Spy in a Little Black Dressby Maxine Kenneth
Inspired by an actual letter in the John F. Kennedy Library written by Jackie and revealing her job offer from the newly formed CIA
When young Jackie Bouvier receives her second assignment from the CIA, she knows it will go better than her first. She managed to survive the Paris job-while looking her best in Givenchy, no less-but now she's/b>/b>/i>
Inspired by an actual letter in the John F. Kennedy Library written by Jackie and revealing her job offer from the newly formed CIA
When young Jackie Bouvier receives her second assignment from the CIA, she knows it will go better than her first. She managed to survive the Paris job-while looking her best in Givenchy, no less-but now she's completed her official CIA training. So she's excited to show her boss exactly what she can do for her country.
Her new mission: Go undercover in sultry Havana and investigate a young revolutionary named Fidel Castro. But before Jackie can infiltrate the communist cabal, she's in past her hemline in danger. In another exciting adventure, she colludes with Grace Kelly, dances with Frank Sinatra, and flirts with an up-and-coming congressman from Massachusetts.
As the international intrigue escalates, Jackie must use all her finely honed skills to stay ahead of her enemies . . . and make sure spying never goes out of fashion.
It appears that there was more to [Jackie Kennedy] than just the ability to wear a pillbox hat. Just call her Jane Bond. Spy in a Little Black Dress manages to bring together a satisfying mystery and Cold War espionage with a lighthearted romance and nostalgia for the days when Havana was the place for high-rollers, mambo, and mojitos. I'm already anticipating the next book in the series."CriminalElement.com"
There's plenty to enjoy in this light spy caper."Booklist"
As a light, fun-filled spoof of the spy genre, Spy in a Little Black Dress delivers. If you're a fan of Jackie Kennedy, with a sense of humor, you'll enjoy her adventures (still as Jackie Bouvier, of course) in Cuba as a CIA agent investigating a young revolutionary named Fidel Castro who is opposed to Batista's US-backed regime."Historical Novels Review"
Pull out your little black Oleg Cassini dress and oversized sunglasses. Turn up the mambo, pour a cool minty mojito, and get ready to accompany sassy (but always chic) secret agent Jackie Bouvier on her adventures to Cold War Cuba. Spy in a Little Black Dress is an entertaining page-turner about Jackie's spy escapades before she became a Kennedy."Susan Elia MacNeal, author of Mr. Churchill's Secretary and Princess Elizabeth's Spy"
In SPY IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS, Jackie B. is as feisty, fun and fashion-forward as she is fearless."J.J. Murphy, author of the Algonquin Round Table Mysteries"
A sexy, suspenseful, and endlessly entertaining novel that combines superior storytelling with impressive research, portraying the era, its iconic heroine, and a fascinating cast of supporting characters in a book that is clever, credible, and utterly irresistible."Deborah Davis, author of Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X"
Mix spies, gangsters, Cuban revolutionaries, a treasure hunt, and a libidinous young Jack Kennedy, shake but not stir, and you have one potent historical cocktail featuring cub reporter and CIA neophyte Jacqueline Kennedy as the appealing heroine. Let's hope Maxine Kenneth keeps Jackie's adventures coming for many books to come."William Dietrich, author of The Emerald Storm"
SPY IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS is such a charming and engaging story that I'm hooked. Jackie makes a terrific spy-I'll follow her to Cuba, Paris...anywhere!"Ellen Sussman, New York Times bestselling author of French Lessons"
In this fun spy romp, none other than Jacqueline Lee Bouvier is graduating from college in 1951. [S]he is thrilled when [the] deputy director of the newly established CIA offers her a special assignment in Paris. Having studied at the Sorbonne, Jackie is confident and intrigued, but when a simple defection devolves into multiple murders, she calls for backup. This highly enjoyable first [novel] offers plenty of cameo appearances by luminaries of the post-WWII social and political scenes including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Christian Dior, and Marlene Dietrich."Booklist on Paris to Die For"
Great fun! Makes you want to buy big sunglasses and fly to Paris."Rita Mae Brown, New York Times bestselling author of the Mrs. Murphy mysteries on Paris To Die For"
JFK loved Ian Fleming's creation of James Bond so this intriguing novel may not be as far-fetched as you think."Kitty Kelley, New York Times bestselling author of Jackie Oh! on Paris To Die For"
Part mystery, part chick lit, Paris to Die For is all fun. It manages to bring together a satisfying mystery and Cold War espionage with a lighthearted romance and gushing tour of Paris. It's full of name-dropping, with cameos from Wallis Simpson to Ian Fleming to the then-unknown Audrey Hepburn, and peppered with delightful bits of pop culture. I'm already anticipating the next book in the series."Historical Novels Review"
A bold book that makes you rethink one of our most beloved 20th century American icons."Mark Medoff, Tony Award-winning playwright of Children of a Lesser God on Paris To Die For"
Paris to Die For is a frothy romp through the City of Light with a determined young Jackie Bouvier. It goes down with a tickle, like a fine champagne."Rebecca Cantrell, award-winning author of A Game of Lies on Paris To Die For"
In her last year as an editor, Jacqueline Onassis was actually working on an espionage story that intersected with her own life at key points. I can imagine her paging through PARIS TO DIE FOR with a wicked smile."William Kuhn, author of Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books on Paris To Die For"
Jackie. Oh! Like never before. If you like suspense, romance, Paris, and Dior you'll love this book."Laurie Graff, author of You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs and The Shiksa Syndrome on Paris To Die For
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Read an Excerpt
Spy in a Little Black Dress
By Maxine Kenneth
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2012 Maxine Kenneth
All right reserved.
Granada, Nicaragua, October 13, 1856
Maria Consuela heard the pop-pop-pop of musket fire coming from beyond the convent walls and knew that the day of liberation had arrived.
Today the convent gates were thrown wide open, and she and her sister novices ran out into the street, as uncharacteristically giddy as young schoolgirls on holiday, to greet the conquering heroes. There they were, the norteamericanos, or the filibusters, as they were known back home in America, supporters of her country’s Democratic faction. They wore no uniforms, but instead a rough collection of motley outfits: swallowtail coats and middy jackets, stovepipe hats and cloth caps. Some had bandoliers strapped across their chests; others had leather or burlap ammunition pouches slung over one shoulder. All of them carried their rifles and pistols casually at their sides, raising them occasionally to shoot at the odd Legitimist sniper popping up here and there.
Joining the crowd in support of the liberators was just the excuse Maria Consuela needed to say good-bye to the convent behind whose walls she had lived for so many years, like a prisoner resigned to her fate. She had been forced by circumstance to trade one stifling existence as the dutiful daughter of middle-class parents for another as the young novitiate dedicated to Christ. And now, this liberation of her country was her chance to leave both lives behind and make a fresh start. She would never return to the convent, she promised, even if it meant becoming a campesino’s wife and working in the fields from dawn till dusk.
Maria Consuela and the other novices joined the joyous crowd and skipped alongside the filibusters as they marched—strolled, really—through the narrow and twisty streets of Granada, the former Legitimist stronghold. The young women pecked the soldiers daringly on the cheek as a show of thanks for freeing them from the oppressive Legitimist regime and showered them with flowers as a kind of benediction.
One very young soldier caught the flower Maria Consuela boldly threw his way, removed his cap, and put the flower in his hair. His fellow filibusters laughed at him, but he looked at Maria Consuela and winked at her, as though they were sharing a private joke. To Maria Consuela, this soldier, with his thick rimless glasses, looked more like a librarian than a member of a conquering army.
Suddenly, Maria Consuela heard the sound of a single rifle shot coming from above the street and watched as one of the soldiers fell to the ground, his chest exploding in a bright red spray of blood. She had never seen anyone killed before, and it horrified her.
