Tuesday, May 19, 2009

San Clemente, Chapter VII "Huey, Duey, and Luey"

Chief Murray and I stood, looking at the specially equipped and painted Boeing 707, until Kissinger, Haldeman and Ehrlichman disappeared into its side door. The plane was called Air Force One when Nixon was aboard it, but usually he flew a newer 707. The crew on the tarmac called the plane Sam Twenty-Six, for unknown reasons.

“Henceforth, whenever Kissinger needs to be driven somewhere, you get to do the driving,” Murray said to me. His cigarette lay burning itself out on hot the concrete under our feet. I wondered, idly, if it might not ignite stray fumes and blow us all to hell. There must have been ten ‘no smoking’ signs visible, but Murray didn’t seem to care, and nobody confronted him about it.

I drove the big limo back to San Clemente at ninety miles per hour. There was no traffic, to speak of, on I-5 at off hours. Murray stayed silent in the passenger seat, unmoved by the high speed, smoking one cigarette after another. I wanted to ask my laconic passenger a ton of questions but could not work up the courage. He had let on that my Beach Patrol job was good for a year, funded by a Congressional earmark to the Department of Justice. It had to be redone at the end of that year, if it was to be redone. Amy called the job a phony exercise invented by phony people for phony purposes. The ‘Three-P’ job, it had become.

In truth, I did not patrol the compound area much at all. There was nothing to do along the short stretch of sand, except harass an occasional surfer, watch oblivious lovers or chase border crossers further North. I preferred to run up and down the beaches of San Clemente in the super-silent, near invisible Bronco. Those beaches had real people doing real things. It was also fun to patrol the streets on occasion, although I stayed away from car stops. The California Highway Patrol, termed as ‘Chippies’ by the local cops, had actually sent a car to inform me, specifically, that I was not to work the interstate highway at all. That would be ‘poaching,’ and it was not to be tolerated. Ben Williams, head of Secret Service had received a letter to that effect, as well. I had been called in. I listened to the lecture by the Chippies, then William’s brief nod, before I made any comment.

“The Bronco can’t even make it up to the minimum speed required to be legal on the freeway,” I said. “How the hell am I going to go out and catch speeders?” The Chippies ignored me, examining the Bronco from bumper to bumper, as if it was some classic car on display at a fair. Finally, seemingly satisfied, the tall men had climbed into their Mercury-Maurader Black and White and driven away. I smiled to myself when I noted that the Marine on duty at the gate made them show their wallet identification cards before he would let them out.

“You know what they really wanted?” Williams said, as we stood looking at the back of their patrol car, as it sat waiting to be let out. I shook my head, glancing at the man’s profile. He reminded me, uncomfortably, of ‘Howling Jack Taylor’ on the Marine Base. I said nothing, however.

“They wanted a chance to see the operations here so they could tell all of their buddies that they were on the inside of the compound command center.” He walked back through the door of the Coast Guard station, but stopped and turned before actually entering. “You tell them nothing. Not a damn thing, or I’ll have your ass. And that goes for Murray and the locals, your new long lost friends, as well.” I stood looking at him, making sure I wore no expression. I was not about to give him the benefit of any answer at all, unless I was ordered to. But I wasn’t. He simply turned, closed the door, and was gone.

I drove down, through San Clemente, to the base of the long pier. The drive was uneventful. It was Sunday afternoon, so there were plenty of people about, particularly at “T” Street, an area of sand that stuck out into the ocean about a quarter mile South of the pier. A high overpass ran from the cliff edge above the railroad tracks, and then directly down to the beautiful beach. Not only was it a great beach area, but there was ample parking along the side streets of the neighborhood atop the cliff. I drove the Bronco to “T” Street, through the crowds of beach goers, all moving out of the way of my vehicle. I had learned to have the radio on ‘outside speaker’ for such work. I could reach over, click the handset of the Motorola, and make a squawk come from the speaker. It was sufficient to get people to notice, and then move out of the way. The driving was fun, although watching for little children was a challenge. My tires were so big and soft though, I wondered if they would actually hurt a child if I did run over one. I didn’t want to find out the answer to that question, however.

