Windmills of the Gods
Chapter Six

 Sidney Sheldon

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WHEN their plane landed at Washington's Dulles Airport, Mary and the children were met by a young man from the State Department.
"Welcome to Washington, Mrs. Ashley. My name is John Bums. Mr.. Rogers asked me to meet you and see that you get to your hotel safely. I've checked you in at the Riverdale Towers. I think you'll all be comfortable there."
"Thank you." Mary introduced Beth and Tim.
"If you'll give me your baggage-claim checks, Mrs. Ashley, I'll see that everything is taken care of "
Twenty minutes later they were all seated in a chauffeur-driven limousine, heading toward the center of Washington.
PETE Connors, head of the counterintelligence section of the CIA, was working late, and his day was far from over. Every morning at three a.m. a team reported to prepare the Presiden's daily intelligence checklist, collected from overnight cables. The report, code-named Pickles, had to be ready by six a.m. so that it could be on the Presiden's desk at the start of his day. An armed couner earned the list to the White House, entering at the west gate. Pete Connors had a renewed interest in the interceptedcable traffic coming from behind the iron curtain, because much of it concerned the appointment of Mary Ashley as the American ambassador to Remania.
The Soviet Union was worried that President Ellison's plan was a ploy to penetrate their satellite countries, to spy on them or seduce them.
The Commies aren't as worried as I am, Pete Connors thought grimly. If the Presiden's idea works, this whole country is going to be open house for their slimy spies.
Pete Connors had been informed the moment Mary Ashley landed in Washington. He had seen photographs of her and the children. She's going to be perfect, Connors thought happily.
THE Riverdale Towers, one block away from the Watergate, is a small family hotel with comfortable, nicely decorated suites.
No sooner had Mary checked in than Stanton Rogers telephoned. "Good evening, Mrs. Ashley." It was like hearing the voice of an'old friend. "I thought it would be a good idea if we met to discuss some of the procedures you'll be going through. Why don't we make it lunch tomorrow at the Grand?"
It was starting.
The following morning Mary arranged for the children to have room service,, and at one o'clock a taxi dropped her off at the Grand Hotel. Mary looked at it in awe. The Grand Hotel is its own center of power. Heads of state and diplomats from all over the world stay there, and it is easy to see why. It is an elegant building, with an imposing lobby that has Italian marble floors and gracious columns under a circular ceiling. There is a landscaped courtyard, with a fountain and an outdoor swimming pool. A marble staircase leads down to the promenade restaurant, where Stanton Rogers was waiting for her.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Ashley."
"Good afternoon, Mr. Rogers."
He laughed. "That sounds so formal. What about Stan and Mary?"
She was pleased. "That would be nice."
When they had ordered lunch, Mary said, "Stan, will I be in Washington long?"
"About a month. We'll do everything we can to expedite your move. just between us, there have already been private discussions between the two governments. There will be no problem with the Remanians, but you still have to pass the Senate."
So the Remanian government is going to accept me, Mary thought. Perhaps I'm better qualified than I realized.
"There will be an open hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.. That's scheduled for nine o'clock on Wednesday morning. They vote, and when they. turn in their report, the full Senate votes."
Mary said slowly, "Nominations have been voted down in the past, haven't they?"
"Yes. But you'll have the full backing of the White House. The President is eager to push, your appointment through as quickly as possible. Incidentally, he would like to meet with you this afternoon. Would four o'clock be convenient?"
Mary swallowed. "Yes, I- Of course."
"Excellent. A car will be downstairs for you at three thirty."
PAUL Ellison rose as Mary was ushered into the Oval Office. He walked over to shake her hand, grinned, and said, "Gotcha!"
Mary laughed. "I'm glad you did, Mr. President. This is a great honor for me."
"Sit down, Mrs. Ashley. May I call you Mary?"
"Please." They sat down on the couch.
President Ellison said, "You're going to be my doppelgnger. Do you know what that is?"
"It's a kind of identical spirit of a living person."
"Right. And That's us. I can't tell you how excited I was when I read your latest article, Mary. It was as though I were reading something I had written myself. There are a lot of people who don't believe our people-to-people plan can work, but you and I are going to fool them."
