Mary, Vary, Ferrie, and Lee
This is the fascinating story of a bright-eyed science-whiz teen who moved to New Orleans to cure cancer in the summer of 1963. She fell in love and got caught up in a plot to murder one man to save the life of another man. She found herself in a world of betrayal, lies, spies, secrets, and danger.
It reads like fiction, but it is a true story. Judy Vary landed on the fringes of the JFK murder conspiracy. She is one of the few eyewitnesses who lived to tell us about their experience, and from it we learn a great deal about what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
The following is a condensed version of the story Judyth Vary Baker tells in her book: Me & Lee: How I Came to Know, Love, and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald. I hope you will buy a copy and read it, because it will give you a new perspective on JFK's assassination. But it will also entertain you simply because it is a fascinating true story, beautifully written. It took a great deal of courage for her to speak up, for reasons explained in the book.
that most of you are very busy working, taking care of a family, and
other life essentials, and you don't have time to read a 500+ page book.
That's why I have written this "Reader's Digest" version.
Part 1: Baiting the Hook
Judyth Vary was born in South Bend, Indiana on May 15, 1943. In school she was a science whiz kid, winning lots of prizes and awards. Her science skills eventually were focused on cancer research, and she figured out how to induce cancer in lab mice when only a few laboratories in the US had been able to achieve that. Furthermore, Judy had accomplished it in seven days. Nobody else had done that.
In 1963 Judy got a phone call from Dr Alton Ochsner. The conversation began with a severe scolding from the world-famous, powerful, successful, wealthy doctor. Judy had recently abandoned plans to become a nun, and Dr Ochsner assured her that becoming a nun would have been the stupidest thing in the world. Then she had managed to get pregnant and have a miscarriage. More stupidity, Dr Ochsner declared, although it was hardly necessary. Judy was appropriately contrite, and she pleaded for forgiveness. It worked. Dr O offered her a job as a summer lab technician for Dr Mary Sherman in New Orleans. Judy knew of Dr Sherman, who was one of the leading cancer researchers in the US. Dr Mary was just the person to provide some stability and guidance to young, immature Judy, and Judy in turn could provide her experience working with the SV-40 cancer virus. Judy didn’t need to think it over. But Dr O wasn’t finished. If Judy successfully completed her summer internship for Dr Mary, the teenager would be accepted into Tulane Medical School that fall, even though she still hadn’t finished her undergraduate courses. Tulane rarely accepted undergraduates, but Dr O had no trouble arranging that for Judy, as well as arranging for all her tuition to be taken care of, plus a stipend to cover other costs. Furthermore, since Dr Mary was from University of Chicago (UC), she could use her influence to get Judy into UC’s medical school the following fall (1964).
During the middle of the conversation, Dr O asked Judy another question, out of the blue. How did she feel about Fidel Castro? She said Castro was a terrible dictator who should be removed from power, by force if that’s what it took. That’s just what Dr O wanted to hear.
Judy couldn’t get to New Orleans fast enough. Dr O said she would receive a one-way ticket from Miami to New Orleans, where she would stay at the YWCA (expenses paid), and he would see her in New Orleans the second week of May. Suddenly the euphoria began to fade a bit when she realized that was almost a month off. She was about to move out of her dorm room, she had no money, and she didn’t know how she would get by for the next four weeks. All her friends had already gone home for the summer, but that wasn’t an option for her. She couldn’t stay with her boyfriend, Robert, because he lived in a boarding house that was declared a girlfriend-free zone.
There was one thing she might be able to do. If she could convince Robert to transfer from University of Florida (UF) to New Orleans, they could get married and move right away. Robert had only one trimester left before graduation, so they would not be together for four months, but she could live with that. She wasn’t sure she could convince Robert, however. She took him to the UF library and showed him all the ads for jobs in New Orleans at petroleum companies, enticing him toward a lucrative career in geoscience and away from a career as a writer. She didn’t tell him about starting medical school in the fall, because he might consider it a sign that she planned to leave him. She knew that putting too much direct pressure on him might very well backfire on her. After all, he hadn’t even bought her an engagement ring yet. But she did remind him that unless they were married, she wouldn’t be able to get birth control pills, and he hated wearing condoms.
Robert agreed to meet Judy in New Orleans after working for his parents for a while at their business in Fort Walton Beach. She had received the bus ticket, so Robert drove her to the bus station so she could start enjoying her rent-free stay at the Y in New Orleans. She left Gainesville with $42.00 in her pocket and adventure on her mind. She had three weeks on her own before beginning her work for Dr Mary Sherman.
When she got to the Y in New Orleans, there was no reserved room for her, so she was forced to rent a bed in a room with four other girls. One was a waitress whose take-home pay was $7.00 per day. One was a stripper, and another was in training to become a Playboy Bunny. She couldn’t see herself, a gifted cancer researcher, working in a burger joint, but she could never, ever be a strip dancer or a Bunny. Her Catholic upbringing had precluded any possibility of that, and besides, she had numerous scars on her abdomen from multiple childhood surgeries. She called Dr O to see if he could help, but Judy was not expected for another two weeks, and the doctor was traveling. Dr Mary was also out of town. Until Judy had completed all the paperwork, there was no chance of getting any money or getting any temporary work at the clinic. She couldn’t call Robert, who was staying at his parents’ house, because his parents didn’t like her, and they were not going to be happy about their planned marriage. She was on her own in a strange city.
She learned from her roommates that a guy named Jack Ruby was in town. He worked for New Orleans Godfather Carlos Marcello. Ruby was Marcello’s representative in Dallas, and Ruby had a way of getting whatever he wanted, but he had a reputation as a generous man, and he treated his girls well.
Judy called Dr O’s clinic again to plead for help, but they advised her to get back on the bus and return to Florida until Dr O was ready for her. In spite of her predicament, she ruled that out. It was the first time in her young life that she had faced the frightening prospect of having to provide for herself, but fear was offset somewhat with the thrill of being totally on her own for the first time. Once Robert came and married her, everything would be fine, but that seemed like a long time in the future. Suddenly, working at a fast-food restaurant didn’t sound so bad, so she tagged along with her roommate to work and started her waitressing career the next morning. It was a vastly different environment than working in a laboratory. Life at the Royal Castle moved at a frantic pace, and cleanliness was next to unimportant.
On April 22 (Tuesday), she went to the post office and got her first letter from Robert. Two days later she received his second letter and $5.00. (Robert was unlikely to ever be accused of generosity.) There was no letter the next four days, even though her fiancé had promised to write every day. On the 26th, Judy went to work at the Royal Castle, returned to the Y and changed into a dress, then headed out to the post office and the Ochsner Clinic. No letter again. As she was speaking to the postal clerk, she dropped her newspaper, which was picked up by the man in line behind her. She smiled at him and said karashaw, tovarisch, Russian for thanks, comrade. She had often used that line in college as an ice breaker, but she used it now in flirtation as well, in defiance of Robert’s inattention. To her surprise, he answered back in perfect Russian: it’s not good to speak Russian in New Orleans. The clean-cut young man asked her to wait while he stepped up and asked the clerk if there was any mail for Lee H Oswald. They left together and struck up what turned out to be a long conversation and the beginning of an adventure Judy could never have imagined.
Judy explained to Lee that she was in town to work for Dr Mary Sherman that summer. Lee said he had a friend named David Ferrie who had mentioned Dr Sherman recently. Lee asked her why she was working at a fast-food restaurant, and she explained her situation. They continued talking for another hour while sitting on a park bench. He told her his wife was in Texas because they weren’t getting along very well. She did not get the impression he was suggesting he was available for romance, but she would not have considered the possibility completely out of the question. He asked if she played chess, and she said she was actually pretty good at it. He said he would call his friend Dr Ferrie right away and arrange to play chess with her using his chess set. Meanwhile, she could leave a message for him at the YMCA if she needed anything.
On April 27 (Saturday), Lee ate breakfast at the burger joint where Judy worked. When her shift ended, she sat at Lee’s table and they talked. Judy wanted to know more about Lee, and he told her that his mother had been connected to the mafia through boyfriends of hers, one of them having worked for Carlos Marcello as a driver and bodyguard. She had worked at a law firm that had Marcello as a client. Her sister had married a man (Dutz) who had been a Marcello employee for years. Lee could have gone to work for Marcello, but chose instead to join the Marines. He had hoped to become an Air Force pilot, and that’s why he had become a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol. But hearing loss in his left ear due to chronic ear infections and a mastoidectomy meant he wasn’t qualified for USAF, so he settled for USMC.
They talked about a wide range of topics, including Alexander Pushkin poetry, religion, and their respective childhoods. Judy realized she was talking with an intellectual who didn’t dress like one. She confided that she had wanted to become a nun, which turned the conversation to David Ferrie, who, Lee explained, desperately wanted to be a priest, but couldn’t because of his homosexuality. He warned her that Ferrie had very strong religious views which she was going to hear when they met. And he cautioned her that Ferrie had no hair at all. His cheap wig and fake eyebrows gave him a clownish appearance, but he had a great mind. In fact, he was brilliant, Lee told her, and courageous, and dedicated to fighting Communism, which his associates in both the federal government and the mafia appreciated. It was the first time she had ever considered that the mafia might be working with the feds.
Lee said he had already been trying to find some affordable rooms for Judy, and he offered to show them to her. They went first to the post office, where Judy got a letter from Robert. She was happy to see a money order for $20 to make a down payment on a room, but she was not pleased that he would be arriving a day later than planned. That meant they would have to get married the same day he arrived. Worse, he might be shipped out to an offshore oil rig to begin work right away. Lee suggested they go window shopping on Canal Street to take her mind off her disappointment. As they walked, Judy bragged that she knew a lot about Cuba. Lee began naming every member of Cuba’s cabinet, all their prominent politicians and generals, every city and town on the island, and then all its rivers and mountains. He explained that he had been ordered to memorize all those details, and he had spent hours poring over maps of Cuba. Judy asked him point blank if he was going to be one of the people trying to kill Castro. Lee replied that he wasn’t going there to give Castro a medal.
Judy thought about the courage it must take to spend years inside the Soviet Union on a covert mission and now prepare for another covert mission inside Cuba. But, how much of what Lee said was true? If he wasn’t a spy, then he was clearly lying. If he was really a spy, he was probably still lying, because that’s what spies do. It was too early to tell about Lee. Still, the attraction was growing stronger with each hour they spent together. She was about to get married, and Lee was already married with a little girl, yet she couldn’t help being attracted to Lee. It seemed that he believed she was somehow also involved in clandestine activities and somewhat savvy in the ways of covert operations. [She was about to be, but she didn’t know it yet.]
Judy enjoyed her first ride on a streetcar, and Lee pointed out landmarks as they made their way uptown. He pointed out Dr Sherman’s apartment, then Loyola University, then Tulane University. When they got off the streetcar, they were across the street from a southern mansion which now served as a boarding house. Lee rang the bell, and he informed the proprietor, Mrs Webber, that Mr P had sent them. He introduced Judy as Mrs Baker. They enjoyed ham sandwiches and tea, and Mrs Webber explained that the only space available was the parlor, which rented for $30 per month. Judy was surprised that such an elegant mansion was more affordable than her room at the Y. She handed Mrs W the $20.00 money order Robert sent her, but the old lady insisted on the whole $30.00 up front. Lee gave her the other $10.00, and they went to her Y room to get some of her things.
When they returned to the mansion, Judy asked for a key, and Mrs W offered a skeleton key, which didn’t seem very safe. Lee demanded a key, and she reluctantly handed one over, complaining that it was her last one. When Lee asked what time the front door was locked, Mrs W questioned his motive. Were these two having an affair? Where was Judy’s wedding ring? Mrs W made it clear that she would tolerate no hanky-panky in her boarding house. Judy fished around in her purse for a ring and showed it to Mrs W, even though Robert hadn’t yet bought her a ring. Judy and Lee left to get the rest of Judy’s things from the Y, and as they waited for the streetcar, Judy expressed how uncomfortable it made her feel when they had both lied to Mrs W. Juduffki, he explained, sometimes it is necessary to lie, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes telling the truth can harm people. He’d had to lie many times, and he admitted that he no longer felt bad about it afterward. (Aha! Suspicions confirmed. He was a liar. He probably wasn’t lying about that. Oh well, apparently she was a liar, too.) It was the first time he called her Juduffki.
When they had transferred most of Judy’s things to the mansion, Lee said he would borrow his cousin’s car and take her on a tour of New Orleans before meeting with Ferrie later in the day. Lee made phone calls while Judy got dressed, but then Lee told her plans had changed. The tour would have to wait until tomorrow, because Lee needed to run an errand for his Uncle Dutz. He invited her to tag along, but he cautioned her that it was something related to Carlos Marcello. She was up for more adventure.
During the streetcar and bus rides, Lee said he wanted to try to find his father’s grave. He’d been there once, but he was too young to remember where it was. His relatives certainly knew, but most of them were unlikely to help him, because they were most unhappy that their name had been prominently mentioned in newspaper articles about Lee’s defection to Russia. His Uncle Dutz was different, though. Lee had lived with his aunt and uncle Murret for a while as a kid, and they invited Lee to stay with them until he could find a place of his own now that he was in New Orleans. He also explained that Judy would need to remain out of sight, because his aunt and uncle would soon learn how rocky his marriage was, and he didn’t want them to jump to any conclusions. Judy waited outside on the steps watching children play while Lee met with Dutz.
Next stop was the Town and Country Motel – a long bus ride away. Along the way, Lee pointed out more New Orleans landmarks. Lee talked more about how his defection to Russia had made news worldwide and alienated most of his relatives. Judy realized that if he had truly defected, he would never be allowed to walk around a free man as he was doing. Something was fishy about the defection story. Lee told her about his favorite TV program from the 1950s. It was based on the true story of Herbert Philbrick, an FBI agent who infiltrated the Communist Party and lived to write a book about it. [I Lived Three Lives: Citizen, Communist, Counterspy is available today at Amazon.] Lee had wanted to be a spy all his life. It seemed to Judy that he must be a spy, indeed. It also seemed to her that his Uncle Dutz and Aunt Lillian Murrett must know who and what Lee really was. And it seemed to her that Lee felt a great sense of relief having Judy to understand him. It gave him an opportunity to really be himself for the short while they were together.
They entered Carlos Marcello’s Town and Country Motel (next to the Royal Castle where Judy worked) and sat at a table. The place was empty this time of day (early afternoon). Lee asked to speak with the manager, and while they waited, Lee explained that he had to help out once in a while because he felt he owed Dutz that much for helping raise him. A waiter brought menus, but Lee told him he just needed to see Mr P. What exactly did Dutz do for Marcello? Lee couldn’t talk about that, but suggested Judy could probably guess. A middle-aged Italian approached the table. Judy, following Lee’s instruction, kept her eyes down and her mouth shut. That allowed her to see Mr P slip a roll of money to Lee under the table, both talking as though nothing else was happening. Mr P asked if Judy needed a job, and Lee snapped that she already had one, thank you very much. She’s not that kind of girl. Mr P apologized and assured Lee he had intended no insult. They abruptly got up to leave. Judy asked if they could get a bite to eat, since she was starving, and it could be hours before dining with Dr Ferrie. Lee said he wouldn’t let his dog eat in that place, guiding her with his hand on the back of her neck out the door. By 1960s standards, that was common practice and not considered politically incorrect like today. In fact, Judy found it rather reassuring that Lee was willing to take charge and defend her honor.
On the return trip, Lee volunteered that Dutz kept books for Marcello. He kept track of bets at horse races, for example. Lee’s trust in Judy was growing as well as their mutual attraction. Once he had delivered the roll of cash to Dutz, he emerged from the house $200 richer. It was Dutz’s way of thanking him for helping out. Now Judy didn’t have to worry about paying back the $10.00 for rent.
They were off to the Kopper Kitchen to meet Ferrie. He wasn’t there yet when they arrived, and Lee encouraged her to go ahead and order, knowing how hungry she was. Whatever she wanted, because Ferrie was paying. She ordered burger, fries, coke, and a hot fudge sundae. Lee ordered soup and milk. (Men can be so inconsiderate sometimes.)
Lee did most of the talking while she did most of the eating. Ferrie might have cancer. That may be why he is working with Dr Mary. Ferrie had started his own cancer experiments years earlier when he lived in a big house by the airport. He sometimes used himself as a guinea pig, which probably explains his hair loss. He still has a lab set up and he could use some help, especially since he will soon be travelling a lot for Marcello and for us. He might be willing to pay for Judy’s help.
Us? So Lee was involved in Ferrie’s research project. Pay? (What, and give up her glamorous career as a waitress?) But she already had a full-time job working in Dr Mary’s bone lab at the Ochsner Clinic. Maybe she could work both places? Judy vaguely realized she was being gently guided into . . . where? What? Lee wasn’t giving her the whole story.
Ferrie arrived, finally. His appearance was just as strange as she had been prepared to expect. He seemed jumpy, and his eyes bugged out. Doctor Judy diagnosed him as overactive thyroid or too much thyroid medicine. He was wearing an airline captain’s hat and jacket, and a ring crafted from an Eastern Airlines pin. Lee introduced her as Miss Judy Vary. She and Ferrie quickly established a warm rapport as his words overtook his appearance in her mind. He asked questions, and he was satisfied from her answers that she did indeed know her way around a lab. After a while the conversation turned to Dr Sherman, who Ferrie referred to as Dr Mary. He looked around to make sure nobody was eavesdropping. He explained that the work he and Dr Mary were doing was strictly confidential. They used drugs that weren’t available in the US, so they got them from Mexico. They were getting results faster than normal because they weren’t bogged down with all the paperwork.
It was all under the direction of Dr Alton Ochsner. He was a man who got things done. He could get them anything they needed. He brought some of the materials himself from Latin America. Dr O had connections throughout Latin America, and he was on call for many Latin-American leaders. Dr O kept everything confidential for them, and they provided large donations to his clinic. The arrangement also provided Dr O with an unregulated stream of funds and supplies for whatever kind of cancer research he wanted to authorize. Ferrie and Dr Mary were using radiation to determine what effect(s) it has on viruses, and they were also using radiation to cause mutation in monkey viruses. That was all familiar to Judy. It’s what she’d been trained for, but Ferrie already knew that. (How did he know that? Dr O must have told him.)
After lunch they met at Ferrie’s apartment. He was dressed more casually, and barefoot. The place was a mess. Ferrie was cleaning up the kitchen in preparation for a party the following evening. What could only loosely be called a lab consisted of equipment and supplies on utility carts off to one side of his large kitchen. There was distilled water, propane gas, denatured alcohol, and acetone. There was a fume vent. There were microscopes, test tubes, a small centrifuge, and a regular blender used for mouse tumors, which were stored in the refrigerator. There were several cages of rats and mice beside the sink. Somewhere between the Kopper Kitchen and Ferrie’s kitchen, the strange-looking pilot had gone from Dr Ferrie to Dave. He assured her he was a homosexual, and he would not, therefore, be hitting on her. Judy had been forewarned about that, but she was surprised he was so open about it.
The tumors should have been transferred to Dr Mary’s apartment that day, but Ferrie didn’t want to be seen there. He suggested that Judy could become the courier for harvested tumors, because people who happened to see her would probably think she was a med student and think nothing of it. On the other hand, she would need to be cautious, because it was part of New Orleans culture to assume a sexual motive for just about everything, and people might start thinking Dr Mary had a lesbian lover going to her apartment. Of course, Ferrie assured her, Dr Mary was not a lesbian. She had never quite gotten over the death of her husband. As a single professional woman, she had to be careful about appearances.
Ferrie offered to fix dinner for them, but Judy declined, having just eaten at the Kopper Kitchen. (Even if she had been starving, she would have been most disinclined to eat there, but there was no need to say so.) Next came a discussion of philosophy. That lasted for hours before giving way to a discussion of religion. Judy and Lee offered their best challenges, but they were no match for Ferrie.
Next came the story of how years earlier Lee had been at Ferrie’s home along with other Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets. After everyone else left, Lee went upstairs to see Ferrie’s lab. Ferrie entered and locked the door. He swears his only intention was to talk to Lee about being fatherless. Lee assumed he had other things on his mind, and fought back. He lost the fight, but Ferrie didn’t harm him otherwise. Somehow, over the years, they had managed to get past it and become friends. Judy, however, was terrified. Lee looked at her and said: You’re safe with me. Trust me now. Don’t you feel there’s something wonderful developing between us? Don’t you know that I would never let anybody hurt you? Tears were running down his face.
Ferrie offered to drive them home. It was almost dawn. They were invited to Ferrie’s party Sunday night. Judy was reluctant, but Dr Mary was going to be there, and Judy was eager to meet her. Lee walked her to the boardinghouse door and reminded her that they were going on a tour of New Orleans in a car Lee was going to borrow. Judy’s head was spinning from the day’s events. How exciting! What had she gotten herself into?
On April 28 (Sunday), Judy worked her 2-hour shift at the restaurant, then returned to the boarding house, where Lee met her at mid-morning as planned the day before. First up was visiting one of Lee’s aunts who might be willing to give him directions to his father’s grave. Then they would borrow a car from a cousin and see the city. That prompted Judy to ask if Lee planned to buy a car of his own. No, for several reasons. For one thing, he couldn’t afford it. Furthermore, he dared not use his driver license, because Texas Highway Patrol had flagged his license as belonging to a Communist. If Lee happened to get pulled over for any reason (or no valid reason at all), the officer would be alerted, and Lee would likely be arrested on trumped-up charges. He would not be treated well, and very few people would care (or even know about it). But being carless was also part of the intelligence role Lee was playing. He was portraying himself as someone who was broke and unhappy with life in the US, because that would make him appear to be a good candidate for a travel visa to Cuba. That was his mission, to get into Cuba, and Cubans didn’t have cars. Judy reminded him that it could be quite a while before he could go to Cuba. Maybe a year or so, Lee responded.
The meeting with the aunt was not pleasant, but she did reluctantly give him the information he wanted. They got the keys to Lee’s cousin’s car and drove to the cemetery. When Lee was telling Judy about the meeting with his aunt, he said it was the price he had to pay to do what he had chosen to do. He didn’t like being branded as a defector, but he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself. He said he hoped that someday his children would know the truth about him. He also talked freely about his painful childhood. His father died before he was born. He went to live with his Uncle Dutz and Aunt Lillian, then to an orphanage when he became old enough; then he returned to his mother, who had remarried, and they moved to Fort Worth, Texas. When his mother divorced, she and Lee moved around a lot.
Judy realized that she and Lee were communicating on a much more personal level than she and Robert ever had. In fact, Robert seemed totally disinterested in what she did other than whatever advanced his agenda. But then Lee said something about hitting Marina (his pregnant wife). What was that again? Lee dodged the question, and alarm bells were suddenly clanging noisily in Judy’s mind. Lee finally found his father’s grave and knelt there for several minutes. Next stop was at the orphanage he had lived in for a while. They sat on a park bench and the conversation returned to Marina. Lee explained that theirs was a marriage of convenience. When they met in Russia, Lee was looking to marry a Russian girl to avoid deportation. Marina was looking for a ticket to America. Marina had been cheating on him right from the start, and it had crushed Lee. It also hardened him as time passed, and he had grown bitter toward her. However, the birth of their daughter (June) in Russia changed everything, for Lee at least. They discussed getting a divorce when they came to America, but that would have meant Marina’s deportation back to Russia, and possibly June’s as well. They decided to have another baby, because this one would be born in the US, which would remove the further threat of deportation.
