Table of Contents


A Bank Robbery

of data banks, that is, by spies, yet the press merely eructates briefly and turns to chomp upon other fodder, while the Author is getting furiouser and furiouser, foreseeing his involvement in a two-bit brouhaha and pointing out how perfectly Marx was signalled as a potential spy, and, in fact, said Alexander Falcone is soon the victim of a poison pen wielded by Lenny Siegel, a friend turned enemy.

ON APRIL FOOLS Day, Chris Marx was walking with Piotr Leonidov along the banks of the Rhine near the old bridge at Basle when someone from behind seized him by the arm, crying "Federal Police! You are under arrest!" and ushered him into a car, which then zoomed off at high speed through the heavy traffic.

Secretary Leonidov was not let to reflect in the twilight upon the precipitate Swiss and to find another companion for dinner. He, too, was placed in a car and whisked off, ultimately landing back at his own Embassy with his precious diplomatic immunity.

I regret having to describe this scene. It's so trite. It's cinema! Still.. there's no denying it. Two carloads of four policemen each executed the detail. I'm still trying to figure it out, eight men to arrest a mild unarmed 56-year-old intellectual and a diplomat?

Now I know the answer. Do you?

Suppose you are a Basle cop. Fifteen years on the force. How many swooping arrests of Soviet spies would you have made in your lifetime? Zero. Correct. How many will you make in the next several years before you retire? One. Correct. This one. Now you can tell your grandchildren all about international espionage, of that time when...

Only Swiss frugality kept them from hiring stretch limousines and employing sixteen police.

Then, if you will, why the screeching and hurtling

neck-snapping take-off? In heavy traffic.

It's the fierce feeling of the Great Spy Arrest!

"They were so very elated," said Marx.

"Like they were having an orgasm?" said I.

"Well, yes," he agreed, "maybe."

I recall, of course, the first-time feeling during war, when you take a prisoner, some poor slob, any prisoner. What a thrill! It's only after it has gone on for a while ... then you couldn't care less. "Speed up, Laudando," I say to my jeep driver, the huge Neapolitan and best corporal in the U.S. Army, and he knew why. If we didn't, those Italian soldiers coming out of the bushes were going to block us and surrender, and then what in the hell would we do with them.

If it was a police joke to arrest a Soviet Spy named Marx on April 1, they kept it to themselves. Only a handful of us had come to know about it before his release on May 21. Some persons were questioned and therefore knew. Initial inquiries of the police were futile, but a week afterwards they called his daughter Clara to say that he was in custody. She had meanwhile been checking the hospitals and the ordinary police, who knew nothing.

His former sister-in-law, Veronica Cuomo, at Montreux had actually heard of his arrest the day before it happened, and from a peculiar source, an American boy-friend. She had met him about the time that Piotr Potiondy, the predecessor of Piotr Leonidov came to Switzerland and at a time when police surveillance of Marx most likely began. The report seemed unbelievable.

This friend, Roger, seemed to have underground, if not underworld connections; he appeared to be resident in Switzerland; he travelled to the Middle East. I'll let Roger off for the nonce while I check an Agency lead on him.

No one in Basle dared go to the newspapers or Mayor's office or the Bern Federal Government offices and Council to inquire insistently and to protest, as one would have done in America or Britain. The first articles appeared in the press after Marx had been released and were based almost 100% on the press release of the Prosecutor.

The interrogation of Marx began. At least two police questioned him, sometimes three. Six to eight hours a day for the first couple of weeks and thereafter cut back severely, leaving him in isolation. So his presence was hardly needed for interrogation and could reasonably be regarded as punishment -- without due process of law.

He was not physically maltreated, but the intellectual annoyance was sometimes barely sufferable. They don't ask the big questions of spy tactics, secret practices, motives, general impressions, but nit-pick a person until one goes insane with frustration: what did you say to him on this day and time, what did he reply, where is the place in your diary for this meeting, etc. Over and over.

In 1960, the University of Basle was celebrating its five hundredth anniversary, and among many fetes was a radio comedy skit for the Prostfestum, young Chris Marx assisting. One scene has the hero, Ruedi, being questioned after he has discovered his uncle's body in the cellar when he came home. Marx, under interrogation, felt a sharp deja vu sensation for its fidelity to experience:

First policeman: When did you arrive home?

Ruedi: Well, uh, uh, well, around...