Our people-to-people plan. He's a charmer, Mary thought. Aloud she said, "I want to do everything I can to help, Mr. President."
"I'm counting on you. Very heavily. Remania is the testing ground. Since Groza was assassinated, your job is going to be more difficult. If we can pull it off there, we can make it work in the other communist countries."
They spent the next thirty minutes discussing some of the problems that lay ahead, and then Paul Ellison said, "Stan Rogers will keep in close touch with you. He's become a big fan of yours." He held out his hand. "Good luck, doppelgnger."
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE SENATE Foreign Relations Committee hearing Mary was in panic. Oh, Edward, how I wish you were here with me. What am I going to tell them, darling? That in junction City I was homecoming queen?
Then the irony struck her. If Edward were alive, she would not be here. She'd be safe and warm at home with her husband and children, where she belonged.
She lay awake all night.
THE hearing was held in the Foreign Relations Committee room, with the full seventeen committee members seated on a dais. Along the left side of the room was the press table, filled with reporters, and in the center were seats for two hundred spectators. The room was filled to overflowing. Pete Connors sat in the back row. There was a sudden hush as Mary entered with Beth and Tim.
Mary was wearing a dark tailored suit and a white blouse. The children were in their Sunday best.
Ben Cohn, the political reporter for the Washington Post, watched as they came in. Goodness, he thought; they look like a Norman Rockwell painting.
An attendant seated the children in a front row, and Mary was escorted to the witness chair, facing the committee.
The questions started innocently enough. Senator Charles Campbell, the chairman of the committee and a supporter of President Ellison, spoke first. "According to the biography we've been furnished, Mrs. Ashley, you're a native of Kansas, and for the last several years you've taught political science at Kansas State University. Is that correct?"
"Yes, sir." Mary was so nervous she could barely speak.
"Your grandparents were Remanian?"
"My grandfather. Yes, sir."
"An article you wrote was published in Foreign Affairs magazine and came to the attention of the President?"
"That's my understanding."
"Mrs. Ashley, would you kindly tell this committee what the basic premise of your article is?"
"Several regional economic pacts currently exist in the world, and because they are mutually exclusive they serve to divide the world into antagonistic and competitive blocs." She felt as though she were conducting a seminar, and her nervousness began to disappear.
"My premise is simple," she continued. "I would like to see our country spearhead a movement to form a common market that includes allies and adversaries alike. Today, as- an example, we're paying billions of dollars to store surplus grain,,while people in dozens of countries are starving. The one-world common market could cure inequities of distribution, at fair market prices. I would like to try to make that happen."
Senator Harold Turkel, a senior member of the committee and a leader of the opposition party, spoke up. "I'd like to ask the nominee a few questions. Is this your first time in Washington, Mrs. Ashley?"
"Yes, sir. I think It's one of the most-"
"Have you ever been to New York?"
"No, sir."
"No, sir."
"Have you, in fact, ever been outside the state of Kansas?"
"Yes. I gave a lecture at the University of Chicago and a series of talks in Denver and Atlanta."
"That must have been very exciting for you, Mrs. Ashley," Turkel said dryly. "You expect to represent the United States in an iron curtain country, and you're telling us that your entire knowledge of the world comes from living in junction City, Kansas."
Mary held back her temper. "No, sir. My knowledge of the world comes from studying it. I have a Ph.D. in political science, and I've been teaching at Kansas State University for five years, with an emphasis on the iron curtain countries. I'm familiar with the current problems of the Remanian people, and with what their government thinks of the United States and why. I-" She broke off, afraid she had gone too far. And then, to her surprise, the committee started to applaud. All except Turkel.
The questioning went on. One hour later Senator Campbell asked, "Are there any more questions?"
"I think the nominee has expressed herself very clearly," one of the Senators commented.
"I agree. Thank you, Mrs. Ashley. This session is adjourned.
Pete Connors studied Mary thoughtfully a moment, then quietly left as the members of the press swarmed around her.
"Turn this way, Mrs. Ashley. Smile, please. One more.
