Authors: Margaret Truman
“Oh, for God’s sake, Dan, he’s my boss. He’s married and—”
“Open the door.”
She did, and he wheeled himself out to the street.
“An hour,” she said.
“Yeah, an hour.”
She prepared the meat loaf, kneading the bread crumbs, onions and seasoning into the meat, topping it with two strips of bacon and putting it in the oven. She placed two lettuce wedges on plates and brought them to the butcher
block table, carefully folded two paper napkins next to the plates and placed silverware on them. Satisfied that she’d done all she could until the meat loaf was done, she sat in the living room and turned on local news on a black-and-white television set. She watched for a few minutes before her attention wandered, first to the flashing, garish red-and-green neon light on the window from a topless club two doors down the street, then to a row of framed photographs lined up on a small table next to her chair. She picked up one of the photos, held it close. Two men were in the picture, Dan Brazier and Morgan Childs, the latter now a Supreme Court justice. It had been taken in Korea shortly after they’d returned from their captivity. Both were grinning broadly. Their arms were around each other and Childs held two fingers in the air, forming a
-for-victory sign. “How handsome,” Sheryl thought, meaning both of them. Brazier was still handsome, she felt, maybe even more so than when the picture was taken. They looked somewhat alike, Brazier and Childs, rugged, masculine, square faces and strong, forceful chins, clear eyes that saw through you, muscular bodies belonging to men of action, sort of like cowboys, it sometimes occurred to her.
Brazier’s upper body had increased in strength since the loss of his legs. He refused to wear any type of prosthesis: “I don’t want phony legs,” although she knew that when he lived in Washington following the war he had gone to a hospital and tried a set. He never talked much about those years, and she knew not to ask many questions. He could become explosive when pressed for answers, which was why she hadn’t asked about Dr. Chester Sutherland, father of the murdered law clerk.
Once, while rummaging through a dresser drawer, she’d come across old, pocket-size appointment books. One of them went back to Brazier’s Washington days, and in it was written Dr. Chester Sutherland’s name, address and phone
number. On subsequent pages the entry “Dr. S.” appeared next to times of the day. It had meant nothing to her when she’d first read the books. Brazier had seen a myriad of doctors in an attempt to save his legs. But after reading about the murder of Clarence Sutherland in the local paper, she’d returned to the dresser drawer and confirmed what she’d remembered.
The newscaster introduced a story about a love triangle in the Bay area that had resulted in one of the lovers being bludgeoned to death. It made her think of Brazier’s comment about her boss, Mr. Valente. He often accused her of seeing other men, although it wasn’t true. She understood, though. A man without legs felt only partially a man. He was wrong, though. Dan Brazier was more of a man than anyone else she’d ever known in her life… strong and wise, a sensitive and pleasing lover… When he was sober.
The aroma of meat loaf drifted from the kitchen and she felt good. Sheryl liked to cook, especially for Dan. She went to the kitchen, opened the oven and peered in at the bubbling loaf. “Looks pretty good.” Then, in a markedly sadder voice… “Please come on home, Dan. Please don’t make me eat this alone.”
As she had too many meals too many times before.
It was the sort of bleak, cold day that presaged winter. The last leaves had fallen from the trees, and things formerly hidden by them were now visible.
Dr. Chester Sutherland looked through a tinted window in a limousine that had picked him up at his house. He watched Georgetown University’s spires slowly glide by, the Potomac patterned by a cold, gray chop. Ahead, through skeletal branches of bare trees, a stark white, neocolossal building surrounded by miles of twelve-foot-high chain link fence came into view. A large sign on the George Washington Parkway identified it—CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. Until 1973 the sign had read FAIRBANK HIGHWAY RESEARCH STATION. But then, ironically, President Nixon, in the spirit of more open government,
had ordered signs telling it like it was, and, some said, the CIA has never been the same.
