Esquire - December 1, 1999
TITLE: A Touch of Eden Esquire Magazine; expatriate murder suspect Ira Einhorn.
BY: Baker, Russ
(From Esquire December, 1999 Contributors Page:)
Right now is the defining moment in the case of Ira Einhorn, the hippie guru of Philadelphia who was convicted of murder in absentia and is fighting extradition from France. Writer Russ Baker wanted to find Einhorn at this moment, see how he lives, because, "given the overwhelming evidence against him, I wanted to see just what kind of a guy he is." "A Touch of Eden" is Baker's profile of Einhorn, who has spent the past eighteen years on the lam after he was arrested for his girlfriend's murder in 1977. Despite some reservations about spending time with a convicted killer, Baker, an investigative reporter who has written for The Village Voice, The Nation, and New York, found writing about Einhorn to be an invaluable experience. "Usually, I end up interviewing an enormous number of people and collecting huge amounts of information," he says. "I was excited to find out what I could do with a microscope instead of a wide-angle lens." Baker's piece, his first for Esquire, begins on page 100.
I DON'T EVEN NEED to honk. Ira hears my car pull off the country road beside his old French millhouse and he comes out immediately. He looks nothing like the old photographs of him before he became a fugitive. They show a burly guy in his thirties with an extravagantly bushy beard and long, greasy brown hair past his shoulders. But the aging process has, until recently, provided the perfect disguise for Ira Einhorn: At fifty-nine, he is now more of a fireplug, his hair a white brush cut, his beard an unruly goatee, with strands of snowy hair hanging unevenly and sparsely from his chin. Several of his teeth are crooked, and one, front and center, is chipped. His skin is tanned and weather-beaten--he might be a Gallic farmer. He wears a homemade dashiki, cutoffs, and sandals. He has the odor of a man who does not believe that deodorants are for him.
It's remarkable to see him in the flesh. Ira has kept the world at bay for most of the eighteen years since he was accused of murder and took off, vanishing and humiliating the American justice system. Now it's finally closing in on him. Six years ago, he was convicted in absentia. Today, an extradition order sits on the desk of the French prime minister, and authorities in Pennsylvania wait impatiently to bring him back in shackles. But Ira, the master at making the best of a bad situation, is again on top, at least for now. The word is that the prime minister, Lionel Jospin, who has had the paper on his desk since May, has been too busy to affix his signature to it. So Ira sits on the precipice of defeat, a life sentence hanging over his head, yet still frustrating the most powerful country in the world, which should have no trouble enforcing a key agreement with an ally--that criminals who flee punishment will be sent home. For the moment, Ira Einhorn, convicted killer, tends his sumptuous garden here in the South of France.
Ira and I have been arguing over the phone about my visit for two days, ever since I arrived in France, and although he now nods amiably, there is a slight tension between us. We head for the hillock facing his house, and he motions for me to go ahead of him. As the crest of the hill and the vegetation swallow us from view, it occurs to me that taking a walk with Ira Einhorn in a remote spot might to some seem unwise. Besides Holly Maddux, the beautiful blond whose skull was fractured in at least seven places and whose body was found mummified in a locked trunk in a locked closet in Ira's Philadelphia apartment, two other former girlfriends say Ira nearly murdered them, hitting one over the head with a Coke bottle before choking her and simply choking the other until she lost consciousness.
He's never really talked about the crime except to say that he is innocent and, as far as he could tell, it was one of the "large intelligence agencies" that killed Holly Maddux. They, the agency, had reason to frame Ira, to stop what he calls his groundbreaking work. This work in part involved secret research into psychic phenomena and the conspiracy of silence by world governments regarding extraterrestrial life. The truth is complicated, and frankly, Ira has a hard time explaining things to people who are not up to his level, but still, he's found a receptive audience here in France. In this country are good people who know the dark power of Ira's many enemies, people who know that Ira's flight in the days before his murder trial in 1981 was a just and reasonable response undertaken by a man who was out of options. They understand that he could not possibly get a fair trial in America because of who he was and because of the work he did and the opinions he held. They believe that the murder charge and his conviction in absentia have been grave injustices visited on a good and peaceable and brilliant man. Here in France are people who understand almost most instinctively how America criminalizes political differences.
The government of the United States never anticipated that a criminal might be able to argue successfully against his extradition in such a way. It's supposed to be a fairly cut-and-dried thing: Call up the French, tell them they've got one of ours, and they send him back. We'll return the favor sometime. But with Ira Einhorn, the system broke down. Now the State Department of the United States, and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the surviving family of Holly Maddux are all having their patience severely tested as they wait for the prime minister of France to fix it.
So for the moment, Ira walks. Our ramble turns out to be pleasant enough. We pause on a plateau, and Ira sweeps his arm across the lush landscape, pointing out distinguishing features and architectural landmarks, articulating the intricacies of local political power, and comparing France favorably with the United States. He becomes more and more animated. He apparently views the walk as a sort of audition on my part, a psychological road test. It seems that I pass, because the next thing I know he leads me across the road and swings open his white steel gates, and we head inside for a tour of the lovely country house he shares with his wife, Annika, the house where he has spent the most stable part of his time on the lam.
