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Political campaigning in America has become a combination of the Olympics, the World Series and the Super Bowl. Too often, the man who is the better campaigner turns out to be mediocre or worse at governing after he is elected. But in American politics nowadays, the campaign’s the important part. A politician’s first priority is to get elected. Governing is an afterthought.


Les Trotter was a grubby little man. He combed his hair forward to hide his baldness, but now as I drove breakneck through the early Minnesota morning, the wind had blown his thinning hair every which way, leaving him looking bald and moon-faced and aging.

And upset as hell.

“Marie, I’m telling you, he doesn’t have cancer.” He tried to make it sound sincere. His voice was somewhere between the nasality of an upper-register clarinet and its Moog synthesis.

“Sure,” I said sweetly. “That’s why he’s rushed off to a secret laboratory in the dead of night.”

Les’ voice went up still another notch. “It’s not a secret lab! It’s the Wellington Memorial Laboratory. It’s world famous. And . . . god damm it, Marie, you’re enjoying this!”

“I’m a reporter, Les.” Great line. Very impressive. It hadn’t kept him from making a grab for my ass, when we had first met. “It’s my job.”

He said nothing.

“And if your candidate has cancer—”

“He doesn’t!”

“It’s news.”

We whipped past the dead bare trees with the windows open to keep me from dozing. It had been a long night, waiting for Halliday at the Twin Cities Airport. A dark horse candidate, sure, but the boss wanted all the presidential candidates covered. So we drew lots and I lost. I got James J. Halliday, the obscure. When his private jet finally arrived, he was whisked right out to this laboratory in the upstate woods.

I love to drive fast. And the hours around dawn are the best time of the day. The world’s clean. And all yours. A new day is coming. This day was starting with a murky gray as the sun tried to break through a heavy late winter overcast.

“There’s ice on the road, you know,” Les sulked.

I ignored him. Up ahead I could see lighted buildings.

The laboratory was surrounded by a riot-wire fence. The guard at the gate refused to open up and let us through. It took fifteen minutes of arguing and a phone call from the guard shack by Les before the word came back to allow us in.

“What’d you tell them?” I asked Les as I drove down the crunchy gravel driveway to the main laboratory building.

He was still shivering from the cold. “That it was either see you or see some nasty scare headlines.”

The lab building was old and drab, in the dawning light. There were a few other buildings farther down the driveway. I pulled up behind a trio of parked limousines, right in front of the main entrance.

We hurried through the chilly morning into the lobby. It was paneled with light mahogany, thickly carpeted, and warm. They had paintings spotted here and there—abstracts that might have been amateurish or priceless. I could never figure them out.

A smart-looking young woman in a green pantsuit came through the only other door in the lobby. She gave me a quick, thorough inspection. I had to smile at how well she kept her face straight. My jeans and jacket were for warmth, not looks.

“Governor Halliday would like to know what this is all about,” she said tightly. Pure efficiency: all nerves and smooth makeup. Probably screws to a metronome beat. “He is here on a personal matter; there’s no news material in this visit.”

“That depends on his X-rays, doesn’t it?” I said.

Her eyes widened. “Oh.” That’s all she said. Nothing more. She turned and made a quick exit.

“Bright,” I said to Les, “she picks up right away.”

“His whole staff’s bright.”

“Including his advance publicity man?” With the overactive paws, I added silently.

“Yes, including my advance publicity man.”

I turned back toward the door. Walking toward me was James J. Halliday, Governor of Montana, would-be President of these United States: tall, cowboy-lean, tanned, good-looking. He was smiling at me, as if he knew my suspicions and was secretly amused by them. The smile was dazzling. He was a magnetic man.

“Hello, Les,” Halliday said as he strode across the lobby toward us. “Sorry to cause you so much lost sleep.” His voice was strong, rich.

And Les, who had always come on like a lizard, was blooming in the sunshine of that smile. He straightened up and his voice deepened. “Perfectly okay, Governor. I’ll sleep after your inauguration.”

Halliday laughed outright.

He reached out for my hand as Les introduced, “This is Marie Kludjian of—”

“I know,” Halliday said. His grip was firm. “Is Now’s circulation falling off so badly that you have to invent a cancer case for me?” But he still smiled as he said it.

“Our circulation’s fine,” I said, trying to sound unimpressed. “How’s yours?”