The limousine was met at a gate by a team of General Service Administration guards. Credentials were scrutinized before it was allowed to proceed to the next checkpoint. Eventually the long black vehicle entered an underground garage where Sutherland was greeted by a dour young man in a blue suit who wore his ID badge on a chain around his neck. They went upstairs, their route taking them past unmarked doors until reaching a dining room that overlooked the woods of Langley, Virginia. A table covered with pale blue linen and set with expensive silver and china was prepared to seat four people. Sutherland’s guide, who’d mentioned that he was with the agency’s public-affairs office, excused himself and quietly left the room. Moments later another door opened and a tall man in his fifties entered, moved across plush, thick royal blue carpet and extended his hand. “Roland McCaw, Dr. Sutherland, deputy director of science and technology.”
Sutherland shook his hand. “Yes, Mr. McCaw, Bill Stalk mentioned you to me. He said you’d come over from the navy.”
“That’s right. I’m still trying to get my land legs here at the Company. Drink?”
Sutherland shook his head.
McCaw went to a rolling liquor cabinet and poured himself a stiff shot of rye and a glass of club soda on the side. Sutherland observed him. He carried himself like a military man, held himself a little too erect, which would account for the way his suit fit him, like a garment on a rack instead of on a body.
“Bill will be joining us shortly, doctor. Please have a seat.” He indicated the chair he wanted Sutherland to take. Sutherland sat and crossed his legs, careful to preserve a precise crease in his gray flannel trousers, topped by a straw-colored
cashmere sport jacket, a blue button-down Oxford cloth shirt and a maroon knit tie. It was Saturday, and he resisted a suit on the weekend. Besides, he knew the people he’d be meeting with would all wear suits. He wanted to stand a bit apart.
William Stalk, director of the CIA’s science and technology division, came through the door, “Sit, Chester,” he said as Sutherland started to get up. “Hello, Roland. I see you got the jump on us.” He went to the liquor cabinet and poured a vodka and tonic. “Terrible tragedy about your boy, Chester. I am so sorry.”
The fourth man at lunch was a small, thin Indian with thick glasses, Dr. Zoltar Kalmani. Sutherland knew of his work through professional and technical journals. His primary recognition was in the field of behavior modification using pharmacological agents, including drugs. He drank white wine and smoked thin brown Sherman cigaretellos, which, he commented in a high-pitched, singsong voice, did not contain saltpeter and thus did not interfere with his sexual life. His laugh was more a giggle.
The conversation stayed on everyday topics while two white-jacketed waiters served shrimp cocktails, a choice of filet of sole almondine or London broil, a bib lettuce salad with vinaigrette dressing, tiny boiled potatoes, coffee, and lemon or raspberry sherbet. (The CIA prided itself on gentlemen’s manners—if not always substance.)
Once the table had been cleared Bill Stalk went to the door and locked it. “Cognac?” he asked. McCaw took him up on the offer, the others did not.
Stalk returned to the table, took a small note pad from his breast pocket and opened to a page on which six terse lines were written, each of them numbered. He removed a mechanical pencil from the same pocket, clicked a button on its tube and said, “Item One. Dr. Kalmani has been
continuing with some of the research that came out of MKULTRA, a lot of which can be directly credited to your work, Chester.”
Sutherland reversed his legs, nodded. “I believe I will have some cognac.”
Stalk served the drink, then returned to his note pad. “Naturally, we’ve had to narrow our focus where experimentation is concerned, but that’s probably all to the good. The public scrutiny the program came under prompted a closer evaluation of certain of its elements. Much of what we did was wasted, which, I might add, is no criticism of your work, Chester.”
“It was a time when every avenue of interest had to be explored. It would have been a shame to ignore a potential area of legitimate research. But now that public probing has lessened, we would be derelict in not pushing ahead with the valid findings that came out of those previous efforts. Wouldn’t you agree, Chester?”
What Sutherland really was thinking was that he wished he weren’t there. He didn’t understand why he’d been summoned to the meeting in the first place. He’d met with President Jorgens a week ago, and the matter of proceeding with the research had been thoroughly discussed. It was no longer his concern. He’d been out of CIA research for six years.