Okay, but what about Lee hitting Marina? If Lee had thought Judy would let the matter slide, he was way off the mark. Lee explained that Marina’s insults and betrayals had driven him to hit her, more than once. Whatever the extenuating circumstances may have been, Judy was revolted. She was horrified by her newfound friend, and that was enough to threaten an end to their budding romance. Once a man hit a woman, he couldn’t stop. That was unacceptable, and Judy let Lee know it. He listened in silence. He had no real defense. She did appreciate his honesty, though. For an admitted habitual liar, Lee was being surprisingly open and honest. If he hadn’t volunteered the information, Judy would have never known anything about it.
Lee asked her if she would allow him to continue showing her around New Orleans. She wasn’t sure at first, but she had already said what she needed to say on the subject, and she did want to see the city. Her anger subsided gradually as they took in the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, and other sites of interest.
Judy needed a bit of sleep before going to Ferrie’s party that evening, so Lee dropped her off at her boarding house. He had dinner with his Uncle Dutz and Aunt Lil, then returned later with groceries to the boarding house. They sat on the porch and talked. Lee asked her if she was really going to marry Robert. He was neglecting her, and he couldn’t possibly love her. Lee kissed her, and pleaded with her not to marry Robert. Lee was going to divorce Marina. Everybody knew that. Judy was torn between the fiancé who took her for granted and the charming wife beater she had known less than a week. She had to admit to herself and to him that she had feelings for Lee, but his confession really shook her. Her own father had been abusive, and she simply could not tolerate it from Lee or anyone else. Lee promised her he would never hit Marina again, and she promised to hold him to his promise. Her father had made similar promises, but never could live up to them. Lee would have to work very hard to convince her.
Lee left, returned the car to his cousin, then returned later to the boarding house. They rode streetcar and bus to Ferrie’s party, where Judy was eager to meet Dr Mary. As they approached Ferrie’s apartment, Lee cautioned that there would be some unusual people at the party. It was part of what was required of Ferrie to cultivate and maintain his information network. All of Ferrie’s lab equipment was tucked out of sight, leaving no hint that his kitchen was used as a lab during the week. Judy noticed a pair of men who looked to her like FBI agents. Lee said they were called Martin and Lewis, a reference to singer Dean Martin and comedian Jerry Lewis. They weren’t FBI agents, but they did work for Guy Banister, who had been an FBI bigshot. Lee introduced her to them, and Lewis challenged Judy to a game of chess, pulling out Ferrie’s chess set. She declined, because she was waiting to meet Dr Mary, but Lee played chess with David Lewis. Jack Martin was drinking heavily and flirting with gay men, even though Lewis and Martin both had a wife at home.
When Dr Mary arrived, Ferrie introduced Judy as Miss Vary. Dr Mary told Ferrie she couldn’t talk to her right then, refusing to even look at Judy. Ferrie was perplexed, and Judy was crushed. Dr Mary didn’t stay long. Just before leaving, she retrieved mouse tumors from the refrigerator. Meanwhile, Judy sat in a corner reading, debating whether to ask Lee to take her home. Lee approached with the chess set and challenged her to a game. As they played, Lee told her more about David Lewis, who stopped by from time to time to see how the game was going. (Lee had beaten him badly in their game.) One of Lee’s jobs for Banister was driving voters around so they could cast as many ballots as wealthy candidates were willing to pay for. Ferrie didn’t like Martin, and called him Jackass Martin behind his back. Ferrie tolerated Martin because he was good at creating fake documents. Judy was growing ever more concerned about the type of people Ferrie associated with. Then, she grew more concerned about Ferrie himself when he blurted out: That SOB Kennedy needs to keep being careless and riding in open cars, so he can get his head shot off! Ferrie went on to blame JFK for the Bay of Pigs deaths. Lee saw that Ferrie’s remarks upset Judy, and he assured her that Ferrie would explain it to her later. Ferrie kicked Martin out of the party. Cops arrived at 2:00am and told Ferrie to shut the party down.
Judy asked Ferrie to drive her and Lee home, as he had promised to do, but Ferrie wasn’t ready for them to leave yet. He told them the reason he had ejected Martin was because Martin was trying to get information out of Dr Mary. Martin swore to get even with Ferrie for giving him the boot. (As it turned out, it was not an idle threat. It was probably Martin who called the police.) Ferrie told Judy she was needed to work in his lab when she wasn’t busy in Dr Mary’s lab. Judy said her time would be limited, because she would be married soon, and Robert would be with her. She was happy to have such a good excuse, because she was not eager to work with Ferrie. And she was feeling uncomfortable about Ferrie pushing her so hard. Ferrie countered that the situation was more important and urgent than she seemed to appreciate. He emphasized that if they didn’t kill Castro soon, all would be lost. That increased Judy’s suspicion and discomfort. She reminded him that he had just said he hoped Kennedy would get shot in the head. Ferrie promised to explain if she agreed to work with them. But she refused to commit before speaking with Dr O. The shady characters at the party, Ferrie’s apparent hatred for JFK, Dr Mary’s abrupt behavior – none of it inspired her confidence in Ferrie or his project. Ferrie said he was fine with her discussing it with Dr O, because he was the boss.
Lee, seeing that Ferrie was in no condition to drive, declined his offer to take them home and called for a cab. When they were alone, Judy told Lee she was finding it very hard to believe that Ferrie’s project was secretly sponsored by the CIA, and that he and his project were legitimate. In fact, she had her doubts about Lee as well. How could she be sure he wasn’t a spy for the wrong side? She couldn’t commit until she met with Dr O later in the week. Lee told her that would be too late to get her properly positioned. (Properly positioned for what, she wondered.) She couldn’t even be sure that Dr Mary still wanted her to work in her lab. Lee said he had an idea. He suggested she meet Guy Banister, former head of the Chicago FBI field office. He could verify that Ferrie’s project was legitimate. Judy agreed to meet him.
Lee explained that the meeting would require her to do a bit of acting. Judy should not be seen at Banister’s office, so Lee would help her disguise herself as Marina. Banister and the people around him had never met Lee’s wife. Marina and Judy looked quite a bit alike. A little adjusting of the hair and makeup should do the trick. Judy would also need to wear Marina’s clothes. Lee had a box of them around somewhere. Judy could speak a little Russian. She must not smile, though. Showing her teeth would be a sure giveaway.
Judy had to get some sleep before her shift at the Royal Castle. They agreed to meet at noon at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s on Canal Street.
The next day, April 29 (Monday), Lee met Judy at the Royal Castle instead of later at Woolworth’s. His Uncle Dutz had loaned Lee his car for the day. After Judy’s shift, they bought clothes for her at Salvation Army. Lee picked out a skirt and blouse reflecting the plain Russian peasant look that was popular then. Lee decided he didn’t want to take a chance that Marina might miss her clothes, which suggested that disguising Judy as Marina might not be just a one-time thing. Lee fixed Judy’s hair in a ponytail and adjusted her makeup. The purpose was not to fool Guy Banister, of course; Lee didn’t want any of Guy’s staff to know that Judy existed. It was, after all, a private investigator’s office, so precaution was prudent.
Banister assured Judy that what she was being asked to participate in was indeed a secret project authorized by the federal government, and that she need not be concerned about Ferrie’s outburst about killing Kennedy. It was just part of his undercover work to float ideas like that in order to gauge the reaction of anti-Castro Cubans. The goal of the project was to get Castro, not JFK. The three of them climbed a flight of stairs to a room above Banister’s office. It was a secret place that could be accessed only through Banister’s office, and the stairs would soon be hidden behind an ordinary-looking wall. It housed file cabinets, which Banister explained were files (he called them high treasures) which Ferrie had been helping him with. In this secret chamber, the former FBI official told Judy that Lee was also working with him; Lee was preparing for his role in helping save Cuba from Communism.
By the time they left Banister, Judy was convinced that the project was legitimate and that Lee was a good guy. Ferrie was okay too. But she was curious about what exactly was in those files. Lee explained that when Banister, who had once been in charge of 500 agents, left the FBI, he came to New Orleans to work as Deputy Chief of Police for NOPD. But Banister had been fired (he may have been framed) after only a brief period, and that deeply wounded his considerable pride. He started his private investigation business to collect evidence against NOPD officers and city politicians who were affiliated with the mafia. The files were constantly being updated with proof of corruption, and Banister was being paid by Carlos Marcello! But, Lee and Ferrie were growing ever more concerned about Banister, because he was sleeping with one of his secretaries. That made him vulnerable. Worse, he was drinking heavily, and that led him to talk more freely than he should have, threatening to expose the operation.
Judy and Lee spent the rest of the day at an amusement park at Ponchartrain Beach. While there, Lee went to the shooting gallery and won a Kewpie Doll for her. He told Judy that he knew the sights on those air guns were deliberately misaligned, so by compensating for that, he was able to hit every target. He continued with how he had been shooting since squirrel hunting as a kid, but when he went into the Marines, he deliberately kept his shooting scores fairly low, because he knew he would be trained for a mission inside the Soviet Union. If they found in his records that he had been a good marksman, they may have presumed he was sent to Russia as a sniper.
Lee dropped Judy off at the boarding house before he headed home to have dinner with his Uncle Dutz and Aunt Lil. Judy and Lee would meet in the morning at the Royal Castle.
On April 30 (Tuesday), Lee ate breakfast at the restaurant and made phone calls. He told Judy that one of the calls had been to Ferrie, who had spoken with Dr Mary. Judy needn’t worry about Dr Mary’s aloofness at the party. She still wanted Judy to work for her, and she promised they would meet soon. Her behavior at the party had simply been a matter of precaution, because she knew most of the people at the party were homosexual, and she didn’t want to give anyone the wrong impression. The only reason Dr Mary went to the party was to retrieve the mouse tumors.
While Judy was relieved about Dr Mary, she was about to have fresh new concerns – this time about Guy Banister. Lee and Judy took a bus to Tulane, where Lee was to meet Banister and do some work for him. Lee walked Judy to the library, where she could look around and read until Lee had finished. Integration was a hot issue in 1963. As far as Banister was concerned, integration was a manifestation of Communism, and his mission at Tulane that day was to identify student radicals who would likely be active during the summer promoting integration. Lee would do so by starting a debate to lure radicals into revealing themselves as such. Banister was too old, so he needed Lee to play the role of a student debater defending the far-right perspective. The names of students who identified themselves as socialists or marxists during the debate would be turned over to the FBI, to university officials, and to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Those radical left-wing agitators would be expelled from Tulane, and their careers would be ruined. Lee hated being forced to participate in something he disagreed with, but it was part of his job as an undercover operative. Judy’s respect for Banister declined significantly when Lee told her about it.
Next stop was Ferrie’s apartment, which was still a mess from the party. Judy confronted him about his remarks the night before, and Ferrie began to explain, saying that when she understood why he said those things, she would be willing to take over the lab. (Take over the lab? Suddenly he had gone from working at the lab to taking it over?) Ferrie had at one time been a leader in the local anti-Castro Cuban exile community. They had kicked him out because his homosexuality had been reported in the newspapers. That had pissed Ferrie off, because they didn’t kick out their own Cuban homosexuals. But he still needed to keep his finger on the pulse of the anti-Castro community, so he invited them to his parties to listen to their anti-Kennedy rhetoric. At first, Ferrie really had hated JFK for betraying the Cubans, and it was well known that Ferrie wanted Kennedy dead. But since then, Ferrie had come to understand that it wasn’t JFK who had betrayed them at the Bay of Pigs. But he continued to play the role of the JFK hater so the Cubans would speak freely in his presence. Ferrie would report any JFK assassination plans he heard to Marcello. Ferrie said he didn’t trust anybody in the CIA, because they were partnered with the mafia, leaving JFK vulnerable. He knew many in the Agency hated JFK, but he wasn’t sure how high up it went.
Ferrie’s comments then shifted to the project for which Judy was being recruited. Castro was the target, not JFK, he assured her. Dr O was in charge, with Dr Mary under him in the project’s structure. There were several secret labs already in operation in a support role, and anything Judy needed would be provided. Why Judy? Because she was almost invisible. She had the lab skills necessary, but she wasn’t a doctor, so nobody would ever suspect that a teenage college student (and a girl!) would ever be part of such an operation. When Lee saw that Judy was still not completely convinced, he pointed out that she would still get full credit for her work as an intern, but if she worked in Ferrie’s lab instead of Dr Mary’s, the project would be able to progress faster. For example, records wouldn’t need to be altered, and fewer lab animals would need to be killed. Plus, Judy would be performing a very important service for her country.
Ferrie picked up the pitch again, telling Judy that the project had been in operation for a year, but it was stalling, and time was running out. He said the goal was to kill Castro, and once that was accomplished, the Cuban exile community would shift its focus away from trying to kill JFK and toward rebuilding Cuba. Judy was the key to getting the project back on track, because she had the training and skills necessary for the final phase of the project, and she was untraceable. She would have Ferrie’s apartment all to herself in the afternoons, and all she had to do was clean up each day before Ferrie got home, because he often brought people home with him who were not authorized to know about The Project.
So, now she was being asked to help develop a bioweapon to use for the assassination of a foreign leader. That isn’t what she came to New Orleans to do. But that’s what Dr O brought her to New Orleans to do. Furthermore, she already knew too much. She was now part of The Project, whether she liked it or not. There was already no turning back. Ferrie sensed her fear and assured her that she was entirely safe. If she said no, she could go to work at Dr Mary’s lab at the Ochsner Clinic, as originally planned, and nobody would harm her. But she was needed here at Ferrie’s lab. With that, Ferrie gave Judy a chance to let it all sink in, and Lee watched silently.
After a brief pause, Ferrie showed her a newspaper article from a month ago. It included a photo of trucks lined up, moving equipment for Dr O’s new clinic location on Jefferson Highway. Although the clinic did actually change locations, the move also served as cover for moving equipment, supplies, cancer cells, and animals to a series of secret labs used in the secret project. Nothing was reported stolen, nobody even missed them, and there was no paper trail. Funds (secret and otherwise) for the new facilities had been provided by wealthy Big Oil men from Texas, whose attitudes were closely aligned with Dr O’s concerning Communism, racism, and saving democracy. Dr O was a solid political ally with them, happy to use his considerable influence to help protect and advance their particular interests. Ferrie warned her that, in spite of her deep respect for Dr O, the powerful doctor was politically naïve and somewhat gullible. Texas oil millionaires, the CIA, and the mafia were all using him for their own purposes. They played together and decided what was best for the nation together. Former VP Richard Nixon was another of Dr O’s friends, and Dick was willing to do anything to become president. Dick was considered right behind LBJ in the presidential succession queue. LBJ and (wealthy Texas oil baron) Clint Murchison were so close, they were practically Siamese twins. Ferrie went on to say that J Edgar Hoover was known as Mrs Hoover in the gay community – Clyde Tolson’s missus. That meant that the mafia could even control the FBI, and Hoover would do nothing to prevent the mafia from doing whatever it wanted to do with JFK. Besides, the Kennedy boys were trying to force Hoover to retire, so Hoover wasn’t about to shed any tears over JFK. The Kennedys and Hoover hated each other, although they were forced to work together as cordially as possible.
Judy’s mind was reeling, but Ferrie wasn’t finished yet. He explained that Marcello had requested him to join his team to fight Bobby Kennedy’s deportation efforts. Ferrie would need to attend Marcello’s trial and advise the mafia boss. Furthermore, Ferrie had been fired by Eastern Airlines, and he would have to go to Miami for hearings. Ferrie was fighting to get reinstated as a pilot. Together, those things would leave little or no time for much of anything else for the hairless priest wannabe.
Judy said she needed time to think things through. In addition to sorting through all that, she had to decide whether she really wanted to marry Robert. She was on the brink of calling it off. And there was something else that concerned her. What if Castro found out about The Project, about the assassination plot, and decided to kill all of them preemptively? Ferrie’s response was that Lee was part of her protection. Lee was in the process of helping to identify any pro-Castro individuals in New Orleans. Other than that, Judy just had to keep her mouth shut. They all did. Judy looked at Lee. Here was a man who had managed to live almost three years in the Soviet Union and return unharmed by Russia or the US. That was really something. His face was calm, and it gave her the reassurance she was looking for. Lee was her protector. Lee was her bodyguard.
The talking lasted all night, and it covered a range of topics, including politics, science, and philosophy. What a shame such a brilliant mind as Ferrie’s had been trapped inside such a deeply flawed and troubled man. Judy and Lee got to the boarding house just before dawn. She had to get some sleep before Robert arrived later that morning. She was supposed to get married that very day, and yet her mind was on other things. One of them was Lee’s kiss as he told her good night and reminded her that he wouldn’t be able to do that anymore once she married Robert. There was nothing romantic about the pending matrimony. The best thing about it at that moment was that she would be able to get birth control pills.
In the pre-dawn hours of May 4 (Saturday), Judy was struggling to carry all her belongings down St Charles Avenue. On May 1 Robert had arrived. On May 2 they had gotten married in Mobile, Alabama. On May 3, Robert had left for his new job on an offshore oil rig. At about midnight, police had raided her boarding house, and she had been forced to clear out immediately. The boarding house was really a brothel, and Judy had barely managed to avoid being arrested. She had no place to go, and she had only $3.50. She had been fired from her job at Royal Castle. She was alone and frightened in a strange city. She felt miserable, vulnerable, and angry. She remembered something David Lewis had said at Ferrie’s party. Lewis’ wife worked at a restaurant near here, and he suggested Lee take her there for some free pie. It was called Thompson’s, and it was open 24 hours. If she could manage to get there, she would be okay until it was late enough to call Lee. He was the only one she knew to call, and he owed her. He’s the one who had arranged for her to stay in what turned out to be a whorehouse, so he would have to help her out of this predicament. She considered calling him now, but she hadn’t seen any pay phones, and she didn’t want to get Lee in hot water with the Murrets for being awakened before dawn.
She struggled along until she came to St George’s Episcopal Church. Beside it was a rectory, with a light on, and she saw the silhouette of someone moving within. The minister and his wife answered the door and listened to her story, with Judy crying and collapsing on the floor just inside the door. They fixed a bed for her on the couch, and she slept until they woke her up for breakfast. The minister called Lee, who arrived just before noon.
Lee apologized for his role in her predicament. He had been given false information about the nature of the boarding house. He made a good impression on the minister and wife (the Richardsons), so they invited Lee and Judy to stay for lunch. Lee was a good conversationalist, skilled at discussing complex issues without offending anyone. He made several phone calls, and he got a return call from an elderly widow (Susie Howard) who had known Lee from childhood. She had converted the front half of her modest house into an apartment. Susie’s late husband (Billy) had worked with Lee’s Uncle Dutz and Carlos Marcello on the docks of New Orleans. (To Judy, it seemed everybody in New Orleans was connected to Carlos Marcello in one way or another.)
Mrs Richardson drove Lee and Judy to 1032 Morengo Street. Lee explained to Judy that it was a good location because it was only two blocks from Magazine Street, with convenient bus access to the Central Business District and to the French Quarter. It was also close to Dr Mary’s apartment. It might be close enough for Judy to walk there. Mrs Richardson judged the neighborhood to be acceptable. The bathroom was large, but it had no bathtub. That was located right in the middle of the kitchen, with only a shower curtain for privacy. That was good enough for Judy, who was happy to have a safe place to sleep. 1032 Morengo Street is where she would be doing that for a while, to the extent that she could find time to sleep. Lee gave Susie $20.00 toward rent, promised to buy Judy some groceries, and vowed to watch out for her. Susie was sweet to both of them, and her dog (named Collie) liked Lee as well. Lee left to get groceries while Judy unpacked. When he returned, he couldn’t stay long, because he had things to do for Banister and Ferrie.
Later, Lee was once more at Judy’s new digs. He read to her from the newspaper while she ironed. There were articles about the raids all over town, but no specific mention of her particular boarding house / brothel. Lee told her it was all a sham. NOPD makes a big deal of these raids, but everything returns to normal (or New Orleans’ version of normal) within hours. The only thing that changes is that the working girls owe more to their lawyers or pimps for bailing them out of jail. When Judy got tired, Lee finished the ironing for her (he had learned to iron as a Marine) while she rested. There was another article that caught his attention later as he continued reading to Judy. It was about a clean-cut young man doing undercover work. He had provoked a fight early one morning to help establish his cover, and that gave Lee an idea. Banister had presented Lee as an anti-Castro zealot, because he needed to be accepted by anti-Castro Cuban refugees. However, Lee also needed to be seen as pro-Castro in order to gain access to Cuba at some point. Lee had to somehow change his image 180 degrees in a hurry. He could maybe accomplish it by provoking a fight as a pro-Castro zealot, making sure to let the media know ahead of time what was going on. Judy agreed with the idea until it got to the part where the young undercover agent had been badly beaten. She didn’t want to see the same thing happen to Lee. He assured her that he would make sure it was friends of his doing the fighting, so they wouldn’t do much harm. A nice little sock in the nose should do the trick. Nothing to it.
The conversation shifted to Robert. Judy told Lee that her new husband would be away for at least ten days, and that he knew nothing about The Project or the people she had met. Keeping it from him had not been a challenge, since he didn’t want to know anything about her life. Robert cared about money and sex, and that was about it. He was very concerned that she had a job, but as far as he knew, Judy was still working at the Royal Castle. Robert had even refused to tell her how to get in touch with him. Lee sensed her frustration with her embryonic marriage, and took advantage of the opportunity to encourage her to agree to take over Ferrie’s lab. It worked. She was in. Lee said he would be back tomorrow after mass and lunch with the Murrets. He advised Judy to get more rest, then left. She once again felt very close to Lee. Yes, he got her into the brothel mess, but he also stepped up and saved the day. Lee seemed to be pulling her to him, and Robert seemed to be pushing her away.
Part 2: Of Mice and Men
On May 5 (Sunday), Susie greeted the awakening Judy with a housewarming gift from Carlos Marcello: sausage and cheese. Judy figured she could live off that for a week. When Lee arrived, they went to Ferrie’s apartment. Ferrie explained to Judy that The Project involved a series of labs in uptown New Orleans, each with its own unique, yet coordinated, function and equipment. The ultimate goal of The Project was to invent a bioweapon that could be used to kill Castro. The lab work consisted of a circular process, with each completed loop resulting in a more potent cancer virus, which had originated in monkeys, then had been cultivated in mice (which were just as effective but less expensive), and then had been exposed to radiation to cause mutation. The mutations that resulted in a more potent cancer virus were then further processed into even more potent viruses, and the cycle continued until they had the super virus they needed. The specific focus of The Project was the SV-40 cancer virus, but there was no effort to eliminate other viruses. It was assumed there were other kinds of viruses, especially with cross-infection among species, but that didn’t matter to the project managers – all they cared about was how well it produced cancer capable of quickly killing humans in general and Castro in particular. [There’s little doubt that SIV was among the viruses in the mix.]
