|Painting: Van Stein|
Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence
Within a few weeks of our meeting, Ira Einhorn pressed me for a critique of Cantor Dust, his novel.
I couldn't very well tell him his manuscript was the most incoherent load of old crock I'd ever read.
So I e-mailed this quick comment:One of a kind. Astonishing in its depth.
Einhorn zapped me right back: "Remember, there are 3 more."
My report to the FBI on this so-called "literary masterpiece" by Sam (codename for Einhorn, though this later changed to Fat Ass) was somewhat different:
Cantor Dust is a long, rambling essay disguised as a novel. Its most blatant flaw (and there are many) is this: A novelist is supposed to show, not tell. This manuscript tells, doesn't show. It is an amalgamation of great philosopher meets new age spiritualism, regurgitated in Sam's incoherent psycho-babble.
The protagonist--obviously Sam, himself--holds himself out to be the world's greatest genius and is a proponent of incest and sadomasochism.
When I telephoned Einhorn, he focused, again, on money.
All money talk should be communicated by fax, not e-mail, he decreed.
"We have a secret bank account in Luxembourg," Einhorn told me. "My book's gonna be big because I'm famous. And I've got some more writing I'm sending you. It's called Fragments, modeled after Nietzsche's style of writing."
Einhorn and I now e-mailed each other daily, talking by phone weekly; he, giving me updates on his legal situation in France.
When I met with John H, Mike and Ed on March 16th (Sheraton Wardman Tower, room 3035) the Philly boys were beside themselves over how well my relationship with Einhorn had flourished.
"I sure do," Einhorn replied. "Thank you for calling. I really appreciate it."
Two-and-a-half months later, a jury awarded Holly Maddux's family a judgment against Ira Einhorn for $907,000,000.
In his communications with me, Einhorn sounded overjoyed about this development, for two reasons:
1) He believed the judgment made him worth that much ("With interest, I'm the one-billion dollar man!" he crowed);
2) "It elevates my case" toward getting a good advance for his novel, he added.
We agreed on two main issues:
One, we would create a dummy book contract for Einhorn as we played for time.
Two, we would push for Einhorn to leave France so we could rendition him on the lam.
In September, Einhorn bubbled with excitement over a story Esquire planned on him.
He expected a photographer to visit his home any day and, said Einhorn over the phone, "He's going to do a day in my life."
A month later the photographer had come and gone.
"They took photos of me coming naked out of the water," Einhorn told me. "I hope they use them for the cover."
In mid-November, Esquire hit the stands, a story by Russ Baker, whom Einhorn hosted and professed to have liked.
I e-mailed Einhorn:
I have Dec. Esquire. No cover. Opens with full page of frontal nudity. They appear to have cropped your dick to one inch. Will read presently.
Einhorn zapped back:
"I was in 45 degree very cold water for a half hour, so shriveled rather than cropped, perhaps."
I e-mailed him again two hours later:
I've read it. I don't think you're going to like Russ Baker any more.
Einhorn's return e-mail: "We never liked him. Use it my friend and laugh last."
Come January 2000, Einhorn started to grow impatient.
His roof was still leaking and I, of course, hadn't gotten any closer to getting him the much brazhort he needed.
I swore about shortsighted publishers no longer willing to take chances on experimental fiction and I offered to buy and publish his wretched novel myself.
For the sake of verisimilitude, I did send a number of queries to likely publishers of controversial titles, such as Barricade Books.
But an Einhorn book was considered of such poor taste, nobody would even respond.
When I bounced it off a New York literary agent, he responded with disapproval: "I knew a girl in Philadelphia who was raped by Einhorn. She rang his doorbell to deliver something, he answered his door naked, yanked her inside and raped her."
Enter my operative Rick K, who would "evaluate" Cantor Dust for another editorial opinion.
Rick out-did himself.
