Authors: Robbins Harold
wife Jann, with all my love.
You don't have to deserve your mother's love. You
have to deserve your father's. He's more particular.
No man is a hero to his valet.
Or to his father.
PEOPLE HAVE RECURRING DREAMS. Jonas cord had them. Memories are often
distressing. Dreams, bringing memories to life, are worse; emotions
that are dull in memory come back sharp and tormenting in dreams.
The one that came most often began with the words "Jonas
— my son."
"Jonas — my son," his father had
muttered as he toppled into his son's arms, dead of an abrupt,
massive stroke. One moment Jonas Senior was a powerful, domineering
man. The next moment he was dead.
He had died without ever having told his son he loved
him, or that he was proud of him. He had died without ever hearing
any such words from his son. The old man and the young man loved each
other, but neither could ever bring himself to say so, and neither
ever felt confident of it. Jonas resolved he would never let things
be that way with a son of his own — if he ever had one.
It was Rina who first made it clear to him that his
father had cared for him. Rina: the young, voluptuous Rina. Jonas had
almost hated his father over Rina. He had decided to marry her and
had announced his decision to Jonas Senior. His father had opposed
the marriage on the ground that the boy was too young to marry; and
he had blocked it in the most effective way he possibly could, by
marrying her himself. Jonas had called the old man a fool who had
fallen for a scheming, avaricious gold digger.
Within hours after his father's death, Rina had
explained that the old man had not been a fool at all. He had
demanded a prenuptial agreement from her, in which she accepted a
settlement but would not inherit stock in the Cord family businesses.
If she had borne the old man a child, that child would have inherited
stock and Jonas would have had to share control. During a whole year
of marriage to the luscious and licentious Rina, the old man had
resolutely avoided getting her pregnant — to preserve Jonas's
status as sole heir.
The next person who made Jonas understand his father was
Nevada Smith, the best and wisest friend either of the Jonases ever
had. The leathery, straight-spoken Nevada Smith had shown up at the
Cord ranch one day sixteen years before the death of Jonas Senior and
asked if there was a job for him. There wasn't, but Jonas Senior was
a man who sized up other men quickly; and he had hired Nevada to
teach his little boy to ride and shoot — in short, to make a
man of him. After Jonas Senior died, Nevada moved on. He starred in
his own Wild West show and then became a major star of Western
pictures. But he remained a friend and saw Jonas often. He told Jonas
things the old man should have told him.
Jonas never told anyone else, but he pledged himself
that if ever he had a son, the boy would know he loved him, would
know it all his life, would know it before it was too late.
* * *
In another dream that often came, the year was
1945, twenty years after the death of his father, and Jonas was
proudly and exuberantly flying
fiberglass-hull flying boat in which he had invested seventeen
million dollars of the assets of what the
Wall Street Journal
called "the Cord Empire." It had been at the time the
biggest airplane ever built, designed to carry an entire company of
soldiers with two light tanks and all the other equipment they would
need to invade a Japanese-held island.
The conventional wisdom was that he could never
get the thing to lift off the water, but he was in the air.
was one more example of how Jonas Cord — no
longer ever called Jonas Cord Junior — repeatedly defied expert
opinion, went his own way, and made things work the way he wanted
them to work.
For example, at the time of his death, Jonas Senior had been about to
launch the parent company. Cord Explosives, into the manufacture of
an exotic new product said to have thousands of potential uses in
industry and in consumer goods. For want of a better name, the
product was called plastics. Jonas had picked up on this idea and
carried it forward. Cord Plastics was one of the biggest names in the
industry. A Cord company manufactured airplanes, and another ran an
airline. Cord Productions had made movies for some years, but later
Jonas had decided to get out of that business and use the soundstages
as rental properties.
For the test flight of
Winthrop, Jonas's father-in-law, who had supervised the building of
the plane, sat in the co-pilot's seat. They had taken off, and the
huge plane was flying, but suddenly everything went wrong. In the
dream it was as if the plane had been rigged backward. If he turned
the yoke to lower the right wing, the left wing dipped. If he shoved
in the left rudder pedal, the plane turned right. And then the
engines began to fail, one by one ...
Then, invariably, the telephone rang. It rang
once, just once, enough to wake him and interrupt the dream,
mercifully sparing him from having to relive what had really happened
in 1945 — the failure of the engines one by one, the plunge
into the sea, his escape from the buckled fuselage with doors jammed
shut, shoved through a port by Amos, who was himself too fat to
squeeze through, and finally the sinking of
carrying the older man down with it.
Two weeks later, while Jonas was still in the
hospital recovering from injuries he had suffered in the crash, the
atomic bomb brought the war with Japan to an end; and Jonas had to
give up plans to build
Aircraft had also just delivered to the Air Force its first jet
fighter. The luck of Jonas Cord, someone commented acidly.
A son. He'd never had a son. He had been married twice, twice to the
same woman. Monica Winthrop. By a sad, stupid error he had decided
that the daughter she bore, Jo-Ann, was not his. He left Monica, and
she divorced him. Fourteen years passed before he learned he had been
wrong. Then, thank God, it was not too late. He remarried Monica and
happily accepted Jo-Ann as his daughter. Jo-Ann said she wanted a
little brother, but five years of trying had not yet produced one.