"Mrs. Ashley-"
Ben Cohn stood apart from the others, watching and listening. She's good, he thought; she has all the right answers. But there was something about her nomination that puzzled him. The problem was that he was not sure what it was.
When Mary arrived back at the hotel, emotionally drained, Stanton Rogers telephoned. "Hello, Madam Ambassador."
She felt giddy with relief "You mean I'm going to make it? Oh, Stan, I can't tell you how excited I am."
"So am I, Mary." His voice was filled with pride. "So am I."
THE final confirmation was almost a formality. The full Senate voted Mary in by a comfortable majority. President Ellison said to. Stanton Rogers, "Our plan is under way, Stan. Nothing can stop us now.
Rogers nodded. "Nothing," he agreed.
PETE Connors was in his office when he heard the news. He immediately wrote out a message and encoded it., One of his men was on duty in the CIA cable room.
"I want to use the Roger Channel," Connors said. "Wait outside." The Roger Channel is the CIgs ultraprivate cable system, only for top executives. The cable was addressed to Sigmund.
MARY Ashley was sworn in as the ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Remania, and the treadmill began. She was ordered to report to the Bureau of European Affairs at the State Department. There she was assigned a small, boxlike office next to the Remanian desk.
James Stickley, the Remanian desk officer, was a career diplomat, with twenty-five years in the service. He was in his late fifties, with a foxlike face and pale, cold eyes. He was considered the foremost expert on the Remanian desk and had fully expected to be appointed ambassador to Remania. The news about Mary Ashley was a bitter blow. It was bad enough to have been passed over, but to have lost out to a political appointee-an unknown hayseed from Kansas-was galling.
He studied Mary Ashley now, as she sat across from his desk.
Mary was also studying Stickley. There is something meanlooking about him, she thought.
"We're going to have to make an instant expert out of you." He handed her an armful of files. "You can start by reading these."
"I'll dedicate my morning to it."
"No. Now I want to introduce you to your military attaches, Colonel William McKinney. And in thirty minutes you're scheduled to begin a language course in Remanian. The course usually takes months, but I have orders to push you through the mill."
Bill McKinney wore mufd, but his military bearing was like a uniform. He was a tall middle-aged man, with a seamed, weathered face.
"Madam Ambassador." His voice was rough and gravelly, as though his throat had suffered an injury.
"I'm pleased to meet you," Mary said. Colonel McKinney was her first staff member, and meeting him gave her a sense of excitement. It seemed to bring her new position much closer. "Have you been to Remania before?"
The colonel and James Stickley exchanged a look.
"He's been there before,"." Stickley replied.
EVERY day Mary and Stickley went through the files of the Remanian desk together.
"I'll be reading the cables you send in," Stickley informed her. "They will be yellow copies for action, or white copies for information. Duplicates of your cables will go to Defense, the CIA, the USIA, the Treasury Department, and a dozen other departments. One of the first issues you'll be expected to resolve is Americans being, held in Remanian prisons. We want their release."
"What are they charged with?"
"Espionage, drugs, theft-anything the Remanians want to charge them with."
Mary wondered how on earth one went about getting a charge of espionage dismissed.
Right," she said briskly.
"I'm going to give you a package," Stickley announced. "Don't let it out of your hands. It's for your eyes only. Read it and digest it, and return it to me personally tomorrow morning." He handed Mary a thick manila envelope sealed with red tape. "Sign for it, please."
She signed.
During the ride back to the hotel Mary clutched it to her lap, feeling like a character in a James Bond movie. ,
The children were dressed, up and waiting for her.
Oh, dear, Mary remembered. I promised to take them to a Chinese dinner and a movie. "Fellas," she said, "we'll have to make our excursion another evening. I have some urgent work to do."
"Sure, Mom."
And Mary thought, Before Edward died, they would have screamed like banshees. But they've had to grow up. She took them both in her arms. "I'll make it up to you," she promised.
The material James Stickley had given her was -incredible. No wonder he wants this right back, Mary thought. There were detailed reports on every important Remanian official, from the President to the minister of commerce. There was a dossier on their private habits, financial dealings, friendships, personal traits, and prejudices. Some of the reading was lurid. Mary was up half the night memorizing the names and peccadilloes of the people with whom she would be dealing.