Ira has a little bounce in his step. And with his every move, he is brightening. His "situation" doesn't, after all, seem to make him so unhappy. Really something to marvel at, when you think of it. For eighteen years, he outwitted Uncle Sam, a spectacular flight by any measure, and now no more hiding: He gets to be recognized for the feat.
But the clock is ticking for Ira. And the days when he can stand here and survey his sanctuary are dwindling. The clock ticks on the prime minister's wall, and it ticks in the office of the Philadelphia district attorney, and it ticks on the bed stand in my tiny room here in the village of Champagne-Mouton.
Very soon, Ira Einhorn will be going home.
THE IRA EINHORN whose house we are about to enter is a stranger to us. We know the previous Ira much better, the 1960s and '70s Ira that Steven Levy wrote about in the only book about the case, The Unicorn's Secret, the mesmerizing and charismatic eco-activist-hippie-guru-visionary of Philadelphia, an organizer of the first Earth Day, early advocate of computer conferencing, and networking pioneer so adept at building bridges between the counterculture and an establishment eager to understand, and even profit from, the strange ways of the new youth. Back then, even corporate executives would take Ira to lunch to plug in to what seemed to be a vast knowledge of classical thought and developing trends alike. He persuaded Pennsylvania Bell to pay for his mailings of provocative articles and commentary to a circle of smart, powerful people--a kind of primitive Internet. He called himself a "planetary enzyme," by which he meant that he absorbed everything that the earth could offer, he fed at the big trough and he had the biggest appetite, and he consumed and synthesized and processed it all--food, women, literature, ideas, fads, history, philosophy, pseudoscience, you name it. He read a book a day, and he had such an appetite and such a teeming mind that he could barely sleep at night--maybe a few hours, if that. Ira Einhorn mingled with yippies and mayors, acidheads and eminent scientists, Jerry Rubins and billionaire Bronfmans, and he preached peace and love and human potential. No one was ever quite sure what Ira did for a living. He was an activist and a public intellectual, which generally doesn't pay much. Some in Philadelphia called him Ira the Free-loader. Some thought that maybe he sold drugs. Whatever he did, he got by, and it was undeniable that he was at the center of his own solar system and that he possessed a mighty gravitational pull.
And then in 1977, his girlfriend, Holly Maddux, vanished, and a few months later his neighbors complained of the stench from upstairs, and what's this brown liquid coming through the ceiling? And the police came, and they found Holly's body, and Ira famously told them, "You found what you found." His arrest for the murder was such big news that the Philadelphia Daily News gave it top billing over the nuclear accident at nearby Three Mile Island, which happened on the same day.
Then he split. His lawyer, former Philadelphia district attorney and current United States senator Arlen Specter, got his bail set low, and Ira took off. For more than a dozen years, Ira was all but invisible. Then, two years ago, when Interpol discovered that Annika Flodin, who had become Ira's girlfriend during his exile, had applied for a French driver's license, the authorities found Ira again. And the headlines back home read: KILLER NABBED AFTER 16 YEARS ON THE RUN.
"LET'S TRY A FEW ROUNDS of this.... The American media have reduced my very rich life to a comic strip, so both my wife and I are very wary. Ira."
This e-mail arrived in the middle of March, a few days after I had written to Ira through his French lawyer. He had broken all contact with journalists, especially American ones, after what he considered his abominable treatment at the hands of Connie Chung and ABC, who invaded his corner of France in the late summer of last year to ask him whether he had killed Holly Maddux. When a man bolts, he can expect such questions, but Ira was angry nonetheless, and he slammed the door shut to further inquiries. So I was surprised to hear from him at all.
The correspondence started slowly, as if Ira were analyzing me to determine whether I was worthy of his attention.
"What do you read?" he wrote one day. "If I asked you for 3 recent novels that you read and would recommend, what would they be? Nonfiction the same? Is there a magazine you never miss?"
And then the e-mails began to pour in. Ira wrote about the TV movie about him that NBC would air in May:
"The movie is a rip off by NBC and has nothing to do with me, though they tried to lure me into the deal by offering me two hours on prime time, as they had already signed up the [Maddux] family and the guy who pursued me for all these years.... They set up a crossover deal from the beginning. News stays clean and the entertainment end picks up the check that went to the family and the pursuer.
"The movie is based on the Steven Levy book, which plagiarizes my journals which the police stole from me along with every other piece of writing in my apartment."
Ira wrote on American justice:
"A judge in Montana just sentenced a Marine who fought in the Gulf War to 3 years in jail (suspended I hope), a fine and took his house away for growing Marijuana to help him deal with the pain acquired in the war. The V. A. hospital told him they could not help him. The syndrome seems to be due to the enriched uranium used in the shells (exploded) and the tank bodies corroded by the sand. Same symptoms as showed up in Amsterdam Re; the downed El Al transport plane which was using enriched uranium as ballast.
"American Puritanism is such a hype: who's watching the $ 6,000,000,000 worth of porno rentals (figures from two years ago and just rentals). It makes me wonder about what has happened to the American mind."
And Ira rhapsodized about his life in France:
"We live in an area that normally has 240-260 days of sun per year: that in a very clear blue BLUE sky, BUT global warming has changed that and with the increase in water vapor, the clarity during the summer has disappeared, and highs don't come and remain as they used to do. So the weather oscillates a lot: one day it's the breeze from north Africa, the next from Scotland, YET New Year's Day we ate out on our south facing terrace.... When the sun is out here on a clear day, it is a touch of Eden."
