Saturday morning I arrived at the small Cozumel airport at 10 a.m. Sunny's first possible flight was scheduled to arrive at eleven. At ten forty-five, it was announced that flight 48 was making its final approach. Straining against the plate glass window in my tourist attire, I could see the plane in the distance. Sitting at a corner table and pretending to read a newspaper my heart must have been beating two hundred times a minute. Now the plane was on the runway taxiing up to the terminal. A mobile stairway was pushed up to the door of the plane and the door was opened.
Someone pushed past the stewardess as she opened the door and began looking around in all directions. It was Sunny! God, she was beautiful. My heart said jump the fence and run to her but I had to make sure she wasn't followed. My country had turned against me, now I had to be certain that the United States wasn't looking for me.
I hated to torture both of us this way but it had to be done as our future depended on it. I had to be declared dead and stay that way. I followed her cab to the El Presidente from a mile behind. After all, I knew where she was going. No one except me seemed to be following them from the airport.
Ten minutes after arriving at the hotel she was standing on the balcony of her room searching for me on the beach. Everything's clear I convinced myself, as I almost ran up to her floor. Peeking around the corner and seeing no one in the walkway I headed for her room. The door was wide open so I walked straight in and closed it behind me. Coming back in from the balcony she heard the door close and was startled initially until I removed my cap and sunglasses. Then we ran into each other's arms.
"It's you, it's you. It's really you! They reported you were killed in a plane crash but I knew it wasn't true. I've prayed for you constantly."
God she felt good in my arms. I just held her and let her talk. She was so beautiful and exciting and full of energy. She loved the engagement ring and wedding band. It seemed as if they were made for her beautiful, small, feminine hand. We made love until sunrise and then lay in each other's arms and discussed our future.
Of course I couldn't tell her about most of my experience, but I did tell her about that bear. Looking back it could have been another answer to prayer. Sunny was praying daily for my safety, and I prayed once for God to send someone to watch after and take care of her. Five seconds after my prayer that bear growled. What are the odds of my stopping directly in front of a cave with a hibernating bear and his growling immediately after I asked God to send someone to watch after Sunny? Staggering! But I did not ask God to save me. Sunny knew the answer. She had quite a smart head on her shoulders. God answered both of our prayers by saving me to watch after and protect her. His implement for accomplishing this feat was that bear. I was quick to point out it was a Russian bear.
"I want to marry you and make you an honest woman," I joked.
"I accept. If you didn't ask me, I was going to ask you. After all '76 is a leap year. Also you need to marry me to become a legal United States citizen," she responded.
"Then you know? How did you discover that?" I asked.
"If I told ya I'd have to kill ya," she laughed. "Anyway, as soon as I found out I called the State Department to see what could be done because I knew you would return to me. Convince me to marry you. What will my life be like with you?"
"I'm a forty-one year old retiree with sufficient funds to provide you a very comfortable life. We can do whatever you want. You can quit your job and we can travel throughout the world making love in all the finest hotels. We'll take a cruise aboard a magnificent ship for our honeymoon. But of course our honeymoon will never end."
"You're obviously too old for me. I'm only twenty-nine. You sure don't look or act like a forty-one year old. I would have guessed thirty-three."
"We could lie about my age if you wish."
"What about those girls you wanted to produce?"
"When they reach school age we'll have to settle down. Perhaps in Arizona where they'll have lots of family. Or maybe buy a farm in Oklahoma. I could buy you a surrey with a fringe on top."
"Is the fringe really made of silk?"
"Wouldn't have no other kind but silk."
"Suppose something happens to your... I mean our millions? What would you do to support us?"
"Well, I'm an aeronautical engineer by schooling, but I've never earned a living by that profession. I suppose I could write action adventure spy novels. I do have a few stories to tell. However, we need to maintain a very low profile for twenty years. People's attention span is typically that length of time. That's why there's a major war about every twenty years. In 1996 perhaps I'll come out of retirement and begin writing a book."
"Here's a question for you. Who will I be if we get married? Gotcha," she laughed.
"Well, I suppose we could be Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Holiday," I countered.
"What is your real name? And tell me the truth."
"My real name is .... "
"No, I'm not."
The next three days were spent showing Sunny the beautiful underwater sights around Cozumel. She loved snorkeling and took to the water like a fish. I had trouble deciding whether to look at her or the fish. I would throw pieces of bread around her from the piers and hundreds of beautiful tropical fish would encircle her in a feeding frenzy.