Second policeman: Why did you come home?

Ruedi: Well, you see...

First policeman: Where from did you come home?

Ruedi: Uhhh, from the...

Second policeman: How did you get home?

Ruedi: How?

First policeman: Yes, how?

Ruedi: Yeah, well, you see, I was...

Second policeman: And then?

Ruedi: Then what?

First policeman: What did you do then?

Ruedi: Nothing, I mean...

Second policeman: How did you do it?

Ruedi: What?

First policeman: Don't ask any questions.

Ruedi: Yes, but...

Second policeman: We take care of that.

Ruedi: Yeah, so I've noticed.

First policeman: Suspicious.

Second policeman: Very suspicious.

First policeman: Extremely suspicious.

Second policeman: In a word, it's a clear case.

Ruedi: How's that?

First policeman: You're not asking the questions.

Ruedi: Uhhh, I only meant to...

First policeman: So you don't want to admit it, do you?

Ruedi: What?

Second policeman: If you ask one more question, you're

practically condemned.

Ruedi: But this can't be...

First policeman: Your behavior alone speaks volumes.

Ruedi: Really...

Second policeman: That's enough!

Ruedi: I think so.

First policeman: Finished. Curtains. Take him away!

It was part of the scheme to keep Marx in a state of ignorance and fright -- and hopefully, bring on a confession.

However, there is method, too, in the madness of the police. They are always being warned that they must specify what charges are to be brought against the accused in court, the more specific the better.

The law abhors generality. One cannot appear, not in any respectable jurisdiction in the world, with a formal accusation that "so-and-so is a traitor" or "so-and-so stole a lot of documents about our defense and sold them to foreigners."

What, where, when, how, who -- all must be alleged in most explicit form.

So the interrogations have a root of rationality and then the root sprouts in some peculiar ways, besetting, belaying, bewitching, berating, bedeviling, bemazing, bethumping, being beastly, beshrewing, bemocking, betraying, beating, bebloodying, bedraggling, benumbing, bellowing, beguiling, befooling, beseeching, bescorning, bestilling, bespiting, bewildering, bemuddling, bemusing, bedazing, begrudging, befuddling, befouling, beggaring, belaboring, beaming upon, belibeling, belting, besmirching, bespattering, besieging, betonguing, besliming, bewailing, beslobbering, belly-aching, bedrugging, beclapping, bending, and otherwise bearing down in benighted ways on the bullied, brow-beaten bequestioned.

When he was released 51 days after his arrest, he was told that the radio, TV, and newspapers had carried the official version of the case.

"All must have said about the same," he wrote me,

it was only one day's headline, and from what I have heard meanwhile about them, it would be my turn to be surprised if someone had actually praised the police. The general tenor here is on how ridiculous all these things are..

He claims that afterwards, "Nobody placed me. Nobody reads the papers. Nobody pays attention to spy stories." Surely it's partly so; half the people cannot name the Senator whom they elected.

But two points slant against his view: People, especially Swiss more than Americans, will not casually refer to knowing that a man has been in trouble with the law. (In sociologese, it's a "shame society.")

Second, so far as one's business and reputation are concerned, the police know, the spy fans know, the politicians know, the right and left extremists know, the credit bureaus know. Nothing will ever be the same again -- for better or worse.

It is true that the press took up a relaxed, even amused, posture to the affair. Sudden arrest, no public statement, no arraignment, no judicial hearing, solitary confinement, no attorney, and so on: the Swiss press seems, by its silence on these matters even afterwards, to feel that all was in order and acceptable.

It apparently takes less to persuade the average Swiss of the need for secrecy than of the need to protect civil rights. The secret bank accounts are not the achievement of a day and night, but a profound representation of the Swiss character.

Already for the most part an "anal people," as the Freudians would say, that is, prone to retain everything including secrets -- "tight-assed" is the American phrase -- they welcome the keeping of secrets and willingly accord to each other this heritage of the land, a training that begins with strict toilet-bowl discipline and carries on thereafter with a "mach's nit" here and a "mach's nit" there.

Who knows how many of the press and the public, when the word "data bank" is mentioned in connection with computers, believe that we are talking about real secrets about real money in real banks?

