Three Washington Stories

1. Noone

The emotions of it were fairly straightforward, and I don’t want to make too much of them in any case, either way. She was crying on the bed, or it sounded like crying, and I was in my rage at the doorway. I had said the words so many times in my head that when I said them out loud, they sounded false. I told her we were finished, and I was leaving. She told me to get out then, and I did. After I slammed the door, I couldn’t hear her anymore. I stood for a moment in the street, then began to walk down Dent Place to Wisconsin Avenue. I was walking very quickly, head down, looking for a taxi. The regular Yellow would arrive at eight, but I didn’t feel like waiting for half an hour. My knees were shaky and I kept to the inside of the sidewalk. Then I collected myself and slowed up. My briefcase swung in rhythm, my footsteps even on the sidewalk. Click click click click.

I arrived at my office in thirty minutes; only a few people were in. The receptionist, one or two others. My secretary followed me through the small offices to the large one, bearing a cup of coffee. She remarked on the weather, hot, and the day, heavy, and handed me the appointments list and waited.

“Is Noone in yet?” I asked.

“Noone’s downtown this morning. Back at eleven.”

I nodded, irritated.

“At eleven, then.”

“Shall I telephone?”

“No need,” I said.

My secretary made a small note on her stenographer’s pad.

“And hold all calls.”

There were two meetings that morning. We were having trouble with a transcript. I wanted State to agree to release an uncensored version of an ambassador’s testimony, and State had refused. Can’t conduct diplomacy in a fishbowl, the Secretary said; not so much a fishbowl, more a muddy river, I replied. He smiled. I smiled. No, he said then, very politely, knowing he had the strength. The White House would back him, so the thing was hopeless. That was where Noone was now, at the State Department talking to their legislative man. Making everything as difficult as possible for them. Like everything else, it has its positives and negatives. I was getting solid publicity, and the cause was a good one, which it isn’t always. But the dispute had gone on for a month, and people were tiring of it; some of my colleagues on the committee were tiring of it. Noone and I agreed that there should be one last press release, then forget it. An issue that became a bore was worse than no issue at all. But others had come in behind us, and the two meetings this morning were to let them down gently. To tell them we weren’t marching anymore, at least at the head of the parade. This will sound fatuous, but it is true: I have always tried never to let people down without warning them.

I have two offices, a public office and a private office. The public office is very large, with a huge mahogany desk in the center of an oval rug. The Capitol building is in the background, visible over my left shoulder through the windows. What a wonderful view, the visitors say, and I smile, isn’t it? The desk belonged to my uncle, when he was in the Navy; it is a beautiful object. He bought it in Honduras and gave it to me when I first came here. The walls of this office are crowded with pictures of me and my family, me and politicians, me and military men, me and important constituents, and plaques with my name on them. They are commemorative, of this and that—Rotary, AUSA, AFL-CIO, the United Jewish Appeal. That sort of plaque. The other, smaller, office is personal and difficult to find in the maze of rooms in the Capitol. I have a small bar in the corner and an old Underwood typewriter and a bookshelf full of mystery novels. I have all of John D. McDonald’s sixty-odd books, plus Ian Fleming and Ross MacDonald and the others. No photographs, no plaques. A comfortable couch along one wall, leather chairs around the room, stand-up ashtrays, a government-issue desk. There is a seascape, a self-conscious impression of a slice of American coastline, Maine or California, Castine or Big Sur. I am in the smaller office now, waiting for Noone.

Gloria Noone is thirty-five, dark, compact, austere. She is divorced from a lawyer, and she pronounces her name “new-nee.” Before she came to work for me she handled public relations for a television network, and although she is ten years younger than I am, I trust her judgment and her instincts. I trust her absolutely when it comes to dealing with the press. We did not get on well at first, owing mainly to her unfortunate habit of correcting the smallest mistakes. In the first interview we fell to talking, for some reason, about Iowa. I was making a point about redistricting.

“In the eight congressional districts of Iowa ...” I began, but she interrupted.

“There are seven congressional districts in Iowa,” she said, and named the congressmen.

It vexed me, and she saw that, and smiled. Of course then I had to hire her.

She knocks, is in the room.

“How did it go?”

“Fine,” I say. She is talking about Nancy, but I am talking about the meetings this morning. “They took it very well. They seemed pleased that we had gone along as far as we did. Kudos. We get kudos.”

“I’ll get the last press release out right away.” She looks at me, bland as warm milk. “As long as it went so well, we might think about a press conference.”

I smile. Score one for Noone.

“I’ll concentrate on the Secretary personally.”

“You do that.”

“Pompous bureaucrat. Another Wall Street fool.”

I laugh.

She puts up a hand; she’s steady, resolute. “Senator, we will get the last ounce ...”

Gloria Noone is talking, and I am looking over her head. The room is small, so comfortable. Sometimes I think she is a touch paranoid: she had it swept for bugs. Of course there were none. But the knowledge gives me a strange satisfaction. We are absolutely private in this room. We have a code word for it. The Vatican. I have only had the office for two years; they gave it to me after my tenth year in the Senate. But now I never talk about confidential matters in the large office; it is as if that office were ceremonial. Noone and I and sometimes Walter Mach go to the Vatican in the evenings. We do our business there, over a drink. They are for me the best hours in the day, sitting and planning; scheming, Noone says. The day they gave me the key to the office, Noone insisted that I go inside and talk in a normal voice, and she stayed outside with the door closed, listening. She wanted to be certain that nothing could be overheard in the corridor. And it can’t be, even when you shout. The soundproofing is gorgeous. When I call her paranoid, Noone smiles and says she is cautious.

She is silent now, waiting for me.

“Well, we are quits.”

“Sorry about that,” she says. She manages to make it sound both sympathetic and ironic. So I can go either way, and she can follow.

We are both quiet for a moment, and I see her pick up a pencil and begin drawing boxes. One box is fastened to another, a series of boxes slanting down the white paper. She shifts on her chair, sighs, and rubs the flat of her hand along her cheeks. She pushes her hair back behind her ears, then she looks at me, a long moment.

