That's enough for now. As you can imagine, the story goes on and on, right to the present. Behind the scenes, powerful men have spread their influence into every facet of our lives. History is fascinating, but also frustrating, when the errors of the past are committed continuously in the present. The scourge of the Ruffsons and their cohorts has never diminished. In America, it has grown constantly in strength and scope, since the day August Belmonte landed on our soil."

"That's a far cry from what they teach in school," said Borden.

"And who runs the schools?"

"The government."

"Surely you wouldn't expect them to admit to their sins. They never admit to anything, but inevitably opt for propaganda techniques to mislead and cover-up," said Randolph. "The sovereignty of the states went the way of the sovereignty of the citizens. Both have been written out of history, so they never existed, or so they would have you believe. After 1932, when Americans elected their first socialist president, the decline of the American republic became precipitous. In World War Two, Roosevelt was giving away the victor before it was won. He was so enamored with communism and Stalin, that, like a lovesick teenager, he lost his head and made himself a doormat for Stalin. He wooed a barbaric, murderous dictator, with presents of the eastern European countries. Then came Truman. Like Roosevelt, he was apparently infatuated with communism and Russia. Since he was handpicked by Roosevelt to be his Vice-President, what else could you expect? Truman went apoplectic when MacArthur wanted to help save China from the communists."

"So he fired MacArthur," said Borden.

"Exactly. And he let Russia have the atomic bomb. We were the only country on earth with atomic bombs, therefore in an ideal position to maintain that situation, if we'd had a government that was looking out for our interests, instead of one that favored Russia over America. All we had to do was announce that anyone setting off an atomic blast would be wiped out. The cold war would never have existed. There would have been no arms race and no nuclear threat. But the arms race had its advantages for the banking cartel; it had to be financed, with money created out of thin air. The whole thing may have been calculated, and very likely was."

"It's hard to imagine how much better the post-war world would have been if all the iron curtain countries had been free, there had been no cold war, and no other country had atomic weapons," said Borden.

"It's not hard to believe that the world would have been a far better place. If we hadn't been a major conspirator in the plot for a nucleus for world socialism: the UN, things would have been even better. Our involvement in the UN was a disaster from the start. Eventually, the whole world discovered what the FBI had known all along: that Roosevelt had knowingly, but hardly surprisingly, appointed a Soviet agent, Alger Hiss, as our first delegate to the UN, to be its chief architect. Anyone with a trace of intelligence had to see that the UN was predetermined to be communistic in structure and purpose and, as such, anti-American.

"At every turn, our government has relinquished our strength and our sovereignty. By the time we came to Korea, we were ostensibly fighting communists, while many, if not most, of the people in our government either wanted to join them, or already had. We knew, from Whitaker Chambers, that most of our State and Agriculture Department personnel were not just communist sympathizers, but card-carrying communists, and that every department of our government, and, essentially, all of the major media were dominated by them. Once that became public knowledge, did anything change? Absolutely nothing. We left every one of them in place, letting them fill every new opening with someone of a similar philosophy. How could anyone really be surprised that we have a left wing media and that we have such left wing hacks as Leonard Breshnev and Maxine Allbright setting our policy? How dedicated could we be to defeating a communist country, while our own governmental personnel were dedicated to turning us into one? Korea and Vietnam were for show. Most of the American people may have been anti-Communist, but the government has been preponderantly pro-Communist, since 1932, if not longer. Any schoolchild should have been able to recognize that if a country as powerful as the United States truly wanted to defeat North Vietnam or North Korea, it would have done in a matter of months. Our men in uniform were pawns in a global game, and they were sacrificed for political and financial purposes: to make the people think our procommunist government was against communism, and to prolong a costly arms race that helped expand the national debt from millions to billions to trillions, pouring billions into the pockets of the major banking families and other insiders. A strong adversary and the fear of nuclear war were also extremely handy as an excuse for the gargantuan expansion of government power. No one has a greater desire for increasing the power of government than those who would use it for their private purposes."

"I think they use everything as an excuse for expanding their power," said Borden.

"Ninety-nine percent of our government doesn't change when we have an election. Even if all the candidates for the major positions weren't handpicked to carry on the work of the insiders, why should we expect the elections to change policy? Roosevelt introduced hardcore socialism and communism into our government; he gave Eastern Europe to Russia; he subordinated the US to a United Nations dedicated to world socialism; and under the guise of lifting us out of the depression, he began the systematic takeover of our economy and the abrogation of every freedom we ever had. He also instituted the War Powers Act, which was essentially another name for martial law, allowing the government to ignore the constitution. When, at last, in the 1970's, Congress somehow got enough halfway decent members to repeal the War Powers Act, the administration ignored the repeal. They thumbed their nose at Congress and went their merry way."

"And they've been doing that ever since."

"Worse yet, they then set about trying to lock in their ability to do as they pleased. They created the Department of Education to transfer control of education to the federal government. Now they can edit history to suit their purposes, and they can indoctrinate the coming generations, so as to minimize any resistance. As Alexander Pope said, 'Tis education forms the common mind: Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined.' Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20, yet many people, if they ever heard of Roosevelt, think he was a great president. There you have proof of either the ignorance of the people, or the effectiveness of propaganda, which, I suppose, depends on the ignorance of the people. If a democracy is to make any sense at all, the voters have to know what they are doing. The voters may have spoken many times, but they seldom have any idea what they said. As it exists today, democracy is not only a bad idea, but also a sham. Without sophisticated, educated voters, democracy becomes a joke-in our case, a very tragic joke, because it allows con artists to run the government."

"If you think about it," said Borden, "there is a similarity between a religious cult being lead like sheep into committing mass suicide by drinking poisoned Kool-Aid, and a whole country being lead like sheep into giving up their freedom."

"Just a matter of scale. Sheep are sheep, whether you have a dozen or a few hundred million, whether they have four legs or two," said Randolph. "Are you ready to go, Ron?"

"Good idea. We should get there before sunset. Please don't bring up this stuff again, Clint. Not unless you want to see me cry."

"I don't enjoy discussing it, myself, Ron. It's the only time I ever feel negative about things. About everything else in my life, I'm as positive as you can get, but this area is so important and so hopeless. Believe me, I tried to find positive ways to look at it, but short of sticking your head in the sand or wearing blinders, it can't be done, not by a sentient human being. Not only that, if you choose to ignore it, you become a hopeless, helpless victim, by default. Even more fruitless, is the attempt to find a way out, a way back to personal liberty. It looks like freedom is going fast, soon to be completely gone, forever."

"Exactly why I dropped out," said Borden. "What you've been telling me is the kind of thing that tears me apart. It was a never-ending stream of discoveries like these that turned me completely against the government. There are hundreds and hundreds of other examples, just as bad or worse."

"I know."

"What do you say we go to Marathon and forget this crap? We can go out on the dock, by the lighthouse, and have another drink and watch the sunset. That's one thing they haven't screwed up."

"So far," said Randolph. "Maybe we'd better hurry."  


***

 

At six forty-five, Arthur Chadwick, who had the night off, took the private elevator down to the third floor, then the company elevator to the first floor, and left the building. A man in a fishing boat, about fifty yards off shore, watched the Randolph Building, through large binoculars. When Arthur left in his car, the man in the boat made a call on a cellular telephone. Just around the corner, another man, sitting in a burgundy Grand Marquis, answered his mobile telephone, and started the engine. He sped around the corner and down the street, to fall in behind Arthur's car.

Twelve minutes later, the man in the boat received a telephone call, telling him that Arthur Chadwick was in a restaurant, apparently to have dinner. He then made another call, notifying someone that the penthouse was empty, hopefully for an hour or more.

 

 


***

 

The limousine pulled up to a circle at the end of the road. Perry loaded the luggage into a nearby luggage carrier and followed Randolph and Borden out onto the dock, until they came to a two-story houseboat with the numbers "9" and "10." Until a little over a year ago, Randolph had frequently rented a houseboat from Faro Blanco. When, for some reason, they decided to stop renting them, and to use them to house their employees. Randolph bought one and paid slip rental for it. He had it refurbished inside, but left it alone on the outside, so that it wouldn't stand out.

"The bottom is all yours, Perry," said Randolph. "We'll take our suitcases. After you bring up the rest of our stuff, you can go ahead and move in yourself. In twenty or twenty-five minutes, you can drop us off at the restaurant, back behind the office, and take the evening off. We'll probably come back about ten. If you happen to be in the area, stop by. Otherwise, don't worry about it. We'll walk back. If the weather's good, tomorrow morning, we'll ride bicycles to breakfast, so we won't need you until after twelve, unless it rains. The forecast said a beautiful day."

"Very well, sir," said Perry. Having driven Randolph and Borden here many times, he knew his way around the area. He was looking forward to a very enjoyable evening, and tomorrow morning he could sleep late. When he was out overnight, or even late at night, he got additional pay, easily enough to cover his expenses for the night out. Perry loved his job.  


***

 

On the street that ran along the south side of Randolph Enterprises' parking lot, a blue Chevrolet Caprice pulled up in front of the house next to the end of the parking lot wall. One of the two men in the Caprice got out and walked along the five-foot wall of the parking lot. He looked around, bounded over the wall, into the nearly empty parking lot, and walked rapidly to the employees' entrance. Finding the door unlocked, because a few people were working, he went in. There was no one in sight. Hesitating a moment, he took the corridor he thought would lead to the main lobby. It was the correct choice, and he reached the lobby and turned to find himself facing the elevator. He went up to the third floor. Seeing a key-switch for the private elevator, he frowned and pushed the button, heaving a sigh of relief, when the elevator door opened.

It took him almost twenty minutes to pick the locks on penthouse door. Entering the apartment, he quickly entered a code on the alarm box on the wall. He pulled a small plastic box from his coat pocket.


***

 

Randolph changed into casual clothes. Borden, who never dressed any way other than casual, didn't have to change. Just as they were about to leave, Randolph's pager began to beep. Randolph looked down at the pager and pressed a button on it.

"Someone has broken into the penthouse," he said, "unless Arthur came home and forgot to turn the alarm off, which is highly unlikely."

"You get paged, if someone breaks into your apartment?" asked Borden.

Randolph laughed. "That does sound strange, doesn't it?" He grabbed his laptop computer, plugged one end of a cable into it, and the other end into his portable telephone. Then he turned on the computer and manipulated the mouse for a moment.

"You see," said Randolph, "I'm in the process of setting up a new alarm system. Unfortunately, the part inside my apartment is the only part that's finished. The rest of the building should be completed next week. The old system is still in place, but they must have defeated it, somehow. I didn't want to connect the new system to a service yet, but I did want to know if there were intruders. There are tiny video cameras scattered around the apartment. They connect to a computer that captures a picture every few seconds, in any room where motion is detected. The computer will page me, then call me and send me a picture, as often as it can. I won't get a great image, since I opted for low resolution and frequent pictures. But I should be able to see what's going on."

"Why not call the police?" asked Borden.

"I'm not expecting a burglar," said Randolph. "I'm expecting a spy. But I don't want them to know I expect them."

The cellular phone rang. On the third ring, the computer answered it and, after a few seconds, began receiving a picture. The first picture told him nothing. The second clearly showed a man doing something with the telephone.

"Rotten bastards," said Randolph. "They're really getting me angry."

"Who do you think it is?" asked Borden. "The quality of the image is so poor that I couldn't recognize him, even if it were you."

"Directly, or indirectly, I believe it's the United States government," said Randolph. "I also believe they're under the control of another group. When I get back to West Palm, I'll be able to see the image much more clearly, with higher resolution. However, I doubt it will help me know who it is. The main thing is that I know they are bugging me. I have to ask you to keep this to yourself, if you don't mind, Ron. I also have to ask you not to ask me for any more explanation right now. You'll probably know all about it, later on."

Using the telephone in the houseboat, Randolph called Phil Matthews, and, when he reached the answering system, left a message. Within five minutes, Matthews returned his call.

"Hello, Mr. Matthews, I just wanted to let you know that someone has broken into my apartment and it appears that they are placing bugs all through it."

"Where are you?"

"I'm in the Keys, on a fishing trip. My new security system was set to page me, if the alarm was tripped. My computer sends me images from surveillance cameras. I've received several pictures, and though the quality is poor, it's obvious that someone is planting microphones. I'll know better when I see the images clearly, on my return. Just a few more days and we would have had the new alarm system in the whole building. But the old system is still operational. It should have gone off long before they got to the penthouse."

"Your old system is a commercial system. The government has buildings filled with thousands of computers, dedicated to breaking into computers of all sorts, including commercial security firms to get passwords and codes to turn alarm systems off and on. They probably got your code, and they just walked in and turned the alarm off, the same way you do. They may know or suspect that you're about to switch to a private system, and they would want to break in before that happens. You know you could use these bugs to mislead them, by feeding them whatever you want them to think."

"I thought about that. I hate the thought of having someone listening in on me, though."

"You could feed them whatever misinformation you want, and then appear to find a bug and then find them all," said Matthews. "If you do rip them out, they'll know you are on to them. That could accelerate whatever plans they have."

"You're quite right," said Randolph. "I'll put up with them, until I feel I can or must risk them accelerating whatever it is they have in mind."

"If you can get the pictures to me, maybe we can make the guy. It might tell us who they're working with."

"You'll have them early Monday morning," said Randolph. "Have a good weekend."

"Good luck with your fishing," said Matthews.

"Thanks."

 

 

***

 

In his Manhattan penthouse, on Riverside Drive, just a few minutes from his office in the New World Bank building, Conrad Goerstein, his wife Rachel, and his daughter, Constance, had just finished dinner and were waiting for coffee. The maid cleared the table and took the dishes to the kitchen.

"Has anyone heard from Ben, lately?" asked Goerstein. Ben was his son, who was away at Harvard. He looked from his wife to his daughter. "No. I guess that means everything is all right, and he doesn't need anything."

"You shouldn't say that, Conrad," said Rachel Goerstein. "Ben doesn't call only when he wants something."

"There must have been some calls I didn't know about," said Goerstein.

The maid came through the kitchen door, carrying a coffeepot.

"Mr. Goerstein," she said, "there's a call for you. It's long distance, from Florida."

"Thank you, Louise," said Goerstein. "I'll take it in the den." Turning to his family, he said, "I'll be right back. This will only take a minute."

In the den, he closed the door, and picked the telephone and said, "Goerstein."

"Everything is in place," a voice said. "We'll let you know if we hear anything interesting."

"You're keeping it all, though. Aren't you?" said Goerstein.

"Yes, sir. Everything."

"Good," said Goerstein. "Thanks. Goodnight."

Goerstein put the telephone down. As he turned out the light in the den, he muttered to himself, "I can't believe this Randolph got where he is without breaking some laws. There's bound to be some illegal activity in that empire. All we have to do is find it." He went back to his family and his coffee.


CHAPTER 12

WEEKEND IN THE KEYS

DAYS 19 & 20

 

 

On reaching the Seven-Mile Bridge, Jeremy knew he was just over seven miles from his destination. His intense curiosity about what was important enough to justify all this complication had prompted him to look at the odometer every few miles. He had left Emily Morrison at the Pier House, in Key West.

If Emily hadn't been outside, washing her car, when he'd gone home yesterday afternoon, he probably wouldn't have asked her. She had struck up a conversation.

"Hi, Jeremy," she had said. "How was your first day at work?"

He had walked over to tell her how great it had been. "Emily, it was wonderful. I have my own office. I went to lunch with Mr. Randolph, over in Palm Beach, at the Breakers Hotel. And, I'm flying to Key West tonight and coming back Sunday night. It's a hiring bonus."

"That's fabulous, Jeremy. I'm really happy for you. I know you were upset when you had to drop out of school, but it looks like it has turned out better than you could have hoped for."

"I don't suppose you would want to come to Key West with me, would you?" That he had said it surprised him almost as much as her answer.

"I'd love to," she had said. "Are you serious?"

"You will? Of course, I'm serious."

Neither of them had ever flown to Key West. The flight was short, but exciting. The weather was clear and the first part of the trip, they saw the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico. At the airport, they picked up their rental car, a new Lincoln Town Car, and drove into town. By the time they arrived at the Pier House, it was a few minutes before nine.

When they had walked into their suite, Emily had said, "Look. There are twin beds. Neither of us has to sleep on the sofa."

They had gone out, walking along Duval Street, seeing the sights and working their way through the crowds of people, one of the most famous attractions of Key West. On the front porch of an old house, now converted to a restaurant, they had dinner, talked, and watched the passing parade. After dinner, they had gone back to the Pier House and sat out on the pier watching the sea and listening to the band, until midnight, when they had returned to their room and gone to bed.

The next morning, they had breakfast in the hotel, and shortly thereafter, he had left for Marathon. At one o'clock, she would be by the pool, waiting for him. Jeremy had told her that he would have to leave for a few hours on business. He was glad that Emily hadn't asked where he was going, or why, because he preferred not to lie to her.

The Seven-Mile Bridge finally came to an end, and he was in Marathon. There, on the right, he saw the Silverado. Turning right, he drove past a trailer park, and saw the Faro Blanco sign with a picture of a lighthouse on it. Entering the parking lot, he saw a marina with several houseboats. He parked and walked out onto a dock. There was no number ten on this dock, so he turned back and walked around to the other docks and soon found number ten. He walked across the gangplank, onto the boat, went up the stairs, and knocked on the door. Randolph opened the door.

"Good morning, Mr. Randolph," said Jeremy.

"Good morning, Jeremy," said Randolph. "Come in, Jeremy. Jeremy, this is Ron Borden. Ron, this is Jeremy Worth, for whom I've been waiting.

Borden excused himself, saying he was going for a walk. Jeremy assumed that he was leaving to give them privacy. But Randolph dispelled that idea, when he led him off the boat, out to the end of the dock, where there was a weathered, wooden, two-story structure. The second floor, which Jeremy thought looked like some sort of a club, or maybe a restaurant, was closed off, with a chain across the stairway. Under the right half of the club, was a small store, with bicycles for rent. The other half of the club extended out over a large open space, with a few picnic tables. Jeremy and Randolph sat at one of the picnic tables. There was no one else in sight, except a couple of kids fishing from a small boat, out near a drawbridge, a couple of hundred yards away.

"No doubt you wondered why I asked you to come all the way down here, just so we could talk for a short time," said Randolph.

"Yes, I did," said Jeremy.

"As you may have surmised," said Randolph, "what I have to say is quite confidential. With today's technology, there's virtually no such thing as privacy. Even here, I am only counting on better odds that no one will overhear what we say." He put a small radio on the table and turned on some music. "This should increase our odds. I trust you, Jeremy, or you wouldn't be here, but I still want your word that you will maintain total secrecy concerning everything we talk about today."

"You have my word," said Jeremy.

"Have you heard of the Commission on Foreign Relations? Or the Trilateral Council?"

"No."

"You can find out the details about them later. For now, all you need to know is that the Commission on Foreign Relations, CFR for short, is an extremely powerful group of Americans, united by their dedication to the cause of world socialism, although their motives may be quite diverse. The members of the CFR are generally businessmen, politicians, educators, and members of the media. Behind them is a group of very wealthy men, who use the CFR and its counterparts in other countries to work toward a world government under their control. Since it was formed in the early nineteen hundreds, there hasn't been an U.S. president, with the probable exception of Reagan, who wasn't a member of the Commission for Foreign Relations. The Trilateral Council is an elite group of like-minded individuals from the U.S., Japan, and Europe. They have considerable control over the governments and the monetary policy in these regions, but they want still more control. The leaders profit handsomely through the transfer of wealth from the people to their very private fortunes. They want to lock in their position and essentially rule the world, guaranteeing the continuity of the flow of riches. Many of their minions actually believe that world socialism is good for people. They are either ignorant or stupid, or both. But, it's the leaders that I'm concerned with. They want to completely control the governments and, through the governments, control the people. They want a populace dependent on government for their every need, from the cradle to the grave. This insures control and stifles dissension. The last thing they want is a guy like me, making it on my own, setting an example for independent thinking and action. Are you with me, so far?"

"Yes, sir."

"There is a member of the Commission on Foreign Relations, who joined for purely personal reasons-the same way one might join a country club to make business contacts. This person is also my friend. He doesn't share the political beliefs of the rest of the membership. Therefore, when the leaders of the CFR recently decided to find a way to destroy me, he warned me. I've been watching for signs that their attack is beginning, and I think I see them. Perhaps you've seen some things about me recently on television."

"Yes, I have," said Jeremy. "On the evening news and one of the Sunday morning shows. My mother pointed out that they actually accused you of nothing more than being successful. But they made being successful sound like something terrible."

"That's a common strategy these days," said Randolph, "mainly because it's so successful. In a way though, they may be telegraphing their punches. I can almost guarantee that you are going to see a media blitz against me. The left wing liberal 'news' media, which makes up probably well over 90% of all the media, has long ceased to be interested in news, per se. The effect they create has become far more important to them than what they say. They say whatever it takes to achieve their ends. The communists made a major effort to install or recruit people into the media and academia, primarily because each person they put in these two areas could influence a very large number of Americans. The leftists installed in the thirties and forties worked their way up and took over, making certain that all new recruits were of the same political stripe. American journalists to the right of Fidel Castro stand out like albinos in Africa, and they're just as rare. The CFR and the Trilaterals have a willing ally in the media. They fall in, lock step, in any attack on independence and personal freedom. You can expect a solid front against me in the media. Not a single shred of evidence or fact is required for anything they say. I think they're trying to make me look bad, so that when the government trumps up some charge against me, the public will think I deserve it.

"Isn't what they're doing illegal?" asked Jeremy.

"Yes, of course. However, illegality never deters these people. The vast majority of everything the government does is illegal, even unconstitutional. They depend on the ignorance and the greed of the people to get away with almost anything they want to do. So far, they haven't misjudged the people-the majority of them, at least."

"How can what they do be illegal, if they make the law?"

"Jeremy," said Randolph, "I can't believe you asked that. What kind of government does the United States have?"

"A democracy," Jeremy said, almost as a question.

Randolph winced. "I can see it will be better to postpone talking about politics with you. When you get your first paycheck, I want you to find a copy of Restoring the American Dream, by Robert Ringer. While hardly the definitive text on the topic, it is a very good, one-stop, quick introduction to what the American government is supposed to be and what it really is. Better yet, take your expense account money and get a copy as soon as you get home. It's probably out of print, so try used-book stores. Maybe you can find a copy in a library, although I doubt it seriously-at least, not in a public library. You might try the Internet. After you've read it, come and tell me what kind of government we have. Your education is sadly lacking in this area.

"In the meantime, I have a project for you. I want you to do some research for me. It will be a full time job and, later on, will require a substantial amount of travel. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, is to know your purpose. I'll set up a dummy project to act as a cover for what you are doing." He looked around, and leaned toward Jeremy. "This is what you are looking for..."

 

SUNDAY EVENING - DAY 20

 

When Randolph arrived home from the Keys, shortly before seven o'clock, he sent Perry to take Borden home. He took the main elevator to the third floor, where he found the elevator to the penthouse wasn't locked. Maybe Arthur was at home. But there was no one in the penthouse. Apparently, Arthur had gone out, leaving the elevator unlocked. If he had left it unlocked the night before, the intruder must have waited until he saw Arthur leave, then just walked in. He was going to have a talk with Arthur, and he was going to make some improvements in the security of the entire building. No one was ever going to find it easy again.

He sat down at his computer and was about to pull up an image, when he stopped short. What if they had put a camera in the room? Until he knew, he must assume they could both see and hear him. He logged onto the company network and copied all the image files to the network server. Then he went down to the second floor, to accounting. Switching on one of accounting's computers, he looked at the images. He could see the man clearly, but had no idea who he was. Just a man, about 5 foot ten, maybe 190 pounds, probably forty, plus or minus five years. Paging through the images took a while, but he needed a list of the locations of all the bugs. With only one device to a room and judging by their locations, he thought they would be microphones rather than cameras, but possibly both.

Back in his apartment, he located each bug, nine in all. Fortunately, there were no cameras, only small condenser microphones, with tiny transmitters. He went out on the terrace to think; it should be safe, there having been no image of the intruder out there. Not that they could hear him think, but the idea of being continuously "on the air" was disturbing. Maybe it was some strange reflex, like the one that makes you want to scratch your nose when your hands are full. He wanted to talk to himself, because he couldn't or shouldn't. But he resisted the urge. Instead he sat at the table, at which he often had his breakfast and reviewed the situation. He had nine microphones in the apartment; he didn't want them to know that he knew about them; but he certainly didn't want them listening all the time either. He would have to let them listen most of the time, or they would know that something was wrong. When he didn't want to be overheard, he had three alternatives: he could either turn off the bugs somehow, he could impede their transmission, or he could soundproof the bugs somehow. After considering the pros and cons of each method, he decided on shielding them, except for the telephones. Those he would cover with a box that was both insulated and shielded.

Being careful not to touch them, he took the measurements and made sketches of the covers he would have fabricated tomorrow. When he wanted privacy in a room, he could just cover the microphone in that room. Whoever was listening would hear conversation most of the time and hopefully would think it was just quiet during the time he had a microphone covered.  

 

***

 

It was eleven-thirty when Jeremy and Emily got home from Key West. He was pleasantly exhausted, and she had fallen asleep, on the way home from the Fort Lauderdale airport. He expected his parents to be asleep, and, trying not to awaken them, he coasted into his driveway with the lights and the engine off. Looking at Emily, sound asleep in the seat beside him, he realized that she was quite pretty, possibly even beautiful. Asleep, she looked so angelic that he hated to awaken her. When he woke her, she looked up at him sleepily for a moment. She sat up and opened her door.

"Thank you for everything, Jeremy," she said, as she climbed out of the car. "It was wonderful-every minute of it. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Goodnight.

"Good-night," called Jeremy, watching her stumble home.

Jeremy was surprised to find his parents awake and waiting for him. When they asked about his trip, he told them all about it, except his visit with Randolph. He noticed that his mother seemed to watch him closely, as he answered their questions. He had never lied to his parents, and, while not telling them about meeting with Randolph wasn't really lying, he still felt a little guilty about it. He hoped that he didn't look guilty. If his mother thought he looked guilty, she wasn't going to suspect anything like a meeting with Randolph. No, she would probably suspect something between him and Emily. He certainly didn't want that.

"All in all, we had a great time," he told his parents. "Emily was pretty tired. She fell asleep on the way home from the airport." Thinking that he had better quit while he was where he was, he added, "I'm exhausted too. I'd better get to bed."


CHAPTER 13

MONDAY - DAY 21

 

 

I'm going to be traveling on your first day, Kit," said Randolph. "I won't ask you to go on this trip. I think we should get used to each other first. I should have told you, but I forgot. I'm sorry. You can go or stay or take two days off. It's up to you. You're on the payroll, as of now."

"Since I'll be staying in your apartment, I brought most of my things with me. As long as I have a place to put my gear, and time to pick out what I'll need for two days, I'm fine, wherever you go. I can be in the background and still keep an eye on you."

"Good enough," said Randolph.

Randolph called Alicia into his office.

"Alicia, meet Kit Carson. Kit is my new bodyguard, so you'll be seeing a lot of him. Take him up to the penthouse and tell Arthur to help him put his things away and get ready to go to Savannah. Arthur is expecting him."

 

 

At 10:18 AM, Randolph's Mitsubishi Jet made a perfect landing, and taxied to the parking area at the Savannah airport. Randolph; Kit Carson; Paul Archer, a senior project engineer with Randolph Automation; Bill Page, a multimedia specialist with Randolph Applied Sciences; and Fran Benson, the pilot, walked to a white stretch-limousine parked beside a nearby hangar. Bill Page knocked on the window, and the driver, who had been reading a magazine, jumped out and asked, "Are you the Randolph party?"

On the way to the Morgan Shipyards, Randolph reviewed their plans. All conversations would be recorded, and everything pertinent to the automation project would be videotaped. Everyone carried a voice-actuated mini-cassette recorder for taking private notes.

The limousine drove through the massive gate of the Morgan Shipyards, skirted the towering hulls of several ships in various stages of completion, and stopped in front of the main office building. Fran Benson, who would go on to the hotel, stayed in the limousine. Randolph and his crew selected the items they would need for their work, leaving the rest to be taken to the hotel.

Inside the building, the receptionist called Stacey Morgan's office, and, in a few seconds, a man wearing a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, the collar unbuttoned, and his tie loosened, came down the stairs and greeted them.

"Mr. Randolph," he said, "I'm Earl Cartwright. Miss Morgan is unexpectedly tied up in a union hassle. She asked me to take you upstairs, and she'll come out to see you."

"You guys have a seat and relax," said Randolph to his crew, "You too, Kit. I'll be right back."

On the way up the stairs, Randolph said, "I'm so glad I have no unions in my companies."

"How wonderful that must be," said Cartwright. "Like a dream. While our union is a nightmare."

They stopped outside a door marked "Conference Room." "If you'll wait here for a second," said Cartwright, "I'll get Miss Morgan."

"Certainly," said Randolph.

Cartwright opened the door and closed it behind him. In a moment, the door opened, and Stacey Morgan came in, followed by Cartwright. "Mr. Randolph, I'm Stacey Morgan," she said, shaking his hand. "I'm sorry not to have met you properly, but my union is acting up again. It appears an electrician who is supposed to change only fluorescent light bulbs was seen changing an incandescent bulb. Not only that, but when a factory rep from one of our vendors came to take a look at one of his company's machines, an engineer forgot himself and carried the vendor's meter out to the machine for him. He should have called for a union member to carry the meter."

"Sounds pretty grave," said Randolph, grimly. "You have my sympathy."

"Thank you," said Stacey. "Earl Cartwright, my Manager of Operations, can get you started. Hopefully, I can settle this squabble shortly, and I'll catch up with you.

"Fine," said Randolph. "Then I'll see you shortly."

Twenty minutes later, they were in the warehouse, where the sheet steel was stored. Cartwright was explaining the procedure for scheduling the transfer of parts and materials from stock to the production area, when Stacey joined them.

"How's it going?" she asked.

"We're making good progress," said Randolph.

