Back | Next


April is the crudest month.

It's still winter in Boston. I had tried to get that across to the staff before we left Washington. They had listened, of course, but it never really registered on them. Too excited about the trip. The President didn't make that many public appearances, and they were too busy with the details of this one to worry about topcoats. When we landed at Logan and filed out of the staff plane, that old wind off the harbor knifed right through their doubleweave suits and the women's stylish little jackets. I was the only one with a real coat. Didn't look photogenic, but I didn't freeze my ass, either.

The President didn't seem to notice the cold. While we huddled down on the windswept cement rampway, stamping our feet and blowing on our hands, he stood framed in the hatch of Air Force One, casually smiling and waving for the photographers, while the Secret Service security team set up the laser shields and their other protective paraphernalia. The Man wore only a sport jacket over his turtleneck and slacks. Mr. Casual. When McMurtrie gave him the all-clear nod, he came loping down the ramp in that youthful, long-legged stride of his. The politicians and media flaks surged toward him. The crowds beyond the police lines roared. One of the bands struck up "Hail to the Chief." He smiled and grabbed hands. Everybody smiled back, warm and friendly. Especially the women.

"Damn!" Vickie Clark yelled over the noise. "Why didn't you tell me it was going to be this cold?"

"I did." But Vickie's a California girl. She puffed out frigid little clouds of vapor and looked miserable. Which is difficult for her to do. She's an elf, really. Good-looking in a delicate, almost fragile, sort of way. The face of an innocent. With a sharp, tough mind behind it. Vickie typified the White House staff: young, intelligent, an achiever.

Boston is a small city, and the half of it that isn't covered with universities, churches, or historical monuments is covered with politicians. They had all turned out for the President, of course. This was the first time James J. Halliday had been to Boston as President of the United States. We had all swung through twice during last year's campaign, and although the people had come out to see him—pouring into the streets in such numbers, the second time, that the town simply shut down—the politicos had kept a wary distance. Brilliant young governor from the Far West making a dark horse bid for the White House. They were suspicious. They remembered McGovern, way back when, and the aftermath. But now they wanted to show the President that they loved him, and the Federal revenues he represented.

Halliday was in his charming mood. He smiled at everyone, recognized each of those red-faced professional office holders by first name, and just generally went through the airport reception like a combination emperor and movie star. You could feel waves of adulation welling up from the press, for God's sake. And the people behind the police security lines were cheering louder than they would for Pat O'Brien's reincarnation. The politicos kept staring and studying The Man with their beady little eyes, trying to figure out what his magic was.

So we had the parade, and the afternoon speech in Boston Common—a cool half-million people overflowed the old park and completely stopped downtown traffic for two hours. ("You should've told me to bring my ski parka," Vickie complained as we stood off to one side of the speaker's platform. I grinned and lent her my topcoat. The sun was shining through the still-bare trees. If The Man could tough it out in a sport jacket, so could I. My coat dropped to Vickie's ankles.)

We rode in the President's limousine to the Boston Sheraton for his press conference. I took the jump seat next to Robert Wyatt, the appointments secretary, and went over the names of the local newsmen with The Man, showing him flash pictures of their faces on the TV viewer built into the limousine's back seat. Halliday had his eidetic memory going; he'd take one look at each picture and have the person's name fixed in his mind.

"I can flash their names on the podium," I told him.

He leaned back in the seat, utterly relaxed. "Might as well. I've got them all up here"—he tapped his temple with a forefinger—"but it's always better to be overequipped than embarrassed."

Robert H. H. Wyatt nodded a tightlipped agreement. Everybody on the staff thought the H. H. stood for "His Holiness." At least, that's what we called him behind his back. He was a crusty old dude, bald, lean, sharp-eyed. Been a retainer of the elder Halliday—the President's father—since before James J. was born. We all felt that one of His Holiness's main duties was to report back to the old man on how and what his son was doing.

Wyatt said, "Mrs. Halliday's due to land at four- fifty; you'll still be at the press conference."

The Man let a flicker of annoyance show. The First Lady had been originally scheduled for an earlier flight, but had begged off for some reason. "You'll have to meet her, Robert, and bring her to the dinner."

Halliday had always been able to handle the Washington press corps like a chess master playing a roomful of amateurs simultaneously. So I wasn't expecting any trouble from the news hounds at the Boston Sheraton. I took a chair in the rear of the ballroom, behind the news and media people and all their cameras and lights, and tried to relax. The Man was enjoying himself up there, making my job easy.