In the evenings we would go into San Miguel for supper at Carlos and Charlies, followed by a few hours of bargain shopping in the numerous small gift shops surrounding the town square. Then it was back to the hotel for a whirlpool bath under the stars followed by making love. Oftentimes we would notice the clock afterwards and it would be three or four in the morning. The magic and novelty was still present.
Soon we had to get serious and start determining how to reenter the United States. Sunny showed me the telephone number she was given to call for help and of course I recognized it as Henry's emergency number which had been installed for my use. I informed her I wanted him and the President to believe I was dead.
She said Henry believed I had survived but he could not be positive. "We can trust him. He believes you are owed a great deal. I don't know why. Let me call him. Maybe he can create a new identity for you. For us!"
"I'm not positive. I don't trust any government right now. Mine turned against me. They knew they would be killing at least one innocent person in that plane crash."
"You're dealing with an honorable man," she continued. Then she said, "Hell, I think he loves you nearly as much as I do."
I had never heard her say a curse word before. I started laughing.
"What's so funny?" she asked.
"I've never heard you curse before. It just isn't you."
"I know. I'm sorry. But I know he's an honorable person and is powerful enough to help us. Let me call him and see what he recommends. Please."
After a few seconds, I relented. "Okay, but only if you never curse again. Deal?"
"It's a deal."
"Don't ever admit I'm alive. That way if he's ever questioned about it, he can honestly say he doesn't know."
The next day Sunny placed her call to Henry Kissinger. She told him the situation without mentioning me. He wanted to create a new identity and also recommended we be married at the American Embassy in Mexico City. That way, I would still be a legal American citizen even if my false identification was ever discovered. He would arrange everything. She was to call him back tomorrow and give him my new name.
She was excited, confident that everything was going to work out fine. "What name do you want to be known as for the remainder of your life?"
"How about Clifford Holiday?"
"Fine with me. Any Middle name or initial?"
"Aleksei," I responded.
"How is it spelled?" she asked.
"A-L-E-K-S-E-I," as she wrote it down. "It was my father's first name. He and my mother were both Heroes of the Soviet Union. I can't totally forget my past."
The next day she called Henry and gave him the name of the new identity she wanted created. He allowed her another week off as a wedding present and agreed to have someone feed and water Rommel during her extended absence. Also, he needed time to make the arrangements. We were to report to the American Embassy in Mexico City in seven days and ask to meet with Mr. Cecil Smythe at 10 a.m. His only request for this service was our oath to keep everything secret for at least twenty years. He said everything returns to fiction if not disclosed within that time frame. Sunny said Henry and I were very much alike. I passed it off as coincidence. Our arrival at the embassy would indicate our acceptance of the oath. In any event, this allowed us six days of pre-honeymooning in a tropical paradise. It was the best week of my life.
At this point I wish I really was a writer. Perhaps I could put on paper how wonderful that week was and somehow convey the beauty and magic of Sunny! I've meant to throughout this entire book but know I've failed. However, I'm not sure any author could accomplish this feat. She is so beautiful, exciting, feminine, and sensitive, but most of all she loved me and I loved her. We were going to be married within a week but really nothing would change. If there were no such institution as marriage, I would still spend the remainder of my life with her. I had no desire for any other woman. Marriage was simply a piece of paper and a United States citizenship for me. What was important was our commitment. She was the most incredible living thing I had ever known and that includes puppies, kittens, giant redwood trees, whales, and that bear. I always wanted to be touching her. Holding her hand, touching her hair, admiring her beauty with my eyes. She had stopped asking her usual question. She was confident now that I would hold her in my arms forever; I would never let her go. No one and no power on Earth could ever make me leave her.
Seven days later, we ate a leisurely breakfast before taking a cab to the American Embassy at 9:30 a.m. for our ten o'clock meeting. We had flown over on an Aeromexico flight the previous evening, having departed beautiful Cozumel reluctantly. We introduced ourselves to the attendant and asked to see Mr. Cecil Smythe. Shortly afterward a naval lieutenant with a cross on his lapel arrived to greet us. We returned his greeting as he said, "Lieutenant McCauley at your service. I'm to perform the marriage ceremony if you so desire."
"We will be grateful," I replied.
"Please follow me," he continued, as he started down a hallway.
Lieutenant McCauley led us down the hallway to a double door guarded by two young Marines in dress blue uniforms. As we approached they came to attention and sharply saluted. Lieutenant McCauley returned their salutes and opened the door which led into a spacious office. The main feature of the office was a large mahogany wooden desk. On the wall behind the desk was a large framed portrait of the President of the United States, Gerald Ford. Two American flags on wooden staffs with gold eagles atop the staffs were placed one on each side of the portrait of the President. A large round official looking seal was mounted on the front of the desk. The man sitting behind the desk rose and walked around to greet us, extending his hand to me.