The press may even not know nor bother to find out. What does the accused say? What kinds of material were stolen? (It is not enough to say "economic and political information," as was declared, and "scientific" was later added.) How were the crimes committed? Where? Against whom? Over what period of time? The press exposed the arrest, the expulsion, and laughed it off. Why did they not analyze its serious implications?

Nor do the media ask themselves whether it is true that Marx was the cause behind the expulsion of the two Soviet diplomats. That Marx' arrest is correlated with their fate does not prove that the one is the cause of the other.

The Soviets may have been expelled for dealing with other Swiss whose identities and activities could not at this time be revealed.

Or for other reasons. Might not the two men have been violating Swiss laws in some non-security area (like trafficking in drugs, or smuggling gold, or whatever)?

Or perhaps they were generally regarded as potentially too effective as spies; therefore it would be clever to get rid of them. Leonidov, we knew, came into the country from a period in Germany, where he had earned a sinister reputation.

That the Russians were unusually annoyed is evident: for the first time in twenty-five years, and despite frequent similar provocation, they retaliated in kind, promptly ordering out of the Soviet Union the First Secretary of the Swiss Embassy, Hans Pfohl. The press did not find these facts peculiar. Yet, I ask, why were they so exasperated?

After he was sprung from the clinker, Marx got a lawyer to inject some restraint into the manner in which the press had been using his name. Taking advantage of a law (art. 28 ZGB) that attempts to protect people from slander, the attorney wrote a letter to the Basler Zeitung, which dutifully captioned it and printed it:


Under the title of "Basler named Soviet Spy" issue no.132, 10 June 1987, the Basler Zeitung reported an investigation by the Federal and City Police. The attorney of the accused has transmitted to us the following statement in contradiction: In the above article the impression is being given with the naming of names that the allegations made against Mr. C.M. are based upon clear proof and even that they are legally and firmly established. To the contrary,it should be stated that: 1. Mr. C.M. denies positively having committed any illegal actions. 2. Mr. C.M. has sold only commercial products which are not subjected to any restrictions and has furnished only services which were ordinary commercial and specific professional transactions. The client in question in this case is the Commercial representative of the U.S.S.R. 3. The prices paid correspond to the regular amounts payable for these kinds of transactions. To qualify them as agents' fees represents therefore an unacceptable defamation of character of Mr. C.M.

Aside from the serious slander and libel that might have been implicated in the media articles naming Marx, the newspapers were not inclined to nip at his heels and rather, as explained above, to jest about the situation. So on the one hand we have a contempt of the seriousness of police efforts, and on the other hand the police are accorded a free hand. But, come to think of it, this was the way things were in Chicago when I was boy, during the "Roaring Twenties."

The only large newspaper of his home town had published his name. This violated Swiss practice. The police would deny that they had leaked his name and age. When called by Marx, the newspaper reporter who was involved in the story said that he had published the name to avoid the bother of telephone calls inquiring which computer dealer in town was the Spy!

Marx was not unknown to him and others of the Swiss press. Marx was one of those ornery and persistent letter-writers on whom newspapers have a love-hate dependency.

No danger signal was flashed to Marx in the first instance by either the Police or Soviets. For all he knew, Piotr Potiondy might have been recalled to Russia for the Fall Harvest. Potiondy played it cool. I am leaving, he told Marx, some weeks before his departure, and you will be able to meet my replacement. They fixed a date and the means of identification even then.

So Potiondy must have known that the Swiss were on to him and he would be expelled at some point, of which he was not yet certain. In field espionage, i.e. spying, a great deal of time is given over to getting oneself set up and in extricating oneself from the set-up. A Maxim #3 may be dictated: "Spying is half devoted to getting ready to spy and unsticking oneself from spying."

Only when Secretary Piotr Leonidov, who had taken his time about packing up, had left, a week after his order to get out was received, did the police release Marx. As if he would have made a beeline for Leonidov -- well, perhaps he might have, but so what, isn't that what the police wanted, two spies needing to compare notes?


Basle is a good location for a spy. It is a dignified handsome city situated on the Upper Rhine, the bustling center of a chemical industry that makes daily enough toxicant to poison the Rhine valley several times over, which has been demonstrated on two occasions recently.

Its Mardi Gras is fine, second to none in the world, the Morgestraich, a private affair, citizens only, conducted on the basis of hereditary lodges, beginning with a 4 A.M procession of a February morning, and carrying over into a moderately licentious saturnalia the next day.