Ira proved to be charming, solicitous, and attentive. "Do take care of the body," he e-mailed me upon learning of a back ailment. "Hard to do in the no-stop world and when you are young, BUT the old body does appreciate every bit of care you give the young body."
At his request, I sent him a few of my past articles, including a couple on the CIA. "A genuine journalist--" he wrote back after reading them. "Have not met a one from the USA since my situation exploded." I counted this message as the moment when Ira Einhorn began to work on me in earnest.
"Part of the reason for avoiding American journalists," he wrote, "has been the sheer idiocy of their questions, and their treatment of me as an object rather than a person: something that rarely happens here. If we can convey that we might, I emphasize might, get something across to a numbed USA."
In June, Ira wrote that he would "hold some time open," and he invited me to his home away from home. July would be fine. He offered tips on travel around Champagne-Mouton, told me to bring a sweater for the cool evenings, and warned me to avoid Paris at all costs in the summertime. Then, abruptly, he canceled. There were mysterious projects he needed to concentrate on. Then, just as suddenly as he had canceled, he reinvited me. By the time I responded to confirm things, he had disinvited me again. "You waited too long. We are now tied up until summer's end. Sorry." While his extradition status hangs in the balance, Ira isn't allowed by French authorities to travel more than an hour's drive from his house, so I knew he couldn't be going anywhere. I protested, and he reversed himself again. "We will accommodate," he wrote. I booked a ticket and finalized my arrangements, and then the day before my scheduled departure, I got a stunning e-mail. "Interview cancelled," read the header. "It's just no go Russ. Sorry. Ira."
I wrote back: "Plane leaves tomorrow. Hotel, car, everything already booked. Nonrefundable ticket.... I will be there Wednesday afternoon."
He answered: "Do not come. You are wasting your time."
I go anyway. From JFK to Paris to Bordeaux, rent a car, drive two and a half hours before arriving at Ira Einhorn's house.
There is a cowbell on the gate. I shake it and honk. Nothing. I can see, partially hidden from view, a red Fiat. I know that Ira and Annika have only one car, so it is pretty clear that they are home. I drive to the village's only hostelry, the Hotel Plaisance, and check in. The place is nearly empty. I sit down on the small terrace out front, facing the main street of the town, and watch the occasional truck, headed for somewhere else, roar around the bend. "It's as desolate as it was last year," says a Dutch woman who is passing through on a cycling holiday with her husband. "Shops are closing everywhere--the butcher, you name it. I feel a kind of gloom or doom. There's no future here." Even the hotel owner wants out. She hands me a paper. Would I mind circulating this prospectus on her charming accommodations when I return to the States?
I wake up and reach for the phone. Busy. Downstairs, I eat breakfast and read about how the guillotine was invented here in the Charente region. The first humane execution.
I rush back upstairs and dial Ira's number. Busy. Two hours later, still busy. Then, at last, a break. A woman with a lilting, singsong accent answers: "You must want to speak to Ira."
She asks me to wait, and, after a moment, for the first time, his voice. It is slightly high-pitched and young sounding, with a fair amount of Philadelphia in it. He hisses at me. "I told you not to come!" he says. "You've wasted your time!"
"If you won't see me as planned," I tell him, "I'll have to interview the mayor, the shopkeepers, the police, and your neighbors."
"Don't you dare threaten me!" he yells, and hangs up.
Midmorning, Ira answers the phone. "Listen," he says, "you threatened me yesterday. If you were ever going to get an interview, now you certainly never will." He's angry, but he stays on the line, and before long he begins to soften. He talks about some of the things journalists have done to him. "If you can understand, I'm sharing with you the problems I have," he says. As for my dilemma, he wants me to know that he is a Jeffersonian and that this prevents him from telling me what to do. By the time we hang up ninety minutes later, he still hasn't agreed to see me, but he is suggesting a tourist itinerary. A couple of hours later, my cell phone rings. It takes me a moment to realize who's calling. "Why don't you come by," Ira says. "We'll take a little walk."
IRA'S TRAIL TOOK HIM all over Europe, and some pursuers came close, but no one caught him. Not even during the time he spent living in the southern English town of Totnes, where, Ira says, all the old hippies went to die. "There must have been three hundred massage therapists in that town. I was more apt to run into my past out there than anyplace I'd been in my whole sojourn." That was in the early 1990s, and Ira was living with Annika, a Swede he had met in England. By then, he had told her the truth. He was not who he said he was--he'd been using an alias, a name he'd borrowed during the Dublin leg of his flight--and he was wanted for a terrible crime that he hadn't committed. Annika loved him and believed him and agreed never to call him Ira in public. It would be their secret.
Soon they were on the move. Ira read a copy of Living France magazine and sent real estate agents a list of requirements: a secluded place with a big kitchen, good climate, water nearby. Their choice, less than a mile from the edge of the village, in move-in shape, cost all of $ 90,000. Now he proudly shows off the spread, which includes a three-car garage and a wine cellar and was in the previous owner's family for 250 years. Our tour takes us along the edge of the property, which is bounded by two streams--L'Argent, the silver, and L'Or, the gold. Ira stops to point out the tiny natural pools where, like a king, he takes a dip several times a day. High walls and tall poplar trees border the property.