A second rifle shot immediately ensued, and Maria Consuela mistook it for an echo of the first. But when a second soldier collapsed in a shattered heap, she realized just how much danger the crowd was in.
“Sniper,” someone called out. And all the soldiers and their well-wishers melted away into the nearest doorways or alleyways, seeking protection from the shooter lying in wait on a rooftop overlooking the street.
Maria Consuela wanted to move to safety too, but found that her legs wouldn’t let her. She was frozen in place, paralyzed by fear.
Then a third rifle shot sounded in the street, and a little spray of earth erupted right in front of her. Something must be wrong, Maria Consuela thought. The sniper couldn’t be such a bad shot that he missed her so completely.
Before she could react, a fourth rifle shot cracked the air, and dirt from the ground spat up to her right.
A fifth, and a clod of dirt sprang up to her left.
Then, with a chill, Maria Consuela realized that the sniper wasn’t a bad marksman. He was merely toying with her, using her as a staked goat in order to lure some of the soldiers out of hiding so he could finish them off. He knew that sooner or later someone would come to her aid, and then he would hit his target with deadly accuracy. Unless he got tired of waiting, at which point she was sure to become his next victim.
Maria Consuela cringed, knowing that the next breath she took might well be her last. Please, God, she pleaded in the throes of desperation, let me live, and if you do, I will return to the convent and pledge the rest of my life to extolling your glory.
But in the interval between the last rifle shot and the one sure to come, a man appeared in the street. He was diminutive in stature and wore a black frock coat with black trousers and a black, flat-brimmed hat that made him look like an undertaker or a fire-and-brimstone preacher. From a holster cinched around his waist, he whipped out a pistol and began calmly and methodically firing it up in the direction the shots had been coming from. Spurts of dust pocked the ground around him as the sniper alternated between returning the gunfire and ducking for cover. But the black-clad little man remained heedless of his own safety and refused to flinch. Instead, he just kept on firing until his pistol was empty and he was forced to reload.
With the echo of the man’s last shot still reverberating in the narrow street, Maria Consuela heard a clattering sound from above and watched as the sniper’s rifle rolled down the tiled roof and fell to the street. A moment later came the sniper himself. His lifeless body tumbled down the slanted roof and struck the ground within an arm’s length of his weapon, landing with a resounding thud. The filibusters and their wellwishers emerged from their hiding places and approached the body to make sure that the sniper was well and truly dead.
Ignoring the dead sniper, the man in black holstered his weapon and approached Maria Consuela.
“Are you all right?” he asked her. His eyes lingered for a moment on her petite form inside her novice’s habit, as if trying to assure himself that she hadn’t been injured.
Maria Consuela found herself unable to speak, trembling not with fear but out of a profound sense of relief. All she could do was nod, shaking the long, dark curls that stuck out on either side of her wimple. She looked into his eyes and was surprised by their intensity. They were blue and fervent as though lit from within by a holy fire, and his riveting gaze made her feel safe. Something akin to the first stirrings of love quivered inside her, like a cocoon vibrating right before the birth of a butterfly.
“Good,” the man in black said as he held out his arm for her to take.
Maria Consuela smiled at this gentlemanly gesture. Arm in arm, she accompanied him through the streets of Granada until they, along with the crowd of soldiers and their wellwishers, arrived at the large and imposing villa that was the former headquarters of the overthrown Legitimist regime.
As she stood next to him, a delegation from the Democratic faction swarmed around the little black-clad man and deluged him with gratitude.
“Oh, thank you, thank you, may God bless you for liberating our country,” they said, some with tears streaming down their cheeks.
He accepted their thanks with grace and humility, but Maria Consuela had the distinct impression that he also thought of this acknowledgment as his just due, like Caesar being rightfully rendered unto.
Maria Consuela noticed a man who was holding himself apart from all the others. Hat in hand, he approached the small man in black and introduced himself.
“My name is Domingo Goicuria, and it is my honor to speak to you on behalf of the country of Cuba,” he said in a deferential tone, bordering on awe. “I have traveled here to ask you to come to the aid of the Cuban people and free our island from Spanish rule.”
It was then that Maria Consuela realized that this man in black, her savior, was the generalissimo of the norteamericano army of filibusters. Despite his diminutive stature, this American Napoléon had liberated her people and, inadvertently, liberated her as well. His name was William Walker, and he had changed her life forever. On the spot, she abandoned her pledge to return to the convent if she survived the sniper’s bullet—a promise clearly made in a moment of foolish weakness. No, now there was no going back. Maria Consuela knew that from this moment on her life would be inextricably bound with this American, who would declare himself the new president of Nicaragua.
THE MEXICAN DRACULA
New York City, May 1951
Whether on duty or off, an agent must be aware of his surroundings at all times.
—CIA FIELD AGENT MANUAL
It was a courier run.
Her instructions had been very simple. Go to New York. Pick up a package. Return with the package to Washington, D.C. Spend the day in Manhattan doing tourist things as a cover for her covert activities. But based on past experiences, if there was one thing that Jacqueline Lee Bouvier knew for certain, it was the fact that even the most simple assignment for the CIA could metamorphose into something with complications, ones that could lead to injury or even death. All she had to do was think back on her recently concluded assignment in Paris to recognize how true this was.
As she sat on the passenger train barreling north from Washington, D.C., to New York City, she acknowledged that things were slightly different now. In Paris, she had been a neophyte, completely out of her depth in the world of spies, counterspies, and assassins. Now that she was beginning recruit training at the Farm, the CIA’s code name for its spy school at Camp Peary, she had actual training to draw on. But she still had a lot to learn and worried that a situation might come up that she wouldn’t be able to handle. At the same time, she had faith in her natural instincts and native intelligence to get her out of any scrape that might arise.
Once the train arrived at Pennsylvania Station, Jackie exited the building on the Seventh Avenue side, admiring the beaux arts architecture that made it one of the most beautiful railroad stations she had ever been in, and that included the Gare de Lyon in Paris. It was a beautiful spring day, and she was wearing a stylish black dress that caught the attention of many a male passerby on the busy street.
Following directions, Jackie walked up Seventh Avenue and found herself right in the middle of the Garment District, where men pushed wheeled racks of clothes through the streets at breakneck speeds, secretaries ran errands to the staccato tempo of their high heels striking the pavement, and rag merchants argued volubly right there on the sidewalk with the intensity of Talmudic scholars. She located the address she was searching for and entered a building that looked like it had already been old around the time of the Draft Riot during the Civil War. Inside, there was a cage elevator, obviously newer than the building but still looking old and rickety, so Jackie decided not to risk it and took the stairs instead.
On the third floor, she sought out the office in question, knocked, and entered. The room held several battered pieces of office furniture that looked like they might have gone a couple of rounds with Jack Dempsey. Standing by one desk was a balding, bulbous-nosed, middle-aged man in an ill-fitting suit. On the desk in front of him were a pitcher of water and a bottle of seltzer. As Jackie watched, he poured some water into a glass, then picked up the bottle of seltzer and spritzed a little into the water, which he stirred with a spoon. He then held up the glass to her and said, “Would you care for a two cents plain? It’s very refreshing.” There was the hint of an Eastern European accent to his speech.
“No, thank you,” said Jackie, “I never drink seltzer. It gives me gas,” wincing at the other half of the nonsensical password.
The man drank from the glass, then put it down. “This is for you,” he said, opening a drawer and taking out something that he placed on the desktop for Jackie to see. Francophile that she was, she recognized the object immediately. It was a classic leather Hermès sac à dépêches handbag, which the company had been making since the midthirties. Was this the package she had come all this way to retrieve, Jackie wondered to herself. She could hardly believe it.