I drove back to the pier. Ever so slowly, I worked the front tires of the Bronco over the edge of asphalt that separated the sand from the pier pad. First gear was really low so the small truck could move inches at a time, but with great power. I stopped, once I got up on the flat pad. People surged about, parting like moving water around the Bronco. They ignored it, and me, as if we were merely fixtures of the pier structure itself. I looked over at a low flat building built out onto the sand. It had a large clock tower sticking out of the top of it. I checked my watch. The clock was accurate. The building was brown, with the clock tower sticking up out of it. That was made of natural rock. The only bright color visible was yellow. Huge yellow letters were painted across the beach side of the building. They read ‘SCLG,’ which I knew stood for San Clement Life Guards.

I eased the Bronco onto the big flat parking area located behind the Headquarters building. The lifeguards had upward thrusting watch towers, unevenly spaced, up and down all the beaches I patrolled, with the exception of the area in front of the Western White House Compound. I thought I might just as well get acquainted with the lifeguard organization responsible for Marine Safetyin the areas I patrolled.

I shut my vehicle down, but left the ignition key on, with the public address speaker engaged, so the radios could be heard if I got a call. I had tried, at first, reporting my position to Scruggs all the time, like the other ‘regular’ units, but soon gave up. Scruggs didn’t care. I never got a call and he never responded to my position or activity reports. The Secret Service radio was even stranger. There was never any sound from it. I assumed the frequency to be totally private.

I stepped through the back door of the big building and entered a different world. The building was mostly a shed for huge pieces of beach equipment. I had seen the sand cleaning machines but had not known where they were stored. I squatted down to examine one of them, to see how it worked. A rough mesh lined the bottom of the thing, I saw, but then was interrupted.
“Can I help you?” a voice right behind me said, flatly.
I jumped up and around.
“Just looking,” I replied, a bit embarrassed. The man in front of me was tall, I noted, much taller than my mere five foot nine inches. He was well built and had a thin mustache, like Errol Flynn. An unkempt shock of black hair ran across the top of his forehead, thinning slightly. I guessed him to be about forty years old. He wore a short sleeve khaki uniform not dissimilar from the one I had designed for myself. It was adorned with sliver lieutenant’s bars on each collar. A pang of regret went through me. I would never wear those bars, which I had so secretly coveted, while I was still in the Corps.
“Those screens shouldn’t be on those machines. The city crew screwed them on in order to recover change from the sand. I’ll bet they clear three or four hundred dollars a day that way.” He said the words with derision, as if culling the lost change from city sands was some sort of evil felony. I shook my head, not knowing what else to do in reply.

I had caught the inflection of his voice right away. There was something not right about it. By the time he finished talking about the beach machines I had fully pinpointed the oddness. The man had a lisp. A lisp so notable that homosexuality was instantly called into the social equation, at least to a former Marine like me.
“Morrison Myers,” he said, with a great infectious smile. He held out his huge right hand. I took it. We shook. There was no limpness in his grip, I noted,
to my relief.
“I was wondering when you’d stop by to visit. I’m second in command to the Chief here. He said we’d have to share the beach with you, although nobody seems to know exactly what you’re doing here.” He stopped talking, the smile remaining on his face, however, at least for a few seconds. We stared at one another for a few moments, until it became obvious that I wasn’t going to say anything.

“Let me guess,” he said. I tried not to allow any expression to come to my face when the word ‘guess’ came out ‘geth.’ I just waited. “You’re part of that new contingent out there,” he waved toward the South, and San Onofre Beach, with his left hand, although his eyes never left my face. “You have that Bronco everyone’s talking about, a new uniform and….nothing whatever to do.” The last four words had been delayed a good five seconds before he delivered them.
I laughed out loud.
“Who the hell are you, anyway?” I asked, but did not wait for an answer.
“Nobody knows what I’m supposed to do, although everyone I run into seems to feel that I shouldn’t do anything that has anything to do with them or their operations. Not that they’ll say that, or much else.”
I had been surprised by the man’s penetrating intellect and the directness of his presentation. Gay or not gay, the man was the first person in uniform who seemed to have caught on to the fact that my role was more than just unusual.
No one had spoken to me so directly, except maybe Ehrlichman or Amy, since I had been appointed to be the San Clemente Beach Patrol.