Ferrie’s part of the process involved a lot of mice. The best of the cancer viruses up to that point were sent to Ferrie’s lab, which included, in addition to the makeshift lab in his kitchen, another apartment just a short distance down and across the street, called the Mouse House. There, new mice were constantly being bred to replace the ones who died in the development process. Young mice, incapable of fighting off cancer viruses, were injected with the most potent viruses available so far, and the mice stayed there while the tumors grew. When the tumors were large enough, the mice that appeared to have the largest tumors were selected and sent to Ferrie’s apartment across the street. (About 50 mice at a time were selected, several times a week.) In Ferrie’s kitchen, the mice were suffocated (after being put to sleep with ether), cut open, and the largest tumors were removed. (It was a smelly process.) They were weighed, and the weight was recorded in a journal. They underwent more processing, then they were ready for the next lab, which was Dr Mary’s apartment, where she examined them under a microscope, selected the ones that seemed the most promising, and took them to another lab, where she examined them again, this time with a more powerful (electron) microscope. Once again, she selected the most promising samples, then took them to another lab where they were subjected to high-voltage radiation. There was no way to predict what effect the radiation would have on any given specimen, but the idea was to cause mutations which would yield ever more potent cancer viruses. Obviously, not all of them would, so it was a matter of letting potent cancer viruses identify themselves in the form of larger tumors. And that’s where Ferrie’s lab came in for another lap around the lab loop.
The Project had gotten bogged down with a couple of problems before Judy joined the team. One problem was that the cancer viruses were not growing when transferred from mice back into monkeys. If they wouldn’t grow in monkeys, they probably wouldn’t grow in humans, either. Another problem was that the cancers were becoming dangerous for lab workers to handle. That’s why Judy’s training and experience was crucial for The Project to continue. She was the perfect candidate for the job. But she had another skill that was important outside the lab. She was a speed-reader. She was able to read and absorb a lot of specialized scientific / medical material in a short period of time. In her “spare time” she would work her way through the stacks of new reading material that poured in weekly, and summarize the best ideas and methods for Dr O and Dr Mary to read.
That was Judy’s part of The Project. What role was Lee to play? He had already accomplished part of it: recruiting Judy for The Project, and getting her set up in an apartment. (She was beginning to realize by now that it had been no chance encounter that day when she first met Lee at the post office.) He was also busy in the anti-Castro Cuban refugee community trying to identify individuals in Cuba who could be trusted to carry out the final phase of The Project: injecting Castro with the killer cancer virus without arousing suspicion. The plan called for Lee to get inside Cuba and deliver the bioweapon. But first, he had to understand how to keep the killer virus alive during transport first to Mexico, and then to Cuba. He also had to learn all the medical jargon and methods, and memorize all the relevant technical information so he could explain it all orally to those in Cuba who would inject the virus into Castro. And there was another very important task assigned to Lee (in addition to doing odd jobs for Bannister, Marcello, and others): he had to secure employment for both himself and Judy. It was essential that they appeared to be working a normal job, earning a verifiable pay check as cover for their real work.
Ferrie complained about having to write reports, but Judy volunteered to write them the following evening. What else was she going to do? Robert was gone, and Lee would be busy. She didn’t even have a television or radio.
Show and Tell
Lee had been napping on the couch while Ferrie briefed Judy on The Project. When he woke up, he asked Judy what she wanted to do, besides make love to him, of course. Judy suggested horseback riding, and Ferrie suggested a couple of stables, but they were rather expensive. Lee decided they would ride for just an hour, then, and follow that up with a game of chess. Ferrie didn’t want them to leave, so he suggested they wait until the middle of the week, because stables wore the horses out on weekends. Chess it was. In the evening, they listened to Ferrie lecture on philosophy. Then the philosopher showed them how to summon (by phone) the two young Cuban boys (Miguel and the slightly older Carlos) who maintained the Mouse House. Usually, only one responded, but this time they both came, arriving in minutes with a fresh batch of mice to process. They were poor and didn’t speak much English, but they were solid, reliable helpers, doing things like cleaning up, running the autoclave, and incinerating mice.
Ferrie decided to demonstrate his hypnosis skills while the boys were there. Within seconds they had collapsed on the couch, both in a trancelike state, Carlos snoring. Ferrie instructed Miguel to steal a dollar from Judy’s purse, which he did. To prove that the boy wasn’t really awake, Ferrie told him that Judy couldn’t see the dollar bill. Miguel waved the dollar in front of Judy while denying he had taken it. Ferrie explained that the boys would do almost anything he told them to do, although most people tend to resist truly bad suggestions. He also admitted that he sometimes took advantage of them sexually while they were under hypnosis, but also when they were not hypnotized, and they didn’t have any complaints.
After the Cuban boys had gone back to the Mouse House, Judy suggested that smarter people would make more challenging hypnosis subjects. Ferrie countered that the smart ones were the easiest, and he could prove it by hypnotizing both of them. He had no success with Lee, blaming it on Lee’s lack of imagination. Judy challenged that, because she had been reading a science fiction story Lee was writing, and Lee certainly did not lack imagination. Ferrie then tried to hypnotize Judy, and he seemed to have succeeded for a while. Judy complied with requests to rub the top of her head, etc. Now, watch this, Ferrie said, prompting Lee to warn the hypnotist to be nice to her. Ferrie told Judy that he was about to stick a pin in her arm and you damned well will not feel it. Judy held out her left arm as instructed and did not move when the pin went in. Ferrie was celebrating his triumph when Judy stuck a pin in his balloon. I thought you weren’t going to use damn in my presence anymore. What Ferrie didn’t realize is that Judy and her sister had hypnotized each other many times, and Judy was quite familiar with how it worked. She had also been stuck with a needle thousands of times in the hospital as a child, so she could tolerate the pain easily enough.
To recover from his humiliating defeat, Ferrie told them to follow him into his bathroom. There, using an ultraviolet lamp (black light), all the germs, mold, and other things growing in the filthy bathroom were vividly visible in all their colorful horror. Ferrie bragged that he could get any hospital closed down for unsanitary conditions. The demonstration continued back at the table, where they viewed several objects under the black light. One of them was a ring with a carving of an ugly mythological creature. Ferrie said he used it for black magic and satanic rituals. Not because he really was into that stuff, but because wearing the ring allowed him to infiltrate religious cults. They think he’s one of them when they see the ring, he explained. He claimed to know just about every religion on earth.
Next, Ferrie opened an olive-green metal box, making Judy and Lee promise to never tell anyone about it while Ferrie was alive. Speaking of which, Ferrie told them that if he turned up dead and it was ruled a suicide, they should not believe it. He would, as a Catholic, never kill himself. Ferrie pulled a thick file out of the box, with papers all stamped Top Secret. They were MK-ULTRA files. They concerned work Ferrie had done for the CIA linking the size of one’s pupils to telling the truth. Pupil size could also be used to determine whether someone was really hypnotized or not. As he returned the files to the box and locked it, Ferrie said that, in spite of what has been claimed, MK-ULTRA was never shut down. It continues under a different name.
Judy began playing the piano while the guys talked and drank beer. Lee had been through some very difficult training which prepared him to resist harsh investigation techniques. He knew how to avoid giving up information if captured and tortured in Russia. While Ferrie was in the bathroom, Lee showed Judy his can of beer. It was almost full. Neither Judy nor Ferrie had any idea Lee was just pretending to drink his beer.
Lee and Judy were ready to go home and get some sleep, but Ferrie had one more thing to tell them about. David Lewis was part of the team. His job was to help Lee, so Judy and Lee should develop a social relationship with Lewis and his wife so they could all get together without Jack Martin around. Lewis worked at the Trailways bus station, and part of his job was weighing the suitcases of Cuban refugees arriving from Mexico. (More of them used Trailways than Greyhound because Trailways was cheaper.) If the suitcase was underweight, Lewis got the name and other information from tags and tickets and passed it on to Lee. Refugees typically crammed as much stuff as possible in their suitcase, but some refugees would leave them half empty, intending to return with items that Cubans no longer had access to. It was a way to make money, and most of them were harmless, but some of them were pro-Castro infiltrators posing as poor refugees. That’s what Lee was interested in. Lewis passed the information to Carlos Marcello, too, who would sometimes take care of the imposters for his friend Santo Trafficante. Marcello typically didn’t kill them, preferring to disgrace them and send them back to Cuba. For example, Marcello might have a cooperating police officer plant drugs on the refugee, arrest him, keep him behind bars for a while, then deport him.
Ferrie said Judy and Lee would soon meet Mr Lambert, who had worked for Dr O for years. Dr O would gain information from his many Latin-American patients, and Lambert knew how to put the information to good use. Dr O had a close working relationship with the CIA, which was keenly interested in controlling those Latin-American leaders. Ferrie said that Dr O was a tough bird, but that he was naïve and in over his head outside his medical work. Ferrie instructed Judy and Lee to always answer no if anybody ever asked if Ferrie was still active in anti-Castro matters or if he had ever been affiliated with the CIA. Judy and Lee could say that Ferrie helped the FBI once in a while, but Ferrie’s friends should know him only as a pilot, drinking buddy, and a sex fiend. Anyone who happened to find out about the mice would think they are seeing the same white mice time after time, which Ferrie was using for some goofy project on his own. Ferrie told Judy he wouldn’t have any more parties for a couple of months, and that his roommate would not be there during the week or during the summer vacation from classes. Ferrie wanted Judy to feel safe when working in his apartment. Robert was to know absolutely nothing about Ferrie’s apartment.
Lee took Judy home just before dawn. They apologized for waking Susie, but she was already awake, and she gladly fixed breakfast for all of them. Susie said it was nice to have someone to cook for, and it was also nice to be renting to a girl, because the last two guys she had rented to didn’t pay her. Lee told Susie to let him know if Judy didn’t pay, and he’d send a hit man over. Judy collapsed on her bed, and Susie suggested Lee sleep on the couch, which he accepted gratefully.
On May 6 (Monday) Lee took four pots of begonias to Judy’s apartment to help brighten it up. He also gave Judy a radio and showed her which stations played what kind of music. They headed out to an employment agency, riding on the Magazine Street bus, sitting at the very back of the bus. When Judy asked why, Lee explained that he did not want to sit at the front of the bus if blacks couldn’t. In the racially tense, segregated culture of New Orleans, Lee and Judy made a point of making a point every time they rode the bus. Before long, the regular black riders began saving a seat for the progressive couple.
They arrived at the A-1 Employment Agency before noon and began practicing their typing. Judy didn’t understand why they were there. Lee explained that they had to have some visible means of support to avoid suspicion. For him that came in the form of his unemployment checks from Texas, which required that he apply for jobs and go on interviews, although he rarely actually went. The visit to the unemployment agency was part of their cover, but in a few days, that would change. On Thursday they would go for their final interviews and be hired at Reily Coffee Company. Judy wasn’t thrilled, because the job ad was for two clerk-typists, and Judy was definitely not a typist. Lee explained that Judy wouldn’t have to do much typing. One of her real duties would be to clock Lee in and out so he could be out working on The Project while he was supposedly working at Reily’s, whose vice president, Mr Monaghan had recently lost his executive secretary. Judy would be her replacement, and that would give her access to employees’ time cards. She would also be in a position to help with Lee’s cover regarding his security clearance, covering up late arrivals, absences, and other infractions that would otherwise get him fired prematurely. He had to be there for three months, then he would be fired. He had to look like a failure to support his public image of someone who hated America and wanted to go to Cuba. Besides, he would need to work on a training film, which he couldn’t do if he were still working at Reily’s. Meanwhile, his cover job would be to clean out roasters, oil machinery, replace burned-out light bulbs, help with packing product, and do other odd jobs. They could ride the bus together to work and home each night for several weeks.
Monaghan was the first VP who wasn’t a Reily. He was a former FBI agent placed there to protect Lee, Judy, and a few others involved in The Project. It was all arranged by INCA (Information Council of the Americas; founded by Edward Butler, funded by Dr Alton Ochsner; dedicated to anti-Communist propaganda) as part of their overall strategy to get Castro. With Monaghan covering for her, Judy would be able to work at Ferrie’s lab on most afternoons. The Reily brothers were big supporters of INCA, and Reily’s offices were used for secret meetings between INCA, CIA, and FBI officials. Lee’s childhood hero, Herbert Philbrick would be part of a meeting that summer, and Lee, as a Reily’s employee, would be able to meet him. That’s part of the reason Lee had been drawn so deeply into Dr O’s get-Castro project.
Next stop was another employment agency, and Judy got a look at the building housing Reily’s on the way. It was a modern building, air-conditioned, and only a block and a half away from Guy Banister’s office. Then Lee made phone calls to Monaghan, Ferrie, and Dr Mary. Lee and Judy sat down at Mancuso’s Coffee Shop (in Banister’s building) and he gave her an update. Dr O would interview them both on Wednesday, although there was no question that they would be hired. Dr O hoped Judy would agree to work at Reily’s, but she wasn’t being forced into it. If she did accept, she would need to go to the library and get familiar with Standard & Poor’s credit rating system. Her job would also involve running errands, going to the courthouse, analyzing background reports, evaluating credit risks, and troubleshooting payroll problems. She would always clock in and out at Reily’s, but she would be doing lab work part of the time she was clocked in, and Monaghan would be covering for her. Judy wondered how she could possibly have time to do lab work with all the other responsibilities Lee mentioned, but he promised her she would be doing lab work three afternoons per week.
Lee told her that he had checked at the post office that morning, and there was no letter from Robert for her. She was clearly upset, and Lee suggested she get her marriage annulled. She was warming to the idea.
Monday afternoon, Lee and Judy had planned to go horseback riding, but Lee announced that there had been a change of plans. They had been invited to meet someone. They headed for the Fairgrounds, where they were allowed into the stables, much to Judy’s surprise. It was another of Marcello’s places. Then they went to Ferrie’s apartment. Judy complained that they spent way too much time at Ferrie’s, and that they should have stopped to get something to eat. Lee told her she would be dining in style that evening, compliments of people with very expensive taste.
They found Ferrie sitting in a chair, wearing priest’s vestments, praying in Latin from a breviary (prayer book). When finished, he walked to the table and picked up the ring he had showed them a few nights ago. He had taken the ring off yesterday when he said Mass. He changed clothes, wig firmly in place, and began straightening up the apartment for their guests. They talked about the Fairgrounds visit, which prompted Judy to tell them about her childhood dog, Sparky, which prompted Ferrie and Lee to tell her their guest was also named Sparky. Lee described him as another dog who can’t control himself.
Ferrie said that Jack Martin was back, wanting to know what was happening with David Lewis, and accusing Ferrie of betraying Martin. That led to a discussion between Ferrie and Lee about ways to force people to talk without leaving a mark. One technique is suspending the person for 24 hours in a tub of warm water, wearing a wet suit, with eyes, ears, and mouth taped. No light, no sounds. Suddenly, the subject is lowered underwater, drowning, followed by artificial respiration. The subject is cleaned up and returned to his cell, with no trace of torture. He either gives up all his secrets when threatened with another session in the tub, or he dies of pneumonia with an official ruling of death by natural causes. Lee had been tortured in Russia. He had been forced to stand for two days, without moving. If he moved, they hit him. Judy was shocked, and started crying. Lee told her that he had pretended not to know anything, and he had acted so stupid that the Russians figured he was just a harmless young idiot who had been indoctrinated with Marxist and Communist propaganda. They trusted him and apologized for hurting him. Lee promised to not say anything, and he got a nice apartment for his trouble.
Ferrie put out snacks, but Judy had lost her appetite. Lee commented about his hope for the US. In Dallas, he had once worn a Viva Castro sign, and nothing bad happened to him as a result. If he had worn a Viva Kennedy sign in Russia, he would have been thrown in prison. He assured Judy that the sign had just been a ploy, not a reflection of his true feelings. Lee pretended to be a worthless fool or a stupid fellow when necessary. For example, he had pretended to not be a good shot, even though he was one. He pretended not to know Russian, even though he spoke it quite well.
Judy asked if they knew martial arts. Yes, they both did. Judy announced that she had learned karate for self-protection. However, Ferrie quickly demonstrated that he knew the subject much better than she did. Lee helped Judy with some Russian phrases. Finally, Ferrie announced from the porch that Marcello had arrived.
Judy was expecting a limousine for such an important man, but the car that parked behind Ferrie’s apartment was just a common Chevy. Ferrie explained that Marcello could do the limo thing very well when the time was right, but he usually toned things down to maintain his image as a poor tomato salesman. That’s how the feds saw him, and Marcello wanted it to stay that way. Ferrie and Lee disappeared down the back stairs and returned with a man they introduced as Sparky Rubenstein. He was well-dressed, friendly, and self-confident. He kissed Judy’s hand and greeted her in what she recognized as a Chicago accent. Sparky told her he was indeed from Chicago, but he hadn’t lived there for quite a while. He currently lived in Dallas. He excused himself, and returned to the car to fetch something he had forgotten to bring in. While he was gone, Judy asked Lee if Sparky knew or was allowed to know about the lab. He helped finance it, Lee told her. She asked where the other guests were.
Sparky returned carrying a barbell and weights. Ferrie carried more equipment behind him, out of breath, even though Sparky carried more weight and wasn’t winded at all. Judy noticed that he was in excellent shape, and Sparky commented that she appeared to be nicely developed as well. She said she had performed an acrobatic act with her sister, and demonstrated by doing handstands and a flip. Sparky, not to be outdone, walked around on his hands and balanced himself on one hand. Everything in his pockets spilled out onto the floor, including a roll of money secured with a rubber band.
Lee pointed out to Sparky that the place he had recommended for Judy to stay turned out to be a brothel. Sparky said he had just been kidding when he suggested it. Lee told him it had been raided, and everybody except Judy had been arrested. Judy had lost $30 because the landlady refused to refund it to her. Sparky said he would have a chat with her about that, and he took the roll of bills out of his pocket and handed $50 to Judy. She said she could now pay her rent to Susie, but Lee cautioned her against it. She would have to explain to Robert where she got the money. Better to wait until she got a paycheck from Reily’s – if she decided to work there, that is.
Sparky told Judy he had known Lee since he was a boy. Sparky had known Lee’s mother, aunt, and uncle (Dutz Murret) in New Orleans, and when Lee and his mother moved to Fort Worth, Dutz asked Sparky to keep an eye on the kid. Sparky had tried to recruit Lee to work for Marcello in Dallas, but Lee had committed to the military. Ferrie said he had recommended Lee for intelligence training, because the kid knew how to keep his mouth shut. Judy was surprised and afraid that Ferrie had said too much. He assured her that Sparky loved Lee like a son, that Sparky was a patriot, like Dr O, and that the feds had been dancing with the mafia for a long time. Lee said he chose to serve his country, which Ferrie said was naïve. Lee said he knew what was going on, but he chose to serve anyway. Sparky told Ferrie to leave Lee alone, and he (Sparky) told Lee that it was a good thing somebody still cared about the damned country.
A few minutes later a cab pulled up in front of Ferrie’s apartment, and three men got out. Sparky and Ferrie went out to greet them while Lee and Judy watched from the porch. Lee explained to Judy who the men were. Mr Gaudet, propagandist for the CIA, was paid by Dr O to publish an anti-Communist magazine distributed all over Latin America. Sergio Smith, from Houston, was kicked out of the anti-Castro movement a couple years ago, along with Ferrie. Both of them became active, then, in the anti-Castro underground. Lee didn’t know the third man.
It was decided that they would all go out to eat, so they headed for the French Quarter. On the way, Judy kept quiet and played dumb, as Lee suggested. Lee was also quiet while the other men in the car talked as though Lee and Judy weren’t there. When they arrived at Antoine’s, they were all treated like royalty, because everybody recognized Marcello’s car. It was a luxurious restaurant with excellent food. All the men were extremely polite to the only woman at the table, and, to Judy’s surprise, even Ferrie was being a perfect gentleman. When Judy ordered a non-alcoholic Roy Rogers, the guys smirked, so Lee ordered the same thing in her defense.
After dining, the party of six drove to Dauphine Street, parked, and walked toward Clay Shaw’s house. Lee and Judy strolled behind the other four, with Judy clinging to Lee’s arm (as though it were the 19th century), just as she had on the way into the restaurant. As they walked, Lee told Judy that Shaw was a New Orleans VIP. He co-directed the International Trade Mart. He renovated historic buildings in the French Quarter. Most importantly, he was a friend of Dr O. Judy was eager to meet Shaw, but Lee advised her to hold off on that for now. She hadn’t noticed, but the men were telling crude homosexual jokes in an inebriated state, and they apparently weren’t going to Shaw’s house to talk business. When they arrived, Lee told Ferrie that they would rather meet Shaw some other time, and Sparky, having overheard, handed Lee the keys to the car. As long as they were back by midnight and waited in the car.
The couple walked around the French Quarter, and when it got late, Lee said it was time to take Judy home. Before they reached the car on Dauphine, a man jumped out, held a knife to Lee’s throat, and demanded his wallet. The assailant, dressed like a sailor, tall, weighing about 250 pounds, also demanded Judy’s purse. Lee slowly retrieved his wallet and held it at waist-level. A switchblade suddenly appeared under the wallet, and the assailant ordered Lee to drop it or he would cut Lee’s face. Lee countered that, if he did, Lee would be cutting his balls at the same time. The attacker ran away, and Lee led Judy by the hand in a sprint to the car. They sat in silence for a minute before Lee started the engine, saying they should get out of there before the sailor dude returned with a friend. Judy threw her arms around Lee, kissed him, and thanked him for saving their lives. Lee kissed her in a passionate embrace.
Meeting Dr Ochsner
On May 7 (Tuesday), Lee and Judy were supposed to meet Dr O. Lee advised Judy to wear casual, comfortable clothes, because their meeting with the doctor would be at Charity Hospital. The poor residents of New Orleans could go there for free medical care, and Dr O donated his time and services, even though he had a very demanding schedule. The meeting was set for 2:30, so Lee and Judy stopped on the way at Reverend James’ Novelty Shop (known locally as Rev Jim’s). They sold items used in Mardi Gras floats, including 10-ft tall alligators, life-size horses for carousels, dragons, devils, and dinosaurs. Rev Jim’s hired needy people, paying them minimum wage to paint souvenirs, so Judy and Lee filled out the necessary forms, read a Bible tract, and swore to remain free of alcohol and drugs. They were allowed to work up to four hours per day, as long as their work was satisfactory. They began painting New Orleans on souvenirs. However, Lee was soon transferred to another area because he had printed Wen Orleans. Judy asked to go with him, and they began painting eyes and mouths on paper-mache trolls, dwarves, and horses. Having lost track of time, they suddenly realized they had to get to Charity Hospital right away, so they collected their pay (a little over $5) and left the building.