The opening paragraph of his evaluation:
CANTOR DUST is a powerful and provocative novel that provides a history lesson of twentieth century culture and politics and stretches the intellectual boundaries of anyone who reads this book.Rick recommended (in cahoots with me) that a) the novel's ending be revised "to enhance the book's literary impact," and b) the dialog between characters be rewritten because, basically, all his characters sounded the same.
Einhorn immediately went to work on revisions of Cantor Dust and I put Rick and Einhorn into contact with one another.
Mike and Ed drove down from Philadelphia. They wanted the operation to continue and were pleased I had not frozen my contact with Einhorn like WFO had frozen my funding.
(Money be damned, I needed to get this done for Holly Maddux.)
They promised to get their superiors back home to put pressure on WFO.
In July 2000, after several hearings on Einhorn's case, France approved extradition.
Einhorn's lawyers appealed to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, but they felt serious heat.
Which meant, if Einhorn had thought about fleeing, this was a good time.
The French, for their part, erected a 24-hour observation post outside his house.
"I'm working on the galleys, would like to bring them with me."
Two months later I had galleys (typeset page-proofs).
I sent Einhorn this e-mail:
"The galleys look great! I will dispatch them to you."
"Happy to hear that. You will feel my smile when I get them... now all we need is you."
On December 6th, this from Einhorn:
"Arrived. What a good feeling! A lift! Thanks! Let us set a date (for your visit) as soon as possible, as we are in the middle of complicated legal actions."
Einhorn set to correcting the galleys.
It was amazing we’d been able to spin him for so long.
And now the time was right for me to face the devil again.
Ira Einhorn had gained weight.
It was almost exactly two years (and hundreds and hundreds of e-mails) since I had first met this fugitive murderer.
His face was now ravaged with stress, cheeks swollen with malevolence, teeth rotting, gums rotted.
Below that, a short barrel-shaped body that left a trail of pig-snot in its wake.
The only way to fool Beezlebub is on his own terms, with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a Cuban cigar in the other.
So it was that I came head to head with Ira Einhorn on January 16th.
We met at Le Claud Gourmand, a Restaurant-Hotel de Charme, halfway between Saint-Claud and Champagne-Mouton.
I extended my right hand, but Einhorn wanted to hug, ensuring that I catch a whiff of his putrid breath.
I checked Einhorn and his wife Annika into Chambre 2 (my tab) and myself into Chambre 3.
This place wasn't The Ritz, but it sure beat Hotel Plaisance in Einhorn's grim village.
We settled in the parlor for tea and anchovy-filled croissants and reacquainted ourselves.
We had the hotel and restaurant to ourselves. Indeed, we were its only guests this day and night.
Einhorn, ever the enthusiastic blabbermouth, desired an update on all my book activities since last we met.
Had I been to Cuba? he asked. How did that go?
I told him about my Cuban escapades: Vesco, Chesimard, Castro, a spy-ring...
Einhorn listened with unusual attentiveness.
Then he said quietly:
"That's where my lawyer has advised me to go. Cuba. He says he can make the introductions and arrangements. All my friends have been urging me to flee."
So here it was. Surprise, surprise.
As we always thought, this stinkard was planning an exit-stage-left as the crunch became visible.
"But aren't you watched by the French police?" I asked.
Einhorn nodded. "I have three sets of surveillants," he boasted. "The local gendarmes, who take turns coming down from Lille, the anti-terrorist squad in Paris and the federal intelligence agency."
"So how can you flee to Cuba?"
"Very easy," Einhorn replied. "I'd only have to walk across my garden."
"But don't you have to check in with the cops every few days?"
"I'd have five days before they knew I was gone," Einhorn whispered. "Annika will stay and pretend all is well. She can't live underground again." He paused. "And in a worst case scenario, I have a plan to kill myself. But lets not talk about that in front of Annika. It upsets her."
The last thing we wanted was for Einhorn to end up in Cuba, where scores of American fugitives roamed freely, courtesy of Fidel Castro, who grants political asylum to American criminals.