He stayed warm and friendly. “You’re afraid I’m here for a secret examination or treatment, is that it?”

I wasn’t accustomed to frankness from politicians. And he was just radiating warmth. Like the sun. Like a flame.

“You . . . well . . .” I stammered. “You come straight to the point, at least.”

“Saves a lot of time,” he said. “But I’m afraid you’re wasting yours. I’m here to visit Dr. Corio, the new director of the lab. We went to school together back East. And Les has such a busy schedule arranged for me over the next week that this was the only chance I had to see him.”

I nodded, feeling as dumb as a high school groupie.

“Besides,” he went on, “I’m interested in science. I think it’s one of our most important national resources. Too bad the current administration can’t seem to recognize a chromosome from a clavicle.”

“Uh-huh.” My mind seemed to be stuck in neutral. Come on! I scolded myself. Nobody can have that powerful an effect on you! This isn’t a gothic novel.

He waited a polite moment for me to say something else, then cracked, “The preceding was an unpaid political announcement.”

We laughed, all three of us together.

Halliday ushered Les and me inside the lab, and we stayed with him every minute he was there. He introduced me to Dr. Corio—a compactly built intense man of Halliday’s age, with a short, dark beard and worried gray eyes. I spent a yawn-provoking two hours with them, going through a grand tour of the lab’s facilities. There were only five of us: Halliday, Corio, the kid in the green pantsuit, Les and me. All the lab’s offices and workrooms were dark and unoccupied. Corio spent half the time feeling along the walls for light switches.

Through it all something buzzed in my head. Something was out of place. Then it hit me. No staff. No flunkies. Just the appointments secretary and Les. And I dragged Les here.

It was a small thing. But it was different. A politician without pomp? I wondered.

By seven in the morning, while Corio lectured to us about the search for carcinoma antitoxins or some such, I decided I had been dead wrong about James J. Halliday. By seven-thirty I was practically in love with him. He was intelligent. And concerned. He had a way of looking right at you and turning on that dazzling smile. Not phony. Knee-watering. And unattached, I remembered. The most available bachelor in the presidential sweepstakes.

By eight-thirty I began to realize that he was also as tough as a grizzled mountain man. I was out on my feet, but he was still alert and interested in everything Corio was showing me.

He caught me in mid-yawn, on our way back to the lobby. “Perhaps you’d better ride with us, Marie,” he said. “I’ll have one of Corio’s guards drive your car back to the airport.”

I protested, but feebly. I was tired. And, after all, it’s not every day that a woman gets a lift from a potential President.

Halliday stayed in the lobby for a couple of minutes while Les, the appointments girl and I piled into one of the limousines. Then he came out, jogged to the limo, and slid in beside me.

“All set. They’ll get your car back to the airport.” I nodded. I was too damned sleepy to wonder what had happened to the people who had filled the other two limousines. And all the way back to Minneapolis, Halliday didn’t smile at me once.

Sheila Songard, the managing editor at Now, was given to making flat statements, such as: “You’ll be back in the office in two weeks, Marie. He won’t get past the New Hampshire primary.”

You don’t argue with the boss. I don’t anyway. Especially not on the phone. But after Halliday grabbed off an impressive forty-three percent of the fractured New Hampshire vote, I sent her a get well card.

All through those dark, cold days of winter and early spring I stayed with Jim Halliday, got to know him and his staff, watched him grow. The news and media people started to flock in after New Hampshire.

The vitality of the man! Not only did he have sheer animal magnetism in generous globs, he had more energy than a half-dozen flamenco dancers. He was up and active with the sunrise every day and still going strong long after midnight. It wore out most of the older newsmen trying to keep up with him.

When he scored a clear victory in Wisconsin, the Halliday staff had to bring out extra busses and even arrange a separate plane for the media people to travel in, along with The Man’s private 707 jet.

I was privileged to see the inside of his private jetliner. I was the only news reporter allowed aboard during the whole campaign, in fact. He never let news or media people fly with him. Superstition, I thought. Or just a desire to have a place that can be really private—even if he has to go thirty-five thousand feet above the ground to get the privacy. Then I’d start daydreaming about what it would be like to be up that high with him.

The day I saw the plane, it was having an engine overhauled at JFK in New York. It was still cold out, early April, and the hangar was even colder inside than the weakly sunlit out-of-doors.