“Nancy is staying.”

I nod.

“And you’re moving out.”

I nod again.

“Well,” she says. “Well.” Noone is carefully inking in the boxes she has drawn, turning the paper as she does it. Now she is using a felt pen, and the ink is staining her fingers. She is unconscious of that. “I think,” she says, “a short, blunt statement.”

“The shorter the better.”

“Two sentences,” she says. She has stopped doodling altogether and is staring at the pad. Then she says, “Due to irreconcilable family differences, Senator and Mrs. Hayn ...”

“Christ, no,” I say. “Jesus Christ, no.”

Noone shrugs; I am angry. But the anger does not concern her. She is silent for a moment, then tries another approach.

I am a fatalist, and that has served me well in politics. When I am in a tight spot I try to remember that life is capricious. Life is unfair, Jack Kennedy said. He could afford to say it, although he didn’t believe it, really, and I do. He was more romantic than fatalist. Noone and I talked about fatalism once, just once. She said fatalism was for losers, and I laughed at her and called her Horatio Alger’s mother. She looked at me as if I were insane.

There is a funny aspect to this. A month ago we looked for precedents, and could find none. It isn’t the sort of problem you can refer to the Legislative Reference Service, so Noone went personally to the morgue of the Times, I wanted her to find out how these problems had been handled in the past, specifically what was said, how it was explained. She drew a blank; perhaps the Times did not consider a politician’s personal life news lit to print. So we are operating on our own instinct because it would have been awkward to ask questions, even of close friends. The place is like a sieve, Noone says.

She has tried two or three approaches now. and they are improving.

“Senator and Mrs. Tom Hayn have decided to seek a legal separation . . . well, no.” She pauses, thinks, begins again. She is writing the statement as she recites it out loud. “Senator Thomas Hayn’s office announced today that the Senator and Mrs. Hayn . . . no.” She begins again. “. . the Senator and his wife have decided to seek a legal separation. Mrs. Hayn will continue to live in their Georgetown...”

“Huh, uh,” I say.

“Oh, right. Dumb of me,” she mutters. “. . . their house in Washington, D.C. The Senator has moved . . .” She looks at me, her eyebrows up, inquiring.

“A downtown hotel,” I say.

She smiles. “Right again. You should have my job.”

I am thinking that after all I was right, and we should have prepared a statement in advance. But she argued against it, worried about a leak or the possibility of a misplaced piece of paper. We can work it up in two hours, she’d said. That would be a bad piece of paper to have lying around. I agreed finally. But now I don’t see the need for all the detail, and I tell her that. I want a simple statement of fact. A one-line statement of fact.

“Tom, you have got to say something,” she says.

“You have got to give them more than the fact that you and Nancy are quits. So it has got to be in two sentences, and maybe three. This is not major news, but it is news. You have got to give them more than the blunt fact. If you don’t, they’ll know you’re hiding something. They’ll speculate.”

“They’ll speculate anyway.”

“Of course. But if you give them something to chew on, the speculation will be built around that. I mean, it doesn’t matter an awful lot what it is. What the extra fact is. I think that place of residence is the most neutral, and it fits; the impression is that you’ve nothing to hide. This is a family tragedy, politics be damned. That’s the point we want to make.”

Noone is at the bar. She fixes a martini for me and a Dubonnet for herself. She is lost in thought, worried now. The dining room has sent up sandwiches. There is no telephone, so we are quite alone. I smile when I think of that. It is the only office in Washington without a phone. If there is no telephone, Noone said, there will be no spur-of-the-moment, ill-considered calls. She prefers to conduct business face-toface.

“How difficult is Nancy going to be?” She looks at me before she asks the next question, which I ignore. “How difficult was she this morning? Or was it last night?”

“1I don’t know,” I say, which is the truth. We have been married for twenty years, and have been in trouble the last ten. We are disconnected now, I don’t know her feelings. I am preoccupied with the immediate problem, which is the statement; I have lived with the other long enough to know it is insoluble. “I honestly don’t know,” I say. “Depends in part on that son of a bitch.” I mention the name of Nancy’s priest, and Noone smiles.

“Rasputin lives,” she says.

“The hell with that, Gloria,” I say.

She is back to business again.

“You are going to have to take gas.”

“Unavoidable.”

Noone is thinking, very quiet now. She is circling the subject, closing off the routes of access. She is very thorough. “Think about this,” she says, leaning across the desk, concentrating on her drawing. She is very slowly inking in all the boxes. “It might be advantageous to leak it. It might be better to get the word out informally, to prepare the state for it. Then, in two or three days, make the official announcement.” She looks up. “I don’t think I would recommend this course, but it’s one possibility and we ought at least to consider it.”

So we talk, and finally I shake my head. “It’s going to come as a hell of a surprise. Best to come from me, this office, officially. Better that than rumors for a week, followed by an announcement. They’ll have me in bed with every woman in Washington anyway.”

Noone nods gravely.

“Have the kids been told?”

“Nancy will do that,” I say.

“But Tom Junior’s in Europe.”

“She’ll find a way.”

“It’ll be a surprise,” she says.

“No, it won’t.”

“I mean in the state, and that’s the bad part. The surprise.”

“The Knights of Columbus,” I say, grinning.

“The Holy Name Societies,” she says.

“Monsignor Shaw,” I say.

“The Cardinal!” she cries.

And we both laugh.

Noone has prepared three statements, and I am reading them now. She gave them to me on one sheet of paper. They represent three different “spins,” she said. This is how they look on the paper.

1. Senator and Mrs. Thomas Hayn have decided to seek a legal separation. Mrs. Hayn and their three children will continue to live at the family home in Washington, D.C. The Senator has moved to a downtown hotel.

2. Senator Thomas Hayn’s office announced with deep regret today that the Senator and his wife have decided to seek a legal separation. Mrs. Hayn and their children will continue to live in the family home in Washington, D.C. The Senator has moved to a downtown hotel.