At the time of his recruitment it had made sense to him. His orientation in medicine had followed the same route as most of his colleagues—research. That was where the action was, and the scramble for funding was an ongoing one. He’d been flattered when the CIA had approached him, and for eight years he’d devoted a portion of his time to the project known as MKULTRA, a top-secret program in which drugs and hypnosis were utilized in a search for effective
mind-and-behavior control. Hypnosis had been his specialty, although he’d taken part in many of the pharmacological studies as well. He’d been given carte blanche in the study; money was no object. National security was at stake, or so he’d been told.
But then newspaper probes uncovered the use of drugs on unwitting subjects. Books were written that further laid it open to the public. The families of subjects, some of whom had been killed by the experiments, brought suits against the government. The program was hastily scrapped, and those physicians involved with it quietly returned to their private practices, their names deleted from records released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Sutherland had been relieved when it happened. As much as he believed in the research, he’d found its demands an increasing intrusion into his practice and personal life. Above all, he did not want public knowledge of his involvement in government research. National security aside, there was still something inherently unsavory about it, he’d decided.
Bill Stalk moved to the second item in his note pad. Sutherland listened patiently, forcing his mind to focus on what the director of the agency’s most secret division was saying. Eventually, he covered all six items.
“It sounds as though you’ve developed a solid research program based on the past,” Sutherland said. “I wish you well.”
“Thanks to you, Chester, and others like you, we have the foundation to build on. The dead ends identified themselves, which leaves us free to pursue more fruitful avenues of inquiry.”
“People do not understand the necessity of such research,” Dr. Kalmani said. “The future of a free world depends upon being in the forefront of controlling human behavior.”
Stalk told a joke which was met with polite laughter.
McCaw lighted a cigar and puffed contentedly. Sutherland checked his watch. It was time to leave.
“Anyone for a little skeet shooting?” Stalk asked. “I reserved the range at three.”
“I have to get back,” Sutherland said. “I have weekend patients later in the day.”
“You work too hard, Chester.”
“The curse of my WASP heritage. If there’s nothing more to discuss, I’ll be leaving. Thank you for filling me in on future plans. They have no direct bearing on me, but as an old hand in the project it’s gratifying to be kept informed. Dr. Kalmani, it was a pleasure.”
“For me, too, Dr. Sutherland. I trust we shall see more of each other in the future.”
Bill Stalk stood, shook Sutherland’s hand and said in a lowered voice, “Chester, would you mind coming to my office for a few moments?”
Sutherland glanced at the others. He did not want to linger, yet couldn’t deny the director his wish. “Yes, of course,” he said.
Stalk’s office was in a corner of the building. It was austere; the desk was bare, and a single set of bookshelves contained only leather-bound volumes of literary classics.
“I really have to get back,” Sutherland said.
“I know, Chester, but asking you out here had very little to do with what we discussed at lunch.”
“I gathered that.”
“I’m sure you did. Of all the people of your professional caliber in the program, you’re the one whose instincts I most trust.”
“That’s flattering, Bill, but to be frank with you I’m damn glad to be out of it. Why did you ask me back? Is there a problem that involves me?” He knew what the answer was but didn’t want to acknowledge it.
“Security, Chester, that’s the question. The continuation
of the research depends on security. Naturally, we released what we could of the files under the Freedom of Information Act. Hell, we had no choice, and we sanitized them as best we could. I’ve received information from… well, let’s just say very high and reliable sources that there might be a weak link in the future chain… and that that link might be you.”
“Because of my son—?”
“Precisely. That’s another thing I’ve always admired about you, your ability to cut through the skin and get to the marrow.” He frowned and cleared his throat. “Chester, there’s a very legitimate concern about your files.”
“Because certain members of your immediate—”
“Yes, and others, might have had access to them and could potentially compromise our position.”
“My son, sir, is dead.”
“Was he the one who gained access to them?”
“Your MKULTRA files.”
“There weren’t any.”
“That’s not what I’ve been told.”
“Who told you otherwise?”
“A reliable source.”
a reliable source.”
“Of course you are, Chester. When I heard about your son I was shocked. I’d met him once and was very impressed with his intelligence. He was a son any father could be proud of, I would have been pleased to have called him my own…”