Like England, the Cantons of Basle are in the process of re-discovering their Roman origins by assiduous digging. They exhibit them with elegant landscaping.

Its financial institutions are important, top dogs in the largest banking nucleus of the world, the Swiss banking system.

The Basle zoo is superb. The University is good. Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus (yes, that's the origin of the word!) von Hohenheim taught here and is an ancestor of Swiss medical chemistry, thus connected to our case (rather like the swallows are).

Unlike Christoph Marx, who is only mildly caustic and supports only two names, Bombastus added another name, Paracelsus (now you know him!), and as such was regarded as the most "vitriolic, scurrilous, scathing, and caustic" scholar North of the Alps (there were some beauties in Italy where he earned his doctorate, this being the Renaissance).

He was, moreover, an immensely and blatantly arrogant polymath, such that, despite his large enthusiastic following, he finally had to flee for his life in the middle of the night, and, ungifted with Teachers' Insurance and Annuity Association protection (TIAA-CREF) or Swiss Social Security, he lived hungrily with friends here and there in Alsace for eight years until he could write and publish his popular masterpiece, Die grosse Wundartzney -- " The Great Surgery Book."

And Christoph Marx was a most attractive target for espionage recruitment. He had in the first place made himself obvious as a friend of the Soviet Union, in a cultural rather than political sense. This he had done by joining, with his wife, the Swiss-Soviet Friendship Association, as it would be called in America. The proud parents of a gifted and beautiful daughter, the aforementioned Clara, wished that she might study at the Moscow Ballet School; this could have been their simple selfish (and therefore "innocent") reason for joining up.

Of course this was some time ago, in the sixties. For a brief period he even served as its President -- because the former chairman had "lost his marbles," Chris has been heard to say.

The Marxes visited the Soviet Embassy for formal celebrations. Practically everyone in the friendship association was a communist, says Marx, except us; "I may have felt sympathetic for a while, but Reconstruction (as he calls his hopes for a rewriting of earliest history) drove it out of my head... There's no joy in it, no competition, dull, no initiative. Capitalism is not very clean, but one does have the initiative to do something."

He moved from the traditional book trade into the book trade of the future -- computers -- and sold hardware and software. He was intent upon research and publishing by computer in the field of ancient catastrophism and quantavolution, which I shall explain later.

When President Leonid Breshnev was gravely ill with cardiac complications (he died of them in 1982) the clarion was blown for miracle cures. Soviet scientists were delighted, for they might for once get permission to go abroad and learn what was happening in their fields.

One of them, a heart specialist, Professor Dr. Mediadev, Member of the Soviet Academy of Science, came to join the Sandoz pharmaceutical company for a three-month's stay, met Marx at the suggestion of Sandoz employees (a meaningful twist), and discussed with him the need in the Soviet Union for the kind of powerful personal computers that were appearing then for the first time: they would be useful in various kinds of experimental research, for example, in animal cardiac studies of the type then being conducted at Sandoz. (The computers registered simultaneously and continuously a variety of signals from different animals under observation and test.)

The occasional failure of mainframes, that had been used until then to host a number of small experiments, carrying their programs and operations and memories all together, would destroy a great deal of work. Marx did his best to provide the Soviets with the information and technology that they needed. His Soviet Trade Office contact was Dr. Bazinov, who later on introduced him to Potiondy for further mutual efforts.

The Russians were ready to buy ten of the Oki microcomputers which Marx was servicing for the Sandoz company, along with some of the software that Sandoz had developed. The order put in by the Soviets through Marx was sizeable.

But as the date for delivery neared, the United States government promulgated a list of high-technology items whose export to the Soviet Union was to be forbidden thenceforth. The list included processor chips made in America and licensed to the Japanese for these same computers.

The embargo was a double blow, financial and moral: why shouldn't the Redlands get this stuff? The Geneva conventions do not forbid state-of-the-art therapy for wounded and sick prisoners of war! In fact, under Swiss law, there are no restrictions on commerce with the Soviet Union except for customs and tariff duties and certain hi-tech and nuclear energy items. This latter list keeps changing with U.S. preoccupations and the Swiss follow along.

The big issue of the day was whether America's European allies should sign a pact with the Soviet Union to build a pipeline that would traverse Europe and bring gas to the West. The U.S.A. was adamantly opposed to the venture. The embargo of computer material was one effect.