"Excellent," said Stacey. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"I don't know of anything," Randolph said, "but I do have a question.”

"What is it?"

"I believe that Morgan Shipyards was in contention for the Fast Deployment Logistics Ship Contract. Is that right?"

"Why yes, we were in the final three," said Stacey. "That was a long time ago. I'm surprised that you knew that. Is that significant?"

"Well, as I recall, that program had, as a secondary goal, the construction of an automated shipyard in America. In that case, the bid would have included a proposal for an automated shipyard."

"Of course," exclaimed Stacey. "Why didn't I think of that? It could make some things easier for you. A lot will have changed since then; it was almost forty years ago. I wasn't around then, but my father told me all about it."

"I realize that it would be outdated," said Randolph, "but it could possibly save us some time or stimulate our thinking. Technology has changed, probably more than your processes, and we would do things differently today. Even so, I would appreciate a copy of that part of the bid, if it's available."

"If we can find it, you are welcome to it," said Stacey. "It looked like we might be awarded that contract. It was huge; and, yes, the winner would have to build an automated shipyard. Of course, the concept of being able to deploy a fighting force anywhere in the world, on the spur of the moment, was the primary objective. Even then, America's shipyards were starting to fall behind the Japanese and the Swedes. After dangling the carrot in front of every shipyard in the country, and letting the contenders spend millions dollars on proposals, the Navy dropped the whole idea. The consensus of opinion, of everyone except the media, was that the unions had leaned on the administration. With a democrat in the White House and the unions being the largest contributors to his campaign, the union's wishes became the administration's command."

"It looks like union problems have been plaguing you for some time," said Randolph.

"Farther back than I can remember, the union has been the biggest problem in the shipbuilding industry. Well, it doesn't look like I'm needed here, so I'll see you later." She looked at her watch. "It's almost noon. Earl can take you into town for lunch."

"Don't you have a cafeteria on the premises?" asked Randolph.

"Certainly," said Stacey. "Would you prefer that?"

"Prefer might not be quite the word I would use," said Randolph. "But it would save time, and I would rather save the time."

"I understand completely," said Stacey. She usually ate lunch in her office for the same reason. "Earl will take you to our cafeteria. Right, Earl?"

"Certainly," said Cartwright, "I'll be glad to."

As she left, Randolph watched her walk down the aisle. He had, as a matter of course, checked up on Morgan Shipyards and its president, Stacey Morgan. She was an interesting person. It was refreshing to see an interesting person in such an interesting package. He also noticed a small group of workmen on a catwalk, staring down at him and his men.

"If we're going to the cafeteria, we should go now," said Cartwright. "In ten minutes, the whistle will blow, and a long line will appear, almost instantly, in the cafeteria."

No sooner did they sit down at a table in the cafeteria, than the noon whistle blew. "Boy," said Paul Archer, seeing a long line materialize at the serving line, "you weren't kidding. They must have been in position, like Olympic runners, to get here that fast."

"It's the fastest they move all day," said Cartwright. "Although, they do pretty good at quitting time."

"That must be part of your motivation for automation," said Randolph.

"It sure is," said Cartwright. "A lead-footed union member is no match for a machine.

"Surely all union people aren't like that," said Page. "If they were, no business with a union would be able to compete."

"No," said Randolph, "They aren't all bad. But remember, if the employees are all good workers and if management has any sense at all, there's no need for a union. Those who benefit most from a union, apart from the union officials, are those who, without the union, probably wouldn't be able to hold a job."

"What about all those stories of terrible conditions in factories years ago?" asked Archer.

"There were undoubtedly cases of management not treating the workers well," said Randolph. "In any type of interpersonal relationship you can imagine, there will always be cases of people being mistreated. But, employment is essentially a contractual agreement. Suppose that I hire a plumber to fix my toilet, and we agree on a price. When the plumber has my toilet all torn apart, he says he wants double the price we agreed to. I say I won't pay him any more than we agreed to, and, if he won't honor the agreement, he can leave and I'll get another plumber to do the job. He says he'll stand at my front door with a baseball bat and attack any new plumber that I bring in. Is that reasonable?"

"Of course not," said Archer.

"That is the right to strike, as it has been observed historically," said Randolph

"If he doesn't want to do it, that's fine," said Archer. "But he has no right to keep you from finding someone who will fix it, if you can. But, it's true, that is what unions do."

"All that aside, there is important aspect of labor relations that is consistently overlooked. Stories of rich, greedy owners exploiting poor, suffering, underpaid workers, at the beginning of the industrial revolution, have been spread by the unions and those who are want to foster class struggle and envy. The unions would have you believe that today's higher wages are due to their efforts on behalf of the workers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real reason for low wages in earlier times was the low productivity of the workers. Obviously, the money to pay labor comes from a company's revenue. Back then and in some backward nations today, it took so many man-hours to produce a dollar of profit that wages had to be low. If a man working for an hour brings in a dollar of revenue to the company, there's no way the company can pay him even one dollar an hour, nor, perhaps, can the company give him thirty days’ vacation and thirty days sick leave. Today, technology, machines, transportation, communication, and cheap electrical power enable each man to produce as much as a hundred men would produce without these advantages. Assuming that to be true, then, without all the technology and power, wages would necessarily be one one-hundredth or one percent of what they are now. It is the growth of technology, made possible by investors of capital, known as capitalists, that actually accounts for the increase in productivity and the elevation in the standard of living. Neither the unions nor the government made even the slightest positive contribution to it. Actually, unions fought technology's growth, tooth and nail. Hence, workers today make higher wages in spite of the unions, rather than due to them.

"Throughout America's history, many people willingly endured long hours and terrible conditions, some in crossing the wilderness, some in the mountains or the deserts searching for gold or other minerals, many risking death and even dying, with no greedy exploiter cracking a whip over them. They suffered not because someone forced them to, but because it was the best they could manage with the tools they had available. People spent a year of perilous travel, going from the East Coast to the West Coast; now it takes five hours. The unions begrudge the capitalists their profit. However, were it not for the prospect of profit, we would still be in a pre-industrial world, with no technology. Travel would be by animal. Life expectancy would be forty to forty-five years, for there would be no modern medicines. Very little that we take for granted would exist. Thank God for profits and all they have motivated productive people to create."

Turning to Cartwright, who was somewhat awestruck by his visitor's speech, Randolph said, softly, "That man standing by that third table to your right was watching us in the warehouse. Since he came into the cafeteria, he has been going from table to table, talking to people and looking over here at us, as he talks. Is that something you should be aware of?"

"That's John Thorn, the union shop steward," said Cartwright. "Miss Morgan calls him a thorn in our side. He's probably wondering who you are and why you're here."

"Possibly," said Randolph.

Shortly before five o'clock, Randolph told Cartwright that they weren't going to complete their work in one day, and he estimated they would finish tomorrow, hopefully by mid-day. Cartwright accompanied them to the office building, where their limousine was parked.

"Go ahead and put everything in the car," Randolph told his crew. "I'm going to run upstairs and see Miss Morgan for a minute, if I can."

Cartwright took Randolph to her office. He knocked on her door, and hearing her tell him to come in, he opened the door and said, "They're leaving for the day. Mr. Randolph wanted to see you for a minute."

"Send him in, and stop by after they're gone," said Stacey.

"Well, Mr. Randolph, do you still want to do a shipyard?" she asked, rising to greet him.

"Definitely. I wanted to tell you that we will have a few more hours tomorrow morning and we'll be on our way. We should have enough for a ball-park estimate, and if we need any additional information, I'm sure we can handle it by telephone or e-mail."

"Fine. By the way," she said, putting her foot on a box beside her desk, "here's a copy of that portion of the bid, dealing with automation."

"I'll look it over tonight. It might prompt some additional questions tomorrow."

Stacey said she would have the box taken to his car. She called her secretary and told her to get someone right away, with a dolly or cart to take the box to Randolph's car.

"Sit down for a minute," she said. "I'm sure someone will be here quite soon."

Randolph took in her office at a glance. As a teenager, he had practiced looking around a room and trying to remember as many things as he could. It was something he'd picked up from some novel he'd read. The novel had long been forgotten, but the skill came in handy from time to time.

Randolph sat down, looked at Stacey, and said, "Beverly Sills is my favorite soprano."

Stacey looked at him as though he had lost his mind. Then she laughed. "The CD's, of course. For a minute, I didn't know what to think."

"You must have every available CD of hers," he said. "So do I, as well as every record and tape she ever made."

"So do I," said Stacey. "The videos too."

"But I don't have them in my office," he said.

"Well, I spend so much time in my office that I almost live here, so I keep some to the things I enjoy here. Sometimes, when I stay late, I compensate myself with some music."

"It's only fair to tell you," said Randolph, "that I live on the top floor of my office building, and sometimes I work as much there as I do in my official office. So I have an advantage not enjoyed by many."

"That's wonderful. Perhaps I could convert the conference room next door into a little apartment. I could save a lot of time going back and forth."

"Don't get so wrapped up in work that you don't have time to live," said Randolph.

"Not to have time to live is a very sad situation." She often felt like she didn't have time to live, and her own words gave her a twinge of emotion.

"It's easy to get in that situation, when you love your work. But there are too many wonderful and exciting things to do, for us to concentrate on only one. At least, that's my opinion."

"A rather good opinion, I'd say." There was a tapping on the door. She opened it. "Someone is here to take your papers down. I'll go down with you."

"Thank you, but that's not necessary," he said. "I know you want to see Cartwright. There's no need to run up and down the stairs. I'll see you in the morning."

The limousine took them to the Savannah Hilton. As they were leaving the check-in counter to go to their rooms, Randolph said, "Listen, I have to review these documents tonight, so I'm going to have an early dinner and go to my room. That I'm going to shut myself in my room doesn't mean the rest of you need to. Kit and anyone who wants to can have dinner with me, in the hotel dining room in half an hour, or you can do whatever you please. I just want everyone ready to leave the hotel at eight in the morning. Once I'm in my room, you can leave it you wish, Kit."

In his room, he reviewed his day. It had been a good day. He had been so busy that he'd thought about his problem only a few times. In a way, that was good. But it wasn't helping him solve anything, unless his subconscious was busy searching for solutions. As soon as he skimmed through the FDLS bid, he would spend some time on his problems. 

 

***

 

TUESDAY - DAY 22

 

Bob Adams opened his eyes. He was bewildered for a moment, with no idea where he was. Looking to the right, he saw that he was in a bed with side rails; and when he tried to move, he realized that he had electrodes attached to his body. He now knew that he was in a hospital. Then, a nurse came in, followed by a doctor.

"You're awake, Mr. Adams," said the doctor.

"Why am I here," asked Adams.

"You've been unconscious for two weeks," said the Doctor.

All of a sudden, Adams remembered the man with the rings in his nose and his ear. He remembered Betty screaming. He remembered being knocked back by the first bullet and the terrible blow to his head when the second one hit. He remembered the descent of darkness. He became very agitated.

"Betty," he cried. "What happened to Betty?"

The doctor whispered something to the nurse, who ran out of the room.

"There, there," said the doctor, gently pushing him back onto the bed. "Just lie down, Mr. Adams. You can't move too much with all the electrodes you have on you."

The nurse came back into the room and handed a syringe to the doctor.

"This will help you to relax, Mr. Adams," said the doctor, slipping the needle into a device Adams saw attached to his arm.

What is that thing on my wrist? wondered Adams. "What about Betty? For God's sake, tell me." He tried to raise himself, but couldn't. He knew he was going.

"Mr. Adams," said the doctor, recognizing that the sedative was taking effect, "I'm sorry to tell you that your wife didn't make it."

"Betty," said Adams. He began to cry. He cried for a moment, and then he slept.

"Poor man," said the nurse. "Two minutes after waking from two weeks of coma, we put him back to sleep." 


***

 

Marta Frazier and Michael Keller were walking in a public park, about a mile from their office. She had stopped by to see if he wanted to go to lunch, and he had told her that he'd brought lunch. She ordered a sandwich from a firm that delivered daily to people in the office, and they went to the park and sat on a shaded bench beside a small pond.

"I found two," she said.

"Two what?"

"Two of those hidden routines in WinDose. I tried the way you said. I kept hanging up, and I really had some trouble with my error handling routines. But I finally got them to work."

"Which ones did you find?" asked Keller.

"The first one is the directory program to write a directory of the hard drive to a file. The second one compresses a directory file. I would have kept going but it was really late last night, or early this morning."

"So Sandoz was telling the truth," said Keller.

"Looks like it," said Frazier.

"I wonder if all the rest was true."

"I don't see why you wouldn't assume it was," said Frazier.

"It's pretty farfetched."

"So far he's telling the truth, and, personally, until I had a reason to believe otherwise, I'd assume he told the truth about everything."

"Even about his friend being fired and set up to look like a thief?"

"Why not? Obviously, you can't verify that, Michael, but we can verify the routines. I'll keep looking."

"It's very nice here. I've never been here before."

"I've been here quite a few times. Usually alone, but some of the other girls came along a couple of times."

"We should come here more often. It makes a nice break in the day. Don't you think so?"

"Yes, I agree."


***

 

Patrick Parvell walked into his apartment.

"What happened to you this morning?" asked Margaret Parvell, looking up from her computer. "We were talking, and I looked up and you were gone. Two hours later you reappear."

"I thought we were finished talking," said Parvell, taking off his coat. "I was late getting out. Didn't I tell you that I had an appointment at noon?"

"No. But it's no problem, I just wondered what happened."

"Now I have to get busy on my monologue for tonight," he said, loosening his tie.

"You didn't attack Clinton Randolph, last night," she said. "Does that mean that you're letting up on him?" She was almost hoping he would say yes.

"Fat chance. I had too many mandatory topics last night. Mr. Randolph got a breather, but watch me tonight. As a matter of fact, I just got back from lunch with Willie Washington, and Clinton Randolph was the main topic of our conversation."

"Don't tell me. Let me guess. Willie Washington thinks your campaign against Clinton Randolph is motivated by revenge and he implored you to give it up."

"Hardly," said Parvell. "He thinks my campaign is brilliant. He gave me some ammunition to use against Randolph. Also, he told me that Alvin Walters is defending Randolph and denouncing those of us letting everyone know the truth about the SOB. Now, I'm going to attack Alvin Walters too."

"He didn't turn you down for an interview, did he?"

"You still don't understand, Margaret. That had nothing to do with it."

"Sure," she said, mockingly. "Don't you see that Willie Washington is using you to strike at Alvin Walters, who has done more good for blacks, by accident, than Willie Washington could ever do in a million years?"

"He didn't even ask me to attack Walters," said Parvell. "He just likes the idea of attacking Randolph and wants to help in any way he can."

"As long as there's no work involved, I assume," she said. "I doubt that he's done a day's work in his life."

"How can you talk that way about him, Margaret? Willie Washington is a great man. He's worked tirelessly to improve the lot of black people."

"I bet he worked tirelessly, meaning he never got tired, when he worked. Name one thing he or anyone like him has done to make life better for blacks. In what concrete way has he helped even one black person, excluding him and his family?"

"Why do you always have to have the details, Margaret, when everyone in the country knows what a champion the blacks have in Willie Washington?"

"That may be," said Margaret. "But, to the best of my knowledge, there's no real evidence to support such a belief. There is a lot of hearsay evidence, with Willie Washington providing most of it."

"You are the most negative person, when it comes to anyone with a little compassion," said Patrick Parvell. "I just spent two hours with the man, and I can tell you that he feels for the blacks in America. No one could want to do more for them than he does."

"During the Spanish Inquisition, a lot of the clerics felt for the heretics. But they burned them at the stake anyway. With all Willie Washington's 'feelings' and a dollar, you can get a cup of coffee, in a small town. Icarus wanted to fly. So did a lot of people before the Wright brothers. Wanting didn't get them off the ground. All the feeling and wanting in the world are worthless. Willie Washington's feeling and wanting are worse than worthless, because he makes a living from selling them. Five will get you ten that most of the money that he lives on from comes from the people he 'feels' for and 'yearns' to help. The only help they get from him is help getting poorer. On balance, he destroys much more than he helps, for he keeps a lot of people idle, waiting for someone to do for them what they might otherwise do for themselves. A lot, maybe most, of them are going to die waiting."

"My God, Margaret!" exclaimed Parvell. "You'd set the country back thirty or forty years, if you could."

"No, Pat. In some ways, I'd set it back two hundred years, if I could. In many ways, the country has gone downhill since it started."

"I have to go to work," said Parvell. He picked up his coat and left. She could hear him ranting and raving in the hall, while he waited for the elevator.

"Why do I do things like that?" she asked herself. 


***

 

WEDNESDAY - DAY 23

 

In his one-bedroom Manhattan apartment, on 55th Street, just off Fifth Avenue, Frank Norris was looking through the TV listings to see if there was anything worth watching, when the telephone rang.

"Norris," he said.

"Frank, this is Martin. Have you been wondering what happened to your Dupont lighter?"

"I sure have."

"I must have borrowed it and forgotten to return it. I was getting some clothes together to drop off at the cleaners, and when I went through the pockets, I found your lighter in a coat I haven't worn for some time. I'll put it in my briefcase. Remind me to give it to you."

"Thanks for letting me know. I almost bought a new one a few days ago, but I decided to wait a little longer, hoping it still might show up. Since I don't smoke any more, it isn't all that important. But it's impressive, when you light a girl's cigarette with a Dupont."

"I just wanted to let you know. I've got to run now. They have a big sale at Barnes and Noble, and I'm going to the big store at Fifth and Eighteenth. I love that place anyway. It's a perfect opportunity to pick up my Christmas presents. I'll give books to people I like. To those I don't like, I won't give anything. When Christmas comes, you'll see where you stand.

"You're buying Christmas presents now. I can't believe it."

"I buy when things are on sale. You're not going to get any good prices when you get near Christmas. Got to go. See you tomorrow."

This was a ruse they had used several times before. They had just set up a meeting at Barnes and Noble, as soon as possible. The part about the cigarette lighter was the signal and was also to conceal the true message, in case they were being monitored. That meant that Parker thought one or both of them might be under surveillance. Norris turned on his television. Into a tape deck, he inserted a two-hour tape of himself making occasional sounds and clearing his throat. He pressed the "PLAY" key. The first three minutes were silent. The tape deck had auto-reverse, so it would go on forever. This was something he had used in his work, to make people listening in on him think he was still at home, while he was out.

He went into the kitchen and said, loudly, "Damned garbage. It's full already. It seems like I throw out more stuff than I bring into the house." He opened the kitchen door and closed it loudly, waited about a minute and a half, opened the door, went out, and closed the door loudly. Anyone listening in would think he had taken the trash out and returned. He went down the hall to the stairs, went up two flights of stairs to the top floor, and took the elevator to the basement. He went out the back door. So that he would be able to get back in, he unlocked the bolt and packed the hole in the doorframe with crumpled newspaper, preventing the latch from catching. He walked down the alley and a few blocks away, where he hailed a cab.

The cab left him at Washington Square, and he walked all the way around it, to see if he could spot any surveillance. Seeing nothing, he walked up Fifth Avenue, to Barnes and Noble. He was surprised not to find Parker there. But the Barnes and Noble's Saleroom was a great place to wait. By the time Parker appeared beside him, he had selected five books.

"Let's go into the main store. I'll meet you in Poetry," said Parker, and he disappeared.

In front of the poetry section, they met again. "In case you were wondering what took me so long," said Parker, "I came straight here, got a couple of books and left. Anyone suspecting that we were setting up a meeting would think he was wrong."

"Great idea. What's going on?"

"I'm not exactly sure, but something stinks. I think our trip to the beach was something we wouldn't have touched with a ten-foot pole, if we had known the truth about it. Move on and I'll catch up with you in a minute."

Norris moved to an isolated corner, pulled out a book, and looked through it. Parker followed him. "I think the target was random. They put us out there and picked the first plane that passed directly over us. I ran checks on every passenger, even the crew. There were no questionable people, everyone was beyond reproach, and there were no last minute cancellations or ticket purchases."

A woman wandered into their corner. Parker left. A moment later, Norris caught up with him.

Parker continued. "Did you know that the very next day, the London Times carried a story that the plane was shot down by a missile, and they said that there was a recording of radar showing the missile approaching the plane, and of both missile and plane then vanishing from the screen?"

"Yes," said Norris. "I saw that on the Internet, but it wasn't in our papers. But that's hardly unusual."

"Wouldn't you think, that when an event is on every front page, and everyone wondering what happened, it was a bit strange that an actual recording of the incident wasn't mentioned in print or on the air? The FBI damn sure knows about the recording and has a copy of it. But, they're pushing a terrorist theory, meaning they're covering it up. There's more: Three days after the plane went down, the president proposed legislation to create a database of profiles of every person in the country. With terminals at every airport, every passenger's profile would be checked, and the computer would determine from the profile whether the passenger and his luggage would be searched. This is supposed to be to help prevent similar terrorist acts in the future."

"Are you serious? In this country they want to do something like that. It sounds like something Hermann Goerring would dream up."

"It's true. It was in the papers and on the news, but the spin was about how great it would be, because everybody would be so safe. But, get this; the legislation was drafted long before the plane went down. They were holding it, waiting for some terrorist act, so they could introduce it. They must have figured they would need the hysteria following a terrorist act to get away with something that far out. In reality, getting rid of terrorism is just an excuse to create a monstrous database, with a FBI dossier on every person in the country. You and I know that the FBI already has a dossier on one out of every ten Americans, or one out of every eight adults, and at least ninety percent of them are illegal. They just want to legalize it and to expand it to a hundred percent. Can you imagine a government having such a database?"

"Of course, I can," said Parker. "Anyone who saw any of those movies from the early forties, where the Gestapo slink around and ask everyone for their papers, can imagine it. What in Hell is going on, when our own government is worse than the Gestapo? That's a million times worse than shooting down a plane full of innocent Americans. You are suggesting that they shot the plane down to give them a terrorist act to help push this legislation through, aren't you?"

"It's conceivable," said Parker. "The polls were showing the President might not get reelected. He didn't have a lot of time. If they waited for terrorists to blow up a plane, it might not happen for years, if at all, and he might be out of office. The next president wouldn't be likely to support something like that. Hopefully, we'll never have another President that would. They had the bill introduced before the funerals were held. They wanted to get it at the peak of interest in the incident, or maybe they wanted to get it passed before somebody could suggest, or prove, it wasn't an act of terrorism. Besides, looking at some of the things this president is said to have done, it isn't hard to believe."

"It may not be hard to believe, but it's pretty hard to take, Martin. It would mean that we murdered 237 people, in cold blood."

"I know. Why else would they have us under surveillance?" asked Parker.

"What makes you think we might be under surveillance?" asked Norris.

"We would be able to testify as to what happened. We weren't in on it, and we might be upset, if we found out there was no legitimate reason. And," he paused, "last, but not least, I found two bugs in my apartment."

Norris felt a sinking feeling in his stomach, and he shuddered a little as a chill went through him. He knew the sensation. He had been in life threatening situations before. If they were bugging Martin, he would almost certainly be under surveillance too.

"We're in deep shit, Martin. What are we going to do?"

"Good question," said Parker. "I just thought you should know. Your place is probably bugged too."

"I just took it for granted, since you did the lighter thing, that you thought one of us could be bugged. I went through the paces to make them think that I'm at home, and then I worked my way here."

"I only hope that by looking into it I haven't put them onto me; I went to great lengths to hide my tracks," said Parker. "It could be routine, to see if they can trust us. But, if I have an accident, you can be sure it was no accident, and you'd better evaporate. There's a Dupont lighter in my briefcase, in case they look."

"We need to see if we can come up with a good strategy to protect our asses," said Norris. "Guys that just take off and improvise, as they go along, are asking to get caught. We had better do it in one hell of a hurry too. Let's get together-make it in the Museum of Modern Art-tomorrow-say 5:45. In the meantime, we can independently come up with as many ideas as possible. Tomorrow, we can pool our ideas. Between us, maybe we can come up with a plan."

"Sounds good to me," said Parker. "Museum of Modern Art at 5:45. If I'm right about this, heads would roll, were the story to come out. So, if they think there's a remote possibility that we might say anything, we are history. If they didn't mind wiping out a plane full of people, they damn sure wouldn't hesitate to eliminate us."

"I know," said Norris. "I know. Even if they have no reason to mistrust us, they may decide that it's too risky to leave anyone around that could ruin it for them."

 


CHAPTER 14

THURSDAY - DAY 24

 

 

The spring graduation ceremony at AUF had just ended. All around campus, outside the auditorium, were little clusters of conventionally dressed people, each with a graduate, in gown and mortarboard cap, at its center. One such cluster, composed of Mr. and Mrs. Morrison, Mr. and Mrs. Worth, and Jeremy, was centered about Emily Morrison. Mr. Morrison had taken pictures of Emily, alone and with every possible combination of the others. He now asked Jeremy to take pictures of Emily and him.

"If you had the price of every roll of film used here today, you could have a nice vacation," said Emily.

"Your father has probably used more than anyone else," said Mrs. Morrison.

"It's a special occasion," beamed Mr. Morrison. Emily was the first in his family to graduate from college, and he was happier than the Worths had ever seen him. "Well, Emily," he said, "why don't you get out of your gown, and we'll head for the French Quarter."

Emily's parents were taking her and the Worths to lunch to celebrate. They had told Emily to pick the place, and without hesitation, she had chosen the French Quarter, in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Forty-five minutes later, the six of them were seated around a table in the French Quarter. "This is an ideal place for lunch," said Jeremy. "You're inside, with air conditioning, yet, with the plants and glass all around and overhead, it seems like you're outside."

"I call it a luxury sidewalk cafe," said Emily.

When the waiter came to take their order for drinks, Mr. Worth said he wanted to buy a bottle of champagne, so they could drink to Emily and her success. They drank several toasts to Emily. The celebration was proceeding marvelously, when Mrs. Worth asked Emily if she planned to go for a master's degree.

"I don't know," said Emily, with a little hesitation. I had planned on it, but I could have a pretty good job, if I want. I haven't said anything to anyone, because I just found out yesterday afternoon, and we've all been so busy. Besides, I wanted to think about it a little first."

"Who is the job with?" asked Greg Morrison.

"USGS, the United States Geological Survey. Of the several locations available, unfortunately, none is close to home-not by a long shot." As Emily spoke, she noticed that Jeremy's mood seemed to turn from happy to somber.

"I suppose there are advantages to civil service," said Greg Morrison. "You almost have to shoot someone to lose your job; you get a lot of vacation and sick leave; and you can retire while you're young enough to enjoy it."

"What do you think of it, Jeremy," asked Mrs. Worth, who also had noticed the sobering effect of the announcement on Jeremy.

"I suppose it's up to Emily," said Jeremy. "I don't think it matters much what anyone else thinks."

"That's true, of course," said Mrs. Worth. "But, even though it is Emily's decision, it affects us all. We all would certainly miss you, Emily, if you went away. It's hard to even think about."

"I would miss everybody too," said Emily. "That's the main reason I wanted to think about it, before I even mentioned it."

The celebration never fully recovered. Although everyone tried to carry on as before, Emily's news had tainted the festive atmosphere. No one seemed to want her to leave. Emily even wondered if her father's remarks about the virtues of civil service hadn't been tinged with sarcasm. 


***

 

"How good to see you awake, at last," said Ed Clark.

"Hello, Ed," said Bob Adams, his voice weak. "I can't believe I was asleep for two weeks."

"You were in pretty bad shape," said Clark. "You were lucky to wake up at all."

"Luckier than Betty," said Adams.

"I'm really sorry about Betty," said Clark. "You know that she saved your life don't you?"

"No I don't. What do you mean?"

Clark took a deep breath. The words were hard to say, but Adams should hear them. "She fell on top of you and the weight of her body kept the blood from pumping out of the hole in your chest as fast as it would have otherwise. If she hadn't been laying on you, by the time I finally found you, you'd have been dead for hours.

"She and the baby," said Adams. "He made her heavier." He took a deep breath, then another. "It's pretty tough."

"I can imagine," said Clark.

"What's going on in the company?" asked Adams, wanting to change the subject.

"We did the Magellan presentation without you, and it went off without a hitch. They loved everything, just as it was."

"That's good," said Adams.

"They said that if you want to take a cruise to rest up, any trip you want is yours, from the Caribbean, to around the world, on the house."

"I appreciate that," said Adams, "but, right now, I don't want to go anyplace, except home and to work."

"I can get the house cleaned up for you," said Clark. "The police have released it."

"They were here earlier. They asked me a lot of questions. I told them all I remember is the flash of the gun. They don't have a clue or an idea, from what they said." He sighed. "I could be wrong, but I get the impression they don't give a damn."

"Strangely enough, I got the same impression. Just going through the motions, hoping nothing much turns up, so they won't have to work on it."

"Exactly," said Adams. "Don't bother cleaning up. I want to check it out myself. Don't forget I was a military police investigator, and I do give a damn."

"The guy from the gun shop called-apparently you gave him your work number-he wanted to know if you still wanted your pistol. I told him what happened, and he said he would hold it for you."

"You're damn right I want it," said Adams. "If it hadn't been for the waiting period, Betty might be alive and those murderers dead. The government is supposed to protect you. Instead, it sets you up for the crooks. I should say the other crooks, since those in the government are certainly guilty of aiding and abetting the criminals, and are therefore criminals too. By the way, Ed, would you do me a favor, while I wait to get out of here?"

"Name it."

"Would you see if you can track down my old commanding officer? His name is Gabriel Brooks. Last I heard, he was a Major, stationed at Fort Ord. I hope you can find him. I want to talk to him when I get out of here." Somehow he was going to get those two killers, if it was the last thing he ever did.

"I'll do my best."

 ***

 

"Go ahead, Ira," said Phil Matthews, "Tell them I'll be there in a minute." He picked up his telephone.

"This is Phil Matthews. How can I help you?"

"Do you work nationwide?" asked a feminine voice.

'Anywhere in the world," said Matthews.

"Mr. Matthews, we need a considerable amount of complete background investigation done-thirty-two people. Do you do that sort of work?"

"Yes, we certainly do. With whom am I speaking?"

