The Nation: Scenes from the Hidden Years

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of the doctors. There were four in the Hughes entourage,-but they were not on an equal footing or in agreement about their patient. There had been an argument with one of them because he had refused to apply for a narcotics license, and this had angered Hughes.

"Fire the son of a bitch," Hughes had ordered. Then he added, as he usually did when someone had achieved close access to him, "but keep him on the payroll." By retaining people he had "fired" on his payroll, he kept a rein on them, so they would not disclose any of his secrets to the outside world.

Others of the Palace Guard were also involved somehow with Hughes' drugs and metal "medication" box, Margulis and Stewart had observed. From time to time, certain aides would bring in sealed packets or envelopes to replenish or add to whatever was in the metal box. These packets were referred to cryptically as "The Man's goodies."

What Hughes plainly needed, Margulis thought, was forced intravenous feeding, but not until his last few hours was an attempt made to drip nourishment into his wasting body. In his last three days Hughes consumed only a few swallows of water and milk and a few spoonfuls of dessert. "At least the aides said he ate a little dessert," Margulis said, "but I didn't see him do it."

At some point during his last days in the humid, blacked—out bedroom his kidneys failed, and he began to suffer uremic poisoning. As the subsequent autopsy disclosed, his kidneys had atrophied to less than half their normal size and weight.

"When the doctors decided to run [a] test," said Margulis, "a Mexican nurse was called in to pick up [the blood] for testing. Then they couldn't tell the nurse what they wanted done with the sample because she didn't speak English and no one spoke Spanish."

Finally one of the aides remembered that a man on duty at the Summa office in Las Vegas, John Larsen, spoke Spanish. "So they set up a conference call with Larsen, which took further time," Margulis said. "Dr. Chaffin was on the phone in The Office, the nurse was on an extension in Eric Bundy's telephone room, and they were both connected with Larsen in Las Vegas. The doctor would tell Larsen in English what he wanted done. Larsen would question him until he was sure he understood the instructions. Then he would translate them into Spanish and relay them back to the nurse, who was in the room next to Dr. Chaffin. When she had questions, she would put them in Spanish to Larsen in Las Vegas, and he would relay them in English back to Dr. Chaffin.

Medical specialists said later that the proper procedure would have been to put Hughes on a kidney dialysis machine. Ironically, his Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Florida had done considerable research to advance this life-saving procedure. But there was no kidney dialysis machine available at the Acapulco Princess Hotel.

"Even before the test results came in," Margulis said, "everybody was asking what we would do if he died. But nobody said, 'Let's do something.' We had one meeting and tried to decide whether to fly Hughes to Mexico City, Houston, Bermuda, or back to London. But it broke up without any decision."

Sunday [April 4] it was decided to

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