On the way, Lee had to stop and see someone at an African-American newspaper office, but he pointed Judy in the right direction and said he’d catch up to her in a few minutes. When he did, he said they had an hour before meeting Dr O, who was running late. Meanwhile, Lee had to get to Banister’s office right away. Judy waited on the steps while Lee went inside the building. Ferrie went by, but he didn’t have time to stop and chat. When Lee came out of the building, they got on a streetcar headed uptown. Judy noticed that it wasn’t the way to Charity Hospital, and Lee explained that Dr O was in emergency surgery, so they would meet with him tomorrow. They went to Lee’s Coffee Shop, just because it had Lee in the name. In addition to good Chinese and American food, Lee’s offered a place to play chess without attracting attention.
The following day (Wednesday, May 8), Judy finally received a letter from her husband. Although she was happy to hear from him after five days, Robert didn’t ask his bride anything about her or tell her much about him. The letter was addressed to Susie’s place, so he knew she had moved, but he wasn’t the least bit curious about why, or what her phone number was. He hadn’t volunteered any information about how to get in touch with him, or when he expected to come home. Susie was a great friend to both Lee and herself, but she was an elderly lady. Dr O was just now getting around to meeting with her. Dr Mary still hadn’t met with her after giving her the brush-off at Ferrie’s party. Ferrie was okay, but she didn’t much trust him unless Lee was around. Lee was always there when she needed him. He had never let her down, and she felt confident that he never would. He was the only one she could count on to be there for her, time after time. She was in love with two men. Her life had come to revolve around the man who was married to another woman much more than her own husband.
Later, Judy and Lee once again headed to Charity Hospital to meet with Dr O. Lee told Judy they should sit apart in the waiting room so no one would remember having seen them together. Lee went in first, then Dr O would see a few patients before meeting with Judy, to make sure nobody could connect the young couple. As she waited, Judy realized why such precautions were necessary. There were no other white couples in the waiting room, and very few whites anywhere in the hospital. Sitting together, Lee and Judy would have been conspicuous.
Once Judy was in Dr O’s office, he was an intimidating figure. He exuded power, authority, and self-confidence. He got right down to business. Reports were being collected from both the east and west coasts before being published so Judy could be informed about all the latest developments. Any new cancer virus would be available to The Project in less than a week. Lab mice were being supplied by several vendors to avoid suspicion. Anything else she needed would be supplied. She realized he hadn’t mentioned Dr Mary Sherman. Would she still be working in Dr Mary’s lab? Dr O preferred that she accept the position at Reily Coffee Company. Why? Because she would be replacing two women who could cause problems for Mr Monaghan. And because she was needed to cover for Lee’s absences. He would be busy transporting equipment, supplies, and specimens to several locations. He would also be working on another assignment a year later. She, unlike Lee, would be on salary. Essentially, Reily Coffee Company would be paying for both of them to work on The Project, and it would provide a record as a legitimate source of income to avoid questions or suspicion. Mr Monaghan would provide her a week of training so she would be able to perform the office duties of her job. She would make more money than Dr O had promised earlier in the form of a stipend. Lee would be there to help her, and she would still be working with Dr Mary from time to time.
Judy said it didn’t seem that she was being given much of a choice about working at Reily’s. He suggested that it was Judy who had managed to get tangled up in the wrong side of The Project. But he wasn’t angry, because he hadn’t been there to guide her. She told him she had gotten married, fearing that would provoke his anger, but realizing he would find out sooner or later. He wasn’t angry about that either, guessing that her motive (one of them) had been getting access to birth control pills. He cautioned her that her husband was to know only that she was a secretary at Reily’s. She said that shouldn’t be too difficult, because he would be out of town much of the time. Dr O instructed her to never write anything about cancer research on any Reily forms. There must be no written record regarding The Project.
Judy asked how she could be hired as a secretary without raising questions. She had no secretarial experience, and she couldn’t type. Dr O instructed her to make something up, but she refused to lie. That sparked his ire. She did work for her father for a few months, bookkeeping and answering the phone, but no typing. He told her to use that, and don’t say she couldn’t type. It was called creative lying. She said Lee was very good at that, but she didn’t want any part of it. He didn’t much like that, either, but it was refreshing in a way that she was so fastidiously honest. That was so rare that it had to be worth something. She requested the prior reports so she could familiarize herself better with The Project, but he said they all get destroyed pretty quickly. However, Dr Mary keeps a journal which should tell Judy what she needs to know. He wrote her a prescription for birth control pills and a voucher for free pills that would last through the rest of the year. She said she still didn’t understand how she wouldn’t be more help in Dr Mary’s lab than in Ferrie’s, which has problems. He answered that the problems are why she is needed there. She’s had experience in working in less than ideal conditions; she’s a self-starter who needs no supervision; she’s a fast reader, and keeping up on the latest research is an important part of the job; and she thinks outside the box, which is critical, because The Project needs new ideas. One of the problems is that a lab mouse has to be injected with more than a million cancer viruses in order for any of them to survive. That would equate to a pint of injection in a human, and nobody is going to be able to inject a pint of anything into Fidel Castro. She left with a briefcase full of research articles to read.
She and Lee talked about their respective meetings with Dr O. Lee said he had volunteered to deliver the bioweapon to Cuba if they needed him to. He also volunteered to hand out pro-Castro pamphlets curbside to help flush out pro-Castro individuals in New Orleans. That would help establish his street credit as a pro-Castroite himself, thus increasing his chances of getting into Cuba. Both Guy Banister and Ferrie thought it was a good idea. Dr O said he’d think about it. They did some sightseeing at Lee Circle, and encountered an old Marine buddy of Lee’s, Kerry Thornley. Then they did some work at Rev Jim’s to earn enough to dine out that evening. As they said their long goodbyes on the porch, they kissed, and both said they loved the other.
On May 9 (Thursday), Judy slept until after noon. She had been up late reading reports (the ones Dr O had given her), daydreaming about Lee, and fretting about Robert. She had no alarm clock or watch, so she hurried to the kitchen to see what time it was. She was supposed to meet Lee at Walgreen’s at 1:00, and it was already 12:30. When she arrived at 1:15, Lee was not upset or impatient (as Robert would have been). Lee smiled and told her he had added some extra time to their schedule because he knew she didn’t have an alarm clock. On the way to A-1 Employment Agency, Lee gave her the money to buy an alarm clock, because she would need it for her new job.
Lee had had a busy morning hunting for an apartment. He already knew exactly what apartment he would be renting, but he had to go through the motion of doing a normal search. He had chosen Myrtle Evans (an apartment manager and a friend of his mother’s) to show him what was available, and he deftly steered her toward 4905 Magazine Street (within walking distance of Judy’s apartment), where he just happened to notice the For Rent sign. He showed Judy the key.
They had time to work at Rev Jim’s for an hour. Lee said they shouldn’t go to Reily’s together, so he would go first, then call her when it was time for her interview. They would spend their first week working for Standard Coffee (a Reily subsidiary), starting the following day, and that would give Judy time to learn the job and launder his records. She didn’t understand why his records needed to be altered or why she was the one to do it, but she didn’t ask. Lee would tell her in time. On the way to their Reily interviews, they stopped at A-1, where they were told there were no openings for either of them. Lee arranged for Judy to practice typing while he went to his interview at Reily’s. He told her he would call her if he got the job, or return to A-1 if he didn’t. She understood it was just another example of Lee’s creative lying, part of creating a convincing cover story. He already knew he had the job.
While typing, Judy thought about how cozy everything was, how everything fit so neatly together, how everything had fallen into place so serendipitously, starting with her chance encounter with Lee at the post office. This guy just happened to already know Dr O, even though Lee had been out of the country for six years. Both Lee and Dr O wanted her to work at Reily’s, where they were both about to be officially hired, even though it had already been decided. Working at the same place meant Lee and Judy would be riding the same bus to and from work. Dr O, Dr Mary, Ferrie, Lee, and herself all lived very close together and close to a series of secret labs. Even the mansion she had been forced to leave was close by. She wondered why nobody was willing to just admit the obvious truth – that it had all been carefully choreographed and was now in the process of playing itself out just as they had planned it.
Lee called after half an hour and told her she could come to Reily’s now for her 4:00 interview. She asked for directions, because she got lost very easily. The A-1 employee had been standing close enough to overhear the conversation, and offered to give Judy directions. She also said that, since A-1 handled Reily openings, and since Lee had used A-1’s phone, Judy would be charged the usual service fee of one week’s pay. She objected, countering that she and Lee had just been told that there were no openings for either of them, and A-1 had done nothing to facilitate the Reily interview.
At Reily’s, Judy met Mr Prechter, who expressed concern that she could type only 15 words per minute. He was not impressed when she said she had been practicing and could now type 19 wpm. Following Dr O’s advice, she embellished her work experience and made absolutely no mention of cancer research. When she had finished filling out all the forms, she was instructed to return to Personnel at 8:00 tomorrow morning, punch her time card, then go to 725 Magazine Street, where she would meet Dr Ochsner. She would be employed by Standard Coffee Company for one week, then she would transfer to William B Reily Coffee Company.
To avoid being seen together, Lee had left Reily’s before Judy arrived. They met at the bus stop, and Lee told her more about laundering his records. Both Reily’s and Standard order a background check on each new employee, except when an employee transfers to Reily’s from Standard, and a new background check would be unnecessary. Normally the background check was done by Retail Credit, but they couldn’t allow that to happen in their case. They didn’t want it known at Reily’s about Lee’s defection to Russia, his Russian wife, his dishonorable discharge from the Marines, etc. They didn’t want anyone to know about Judy’s experience in cancer research. Dr O, obviously, knew all about them, and so did other key people at Reily’s, but it was important to keep that information contained within that small group. So, Judy would be the author of their background reports. It would be an exercise in creative writing and creative lying.
There would be more creative lying with Lee’s time card. He was to be clocked out after 8 hours of work, whether he was there for those hours or not. Judy wondered if somebody would notice if he arrived late. After all, if she was late, they would dock her pay. Lee explained that she did have to be there by 8:00, because she was Mr Monaghan’s credit, payroll, and shipment examiner, and the phones started ringing at 8:00. She was also his secretary in the Finance Department. Lee, on the other hand, was doing maintenance work in various parts of the facility. If nobody saw him in the area, they would assume he was oiling a machine in another part of the 5-story building somewhere. But, if somebody did have a problem with Lee’s attendance for some reason, that problem would be directed to Judy.
The concept of creative lying had become a running joke between them. Lee said he had done a bit of that during his interview with Dr O. When the doctor asked Lee about his right-wing political beliefs, he knew the doctor and Guy Banister were both right wingers, so Lee praised Banister’s work, even though Lee wasn’t exactly on the same page politically. Creative lying was a way of life to Lee. Judy had seen for herself that he was comfortable with it and good at it. One had to be good at lying in order to be successful in undercover work, she reasoned, but it made for uncomfortable situations at times in their personal relationship. How could she ever know for sure when he was telling her the truth? If he lied as easily and comfortably to her as he did about everything else, how could she ever completely trust him?
With interviews out of the way, Lee suggested they get some target practice. But Judy was dressed for a job interview, not shooting. No problem. The resourceful Mr Oswald stopped at a thrift store and bought Judy sneakers and shorts. Then they went to Banister’s building, found the live-in janitor, who let them in, and climbed the stairs to the third floor. It was filled with military equipment and supplies. While Judy changed clothes, Lee picked out a .22 pistol for her and a .38 for himself, and put his initials on a clipboard. He told her the .38 was his. He kept it here, because he didn’t want his young daughter to get her hands on it at home. They headed for a levee with weapons in a small canvas case, and there they rigged up some targets. Lee was a good shot, and Judy was fair.
At dinner time, they went to Thompson’s Restaurant and ate dinner with David and Anna Lewis, complete with the free pie which David had promised them earlier. When Anna got off work, Lee helped pay for a babysitter so the four of them could stroll through the French Quarter. Anna pointed out the 500 Club, where Carlos Marcello kept an office on the second floor. It had a one-way mirror, which allowed Marcello to watch for police while he conducted business. The two couples figured it would be too expensive to go in, so they continued on to Jackson Square. They sat in a park overlooking the Mississippi River, watching romantic horse-drawn carriages with lovers pass by. Judy was falling in love with Lee, no doubt about it.
On May 10 (Friday), Judy fixed breakfast for Lee and Susie. Lee and Judy rode the bus to Reily’s, sitting apart this time, because they were supposed to be new Reily’s employees who hadn’t met each other yet. There were several other Reily’s workers on the bus. Later, they could sit together again, because by then it would appear the newbies had met and struck up a friendship. Judy didn’t think about these things ahead of time, but Lee did. They got their time cards, punched in, and walked to Standard Coffee, where they met Bill (William I) Monaghan. To Judy he, like Guy Banister, seemed like the model FBI agent. Lee went back to Reily’s to learn about greasing the machines, and Judy went with Mr Monaghan to the courthouse to learn how to find pertinent information about clients and potential clients (such as delinquent liquor and tobacco permits, unpaid taxes, bankruptcy, and open lawsuits). Reily’s sold coffee and tea, packaged products for other companies, and shipped grocery products to restaurants, small food stores, and grocery chains. Every customer was checked periodically, and if any one of them failed to maintain a good credit profile, Reily’s would not ship anything to them on credit. Making sure of that was part of Judy’s job.
Judy had lunch with Mr Monaghan, during which she sampled some of Reily’s products, like Luzianne coffees and tea. Then she met three sales trainees, all competing for a very lucrative sales route. Monaghan showed her their resumes and explained what she should look for in the reports generated by Retail Credit. Divorce was considered a potential problem, for example, and a drunk driving conviction was an absolute deal breaker. One of Judy’s jobs would be to produce a clean yet plausible report on Lee. Monaghan was not happy with the fact that Judy didn’t know shorthand, but he was impressed with her legs, and he told her so. She wasn’t sure if it was an attempt at humor, but she did frequently notice him staring at her legs. However, he was a gentleman otherwise. She clocked Lee out at 4:30. She was told she need never wait in line for the time clock. She could jump to the front of the line and politely explain that she was Mr Monaghan’s secretary. Being five minutes late cost most people 20 cents, but not Lee. He was often late.
Lee and Judy sat together on the bus ride home, but they couldn’t talk much, because they weren’t to be seen as good friends yet. All the other Reily’s employees got off the bus before Lee and Judy got off, but that left very little time for them to talk. Lee, ever clever and resourceful, suggested they ride past their apartments and get off the bus at Audobon Park. There they could visit, and they could sit together on the return ride, because there would be no Reily’s workers on the bus then. This day, however, they spent time cleaning up Lee’s apartment to get it ready for Marina and Junie. They would be there for only five months before Marina returned to have the baby. Lack of furniture in the meantime, was of greater concern to Judy than it seemed to be to Lee. Lee explained that the less comfortable it was for Marina, the easier it would be for her to leave. He was still obviously bitter about Marina’s infidelities from the beginning of their marriage.
On the way home, they sat on a bench for a few minutes. Lee asked Judy to go home, change into her shorts (her skirt was dirty from cleaning), and bring back her typewriter. She complained that it was heavy and suggested he go get it himself. He explained that he wanted her to get it for two reasons: he didn’t want to be seen walking with her to her apartment, and he wanted to see if she could find her way back to the bench. She reluctantly agreed, knowing he wanted to finish the first draft of his sci-fi short story. She had no trouble finding her way back, and Lee said it was because she had to carry the typewriter. The mind works hard to avoid physical work, he explained. She waited while he took the typewriter to his apartment.
Since it was a nice afternoon, they went to Lake Ponchartrain. He was still carrying the guns in the canvass case; he took out his .38 and aimed for a pair of mallard ducks. Judy protested, but Lee told her not to worry. He took a couple of shots, sending feathers and ducks flying, but nobody got hurt. He said he wouldn’t hurt the ducks because they were about to start a family. He killed animals only when he was hungry, and even then he wouldn’t kill them if they were paired. He set up a few beer cans for target practice, and Judy hit all of them.
They went on most of the rides at the Ponchartrain Beach amusement park. As they approached the shooting gallery, the proprietor recognized Lee and quickly closed up shop. They ate cotton candy and sausage sticks before heading home after a wonderful evening. Neither of them wanted it to end, and both struggled with the fact that they were married — and not to each other.
On May 11 (Saturday), Judy had lunch at Dr Mary’s apartment, which was within walking distance from Judy’s apartment. Dr Mary was cordial and charming, the polar opposite of their first encounter at Ferrie’s party. Ferrie was already there, and the three of them were about to have a conversation Judy would never forget. It began with a discussion of a newspaper article about a Dr Heath performing strange experiments at Tulane by implanting wires into the brains of human subjects. Dr Mary suggested that the general public would never know about it, any more than they were aware of cancer-causing monkey viruses in polio vaccines. This was shocking new information to Judy, as reflected in the expression on her face. Seeing that, Dr Mary explained that she and a few others had protested the marketing and distribution of contaminated vaccines, but the federal government ignored them. Millions of doses of contaminated vaccines were used in the US and abroad, and it was hidden from the public because the feds didn’t want people to panic and stop taking the vaccine.
Only recently, Americans had learned that the first polio vaccine (the Salk vaccine) was defective; it actually caused polio instead of preventing it. Feds weren’t willing to allow problems with this improved (Sabin) vaccine to further erode public confidence. They were willing to cause cancer in millions of Americans to avoid ruining their own reputations and careers. The feds had promised that the problem would be resolved before any new batches of polio vaccine were manufactured. But Dr Mary didn’t believe it. She knew that there were millions of vaccines in stock, and none of it had been recalled. Judy’s mind was reeling as she tried to grasp the full implications of what she was hearing. Between 1955 and 1963, about 100 million people had been vaccinated with cancer-causing monkey viruses, and she was one of them.
Dr Mary said she had received threatening phone calls, and public protests were getting her nowhere, so she and Dr O decided to focus, instead, on finding a solution to the problem. For two years, they had been subjecting monkey viruses to radiation, hoping to come up with a benign form or otherwise defuse them. So far, they had isolated some rare and potent strains of cancer. Judy said she had been reading the reports Dr O gave her, and that helped her understand what Dr Mary was telling her. Dr O said they had encountered some problems. Yes, Dr Mary agreed, but they had also inadvertently come up with a potential method of killing Fidel Castro with what would appear to be natural causes. Ferrie said Castro was wise to all their failed previous efforts, including poison pills and exploding cigars. The Communist Dictator had outsmarted the mighty US at every turn. The CIA, anti-Castro Cuban refugees, and the mafia had all worked together to find a way to eliminate Castro, yet he had beaten the incredible odds stacked against him. Cuban refugees hated Castro because they were anti-Communists, but some had another beef with the dictator, as well. A lot of Cuban medical students had come to Dr Ochsner’s Clinic for training until Castro rerouted them to Russia. Those students realized that training under the famous Dr Ochsner would have helped make them rich and famous, and they resented Castro for denying them that opportunity. Some were bitter enough to help kill Castro. It fueled Dr O’s hatred for Castro as well.
The problem was that, in addition to their failure to take out Castro, this coalition was facing an existential threat of their own. It came from a single man who was soft on Communism, opposed to war, willing to tax Big Oil, planning to retire Hoover, and determined to dismantle the CIA. He was the most dangerous threat to America, not Castro. At least that’s how this group saw things. This anti-Castro coalition had redirected their most intense hatred away from Castro and toward John F Kennedy. They still hated Castro, but they were now even more determined to take out the President of the United States. Judy could see by Dr Mary’s frown and Ferrie’s raw nerves that they were deadly serious. But where did Dr O fit in? Was he willing to go so far as to help kill JFK? Dr Mary and Ferrie didn’t know. He was originally interested in taking down Castro, because he’s hard-core anti-Communist. He’s a go-between, and he’s very naïve, so he could become part of the kill-JFK plot without even knowing it. Dr O believed that both Dr Mary and Ferrie hated Kennedy as much as he did, and Ferrie pretended to be part of the conspiracy so he could get inside it and find out what’s going on there.
Time was running out for The Project, Ferrie warned. They had a lot of work to do if they were going to succeed in killing Castro after the mighty federal government had failed. They had only until October, maybe the end of October. If Castro could be eliminated by then, the kill-Kennedy group would be split between those who still wanted to kill JFK and those who would redirect their energies toward rebuilding Cuba. That should be enough to derail the JFK assassination plot and save the president’s life. How did they know all that, Judy wanted to know. Dr Mary said Judy would have to trust them, just as they had to trust her. Judy was so young (she would be 20 soon) that she couldn’t possibly understand all that was going on, they opined.
Judy still could say no to The Project, Dr Mary assured her. It was her choice, in spite of all the secrets she had learned. Either way, she would still be going to medical school in the fall; Dr O had promised that. She could still work in Dr Mary’s lab, as originally agreed, in the afternoons while working at Reily’s in the morning hours. That’s what Dr O had intended from the beginning. He hadn’t lied to her about that. He had wanted her to work on The Project, but he had intended it to be handled in such a way that Judy wouldn’t fully understand what she was working on. Dr Mary told Judy that Dr O thought she (Judy) had serendipity, and that’s what he really liked about her. Judy said that Dr O had told her that. Meanwhile, she was wondering just what she had gotten herself into. She said she needed time to think about it. Not a problem, Dr Mary assured her.
But the doctor did have something she wanted to show the youngster that might help her make up her mind. Judy looked under the microscope at a sequentially-numbered series of glass slides, each labelled with the age of the cells in hours and minutes. Judy could see that they were cancer cells, with which she was quite familiar, of course. Then Dr Mary handed her another stack of slides. She could tell from the age of the cells that they were dividing very rapidly, and they were very large. That was something Judy hadn’t seen before, and that sent an urgent message to her inner scientist. Suddenly, she was hooked. She wanted to see all of Dr Mary’s journals, log books, reports, and pictures from the electron microscope, and Dr Mary assured her she would have them.
Lee called for Judy. He was at a grocery store and didn’t have much time because his wife and child were waiting in the car. He just wanted Judy to know that his family had arrived, and all was well. Judy said she was happy that Lee sounded happy. Yes, so far, Marina was treating him nicely, and she was getting along well with his aunt and uncle. But, Lee confessed, if he ended up sleeping with Marina, he would feel like he was cheating on Judy. That’s what he wanted her to know. Judy said she would have the same problem with Robert. But, she warned Lee, he must not hit Marina again. Lee agreed, but he asked if he could come over sometimes when the pressure got to be too much. He said that he would prove his love for Judy. He said a quick goodbye and hung up before she could respond.
Ferrie asked if that had been Lee. Judy blurted out that she and Lee were falling in love, even though they were both married. Dr Mary asked which man she loved more, Lee or Robert? Judy suddenly decided she had already said too much. But Dr Mary and Ferrie both had some unsolicited advice for her. Mary told her to not make the same mistake she had made: staying with a man out of a sense of obligation rather than love. It had ruined her life, and she didn’t want the same thing to happen to Judy. Ferrie said bluntly that marrying Robert was the stupidest thing Judy had ever done. None of it was well received, and Judy reminded them that neither of them had been around to help her when she had arrived a couple weeks early. They were generous with their advice now, but where were they when she needed them? Furthermore, she reminded Dr Mary that it had really hurt when she refused to talk to Judy at Ferrie’s party. Dr Mary asked Judy to sit on the couch. The doctor said she had to go out of town the next two days after the party, and after that she had forgotten about it. Yes, she should have called Judy immediately. She was sorry.