"My name is Meredith Fitzgerald. I'm in New York City. Would you come to New York, or would I have to go to Miami?"

"We can go to New York, but you will have to give me some details before I decide that we would be interested."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Matthews, but I cannot discuss the objects of interest on the telephone. We would be glad to pay your expenses and fees for coming to New York to discuss it with us, whether you decide to accept the assignment or not."

"What about the 'we?"

"What do you mean?"

"I suppose I mean your organization. You said 'we' need background investigations."

"Oh, that. I work for the Committee for Truth in Government."

"Is that part of another organization or does it stand alone?"

"It's independent of any other organization."

"Are you the top person in the organization?"

"No."

"Who is?"

"Is that really necessary?"

"Is it something you prefer to hide?"

"Not at all. Our chairman is Chris Barclay."

"The son of William F. Barclay?"

"That's right."

"Very well. I'll go to New York and talk to you. If we take the job, the charge for the trip will be merely the expenses. If we don't, the charge will be seven hundred and fifty dollars, plus the expenses. Is that acceptable?"

"Quite."

"Good. When do you want to see me?"

"As soon as possible."

"How about Monday?"

"Monday would be fine."

"I'll turn you over to Frances. She will take down all the particulars. She will make my reservations and get back to you with my arrival time. Unless you want to give us a purchase order, and you check out with D and B, we will require the seven-fifty in advance. You can work that out with Frances. Hold on just a minute."

He put Meredith Fitzgerald on hold and called Frances and set it up with her. After hanging up, he went to the conference room where his colleagues were waiting.

"Does anyone know anything about Chris Barclay, son of William F. Barclay?" asked Matthews, as he sat down at the conference table.

"He's a Yale graduate," said Larson, "like his old man. Also Skull and Bones, like his old man."

"I used to wonder about William F. Barclay," said Ira Lincoln, "he would be on TV, supposedly espousing conservative causes, but with such weak and childish arguments, that I was always asking myself why, other than his vocabulary, was this man reputed to be an intellectual. I always suspected he was a con man-a shill for the liberals, pretending to be a leading conservative intellectual, but consistently managing to look like an ass with a large vocabulary. Now, he's converted, or he's dropped the pretense. Either way, he's taken up the Marxist themes and gone on the New World Order soapbox."

"My wife was talking about that sort of thing a few weeks ago," said Matthews. "Not Barclay specifically, but so many of the so-called conservative spokespersons. She called them leftist liberal wolves in conservative clothing. She thinks most of the conservatives they prop up on the TV talk shows are phonies, just to make the liberal viewpoint look good by comparison. They never come up with a reasonable comeback or argument. Marcy sits there, telling them what to say. And when they come out with some idiotic weak argument, she gets frustrated and turns them off."

"Actually," said Larson, "I think the whole conservative thing is phony. I have yet to hear a so-called conservative that isn't to the left of what used to be called the far left, as recently as the fifties. If a politician got up today and read one of Norman Thomas' old speeches, the media would be all over him, calling him a right wing extremist."

"Norman Thomas? Who is that?" asked Ira Lincoln.

"He ran for president several times, as a socialist, back in Roosevelt's day," said Larson. "Today he would be way to the right of William F. Barclay."

"I wouldn't be surprised if sonny's a chip off the old Barclay blockhead, since you say he's Skull and Bones," said Matthews. "He's the head of some 'Committee for Truth in Government' that wants us do 'background checks' on thirty-two people. I'm going to New York to talk to them Monday. It should be interesting. Since his dad used to work for the CIA, they may have told him about us. I can hardly wait to see what they're up to. Five will get you ten, it's shady, at best."


***

 

Jack Norris had been in the Museum of Modern Art for over an hour. If Parker wasn't here by now, he wasn't coming. He wondered what could have come up to make Parker miss this meeting. It would have to be something serious. Perhaps he was being followed and couldn't shake them. Maybe he was afraid that there were multiple tails, and he might lead them to his friend. Norris went home and sat wondering what he should do, when the telephone rang. He grabbed the telephone, thinking it would be Parker.

"Jack, it's Shirley."

"Hi, Shirley. What's up?" Shirley Anderson was the departmental secretary at the office. She had never called him at home.

"You haven't heard about Martin?"

"No. I just got home. What about Martin?" He braced himself. It wasn't going to be good news.

"He was in an accident earlier this evening. A car went out of control and ran up on the curb, killing Martin and two others. Three more are in the hospital. It was terrible."

He was silent. They had killed Martin. Would they come for him?

"Jack, are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm okay. I can't believe it. I talked to him three or four hours ago." He had stopped by Martin's office and by innuendo confirmed their meeting that night. Martin had nodded as he opened his briefcase and handed him a gold Dupont cigarette lighter.

"If it's hard for me, it must be a lot worse for you; after all, you worked with him for so long. Would you like some company? I could stop by."

"I appreciate that, Shirley. More than you can imagine. But, right now, I think I'd do better alone. Maybe-later on-I might need someone. Can I call you later, if I need to?"

"Of course, Jack. My number is 327-4493, and it's in the book."

"Thanks a lot, Shirley. I'll talk to you later," he said, and he hung up.

He sat staring into space. He pulled the lighter out of his pocket. Just a few hours ago, Martin had handed it to him. He ran his fingers over the gold. So many men had died for gold. What a thought. Death must be on his mind. He had better be thinking about avoiding death-his own.

"Earlier this evening," was what Shirley had said. If it was after she left for the day, how was it that she knew so soon? He needed to know what time the accident had occurred. A car plowing into a bunch of pedestrians could make it onto the news. It was eight o'clock. He set the alarm on his wristwatch for 9:55. He would check the ten o'clock news. In the meantime, he had better get busy.

He had to force himself not to let his imagination run away with him. Thoughts were racing through his mind. He was certain that Parker had been eliminated. He couldn't be sure that he was next, but it was a reasonable thing to expect. Parker had done all the digging. Somewhere in the process, he might have triggered something that put them onto him. It wasn't a forgone conclusion that he, too, was a target. His apartment was bugged. He had found the bug after meeting with Parker at Barnes and Noble. This reminded him that he should make some audible lament for them to hear. He went to his bar and got a bottle of soda water. He poured some soda water and lifted it saying, "Here's to you, Martin, old buddy, may you rest in peace." He could sip the soda and make an occasional remark about Martin, and they would think he was sitting there, drinking.

The odds were against him no matter which way he went. If they wanted to eliminate him, going about his business as though he suspected nothing would only make it easy for them. If they weren't planning to eliminate him, and he suddenly disappeared, he would instantly become a target.

After sixteen years in the CIA, he knew that loyalty was a one-way street. He was expected to be loyal to them, but he could never expect any loyalty from them. If he became a target, the entire agency would be against him. He knew that he was good-one of the best, if not the best in the agency. But he was only one person. He had to make a decision very quickly; and if he were going to vanish, he would have to do an extraordinary job. Fortunately, last night and today, he'd done a lot of thinking about different ways to escape.

He had been so caught up in his planning that the alarm startled him. It seemed impossible that it had been two hours. He turned on the television, and muted the audio. While waiting for the news to begin, he found a pair of headphones and plugged them into the television. The accident was the fifth story, right after the first commercial. The accident had happened at 5:35 only three blocks from the Museum. Martin must have been on his way to the Museum. Would they know that he had gone to the Museum? If so, they would suspect that Martin had been on his way to meet him. He had taken normal evasive action, but then, so, surely, had Martin, and he was dead.

Shirley usually left at five. Once she had left for the day, it was strange that she would know that Martin had been killed at five-thirty. She could have stayed late at the office, but it was unlikely that the police would have called the CIA before six o'clock, although it was possible. It was also possible that Shirley was being used to sound him out. She might not even know she was being used. They might have planned on just eavesdropping and seeing what they could deduce from what he said. He considered calling Shirley and having her come over. He might maneuver her into letting something slip. But, he reconsidered, fearing that his audience might notice his maneuvering of Shirley.

He couldn't take a chance on their just letting him off, because he knew that they couldn't take the chance that he might not have been working with Martin. Besides, with him out of the way, no eyewitness would exist. He disconnected the headphones and turned up the television, to cover any noise he would make. He packed a few things that he didn't want to leave behind. Removing an air-conditioner vent plate, he pried the fiberglass duct to one side and reached in through the opening and found a cord. He pulled the cord, and with every foot of the cord that came out, there was a white cloth bag, tied to it. When the cord ended he had twenty-four bags. After he had replaced the vent plate, he took the bags into the bedroom and threw them on the bed. From each bag, he took a stack of money. He lined the bottom of his suitcase with the money, and covered it with clothes, and a laptop computer. He took his desk-lamp apart and pulled a condom out of the flexible tube. He cut the condom open and shook a handful of large, flawless diamonds onto the desk, then reassembled the lamp.

Six years ago, in Wiesbaden, a CIA operative was killed. Norris had been sent to Germany to find out why. When he broke into the dead operative's apartment, he found the money. He stashed it in a locker, planning on turning it in. But, when he discovered that the operative had been involved in a diamond smuggling ring, he went back and searched again and found the diamonds, hidden in a lamp. He liked the idea of the lamp so much that he used it himself. Little by little, he deduced that the diamond smuggling ring was internal to the CIA. He had dropped the case instantly. He wouldn't last long if he got a group of CIA operatives set on getting rid of him. Besides, he didn't know who they were, or how high they went. He didn't turn in the money and the diamonds for fear that anyone he turned them in to, might be part of it. He merely said he couldn't find any clues as to who had killed the operative. He had hidden the money and the diamonds, in case of an emergency. In his business, you never knew when something would come up. Well, something had come up, and Norris was glad he had kept them. With a little luck, they might help him to stay alive.

He took three guns from his dresser drawer and several boxes of shells. One pistol, the CIA issued to him, the other two he had picked up along the way, in the line of duty. He put one in the suitcase and one in his belt. As he was about to put his Luger pistol in the back of his belt, he held it in front of him, looking at it for a moment? He had an idea. Sticking the Luger in his belt. He spent ten minutes looking for a hypodermic needle and syringe, finally finding it under the bathroom sink. He had intended to use it years ago, to put someone to sleep, but his plans changed and he kept it. He pocketed it, in case he decided to use his idea.

Now he had to get out. He assumed that he was under full surveillance. He put on his gloves and went through the take out the garbage routine and ran the suitcase down to the basement and hid it. He fixed the alley door so he could enter from outside. Then he quietly returned to his room, and called Shirley.

"Hi, Shirley, it's Frank Norris. Is it too late to call you?"

"Not at all, Frank. How are you doing?"

"As well as can be expected, I suppose. After all, like you said, I knew Martin better than anyone at the office. Look Shirley, I had a couple of drinks, after you told me about Martin, and I just realized I haven't eaten anything. How far away from my place do you live?"

"Not far. Why?"

"I thought maybe you could meet me somewhere for a bite to eat and some coffee. I'd really appreciate it, but I'll understand if you don't want to do it. It is pretty late."

"I'll be happy to join you, Frank."

"Do you know Branson's?"

"Of course, I do."

"Could you meet me there in-how soon would be convenient for you?"

"Twenty minutes."

"That's wonderful. I'll see you in twenty minutes. Thanks a million, Shirley. You're a doll."

He looked around the apartment. Nothing more that he couldn't do without. He picked up the Dupont lighter from the coffee table, left a couple of lamps on, and left. He made a point of looking a bit unsteady on his feet as he hailed a cab.

"Branson's," he said loudly, as he got in. Once the taxi pulled away, he said, "Here's ten for taking me to Branson's. I have a hundred-dollar bill. I'll tear it in half and give you half, if you'll wait for me at Branson's. I'm meeting a lady there; we may have to take her home-not far from here. Then I need for you to take me back to where you picked me up. I'll pay the standard fare and the charge for waiting, and I'll give you the other half of the hundred. What do you say?

"You got it buddy."

"Good. We'll probably be at least an hour. It will be better, if you take off and come back in an hour and wait for me. I'll still pay you for the hour."

"Whatever you say. You're the customer."

Shirley was waiting at Branson's. They took a table in a quiet corner. He took her hand in his and said, "I really appreciate this, Shirley. Somehow, I never pictured you as such a caring person. Obviously, I was wrong. It's really nice to find a really pretty girl who's got a lot more going for her than just good looks. I mean it."

"Why, thank you, Frank," she said. "That's sweet."

The waiter asked them if they wanted a drink. "How about it, Shirley?" he asked.

"I'll have a gimlet," she said.

"I'll have a Jim Beam and water," said Norris. He wondered if she was wired for sound. He doubted it. He didn't think they'd had enough time to wire her, but it was possible.

"Tell me something about yourself, Shirley. Let me see how much more I was missing."

She apparently liked to talk about herself. By the time the food came, he knew her life story. "You know, Shirley," he said, "since I've gotten to know you, you are really a very interesting person. I can't believe how much we have in common."

"You think so?"

"I know it's none of my business, and you certainly can tell me just that, but I would like to know if you're involved with anyone."

"Nothing serious," she said.

"How nice," he smiled. "I have just one question."

"What's that?"

"You've been working in the office for probably about three years. How is it that you were never like this until now?"

"I've always been the same," she said. “You just didn't notice, Frank."

"I can't believe it," he said. "I'm a trained observer. You were always just a secretary. But now you're-you're fascinating and appealing."

"You've had too much to drink, Frank," she said, blushing.

He noticed her blushing. She probably wasn't in on anything. Blushing is impossible to do on command. They may be using her, but it's without her knowledge. He was beginning to believe that she really was more than the bimbo he had thought her to be.

By the time he had finished his full meal and she her drink and a salad, and they both had coffee, she was starry-eyed. He really felt guilty about leading her on. But it is necessary.

When they walked out of the restaurant, the same cab was waiting. On the way to drop her off, he said, "Shirley, today's Thursday. I think I'll take tomorrow off. Tomorrow and the weekend. Would you tell them at the office?"

"Of course I will. Frank, do you want me to come home with you?"

"I'd love for you to, but I'm not in a very romantic mood, as I'm sure you understand. Let's wait a while, Shirley. Then, I'll show what it means to be romantic. Okay?"

"Of course, Frank."

"I would like to kiss you, if you don't mind."

"Mind. Are you kidding?" She put her arms around him. They were still locked in a kiss, when the driver told them they had arrived.

"Shirley, you are astounding," he said, with total sincerity. "Goodnight, I'll see you Monday," he said, with no sincerity at all.

She started to get out of the car. He pulled her back in. "Just one more," he said. When he let go of her, he said, "I'll never forget this night."

When she entered her building, he said to the driver. "Okay, let's go back to where you picked me up."

On the way, he handed the driver a fifty-dollar bill. "This should cover the fare, and here is the other half of the hundred. Would you like to make another hundred?"

"Hell, yes," said the driver.

Norris tore another hundred-dollar bill in two. "Here's half. When you leave, go around the block; and when you come down 58th, pull into the alley and wait for me behind my apartment building."

"I can't get arrested for any of this, can I?"

"You are doing nothing illegal," said Norris. "There is one thing. The trips to and from the restaurant can go on the books, but the pickup in the alley and all our conversations are off the record. Know what I mean?"

"You got it. I'll be there."

Norris got out of the cab and went up the elevator. On the way up the elevator, he took off his coat and rolled up his sleeve. He checked the hall. There was no one. Outside the door to his apartment, he drew a hypodermic full of blood from his arm. He buttoned his shirtsleeve and put his coat on. Using the hypodermic, he made a spotty trail of blood to the utility closet. Opening the closet, using a handkerchief to avoid leaving fingerprints, he made a spot of blood on the linoleum floor and smeared it. Then he made a trail of blood to the elevator. Inside the elevator, he smeared blood on the floor. Capping the hypodermic and pocketing it, he pulled his Luger and went back to his apartment door. He unlocked the door, leaving it closed with the key in the lock, and he fired the Luger into the doorframe. He threw himself against the door, and then ran down the hall. He fired once more into the bucket of sand sitting beside the elevator as an ashtray. He put on his gloves, fished the bullet out of the sand, and ran down the stairs to the basement, grabbed the suitcase and went over to the back door. He hadn't had to come in from the outside so he had better take the paper out of the hole in the door. He unlocked a basement window and went out the door. He kicked in the window to make it look as though someone had gone in through the window.

He threw the suitcase into the waiting cab and got in. They would know he went in the building, and they knew he didn't go into the apartment, and they had heard the gunshots and him smashing into the door. They would talk about it for a few seconds and decide to investigate. He was sure they would check it out immediately. "Here's the rest of your hundred," he told the taxi driver. "Just take off and we'll talk about where to go after we're down the road a bit."

With any luck they would go to the apartment, see the key in the lock with the door still locked, look inside, and finding nothing, would look back in the hall and find the blood drops leading to the closet, and from there to the elevator. Hopefully, they would think someone had shot him and hidden him in the closet until they went in the apartment, then, while they were in the apartment, carried him to the elevator and escaped. It wasn't a foolproof scenario, but it was a shot. They would have recorded two gunshots. They would find the nine-millimeter bullet in the doorframe, but not the one in the sand. Therefore, they would think the second bullet was in him. They would check the blood and know it was his.

"When they were a few blocks away, he asked the driver, "What time do you normally get off?"

"Midnight. Why?"

"It's already twelve-thirty. Will anyone think it unusual for you to work overtime?"

"If I get flagged down on the way in, I always take it. I need the money. Nobody will think anything."

"Do you have a car of your own?"

"More or less. It's nine years old and has 93,000 miles on it. But it runs good."

"How'd you like to take a fare on your own, in your own car?"

"How far?"

"Three hundred miles. I'll give you three hundred dollars, as long as no one ever knows about it."

"Knows about what?"

"Good. You are a good man. Do you have a telephone?"

"Yeah. I got a phone. Why?"

"I'd like to have your phone number. I never know when I might need a good man. I would like to be able to find you, if I ever need you again. You don't have to give it to me, if you don't want to."

"577-9324. Ask for Sol."

"I got your name off the certificate already," said Norris, Writing "690-0558, on a paper in his wallet, and beside it "O Sole Mio." He had added 123 to the first three numbers and 1234 to the next four numbers. From the name of the song, he would remember Sol. It was highly unlikely that he would ever need Sol, but he couldn't predict his future with any accuracy, at this time.

Forty-five minutes later, Norris was in the passenger's seat of a nine year old car, with 93,000 miles on it, driving into what he hoped was total obscurity.


 

CHAPTER 15

FRIDAY - DAY 25

 

 

Frank Norris was in Salem, Massachusetts, sitting in a diner, drinking coffee, and going through the classified advertisements for used cars, waiting for it to be eight o'clock. He had a dozen advertisements marked. Two said to call after six o'clock in the evening. They were working people; he would call now and try to catch them before they went to work. The second one answered.

"Hello, this is Chris Watkins, I'm calling about the Grand Marquis you advertised for sale. Is it still available? Good. When could I see it? That's too bad. I absolutely must have a car today. I was hoping to see yours, because I had one like it once, and I really loved that car. You couldn't let me see it this morning, before you go to work, could you? If I like it, I'll pay you cash on the spot. Great. The only thing is, I don't have a car. I'm at Fred's Diner on Franklin. Is that close to you? Six miles. If you could drive by here-. I understand that, but, if it's in halfway decent shape, mechanically, I'll take it, and I'll throw in another fifty. I really need a car today. I can drive you back to your house and you can get your new car. Great, I'll be standing outside the diner, with a suitcase in my hand."

Norris finished his coffee and paid. He waited outside. He was tired, and he had a long day ahead of him. Sol, the taxi driver, had taken him from Manhattan to Boston Airport, where he had purchased a ticket to London. Then he had Sol drive him to Salem, just north of Boston, and drop him at the diner. When Norris gave him four hundred dollars, instead of the three he had expected, he was ecstatic. He gave Norris his name, address, and telephone numbers at work and at home and said that he would help him anytime.

Norris recognized the Grand Marquis a block away. He'd really had one like it, but that was eight years ago. But the advertisement said it was in excellent mechanical condition. The car pulled up to the curb. The driver, a lean-faced man, in his sixties, wearing steel-rimmed glasses, leaned over and rolled down the window. "You Chris Watkins?"

"That's me," said Norris. "Looks pretty good. You must have taken good care of it."

"You betcha, sonny. Oil change every three thousand miles. Never went over the speed limit."

"I like a man who appreciates a car," said Norris. "How about a ride around the block?"

The man got out and stood beside the car. "You want to drive her? I'd think so, if you're thinking of buying her."

"Fine," said Norris. "I'll put my suitcase in the back seat."

The car accelerated smoothly enough. Norris was surprised by the car's condition. The car only had 57,000 miles on it. It had a full tank of gas. He wouldn't have to stop for quite a while. "Purrs like a kitten," he said. On the back street, he checked the brakes. When they completed the circle around the block, he pulled into the diner's parking lot.

"Just let me look under the hood," he said. It was clean inside and out. The tires were good. This was his lucky day, he was thinking. The very first car, the guy brings it to him, and it looks like a bon-bon.

"I'll take it," he said. "Do you have the title with you?"

"It's at home, but we have to go there anyway, for me to get my new car."

"Let's go then," said Norris. "You drive. You know the way."

When they pulled into the driveway, Norris saw a car that was six or seven years old. "Just out of curiosity," he said, "why did you buy that car when this one is in such good shape?

"Oh, I didn't buy it, sonny. It was my mother's car. She passed away recently. I thought I'd keep hers and sell mine. That car is really like new, it only has a little over 12,000 miles on it."

"I can see where you inherited your attitude toward cars from," said Norris.

The older man took Norris inside, and told him to have a seat, while he got the title. Norris paid him and he signed the title. "Thanks a lot, sonny."

Norris looked at the name on the title. "Mr. Thomas, I hope you don't mind my saying this, but you are too trusting. Fortunately, I'm an honest man, but you brought me right into your house, without knowing me at all. Someone else might have knocked you over the head, cleaned out your house and taken the car for nothing. You really should be more careful."

"I guess you're right, sonny," said Mr. Thomas. "I grew up in a small country town and never got over it. I have several friends that have been robbed, too. I'll take your advice and thank you for it."

Norris had intended to buy a clunker and drive it to Providence, leave it parked at the port, and then take a bus. If they ever traced him to the car, they would think he left on a ship. Since he had been in the town for so long, he thought he should leave one more red herring, but this car was in good condition. Besides, in those years, the Grand Marquis was the best-selling car in the country, so there were still a lot of them around. That meant they didn't attract attention. People wouldn't remember seeing it. He drove around town and saw a used car lot with some old clunkers. He parked a few blocks away, and walked to the lot and bought an eight hundred dollar junk heap. He told the salesman several times that he hoped the car would make it to Montreal. He said he had relatives in Montreal. All in all, he thought he had mentioned Montreal thirty times. If they ever traced him to the car and the car to the dealer, he would probably remember that he was going to Montreal. He drove the clunker to Providence, Rhode Island, and left it near the port, then took a bus back to Salem and picked up his car. He drove to Pittsburgh and spent the night. The next day he went to Cambridge, Ohio, and in a state park, just outside of town, he rented a cabin surrounded by woods. He would stay there a couple of days to rest, gather his forces, and make some plans.

 


***

 

Randolph finished his morning soy shake and was waiting for Arthur to bring his coffee. He picked up the telephone and punched in a number. "Jeremy, can you come up to the penthouse for a few minutes? Good. Would you like some coffee? I'll have Arthur bring another cup."

Randolph went out into the foyer to the elevator and unlocked the switch, so Jeremy could come up without a magnetic coded key and combination. He waited a minute, and the elevator door opened. "Good morning, Jeremy." He locked the switch again. "Come on in."

"Good morning, Mr. Randolph," said Jeremy following Randolph into the dining room."

"Sit here on this side with me," said Randolph. "You might as well enjoy the view. He handed Jeremy a slip of paper. On the paper, he had written. "DON'T SAY ANYTHING UNTIL YOU HAVE READ ALL THIS NOTE. My apartment is bugged. I am going to act as though I am giving you an assignment to look for a resort for me. Just as I told you, we will use a dummy project as a cover. If you understand this, nod."

Jeremy nodded.

"I brought you up here, Jeremy," said Randolph, "to give you a rather important assignment. I have considerable confidence in you, as the assignment will show. I brought you up here because your assignment is confidential, and I think it's more secure up here. You never know about industrial espionage these days. For some time, I've toyed with the idea of setting up a resort, someplace off the beaten path. Actually, it's as much for me, personally, as for any other purpose. I need to relax more often, for my general well-being. I want you to perform a search for me, and locate a few candidates. If, you find a hospitable, isolated place, but there are no resorts, and the business environment is acceptable, I won't rule out starting from scratch. Are you with me so far?"

"Yes, sir."

"The first step is to make up a list of characteristics that you think would make a country acceptable, government, taxes, climate, safety, etc. When you have that list ready, bring it to me and I'll review it and see if I can think of any additional items. Then you can start the search. You won't let anyone know you are connected with me, or the price will go up instantly. You can also work on a cover story for your interest in the resorts, such as: You have inherited a sum of money and want to drop out of the rat race. You can look on the Internet and through conventional channels. You need to have your own Internet service provider, so it can't be linked to Randolph Enterprises. Do you have one?"

"Yes, I do."

"Just in case, you should get another one. Get a virtual domain account far away and forward the e-mail to your current one. Then, when you want to contact someone, just log on with Telnet and send your e-mail from the remote site. Do you know how to do all that?"

"I'm afraid not, sir."

"I would send you to someone in the company, but that would be too risky. When you have the account, I'll show you enough in five minutes for you to get by. Any questions?"

"How much away from civilization do you want to be?"

"Good question. I need essential communications with the rest of the world, that means telephone service, capable of data communication at 9600 baud or better, preferably better. I have to be able to get there without too much trouble. That means an airport somewhere in the country, not more than a day's travel from the resort. It would be nice if we could get to a hospital by helicopter before bleeding to death. You can see the idea. Not life endangering, not so difficult to get to that it discourages going, and not entirely out of contact."

"How about price range?"

"Quite open. Too much is a function of value, not of price. I'd not let price be a concern."

"I think I can go from here," said Jeremy.

"Good. I guess that will be all for now. Bring me a first draft list of characteristics, as soon as you can. Thanks, Jeremy."

Good-bye, Mr. Randolph."

Good-bye, Jeremy."


***

 

Randolph stopped by Alicia's desk. "Alicia, I'd like for you to find a hundred and seventy-five copies of a book: The Sovereign Individual, by James Dale Davidson. Put six in our library; give one to Jeremy; send six to each division library; and send one to everyone on the distribution list for that letter I dictated, a few days ago, about the Mastermind. On those, attach a little note that it is a 'must read,' from me. There will be about twenty left over. Just store them. I'll probably think of more people. Oh yes, send one to Stacey Morgan, at Morgan Shipyards."

"Yes sir. Is this urgent? It might take some time to get a hundred and seventy-five copies."

"The ones for the libraries are not as urgent. Use overnight shipping. If you can't get them from the publisher, try the major bookstore chains and the Internet. If you have any problems, let me know."

"Yes, sir."

"Anything for me?"

"Some attorneys sent some documents related to Florida Nucleonics."

"Great," said Randolph. "Where are they?"

"In your in-basket, sir," said Alicia. "Along with two copies.

"Thanks, Alicia," said Randolph.

Randolph skimmed through the first drafts of documents for his acquisition of Florida Nucleonics. After this cursory review, he would then examine them in detail. Randolph always made two copies of any important documents. Even though his own lawyers, in concert with those of Florida Nucleonics, had written these documents, he would review one copy and mark anything of concern. The second copy, he would send to a second set of lawyers and ask them to do the same. He would then contrast the lawyer's review with his own. With two independent reviews, he had a better chance of catching any problems. On a major transaction, he might have numerous independent reviews. If he found a significant problem that went unnoticed by a firm's lawyers, that law firm's prospects for future business from him were likely to be adversely affected. There was a buzz from the intercom; Alicia told him that Jeremy wanted to see him.

"Send him in"

"Come in, Jeremy. It's okay. There are no bugs here. You did a good job upstairs. About the resort, I really would like one, if possible. Now you can search the world over, shopping for a resort. Now, how's the list coming?"

"I have a report for you," said Jeremy, offering Randolph a blue folder. "First I've listed every country that there is. I eliminated many for obvious reasons, which are mentioned beside each country eliminated. In a second section, the remaining countries are considered in more detail. Again, many were eliminated, with the reasons stated. Then, in section three, I did a much more thorough analysis, and whittled the list down to thirteen. On these, I went through everything I could find, skimming of course, due to the time pressure. In section four, I have outlines on seven, which I call possibles. And in the last section, section five, are full reports on the top four, which I call candidates.”

"Excellent," said Randolph, "A thorough, logical approach. While I'm reviewing this, I'd like for you to start looking for resorts for sale in the last seven countries. What I said upstairs is a good strategy. Do open a virtual domain account outside the country, Just search on virtual domain, and you'll find a list of providers. I use ZuperbNet, in British Columbia. I've been happy with them. I have been told that they are unable to periodically charge your bill to your credit card. That worries me. If they can't handle something that trivial, they may be flaky in other more important areas. If you find a better one, let me know."

"Okay, I take care of it."

"If you're with an on-line service, get a local shell-account and use DOS and a communications program like Telix. It's more work, but I don't like using the major browsers for anything confidential. I'm not too sure how much of your activity history they make available to any savvy server you might log onto. Also, if you're working in DOS, there is no background mode for surreptitious entry into your computer. The on-line services read your e-mail, keep track of what you do on the Internet, and they generate a profile of you and sell it to everyone. God only knows what else they do. Forward your e-mail addresses in your virtual domain to your shell-account e-mail address. Send your confidential e-mail from the virtual domain. All responses will go to your shell account. Pay for it yourself and put in for reimbursement. We truly don't want anyone to know that Randolph Enterprises is looking for a resort, or the prices will go up. Any problems?"

"None so far," said Jeremy.

"This is the end of your second week with us, Jeremy. I've been working you pretty hard. How do you like it so far?"

