In the summer of 1965, Morgan once again hitch-hiked his way to Homestead,
Florida to spend part of his summer with Linda and her parents at
the “Remote Lab.”
“Linda and I had a wonderful
visit,” Morgan recalled. “We were both outrageously in love. We had
gotten over the little hiccup we had earlier that year — what I had
dubbed the ‘Do you love me Panic of 65’ with my tongue in my cheek,
hoping to make light of a situation which had scared the bejeezus
out of me. She had asked me that question during that brief visit
in Zanesville, and I had back-pedaled like a champ. I don’t guess
she heard exactly what she wanted to hear, but by the time summer
had rolled around we were both a little gun-shy about broaching the
subject again. I was pretty sure that ‘I love you’ was safely buried
somewhere in the sand.”
Otherwise, “things were
fairly standard,” Morgan said. “I was managing to have a pretty exciting
thing going on with Linda. The company was wonderful. The scenery
was worth the hitch-hiking to get down there. Linda had resolved her
concerns and never mentioned the insecurities she had felt before.
We loved each other. I learned also to appreciate her parents. I knew
that Dr. Brown and Josephine had accepted me — or at least, had accepted
their daughter’s decision to go in my direction.”
But Morgan knew, from the moment back in December when he’d stepped
off the sailboat on Biscayne Bay — from the moment that Dr. Brown
had told him that “Linda needs…. not to know” — that he and Linda
Brown would be living parallel lives, lives that would truly converge
only in their hearts. Morgan would long recall “hot summer nights,
beach-combing, and pretending to be a pirate,” but his visit to Florida
that summer was not all leisurely pursuits. The wheels that had started
turning on the previous visit continued grinding their inexorable
course toward Morgan’s unique and separate destiny.
* * *
Besides the time he spent
with her, Linda noticed that Morgan was spending plenty of time with
her father as well, “talking late into the evenings” in his ‘Remote
Lab.’ After Morgan had been in Homestead for a few days, Townsend
invited the two of them to join him on a little “business trip” that
he would be making the next day to St. Augustine. As usual, Townsend
was not even vague about the nature of his business. He just didn’t
talk about it.
“It was just going to
be a very long day trip,” Linda recalled. “Mother didn’t want to go,
she said she had a bridge game that she didn’t want to miss. And Dad
said something about the way Morgan had reacted to a pod of porpoises
they had encountered while sailing on Biscayne Bay, and so he thought
that we would enjoy a visit to Marineland — since he was going up
there anyway. But that was all he said about why we were going.”
Linda had no reason to
suspect anything ulterior, “living as I was, totally absorbed in the
moment of Morgan’s company. It was as if I had thrown all my expectations
away. I wasn’t worrying about the past or thinking about the future.
I was just entirely focused on being with Morgan.”
Dr. Brown, Linda, and
Morgan all piled into the Cadillac and made the long scenic drive
up almost the entire length of Florida’s Atlantic coast, from Homestead
near the southern tip of the state to St. Augustine, nearly 350 miles
to the north to Marineland of Florida, “the world’s first oceanarium.”
Long before Disney World
drew all of Florida’s theme-park traffic to Orlando, Marineland was
Florida’s most popular and successful tourist destination. The park
was originally constructed in the 1930s, to serve the motion picture
industry with an “indoor ocean,” of tanks large enough to support
underwater filming against a realistic marine-life background.
The founders who opened “Marine Studios” in 1938 were an unlikely
quartet with backgrounds in adventure, filmmaking — and privilege:
W. Douglas Burden was the great-great-grandson of Commodore Cornelius
Vanderbilt, as was Burden’s cousin, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney;
Sherman Pratt was heir to one of the founders of Standard Oil and
Count Ilya Tolstoy was the grandson of the iconic Russian novelist
Leo Tolstoy. Together these four men built what was at the time a
pioneering facility, designed to serve as both a tourist attraction
and a location for underwater cinematography. But by the mid-60s,
the park’s heyday was well behind it.
After an early morning
start — and, as Linda recalled “you know Dad… we made a couple of
stops here and there…” along the way — the trio from Homestead managed
to arrive at Marineland in time to take in the sights for an hour
or so before finding a table at an outdoor patio for a late lunch.
“We had just gotten something
to eat when this man just walked up,” Linda recounted. “Dad had not
said that we were meeting anyone so I took it as pure chance — which,
I am coming to understand was never really the case. This gentleman
already had a sandwich or something so he just sat down with us. I
didn't know how Dad knew this fellow but they were obviously old friends.
Something was said about how proud he must be of the place, so I took
it that he was a person of some importance with Marineland.”
surprise lunch guest introduced himself as “Ilya Tolstoy” — one of
the founders of Marineland.
“That’s certainly an illustrious
name,” Morgan said.
“Indeed,” the man said.