Ira, who in Philadelphia was recognizable for his girth, brags about the shape he's in, and he attributes his fitness to hard work--pushing a lawn mower, chopping wood, and gardening. "I work in the hot sun for two or three straight hours," he says. "I'm fifty-nine, and I'd run most people who are half my age around the block." He plans to clear several acres of outlying land "if we get through this." To one side of the house is an outbuilding, an old bakery, now in cobwebby disrepair--another project Ira plans to tackle, time permitting.
Over to the gardens he and Annika have cultivated--strawberries, corn, carrots, lettuce, chard, "scrumptious, delicious pears," pomegranates, apples, figs, plums. They live on this stuff. Ira says that their household budget is just $ 1,000 a month, so things are tight. He admits that Annika's parents help him out, and over the years, other people have helped also. Others help still, but Ira won't say who they might be.
Suddenly, Annika appears. She's a quiet one, and she sort of just glides over. A young-looking forty-eight, auburn-haired, tall and slim and pretty, she's wearing a floral-patterned summer dress that she made herself. Her parents, now elderly, owned Stockholm's finest fabric shop, and she modeled the merchandise. After a little friendly small talk--she seems a bit wary but at the same time glad to have a visitor; not many people make it by--she invites me to stay for dinner, then disappears.
"I gave up a lot in terms of what happened to me, but I feel so good about this woman," Ira says. "So what I gave up doesn't matter. I'm devoting myself now to thinking, reading, writing, taking care of this house, and loving a woman."
Ira is proud to show off this place, his first real home during all his years on the run. As we step inside, he walks determinedly into another room and returns with a small, soft red rucksack. He handles it delicately, like a museum piece. "Everything I had was in here," he says.
ANNIKA HAS DECORATED tastefully. Area fabrics. Area antiques. A crocheted yin-yang symbol covers one chair. Pottery, wall hangings, some snapshots. "If it were up to me, the walls would be blank," Ira says, but he laughs and says he's glad for a woman's touch. He leads me into his spacious living room and toward the bookshelves along one wall. He begins pulling volumes out, and I see that he has heavily annotated them, underlining and scrawling remarks to himself in the margins. Nearby, at a window facing the road, is his computer. Ira generally divides his days between the computer and the back terrace. When he's not reading or entertaining the occasional visitor on the terrace--any day now he is expecting a delegation of French communists--the computer is where Ira spends most of his time. This is where he continues his work. It's his link to the world. The computer looks new. Ira says an American news organization gave it to him as inducement to give an interview: "Since I was being taken care of, I asked for the best," he says.
Annika reappears. "Dinner ... is ... served," she says in her lilting English. We head to the terrace, where the Einhorns take most of their meals. There's a wooden picnic table and facing benches. Ira points to the near one for me. "I usually sit there," he says, indicating the far side. Ira reads out here, lying on his back, a book held aloft. He and Annika also like to have sex here, in full view of anyone peering from an adjacent property. Back in Philly, Ira would shock people by answering the door naked. Annika sets a bottle of local wine, an organic dry red, on the table. Flowerpots hang everywhere; the deck is lined with potted succulents. Annika brings over a salad bowl, a small container of black olives, slices of French bread. Soon follows the hot meal: omelettes, fried potatoes, zucchini from the garden. "Bon appetit," she says.
As we eat, Ira talks. He speaks with his hands, chopping the air, or he spreads his arms wide with his palms up. All manner of fact, anecdote, and conjecture come tumbling out, the dross of a book-a-day habit. History, culture, politics, psychology, geography, pharmacology, ecology--simplified just enough to be accessible to a mere mortal. Soliloquy is Ira's favorite mode of communication--a modest start, a huge arc, up and away from the personal into the societal, and then, at the end, back down to the personal. It is near perfection, even if I come away not entirely sure what he is talking about. He segues from Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to Jerry Rubin to Camille Paglia to Greek tragedy and the difficulty of reading Shakespeare in French and how he's due to read Kant again, in German, now that he's reading again in that language. He quickly moves on from 1979 to today, as if nothing happened in America in between. His window on home is the International Herald Tribune, which he picks up on quick forays into town twice a week (when he also is obliged to check in with the police). His body registers the force of his enthusiasms. He tips back, tilts his head, chin in hand, then abruptly leans into the table with excitement.
Sometimes when Ira is talking, talking, talking, Annika becomes uncomfortable and makes a small sound--a tiny, barely audible warning to him. When Annika speaks, Ira generally interrupts her. She waits patiently until he finishes and then takes up exactly where she left off. Occasionally, she will gently interrupt Ira to correct him on something, but mostly she seconds his ideas. "That book about memory that Ira's reading is mind-boggling!" she says in her sweet, singsongy accent. Repeatedly, Ira says, "Annika and I feel very strongly about that," referring to their collective opinions. Once, he adds, "She has come to those conclusions after twelve years of reading and living with me."
A particularly sensitive subject for Ira is the way he's been portrayed in America as a womanizer and a misogynist, especially in the television movie. "What I am being accused of is having lived with sixties women and not living with them in a nineties way," he says.