3. Senator Thomas Hayn’s office announced today that the Senator and his wife, Nancy, have decided to seek a legal separation. Senator and Mrs. Hayn emphasized that their decision came most reluctantly and was made, finally, in the best interests of the family. Mrs. Hayn and their three children will remain in the family home in Washington. The Senator has moved to a downtown hotel.

I chose the third, naturally.

I am thinking of adding a single sentence: “There is no question of a divorce,” but Noone is against it.

“The word looks terrible on paper and raises questions,” she says.

“But it will be the first question they ask.”

“Of course. And I will answer it: ‘There is no question of a divorce.’ It will give them a second story, which they will have to have. There will be other questions about the children and their ages and Nancy and her age and so forth.” She stops, smiles. ‘Thank God, there’s no need to clear the statement with her.”

I look up, startled. I hadn’t thought of that.

“Not to worry,” Noone says. “If she objects to a decision made ‘in the best interests of the family,’ then she’s on the hook and you’re off it. There’s one thing in our favor. These stories are really awkward for them to pursue. The locals will be reluctant anyway, and you’re not so famous that the nationals can really bird-dog it. If they do, it looks like a vendetta. Unless, of course, they smell real scandal.” She smiles. “Then anything can happen.”

“Thanks for all the good news,” I say.

Noone is pleased; the statement has just the right tone, melancholy but dignified, she says. “When I talk to them privately tonight, I will stress the family tragedy aspects. I will not talk politics with them at all. I will tell them that you have gone away for a week. Tom, I am not going to close any doors.” I return her stare. “It isn’t unheard of. You will take gas, but attitudes have changed now. Even back home. I could foresee circumstances . . .” She does not finish the sentence. She types a clean copy of the statement on the old Underwood, and leaves to return to the big office. Perhaps she is right; she is a smart woman. Times change. But I am feeling a little melancholy myself. If I’d been a Protestant, there’d be no trouble, or anyway less trouble. I think about that for a moment, then turn it around. If I’d been a Protestant, I would not be a senator.

The statement is typed and Xeroxed; it will be given the press at eight or nine tonight. I leave the small office and walk across the street to the large one. Everyone is gone now, except for Noone. I look in on her and motion for her to follow me. She does, eagerly. We march into my office, ana she places the call.

I talk to His Eminence.

His Eminence talks to me.

Because the question is lying there, palpable, a shadow on the mind, I try to reassure him. “John, I want to tell you personally that there is no question of any divorce or remarriage. Nor any third parties either. That is definite.”

The old man grunts, and says that he is glad to hear it.

But he doesn’t believe it.

“You have let me down,” he says. “You have let me down badly.”

While I am talking, trying to explain the situation, I am watching Noone. She is taut, excited; she seems to me like an athlete before a game. I cannot tell what she is thinking; her mouth is set in a hard thin line.

She’d insisted that Walter Mach not be brought into this, and I reluctantly agreed. I used to think that she and Walter were close, but now I am not so sure. She didn’t want anyone brought into it; otherwise it would look like a council of war. “Bad atmospherics,” she explained: “too political.” She catches me looking at her, and smiles slightly, distracted; she is perched on the edge of the big desk, her hand under one elbow, concentrating on the conversation. Her hair falls wonderfully over her face; she turns now, and her mouth and eyes are obscured. Her left leg swings free, describing a circle. The Cardinal is silent, and there is nothing to do but say good-bye and hang up the telephone. I have known this Cardinal since he was a bishop. I am in politics largely through the early patronage of this Cardinal. We were friends.

Noone listens for two clicks, then puts down the extension phone.

“Pretty frosty,” she says.

“Balls like ice cubes,” I say absentmindedly.

“That bastard,” she says. “With his record.”

“Well, he is an old man.”

“But he won’t help.”

“Why should he?” I ask.

We make six other calls after that.

I am walking down the Capitol steps. Very theatrical: it is raining softly, and wisps of steam rise from the still-hot pavement. The late-working secretaries are going home now, and I watch their bodies move. I am walking with another senator, and he nudges me, nodding at a miniskirt ahead of him. He shakes his head, grinning. Quiffquiffquiff, he murmurs. I laugh.

Noone is still in the big office. She said she would make selected calls to selected members of the press. Different men, different spins, she said. Not to worry. I leave her at her desk, her hair freshly combed, new makeup on her cheeks, two packages of cigarettes next to the telephone. Coins lay atop the cigarettes. She is excited, anxious for me to be gone so she can begin her telephoning. Straight-faced I say that I think I’ll wait and listen to the first call, see how it goes. She shakes her head quickly, No. She would be inhibited with me on the extension phone. It is better if she does it alone. This is her job, she says. The reason she is paid $28,000 a year.

“Twenty-eight, five,” I say, and her humor returns.

“It’s cheaper than a trip to Rome,” she says.

I know her friends, so I know where to look tomorrow. I mean which newspapers, and which network. They will be very interested in this story because I am on all the short lists for Vice President. They will say this will take me out of the running, and they are right, although Noone will not believe it. I tell her she is crazy, she had better set her sights elsewhere. A Catholic separated from his wife, three children.

“I can live without the vice presidency,” I tell her.

“There are seven congressional districts in Iowa,” she says, and begins dialing.

2. Slayton

All marriages have private jokes; mine has just one. The joke is Sylvia. When my wife and I I have stayed late over the chessboard, or become hypnotized by the late show on the television, we will leave the debris of the evening and go to bed with the words, “Sylvia can clean up in the morning.” On the rare occasions when we have guests, we insist that they not worry about the dinner dishes. “Sylvia will take care of it.” Of course there is no Sylvia. There never was.

I have breakfasted on coffee, two coddled eggs, and the newspaper, and now I am waiting on the corner for my ride. I look at my watch; Jack Fowler is late. Today I am the fourth man, and Jack drives a Volkswagen. I will be in the rear seat with my legs cramped, squeezed like an orange next to Bill Day. Jack will be talking football with Gershen. A thirtyminute ride to Langley, stop-start, stop-start. I close my eyes, I doze; it is Monday and I think of my vacation, two weeks away. Presently, Bill nudges me and I awaken and see the guard through the window. My ID is in my hand, and I press it against the glass. The guard looks at it and nods. The car moves through the gate, up the road, and into the underground parking lot.