The only sour face in the big ballroom belonged to McMurtrie, who headed the President's security team.

"Relax, Mac," I whispered to him, while Halliday was explaining his stand on the Iranian invasion of Kuwait. "The only danger he's in is from being smothered with affection. These people love him. He's another JFK."

McMurtrie shifted his bulk uneasily, making the folding chair groan. "Nice analogy."

It was a stupid thing to say. I tried to retrieve with, "Come on . . . you guys've got laser deflectors, riot gas, electric prods, sonic janglers . . . it'd take a nuclear bomb to hurt him."

McMurtrie's face looked like a worried Gibraltar. "The Saudis have nukes."

I gave up and leaned back in my chair. Which did not squeak. I'm lanky, but bony.

Up on the podium, under the TV lights, The Man was saying, "Naturally, if Saudi Arabia intervenes, then we will have to assure both the King and the Shah that the United States will remain neutral. We've sold arms freely to both sides. As long as they don't threaten our oil supplies, we can continue to sell them munitions. Short of nuclear weaponry, of course."

One of the women, Betty Turner from SGR, jumped to her feet and got the President's nod. "Is that moral, selling arms to both sides?"

Halliday gave her his best grin. "No. It's not. It's not moral to sell weapons or munitions to anyone. But there is no morality in international politics. I found that out long ago. No morality at all. Except . . ." He let them all dangle on that for a moment. "Except to insure that the best interests of the United States are taken care of. We are still somewhat dependent on both Arabian and Iranian oil, especially since the Kuwait fields have been temporarily knocked out. In a few years, when we've reached self-sufficiency in energy, we can rethink our Middle Eastern policy. But for the present, if they want to have a war, they're going to do it with our help or without. If we refuse to help them, they will refuse to sell us oil. It's that simple."

Turner opened her mouth for another question, but Halliday went on. "And if we refuse to deal with them, they'll turn elsewhere for help, which is something I don't think we want to see. And, when you get right down to it, if we refuse to deal with either side we will be, de facto, meddling in their internal affairs. As I've said before, our foreign policy is basically very simple . . . we are not the world's policeman or the world's pastor. We will do what is best for the United States."

Damn! He didn't go over with that too well. It was phrased too baldly. Goddammit! I'd worked over that foreign policy speech with him for a solid weekend, just the month before, when the Iranians had first jumped into Kuwait. He had bowled over the Washington press corps with what they had described as "shrewd political sense and uncommon candor." You'd think he could remember the goddamned wording. It's all-important in this game; it's not merely what you say, it's the way you say it. You can carry candor too far.

McMurtrie nudged me gently with his elbow. For a guy his size, "gently" can leave your ribs sore. "Now you look worried." He came as close as he ever does to smiling. "Welcome to the club."

I had begged off attending the dinner before we'd left Washington. The First Lady flew into Logan late in the afternoon and met Halliday at the hotel. Then they went off to their quiet little thousand-buck-a-plate dinner at the Harvard Club. I kept wondering what old Harry Truman would've said to that.

Vickie covered the dinner for me, letting old Wyatt escort her. It was unusual to see her so dressed up, in a long gown and everything. With her slim figure, she looked like a high-schooler going to her first prom. But she had good color sense; her gown was sea-green, and it picked up the color of her eyes while setting off her sunstreaked blonde hair beautifully.

His Holiness looked stunning in an old-fashioned tuxedo. His parchment-smooth face glistened; he had reached the age where his skin had taken on that translucent look that only infants and octogenarians have. He made a stately old gentlemanly figure. Vickie could have been his granddaughter, making her debut in society.

I assured them both that I'd show up for The Man's speech in Faneuil Hall at nine, and they left for the Harvard Club. I debated with myself for a moment when I got to the hotel lobby, then decided to walk to my own dinner appointment.

It had been only a little more than two years since I'd left Boston to join Halliday's campaign and eventually become a member of his White House staff. The city hadn't changed much. A couple of new towers going up in Back Bay, their gaunt skeletons outlined against the dusk. The same gaggles of students in their raunchy Guccis and carefully scuffed sneakers, out looking for an evening's fun. The same chill wind that cut through you, no matter how heavy a coat you wore.