As in killing war, so in economic war, the little guys get clobbered and squashed.

Then, a few years later, 30 december 1988, to be exact, on their gravestones, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, hired by the U.S. Department of State, sheds a tear -- or lifts a leg, depending upon how you see it -- and announces in a Report that most of the junk is readily accessible around the world, the restrictions have been unsuccessful, such commerce is effectively uncontrollable, and suggests confining efforts to "computer technologies of compelling military importance." Too late for Chris Marx.

The Soviet Trade Office felt obliged to Marx and promised him other work. He sold them a number of ordinary security television screens in the Embassy. He claims to have not known, and we have only the word of the police to the contrary, that his Russian dealer now, the jovial Piotr Potiondy, was a KGB agent.

So there were two decades of friendly, mutually supportive contacts between Marx and the Soviets.

His other qualifications for espionage would make the mouth of a C.I.A. recruitment agent water: he had attended public school in England and spoke English fluently, he belonged to several excellent cover groups: PAF (Podium for Academic Freedom), SIS (Society for Interdisciplinary Studies), Kronos (a publishing circle), Expert Systems of Great Britain (a consortium for artificial intelligence), of which more later. The SIS and Expert Systems were both British, the first into ancient catastrophes and chronology, the second into computer simulation of intelligent behavior; both are far out, need I warn you.

He maintained a logically necessary international network of correspondents and could attend conferences, naturally, on practically any subject anywhere with a good excuse. This was the same kind of network that I have; mine is even much broader, as I shall get into explaining later too. And it is my problem, as it was his opportunity.

He was a native-born Swiss of Basle, and hence could not be kicked out of the country for any trivial reason, as is the Swiss wont. From the standpoint of external espionage, he was ready to go to work. All the plumbing was installed.

He had an office, he had computers, printers, telex, electronic mail, modems for network and private data unloading, and he was an expert not alone on computer hardware but also on computer software. He had a good excuse to deal with just about any person or organization that collected and stored and released information of practically all subjects.

For example, try to imagine a field in which he could not be excused for having an interest -- star-wars? That's too easy. For two decades he had been deeply interested in cosmological problems, planetary deviations, stellar explosions, and the building of vehicles for space exploration and communication.

Biological and chemical products: he can discourse on the chemistry of manna from heaven; he can offer striking theories of evolution by saltations; he has been trying for some time to set up a bio-care computer on-line system that would store and sell data to inquirers concerning dietetics. He has operated, over many years, book stores and publishing services of one kind or another.

At the moment of his arrest, he had a load of my books to sell, along with the works of Velikovsky (of Russian birth, the Police might note), and these cover many subjects beside the above, while in addition he had been publishing a number of extraordinary items on historical, mythological, and baffling political (we shall see why) matters.

Besides, he was a controversial figure, as am I, but he had more foes and opposition than I because he lacked the credentials of a doctorate and other degrees that are presupposed when you raise your hand for recognition to discuss a scholarly issue.

Nor was he a follower, but defied the establishment wherever he appeared. So that the police could hardly find a positive recommendation as to his scholarship, no matter where they might inquire in Swiss and international circles.

One may suppose that the Police might feel tempted to assail such vulnerable prey.

For an alternative construction of their suspect's character, they would have had to come to me and to precious few others in Germany, England, Canada and America. And what would we have said? Not really much other than the above, which would be interpreted as negatives by any worthy police detective charged with fattening the dossier of a suspect.

I am puzzled about the seriousness of the crimes alleged to have been committed by Christoph, and I fear that it will take repeated inquiries into what follows here to put a proper answer to the question. He was alleged to have "furnished prohibited services of political and economic information." He was said to have turned over to Leonidov "papers relative to word-processing and data, receiving for his services an important amount in the six figures." Thus the spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor. Six figures would be at least 100,000 Swiss Francs or about $60,000. The literature of espionage gawks and gloats over the profits of spies. The receipts vary greatly from nothing at all for highly important secrets up to a great deal for secrets of small importance. A correlation run on the last hundred and sixty cases of espionage come to hand would reveal a relationship of 0.01, close to nothing, between the sum paid for the work and value received.

So let us analyze the money matter, but later, and say here only that it was not so important as the Prosecutor made it out to be.