It is a routine day, until three in the afternoon. My secretary brings me a cable, covered by the familiar black-bordered folder.

TOP SECRET (this is a cover sheet)

Basic Security Requirements Are Contained In AR 380-5 THE UNAUTHORIZED DISCLOSURE OF THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THE ATTACHED DOCUMENT(S) COULD BE PREJUDICIAL TO THE DEFENSE INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES.

The U.S. government is careful, thorough. There is a parenthesis at the bottom of the sheet: “(This cover sheet is unclassified when separated from classified documents).”

I have read the cable, and now I am thinking about it. It is one of the things that fascinates me about my work. I have not been in the field for fifteen years, and all I know is what I read. I see nothing firsthand; my objectivity is complete. And as my superiors have reason to know, my judgments are accurate. I have learned to distinguish good cables from bad, and the writer of this cable is quite nimble, a man with a sure grasp of government form. The paragraphs descend down the page, numbered one to twenty-three. But it is a puzzling cable, and I read it three times. Now I am drinking a cup of tea, waiting for the telephone to ring. I have already told my secretary to call Jack Fowler to tell him not to wait, and my wife to tell her I will not be home for dinner.

There are six of us in the conference room; the deputy director, one of his assistants, an area chief and one of his assistants (that is me), and two spear carriers, strangers. We are very anxious to keep this inside the agency. The deputy director: ‘This is our affair. It has nothing to do with Defense or State or anyone else. We will handle it in-house on a closed basis. This meeting is being held at the request of the director.”He does not say what is obvious, that it is a confidenrial meeting, no written record. Then we talk about Slayton.

I am wrong about the other two. They are not spear carriers at all, but two of Slayton’s close friends. I have read their cables for years but am meeting them face-to-face for the first time. We have generally worked different countries. It is typical of the agency that they should bring these two into this meeting, although they are both outside the chain of command in this matter; strictly speaking, they should not be involved at all. They are part of the old agency, very—what was the word we used to use?—ladi-da. Good schools, rich wives. History majors from Yale, bored lawyers from Wall Street. It’s changed now, and we favor mathematicians from UCLA or the University of Chicago. In the general conversation before we get under way, I notice that the blueeyed one has a Southern accent; Virginia, I think. I remember one of his cables that I read years ago. It was from Warsaw, Prague, someplace like that, some Cradle of Western Civilization Enduring the Long Night of Soviet Communism. It read like an honors thesis, and the last line made me laugh. “Such, anyway, is the melancholy prospect from ...” The old-boy net at the agency was great for melancholy prospects.

We have all read the same Top Secret cable, from

Slayton’s Number Two in N––. His nerves show a

little in the language, and it takes him a hundred words to get to the point: he thinks that Slayton is having a nervous breakdown. He recommends an immediate replacement. You have to be inside a large bureaucracy to understand the delicacy of this undertaking. The Number Two is running considerable risk, unless he can make his case stick and stick fast. I am reserving my voice, for the moment.

There are several unspokens, for this after all is Slayton. Wonderful Slayton, battered Slayton, Slayton-the-widower, Slayton-the-linguist, protean Slayton. Slayton and his private income. But Slayton has been under very heavy pressure for two years. He has been on station for three, longer than is either usual or desirable. He had—has—excellent contacts, and speaks the language. Oh, fluently. And has the credentials.

The embassy has been bombed twice, and Slayton is on all the blacklists. Blacklisted Slayton. Eighteen months ago he was infected with hepatitis, which laid him up for ten weeks. The deputy director wanted to remove him then, but Slayton pleaded to be kept on.

It was an elegant cable. Removing him from N––,

Slayton told the deputy director, would be coitus interruptus. Worse, it would jeopardize the operation. The two were old friends, and the remark gained a certain celebrity around the shop—I mean among those who had access to the cable. It was very highly classified. The DD bent the rules, and Slayton stayed. Now, according to his Number Two, he was bats.

It requires felicity to talk about a man’s personal life in a cable. There is no satisfactory way to put it in government language. Subject was observed drinking twenty-two scotch-and-sodas in the Palace Hotel bar, then was seen to pitch and fall into a lamppost on Ledra Street, where a native seized and made off with his briefcase containing the ciphers. . . . No, no. So there are code words, and I do not mean of the five-numeral variety. These are the words: eccentric behavior, slurred speech, abnormal working hours, and the most damning of all: “A frequent loss of control.” The phrase “erratic personal life” meant a sexual irregularity of some kind.

This meeting is a strange one. It is odd that it was called at all. The normal procedure, in matters of this kind, is for the Number Two (or whomever) to call the DD on a secure line and tell him the facts faceto-face, or voice-to-voice, and get a third party on the scene to make an evaluation. Naturally, if it is a chief of station faulting his deputy or anyone under his command, his word alone is sufficient. The man is removed. But a deputy breaking dishes on his boss is something else. Normally, an independent evaluation is ordered. A station chief does not live in a vacuum: his behavior is known to the ambassador, among others; the chief of the military mission, if any; and there are a number of discreet ways, even in a very large organization, to monitor a man’s performance. These devices are built-in. But in N––the

U.S. government has no ambassador, and since the bombing, no embassy. The military mission is small and the colonel in charge of it incompetent. There is a consulate, staffed by three frightened Foreign Service Officers. None of these is suitable, and only inextremis would we call on an outside agency in a matter of this kind; I cannot recall a time when it was ever done. At any event, in N––there is only Slayton and his Two and six others scattered around the country. Still, it would have been simple for the Two to telephone. But a cable is more efficient. In a cable, words have weight.

I am not expected to say anvthing. I am at the meeting because I am the officer assigned to country N––in Washington. My immediate superior is the area director. He will wait for a signal from the DD before he speaks, and then he will be cautious. Not that it matters at all; I knew what I would do the moment I read the cable. Get him out, I said to myself. Right away.