I walked briskly through the deepening shadows, watched the evening star duck in and out behind the buildings, and refrained from making any wishes. I felt cold, alone, and suddenly damned bitter. I was heading for the North End, to have dinner with an old newspaper buddy, and the past couple of years were unreeling in my mind like a rerun of a TV documentary. I should have been proud of every minute of it. It should have been a great time in my life. No one except me knew that it wasn't. At least, that's what I thought and hoped.

There's a particular rhythm to a city, different for each one. After so many months in Washington, which is really a Southern town with ulcers, I could tell that I was in Boston even with my eyes closed. The chaotic snarl of traffic, with each driver making damned certain King George III won't tell him which side of the street he could drive on. The anguished nasal bleat of the improper Bostonian telling his neighbor to "Have a haaaht, willya?" or "Open th'doah, fir the luwa God!"

It was fully dark by the time I got to the North End. The street market around Faneuil Hall, on the other side of the expressway overhead, was closing down. So were the store owners in Little Italy, taking in their sidewalk wares. Still, there was an aroma of spices and olives, and the sound of old men playing morre under the shadow of Paul Revere's Old North Church spire. It made me incredibly homesick.

Johnny Harrison was halfway through a water tumbler of red wine when I stepped into Rita's. The place hadn't changed at all. It was tiny, actually just the front room of a private house. Only six little booths. Linoleum floor covering. Steam radiators hissing and making the place almost uncomfortably warm. Paintings of Naples and Venice by one of the neighborhood kids fading on the walls. Conchetta, the waitress, still bleaching her hair in the hope that it would make her glamorous. Kitchen in the next room.

You had to know Rita's existed in order to find the place. The entrance was on an alley that used to be blocked all the time by a Mafiosi Cadillac. Now it was an electric Mercedes. Word of mouth was the only advertising that Rita went in for, and most of it was in Italian.

There's a vague air of Groucho Marx about Johnny Harrison. Maybe it's because he's an old movie buff. He always looks as if he knows more than you do, and he's always got a quip ready. He'd put on some weight in the year or so since I'd last seen him, but I knew that if I mentioned it, he'd spill out a string of skinny jokes about me. Besides, sitting next to him was a stranger, a compact young soccer-player type who had the eager puppy dog look of a new reporter all over him.

I slid into the booth. "Hiya, Johnny."

He made a grin. "I was starting to wonder if you'd show up."

Three minutes late. I didn't bother answering that one.

"This here's Len Ryan," Johnny said. "He'll be covering the President's speech tonight from the local angle. Y'know . . . historic Faneuil Hall, where Sam Adams's patriots put on their Indian disguises for the Boston Tea Party, was the scene tonight of another grrreat moment in American democracy . . ."

Ryan clapped his hand to his head. "May my typewriter blow a fuse if I ever write crap like that!"

We all laughed. Then Johnny got just a little formal. "Leonard, me lad, this is Meric Albano, the press secretary to the President of the United States. One of my proteges. We started together on the old Globe, and have spent many a lonely dinner hour right in this very booth."

Ryan extended his hand. "An honor, Mr. Albano."

His grip was very muscular. "Meric," I told him.

"Americo," Johnny said. "The son of an overly patriotic would-be poet."

"My father was a civil engineer," I said. "I was born the day he and my mother landed here."

"In Boston?" Ryan asked.

"No. Cleveland. The flight was supposed to land in Boston, but a snowstorm had closed Logan. We got to Boston on a bus, finally."

"Three weeks later," Johnny said. "A fascinating beginning to a fascinating life."

"I've been very fortunate," I kidded.

"And we are honored," Johnny went on, "that you could pull yourself away from your duties to break bread with us."

"And bend elbows," I said.

"Indeed." He took his glass in hand, squinted at the reflections of the overhead bulbs in the red wine, then realized that I didn't have anything to drink. He signaled to Conchetta, who nodded and smiled hello at me.

Dinner was pleasant enough, except when Johnny's bantering got around to Laura.

"She did arrive okay, didn't she?" he asked.

"Yes. They're having dinner at the Harvard Club."

"Laura?" Ryan asked. "You mean the First Lady?"

"Indeed so," Johnny said, twirling a forkful of linguini like an expert. "Laura Benson and Meric were childhood sweethearts . . ."

"Hardly childhood," I said, trying to keep the anger from showing. "She was in Radcliffe and I was going to Boston University."

Johnny shrugged good-naturedly, without losing a single strand of linguini. "At any rate, they went through all the pangs of True Love. Except that somehow she ended up marrying the Governor of Colorado."