"Mr. Randolph, maybe I shouldn't say this," said Jeremy," but I like it so much, that if I didn't need the money, I would do it for nothing."

"I know just how you feel," said Randolph. "I don't need the money. I couldn't begin to spend the money I have. So, in a way, you could say I do it for nothing. But they and you would be wrong. If you look a little deeper, you'll see that we wouldn't really be doing it for nothing, but for the pleasure we get from what we do, which is certainly something. If you can make a comfortable living doing something you would do just for pleasure, you're rich. Any additional money that comes along is nice, but unnecessary. But, it is wise to love doing something that you can make money at. By the way, Jeremy, do you have a passport?"

"Yes, I got one when I went to Cancun with my parents."

"Good. You may need it soon. You'll probably be visiting some of these countries, very soon. Nothing keeping you from traveling is there? Is your father doing better?"

"He seems to be doing pretty good," said Jeremy. "There's no reason that I couldn't go."

"The girl friend that went to Key West with you, is there any chance you might take her with you? I don't mean to pry into your private life, but I was thinking that a couple on a pleasure trip would attract less attention."

"I don't know if she would go or not," said Jeremy, a little embarrassed. "She isn't my girlfriend; she's a friend, who happens to be a girl. Her name is Emily Morrison. We've been next-door neighbors almost our whole lives. I think she's my best friend."

"Is she smart?"

"Oh yes. She just graduated from AUF with a BS in Ocean Engineering, and a 3.7 grade point average."

"Not bad, at all," said Randolph. "Is she pretty?"

"Very."

"A pretty girl with a 3.7 GPA in a tough major. She must be a bookworm or what you call a nerd."

"Oh no," said Jeremy. "She's hardly a nerd. She has a great personality. She's a very popular girl. She belonged to all kinds of student organizations. She's a fantastic musician to; she played the saxophone in band and orchestra; she's quite a pianist; and she sings like an angel."

"I take it you consider her trustworthy."

"Completely."

"If she were able to go with you, do you think she would keep it to herself, if she knew what you were doing?"

"Absolutely," said Jeremy. "I've told her everything all my life, except the confidential things here at work, of course."

"If you think she could be of some help to you on this trip, I'd be happy to put her on temporarily as a consultant. You are going to have a lot of things to cover in much too little time. You would do well to have someone to help you. Especially someone intelligent, industrious, and trustworthy. Obviously you get along with her, and that's important too. Would you consider taking her along when you go?"

"Consider it," beamed Jeremy. "I'd love it. I'm sure she would too. There is a possibility she might not be able to go. She is thinking over a job offer from the USGS. If she takes it, she'll be leaving the area."

"We can't have that now, can we?" said Randolph. "Maybe we can talk her out of it. I think I'd like to meet her before sending her on such a sensitive mission. See if you can arrange for the three of us to go to dinner tonight. Somewhere not too far for you. Do you know Cap's Place?"

"Surely. It's on an island in the Intracoastal in Pompano."

"Unless, of course, you have other plans. I'm sorry I forgot to ask. When I get on a roll, I can roll over people."

"No, I don't have anything planned. Even if I did, I'd cancel it for this."

"Why don't you go see if you can get Miss Morrison there by seven-thirty? Give Alicia a call and let her know if I have a dinner date at seven-thirty. Okay?"

"Yes, sir," said Jeremy. "And thanks."

"Thank you, Jeremy."

Back in his office, Jeremy listened to the first ring of Emily's telephone, then the second one.

"Be there, Emily," he said under his breath. "Be there."

"Hello, Mrs. Morrison, it's Jeremy. How are you? Good. Is Emily there?"

"Hello Emily, it's Jeremy"

"Hi, Jeremy," she answered. "What's up?"

"Emily, are you free tonight?"

"As far as I know, what do you have in mind?"

"Could you go to Cap's Place with me at seven-thirty?"

"I'd love to," she said.

Somehow he knew she was smiling. Her voice sounded like she was smiling. "Just one thing, Emily. Clinton Randolph will be there too. I was telling him about you and he wants to meet you."

"Really. You're not trying to fix me up, are you, Jeremy?"

Jeremy laughed out loud. "Are you kidding? No. I guess I made you sound so good that he wants to see if anyone can really be that great. I think he might want you to do a job for his company."

"That's great, Jeremy. I thought you were asking me for a date, but I'll settle for meeting Clinton Randolph."

"Great. I'll see you about seven then."

He started to call Alicia's extension number, but stopped short. It was funny that Emily would think he was asking her for a date. But it must have sounded like that, until he had told her about Randolph. So, she had thought he was asking her for a date, and she had said yes. Wasn't that interesting.

He walked to Alicia's desk. "Alicia, could you tell Mr. Randolph that he has a seven-thirty dinner engagement?"

"Certainly, Mr. Worth."

"Thanks."

 

 

At six o'clock, Randolph went up his private elevator from his office to the penthouse. He showered and dressed, put on a CD of Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben, and sat on the terrace, listening to the music and looking out over the bay. He never tired of the view.

He noticed the boat sitting just offshore in front of the Randolph Building. It was about thirty feet long, and it looked like the same boat that had been there the other night when he had dinner with Elman and Foster. He went inside and got his binoculars. It occurred to him that perhaps it was better that they don't see him seeing them. He went down to the third floor and stood by the window looking through the foliage of a potted plant. The cabin door was shut, and there was no one in sight. Maybe there was no one aboard. Maybe they were in the cabin. He made a note of the license number on the side of the bow. If it were there again, he would recognize it.

 

 

At seven-fifteen, Randolph parked his car across the street from a small dock. He walked over to a yellow water-taxi, moored at the dock. "Can you take me to Cap's Place?" he asked the gray-haired man in the water-taxi.

"Hop in," said the man.

Randolph stepped in, and sat down. The man eased the throttle forward, and the boat chugged out into the canal, and toward the Intracoastal Waterway.

A few minutes later, Randolph was climbing out of the water-taxi, onto the dock at Cap's Place. Cap's Place is on a small island in the Intracoastal Waterway near Lighthouse Point, a section of Pompano Beach. During Prohibition, the island was allegedly a haven for rumrunners. Now it is home to a popular, rustic restaurant, accessible by boat or water taxi. Randolph noticed several boats moored at the restaurant's dock. On a Friday evening the restaurant would probably be busy. He walked the two hundred feet from the dock to the restaurant, which looked like a rambling old frame house, converted into a restaurant.

Jeremy and Emily were inside, at the bar. As Randolph approached, Jeremy saw him and stood up. "Mr. Randolph, I'd like for you to meet Emily Morrison. Emily, Clinton Randolph."

"Miss Morrison, it's a pleasure to meet you. Please sit down, Jeremy."

"I'm glad to meet you, Mr. Randolph. I've heard a lot about you."

"I've heard quite a bit about you," said Randolph.

"The table should be ready shortly, so they say," said Jeremy.

"No hurry," said Randolph. The bartender came over. "A Bombay martini, up, with an olive." Turning back to Emily. "So this is the young lady of whom you spoke in such glowing terms, Jeremy. Did you come in a boat, Miss Morrison, or did you walk over."

"What did you tell him about me, Jeremy?" asked Emily, blushing profusely.

"Not much," said Jeremy. He was a little off guard. Just when he thought he was getting to know Randolph, he did something unexpected.

"Let's see," said Randolph. "I know you've been Jeremy's neighbor and friend for almost as long as he can remember; you're an Ocean Engineering major, just graduated from AUF, with a 3.7 GPA; you have a great personality; you're very pretty and very popular; you're a fantastic musician: both a virtuoso on the saxophone, which you played in the band and an orchestra, and a great pianist; you're extremely trustworthy; and you are considering leaving the area to take a job with the USGS, but, if you do, I think you will make someone very sad."

How could he remember it all, in such detail, Jeremy wondered. Did he indicate that he would be sad, when he had said Emily might leave? He looked at Emily. He didn't know quite what to say.

"I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, Jeremy," said Randolph. "My understanding was that you two were so close, after knowing each other for so many years, that you just poured out everything to each other. Please forgive me, if I've been indelicate."

"That's all right," said Jeremy.

"No problem," said Emily. "I'm a little surprised that you know so much about me, when Jeremy has only been with your company two weeks."

"Actually," said Randolph, "He just told me all that a few hours ago. It's still fresh in my mind."

"Randolph. Party of three. Randolph. Party of three," said a voice on the public address system. It interrupted the discussion and gave Jeremy a chance to take a few breaths.

Over the dessert, Emily said, "Well, Mr. Randolph, I'm sure that, by now, you know a lot more about me than many of my relatives. I've told you about my education, my family life, my hobbies, my taste in music, literature, and food, my political thoughts, and more. Jeremy said you might want to talk to me about doing something for your company. I assume all this has something to do with that."

"It does," said Randolph. "Before I divulge my thinking on that, can you tell me where you stand on your decision regarding the USGS?"

"I'm ambivalent about it," she said. "There are advantages, in benefits and security, but being bogged down in bureaucracy and doing busy work could be disheartening. I might prefer to go for my Masters."

"Will you give me your word not to repeat anything I'm going to tell you tonight?" asked Randolph.

"Of course," said Emily.

"As you know," he began, "Jeremy started two weeks ago, as my special assistant. He'll have some extremely important and highly confidential assignments. I'm afraid the workload is going to be too much for one person. Also, there is going to be a certain amount of travel required. I knew that you had gone with Jeremy to Key West, so I asked Jeremy about you, on the chance that you might be qualified. I think you probably are, at least academically. From what I've seen tonight and what Jeremy told me, you could be an asset to our group. If you're interested, I was thinking of you and Jeremy as a team. While traveling, you and he might attract less attention than Jeremy alone. I did a little indirect interviewing, as you say. I particularly wanted to verify your computer literacy, which is going to be a must. If you want, you can join us for the summer, and then decide if you wish to stay. If you stay, as I feel you would, you could go for your master's at company expense, possibly on company time, workload permitting. Before I tell you any more, how do you feel about it so far?"

"Overwhelmed," said Emily. "You don't fool around, do you?"

"I try not to," said Randolph. "Your salary, by the way would be the same as Jeremy's."

"I can't deny I'm interested," said Emily. "Who wouldn't be? What would I be doing?"

"I'd rather wait until we have more privacy," said Randolph. "When we finish here, we can go sit on the end of the dock and talk for a few minutes, before we take the water-taxi back and say goodnight."

 

When Jeremy and Emily pulled into the Worth's driveway, Emily leaned back in her seat, with her arms spread in the air. "Wow, Jeremy. Your boss is something else. When you told me that he was the most intelligent man who ever lived, I was expecting some bookish, nerd. Far from it. What will my mom and dad say? I go out to dinner and come home with a job, and I have to start planning what to pack to go all over the world. Are we awake? Is this a dream?"

"That's the way I've felt every day since I met Mr. Randolph," he said. "The days fly by. It's one exciting thing after another. I suppose it will get a little less overwhelming, once I've gotten used to it. But I don't know how long that might take. I think we've gotten in on something very big, Emily. I sense we are only seeing a tiny piece of something much bigger. I could be wrong, but I don't believe so. Anyway, I'm so glad you took the job."

She looked at him. "Would you really have been sad if I left, or did Mr. Randolph imagine that?"

"I don't think he imagines very much," said Jeremy.

"Well, you won't have to be sad now," she said. "You may get sick of seeing so much of me."

"I don't think so."

"Wish me luck," she said, as she opened the car door. "I have to tell my parents all about my new job without telling them what I will really be doing."

"You can do it without lying. I did. You just leave out some things, but everything you do tell them is true. Just say you are Mr. Randolph's special assistant and that you have to travel a lot to find a resort for him to buy. That's all true. By the way, don't forget to get your passport right away."

"Good idea. I really don't want to lie to my parents. I won't have to. At least, not technically." She put her hand on his arm. "Thanks Jeremy, for everything, for telling him nice things about me, and for not wanting me to go away."

"I only told him the truth, the way I see it."

"Well, thanks for seeing it that way." She got out of the car. "Call me in the morning and find out how it went with Mom and Dad. You have to fill me in on where you are and what we're doing."

"We've got a week. I thought you would be starting this Monday."

"I couldn't start that soon. My parents have to get used to it, and so do I. If he had insisted, I would have, but he didn't. I'll talk to you tomorrow." She walked toward her house. He watched her.

"Oh, Jeremy," she called from her front door, "that last question he asked, when we got off the water-taxi, 'What form of government is America supposed to have?' What was that all about?"

"It's nothing," said Jeremy. "Just a private joke. You gave the right answer: republican with a small "r". I'll explain it tomorrow." 

 

 

SATURDAY - DAY 26

 

The next morning, Randolph went out on the terrace for breakfast. The boat was still there. If the people spying on him were on the boat, they weren't too bright. If he were doing the surveillance, he would at least switch boats and move them around, and have someone fishing or partying, to give the boat a reason to be there. He assumed they had receivers and some recording equipment on board, but what if they had laser microphones aimed it at his office window. He made a mental note to do something Monday to protect his office from laser microphones.

After breakfast, he called his parents and told them to expect him shortly. He usually saw them on Saturday or Sunday. Moreover, he wanted to see how the building was going.

 

"Has the noise been very bad?" Randolph asked his parents, referring to the bustle of the builders.

"Not unbearable," said his mother.

"We have spent a lot more time visiting friends and eating out than we usually do," his father, with a laugh. "But, we understand the need for the construction."

"I want to see how it's going," said Randolph.

The three of them went outside and walked over to the building site. The foundation was in, and the walls were four feet high.

"Hello, Mr. Randolph. Thank you for the job."

Randolph looked up and saw Fred Nelson standing behind the wall.

"Hello, Mr. Nelson. I hope you like working for us."

"So far, it's very good," said Nelson. "I really appreciate the opportunity."

"I appreciate your good work, Mr. Nelson. Thank you for joining us.

They walked around the site.

"There isn't much to see," said Randolph.

"Considering what a short time it's been, there's a lot," said Barry Randolph.

"I know," said Randolph. "I'm just anxious to get it done."


CHAPTER 16

MONDAY - DAY 28

 

 

As his cab drove away, Phil Matthews looked up at the building in front of him. It was certainly not what he expected. It looked like an office building for people wanting to start a business on a shoestring and needing an office for a mailing address. He found the office number in the small directory on the wall.

When he knocked on the door with the number 402, and a cheap, engraved, plastic sign that said Committee for Truth in Government. A woman, probably in her mid-forties, opened the door.

"Mr. Matthews," she said as a question.

"Yes, I'm Matthews."

"I'm Meredith Fitzgerald," she said, "Come in and have a seat. She motioned to a chair beside the desk, and she sat down behind the desk. Apart from the desk and the two chairs, there was nothing but a filing cabinet in the room. There were no papers on the desk, no calendar, no computer-nothing. He guessed that there was nothing in the filing cabinet.

"I appreciate you coming all the way up here, to talk to me, Mr. Matthews."

"Your mention of thirty-some in-depth background checks was most interesting," he said. He saw no reason to mention the seven hundred and fifty dollars that she had wired to SIA.

"Yes, of course. As you might surmise, from our title, we are interested in any illegalities committed by politicians. We get tips from those professing to know of such matters, and we try to run them down. So far, we have been contracting investigators to do that for us. Recently, we had some serious disagreements with the group that was handling this work for us, and as you were so highly recommended, we were hoping you would take over some of our investigations for us."

"I see," said Matthews. "Who recommended us?"

"To tell the truth, I don't know," she said. "Our president told me that you were highly recommended, but didn't say by whom."

"That's all right. It's just that I like to thank anyone who recommends us. So you have a current list of the people whom you want investigated. Is that right?"

"Yes," she said. "I thought you might start with a smaller number and let us see how you perform."

"That's sensible," he said. "Could I see the list you wish me to work with?"

"First, I need for you to sign a non-disclosure agreement," she said. She opened a drawer and took out a manila folder. From the folder, she took a single sheet, and handed it to him.

After reading the sheet carefully, he signed it and handed it back to her. She then opened the folder and gave him a list of five names.

"Everyone on this list is a Senator," he said, with as little surprise as he could manage.

"That's true," she said.

"What are you looking for?" he asked.

"We're interested in knowing of anything they are doing, or have done, that is illegal, unethical, or immoral."

He tried to write a note on the list and made it look as though his pen was out of ink. "Darned pen is out of ink," he said. Do you have one I could borrow?"

She picked up her purse, from beside her chair, and rummaged through it for a pen, and handed it to him.

"Thanks," he said. He wrote the words, "illegal," "unethical," and "immoral," across the top of the list. "We charge sixty an hour, plus expenses, with a five hundred minimum," he said.

"No problem," she said. "We're well funded."

I bet you are, he said to himself. "If we don't come up with something before a predetermined amount is spent, we'll want to let you know, and find out if you want to continue or not. Do you have a preference about the level of expenditure at which you want to be notified?"

"I don't know how long you might expect something like this to take," she said. "What level would you recommend?"

"In a way, it depends on how bad you wish to get something on them. I would think one or two thousand per person."

"Okay," she said. "Two thousand a person. When will you start?"

"We can start this week," said Matthews. "There is one other thing-how do I know you are who you say you are, and not someone who rented an office and stuck a sign on the door?

She was obviously caught off guard by the question. "What kind of evidence would you want?"

"A couple of references or the name of your bank would probably do."

She appeared to be thinking over his request.

"Would you accept a few letters of reference?"

"Surely, if I can verify them."

"I'll have some sent to you," she said. "I'll send them overnight. How often can we expect to hear from you, concerning your progress?"

“At least weekly-more often, if the results justify it. Would you prefer we take the five, one at a time or all at once?"

"I don't think it matters that much, but I think all at once would cause them all to be done faster."

"Very well, Ms. Fitzgerald. I need a contract for our services. I have one with me." He stood up and pulled a contract from his coat pocket. "If you can have this signed by the appropriate officer and send it along with the letters of reference, we will go right to work. Here's your pen."

"I'll take care of it," she said.

"Thank you for your business, Ms. Fitzgerald," he said, standing and extending his hand. "I'll be in touch."

"Thank you, Mr. Matthews," she said, shaking his hand.

He left and walked down the hall, then doubled back when she had shut the door. He knocked lightly on the door of the office next door. A portly man opened the door.

"What can I do for you?" asked the portly man.

Pushing his way inside, Matthews said, "Did you know the people who used to be next door here in 402?"

"You mean the computer guy?"

"Yeah, that's him," said Matthews. "He was supposed to do some work for me, but I haven't heard from him. Now, I see he's gone. How long has he been gone? Do you know?"

"Close to a month, I'd say," said the portly man. "The new people moved in yesterday."

"I don't suppose you know where I could reach the computer guy."

"No idea. Sorry."

"Well, thanks a million for your help," said Matthews on his way out.

In a cab, on his way to the airport, Matthews mulled over the situation. The Committee for Truth in Government had been there two days. They did no work at all there. When he'd asked for a pen, she hadn't opened the desk drawer, but had rummaged through her purse for one. There was no sign of anything on the desk, no books, no calendar, not even a trash can. There had been a telephone, but that may have been for show and not functional. He should have asked to use the phone to call for a cab. He suspected that the office had been rented as a front for something, conceivably only for the meeting that he had just had there. The first thing he was going to check on was the Committee for Truth in Government. If he were right, somebody set all this up to make it look like they had an honorable reason for wanting to get something on a group of senators. A corollary would be that their true reason was anything but honorable. It was going to be interesting, to see from whom the letters of reference came. They may identify some of those who want the goods on the senators.

While Matthews was checking on her, Meredith Fitzgerald was making a call on her cellular telephone.

"Hello, Mr. Goerstein, this is Meredith Fitzgerald. I spoke to the gentleman from Miami and he agreed to take the job. There is a hitch, of sorts. He said that he wanted to be sure we are who we say we are and not someone who rented an office and put a sign on the door, so they could get information on some politicians."

"How did he suggest making sure who you are?" asked Goerstein.

"He agreed to a few letters of reference that he can verify. He also gave me a contract to be signed by the appropriate officer."

"I can take care of the letters of reference," said Goerstein. "I'll get them sent over to you and you can mail them all at once. Send me the contract, and I'll get it signed. Use a courier, to save time."

After he hung up, Goerstein pondered the situation. It looked like the man from SIA was sharp. But wasn't that what he wanted. These senators were probably good at covering their tracks. He couldn't hope to get something on every one of them. But then all of them weren't needed. Just enough to get the treaty ratified. 

 

 

Thursday - Day 31

 

Randolph Computers met the thirty-day deadline that Randolph had set for the enhancement of their new computer line. George Elman told Randolph that shipping the first unit within sixty days could be much more difficult. A press release went out to all the usual places, and it referenced a huge spread on Randolph Computers' web site. Among other things, the web site had a short film of a formal announcement, made on the stage of a local theater. With the exception of Al Gorp, the entire design team had been on stage; and, although it wasn't in the film, in what resembled a graduation ceremony, each member of the design team, down to the draftsmen and technicians, had been called to the center of the stage and presented with a letter of commendation by Randolph and Elman.

The web page was designed to counter the mainstream media's expected coverage of the release. As usual, the trade journals were objective, while the mainstream media used the announcement of the new product line as an occasion for derogatory, personal remarks about Randolph. A major wire service put out the news of the new product line and added that "Randolph Computers' owner, Clinton Randolph, has been under heavy attack, lately, for his elitist views on social responsibility and his questionable labor practices." The same people that reported in this manner were the attackers. They were treating their own reporting as news.

"The majority of the so-called journalists are about as unbiased and show about as much integrity as Tokyo Rose did during World War Two," said Randolph, "and they merit the same respect--well, perhaps somewhat less." 


***

 

John LaGrange sat behind his massive, custom-made desk, watching his administrative assistant, as she closed the sixth and last set of drapes in his office. There was a terrible thunderstorm outside. Lightning struck again, just before the view was closed off by the drapes. LaGrange had a phobia about lightning storms. He managed to hide his fear when he had to, and he could put up with the dread. But he saw no reason to expose himself to any more of it than absolutely necessary. On his way up through the ranks, he usually had an inside office with no windows, except for two times that he couldn't avoid an outside office. The first was when they sent him to Los Angeles, where it almost never rained, and when it did, he never saw any lightning. But Tampa, Florida, the second place, had been another story. Shortly after he arrived there, he read in the local paper that Tampa Bay has more lightning strikes a year than any place in North America. So, in that way, Tampa was the worst place he had ever been. For his career, it had been the best place; he worked so furiously, to finish up and get out of Tampa and away from the lightning, that he attracted a lot of attention from top management and started his rise in the company.

Years later, when Spartacus' Board of Directors had named him president, he had felt he couldn't turn down the huge prestigious office atop the Spartacus Tower in Manhattan. Had he been able to come up with a plausible excuse, he certainly would have used it. One of his first acts, as president, was to install heavy drapes on the three glass walls of his office. He said that he wanted to be able to concentrate fully on his job, and the view sometimes distracted him.

"Thank you, Patty," said LaGrange, when she closed the last drape. She left his office and, almost immediately, buzzed him on the intercom. "Mr. Evans is on line one," she said.

LaGrange took the call. Walter Evans seldom called unless it was to complain about something. "Hello Walter, how are you?" said LaGrange.

"John, I just got a call from a friend who told me Randolph has just announced a new product line, to start shipping in sixty days. He says it's better than anything we have on the market. What do you say about that? Eh."

"As you know, Walter, we knew they were coming out with a new line, but our sources gave us to believe that our new line was as good as anything they were bringing out."

"Well, your sources apparently don't know their rear end from a hole in the ground," shouted Evans.

"I'll have to check into it and see if that's really the case," said LaGrange. He couldn't believe that Randolph could outsmart Spartacus that way. "I'll get back to you."

"See that you do," Evans snapped back. "The media is going after him like a pack of piranhas. They're acting true to form; pull their string, and they cry 'filthy capitalist, filthy capitalist,' creating public support for anything the government does. They're as pathetic as they are useful. But, you remember our meeting with David Crocker, don't you?"

"Yes, sir. I remember it very well."

"If we don't make some progress, you and I are going to be put out to pasture. Get cracking," Evans said, and he hung up.

LaGrange pressed the call button on his intercom. "Get Fred Thompkins up here, as soon as you can."

"He's standing right here," Patty said. "I was waiting for you to get off the phone, to tell you he wanted to see you."

"Send him in."

"Shut the door," said LaGrange, as Fred Thompkins, the Vice-president of Engineering, entered his office. "I just got off the phone with Walter Evans. He's heard Randolph Computers has just announced a new line that outperforms our new line. What is going on?"

"I just heard about it from Sales, who heard it from a customer calling in to cancel an order. I guess Al Gorp must have given us bad information. I wouldn't have thought that, with what we have on him."

"I don't think Gorp crossed us. He wouldn't dare. Do you have any details on Randolph's new line?"

"I have some notes here," said Thompkins, opening a small black notebook. "They start shipping in sixty days. There is no change in basic architecture. They increased the speed of the new line by 20%, added 28 commands to the instruction set on the supercomputer, built-in diagnostics to the board level, added a redundant power supply to take over if the primary one fails. The system may run at a slightly reduced speed, but it keeps running. The primary power supply can even be replaced while running on the secondary one. Their entire line can now run DOS and WinDose as a task, under their real-time UNIX, meaning that their customers could run any programs available for PC's. For critical applications, they have a system that uses two computers that run in parallel and compare results as they go along. If they ever disagree, they go into a routine to find out which one is bad, shut that one out and notify the operator, while continuing to operate with the good half. They have given a lot of emphasis to the Internet and communications in general. For the Internet, they have several, off-the-shelf web servers, with all the hardware and software installed, just buy a turnkey system and you can be on the world-wide-web almost as soon as it's delivered. All you have to do is enter a few server-specific parameters, select the options you want, connect to the phone line, and you're ready to go on-line. Also, the server isn't based on WinDose, which means it takes far less hard drive space than those that do."

"With today's big disks, who cares about disk space?"

"Anybody that wants speed. Programs that take a thousand times more disk space than a really tight program are going to take a hundred to a thousand times longer to run. The reason that people need gigabyte disk drives and lightning fast computers is because the programs are so sloppy that maybe nine-tenths of the program could be eliminated. You can go to an old PC that ran at less than five megahertz, and the word processors that came with it, while they had far fewer features, ran as fast, if not faster, than the new ones do on a computer that is 100 times as fast. If Randolph's programs are small enough, it is feasible for even low budget installations to run their programs in RAM memory. That would make them run a hundred times faster, instantly." Thompkins realized that LaGrange had stopped listening to him. He didn't think he lost him in the technical terminology. It was just that he was off somewhere.

"What a rotten bastard that Randolph is," said LaGrange. "No, I don't think Gorp crossed us. I think that when we announced our line, Randolph just went back over his designs and made them better. They aren't shipping for sixty days, because they just got it to work on the prototype and they are allowing sixty days to get the first ones through production. He announced it now to try to get our customers to wait. It looks like he already got one of them. That rotten bastard. He has the morals of a pit bull."

"I'll say," said Thompkins. "After all the trouble we went to get his drawings and copy them, for him to change his design, is unfair."

LaGrange glared at him. Could Thompkins possibly be making fun of him? Deciding that he wouldn't dare, he said, "Run along and see if we can do anything to catch up to Randolph. I'll see what I can do about the big picture."

LaGrange flipped through his Rolodex. He picked up his telephone and dialed a number.

"John LaGrange here. I'd like to speak to Senator Winters."

There was a long wait.

"Hello, John. How are you?"

"You know me, Senator. I never let anything get me down. I've been watching your sallies against Clinton Randolph, as well as everyone else's. You don't have to be very perceptive to see that there is a concerted attack on Randolph."

"Surely you don't suspect a conspiracy, John," said Senator Winter.

"Perish the thought," said LaGrange. "I have a weapon I think you can use, if you're interested."

 


***

Friday - Day 32

 

Wearing only a pair of white boxer shorts with red polka dots, Senator Winter sat on the edge of the bed, looking at the telephone, as though watching it could make it ring sooner. Behind him, was a shapely young lady, wearing nothing. She alternately rubbed herself against him, and kissed him, while she ran her hands over him.

"Maybe they aren't going to call," she said. "Why don't we go ahead and start. If they call, we can always stop."

"I told you I don't want to start until after the call," he said, emphatically.

"But honey, I'm all worked up."

"So am I, but, damn it, I have to wait. This call is too important." He was thinking that when he was her age, he probably couldn't have waited. But that was forty years ago. Now he could wait.

"What if they don't call?"

"They will. If only to tell me that they can't talk, someone will call soon. When they do, don't say anything. Just be quiet and wait."

The phone rang. He grabbed it. "Hello."

"Is this Senator Winter?"

"Yes, it is. Sorry to disturb you, Mr. President, but it couldn't be helped."

"I don't see how you can stay at the Watergate. I'm not superstitious, but I couldn't sleep there. Anyway, I hear you want to go after Clinton Randolph. He's a pretty influential figure."

"I know he is, Mr. President. If you will just give me a minute, I'm sure you'll agree it's a made-to-order situation. Vincent Cleary has pledged to help in any way he can. Patrick Parvell is already on the attack. You know how much time the media has been spending on a few perceived irregularities in the White House. We both know that the best way to cut that down is to give them something else to talk about."

"That's what we've been trying to do for over a year."

"Yes, Mr. President, I know that's what you've been doing. But what I'm talking about is something every liberal newscaster on earth will love, meaning that all American news people will. In Randolph, we have a super-rich, super successful, super intelligent, hard-working, scrupulously honest man: in effect, everything the people have been conditioned to hate. The fact that he is so rich and powerful is what makes it so great. First of all the richer he is, the more they will envy him and want to see him destroyed. But, best of all, the richer he is, the longer he can drag it out. That means it can occupy the headlines for a long, long time."

"You got my attention," said the president. "What do you want from me? I know you didn't call me to just to tell me that this is my lucky day."

"The problem is that this guy is squeaky clean. We could come up with more dirt on the Pope than we can on him. The most accomplished muckrakers in the nation are coming up with nothing. That means the case against him has to be fabricated and public opinion will have to validate it."

