It was a gala affair.
Black tie. Evening gowns. The cream of New York society. Plus a lot of other rich and famous from all over.
There to see Kennedy.
There to raise money.
And there to see Marilyn.
And it might even get off the ground – as everyone was expectantly waiting – waiting to get on with it. Everyone was there. Everyone except the president and Marilyn.
Mary Hemingway, Ernest’s widow – in town from the chilly climes of Ketchum, Idaho, made small talk with the head of advertising for Scribner’s about a re-isuue of Hemingway’s Cuban stories.
“When is Monroe going to be arriving…?” Mary complained. “It’s 9:30 and they haven’t even served dinner yet.”
The head of Scribner’s advertising offered the famous widow an agreeing shrug, but declined comment. The best way, he’d learned, to have a conversation with Mary was to let her do all the talking. So far it seemed to be working.
And therefore Mary’s stay in New York had netted her ample opportunity. With her years of living in Cuba, and her intimate terms with many of the island’s prominent, she was a hot ticket on the eastside’s cocktail and dinner circuit. People were fascinated with Cuba – and sought her opinions, insights, and stories of life in the land of Fidel Castro.
Most especially the CIA.
Who had for the past several weeks been actively gathering Mary’s insights into the Castro regime, the country itself and most significantly Castro himself.
From Mary, they had come to the belief that Castro rather enjoyed himself at Finca Vigia - the Hemingway estate, that had now been turned into a museum, thanks to Mary’s generosity. It was learned from Mary that Castro on occasion took relaxation there and that his normal steel-eyed security instincts were somewhat loosened during those occasions.
Only slowly did Mary come to grasp what her cordial chat sessions with the CIA boys were really about. That her recollections might be used to stage an assassination plot on Castro at Finca Vigia.
Which she found to be absolutely distasteful.
So when the particular topic came around to a recently recalled rumor (provided by Dr. Rolando Cubela – during his initial debriefing with the Agency) that there existed certain uniquely formulated pills which had in fact been devised by Hemingway to painlessly usher him onward to the next life – she coiled away from confirming such a thing, and vehemently denied such a ludicrous story. Calling it wishful thinking of the worst and unsubstantiated kind.
At no time, she told the CIA boys, had her husband commissioned any such pills and any claim otherwise was simply a big fat lie.
So ended Mary Hemingway’s chat time with the Mongoose faction of the CIA.
It did not end, however, the administration’s attempt to verify the claim.
From a most unlikely source.
For upstairs that evening, at the Penthouse suite of the Carlyle hotel, the Kennedy suite, Marilyn Monroe was being briefed by Kennedy on approaching Mary Hemingway and engaging the widow in some loose chat and try and see if she could get her to speak about the infamous pills. One way or another.
Marilyn as agent provocateur.