Chapters Two-Four 


     It was then a revolting thought came to mind. “Surely they weren’t developing a corps of bomb throwing kamikaze chimps!”

                  I spent the rest of that morning feeling like I had been stripped of all my delusions, incapable of rationalizing anything. I saw my work for what it was; pedestrian an uninspired. I would be lucky to sustain my grants for more than a year or so. I took the rest of the day off and went home.

My apartment was located near the Hudson River Yacht Club. I looked out at the Hudson. The tide was coming in and the ice flows were making their way up the Hudson toward the Tappan Zee Bridge.

 I watched the river traffic thread its way through the ice flows and contemplated my future. There was not that much to contemplate. My research was taking me nowhere and I knew nothing of the job I was about to take. That is; I had decided to take the job if the “project” was acceptable and not totally horrible.

Thursday morning, again at precisely ten o’clock, Lieutenant Damala arrived at my office. “Good morning, just thought I would stop by and see how you were getting along”

“Good morning, I’m glad you stopped by. I've been giving your proposition some thought. I know this is ridiculous but never the less I need an answer; does this project involve chimps in rolls similar to those of dolphins trained to deliver torpedoes?” I asked.

“No nothing of that sort at all” the Lieutenant said laughing; then added “but I would keep that idea to your self.”

“I have a couple of other questions. Where is the location of this “project?” I asked, relieved by his answer to my first question.

“I suppose at this point I can lift the veil of secrecy enough to tell you it would be at Fort Detrick, which is close by in Maryland and then it would move on to the Southwest for a short while.”

After a few moments the Lieutenant asked. “What was your other question?”

“Well, I was wondering what would happen to Maria my assistant?”

“Presumably she would carry on here in your laboratory doing some simple experiments, keeping her hands busy so to speak until you returned. Or we could relocate her if you prefer.”

“Mmmmm. I guess I would have to think about what I might want to do about her. Either way I wouldn’t be abandoning her.”

Lieutenant Damala made no attempt to hurry me. “Would you mind if I took a look around your laboratory? It seems like you might want a minute to think things over.”

I introduced him to Maria and asked her to give him the tour and tell him what we did.

I looked around my windowless office and the chipped cabinets containing my reprint files. I knew if left I would never return. Knowing this made my spirit soar and I knew then that I would be leaving.
















December 15, 1946

       I first met Major Jack Strahorn in a smoky Gay Bar in Greenwich Village. Lieutenant Damala set up the meeting and wrote out the address with instructions to be there at eight P.M. on the fifteenth of December.

          I found the bar with no difficulty. But after observing the activity around the entrance I had considerable doubt that this was really the place. Eventually I made my way inside and began to look for someone in Army clothes. Right off a portly man in civilian clothes introduced himself as Jack Strahorn and led me to his table in the back.

 Strahorn was a red faced intense man in his forties he was overweight and rumpled.  He smoked unfiltered Camel cigarettes incessantly, and spoke in rapid staccato bursts, which he punctuated with jabs of his cigarette.

“Counter-intelligence people don’t blend in here” he said.

          He was right. The two of us stood out like gray on a rainbow! 

         I was relieved when Sylvia Cole, a sad and thin woman with large breasts nervously edged her way to our table. Evidently she was better at recognizing misfits than I.

         Strahorn introduced me as an animal trainer of considerable repute while he extolled Sylvia as one of the foremost plastic surgeons in New York.
         “That, I can assure you is an exaggeration.” She said with a smile.

         “So you train animals; is there much call for that here in the city?” Sylvia asked, apparently in all seriousness.

         “Actually I do research on animal behavior, which sometimes amounts to training animals under controlled circumstances.” I babbled.

         Sylvia laughed aloud. “Excuse me but I got this image, like someone with a whip and chair.”

         “You can blame me for that, sorry. I like to get to the point. Sometimes I get too direct. Dr. Hunter does research at a College up in Westchester.” Strahorn offered apologetically.

         “Don’t apologize. I could use a better image, I kind of like Sylvia’s take on what I do.”

         “In that case my pleasure” Strahorn said and then rather deliberately lit a Camel and made a show of arranging an ash tray ever so in front of him. Clearly he was about to tell us what this “Project” was all about.

         “Well … here we are...We’ve done our homework. We know you two would be perfect for the job, and we know you’re interested in the job.  Let me get to the point! 

         The purpose of this project is to convince the Russians that we have Alien technology.

          We are going to build a space ship. That ship is going to crash somewhere in the United States and people are going to see little green men get out of it!”

        I started to ask a question, but Strahorn waved me off with his cigarette. 

         “Let me finish, you can ask your questions later.”

         Strahorn took a long drag on his smoke and continued. 

         “Your job is to take four hairy chimps, monkeys, whatever, and make them look, walk, and act like they came from outer space!   

