A week after I severed my connection with the hospital, my lease at Balmorhea came up for renewal and I decided to leave Atlanta. There was no compulsion for me to go; at least I felt none, but I thought it unwise to stay. The fox who keeps to one den is the easiest caught by the terriers, and I felt I had nested too long in one place. I knew I was still being hunted and I didnt want to make it easy for the hounds.
I later learned that my decision to leave Atlanta was an astute one. About the same time, in Washington, D.C., FBI Inspector Sean ORiley was ordered to drop all his other cases and concentrate solely on nabbing me. ORiley was a tall, dour man with the countenance of an Irish bishop and the tenacity of an Airedale, an outstanding agent dedicated to his job, but an eminently fair man in all respects.
I came to admire ORiley, even while making every effort to thwart his task and to embarrass him professionally. If ORiley has any personal feelings concerning me, I am certain animosity is not among such emotions. ORiley is not a mean man.
Of course, I had no knowledge of ORileys existence, even, at the time I vacated Atlanta. Save for the young special agent in Miami, and the Dade County officers Id encountered there, the officers on my case were all phantoms to me.
I decided to hole up for a month or so in the capital city of another southern state. As usual, I was prompted in my choice by the fact that I knew an airline stewardess there. I was yet to find a more delightful influence on my actions than a lovely woman.
Her name was Diane and I had known her intermittently for about a year. I had never flown with her, having met her in the Atlanta airport terminal, and she knew me under the alias Robert F. Conrad, a Pan Am first officer, an allonym I used on occasion. I was forced to maintain the nom de plume with her, for we developed a close and pleasing relationship, during the course of which, initially, she had delved into my personal background, including my educational history. Most pilots have a college degree, but not all of them majored in the aeronautical sciences. I told Diane that I had taken a law degree but had never practiced, since a career as an airline pilot had loomed as not only more exciting but also much more lucrative than law. She readily accepted the premise that a man might shun the courtroom for the cockpit.
She also remembered my concocted law degree. A few days after my arrival in her city she took me to a party staged by one of her friends and there introduced me to a pleasant fellow named Jason Wilcox.
«You two ought to get along. Jason is one of our assistant states attorneys,» Diane told me. She turned to Wilcox. «And Bob here is a lawyer who never hung out his shingle. He became a pilot instead.»
Wilcox was immediately interested. «Hey, whered you go to law school?»
«Harvard,» I said. If I was going to have a law degree, I thought I might as well have one from a prestigious source.
«But you never practiced?» he asked.
«No,» I said. «I got my Commercial Pilots License the same week I took my masters in law, and Pan Am offered me a job as a flight engineer. Since a pilot makes $30,000 to $40,000, and since I loved flying, I took the job. Maybe someday Ill go back to law, but right now I fly only eighty hours a month. Not many practicing lawyers have it that good.»
«No, youre right there,» Wilcox agreed. «Where do you fly to? Rome? Paris? All over the world, I guess.»
I shook my head. «Im not flying at the moment,» I said. «Ive been furloughed. The company made a personnel cutback last month and I didnt have seniority. It may be six months or a year before they call me back. Right now Im just loafing, drawing unemployment. I like it.»
Wilcox studied me with bemused eyes. «Howd you do at Harvard?» he asked. I felt he was leading up to something.
«Pretty well, I guess,» I replied. «I graduated with a 3.8 average. Why?»
«Well, the attorney general is looking for lawyers for his staff,» Wilcox replied. «In fact, hes really in a bind. Why dont you take the bar here and join us? Ill recommend you. The job doesnt pay an airline pilots salary, of course, but it pays better than unemployment. And youll get in some law practice, which sure as hell couldnt hurt you.»
I almost rejected his proposal outright. But the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me. The challenge again. I shrugged. «What would it entail for me to take the bar examination in this state?» I asked.
«Not much, really,» said Wilcox. «Just take a transcript from Harvard over to the state bar examiners office and apply to take the bar. They wont refuse you. Of course, youd have to bone up on our civil and criminal statutes, but Ive got all the books youd need. Since youre from another state, youll be allowed three cracks at the bar here. You shouldnt have any trouble.»
A transcript from Harvard. That might prove difficult, I mused, since the university and I were strangers. But then Id never had any pilots training, either. And I had a valid-appearing FAA pilots license in my pocket stating I was qualified to fly passenger jets, didnt I? My bumblebee instincts began buzzing.