We walked together slowly through the building, with Myers giving out information about all manner of Marine Safety equipment and space. I just listened, and tried to take it all in. We ended up in his office, he behind his desk, his back to the breaking waves visible through huge picture windows, and I sat in a chair facing him, enjoying the view.

Three men burst through the open office door. I turned to look at them. They were actually little more than very large boys, I noted. They wore red lifeguard swimsuits and matching “T” shirts, with the yellow SCLG initials emblazoned on their chests. ‘Rowdy’ was a word I would later use to describe them to Amy. Their immediate injection of loud boisterous laughter brought me out of my chair, to stand facing them. They ignored me completely, instead walking right up to the front of Myer’s desk and leaning forward. They laughed again. Myers stared at them with a deadpan expression, but did nothing about their noisy incursion. Two of the boys sat in the available chairs, one of which I had just vacated. They sprawled there.
“What’s the haps, Morri?” one of them said, then they all laughed again. Myer’s face grew red.

“It’s Lieutenant, to you,” he said, his voice menacing, but his lisp taking away any macho effect he attempted to transmit.
“Yeth thir, Lieutenant thir,” the largest boy, the one standing, said. His hand snapped up to perform a crooked salute when he said the words. He then stood at mock attention, his eyes staring straight out into the incoming waves.

I almost choked. I didn’t know whether to say something supporting the Lieutenant or laugh. It was a tragically funny scene. I recalled my own recent stint as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps. If three of my men had pulled such a stunt they would have first been humbled by a fifty mile forced march, and then led off to court martial.
The big lfeguard fell from a position of attention to one of relaxed indolence, half sitting on the front edge of the lieutenant’s desk. He turned to me.
“Who’s the Gestapo agent?” he asked, to no one in particular, then brought his attention back to Myers. He flicked his right thumb toward me.

I remained still, watching Myers. And then I was surprised. His anger somehow had turned off like a spigot of water. Instead of exploding physically at the guards, he became meek, to the point of smiling at them, as if they were merely children acting up.

“This is the officer attached to the Western White House Detail, out at Cotton’s Point.” Myers extended one hand out toward me, then left it hanging in the air, as if some fellowship or partnership existed between us. The gesture made me uncomfortable, but the outrageous behavior of the three guards held me to silence. The two sitting guards arose from their seats to stand by the larger of them. All of them were larger than me. I felt like I had fallen in among some association of lifeguard giants.

The three men stared at me, their expressions satirical, their smiles insincere.
No one said anything for a moment, until Myers spoke.

“These are some of my guards,” he said, gesturing toward the boys. “Billy Morrel, Charley Mac, and Joe Marion.” He pointed from one to the other as he spoke their names. I reached out my right hand toward the middle one, Charlie Mac. He took my hand. He pressed hard, but I had been half-prepared for such a move. I squeezed back, to hold my own, which I did. I had not worked out every day for three years for nothing. The hospital surgeries, and time, had effected my walk, not my grip. We stood there for thirty seconds before Charley
gave up. We both stepped back, our faces smiling but not our eyes.

“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” Charley’s eyes flicked down to my badge, then back and forth to the shoulder patches on my short sleeve shirt.
“Looks like another of those little San Clemente cops to me….” he said, his voice trailing away, but his sinuous challenging tone was unmistakable. I did not know how to answer. It was like being cast way back to a school ground confrontation, except we were all grown men. My mind raced for a response.

Vietnam flashed into my mind. The images reared up, then raced before me. The dead. The dying. My responsibility. My lack of action. My over-reaction.
I shook my head, ever so slightly, to clear my head. Without being aware of it, I adjusted my body, drawing my right shoulder back, exposing only the left, less injured side of my torso toward them. I was unaware that my right hand had languidly moved up to gently clasp the handle of my .44 Magnum. My expression had gone totally blank. I had no message to transmit. I merely waited.