"Ballsy women wouldn't settle down with a male like me. I had to kick the women I was living with in the ass practically to get them to open their mouths." But he insists he likes dynamic women. "If women are present, it's amazing! It's an amazing hit! I'm not threatened by that at all! I used to call Annika a slave all the time, but she has become strong willed because she realizes it's the only way to deal with my bull."
Annika met Ira when she was in her late thirties and single and taking a break from her privileged life in Sweden. He swept her away with the force of his personality. It infuriates Ira when people suggest that Annika is under his sway. "They see a woman, they immediately call her Holly Maddux," he says, swabbing his plate with a piece of bread. Then, laughing, he looks at Annika and says, "Of course I've been harming her."
Then Ira becomes serious. "Look, I've learned a lot about what it is to get angry," he says. He says that when he needs to work off emotion now, he'll dig a hole or weed the yard. And he says that having a patient wife is key. "When I really get angry, she gives me this face to relieve it, sits through it, we talk about it. You're upset about something to do with yourself. You take it out on your partner. I've learned not to take it out on my partner. Because after it's over, I feel like I've been an asshole."
ALTHOUGH SHE APPEARS at times lonely and eager for company, Annika seems resigned to her primary mission: defending her husband. After her driver's license mishap in the summer of 1997, the gendarmes pounded on their door and found Ira upstairs still in bed. The French threw Ira in jail for six months while they decided what to do with him. He recalls with pride that Annika rose to the occasion, driving nearly 250 miles to visit him twice a week, coordinating an international team of lawyers, even taking to the French lecture circuit.
Ira seems to regret that Annika wasn't with him during the Connie Chung interview last year. "Chung asked me five different times the same question, and I got paranoid after a while, and I almost ended the interview. 'Did you kill Holly Maddux?' And I said no. And she asked it again and again and again. If Annika had watched the taping, it would've ended there."
He delights in Annika's unwavering, passionate support. He tells me that his old friends would be so jealous of the woman's utter devotion to him.
The sun is long gone. We sit in darkness, and it is quiet and no one moves until, finally, Annika brings candles. On the terrace in the breeze, the candles throw around crazy light. It's quite late. The day is ending much different from how it began. Ira leans across the table and squeezes my shoulder. "You energize me," he says.
Ira says that at the moment the cops knocked on his door in 1979, he was about to hit the big time. "I was just about to do a national TV show. It was based on my character, and I may have even gotten a chance to play it." A play and a record were in the works, too, as well as a "retrospective interview" with the great writer Arthur Koestler that he expected to turn into a book.
In an attempt to prevent just that sort of thing from happening again, now that he's back in the limelight, or at least prevent Ira from profiting from such endeavors, the Maddux family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Ira earlier this year in civil court in Philadelphia. They are seeking millions of dollars in damages. The trial begins in three days.
But Ira couldn't care less about that. There's much bigger news today, and he can barely contain his excitement. In the morning, the proprietor, Philippe, tells me that "Mr. Mallon," as Ira is still known locally, has just been in looking for me. Outside, Ira leans against their car. Annika is off somewhere shopping on foot, and he is riveted to a special edition of a French magazine. "This is huge!" Ira says. A French military inquiry is acknowledging the possibility of alien life for the first time and has leveled blistering criticism at the United States for suppressing related information. "If somebody suddenly lands," Ira explains, "we will have to be dealing with a technology that's far beyond us and do away with our whole scientific structure." Ira gets me to drive him home and rushes to the computer to alert his Internet UFO group.
Ira says that he receives between seventy and a hundred e-mails a day. "Most of the time, I don't know who I'm dealing with," he says, shaking his head. "I find it very strange you can be intimate with somebody and you don't know who they are. You don't know where anybody lives."
One correspondent is a Silicon Valley man, a billionaire, Ira says, to whom he is at the moment composing an e-mail to ask for $ 25,000 to translate and reprint the French report. Ira says his main correspondent, though, is a San Francisco man named Jack Sarfatti. "I've gotten something like nine thousand e-mails from Jack since I've plugged back in," he says. Sarfatti is a quantum physicist who wants to transform the Presidio, a former Bay Area army base, into a sort of Starfleet Academy, concerning itself with faster-than-light transportation systems and wormholes in space that allow you to travel instantaneously from one part of the universe to another. "It's time for Jack to come out in public," says Ira. Another discussion-group participant is a man whom Ira claims is the head of life sciences for the CIA, what Ira calls the "Weird Desk."
"He gets your e-mail?" I ask. "Does he ever write back?"
"Of course he writes back," Ira says. "I will be writing a message to the CIA tonight because of what the French did today. How can they be so idiotic as to be sitting on all that goddamned data and not have the courage to put it out!"
IN THE EVENING, we drive to a village nearby for dinner. Walking to the restaurant, Ira is exultant. He doesn't get out much, doesn't often have contact with people, and the outing constitutes a change of pace for him. He says that his most extensive human contact in the past couple of years came from his time in Gradignan prison after his arrest. "I was surrounded by the roughest people there," he says. "There was a wonderful, wonderful Basque terrorist." Another favorite was the former mayor of the nearby city of Angouleme, implicated in some serious financial improprieties. "He freaked and he fled," says Ira. "We really had a lot to talk about."
As we make our way into the restaurant, a woman at another table lets out a shout upon spotting Ira and Annika and promptly marches over to exchange kisses. She is the wife of the village veterinarian. "We've had the overwhelming support of the community," Annika says after the woman returns to her table. "It's been heartwarming, absolutely heartwarming."