I wrote to the registrar of the Harvard Law School and asked for a fall schedule and a law school catalogue, and within a few days the requested material was deposited in my mailbox. The catalogue listed all the courses necessary for a doctor of law from Harvard, and it also boasted some lovely logos and letterheads. But I still didnt have the foggiest notion of what a college transcript looked like.
Diane was an Ohio University graduate, who had majored in business administration. I casually engaged her in a conversation revolving around her student years.
She had been heavily involved in campus activities, it developed, something of a playgirl in college. «You must not have done much studying,» I said jestingly.
«Oh, yes, I did,» she maintained. «I had a 3.8 average. In fact, I was on the deans list my senior year. You can have fun and still make good grades, you know.»
«Aw, come on! I dont believe you had that kind of average. Id have to see your transcript to believe that,» I protested.
She grinned. «Well, smart-ass, I just happen to have one,» she said, and returned from her bedroom a few minutes later with the document.
The transcript consisted of four legal-sized sheets of. lined paper and was, in fact, a certified photocopy of her four years of college work, attested to and notarized by the registrar. The first page was headed by the name of the university in large, bold letters, beneath which appeared the state seal of Ohio. Then came her name, the year she had graduated, the degree she had received and the college (College of Business Administration) awarding the degree. The remainder of the pages was filled, line by line, with the courses she had taken, the dates, the hours of credit she had accumulated and her grades. A grade average was given at the end of each year and a final entry noted her over-all average, 3.8. In the bottom right-hand corner of the last page was the Ohio University seal, with a notarys seal superimposed and bearing the signature of the school registrar.
I committed the structure of the transcript to memory, absorbing it as a sponge absorbs water, before handing it back. «Okay, youre not only sexy, youre also brainy,» I said in mock apology.
I went shopping the next day at a graphic arts supply
house, a stationery store and an office-supply firm, picking up some
legal-sized bond paper, some layout material, some
I started by simply cutting out the Harvard Law
School logo and pasting
it at the top of a piece of bond paper. I then affixed the school seal, also
filched from the catalogue, beneath the school heading. Next I filled in my
name, year of graduation, degree and then, using the right angle and a fine
artists pen, I carefully lined several pages of the legal-sized bond. Afterward,
degree from Harvard, my electives and my fictitious grades. Since Wilcox might see the transcript, I gave myself a three-year over-all grade average of 3.8.
Whether or not it resembled an actual Harvard transcript, I didnt know. The acid test would come when I presented the phony document to the state bar examiners office. Wilcox had been practicing law for fifteen years, and had been an assistant states attorney for nine years. He also had a wide acquaintance among the states lawyers. He said I was the first Harvard graduate hed ever met.
I spent three weeks poring over the volumes in Wilcoxs office library, finding law a much easier, if somewhat duller, subject than I had assumed, and then with bated breath presented myself at the state bar examiners office. A law student acting as a clerk in the office leafed through my fake transcript, nodded approvingly, made a copy of the phony instrument and handed my original counterfeit back to me, along with an application to take the bar examination. While I was filling out the form, he thumbed through a calendar and called someone on the telephone.
«You can take the exam next Wednesday, if you think youre ready,» he stated, and then grinned encouragingly. «It should be no hill at all for a Harvard stepper.»
His colloquialism might have been true in regard to an actual Ivy League law graduate. For me it was a mountain, eight hours of surmises, I hopes, maybes, confident conjecture and semieducated guesses.
To my astonishment, however, the notification that I had failed was attached to the test I had taken, which reflected the answers I had correctly given and the questions I had missed. Someone in the SBEs office obviously liked me.
I went back to Wilcoxs office and camped in his library, concentrating on the sections of the test I had missed. Whenever possible Wilcox himself tutored me. After six weeks I felt I was ready to attempt the test a second time.
I blew it again. But again my test papers were returned to me, showing where I had succeeded and where I had failed. I was gaining. In fact, I was delighted at the number of legal questions I had answered correctly and I was determined to pass the examination on my final try.
I took the third examination seven weeks later and passed! Within two weeks I received a handsome certificate attesting to the fact that I had been admitted to the state bar and was licensed to practice law. I cracked up. I hadnt even finished high school and had yet to step on a college campus, but I was a certified lawyer! However, I regarded my actual lack of academic qualifications merely a technicality, and in my four months of legal cramming Id learned the law is full of technicalities. Technicalities are what screw up justice.
Wilcox fulfilled his promise. He arranged a job interview for me with the state attorney general, who, on Wilcoxs recommendation, hired me as an assistant. My salary was $12,800 annually.