One of the guards read something into my lack of expression, and the unrevealing slight adjustments I had made. His aggressive expression changed to an open smile. He stepped between the other two boys.
“Ah, I’m Billy,” he said, then went on. “We’re just messing with you. Welcome to the lifeguard Headquarters.” I took his hand in mine, guardedly, but the handshake was real this time.

“Don’t mind Charlie here, he’s the smartest one of us all, and Joe here, well, he drinks too much, but he’s funny as hell and his dog makes up for all the rest.”

I looked around for a dog, but didn’t see one. The three guards then left as they had come in, laughing, punching one another, and bouncing off the walls.
I nodded at Myers, who nodded back. He turned away to look over at the base of the pier out of his side window. I knew I had been dismissed.

I sat outside in the Bronco with the engine running. I thought about what I had just experienced. What would I tell Amy? That the lifeguards were run by some strange giant of a lisping faggot, while the men he commanded might better be named Huey, Duey, and Luey? I drove back to the base of the pier, so as to be among more normal humans.


Monday, May 11, 2009

"The Pirates of the Caribbean"

There is a ride at Disneyland called Pirates of the Caribbean. It is a gentle sort of roller coaster ride through some movie theme pirate sets. Cannons go off, the pirates are fake scary, and there is some good music and sound effect material. I mention the Disney ride simply to illustrate the vast gulf between real pirates and those we have been exposed to by the media, of late. The supposed Somalia pirates.

They do not exist. There are no Somalia pirates. Whatever those extortionists from that part of the world are, they are anything but pirates. You see, it just does not compute, at all. For one thing, there just is no way that some twenty-five foot skiff, powered by an old outboard motor, can overtake and claim a huge transport ship at sea. Out there, on the real ocean, the waves run pretty high, the wind is unpredictable, and the currents are ever present. The big transports do not run close in to the shore. Those skiffs we see on the television would not fare well at all out on the surface of the wide open ocean, much less be able to run at twenty or thirty knots to overtake the ships. Then, how do you, as the captain of a pirate vessel, transport your men from the skiff to the big high ship? I mean, if you can latch on to the giant metal monster, in the first place? It is all beyond improbable. So assume the obvious. The pirates are revenue gatherers and sharers. They have the crew, or other interests located wherever the ship is from, coming from or going to, already in their pocket. They take the ship without combat or loss or violence of any sort. They 'hold the crew and cargo' for ransom. They get the money and depart. Then they quietly split the cash among all the paid off sources. The crew is one of those sources.

That is the only way this new piracy can work. The only. Real pirates kill people. All over the place. Just like in the old days. The violence, not the theft, is what brought all the civilized countries in the world down on them. How do you take a ship at sea that refuses to be taken? You shoot the hell out of it, lose some of your own people, then kill the survivors because you are mad as hell at them for hurting you! That was the way it was, and that is the way it would have to be today. Without all the communication we have today, that is. Now the 'pirates' can reach out through telephonic or computer means and contact their 'victims' to negotiate a deal. It is all money shifting. Who ends up with the money, really, and who loses it? Find the answers to those questions and you will have your pirates. And, trust me, you will be really really surprised!

The captain of that vessel, by the way, the one taken a few weeks ago, just spoke to Congress. Listening to him was just great good entertainment and high humor. He supposedly, and without serious injury to himself, surrendered his shop to the pirates overwhelming force. Then, while he was still (apparently) free aboard, he offered himself up as a hostage so his crew could go free. What a crock!!! Like any self-respecting 'real' pirate is going to take that deal? Why would he? Absolutely no reason whatever. And this 'heroic' captain, he is in front of our Congress speaking about how to prevent such occurrences in the future! Here is an easy and quick partial solution: Don't hire him, or his crew!!!