"Sounds a little incredible that, as rich as he is, he's all that clean," said the president. "But, what do you need from me?"

"Mr. President," said Senator Winter, "I need for Justice to carry the ball on this one. I need for you to tell the Attorney General to get him."

"Get him for what?"

"Antitrust violations."

"Can you do that to an individual?"

"I wondered the same thing. Yes, you certainly can. After all, a corporation is a legal person, isn't it?"

"Yes. Well, if it'll take the spotlight off campaign finances and assorted insignificant details around the White House, I'd put Justice on my own mother. Of course, I can't order the Justice Department to attack someone. You understand that. I can only suggest they look into it."

"Naturally," said the Senator. "Of course you can't. I'm confident that it will all turn out well, in the end. It would be nice to have the limelight somewhere else for a while. You've had more than your share of it. The sacrifices we have to make for the sake of the public. But we can see the big picture, and we know the end justifies the means. The unfortunate part is that no one appreciates our sacrifices."

"How right you are, Senator. How right you are. I'll be talking to Leslie Jenkins this weekend, anyway. I'll sic her on Randolph, and we'll see what she can dig up."

"Leslie won't dig up anything. I told you Randolph's a Boy Scout. See what she can cook up, not dig up."

"Whatever. Just so it looks good."

"Thank you, Mr. President. Have a good weekend."

"Thank you."

The senator hung up the telephone and said, "We're using Randolph as a scapegoat and a smoke screen, just as Hitler used the Jews. At least, we're only annihilating one man, not millions. It is a shame that it has to be the one man who is probably doing more good for the country than all the government programs combined."

He shuddered at the thought of the monumental fraud that was going to be perpetrated on the American people. Then he smiled. They would love being duped, they always do. They even love those that dupe them. Even when they know they are being made fools of, they rationalize it somehow, and go on with their desperate little lives. If they were to have things done for them, they would feel guilty because they didn't deserve them. Wasn't it Will Durant that said: "You may not be able to fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country." and he added, out loud, "Why not enough to rule the world?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," said the young woman.

"Of course you don't, Sweetheart," said the Senator, grabbing her. "But, with that body, who cares." 


***

 

Saturday - Day 33

 

At the third hole of the Congressional Country Club, Patrick Parvell and Vincent Cleary waited at the edge of the green, while Senator Winter, having overshot the hole, walked toward a stand of trees. As he neared the trees, the senator reached into his pocket and palmed a spare ball. When he saw his ball in the grass behind a large tree, he turned his back to his friends and dropped the palmed ball in a clear area, giving himself a straight shot to the pin. Parvell and Cleary both knew that the Senator was cheating, but they didn't care. They would have let him win, even if he weren't cheating.

The Senator quite amazingly got the ball on the green, not more than ten feet from the cup. It took him two putts to finish the hole.

Parvell looked off into the distance. It was going to take a lot of concentration to play badly enough for the Senator to win. Surely Cleary was thinking the same thought.

As they walked toward the fourth tee, Cleary asked, "By the way, Senator, how is it going with Randolph?"

"Pretty good," said Senator Winter, "We have an ally in Spartacus. We also have someone on the inside to let us know what's going on at Randolph Enterprises."

"Wonderful," said Parvell. "But, what do you mean by pretty good? Exactly what is happening?"

"This is just between us, at this time. Okay?"

Cleary and Parvell swore their secrecy.

"The Justice Department is looking into going after him for anti-trust violations. Perhaps they'll break him up."

In his joy, Parvell did a little dance. Then, he paused. "Can they do that to an individual?" he asked.

"Everybody asks the same thing," said the Senator. "I even asked it. But, yes, they can. It isn't something that's been done. But according to the law, you can do it. Any anti-trust action usually takes a long time, so don't hold your breath."

"Isn't there something else that's faster?" asked Cleary.

"Not unless Pat's crew has come up with something," said the Senator.

"Zero," said Parvell. "Randolph makes a boy scout look like a serial killer."

"Precisely," said the Senator. "He never does anything wrong. So, we'll have to get him on something that's perfectly legitimate, if you know what I mean."

"You mean railroad him," laughed Cleary.

"I wouldn't say that," said the Senator.

"No," said Cleary, "just do it. Right?" He hated people who always wanted to appear as though they were above their own actions.

"Don't worry, Vincent," said Parvell. "Be happy, just as long as they get him for something. What if it is fabricated? Would you rather we just let him off?"

"Hell no," said Cleary. "I just wanted something faster. The other day, I had to warn somebody not to deal with him. He wants to automate a shipyard and put hundreds of union members out of work. Hell, I don't care if you shoot him and put the gun in his hand."

"I think there are too many suicides around Washington lately," said the Parvell.

"Randolph isn't from Arkansas; there wouldn't be a connection with the others," said Cleary.

Senator Winter stopped and stared at Cleary for a minute. "You shouldn't even joke about that," he said.

"Sorry," said Cleary. "It just slipped out."

"Besides," said Parvell, "you talk like that, you may put yourself on the list. It's dangerous to talk like that."

The senator glared at Parvell.

"Only one Vincent to a hit list, and they got one already," said Cleary.

"There is one thing," said Parvell. "Maybe you've heard Willie Washington saying that Randolph doesn't meet guidelines for race distribution in his companies. I checked on them. In some of his companies it's true that the percentage of blacks is lower than the percentage in the population. But, in a couple of companies there is a higher percentage. Moreover, there are blacks and Hispanics in top positions."

"Why didn't I hear about this," said Senator Winter. "If any of those companies that don't have enough blacks, have even one government contract, we can nail him to the cross, even if he's only short one black. We usually aren't that picky, but in his case we can make an exception. I'll put somebody on it, Monday."


CHAPTER 17

MONDAY - DAY 35

 

 

It was Monday morning and Emily was riding to work with Jeremy. They had agreed that it was silly to drive eighty miles a day, in separate cars, since they lived next door to each other. As they exited I-95 in West Palm Beach, Jeremy waved at the man with the sign. By the end of his first week at work, they had progressed to a smile, then a smile and a nod. Now, they were up to waving. Some days, the man wouldn't be there; Jeremy assumed that, on those days, he had gotten lucky and gotten some work.

"A friend of yours?" asked Emily.

"Not exactly," said Jeremy. "He was there the day I went for my interview, and he's there most of the mornings. You see a lot of people standing at exits like that, but he's different. He doesn't ask for money, only work. Look at him next time, he's always clean, his hair's combed, his shoes are polished; he doesn't look homeless. There's something about him that makes me think I'd like him, if I knew him."

Emily looked at Jeremy for a long time, and then began to concentrate on where he was going; she wanted to learn the way to work. Tomorrow, she would be driving alone.

 

 

Randolph stuck his head out of his office. "Alicia, find me two portable fans, preferably box fans, for my office." He turned to go back in, just as Emily and Jeremy entered the area.

"Good morning, Jeremy, Miss Morrison."

"Good morning, Mr. Randolph," said Jeremy.

"Good morning." said Emily. "May I ask why you call him Jeremy, and you call me Miss Morrison?"

"I called him Mr. Worth, until he gave me permission to call him Jeremy."

"You have my permission to call me Emily."

"Thank you, Emily. I haven't decided to let you two call me by my first name yet. It has long been my policy that only the managers that report directly to me call me by my first name. Until I hired you two, only top management and Alicia reported directly to me, and Alicia calls me Mr. Randolph. You two report directly to me, but you are on a different level than top management. I hope you understand. It has nothing to do with what we think of each other, or it shouldn't. It's a sort of etiquette, as is not calling our parents, or our grandparents, by their first name."

"No problem, Mr. Randolph," said Emily.

Just then, Alicia walked in. "Good morning, Alicia," said Randolph. "Alicia, this is Emily Morrison. She will be working with Jeremy, with the same title and reporting directly to me. Would you please handle it and get her on the right path, then take her around and introduce her to everyone?"

"Of course, Mr. Randolph," said Alicia.

"In the meantime, Jeremy, come in and I'll go over your assignment in St. Louis." He held the door open, while Jeremy entered, motioning Jeremy into a chair. "Have a seat."

Sitting down behind his uncluttered desk, Randolph said, "By the way, seeing Emily reminded me of something that I meant to mention before. I hope you weren't upset or inconvenienced by what I said to Emily at Cap's Place. I'm sorry if I was indelicate."

"Not at all," said Jeremy. "I was a little surprised, in more ways than one. But not upset."

"I think I understand," said Randolph. "Here are my notes on the plan I want you to take to St. Louis." He handed Jeremy a folder with a sheet of paper on the outside. "If you look at the paper you will see that you are going to Monsanto, to see Cal Brockton and Pat Murphy.

Jeremy looked at the paper and read, "You are going to Monsanto and, without saying it in the office, you are going to meet Ali Rahmani. After meeting with Monsanto Tuesday morning, ask how to get to the University of Missouri, in Columbia. Say you are looking up a friend. Go to the library and, in the section where they keep books on computer programming, you are to meet my Iranian friend named, Ali Rahmani, at one o'clock. Show him this folder and find out if he can write a program for PC's to implement the ideas in the folder. If so, tell him to do it, and find out how long he estimates it will take. Inside are several pages of instruction on what to do at Monsanto. Learn them well, on your way to St. Louis and tonight in the hotel, then get rid of them, permanently."

"I understand," said Jeremy. "I'll take care of it."

"Alicia will have your tickets, and you need to stop by and pick up your money. By the way, it looks like Emily’s office won’t be ready for two or three more days. How about her sharing your office until you get back?”

"No problem," said Jeremy, "That way she can use my computer. It has all the data that she'll be needing."

"Good," said Randolph. "I think you are leaving early this evening. You should go over everything you're doing and bring her up to speed, before you leave. I want you and Emily to start encrypting your files. There are several simple public-domain programs. Check ZDNet, on the Internet. Hopefully, we'll soon have a new system of our own; all we need is something to hold us until them."

"Fine," said Jeremy. "I'll take care of it."

"I'm leaving for Savannah in a matter of minutes. If you have any questions, ask them now."

"I can't think of anything. Emily and I drove in together. Depending on when my plane leaves, I may have to leave a little early, and she'll have to leave with me."

"No problem, Jeremy. I'll see you when you get back. Good luck in St. Louis, It's an important trip." said Randolph, walking out with Jeremy, as far as Alicia's desk. When Jeremy had gone, he turned to Alicia, "Have Perry and Kit waiting for me at the front door in two minutes."

"Here are two box fans," said Alicia. "They were in storage.'

"Good," said Randolph. "Make that four minutes for Perry and Kit." In his office, he leaned one fan against each of the two large windowpanes, and turned it on at medium speed. The fans vibrated against the windows. That should drown out the voices, he thought, at least garble them. He had to have a secure room for important conversations, but this would have to do until it was ready.


***

 

At twelve-thirty, Randolph's Mitsubishi jet landed in Savannah. Randolph had Fran and Kit wait at the airport, and he took a taxi to the Morgan Shipyards. Stacey Morgan was waiting for him and invited him into her office.

"How are you, Mr. Randolph?" she asked.

"Fine, Miss Morgan," he said, "I'm ready for the preliminary presentation."

"Sit down," she said. "We have a problem."

"What's wrong?"

"As usual, it's the union. Somehow they got wind of my plan to automate. They're against it, as you might expect. This morning, they're threatening to strike, if I proceed with the plan to automate. Vincent Cleary, himself, called me and told me I was foolish to even think about doing business with you. He told me the full force of the US Government was being brought to bear on you, and you might be unable to complete anything you started. Is that true?"

As she spoke, she watched him to observe his reaction, but he seemed oblivious of her comments. He looked around her office, at her books and her CD's.

"It's probably true about the US government. They haven't said or done anything yet, but I suspect they will." he said. "I hardly think it will interfere with my completing your project. Would you mind putting on a CD of Beverly Sills?" he asked her.

"You don't seem very concerned about Vincent Cleary's remarks about you," she said, as she picked out a CD and put it in the player and turned it on. The strains of Lehar's Vilja filled the room.

"On the contrary," he said, "I am extremely concerned and will be glad to talk to you about that later. But, first, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the opera tonight?" He was extremely concerned. Cleary was CFR, but surely not of a caliber to be in on policy decisions. But he must be aware of something. Maybe Matthews could find out what.

She looked at him as though he had lost his mind. "Opera. What opera?"

"The Metropolitan. They're performing The Elixir of Love, with Placido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa. You couldn't ask for better than that."

"The Metropolitan," she said, in disbelief, "in New York?"

"Yes. We could have supper after the opera and, perhaps, go dancing. I know you keep clothes in the office," he said. "I have my jet at the airport. We can be in Manhattan in three hours. Why don't you change and let's go." He looked at her and said, with evident deliberation, "I have some ideas about your union problems that we can discuss as we travel."

There was total silence in the room. She stared at him for some time. At last, she said, "All right. I'll go."

"Good,"

"But you have to answer a question for me."

"Ask it."

"I read up on you a little. I know you have a phenomenal IQ. I suppose that your great success might be attributable to that. But does that account for your aplomb? If I had the government after me, I would be-I don't know what I would be. But I wouldn't be flying to New York to the opera."

"Before I answer your question, let me address your assumption. I don't think that intelligence deserves that much credit, in regard to success, mine or anyone's. I'm sure you know some very successful people who aren't all that bright, and some extremely brilliant people who aren't all that successful. Isn't that the case?"

"You're right, of course."

"Intelligence only makes it easier. Those a little less intelligent may have to work a harder, but they are hardly excluded. Napoleon's IQ is estimated to have been 100, dead center average, yet his accomplishments were monumental. The real handicaps are emotional and behavioral. A lack of interest, industry, ambition, or simply zest for life probably account for more failures than anything else. Furthermore, fears and erroneous beliefs can prevent a very intelligent person from being successful."

"You don't have fears and erroneous beliefs?"

"I still have some. I once had as many as anyone else. I overcame many of them. Most people who achieve considerable success have had to overcome fears and correct their beliefs. Intelligence helps. You need at least enough intelligence to realize that something is holding you back, and to be able to find a way to conquer whatever that is. In some cases, a really low IQ may help. They say that people that are truly inferior, can't have an inferiority complex, because they are incapable or realizing how inferior they are. I'm sure some successful people just didn't see the obstacles to success, and they just charged right ahead, oblivious of pitfalls and problems. But, I once had fears and erroneous beliefs, in quantity."

"How did you conquer them?"

"When I got out of college, I was so lacking in assertiveness, a stern look would unsettle me. Perhaps, it was fortunate, in a way. When I had what I thought were excellent ideas, and my employer wouldn't go for them, I gave up and went someplace else. When the new company wouldn't listen either, I was ready to give up altogether. There was a man in the company who got just about anything he wanted. He was so assertive that he affected management the way management affected me. He caused me to look around and think. I was smart enough to see that a lot of people less qualified than I were exerting power over people and getting rich. I realized that I needed to figure out what they did and how they did it. My investigations led me to "Think and Grow Rich," by Napoleon Hill. That book was the first of many that helped me. I think that with that book alone I would have done well. But, fortunately, I found Anthony Robbins. I think I can credit Anthony Robbins with adding at least one and maybe two zeros to the money I would have had without him. I read all his books, listened to all his tapes, and went to several of his seminars. I still listen to the tapes regularly. I know most of them almost by heart. From him, I got my aplomb, as you call it. He taught me to master my thoughts and beliefs, and to erase my fears."

"That's amazing," said Stacey. "Do you think he could help someone who just doesn't seem to have any ambition at all?"

"I think he could help anyone, period. He can change your beliefs, almost instantaneously."

"How can I get in touch with him?"

"Eight hundred information, the Anthony Robbins Institute. Don't tell me you have no ambition."

"Not me. It's for my brother, Troy."

"I don't know if he can help someone against their will. He would have to want to change."

"I think I can arrange that," said Stacey. "A little carrot and stick therapy. Thanks a lot. Now, I'll go change. I'll be back in a few minutes. Don't go away."

"Don't worry. I'll be here."



 

TUESDAY - DAY 36

 

Jeremy sat in the Atlanta airport. His flight to West Palm Beach was scheduled for 11:30 and it was only 9:15. He was surprised to hear his name on the public address system and wondered if there might be another Jeremy Worth in the airport. He went to a courtesy telephone and was surprised again-it was Randolph.

"Jeremy, don't get too excited. I have some bad news for you, but it isn't as bad as it could be. Your father has had another heart attack, but he seems to be doing well. He's in Holy Cross Hospital. I'm about thirty minutes from Atlanta, and I'll pick you up and take you to Fort Lauderdale. Just hang on and listen for a page. Don't be worrying. They told me that he is stable and doing well."

"Yes, Sir," said Jeremy. He had spent the night in St. Louis because there was no way to get back to West Palm Beach, except the red eye through Atlanta. He had stayed in a hotel in St. Louis, and taken an early morning flight. But now he was in Atlanta, and his father was in a hospital, in Fort Lauderdale. He felt guilty even though he knew that there was no way that he could have known what was going to happen. They were the longest forty minutes of his life, before he heard the page. Randolph was waiting for him.

When he got to the Mitsubishi, Randolph was standing beside it and motioned him up the stairs, then followed him in. Randolph pulled up the stairs and shut the door. He opened the door to the pilot's cabin and said, "Let's get going."

The airplane began to taxi out to the runway. "Sit down and fasten your seat belt, Jeremy," said Randolph. Once Jeremy was strapped into his seat, Randolph continued, "Jeremy this is Stacey Morgan. Stacey, meet my special assistant, Jeremy Worth."

"I'm sorry to hear about your father, Jeremy," said Stacey. "Thank goodness, he seems to be doing well."

"Thank you," said Jeremy. He was understandably subdued.

"I talked to Doctor Selby at Johns Hopkins," said Randolph. "Doctor Selby's my cousin and one of the foremost heart specialists in the world. If it's okay with you and your father, Doctor Selby agreed to review your father’s records and, if necessary, come down and see him."

"Of course it's okay with me, and I'm sure my dad will welcome it," said Jeremy. "Doctor Selby is the most famous cardiologist in the world."

"Well, you ask him, when you see him. If it is okay, arrange for his doctor to send a copy of all his records to Doctor Mark Selby at John Hopkins in Baltimore."

"I surely will," said Jeremy.

Randolph inquired about the software that Jeremy had gone to pick up from Ali Rahmani. Jeremy went over the meeting and told him that Rahmani had explained it very thoroughly and he felt that he was capable of training others in the use of the software.

"Excellent," said Randolph. "Stacey, this is software that will permit e-mail communication in complete privacy. You will probably have a copy soon enough yourself."

Randolph had Jeremy relate all the relevant details of his trip.

"By the way, Jeremy," said Randolph, "I forgot to ask you; what kind of a government do we have?"

Jeremy blushed a little, looking at Stacey who seemed a bit puzzled. "A constitutional republic."

"Not a democracy?"

"Not according to the constitution and the founding fathers," said Jeremy.

"Stacey, you must be wondering why we are off on such a tangent," said Randolph.

"I'm sure there's a good reason," said Stacey.

"Jeremy's teachers taught him improperly, which is certainly nothing unusual these days. When I found he was under the misconception that America was supposed to be a democracy, I prescribed a little homework for him."

"Why do they always call it a democracy?" asked Jeremy.

"It's a long story," said Randolph, "and not a pretty one. But, essentially it boils down to power. By controlling education and the media, you can make most people think any way that you want. You're well above average intelligence, Jeremy, yet they had you convinced we were a democracy. Consider how easy it must be to convince those who never think for themselves. But, if government were limited by the Constitution, as it was originally written, it wouldn't be enough to have the majority on their side. They had to convince the people that the will of the majority should rule, even to the point of trampling the rights of a minority. In the end, our country is filled with minorities; every person is as small a minority as can be.

"How many ever consider the full implications of majority rule? What if we had a petition and a vote and re-instituted slavery? Should we then say that we have to accept it because the majority wants it? Of course not. What if eighty-five percent of the people want it? It's still wrong. It is just as wrong for many men to rule one man as it is for one man to rule many. The same excuse has been used to justify both travesties: it gives the beneficiary or beneficiaries what they want. That's why the constitution was written, to limit infringement on the rights of people. But, even at the beginning, James Madison guessed that government would flout the constitution and the people would let it. He said that we would probably have to have a revolution every few generations, if we were to remain free."

"I never heard about Madison saying that," said Stacey.

"I don't doubt that for a minute," said Randolph. "If you didn't hear it when you went to school, you can be absolutely certain no one in school today will hear it. With very few exceptions, even the words "liberty" and "freedom" have been purged from the vocabulary of today's educators. You will never hear about the complete disregard for legality and morality, when the fourteenth amendment was illegally added to the constitution to essentially nullify much of the rest of the constitution."

Fran Benson's voice came over the speakers: "Please fasten your seat belts, we are preparing to land at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport."

"Clint," said Stacey, "the next time I see you, you have to tell me about the fourteenth amendment. I'm beginning to think I wasn't educated in school either, and that seems an important matter to have been omitted."

As they landed at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, Jeremy realized that Randolph had kept him occupied all the way, keeping his mind off his father as much as was possible. "I'm getting off with you Jeremy," said Randolph. "My car is supposed to be waiting for me, and Stacey has to get back to Savannah, so the plane will take her there, and I'll drop you off at the hospital and go on to West Palm."

"Miss Morgan," said Jeremy, "I can see that you have come to Fort Lauderdale, instead of stopping at Savannah, so I could get to the hospital as soon as possible. I appreciate that very much. Thank you."

"Think nothing of it, Jeremy," said Stacey. "Run along with Clint. I hope your father gets well soon."

Randolph went to the cockpit and got Kit Carson.

"Thank you," said Jeremy as they were getting off the airplane.

"Good-bye, Stacey," said Randolph, "and thanks for everything."

"Thank you," she said, waving from the door. "I'll see you soon, I hope."

"Not soon enough, but as soon as possible," said Randolph.

Randolph, Kit, and Jeremy got into the waiting limousine and were on their way to Holy Cross Hospital. Randolph handed Jeremy the telephone and told him to call the hospital and tell his mother he would be there in ten minutes. When he reached his mother, she was overjoyed and relieved to hear from him. She reassured Jeremy that his father was in good condition. This had just barely been a heart attack, and he could probably have gone home, but they wanted to keep him a day or two, just to keep an eye on him.

 

 

After dropping Jeremy off at the hospital, Randolph was on his way home, headed north on I-95, just past Boca Raton, when the car phone rang. It was Norman Jefferson.

"Good Morning, Norman," said Randolph. "How are you? Where are you?"

"Fine, and I'm in La Manga del Mar Menor, if you know where that is."

"You bet I know where it is," said Randolph. "I love the Hotel Galua there, it's one of my all-time favorites. It's a five-star hotel, but it has more charm than you usually find in a luxury hotel."

"We share good taste," said Jefferson. "That's where I'm calling from. I just wanted to see how you were taking the news."

"What news?" asked Randolph.

"Oh boy. I hate to be the one to tell you, but it was on the wire and on the BBC news. So I'm not telling you anything secret. You must have been isolated this morning. The Justice Department is looking into Randolph Enterprises for antitrust violations."

"I was isolated," said Randolph, "I was on my way from New York to Savannah, with a friend, when I heard that my assistant's father had been hospitalized by a heart attack. I knew he should be in Atlanta, waiting for a plane, so I called him and picked him up, in my jet, and took him to Fort Lauderdale. My car just met me in Lauderdale, and I sent the plane on to Savannah, to take my friend home. I'm in my car on I-95, just passing through Delray Beach. As you can see, it hasn't been a model day, and your news is hardly an improvement. Still, every day above ground is a great day."

"That's a good attitude," said Jefferson. "Really, we should keep in touch. However I have been moving around a bit lately, and that makes it difficult."

"Do you get e-mail, Norman?"

"I sure do. I have to call long distance to get it, and I have had to go down to 4800 baud to get a good connection, but I get it almost every day. My address is jefferson6-at-compuserve.com. What's yours?"

"Its crandolph-at-randolphenterprises.com. That'll be temporary. I'll set up a dedicated, secure one and get it to you." He emphasized the word secure, hoping it would register with Jefferson and assure that he didn't mention the plot against him on the telephone. The government can easily listen to any telephone conversation, cellular or standard.

"That'll be great, Clint."

"I'll have to digest your news and contemplate my options. I'll be in touch. By the way, have you read the book, "The Sovereign Individual?"

"Can't say as I have. Are you recommending it or what?"

"I'll overnight you a copy. Will you be in the Galua for a day or two?"

"Probably a couple of weeks."

"Watch for it."

"Well, good luck, old buddy. I'll let you go for now."

"Thanks Norman. You'll hear from me."

Randolph switched the phone off. He leaned back in his seat. "I need some tranquility," he said aloud. To himself, he added, to think this through.

He called Alicia at the office. "Good Morning, Alicia," he said. "I'd appreciate it if you would arrange a flight for me tomorrow-midday if possible-to San Jose, Costa Rica, and arrange for a flight from San Jose to Las Brisas, and make me a reservation at Las Brisas Motel for four days, through Saturday night. Oh, yes, include Kit. Make the Las Brisas reservation first to be sure it's available. This is confidential. My location is confidential. I don't want to be contacted there unless it's a real emergency."

"Mr. Randolph, I think you might want to know that there is a crowd of news people at the entrance. Apparently, they want to ask you about the government's investigation."

"They're not inside the parking lot, are they?"

"No."

"Good. We’ll use the employee entrance. Have Security be there to make sure I don't have any trouble."

He hadn't been to Las Brisas for five years. They could have gone out of business. He hoped not; it was an absolutely perfect place for what he wanted to do. It was restful, just thinking about it. Las Brisas was a little motel on the Pacific coast, only 25 miles off the highway, but with a road so bad that it took well over an hour to drive the 25 miles. A nearby landing strip was used by the small plane service, available from the capital, San Jose, and the motel would send someone to pick him up. High, green mountains came almost straight down less than half a mile from the beach, more or less walling off a sweeping arc of land, with a wide border of beach. Except for four or five houses on stilts, with chickens and farm animals running around, there was nothing there, except the motel. The motel consisted of six duplex bungalows, an open-air restaurant, just steps from the very wide beach, and a tiled pool with a Jacuzzi. During the week, the motel does little business. But, on weekends, it is usually full.

 

 

When Randolph arrived at Randolph Enterprises, the gate to the parking lot was closed. A mob of media people were crowding the sidewalk and spilling into the street. Two security officers kept them out from coming in, as the gate opened to let Randolph's car in. Like a crowd of insane people, they screamed mostly unintelligible questions at Randolph, asking him about the Justice Department's investigation, and about his trip to New York with Stacey Morgan. Perry drove into the parking lot and dropped him off a few feet from the employee's entrance. Randolph ignored the reporters and went directly to his penthouse, took a shower and changed clothes. Then he went down the private elevator to his office, and asked Alicia to come in.

"Alicia, I'm back at last. What's the status of the trip to Costa Rica?"

"It's all settled. You can leave Miami at 11:30 tomorrow morning, arriving in San Jose at 2:10, and you should be in Las Brisas by 3:30. The shuttle airline will call Las Brisas before they leave, and you will be met at the landing strip. Your reservation is confirmed through Saturday night, and your return flight arrangements are as follows: Leave Las Brisas at 12:00 noon. Arrive San Jose at 12:40. Leave San Jose 2:30. Arrive Miami at 5:10. Perry is scheduled to leave here at 9:45 tomorrow morning and to be at Miami to pick you up by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Is this satisfactory?"

"Alicia, you are a jewel."

"Thank you, sir."

"What pressing things have come up, while I was gone?"

"Not much that we weren't able to resolve. Your father called. He said it wasn't important. Just thought he'd give you a call. There were a number of reporters asking for comments on the story about the Justice Department. I told them that there was no comment."

"Good."

"George Elman called this morning and said he had to see you, when you got back. Shall I call him and tell him to come over?"

"That would be fine."

"Will there be anything else, Sir?"

"Not for now. A million thanks, Alicia. Oh yes, if Jeremy calls in, I want to speak to him."

"How is his father?"

"It looks like he'll be okay. But, heart attacks are bad. My cousin, Doctor Selby is going to consult on his case. Maybe he can make him healthy again."

"Let's hope so."

Half an hour later, Elman arrived. He set a tape recorder on Randolph's desk and slipped a cassette into the mechanism. "The first voice is Al Gorp and the second is Fred Thompkins, VP of engineering at Spartacus."

He pressed play and Gorp was heard to say, "Al Gorp."

"Al, this is Fred Thompkins. What happened? The plans you gave us don't seem to match the new product line at all."

"I don't know," said Gorp. "The ones I gave you were the latest. I was sent out of town for a month. When I came back everything had changed."

"If I find out you crossed us, you're done for Al. One telephone call and you'll go to prison. Remember that."

"How could I forget it?" said Gorp.

"You may get a chance to make up for your mistake, Al," said Thompkins. "Senator Winter is out to get Clinton Randolph, and Spartacus is joining forces with him. You may have to help us. We'll let you know."

Elman switched the recorder off. "That's the only call of interest. It was made early this morning. Gorp just came back Monday. We called him back as soon as we did the press release on the new line."

"It looks like it was a good idea to keep Gorp on. This way we may find out more about what is going on. Perhaps, we can feed Spartacus some misinformation."

"It's too bad Gorp had to do this. He's a very good engineer."

"It sounds like they're blackmailing him," said Randolph. "While it hardly excuses what he did, it sets better with me, than if he had done it for money. I wonder what they have on him."

"Whatever it is must be pretty bad," said Elman. "Is there anything you want me to do about this?"

"No. Just keep recording, and use your judgment. I'm going to be out of town for a few days. If a true emergency comes up, tell Alicia to get in touch with me. Otherwise, I'm not taking any calls. Only dire emergencies."

After Elman left, Randolph called each of his division managers to see if anything urgent had come up, and to tell them the same thing that he had told Elman concerning his trip.

It was mid-afternoon when Elman called him. "Clint, I think you should come over here. Al Gorp has something to tell you. I think you'll be interested in hearing it."

"I'll be there. Wait for me," said Randolph.