After a bit more small
talk around the table, Townsend made a suggestion. “Perhaps the two
of you would enjoy conversing in Russian.” he said. “Morgan here has
been studying the language for a couple of years. Maybe he could put
some of that to use.”
Tolstoy nodded, and immediately
started speaking in his native tongue. And suddenly Morgan found himself
speaking in Russian with the grandson of the author of “War and Peace.”
“It sounded to me like
the first couple of sentences were chit-chat,” Linda recalled, “and
then all of the sudden it was if they went off a cliff together, and
the dialog took on this very menacing tone. All I know is it was making
me very uncomfortable because I couldn't understand what they were
saying. But from their body language I could tell that it was not
a friendly discussion.”
Sensing Linda’s discomfort,
Townsend leaned over to her and said, “let’s go for a walk.”
“By the time we got back,
the entire attitude had changed at that table,” Linda said. “They
were laughing and Tolstoy amazed me with this big belly laugh which
I would never have expected from him. When we finally left, I could
tell Morgan was elated. His feet were just barely touching the ground.”
Of course, there was no
way Linda could have known at the time that Morgan had just passed
* * *
The following day, Townsend
and Josephine and Morgan and Linda boarded a chartered Grumman “Flying
Goose” seaplane and made the short flight from Miami to Nassau. Again,
Linda had no way of knowing that there was a hidden agenda for what
appeared to her to be just another day’s pleasure trip.
At the dock in Nassau,
the foursome were met by a car and taken to a buffet brunch at the
Hotel, which until only a few years earlier had been the private
winter home of Mr. and Mrs. Izaak
Walton Killam — a Canadian financier who built a fortune from
wood products and hydroelectric plants throughout Canada and South
America. Killam was believed to be the richest man in Canada at one
point in his life — and was, not surprisingly, a good friend of Sir
operations have their command centers,” Morgan said later, “and for
the Caroline Group, the Greycliff was it. It was the center of operations
out of Nassau, a place where important men gathered and smoked fine
cigars” — a blend of Nicaraguan, Dominican and Brazilian tobaccos
that are still hand-rolled on the premises of the resort today. While
they smoked their exclusive cigars, these patrons often played a “free
ranging version of a card game called Russian Bank” while conducting
Of course, to Linda, Greycliff
was just an elegant 200-year-old hotel with a fabulous buffet spread.
But as they finished their meal another distinguished looking gentleman,
an attorney named Peter Graham, approached the table, at which point
Townsend turned to the girls and, gesturing toward Morgan said, “will
you ladies excuse us?” and started to rise from the table. Figuring
that was their cue and that they would be on their own for the rest
of the afternoon, Josephine and Linda went shopping.
Townsend and Morgan, meanwhile,
accompanied Mr. Graham to downtown Nassau, to a place called the Rootes
Building. And here again we see the scope of Stephenson’s network.
The Rootes Building was
named for Lord William Edward Rootes, aka The 1st Baron Rootes of
Ramsbury, an inventive and acquisitive soul who turned his father’s
bicycle shop in Kent, England into an automotive empire. At its height,
the Rootes Group
included the Hillman, Humber, Talbot and Sunbeam marques, and
was regarded as one of Britain’s “big 6” auto manufacturers. With
the outbreak of the Second World War, the company expanded its influence
even further by converting is operations to the manufacture of military
vehicles, tanks and aircraft engines. By one account, the Rootes Group
“provided Britain with 14% of its bombers, 60% of its armoured cars,
35% of its scout cars, 50,000 aero engines — and 300,000 bombs.”
“And that’s just what
they were doing,” Morgan would say later, “on the surface…”
Like his friend Walt Killam,
Rootes liked to spend winters in the former British protectorate in
the Bahamas, and had real estate holdings in the islands. And so it
comes to pass in the summer of 1965, in a place called the Rootes
Building in Nassau, that Morgan had his second meeting with Sir William
Stephenson. Morgan knew what was at stake by now, and was expecting
a lengthy interview, a long and arduous interrogation. But Stephenson
was only interested in one thing.
“He only asked me one
question,” Morgan recounted. “He asked me, ‘What would you do if you
found yourself in a life and death situation? Would you be able to
draw and fire?’”
Morgan answered quickly:
“I would do whatever it takes to stay above ground.”
In the years to follow,
that answer gave Stephenson his standard greeting for Morgan. Whenever
their paths crossed again Sir William would greet his young apprentice
by saying, “Still above ground, I see…”
* * *
“After that,” Morgan said
later, he and Linda “always had a third consideration in our lives.
Other agendas. I know that we have done what we were supposed to do,
but our relationship became contingent on our relationship with others
that summer. It was all meant.”
Before the summer was
over, Morgan said, “I was offered a job. I was shocked. The way it
was outlined to me, I would be an ‘international security agent’ based
out of Nassau, New York, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. I
was asked if that interested me. What, I was going to say, ‘no’ ?
They gave me a chance to consider. And they said that the position
was contingent upon my passing muster with somebody in Boston. Apparently
he was going to be the last hurdle.