Having calmed down a bit, Judy decided she would have to divorce Robert. They were right. But Ferrie suddenly did a 180-degree turn. No, she must stay married. Suddenly it wasn’t stupid any more. It was brilliant. Marrying Robert Baker had solved a problem nobody even realized existed before that moment. The name Vary was unusual, which made it easy to research. That meant it wouldn’t be hard to discover that Judyth Vary was engaged in cancer research. Judy Baker, however, would be very difficult to research, simply because Baker was such a common name. Judy Baker was just a secretary at Reily’s. Ferrie advised her to avoid using the name Vary as much as possible and to stay married to Robert at least until The Project was completed. Mrs Robert Baker was even better than Judyth Baker.
Dr Mary gave Judy a key to her apartment and a schedule for her maid. Judy should avoid the maid as much as possible. [None of them realized at the time that the question of Judy’s marriage would answer itself over the next several months.]
Mondays and Tuesdays were hectic for Judy at Reily’s, often forcing her to skip lunch. That allowed her to take a long lunch with Lee on Fridays when things were more relaxed in the office. So Judy was surprised to see Lee in her office at lunchtime on Monday, May 27, requesting permission from Mr Monaghan for them to be out of the building for a couple of hours. When they were alone, Lee explained that he needed Judy to buy a $30 money order for him. He would pay her back tomorrow when he got his unemployment check from Texas. He needed the money to rent an office for a new local chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), a pro-Castro organization. That prompted a number of questions. Why was he getting involved in a pro-Castro group? Why was he still getting unemployment checks from Texas when he had a job? The unemployment check was dishonest, Lee admitted, but it was all part of working undercover. It was also dishonest for his record to show he had been fired from his last job, even though he had done a good job there.
He needed the money order to prove that the money for rent had come from a donation. Judy’s name would not appear anywhere in connection with it, and she would leave the payee line blank. He never intended to actually use the office, which would be open for only a month. It was part of a plan to discredit and destroy FPCC. The House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) wanted to add FPCC to their list of subversive organizations, but they needed a plausible reason to do so. Lee would provide the reason by posing as a Communist Castro supporter and member of FPCC. He was working with the cooperation of people in Banister’s building who knew enough to play along without asking a lot of questions.
By that time, Judy and Robert had opened a checking account, but the balance was low, and writing a $30 check could trigger a bounced check if Robert had taken any money out of the account. Besides, she had to pay $17.44 to A-1 that day. However, she rummaged through her purse and found enough loose change and bills to give Lee $31.
On Tuesday, Lee took a banana, a deposit envelope from the bank, and $33 in cash to Judy at her office. He advised her to deposit it right away, because the account was dangerously low. She wondered aloud how she would explain the deposit to Robert, and Lee answered without hesitation. She could just tell him she cleaned out her purse.
Since Lee often had meetings or other functions before clocking in at Reily’s, Judy had to wait there until whatever time it took to punch Lee’s time clock showing an 8-hour workday. By working at her desk well after her normal quitting time, and by working through lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, it appeared to others in the office that she was putting in a full 40-hour workweek, even though she was usually gone during the afternoon. Between her duties at Reily’s, her afternoon work at Ferrie’s lab and Dr Mary’s apartment, and her endless supply of reading material, she was putting in a lot more than 40 hours a week. Occasionally, she had to go to Dr O’s clinic or one of the other labs to pick up supplies. Once in a while she would meet with Dr Mary at her apartment to discuss The Project’s progress. At times, she worked at night in Ferrie’s lab. Her day typically started before 6:00 am and ended about midnight. By the end of May, she was feeling stressed and overworked. Dr O wanted to speed up The Project, and he called Judy at Reily’s for suggestions. She gave him several ideas. One suggestion was to try once again to transfer the virus from mice to monkeys, but this time they would expose the monkeys beforehand to radiation to suppress their immune system. Dr O agreed.
Judy and Lee went to Charity Hospital on Friday (May 31) at noon. They went to the same room where Dr O had interviewed them days earlier. But the doctor wasn’t there, this time. The young lovers found Ferrie sitting at Dr O’s desk. Ferrie handed Judy a fresh batch of medical reports from New York. He told them Dr O had approved Judy’s idea of trying again to transfer the cancer virus from mice into monkeys. Although it was expensive, time was running out. Ferrie gave them a copy of his new schedule, showing, among other things, a flight to Toronto for Dr Mary. Then he got down to the pressing business of the day.
An arms shipment would be arriving from Venezuela, and it was imperative that it be delivered successfully. The problem was that it could be intercepted by dock workers or stevedores, some of which were FBI informants. Some were pro-Castro. Marcello, who backed anti-Castroites, agreed to cooperate in disabling the spies. The weapons would come on one of three sister ships, and they wouldn’t know which one until the last minute. They would be packed in either unmarked crates or barrels. Judy had a better idea. Ideally, they would appear to be something entirely different than what they were. Why not put the weapons in crates labeled as furniture. Each crate could contain unassembled furniture, like a table and two chairs. The weapons would be hidden underneath the furniture. Once the weapons were removed, the furniture could be assembled and returned to the crates, looking like they had been originally shipped that way. Ferrie liked the idea and said he’d get Shaw to help.
Clay Shaw was Executive Director of the International Trade Mart, the center of international trade in New Orleans. Shaw’s mentors were Ted Brent and Lloyd Cobb, both with deep connections to both Dr O and the CIA. Brent left his fortune to the Ochsner Clinic, and Dr O named the hotel he built on the Clinic campus after Brent. Shaw and his associates worked for the CIA when they travelled abroad by gathering information on the various people they encountered, and by writing reports for the CIA. Dr O and Shaw had operated the International House (IH) together for years. It was an active spy and informant ring. Dr O had stepped down as IH’s acting director the previous year. Shaw helped Dr O with anti-Castro activities, while the Shaw / Ferrie connection was based more on their mutual interest in the New Orleans homosexual scene.
After the meeting, Lee and Judy went to Ferrie’s lab to finish the week’s work, and Lee learned how to keep cell cultures alive. Then they returned to Reily’s. Judy picked up her paycheck and punched out. Lee, however, had clocked in late that morning, and Judy wouldn’t be able to clock him out for another two hours. Lee suggested they go to dinner in the meanwhile. He had a key to Reily’s, so they could get in any time. They ate at Thompson’s Restaurant, where Anna Lewis was working. David Lewis was there, as well, so later the two couples went to hear live New Orleans jazz. By the time they remembered they still had to clock Lee out, it was late. He didn’t clock out until 7:30, which called for some more creative lying. They decided that Judy was working late when Lee called and told her he had forgotten to clock out.
Weapons of Mass Deception
On June 1 (Saturday), Judy met Dr Mary at the Crippled Children’s Hospital, where the doctor worked part time. Judy met patients, some of which were recovering from surgery performed by Dr Mary. Some were in iron lungs. Many of them were victims of the defective polio vaccine. Dr Mary and Dr O had both dedicated much of their work to polio vaccine research when Dr O’s grandson was killed and his granddaughter was crippled by the Salk vaccine, which Dr O knew was defective. Polio vaccine research, then, naturally evolved into cancer research, because the polio vaccines used were contaminated with the SV-40 cancer virus (as well as others). They both realized that a potential cancer epidemic loomed over the American horizon, so they both were determined to do their best to find a solution to the problem. Could they isolate a benign strain of SV-40 which could be used to develop a cancer vaccine? There was hope, and these doctors were determined. But their efforts somehow got tangled up in a web of political fervor that took their research in another direction.
What had begun as a sincere effort to save millions of lives from the ravages of cancer became a frantic effort to save the life of one man: John F Kennedy. The only way to do that, they believed, was to develop a biological weapon capable of killing Fidel Castro with a super cancer virus within days of injection, making his death appear to the world as natural. Hopefully, the death of Castro would pacify many of the anti-Castro fanatics who had redirected their anger and hatred toward JFK. Hopefully, those fanatics would then be so preoccupied with rebuilding Cuba that they would lose interest in killing JFK, and the plot would fade away. [It wouldn’t have worked that way, but this group in New Orleans had no way of knowing that at the time.] To them, it was a race against the clock. Either they killed Castro, or conspirators would kill JFK. Time was quickly running out.
Meanwhile, the federal government was continuing to promote the polio vaccine which feds knew was contaminated with cancer viruses. They deliberately withheld that vital information from the public. Why did they do that? Why were doctors and scientists like Dr O and Dr Mary publicly silent about the danger? Why didn’t they shout the truth from the rooftops, to warn the American public about their continuing exposure to cancer viruses? Part of the answer is that it would have destroyed their careers and reputations. Feds were ruthless, and they wouldn’t hesitate to squash anybody who interfered with their policy of pushing their contaminated polio vaccine on an unsuspecting public. Perhaps these doctors felt their best chance to accomplish something good was to keep silent and focus on finding a vaccine or cure for cancer. Had they spoken up publicly, they would no longer have been allowed to continue their research.
Seeing these crippled children and realizing the role the US federal government played in harming American citizens had a devastating impact on young Judy’s emotions and her youthful patriotic trust in government.
What Went Wrong?
Lee clocked in late on June 4 (Tuesday), because he had met with Ferrie about the arms shipment. Ferrie gave Lee a card to give to Judy. It allowed access to Tulane’s medical library, which would help in Judy’s research. Lee and Judy made arrangements with Monaghan to cover for them, and they went to the library. Judy gave the card to the librarian and asked her to call Dr Ochsner’s office to verify that Judy had been added to the list of authorized users.
While they waited, Judy and Lee sat at a table where they could talk. The conversation was mostly about Marina. She had fainted, and Lee had kept her in bed, caring for her himself, because he didn’t want her to have to wait for hours at Charity Hospital. He told Marina daily that she should return to Russia. Judy challenged him, reminding him that it was part of the familiar pattern in which Marina feels insulted when Lee tells her to go back to Russia, she responds by insulting Lee’s manhood, and pretty soon Lee is on the verge of hitting her again. Lee had agreed to break that cycle, yet he was doing it again, and at a time when she was fainting. Lee, however, had his reasons. He wanted Marina to understand that she must decide between being unhappy with Lee in Texas or being happy without him in Russia. He had already been working with the Russian Embassy to make sure she could return if she wanted to. It would be very difficult to keep her safe here in the US. Furthermore, if it is publicly known that Lee wants her to go back to Russia, that means that’s where he wants his kids to grow up. If he sends her back without divorcing her, it means Lee still loves Russia and Cuba. It helps support Lee’s pro-Castro public image, making it easier to get into Cuba, and making it more certain that Marina and the children would be safe in Russia.
But, Judy countered, Marina would most likely choose Texas, not Russia. Yes, Lee agreed, and the advantage of that is that he would still be able to see his children once in a while. However, the disadvantage is that Lee may not be able to protect them. He could easily end up in jail or prison. Any sort of minor incident that drew attention of the police to him could be disastrous, because they would think of him as Castro’s buddy, since that was the public image he had been working so hard to construct. Cops could find an excuse, or create one, to put the Castro-loving Commie behind bars forever. That could have negative implications for Marina and the kids as well. Lee couldn’t tell all this to Marina, especially now that she was pregnant.
Ruth Paine, the lady with whom Marina was staying temporarily, was going on vacation, and Marina could not return to Irving until The Pain (as Lee referred to Ruth) got back from vacation. (That would turn out to present a problem, although Lee didn’t realize it yet.)
The librarian told them they were all set, and gave Judy a temporary pass. After using Ferrie’s card a few times, she no longer needed it, because the library staff recognized Judy, so she put the card in her purse and forgot about it. (That would also turn out to be a problem, although Judy didn’t realize it yet.) They returned to Reily’s and worked until after dark. When Judy got home, Susie was crying because Pope John had died of cancer. Another tragic cancer death. And now, instead of working on a cancer cure, Judy was working on a bioweapon. She may never get to work on a cancer cure again. How had things gotten so out of control so quickly? She cried herself to sleep.
June 5 (Wednesday) was a difficult day at Ferrie’s lab. Dr O had ordered that The Project be speeded up, so Judy had to kill 100 mice instead of the usual 50. Each had to be sliced open, the largest tumors had to be weighed, and then there was the cleanup. Lee was busy elsewhere, so Judy was on her own.
On Thursday, Judy clocked out at 5:00 and returned to her desk (which was really just a small area of Monaghan’s desk). Ferrie called and told her she was going out that evening. Sparky was picking up the tab for a working dinner, which would include Lee, Judy, Ferrie, David and Anna Lewis, and Carlos Marcello. They were all to be at the 500 Club by 7:00. Judy met Lee and the Lewises at Thompson’s Restaurant, and when Ferrie arrived, they all headed for 441 Bourbon Street.
Sparky greeted them and lavished attention on them until Marcello arrived. Sparky greeted Marcello and his entourage, which included Clay Shaw, a couple of railroad guys, Hugh Ward (a pilot and Guy Banister’s partner), and Marcello’s brothers (Pete and Sammy). Eventually, Sparky motioned for Lee to go over and talk with Marcello. They discussed the Venezuelan arms shipment. The music was loud and exciting, the food was good, and the room was filled with smoke. After the stage show, which the guys all seemed to enjoy, Lee was ready to leave, because he didn’t want to leave Marina alone too long. They said goodnight to the Lewises, and they were driven home in a Cadillac. From then on, they didn’t have to pay for meals at any of Marcello’s restaurants in the French Quarter. It didn’t seem too alarming to Judy that they were now that close to Marcello. After all, nothing seemed normal any more. At around 10:00 Judy handed Lee a couple slices of pecan pie (for Marina) which Anna had given him at Thompson’s, and they said goodnight.
On June 24, (Monday) Judy slept well all night, but she was still feeling exhausted on Tuesday morning. Lee and Ferrie arranged for her to see a doctor and for Monaghan to give her sick leave for the day. Dr Mary arranged for a taxi to take her to Charity Hospital, where the doctor said she was anemic and told her to eat more red meat and take iron. Lee met her when she left the hospital and asked if she felt up to meeting a friend of his. They still had use of the taxi for a while, and it took them to the Customs House, where Judy waited in the taxi while Lee went inside. Lee’s friend was introduced as Arthur Young (but that wasn’t his real name). Young had met Lee when he was about 13 and very adventurous. Young had worked with Customs between Niagara Falls and Canada when young Oswald, having skipped school and hitchhiked to the border, tried to cross into Canada, just to be able to say he had been off American soil. Young agreed and promised not to tell anybody, but he wanted Lee’s name, address, and phone number in case he didn’t return. Lee was reluctant, fearing Young would tell on him, but he finally complied, and he returned by dusk as promised.
Young (his real name was Thomas, Lee told her later, although Judy didn’t know if that was his first or last name) had just expedited Lee’s new passport. Lee needed it because his old passport had too much information about his past, and Young needed to hurry the process along so nobody would have time to do much digging into Lee’s background. (Young had sped up several other passports, too, so Lee’s wouldn’t be conspicuous.) The taxi was also for Young, who had to get to the airport to return to Miami. First they dropped Judy off at home. Lee stopped by later to see how she was doing, and he showed her his new passport. She needed a new passport, too, he told her, but Judy said that would be a problem, because her birth certificate said female infant Vary instead of Judyth Vary. Not a problem for the resourceful Lee. He would arrange for her to get a new (fake) ID, maybe with a new fake name.
Dr O doubled the number of mice again – now up to 200 per week. Judy was still feeling sick, so Lee volunteered to take care of the lab work at Ferrie’s for her. By the time Judy arrived at Ferrie’s, Lee was green.
On June 27 (Thursday), Judy felt well enough to put in a full day of work. Just before she clocked out, Lee called and wanted to meet her at the 500 Club. Once there, Lee told her the arms shipment was due to arrive the following day, but it was apparent to Judy that he had something else on his mind. He told her he had been thinking about things, and he realized that he could lose Junie forever if he wasn’t careful. His eyes filled with tears, and he got up to go to the bathroom to pull himself together. She realized what an agonizing decision it was for him to make. He and Marina had been getting along better, and maybe they really could make it work. She didn’t want to be the one who stood in the way of that, even though the thought of losing Lee was painful. She left a short note for Lee, then went home, heartsick and unable to sleep.
In spite of her emotional state, she had to go to work the next day (Friday, June 28) because the arms shipment was arriving, and she would have to cover for Lee. Personnel started looking for him after lunch, so Monaghan and Judy said Lee was at the new plant oiling machinery. However, excuses weren’t enough anymore. Lee had been absent too many times for too long, and one more complaint from the production people would end Mr Oswald’s career at Reily’s. Monaghan handed Judy a stack of employment applications for Lee’s replacement. She clocked out at 4:30 and returned to her desk, dealing with credit problems until it was time to clock Lee out at 5:30. She noticed he hadn’t clocked in until 9:00 that morning. Had the night been as difficult for him as it had been for her?
While waiting at the bus stop, worrying about Lee, Ferrie drove up and told her to get in. A young man was already in the car, introduced as Layton Martens. Ferrie pulled up to the Trade Mart warehouses, let Martens out of the car, then continued on to the docks, parking as close as possible to where the Venezuela shipment had been unloaded. As they walked to the warehouse, Ferrie told Judy to hang on tight to her purse, because there were all sorts of people working on the docks. Mafia, labor unions, Communists, pro-Castroites, anti-Castroites. New Orleans was a major port, and the docks were controlled by the mafia. That’s where Lee’s Uncle Dutz had got his start. Unions kept things running smoothly.
They entered a warehouse, with stacks of boxes marked in Spanish, ostensibly containing hardwood tables and chairs for dining. Ferrie told Judy to open one of the boxes, and she could see two chairs, side by side. She didn’t see anything out of the ordinary and wasn’t sure what he was trying to show her. Ferrie told her the weapons had been hidden under a pair of chairs. The boxes had originally contained four chairs, two of which were removed to make room for the weapons. When the weapons were removed here in New Orleans, they were placed in large crates with bananas over them, then they were loaded onto a truck along with regular crates of fruit, and shipped to their final destination. Now there were heaps of bananas left over, but Lee came up with a solution for that problem. He and others were busy selling the bananas very cheaply to the big ships at the docks. What didn’t sell quickly, they gave away.
Lee called her from a pay phone at around 10:00 to see if she was okay. As well as could be expected, she said, adding that his little girl and unborn baby had to come first. But, she told him, he shouldn’t come over any more. It would be too painful. By then she was sobbing, and Lee started to protest, but she cut him off. Just remember one thing, she cautioned him: if he ever felt like hitting Marina again, please stop and remember that Juduffki had fallen in love with him, and that he was, and always would be, her hero.
One of the men she loved was withdrawing from her life, and the other man she loved had never really entered it.
The next day (Saturday), she had finally drifted off to sleep, only to be awakened a few hours later with the sound of tapping on her window. She ignored the familiar sound, knowing it was Lee. But he persisted, and she heard him say please, Juduffki, . . . She responded by telling him to go back to his family, and she could hear his footsteps walking away. However, she remembered he had a key, and sure enough, she soon saw his scuffed shoes. He pleaded with her to give him a chance to straighten everything out. He wanted to be the one in her life. He had tried with all his might to push her out of his life, but he couldn’t do it. Will you marry me? He vowed to ask her 100 times if that’s what it took.
She got dressed while Lee borrowed the keys to Susie’s car. He took her to the Roosevelt Hotel and presented her with food, flowers, and music. He wooed her to the sound of the Everly Brothers’ Let It Be Me. He asked her over and over to marry him, and she was counting every one. He carried her across the threshold of their hotel room and placed her on the bed. As they embraced, he asked her yet again to marry him. That was number 100. Yes.
It was impossible for Lee (or anyone else) to leave Reily’s facility through one of the normal exits without being easily seen by staff looking out their windows onto the streets. So, how did Lee manage to slip away so often undetected? At the rear of the warehouse were the loading docks where trucks were loaded and unloaded throughout the day. The trucks blocked the view (of people inside the Reily’s building) of the alley that led to the adjacent Crescent City Garage. So, when Lee needed to disappear, he exited through the back of the warehouse, walked through the alley, and into the garage, which was privately owned but used mostly by people who worked for the federal government, including FBI, CIA, and Secret Service. Lee could easily meet with intelligence officials without attracting attention, because that’s where they parked their cars while they were at work in one of the nearby buildings. On the first Friday of every month, Lee would wait in the garage for his CIA paymaster to leave work and pick up his car. Lee would then stand on the sidewalk outside, and his paymaster would pull up, hand Lee an envelope of crisp $20 bills, and drive away.
Lee had made a point of getting to know one of the garage’s owners, Adrian Alba, who liked hunting and guns. Lee would often talk about those things with Alba while Lee ate lunch. The point was for garage employees to get familiar with Lee so it didn’t seem odd that he walked through so often or spent time there.
Across the street from the garage was Guy Banister’s building, temporary home of Lee’s phantom FPCC office. Lee had received his official FPCC membership card. He had assembled membership cards, flyers, pamphlets, and other props for the phony chapter of FPCC. Banister’s office location was convenient for many reasons. For example, in June, Robert F Kennedy had ordered Guy Banister to host a meeting with an anti-Castro group. Banister had Lee position himself so he could see every person who entered the building, photographing each of them, and becoming familiar enough with them to be able to recognize each of them later.
Meanwhile, by the end of June, Lee and Judy were talking about their future together after their work in New Orleans was finished. Marina was to return to Russia, and she would be well provided for. One of Lee’s handlers would take care of that for Lee. George de Mohrenschildt was a sophisticated Russian-born aristocrat whose parents had been displaced by the Communist Revolution. George, a petroleum geologist, at that time was in Haiti on behalf of Clint Murchison (Dallas oil tycoon). But when the time was right, George would give Marina a large sum of money for herself and the children. Part of it was money owed to Lee during his time spent as a spy in Russia. Lee and Judy would, of course, get divorced from their current spouses, then move maybe to Mexico.
Lee called Judy early in the morning on Saturday, July 6. She met him at the Fur Shop on Canal Street. Lee guided her across the street, into the lobby of the luxurious Monteleone Hotel, where they were already registered as Mr and Mrs Robert E Lee. In their room was a basket of fruit and flowers, a record player, a stack of records, and a card from Clay Shaw, extending his best wishes to the young lovers. Judy recognized him only as a guy from the 500 Club. He and Lee had met earlier that morning to discuss the possibility of using the Trade Mart for future pro-Castro demonstrations. Shaw represented important anti-Castro interests. He was friends with both Dr O and Ferrie. Lee believed Shaw had strong CIA connections. Shaw was definitely anti-Castro, but Lee wasn’t sure how Clay felt about JFK. Lee had his suspicions that Shaw may be part of the kill-Kennedy conspiracy. At any rate, Shaw had given Lee an envelope with $1000 in it. Shaw’s generosity deepened Lee’s suspicions.
On July 10 (Wednesday), Judy got good news. It came from Dr Bowers, who called Judy at Reily’s on behalf of Dr O. The marmoset monkeys that had been injected developed two strains of lung cancer (lymphoma) – a major milestone in the race to develop the bioweapon they were searching for. The next step was to transfer the cancer virus from marmoset monkeys to African green monkeys. Meanwhile, however, they still needed to maintain the mouse cancers, just in case something went wrong later with the monkeys.