The media is playing right along with the whole pirate mythology. They do not care about the truth anymore at all. They just want headlines. They want heroes, fake or otherwise. They plainly have no surviving ethical standards. That factor alone is why nobody wants to watch them or read the newspapers. The Pirates are a huge manufactured lie. The Swine Flu is a lie. Torture is a lie (oh, we did it all right, but we did real torture, not this watered down 'sleep deprivation,' 'hanky-over-the-nose' crap!). What is going to come our way over the next few weeks? We can always bring back one of those, and maybe improve on one of them, here and there. More likely, however, we will have some more giant lies to merely replace those.

I wrote of 'Dark Matter' and the Uncertainty Principal last week. I am working away toward discussing the real problem about all of this. If everything is fake, then nothing is real. If the roof is fake, then making believe you are not wet when it rains is absolutely required. If the food is fake, then you must work very hard to believe that you are full, and not hungry. If the heating is fake, then you must find a way to think that you are not cold. Or not. You can look up and see there is no roof. You can check your waistline and tell that you are emaciated. You can check around and note the frost covering everything about you. If you do those things, and only if you do those things, can you get to a point where you take action. If some external source, or group of sources, is constantly selling you on the idea that those fake things are real, and you are believing that, then it is very very hard to take any action.

We are being sold a package, about life itself, by the media we allowed, and encouraged, to be in all of our lives. We have to start paying attention to what we can truly perceive for ourselves. We must stop listening, reading and looking at that tube and believing. We have to find a way to get back to reality. Only then can we take rational action to do anything about anything. Our roads and bridges are crumbling. Our space program is a tottering disaster of a fake. Our airlines are barely airlines at all anymore. Our car industry is in shambles. Our factories are broken down and closing, those that are left. You know these things to be true. You drive the roads and bridges. You see the factories, or the shells they once occupied. You ride on the cramped crummy airplanes. Do you see that? Our culture has lost its feelings of bliss and hope. Do you feel that? We have become a nation of depressed souls living off pyschotropic drugs and sleep medications. Do you understand that?

We are at the point where we have come to understand that what we are being presented, almost everywhere, is fake and phony. But we do not yet see the truth. We are in the Twilight Zone, caught between those two things. We are depressed, and have lost hope, because we cannot understand what to do about any of it. Yet.




Saturday, May 2, 2009

San Clemente, Chapter VI "Riding For the Brand"

The heat of the mid-day sun required that the Bronco be made to move, for some air-circulation, if the windows were to be left down. If the windows were up, then the air-conditioning had to be running, but then outside sounds could not be heard. The solution was to keep the vehicle moving with the windows down. I drove very slowly up and down the beach of my responsibility, occasionally rolling on the beaches of Northern Camp Pendleton or South, up onto San Clemente State Park territory. The movement made me feel that I was actually doing something, other than riding around in a costume of my own design, inside a Bronco of the mythical San Clemente Beach Patrol.

The weeks rolled by, one bright sunny day passing on into the next. The evenings cool and invigorating, filled with the aroma of ocean water and the liveliness of fresh moving sea air. I rode the smooth and roughened sands of San Clemente's most abandoned beaches, the surf in certain areas breathtaking on good days, and deafening on huge days. I had come to an accommodation with both the lovers and the border-crossers. Other than the surfers, those comprised ninety per cent of the people I saw. The lovers I allowed to stay, and make love, as long as they did not complain about the presence of my vehicle in any way, or the presence of me and my binoculars. The mildest look of antagonism, however, assured them of a rapid escort to the borders of my beach area. The State Park closed at ten p.m. Camp Pendleton was off-limits at all times, and my area had no limits I had heard or read of. So it was my beach, the way I saw it, and I treated all who inhabited it accordingly, using my own rules. The aliens from Mexico were another matter. They never argued. I gave them a free pass through the area every time I found them attempting to creep North. I made them crouch low, along the surf line, and run. In my analysis of the compound security system I had discovered that weak link. The low level radar did not cover the area between the high sand berm and the water's edge. If the aliens could not understand, or disobeyed and went up onto the dry sand, where they could be instantly 'painted' by the radar, then I had no choice but to detain them and call for the Border Patrol.

