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When I got back to my car I got in and sat there for almost half an hour thinking about what I had just heard. It boggles my mind to know there is yet another agency operating somewhere in the netherworld of power politics - in this case, a covert group who apparently has more power than the CIA and FBI combined. Who is watching whom? Who is pulling the strings? I guess Big Brother is watching - but I'll be damned if I'm going to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder.
Before heading for the bridge, I drove to jeweler's row on Sansom Street, parked in a public garage and walked two blocks to my favorite jewelry store. I had bought a number of things from them in the past, including a custom made gold ring containing a 1911 quarter-eagle gold coin my grandmother, Shirley Catlett, had given me when I was born. I had a pretty good idea what I wanted and after scanning their showcases for a few minutes I found it. I also had a pretty good idea of her ring size, so I waited while they sized and polished it. I then selected two embossed wedding bands - one to fit me. I haven't felt this excited about anything since I kissed Suzy for the first time in London.
On my way back to the office I thought again about what George had said. If I went to London to see Alex again, was George going to know? And would he consider it a breach of our agreement? I couldn't risk that, so one thing was certain; if I go to England it has to be for some reason other than to meet with Alex. I'll have to be very careful.
The first thing I did when I got back to my office was call my travel agent. Knowing that I was being very presumptuous, I told her to book two tickets to London on the Saturday night British Airways flight out of Philly. It was now late afternoon on Monday and I had a lot of arrangements to make. I was about to make another phone call when reality set in. Was I was really assuming too much here? I'd better slow down and call Suzy.
When she walked into my office I was suddenly overcome with a bad case of the jitters. My stomach was really doing flip-flops. I started by explaining that I had to go to England again to meet with Trimble. It was necessary because there were still details to finalize before we closed the book on the Shah. Before I could continue she interrupted -
"Cole, I thought this whole crazy business with the Shah was finished. Haven't you sacrificed enough of yourself? When is it going to end?"
"Whoa, Suzy, don't get upset. Meeting with Trimble is not the main reason I'm going to England. I'm really going to enjoy my honeymoon - with my new bride. I love her very much, and I think she loves me. But, I guess to put things in the proper order I first have to ask her to marry me. Will you, Suzy?"
She walked around my desk, didn't say a word, sat on my lap and burst into tears. After she composed herself she kissed me.
"Cole, I do love you. My only question is why did you wait so long to ask? Of course I'll marry you! And Julia will be thrilled!"
I took the engagement ring I had just bought out of the box and slipped it on her finger. She looked at it and again burst into tears.
"It's beautiful Cole. Do you really want to get married before we go to England? Is there time?"
"We leave for England Saturday evening, so we've got five days to do everything. If I can arrange it, would you want to be married Friday in my church? I'm going to call now to find out about the license."
"Friday is fine, Cole, but I've got a million things to do. First, I have to call Julia, I can't wait to tell her."
Early Tuesday morning I called Trimble and told him Suzy and I would be arriving Sunday morning in London. I told him I wouldn't come to his bank - and I'd explain why when we met - but I'd call when Suzy and I got to our hotel to set up a place where he and I could meet. He started to object, but I told him that's the way it had to be. I cautioned him not to mention my visit to anyone. I also told him that Suzy and I were being married on Friday and he offered his congratulations.
The next few days were a blur. We got the license just in time to comply with the three-day wait. The minister agreed to marry us Friday evening at seven. On Thursday my mom and dad flew up from Florida, and on Friday morning my sister Abigail, her husband and kids came down from Boston. Ben was my best man and Julia was the maid of honor. Everything went off without a hitch. After the ceremony, everybody went to one of Suzy's favorite restaurants for a reception dinner. Suzy and I spent the night in one of Philadelphia's better hotels, the name of which I kept from everybody. We spent most of the night enjoying each other.
The flight to London was smooth and uneventful. I had tried to get reservations at the Dukes Hotel, but they were booked solid. On the advice of my travel agent I settled for a four-star hotel in the St. James district. It turned out to be quite nice and was directly across from a small park. After we got settled in and had a late breakfast I called Trimble at his home. He said he knew the hotel we were in and offered to meet me in the park at two that afternoon. It sounded like the best place for us to talk privately.