Early in the case, the Washington Times carried an article that summarized the release, perforce banal, which repeated readings convince me was garbled with passages from another despatch of unrelated character. Mere sloppy make-ready.

This was then compensated for by a second Washington Times article on August 4. The sole author was now my friend, Leonard Siegel, whom I have already mentioned. He had not known the identity of the "spy" the first time around, but had learned it from Stapleton and was surprised, for he had met Marx earlier and knew him also by reputation and correspondence.

When I spoke with Lenny upon my return to America in the late summer, I asked him whether he should follow up on the story, hopeful that more could be discovered and interpreted by him. He agreed that an up-to-date article would be in order.

In a later conversation, after he had been in touch with his correspondent in Switzerland, and ostensibly though indirectly with the Prosecutor's office, he told me that Marx had achieved access to the secret account numbers of Swiss banks.

I was intrigued by the notion, but cautioned him about the likely confusion of money banks with data banks. He paused for a moment -- it was on the telephone -- and went on to speak of other matters.

The article, when it finally appeared, did not raise issues of the rule of law and fair hearings. The article out-prosecuted the Prosecutor.

Siegel's contact in Switzerland, the Washington Times Staff Writer Ivan Brest, had not spoken to Marx, who was available. He had not spoken to Karl Pfauwadel (misspelled Pfanwadel in his article), the spokesman for the Prosecutor, although this is specifically claimed. Siegel himself spoke to neither man, it appears.

A remarkable set of assertions emerged: that Marx's activities had caused "major damage;" that he had "plundered the country's data banks for high-tech information to sell to the Russians"; that Marx had obtained economic, political, and scientific information "of great importance" from Swiss and foreign data banks and sold it to Soviet diplomats for the equivalent of $130,000; that he was one of the most productive spies ever recruited in Switzerland by the Soviet secret service.

The authorities said further, according to Leonard, that Marx "was able to gain computer access to the secret bank accounts of both Swiss and foreign businessmen and thereby obtain information that the Russians presumably could use for blackmail. This included bank accounts that may be involved in the Iran-contra investigations, Swiss officials said."

These were astonishing and grave allegations.

There must have been something Leonard did not like about his own story (perhaps what I didn't like about it when I finally read it) because it took him over a month to send me a copy and then only after I cordially threatened to have a copy made at the Library of Congress and to refuse to read his next scholarly essay on quantavolution.

Maybe the bland menace of the Reverend Moon hung over the script. The newspaper belongs to the "Moonies." It is vehemently anti-communist.

That's the best face that I can put on it.

At this point I get after Marx by letter for more information. I cannot believe that he would have been released without being charged if these allegations were accepted or supported by evidence.

More likely, the Bundespolizei could find no evidence of his pilfering such financial information but were worried that it might have occurred, whatever Marx said under interrogation.

Nothing is carried of this line of questioning in the record. Marx denies that the subject was touched upon.

It would have been a mistake of the spokesman to admit such a concern, although one may suppose it could have been forced out by shrewd questioning.

Or perhaps the reporters had cut the story out of whole cloth. No Swiss paper carried the story of the banking espionage.

However, considering the high sensitivity of the issue of secret bank accounts in Switzerland and abroad, a Swiss newspaper would probably censor itself on the subject.

Terror would be struck in thousands of hearts by the possibility of revelations about bank accounts in the press or of such information passing into unfriendly hands. The fear alone would be enough to explain every kind of deceit and cover-up, and even attempts upon the life of Marx. I would then have advised him, like Paracelsus, to flee Basle in the middle of the night.

One has to ask every question: was Marx released because he did have access to the identities of a great many numbered banking accounts and had ways of revealing them by means of a partner, possibly in another country? (For the computer knows no nationality, as I have said. It can take from a network across the world.)

Information already stolen can be transmitted by modems at a hundred names and numbers per second to a friendly computer in Italy, France (Saint-Martian?), the Soviet Union, Britain, Canada, or the USA, wherever there is a telephone receiver with a touch-tone or a clever man to manipulate the wires. The mere admission of the possibility would be damaging to the faith which the clientele have in the system.

If Marx were now to issue a public denial that he had cracked one or another or the total system of concealing banking identities, but simultaneously to announce that he knew how to do so, this alone would be damaging. He could point to Siegel's article as corroboration of his command of the means, even while denying that he had done so -- yet.