The area director is asked to assess Slayton’s performance from this end. He says: “Objectively excellent, although as we all know, he has a tendency to operate on his own overmuch. He is the only officer at that rank in the agency who speaks the language, and writes it. His contacts in N––are wide and var-

ied. He has shown unusual discretion. In two matters”—he looks at the DD, and at the two strangers— “of great delicacy Slayton performed superbly. One of them went haywire, but that had nothing to do with him.” The DD nods, and the area director continues. “A quality man. If it were not for this cable”— he picks up the paper, holds it a second, and lets it fall—“there would be no question in my mind about Slayton’s suitability. Of course, he would have been withdrawn next month anyway. I would not keep a man in a station like that for more than three years in any case. Not for any reason.” I smile. It is the first time I’ve heard that.

The deputy director has turned now to the “friends.” He lifts his eyebrows; “Charley?” This is the blue-eyed one, the older of the two. He lights a cigarette, and looks at his colleague. Now they will close ranks. “I can’t believe it,” he says, speaking directly to the DD. “I saw Slayton two months ago in Rome, and he was fine. He said he’d recovered from the hepatitis, and was enjoying his tour in N—–. As much as you can enjoy N––, which is not a garden spot, as we all know. He was with one of his daughters in Rome. I think she lives with his brother, I ran into him by accident at the . . . circus.” Blue-eyes smiles, looking at the DD; the DD returns it. Some private joke. “We had a drink later; he laughed about drinking Vichy and soda. He looked very fit, although he’d lost some weight. With his record . . .” Blue-eyes trails off for a moment, as if looking for words. “We know his C.V. France during the war, then Eastern Europe, Hungary, Japan, Cairo, back to Eastern Europe”—he smiles at the euphemism, and slides on—“the tour at Bragg, and now out there. A volunteered second tour. Coitus interruptus. ” The DD smiles; the area director smiles; the two friends smile. “This is not a man to let an operation go out of control. We know that from the past. What the hell, this agency is Slayton’s life. In view of what I gather is a certain urgency . . .” The words come out, gyathuh’s a suht’n uhi‘ncy “Well, the record ....” Blue eyes’ voice is soft, persuasive. “I’d trust him with anything,” he says.

We are silent, waiting for the DD. “Is it possible the whole thing is an act?”

“It’s possible,” I said. I did not add that it was not likely. In twenty years in this work I have never heard of a man faking a nervous breakdown. For obvious reasons.

“How well known is he in N—–?” This, from the area director.

“Well known,” I said. Stupid question. Any man who is station chief for three years in a country like that becomes known. He is probably better known than the foreign minister. It is impossible to be unknown. Also unwise. If they know who you are, they know where to go with their information. I mean the friendlies.

“If this is an act, would he tell his Two?”

“Be very foolish if he didn’t,” I said.

“Be very foolish if he did,” Blue-eyes cut in. “No reason to. He couldn’t’ve suspected that his Two would try to break dishes on him.” He nodded at the DD: yes, certainly that was it. That was the explanation. “It’s a setup,” Blue-eyes said.

I looked at him. “Why?”

“You would know that better than I,” he drawled. This was not a man to go beyond what he knew, or was supposed to know.

“On the other hand, Slayton’s been out there too damned long,” the DD said. “The operation is too important to be entrusted to a man who is possibly . . .” The DD shook his head. “I don’t understand why the Two waited until the last bloody minute to send his cable. I assume there was a good reason. Also a reason why he did not call. But a thing like this doesn’t come out of the blue, not usually.”

“Well, he’s been accused,” Blue-eyes said. “There’s no proof.”

“The Number Two is an excellent man,” the area director said mildly. I waited for the qualification. “Though of course a younger man.”

“He’s under forty,” I said dryly.

“There is no plausible reason for the Two to undercut Slayton. If what he says is false, that will become obvious straightaway. I find it bewildering. Of course, now there is no way to get a third man into the country. There is no way to know, and I have been unable to raise the Two on the radiophone.” He looked at his watch. “As of just now communications will go kaput. Except, of course, our own X-communications. Which are not of much use if no one is there manning the radio.” The DD pursed his lips.

“I‘d stick,” Blue-eyes said, and his friend nodded.

“The only alternative is to put the Two in charge. I wouldn’t like to do that, in a situation of this delicacy. Slayton’s kept his plans very close.” The DD glanced over at the area director, who was staring bleakly at the table. Blue-eyes and his friend were smiling ever so slightly.

Blue-eyes had mentioned “a certain urgency.” What that was about was this: Slayton was managing a coup, all by himself. It was known in the cables as Rampart Street; that was the operational code word. Doubtless it had some special meaning for Slayton and his cronies. In this particular coup there was meant to be no American participation at all. Zero. Entirely indigenous, as we say. Three years ago, a half dozen young army officers approached Slayton, and the plans proceeded from there. Of course, there was no way for my bureau to know all the details, because Slayton did not let us in on his plans; I mean the area director and myself. Slayton made his reports verbally—I suppose there are pieces of paper somewhere—to the director and his deputy. He did not go through channels; he was too old-boy net for that. So those of us here who had the responsibility did not have all the facts. Slayton ignored my messages demanding more information. He fobbed them off on his Two, and had enough personal clout with the DD to get away with it. The agency was very excited because Slayton had seemingly squared all the circles. All the negotiations and planning he did himself, personally. Not that there was much of either; all the rebels apparently wanted was Slayton’s neutrality.

At any event, he did manage to import Swedish weapons: I heard the DD refer to that in an admiring way one day; yet it was my bureau that found the weapons, that paid for them and arranged for delivery in S––. There were one or two other items of

that kind. But officially, the agency was not involved in Rampart Street, and if it succeeded, we were way ahead; if it failed, we’d lost nothing. That is, Slayton lost nothing. Those of us here would lose a great deal. For we would be asked to pay the price for an operation in which we had no more than nominal control. That is a fact of life: when there is a failure, someone must pay up. The thing would leak; it always did. sooner or later. So that is what Slayton had been doing in N— for three years, and it was the consensus within the agency that no one could put it together except Slayton. Slayton had the finesse. That was the “certain urgency” about the meeting now, because the coup was supposed to get under way today. Or would if Slayton were sane.