         You will have two assistants each…your budget is more or less unlimited, but I do need receipts! You will maintain your present positions and continue to receive your salaries, to which, we, the US government, will add approximately the same amount. I hope this appeals to both of you…… because if it doesn’t, you will be making a hell of a big problem for some of my associates.   And not in the least, you would be serious security risks.”

        I didn’t really like the sound of that. It didn’t really matter I had already decided to take the job. 

       Sylvia and I exchanged glances; Like lemmings arriving at the precipice, we answered in unison “I’ll do it!”

         Strahorn opened the brief case he was carrying and took out documents for each of us to sign.

         “Don’t bother to read it, just sign it. It’s all bullshit anyway!”

         We knew he was right. We were in the game, and from what he had told us, not likely to get out until it was over.

         We signed the papers and the major stood up to leave.

“Shouldn’t we get some sort of work contract or something?” Sylvia asked.

“We don’t do that in these situations, however tomorrow you can verify that six thousand dollars has been deposited in a personal account in your names at your respective banks. The Remainder of your salaries will be deposited as we proceed. Is that satisfactory?” He said taking up his brief case.

“Yes, I guess. It’s just a little different than I expected.”

“Dr. Hunter, how about you? Can you work for cash?”

“Yes, that sounds fine” I said giving Sylvia a look.

         “Get acquainted. You’re going to see a lot of each other. Put a plan together. What you’re going to do and how you will do it. I’ll get back with you in a week and see what you have.”  He turned to leave and then turned back facing us. “By the way, don’t discuss this with anyone! I can’t over emphasize the importance of secrecy!”

              We watched him shoulder his way through the pairs of men on the dance floor and realized we were alone in a bar full of gay men.

         “What the hell have we gotten ourselves into?” Sylvia asked;  surveying the room.

 “Why would a surgeon want to get involved in a hair brained scheme like this?”  

         Sylvia stirred her martini with her finger. “I don’t know if you could say I wanted to do this.  I would say it was more like I was anxious to leave what I had been doing.”  She seemed to grow even sadder with that admission.  I felt sorry I had asked.

          “What kind of work have you been doing?  That is, if you don’t mind telling me.”  I pried even further, not knowing what else to do.  

          “Its okay, war injuries. facial reconstructions mainly .”  She said, and slugged down half of her drink. 

         “That must have been hard, but rewarding work.” 

         Sylvia finished off the rest of her drink. “It was hard, very hard, but I can’t say I felt rewarded.  Guilty, but not rewarded.” 

          I caught the bartender’s eye and ordered more drinks.

         “Why would you feel guilty?”  

          Sylvia stared into her empty glass. “Because I was sitting on my ass, safe and sound, while these guys were getting theirs blown off in the war!  And now all we could do is some patch over and send them on their way!” She thumped her glass on the table. 

         “I am sure you helped them return to a normal life.”  I offered lamely.

          Sylvia gave me a look as if I had just repeated a cliché she had heard a thousand times. “When you have half your face blown off, there is no return to a normal life!  Sure we have lots of tricks and procedures we can do. But in the end I avoided looking at men we were trying to help. We couldn’t begin to erase the misery that they were suffering.”  Sylvia looked around for the waiter with our drinks. 

“So what good did we really do, if I couldn’t look them in the eye after we gave them our best makeover?”

         “I have no doubt you made things better for them.”  

          Sylvia shrugged. “I suppose , but we came up far too short of what needed to be done.  The reality is that I’m just not tough enough to keep on doing it!” 

                  The waiter brought more drinks.  Sylvia sipped her drink.  “So, there, you have my story.  Why are you here?” 

          I forced a smile and the drinks kicked in.

         “When I started out in behavioral research, I had this foolish idea I would be doing world class research, maybe, even win a Nobel Prize!  The fact of the matter is I would rather play golf than do the hard work of getting there,”  I confessed.

         I looked at Sylvia to see if she gave a damn about what I was telling her. She looked mildly interested, so I went on.

         “I caught myself obsessing on my reprint file and realized I was just playing games, my work was hack at best and I was just another blue collar researcher.  I was on my way out, I don’t know what I will be doing after this but it won’t beresearch!”

         We sat there in silence for a moment, mesmerized by the collapsing reality of our situation. 

          For the first time I noticed she was quite pretty in spite of her rather sharp features. The silence became embarrassingly heavy, and I asked her if she came there often. She said “No”, oblivious to my lame attempt at levity. 

          Sylvia gazed off in space and as if answering some other aspect of my question.  She said.  “I suppose we could insert a sub-dermal cranial implant and tattoo them green.”

         I offered that we could teach them to walk upright . 

         Judy Garland songs drifted through the smoky room, and as men found comfort in each others arms, Sylvia and I began to plan how we would transform monkeys into little green men.