I was assigned to the corporate law division, one of the AGs civil departments. The divisions attorneys handled all the small claims made against the state, trespass-to-try-title suits, land-condemnation cases and various other real estate actions.
That is, most of them did. The senior assistant to whom I was assigned as an aide was Phillip Rigby, the haughty scion of an old and established local family. Rigby considered himself a southern aristocrat and I impinged on two of his strongest prejudices. I was a Yankee, but even worse, I was a Catholic Yankee! He relegated me to the role of "gopher«-go for coffee, go for this book or that book, go for anything he could think of for me to fetch. I was the highest-paid errand boy in the state. Rigby was a rednecked coprolite. Mine was an opinion shared by many of the other younger assistants, most of whom were natives themselves but surprisingly liberal in their views.
I was popular with the young bachelors in the division. I still had over $20,000 in my boodle and I spent it freely on the friends I made on the AGs staff, treating them to dinners in fine restaurants, riverboat outings and evenings in posh night clubs.
I deliberately gave the impression that I was from a wealthy New York family without making any such direct claim. I lived in a swank apartment overlooking a lake, drove a leased Jaguar and accumulated a wardrobe worthy of a British duke. I wore a different suit to work each day of the week, partly because it pleased me but mostly because my extensive wardrobe seemed to irritate Rigby. He had three suits to my knowledge, one of which I was sure was a hand-me-down from his Confederate colonel grandfather. Rigby was also penurious.
If my grooming was resented by Rigby, it was approved by others. One day in court, during a short delay in the case at hand, the judge leaned forward on his bench and addressed me:
«Mr. Conrad, you may not contribute much in the way of legal expertise to the proceedings before this court, but you certainly add style, sir. You are the best-dressed gopher in Dixie, Counselor, and the court commends you.» It was a genuine tribute and I was pleased, but Rigby nearly had an apoplectic seizure.
Actually, I was satisfied with my errand-boy role. I had no real desire to actually try a case. There was too much danger that my basic lack of knowledge of the law would be exposed. And the work Rigby and I did was dull and uninteresting the majority of the time, a boresome task that I was content to let him handle. Occasionally he did throw me a bone, allowing me to present some minor land issue or make the opening argument in a given case, and I did enjoy those incidents and on the whole handled them without detriment to the law profession, I thought. Rigby was a highly competent lawyer, and I learned a lot sitting behind him, much more than I had gleaned from the law-books or the examinations.
Basically, my position was a haven, a lair not likely to be discovered by the hounds. When youre looking for a criminal, you dont often think to look for him on the attorney generals staff of prosecutors, especially if youre seeking a teen-age high school dropout.
Several weeks after I joined the AGs staff, Diane was transferred to Dallas. I was only momentarily saddened at losing her. I was soon dating Gloria, the daughter of a high state official. Gloria was a lively, personable, vibrant girl, and if our relationship had a fault, it was that she was not exactly a bosom companion. But I was learning that a woman can also be delightful with her clothes on.
Gloria was a member of a staunch Methodist family and I often squired her to church, with the understanding that I was not a candidate for conversion. It was a gesture of interdenominational respect on my part that was appreciated by her parents, and actually I enjoyed it. In fact, I formed a close friendship with the young pastor of the church and he persuaded me to become involved in the churchs youth programs. I participated actively in building several childrens playgrounds in blighted areas of the city and served on several committees governing other urban youth projects. It was an odd pastime for a con man, but I had no real sense of hypocrisy. For the first time in my life I was giving unselfishly of myself, with no thought of any return, and it made me feel good.
A sinner toiling in the vineyards of the Church, however, no matter how worthy his labors, shouldnt put in too much overtime. I accepted one too many committee appointments and the grapes began to sour.
There was a real Harvard graduate on this particular panel. Not just a Harvard graduate, but a Harvard Law graduate, and he was delighted to meet me. He was practically delirious with joy. I have since learned something about Harvard men. Theyre like badgers. • They like to stick together in their own barrows. A lone badger is going to find another badger. A Harvard man in a strange area is going to find another Harvard man. And theyre going to talk about Harvard.
This one pounced on me immediately, with all the enthusiasm of Stanley encountering Livingstone in darkest Africa. When had I graduated? Who had my instructors been? Who were the girls I knew? To what club had I belonged? What pubs had I frequented? Who had my friends been?
