John H phoned me just past six p.m. next day, Wednesday, June 1st. "I'm here."
"And it's not even raining," I said.
"Of course not. Because I brought an umbrella this time. I'm at the Holiday Inn Bethesda, couldn't get into Chevy Chase."
"Let's have dinner at Houston's. It's walking distance from your hotel."
John H and I greeted each other, nailed a booth.
"Let's start like this," I said. "If we didn't know each other, would you be aware that my ghostwriter just spent a week in Moscow with Ed Howard?"
John H shook his head. "We'd have no way of knowing."
"The reason I ask is, Howard was convinced The Dickster would be met at Dulles by G-men. So I'm wondering if you should contact Cote lest Howard think something is amiss because the Dickster wasn’t met. But only if it would have been your natural inclination to do this."
"No, it wouldn't be," said John H. "Because we wouldn't have known about him."
"Okay. I just wanted to be sure of our moves. Howard is really pissed off at you guys."
"Oh, no," said John H in mock horror.
"Yeah, that thing you did to Larissa? Howard says no more mister nice guy."
"Oh, I see!" John H chuckled.
"Howard says he's never coming back. No deals, no compromises. He thinks of himself as Russian."
Over prime rib, I ran through my notes.
John H was alternately intrigued and amused.
The photographs riveted his attention: Howard and the manhole cover; Batamirov, Blake. To a counterintelligence officer, it was a treasure trove.
"Here's what's happening," said John H. "Bob G (assistant U.S. Attorney) is flying in tonight. My boss Jim S is flying in tomorrow. The U.S. Attorney for New Mexico is here, too."
"Jeez," I said. "Sounds like a convention."
"It will be," he replied. "On Friday morning we have a meeting downtown. The four of us, plus about ten others, including the Assistant FBI Director for National Security and the Deputy Attorney General."
I presented myself at John H’s room, 1406, at 9:30 next morning. Bob G arrived a few minutes later in blue slacks and a short-sleeve madras shirt.
I re-told The Dickster's tale and did a show-and-tell with his photographs, including some photos Howard had Fedexed me a few weeks earlier. These also showed a manhole cover, labeled in Howard's own handwriting with the codename (still classified) of the operation (still classified) to which the manhole cover was associated.
John H was gob-smacked. "This is evidence," he said. "The codename ***** is secret. He's written it here, sent it to you and even signed his initials."
Bob G said he had loved the idea of inserting a ghostwriter into the process: Cote would make a great witness, he said, not least because he had been unwitting to what was really going on.
"That was pretty good," said Bob G. "You've put this writer in front of you as a shield."
"It's called a cut-out," I said.
The three of us met Jim S at O'Donnell's, a Bethesda seafood restaurant. Jim S had learned his lesson and packed blue jeans, which he wore with a dark knit shirt, Timberland deck shoes, no socks.
"I have a question," I said, looking over my menu. "If I hadn't showed up with Howard's book proposal nine months ago, would you still not know about it?"
"We wouldn't know," said John H.
"You mean not one person has called the Bureau in all these months?"
By this time, Safe House by one Edward Lee Howard had been featured as a forthcoming title in a catalog produced by National Book Network, the distributors for National Press, and had been sent to thousands of booksellers, libraries, and media organizations around the country.
John H shook his head. "Not a-one."
"People assume we know everything," said Bob G. "If only they knew the truth. We're too busy having meetings, fighting political battles."
John H phoned me at three o'clock the next day when the big pow-wow at Headquarters concluded.
Bob G’s pitch had been well received.
Bottom-line: The Big Cheese Family green-lighted our proposal for me to meet Howard in Russia.