And I hated that. The beyond poor, totally bedraggled Mexicans, were so pitiful that they pulled at my heart strings. And my observation of the brutal manner in which the Border Patrol took them into custody, and treated them, did not motivate me to cooperate at all, in that regard.

The first three weeks of my new work were mildly exciting. I had been 'boarded out' of the United States Marine Corps with zero percent disability, but with a designation of 'totally disabled.' That allowed them to dump me, but not pay me anything. I was given forms to submit to the V.A., which I threw in the wastebasket. I had heard enough stories of horror and woe about that organization. I liked the beach work, for the most part. I liked watching people have sex, right there in front of me, at all hours of the day and night. I liked the freedom of reporting in to no one. But I did not like going home to Amy's criticism. My claim, that I was guarding the President of the United States, only made her laugh out loud.

"You went through OCS, became a Marine Officer, were wounded in Vietnam, got all those medals, and you are happy being an unknow low-life security guard on the beach. What is wrong with you?" Her words had been hard, but not as hard as her tone. Somehow, she intrinsically knew that I wasn't even a guard, which bothered me even more. The P.D. would not allow me to do regular police work in the local community until I had gone through the academy at Rio Hondo. That class would not even start for months. One of the police-lieutenant's had even taken exception to my being allowed to carry a firearm. Chief Murray had over-ruled him, but then called me into his office.

"Do me a favor, son," the big man drawled, his ever-present cigarette sticking out of the corner of his mouth, "don't shoot anybody with that thing." The smoke from his cigarette trailed upward to curve out and over the brim of his doeskin cowboy hat. His old clear eyes peered out from under the edge of the brim. The eyes traveled down to the special split clam-shell holster I carried the Smith in, on my right hip. My hand went instinctively to it, my thumb caressing the snap at the top, which held it together.

"That is a regulation .38, isn't it," the Chief asked, softly. He swept his eyes up to mine. I nodded. My eyes were steady, but my brain was not. Even though I had paid for the weapon, or would pay for it, it was anything but regulation. I had learned plenty about ballistics, in Artillery School and in Vietnam. A .38 round would barely penetrate the front windshield of a modern automobile, much less go through its doors or its trunk. The .44, even with a four inch barrel, could send a hot-loaded, depleted-uranium round completely through a telephone pole. And it was almost impossible to distinguish between the .38 and the .44, when they were in the special holsters. It was a little fatter in girth. But if you took it out, and looked down the barrel, you felt like you were looking down the barrel of a cannon.

I could tell that Murray did not believe me. Our eyes held for a few seconds. The Chief looked away. "Yeah, whatever. Don't shoot anybody, anyway, whatever the hell it is." Those words were said with an edge to his voice. I assumed, correctly, that I was being dismissed, and headed for the door. I got into the Bronco and drove back to my beach. I backed the vehicle into some big rocks, then shut it off to think. I was working swing. The P.D. divided up every twenty-four hour period into three chunks. The day shift was from eight to four. The four to midnight was called swing, and the the midnight to eight was graveyard. I liked swing. A bit of day and night. As of yet, nobody seemed to care what I did, anyway. The pay was considerably more than I had received as a lieutenant in the Corps so the bills were being paid. I could get the money back from the U.S. Government for my gun and my other stuff, or so Murray had said. I just had nowhere, and nobody, to submit a bill to. Haldeman didn't seem like the kind of man to accept bills. I wondered, in my reverie, whether there were weapons inspections held at the P.D. My forehead creased at the thought.

"Beach Boy," came out of the radio speaker, jarring me from my thoughts. My hand darted to the Motorola microphone. "Forty-six-six-seventy-three," I replied, crisply and flatly, in my best policeman voice. My code was five numbers long, which was never explained, as the entire department only fielded twenty-seven officers. "What's your problem, forty-six-six-seventy-three?" came back from Scruggs. His tone did not indicate a question, more a bored
'what the hell is this crap' attitude.