The DD has gone through all of Slayton’s personal files, and finds nothing to suggest imbalance. Au contraire, the printout indicates unusual stability. A photo accompanies the file. I see a middle-aged, redheaded man, scowling. A bit fleshy, standing in a slouch, a cigarette holder in his left hand. I look at the picture upside down: Slayton is quite mad, no doubt about it. Blue-eyes and his. friend have long since been excused, and it is just the four of us now. The DD goes around the table, requesting recommendations. The truth of the matter is that he has no options, at this late date; he had them this morning, but he does not have them now. He must go with Slayton or abandon the game altogether.

I am in my office now, drinking a cup of tea and waiting for the first cables. I have asked my secretary to stay, and she is in the outer office, waiting as I am. We have heard nothing from the Two since his cable this morning. I have a bad feeling about this operation, a feeling that it will fail. The psychology has gone wrong, as it sometimes does in the middle of a chess game; the atmosphere darkens, and you know you are going to lose, although you do not see how or why. I am ashamed to admit that I almost hope it does. It will teach them a lesson: field men cannot be entrusted with operational control. They are too close, they lose their perspective; it is a question of limited parameter. That is a fact of life. If you surrender control, you surrender responsibility. What is the value of an area director or a bureau chief if he is not permitted to control operations in his zone of responsibility? It is pointless not to use the resources of the agency. What is the point of the apparatus here if it is not used? It is not entirely my problem, because I have been here for twenty years and I will be here for twenty more, and the situation is improving. It is better than it was, thanks largely to the computers. They have simplified some of the problems. There are only a few Slaytons left. There are fewer of them every year.

The cable from the Two finally arrived, brief, too brief. It turned out more or less as I expected. Slayton did have a breakdown, and the coup did fail, although there is some difference of opinion here as to what “fail” means in this case. Slayton is now in a private hospital in S––, and the Two is on leave. We were lucky to get them out of the country at all, particularly Slayton, who was completely haywire. It was done this way: with a show of compassionate concern, the White House ordered army medical teams to N—– to care for the wounded and the homeless. This was done very neatly; the Army was in and out, no permanent presence of any kind; Slayton and the Two left on the first flight. There were a few rude remarks in the local press, but these will be forgotten in time. N–– is back to normal. I had one small satisfaction, which I shared with my wife the night we put together the rescue plan. Since the operation was an agency matter from the beginning, I insisted that we be given overall control; that is, one of our people in the field supervising the army units under orders from me. This is a departure from the normal procedure, and it took me twelve hours to fight it out with the Pentagon; but we prevailed, and I directed the operation from my desk in Washington. I was in personal charge, so it fell to me to choose a code name. I chose the name Sylvia.

3. The Brigadier General and the Columnist’s Wife

The columnist had been active in his trade for thirty years. He was one of those who had made his reputation in World War II —war two, he called it now—marching across France with the Ninth Infantry Division. It was in France with the division that he met Hemingway, who took a fancy to him. The two shared foxholes and danger and, according to at least one contemporary account, a woman. When acquaintances asked the columnist about Hemingway, he would shrug his shoulders and say very little. War two was a wonderful experience, and the columnist wanted to keep it to himself.

After the war the columnist’s reputation grew. He spent the late 1940s in Greece and China, and in 1950 he was evacuated from Korea with a bullet hole in his left shoulder. The authorities set him up in a private room in an army hospital in Japan, so he could continue to write his column. He read the dispatches in the morning and composed his column in the afternoon, writing it with his good hand on a portable typewriter. The wound became infected, and the columnist had spent six weeks in the army hospital.

One day in September the chief surgeon brought a movie star in to see him; she was making a tour of the hospital with a USO troupe. She stayed for drinks and dinner and then she stayed for the night and in a month they were married, quite privately, in Kyoto. Acquaintances were stunned; the columnist was then forty; the movie star was thirty, and at the top of her trade. The acquaintances gave the marriage six months, but they were wrong. It lasted two years, and supplied the columnist with a fund of stories on which to dine. In the property settlement, the movie star was awarded the mansion they had occupied in Holmby Hills. The columnist said good riddance; he had called the place Berchtesgaden.

The columnist and the movie star had divided their time between New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. Now the columnist returned full time to Washington, and resumed his military writing with vengeance. But the 1950s was a bleak period, for the wars were small and of little account. Nig-nog wars, the columnist called them; gratuitous insurgencies in the Middle East and the Orient, squalid little generals’ coups in Latin America. The columnist returned from his trips depressed: he said he was too old to backpack with the infantry; now he could concentrate on grand strategy. His editors were disappointed, for the columnist had no equal in the description of violent combat.

So he turned to strategy and took six months to refresh his memory on that subject. He went through the commentaries of Caesar and Marcus Aurelius and the memoirs of Foch, the contemporary accounts of Liddell Hart, and much more that was less well known. It was in the midst of his book on grand strategy that he met Caroline, a quiet Washington young woman with no military background at all. The columnist was instantly enchanted and courted her with the single-mindedness that had been his trademark in the war: he took her with him on lectures, and once to France, where they spent a week with one of his old Resistance friends, now a distinguished publisher. With the publisher in tow, the columnist returned to the Normandy Beachhead, where he embarked on an eight-hour exegesis of the assault and the fortifications, the manner in which the battle proceeded, and the blunders. So many blunders. At one point the Frenchman and Caroline were in tears together, listening to the columnist describe a repeated assault against an entrenched enemy gun position. The publisher devoted a page or two of his memoirs to the incident, describing it as “extraordinary, an afternoon of inspiration.”

The columnist treated Caroline as a singular object of art, a serene and delicate event. Then forty-five, he married her in a small ceremony in his house in Georgetown. The ceremony was large, the reception small; fifty guests, most of them journalists and military men, a few movie people, Washington lawyers. Caroline was dazzled, perhaps in part because of her age. She was nineteen.