"Who is now the President," Ryan finished.

"Exactly. And our dear friend Meric, here . . . stalwart, steady, duty-first Meric, ends up as the President's press secretary. And I am naught but a lowly city editor. Strange world. And to think I taught him everything he knows, too. Do you get to see much of her, Meric?"

My mouth dodged the issue before my brain could think it over. "Why do you think I'm having dinner here with you guys tonight?"

Ryan tagged along with me as I walked through the underpasses beneath the expressway to Faneuil Hall. The night was turning colder, getting cloudy. The youngster seemed to be goggle-eyed at the idea of being among Great Men. I didn't disillusion him, although Johnny's wine-soaked probing had left a sour feeling in my gut.

The auditorium inside Faneuil Hall had just been redecorated from floor to ceiling. As always in Boston, there had been a titanic argument over whether the motif should be Original Puritan, Patriotic Colonial, or Bullfinch Federalist. The patriots won, and the place looked stately and elegant in that Colonial blend of severity and warmth. Blues and golds dominated, with natural wood tones gleaming here and there.

The place was jammed with the Massachusetts research and development intelligentsia. Scientists from MIT and Harvard, engineers from the once-magical Route 128 "electronic highway," the survivors of booms and busts that had staggered the R & D industry and the nation's economy with the regularity of a major league slugger taking batting practice.

I didn't have anything to do with his speech. Robinson and the other speechwriters put it together, although The Man always put a lot of pure Halliday into everything he said. And he tied the speech into the afternoon press conference's questions about the Iranian war in an ad-lib way that no speechwriter can prepare ahead of time:

". . . the real issue is very clear. The basic question is survival. Survival for the way of life we have worked so hard to achieve. Survival for the democratic institutions that have made us a great and prosperous people. Survival for our children and our children's children.

"We can no longer allow ourselves to be dependent on dwindling natural resources for the primary needs of our people. Nor need we be so dependent, when we have within our grasp—thanks to the dedication and perseverance of our nation's scientists and engineers—new sources of energy that will eliminate forever the twin dangers that haunt us: resource depletion and pollution of the environment.

"It is my intention, and I am sure the Congress will agree, to push ahead for the development of new energy systems, such as the orbiting solar network and the laser-fusion generators, with all the vigor that we can command."

They loved it. For the first time in their memories a President was treating them like an important national resource. It meant huge dollops of Federal money for the brainboys, sure. But more important to that audience on that night was the fact that the President, The Man himself, was saying to them, "We need you, we want you, we admire you." They would have followed him anywhere, just as their fathers had followed Kennedy to the moon.

But he seemed stiff to me. Uncomfortable. He was reading the speech, something he almost never did. Only an insider would notice it, I figured, but he looked to me as if he weren't really all that familiar with the speech.

Laura was sitting on the stage, just to the right of the podium, looking more beautiful than ever. The limelight of attention and public homage seemed to be making her more self-assured, more pleased with herself and the world around her. She was a goddess whose worshipers were a nation. They knew it and she knew it. So she sat there, smiling, beautiful, adored, and remote. From me.

I pulled my attention away from her and let my eyes wander across the rapt audience. I wondered what Sam Adams and his roughnecks would have to say about this crowd. How many of these well-dressed heavily educated people would daub red clay on their faces and dress in Indian feathers to go out and defy the laws of the Government? A few, I guessed. Damned few. And I wasn't certain I could count myself among them.

The whole stage, up where the President and his group were, was protected by an invisible laser-actuated shield. And there were other, redundant, shields around the podium and the body of the President. If anyone tried to fire a shot from the audience, the scanning lasers would pick up the bullet in flight and zap it into vapor with a microsecond burst of energy. Sonic janglers would paralyze everyone in the auditorium, and McMurtrie's men could pick up the would-be assassin at their leisure. Foolproof quantum-electronic security. All done with the speed of light. The President could appear to be standing alone and in the open, naked to his enemies, when he was actually protected so well that no major assassinations had been successful in years.

Which is why I was more startled than annoyed when McMurtrie grabbed my shoulder and whispered, subtle as a horse, "Follow me."

I didn't have much choice. He had already half-lifted me out of my seat in the press section. Len Ryan glanced at me quizzically. It must have looked like I was being hauled off on a drug bust.

"I'll be right back," I mouthed at him as McMurtrie practically dragged me to the nearest exit.