The plane was a flying command post. The Air Force didn’t have more elaborate electronics gear. Bunks for fifteen people. There goes the romantic dream, I thought. No fancy upholstery or decorations. Strictly, utilitarian. But row after row of communication stuff: even picturephones, a whole dozen of them.

I had known that Jim was in constant communication with his people all over the country. But picturephones—it was typical of him. He wanted to be there, as close to the action as possible. Ordinary telephones or radios just weren’t good enough for him.

“Are you covering an election campaign or writing love letters?” Sheila’s voice, over the phone, had that bitchy edge to it.

“What’s wrong with the copy I’m sending in?” I yelled back at her.

“It’s too damned laudatory, and you know it,” she shrilled. “You make it sound as if he’s going through West Virginia converting the sinners and curing the lepers.”

“He’s doing better than that,” I said. “And I’m not the only one praising him.”

“I’ve watched his press conferences on TV,” Sheila said. “He’s a cutie, all right. Never at a loss for an answer.”

“And he never contradicts himself. He’s saying the same things here that he did in New York . . . and Denver . . . and Los Angeles.”

“That doesn’t make him a saint.”

“Sheila, believe it. He’s good. I’ve been with him nearly four months now. He’s got it. He’s our next President.”

She was unimpressed. “You sound more like you’re on his payroll than Now’s.”

Les Trotter had hinted a few days earlier that Jim wanted me to join his staff for the California primary campaign. I held my tongue.

“Marie, listen to Momma,” Sheila said, softer, calmer. “No politician is as good as you’re painting him. Don’t let your hormones get in the way of your judgment.”

“That’s ridiculous!” I snapped.

“Sure . . . sure. But I’ve seen enough of Halliday’s halo. I want you to find his clay feet. He’s got them, honey. They all do. It might hurt when you discover them, but I want to see what The Man’s standing on. That’s your job.”

She meant it. And I knew she was right. But if Jim had feet of clay, nobody had been able to discover it yet. Not even the nastiest bastards Hearst had sent out.

And I knew that I didn’t want to be the one who did it.

So I joined Jim’s staff for the California campaign. Sheila was just as glad to let me go. Officially I took a leave of absence from Now. I told her I’d get a better look inside The Man’s organization this way. She sent out a lank-haired slouch of a kid who couldn’t even work a dial telephone, she was that young.

But instead of finding clay feet on The Man, as we went through the California campaign, I kept coming up with gold.

He was beautiful. He was honest. Every one of the staff loved him and the voters were turning his rallies into victory celebrations.

And he was driving me insane. Some days he’d be warm and friendly and . . . well, it was just difficult to be near him without getting giddy. But then there were other times—sometimes the same day, even—when he’d just turn off. He’d be as cold and out-of-reach as an Antarctic iceberg. I couldn’t understand it. The smile was there, his voice and manners and style were unchanged, but the vibrations would be gone. Turned off.

There were a couple of nights when we found ourselves sitting with only one or two other people in a hotel room, planning the next day’s moves over unending vats of black coffee. We made contact then. The vibes were good. He wanted me, I know he did, and I certainly wanted him. Yet somehow we never touched each other. The mood would suddenly change. He’d go to the phone and come back . . . different. His mind was on a thousand other things.

He’s running for President, I raged at myself. There’s more on his mind than shacking up with an oversexed ex-reporter.

But while all this was going on, while I was helping to make it happen, I was also quietly digging into the Wellington Memorial Laboratory, back in Minnesota. And its director, Dr. Corio. If Jim did have feet of clay, the evidence was there. And I had to know.

I got a friend of a friend to send me a copy of Corio’s doctoral thesis from the Harvard library, and while I waited for it to arrive in the mail, I wanted more than anything to be proved wrong.

Jim was beautiful. He was so much more than the usual politician. His speech in Denver on uniting the rich and poor into a coalition that will solve the problems of the nation brought him as much attention for its style as its content. His position papers on R&D, the economy, tax reform, foreign trade, were all called “brilliant” and “pace setting.” A crusty old economist from Yale, no less, told the press, “That man has the mind of an economist.” A compliment, from him. A half-dozen of Nader’s Raiders joined the Halliday staff because they felt, “He’s the only candidate who gives a damn about the average guy.”