The man opened the bag to show that it was empty. “Now, please,” he said, “put your bag in here.”
Jackie had also been instructed to bring with her a small bag or purse. She now placed her bag inside the Hermès bag, glad to see that it fit perfectly.
The man looked intently at her. Jackie wondered if she had done something wrong. “Is there a problem?” she asked.
“Have you ever done any runway work? Because I could always use a new model. We’re showing our winter line in a few weeks, and we’re short a model or two.”
“Sorry,” Jackie said, “but I already have a job. I’m a photographer.”
“Then maybe you’ll come back and take photographs of our show.”
“Maybe,” Jackie said in as noncommittal a fashion as possible.
She picked up the Hermès bag and said, “Thank you,” then headed for the door. As she turned the doorknob, the man called out to her, “Be sure not to lose it.”
“I won’t,” said Jackie as she went through the door. Back on Seventh Avenue, she plotted her next move since her orders stipulated spending the day doing tourist things in the city, making sure to hold the bag firmly under her arm so as not to risk losing it or having it stolen.
She walked over to Fifth Avenue and headed uptown. Her first stop was Charles Scribner’s Sons bookstore, where she fulfilled her tourist obligation by spending a brief time browsing. In the fiction section, she came across a mystery novel entitled Death in the Fifth Position, by Edgar Box, and smiled to herself. She knew that this was a pseudonym for her cousin Gore Vidal. It seemed that his second novel, The City and the Pillar, had scandalized the New York Times reviewer Orville Prescott with its frank depiction of a homosexual relationship. Prescott had placed a ban on reviewing any more books by its author. So to get around the critic’s embargo and continue to earn money as a writer, cousin Gore had concocted this commercial mystery novel and arranged for it to be published under a pen name. She bought a copy, thinking it would make diverting reading on the train trip back to D.C., and dropped it into the Hermès bag.
Back on Fifth Avenue, she wondered what was inside the bag that made it so important to the CIA. Was there something hidden inside it? Top secret papers, perhaps? Or a large sum of paper money sewed into the lining? Unfortunately, she was in the dark here because she had been briefed for this assignment only on a need-to-know basis.
Suddenly, Jackie felt a slight tingling sensation and glanced casually over her shoulder. A man she had seen in the bookstore was now following her down the street, or so it seemed. He was dressed anonymously in a blue seersucker banker’s suit and had an anonymous-looking face to match. But there was something about his manner that told Jackie it might be best to test out some of those evasive maneuvers she had been taught.
Fortunately, she was coming up on Saks Fifth Avenue. According to her training, department stores were excellent places in which to lose a tail. They were crowded with people and had many exits to exploit. Jackie entered the store, spent some time looking in the makeup department on the first floor, then took the elevator to the second floor to look at the new women’s fashions, not that she needed to buy anything. She then went to the ladies’ room to kill some time, hoping that the man, afraid of being conspicuous, would give up and move on.
After what she thought was a decent amount of time, Jackie left the security of the ladies’ room and walked out of Saks, using the exit on Fiftieth Street. Back on Fifth Avenue, she passed St. Patrick’s Cathedral, looking occasionally behind her for any sign of the man. She hoped that, if he had truly been following her, she had now lost him.
She headed up to Fifty-Third Street and decided to stop in at the Museum of Modern Art, where she paid her admission and spent her time there viewing a survey exhibition, Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America, which featured works by Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and others. Jackie found the paintings both shocking and exciting in their unusual deployment of colors and shapes that forced one to consider art—and life, for that matter—in a new light. But even more shocking was the sight of Mr. Seersucker, as she was now beginning to think of him, pretending to be gazing intently at a Franz Kline. Somehow he had managed to forestall her attempt to lose him at Saks.
With an escalation of that tingling sensation, Jackie looked at her watch while plotting her next move. It was one fifteen. She had enough time to make her way over to Times Square, where she purchased a ticket from a broker and attended a matinee performance of the sold-out musical Guys and Dolls at the 46th Street Theatre.
Before the house lights dimmed, Jackie’s mind kept turning back to that man. Three times she had seem him in three different locations. This was obviously too much to be a coincidence. What did he want with her? Was he after the Hermès bag? Just thinking about it made her clutch the bag even tighter.
Once the curtain went up, though, she was able to forget momentarily about the anonymous-looking man and lose herself in the musical antics of those characters who sprang to life from the pages of Damon Runyon’s short stories: There was hustler Nathan Detroit, scrounging to find a new location for his floating crap game, gambler Sky Masterson hoping to win a wager with Nathan by romancing the Salvation Army sergeant, Sarah Brown, and showgirl Miss Adelaide trying in frustration to get Nathan to the altar. Jackie loved the smooth and handsome Robert Alda as Sky, the earthy Sam Levene as Nathan, the comically winsome Vivian Blaine as Miss Adelaide, and the rousing Stubby Kaye as he led a room full of sinners in “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” And she thrilled when Sky whisked Sarah off to Havana for a romantic date and plied the straight-laced sergeant with “Cuban milkshakes” until she let her hair down, tipsily sang, “If I Were a Bell,” and kissed him. Unfortunately, during the cast’s curtain calls, her mood was spoiled when she looked several rows ahead and spotted Mr. Seersucker applauding vigorously along with the rest of the theatre audience.
After the musical was over, Jackie saw that she had more time to kill before she was due back at Pennsylvania Station. As she left the theatre, she looked around and was relieved to see that the anonymous-looking man was nowhere in sight on Forty-Sixth Street. She realized that she had skipped lunch and felt famished. Fortunately, there was a Schrafft’s nearby. Jackie entered the restaurant and was surprised to find it so crowded. A hostess informed her that if she wanted to eat dinner, she would have to be seated with another party. Jackie preferred to eat alone, but her stomach insisted on being fed now, so she agreed to share a table.
She was seated with a beautiful young woman whose casual clothing—sweatshirt and black slacks; probably a denizen of Greenwich Village—belied her regal carriage. Despite her bohemian appearance, this young woman was obviously used to having the best of everything, an impression that was confirmed when she opened her mouth to speak and addressed Jackie in a voice that was pure Mainline Philadelphia.
“Hello,” the young woman said.
“Hello,” Jackie responded. She sat and put her Hermès bag on the edge of the table, where she could keep her eye on it. The woman was reading a book while waiting for her meal to arrive. Jackie glanced at the title and saw it was The Philadelphia Story by Philip Barry.
“Let me guess,” Jackie said. “Tracy Lord?”
“How did you ever know?” gushed the blonde, putting down the book. “I so identify with her.”
“So do I,” Jackie concurred. “You look like you could play her.”
“Thank you. I’d love to. If they ever revive the play. Or remake the movie.”
“I’d be afraid to compete with Katharine Hepburn.”
“So would I,” the blonde confessed, after a brief hesitation.
“So you’re an actress?” Jackie asked.
“How’d you guess?”
“That’s a Samuel French edition you’re reading,” Jackie said, pointing to the printed play script with its distinct yellow cover.
“Guilty,” said the actress, laughing. “My secret is out.” Jackie noted that she even had the laugh of a true Barry heroine down pat.
“Jackie Bouvier,” said Jackie, sticking out her hand.
“Grace Kelly,” the actress said, taking it.
The waitress came, and after a brief perusal of the menu, Jackie ordered a toasted cheese sandwich, a salad with green goddess dressing, and an iced tea.
“So how’s your career going?” Jackie asked the actress.
“It’s going,” the actress replied. “I’ve done some live TV… been directed by Delbert Mann. Oh, and I have a small role in a movie called Fourteen Hours.”