"Beach Boy," came again through the speaker. I realized that it was the Secret Service speaker. I grabbed the other microphone, without bothering to answer Scruggs. "Yes, sir," I said, pushing down on the transmit button. There were no codes or numbers with the Secret Service. When I had asked them about that they had just looked at me, then ignored me.

"See the man," a deep male voice said. I replaced the mike, slowly back into its slot. I pushed the transmit button down once, before I let go of it. I had been taught that that was radio slang for "10-4." There was no answer or click back from it. I stared the Bronco then turned to move North. The only way to get back to the compound quickly was to go up through the State Park trail, then use the city surface streets. Once I got onto the streets, I took the Bronco up to its unsafe maximum of forty miles per hour. I careened toward La Casa Romantica.

The Marine had the sawhorse pulled aside as I arrived. He merely waved. My adrenalin went up. It was the first time I had not been required to show identification. I was not even asked to stop. I parked by the phony door leading through the wall, after working my way around an odd looking Lincoln Towncar. The top of the black Lincoln was festooned with antennas of every sort. I walked to it, using my hand to shade my eyes, and peered inside. I was amazed to see no radios or other electronics visible anywhere in its interior. I went to the door in the wall, tapped and was admitted. A group of men in suits stood talking together. One wore a cowboy hat. I recognized Murray. Next to him stood H.R., with Erlichman at his side. All three were being attentive to a fourth mean I did not recognize. He was a fattish man, wearing a blue suit, his face long, drawn and serious.

"Martin," Murray stated, using only my last name. I nodded at him but said nothing. He smiled back, his usual welcoming warm smile. I relaxed a bit, but held to Parade Rest once I stopped in front of the men.

"This is Henry Kissinger," Murray said, motioning with his right shoulder toward the stately man in the blue suit. The man looked down the hall, ignoring his presence, as did both H.R. and Erlichman. The three men whispered to one another, then laughed together.

"Take that limo, the one you passed when you came in, and drive Doctor Kissinger to El Torro Marine Base. Air Force Two is waiting on the tarmac. We'll all ride along to keep you company." I looked at the Chief strangely, but Murray only smiled back, then shrugged. Everyone turned and walked back toward the faux wooden door. I got into the driver's seat of the limo. The keys were in the ignition. I adjusted the mirrors, then checked to see that everyone was getting into the back. They were, except for Murray, who slipped into the front passenger seat. He had removed his hat, but his head still touched the lower surface of the interior liner. I turned the key. The Lincoln's engine caught immediately. I checked the mirrors to make sure all the doors were closed, and then pulled out onto the access road and headed toward the checkpoint. The Marine Guard was saluting when I went through, the sawhorse gone.

Once out on Interstate Five, I looked in the rearview mirror. There was no limo partition, I noted. There was no conversation in the automobile until I drove through San Juan Capistrano.

"What is he?" a deeply accented German voice said, from the rear seat area. "How can we speak in here?" it added. There was a silence. Murray reached his hand over and patted me on the shoulder. I glanced at him, then put my eyes back on the highway.

"This is the guy Mr. Haldeman hired. From that Marine Outfit. He doesn't talk, at least not about this stuff. He's cleared. Isn't that right sir?" Murray craned around to look back at Haldeman, but the man said nothing. I looked at the German in the rear view mirror, finally recognizing him. I had seen him on television before, at the White House, but I could not remember what his job was.

"Ich spreche nichts," I said, using the German for 'I don't know.' There was a complete silence in the vehicle for several seconds, then Murray started laughing.

"Sprechen sie Deutsch?" Kissinger asked me.

I answered in German, telling him that, indeed, I did.

""I'll be damned," H.R. said, which surprised me. Haldeman and Erlichman had both been described to me as being devout Christian Scientists who did not drink, swear or smoke. "I guess we get another bonus, huh, Doctor Kissinger?" Murray said. I looked in the rearview, once more. Kissinger stared at the back of my head, his expression, however, not one of welcome or warmth, but one of deep suspicion.