The Nation: Scenes from the Hidden Years

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would have seen the richest man in the United States being hustled down the outdoor fire escape on a stretcher borne by three men.

Hughes was loaded into a van behind the hotel. The party drove, with the van's lights off, out of the hotel grounds and down to the waiting Cygnus. [Captain Bob] Rehak and his mate, a man named Donald Hout, were waiting. This time the rituals [to keep Hughes invisible] were dispensed with and Hughes, clad only in pajama tops and his old bathrobe, was loaded into the wheelhouse, in full view of the two strangers.

The trip to the mainland took twenty-two hours. The sea was rough and the Cygnus pitched and rolled. After a while they took Hughes back into a stateroom and gave him some Dramamine to ward off seasickness, but he proved a good sailor and made the trip well.

Margulis fared much worse. The ship reeked of fresh paint and diesel oil, and within an hour Margulis was stricken with seasickness. "I just stretched out on the floor of the stateroom and tried to tell myself that I wasn't going to die. After a while I didn't care if I did."

Hughes asked Eckersley, "What's Gordon doing on that floor? Floors are filthy, and he knows better than that."

[Eventually] Rehak brought the Cygnus into Biscayne Bay and docked it at a luxurious house that Bill Gay maintained there. Gay wanted Hughes moved into the house for a few days [and to have] some dental work [done, but] "Hughes never liked that Florida house, and he refused to go into it," Margulis said. "Golden had made arrangements and a U.S. Customs man was waiting in Florida to pass us on through to Nicaragua."

Hughes was driven in a van to Fort Lauderdale airport, and a leased executive jet took him to Nicaragua. A few weeks later, the captain of the Cygnus gave an interview to the Miami Herald in which he described in detail the appearance of his famed passenger —long toenails, unkempt hair, beard and all. Even though it was accurate, Hughes apparently felt compelled to dispel that image. Hence when Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza sent a request through U.S. Ambassador Turner Shelton for a meeting, Hughes, who was about to leave for Canada, decided to accept.

Some of the aides were upset. If he started meeting with outsiders, where would it all lead? If Hughes re-entered the world, their control over him would end and so would their reason for existence. Then one day Hughes sent word that he wanted to be barbered and groomed. Mell Stewart brought in his tools and set about lopping the great fall of hair and the straggling beard. Margulis accompanied Stewart, and this displeased Hughes.

"What's Gordon doing in here?" Hughes demanded.

"He's going to help me," Stewart replied.

"But Gordon handles the food," Hughes complained. "We don't want my food handler in here when I'm getting my hair cut."

"Mr. Hughes, haven't you ever heard of soap and water?' Stewart asked in exasperation. "When he's through here, Gordon goes and washes up.'"

Grooming Hughes in Nicaragua took longer than usual. Other than minor moustache trimming, Hughes hadn't been barbered for three or four years. One of his oddities was that he never made any reference

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