Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Fifty-Three
18th April 1976
It was finally Easter Sunday and as Marie Alexandra was brewing up a pot of what had been sold as the “Black Death Blend” of coffee she had an unfortunate visitor who was ruining the experience. When she had seen the beans advertised in the store there had been a humorous disclaimer that had convinced her that they were perfect for today. That was why she was in the kitchen waiting impatiently for the water to boil after putting the electric coffee grinder to use.
“You gave up coffee for lent?” Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy asked.
“My grandmother didn’t give me a choice” Marie replied.
“I met your grandmother” Jackie said, “I fear that she doesn’t like me very much.”
The sixteen-year-old daughter of Jack Kennedy was traveling with her father on a business trip. For her it was unimaginable that anyone would ever dislike her. Marie didn’t dislike Jackie, she wished that the girl would stop talking occasionally. She had talked the entire time that Marie had been in the process of making the coffee. It seemed that Jackie had never seen a French press used before. It seemed that Jack felt that having his daughter spend the afternoon with Marie while he was meeting with clients would be good for her. Henriette was just watching the whole conversation with considerable bemusement.
“You will find that puts you in good company in this city” Marie replied, “My grandmother’s approval is probably not something I would take too seriously.”
Marie might have told Jackie that Margot only seemed to approve of those who either fit her narrow definitions of what she considered proper, or else that had something that she wanted. Marie knew that the way things stood presently was only because of the later reason. There was a part of Marie that thought that she ought to give her grandmother exactly what she thought she wanted. Queen Elizabeth already knew who Margot Blackwood was through gossip that she had would have heard through Marie’s mother, Empress Suga, Marie’s godmother former Empress Charlotte for certain, and who knew who else. Suga and Elizabeth’s tea parties in Berlin and London respectively should terrify those who were the day’s entertainment. Margot had no idea that she was asking Marie to lead her into a lion’s den wearing a suit made of steak and the lionesses were extremely hungry.
When the coffee was ready, Marie poured herself a cup and took a drink. It was bliss, like rediscovering an old book that she had read years earlier…
“My God, how can you drink that black?” Henriette asked.
Jackie was making a face.
Marie hadn’t told them to help themselves while she had been having a moment. “There is cream in the refrigerator and the sugar bowl is on the counter by cutting board” She said before saying the word “Heathens” under her breath as she watched as Henriette and Jackie scrambled to turn what was wonderful into little more than confectionery.
The file that had been sent to the White House by the German Embassy was unexpected. This copy of a report might have been written largely in English, but as Nixon swiftly discovered it might as well have been written in Greek it was so full of medical jargon. Still, as previous Administrations had discovered, whenever the name Kaiserlicher Zentralsanitätsdienst, the official name of the German Military Medical Service Branch, appeared on the letterhead along with a stamp for immediate public distribution they were in for a bad day. This was proving to be no exception. While the other Service Branches of the German preferred to keep their secrets, the KZ obnoxiously seemed to feel that secrecy didn’t serve their interests.
Nixon had asked some of the foremost experts to go over the file to see if they could make any sense of it in the Roosevelt Room. As with other incidents Nixon had found that they were serious people who didn’t care about politics, they had a mission to perform. They were a lot like their German counterparts in that regard. Today, he saw looks of concern crossing their faces as they looked through the documents, it took them a considerable amount of time to reach a consensus. Finally one of them, a man who had been identified to Nixon as being a rising star at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spoke. He wasn’t a big man, but he seemed to fill the room with his presence.
“We might have a serious problem, Sir” He said.
“On a scale from one to ten, Doctor…?” Nixon asked.
“I think this goes past all of that, ten times a thousand” The man said, “And it’s Fauci, Sir.”
“Yes… Doctor Fauci” Nixon said, “Exactly what is that supposed to mean?”
“The Germans are notoriously close-lipped about the readiness of their military” Fauci replied, “They are telling us about an Oberbootsmann, a Petty Officer in their Navy if I am reading this right, named David Martin who went from robust health to such a state that they couldn’t figure out just which condition killed him at the age of twenty-nine after he died a couple weeks ago. That shows exactly how seriously they are taking this.”
Doctor Fauci flipped through the papers before he held up a photograph taken by an electron microscope that was part of the file that purported to show the still unnamed virus. “As far as I can tell, this is real” He said.
“I get that” Nixon said, “But why are they telling us?”
That resulted in some more talking among themselves by the Doctors, then they went through the file again before they handed Fauci a couple different sheets of paper. Nixon knew that he would get the same questions from Congress, except they would not be nearly as nice.
“A virus has absolutely no respect for National borders” Fauci said, “They feel they have a duty to warn us.”
“Do they have any suggestions as to how they intend to contain this?” Nixon asked.
“Actually, they are saying that it is already too late for that” Fauci replied, “Using the same protocols they used with David Martin they have detected this virus in blood samples taken in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.”
It was already here? Nixon thought to himself with a sinking feeling.
“Just how did they get those blood samples?” Nixon asked tapping his finger on table for emphasis.
Fauci looked a bit embarrassed for a few seconds.
“Well, Sir” Fauci said awkwardly, “There was already a crisis before this. How many free clinics anywhere in America would turn away a Doctor volunteering their services for a few days while they just happen to be on vacation?”
Congress was going to have kittens when they learned about this.