“That’s wonderful,” said Jackie.
As she waited for the food to arrive, Jackie looked around and was dismayed to see Mr. Seersucker seated at a table by himself. Her heart sank at the realization that she still had to deal with him. He had lulled her into a false sense of security by not resurfacing until now. Her train of thought was derailed by a question from the actress.
“Is that an Hermès bag?” she asked.
“Yes,” Jackie said, adding with a slight twinge of paranoia, “It was a gift from my favorite uncle.”
“I’d love to have one of my own.”
“Well, maybe one of these days…”
“Yes,” the actress agreed, “when I become a famous actress.”
They both laughed over that. Their dinners came and they started eating. But Jackie could barely taste her food. All she could think about was her tail, looking so calm and collected several tables away, with a pot of steaming-hot coffee just set down in front of him. She had to figure out a way to lose him once and for all. And as she took another bite of her sandwich, an idea occurred to her.
“Excuse me, Miss Kelly—”
“Call me Grace.”
“All right—Grace. I’m Jackie. You see that man over there?” She directed the actress’s attention to the man seated several tables from them.
“He’s been following me all over town this afternoon. I’m afraid he might be some kind of masher. Or worse. I have to get away from him. But that will require some assistance. Would you be willing to help me?”
“Of course,” said the actress with relish. “We Tracy Lord fans have to stick together.”
“Good. Now, this is what I would like you to do.”
In a low voice, Jackie briefed the actress on her plan. When she was finished, she held out her hand again.
“It was very nice meeting you, Grace.”
“Nice meeting you, Jackie.”
“The best of luck with your acting career.”
Jackie left the actress some money to pay her bill, then abruptly picked up the Hermès bag, got up from the table, and headed swiftly toward the door. It was past rush hour, and outside there were plenty of available cabs coming down the street with their roof lights on.
As Jackie scooted out the door, Mr. Seersucker stood up quickly, threw some money down on the table, then prepared to follow her.
At the same time, the actress stood up and called out to Jackie, “Oh, miss, you forgot your—”
She then rushed to the door, putting her on an interception course with the man, who was still trying to rise from the table. As she came level with the table, the actress reached out with her hand and deliberately knocked over the coffeepot, spilling its steaming contents all over the lap of the man’s trousers. He let out a scream of pain followed by a series of curses as the scalding-hot liquid soaked through the material of his trousers to his skin, his stream of invective shocking the secretaries and elderly society matrons seated around him.
Instantly he was surrounded by waitresses attempting to blot the stain with napkins taken from nearby tables. Mr. Seersucker tried to extricate himself from their grasp and fight his way through them to the door, but his struggle was in vain.
All this was observed fleetingly by Jackie through the restaurant window as she simultaneously tried to flag down a cab. A yellow Checker stopped for her with a screech of brakes, and Jackie told the driver her destination: “Pennsylvania Station.”
As she glanced back through the cab’s rear window, she could see the actress looking out through the restaurant window and giving her the high sign. Mission accomplished.
Arriving back at Pennsylvania Station, Jackie had plenty of time to board her train, the Congressional, for her return to D.C. Once on the train, she sat back in her seat and closed her eyes. It had been a long and exhausting day, made stressful by the strange man who had been tailing her. But she had managed to lose him and now here she was, going home with the Hermès bag still in her possession.
The train left the station on time, and through the dusk, Jackie could see the marshlands of New Jersey passing by outside the window. Suddenly, there was the reflection of another person in the glass, and Jackie whipped her head around and was shocked to see the man she thought she had lost now sitting right across from her. In the lap of his trousers was a conspicuous stain.
Mr. Seersucker caught her looking and said, “I hope you’ll pay for my dry cleaning, Miss Bouvier.”
Jackie’s heart plummeted. The man knew who she was. Now she would have to figure out some new scheme to separate herself from him. And she was fresh out of ideas.
The man settled himself in his seat. He must have known what she was thinking. “You can relax, Miss Bouvier,” he said. “I’m from the Farm. That was a clever stunt you pulled back at the restaurant. Looks like you passed your first test with flying colors.”
Washington, D.C. May 1951
I ’m as ready as I’ll ever be, Jackie told herself as the front door clicked shut like an exclamation point. She drew in the early evening air filled with the fragrance of gardens in bloom and the spice of a new adventure. This was the big night. A date that Jacqueline Lee Bouvier hoped would not live in infamy. She had to make a good impression on Jack Kennedy when the Bartletts introduced her at their supper party, which had been arranged for that very purpose.
What Charlie and Martha Bartlett didn’t know was that Jackie had met Jack Kennedy once before. As she drove away from Merrywood, her stepfather Hugh Auchincloss’s Virginia estate, and headed for the Bartletts’ home in Georgetown, Jackie remembered that first random meeting with the young congressman from Massachusetts. She was on a train returning to her junior year at Vassar with a classmate when Jack and his assistant invited themselves into her compartment. Their conversation was all a blur now—mostly flirtatious bantering on Jack’s part and tolerant amusement on Jackie’s. But what stuck in her mind was Jack Kennedy’s indisputable allure. He was matinee-idol handsome, wickedly funny, and fiercely ambitious, yet charmingly shy. Back at Vassar, she had dashed off a letter to a friend, describing what an insistent flirt the congressman had been but admitting that she felt an absolute attraction to him all the same.
Now, as Jackie crossed the Chain Bridge in the 1947 black Mercury convertible given to her by her father, her pulse quickened at the thought of meeting Jack Kennedy again.
Within minutes, she pulled up in front of 3419 Q Street, the typical narrow, brick row house where the Bartletts lived. Jackie had driven with the convertible’s top up so her hair wouldn’t get mussed, but she didn’t bother locking the car. Georgetown, the oldest neighborhood in Washington, D.C., was a safe one. Besides, if the car did get stolen, her mother would be thrilled. She thought that a convertible was unsafe and had been badgering Jackie’s stepfather to buy her a Buick sedan. The fact that the convertible had belonged to Black Jack—her mother’s philandering ex-husband, who still made her blood boil more than a decade after their divorce—was an even bigger strike against it.
At the front door, Jackie smoothed out the Dior outfit that she’d bought in Paris, took a deep breath, and announced her arrival with the brass knocker.
“Hi, Jackie, we’ve been waiting for you,” Charlie Bartlett said, smiling broadly as he opened the door and gave her a quick peck, appropriate for an old flame who was now a married man with a baby on the way.
“I’m not late, am I?” Jackie asked.
“No, no, you’re right on time,” Charlie said, squeezing her hand in a way that reminded her of their dates two and a half years ago. Jackie had been an impressionable nineteen-year-old college student then, and he was a twenty-seven-year-old wunderkind journalist who had opened the first Washington bureau for the Chattanooga Times, a sister paper of the New York Times. Their romance fizzled when Charlie said that he could never give Jackie the exciting high life she coveted, but now he was determined to find a more appropriate suitor for her. Who better than Jack Kennedy, one of Charlie’s closest friends and the most eligible bachelor in Washington?
A year had gone by since Charlie had married his perfect mate—Martha Buck, the daughter of a wealthy steel mogul—and now he wanted to help Jackie find the same marital bliss with Jack Kennedy. Little did he know that Allen Dulles, deputy director of the CIA, was even more eager for the two to hit it off.
For a moment, Jackie saw herself back in Dulles’s office receiving her assignment, and she again heard his cajoling voice speaking to her about Jack Kennedy. “We’re not asking you to marry him,” Dulles said. “We would just like you to go out with him a few times and use your considerable beauty and intelligence to persuade him to become a friend of the CIA.” Jackie felt a pang of conscience. What would the Bartletts think if they knew the real reason why I’m here?