He waited for the big metal door to close fully before he said, "We've got troubles, and you've got to keep the news hounds out of it."

Framed by the bare-walled exit tunnel that led to the alley, lit from above by a single unshielded bulb, McMurtrie looked troubled indeed. His big beefy face was a map of worry and brooding belligerence.

"What's happened?" I asked. "What's the matter . . ."

He shook his head and grabbed my arm. Leading me down the tunnel toward the outside door, which opened onto the alley behind the Hall, he said only, "Don't ask questions. Just keep the news people off our backs. We can't have a word leak out about this. Understand? Not word number one."

And his grip on my arm was squeezing so hard that my hand started to go numb.

"It would help if . . ."

He barged through the outside fire door and we were out in the alley. It was cold. The wind was cutting and there were even a few flakes of snow swirling in the light cast by the bulb over the door. I wished for my topcoat, silently, because McMurtrie was dragging me up the alley, away from the street and into the deeper shadows, and he wasn't going to give me a chance to even ask for the damned coat.

The alley angled right, and as we turned the bend I saw a huddle of people bending over something. Two of them wore Boston police uniforms. The other half-dozen were in civvies. They had that Secret Service no-nonsense look about them.

McMurtrie didn't have to push through them. They parted as he approached. What they were bending over was a blanket. Lying there on the pavement of this dirt-encrusted alley. A blanket with a body under it. I could see a pair of shoes poking out from the blanket's edge.

"The doctor here yet?" McMurtrie asked gruffly.

One of the Secret Service agents answered, "On his way, sir."

"Both ends of this alley sealed?"

"Yessir. Four men at each end. Ambulance . . ."

"No ambulance. No noise. Get one of our cars. Call Klienerman; tell him to meet us at Mass General."

"He's still in Washington, isn't . . . ?"

"Get him up here on an Air Force jet." McMurtrie turned to another security man. "You get to Mass General and have them clear out the cryonics facility. Screen the place yourself. Take as many men as you need from the local FBI office. Move."

The agent scampered like a scared freshman.

I was still staring at the shoes. Who the hell would be walking around back here? The shoes looked brand new, not a bum's.

McMurtrie had turned to the two Boston cops. "Would you mind securing the fire door, up the alley? No one in or out until we get this cleared away." He barely gestured toward the body.

The cops nodded. They were both young and looked scared.

Then McMurtrie fixed me with a gun-metal stare. "You'd better go back inside the way you came out. Make sure the press people stay in there to the end of the President's speech. Do not let any of them out here."

"How can I keep . . ."

He laid a stubby finger against my chest. It felt as if it weighed half a ton. "I don't care how you do it. Just do it. Then meet us at the Mass General cryonics facility after the speech. Alone. No reporters."

He was dead serious. And the man under the blanket was dead. My brain began to whirl. It couldn't be an assassination attempt. One well-shod character staggers into an alley to have a heart attack and McMurtrie acts as if we're being invaded by Martians.

But I didn't argue. I went back to the fire door, a couple of steps behind the two cops. Maybe McMurtrie was just overreacting. Or maybe, crafty son of a bitch that he was, he was using this accident as an opportunity to test his troops' capabilities.

Sure, that's it. A practice run, courtesy of a wino whose time ran out. I was about to smile when the rest of my brain asked, Then why's he bringing Dr. Klienerman up from Washington? And what's he want the Massachusetts General Hospital's cryonics facility for? He's going to dip the wino in liquid nitrogen and make a frozen popsicle out of him?

One look at the faces of those two Boston patrolmen drove all the levity out of me. They were scared. Not from finding a wino in an alley. Not from brushing against the President's security team. Something was in their eyes that I hadn't seen since the San Fernando quake—these guys were terrified of something that went beyond human control.

They had reached the fire door a few paces ahead of me and turned to stand guard. I stopped when they looked at me. One of them had his electric prod in his gloved hands. The other had hooked his thumb around the butt of his revolver.

"Uh . . . McMurtrie told me to go back inside," I mumbled. Somehow I felt guilty in their eyes.

"Yeah, we heard him." That's all either one of them said. One of them opened the fire door and I stepped back inside the Hall.

I was shaking. And not entirely from the cold.

The President's speech was almost over as I took my seat.

"What happened?" Ryan whispered to me. "You look awful."

I tried giving him a fierce glance. "Just cold. I'm okay."

"What's going on?"