A political campaign is really a means for the candidate to show himself to the people. And vice versa. He must get to know the people, all the people, their fears, their prides, their voices and touch and smell. If he can’t feel for them, can’t reach their pulse and match it with his own heartbeat, all the fancy legwork and lovely ghostwriting in the universe can’t help him.

Jim had it. He grew stronger every minute. He kept a backbreaking pace with such ease and charm that we would have wondered how he could do it, if we had had time enough to catch our own breaths. He was everywhere, smiling, confident, energetic, concerned. He identified with people and they identified with him. It was uncanny. He could be completely at ease with a Missouri farmer and a New York corporation chairman. And it wasn’t phony; he could feel for people.

And they felt for him.

And I fell for him; thoroughly, completely, hopelessly. He realized it. I was sure he did. There were times when the electric current flowed between us so strongly that I could barely stand it. He’d catch my eye and grin at me, and even though there were ninety other people in the room, for that instant everything else went blank.

But then an hour later, or the next day, he’d be completely cold. As if I didn’t exist . . . or worse yet, as if I was just another cog in his machine. He’d still smile, he’d say the same things and look exactly the same. But the spark between us just wasn’t there.

It was driving me crazy. I put it down to the pressures of the campaign. He couldn’t have any kind of private life in this uproar. I scolded myself, Stop acting like a dumb broad!

Corio’s thesis arrived three days before the California primary. I didn’t even get a chance to unwrap it. Jim took California by such a huge margin that the TV commentators were worriedly looking for something significant to say by ten that evening. It was no contest at all.

As we packed up for the last eastern swing before the National Convention, I hefted Corio’s bulky thesis. Still unopened. I was going to need a translator, I realized; his doctoral prose would be too technical for me to understand. We were heading for Washington, and there was a science reporter there that I knew would help me. Besides, I needed to get away from Jim Halliday for a while, a day or so at least. I was on an emotional rollercoaster, and I needed some time to straighten out my nerves.

The phone was ringing as the bellman put my bags down in my room at the Park Sheraton. It was Sheila.

“How are you?” she asked.

She never calls for social chatter. “What do you want, Sheila?” I asked wearily. It had been a long, tiring flight from the coast, and I knew my time zones were going to be mixed up thoroughly.

“Have you found anything . . . clay feet, I mean?”

The bellman stood waiting expectantly beside me. I started fumbling with my purse while I wedged the phone against my shoulder.

“Listen, Marie,” Sheila was saying. “He’s too good to be true. Nobody can be a masterful politician and a brilliant economist and a hero to both the ghetto and the suburbs. It’s physically impossible.”

I popped a handful of change from my wallet and gave it over to the bellman. He glanced at the coins without smiling and left.

“He’s doing it,” I said into the phone. “He’s putting it all together.”

“Marie,” she said with great patience, as I flopped on the bed, “he’s a puppet. A robot that gets wound up every morning and goes out spouting whatever they tell him to say. Find out who’s running him, who’s making all those brilliant plans, who’s making his decisions for him.”

“He makes his own decisions,” I said, starting to feel a little desperate. If someone as intelligent as Sheila couldn’t believe in him, if politics had sunk so low in the minds of the people that they couldn’t recognize a knight in brilliant armor when he paraded across their view . . . then what would happen to this nation?

“Marie,” she said again, with her Momma knows best tone, “listen to me. Find out who’s running him. Break the story in Now, and you’ll come back on the staff as a full editor. With a raise. Promise.”

I hung up on her.

She was right in a way. Jim was superman. More than human. If only he weren’t running for President! If only we could . . . . I shut off that line of thought. Fantasizing wasn’t going to help either one of us. Lying there on the hotel bed, I felt a shiver go through me. It wasn’t from the air conditioning.

Even with translation into language I could understand, Corio’s thesis didn’t shed any light on anything. It was all about genetics and molecular manipulation. I didn’t get a chance to talk with the guy who had digested it for me. We met at National Airport, him sprinting for one plane and me for another.

My flight took me to San Francisco, where the National Convention was due to open in less than a week.

The few days before a National Convention opens are crazy in a way nothing else on Earth can match. It’s like knowing you’re going to have a nervous breakdown and doing everything you can to make sure it comes off on schedule. You go into a sort of masochistic training, staying up all night, collaring people for meetings and caucuses, yelling into phones, generally behaving like the world is going to come to an end within the week—and you’ve got to help make it happen.