I successfully fended him off that first night, with either
inane answers or by ignoring him and concentrating on the committee business at
hand. But thereafter he sought me out at every opportunity. Hed call me to
have lunch. Hed drop by my office when he chanced to be in the area. He called
me to invite me to parties or outings, to play golf or to take in some cultural
event. And always he managed to steer the conversation around to Harvard. What
buildings had I had classes in? Didnt I know Professor
I couldnt avoid him, and of course I couldnt answer many of his questions. His suspicions aroused, he began to build a res gestae case against me as a bogus Harvard man if not a phony lawyer. It became res judicata for me when I learned he was making numerous inquiries into my background on several fronts, seriously questioning my honesty and integrity.
Like the proverbial Arab, I folded my tent and silently stole away. Not, however, without drawing a final paycheck. I did say good-bye to Gloria, although she wasnt aware it was a final farewell. I merely told her Id had a death in the family and had to return to New York for a couple of weeks.
I turned in my leased Jaguar and purchased a bright orange Barracuda. It wasnt the most inconspicuous set of wheels for a wanted fugitive to drive, but I liked it and I wanted it, so I bought it. I justified the action by telling myself that since the car, if not the driver, was cool, it would probably prove a wise mvestment. Largely it was an astute move, for in the past I had simply rented cars and then abandoned them at airports when I was through with them, and ORiley, unknown to me, was making good use of this practice to compile a pattern of my movements.
I had posed as a doctor for nearly a year. I had played the role of lawyer for nine months. While I was hardly leading a straight life during those twenty months, I hadnt passed any bad checks or done anything else to attract the attention of the authorities. Provided Rigby or the AG himself didnt press the issue of my sudden departure from my post as assistant attorney general, I felt justified in assuming I was not the object of any pressing manhunt. And I wasnt, save for ORileys dogged efforts, and despite his persistence he was as yet following a cold trail.
I attempted to keep it that way, since I was still in no bind for funds. My flight from my «Harvard colleagues» inquisition turned into something of a vacation. I meandered around the western states for several weeks, touring Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada, Idaho and Montana, dallying wherever the scenery intrigued me. Since the scenery usually included some very lovely and susceptible women, I stayed perpetually intrigued.
Although the image of myself as a criminal gradually blurred and dimmed, I entertained no thoughts of rehabilitation. In fact, looking to the future, I stopped long enough in a large Rocky Mountain metropolis to equip myself with dual identities as a fictitious airline pilot.
Using the same procedures that had enabled me to assume the
alias of Frank Williams, a first officer for Pan Am, I created Frank Adams, an
Shortly afterward I was in Utah, a state notable for not only its spectacular geography and Mormon history but also for its proliferation of college campuses. Having purloined a couple of college degrees, I thought it only fair that I at least acquaint myself with a university campus and so I visited several Utah colleges, strolling around the grounds and taking in the academic sights, especially the coeds. There were so many lovely girls on one campus that I was tempted to enroll as a student.
Instead I became a teacher.
While I was lolling around my motel room one afternoon, reading the local newspaper, my attention was drawn to an expected shortage of summer instructors at one university. The news item quoted the faculty dean, one Dr. Amos Grimes, as being most concerned about finding summer replacements for the schools two sociology professors. «It appears we will have to look out of state for qualified people willing to teach for only three months,» said Dr. Grimes in the story.
A vision of myself ensconced in a classroom with a dozen or so nubile beauties took hold of my imagination, and I couldnt resist. I rang up Dr. Grimes.
«Dr. Grimes, Frank Adams here,» I said briskly. «I have a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University in New York. Im visiting here, Doctor, and I see by the newspaper that youre looking for sociology instructors.»
«Yes, were definitely interested in finding some people,» Dr. Grimes replied cautiously. «Of course, you understand it would be only a temporary position, just for the summer. I assume you do have some teaching experience?»
«Oh, yes,» I said airily. «But its been several years. Let me explain my position, Dr. Grimes. I am a pilot for Trans World Airways, and just recently I was furloughed for six months for medical purposes, an inflammation of the inner ear that bars me at the moment from flying status. Ive been looking around for something to do in the interim, and when I saw the story it occurred to me that it might be pleasant to get back into a classroom again.
I was a professor of sociology at City College of New York for two years before I joined TWA.
Well, it certainly sounds like youre a likely candidate for one of our positions, Dr. Adams, said Dr. Grimes, now enthusiastic. Why dont you come by my office tomorrow morning and well talk about it.
Id be delighted to do that, Dr. Grimes, I replied. Since Im a complete stranger in Utah, could you tell me what documents I will need to apply for a faculty position with your college?