On Friday (July 12), Ferrie was back in town, and he was badly needed for the task facing The Project team. Dr O had ordered yet another increase in the number of mice which had to be processed, so the four of them had to slice open 400 mice and harvest the largest tumors. (The mice were rendered unconscious using ether, then suffocated). Lee clocked in at Reily’s early for a change, so he could get an early start in Ferrie’s kitchen lab. Dr Mary pitched in later, as well. None of them had eaten, because they knew they would feel nauseous during and after the slaughter. When Ferrie drove them home, Judy remarked about the cruelty of injecting Castro with the virus. That provoked this response from Ferrie: Get this straight, chickadee. This is about Kennedy, not Castro. Kennedy is surrounded by his enemies. He can do nothing right in their eyes. And he’s gonna die, unless we can stop it. Listen, you’d better know what your boy Lee here is up against; and me, too. We’re risking our lives to get this stuff into Cuba. Yes, we’re saying we want to help them take out JFK, and they believe us. If that son-of-a-bitch Castro is eliminated, we might save more than Kennedy. We might save the whole goddamned country from becoming a fascist nation. Lee agreed, then excused himself to throw up.
Lee went to see Judy at around midnight, and he was still pale from the work at Ferrie’s lab. He and Judy were both miserable, disgusted with the role they were playing, yet realizing they had little choice. Lee said: We’re stuck. Besides, you must weigh the life of the one [JFK] against the other [Castro]. They want to assassinate Kennedy in Florida or Texas. They’ll show what happens to somebody who doesn’t play their game. Dave was right. If Kennedy dies, a new system of government will take over. It will exist to generate profit; mostly by waging wars that will not result in clear victories. . . .JFK is slow to go to war. That’s a man worth taking risks for. Lee emphasized that he had not shared that information with anybody before.
He and Marina had been quarreling again, but he hadn’t hit her. She was going to be mad at him for a while, because he would be busy all day Sunday working on a training film. And the next weekend, too. Judy wasn’t too happy about that, either. When would she have time with him? Robert’s job would soon end, and . . . Lee reminded Judy that his job was about to end, too. That meant she would have to leave Reily’s as well, because her job had been primarily to cover for Lee. But how would she manage financially until September (the beginning of medical school)? How could they ever see each other with Robert around all the time? Lee said they could both work all day at Rev Jim’s. That would allow them to be together and to earn money. But they were about to enter some very dangerous days. He was worried about the safety of his family. Then he said he had to get back home.
On July 17 (Wednesday) there two problems confronting Judy. There was another complaint about Lee’s absence, prompting Personnel to instruct Judy and Monaghan to find a replacement for him immediately. It was almost time for Lee to move on anyway, because he was about to stage pro-Castro public activities that would reflect badly on Reily’s if he were still an employee there. Reily’s had to protect its anti-Castro image. Judy might be able to buy a few extra days, however, by recommending an applicant whose background check was incomplete, so he couldn’t be hired right away.
It didn’t help that Dr O had ordered another large batch of mice to be processed. Lee, knowing that, had clocked in late that morning so he could spend some time with his family. With the heavy workload at Ferrie’s kitchen lab, that left little time for Reily’s. When Judy got to Ferrie’s apartment, there was an alarming new development. The marmoset monkeys were dying. Not just the ones that had been injected with the cancer virus, but all of them. That suggested that the cancer virus had reached a stage at which cancer was contagious. If cancer could spread by just being around infected monkeys, as opposed to being injected with the virus, that meant everyone working at Ferrie’s kitchen lab was at risk, and precautions had already been taken. Lee and Dr Mary were wearing protective gear (including surgical mask, hat, apron, and gloves). Furthermore, Dr Mary was using a portable clean bench to prevent contamination from airborne particles.
Ferrie showed up after an hour or so, giving Judy a break from the microscope. She started helping Lee, putting on her lab coat and thrusting her hands into the gloves of the clean bench. Lee said something about Marina, which caused Judy to remember something. Hadn’t Lee said today was Marina’s birthday? Lee stepped back, started peeling off his lab attire, headed for the bathroom to wash up, and called out that he needed a clean shirt. Ferrie tossed him a clean white T-shirt, grabbed the keys, and promised Judy and Dr Mary he’d be right back. (He was.) They didn’t finish until about midnight.
The next day, Lee was under fire, rumors were circulating about him, and Personnel was impatient. Judy and Monaghan sent a letter saying they would have a replacement for Lee by next Friday, but that drew a heated response. They weren’t, under the circumstances, particularly choosy. They wanted a replacement right away. Judy felt guilty because part of the problem was the time Lee had been spending helping out at Ferrie’s kitchen lab. The mice were her job, not Lee’s. Lee was having none of it, saying it had been his choice. Lee was watched so closely that day that he hadn’t been able to get away long enough to meet an agent at the garage as scheduled.
It had been such a stressful day that Lee and Judy treated themselves to another evening at the Monteleone. She ordered a nice meal from room service, but he ordered just soup and milk. He was feeling guilty about Marina. He couldn’t enjoy a nice meal when Marina was at home eating leftovers. Poor Marina. Lee had gotten her pregnant again, he had beaten her, and now she was going to have to live without him. And on top of all that, he had forgotten her birthday. Trying to look on the bright side, Judy reminded him that he had stopped beating Marina.
On the bus ride home Judy asked him if, since they were planning their future together, Lee would confide in her about all his clandestine activities. What agency did he really work for, and who was his primary handler? He said he was on loan to the CIA, was sometimes required to assist the FBI, and he knew his main handler only as Mr B. Did Judy have a handler? Of course. Lee. She was actually safer than Lee, because she was supposed to be just one of the many unwitting assets who didn’t know much, if anything, about what role they were really playing in the larger scheme of things. Before long, Judy might become Marina. Once Marina was safely back in Russia, who was to know Judy wasn’t really Marina? The few people who knew weren’t going to say anything. They looked similar, Judy spoke some Russian, and it would be fairly easy to make sure their dental records matched.
Then Lee had a question for her. Was there anything he didn’t yet know about the cancer project? As a matter of fact, yes. Although he had seen the extra precautions taken at Ferrie’s lab, Lee hadn’t grasped the full implications of it. Nobody had explained it to him, but the cancer virus was now probably contagious. After repeatedly exposing the viruses to radiation, they had mutated into a form that now did not require injection. Cancer had spread from the injected marmoset monkeys to the control monkeys, and they were now all dying. However, it was too early to tell what that might mean for humans. Being contagious among monkeys didn’t necessarily mean cancer had become contagious for humans.
The solution to the pending cancer epidemic might come in the form of something like a bacteriophage – a virus that attacks bacteria. Viruses can possibly be genetically engineered to attack specific bacteria, and that could produce, for example, a cure for a staph infection. So, it might be possible to also engineer a virus that attacks only cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unaffected. It might be possible to develop a virus that successfully destroys even the super cancer viruses they were developing now. There were a couple of problems, though. For one thing, nobody was working on that. For the time being, the focus was on developing the bioweapon to be used against Castro. For another thing, even if scientists could develop a cure for cancer, many players in the cancer treatment industry would not like that very much.
What would happen to the super cancer viruses they had already developed once Castro had been taken out? Would everybody just destroy whatever was left over and forget about it? Not likely. In the wrong hands, it could be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Not many people understood the science behind the super virus at that point, but it could be frozen for future use. It wouldn’t be that difficult for somebody down the road to pick up where Lee, Judy, Ferrie, Dr Mary, Dr O, and a few others left off. It was a frightening thought.
On July 19 (Friday), Lee was fired, after working at Reily’s for eleven weeks and a day. It was only a week sooner than he had planned to get fired, anyway. Judy, however, was allowed to stay at Reily’s for another month, because Dr O knew she was doing a good job at the lab, and he needed her to keep working on The Project for a while longer. Lee didn’t tell Marina that he was no longer working at Reily’s, allowing him to be away from home all day, as usual. Since he avoided taking her anywhere other than to the nearest grocery store and the library, Lee and Judy were free to spend their time together whenever possible without raising suspicion, because most people just assumed that Judy was Marina.
On July 24 (Wednesday), Judy met with Dr O at Charity Hospital. The primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss the next phase of The Project: testing the super virus that had worked well on marmoset monkeys on the larger, more expensive African green monkeys. Although Judy wouldn’t be directly involved in that work, she needed to discuss details of it with Dr O.
They also talked about Lee, who was, according to Dr O, about to become a movie star. Judy wasn’t sure what he meant by that, thinking it probably had to do with the training film Lee had been working on. No, the doctor was well aware of that, but he was talking about something different, and he encouraged her to be watching her television. When she pointed out that she didn’t have a TV, he suggested she watch it at Lee’s house, assuming she had become friends with Marina by now. Judy didn’t set him straight on that score, but she did tell Dr O that Lee didn’t have a TV, either, because he couldn’t afford one. She also took the opportunity to tell Dr O that Lee wanted to go to college, but the doctor made it clear that Lee would be staying put for a while, because that was where he was most useful. Judy then understood that the doctor was involved in that level of decision-making, not just a useful tool for those who were. At least, Dr O believed himself to be at that level. Judy asked him who she was really working for, since he was in a position to know. He seemed irritated and annoyed by the question, and eventually replied simply that she was working for the foes of Communism. As he handed her a fresh stack of material to read and report on, he said that the last step in The Project would be testing the super virus on the human volunteer. It sounded like he was saying they had already found one. There are many unsung heroes who have bravely stepped forward to accomplish the impossible, he responded. There are risks that must be taken for great causes. She mentioned that her studies at Tulane were coming up soon, and he assured her that she would be going to medical school as promised. Was she using Ferrie’s medical library card? He instructed her to increase her visits there to twice a week instead of about once per week. What would she do for money after she left Reily’s? He told her to talk to Dr Mary, who would loan her enough money to get by until school started.
The next day, Judy got a late start on the lab work at Ferrie’s apartment. He was in the living room editing Lee’s training film. Lee came in with a heavy-set Latino man, and they watched the film. Judy went into the living room once in a while to watch clips, some of them with Lee. Before leaving, Lee went to the kitchen to tell her he was on his way to the airport because he had to collect some Project materials, but he would call her when he could. Judy’s work for the day was processing the last of the marmoset monkey tumors. Monaghan had promised to clock her out so she didn’t have to return to Reily’s.
Part 3: Trapped
Looming Trouble for Lee
On July 29 (Monday), Lee called Judy at work and asked her to meet him for lunch. Lee knew very well how busy she was on Mondays, so she knew something important was on his mind. He sounded calm, yet she detected that something was wrong. She asked Monaghan to cover for her, and she met Lee at the nearby Katzenjammer’s bar. He made a point of speaking Russian and calling her Marina loudly enough for people to hear it – a precaution in case Banister showed up with his girlfriend, since they often met there. Lee had already ordered for Judy to save time. They talked for a while about recent events, but she knew there was still something he wasn’t telling her. When she pressed him, he said there were things he couldn’t tell her, for her own safety. She reminded him that they had agreed that there would be no more secrets between them. He became uncharacteristically angry. He stood up, kicked the chair, and left.
Judy bit her lip so hard it began to bleed. Did he really think she would betray him? Did he still not trust her? If not, exactly what did she mean to him? As she sat in turmoil, pondering Lee’s strange response, he returned and sat back down. He was alarmed that she was bleeding, taking his napkin and pressing it to her lip. He put an ice cube in the napkin and handed it to her. He struggled to control his inner anguish, finally agreeing to tell her what was weighing so heavily on his mind. I think they’re going to kill me.
He explained that his attempts to advance in his role were being blocked. They didn’t fully trust him. It was unlikely now that he would be sent into Cuba, although they were trying to make it appear that that was still part of their plan for him. He wasn’t important enough for the people over him to take a chance on letting him live, given all that he knew. And he had no way of making himself more important or indispensable. It would be much easier for them to just get rid of him. He had penetrated deeply into the groups that seriously wanted JFK dead. What he had found was a powerful group of men (including politicians, CIA officers, military officers, and Texas oil magnates) that were fueled by a fanatical sense of patriotism as well as greed and lust for power. They wanted JFK out of the way because he wasn’t eager to go to war and defeat Communism decisively, which would also just happen to reap lavish rewards for themselves in terms of profits and politics. The man who wholeheartedly supported them and stood to gain a great deal for himself was Lyndon Johnson.
Lee could read the writing on the wall. The public image he had been cultivating made him the perfect candidate to take the fall for the death of JFK. He would look like he was acting on behalf of Castro. That would provide the conspirators with a convenient patsy for the murder, and it might also trigger a war against Cuba. Lee was just a pawn in their game, fully expendable. Could he go public now with what he knows? That wasn’t an option for several reasons. He couldn’t prove anything. Furthermore, that would place Judy, Ferrie, Dr Mary, Marina, and his children at even greater risk. He looked at Judy and said he was sorry he ever got her involved in this mess. She had gone willingly, she reminded him.
On July 31 (Wednesday) Judy learned that her replacement had been hired, and that Judy would be training her (a real secretary) during the morning hours, and working at the lab every afternoon. Her last day at Reily’s would be August 16. Lee was already at Ferrie’s lab when Judy arrived that afternoon. She showed him how to keep the super virus alive outside the lab, so Lee would be able to take it into Cuba, traveling first to Mexico City. She went back to Reily’s to check out, then headed for the city library. Lee met her there to find out how to get a quickie divorce in Mexico, and they discussed their plans for their post-New Orleans lives together. Maybe she would become a doctor, and he might become a social worker, and a part-time science-fiction author. Or maybe he would be an anthropologist. They would structure their lives along Kennedy’s Peace Corps model. They dreamed of dedicating their lives in service to others, not pursuing wealth or power. (Robert, on the other hand, was determined to become a millionaire.)
The following day (Thursday, August 1), Lee told Judy about the recent FBI raid on the training camp across the lake (Ponchartrain). A handful of Cubans were among those arrested. Weapons, ammunition, and explosives had been confiscated. However, most of the confiscated materiel had already been returned to the third floor of Banister’s building, and all the trainees had been released. Most of them had left the state, and virtually all of them hated JFK even more than before. They saw the raid as another JFK betrayal. Judy asked how the FBI found out about the camp, and Lee said he had told them. He had been ordered to provide a map of the camp to the FBI to prove to them that he was a reliable informant. He might need to turn to the FBI for help when he got arrested.
Arrested? For what, Judy wanted to know. Again, it was all part of a plan. He would soon be passing out Fair Play for Cuba flyers, and he would be going on radio and TV to publicly defend and support Fidel Castro. Anti-Castro Cubans in New Orleans would hate Lee, and they would assume he had betrayed them to the FBI. But Lee would be establishing his reputation as a pro-Castroite, making it easier for him to get a visa in Mexico City to fly into Cuba. He would also benefit in another way. By pulling this off, he would be showing his handlers how valuable he was to them. It was a dangerous scheme for Lee, and even more so because he had to get arrested in a staged street fight, and he would have to spend a night in jail because he couldn’t post bail. That was necessary to make sure the incident was covered in the newspaper. It would be three of his Cuban friends who instigated the phony street brawl, making a convincing show of it but not hurting Lee. However, there was no way of knowing how many anti-Castro Cubans would show up and attack Lee, thinking he was really pro-Castro. Lee was in the unenviable position of hoping to go to jail. The alternative was going to the hospital. Judy asked why they couldn’t delay this charade long enough for things to settle down after the raid on the camp. Lee had already gotten a delay until August 9, to give him time to find someone other than himself to blame for the raid. But Banister wanted Lee to be blamed to help boost his pro-Castro public image. Lee had convinced him that it was too risky. It was convenient that Banister had identified a pro-Castro spy (Fernando Fernandez) in his organization, and Lee got the word out that Fernandez was responsible for the raid. It later turned out that he was actually working for the FBI. Lee’s misinformation campaign forced Fernandez to return to Miami, and Lee followed up by convincing people in New Orleans that Fernandez had to skedaddle because he was the FBI’s informant. It worked, and by the time of the phony street fight, all the talk was about Fernandez, not Lee.
They stopped for a free lunch at the Acme Oyster Bar on Bourbon Street, although there was, of course, no such thing as a free lunch. A waitress told Lee that he was to see the boss at La Louisianne (next door). Lee left without a word. He returned with news that he had to do another favor for Marcello. He had to go to the Town and Country Motel, then he would meet Judy later at Ferrie’s apartment after running the errand.
On August 9 (Friday) Lee was in the Central Business District staging his faux fight. He had asked Judy (on the way to work) to deliver flyers to Dean Andrews at the demonstration. She noticed that the flyers were poorly made, so she spent her lunch hour trying to improve their appearance. Then, as though on a late lunch, she headed to Canal Street at about 2:30. She had little opportunity to speak to Lee, saying only how worried she was about him. He assured her he would be all right, and sent her away for her own safety. She easily spotted Andrews and delivered the flyers, then left as quickly as possible when the demonstration heated up. (She wasn’t tall enough to see what was happening, anyway.)
When she returned to Reily’s, it was the first time all week she had been there during the afternoon, because she had been so busy at Ferrie’s lab. As she approached her work area, she could see by the look on Monaghan’s face that there was trouble. He stiffly informed her that she had been seen at the demonstration, talking to Lee. Furthermore, someone had noticed a yellow flyer she had placed in the wastebasket. Connecting Reily’s with the demonstration in any way was unacceptable. She had made it easy for anyone to connect the dots between the company, Lee, and herself. Monaghan had no choice but to fire her immediately and get her out of Reily’s to minimize the damage. She attempted to defend herself by pointing out that she didn’t think anybody from Reily’s would be there on Canal Street well after the normal lunch hour. However, Monaghan and his new secretary had been in the area, and the new employee had seen Judy. To make her humiliation and frustration even worse, her final paycheck, which had been prepared on the spot, was much smaller than she expected, because she hadn’t been at her desk any afternoon all week. How would she explain the small check to Robert? How would she tell him she had been forced to resign? She couldn’t look to Lee for help, because he had been arrested and was in jail.
The following day (Saturday, August 10), Lee found himself in a predicament. He had wanted to spend the night in jail, but he had given Marina $70 for his bail on Saturday. However, he didn’t want her to bring it to the police station, because she spoke only Russian, and that would expose them both to further danger. His Uncle Dutz was out of town, his Aunt Lil was in the hospital, and his cousin Joyce refused to help because she was ashamed of him. That afternoon, Emile Bruneau (an attorney and business partner of Uncle Dutz) showed up to bail him out. Bruneau was a rather obvious link to the mafia, but, fortunately, it went unnoticed.
Judy was at home, worried sick about Lee as she ironed Robert’s clothes. Lee finally called late in the afternoon, sounding surprisingly upbeat. He had heard that she was no longer with Reily’s and instructed her to not tell Robert. She was to leave every morning at the usual time and go to Rev Jim’s, where she would work a couple of hours, then work at Ferrie’s lab. The nice thing about having been fired was that she now had time to work at Ferrie’s and still spend time with Lee. The nice thing about Robert’s lack of curiosity was that she had little explaining to do.
On Monday (August 12), Judy left home as usual and headed to Dr Mary’s apartment. The doctor had called yesterday and asked for her help, although Judy wasn’t told exactly what she needed help with. It turned out to be about 100 caged mice, which had been held in reserve just in case there had been a problem with the African green monkeys. They were developing cancer as hoped, so the ten cages of mice needed to be transferred from Dr Mary’s apartment to another lab where they would be used. They had been at Dr Mary’s apartment long enough to make quite a stink, but making the transfer earlier would have generated unwanted attention and curiosity.
As Judy and Dr Mary carried the cages to the doctor’s car, Judy casually mentioned that she was looking forward to the start of medical school, and she was hoping she could work in Dr Mary’s bone lab. The doctor assured her that she did want Judy to work for her, and she had the grant money lined up. Judy left her completed application for Dr Mary to sign and submit. They drove to Ferrie’s apartment to collect the last monkey tissue cultures. Dr Mary told Judy that from that point on, she would be focusing on cancer in blood samples in preparation for testing the super virus on a human subject. Then Judy asked Dr Mary to drop her off at the Tulane Medical School library. (Judy could easily walk from there to Rev Jim’s. She didn’t want Dr Mary to know that’s where she was going.) As Judy was about to get out of the car, Dr Mary said she figured some divorces were in store for Lee and Judy, and she wondered if that would interfere with other plans. Judy said she didn’t think so, and Lee was hoping his people would allow him to go to school as well. (That’s what Lee was telling his handlers, but he and Judy had other plans.) Dr Mary smiled and said she hoped it worked out. Judy checked out some journals at the library, and finally got to Rev Jim’s. As she painted New Orleans on ceramic gators and masks, she thought about Lee sitting in courtroom waiting to be sentenced by a judge.
The following morning, (Tuesday, August 13), Judy returned to the library, then she was back at Rev Jim’s, once again painting New Orleans on souvenirs for several hours. Lee arrived at about 1:00, and the two of them (after a long hug) began painting paper mache horses for a carousel. Lee told her about his experience after the demonstration. He had been interrogated and subjected to some abuse, but he kept his cool, endured without complaint, countering only with dark humor. While waiting in the courtroom, Lee had sat on the side of the room with blacks, showing solidarity with his brothers. The night he got home after being released from jail, his Uncle Dutz had paid a surprise visit, scolding Lee for his arrest and the Castro picture on the wall; it happened right in front of his wife and child. Dutz had told Lee to get his act together, get a job, and take care of his family. Naturally, that was very difficult for Lee to take in. Later, when Lee walked his uncle out to the car, Lee asked him if he knew what the demonstration was really all about. Dutz hugged him, told him he was proud of him, and disclosed that he had known about everything from the moment Lee got to town. Dutz, was, after all, a long-time close friend of Carlos Marcello. Dutz had just been waiting for Lee to confide in him.
Lee showed Judy a newspaper clipping, telling about his arrest. The demonstration had accomplished what it was supposed to: generate initial press coverage which could be cultivated into a media blitz portraying Lee as a pro-Castro sympathizer. He had also been filmed by WDSU-TV (friendly with Dr O) at the demonstration, and then again at court. However, Jim Garrison was back in town, and they didn’t want to attract so much media attention that Lee would get a long jail sentence instead of a fine, so much of the footage wasn’t used.
The next demonstration needed to be brief, and it had to be over before the police arrived. Jesse Core (an associate of Clay Shaw) would make sure the TV cameras were in place at the Trade Mart. (Judy now understood what Dr O had meant when he told her to keep an eye on her TV because Lee was about to become a movie star.) Judy would play a minor role in this charade as well. She would call (anonymously) WDSU-TV to give them a heads-up about the upcoming demonstration in front of the International Trade Mart at 124 Camp Street on Friday (August 16). They were, of course, already well aware and planning to send film crews; the phone call was simply to provide proof that they were acting on a legitimate tip. She was to call another TV station, as well, with the same message. Lee didn’t expect them to send film crews, but if they did, so much the better. With cameras rolling, Lee would distribute the flyers, then quickly disappear before the police had time to arrive. (First, the flyers had to be retrieved from Dean Andrews, because all the flyers in the first demonstration had been passed out, confiscated, or destroyed.)
