Perho, Finland. The meeting took place in a comfortable weatherproofed cabin in a remote wooded area two hundred miles from Helsinki. The members of the Western branch of the Committee had arrived discreetly at irregular intervals. They came from eight different countries, but their visit had been quietly arranged by a senior minister in the Valtioneuvosto, the Finnish Council of State, and there was no record of entry in their passports. Upon their arrival, armed guards escorted them into the cabin, and’when the last visitor appeared, the cabin door was locked and the guards took up positions in the full-throated January winds, alert for any sign of intruders.
The members, seated around the large rectangular table, were men in powerful positions, high in the councils of their respective governments. They had all met before in their official capacities, and they trusted one another because they had no choice. For added security, each had been assigned a code name.
The meeting lasted almost five hours, and the discussion was heated. Finally the chairman decided the time had come to call for a vote. He rose, standing tall, and turned to the man seated at his right. “Sigurd?”
“We’re moving too hastily. The danger-“
“Yes or no, please.”
“Nein. If this should be exposed, our lives would be-“
“I vote yes. The resolution is passed. I will so inform the Controller. We will observe the usual precautions and leave at twenty-minute intervals. Thank you, gentlemen.”
Two hours and forty-five minutes later the cabin was deserted. A crew of experts carrying kerosene moved in and set the cabin on fire, the red flames licked by the hungry winds.
When the fire brigade from Perho finally reached the scene, there was nothing left to see but the smoldering embers that outlined the cabin against the hissing snow.
The assistant to the fire chief approached the ashes, bent down, and sniffed. “Kerosene,” he said. “Arson.”
The fire chief was staring at the ruins, a puzzled expression on his face. “That’s strange,” he muttered.
“I was hunting in these woods last week. There was no cabin.”
Stanton Rogers was destined to be President of the United States. He was a charismatic politician, highly visible to an approving public, and backed by powerful friends. Unfortunately for Rogers, his libido got in the way of his career.
It was not that Stanton Rogers fancied himself a Casanova. On the contrary, until that one fateful bedroom escapade he had been a model husband. He was handsome, wealthy, and although he had had ample opportunity to cheat on his wife, he had never given another woman a thought.
There was a second, perhaps greater irony: Stanton Rogers’ wife, Elizabeth, was social, beautiful, and intelligent, arld the two of them shared a common interest in almost everything, whereas Barbara, the woman Rogers fell in love with, and eventually married after a much headlined divorce, was five years older than Stanton, pleasant-faced rather than pretty, and seemed to have nothing in common with him. Stanton was athletic; Barbara hated all forms of exercise. Stanton was gregarious; Barbara preferred to be alone with her husband, or to entertain small groups. The biggest surprise was the political differences. Stanton was a liberal, while Barbara was an archconservative.
Paul Ellison, Stanton’s closest friend, had said, “You must be out of your mind, chum! You and Liz are the perfect married couple. Do you have any idea what a divorce is going to do to your career?”
Stanton Rogers had replied tightly, “Back off, Paul. I’m in love with Barbara. Besides, half the marriages in this country end in divorce. It won’t do anything.”
Rogers had proved to be a poor prophet. The press kept the story of the bitterly fought divorce alive as long as they could, and the gossip papers played it up as luridly as possible, with pictures of Stanton Rogers’ love nest and stories of secret midnight trusts. When the furor died dovlrn, Stanton Rogers’ powerful political friends found a new white knight to champion: Paul Ellison.
Ellison was a sound choice. While he had neither Stanton ]Rogers’ good looks nor his charisma, he was intelligent, likable, and had the right background. He was short in stature, with regular, even features and candid blue eyes. He had been happily married for ten, years to the daughter of a steel magnate.
Stanton Rogers and Paul Ellison had grown up together in New York. Their families had had adjoining summer homes in Southampton. They were, in the same class, first at Yale and later at Harvard Law School. Paul Ellison did well, but it was Stanton Rogers who was the star pupil. Once he was out of law school, Stanton Rogers’ political star began rising meteorically, and if he was the comet, Paul Ellison was the tail.
The divorce changed everything. It was now Stanton Rogers who became the appendage to Paul Ellison. The trail leading to the presidency took almost fifteen years. First Ellison became a highly popular, articulate Senator. He fought against waste in government and Washington bureaucracy. He was a populist, and believed in international detente. When he was finally elected President of the United States, his first appointment was Stanton Rogers, as presidential foreign affairs adviser.
MAMEWL McLuhan’s theory that television would turn the world into a global village had become a reality. The inauguration of the forty-second President of the United States was carried by satellite to more than one hundred and ninety countries.