In the morning she returned the secret documents.
Stickley said, "Now you know everything you should know about the Remanian leaders."
"And then some," Mary murmured.
"There's something you should bear in mind: by now the Remanians also know everything there is to know about you."
"That won't get them far," Mary said.
"No?" Stickley leaned back in his chair. "You're a woman, and you're alone. You can be sure they've already marked you as an easy target. They'll play on your loneliness. Every move you make will be watched and recorded."
He's trying to frighten me, Mary thought. Well, it won't work.
TIME became a blur, a whirlwind of activity that left Mary exhausted. Besides language lessons, her schedule included a course at the Foreign Service Institute, briefings at the Defense Intelligence Agency, meetings with the secretary of international security affairs and with Senate committees. They all had demands, advice, questions.
On top of all this, a media blitz began. Mary found herself in front of the cameras on Good Morning America, Meet the Press, and Firing Line. She was interviewed by the Washington Post, The New York Times, and half a dozen other important daily papers. She did interviews for the London Times, Der SViegel, Oggi, and Le Monde. Time magazine and People did feature articles on her and the children. Mary Ashley's photograph seemed to be everywhere, and whenever there was a newsbreak about an event in some far-off corner of the world, she was asked for her comments. Overnight Mary Ashley and her children became celebrities.
Tim said, "Mom, It's really spooky seeing our pictures on the covers of all the magazines."
"Spooky is the word," Mary agreed. Somehow she felt uneasy about the publicity, and she spoke to Stanton Rogers about it.
"Look on it as a part of your job. The President is trying to create an image. By the time you arrive in Remania, everyone there will know who you are."
"THERE'S something weird happening in this town," Ben Cohn said. The reporter and his girlfriend, Akiko Hadaka, were watching Mary Ashley on Meet the Press.
The new ambassador to Remania was saying, "I believe that China is heading for a more humane,, iladividualistic communist society with its incorporation of Hong Kong and Macao."
"Now, what does that lady know about China?" Cohn muttered. He turned to Akiko. "You're looking at a housewife from Kansas who's become an expert on everything overnight."
"She seems very bright," Akiko said.
,: Bright is beside the point. Every time she gives an interview, the reporters go crazy. It's like a feeding frenzy. How did she get on Meet the Press? I'll tell you how. Someone decided that Mary Ashley was going to be a celebrity. The question is who and why."
"I'm supposed to be the one with the devious Oriental mind," Akiko said. "I think you're making more out of this than necessary." Ben Cohn lit a cigarette and took an angry puff on it. "You could be right," he grumbled.
An hour later he telephoned Ian Villiers, chief of press relations for the State Department.
"Benjie, my boy, what can I do for you?" asked Villiers.
"I need a favor. I understand you're handling the press for our new ambassador to Remania."
A cautious "Yes ... ?"
"Who's behind her buildu', Ian? I'm interested in-"
"I'm sorry, Ben. That's State Department business. I'm just a hired hand. You might drop a note to the Secretary."
Hanging.up, Ben made a decision. "I think I'm going to have to go out of town for a few days," he told Akiko.
"Where are you going, baby?"
"Junction City, Kansas."
As it turned out, Ben Cohn was in Junction City for only one day. He spent an hour talking to Sheriff Monster, then drove a rental car to Fort Riley, where he visited the CID office. He caught a late afternoon flight home.
As Ben Cohn's plane took off, a person-to-person telephone call was placed from the fort to a number in Washington, D.C.
MARY Ashley was walking down the long corridor of the European Affairs section of the State Department, on her way to report to James Stickley, when she heard a deep male voice behind her say, "Now, That's what I call a perfect ten."
Mary spun around. A tall stranger was leanin against a wall, staring at her, an insolent grin on his face. He was dressed in jeans, T-shirt, and tennis shoes, and he looked scruffy and unshaven. There were laugh lines around his mouth, and his eyes were a bright, mocking blue. There was an air of arrogance about him that was infuriating. Mary turned on her heel and angrily walked away, conscious of his eyes following her.