When he arrived at the Palm Beach Gardens plant, he went straight to Elman's office, where he saw Elman waiting with Al Gorp.

"Hello, Al," said Randolph.

"Good morning, Mr. Randolph," said Gorp.

"Al has just told me something very shocking," said Elman. "I thought you should hear it." Turning to Gorp, he said, "Tell him what you told me, Al."

"Just a minute," interjected Randolph. "Let's sit down and do this slowly and calmly." Once they all were seated around the small conference table in the corner of Elman's office, he said, "Okay, Al, let's have it."

"Well," began Gorp, "I used to work for Spartacus, before I came to work here. For the job I was doing there, I had to have a security clearance. I had been out of work for some time and had run out of money. I really needed the job. I had to lie on my application for security clearance. I don't know how, but somehow, Spartacus found out about it, apparently after I had been here for over two years. They called me and told me they knew that I had lied on the application, and they said they would turn me in and send me to jail, if I didn't help them. They wanted me to get them the plans for your new product line. If it had been just me, I would have refused, but it affected my wife. Anyway, I finally agreed to do it. But after I gave them the plans, the design was enhanced, and now they think I double-crossed them. They say they want me to do more for them, though they haven't said what yet.

"I figure it will go on forever, if I don't put a stop to it. I talked it over with my wife and we both agreed that I should refuse them when they ask for more. I'm sorry for what I did, and I understand that I'm asking for trouble, but I just couldn't do it again."

"What do they have on you?" asked Randolph. "What did you lie about?"

"My wife is an illegal alien, and she passes for a citizen," said Gorp. "I couldn't put it on my application without exposing her, so I put her down as an American Citizen. It was only a confidential clearance, so they probably weren't very thorough in their checking. If it had been a secret clearance, I probably wouldn't have gotten away with it, and I don't think I'd have tried. I don't know how, but Spartacus discovered it. "

"You know what can happen to you now, don't you?" asked Randolph.

"I can go to jail and my wife can be deported. I was thinking of disappearing and joining her when they deport her."

"I'll make a deal with you," said Randolph. "If you agree to let Spartacus think you are working with them, but, instead, you work with me, I'll forget what you did, and I'll see if I can get your problem straightened out. In the meantime, if Spartacus thinks you're working with them, they won't turn you in. That will give us time to work it out legally. What do you say?"

"What do I say? I say thank you, Mr. Randolph. I'll do anything you want."

"You should have come to me at the beginning, and none of this would have happened," said Randolph. "But, we now have a better product line than we had before and we have a pipeline into Spartacus and the people that they're working with. What you did was wrong. Fortunately, we were able to take corrective action and counteract what you did, and even come out ahead. You came forward on your own; you seem genuinely contrite; and I assume that from here on, we can trust you."

"I swear to God," said Gorp.

"I want to know every time they contact you and everything that goes on. If they volunteer any information about what they are doing, I want it. If they don't, see if you can pull some out of them-without seeming out of character, of course. You don't want them to suspect you are working for me. Use your head. I'm interested in knowing their objectives and their associates."

"I'll do my best, Mr. Randolph."

"You had better go back to work," said Randolph. "We don't want people to wonder what you are doing, spending so much time with us. The time you've been talking with us would be reasonable to tell us about what went on while you were over in Germany."

"Good thinking," said Gorp. As he grasped the doorknob, he said, "Thanks again. It's more than I deserve, and I'll try to make sure you're never sorry."

When Gorp was gone, Randolph said, "George, I think we should keep the bug on his phone, until we confirm that he really is sincere on this. My gut tells me that he's trustworthy, but I'll feel better when we have confirmation. So keep an eye on him."

"I agree," said Elman. "By the way, Clint, I'd like to ask you a question."

"Ask."

"When Rick and I were at your place to analyze the tapes, you spoke about the end of the nation-state. We've both been wondering about that. Could you explain that a little, why you think the nation-state is coming to an end?"

"I'll give you a quick overview," said Randolph. "There is a book that discusses the concept, in great detail. We'll soon have six copies in the library. The name of the book is "The Sovereign Individual." When it comes in, you and Rick can read it and you'll have a good picture of what I see to be the situation.

"First of all, the nation-state is a relative modern phenomenon. Before the French Revolution in 1789, the nation-state was a rarity. After 1789, the number of national governments grew, mostly through a series of revolutions. I see the beginning of the end of the era, in 1989, exactly 200 years later, with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although you could say it started with the breakup of the Soviet Union, in 1991. The leading nation-states have been trying to impose their system on every country on the face of the earth. Until recently, modern weapons favored large armies and, incidentally, the nation-state, because it was able to assemble great armies. Coincident with, or possibly a cause of the rise of the nation-states, there was a rise of the middle class and an increase of commerce. Previously, noblemen collected taxes and contributed, as they saw fit, to their country's government. With the growth of the middle class, generally independent of the noblemen and wealthier than the serfs, governments now figured they could tax the citizens directly. No longer would they be at the mercy of the nobility, whose individual armies had traditionally joined together to defend the country. The governments cut out the middlemen and took control of the army and the taxation. Unlike the powerful nobles, the individual citizens were powerless to resist the central government. This allowed the government to take as much of the people's wealth as they wanted, and there was no cut for the nobles, whose power soon dwindled. The people, especially those with any wealth, needed the army to protect them. The price of protection was high and grew ever higher. In most of the revolutions, the people insisted on having a say in the government. In many cases, including ours, only those who paid taxes had any say over how they were spent. But, the governments wanted more and more, and the people paying the taxes were holding them back, now that they had some say in the growth of taxes. The governments looking for a way around the voters, gradually expanded the vote to include everyone, whether they paid taxes or not. This put the people who paid the majority of the taxes, in a minority at the ballot box. Somewhere along the line, someone realized that it would be much easier to get permission to take your money, if, instead of asking you, they ask some other guy. The welfare state is designed to create a major supply of other guys that are very inclined to say yes, when asked for the permission to take the money from other people-the productive minority. This essentially became a license for the majority to steal from the minority. The government polished their techniques to take maximum advantage of the situation. At present, the governments steal massive amounts from the producers, smaller percentages from everyone, and pay a tiny commission to their accomplices-the majority. They even bribe many people with their own money, to get permission to rape the producers.

"Let's look at the United States, since we know it so well. In the US, one percent of the population pays a third of all the taxes, the top ten percent of wage earners, pay well over half of all taxes, and the top quarter pay eighty-five percent of the taxes. The bottom fifty percent are all it takes to vote for this legal robbery; they pay less than five percent of total taxes. For the majority of taxpayers, social security rivals income tax in amount, and the amount that shows on their paycheck stubs is only half of what they pay. The government correctly assumes they will be ignorant enough not to know that this is only half of what they lose. If the average worker today were to take his social security tax and invest it at a nominal rate of interest for forty years, he would have well over a million dollars, and could expect to draw close to a hundred thousand dollars a year, without ever touching his million plus. If he were to also invest the other half that his employer is forced to pay directly to the government, instead of to the employee, he would end up with twice that. This is a far cry from the guaranteed poverty that the social security system offers for the same price. Because of the social security fraud, the savings of the Americans are almost non-existent. But perhaps the greatest cost of the social security system results from the removal of the trillions of dollars from the economy to be wasted and stolen. If the social security tax money were saved and invested, hundreds of thousands of additional companies would be in existence, and there would be no unemployment. But, then the big government advocates couldn't count on the unemployed vote. If this isn't enough plundering by the government, consider this: In the fifty years between 1949 and 1999, the value of the dollar declined by more than ninety percent, because of the additional dollars put into circulation-meaning created out of thin air-by the federal reserve, then borrowed and spent by the government. You work for your dollars; the government manufactures them and spends them. Every one they manufacture makes those already out there worth less-two words-until eventually they become worthless-one word. The federal government takes forty percent of your money, right off the top, then they take ninety percent of the value of anything you manage to save. I won't even bother to go into the tax you pay when you die, if you have anything left."

"It's sickening," said Elman.

"One more little tidbit. If you had bought a house, a farm or whatever in 1949 for say $20,000, and you sold it in 1999 for $100,000, the government would expect you to pay taxes on the $80,000 profit you made. But because the government has sucked 90% of the value out of the dollar, the $100,000 is worth only $10,000 in 1949 dollars, meaning you lost fifty percent of your investment. If it's a farm, it's even worse. You paid $20,000; you also put 50 years of work into it; you lost $10,000; but you have to pay taxes on an 'income' of $80,000.

"Why bother to make money?" asked Elman.

"And, that's only the beginning," said Randolph. "That's only the federal government. State taxes, county taxes, and city taxes reduce what you have left, after the federal government gets through with you. People, seeing the federal tax rate alone, say we are better off than many countries. That is only a part of the taxes we pay. It is the largest and the most visible, and therefore it gets so much attention. When you buy something, the price you pay includes the taxes the company had to pay to produce it. If you buy a car, probably fifty percent or more of the price is due to taxes. The price includes taxes paid by the mining company that mined the iron, the steel company, the paint company, the tire company, the wire company, the plastic company, the tool company, and on and on. It would take days to list all of the taxes that add to the price of a car, because the tire company has to pay the taxes charged to the rubber manufacturer, the wire manufacturer, the mold manufacturer, among others. The mold manufacturer's prices include taxes paid by the steel manufacturers, the hardware manufacturers, and ad infinitum. It's that way with everything you buy, from a stick of gum, to a house. The total tax you pay is virtually incalculable, but can be estimated to be between 75 and 85 percent of your income, depending on your tax bracket."

Elman was crestfallen.

"This is only the tip of the iceberg, as far as the atrocities committed by our government go, but even if it were the whole list, it isn't exactly a situation you would choose, if you had a choice, is it?"

"I'll say it isn't," moaned Elman. "Unfortunately, we don't have a choice."

"Here is the important change in the equation: the information age can give people a choice. With the Internet and associated technology, people can make a living anywhere they can get on the Internet, which will soon be anywhere on the face of the earth. Even if they screw up the Internet with government regulation, a parallel Internet will spring up. Some governments, including our own, have worked very, very hard to produce citizens so uneducated that they can't see or comprehend what is being done to them. Everything I've been telling you is common knowledge and common sense and something any ten-year old child should be able to figure out. Anyone who thinks about it can see it. The primary task of the government is no longer to protect the citizens. The thing government works hardest at, is keeping the citizens from noticing the hand in their pocket, and to keep them from realizing how much it is really taking and where most of it ends up. The producers will soon be taking advantage of their new opportunity for freedom, in droves. Many of the top ten percent of taxpayers will go. Don't forget that they pay over fifty percent of the taxes. As they bail out, the tax burden on those left will increase terribly, until they are absolutely crushed. Most of the productivity will be gone. Hence, most of the wealth will be gone. Of those remaining, most of them will be used to living off those who left. The nation will collapse.

"This will happen all over the world, wherever governments fail to adjust to the new reality. Not only will many governments steadfastly continue to refuse to let the people keep the money they earn, but, for those services that a government best provides, they will refuse to limit their charge to what the services cost when performed cost effectively. Poor third world countries, if they have the foresight, can rise from poor to rich virtually overnight, by providing the information age netizens an appropriate environment.

"The major nation-states will be vicious and despotic, as they fight to hold onto what they actually consider assets of the state-the people. Measures equivalent to the Berlin Wall are likely to appear throughout the Western world. People will try to escape America, just as they tried to flee East Germany or Cuba. And their treatment, if they are caught, will be just as predictable. But, just as the Berlin Wall fell, these new walls, too, will fall. The nations will splinter into many countries-a trend already evident. Those who fought to keep their productive citizens and milk them will be begging at the doorstep of the world's new leaders. The biblical prediction, that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first, will have come true.

"That in a nutshell is what I see as the implications of the information age as regards the nation-state."

"I think I'll go out and get drunk," said Elman. "When will this start, and how long will it take?"

"It has started. How long it will take is very hard to say. It depends on how long the major nation-states are able to hold out, before their citizens rise up. Don't forget that those who are left will be the least educated and the most easily duped, so it could take a long time. Look at how many Cubans still can't or won't see that Castro is responsible for the living death of their country. You would think anyone that stupid would disappear, getting lost in their own home and unable find their way out. The only thoughts in their head, if there are any, are those put there by the government. You know people like that. We have tens of millions of them, and, in a few years, they can be a majority, if they aren't already.

"I would guess, and it is only a guess, that within a generation, twenty years, the Information Age will be well under way. Right now, only a tiny handful of small countries are available for those who want their freedom, and many of them haven't gone all the way. But it is a much larger handful than it was ten years ago. When a major country decides to join them, the increase will become exponential. The handwriting will truly be on the wall, in more than one sense of the word "wall. The tyrannical nation states are already frantic. They are striking out at those humane sanctuaries that refuse to bleed their citizens dry. They accuse them of money laundering and propose sanctions against them. The attacks will escalate as the evil empires see their income decline. We can only hope that the citizens of these oppressive nations will realize that their governments are hoping to obliterate all hope for freedom anywhere in the world, by quashing the few small nations showing people a way out of their current serfdom.

"Well, as I said, that is an overview. When the book, The Sovereign Individual arrives in the library, read it for a detailed development of the topic. I've got to run."

Elman stood dejectedly for a minute. "There must be a way out," he said. "There has to be." He turned and went back to work.

 

Just before five o'clock, Jeremy called in. His father was doing well and would be going home in a couple of days, if he continued to be all right. The doctors were sending copies of all his father's records to Doctor Selby.

"Jeremy," said Randolph, "I'm going to be away until Monday. If your father's okay, can you and Emily start planning a trip to the four candidate countries? Does Emily have her passport?"

"I don't know," said Jeremy.

"Don't worry about it. I'll ask her. If all goes well, you can leave next week and come back with reports and recommendations. How is the resort search coming?"

"Pretty good. We have either existing resorts or land for a resort, in each country. Emily is following up on some additional leads. I'll be in tomorrow."

"Good. You can check with Emily. If I think of anything else, I'll tell her. Send your father's records overnight, and you'll hear from Doctor Selby right away. With any luck, your father can be brought back to a very healthy condition and not have to worry about his heart any more, not for many years, at least."

"Thank you so much, Mr. Randolph. We all appreciate it more than we can ever say."

"Just find me a great country for my resort, Jeremy. That will be more than enough thanks for me."

"I'll do my very best."

"I know you will," said Randolph. "I appreciate it, and I'm counting on you and Emily."

 

 

WEDNESDAY - DAY 37

 

The next morning at 9:00, Randolph called Alicia and asked her to send Perry up for his bags. Then he added, "Good-bye Alicia, I'll see you Monday. Remember, no calls unless it's a true emergency. I am going to be a beach bum for a few days. During the week, I'm almost certain to be the only one there, and if the six bungalows get too crowded on the weekend, maybe I'll sleep on the beach. Expect me to return completely unwound and limp. Even the books I'm taking are fiction. I don't expect to think about anything more than what to eat and drink. You should try it down there sometime, it you ever feel stressed."

Everything he said, after good-bye, was for the benefit of the people listening in on his conversation. While he doubted that they would consider following him to Las Brisas, he wanted to convince them that there was no reason to bother. Why, he wondered, didn't they bug his office? He was sure that they hadn't. He had been sweeping it daily, until he considered that they might have something that they could turn on and off by remote control. So he set up a constant monitoring system, and there was never a transmission. There were also no wires that could connect a microphone to a distant transmitter in a place that wasn't likely to be swept for bugs. He guessed that they might be afraid that in his business he would be on the watch for industrial espionage, and might find any bugs they planted in the office. If he found one in the office, he would be likely to check everywhere and would find the ones in the apartment. If they thought that way, they would rather have secure bugs in the apartment, than to risk not having any.

On his way to the Miami International Airport, he considered his situation. He didn't relish making the trip, but it wasn't very long, and he definitely wanted isolation and a place he could relax and enjoy his surroundings without having to concern himself about anything. Las Brisas certainly offered the necessary combination of seclusion, charm, and proximity.

 


***

 

"Hello Doctor Fields," said Doctor Dennis Pierce. His grip tightened on the telephone, and he had a sinking feeling in his stomach. He dreaded these calls. Doctor Fields always wanted progress reports on the experiments.

"Any news, Pierce?"

"I'm afraid not," said Pierce.

"We've been discussing your project," said Doctor Fields, "and we think that if you don't get a breakthrough in the next week or so, we'll arrange for you to get some assistance. With more people working on the project, you can run more experiments in parallel. We want to see some results."

"I understand," said Pierce. "But, as you know, if nothing happens, all I can do is try a new program and hope for the best. That's the way it was with the replication. That took three years. Everyone thought I was lucky."

"I know you're doing your best, Pierce, and I know it's partly chance, but then if you do three times as many batches, you have three times the chance of achieving success."

"That's true," said Pierce.

"We'll get started on the funding for assistants. Let me know if there's any news, and we'll stop the arrangements."

"I'll let you know, Doctor Fields. I would have done that anyway."

"I'll be in touch with you in a week or so," said Fields. "Good-bye."

To Pierce, this was disastrous. If they put on a few assistants, they might stumble on the right combination, or some new one just as deadly. There had to be many ways to kill a mouse with an electroenzyme. What on earth could he do?


***

 

Stacey Morgan sat at her desk, staring at her father's portrait, hanging on the wall in front of her. She felt like crying, but she wouldn't let them make her cry. What would her father have done about the union problems? she wondered. When she didn't know what to do, she often tried to imagine what he would have done. Sometimes, she worried that she wasn't tough enough for the task of running the shipyard. How could she make herself tougher? If it were the union alone, it would be bad enough. But when the union went out on strike two years ago, the government stepped in and subjected her to forced arbitration, which translated into "making her give the union everything it wanted." Since then, the union knew they had her where they wanted her-helpless. This is supposed to be the land of the free, yet the unions extort money from the workers and give it to the politicians, and, in return, the politicians repay the unions by giving them anything they ask for, no matter how illegal and unjust it might be, as long as it came from the employer. She didn't think her father would have had an answer to this, not to a union that had the U.S. government as its goon squad. Now, she had a new variable in the equation: Randolph's suggestion that she tread water for a while and wait. Wait for what and how long, she had asked. All he would tell her was "not long."

The ringing of the telephone broke through her thoughts, snapping her back to the present. It was her private line. Nothing else rang this time of night. It was probably her mother, wondering when she was coming home. She picked it up and said, "Hello."

"Hi, Sis. How are you?"

It was her brother, Troy. Stacey steeled herself. This was sure to be unpleasant.

Stacey still lived with her mother, in the family home. Technically, her brother Troy lived there too, although he was often away for extended periods. At forty, Troy was two years older than Stacey. He had never shown any interest in the shipyard, or any other business for that matter. She loved Troy, but there was no way she could admire him. They were complete opposites. She was mature, serious, and very industrious. Troy, on the other hand, was an immature playboy, without an industrious bone in his body. In college, he had majored in history, something Stacey could never understand. As she saw it, a degree history was useless, except for teaching, and the thought of Troy in front of a classroom was absurd.

Stacey had majored in business, gone to work in the family shipyard, and worked in every department, before becoming a vice president. Her performance was outstanding in every task she was assigned. Not even her detractors ever questioned the fairness of her advancement. When her father died eleven years ago, Stacey took over as president,

During the first few years that she ran the shipyard, revenues doubled. Then the Japanese and Swedes, with their more efficient, automated shipyards, began taking business from her, a situation that was getting progressively worse. If the present trend continued, disaster was imminent.

While Stacey had been advancing in the business and, for the last eleven years, running it, Troy has been a classic example of a playboy. When their father had died, his sixty- percent of the company's stock was divided equally between Troy and Stacey. Their mother held the remaining forty- percent. Stacey held proxies for her mother's stock and for Troy's as well. But Troy had gone through the two and a half million dollars that his father had left him, and he had sold stock to Stacey, twice in the last two years. Stacey knew Troy's call was not a social one. He never contacted her any more, unless he needed something.

"Hello, Troy. Where are you?"

"New York."

"I was in New York Monday night."

"You were in New York." There was amazement in his voice. "What for?"

"I went to an opera, at the Met."

"You came all the way to New York to see an opera. I can't imagine you leaving your boats, at all, much less for an opera. Wow."

"What's on your mind?"

"I guess there's no use beating around the bush," he said. "I need to sell some more stock."

"Why doesn't that surprise me?" she said. "Have you asked mother?"

"Yeah. Surprise, surprise. She told me to talk to you."

"Well, I want to talk to you first. You're going to have to come here and see me."

"I have to give you right of first refusal," said Troy, "but I don't have to go all the way to Savannah."

"No," she said, "you don't have to come here. You're right. But, you do have to give us ninety days. Call me in ninety days, Troy. Was there anything else?"

"Wait a minute Sis," he whined. He was suddenly much more conciliatory. "Can't we talk this over? I can't wait ninety days. I need money now. Even after the sale, it usually takes several days."

"First of all," she said, "how much do you want?"

"I'm twelve thousand in debt," he said. "And I need some to live on."

"Okay," she said. "I'll give you fifteen thousand. Enough to pay your debts, and one for you, so you can get home. I'll give you the same price I gave you last time, but, for any more, you have to come here. It's either come here or wait the full ninety days. After that, you have to sell outside the family and probably wait a lot longer. You know there's no market in our stock."

"Why do you want me to go to Savannah?"

"You'll see when you get here. Are you coming?"

"I don't see that I have a choice."

"Good. Tell me where you are and I'll send you the fifteen thousand. Overnight, I suppose."

"Overnight will be fine. I'm staying at the Knickerbocker Hotel, Room 721," he said. "Thanks a million, Sis. Sure you can't make it twenty?"

"Damn, Troy. I'll send you fifteen, and, if you ask me again for more, it will go to ten. You can get more; you just have to come here."

"Okay, Sis. I'll be seeing you. I was thinking of coming home for a while anyway. Thanks and bye."

"Bye," she said, as she hung up the telephone. Her father wouldn't have given him any money. Or maybe he would have, to prevent an outsider from purchasing the stock. He would probably have looked at making the stock undesirable, so no one would buy it.

Somehow she planned to bribe Troy into some form of responsibility? She would have to turn Troy around, or he would eventually squander all his stock, then he would either become indigent or would have to live off her or her mother. She was bent on preventing that happening. She picked up her telephone and dialed 1-800-555-1212.

"I'd like the number for Anthony Robbins seminars. Anthony Robbins Institute. That's it." She wrote the number down and then dialed it.

 


***

 

Arlene and Henry Walters almost never went out on Friday evenings, and everything stopped, even if they had visitors, when their son's television show came on. When they retired to St. Petersburg, Florida last year, they had to install a satellite dish to receive his show, because the local cable company didn't carry the Black News Television Network.

"There's something different about him tonight," said Mrs. Walters, before her son had said a word. "He's upset."

"Maybe he had a bad day," said Henry Walters. "Shhhh. He's starting."

"...Tonight, I have a lot to cover, but first, I want to mention something that concerns me, personally. This afternoon, BAAL and the Reverend Willie Washington announced a boycott of this network and Minority Matters magazine, unless or until they terminate their association with me. I know that none or nearly none of my listeners and readers would pay any attention to these people. You already know what BAAL, most so-called black advocates, the Reverend Washington, and, most of all, that irreverent Washington, with a 'D.C.' after it, have in mind for you-perpetual dependence, the new slavery with invisible shackles.

"They, meaning BAAL and Reverend Washington, say I am misleading unsuspecting blacks, wooing them away from their proper ideals, which have brought them so far. You all know that about half of my audience is white, and that I have the largest audience of any program on the Black News Television Network. Notice that they didn't say anything about me misleading whites. I have a response for these people and any boycotters: if I'm misleading by telling the truth, what on earth are BAAL and Willie Washington doing with their lies? The truth exists; only lies have to be invented. Unlike them, I'm not trying to insure my position as a government subsidized, self-appointed savior, who doesn't save. I'm not in the business of profiting from the misery of blacks. Nothing would make me happier than for every black person in the world to become a millionaire. It wouldn't put me out of business, as it would BAAL and the Reverend Washington. I don't have to fear the prosperity of the black community. On the contrary, I hope that I contribute to that prosperity. I am more interested in getting blacks and whites to drop their labels and in seeing everyone go as far as they possibly can. I want to cut the umbilical cord to the government. I want people to have dignity, not dole.

"I don't know what the reaction of BNTN and Minority Matters will be. This may well be my last program on BNTN. While most of my viewers and readers are immune to the foolishness of BAAL and Willie Washington, the viewers of the other programs may not be. It may be that BNTN and Minority Matters will have to cut their ties to me, causing them a certain amount of financial pain.

"Just in case this is my last appearance on BNTN, instead of the single quote I usually open with, I have selected four quotes which I want my viewers to try to remember, as best they can.

"The first one is from Henry David Thoreau: 'I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor'-unquote. I personally believe that is true for all people, regardless of their color.

"Next, A short, but profound quote from Frederich Engels: 'When it becomes possible to speak of liberty, the State, as such, will cease to exist,'-unquote.

"The next is the last quote for everyone-there will be one more, strictly for my black viewers. This is from James Harvey Robinson: 'We have unprecedented conditions to deal with and novel adjustments to make-there can be no doubt of that. We also have a great stock of scientific knowledge unknown to our grandfathers, with which to operate. So novel are the conditions, so copious the knowledge, that we must undertake the arduous task of reconsidering a great part of the opinions about man and his relation to his fellow men which have been handed down to us by previous generations who lived in far other conditions and possessed far less information about the world and themselves. We have, however, first to create an unprecedented attitude of mind to cope with unprecedented conditions, and to utilize unprecedented knowledge'-unquote.

"And, lastly, for all my black viewers, and especially for BAAL and Reverend Washington, the words of William Raspberry: 'There is another minority whose situation may be more instructive. I refer to Asian-Americans. Neither the newly arrived Southeast Asians nor the earlier arriving Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and Korean-Americans are loved by white people. But these groups spent little time and energy proving that white people don't love them. While our myth is that racism accounts for our shortcomings, their belief is that their own efforts can make the difference, no matter what white people think.' -Unquote.

"My regular viewers may recognize those quotations. I carefully selected them from my previous programs, as thoughts I would like to leave you with, in case I am to leave you.

"The first topic I want to discuss tonight is the way the so-called news people have been covering the so-called Justice Department's anti-trust investigation of Clinton Randolph. At this point, absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing by Clinton Randolph has been announced. Yet, most of those who pass themselves off as journalists already have the gallows built and are selling tickets to the hanging. If visitors came here from another planet and saw what is happening, they would see a concerted effort to do grievous harm to Mr. Randolph, and they would see that both the news media, which in this and many other cases is creating news, not reporting it, and the Justice Department, which in recent years has repeatedly and flagrantly failed to live up to its name and would be more aptly titled: the Criminal Department or the Bootlicking Lackey Department, are parties to this effort. The battle cry of these two assailants is 'facts and law be damned; get Randolph.' There are two questions I have to ask: Why are they risking such a blatant travesty, and whom are they working for? The reason that I specified visitors from another planet, is that most of those on this planet, while they claim that seeing is believing, are a hell of a lot better at believing than they are at seeing. Clinton Randolph has a lot of money, but that doesn't mean he is a criminal, any more than having no money makes a person a saint. Anyone, ignorant enough to believe that a person's financial status has any bearing on his moral stature, is only a short step away from believing that a person's color or gender have a bearing on their morality or their ability to function as a human being.

"We have to take a commercial break. Don't go away, I'll be right back to go into some details on the joint venture between the media and the government into the railroad business-the railroading of Clinton Randolph."

Henry Walters held out the remote control and ran the volume down on the television. "I guess you were right, Arlene, about the way he looked."

"I knew something was wrong," she said, "but I never expected anything like that."

"Alvin must be getting pretty powerful, if he's got those pecker-heads running scared. You know that's why they want to shut him up. They're afraid blacks will get tired of being treated like they can never accomplish anything on their own, like they can be domesticated but not educated. I think they have good reason to be scared. A lot of black people are sick and tired of singing 'Tote that food stamp, and lift that welfare check.' More and more blacks are fast becoming the ones that won't leave home without their American Express card. We don't want to elect a new 'massa,' every four years, to take care of us poor 'ole darkies.' We want to elect public servants, and we want them to be just that-servants, not masters-and we want them to keep out of our way. We don't want Black History; we want plain truthful history, because that includes black, white, red, yellow, and everything in between. Nor do we want promises to help 'our' people; we want promises to help people, because we think that includes us. The people that say, 'All you people got rhythm' are no worse than those who say, "All you people need help." Willie Washington and BAAL need to quit acting like they are an extremely rare phenomenon: a black person born with some sense, able to stand up for the rest of us poor worthless creatures."

"Stop it, Henry. I've heard it a thousand times, from you and from Alvin. You don't have to sell me. If I didn't agree with you, I would have had to leave years ago."

"I just get so mad I could spit, and with good reason," said Henry Walters. "I wonder if he's gonna get the axe."

"He will still have his job as a professor and his writing. It's not like he was going to the bread line."

"I know that, Arlene. But, you see, he needs to do something now, to show them who he is. It's a matter of principle."

 

 


CHAPTER 18

Thursday - day 38

 

 

Bob Adams was in a wheel chair, being wheeled down the hall, toward the front door of Holy Cross Hospital. Ed Clark had come to pick him up, and the regulations called for all patients to be wheeled out, regardless of their condition. The nurse pushed Adams to the curb in front of the main entrance, and waited for Clark to bring his car. Clark pulled up to the curb and opened the door for Adams.

Ten minutes later they pulled into the driveway of Adams' house. They sat there for a minute; Adams just stared at the house.

"Want me to go in with you?" asked Clark.

"I'm going to have to manage it sooner or later," said Adams. "It might as well be sooner." He opened the door and after another minute, got out. He leaned down and said, "Thanks, Ed, for everything. I really appreciate it. I'll call you later about coming in to the office."

"If you need anything, don't hesitate to call me. I'm only a couple of minutes away. Oh, here's the telephone number you wanted." He handed Adams a slip of paper.