Jim’s staff was scattered in a half-dozen hotels around San Francisco. I got placed in the St. Francis, my favorite. But there wasn’t any time for enjoying the view.

Jim had a picturephone network set up for the staff. For two solid days before the Convention officially convened, I stayed in my hotel room and yet was in immediate face-to-face contact with everyone I had to work with. It was fantastic, and it sure beat trying to drive through those jammed, hilly streets.

Late on the eve of the Convention’s opening gavel—it was morning, actually, about two-thirty—I was restless and wide awake. The idea wouldn’t have struck me, I suppose, if Sheila hadn’t needled me in Washington. But it did hit me, and I was foolish enough to act on the impulse.

None of Jim’s brain trusters are here, I told myself. They’re all safe in their homes, far from this madhouse. But what happens if we need to pick at one of their mighty intellects at some godawful hour? Can we reach them?

If I hadn’t been alone and nervous and feeling sorry for myself, sitting in that hotel room with nothing but the picturephone to talk to, I wouldn’t have done it. I knew I was kidding myself as I punched out the number for Professor Marvin Carlton, down in La Jolla. I could hear Sheila’s listen to Momma inside my head.

To my surprise, Carlton’s image shaped up on the phone’s picture screen.

“Yes?” he asked pleasantly. He was sitting in what looked like a den or study—lots of books and wood. There was a drink in his hand and a book in his lap.

“Professor . . .” I left distinctly foolish. “I’m with Governor Halliday’s staff . . .”

“Obviously. No one else has the number for this TV phone he gave me.”


“What can I do for you . . . or the Governor? I was just about to retire for the night.”

Thinking with the speed of a dinosaur, I mumbled, “Oh well, we were just . . . um, checking the phone connection. To make certain we can reach you when we have to.”

He pursed his lips. “I’m a bit surprised. The Governor had no trouble reaching me this afternoon.”

“This afternoon?”

“Yes. We went over the details of my urban restructuring program.”

“Oh—of course.” I tried to cover up my confusion. I had been with Jim most of the afternoon, while he charmed incoming delegates at various caucuses. We had driven together all across town, sitting side by side in the limousine. He had been warm and outgoing and . . . and then he had changed, as abruptly as putting on a new necktie. Was it something I said? Am I being too obvious with him?

“Well?” the professor asked, getting a bit testy. “Are you satisfied that I’m at my post and ready for instant service?”

“Oh, yes . . . yes sir. Sorry to have disturbed you.”

“Very well.”

“Um—professor? One question? How long did you and the Governor talk this afternoon? For our accounting records you know. The phone bill, things like that.”

His expression stayed sour. “Lord, it must have been at least two hours. He dragged every last detail out of me. The man must have an eidetic memory.”

“Yes,” I said. “Thank you.”

“Good night.”

I reached out and clicked the phone’s off switch. If Jim had spent two hours talking with Professor Carlton, it couldn’t have been that afternoon. He hadn’t been out of my sight for more than fifteen minutes between lunch and dinner.

I found myself biting my tongue and punching another number. This time it was Rollie O’Malley, the guy who ran our polling services. He was still in New York.

And sore as hell. “Callin’ on five o’clock in the motherin’ morning and you wanna ask me what?”

“When’s the last time you talked with The Man?”

Rollie’s face was puffy from sleep, red-eyed. His skin started turning red, too. “You dizzy broad . . . why in the hell . . .”

“It’s important!” I snapped. “I wouldn’t call if it wasn’t.”

He stopped in mid-flight. “Whassamatter? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing major . . . I hope. But I need to know when you talked to him last. And for how long.”

“Christ.” He was puzzled, but more concerned than angry now. “Lessee . . . I was just about to sit down to dinner here at the apartment . . . musta been eight, eight-thirty. ’Round then.”

“New York time?” That would put it around five or so our time. Right when Jim was greeting the Texas delegation.

“No! Bangkok time! What the hell is this all about, Marie?”

“Tell you later,” and I cut him off.

I got a lot of people riled. I called the heads of every one of Jim’s think-tank teams: science, economics, social welfare, foreign policy, taxation, even some of his Montana staff back in Helena. By dawn I had a crazy story: eleven different people had each talked personally with The Man that afternoon for an average of an hour and a half apiece, they claimed. Several of them were delighted that Jim would spend so much time with them just before the Convention opened.