And, while he was at it, he could sue the Washington Times for slander and libel. And, in the logical sequence of events, he could subpoena the Swiss Prosecutors to testify on his behalf! This they would be compelled to do, whether in person, which they could refuse on jurisdictional grounds and a plea of sovereign status under international law, or if not in person then by affidavit or simple formal statement.

The compelling element would be the need to protect Swiss banking practices by a public denial that they had ever found evidence that Marx could get into Swiss bank records. And, while they are saying this, they would be possibly obliged to declare that the whole case against Marx had been without foundation or substance.

In fact, the plot does thicken. Marx sends the Prosecutor a copy of the Times article, protesting the attributions that it contained. On March 23, 1988, almost one year after his arrest, he receives the following letter from the Office of the Swiss Federal Prosecutor:

Very honorable Mr. Marx:

We are referring to your letter of 21 March 1988 and to the two enclosed photocopies of the articles from the American newspaper, the Washington Times.

In fact, the passages marked by you in the article of August 4, 1987 were irresponsibly put in the mouth of the Press Spokesman of the Federal Prosecutor's Office, Mr. Spokesman Pfauwadel; this can be readily observed from their nonsensical contents.

Any information given to the Washington Times would anyhow have been based upon the Press Release of June 9, 1987, which is familiar to you.

At all events, Mr. Pfauwadel doubts having been contacted by either of the authors of the article. He will follow up this affair after he returns from his reserve military exercises.

With expressions of highest esteem,

Office of the Federal Prosecutor

Press Bureau

K. Klee, Spokesman

Copies of this letter and the material mentioned therein have been sent to Mr. State Prosecutor Feder, 4001 Basle (This is Marx' Cantonal Custodian, after the Federal Prosecutor turned over the case.)

It may be foreseen, at this point, that a suit of Marx against the "Washington Times" would be noticeably strengthened.

What shall I do with and between these two friends? Will the old saw save me?

The friends of your friends are your friends.

The enemies of your enemies are your friends.

The friends of your enemies are your enemies.

The enemies of your friends are your enemies.

Leonard was deliberately moving into the last (d) category, even while I was still trying to establish whether Christoph had moved into the third (c) category.

Am I a friend of both? Am I also an enemy of their friends, and therefore their enemy? The old saw is inadequate, insufficient, imprecise, inexact, inopportune, and immobile.

I hate the whole barbaric ethic of friends and enemies. In the modern world, friends and enemies spin around on a roulette wheel. Whose number will win? I won't bet on it, not yet.

I send to Lenny Siegel a confidential copy of my manuscript. He replies with a curt note:

In perusing your manuscript, I noticed some references to myself and the Washington Times. Those references are both inaccurate and unfair, and I do not believe they should be published.

But he does not explain "inaccurate and unfair." I do nothing.

Then the year 1988 draws to a close, on December 10, a small conference of catastrophists gathers at the Manhattan apartment of Hank Hanzel. As we chat of our year apart, Hank abashedly shows me an anonymous pamphlet he has received, undated. Others had seen it, no one knew how many were sent. For those of you who have never enjoyed being subject of a poison-pen document, here is one to read, well-written, printed without error, in the form of a book review (bear in mind that the first edition of the Fall of Spydom was called "The Venus Spy-Trap):

Publisher's Note


by Deg Radation

The Venal Spy-Sap is Deg Radation's attempt to make himself immortal by carving his initials in his friends' faces, using a "novel" as a knife. This so-called novel is based on the true story of a Swiss catastrophe expert named Mark Sparx. Sparx grows weary of studying catastrophe (while fleecing elderly authors and trusting associates) and decides to create a catastrophe of his own. It's only natural that he should find himself attracted to experts on man-made catastrophe, KGB agents from the Soviet Union working under cover as "diplomats" in Bern.

Sparx, a cautious man, asks his diplomatic friends for catastrophist credentials. He is impressed to learn that the Soviet Union -- in a mere 70 years -- has murdered more Russians than all the Czars put together. Millions more died in labor camps or of a man-made famine in the Ukraine. But Sparx is still not satisfied. He has been studying the bloody antics of the planet Venus for such a long time he unconsciously identifies with the queen of killers. Yes, Sparx has a case of Venus envy. He detects the scars of heavenly disaster in the psychology and civilization of homo sapiens and secretly wants to imitate his powerful idol. Sparx reasons: "The only way we can cure ourselves of catastrophist repression is to face up to the past. The only way we can face up to the past is by reliving it. Therefore, it is my duty to help us relive the past by causing as much catastrophe as I can. And whom should I cure first? Why, my friends, of course!"