"Thanks." said Adams, sticking the paper in his shirt pocket. He pushed the car door shut and stood watching as Clark drove away. Then, he walked up to the front door, put the key in the lock and turned it, but he didn't open the door. It wasn't going to be like going home. Eventually, it would seem like going home, but never like it used to be. He went in and closed the door behind him. It looks the same, but he'd expected that. The bedroom was going to take a while. He sat in a chair, his chair, and, although he tried not to, but he couldn't help thinking about Betty.

He went into his office, sat at his desk, and gathered up the papers on the desktop calendar, and set them to one side. There it was, written across the top of the calendar, the license number of the blue van. And there, on the calendar, on the 26th of this month, a big red X, marking the day that the baby had been due. Betty had put the X there. He hadn't grieved nearly as much about the baby as he had about Betty, but now he was made so very aware of the fact that his son was killed before he even lived, and it angered him. His anger was like none he had never known is his life, even more intense than what he had felt these last few days. He looked back at the license number and memorized it, 'RAN 08L.' He was ready to go into the bedroom, now. He was a captain in the military police again; at least he would try to be.

He wasn't ready for the bedroom, after all. No one could ever be ready for that. He grabbed the doorframe to keep from collapsing. The bedclothes were gone; the bare mattress was covered with bloodstains, everywhere except for the extreme corners. The ivory-colored carpet had huge stains on both sides of the bed, where blood had run off the bed onto the floor. The room was filled with the stench of decayed blood. Eventually, he felt the blood making it to his head again, and he could let go of the doorframe and walk into the room.

There were two bullet holes in the headboard, one in the wall above the headboard, and four bullet holes in the mattress. He could see the marks on the wall behind and above the headboard, made when the police had dug the bullets out of the wall. Only two of the holes in the mattress looked like they had tried to get the bullets. He went to his office and took a letter opener from the center drawer and went back to the bedroom. He probed in the holes in the mattress with the pen and felt the bullets in the two untouched bullet holes. He brought a knife from the kitchen and cut the cover of the mattress and dug the bullets from the mattress. It had been a while, but he thought they were .38 caliber.

He had the license number and two bullets, and he knew what one of them looked like. With a little luck and maybe a little help, he should be able to track them down.

"You'll pay, you bastards," he shouted, as he walked out of the bedroom. "I miss you so much, Betty," he moaned. "Not that it will change anything, but they are going to pay. I swear."

He fished in his shirt pocket for the scrap of paper that Clark had given him. Finding it, he picked up the telephone and dialed the telephone number on it. The area code was 863; that meant his old C.O. was in Florida. Maybe he had retired.

"Colonel Brooks’ office," said a husky, female voice.

"I'd like to speak to Colonel Brooks, please. My name is Bob Adams."

"One moment, I'll see if he's in."

"Hello, Bob. How the hell are you? I haven't heard from you for years."

"I must admit that I've been better," said Adams. He gave his old boss a brief summary of what had happened.

"Jesus Christ, Bob. I'm sorry. Did they get the perpetrators?"

"Not yet. As a matter of fact, that's my main reason for calling you. By the way, where are you? I know it's Florida, but where?"

"Don't laugh," began Colonel Brooks, "I'm the C.O. of an R.O.T.C. unit, at Florida Southern College, in Lakeland. I wanted to retire and spend some time with my grandchildren; I have one in Tampa and two in Orlando. I heard about this duty and asked for it. In two years, I'll have my thirty in, and that will boost my retirement pay. In the meantime, I'm an hour away from each of my kids and grandchildren. The job is a snap. Not only that, but the life here is great for Amy, my wife. They have concerts and art exhibits right here on campus. It's a beautiful little private college, with much of the campus designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It's like being on perpetual R and R."

"Sounds great, Colonel. I'm happy for you."

"Call me Gabe, now that you're a civilian, Bob. What can I do for you?"

"I don't think the local police are worth a damn," said Adams. "From what I've heard, the police around here are more interested in seizing property than they are in solving crimes."

"That's becoming an epidemic across the country," said Brooks.

"I'd like to get some private help, and I was hoping you might either be able to recommend someone or know somebody that could."

"Where are you located?"

"I'm in Fort Lauderdale."

"That's pretty close. We have to get together. I gather you'll be busy for a while. If I can help at all, be sure to call me. If you get up to Lakeland or nearby, like Orlando or Tampa, call me, and we'll get together. As for recommending someone, there is a group in Miami. They aren't cheap, but they are as good as you can get. If I were in your situation, I wouldn't want anyone else."

"Sounds good to me," said Adams.

"The firm is called 'SIA,' sort of like 'CIA.' Actually they are mostly ex-CIA and FBI. I suppose you are going to do some work on your own and you need support. Is that it?"

"You guessed it."

"Talk to Phil Matthews, when you contact them. His father was General Matthews, who died in Vietnam. I once headed up his father's security team. Tell him I sent you. I've sent several people there, and everyone was pleased with the service."

"Thanks a million, Colonel-I mean Gabe. What's the distance to Lakeland, about two or three hundred miles?"

"I'd say about two-fifty."

"I'll try to make it up there soon. I just got out of the hospital today. I would have surely died, so they say, if Betty hadn't fallen on top of me, in just such a way that she put pressure on the hole in my chest, stemming the blood flow. I was hit in the head too, but that wasn't too bad."

"It's tough," said Brooks. "I understand why you want those bastards. I just hope they don't arrest them, slap their wrists and turn them loose. That's standard operating procedure, anymore."

"I know," said Adams. "I've been thinking about that."

"I see," said the Colonel.

"I'm going to let you go now, Gabe. I get very tired very quickly. I'll start building myself up, now that I've escaped the doctors. I'm going to see a nutritionist and see if I can get back in shape."

"Good luck, Bob. Please keep me posted."

Adams was truly very tired, but he called information for Miami, got the number for SIA, then, for the first time in his life, spent the thirty cents and let the telephone company dial for him. He talked briefly to Phil Matthews, who wanted him to come to Miami, until he heard that Adams had just gotten out of the hospital and wasn't up to the trip. Matthews said he could send Ira Lincoln, between two and three o'clock that afternoon.

 


***

 

Randolph was sitting at a table in the open-air restaurant of Las Brisas, sipping iced tea and watching the surf. But he wasn't merely relaxing; he was working on resolving his situation. The first day-really half a day-he had relaxed, listened to music, and spent some time in the pool and on the beach. Today, the second day, he had gotten up early and started to work. He had been going over everything for some time, but here in total tranquility, he went over it again, and again. He had made a list of alternatives and evaluated each. He had gone through everything he could think of, no matter how ridiculous it might seem. He would think for a while, then swim in the pool or take a walk, then go back to trying to come up with the best solution. He had come down to one solution, and had been trying to find a reason to reject it, or a better alternative

He went back to the bungalow to get his CD player. Since there were no other guests in the motel, he didn't have to worry about disturbing anyone. With the CD player at the edge the pool, he could keep cool in the pool, while he listened to Beverly Sills' and Sheryl Milnes' Up in Central Park album of operetta favorites. His father was one of Beverly Sill's greatest fans, and he had evidently inherited a propensity for admiring her.

In early 1952, his father had gone to Orlando to see a performance of La Traviata, by the erstwhile Wagner Opera Company, and Beverly Sills happened to sing in it. It was his father's second live opera, and he had been utterly captivated by both Miss Sills' performance and Miss Sills, herself. Three times he had tried to get in through the stage door, to see her, and three times, they had thrown him out. Finally, he entered the front door of the theater, went down into the orchestra pit, climbed onto the stage and walked backstage; and there she was. Orlando was still too small to have a theater with dressing rooms, and she was sitting at a dressing table, practically in the wings. His father had told her that he was a reporter on the college newspaper, which was stretching the truth somewhat. He had once written an article for the college paper, and he had been editor of his high school's paper. But, he was afraid of being turned away. Beverly Sills was, according to Barry Randolph, as gracious as she was lovely and talented. She told him that in the second act, when Alfredo's father, Germont, tries to convince her that the best thing she could do for Alfredo and his family is leave him, she became so caught up in the role that she cried real tears. A hopeless romantic himself, young Barry Randolph was completely taken by the redheaded beauty, with the perfect voice, and the sentimental heart. He assured her that her future was secure; she would undoubtedly be a great star of the Metropolitan. She was less sure than he, but hoped that he was right. The rest is history.

Several years later, his father turned on the radio and heard a voice too wonderful to believe. He listened mesmerized, then when the announcer identified the voice's owner as Beverly Sills, he exclaimed, "Beverly Sills, she made it. I knew she would." He went immediately to the record store and ordered every record she had made, which were only a few at the time. Over the years, although she grew in fame and his collection of records, tapes and CD's grew as well, Barry Randolph said he always thought of her as the young, red-haired beauty in a yellow ball gown, crying real tears in the Wagner Opera Company's performance of La Traviata. "She might sound a little better today," his father would say, whenever he told the story, "but she could never look any better, and what a smile. Every time you see her, except when she's acting, she's smiling." In more recent years, since Beverly Sills gave up singing to run the New York City Opera, he would add, "and she's not just beautiful, with the most glorious voice ever, and the most endearing smile you ever saw, she's got a good mind too."

Randolph had heard the story so many times, he couldn't have remembered it any better, if it had happened to him and not to his father. He, too, had every recording Beverly Sills had ever made, but although he had not seen her that night in Orlando, judging from the pictures on the albums, it seemed unlikely that she could have looked much better than she did in her thirties and forties. By the time the CD ended, he wanted to call her and thank her for the monumental pleasure she had brought to his life. Perhaps he should go to New York to thank her, and take his father. But that might be too much for his father.

He climbed out of the pool. While he had been lost in a reverie about Beverly Sills, his subconscious had been making a last minute review of his problem and his options. He knew the last remaining solution was the most logical and, by far, the most appealing option. He went back to the bungalow and called Leonard Fisher. He would need Fisher's help, immediately.

"Hello, Leonard. It's Clint. Remember that I said I might need your help soon? The time has come."

"I'll be glad to help anyway I can," said Fisher. "What can I do for you?"

"What are you doing this weekend?"

"Not much of anything. Nothing important at any rate."

"How would you like to join me in Costa Rica?"

"Costa Rica? Are you there now?"

"Yes. I can understand if it's too far and too inconvenient. I came down here yesterday to think, and that's what I've been doing. I've made up my mind, and I need your help."

"It must be quite a problem for you to go to Costa Rica and think about it."

"It is. I'm working on my survival, Leonard."

"Where are you in Costa Rica? I'll be there as soon as I can."

Randolph explained how to get to Las Brisas. Fisher said he would make his reservations and call to let him know what time he would arrive. Fifteen minutes later, Fisher called back and said he would be there at 5:00. He said he had to run, because he would have to rush to catch the airplane. Randolph suggested he bring a laptop computer and a notebook, as well as a couple of bathing suits.

Randolph then called Alicia. "Hello, Alicia. Have you had any emergencies?"

"None we couldn't handle. There was a call from Stacey Morgan. She said to call her when you could. How is Costa Rica?"

"Costa Rica is wonderful, and Las Brisas is paradise. Listen, Alicia, I need for you to do me a favor."

"Yes, Sir."

"Send an e-mail message to jefferson-at-compuserv-dot-com. The message is: 'Please keep me posted on your location and telephone number. Thanks. Clint.' Put my e-mail address under my name. You got that?"

"Yes, sir. I'll send it right away.

"Thanks a million, Alicia. I'll see you soon."

He then punched in the number for Stacey Morgan's private line at the Morgan Shipyards.

"Stacey Morgan," she answered.

"Clint here. I got your message."

"I just wondered if you knew that our trip to New York has been bandied about on radio and TV."

"No, but it doesn't surprise me. What are they saying?"

"Mostly that you are so filthy rich that you go from Palm Beach to Savannah to pick up your date and then to New York for the opera."

"It's true."

"The way they say it, though, it sounds like you are a robber baron flaunting the dirty money you earned from the sweat of child labor."

"Sounds like Patrick Parvell. Are you upset?"

"Are you kidding? I was a bit perturbed, when a small group of reporters were waiting for me, when I came out of the office."

"I'm sorry to have caused you this bother."

"Bother? I'm not bothered. I just wonder when we are going to do it again. I hope we're going to."

"At least that. Right now I'm in Costa Rica. As soon as I get back Monday, you'll hear from me. You can count on it."

"Enjoy your stay in Costa Rica. I'll talk to you Monday."

"It's an unwinding trip, and it's working marvelously. Good-bye." He smiled as he hung up the telephone. Then he thought about the media mob bothering Stacey, and he frowned. He didn't have time to dwell on that; he needed to stop by the office to arrange for someone to pick up Leonard and to reserve a bungalow for him.


***

 

Bob Adams had fallen asleep on the couch for a couple of hours, then gotten up and made a pot of coffee. He was sitting in his chair drinking coffee, when a black Porsche pulled into his driveway. Looking at his watch and seeing that it was twenty after two, he assumed that it was Mr. Lincoln.

"Mr. Lincoln?" asked Adams, standing in the doorway as Ira Lincoln walked toward him.

"Yes, Ira Lincoln. And you are Bob Adams, I presume."

They shook hands.

"Come in and sit down," said Adams. "I just made coffee. Would you like a cup?"

"Yes, please"

A moment later they were both seated on the sofa, with their coffee.

"What exactly do you need, Mr. Adams?" asked Lincoln.

Adams recounted the entire story.

"You see I have the license number of the blue van and I know exactly what one of them looks like."

"Did you give the license number to the police?"

"No."

"May I ask why not?"

"I'm not entirely sure. I have the impression that they have little interest in the case. Their interrogation of me was half-hearted, just a formality. They were merely going through the motions."

"Have you been interrogated before, with more enthusiasm?" asked Lincoln.

"No, but I was an investigator for the Military Police for several years and I have interrogated a lot of people myself, and I've been present at many more interrogations. This was a 'do it and get it over with' operation. I figured they wouldn't follow up and, if they did, they would probably blow it."

"Look, Mr. Adams," said Lincoln. "I know what you have in mind, at least more or less. Will you do me a favor and hold off until I can talk it over with my boss and maybe some of the other guys? Maybe we can come up with a way that you can be sure these guys get burned, and still not risk going to prison yourself."

"Okay," said Adams. "I'm still not up to par, anyway and probably won't be for a while."

"If I were you, I'd contact the NRA and help them. They're fighting the restrictions the government puts on our right to bear arms. I'm sure it has occurred to you that if you hadn't had to wait for your gun, you and your wife might have come out of the whole thing unharmed, with the two guys getting what they deserve."

"Of course I've thought of that, a thousand times."

"You can help the NRA get people's constitutional rights returned to them. There are a lot of people like you. What kind of work do you do?"

"I have a marketing business," said Adams.

"Hell, if you can't help them, who could," said Lincoln. "Look, we'll discuss this at the office and get back to you. Will that be all right?"

"That will be fine."

"We could run the plates and help you find the guys and you could blow them away and maybe go to jail for the rest of your life. I'd rather see you find some other way of getting back at them and remain free to help the NRA."

"I guess you're right," said Adams. "You'll have to excuse me, if I seem a little abrupt or lethargic today. Come with me." As they walked down the hall, he said, "I just came home today," and as he opened the bedroom door, he added, "to this."

"Oh, my God," exclaimed Lincoln. "You're a brave man, Mr. Adams. Jesus, don't they usually clean up crime scenes."

"I told them not to," said Adams. "Not because I wanted to see the blood, but because I wanted to be able to see if there was anything the police overlooked."

"Was there?"

"Not really. I dug these two bullets out of the mattress," said Adams, holding out the two bullets.

"Thirty-eights."

"That's what I thought," said Adams.

"Keep them. They might come in handy."

 


***

 

Later that afternoon, Ira Lincoln walked into Phil Matthews' office.

"Phil, this Adams guy has a real situation."

He summarized Adam's story and ended by saying, "So you see, he's an ex-MP investigator and needs some help. He has the license plate number of the killers and two slugs from the gun that killed his wife and unborn kid. You couldn't believe the bedroom, Phil. The entire mattress was soaked with blood and a lot had run off onto the carpet on both sides."

"He wants to take them out himself?"

"He didn't say so, but I got that impression."

"What did you tell him?"

"I told him to hold off for a while. I said I'd talk it over with you and the guys and see if we could come up with a plan that would put them away without him having to risk going to prison. Then I told him to call the NRA and join up and help them. He owns a marketing business, and I said that he could be a big help to the NRA."

"He agreed to hold off?"

"Yes. He seems reasonable enough. He just wants justice. He said the police came across as disinterested, when they questioned him."

"What's new? I'll think about it for a while."

It's four-thirty. I think I'll just go home and get Clara and go to happy hour."

"Where are you going? Maybe I'll drop by, if you don't mind the company."

"Not at all. I'd welcome it. How does the Rusty Pelican sound?"

"Sounds great. It's one of my favorites. I'll see you there."

 


***

 

"This place is a paradise," said Fisher, sitting across from Randolph, at a table in the open-air dining room, drinking a piña colada. "I love those magnificent green mountains, and this wide, wide beach, with those enormous rocks sticking out of the sea. The iguana over there is watching us enjoy our drinks. How is it that you never mentioned this place?"

"I don't know, Leonard. I guess it just never came up in a conversation."

"Are you sure you weren't just trying to keep it to yourself?" said Fisher, with a laugh. "I could certainly understand that. Now that I know about it, I'll probably come here once in a while to unwind."

"It's perfect for that. It's also very private. Actually, that's why I wanted you to come here. Otherwise, I would have gone back home and talked with you there."

"When do we get down to the issue at hand? I know it isn't something trivial for you to bring me to Costa Rica, although I'm already glad you did."

"You know that the Justice Department is working on charging me with anti-trust violations. Right?"

"Of course. Every newscast plays it to the hilt. I wouldn't watch her, if she was the only newsperson alive, but someone told me that Cookie Robinson compared you with Hitler and Scrooge in the same sentence. I thought this might have something to do with that."

"You were right. It does. I know they are going to charge me. I know they are going to win, and they're going to break me up and make me help my competitors. Needless to say, I am not overjoyed with my prospects."

"How do you know they won't decide to drop the whole thing?"

"I happen to know the whole thing isn't at all about anti-trust. That is just the way they came up with to get me."

"They?"

"The Commission on Foreign Relations-not really the CFR, but the people that call the shots for them."

"Oh boy. What are those guys after you for?"

"They think I'm a bad influence. I'm independent and successful. On my own, with no government assistance, I live the American Dream. What if everyone thought they could do it? It would erode their efforts to foster dependency on the government, which seems to be something they want very badly. And, worse yet, I'm a Libertarian. What if I became political and ran for president or financed the Libertarian Party? You can calibrate the media on this. Every left wing fellow traveler will condemn me before any facts are ever mentioned. If anyone says otherwise, you can assume he has some integrity, if there is anyone with integrity left in the American media."

"What are you going to do?"

"That's what I brought you here to discuss. I have a plan, but it's a very major undertaking. I wanted to run it past you and see if you could help me with the financial aspects."

"I'll do anything I can, Clint. Let's hear your plan."

 

 

 

Saturday - Day 40

 

Michael Keller picked up his telephone.

"Hello."

"Michael, it's Marta. I didn't know if you would be home on Saturday night or not."

"I'm afraid so," said Keller. "What's up?"

"I just wanted to tell you that I found six more routines today. That makes twenty-three."

"Anything special?"

"One of them is the one you mentioned, the one that wipes out the hard drive. I've been backing up daily, just in case I hit that one. Thank goodness, I was expecting it."

"I owe Sandoz an apology for sure," said Keller. "He was right about it all."

"Do you suppose that MicroShaft is using any of these the way it used the Directory command?"

"Who knows? They said they stopped doing a directory, when people registered their software by modem. I wonder how anyone knew they were doing the directory in the first place."

"That's a good question? Is there a way you could tell if they use any of them?" asked Frazier.

"Sure," said Keller. "You can have it jump to a subroutine every time it accesses one. The subroutine can beep or something. I can do that, if you'll give me the addresses of all the routines. I'll have it play a tune and print the address or what the function does, so you can tell which routine has been called."

"I'll e-mail you the addresses and what each function is for," she said.

"That would be good."

"Unless you'd like to get a bite to eat. Then I could just give you the list. Have you had dinner?"

"No I haven't. I'd like to have dinner with you, Marta."

"Why don't you pick me up in half an hour?"

"Where do you live?"

"1244 North 22nd Avenue, apartment 712."

"I'll be there."

  

SUNDAY - DAY 41

 

It was two o'clock in the morning. Dennis Pierce parked in the shadows, half a block from his laboratory. As he had expected, there was no sign of life in this part of the campus. He hurried to the door, which opened without using his card, because he had disabled the lock, so there would be no record of his entry on the University's central computer. The only light was from two security lights that were always left on. He slipped a diskette into his computer, rebooted the computer from the diskette, then typed in "wipe c:" and pressed return. It wouldn't be enough just to format it. He'd heard they could retrieve the data anyway. This would write a pattern over the whole hard drive. There were backup tapes and the notebooks; he set them on the table beside a Bunsen burner sitting under a ring-stand with a flask on it. He had taken a set of backup tapes home, for himself. He poured two bottles into the flask and waited for the computer to finish wiping all the data off the hard drive. Then he turned off the computer. He looked at his watch. Kathy would call the hospital in two minutes. If things went as planned, the liquids in the flask would make a compound called picric acid. Picric acid was perfectly safe when it was wet, but very unstable when it was dry. You could paint a spot on one end of a two-by-four and let it dry. If a fly landed on the other end of the two-by-four, the spot would explode. But for these liquids to make picric acid, the temperature had to be closely controlled, or you would have an enormous explosion. A gas flame under them was definitely not the proper control. He lit the Bunsen burner and ran out.

Pierce was two blocks from the Yale New Haven Hospital when he heard the blast. He was so startled that he almost lost control of the car. It had happened much sooner than he had expected, and it was much louder than he had imagined it could possibly be. He had three hopes: he hoped no one was hurt; he hoped every scrap of information about the project was completely destroyed; and he hoped he would get away with it.

He pulled into the hospital parking lot and soon saw Kathy's car. He parked and ran over to her car. All his resolve and his courage had left him, and the whole idea seemed foolish. But he didn't want to upset Kathy any more than he surely had already.

"Did you hear that blast?" he asked, nervously. "It was sure loud enough. I hope nobody got hurt."

"So do I," she said. "I thought we were going to be here before it went off."

"I thought we would be. It went off sooner than I expected."

He helped her out of the car and into the passenger's side. Then he got in the driver's side and drove up to the front door of the hospital and walked into the hospital with her. Perhaps it was some kind of macho instinct; but now that he was with Kathy, his courage had returned.

"My name's Kathy Pierce. I think I'm having the baby," Kathy told the receptionist.

Pierce looked at his watch. It was two thirty-two. "Two-twenty-two," he said. "That must mean something; it's all two's.

The receptionist made a call, then she brought a wheelchair for Kathy and held it while they waited for a nurse to come.

"I feel good about coming in at two-twenty-two, honey," said Pierce. "All twos must mean you're going to have twins. Don't you think that two-twenty-two being all two's means twins, Miss?"

"I doubt it," smiled the receptionist.

"Well, I hope so," said Pierce. "I've wanted twins. Three two's have to be my lucky number."

A nurse came and wheeled Kathy away. Pierce followed them. The receptionist went back to her desk and wrote into the book on her desk: "2:22 Katherine Pierce - in labor."

"How far apart are your pains?" asked the nurse, as she pushed the wheelchair into the elevator. If he ever needed it, Pierce had an alibi.

"About ten to twelve minutes," said Kathy. "But they aren't all that regular. I know it could be a false alarm, but I couldn't take the chance."

By the time a doctor arrived, Kathy's pains had subsided, and she seemed a little embarrassed to say she thought it might be a false alarm. They kept her the rest of the night and let her go home the next morning.

 


CHAPTER 19

MONDAY - DAY 42

 

 

Jeremy arrived at work a little after ten. The night before, he had picked up the first iteration of the new software in St. Louis. Randolph asked him to get Emily and come to his office. Almost immediately, Jeremy came back with Emily.

"Good morning, Mr. Randolph," said Emily.

"Good morning, Emily. I'm anxious to see the new software, Jeremy, I first want to say something to you two. The time has come for the phase you have been waiting for. I want you to leave as soon as you can for the top four choices. I can't dictate how long you should spend in each country. You know more or less what I'm looking for. I want a lot of video footage and a lot of questions asked. Before you leave, come up with a checklist of questions to be answered in each country. Most will be the same for all countries, but some questions may be country-specific. I think you should leave within forty-eight hours."

Emily looked at Jeremy. They had been expecting this.

"If I were to guess," continued Randolph, "I'd say an average of three to four days in each country. If you see something very interesting, or very disturbing, don't hesitate to spend some extra time. If you have a routine problem, don't call me. Call your parents. It might be good to call home when you arrive in each country and when you leave, giving them your telephone number and room number. Alicia can check once or twice a day to find out where you are and if there are any problems. Here is my pager number. If you have a serious problem, page me. I don't think there is any danger, or I wouldn't be sending you. However, as someone told me recently, it's better to be too safe than not safe enough, and you can't be exactly safe enough."

"I don't mind being too safe," said Emily. "I prefer it."

"Me too," said Jeremy. "I'd rather be safe than macho."

"Good thinking," said Randolph. "We've gotten American Express cards for both of you, in your own names. Just turn in the bills. We'll also give you fifteen thousand dollars in cash. Remember you two are on a pleasure trip. You need to act like it. You are both supposed to be from well-to-do families. If I thought it necessary to tell you not to do anything foolish, you wouldn't be here."

He smiled at them. "If you don't have a good time while you're at it, you're missing a great opportunity."

"I don't think you have to worry about that," said Jeremy. "Right, Emily?"

"I'm sure it will be wonderful," said Emily. "Even when it's work, it will be fun."

"Great," said Randolph. "Is there anything else you need, or are there any questions?"

"I don't have a question about the trip," said Jeremy, "but, I've been wanting to ask you something completely unrelated."

"Let's have it," said Randolph.

"You might think I'm crazy, but there is a man standing at the off-ramp from I-95, nearly every morning when I come to work. He has a sign that says 'Will Work for Cash or Merchandise.' Ordinarily, I wouldn't think twice about those people, but there's something about him. He doesn't ask for money, but for work. That alone makes him different. He doesn't look like your average homeless person. Does he Emily?"

"No," said Emily, "He's always clean, clean-shaven, his clothes are pressed with sharp creases, and his shoes are shined. He waves at us, every time we go by."

"He didn't always wave," said Jeremy. "At first we'd just look at each other, and it was like we communicated somehow."

"What about him?" asked Randolph.

"Well, I thought that you might have a need for an extra person; I knew that the daytime custodian had quit," said Jeremy.

"Bring him in, and we'll see what he has to offer."

"I already did," said Jeremy. "He's down in the lobby. Could you speak with him? His name is Kent Rogers."

Randolph looked at Jeremy. "You took a lot for granted, Jeremy."

"Perhaps I took a chance, but it was calculated," said Jeremy.

"I'm sure it was," said Randolph, gruffly. Inside, he smiled. "Very well. I don't usually interview the custodians, but bring him up. While I'm talking to him, Jeremy, you can install the new software on a couple of computers. I'll check with you, when I get through talking to Mr. Rogers. Emily, you can start on the checklists to take with you. Be sure to take two video cameras, in case one breaks. Take plenty of cassettes. Take an audio tape recorder so you can record notes. Take two digital cameras. All those things should be on hand; we use them around here. If there's a shortage, try Randolph Computers, or have Alicia run them down."

Minutes later, Jeremy was back with his 'homeless' man. Randolph came from behind his desk and extended his hand.

"Hello, Mr. Rogers, I'm Clinton Randolph. Sit down and let us get acquainted. Jeremy, tell Alicia that I'm not to be disturbed, barring an emergency."

Half an hour later, Randolph knocked on Jeremy's open door.

"How are you two doing?" asked Randolph.

"It's going well," said Jeremy. "How did Mr. Rogers work out?"

"Mr. Rogers has agreed to join us, as the daytime custodian. He starts Monday. I was put off by his inability to provide any references, but like you, I saw something in the man that attracted me, and I decided to take a chance. I think there's more to him than meets the eye."

"I'm glad," said Jeremy.

"Tell me about the software," said Randolph.

"It's marvelous," said Jeremy. "I already have it installed on my computer, if you'd like to see it."

"You bet," said Randolph. "How is your father, Jeremy?"

"He is doing very well. In fact, he says he feels better than he has in years. I think it's the diet Doctor Selby put him on. He's losing weight and his cholesterol is falling. He's gradually increasing his daily exercise. Naturally, we're all overjoyed about his progress."

"That's great. Now, show me how this software works."

"I'll just type in a test message of a few lines," said Jeremy. "Then save it and exit. Now I call up the encryption program which Ali called Krypton, from Superman; type in the name of the file to encrypt; then, I select two texts. Let's use Don Quixote and Oliver Twist. There can be up to sixty-four texts on the list. Now starting pages for each text. One word from each text for each message word. We could take a lot of words from the texts for each message word. The order of the words will be scrambled in a way that he wouldn't tell me, then each word is looked up in a dictionary. The dictionary has a sixteen-bit hexadecimal or four-character code for each word. There are special techniques for handling words not in the dictionary. The page of hexadecimal is finally encoded with PGP. I have other options such as special ways to scramble or rotate the dictionary codes, and I could use special dictionaries. I can also change the whole process every line or every x lines, even every letter. A preamble tells the decoder the configuration and how many characters, words, or lines the code is good for. After that amount, another preamble is given. Even if someone decodes the PGP, they have a page of 4-character hexadecimal words that are just as meaningless. If they manage to decode a line of those, most of the words they get are extraneous and no one knows how to pick out the message words. The whole system could change on the next line. Just press enter and away it goes. In different preambles, the fields are in different orders. A code at the beginning tells the computer how do interpret the preamble. For maximum security, we can send the message a character at a time, with the character buried in page or pages of extraneous letters. Even if you know how it works, it is impossible to break it. On this short message, encryption will be almost instantaneous. On a message of a few pages, it takes a while, but that's the price you have to pay for the security. See, it's done. We can view the message; it is of course garbage. We can e-mail it directly. We can compose, mail, read, and export, the works. The program occupies about one and a half megabytes of hard drive, but you have to have Paradox, the texts, and the dictionary. I used about 14 megabytes of disk."