That was more than sixteen hours of face-to-face conversation on the picturephones. All between noon and seven p.m., Pacific Daylight Time.

And for most of that impossible time, Jim was in my presence, close enough to touch me. And never on the phone once.

I watched the sun come up over the city’s mushrooming skyline. My hands were shaking. I was sticky damp with a cold sweat.

Phony. I wanted to feel anger, but all I felt was sorrow. And the beginnings of self-pity. He’s a phony. He’s using his fancy electronics equipment to con a lot of people into thinking he’s giving them his personal attention. And all the while he’s just another damned public relations robot.

And his smiles, his magnetism, the good vibes that he could turn on or off whenever it suited him. I hate him!

And then I asked myself the jackpot question: Who’s pulling his strings? I had to find out.

But I couldn’t.

I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t just my emotions. I told myself that, puppet or not, he was the best candidate running. And God knows we needed a good President, a man who could handle the job and get the nation back on the right track again. But, at that bottom line, was the inescapable fact that I loved him. As wildly as any schoolgirl loved a movie star. But this was real. I wanted Jim Halliday . . . I wanted to be his First Lady.

I fussed around for two days, while the Convention got started and those thousands of delegates from all over this sprawling nation settled preliminary matters like credentials and platform and voting procedures. There were almost as many TV cameras and newspeople as there were delegates. The convention hall, the hotels, the streets were crawling with people asking each other questions.

It was a streamroller. That became clear right at the outset when all the credentials questions got ironed out so easily. Halliday’s people were seated with hardly a murmur in every case where an argument came up.

Seeing Jim privately, where I could ask him about the phony picturephone conversations, was impossible. He was surrounded in his hotel suite by everybody from former party chief fans to movie stars.

So I boiled in my own juices for two days, watching helplessly while the Convention worked its way toward the inevitable moment when The Man would be nominated. There was betting down on the streets that there wouldn’t even be a first ballot: he’d be nominated by acclamation.

I couldn’t take it. I bugged out. I packed my bag and headed for the airport.

I arrived at Twin Cities Airport at ten p.m., local time. I rented a car and started out the road toward the Wellington Lab.

It was summer now, and the trees that had been bare that icy morning, geologic ages ago, were now full-leafed and rustling softly in a warm breeze. The moon was high and full, bathing everything in cool beauty.

I had the car radio on as I pushed the rental Dart up Route 10 toward the laboratory. Pouring from the speaker came a live interview with James J. Halliday, from his hotel suite in San Francisco.

“. . . and we’re hoping for a first-ballot victory,” he was saying smoothly, with that hint of earnestness and boyish enthusiasm in his voice. I will not let myself get carried away, I told myself. Definitely not.

“On the question of unemployment . . .” the interviewer began.

“I’d rather think of it as a mismatch between . . .”

I snapped it off. I had written part of that material for him. But dammit, he had dictated most of it, and he never said it the same way twice. He always added something or shaded it a little differently to make it easier to understand. If he was a robot, he was a damnably clever one.

The laboratory gate was coming up, and the guard was already eyeing my car as I slowed down under the big floodlights that lined the outer fence.

I fished in my purse for my Halliday staff ID card. The guard puzzled over it for a second or two, then nodded.

“Right, Ms. Kiudjian. Right straight ahead to the reception lobby.”

No fuss. No questions. As if they were expecting me. The parking area was deserted as I pulled up. The lobby was lit up, and there was a receptionist sitting at the desk, reading a magazine.

She put the magazine down on the kidney-shaped desk as I pushed the glass door open. I showed her my ID and asked if Dr. Corio was in.

“Yes he is,” she said, touching a button on her phone console. Nothing more. Just the touch of a button.

I asked, “Does he always work this late at night?”

She smiled very professionally. “Sometimes.”

“And you too?”


The speaker on her phone console came to life. “Nora, would you please show Ms. Kiudjian to Room A-l4?”

She touched the button again, then gestured toward the door that led into the main part of the building. “Straight down the corridor,” she said sweetly, “the last door on your right.”

I nodded and followed instructions. She went back to her magazine.