The columnist’s acquaintances were amazed at the change in their friend. He lost weight, and returned to his column with a new zeal; his intelligence, always formidable, broadened and deepened. His book on strategy was wonderfully reviewed, and it was a rare week when one of his observations was not quoted in the national press, or on television. He and his adoring wife were fixtures at the White House during that period, “both of them handsome as box tops,” a gossipist wrote, chic together in a way that a very successful man and a beautiful young woman are chic. His interests widened: always bored with domestic politics, he covered the 1956 election campaign as if it were the breaching of the Rhine. On a tip from a family friend, he wrote a series of articles on conflict of interest within the Eisenhower Administration that won him a Pulitzer Prize. And canceled all further White House invitations. He was more pleased with that than with the other. The columnist disdained honors, believing them beneath him. But the Pulitzer came at the right time, and caused numerous magazine “profiles.” Suddenly the columnist found himself a celebrity. He had always been “known,” his name recognized by anyone who carefully read newspapers. But now he was likely to be interviewed at airports, and in the spring sought for honorary degrees. A television network offered him a large fee to do a five-minute commentary three times a week. Pressed for cash, the columnist accepted, and the commentary became one of the ornaments of television in the late 1950s.

While his interests did widen to include politics and economics, his preoccupation remained the army. Strategy, tactics, ways of war, military personalities. When a young major he had known in Korea was promoted to brigadier general, the columnist wrote him a long letter of congratulations; then he asked him around to dinner, not once but half a dozen times. The columnist “talked him up” (as he said) and wrote two glowing accounts of the officer’s heroics in Korea almost a decade before: in fact, it had been the major who was responsible for the columnist’s war wound; he had encouraged him to accompany a dangerous patrol. Far from ending the friendship, the incident strengthened it. A brigadier general three months, the officer found himself named secretary to the joint staff.

The columnist was pleased with his coup for his protégé, although he did not speak of it to anyone save Caroline. Gradually, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he discarded the other interests and came back to the military. He refreshed his memory on weaponry and orders of battle, and commenced to cultivate those new officers who had made their reputations in his absence. His analysis of the British Army, written in 1958, stands as a model of its kind; his inquiry into the temperament of military leaders. Eminent Warriors, is now a standard text at the command and general staff school at Fort Leavenworth. He hastened to Cyprus and Kenya and Malaya and Indochina and all the other places where there was fighting. These were brave moves on the part of the columnist, because the public then, as now, was bored with military affairs. In the early 1960s, there were no wars of consequence.

In Washington there are people who remember, and can cite, the column that signaled the decline. Except that it is always a different column. Acquaintance A is entirely convinced that it began with the vendetta against the Secretary of State. There were twenty-one straight columns, seven weeks of columns, each one attacking the intelligence and integrity of the Secretary, a harmless New York lawyer, long active in the Council on Foreign Relations. Acquaintance B is equally certain that it began six months later, with the column on farm price-supports. What was odd about this column was that it had been ten years since anyone cared about farm price-supports, and the article itself was incomprehensible. At the time, it caused more laughter than dismay; readers assumed that lines had been dropped somewhere in the transmission, and the copy had become garbled. Acquaintance C. with considerably more authority, is certain that it came later still, the column that everyone now calls “the war column.” It was quite simply a celebration of war, of blood and of killing, of “the cleansing nature of armed combat.” In it, the columnist announced his theory of war and human progress; that is, the one was impossible (he used the incredible word “indispensable”) without the other. It was a circular theory, working both ways. Appalled, his acquaintances sought out the columnist’s wife: what had happened to him? Tight-lipped, she shook her head, refusing to explain. The columnist’s wife, clearly upset, would blandly change the subject, and go on to other things.

The war column appeared on a Monday, and that night the columnist and his wife had eighteen in to dinner. There was the usual array, journalists, a senator, two lawyers, a visiting academic, an intelligence official, and the brigadier general, the columnist’s old friend. The senator knew the columnist best and over drinks put the question to him. Immediately the party fell silent, listening.

The senator dispensed with all preliminaries and asked straight off: “What the hell was that column about this morning?”

The columnist smiled.

“Damnedest bilge I‘ve ever read.”

The columnist selected a canapé from a tray.

“I think it goes beyond all bounds.”

&38220;De mortuis nil nisi bonum,” the columnist replied, which explained nothing and satisfied no one.

There were other columns after that, and in Washington these had the effect of heightening interest m his work. He was the most closely watched writer in town. Between explosions there would be a series of reasonable, even deft, sometimes brilliant columns about missiles or new tanks or aircraft, with occasional skillful excursions into the national economy. But the television network, fearful of slander or worse, canceled his contract. For his acquaintances, picking up the newspaper in the morning was like picking up a hand grenade. On the morning of the sixth of June, 1962, appeared the most alarming column of all. It was a movie review. The film was an adaptation of a celebrated novel of the period, a novel written around the Korean War. The co-star was the columnist’s ex-wife, and the last line of the column read: “Anyone venturing an interest into the noblest endeavors of our time must witness this film.

Miss Harrison’s performance is as luminous as a star, and as moving as death itself.”

The columnist and his wife did not have friends the way other people had friends. They had companions, acquaintances, chums. Their house was a salon, and people felt free to stop by. The caterers arrived everv Saturday and left again on Wednesday morning, after four nights of parties. In the beginning, Caroline found this exciting. The columnist knew everyone in town, and introductions to anyone he did not know were easily arranged. His brief connection with the movie industry had given him a wide acquaintance in the theater, so the weekend parties were interesting and vivid. The columnist presided over these affairs with style and consideration. He arranged the seating (always placing his wife next to the most interesting, rather than the most prominent, guest), and if conversation fell, he pumped it up again, with an anecdote or outrageous war story. It was in this way that Caroline fell to talking a good deal with the brigadier general; both of them knew the anecdotes and the war stories by heart.