"That's no problem today," said Randolph. "I want you to install it on my computer in my office and the one in my office upstairs. I'll watch and you can explain as you go along. I'll install it on my laptop. Then, give it to Emily. "I want four sets, on diskettes or CD's, right away. We'll need more texts to choose from later, but that can wait."

"It's on three diskettes, not counting the texts. He downloaded these two books from the Guttenberg Project on the Internet," said Jeremy. "It's incredible. What a beautiful job he did, and in such a short time."

"Everything Ali does is incredible," said Randolph. "I've never seen a software genius like him. I've got to get to my office. If you two have any problems, don't hesitate to bring them up. If you're still short anything, buy it. If you are short any personal items, even clothing, that you might need for the trip, let me know. You should probably take a wide range of clothing, from evening dresses and a tuxedo, to bathing suits. The company will take care of anything you need to purchase. Go ahead, and get started."

Randolph had not gone twenty feet down the hall, when he turned and went back to Jeremy's office. "Jeremy," he said, "I need for you to requisition a laptop computer-the best-and install Krypton and all the accessory software on it. I need it as soon as possible. Just give it to Alicia. Do this before any of the other installations. It is very high priority. Also, when you have encryption software on Emily's computer, I would like for you two to send each other some messages, to verify that you have no problems. I'm sure Ali did that already, but always verify your assumptions, when it's important. I may be leaving. With any luck, I'll be back tomorrow."

"I'll get right on it," said Jeremy. "I think I should take a laptop with me, too."

"Requisition one."

 

***

 

When Randolph returned to his office, Leonard Fisher was waiting for him.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Leonard," said Randolph.

"No problem, Clint. I just got here a minute ago."

After telling Alicia not to disturb him, Randolph closed the door. "Sit down, Leonard. You don't have to whisper, but keep your voice down. These fans on the windows are to prevent eavesdropping with a laser microphone, which I've verified that they do quite well, if we don't talk too loudly. I need your help for a couple of minutes."

"What can I do for you, Clint?"

"My apartment is bugged, and I want to take advantage of it to feed them some false information. This is what I want to do..."

Minutes later, Randolph went up to the apartment. He called Alicia and told her that he was expecting Fisher, and to let him know when he arrived. Alicia said that Fisher had already arrived.

"Sit down, Leonard," said Randolph, when he had ushered his friend into the living room. "I brought you up here because what I have to say is in the strictest confidence. I would be afraid to talk about it on the telephone." They were on the sofa, only a few feet from one of the bugs.

"What is it, Clint?"

"You know the Justice Department is looking into my businesses for antitrust violations."

"Yes."

"One thing you don't know is that I am looking around the world, for a spot to set up a major resort. I haven't picked the spot yet, but I am rapidly narrowing it down. When I first began thinking about a resort, in an isolated part of the world, it was as much a place for me to get away, as it was for a business. I thought I'd capitalize on it, by making it an elite getaway. The more I worked on defining what I wanted in the resort, the more it appealed to me. Last weekend, as you know, I went to Costa Rica, in a very isolated minor resort. I did a lot of thinking while I was there.

"To tell the truth, I've been getting a little bored with my businesses. I certainly don't need any more money. I don't even need all the money I have now. No one needs that much. Not only that, but I'm getting tired of it all. There is nothing fresh, nothing new about starting a new business any more, or expanding an existing one. Little by little, I want to start liquidating my businesses. For a while, I just want to work on my resort. Maybe in a year or two, I'll decide to do something new. I can't say yet. Right now, I just want the freedom to reflect on my future."

"My God, Clint. This is the last thing I could have expected."

"This investigation by the Justice Department was the last straw. I doubt that I have broken any laws, but I don't want to go through the hassle. A few years ago, I would have been ready for them, even glad for the challenge. Now, I figure why fight for something I don't really care about any more."

"In a way, I guess I can see your point. After you've done as much as you have, what else is left to do?"

"There are millions of things I can do, Leonard. But adding to my business empire isn't one that interests me, at this stage of my life. The day-to-day management has become a chore. I know it's going to be a major job to dump these companies. I don't want to give them away. I want a fair price. You're my banker, can you help me?"

"I'll do my best, Clint. Boy, this isn't going to happen overnight, you know. You're talking many billions of dollars. You don't find that kind of money sitting around, waiting for an opportunity. Let me work on it for a while, and get back to you with my thoughts. Wow. You've taken my breath away."

"I'm not even telling my parents, for fear they might leak it. If the word got out, morale would fall in my companies. I know that they have to know sooner or later, but there is no use tearing down the companies before I can sell them. Not only that, but the customers would suffer, and I wouldn't want that."

"I'm really in a state of shock, Clint. This is the last thing in the world I would have expected. But, I think I understand it, and I'll do all I can to help you."

"Good," said Randolph. "I'll go back down with you. I appreciate your help Leonard. I hate to run, but I have some important things to take care of."

When they were back in Randolph's third floor office, they were laughing.

"I think you would have made a good actor, Leonard," said Randolph.

"I just got into it, Clint-as if it were really happening.

"That ought to give them food for thought. I'd love to know how they take it."

"So would I."

"I hate to say it," said Randolph, "but I really do have to get busy on some phone calls. I'll have to chase you away. Thanks for the help, Leonard."

"Any time. Believe it or not, it was fun. I have to get going too. See you later, Clint."

After Fisher left, Randolph closed the door. He had to talk with Norman Jefferson. The situation called for a face-to-face meeting. He would take him a laptop with everything installed ready to use. That way they could communicate via the Internet. Norman could help him a great deal and he might very well be disposed to help. After all, he was, as he, himself, had put it, "bumming around." Knowing Norman, he was probably getting bored. As Secretary of State, he had traveled all over the world, meeting with some of the most important and most powerful people in the world. He was visiting some of them now, but-." He stopped in mid-thought. The idea had come from his subconscious. His mind raced.

He pressed the intercom button. "Alicia, see if you can find correspondence we had last year with some used airplane dealers, and bring it to me, as soon as possible."

"Yes, sir."

In a couple of minutes, there was a knock on the door. "Come in," called Randolph.

Alicia handed him a folder. "Thank you, Alicia."

He glanced through the folder, took out one of the papers and dialed a number from it. "Hello, I'd like to speak to Roger Svenson."

"Hello, this is Roger."

"Roger, this is Clinton Randolph. I'm holding a letter you sent me last year. At that time, you had a several large corporate jets listed. How about today? "

"I have three good ones, Mr. Randolph. One is a very unique 737. It was a corporate plane, for a company that experienced a sudden reversal of fortune. It has a sort of Pullman type interior. You may know that the early airliners had sleeping accommodations, because the trips took so long. This one has them for comfort and convenience.

"The main section can seat a maximum of a hundred and twenty-six in forty-two private staterooms, although that's packing them in pretty tightly. It can sleep eighty-four. It has six executive staterooms, which can each seat six and sleep four. It has a hide-away conference table. Special fuel tanks give it forty percent more range than a standard 737. It also has a comfortable lounge and a complete communications center, with fax, telephones, satellite communication, television, short-wave radio, and several computers. And much, much more."

"What model is it?"

"It's a 737-800--the biggest 737 made,--like new with only 700 hours on it.

"How much?"

"Twenty-three million."

"That's a bit high. What are the other two?"

"You might negotiate the twenty-three million down a little. Also, I have a Lockheed Electra."

"Propjet?"

"That's right," said Svenson.

"Not interested," said Randolph. "What's the other one?"

"It's a stock 737-300, for nineteen million. It's in mint condition."

"If I send someone to check them out," said Randolph, "and he likes one, when can we take delivery?"

"That same day, it you have a qualified pilot to fly it out. You have to get it registered with the FAA."

"Can we buy it for a foreign company and not have to register it?"

"You have to register it somewhere."

"I'll work on that," said Randolph, "In the meantime, I'll send my man to Dallas. I'll probably send a co-pilot along with him. I may even go myself. If they fly into the Dallas airport, can you pick them up?"

"We would be glad to."

"Great," said Randolph, "I'll call you back"

Randolph called Alicia on the intercom. "Find Fran for me, right away, if you can. Tell him I want him to fly to Dallas and look at a couple of planes ASAP. Tell him I need a co-pilot, for a 737, to go with him. When he knows how soon he can take off, he can let me know. Let me know if you can't reach him. Okay?"

"Yes, sir."

 


***

 

Doctor Dennis Pierce drove leisurely toward his laboratory. He had to act as though he hadn't known that his laboratory had been blown up. The street that he usually took into the campus was blocked off. He drove on to another entrance and again found the turn to the laboratory blocked. He parked some distance away and walked toward the lab.

He could see the building was still standing, more or less. One wall was mostly gone and the interior was black from having burned. Police and fire vehicles were everywhere, as were policemen and firemen. When he drew near, a policeman approached him.

"You can't come any closer to this building, fellow," said the policeman.

"I'm Doctor Pierce. That is my building. What happened to it?"

"Someone blew it up."

"Good morning, Doctor Pierce," called another man, who was walking hurriedly toward them. He was wearing the uniform of Campus Security.

"Good morning, Burt," said Pierce. "What in hell happened to my lab? My God, it looks like there are years of work ruined."

"For the guy that was in the building, it ruined more than that," said Captain Burt Cox. "He's dead as a doornail."

Pierce almost collapsed. He had killed someone. Who?

"Are you all right, Doctor Pierce?" asked Cox, grabbing his arm.

"Who was it?" asked Pierce.

"We don't know," said Captain Cox. "He had no identification whatsoever."

"It wasn't any of my staff, was it?"

"No. It wasn't the custodian and doesn't seem to be a student. It was a white male, about five foot-eight and a hundred and sixty pounds. Around thirty-five years old, they think. The FBI is looking into it."

"The FBI, what do they have to do with it?" asked Pierce.

"I don't know, they just appeared, about half an hour ago," said Cox.

"Can I get in to see if any of my records are salvageable?"

"Not yet, Doctor Pierce. You might as well go home. I'll give you a call when you can get in."

"Thanks, Burt," said Pierce. "I guess I should stop and see Dean Simpson, just to let him know where I am."

Forty-five minutes later, Pierce walked into his house.

"What happened?" said Kathy Pierce. "You look like you've been hit by a truck."

"I need some air," he said. "Let's go for a walk."

She followed him outside and down the street.

"There was someone in the building, when it blew up," said Pierce.

"Oh, no," she cried. "Who?"

"That's the really strange part. They don't know. There was no identification at all on his body. He wasn't anyone who works in the lab, or the janitor, or a student. He was a man around thirty-five years old."

"Who would be there at two in the morning, on Sunday night?"

"No one. That's why I did it then. Maybe I should turn myself in."

"Don't be silly, Dennis."

"But Kathy, I killed a man."

"You certainly didn't mean to. Quite the contrary, you did it to save lives, maybe thousands of lives, even millions. Turning yourself in won't bring him back. Wait and find out who it was. There's something fishy about this."

 


***

 

Phil Matthews had convinced Bob Adams that it would be wiser to wait and find a foolproof way to put his wife's killers out of business. Perhaps it was easier because Adams had found a reason for wanting to stay out of jail-a major passion for fighting gun control. It was only a few days since Adams had first contacted the NRA. Since that initial call, he had been in contact with them eleven times. He had begun using E-mail the second day and had worked his way up the ladder, from a lowly customer service-type person to a regional director. Now he wanted to communicate with the headman. Bob Adams' marketing company specialized in what was called Guerrilla Marketing by the father of the subject, J. Conrad Levenson. Basically, he helped small businesses with small budgets to compete with huge national and multinational companies, by the use of ingenious marketing strategies. He had been thinking for days, trying to find a way to combat the gun control extremists. He had asked for a list of prominent NRA members in Florida and had reviewed it. That morning on the news, he had heard a reference to one of the names on the list and something had clicked. He couldn't wait for E-mail to run its course; he telephoned the Regional Office of the NRA.

"Hello, this is Bob Adams. Can you tell me how I can get in touch with the National Director?"

"You can try the National Headquarters. The number is 800-555-2121.

"Thank you," said Adams. He dialed the new number.

"This is Bob Adams, I need to speak to Charles Preston, the National Director. Is that possible?"

"Mr. Preston isn't here. I can try to reach him and have him call you. Can you tell me what this is in reference to?"

"I have an idea on how to use a special opportunity in the Florida Legislature to advance the agenda of the NRA, which happens to be my own personal agenda. A few weeks ago, I noticed two men who appeared to be casing my house. I decided to buy a gun to protect my family. I found I had to wait three days and take a course, even though I was a military police officer for several years. The night of the second day of the waiting period, they broke in and shot my pregnant wife and me. My wife and my unborn son died. My wife's body fell on top of me, and the weight of her body on the hole in my chest slowed my loss of blood, so that, miraculously, I survived. As you might guess, I am very opposed to gun control, especially waiting periods. My business is guerrilla marketing, and I have some guerrilla marketing ideas for the NRA. Can you remember all that and make sure Mr. Preston hears it?"

"I think so, Mr. Adams. I don't know what to say about your wife and son. I'm so sorry.'

"What's your name?"

"Sandra."

"Sandra, just help me make sure their deaths serve a great purpose: the advancement of freedom in America; and make sure Mr. Preston calls me as soon as possible."

"I will, sir. I'll do my very best to get hold of him and have him call you."

Adams gave her his number and asked her to let him know if she couldn't find Charles Preston.

 


***

 

Fran Benson called Randolph, to tell him that he had found a temporary co-pilot, and they both could leave any time today, with an hour's notice. Randolph had already arranged to set up a Bermuda company, which had a line of credit for up to twenty-five million dollars. He felt that he would probably take the first plane Svenson had mentioned. It sounded almost too good to be true. He just needed to whittle the price down a little. Thinking his negotiating skills might save him a million or more dollars, he had decided go himself. "I need a little while to take care of a few things," Randolph said to Benson. "I'll be going with you. I don't want to buy something as big as a 737 without seeing it. You and the co-pilot go on to the airport, as soon as possible. I'll meet you there.

Randolph went up to the penthouse and got a mobile telephone that was registered to Alicia. He took it to his third-floor office and called the Hotel Galua, in La Manga del Mar Menor. Norman wasn't in his room, but they paged him and he came to the telephone. "Norman, this is Clint. I need to talk to you. Are you going to be there the next couple of days?"

"Yes. I'll be here another week."

"I'm not sure of my arrival time. As soon as I know, I'll let you know. I'll fly into Alicante or San Javier, depending on whether I come alone or not. If I'm not alone, I don't want anyone to know exactly where I'm going, so I'll get a car in Alicante and drive to La Manga. If all goes well, I should be there the day after tomorrow."

"I'll be here, Clint, waiting for you."

"I have to run, Norman. I'll talk to you soon."

Randolph was on the intercom again. "Alicia, get me Margaret Parvell, in New York City. The telephone may be listed under Patrick Parvell. If a man answers, don't let him know it's me. Lie a little, if you have to."

"Yes, sir."

 


***

 

Patrick Parvell had just left for the studio, and Margaret Parvell was sitting at the dining room table, enjoying the view and the tranquility, while finishing her second cup of coffee. She was beginning to understand why so many people wondered what she ever saw in her husband. Just as she drank the last drop of coffee and was getting up from the table, the telephone rang. She walked into the study, to get the nearest telephone. "Parvell residence," she said.

"Margaret Parvell?" a female voice asked.

"Yes. Who is calling?"

"Please hold for Clinton Randolph."

She couldn't believe her ears. Clinton Randolph calling her. Perhaps he was calling her husband, although that would be even more incredible.

"Hello, Mrs. Parvell. This is Clinton Randolph. Do you have a couple of minutes?"

"Why, yes," she said, still in shock.

"I have long been an admirer of your work," said Randolph. "I think you are unsurpassed, in your field."

"Thank you," she said. "I don't think you have any equals in several of your fields either."

"I can certainly, understand if you're not interested, given your husband's crusade against me, but I wondered if you would be interested in doing an interview of me."

"Are you serious?" she asked.

"I am always serious. Well, almost always. But now, I am completely serious. I would like a truthful objective interview by a literate writer. I don't know if it would do me any good. But it can't hurt me. It could, however, possibly hurt you."

"My husband would have a fit."

"There is that, too," he said.

"I would certainly love to do it," she said. "In fact, I could never forgive myself, if I said no."

"As I said before, I understand that there may be compelling reasons not to do it. It is only that there is no one else that I would like to do it."

"I'll do it," she said.

"I thought you would," said Randolph.

"You must know me better than I know myself," she said.

"I doubt that," said Randolph. "I'm planning on going to New York this Wednesday, but I don't have time to give you the interview there. Would you fly to Spain with me? You can interview me on the way over, then you can return on the next flight, or you can stay and have a little holiday, not with me, but on me. I expect to be in Spain only one day, or at the most two, so you could also return with me, if you wish. Can you work something like that into your schedule?"

"This is awfully strange," said Margaret. "I know you generally don't give interviews. Now you're spending the money to fly me to Spain and back, so I can interview you. Is this on the up and up?"

"You have my word of honor," said Randolph. "It is true that I generally don't give interviews, and with most reporters, I would be loath to give anything other than a live interview, because of unethical editing. Although I realize that few will be interested in what I might have to say, there may be some who might be sustained by it. For the sake of those few, I want to do it. I don't want what I say to turn out to be unrecognizable, even to me, and I think choosing you precludes that. I do have two conditions: one is that I review whatever you decide to publish or broadcast, with the option to require that you omit or correct any editing that changes the meaning of anything I said. The second condition is that I want a copy of the original interview, for comparison purposes. I don't think these conditions are necessary, or I wouldn't have called you, but without them, my reluctance to interviews couldn't be overcome. I don't know what other reassurances you might require. I am not spending any money to fly you to Spain; I am flying to Spain on business, whether you come along or not. My intentions are honorable, if that is a concern. I'm not trying to take you out of the country for nefarious purposes. I don't know you or even what you look like. I know how you write, and from that I can probably deduce quite a bit about you. If your appearance is of the same caliber as your writing, that would be serendipitous, but not nearly as exciting as it would be to find that your writing is a reflection of you, the person."

"You seem to have a way with words, yourself. From what I hear, your word is pretty reliable."

"I work hard to keep it that way," said Randolph.

"I'll agree to the conditions. And, no, I didn't think you were trying to pick me up. As to what you have to say, do you plan to work it into the conversation, or do you want me to ask some specific questions?"

"If I don't get a chance to work it in, I'll talk to you about it. I'd rather you just did it your way, if possible. You are usually thorough, and you pursue any interesting divergences. I would like for you to reach as large an audience as possible, but I leave that to you. I realize this is an imposition, asking you to go so far, and if there were any other way I could work it into my schedule, I would."

"It is not really an imposition," she said. "It gives me a lot of time, and, let's face it, interviewing you is bound to be good for my career. You have a deal. I won't have much time to prepare my interview, but I'll make do. My husband will be apoplectic, but he's been that way before, with no serious long-term effects."

"I'm on my way to Dallas to buy a plane," said Randolph. "Right now, I don't have one that can go that far. As soon as I complete the deal, I'll contact you. For reasons that should be obvious, I'd rather not speak with your husband. I'll have my secretary call you and just say that your flight leaves at such and such time, and from where. I'll see you there."

 


***

 

"Well, Frances, It happened. Just like we knew it would," said Alvin Walters, walking into the kitchen, where his wife was preparing dinner."

Frances Walters set down the pan she was holding and put her arms around her husband's neck. "I assume you're talking about BNT or Minority Matters."

"Both."

Well, it's their loss," she said, giving him a kiss, "and my gain."

"What do you gain?" he asked her.

"Well, if you don't have to work for those ingrates, you'll be home more." She pressed against him. "Won't you."

"I don't know if I can stand being at home more," he laughed.

"That'll be the day." Separating from him, she said, "Seriously, Alvin, what are you going to do?"

"I really don't know," he said. "I've got a few nebulous ideas, nothing more. I'm in no hurry. For a while, I probably will be home more."

"Maybe you could write another book," she suggested.

"About what?"

"Maybe a novel about a non-profit group and a black 'rrreverend,'" she trilled the word, "who plot to keep the black population mired in stupidity and poverty, so that they can rake in tons of money in government grants and in donations from those misguided people who think their money will help black people and even more from those who know the score and have their own reasons for keeping blacks down and the nation divided."

"No one would find that credible," he said. "It's been going on for years, and no one believes it."

 


***

 

Bob Adams grabbed the telephone on its first ring.

"Bob Adams."

"This is Charles Preston, Mr. Adams. I understand you wanted to talk to me."

"I certainly did, Mr. Preston. I want to thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I want to see if I can enlist your help in a plan I have for getting gun control laws-at least the waiting period-eliminated in Florida and possibly other states as well."

"I would do all I could to help accomplish that. What would do you have in mind."

"The first step would be to get State Senator Malcolm Reardon to put an amendment on the state's budget bill and switch his vote from against to for, if they will leave the amendment on it. That would be the first step and after that I have a plan. It will take a few minutes to explain it all."

"If you can possibly get gun control laws repealed in any state, I'll listen to you for days. Go ahead. Tell me your plan.

 


***

 

Marta Frazier and Michael Keller were having lunch together.

"You won't believe what I'm about to tell you," she told him.

"Yes, I will," he said.

"I installed your software patches, Michael, and then I went surfing the World Wide Web. Most US government sites use the directory routine when you access them. The CIA, DEA, FBI, the White House, and even the Department of Agriculture."

"Agriculture," said Keller. "I can see the police types, but agriculture seems weird, and so does the White House."

"There are stranger things," she paused for effect, "the same thing happens when you access the French Government, the UK government, the Japanese government; even AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe, and, last, but certainly not least, our own company, AP&P. There may be others, but those are the only ones I've found, so far."

"There must be something in the MicroShaft browser," said Keller. "Did you try any other browser?"

"No I didn't. I don't have any other browser."

"I'll try Netscape," he said. "Did you log onto MicroShaft.com?"

"Yes, I did. They didn't access any of the routines, though. Actually, that was the first place I tried."

"That is really surprising," said Keller.

"The whole thing is really disgusting," said Frazier. "I didn't mention that they also access compress and delete file routines. I think they do a directory and write it to a file, compress it, and, transfer it to their server, then delete it. This means they can do anything they want on our computers, including wipe our hard drive clean."

"So much for privacy," said Keller. "Since they can download a file, they could read the directory, and if they see a tax program, for instance, they could download your tax files, and your bookkeeping files. It starts to get scary fast."

"It looks like anyone who has anything they don't want the government to see, had better keep it on a different computer than the one they use to access the internet," said Marta Frazier.

"You know, I'd forgotten about it, until now, but Sandoz also said something about push technology. I can't remember what it was."

Of course, Michael," cried Frazier. "In push technology, they 'push' information onto your computer. If they can send the message or file that you want, they can send another that you don't want-one they want you to have. Supposing they send you a program to monitor what you are doing, and they check it from time to time, keeping an eye on you."

"There's something strange here, Marta. They didn't access the routines when you accessed MicroShaft. Maybe they didn't know about them and a spy in MicroShaft put the routines in without their knowledge. Then, too, they could also be smart enough to appear innocent. There is definitely some sort of collusion between the government and MicroShaft, or, at least, someone at MicroShaft.

"If MicroShaft were innocent, how do you explain what they did to the other guy that Sandoz told about the routines," Marta said. "If they hadn't had something to hide, they wouldn't have done that."

"Maybe the manager the guy went to was the spy, or in on it," said Keller. "AP&P must be in on it too, since they use the routines."

"That's right," she said. "Oh God, Michael. Supposing MicroShaft somehow tests the subroutine, before they access it, to see if it's been modified. The code we put in, to let us know when they accessed it, would change the size and the CRC. They would know it was modified and not use it. Not only that, but they would know who had modified it."

"That's scary," admitted Keller. "I don't see how they could check the routines without accessing at least one of them. Unless there's at least one more that we don't know about."

"I can think of a lot of ways, Michael. They could check it while WinDose is loading and put a flag somewhere in memory. All you need is one bit. A zero if it's okay, and a one if it isn't."

"Since the others did use it," said Keller. "They apparently don't check. I could be wrong, but I'd guess there is no check. Hell, it's bad enough that the government and the telephone company are in on it, without MicroShaft."

"Do you suppose anything would happen to us, if they found out that we know about it?" she asked.

"I don't want to find out. Do you?"

"No way," she said. "You know there could be quite a few routines that we don't know about. They could require a parameter, such as a filename or a number, in order to operate. We would never know where to store such a parameter, or how long it would be, or if it was encoded or what. They could already know that I know. That scares me to death, Michael."

"Come on, Marta," he said, putting his hand on hers. "They probably don't know. Just to make sure, why not access them again without the modifications. We both know that noise on the line or a hiccup in the computer could give them a false reading. They have to know that too." He wasn't as sure as he sounded. But, what good would it do to worry?

 


***

 

Perry dropped Randolph and Kit at the Airport. Fran Benson and the co-pilot, whom Benson introduced as Sid Hodges, had been there long enough to have the plane full of fuel and the flight plan filed. At 10:45, they left West Palm Beach for Dallas.

Once Randolph saw the airplane that belonged to the defunct Silicon Valley Company, he knew it would be perfect, if it turned out to be in good condition and he could get the price down a little. He hired a local company to inspect the airplane thoroughly and to verify its service record. Their team went right to work and soon gave the aircraft a clean bill of health. Benson and Hodges took it up and put it through its paces, pronouncing it fully operational. After negotiating the price down to 19.7 million dollars, Randolph called Leonard Fisher to authorize the expenditure for the airplane and an insurance policy. The funds transfer went through quickly, but the confirmation of the insurance policy took two hours. Randolph took advantage of the wait to call Francesca.

"Hello, Francesca," he said.

"Clint?"

"Nolite temere. Ego sum. Fear not. It is I."

"You took Latin in college?" she asked.

"No. I just remembered that particular phrase. A Pope wrote it at the bottom of his portrait, when the artist asked him to write a bit of scripture on the painting. How have you been, Francesca?"

"Better than ever. Where are you?"

"I'm at the Dallas airport."

"Am I going to get to see you?"

"I'm afraid not. I just bought a plane, and I'm waiting for the insurance to go through. As soon as it does, I have to take the plane to the Bahamas to get it registered. But, I didn't want to be in Dallas without calling you."

"Bahamas. I'll never forget that day in the Bahamas. What kind of plane did you buy?"

"A 737."

"Wow."

"I expect to be doing a lot of international travel," he said, "and I may be taking quite a few people with me. I can't tell you about it, just yet. When you hear about it, you'll understand."

"Whatever it is, I hope it works out well for you, Clint."

"Thanks, Francesca. So do I. It's a very important situation."

"I've been following your problems in the news, lately," she said.

"Don't believe everything you see and hear from the media."

"I never have. There's no reason to start now. Besides, I know you."

"Is that your dog barking?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so."

"What kind of dog do you have?"

"She's a Border Collie."

"Black and white, I suppose."

"Yes, she is. Her name is Mimi."

"That's much better than Zerlina," he said.

"That's what I thought, although Zerlina has a pleasant ring to it."

"Indeed it does. Does Mimi always bark so much?"

"I think there's someone at the door."

"I'll let you go for now, Francesca, so you can answer the door. I'll be in touch."

"I hope so. Good-bye, Clint. Thanks for calling."

"It's been my pleasure. Good-bye, Francesca."

Randolph then called Roger Svenson and asked him to be on the lookout for another similarly equipped plane. Finally, well insured, they took off for Nassau. They arrived too late; the government offices were closed. They spent the night in Nassau.

 

 


CHAPTER 20

THE TRIP TO SPAIN

TUESDAY - DAY 43

 

 

The next morning, at eight o'clock, Randolph's Bahamian attorney picked them up at the hotel. As everything in Nassau had been prearranged and their appreciation for the fastest service possible had been amply demonstrated, the formalities were completed in two hours. A little after twelve, they arrived in West Palm Beach.

"Could you wait here for just a minute, Sid?" Randolph asked the co-pilot. "I need to talk privately to Fran."

"Sure, Mr. Randolph," replied Hodges.

Randolph took Benson aside. "Fran, after flying with Sid, what do you think of him?"

"I think he's very good, Mr. Randolph. Obviously, one day isn't much to go on."

"Will he do for the trip to Europe tomorrow?"

"I don't see why not. He has more experience on 737's than I do. Less overall flying experience, but, on 737's, he's got me beat. He seems to be a nice guy."

"I just wanted to check with you, before I asked him to stay on for the trip tomorrow."

"I think he'll do fine, Mr. Randolph," said Benson.

They walked back to Hodges. "Well, Sid," said Randolph. "Fran approves of you. Can you be our co-pilot for a trip to New York, tomorrow, and on to Spain, returning probably the day after tomorrow?"

"I'd be glad to, Mr. Randolph," said Hodges.

Excellent," said Randolph. "The rate would be the same as today. Fran can explain how we handle layover time, hotels, and the like. I'll leave you two alone to discuss that. Let's see. If we want to get to Spain at, say nine a.m., which is three a.m. here, we have to leave New York by seven p.m. I need a couple of hours in downtown Manhattan. That means we'd better arrive in New York at noon, certainly no later than one. I think we should leave West Palm at nine. Can both of you be here and have the plane ready to fly at nine?"

They both agreed that the estimates sounded good, and they said they would be there, well rested, and have everything ready for a nine o'clock departure. As Randolph and Kit walked toward the limousine that was waiting for them, Benson said, "Sid, you'll never find better working conditions than working for Mr. Randolph. Let me give you a few details of how he handles things and what he expects from you."

Randolph frowned when he saw a handful of reporters around the limousine. He and Kit went through them, ignoring their shouted questions, got into the limousine, and left.

"How did they know I was going to be there?" asked Randolph aloud, to no one.