Jim Halliday was waiting for me inside Room A-14. My knees actually went weak. He was sitting on the corner of the desk that was the only furniture in the little, tile-paneled room. There was a mini-TV on the desk. The Convention was roaring and huffing through the tiny speaker.

“Hello, Marie.” He reached out and took my hand. I pulled it away, angrily. “So that ‘live’ interview from your hotel was a fake, too. Like all your taped phone conversations with your think-tank leaders.”

He smiled at me. Gravely. “No, Marie. I haven’t faked a thing. Not even the way I feel about you.”

“Don’t try that . . .” But my voice was as shaky as my insides.

“That was James J. Halliday being interviewed in San Francisco, live, just a few minutes ago. I watched it on the set here. It went pretty well, I think.”

“Then . . . who the hell are you?”

“James J. Halliday,” he answered. And the back of my neck started to tingle.

“But . . .”

He held up a silencing hand. From the TV set, a florid speaker was bellowing, “This party must nominate the man who has swept all the primary elections across this great land. The man who can bring together all the elements of our people back into a great, harmonious whole. The man who will lead us to victory in November . . .”

The roar of applause swelled to fill the tiny bare room we were in. “. . . The man who will be our next President!” The cheers and applause were a tide of human emotion. The speaker’s apple-round face filled the little screen: “James J. Halliday, of Montana!”

I watched as the TV camera swept across the thronged convention hall. Everybody was on their feet, waving Halliday signs, jumping up and down. Balloons by the thousands fell from the ceiling. The sound was overpowering. Suddenly the picture cut to a view of James J. Halliday sitting in his hotel room in San Francisco, watching his TV set and smiling.

James J. Halliday clicked off the TV in the laboratory room and we faced each other in sudden silence.

“Marie,” he said softly, kindly, “I’m sorry. If we had met another time, under another star . . .”

I was feeling dizzy. “How can you be there . . . and here?”

“If you had understood Corio’s work, you’d have realized that it laid the basis for a practical system of cloning human beings.”


“Making exact replications of a person from a few body cells. I don’t know how Corio does it—but it worked. He took a few patches of skin from me, years ago, when we were in school together. Now there are seven of us, all together.”

“Seven?” My voice sounded like a choked squeak.

He nodded gravely. “I’m the one that fell in love with you. The others . . . we’re not exactly alike, emotionally.”

I was glancing around for a chair. There weren’t any. He put his arms around me.

“It’s too much for one man to handle,” he said, urgently, demandingly. “Running a presidential campaign takes an inhuman effort. You’ve got to be able to do everything—either that or be a complete fraud and run on slogans and gimmicks. I didn’t want that. I want to be the best President this nation can elect.”

“So . . . you . . .”

“Corio helped replicate six more of me. Seven exactly similar James J. Hallidays. Each an expert in one aspect of the presidency such as no presidential candidate could ever hope to be, by himself.”

“Then that’s how you could talk on the picturephones to everybody at the same time.”

“And that’s how I could know so much about so many different fields. Each of us could concentrate on a few separate problem areas. It’s been tricky shuffling us back and forth—especially with all the news people around. That’s why we keep the 707 strictly off-limits. Wouldn’t want to let the public see seven of us in conference together. Not yet, anyway.”

My stomach started crawling up toward my throat.

“And me . . . us . . .”

His arms dropped away from me. “I hadn’t planned on something like this happening. I really hadn’t. It’s been tough keeping you at arm’s length.”

“What can we do?” I felt like a little child—helpless, scared.

He wouldn’t look at me. Not straight-on. “We’ll have to keep you here for a while, Marie. Not for long. Just ’til after the Inauguration. ’Til I . . . we . . . are safely in office. Corio and his people will make you comfortable here.”

I stood there, stunned. Without another word Jim suddenly got up and strode out of the room, leaving me there alone.

He kept his promises. Corio and his staff have made life very comfortable for me here. Maybe they’re putting things in my food or something, who can tell? Most likely it’s for my own good. I do get bored. And so lonely. And frightened.

I watched his Inauguration on television. They let me see TV. I watch him every chance I get. I try to spot the tiny difference that I might catch among the seven of them. So far, I haven’t been able to find any flaw at all.

He said they’d let me go to him after the Inauguration. I hope they remember. His second Inauguration is coming up soon, I know.

Or is it his third?

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