His reflection overlapped the stylish dress on the mannequin on the other side of the storefront window. “Beautiful,” he thought, and then gazed over to the other items on the elegant display. Window shopping on Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, was always a special treat for Bill Henry. No one knew him here. He could let down his guard a little bit. He was free to shop, and dream. He walked into the store and on impulse bought the dress in size 10. “A graduation present,” he flushed to the clerk.
“Doctor” Henry. He still couldn’t believe the years of research and study were over, years of class work, field work, papers, presentations, dissertations, and being on someone else’s schedule. At thirty years old, it was hard to believe that his life was now his own.
Henry walked out of the store, bag in hand. He leisurely strolled down Michigan Avenue, appreciating the window displays, and the variety of people hurrying along on the busy street. It all seemed so alive, so real, such a far cry from the stodgy world of higher education in Boston.
He decided to head back to his room at The Drake. He was looking forward to dressing up, and then ordering room service for a nice dinner in the privacy of his own room. He had never dared to dress up in public.
Daydreaming, he did not see them coming. He didn’t notice the black Ford Crown Victoria that slowly cruised past him and stopped at the curb a short distance ahead. Two tall, muscular men in black suits and sunglasses stepped out of the car and calmly approached him. One reached out and snatched the bag from his hand. The other one came up close to him and firmly grabbed him by the opposite arm. “Please come with us, Dr. Henry. Your help is needed.”
“Hey! What? Let go of me!” Dr. William Henry was shocked by the sudden assault in broad daylight. He tried in vain to free himself from the man’s strong grip. Now the other one was grabbing him in similar fashion by the other arm.
Without a word, they lifted him off his feet as if he was weightless and walked back to the waiting Crown Vic. Henry began to twist and kick as hard as he could but he could not overpower the strength of the two brutes. A third man now opened the back door. Henry was quickly shoved into the back seat with a practiced efficiency. “Stop!” He demanded, but there was no reply from his expressionless captors.
Doors slammed and the car raced away, heading north on Michigan Avenue. Dr. Henry struggled for a short while, but it was clear he was at the mercy of these men. “Who are you? Where are you taking me?” The men looked straight ahead and did not say a word.
He noticed the Great Lakes streets as the car sped along. He passed a few more streets and then the car took a sharp right turn on Delaware. A few seconds later, the Crown Vic made a sudden stop at number 195. The driver jumped out of the car and looked up and down the street. He then came around to the other side of the car and opened the back door. The others came out with Dr. Henry still in their grasp. They rushed him to the door which opened up as they approached and quickly shut after they had entered the establishment.
“Where am I? What do you want?” Henry was frightened now. The two men still did not release their vice grip, or say a word. Outside, he could hear the Crown Vic pull away.
Now another man appeared, in a dull gray suit, with a white shirt and a plain tie. Without introduction, “Dr. Henry, excuse us for this sudden intrusion.”
“Release me at once!” Henry demanded.
“I’m sorry, doctor, but we can’t do that. Please calm down and everything will be alright.”
“What do you mean, ‘calm down’!? I demand that you let me go this instant.”
Dull gray suit simply put his finger to his lips and said, “Shush. Dr. Henry, you’re not going anywhere.”
A chill went down Henry’s spine. Chicago was famous for its gangsters and criminals, and he believed he was now in the presence of some of them. “They have the wrong man,” he thought. He was sure there was nothing about him that would interest men like these. He had no money. He had no business connections. He was a simple professional-school graduate waiting to start his first job.
“If you promise to not run, these men will let go of your arms.” Dull gray suit waited patiently for Henry’s reply. “And if you promise to not yell, we will not have to gag you.”
Henry was desperate now. He looked around the room. There were no windows. He was unlikely to make it past the two brutes to the single door of the room. They had him.
“Are you going to hurt me?” Henry asked. Part of him did not want to hear the answer to that question.
“That depends on how well you cooperate.” Dull gray suit answered in a matter-of-fact kind of way. “Let’s try it. Men, release his arms.”
The two large men in black suits, still wearing their dark sunglasses, released Henry’s arms, but stayed right next to him. Henry made a move toward the door, and the men instantly grabbed him by the arms again.
