The Nation: Scenes from the Hidden Years

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pilots were allowed to board but were warned not to look back at any time during the flight.

On Thanksgiving Day, Margulis went through a charade to establish that Hughes, by then safely hidden 3,000 miles away, was still at the Desert Inn. He went down to the Desert Inn kitchen in the morning and ordered a "special turkey dinner for the boss." The chefs spent most of the day preparing it. When it was ready, Margulis put it on a serving cart, wheeled it to the elevator, and took it up to the abandoned penthouse.

"Dinner for the boss," he told the guard, as he pushed the cart through the partition door. The dinner was consumed by two functionaries. [Meanwhile,] Stewart and three others cleaned up the billionaire's little bedroom. "It was—well, pretty awful," says Stewart. "There hadn't been a maid in the room for four years, and it had never been vacuumed or dusted."

Stewart's job was to dispose of Hughes' empty bottles of pain-killing drugs. They had been stacked on a wide shelf in the bedroom closet, and when Stewart opened the door he was astonished at the sight. "There must have been a hundred of them," he says. "I didn't count them, but they were stacked on top of each other, and they almost filled the shelf space."

The three other functionaries had to deal with an even darker Hughes secret. For years he had had the habit of urinating into a wide-mouthed Mason jar while reclining on his lounge chair. His kidneys were malfunctioning long before they failed in Acapulco and precipitated his death. Relieving himself took hours, and he was too weak to sit all that time in the bathroom. Instead of being emptied, the jars had been capped and stacked in a [room across the hall]. The employees had to get rid of a three-year supply of Hughes' urine and then destroy the jars. One aide kept going off to an adjoining bathroom to retch.

Hughes was spirited to the top floor of the Britannia Beach Hotel on Paradise Island, just off Nassau. It was a destination that Maheu had earlier warned him against because the blacks were seizing political power there. But Hughes reckoned the blacks "ought to be content and happy with tourists' tips." He lived there for 15 months in quiet seclusion. Then Author Clifford Irving produced a bogus biography of Hughes. Hughes was only mildly disturbed. "He did not get any of my money," he would say. Still, in order to denounce the book as a fraud, Hughes held a telephone conversation with a group of reporters who had known him in earlier days. The uproar caused by the Irving hoax attracted the attention of black politicians to the rich Whitey—and his aides living without proper residence or work permits in their country. They decided to break down his door to have a look at him.

While Bahamian officials rampaged through Hughes' penthouse and seized three aides for immediate deportation, Hughes was hidden in a spare room on the sixth floor of the hotel. Meanwhile, a former Secret Service agent named Jim Golden arranged for an 83-ft. powerboat to spirit Hughes to Florida.

On the sunny afternoon of February 15, 1972, if any of the guests lounging around the pool of the Britannia Beach Hotel had lifted their gaze toward the top floor they would have observed an astonishing sight. They

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