The overall plan was arranged by Dr O, and it was planned out by Guy Banister. The TV station (WDSU) was owned by Edgar Sterns. He was one of the founders of INCA, and he was fiercely anti-Communist. Clay Shaw was General Manager of the Trade Mart. Together, they had worked out all the details, and everything was set.
While Lee was pleased with the success of the first (August 9) demonstration, he was also worried. His reputation in New Orleans was now destroyed. Other than Dutz, Lee’s friends and family had no idea what he was really up to. What was in store for him after New Orleans? What kind of future did his handlers have in mind for him? Had the successful demonstration helped make him indispensable? For now, Lee and Judy had to focus on getting ready to test the virus on a human and on preparing for Lee’s trip to Mexico City, where he would deliver the weapon to those who would take it into Cuba. Meanwhile, of course, Lee and Judy would be focused on each other.
On August 14 (Wednesday), Lee and Judy met at Rev Jim’s. They had a lot to think about. They called Ferrie and learned from him that they would soon be making a trip out of town to test the new super virus on a human. The subject would be transferred from Angola Penitentiary to the East Louisiana State Mental Hospital in Jackson, Louisiana, where he would be injected. The hospital there was the kind of place that allowed them to work secretly. Shaw and Ferrie would drive Lee to Jackson to deliver the virus, then a couple of days later, Lee would drive Judy to Jackson to determine if the injection was working. This plan would also provide an opportunity for Lee to practice delivering the virus, further preparing him for his trip to Mexico City.
On August 16 (Friday), Lee and Judy met at Dr Mary’s apartment at about 10:00am. Lee was afraid Judy might be filmed or photographed if she was present at the demonstration, but Judy was determined to go. So she changed her hair, clothes, shoes, make-up, and even her contact lenses to look like a Cuban girl. Lee was amused at her cha-cha look and agreed that she could go, but he still insisted that she leave before the TV cameras started rolling so she wouldn’t get caught on film and identified.
Everything went according to plan. After the demonstration, Lee was interviewed at the WDSU studio, and he was told that the event would be shown on the 6 o’clock news. Lee planned to watch it at his Uncle Dutz’s house, but Marina refused to go, because her ears were still ringing from the strong rebuke delivered by Dutz just a few days ago. By the time Lee gave up on trying to convince Marina, it was already too late to go to the Murrets’ house, so Lee tried a couple other locations as time was running out. Finally, he saw that Robert’s car wasn’t in the driveway, so he burst into Susie’s house, breathless, where Judy and Susie had just seated themselves in front of the TV. The three of them watched Lee’s television debut, covered only by WDSU, as expected.
On Saturday (August 17), Lee was a guest on a radio show, Latin Listening Post, recording a half-hour discussion of US policy toward Cuba. Only about five minutes was aired; however there was a second broadcast on August 21 (Wednesday), this time including a strong lineup to oppose Lee. It included Carlos Bringuier, a locally known anti-Castro leader. (It wasn’t clear whether or not the show’s producers realized that Bringuier was actually helping Lee establish his pro-Castro image.) Also, there was Ed Butler (a founder of INCA, and its Executive Director) and Bill Slatter (an experienced WDSU reporter). Dr O was in the studio, but not one of the guests. On this show, called Conversation Carte Blanche, Lee delivered strong, thoughtful, calm (though sometimes evasive) responses, even though he was outnumbered four to one. Things did get a bit tense when Ed Butler, based on a newspaper article in his possession, accused Lee of defecting to the Soviet Union.
As the month of August drew to a close, Lee and Judy were both busy. They talked about how the world of spies, with its lies, betrayals, schemes, weapons, and assassinations, was beginning to weigh heavily upon them. They talked about their childhood experiences and dreams, and how far they had strayed from their youthful ideals. They talked about their mutual hatred of money, even though Lee had some; it was being managed for him by his friend George (de Mohrenschildt). They both preferred to work hard, even though Lee had hated working at Reily’s (because of the heat, noise, and lack of respect.) They wanted to escape the rat race and the corruption around them. They talked about JFK, and Judy was beginning to like the young president as much as Lee always had. Lee mentioned Kennedy’s July 26 speech, announcing the nuclear test ban treaty with Russia. Lee praised JFK, and he had confidence that he was the kind of leader we needed to keep us from blowing ourselves up. But the same speech had also fueled the fires of hatred toward JFK from conservatives, who saw his action as a reckless display of weakness.
Judy mentioned Ferrie’s recent parties, even though he had promised not to have any more parties until September. At least Ferrie had hidden the breakables and got rid of the mice for a few hours. She wondered aloud where he had stored the mice. Had to be someplace close by. Lee suggested the two Cuban boys had probably taken them to their apartment, where they took care of other mice. That prompted Judy to ask why she had worked at Ferrie’s kitchen lab all along, instead of at the Mouse House. Apparently, Ferrie wanted to keep Judy isolated as much as possible from all the other people involved in The Project. She had seen a few initials and even names on some of the paperwork, but she didn’t know who any of those people were, or who did what, or who was in charge of what.
She remembered that Dr Mary had mentioned the possibility that some of the cultures would be stored in liquid nitrogen for back-up. That would keep the cancer viruses alive (and dormant) indefinitely, for future use. But who knew who might get their hands on them in the future, or how they might be used. Lee understood her fears, but pointed out the obvious fact that there was nothing she could do about it. Still, she resolved to discuss her concerns with Dr Mary at some point. Dr Mary had very high standards, and she no doubt had the same concerns. Yet Lee was right, and she knew it. She couldn’t even prove that there had ever been a lab in Ferrie’s apartment, even though she had worked in it virtually every day during the summer. She had been isolated, so nobody could prove that she had ever been involved in the Project, or even that there was a Project.
The test of the bioweapon on the human guinea pig took place on August 29 (Thursday). Judy had showed both Lee and Ferrie how to prepare the weapon for transport to the mental hospital. They had also been trained to inject the subject. Alibis had been established for key players in the plot. The vehicle had been selected: a big black Cadillac registered to the International Trade Mart. It was a symbol of authority and importance; it was reliable, and it was air conditioned – important for the preservation of the weapon. It would be driven by Shaw to a staging area, where Lee and Ferrie would wait for confirmation that two State vehicles had left Angola with the prisoner. The Cadillac would converge with the State vehicles, sliding behind them into an apparent official convoy, which would not arouse suspicion at the hospital.
The bioweapon was stored in what appeared to be Lee’s sack lunch. Beneath a couple of sandwiches were two containers that looked like ordinary thermos bottles, but were actually special Dewar jars containing the bioweapon. On the way to Jackson, Shaw stopped in his home town of Hammond for a brief visit with his ailing father. He called his secretary, creating an alibi for his rare absence from New Orleans. He made another stop at Clinton to pick up an orderly who worked at the mental hospital. Once inside the hospital gates, the orderly would escort them to the location of the test. Shaw then drove to the courthouse in Clinton – the designated staging area. It had been chosen because a Cadillac parked at the Clinton courthouse would be less conspicuous than it would have been at the hospital in Jackson. It was also equally distant from Angola and Jackson, which should make the timing work out well. Cars like the Cadillac were common for the location, and Shaw looked just like the kind of VIP who should be behind the wheel. The known hospital employee also added to the air of official importance. While waiting for word that the State vehicles had departed Angola with the test volunteer, Shaw called his secretary again, using a pay phone, where he would receive the call from Angola. He told her it was the number at an office he was in, and he would call her back just before he left.
What planners could not have anticipated was Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s I Have a Dream speech in Washington, DC, yesterday. It immediately became the talk of the town, which was controlled by the KKK, which routinely denied blacks their right to vote. The speech prompted the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to stage a voter registration for blacks in Clinton. Blacks stood peacefully and defiantly in line at the courthouse to register to vote, and the registrar was stalling as much as possible. Shaw’s big black Cadillac was right in the middle of it. To make matters worse, the call from Angola hadn’t been made yet, and it was clear that there was some sort of delay at the prison. Lee and the orderly got out to stretch their legs, but they had to stay close to the car to listen for the pay phone’s incoming call from Angola.
The car attracted the attention of a very angry young black woman, who apparently assumed that there must be some important people around, since there was such an important-looking car parked there. She told Lee that she had been in line since before the registrar’s office even opened, and when it was her turn, she presented her proof of residency. She was instructed to read a section from the US Constitution, and the young lady, who had earned a degree in Business from Tuskegee Institute, had no trouble reading the text. However, the registrar told her she had failed the literacy test. Lee was angered, and decided to try to do something about it. He made a bet with his three associates that, because he was White, he would be able to register successfully, even though he was not a resident of that parish. Lee got in line, and the orderly kept him company. It took two hours of standing in the heat before Lee finally got to the registrar, where he requested to register to vote and flashed his ID. The registrar was obliging until Lee made a point of saying he was not a resident of the parish. He said he was planning to apply for a job at the mental hospital, and he figured it would help his chances of getting hired if he had a local voter registration card. The registrar was angry and told Lee that the mental hospital was just the place for him, but as a patient, not an employee.
The town’s sheriff approached the Cadillac and asked for ID. Clay showed him his driver license and introduced himself. At last, the phone rang, Shaw answered, and the prisoner had left Angola. They made the planned rendezvous, proceeded to the hospital, went to the clinic, and met the technicians they would be working with. Both Lee and Ferrie were trained to train other technicians, but Ferrie did the honors this time. There were two faux thermos bottles – one serving strictly as a back-up. No customs inspector would ever suspect that the glass liners (basically huge test tubes) housed a deadly cancer virus. Even in the most unlikely event that they removed the glass liners and looked at them closely, they would think they were looking at weak chicken broth. It even tasted rather like that, as well [although it isn’t clear who discovered that or how]. The broth adhered like slime to the glass. The same cancer soup would be used for future injections, as well, if it was needed. Lee watched and listened as Ferrie instructed the hospital technicians. Lee would be telling the same words to technicians in Mexico City before long, if all went well. Once the prisoner was injected, Lee left to go to the Personnel office to submit an employment application. That was an excellent cover reason for his trip to Jackson today, and his return trip in a couple days (with Judy, to check on the injected prisoner).
Judy had been told that the prisoner was a terminally ill cancer patient who had volunteered for the experiment, because he knew his days were numbered anyway. But she needed to know what kind of cancer the prisoner already had in order to distinguish between that and the virus he had just been exposed to. She asked Ferrie before he left to find out for her. Ferrie told her not to worry about that. This prisoner didn’t have cancer. He was similar to Castro in age and weight, and he was a healthy Cuban. She was shocked, sickened, and livid. This is not what she had signed up for, and she had been lied to. She had already managed to wrap her idealistic mind around a great deal of moral and ethical ambiguity, but this was clearly wrong. Morally, ethically, and legally wrong. This was no gray area. They had gone too far. She was not prepared to become involved in premeditated murder, even though it was her ticket to medical school.
She wrote a letter to Dr O. She knew she was violating the very strict rule against producing any sort of written evidence or paper trail. That was overruled by her indignation. It was actually a very brief note: Injecting disease-causing materials into an unwitting subject who does not have a disease is unethical. She added only her initials, then hand-delivered it to Dr O’s office at the Ochsner Clinic. The secretary said Dr O was in surgery, and asked if the message was urgent, and Judy said yes, it was. In that case, the secretary would read it to him over the phone when he called her for his messages. As Judy left, she heard the opening of the envelope, and she immediately realized she had just made a big mistake. She should have said it was not urgent, and avoided exposing her words to eyes that were never supposed to see any such thing about The Project.
She went directly to Dr Mary’s apartment, and she immediately got a call from Ferrie. Dr O was trying to locate her, and he was furious. Ferrie warned her that she was now an enemy of Dr O, and that she and Lee were both expendable. Dr O’s profanity had impressed even Ferrie. Dr O was looking for her, Ferrie warned again. Good luck, J. Ferrie hung up, and Judy was paralyzed with terror. Before she could recover, Dr O called. She could forget about going to medical school. If she ever said a word to anybody about The Project, she would regret it. Was that perfectly clear? He softened his tone somewhat, briefly, realizing that he still needed her to go to Jackson. He had no one else who was qualified to process and analyze the blood tests. He wasn’t asking her, he was telling her. She had to do it, and it had to be done tomorrow. The doctor continued to thunder for a while, then said that she and Lee would have to be separated. He could no longer protect her, and if anything bad happened to her, it wasn’t his fault.
She sat on the sofa and cried. Her life had just been threatened by someone she had practically worshipped. Dr Mary called, having heard about the crisis. She had told Dr O that Judy should have been informed that the prisoner was a convicted murderer and a certifiable mental case. Dr Mary said she was sorry, and that Dr O had overreacted. Judy was relieved that Dr Mary seemed to still be on her side, and hoped that maybe the doctor would provide good references if Judy decided to apply for medical school in Latin America, which was an option she and Lee had discussed.
Lee called, and told Judy to meet him at the Fountainebleau Hotel. Dr Mary would pay for the taxi. When they arrived, Lee told her that she had to meet Dr O in a few hours for her exit interview. Ferrie would drive her (after he finished in court with Marcello) to Charity Hospital. While waiting for Ferrie, they ate dinner. When Ferrie arrived, Lee had to go home, but he promised to walk over to Susie’s later. Ferrie waited in the car while Judy faced the wrath of Dr O. Although Dr Mary had convinced Dr O to keep it civil, the doctor began their meeting with an explosion of verbal abuse. When he calmed down a bit, he gave her instructions for her work in Jackson tomorrow. After that, he wanted nothing more to do with her. He concluded with: Consider yourself lucky you’re walking out of here with your teeth still in your head. Now get out. Judy left without losing her composure, but the moment she saw Ferrie, she broke down. He put his arms around her and offered her his best priestly support. He said she had done the right thing by letting Dr O know how she felt about the test subject, but she shouldn’t have written it down.
Later, Susie, Ferrie, Lee, and Judy sat in lawn chairs in Susie’s back yard. At least Ferrie would be able to have parties again, Lee offered. Ferrie left, screeching his tires and honking his horn just to say goodbye with typical Ferrie flair. Judy would never see him again. Susie served lemonade, then went inside to give the young lovers some privacy. Lee did the best he could to help Juduffski through this crisis, and he handed her an envelope with $400 in it. (That’s the equivalent of about $4000 today.) It was to make sure that she would be able to go to him, wherever he was, once it was safe. Or, if that couldn’t happen right away, she could use it for school in the fall. Her immediate concern was how to conceal it from Robert, or how to explain it to him. Dr O should have given her the money, Lee said.
On August 31 (Saturday), Lee drove Judy to the state mental hospital in Jackson. They stopped to fill the gas tank. Lee went inside and came back with a couple of Dr Peppers. But he also had something else inside the paper bag: the cancer virus. Since this borrowed car had no air conditioning, the virus had been pre-delivered to this station, along with an ice chest in which the blood samples could be protected on the return drive.
On the way, he told her about preparations for their rendezvous in Mexico. He was mailing letters to various organizations (including the Communist Party and the Socialist-Workers Party) informing them of his plans to move to a different city in the near future. He gave each organization a different city to throw all of them off track. He also gave her more details about the plan to kill Castro. First, a doctor would invent a diagnosis which required X-rays. The X-ray technician would tamper with the machine, causing it to deliver a much larger dose of rays than normal, which would weaken Castro’s immune system, and it would also produce symptoms of an infection. To treat the faux infection, Castro would be given several (if necessary) injections of penicillin. The apparent penicillin would actually be the cancer virus. As soon as the virus entered his bloodstream, it would be all over for Fidel. Infected monkeys had died in just a couple weeks, and the Cuban dictator wasn’t expected to last long, either. All the world (except the elite team involved in The Project) would believe Castro died of natural causes.
Lee told her that he had watched as the volunteer had been X-rayed and injected, and then Ferrie had asked Lee to leave. Lee and Judy were both suspicious of that. What didn’t Ferrie want Lee to see? Was there more than one prisoner? That might also explain why the convoy had been so late getting started. There had been plenty of room for more than one test subject. As they talked, Lee was taking a different route than Shaw had taken on the first trip. Lee wanted to avoid Clinton, where somebody might recognize him as one of the guys in the black Cadillac. They talked about the money Lee had given her, which had been his pay for an entire month. But how would he get by, she wanted to know. He had been planning carefully, he assured her. Once in Mexico City, he would have all the money he needed. He had also arranged for his friend Alex to fly her from Florida to Mexico when the time came. If, for some reason that didn’t work out, she could take a commercial flight from Tampa. He promised to meet her in Mexico if he was still breathing.
Meanwhile, while in Jackson, Lee would take a few minutes to make sure he had established his cover story for being in town. He would make a point of asking one or two prominent locals about how to apply for a job at the hospital. Since people in small towns tended to take notice of strangers, that should deflect any unwanted curiosity. (Any serious investigation would easily uncover the fact that Lee had already submitted an application two days earlier, but that was unlikely.) As they reached Jackson, the engine started to overheat, so Lee needed to stop and give it time to cool down. He chose the town barber as his first target for disinformation. He could get a haircut, let the engine cool, get directions to the hospital, and establish his story about applying for a job, all in one convenient 20-minute interlude. It was unusually cool for August, so Judy waited in the car. They were still on schedule.
The same orderly who had escorted the team on the first trip met Lee and Judy at the hospital’s gate. As planned, their arrival coincided with the hospital’s shift change, with lots of cars coming and going. Once they reached the work area, Lee went to the Personnel office to bolster his cover story for being there. Judy asked to interview the test subject, but that was not allowed. She detected cancer in the blood samples, which was good evidence that the injection was working as intended. She also noticed that there were too many blood samples for just one test subject, once again suggesting more than one volunteer. When finished with the lab work, she packed everything away in the cooler, then demanded to see the subject. She had to observe him to see how he was physically reacting, she explained. The orderly allowed her to look through the barred window of his cell, and she could see that he was thrashing around with a fever, tied to his bed. She pretended to be satisfied with the patient’s condition, then returned to the car with Lee, having spent less than an hour in the hospital. They talked about what she had seen. Lee asked her to describe the volunteer, and it was clear that it was not the same person Lee had seen injected on the first trip. There was no longer much room for doubt that the experiment involved more than one test subject.
As they left the hospital, the car began to overheat again. Lee found the problem: a small hole in the end of a radiator hose. Judy donated her nylon stockings and Lee donated his handkerchief. Together, they formed a temporary fix, good enough to allow them to drive toward New Orleans. But they didn’t get far before they had to stop and let the engine cool again, at least enough to safely add water to the radiator. Lee pulled into a long driveway, parked under a tree, and told Judy the house belonged to Reeves Morgan, a state representative and hospital employee. Judy waited in the car while Lee went to the door, and he was invited inside right away. He came back out after about 25 minutes, carrying a gallon of water, which he poured into the radiator. Once again, they were on their way back to New Orleans, now behind schedule and in a hurry.
Lee said he had been ordered to break off all contact with Judy now that her contribution to The Project was finished. The order came from Dr O through Dr Mary. They would comply for a short while, to give the appearance that they were behaving as ordered, but he and Ferrie had already devised a method for staying in contact by phone without Dr O’s knowledge. The plan involved the use of one of the safe phone lines used by the mafia for sports betting. However, first they had the right to say their final good-bye, and that would be done tomorrow at the Roosevelt Hotel.
Lee also talked about Marina. He had told her he was leaving, never to return. He told her she would be happy in Dallas, where she had lots of people who cared for her and would help take care of her. Divorce was inevitable, so they should get it over with now before the children were old enough to remember only the fighting and quarreling. Judy could see that it was tearing him up, and his grief was genuine.
They reached Judy’s apartment at about 11:00pm. Robert’s car was not there, but Lee parked down the block, in case Robert came home in the next few minutes. Lee couldn’t stay long, because he still had to deliver reports and blood samples, buy a ticket to Texas, and return the car. The bus ticket was to get ready to go as soon as he got the order to deliver the weapon to Mexico.
The next day (Sunday, September 1) Judy and Lee were alone together in their suite at the Roosevelt from 2:30 to 10:30pm. Though it was a blissful day, their hearts were breaking when they finally had to say good-bye. When she got home, she called Ferrie and asked him to tell Dr Mary that she and Robert would be leaving New Orleans in the morning. She had to face the fact that she would never find a cure for cancer.
On September 3 (Tuesday), Judy hugged Susie goodbye for the last time as she and Robert headed to Florida. Their departure had been delayed a day due to car problems. Judy and Lee saw each other briefly for the last time as the car went past him on Magazine Street. On the 6th they arrived in Gainesville and moved into a cottage selected by Robert’s mother. One of their neighbors was a newlywed couple, Ron and Karen Ziegler, who became friends. Judy attended night classes at University of Florida (UF) and worked in the school’s craft shop during the day. Robert attended both day and night classes, leaving little time for them to spend together. That was fine with her, because she kept a packed suitcase hidden under the bed, even though she gave no hint to Robert that she planned to leave him.
Lee’s job assignment was to stay quiet and wait for the test subjects to die of cancer. He had to be ready to travel with no advance warning. He and his family were getting by on Lee’s unemployment checks; he couldn’t take on a job yet. Ruth Paine was out of town visiting relatives (who were CIA employees). When she returned, Marina and the children would be moving to Dallas, and Lee made it clear that he would not be going with them. Meanwhile, he spent most of his time reading. He and Marina had learned to coexist peacefully.
There was no doubt that the test subjects would soon be dead, and Lee wanted Marina out of New Orleans before he had to go to Mexico City. Ruth was assigned the responsibility of taking care of Marina and Junie in Dallas, and the move had been set for September 20. Ruth arrived late on the 20th, and it took three days to get the car packed and ready to leave. On September 23, Lee was told to be prepared to travel. Even though the relationship between Lee and Marina had been a stormy one, their goodbye was sorrowful. But, he had to look to the future. Once Lee had completed his mission in Mexico City, he would have money to disappear, and he would be able to send for Judy. Meanwhile, he didn’t trust anybody he worked with. Judy was prepared to leave at any time, as well. Once she got the word from Lee, she would make her way to Eglin Air Force Base, where Lee’s trusted friend, Alex Rorke would fly Judy to the Yucatan for her rendezvous with Lee.
Using the elaborate call wheel system devised by Ferrie and Lee, Judy learned that Lee (now referred to as Hector on the phone) was in Dallas in preparation for his trip to Mexico City.
Lee met two men in a downtown Dallas building: one was his handler, and the other was a Latino man, who Lee figured was there to help make sure the weapon successfully entered Cuba. His handler had been referred to by several names, including Benton, Benson, and Bishop. The meeting ended abruptly, with no invitation to lunch, and Lee was immediately sent back to New Orleans. Lee was being shut out as much as possible, and that was not a good sign, even though he still did some traveling and attended some meetings.