"Mr. Holiday, I'm Alberto Alexander and I was sent here to be of service to you and Ms. Holiday. Ms. Holiday, it's a pleasure to meet you," as he extended his hand to Sunny.
"Can we get anything at all for either of you? Something to drink, some coffee?"
"No thanks, we primarily want to see what arrangements have been made," I responded.
"Of course, let's get started," as we pulled three chairs up to the front of his desk and Sunny, the lieutenant, and I sat down. Mr. Alexander walked back around the desk to his chair and pulled a large 10x13 inch manila envelope marked "CONFIDENTIAL" from the middle drawer of his desk.
"I have received a certified copy of your updated birth certificate. You were born on a small farm in northern Mississippi in 1940. The nearest town where records were kept was a small town called Booneville. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed most of their records in 1948. In any event, glance over this certificate and see if everything is in order."
He handed me the birth certificate for my perusal. It looked official enough to me. Sunny would be pleased as I had just become thirty-six years of age as opposed to forty-one.
"As you can see, your parents were Robert Dwain Holiday and his wife Gloria Dee, both now deceased. All of your relatives moved out of the area long ago. Vital statistic records are now maintained at the state capital in Jackson. This is the address and phone number to call if you ever need additional copies of your birth certificate," as he handed me another piece of paper. "Now, you've both met Lieutenant McCauley. He is a Presbyterian minister who would consider it a great pleasure to marry you two young people."
"We actually need two witnesses," Lieutenant McCauley explained.
"Excuse me a second," as Mr. Alexander rose from his chair and walked toward the office door. Opening the door he requested the two Marines to enter his office.
"Would you two consider being witnesses to a marriage?"
"It would be an honor, Sir."
"Good. This is Mr. Clifford Holiday and Ms. Sunny Holiday. Introduce yourselves."
"Corporal Juan Sanchez; Los Angeles, California, Sir."
"Corporal Nehemiah Johnson; Brooklyn, New York, Sir."
We had a private but very solemn military wedding. The two Marines were the finest looking young men I had seen in quite a long time. They were proud to be Marines and it showed. Every thread and hair was in its proper place. I would have been proud to lead these two young Marines and I told them so. Sunny kissed each of them on the cheek.
After the ceremony, Mr. Alexander's secretary brought in two iced down bottles of champagne.
After several rounds of toasting, Mr. Alexander announced that a Learjet was waiting at the airport to fly us back to D.C. at our convenience. An embassy limo would transport us back to the hotel and then to the airport.
Those prospects filled me with fear. Another small plane? Was the cleanup still underway? They didn't want us out of their sight, providing both ground and air transportation. Had I survived my country's cleanup only to be killed with Sunny by the United States government in another plane crash? I asked to speak to Mr. Alexander in private.
He led me through a side door into a smaller office.
"Is there a problem?" he asked. "We thought you would be returning to D.C., but I can have you flown anywhere in the United States. If there's a problem, we can arrange to land at Chennault Air Force Base in Lake Charles, Louisiana; or Ellington near Houston; or Kelly in San Antonio without any questions asked. Commercial air fields are more inquisitive. Chennault would be ideal as it was closed a few years ago. It's vacant except for a few small businesses and a few college students. I believe McNeese State College now utilizes some of the buildings and dormitories."
"We would prefer to fly on a commercial flight."
"I assure you the Learjet is safer and more convenient than commercial transportation."
"Can I see the pilot?" I asked.
"Sure. They're waiting for us at the airport. As a safety precaution we always fly with two pilots just in case one should have any medical emergency."
"I meant can I physically see him aboard the plane?"
"You can leave the door open if you desire or you can close it if you want privacy."
I still wasn't convinced. Perhaps they were willing to sacrifice two innocent pilots to eliminate Sunny and I. "I would still prefer traveling on a commercial flight."
"Let me be perfectly honest with you Mr. Holiday. A week ago the Secretary of State came into my office and gave me an identity to create. I was to have this identity and secure transportation back to the United States at this location today for a couple asking to see Cecil Smythe. There is no Cecil Smythe, that was simply a means of identification. I know nothing about either of you, except that you are very important people. The Secretary of State believes you deserve the highest honor our nation can bestow on anyone, military or civilian. However, circumstances which I know nothing about preclude that honor from ever occurring. I was assigned the task of making you a legitimate citizen of the United States of America. The Secretary informed me I would never work for the government again if this assignment is not handled successfully. I'm a career employee and do not want that to happen. By using the Learjet we bypass customs on each side. You get into the plane and takeoff. Mexico and the United States do these little favors for each other periodically. Upon arrival you get into a car and drive off. Your papers should be in order but it's just another precaution."