“Then — if I still wanted
the job, I would report to a place called Camp Peary — that’s the
CIA’s training facility, known in some circles as ‘The Farm’ — in
the spring of 1966, almost a year away. When I asked if I would be
working for the CIA, the man from Nassau said, ‘No. You’ll be trained
right alongside others who will be CIA agents,’ but the training I
was going to get would be more precisely focused. The training couldn’t
start for almost a year because they expected it was going to take
me that long to get my affairs in order — which meant disengaging
from the rest of my life as I had known it.”
There was one other aspect
of the world that Morgan was about to step into that he did not share
with anybody until many years later.
“When Ilya Tolstoy and
I first started speaking to each other in Russian — the part of the
conversation that Linda overheard and found ‘menacing’ — he was making
it perfectly clear to me what was at stake."
“You will be offered an
opportunity,” Tolstoy had told Morgan, “that will change your life.
But it will be a life-long commitment. You must either commit yourself
to this opportunity now, or walk away now — because if you try to
walk away later, somebody will kill you.”
* * *
After the meeting at the
Rootes building, Townsend and Josephine flew back to Florida on the
seaplane, and Morgan and Linda stayed overnight in Nassau.
“We just did touristy
things,” Linda remembered, “mainly trying to find secluded beaches
and marveling in the fact that the sand was really pink on some of
them — pink, warm sand beneath our toes. We didn’t even rent a room
or anything,” Linda said, “we just sorta stayed up all night, wandering
the streets and the beaches. And we talked about everything.” They
flew back to Florida together the following afternoon.
Back in Homestead, Morgan
sensed how short the time was getting, all the while trying not to
let on to Linda.
“By the time we got back
from Nassau, I only had a few more days before I had to hitch home,”
Morgan remembered. “On the one hand, I still had Linda’s good company;
on the other, once she was asleep I would slip over to the lab to
join Dr. Brown — who rarely was asleep early in the morning like that.
We would talk about his loudspeaker and what it meant, and the role
of this ‘organization’ that he said was protecting various aspects
of his work. I still really didn't have any idea of the scope of things
at the time; looking back, I can see how gradually the information
I would need was being ‘metered out’ to me.
“Dr. Brown encouraged me to accept the offer. He said I had the right
temperament, the right mind for it, and that I was sorely needed.
But he also said that it was something that only I could decide. That’s
why I would have so long, to either go in that direction — or not.
“And throughout it all,
I continued to imagine how it was going to work with Linda. I couldn’t
see any reason why it couldn’t work. I had this vision of me, going
off for weeks at a time, doing my secret agent thing, and then, somehow,
Linda was just going to be there, happy to see me come home. I didn’t
realize at the time how naïve I was. I just could not fathom
that “Linda needs… not to know” actually translated into “You have
to walk away — it’s part of the job."
For his part, Dr. Brown,
even as he was encouraging Morgan to come on board — how much he knew
the Group needed a man like Morgan — he could not bring himself to
truly tell Morgan what sort of trade-off he was about to make. “Dr.
Brown had a tendency to simply gaze off,” Morgan said, “as if he was
seeing something that nobody else in the room could see. I think he
knew from the very start that the joy that Linda and I had found was
going to be set aside.”
Appropriately, perhaps, it fell to Josephine to look out for her daughter’s
welfare in the only way she knew how.
On the day of his departure,
Josephine found Morgan in the room he’d been using adjacent to the
“Remote Lab,” rolling up his sleeping bag and slipping things into
“I could tell right away
she had something serious on her mind,” Morgan recalled. “And she
didn’t waste any time getting to the point.”
“Are you going to marry
Linda?” Josephine asked.
Morgan continued rolling
his things up, stuffing them in his bag, looking into the bag as if
maybe he would find the answer for Josephine’s question there. He
suddenly felt like he was still groping for an answer to the question
Linda had confronted him with in Zanesville. Finally, when too much
time had passed, Morgan offered the same sort of half-answer.
“Well,” Morgan said, “If
I were to get married… I would marry Linda.”
“I wonder what would have
happened,” he pondered later, “if I had simply straightened up from
my chore and said what was really in my heart at that moment: ‘yes,
I want to marry Linda…’ But of course, that's not what I said."
“If you’re going in that
direction,” Josephine said quietly, referring to the offer from Nassau,
“then you have to let Linda go. You have to break it off with her.”
Morgan just stared at
his duffel bag, stunned by a sudden realization: He'd known along
that this moment was coming. He just didn’t know how much it was going
to tear him up once it came.
What Morgan could not
have possibly known then was just how much Josephine actually knew
of the life that he was now contemplating — indeed, had taken the
first irreversible steps into. And now Josephine was faced with the
doubly difficult task of asking what she must ask of Morgan without
letting on what she knew — what she had learned from her own gut-wrenching
lifetime of experience.
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