Suzy decided to stay in our room. When I walked out the front door of the hotel I saw Trimble across the street waiting for me. He was carrying a small package. When we greeted and shook hands it struck me that he was much more relaxed than the last time we met. We walked in the park for a while making small talk. He asked about Suzy and the wedding and said he had a wedding gift for us. After we found a bench and sat down he handed me the package and told me to open it.
"I don't know what your plans are after today, but what you'll find in the package may make your stay here with your new wife more enjoyable. At least my wife and I hope so."
The package contained a map, two envelopes and a number of color pictures of a quaint little cottage, surrounded by beautiful roses in full bloom and a landscape of colorful flowers, all overlooking an expanse of rocky beach and blue water. I was puzzled.
"Have you made definite plans for your stay here?"
"Well Alex, yes and no. We have Brit Rail passes and planned on taking a number of trips by rail, using our hotel here in London as a base. We're going to take the overnight train to Edinburgh, stay a few days and then sort of wind our way back to London by train. What are these pictures of?"
"That is our summer home near St. Austell on the Cornwall coast. It is where my wife and I are going to retire in a year or so. She and I want you and your bride to honeymoon in the cottage as long as you like."
"Alex, that is a beautiful gesture. I know Suzy will love it. Is the cottage reasonably close to a rail station?"
"Yes, it's a fairly short drive to the station. If you'll open that small envelope you will find two keys. One is to the cottage front door; the other is to a car parked in the garage behind the cottage. It is not a fancy automobile, we use it just to do shopping and to go to and from the train station. You are welcome to use it while you are here. The map in the package covers the counties of Devon and Cornwall."
"What's in this other envelope," I asked.
"Ahh. We've saved the best for last. But before you open it let me explain. You have expended a great deal of time, effort and your personal finances during the past few months to assist in resolving our problem with our notorious client. Further, as a result of your recommendation we have recouped all but a very small percentage of invested client funds. Our cash reserves are now considerable, and regardless of what happens we stand to make a substantial profit, even if we do no further business with the client. The bank is very grateful for your services and we hope the bank draft in that envelope is adequate compensation for your efforts."
I opened the envelope and glanced inside. The amount was in the low six figures. I almost fell off the bench.
"Alex, my god, this is too much. I only expected you to compensate me for this visit. Really, this is not necessary."
"Nonsense, you have earned every penny of it. It represents a very small percentage of what you have saved us. Now, I asked you to come here to report on your trip to Montana. I did so because in reading between the lines of what you said on the telephone after you returned, it appears obvious that something drastic happened. Since that conversation with you I have had two rather cryptic calls from Tampa insisting that we cease all financial transactions for the client until further notice. When I questioned why, they said some procedural changes were being made. Poppycock! So, Cole, what did happen in Montana?"
I gave him a detailed verbatim report of what I had experienced in Montana, from the time I left Miles City until I returned. I left out nothing. He must have said 'Oh my god' at least twenty times. When I finished, he apologized for putting me through such hell. I tried to make him understand that I went to Montana as much for myself as for anybody else. We sat on the bench for another five minutes without a word being spoken. He seemed to be very upset. Finally, he turned to me and asked if I still wanted to use his summer cottage. I knew Suzy would love it, so I said yes. We stood and shook hands. Alex thanked me again and walked off in the opposite direction from which we came.
Suzy did love the cottage. She also loved the beach, the view of the sea, the sunny days and chilly dark nights. We sat in the sand and watched the sunset, then warmed our bodies in front of the fireplace. For two weeks we walked and talked and drove on the wrong side of the road to small towns where we explored quaint shops and listened to friendly people speak with a strange accent. We even took the train to Edinburgh. But most important of all we were together. And that made it perfect.
Originally published: Wednesday, March 21, 2007; most-recently modified: Monday, June 03, 2019