The fault wasn't his. He had established a trust fund for a daughter
born to his secretary in 1948. It was Monica's fault. Doctors said
there was something funny about her. Monica was forty-three, a
pregnancy was not impossible, just unlikely, and if they really
wanted another child they should keep trying.
Anyway, he had bought a home in Bel Air, and Jo-Ann was going to
college at Pepperdine. Monica had not given up her career and spent a
lot of time in New York — as he spent a lot of time flying
here, there, and the other where — but they were together
enough to have plenty of chances to make something happen.
Jonas was happy. He insisted to himself that he was happy. Why
shouldn't he have been? He had inherited Cord Explosives and built it
into a billion-dollar conglomerate that was still growing. He was
notoriously successful. He had the luck of Jonas Cord. He was
forty-seven years old and had done just about everything he had ever
wanted to do in life —
Except that he had never told his father he loved him and never heard
his father say it to him. And he had never had a chance to make it
right in some sense by treating a son of his own a different way.
AN ODDITY OF THE RECURRING DREAM ABOUT
was that the telephone ring that interrupted it always
happened forty-seven minutes past the hour. It could be 1:47, 2:47,
or 3:47; but when he woke and looked at the clock it was always
forty-seven past something.
This was not the same. The telephone did not ring once. It persisted.
And when he opened his eyes and looked at the clock, the time was
The phone had rung maybe six times when he picked it up. He was
groggy. He'd eaten well, drunk a little more than usual, and had
finished the evening with a round of good sex with Monica. Waking was
"Yeah ... ?"
"Jonas, this is Phil."
"You know what time it is?"
"What time you think it is in Washington?
Listen to me. A friend — never mind who — woke
up to read me a highly confidential document. Plan on a visit from a
United States marshal. He'll be early. He means to get to you before
you leave the house."
Jonas switched on the bedside lamp. He lifted himself to a sitting
posture. He was stark naked. He didn't own such a thing as a pair of
pajamas, and it took a cold night in a badly heated bedroom to make
him sleep in his underclothes.
"Phil ... What the hell are you talking about?"
"The airline hearings, for Christ's sake! They've issued a
subpoena for you. They want to grill your ass, Jonas. You didn't
appear voluntarily in response to their request, so— "
"Bunch of two-bit politicians want to make names for themselves
by cross-examining Jonas Cord."
"Maybe. But they're United States senators, and they've got
subpoena power. If you don't show, you're in contempt of Congress.
People have gone to jail for contempt of Congress."
"I hold Congress in
"You're not in the world's best position, Jonas. If those
contracts for gate positions in New York and Chicago were in fact
rigged the way — "
"Phil. Never mind. I know what they accuse me of. I don't want
to talk about it."
"Yeah? Well, if the senators subpoena you to talk about it,
you're going to have to talk about it. You don't have any choice."
"Except one," said Jonas.
The lawyer was silent on the phone for a moment, then said, "As
your lawyer, I can't advise you to take that option."
"As my friend ... ?"
"That's why I called you in the middle of the night."
"I'll be in touch, Phil. I won't tell you where I'm going. If
they ask, you really don't know. But I'll be in touch."
Monica had wakened, had sat up, and was squinting curiously at him.
She was naked, too, as Jonas noted in a quick appreciative glance.
Her boobies, that had always been a pleasure to look at and fondle,
had grown plumper and more rotund since she had gained a little
weight in her late thirties. Her belly was cute and roly-poly now,
like a smooth little melon riding in the bowl of her pelvis. Her legs
remained thin and sleek, and she had put on no new flesh around her
neck or jawline. Her dark-brown hair, now pillow-tousled, framed her
face, which was as strong as always, maybe a little stronger as the
years had imposed character.
"Do I hear that you're going somewhere?" she asked.
"I have to scram for a while," said Jonas. "A marshal
is coming to serve me a subpoena. A couple of senators want to grill
me in the Senate airlines hearings. I really don't want to testify. I
can't afford to testify."
"What have you done?" she asked.
"Nothing illegal," he said acerbically, annoyed that she
would even suggest he'd done something crooked. "Competent
counsel have advised me at every step. But congressional
investigators like nothing more than making a businessman look bad,
particularly if the businessman is one who gets newspaper coverage.
They might even pressure the Justice Department into going for an
indictment. I have done nothing illegal and would be acquitted for
certain — but that would be after an ordeal of two or three
"But what are you going to do?"
"I'm just going to make myself unavailable for a while."
Monica sighed and glanced around their bedroom, at new furniture she
had not yet grown accustomed to think of as hers. "I can't
believe this! Goddammit! We've only been in Bel Air four months.
Jo-Ann is just getting settled in at Pepperdine and — "
Jonas was out of bed now and was dressing. "This has got nothing
to do with where we keep a home or where Jo-Ann goes to school.
You're staying here. Both of you. Those bastards might force me to
duck their process server, but they're not forcing us out of our home
or Jo-Ann out of her university."
Monica got out of bed. She reached for a lavender dressing gown with
white lace trim — not quite sheer but not quite modest either.
She pulled it on.
"How long is this going to last?" she asked.
"Not very long," he said. "I can get it straighted out
in a few weeks, maybe two or three months. The lawyers will talk for
me. I've got a few political contacts, after all."
"Why don't you just accept the subpoena and face it?" she