"The mayor is a good friend," says Ira. "When we see each other, we hug." Ira gets on well with the local police, too. The chief of the six-man force says he is prohibited from talking about Einhorn but that he's been invited round to the mill-house for coffee and hopes to take Ira up on it soon. And a policeman of whom I had asked a few questions informed Ira that a reporter was snooping around. His "informant network," Ira calls it. He has tutored the children of neighbors, and he and Annika are involved in local causes--like fighting to stop the French government from opening a nuclear-waste dump just a few miles from their house. "We involved the mayor from Champagne, and we had an information meeting in town--we circulated posters," says Annika. "Ira got into quite a demonstration."
Ira repeats something that his arresting officer said: "If Ira Einhorn is allowed to remain in France, he'll become president in five years."
THE FRENCH know less about the murder of Holly Maddux--which has barely been covered in the press here--than they do about the disagreement their government is having with the state of Pennsylvania as American officials seek to address French concerns that Einhorn receive treatment deemed humane by French law: a new trial, this time with the defendant present, and the assurance that Ira will not face the death penalty. The most recent rulings indicate that Einhorn will be sent back--unless Prime Minister Jospin voids the court-ordered extradition. Beyond that, there is a small chance of appeal to France's highest court and, maybe, an experimental foray into the European Court of Human Rights.
Still, Ira is playing to the classic French suspicion of things American. "There are a lot of French people who are freaked by what is going on in America in terms of the Droits de l'Homme," the Rights of Man. "The Droits de l'Homme people are very prominent here. They're supporting me--they're freaked about the situation. It has nothing to do with guilty or innocent. It has to do with the way I'm being treated. And they're just so shocked." He figures if he can convince the French that the American offer of a new trial is a trick, they'll let him stay. "No district attorney can guarantee anyone a trial. The state legislature passed the law, but the DA is guaranteeing the French that I can have a new trial, and she can't make that guarantee." Ira becomes quite excited. His arms are moving wildly. "It's a lie!"
Today is a very special day at the Einhorns' Three reasons: First, Sunday is pancake day. Annika fills the pancakes with seven different homemade jams. Second, today Jan is coming. Jan is a full-time professional peace activist who lives in Sweden but is vacationing not far away, and he's one of Ira's oldest friends in the world. They met at a conference in 1974. "We didn't meet through ecology," Ira says. "We met through parapsychology." And third, today I find out who really killed Holly.
As I drive Ira to the train station to pick Jan up, he boasts that he is everything today that his bourgeois friends aren't. He hasn't compromised his sixties ideals. Not only doesn't he drive, he hasn't carried money in years, and he doesn't even officially exist in France. "I like the freedom of not having an identity," says Ira, "and not having any money, and not having to worry about those things." Of course, the drawback is that someone else has to drive, and someone else has to carry money.
At the station, Jan and Ira embrace. Jan is a cherubic fellow with rosy cheeks and tousled white hair. "I do have one basic principle," Jan tells me by way of introduction, "and that is nonviolence." He is an ovo-lacto-vegetarian who has never in his life tasted flesh. Jan launches into a story about the absurdities of food processing in his country, describing how the Swedes send their potatoes to be washed in Italy, whereupon they are returned to Sweden, where they are sprinkled with dirt so that they will seem more like potatoes. In the car on the way home, Ira asks about his kids. Jan answers that one still does not have a "yob."
"Job!" corrects Ira. Jan looks puzzled. "What?" he says. "Job, not yob," Ira repeats. When Jan says, "Oh, sorry ..." Ira says, "Don't apologize. I was just letting you know the correct pronunciation."
Back at the house, Ira shoos us directly to the terrace. There are items to cover before we can get to the matter at hand. The UFOs are the headline, but there's plenty more to talk about, from the shortcomings of the American criminal-justice system to who murdered Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme in 1986. Ira usually knows not to go too far. He'll put something wild out on the table, then immediately move to qualify it: "But I'm a skeptic about conspiracy theories." One problem with them, he says, is that you never get to the bottom of things. And another is that they usually aren't true.
He points out that perennial conspiracy favorites, like the Bilderberg conference and the Trilateral Commission, don't exactly rule the world, even though they might like to. Jan rushes in: "Don't think they're not!" he says, his Swedish accent sending the words pinging high and low.
And then, with all other pending business resolved, and as if with great reluctance, Ira begins to talk about the actions that a great government has taken against him, a man alone, the actions that set his life on this regrettable course. It is a tale that begins in the mid-1970s, with Ira penetrating deeper and deeper into an understanding of the evil work of his government, chiefly regarding psychic warfare and UFOs, and continues with Ira's growing determination to expose the truth as he saw it. This tale involves a former CIA man, a current CIA man, a prominent ufologist, shadowy figures, and psychic Uri Geller. This tale involves the scurrilous rumor that the former CIA official, who at the time was head of the Weird Desk at the CIA, had an affair with Holly Maddux. It is Ira who calls this rumor scurrilous, but he brings it up repeatedly, and this rumored affair is clearly the basis of Ira's theory of the crime. There was a great, roiling debate within the secret agency, it seems, that centered on Ira. One faction favored the release of top-secret data on the UFOs, the other did not. Ira was the loose cannon who was going to blow the lid off the story. The CIA had to frame Ira for Holly's murder, and to facilitate this, one of its men arranged an amorous liaison with her. And Ira says that the former official's successor at the agency is in "constant e-mail contact" with him, confirming parts of this story. Ira is the teller of the story, and Ira is the wronged hero of it, too. It is a story that takes you on a tour of the interior of Ira's head. This story is the defense that Ira might have offered at trial had he been there. It is impossible to tell whether he has actually brought himself to believe it.