And Einhorn was driving distance of Madrid, where he could catch a nonstop flight to Havana with little hassle.
"Cuba sucks," I said. I could speak about this authoritatively as I had visited Cuba in between my two visits with Einhorn. "I have another idea, and it sure beats dying."
"A plan that will generate massive publicity for your novel."
"Let's not talk about it here," Einhorn whispered. "Later."
Einhorn suggested a stroll in the grounds.
He pointed out his watchers (one unmarked car with two policemen) and told me most of them had been friendly and sympathetic to his plight; that several had helped him stack firewood and had come into his home for New Year's drinks.
He added, contemptuously, that one had even given Annika a kiss.
Einhorn's smirk and body language implied that the liberty-loving French were helping him get away with murder.
"Annika and I are now separate," added Einhorn.
Annika stopped in her tracks, upset.
"Are you saying we're not married?" she asked him.
"Of course we are," Einhorn patronized what he regarded as her stupidity. "I mean we're separate financially. The house is in her name. I have nothing." Einhorn dug into his blue-jeans pocket and plucked a 200-franc note. "Except this," he chuckled.
We soon cut indoors from the cold for a round of Pineau.
Einhorn seemed anxious to hear my publishing plan for his novel Cantor Dust.
I laid out this fantasy:
We would print 500 deluxe copies, bound exquisitely with slipcovers. They would be numbered. The first 100 would bear his signature. Signed books would sell for $250; unsigned, $100. We would also print 250 bound galleys for reviewers.
Einhorn grew excited.
"I need 50 bound galleys," he said. "I need to demonstrate to the French that I am a man of letters. This will help my case."
Through our special deluxe edition, I continued, we would hope to attract a large publisher to publish a mass-market trade-paper version.
Interest would depend, I added, on the amount of publicity Einhorn could generate. As in, fleeing France.
Einhorn nodded. It all made such sense.
"I need an advance," said Einhorn. "We're broke."
The roof had still not been repaired, said he, and was now leaking like a sieve.
"I almost mentioned it to you before you came, so maybe you could bring some money." Einhorn shrugged with polyester sheepishness. "Is $20,000 possible?"
"Maybe," I lied. "I'd have to calculate the total cost of publishing and see what I can afford. Maybe I should have your bank details?"
"Give it to him, Annika," Einhorn instructed.
Annika dipped into her handbag and produced a hand-written note detailing their secrets bank account: Annika Flodin, Moulin de Guitry, 16350 Champagne Mouton, France 31-127 246-43 Compte bleu, Banque Generale de Luxembourg, Agence B6L "Royal Monterey" 27, Avenue Monterey, L - 2163 Luxembourg SWIFT B6LL LU LL TEL. 352-4799-2556, FAX. 352-4799-2112.
Annika's concern was timing: How soon could I publish the novel?
"How fast can you correct and return the galleys?" I asked.
"You can have them tomorrow morning," said Einhorn.
We would be the only dinner guests this evening, he added, so whenever we wanted to eat, they'd serve us.
I suggested we get on with it.
Dining room lights switched on and we took our seats at a round table in the corner.
Proprietor-chef Jean Marc Rougier appeared before us and suggested a five-course truffle dinner.
Who could say no?
Chef Rougier scooted to the kitchen then reappeared, big grin, with a jar of fresh truffles.
I asked him to recommend a fine red wine to accompany our meal.
How about, he suggested, a selection of wine to compliment each course?
You kidding? Do it.
Chef Rougier descended to his wine cellar and returned with three half-bottles of red.
The first, a Domane Sant Vincent Saumur-Champgny 1999, he un-corked and poured, then served the first course: warm sliced truffle over a piece of garlic toast on a bed of mixed greens. It was heavenly.
"What are you reading?" Einhorn asked me.
This is his favorite question, as he considers himself the world's most voracious reader.
"On Writing by Stephen King," I replied. "I don't read books about writing any more, but I flipped it open at a bookstore and it looked good. I learned a few important things."