“Let me introduce you to everyone,” Charlie said, cutting into Jackie’s thoughts and leading her into the living room. Guests were milling around in the small room, which was modestly decorated with a pair of antique armchairs, some inexpensive furniture, and a few nondescript prints on the ivory-colored walls.
Jackie turned to Charlie and gave him an anxious look. “Is he here?” she whispered.
“No, Jack hasn’t come yet,” Charlie whispered back, “but he’s always late.”
Martha Bartlett, a visibly pregnant redhead, emerged from the kitchen with a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette aloft at a jaunty angle in the other.
“Jackie, you look divine,” she said, air kissing her on both cheeks, European-style. She turned to her husband. “Charlie, why don’t you fix Jackie a drink, and I’ll do the introductions.”
A quick glance around the room told Jackie that Martha had invited the usual crowd of young, up-and-coming socialite couples who frequented the Clambake Club in Newport and wintered in Palm Beach. The only one who stood out was a beautiful, slim young woman who apparently had come to the party alone.
“And this is Loretta Sumers. She’s an accessories editor at Glamour magazine and an old Long Island schoolmate of mine,” Martha said, introducing Jackie.
“So nice to meet you, Loretta,” Jackie said with a tight smile. Uh-oh, I know who you are. You’re the extra woman who’s here in case Jack Kennedy doesn’t think that I’m his cup of tea. She couldn’t help wondering, cattily, if Glamour paid for Loretta to get those fashionable blond highlights in her light brown hair and where Jackie could get hers streaked the same way.
Martha prattled away about how Loretta’s family had such fun socializing with the Kennedys every winter in Palm Beach. Jackie listened politely, but when she heard that Loretta’s nickname was Hickey, she almost laughed out loud. Then, imagining how Loretta might have come by that moniker and fearing that she would be competing for Jack Kennedy’s attention, Jackie fell victim to a sharp stab of self-doubt.
At that moment, the door burst open, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy made his entrance.
He still looks so young, Jackie thought, more like a teenager than a three-term congressman about to be thirty-four in a couple of weeks. He couldn’t have weighed more than 150 pounds and had to be at least six feet tall, so he looked as if he were still growing. His haystack of reddish brown hair, toothy smile, and twinkling periwinkle eyes added to the boyish impression. So did the careless way he dressed. Someone will have to do something about his clothes, Jackie mused, eyeing the shapeless, too-big sports jacket and unpressed, too-short trousers dangling gracelessly around his ankles. But his overall effect was that of a genial force of nature—a magnetic field of charisma that drew everyone to him irresistibly and captivated them with his charm.
Jack immediately began working the room, inquiring how this person’s sailboat did in Nantucket’s Figawi race and how that person’s trip to Acapulco had gone and when another person’s cousin who was serving in the Korean War was coming home. Jackie was amazed at the almost encyclopedic knowledge Jack had about each guest. Even more impressive was his satiric sense of humor and hilarious impersonations of people in the news (everyone from President Truman to a Mafia gangster), which had them all laughing.
Finally, Martha extricated Jackie from her perch on a love seat in a corner, where she’d been observing the scene like a bird-watcher, and brought her over to the life-of-the-party congressman.
“Jack, I’d like you to meet Jacqueline Bouvier,” Martha said, tapping him on the shoulder.
“The lovely Jacqueline Bouvier,” he said, looking at Jackie with interest and flashing his intoxicating smile. “Pleased to meet you, Jacqueline.”
“The pleasure is mine,” Jackie said, batting her eyelids at him demurely and returning his smile. “Actually, we’ve met before.”
His look of surprise told Jackie that by this time, she had probably disappeared into a faceless crowd of college girls, secretaries, models, actresses, and other assorted females Jack had flirted with instinctively.
“Yes, it was on a train…”
Suddenly, Loretta Sumers was tugging on Jack’s sleeve. “Oh, Jack, there’s something I need to speak with you about,” she said, adding as she glanced at Jackie, “Do you mind?” Without waiting for an answer, Loretta led Jack away. He looked back at Jackie and shrugged, unable to get out from the insistent Hickey’s talon-like grasp.
Jackie retreated to her refuge on the love seat, feeling defeated by a score of Loretta, 1; Jackie, 0.
But within moments, Jack was back. With athletic grace, he slipped into the empty seat beside Jackie. “So tell me something about yourself, Jacqueline,” he said. Displaying the inquisitiveness that he was known for, he started asking her questions. Where did she go to school? What was her degree in? Had she done any traveling lately? Did she have a job?
Jackie answered all his questions without revealing anything about herself that she didn’t want him to know—she had a degree in French literature from George Washington University; yes, she’d just returned from Paris (on a pleasure trip, not a CIA assignment); and she would soon be starting work as the Inquiring Camera Girl for the Times-Herald.
This last piece of information seemed to pique Jack’s interest. “Really? The Times-Herald? Have you been following their coverage of the House Un-American Activities Committee? And of Joe McCarthy in the Senate?”
Jackie wrinkled her nose at Jack’s mention of this zealous anti-Communist crusade. The blacklisting of writers, actors, directors, and musicians whose work she loved was unconscionable to her. “I think there’s something creepy about a fanatic like Senator McCarthy,” she said. “Anyone who works with him has to be a malicious goon who enjoys persecuting the most talented people in the country.”
Jack started as if blindsided, then quickly recovered his usual aplomb. “I’ll tell my brother Bobby that,” he said, his lips curled in an ironic half smile. “Bobby is a staff lawyer for Joe McCarthy’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.”
“Oh.” Jackie gulped and felt her cheeks grow flaming hot. She studied her drink, wishing she could take back her words and drown them there.
Once again, Martha Bartlett saved her, announcing that dinner was being served. “Take your places, everyone,” she called out, pointing to the table, which was set with place cards and china.
Naturally, Martha had arranged for Jackie to be seated next to Jack. This is going to be horrible, Jackie thought. He probably won’t say another word to me all night.
But Jack surprised her. He gave her an admiring look as he pulled out her chair and said with a smile in his voice, “I like a woman who speaks her mind.”
Whew! Jackie felt like a death row inmate whose sentence had been commuted, but she didn’t know if Jack really meant the comment or was just being polite. Play it safe, she warned herself, and let him do the talking from now on.
While Jack tore into the chicken casserole that the cook had prepared, Jackie hardly ate. She was intent on following her father’s expert mating-game instruction to pay attention to everything a man says. “Fasten your eyes on him like you were staring into the sun,” he had told her. But he had also warned her to be inaccessible and mysterious, claiming that once a man possesses a woman, he loses interest in her automatically.
So Jackie hung on every word that Jack said, fixing her large brown eyes on him as if mesmerized, her lips slightly parted, as she responded with an overawed “golly” or “gee” in a whispery, little-girl voice to Jack’s monologue. He spoke about what a close-knit family the Kennedys were and how his father had tapped him to fill the empty shoes left by his older brother, Joe, when he had been killed in the war. And although Jackie gave the impression that she found Jack utterly captivating, she remembered what Black Jack had told her about being untouchable. Whenever Jack leaned in too close or put his hand on hers, she politely pulled away.
Jackie’s performance was so convincing that everyone else in the room seemed to have disappeared. She needn’t have worried about competition from Hickey Sumers (she was the one who looked defeated now) or any other woman there—Jack had eyes only for her. Jackie’s intense adulation leavened with a pinch of coquettishness seemed to impel Jack to drop a politician’s natural instinct for guarding his privacy. Over dessert and coffee, he confided in Jackie that he was bored with being a congressman and was thinking of challenging Henry Cabot Lodge, the Republican junior senator from Massachusetts, in the coming election.