The conference with James Stickley lasted for more than an hour. When Mary returned to her office, the stranger was seated in her chair, his feet on her desk, looking through her papers. She could feel the blood rising to her face.
"What the devil do you think you're doing?"
The man gave her a long, lazy look and slowly got to his feet. "i'm Mike Slade. My friends call me Michael."
She said icily, "What can I do for you, Mr. Slade?"
"Nothing, really," he said easily. "We're neighbors. I work here in the department, so I thought I'd come by and say hello."
"You've said it. I assume you have your own desk, so in the future you won't have. to sit at my desk and snoop."
"Well, well, it has a temper! I heard the Kansians, or whatever you people call yourselves, were supposed to be friendly folks."
"Mr. Slade, I'll give you two seconds to get out of my office."
"I must have heard wrong," he mumbled to himself.
"And if you really work here, I'd suggest you go home and shave and put on some proper clothing."
He waved his hand at her. "Bye, honey. I'll be seeing you."
Oh, no, Mary thought. No, you won't.
The next morning when Mary arrived for her daily session with Stickley, Mike Slade was there as well.
He grinned at Mary. "Hi. I took your advice and shaved."
Stickley looked from one to the other. "You two have met?"
Mary gritted her teeth. "Not really. I found him. snooping at my desk."
James Stickley said, "Mrs. Ashley, Mike Slade. Mr. Slade is going to be your deputy chief of mission."
Mary stared at him. "He's what?"
"Mr. Slade is on the East European desk. He usually works out of Washington now, but he spent four years in Remania, and It's been decided to assign him to work with you."
"No!" she protested. "That's impossible."
"Mrs. Ashley, Mike Slade happens to be our top field expert on East European affairs. Your job is to make friends with the natives. My job is to see to it that you get all the help I can give you. And his name is Mike Slade. I really don't want to hear any more about it. Do I make myself clear?"
Mike said mildly, "I promise to shave every day."
Mary turned to Stickley. "I thought an ambassador was permitted to choose her own deputy chief of mission."
"That is correct, but-"
"Then I am unchoosing Mr. Slade. I don't want him."
"Under ordinary circumstances you would be within your rights, but in this case I'm afraid you have no choice. The order came from the White House."
In the days that followed, Mary could not seem to avoid Mike Slade. The man was everywhere. She ran into him in the Pentagon, in the Senate dining room, in the corridors of the State Department. He was always dressed in either denims and a Tshirt or in sport clothes. Mary wondered how he got away with it in an environment that was so formal.
One day Mary saw him having lunch with Colonel McKinney, her military attaches. They were engaged in an earnest conversation, and Mary wondered how close the two men were. Could they be old friends? And could they be planning to gang up on me? I'm, getting paranoid, Mary told herself. And I'm not even in Remania yet.
BEN Cohn was seated at a corner table at Mama Regina's when his lunch guest, Alfred Shuttleworth, arrived. The headwaiter seated him.
"Would you care fora drink, gentlemen?"
Shuttleworth ordered a martini.
"Nothing for me," Ben Cohn said.
Alfred Shuttleworth was a sallow-looking middle-aged man who worked in the European Affairs section of the State Department. A few years earlier he had been involved in a drunkdriving accident that Ben Cohn had covered for his newspaper, Shuttleworth's career had been at stake. Cohn had killed the story, and Shuttleworth showed his appreciation by giving him news tips from time to time.
"I need your help, AI."
"Name it, and you've got it."
"I'd like the inside information on our new ambassador to Remania."
Alfred Shuttleworth frowned. "What do you mean?"
"AI, Lindbergh never had a buildup like this. Here's this Cinderella, who comes out of nowhere, is touched by the magic wand of our President, and suddenly becomes the nation's number one celebrity and political savant." Now, I'll admit the lady is pretty but she isn't that pretty. The lady is bright-but she isn't that bright. I'll tell you something else That's out of killer. I flew to junction City, Kansas, her hometown, and talked to the sheriff there." Ben Cohn paused.
"Go on," Shuttleworth said.
"Mrs. Ashley originally turned down the President because her husband couldn't leave his medical practice. Then he was killed in a convenient auto accident. Voildl The lady's in Washington, on her way to Bucharest. Exactly as someone had planned from the beginning."