"Will you accompany us on the plane?" I asked.
"I wasn't planning to, but I will if it will put you at ease."
That simply proves he doesn't know about any planned explosions above the Gulf of Mexico, I thought. I still wasn't going to risk Sunny's life aboard that plane. "Okay, I'll see the pilots onboard the plane, you will accompany us, and I will fly aboard the Learjet to bypass customs. Mrs. Holiday will take a commercial flight. She won't have any problems clearing customs. Do you have any problems with that arrangement?"
"I believe it's unnecessary, but if it pleases you, it's fine with me except for one item. I don't know what either of you are involved with or what kind of danger might be present. If Mrs. Holiday flies commercially, I'd feel better about it if she had a couple of bodyguards. If anything bad happens to either of you, I'm in trouble. You're my responsibility now! The two Marines who witnessed your marriage will protect her with their lives if asked to. Does that meet with your approval?"
"I'm sure Mrs. Holiday will be honored."
"Good. I'll okay it with their commanding officer and check the departing flight schedule. We'll arrive long before them so we'll be waiting at their arrival gate at Dulles Field."
Sunny protested somewhat about the arrangements, but I insisted. I met the two pilots and was told with some pride that we were flying a new Gates Learjet model 35A.
The two pilots, Mr. Alexander, and I departed for Washington DC. I felt much more relaxed when the coastline of the United States of America was in sight! If they were going to blow the plane to pieces it would have occurred out over the Gulf. We arrived at Dulles three hours before Sunny's flight. Mr. Alexander insisted on staying to make sure Sunny arrived safely. We had a few drinks, talked, and became friends.
The two young Marines almost looked as sharp in street clothes as they did in dress blue uniforms. Sunny ran into my arms when she spotted me with one Marine running along each side of her. Nehemiah saluted me as he said, "Welcome to the United States, Sir. We're glad to have you here."
Mr. Alexander excused himself and departed, his job being completed. Sunny and I treated the two Marines to supper at a nice restaurant, then drove them back to a hotel near the airport. Tomorrow morning they would return to Mexico City.
Sunny and I went home to each other and a happy Rommel to begin our new life together and my new life as a citizen of the United States of America.
Events fell into place so that Sunny never really had to resign from her job. On November 2, 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States with an electoral vote of 297 to Gerald Ford's 240. On December 3, 1976, President-elect Carter announced that Cyrus R. Vance would be his Secretary of State. Dr. Henry Kissinger and his staff stepped aside for the new administration's team.
After Jimmy Carter became President on January 20, 1977; Sunny and I departed for our honeymoon aboard a Caribbean cruise ship. Two events set the tone for the entire trip. The first night of the cruise I negotiated a private evening in the Grand Ballroom for just the two of us. In actuality, private parties were not allowed. But the members of the band agreed to "practice" for a price from two to four a.m., with Sunny and I the only passengers in attendance. The highlight of the evening occurred as the lights were turned off and a small spotlight illuminated the trumpet player. He played Deep Purple and Stardust as purple spotlights directed at the slowly turning mirrored ball high above the dance floor covered every surface of the ballroom with purple snow. I whirled Sunny around the dance floor in her swirling silky white dress and me in a tuxedo. It was an awesome night and the best thousand dollars I ever invested! We met the trumpet player and thought we would never forget him. Now, all I can remember is that his name was Looney, and he was from New Orleans. From that night on, we were special passengers aboard the ship.
The second event occurred toward the end of the cruise during our return to home port. The Navy's precision stunt flying team, the Blue Angels, flew out and performed their show around our ship. Soon the top decks were standing room only, filled with astonished passengers and crew all cheering and applauding wildly! The blue and yellow jets were beautiful in the blue sky with their red, white, and blue colored smoke. At the end of the performance as Sunny and I were standing at the bow of the huge ship, each A4 Skyhawk on its way back to Pensacola Naval Base flew over and dipped its wing back and forth in salute. Sunny waved as I returned their salute.
We don't know how he arranged the event before leaving office, but we realized the man who had shown so much character and integrity, also had a lot of class!
Describing our honeymoon would require another novel, let's just describe it as heavenly! Upon our return from the cruise, we settled to another part of the country.
Proceed to Epilogue Table of Contents. Questions or comments?