Jackie wasn’t sure how she should respond to this revelation—somehow “golly” and “gee” didn’t seem adequate—when Martha stood up from the table and said, “Come on, everyone, it’s time for charades.”
Oh no, I was doing so well, Jackie thought, when she discovered that she and Jack were on opposing teams. She knew from his history as a war hero and winner of tough political campaigns that Jack was a competitor to be feared. A little tremor of apprehension coursed through her when she imagined making such a complete fool of herself that he might never want to see her again.
“You didn’t,” she said to Jack when she unfolded the paper he’d handed her and saw the name scribbled on it: Henry Cabot Lodge. Was she a sparring partner for Jack’s potential bout with the senator? She felt like slinking off to the powder room, but the teasing grin on Jack’s face got her dander up, and an idea came to her that she had to try.
She put her arms out at her sides, began waving them, and mouthed the sounds of clucking. “Chicken,” someone on her team shouted. Jackie shook her head and brought her hands toward each other in a shortening motion. “Hen,” another team member shouted. Jackie nodded encouragingly, then made a stretching motion. “Henna… henpeck… Henry,” someone else called out.
Jackie nodded an emphatic “yes.”
Then she depicted a big box with a line down the middle and a knob on each side. “Door,” someone shouted. Jackie shook her head. “Closet,” someone else called out. Again Jackie shook her head. “Armoire,” said another, and they all laughed as Jackie rolled her eyes. Then Charlie Bartlett, who was on her team, shouted, “Cabinet.” Jackie nodded and brought her hands together as if squeezing something. And Charlie said, “Cab… cabin…” Jackie nodded hard, and Charlie finally shouted, “Cabot! Henry Cabot Lodge!”
“Oh, yes, thank you!” Jackie said. She wanted to kiss Charlie when she caught the admiring look that Jack gave her. But then she glanced at her watch and gasped. It was nine thirty, almost time for her to be meeting John Husted for a nightcap at the Georgetown Inn. She desperately wanted to break up with John and was hoping that she’d have the courage to do it tonight.
“You’re leaving so soon?” Jack asked with disappointment in his voice as Jackie made her round of good-byes.
“I’m sorry, but I have to,” she said, softening her insistence with a smile.
As she started walking toward the door, Jackie saw Loretta Sumers come bounding toward Jack, eager to move in and take her place.
Not on your life, Jackie thought. She turned back to Jack and gave him an inviting look. “If you’d like to walk me to my car, that would be wonderful.”
“Of course,” Jack said, leaping up from his chair and linking his arm in hers, while a sullen-looking Loretta Sumers was stranded in her tracks.
When they reached Jackie’s black Mercury convertible parked in the middle of the block, Jack asked, “Would you like to go someplace for a drink, Jackie?”
He was smiling at her, but he had a predatory look in his silver-blue eyes. It was the same look that Jackie had seen her father give a woman when he was sizing her up to see how fast he could get her into bed.
The womanizer once-over, Jackie thought and looked away. “Uh… I don’t know…,” she stammered. Do I have a headache? Do I have to get up early? As she frantically searched for an excuse, she absentmindedly yanked the car door open.
And to her shock, a body fell half out of the car, like a corpse making its entrance in a mystery melodrama.
It was John Husted!
“Hey, Jacks,” he said, to her complete and utter humiliation, “who’s your friend?”
Allen Dulles sat behind his desk, puffing on his Kaywoodie, his face expressionless as he listened to Jackie’s account of her meeting with Jack Kennedy the night before.
“Everything was going along swimmingly, just as we had planned, when out of the blue, there was my boyfriend,” she said, “and I can tell you, Jack Kennedy didn’t take it any too kindly.” Slumped in a chair across from Dulles, she sounded like a dazed accident victim describing the catastrophe to the police.
Jackie shuddered as she recalled how badly the evening had ended. A rudely awakened Husted explained to her that he was walking along Q Street, saw her car parked there, decided to wait for her in it, and fell asleep. As for Jack, he hadn’t bothered to hang around for an explanation. He merely gave Jackie a withering look and slunk off into the night in a mist of bruised ego.
Jackie was beside herself. Leave it to good old dependable John Husted to show up at the most inopportune time and turn such auspicious beginnings into a fiasco. She sighed and looked at Dulles with a pained expression. “If only I had locked the car, that never would have happened.”
Dulles nodded. “That’s a good lesson learned,” he said evenly.
Jackie stiffened, expecting him to reprimand her, but instead, Dulles smiled at her in an avuncular way and said, “Cheer up, Jacqueline. This may turn out to be a bit of serendipity.”
“What do you mean?” Jackie asked.
“For a man like Jack Kennedy, nothing is a bigger aphrodisiac than competition,” Dulles said with a chuckle. “You’ll hear from him again. I guarantee it.”
Jackie’s heart skipped a beat when she picked up the phone and heard a vibrant man’s voice with an unmistakable Boston accent say, “Hello, Jacqueline, this is Jack Kennedy. I hope I’m not calling too early, but I wanted to reach you before I got tied up in Congress all day.”
What a shrewd judge of character Allen Dulles is, Jackie thought, as she remembered her CIA boss assuring her that she’d hear from Jack again. But the very next day at nine in the morning? From what she’d seen, an indifferent nonchalance was the secret of Jack Kennedy’s success as a roué. So Dulles had been right when he predicted that John Husted’s appearance out of the blue would ignite a competitive spark in Jack.
“No, you’re not calling too early,” Jackie reassured him. “In fact, I was just getting ready to take my horse Sagebrush out for a morning ride. The grounds at Merrywood are gorgeous this time of year with everything in bloom.”
“Not as gorgeous as the lady on horseback will be, I venture to say.”
He wakes up flirting, Jackie thought, but all she said was, “You’re very kind.”
“Well, I understand that you’re quite the horsewoman,” Jack said, “but as a Democrat, I’m afraid the donkey is more my speed. Some of my political enemies might say that’s because I’m such an ass myself.”
“I hardly think that’s true,” Jackie responded with a chuckle. Jack’s self-deprecating humor was a refreshing change from all the braggadocio that she heard at Merrywood, where her stepfather’s circle of Washington’s power brokers frequently gathered to hold forth on their latest accomplishments like talking billboards.
“Actually, I’m allergic to horses, strange as that might seem,” Jack said, “so I have a different idea. How would you like to go dancing in the Blue Room at the Shoreham Saturday night?”
“Oh, Jack, I’d love to,” Jackie said, forgetting not to sound overeager, as her father had warned her against when a gentleman caller asked her out for a date. But she was genuinely pleased. The Blue Room was the city’s swankiest nightclub, drawing stars as big as Judy Garland, and the Shoreham was the most famous hotel in Washington. Senators, congressmen, and diplomats lived there; presidential inaugural balls took place there; and President Truman often came there for his regular poker game. Perle Mesta, Washington’s “Hostess with the Mostest,” held social gatherings at the Shoreham, and Jackie herself had gone to many a society dance, school prom, debutante’s coming-out party, and wedding in its regal ballroom. Jack Kennedy had picked the perfect place for their first night on the town.
It was now a beautiful Friday morning in late spring, cool for that time of year, and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was enjoying the weather by taking a stroll through the streets of Georgetown. She was glad to have the time off from her training at the Farm. Her mind was stuffed to bursting with all of the information she had learned in Escape and Evasion, Flaps and Seals, and Codes and Ciphers, and her body was stiff from daily bouts of calisthenics and running the obstacle course. With all this behind her for the week, she was looking forward to a civilized lunch with Charlie Bartlett, who had promised to fill her in on the elusive Mr. Kennedy.