"Someone? Who?"
"That's the jackpot question."
"Ben, what are you suggesting?"
"I'm not suggesting anything. Let me tell you what Sheriff Monster suggested. He thought it was peculiar that half a dozen people showed up in the middle of a freezing winter night just in time to Witness the accident. And do you want to hear something even more peculiar? They've all disappeared."
"Go on."
"The driver of the army truck that killed Dr. Ashley is dead of a heart attack. Twenty-seven years old. Colonel Jenkins-the officer in charge of the army investigation, as well as one of the witnesses to the accident-he's been promoted and transferred. No one seems to know where."
Shuttleworth shook his head. "Ben, I know you're a dam good reporter, but I think you've gone off the track. You're building a few coincidences into a Hitchcock scenario. People do get killed in auto accidents. You're looking for some kind of conspiracy where there is none."
"AI, have you heard of an organization called Patriots for Freedom?"
"I keep hearing rumors, but there's nothing I can pin down."
"What kind of rumors?"
"It's supposed to be a cabal of high-level right-wing and leftwing fanatics from a dozen Eastern and Western countries. Their ideologies are diametrically opposed, but what brings them together is fear. The communist members think President Ellison's plan is a capitalist trick to destroy the Eastern bloc. The rightwingers believe his plan is an open door that will let the Communists destroy us. So they've formed this unholy alliance."
"I don't believe it."
"There's more. Besides the VIPS, splinter groups from various international security agencies are said to be involved. Do you think you could check it out for me?"
"I don't know, Ben. I'll try."
Shuttleworth was skeptical about Ben Cohn's theory. He liked Ben, and he wanted to help, but he had no idea how to go about tracking down a probably mythical organization. If it really did exist, it would be in some government computer. He himself had no access to the computers.
But I know someone who does, Shuttleworth said to himself. I'll give him a call.
ALFRED Shuttleworth was on his second martini when Pete Connors walked into the bar.
"Sorry I'm late," Connors said. "A minor problem at the pickle factory."
Pete Connors ordered a Scotch, and Shuttleworth ordered another martini. "Pete," Shuttleworth said, "I need a favor. Could you look up something for me in the CIA computer? It may not be in there, but I promised a friend I'd try."
"Sure," said Connors. "I owe you a few. Who do you want to know about?"
"It's not a who, It's a what. And it probably doesn't even exist. It's an organization called Patriots for Freedom. Have you heard of it?"
Pete Connors carefully set down his drink. "I can't,say that I have, AH. What's the name of your friend?"
"Ben Cohn. He's a reporter for the Post."
THERE was no way to get directly in touch with the Controller. He had organized and financed Patriots for Freedom, but he never attended Committee meetings, and he was completely anonymous. He was a telephone number-untraceable (Connors had tried)-and a recording that said, "You have sixty seconds in which to leave your message." The number was to be used only in case of emergencies. Connors stopped at a public telephone booth to make the call. He talked to the recording.
The message was received at six p.m.
In Buenos, Aires it was eight p.m.
The Controller listened to the message twice, then dialed a number. He waited for three full minutes before Neusa Mufiez's voice came on.
The Controller said, "This is the man who made arrangements with you before about Angel. I have another contract for him. Can you get in touch with him right away?"
"I don' know." She sounded drunk.
The woman was impossible. "Listen to me. Tell Angel I need this done immediately. I want him to-"
"Wait a minute. I gotta go to the toilet."
The Controller heard her drop the phone. He sat there, filled with frustration, until she came back on the line. "A lotta beer makes you go," she announced.
He gritted his teeth. "This is very important. I want you to get a pencil and write this down. I'll speak slowly."
"I WANTED to bring you the good news in person, Mary," said Stanton Rogers. "We just received official word that the Romanian government has approved you as the new ambassador from the United States. Now President Ellison can give you a letter of credence, and you'll be on your way."
"I- I don't know how to thank you for everything you've done, Stan."
"I haven't done anything," Rogers protested. "It was the President who selected you." He grinned. "And I must say, he made the perfect choice. You can do more for our country over there than anyone else I can think of."