On September 25 (Wednesday), Lee had a breakfast meeting at the International House with Guy Banister, Hugh Ward (Banister’s partner and pilot), and an envoy representing Mr Le Corque, who, Banister announced, was LBJ’s representative. Hugh Ward would be Lee’s pilot for the day. Clay Shaw arrived, carrying a blue zippered bag, containing the bioweapon. He gave the bag to Lee, and he handed a stack of files to Le Corque’s envoy for him to deliver to LBJ’s lawyers in Austin, Texas. Ward said it was time to hit the road, and there was no time to eat breakfast, so Lee filled a bag with cinnamon rolls (which he loved) for breakfast and lunch.
They all left at the same time. Banister drove Le Corque’s envoy to Lakefront Airport, where he boarded a plane to Austin. Shaw went to Hammond to visit his father, which provided a cover story for his absence from the Trade Mart. A waiting car took Ward and Lee to Eli Lilly to pick up a package for delivery to somebody in Austin. They proceeded then to the airport in Houma (about an hour west of New Orleans). (The Houma-Terrebonne Airport was known locally as the blimp station.) A Hispanic man was already in place in the co-pilot’s chair of the twin-engine plane. It was a De Havilland Dove, a type of plane often used by the oil industry. This particular Dove was owned by Schlumberger, the world’s largest oil field services company. It had just arrived from Houston. (More specifically, it had come from Hull Field in Sugarland, Texas, on the west side of Houston.) Half the passenger seats (normally there was room for eight passengers) had been removed to make room for cargo. The engines were warm, it was fully fueled, and the plane was good to go. With a range of 1000 miles and a top speed of more than 200 MPH, the 450-mile trip to Austin would take 2.5 hours and half a tank of fuel.
As Ward climbed into the captain’s chair and Lee secured the cargo, they received a radio report from a ham operator who was affiliated with the Cuban underground. Alex Rorke was missing. That was especially bad news for Lee, who had been counting on Rorke to fly Judy from Florida to Mexico when the time was right. They got to Austin at lunch time. A car was waiting on the tarmac. The Hispanic man drove Lee to downtown Austin, near the state Capitol. Lee walked into a Selective Service office and complained about his less than honorable discharge from the Marines. It isn’t clear why Lee did that. It didn’t seem to make sense. His transport to Austin had been done secretly, because the cover story was that he was traveling by bus from New Orleans to Houston. Not only did it expose his trip to Austin, but it also served no useful purpose to complain about the discharge at this point. He had already discussed the issue with Dean Andrews, and he had written to the Secretary of the Navy. His stay in Austin would be too brief to accomplish anything regarding the discharge, anyway.
Lee always had a purpose for whatever he did. We can only speculate on what his thinking was. Lee knew by this time that he was being set up. Rorke’s plane was missing, and that was more proof that he was being used and lied to. He feared that the real purpose for his trip to Mexico City was to show that he was an agent of Fidel Castro. He told Judy later that when he complained in the Selective Service office, he was just trying to create another cover story to confuse the timeline, similar to his story in Jackson that he was applying for a job at the mental hospital. Judy had her doubts, however. Maybe he felt that one way to defend himself from whatever sinister plot was being used against him was to be able to prove that he had, in fact, been in Austin on that date. If his handlers wanted that to be a secret, maybe he could thwart their plan by establishing that he had been there. Messing with their scheme might buy him some time, if nothing else. His options were extremely limited. If he simply disappeared, his handlers could retaliate against Judy, Ferrie, Marina, Junie, Susie, and others, including his mother and brother. He and Judy would never be really safe. Besides, he had no money. He had to keep playing along for a while. There might be something he could do to help save JFK’s life. He wasn’t ready to give up on that, even at the risk of his own death.
While the Latinos ate lunch, Lee waited for a courier. He soon arrived with cash in an envelope, which Lee was required to sign for. Before doing so, he counted the money. Twice. Next, the Latinos dropped Lee off at the Trek Café on South Congress Avenue. He waited there while the Latinos delivered the package from Eli Lilly to the Biology department at St Edward’s University. Lee was the only person in the café, and the only waitress could tell he was nervous. He drank coffee while drawing on several napkins. What he was writing was the call wheel information he had memorized, so he could figure out the times, places, and phone numbers he needed to stay in touch with Ferrie and Judy. When he saw the Latinos in the car outside, he left the café, wondering if he had been set up to get robbed of the cash he had just received from the courier. They took him back to the airport, where Ward flew Lee from Austin to Dallas.
They arrived in Dallas around sunset. Two Latinos met him there and drove him wherever he needed to go in Big D. He had them drive by Ruth Paine’s place, which was right by the airport. He saw her car in the driveway, already unpacked, so that was one less thing on his mind. His next stop was a visit to Sylvia Odio, where he hoped to learn of a few contacts in Mexico City and to find out more about the status of Alex Rorke. He also reserved an apartment in Dallas, for two reasons: 1) He planned to stay there when he came to see his newborn child; 2) He wanted Marina to have a place to stay in case things didn’t work out for her at Ruth Paine’s house. He met with Jack Ruby, who wanted Lee to bring back a supply of laetrile, a cancer drug, from Mexico. (It wasn’t legal in the US.) They returned to the Dove and flew to Houston.
When the plane landed at Hull Field in Sugarland, Lee received another blue zippered bag with fresh cancer cells. That added two more days of shelf life to the bioweapon. He boarded a bus for the long ride to Laredo. It would appear to the world as though he had traveled by bus all the way from New Orleans. That is, in fact, how it was reported by the Warren Commission, even though they had no evidence of it. They knew Lee had bought a bus ticket for New Orleans to Houston, so they just assumed that’s how he got there.
Meanwhile, Judy got a call from Ferrie letting her know that Hector was in Houston. Later she got a call from Lee, although it was very brief. He told her about Rorke, and he told her to be ready to leave Florida. He would try to arrange for another pilot, but she could take a commercial flight from Tampa or Miami if necessary. There was still hope.
Lee arrived in Mexico City on September 27 (Friday). He rented a place from Quakers, telling them that he was a mafia-connected drug dealer. They kept their distance, which is what Lee wanted them to do. However, the ploy backfired on him. He went to a souvenir shop to meet the medical technician to transfer the bioweapon. The med tech didn’t show up. Lee tried to contact his handler, Mr B, but he had flown back to Washington, DC. Lee had been abandoned, but he had memorized the names and numbers of several emergency contacts. One of them agreed to help him. They met at a bullfight. Meanwhile, Lee was aware that if any of the Quakers had reported him as a drug dealer, he could easily end up in a Mexican jail for the rest of his short life.
Lee now wanted to take the bioweapon into Cuba himself, so he and his emergency contact went together to the Cuban consulate, where Lee submitted an application for an emergency visa. The application was handled by Sylvia Duran, a pretty young woman who had unknowingly just been snared in a web of intrigue. Duran invited Lee to a party, after which they spent the night together at her place. Lee was hoping to get information and help from her. He didn’t succeed, and his visa application was denied on such short notice. By the time it was approved, it was far too late.
Lee was being impersonated in Mexico by CIA agents working for the JFK murder conspiracy. They were establishing an image of Lee as pro-Castro and pro-Communist. They had a small window of opportunity in Mexico City, so they didn’t have time to manipulate Lee as they had in New Orleans. They had to cut corners, and they did so. The plan was to blame the JFK murder on either Lee Harvey Oswald the Castro-supporter, or LHO the Communist, whichever seemed more useful to the conspirators at the time. As it turned out, they abandoned both of those options, because LBJ ordered them to. He couldn’t risk a war with Cuba and / or Russia, so they went with the lone nut theory. But that all came much later. In Mexico City, they had to keep all their options open.
Lee made one final desperate attempt to get into Cuba by trying to secure the visa under the table. It was sometimes done that way, but it didn’t work for Lee. Then he staged a kerfuffle at the Cuban consulate to demonstrate that he was really just a harmless buffoon, and should not be considered dangerous to anyone. He was nobody important. This ploy was inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, which both Lee and Judy drew from at times.
His handlers had promised Lee that he would be allowed to stay in Mexico City, and his career as an intelligence asset would have a fresh new start. However, he was now ordered to return to Dallas. He left the bioweapon in the souvenir shop in a safe place, and he left one of his suitcases in a locker at the bus station. If he did return to Mexico City later, he would still have the weapon and some clothes to wear. He was told that the mission had been aborted because of a hurricane bearing down on Cuba. He was not to be upset about it, because they would try again later. Lee knew that was a lie, and he knew that the one thing that had been accomplished in Mexico City was that he was now well known internationally as fanatically pro-Castro. He realized that it was just one more part of the plan to use him as a patsy. They no longer needed him or wanted him for Cuba, and if they didn’t want him for that, he was of no further use to them. He was simply a liability, because he knew too much about the JFK conspiracy plot. Lee’s plans for being with Judy had to change as well. Now they would meet in the Cayman Islands and stay there for a year or so, then live their dream lives of exploring lost Mayan cities.
Back in Dallas, Lee was debriefed, and he was once again told that the hurricane was the reason for mission failure in Mexico City. However, Lee was in Mexico City on September 27, and Hurricane Flora didn’t strike Cuba until October 4, so neither Lee nor Judy believed that was the real reason for scrubbing the mission. He learned that Rorke’s plane had been shot down over Cuba, and that his friend Alex might still be alive. The fact that none of his Cuban contacts had given him that information earlier was just one more sign that Lee was being isolated and set up. Rorke’s disappearance and possible death also suggested that Lee’s handlers were trying to keep Judy in Florida. He was still being told that he might be called on to return to Mexico City at any time, but he knew his role in The Project was over. For now, he was assigned to keep tabs on a group of people in Baton Rouge who wanted to kill JFK.
Ferrie called Judy on October 3 to let her know that Hector was back in Dallas. Ferrie also told her to order a new birth certificate immediately, because the old one had her New Orleans address on it. That had to be replaced by a Florida address. On October 6 Lee called. Alex Rorke and his pilot were probably dead. Ferrie was working on finding a replacement pilot to fly Judy out of Florida.
Ferrie called again on October 13 to tell Judy she had a job at Peninsular ChemResearch, located on an isolated campus outside Gainseville, beginning Wednesday. Designer chemicals were created and tested there for both private and government entities. Ferrie told her she would be working a lot of hours, but Judy knew it was a prestigious place to work, and that a lot of UF’s top Chemistry graduates would have jumped at an opportunity to work there even with no pay, just for the experience and the honor of having it on their resume. Judy, on the other hand, had only a single college chemistry class under her belt. Some of those exotic chemicals produced there would be shipped to New Orleans, via Eastman Kodak and Eli Lilly, for example. Some of them would be used to deep-freeze the bioweapon, which Judy found less thrilling. Ferrie explained how he had convinced Dr O to secure this job for her. It would have been suspicious if the cancer research whiz kid had suddenly abandoned all lab research. She was grateful for the wonderful job, but her goal was still escaping her life in Florida for a new life with Lee somewhere. She was so confident that it would happen soon that she didn’t enroll for any important classes, knowing they would end up being incompletes.
On October 16 (Wednesday), Judy started her new job. Once again, Lee was starting a new job on the same day. He was now employed at the Texas School Book Depository in downtown Dallas, across from the federal court building. The building had recently been purchased by Mr Byrd (a close friend of LBJ), and the book depository business had recently moved in. Lee’s boss, Mr Truly, was told that Lee was doing undercover work for the FBI. With refurbishing work in progress, there were a lot of people constantly coming and going, so Lee would not be noticed. Much like at Reily’s, Lee could come and go as needed, only now he didn’t have a time clock to worry about.
Lee called Judy on October 19 (Saturday), the day after his birthday. He was 24. Although he and Marina were permanently separated, he saw her and his children on weekends. He had cried when Ruth and Marina presented him with a little birthday cake. Although Lee had sounded hopeful and somewhat confident the last time they had talked, he now sounded worried. When he returned to Dallas, he had been invited to become a member of the conspiracy determined to kill JFK. He had no choice but to pretend to be a willing participant in the assassination plot. Who else could possibly stop it? He was spending his evenings with those men who wanted also to blame Kennedy’s murder on Cuba, triggering a US invasion of the island nation. That would force Russia to respond, triggering World War III. He knew he hadn’t been recruited because he was such a good marksman. He wasn’t that good. No, they were setting him up as a patsy. His only chance for survival was to escape, but that would be very risky. That could easily end up getting everybody killed. So he felt he had to stay on and do whatever he could to foil the conspirators. He had already made up his mind to pass on the information he was gathering to someone who might be able to prevent the murder. Doing anything less, he felt, would be immoral, in spite of his personal vulnerability.
Lee called again on October 21 (Monday), to tell Judy about the birth of Audrey Rachel, almost seven pounds, on Sunday.
In November, Lee met regularly with at least one of the men who were plotting to kill JFK. He was concerned because, even though they treated him as though they trusted him, he never knew exactly who was who, and there were too many people involved. He had learned that the kill site would probably be Chicago or Miami. Dallas was Plan C, and if it happened there, it would probably be at the Trade Mart. The motorcade route in Dallas was being carefully planned to sort of toy with JFK, to show that the conspirators had all the power, and a dead JFK would be their trophy. For example, the motorcade would turn at 3600 Turtle Creek. That was significant because Mayor Cabell, Senator Tower, and Clint Murchison all had apartments at 3525 Turtle Creek. There would also be photos of the assassination, and the most prized photo would be one of JFK’s dead head with eyes open.
On one occasion, a Secret Service agent asked for Lee’s advice. He wanted to know the most likely ambush sites a sniper might use in an assassination plot. It was ostensibly part of the agent’s desire to protect the president, but it may have just as easily been used by the plotters to find the best sniper nest. It is unknown whether the man was really a Secret Service agent.
On November 16 (Saturday), Lee told an FBI agent that a right-wing group planned to kill JFK when the president visited Dallas on November 22 (Friday). A teletype message was sent to field offices, and William Walter (a clerk in the New Orleans field office) saw the message Sunday morning. Walter confirmed that to Jim Garrison’s investigators in the late 1960s. The FBI said they had no such document, but J Edgar Hoover was compromised by his ties to the mafia, and he played a key role in the JFK murder cover-up. Lee was aware of Hoover’s mafia affiliations, but he was willing to risk his life to get the information out to FBI agents who (hopefully) would act in good faith to thwart the assassination plot. He made that decision in part because Dr Mary had not given up trying to save JFK’s life, even after The Project had failed. She was from Chicago, and she gave Lee the names of some trustworthy FBI contacts in the Windy City.
Lee told Judy that three possible Dallas kill sites had been selected by the conspirators, each with its unique problems. Love Field offered no natural cover for escape, so snipers would have to use the crowd for cover. The Trade Mart offered great sniper positions, but it would be heavily guarded. So would Dealey Plaza, with Dallas Police Department headquarters right there. Dealey offered great sniper positions, but the only way it could work is if Dallas police were in on the conspiracy. That didn’t require the active participation or awareness of the entire department, but just a few key top-level officials in it.
Lee and Judy talked by phone for an hour and a half on the night of November 20 (Wednesday). Lee had two different meetings to go to later that night (or early Thursday morning, since Lee didn’t call her until 11:00pm). Lee was no longer working on his own. He had managed to arrange an abort team who would be trying to save JFK’s life by thwarting the plans of those who were trying to kill him. Lee was working with the abort team while pretending to work with the conspirators. He would be taking orders from both, and he had no choice but to play along and be wherever the conspirators expected him to be. Judy suggested he take a laxative to appear sick, like playing hooky from school, which drew a laugh from Lee over such an absurd idea. Lee was prepared to die, because he felt that saving Kennedy’s life was worth dying for. This was, in fact, the moment Lee’s entire life had been leading up to. He didn’t have a death wish, but he did have a deep desire to make an important contribution in his life. This was it.
Judy tried again to convince him to just walk away. He had already done everything he could for JFK. But Lee flatly rejected that notion. He reminded her that doing so would mean the certain death of the people he cared for, including her. Running was not an option. They would simply find a replacement for him. At least with Lee there, he knew there would be one less bullet fired at JFK. Maybe he could fire a warning shot. Judy couldn’t tell if he thought that might actually work or if he was just trying to give her hope. What bothered him most was knowing that they were going to blame the assassination on him, and his kids may never know the truth about their father.
They both realized that this would probably be the last time they ever spoke to each other. Hope of meeting outside the US and spending their lives together had faded, and they knew it was no longer realistic. Before Lee hung up, he told Judy he had finally figured out who his handler really was. Remember, he asked her, all the names that had been used, like Benton, Benson, and Bishop? He had learned that the mysterious character was from Fort Worth, Texas, which meant it had to be David Atlee Phillips, a CIA agent. That was the traitor behind the conspiracy, and Lee told Judy to remember that name. And there were two other names she must remember: Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes. They weren’t directly involved in the assassination plot, but the plot was about them.
Judy went to work on Friday, November 22, as usual. There were more people in her lab than normal, watching the news on a television set mounted on the wall by the door. They were interested in coverage of JFK’s visit to Dallas. Judy kept an eye on the TV as she ate lunch. She continued to glance at it occasionally after lunch was finished and she had returned to working on logbooks. She could hear people discussing Kennedy, and she had discovered that almost all of her coworkers despised JFK. In fact, most people in the Deep South hated the president, apparently, especially segregationists and anti-Catholics. As Judy went about her daily routine, there were still several people gathered in front of the TV, but she didn’t know why. Maybe they had some information about what was about to happen in Big D?
It was about 1:30 in Florida when news started coming in that JFK had been shot in Dallas. When it was reported that the young president had been given last rites, almost everyone in the lab cheered. Judy couldn’t hold back her tears, nor could she control her anger. What’s the matter with you? she demanded. She wilted under the glares, realizing immediately what a blunder that had been. Now they all knew she was a Kennedy sympathizer, and that could have repercussions for the people who had placed her there: Dr O and Ferrie. She maneuvered to face away from the others in the lab as she tried to pull herself together and go on working. But when it was announced that JFK was, indeed, dead, the tears flowed again. She tried to at least look busy, but her hands were shaking.
What about Lee? It wasn’t long before she began to find out. A man had been arrested for killing Dallas police officer J D Tippit in Oak Cliff. Not good. That’s where Lee lived. The suspect had been arrested at the Texas Movie Theater. Had he also killed JFK? The speculation had begun. Soon she heard the name Lee Harvey Oswald. By 4:00, that name was repeated over and over on TV, and it was clear that Lee was being blamed, just as he had predicted. Then she saw a picture of Lee on the TV screen. He had been beaten. Her boss noticed her gasp, and demanded to know if she was a goddamned Communist. In a very short time span she had lost her president, her lover, and undoubtedly her job. She knew that Lee would not be allowed to talk and reveal what he knew. He was a dead man walking. Her own life may be in danger as well. Or at least her freedom.
At around 5:00, everyone started to leave the lab. Judy called Robert for a ride home. He was not very moved about the news of JFK’s death, nor was he willing to pick up his distraught wife. He demanded that she stay and work overtime as usual so he wouldn’t lose money for the day. She told him she was very upset and in no condition to work, but he insisted that she wouldn’t feel any better about the situation if she were home. However, she remembered that it was time for Ferrie to call, based on the call wheel. Had she gone home, she would have missed it, and she was eager to hear whatever inside information he could offer.
She hurried to the pay phone, and Ferrie called right on schedule. He was frantic, but not about the Kennedy assassination or Lee’s safety. He was concerned about a library card, demanding to know if Judy had it. He was talking about the card for Tulane Medical School. If they found that on Lee, it would lead to Ferrie and Dr O. The entire Project would be exposed, and that would, of course, be a disaster for everybody who had been part of The Project. He had already searched Lee’s apartment and didn’t find it. She told Ferrie that she had the card, and he ordered her to burn it immediately. She told him she was standing between two tanks: one with liquid nitrogen and the other with liquid oxygen. He told her, in that case, to dissolve it in sulfuric acid, which she promised to do. (She tore it up and buried it in the sand under a pine tree.)
Ferrie calmed down once he no longer had to worry about the card. He said he was going to Texas that evening, driving the entire way. Marcello had agreed to provide high-powered legal help for Lee. They would get Lee sprung. But Lee wasn’t the only one who got arrested; he was just the one getting all the publicity at the moment. Marcello’s lawyers were on top of everything. She had no idea how powerful the mafia was in Dallas, he told her. She need not worry. They would get Lee out of jail, or somebody would have hell to pay. She knew Ferrie was not to be taken literally, for the most part, but she did allow her hopes to rise a bit.
Ferrie had spent the day in court with Marcello. He had heard about the JFK murder at almost the very same instant he heard the judge pronounce his boss innocent. Marcello had triumphed over Bobby Kennedy, and he was throwing a party to celebrate. Ferrie had to be there, of course. He would call again tomorrow (Saturday) with the latest news, although it would be very late, and he would call her from a different pay phone.
When the time approached to take Ferrie’s call, she and Robert were at the Zieglers’ house watching TV. It wasn’t at all unusual for Judy to go outside and watch the stars or go for soft drinks, so nobody paid much attention when she excused herself to go down the street for soft drinks. The phone rang just as she arrived, and what she heard was devastating. Ferrie was in tears, bluntly warning her that it was time for her to start focusing on saving her own life. She would have to keep her mouth shut and play dumb, because Mr T was watching her every move. He was referring to Santos Trafficante, the Godfather of Miami and Tampa. He was also close to Carlos Marcello, and he, Judy believed, liked her. That was her only hope for safety, it seemed. Lee’s situation may be hopeless, Ferrie told her. They would do everything they could to save him, but it didn’t look good. He said he had to make other calls, so he had to go. He would call her one more time, and that would be the end of their contact.
On Sunday (November 24) Judy watched on television as Lee was shot by Jack Ruby in the Dallas Police station as Lee was being transferred to another facility. Only then did she realize that she had met Ruby before. Only she had known him only as Sparky.
Judy slipped into a deep depression. Her survival depended on her ability to leave the past behind and make the best of her unhappy life with Robert. She blocked out as much as possible any news about the murder of JFK and LHO, but it was impossible to avoid entirely. Her work suffered, and she was told she would be fired at the end of the year.
She knew there would be no legitimate investigation into the assassination, and she knew she couldn’t tell anyone what she knew. She would be killed immediately if she talked. Besides, nobody would believe her, and she couldn’t prove anything.
Ferrie called her for the last time only to stress that they must never, ever talk again. Both their lives were in danger, and Trafficante was watching them. Ferrie was really sticking his neck out by calling that last time. Judy had to keep her maiden name out of the newspaper. She had to abandon any plans of future science stardom. She had to be a vanilla girl, as Ferrie put it. Goodbye, J.
In early 1964, Judy was unemployed and still depressed, but she was no longer feeling suicidal. She had one final mission to complete before the New Orleans chapter in her life was finally over. That was to make sure, some day, that Lee’s girls knew the truth about their father.
Fortunately, she was eventually able to do much more. Her book, Me & Lee: How I Came to Know, Love, and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald was published in 2010. This blog is based on her book. Today, Judy lives outside the US for her own safety. She is very active in the movement to expose the truth about LHO and about JFK's murder. She also wrote David Ferrie, published in 2014, and she is currently co-writing another book. A related book is Dr Mary's Monkey, by Edward T Haslam, which deals with the mysterious death of Dr Mary Sherman.