Hearing a man nearby speak into an open phone booth with a distinct Boston accent, Jackie turned, thinking it might actually be Jack Kennedy. But when she got a look at the man, she was disappointed to see that the Boston accent belonged to someone else. That Jack Kennedy, she thought, giving the devil his due—so dangerously attractive, he could get under a girl’s skin. But she knew it was her job to get under his skin, and she was hoping that Charlie Bartlett would provide her with the insights she needed to do just that.
She loved walking down Wisconsin Avenue in the heart of Georgetown, with its quaint shops and wonderful restaurants, including her favorite, Au Pied de Cochon, which resembled nothing less than a Paris bistro that just so happened to be plunked down in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood. Next to the restaurant was another one of her favorite Georgetown locations, an antiquarian bookstore that was filled with hidden literary treasures. Early for her luncheon date with Charlie, Jackie decided to stop in there for a leisurely browse through the stacks.
The tinkling bell over the doorway announced her arrival to the shop’s owner, a tweedy man with owlish glasses and a neatly trimmed Vandyke, who stood behind a counter, removing archaic books from a wooden crate.
“Hello, Miss Bouvier,” he said. “What can I do for you today? I just got a very rare first edition of The Old Curiosity Shop. It’s in excellent condition.”
Jackie looked sufficiently impressed, then said, “Sounds like it’s too rich for my blood. I’m just a poor working girl. I was wondering, though, if you have any books on Cuba.”
Although she was searching for nothing in particular, she thought it might be helpful to pick up a book on Cuba, since this was where her next CIA assignment would be. She knew that there had to be more to that Caribbean island than rum, sugar, the mambo, and Desi Arnaz, that cute Cuban bandleader who had successfully teamed with former MGM beauty Lucille Ball to star in the popular television series I Love Lucy.
The owner pointed her to a small section near the back of the shop, and Jackie began to browse the shelves, forgetting all about her recent problems and becoming lost in a place that seemed to have more in common with Dickensian London than with 1950s Washington, D.C. And then, as usually happened while she was immersed in this world of paper and glue and musty smells and dust, one title in particular seemed to rise and float in front of her eyes. This one announced, A Recent History of Cuba.
As though under a spell cast by the book, Jackie’s hand reached out and plucked it off the shelf. She opened it and laughed to herself. This book had been printed in 1855. Recent, indeed! Although she doubted that there was anything in it relevant enough to add to her current store of knowledge on the subject, Jackie impulsively decided to purchase the book. She took it to the counter, where the owner, acting like a proper English bookshop proprietor, wrapped the book in brown paper and tied it with twine before handing the package to Jackie and taking her money.
Still early for her luncheon date with Charlie, Jackie entered Au Pied de Cochon next door. There she ordered a glass of wine and waited for her friend while examining her new purchase.
Seated at a table where she could watch the great parade of pedestrian traffic pass by, Jackie tore away the brown paper and twine from her parcel. She opened the cover and was surprised to find a bookplate that read PROPERTY OF WASHINGTON COLLEGE. Jackie knew that this was the original name of Washington and Lee University, after the general who provided the initial financial impetus for the institution, George Washington. There was no WITHDRAWN FROM CIRCULATION stamp anywhere on the book, meaning that it had been either illegally removed from the college library or checked out and never returned.
Jackie leafed through the book. The pages were yellowed with age, but the book itself was in surprisingly immaculate condition for one so old. As she looked through it, though, something curious happened. The endpapers at the front of the book popped open and several folded-up pages fluttered out and landed on the table in front of her.
What was this? Jackie put down the book and picked up the pages and unfolded them. They were as yellowed as those in the book, unlined and covered with minuscule handwriting. The author of these pages was obviously intent on writing as much as possible within the confines of the small page.
Jackie quickly looked through them, admiring the writer’s neat penmanship. She then started from the beginning and began to read the pages, which she quickly determined were portions of a diary. She turned to the last page, but the name of the diarist appeared to be absent.
The waiter set her glass of wine down in front of her, but Jackie was so caught up in the diary that she didn’t notice.
As she skimmed its pages, several individual entries popped out at her:
… February 24th, 1855… a great day. I have joined William Walker’s army of filibusters and will soon take part in the invasion of Nicaragua.
… July 13th, 1855… glory hallelujah, we are victorious. We marched through the streets of Granada, greeted by the locals as conquering heroes. One young girl came up and threw a flower at me. I put it in my hair and marched on, warmed by the reception I and my fellow filibusters received…
… [undated]… I have been introduced to Our Lady of the Flower. Her name is Maria Consuela. The introduction was made by the Great Man himself. To my surprise, Maria Consuela, who left the convent on the day of liberation, is now the mistress of William Walker. I guess he mourns no more for the dead fiancée he left behind, buried in their native New Orleans…
… [undated]… the Great Man has become too powerful and his recent rulings have made many powerful enemies back in the U.S. of A., including his chief financial supporter, Cornelius Vanderbilt. I fear that our days in this country are now numbered.
… April 30th, 1857… it is late at night and I find myself a partner in a momentous secret undertaking. Knowing of my friendship with Maria Consuela, the Great Man has charged me with the responsibility of spiriting her out of Nicaragua and escorting her to safety in Cuba. The Americans will be landing on the morrow with express orders to place Walker under arrest. Under cover of darkness, I will flee with Maria Consuela and the Great Man’s treasure to Cuba. I will pray for a moonless night.
… [undated]… we have landed safety in Cuba. I wonder how the Great One is faring back in Granada. Whatever his fate, his treasure is safe here. I will mark its location with a map. Once I have ascertained that Maria Consuela is safe, too, I shall endeavor to return to the U.S. of A., where I hope to resume my career as a professional soldier.
Jackie was surprised to find that there was a small gap in the dates until the unnamed diarist picked up his account again. But there was no time to read them because here was Charlie, on time for their lunch. She put the book and the diary pages away in her pocketbook and rose to greet Charlie. Finding out the unnamed diarist’s fate would have to wait.
“One thing you need to know about Jack Kennedy is that as soon as he has a woman, he loses interest,” Charlie Bartlett told Jackie over lunch. “The chase is everything to him, the challenge of getting the woman to say yes, and then he’s off to the next one. He has a voracious sexual appetite; it’s like Chinese food—an hour after a meal, he’s hungry again.”
Jackie glanced around the room, hoping that no one in the crowd of politicos in conservative suits and dowagers in tasteful outfits had overheard Charlie. She didn’t want anyone to know that she was having lunch with him so that he could brief her in preparation for her date with Jack Kennedy. When she expressed concern that they might bump into Jack at the popular Au Pied de Cochon, Charlie had assured her that the congressman always brought his lunch in a brown paper bag to the Cannon House Office Building. “Sometimes, the security guards mistake him for a tourist and try to stop him from going up to his office,” Charlie had told her, laughing.
Jackie had to laugh too. “Bringing his lunch in a brown paper bag to the office doesn’t sound like much of a ladies’ man,” she said.
“Well, he’s not the kind of ladies’ man who romances a woman, takes her out to lunch, sends her flowers, or writes love notes to her. He’s a Don Juan type—the kind of rake that women find irresistible. In that respect, he takes after his father.” Charlie carefully buttered his chunk of baguette and gave Jackie a questioning look. “You’ve heard about Joe Kennedy and Gloria Swanson, haven’t you?”
Jackie nodded. It seemed that all of Washington knew about Joe Kennedy’s scandalous affair with the famous actress, whom he had met years ago when he was a Hollywood producer. Tongues were still wagging about how Joe would bring his mistress into the family home in Hyannis Port and make love to her there while his kids were around and his peripatetic wife, Rose, was shopping in Paris or praying in a shrine in Rome.