"Thank you," she said soberly. "I'll try to live up to that."
It was one of the most thrilling moments of Mary Ashley's life. It seemed almost too good to be true. And for no reason something that Mary's mother used to tell her popped into her mind: "If something seems to be too good to be true, Mary, you can bet it probably is."
THURSDAY morning Angel was in a bad mood. The flight from Buenos Aires to Washington, D.C., had been delayed because of a telephoned bomb threat. The world isn't safe anymore, Angel thought angrily.
The hotel room that had been reserved in Washington was too modern, too-what was the word?-plastic. That was it. In Buenos Aires everything was autgntico. I'll finish this contract and get back home, Angel thought. The job is simple, almost an insult to my talent, but the money is excellent.
Angel's first stop was an electrical supply store, then a paint store, and finally a supermarket, where Angel's only purchase was six light bulbs. The rest of the equipment was waiting in the hotel room in two sealed boxes marked FRAGILE HANDLE with CARE. Inside the first box were four carefully packed army-green hand grenades. In the second box was soldering equipment.
Working very slowly, with :xquisite care, Angel cut the top off the first grenade, then painted the bottom the same color as the light bulbs. The next step was to scoop out the explosive from the grenade and replace it with a seismic explosive. When this was tightly packed, Angel added lead and metallic shrapnel to it. Then Angel shattered a light bulb against a table, preserving the filament and threaded base. It took less than a minute to solder the filament of the bulb to an electrically activated detonator. The final step was to insert it gently inside the painted grenade. When Angel was finished, it looked exactly like a normal light bulb.
Then Angel began to work on the remaining bulbs. After that, there was nothing to do but wait for the phone call.
The telephone rang at eight o'clock that evening. Angel picked up the phone and listened without speaking. After a moment a voice said, "He's gone."
The Un ride to the apartment building took seventeen minutes.
There was no doorman in the lobby. The target apartment was on the fifth floor, at the far end of the corridor. The lock was an early model Schlage, childishly simple to manipulate. Angel was inside the dark apartment within seconds.
It was the work of a few minutes to replace six light bulbs in the living room of the apartment. Afterward Angel headed for Dulles Airport to catch a midnight flight back to Buenos Aires.
That night Ben Cohn was killed by a mysterious explosion in his apartment. There was a brief item in the press attributing the accident to a leaky gas stove.
The next day Alfred Shutfleworth was reported missing by his wife. His body was never found.
STANTON Rogers accompanied Mary and the children to Dulles Airport in a State Department limousine.
"I want to thank you, Stan. You've been so wonderful," said Mary.
He smiled. "I can't tell you how much pleasure It's given me."
"I hate to burden you with this, but James Stickley told me that Mike Slade is going to be my deputy chief of mission. Is there any way to change that?"
He looked at her in surprise. "Are you having some kind of problem with Slade?"
"Quite honestly, I don't like him. Is there someone who could replace him?"
Stanton Rogers said thoughtfully, "I don't know Mike Slade well, but he has a magnificent record. He's served brilliantly in posts in the Middle East and Europe. He can give you exactly the kind of expertise you're going to need."
She sighed. "That's what Mr. Stickley said."
"If you have any problem with him, I want you to let me know. In fact, if you have problems with anyone, I want you to let me know. I intend to make sure that you get every bit of help I can give you."
"I appreciate that."
"One last thing. If you have any messages that you want to send to me without anyone else reading them, the code at the top of the message is three x's. I'll be the only one to receive that message."
It was only after she and the children were airborne that the enormity of what was about to happen really struck Mary Ashley. It was so incredible that she had to say it aloud. "We're on our way to Remania, where I'm going to take up my post as ambassador from the United States."
Beth was looking at her strangely. "Yes, Mother. We know that."
I'm going to be the best ambassador they've ever seen, Mary thought. Before I'm finished, the United States and Remania are going to be close allies.
The next instant, Mary's euphoric dreams of-great statesmanship evaporated, giving way to panic. I'm not a real ambassador, she thought. I'm a fake. I'm going to get us into a war. God help us. Dorothy and I should never have left Kansas.