New acquaintances were conducted on a tour through the study, a room which Caroline called “the armory.” It was filled with military artifacts and photographs of the columnist in army fatigues: with Bradley in Europe, with de Castries in Indochina, with the movie star by his hospital bed in Japan. His favorite photograph was of himself in a trench. In the photo he is intense and scowling, squatting in the dirt with his typewriter on his knees. The trench is filled with dead.

The columnist’s weekend parties became unpopular not long after the appearance of the movie review, owing to his habit of conducting strange monologues in the early hours of the morning. He would address the two or three stragglers, pulling his chair up close to the edge of the rug in front of the fire. And reprise the wars. He did it quietly, in blackest humor, precise minute-by-minute reconstructions of forgotten engagements, so many dead in the first five minutes, so many wounded in the first ten. Their names and ages and ranks. He would describe the setting of the battle in the larger context of the war, whichever war it was. He once saw a man shot in the heart, and took to describing that with such care and loving attention to detail that once a guest walked out of his house, physically ill. He would speak of the camaraderie during wars, the closeness of men and women; the community of it. But he would not expand on that. He thought of the century as a gigantic hecatomb. But exhilarating, he’d say. And war two the best war of all, the most violent, the most profound. Late at night he would talk about the major, now a brigadier general, in the same breath as Guderian or Patton. Occasionally, he would seem to be confused over the nature of his wounds. Just a kid then, he’d say. just a kid. The major, he’d add, “my priest.”

Every year the parties ended on October one, and resumed again late in December. This was the period when the columnist took his trip, to view for himself the various wars then in progress. There were always one or two, somewhere around the world. His reputation was such that he could secure interviews with anyone, and each trip included an example of his old style. It was a visit to a field hospital or a guerrilla command in the bush or something of that sort, and it was then that his prose took flight, there that he was most comfortable and in command. He’d be gone a month or six weeks, then would meet Caroline in Athens or Cairo or Madrid. He would write a month’s columns in advance, and they would take a trip: the Pyramids, the bullfights, a tour of Berlin, and once a magical two weeks on the Trans-Siberian Railway. In the beginning, he was a wonderful guide, because he had been everywhere once and could reminisce about the old days. About Segovia in 1938 or Kasserine in 1942 or the time he went on the bombing mission from the north of Scotland in 1944. Tourane in 1952.

“Is there any place where you haven’t been in a war?” Caroline asked him on one of the earlv trips.

He thought a moment, then shook his head.

“No place at all?”

“New Zealand.” he said finally.

“Let’s go there.”

“Dull country,” he said. “What’s the point?”

“I’d like it so much.”

“Oh, sure,” he said, but they never went.

It was during one of these absences, in the period before she was to join him in a capital somewhere, that the columnist’s wife had the affair with the brigadier general. The affair was reminiscent of another, and in the columnist’s younger days he would have laughed about it, perhaps with Hemingway or Capa. The brigadier general came by the Georgetown house one afternoon with a manila envelope full of documents. He stayed for drinks and dinner and then for the night.

No one knows what animated the affair, nor what kept it going. Caroline had seemed happy, if distracted; there was always an exquisite poignance about her, as if her life were lived on the edge of something. Often at parties she’d stare at her husband across the table, desperately protective of him— his vitality, his easy dominance, his pride, and of course, his prejudice. On the evenings he talked about the war she would retire to another corner, but there is no evidence that she ever abandoned him in any traditional way. There is a single written record from the period, and for obvious reasons it must be read With skepticism. It is a novel, a roman aà clef, written by the columnist’s former secretary. The novel was published in 1963, enjoyed a brief success of scandal in Washington, then died. Two picturesque chapters purport to describe the love affair between Caroline and the brigadier general. One passage suggests the entire dreadful book.

They lay in each other’s arms, apprehensive, as if watched by the photographs on the walls. The general’s uniform lay crumpled beside the couch, the single star on his epaulet lit by the soft light of the room It was as if he were there with them. His presence dominated the room.

“Do it again,”she said.

And he did, as if on command.

“Doesn’t he do it at all?”

“Oh, yes.”She seemed quite appalled by the inference.

“Well ...”

“It isn’t that. He’s fifty-three now, he’s done . . .”

“I see.”

The brigadier general was a plain-spoken man, and he did not understand why he was there, on the couch with her. He was enjoying it. but he didn’t understand it. But then, he didn’t understand the columnist either.

“Why me then?”

“Well, you were there in Korea. His friend.”

“I still don’t get it.”

She smiled, and pointed at the pictures, all of them. The pictures from all the wars. She was pointing at the pictures and laughing. Her laughter grew in volume, louder and louder until she was hysterical and finally she collapsed in his arms, sobbing and crying for him to do it again.

The author of the roman a clef didn’t understand what it was about, because the chapter ends one paragraph later. Further on in the book there is an account of what happened When the columnist found out about the affair, but that account has no value because the secretary by then had quit, and was in New York selling an outline of her book.

The affair with the brigadier general began in late 1962 and lasted through most of 1963. The columnist returned from his trip in November, a month ahead of schedule, ill with fever contracted in Central Africa. The trip had not been a success anyway, and he took leave from his column and of course never resumed it. The column just trailed away, as he did.

Friends found him one afternoon in his study, the armory, staring blackly at a thick loose-leaf folder. The folder contained hundreds, perhaps a thousand, names. They were carefully written, three names to a page, in the columnist’s thin script. He refused to speak, and for a time no one could decipher what the names meant; they were names in numerous languages. It should have been obvious, but it was not, until Caroline explained. They were the names of dead, she said. Companions, acquaintances, chums. Soldiers, war correspondents, various political people. The columnist was seated at his desk, staring at the list, defiance on his face. He gripped the looseleaf folder with such strength that it was impossible to pry it from his hands. It stayed with him, part of him.

That is close to the end of the story. The brigadier general was transferred from the Pentagon to Fort Carson, his career in ruins. Caroline followed him there, stayed six months, then returned to the house in Georgetown. The general went on to the Far East, and when last heard of he was still there. No one has heard anything of Caroline except a rumor that she was in the Far East, too. Though not, of course, with him.