"Nothing," I lied. "McMurtrie wanted to check the arrangements for the President's ride back to Logan. Wanted to know if I had planned a Q and A session after the speech."

Ryan looked a bit puzzled, but he apparently accepted that. I felt lucky that he was a local reporter and not one of the Washington corps, who know that we never have a question period following a speech. Especially when The Man's already given a press conference the same day.

Halliday wound up his speech, the audience cheered mightily, and the usual round of handshaking started up on stage. The Hall emptied slowly, although most of the reporters raced for the nearest exits to get back to their offices and file their stories. The few who tried to take an alley exit were turned back, grumbling.

Ryan didn't leave, though.

"Don't you have a deadline to meet?" I asked him as we walked slowly toward the back of the Hall, following the emptying throng.

He paced alongside me, stubborn faced and tweedy. "I'm doing the color piece for the afternoon edition. Got plenty of time. I was wondering . . . Johnny thought it might be fun to do an interview with you."


"Sure." He waved an arm in the air. "Local man makes good. What it's like to work in the White House. The inside story of the most popular President since Roosevelt . . . that kind of stuff."

"Not now," I said. "I've got to join the rest of the staff and get back to Washington. No time for an interview."

"Too bad."

I didn't like the look on his face: more curious than disappointed. Or maybe I was projecting.

"Look," I said. "Why don't we do the interview by phone. Give me a call early next week and we'll set up a time. Okay?"

He nodded without smiling. "Sure."

Ryan offered me a ride to the airport, once we got outside to the windy, cold street. I told him I was going to ride in one of the staff limousines; it was all set up. He took it with an air of dubious graciousness, shook my hand, and jogged off through the shadows to the parking lot. I watched the wind pluck at his coat.

There was one cab left in front of Faneuil Hall, and I felt damned lucky to get it. I ducked inside, glad to be out of the wind.

"Mass General," I told the cabbie.

"Ya know how t'get there?" he asked from the other side of his bulletproof shield.

"Damned right I do!" I snapped. Boston cabbies have sent their kids to Harvard on the meter readings of their excursions. The city is small, but no two streets connect in any logical way. You could spend two hours circling your destination if you didn't know where it was.

I gave the cabbie detailed instructions on how to get there. His only response was a grumbling, "Awright, awright," as he snapped the meter flag down and put the taxi in gear.

Any large hospital is a maze of haphazard corridors, buildings joined together in an unplanned sprawl of growth, cloying smells of medicine and fear and pain. It makes me nervous just to visit a sick friend.

I finally found the cryonics unit, where they freeze clinically dead people who have enough insurance and the proper papers to be held in cold storage until some brilliant medical genius figures out a way to cure what they "died" from.

It looked more like something out of NASA than a hospital facility. Lots of stainless steel, metal desks, and computer consoles lining the walls. Everything painted white, like a clean-room facility. Fluorescent panels in the ceiling overhead cast a glareless, shadowless light that somehow made me edgy, nervous. One whole wall of the main room was a long window. At first glance I thought it was an operating "theater" on the other side.

McMurtrie was sitting at one of the desks, out-bulking it and looking grimly ominous. A covey of green-smocked hospital people worked at the other desks. The computer was humming to itself, lights flickering on its read-out console as if it were telling itself a good joke. McMurtrie's agents were standing around, looking uneasy and suspicious.

As I stepped in, I realized that McMurtrie was talking to someone on the picture-phone. The tiny screen on the desk top showed a middle-aged man who looked rather rumpled and unhappy.

"I'm very sorry to have to bother you at this hour, Dr. Klienerman," McMurtrie was rumbling in a tone as close to politeness as I've ever heard from him. "If you agree to freezing the body we can transport it back to Walter Reed and have it ready for your examination in the morning."

Klienerman said something, but I didn't hear it. My eye had caught the scene inside the cryonics "theater."

A long stainless-steel cylinder was lying on its side, like a section of gleaming sewer pipe. All around it were blue-painted tanks of liquid nitrogen, with lines leading from them into the cylinder. The hose lines were caked with frost, and steamy white vapor was eddying out of the cylinder's open end. It looked cold in there; colder than Dante's frozen hell.

At the open end of the cylinder was a hospital table, holding the whitely lifeless body of a man. The man who had been covered by the blanket in the alley behind Faneuil Hall. He was uncovered now. Completely naked. Obviously dead. My knees sagged beneath me.

The dead man was James J. Halliday, the President of the United States of America.

Back | Next