In his warm and generous way, Sparx uses his academic contacts to attract investors, knowing that there's no catastrophe like a financial catastrophe, especially one that's profitable. He keeps his eyes firmly fixed on the distant, shimmering beauty of Venus. With his eyes on the heavens he's free to make up stories about why his hands are firmly planted in the pockets of friends and idealistic diplomats alike. Sparx want to know why the Russians are so interested in Venus. He dreams of riding a Russian rocket to Venus, taking control of the planet and steering it toward Earth. His brilliant, computer-efficient mind has worked out a brilliant, computer-efficient scheme: by using Venus to devastate Earth, Sparx will prove that he's been right all along. Even though 99 percent of Earth's population will be killed in the catastrophe, Sparx is willing to make that sacrifice. He knows you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, and consoles himself in the knowledge that the survivors will be grateful to him for relieving them from their catastrophist anxiety.

But, alas, narrow-minded sleuths from the office of the Swiss Federal prosecutor interrupt this pure and selfless project and clap Sparx in irons. Worse, these petty minions of non-catastrophist bourgeois law embarrass the sensitive, delicate, and idealistic diplomats from Bern. Alone in his cell, Sparx doesn't despair. His eyes are still on Venus as his hands construct dreamy stories about his true intentions. He concocts tales a fisherman would envy, but shakes his head in discouragement: "Where," he wonders, "will I ever find a sap big enough to believe me?"

Enter Deg Radation, ready to fulfill his heroic role. Sparx is overdue. Where could he be? Radation calls Switzerland. A Sparx associate picks up her low-calorie all-natural holistic telephone and most fearfully whispers that Sparx is in the slammer. Deg Radation erupts. He fumes. He boils. He storms. Throughout his career he's been writing about catastrophes but has never had the good luck to cause one. He tried hard to destroy orthodox science and history, but new discoveries passed him by. Furiouser and furiouser, foreseeing that public attention will all be on Sparx and not on himself, Radation begins to hatch a disaster of his own. By writing a long, boring book (a task for which he has admirably prepared himself) about Sparx and his rationalized hatred of others, Radation will force Sparx's anguished friends and associates to relive the catastrophe over and over again! Even better, they will have to bow before Deg Radation and beg to have their true names deleted from his book! What a scheme! What a brainstorm! What a guy! At last Deg will achieve his life's dream, the elevation of "insouciant sociopathy" to the level of literature. By portraying Sparx as a ship that others have abandoned, Radation can rejoice in his quantavolutionary insight that everyone except he and Sparx are rats -- and sometimes he's not so sure about Sparx.

Radation labors mightily, wildly flapping his arms and tongue in an effort to make Sparx fly. If only Deg can make the world see that all the Russians really want are vodka-proof thinking machines (Built by IBM-Stolichnaya, Ltd.), artificial intelligence to direct the classless society. Deg knows that the classless society has been directed by artificial intelligence since 1917. What he really wants is for the classless society to be directed by him, a man with no class at all.

But the end is near. Deg is under siege by sky-worshipping screwballs. Spies and paranoid traitors abound. Only Deg can save the world now. But secret agents are after him. He knows his phone is tapped because every time it rings someone is on the other end. Listening devices, cleverly disguised as loaves of bread, appear in his baker's window. Escape is his only hope. But how can he elude his pursuers? His creative genius finds a way. He picks up one of his books and begins to read out loud. Within five minutes surveillance agents from 10 different espionage units are all sound asleep. Giving a shout for peace (peace for everyone except his friends) Deg escapes to outer space before anyone can warn Saturn to hide its rings.

I chuckled with pleased surprise as I read. I guffawed at the end. What a cute, cunning, comic caper! A veritable Aretino! The group didn't think it so funny. But, then, they had never heard of Aretino. They surmised the author to be Lenny Siegel. I had to agree, but will not say so for sure. It certainly matches his character. There is a medieval, juvenile, gratuitous voodoo about such tricks; a fascinating, disappearing genre (there is no money in it); I know of no anthropological study of them. I must say this about my friends, though: they make marvelous enemies.


Table of Contents