“Tie him up,” dull gray suit pointed to a chair.
“No, wait,” Dr. Henry implored. But there was no further conversation about the matter. The two brutes proceeded to roughly tie him down to the chair.
Dull gray suit waited patiently for Henry to be tied up. He pulled a rag from out of his suit pocket. “Now are you going to stay quiet? Or do I have to gag you, too?”
Henry stayed quiet, and braced himself for whatever was to come.
“Dr. Henry, we are going to ask you a series of questions, and this may take a while, so you might as well make yourself comfortable.” He pointed with a circular hand gesture to the ropes tying Henry down, while calmly lighting up a cigarette.
“Yeah, comfortable,” Henry thought, sarcastic and scared.
Dull gray suit spoke to the two brutes, “Hey, I’m hungry. Why don’t you boys pick up a pizza at Uno’s or something.” Then, looking at Henry, “You hungry?”
Henry was flabbergasted. His mind was reeling with questions. “Really? He wants to know if I’m hungry? He’s got to be kidding!”
Henry thought it best to not say anything. After a few moments, dull gray suit just shrugged his shoulders and said to the brutes, “You better get two pizzas. He’s gonna be hungry.”
It did take a while. Two days later, Henry was no longer tied up and no longer afraid for his life, but he was still at a loss as to what these men wanted from him. He had met a series of people questioning him about everything in his life. One man asked for many details about every one of his family members, close and extended. Another one asked him about his finances, and congratulated him afterwards for being truthful. Still another, obviously a scientist, delved extensively into his graduate work, particularly about his linguistics and communications work with dolphins.
“Is it true you were able to collaborate with dolphins to accomplish a common task?” the scientist asked.
“Yes, as you undoubtably know. I see you have my published paper in your hands.”
“Yes, but is it true?” the scientist pressed on. “I don’t always believe the veracity of published papers, especially from a rank beginner. So why don’t you give me some details and examples.”
After many hours of questions and answers, the scientist seemed satisfied. He closed his notebook and stood to leave. Shaking Henry’s hand, “Thank you, Dr. Henry. You seem to be legit.”
Over the next several days, Henry became somewhat disoriented, having been kept in a windowless and clockless room. He estimated he had been there for about a week. The inquisition now seemed to be over. There were no more psychological tests. No more questions about his ethics. No more questions about his politics, or his loyalty to his country.
The place had become decidedly quiet now. That was almost more disconcerting than the week-long parade of strangers asking personal questions. He had a feeling something terrible was about to happen.
Dull gray suit swung the door open and marched into the room.
“No, please, no more pizza!” begged Dr. Henry, only half joking.
“What? No. I’m not here for that. Let’s get you ready to go.” Dull gray suit appeared to be on a mission.
“Go where?” Henry inquired.
“You’re going on a special trip.” And that’s all dull gray suit would divulge.
Suddenly, one of the two brutes appeared, with Henry’s luggage from The Drake in one hand, and the bag with the dress in the other. Henry flushed a deep red as he suddenly realized they had certainly rummaged through his things - through his underthings. “Time to go, Dr. Henry. Please follow me.” The brute seemed softer and more polite now, almost respectful. Henry did as he was told and followed.
It was his first time outside in about a week. He walked out into total darkness. “What time is it?” he asked, trying to reorient himself.
“0300, Sir.” answered the brute.
“And where are we going in such a hurry at 0300?”
“To Meigs Field, Sir.”
“Where are you sending me?”
“I don’t know, Sir. That’s classified.” The tone in the brute’s voice suggested he was following orders and telling the truth.
The black Ford Crown Victoria was back at the curb. He went inside, this time in the front passenger seat and of his own accord. There was no use in fighting whatever this was that was going on.
A few minutes later he was being driven along Lake Shore Drive, and quickly arrived at Meigs Field. All the gates were open. They drove right up to the airstrip itself, where the blades of a military helicopter were spinning and ready to go. A man in civilian clothing shook Henry’s hand and yelled a hello over the helicopter noise.
A few hours later, they arrived in Washington, D.C. and landed on the White House lawn.