Oh, just a transcript from Columbia will do, really, said Dr. Grimes. Of course, if you can obtain a couple of letters of recommendation from CCNY, it would be desirable.
No problem, I said. Ill have to send for both my transcript and the letters of recommendation, of course. I came here unprepared on either score, since I didnt even contemplate a temporary teaching position until I saw the story.
I understand, Dr. Adams, replied Dr. Grimes. Ill see you in the morning.
I wrote Columbia University that afternoon, requesting a complete catalogue and any pertinent brochures on the school. I also dashed off a letter to the registrar of CCNY, stating I was a Utah graduate student seeking a teaching position in New York, preferably in sociology. I arranged to rent a box at the local post office before mailing off the missives.
My meeting with Dean Grimes was a very pleasant one. He seemed immediately impressed with me, and we spent most of the time, including a leisurely luncheon interlude in the faculty club, discussing my career as a pilot. Dr. Grimes, like many men with sedentary jobs, had a romantic view of airline pilots and was eager to have his exciting perspective validated. I had more than enough anecdotes to satisfy his vicarious appetite.
I have no doubt at all that we can use you this summer, Dr. Adams, he said on my departure. Im personally looking forward to your being here on campus.
The materials I had requested from Columbia and CCNY arrived within the week, and I drove to Salt Lake City to purchase the supplies necessary for my current counterfeiting venture. My finished transcript was a beauty, giving me a 3.7 grade average and listing my doctoral thesis as a dissertation on The Sociological Impact of Aviation on the Rural Populations of North America. As I had anticipated, the reply from the registrar of CCNY was on official college stationery. I clipped off the letterhead and, using clear white plastic tape and high-quality bond paper, created a fine facsimile of the colleges stationery. I trimmed it to regulation typewriter-paper size and then sat down and wrote myself two letters of recommendation, one from the registrar and one from the head of the sociology department.
I was cautious with both letters. They merely noted that I
had been a sociology instructor at CCNY during the years
Dr. Grimes barely glanced at the documents when I presented them to him. He introduced me to Dr. Wilbur Vanderhoff, assistant head of the sociology department, who also gave the instruments only a cursory examination before sending them on to faculty personnel for filing. I was hired within the hour to teach two six-week semesters during the summer at a salary of $1,600 per semester. I was assigned to teach a ninety-minute freshman course in the morning, three days a week, and a ninety-minute sophomore course in the afternoon, twice weekly. Dr. Vanderhoff provided me with the two textbooks to be used in the classes, as well as student attendance ledgers. Any other supplies you might need, you can probably find in the bookstore. They have standard requisition forms on hand, said Dr. Vanderhoff. He grinned. Im glad to see youre young and strong. Our summer sociology classes are usually large ones, and youll earn your salary.
I had three weeks before the first summer semester started. On the pretense of refreshing myself, I audited several of Dr. Vanderhoffs classes, just to get an idea of how a college course was conducted. At night I studied the two textbooks, which I found both interesting and informative.
Vanderhoff was right. Both my classes were large ones. There were seventy-eight students in my freshman class and sixty-three students in my sophomore course, the majority in both instances being female students.
That summer was one of the most enjoyable of my life.
I thoroughly enjoyed my role as a teacher. So did my students, Im certain. My courses were taught by the book, as required, and I had no difficulty there. I just read one chapter ahead of the students and selected what portions of the text I wanted to emphasize. But almost daily I deviated from the textbook in both classes, lecturing on crime, the problems of young adults from broken homes and the effects on society as a whole. My departures from textbook contents-which were largely drawn from my own experiences, unknown to the students-always sparked lively discussions and debates.
Weekends I relaxed by immersing myself in one or the other of Utahs scenic wonderlands, usually accompanied by an equally wondrous companion.
The summer was gone as swiftly as the desert spring, and I knew real regret when it ended. Dr. Vanderhoff and Dr. Grimes were delighted with my work. Keep in touch with us, Frank, said Dr. Grimes. If ever we have a permanent opening for a sociology professor, wed like a chance to lure you down from the skies, said Dr. Grimes.
At least fifty of my students sought me out to tell me how much they had enjoyed my classes and to wish me good-bye and good luck.
I was reluctant to leave that Utah Utopia, but I could find no valid reason for staying. If I lingered, my past was certain to catch up, and I did not want these peoples image of me to be tarnished.
I headed west to California. There was a storm building in the Sierras when I crossed the mountains, but it was nothing compared to the whirlwind of crime I was soon to create myself.