"Like what?" said Einhorn.
"The road to hell is paved with adverbs."
Needless to say, Einhorn's novel was paved to hell with adverbs.
The second course was even better: Sliced warm truffle with pan-sautéed foie gras in a rich butter sauce, accompanied by Ampelida 1998.
With the French doors closed, Einhorn proclaimed it safe to speak as we got into our third course, truffle potpie and a Clos les Cotes Pecharmant 1997.
|Old Town Warsaw, 1981|
"Poland," I whispered. "I've kept up a relationship with the former underground activists from Solidarity.
"Using a network of old safe houses, these guys could hide you, settle you in a city like Krakow.
"It's full of intellectuals like yourself."
Einhorn absorbed everything.
He liked the plan; the best he'd heard, said he.
"And very do-able," he declared.
Traveling by car, Einhorn could cross the border into Germany without identification, then drive across Germany to the Polish border.
"That's where you would need papers," I said. "My Polish friends will organize that."
Einhorn said it would mean separating from Annika.
"She can't live underground again," he said.
Annika confirmed that an underground existence could no longer work for her; she’d be happier with the stress of litigation than living on the lam.
However, she added, life for Ira in Poland would be better than his plan to commit suicide.
"If the court goes against me," said Einhorn, "I will kill myself in a very public demonstration."
"How?" I asked.
"Self-immolation," replied Einhorn. "I plan to set myself on fire in a public place."
(When he later heard this, Mike from FBI Philly quipped, "Can I bring the marshmallows?")
As much as Einhorn liked my Poland plan, he was in no hurry to leave France and separate from Annika.
He believed he had many, many months, perhaps years, before his pro bono lawyers would exhaust their appeals, ultimately (they hoped) in the Court of Human Rights at The Hague.
Course four: Sliced truffle with a fried egg. Simple but amazing.
And finally dessert: Truffle inside warm peaches, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with cocoa powder. A chilled bottle of Sauternes.
This being cognac territory, Chef Rougier poured snifters of the best of the best: Vielle Grande Champagne Cognac Hors D'age Paul Beau.
I suggested a Cuban cigar. Einhorn concurred. I returned to my room and retrieved two Monte Cristos.
We lit, drew, puffed and drank fine armagnac as we conspired into the night.
Next morning, Einhorn joined me for breakfast and produced his corrected galleys.
Einhorn told me he and Annika had labored intensely; that he was finally satisfied with the novel's ending:
She once again glanced at him with the eyes of the 19 year-old and calmly walked to the hook on the wall that held the strap they had used to beat each other and shyly smiled at him as she reached for it. Daddy's little girl was home again.
Again, we agreed to use fax for all sensitive communications.
I devised a code for the escape plan. We would refer to our project as a documentary. Hence, if I could get him false Polish ID, I would fax: The documentary producer has offered a contract.
As I settled the hotel-restaurant tab, a tough-looking character (shaven head, black leather jacket, commando boots) strode by to get a fix on things.
I went outside, returned to the lobby.
Baldy and another cop were chatting with Chef Rougier.
The plan had called for Annika to drive me to the airport, but when we got in, her Fiat wouldn't start.
By sheer luck, a taxi meant for Einhorn (to take him home) rounded into the forecourt.
"I'll take the taxi," I said, not planning to miss my flight. Nor wishing to stick around with Baldy.
(The French Napoleonic code allows police to hold anyone they want for weeks just for the hell of it. And who knew what the hell they thought of my presence here with Einhorn. In fact, from their perspective, if they'd been listening, I was complicit in devising plans to help him escape.)
"I must check with Ira," said Annika, who wouldn't so much as belch without Einhorn's permission.
To hell with Ira. I stowed my bag in the trunk, seated myself in the cab.
Annika returned. "Ira says it's okay."
As if it really mattered at this point. I wasn't getting out.
Many hours later, beneath a long hot shower, I endeavored to scrub away every last trace of Beezlebub's breath and persona from my being.