Again, Clair and I broke the sound barrier on Concorde to London, and onto Serene City. We set up operational headquarters in the Beau Rivage bar, cozy nooks with overstuffed chairs.
Lara arrived just past three; we strategized what to tell her son—and what to leave out. Then we climbed into Lara’s Subaru and sped out of Geneva.
Standing outside his school near a lake, the boy wore a Chicago Bulls cap, a baseball jacket and braces on his teeth.
As Clair later commented: “I was expecting a buttoned-up nerdy European kid. He’s about the most American kid I’ve ever seen. This guy could flourish in Topeka.”
On the ride back, we talked about baseball and Euro-Disney.
Clair snuck off. Lara, her son and I strolled to McDonald’s, munched cheeseburgers and fries in a corner.
“All right,” I finally said. “I guess we’re going to talk about your father.”
The boy giggled nervously.
Lara piped up. “Yes, you had some questions. Robert is here to answer them.”
“Let me explain what’s happening,” I said. “And then you can ask whatever questions you like. I’ve gotten to know your father. He doesn’t know that I know your mother. But because I know him, he tells me what he’s doing, and so I’m able to keep your mother informed.” I paused. “Your father sort of lives in another world.”
The boy laughed out loud. “You can say that again!” He rollicked in his seat.
“Your father marches to a different drummer,” I continued with discretion. “He looks down on the world, thinks it is beneath him. The word he uses is mediocrity.”
The boy laughed again, enjoying this. “Yeah, I know!”
“He lives in another age, a kind of dream world, and in this world he is very important. But he’s your father, and you have to respect your father. So now let’s move on to why I am involved. Your family is always worried when you have to visit your father because of the time when he tried to keep you.”
The boy nodded. “I get worried, too.”
“I know. But now we have a solution. You may have noticed that when you were with him last summer I telephoned a lot.”
“It was because I wanted to know where you were all the time. If your father had tried to take you somewhere, I would have known, because he would have told me. I knew that you almost went to Nordeney, that you almost traveled to Salzburg with him, that you stopped in Bad Ragaz before catching your plane in Zurich.”
The boy was amazed.
“If your father would have taken you somewhere to keep you, I would have gone there to get you.”
“Come to my rescue!” the boy whooped.
“Exactly. Now, I don’t think your father is going to do anything like that again. But we’re going to make sure that if he ever does, it won’t work. I will come get you, and take you home, and your mother will be nearby. Understand?”
“Yes,” said the boy. “Thank you.”
“You had some questions,” Lara prodded. “You wanted to know about your father’s humanitarian organization?”
“Yeah, he told me about that,” said the boy. “Does he have one?”
“Sure, he does,” I said, pointing to my head. “All in his mind. Your father has a good imagination. He would like to do these things. But for your father, imagining them is enough.”
Daniel laughed. “Is he writing a book? He talks about Enigma Books. Is that you?”
“Yes. Your father has very grand ideas, and he’s trying to write them as a book.” I paused. “Are you happy about this situation?”
Back at the Beau Rivage, Clair and I retreated to operational headquarters. The spymaster ordered a scotch and soda. “I’m having a gall bladder attack,” he said calmly.
“It’ll be okay,” he said. “It happens once a year. I’m supposed to have it out.”
“What do you do about it?”
“I sit and drink ten scotch and sodas. That usually does it. But if the pain continues, I wake up at three in the morning and go to the hospital for a shot of Demerol.”
“I’ll be right back,” I said, returning five minutes later. “Take two of these.”
“What are they?”
“From England. The perfect combination of aspirin, paracetamol, and codeine. Take two now, and two if you wake up at three in the morning.”
Clair swallowed them with a gulp of scotch and soda.
He never needed the other two.
Next morning we flew to London to catch Concorde. It was nighttime when we launched out of Heathrow. For the first fifteen minutes we played cat-and-mouse with the setting sun. Then I saw something I’d never seen before: a ninety-minute sunrise—from the east.