“It’s odd, but Jack’s father always wanted him to be privy to his extramarital affairs,” Charlie said, pausing to take a bite of his coq au vin and a swallow of his pinot noir. “Joe would give him an explicit description of every woman he slept with, and when Jack got older, Joe constantly talked about exchanging girls with him.”
Jackie picked at her salad niçoise and pretended to be shocked, but her own father had exhibited a similar predilection, drawing her into his lecherous affairs as a confidante when she was a child. Black Jack even told his little daughter how he had slipped away from her mother on their honeymoon while sailing to England on the Aquitania and had made love with heiress Doris Duke. Whenever Jackie was alone with him, her father would point out different women and ask her which one she thought he should seduce. At least Jack Kennedy and I have something in common, she thought.
“But when it comes to marriage,” Charlie informed her, “Jack doesn’t want a girl who’s an ‘experienced voyager,’ as he puts it.”
Jackie smiled. “You mean he wants a virgin?” she asked, recognizing the “experienced voyager” reference from a collection of Lord Byron’s journals and letters. “That’s a quaint way of putting it. I didn’t know Jack was so literary.”
“Oh, he’s as avid a reader as you are, Jackie,” Charlie said. “He plays it down, but he’s as well schooled in the classics as he is in historical and political works. He was very sickly as a child—still has a serious back problem—and was bedridden a lot of the time, so he buried his nose in books.”
Another thing we have in common, Jackie thought, remembering how books became her refuge from unpleasantness when she was growing up. To escape from violent brawls between her drunken father and enraged mother, Jackie would retreat to a room with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and read anything that she could get her hands on—Chekhov, George Bernard Shaw, Byron, and Gone with the Wind, which she had read three times by the age of eleven. It surprised her that Jack Kennedy had also enjoyed a privileged childhood in many ways, but not the rosy one that most people assumed.
“I wouldn’t have guessed Jack was such a lonely bookworm as a boy,” she told Charlie. “He seemed so outgoing and self-confident at the party and had such presence. It was amazing.”
“He’s worked hard to develop that persona, believe me,” Charlie said. “When I first met him in Palm Beach right after the war, we were both shy young navy veterans who came from rich Catholic families and were trying to climb the Mount Everest of WASP high society. Jack’s looks, charm, and spunk have taken him a long way, but the family carried the stigma of being Irish Catholic ‘riffraff.’ That’s why Rose was so obsessed with neatness and propriety. She made her children pass inspection like the toughest drill sergeant in the army.”
Sounds like my mother, Jackie thought. Like Rose, Janet had struggled in vain to gain full acceptance into the higher echelons of the WASP world, even inventing an aristocratic southern lineage for herself to cover the fact that she was the daughter of a rough-hewn businessman. Driven to measure up, Jackie’s mother sought perfection in her Porthault sheets, gourmet meals, and ball gowns. And she would not let Jackie out of the house unless every stitch of her clothes was in perfect shape—the same kind of exacting standards that Jack’s mother had imposed on him and against which he apparently had rebelled. The more Charlie talked about Jack, the more Jackie thought that she and the congressman might be kindred souls.
One thing that the two of them did not have in common was money. Charlie had previously let it slip that when Jack had turned twenty-one, he had begun to receive income from several trust funds that totaled ten million dollars. “Jackie, that’s a million dollars a year,” Charlie had said in awe. That was real money, as Janet liked to call it, especially impressive compared to Jackie’s total inheritance of three thousand dollars from her paternal grandfather and her allowance of fifty dollars a month from her nearly destitute father.
But Jackie didn’t want to talk about Jack’s money. She was more interested in finding out some specifics about his political leanings. It would be terrible if she committed another faux pas like her outspoken attack on Senator Joe McCarthy, not knowing that Jack’s brother Bobby worked with him.
“I’m just wondering, Charlie,” she broached the subject, “do you think Jack will care that my stepfather is such a staunch Republican?”
“Oh no, Jack’s not a wild-eyed liberal,” Charlie said, wiping his lips with his napkin as he finished his meal. “He’s a very pragmatic congressman who knows how to work both sides of the aisle. Jack is a new breed of politician, more flexible and open-minded than the stalwarts, and he’s not as self-serving as his father. I think Jack really cares about people who are less fortunate, not just in our country, but in other parts of the world too. You know, he’ll soon be off to Southeast Asia as part of a seven-week trip around the world. It’s not just a pleasure trip. He wants to get a better understanding of the conflicts that are happening in the underdeveloped world.”
“That’s admirable,” Jackie said, genuinely impressed.
“It is, and if you ask me, Jack’s sympathies are with the underdog, the new nations that are revolting against the old authoritarian ones.” Charlie smiled. “Jack is a rich man’s son—a patrician, you might say—but he’s a rebel at heart.”
Jackie was starting to like the character emerging from Charlie’s description more and more. She could identify with Jack’s desire to break free of the Old Guard’s narrow-mindedness and rigidity—it was the same battle she was waging with her mother. And fresh from her assignment in Paris, where she’d helped a princess save her small country from being carved up by more powerful neighbors, she felt for the underdog too.
Charlie’s mention of incipient rebellions against the old totalitarian order gave Jackie an opening to bring up the situation in Cuba. She wondered if Jack knew anything that could help her with her upcoming CIA mission, and she was curious to hear if Jack’s sympathy for the downtrodden extended to the plight of the poor there.
She approached the subject casually. “If Jack is so interested in political dissent, why doesn’t he visit Cuba?” she asked, after taking the last bite of her salad. “There are always newspaper reports about unrest there, and it’s a lot closer than Southeast Asia.”
Charlie laughed. “When Jack goes to Cuba, it’ll be to see a live sex show or to have a private romp at one of the hotels,” he said. He shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Jack hasn’t stopped talking about that since a senator friend of his came back raving and offered to go there with him and show him around.”
Jackie was sorry she’d asked. Whatever Jack Kennedy did with other women was his business. All she was interested in, as far as the congressman was concerned, was carrying out the task Dulles had assigned her to do: persuade Jack to become a friend of the CIA. But Jack Kennedy was a fascinating man, and she had to admit that she was looking forward to their date Saturday night with the kind of anticipation that could get a girl in trouble if she wasn’t careful.
After lunch with Charlie, Jackie saw that the day was still delightfully temperate, so she decided to prolong her visit to Georgetown and take a walk over to the C&O Canal Towpath. She walked down Wisconsin, past the bustling intersection where the avenue met M Street—the epicenter of Georgetown activity. To her right was the campus of Georgetown University, and to her left, in the distance, could be found the White House. When she reached the towpath, she strolled along it until she found a nice empty bench overlooking the Potomac River, one of the best locales in the District to appreciate this beautiful day.
Excerpted from Spy in a Little Black Dress by Maxine Kenneth Copyright © 2012 by Maxine Kenneth. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Maxine Kenneth is the writing team of Maxine Schnall and Kenneth Salikof.
Ken Salikof is a special contributor to the New York Daily News' "Page Views," a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and an award-winning screenwriter (for Ernest Hemingway Slept Here). Ken has sold scripts to New World Cinema, HBO, Nickelodeon, and several independent producers and has edited many bestselling novels. Follow him on twitter at @kensalikof.
Maxine Schnall is the author of six non-fiction books and one novel, including What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger (Da Capo, 2003); a Pulitzer Prize nominee (Limits: A Search for New Values, Clarkson Potter, 1982); a former contributing editor with Woman's Day and CBS radio talk show host; and a popular media personality with six appearances on Oprah. Please visit her website at maxineschnall.com.
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