IRA: There's no doubt about it that Tenet hauled in [the head of the Weird Desk] after I got out of jail and said, Is Einhorn one of ours? There's no doubt about it. And--
ESQUIRE: George Tenet, current head of the CIA--
IRA: Yeah, yeah.
ESQUIRE:--called him up.
IRA: Because I fall under him, supposedly.
ESQUIRE: As if you were a CIA agent.
IRA: Yeah, yeah.
ESQUIRE: When did Tenet ask this?
IRA: Right after I got out of jail. Because of the stories. The stories were incredible, about the CIA and stuff. None of this stuff came from me. The last time it came up, I very specifically said to [that official] and a number of other people in an e-mail, I can't imagine that there is any truth to this story that [the former CIA man] had an affair with Holly. It's libelous material, and I can't imagine why anyone is trying to smear me.
ESQUIRE: Why would he--is he from Philadelphia, or how would he even have known her?
IRA: I was dealing with people at that level on a daily basis.
ESQUIRE: And Holly was with you?
IRA: Oh, quite often, sure. Not that I was with--I'm not talking about that specific person--but I was meeting with corporate presidents on a daily basis. When I taught at Harvard, I was meeting with the people who were politically running America....
I'm not talking about the Holly situation, I'm talking about the UFO situation, because that's much more important than whether or not I murdered Holly Maddux....
JAN: But you know, one thing about this rumor [Holly's affair]--I don't understand the implications....
IRA: Supposedly we're talking about two factions of the CIA.
ESQUIRE: Wait a minute, two factions of the CIA--
JAN: This validates the entire--
ESQUIRE: So you're saying two factions--this theory, which is not yours, is that two factions of the CIA are fighting over what? The UFO stuff or over your case?
IRA: They're using my case to fight over the CIA stuff. I'm convenient.
AROUND MIDNIGHT, Ira asks if I wouldn't mind driving Jan to catch his train. At the station, Ira hugs Jan and says, "We'll see you hopefully next year. Bring Christine."
Jan smiles broadly. "Oh, we'll see you many, many times," he says. "Or if not, then in the afterlife.'
They both have a good laugh.
I could not have imagined this a couple days ago, but after almost thirty hours of Ira, I have to get away from him. Although I'm constantly aware, on some level, of his manipulation, I also know that he is exceptionally good at it. I suppose that I was not entirely prepared for this, at least not to this extent. This is humbling. I do not know what a clinical diagnosis of him would be, but he is masterful at manipulation. He is a professional. There's a reason that he succeeded so spectacularly on the lam for so long. I realize that I'm fighting to maintain perspective, and so I decide to take off for a few days at the seashore to collect my thoughts. I tell Ira, and he gives me travel tips. He says come back when you've rested up. I find a room on the lie de Re, an island several hours away by car.
Having cleared my head with salt air, I'm ready for a final go-round with Ira. I call him to say I'll be back the next day for one more conversation before heading to Paris in the early evening. He is not pleased. We'd talked vaguely about a dinner at some choice spot, and he says that what I don't understand is how hard it is to get a table at this place. He's already wangled a reservation at the ritzy Chateau de Nieuil. Annika's really looking forward to it, he says. He won't have me canceling on him. "They squoze us in," he says. Now he is pleading. Then his voice changes. "Besides, I don't want you driving when you're tired. I'd rather you have a good meal, a good night's sleep, and drive up in the morning." It sounds like an order. I relent and agree to return for dinner tomorrow night.
But today there is news. A jury in Philadelphia has rendered a verdict in the wrongful-death suit brought by Holly's siblings. The jury found against Ira and awarded $ 907 million to the Maddux family. It's the largest damages award returned against an individual in such a suit.
On my way back into Champagne-Mouton, I drive to the train station to pick up a Frenchwoman, Nathalie, who's coming in from Paris to help smooth my textbook French for some last interviews with locals. She'll also come with us for dinner at the chateau. I've never met her, but when I see the only young woman who emerges from the train alone, I smile, anticipating Ira's reaction. This is going to be interesting.
The last supper. It is a perfect evening, and Ira is ready to party. "Tonight we celebrate!" he gushes. "Put away your notepad!" He's on his way to a free dinner at the best restaurant in the region--and he's orchestrated the seating arrangements for the journey. Annika is next to me in the front seat of my rented green Renault. Ira says that's so "she can help navigate," although he can't help offering some guidance--"Hon, you'll see the sign?" He's relaxing in the backseat beside Nathalie, who is petite and lithe and wearing a short skirt. In the rearview mirror, his delight in her is evident. He wants to know all about Nathalie's family, her education, her tastes. He's so intensely interested in her that she cannot help but feel charmed by the attention. He asks her what sort of work she does, and she says she doesn't really do any at the moment. Ira is delighted at the answer. "Bravo!" he says. The nips and tucks of the country roads end as we pull through the gates of the sixteenth-century Chateau de Nieuil and make a lap around the property to a circle before the great house. Ira tells me where to park, although it's rather obvious. He climbs out of the car, dashing in his gray dress dashiki and flowing gray cotton trousers and leather sandals. He suggests a short walkabout and educates us on the chateau's history, its art collection ("reminds me of De Chirico"), and its menu. Then he marches us up to the main building, where the owner is framed in the leviathan entryway. He greets Ira warmly and suggests aperitifs on the veranda. Ira thinks this is a splendid idea.
"Champagne! Champagne!" he bellows. And then, glass in hand, Ira toasts everyone's good health. Then it is on to the intimate dining room. Ira walks with a jaunty step, humming a flat processional: Toot-toot, toot-toot, toot-toot.
We are seated. Annika's eyes are wide. "Does it matter what I order?" she asks quietly. "No, indeed!" answers Ira. "Have whatever you want." After a series of queries, Ira selects the most expensive prix fixe meal. "Un consultation," he says to the waiter in very poor French. "Le veen," he says, referring to the wine list.
Ira folds his menu and announces his personal specialty as a cook: spaghetti. "I start with olive oil, garlic, bay leaves, add lamb for a lamb-mincemeat sauce." He says the things he misses most about the States are blintzes and chopped liver. He misses his mother in Philadelphia, of course, but can't completely trust her, because she cooperated with investigators. He's still furious that, according to him, ABC producers tried to tape her at home watching the Connie Chung interview, to get her reaction. "It was so low!" he says. "If I had been in the United States, there probably would have been dead people."
The salad and the foie gras arrive, arranged to look like a bonsai. Ira looks at the goose liver. "Ordinarily, we eat a remarkably healthy diet," he says. He and Annika normally avoid red meat, and he "hasn't touched sugar in fifteen years," but everyone's got to take a break now and then.
Ira bounds from one subject to another, lecturing and laughing and always remembering to pay plenty of attention to Nathalie. He turns to her. "Where do you live in Paris?" he asks as he smacks his food. "The Sixteenth," Nathalie replies. "Sixteenth," repeats Ira with great intensity. "I know it. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
"Last night there was a full eclipse of the moon," Ira says suddenly. Annika notes that it wasn't visible in France, only in another hemisphere. "Oh, I could feel it here," he says.
Annika is luminous and doesn't seem to mind Ira's overbearing energy. I ask about her family and whether they stay in touch. She says she visits her parents once or twice a year and explains that her father will be eighty-eight soon and that her mother, who is eighty, just retired from the family business. She explains that her parents live outside Stockholm, and Ira interrupts. "When I lived in Stockholm," he says, "I was five minutes from a nude island." He then turns back to Nathalie to tell her that he can look at people and tell if they're psychic, except sometimes it just appears that they're peering beyond the here and now, and it turns out they're just nearsighted. Someone mentions how attractive Annika is. "Annika has her admirers," says Ira, "but they're mostly seventy-five to ninety years old." Annika gives him a sidelong glance, and then a slow smile.
The cheese board arrives, and Ira tries several kinds. Then comes the dessert cart laden with profiteroles, cheesecake with angelique, strawberries in cognac. Ira rises dramatically to his feet and walks over to inspect the cart. He pauses in front of it, bends his knees so that his eyes are at dessert level, like a golfer lining up a putt. He orders and eats four. Then he spies a plate of tuiles--small, tile-shaped cookies--and grabs a handful. "Mmmm ... c'est superbe," he says. "It's an utter delight to live here because of the quality of life. Some things I miss, but I'm willing to put up with it to live here for the rest of my life."
Then Ira's new $ 907 million debt to Holly's family comes careening into the conversation. Ira thinks it's the funniest thing he's ever heard, great material for after-dinner mischief. "I guess I'll call Mom to ask her to lend me a billion," he says, laughing. Then, in French, he pronounces it crazy: C'est fou. "It's obscene," Annika says. She asks me if I know what individual has the single largest personal debt. I don't.
Ira is rolling now. He's talking very fast, almost can't get it out. He is extremely pleased with himself. "The great American fantasy is to disappear!" he says. "I was there one day, disappeared for seventeen years, and suddenly reappeared." Nathalie asks him how he got away. Ira is so involved in his reverie that he doesn't care any longer to impress her. "I took a plane," he says contemptuously. "The authorities aren't always as bright as they should be. It's been two years since I was discovered."
Annika bursts in: "And I'm still doing my vegetables!"
Ira and Annika clink glasses. "To a billion dollars!"
Ira cackles. He shows all of his teeth and wails with laughter, a great, heartfelt fuck-you belly laugh. And then, suddenly, Annika's expression changes. She puts down her glass, lays her hands flat on the table, and looks down as if she is steadying herself. As if she has come to a terrible realization. Ira's laughter is sweeping over us in gales. Annika looks at me, trying to think of something to say, some change of subject. Finally, after a long moment, she speaks. "Do you ever get tired of journalism?" she asks.
Ira is across the table in his own world, enraptured with the funniest joke he has ever heard.
Over on the wall, above the mantel, the antique clock ticks.
Very soon, Ira Einhorn will be going home.