Mary's Mosaic: Prologue
by Peter Janney
the prologue to Mary's
Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy To Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot
Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace. Copyright 2012 by
Peter Janney. Reprint permission courtesy of the author. Published
by Skyhorse Publishing.
perfect for the CIA. He never felt guilt about anything.”
~ St. John
Hunt, reflecting on the life of his father, E. Howard Hunt
vacation in the fall of 1964 offered a welcome respite from the
rigors of boarding school life in New Hampshire. At seventeen, I was full of
both testosterone and a lust for freedom that didn’t find much outlet
at a New England prep school. I was a “lifer,” as we used to say.
I had arrived in the ninth grade, or what was commonly known in
the English boarding- school system as “the third form.” I would
stay until the end and graduate, but that fall, in my fifth- form
junior year, I felt engaged in a Sisyphean struggle to break free:
five days off – this year with a driver’s license! – followed by
another long slog up the hill. It was 1964. Just a year and half
more of this, I kept telling myself, and I’d be out of what seemed
like jail. Adolescence, with all of its possibilities, sometimes
felt like prison. Dreams and a rich fantasy life were often the
As the plane
began its final approach into Washington’s National Airport, I picked
out a number of familiar places stretched out below, including my
old alma mater, Georgetown Day School (GDS), the sight of which
stirred a flood of memories from my childhood. Something had been
lost while I was a student there; and, nearly a decade later, emotional
scar tissue still lingered. My best friend and classmate, Michael
Pinchot Meyer, had been killed when we were both just nine years
old. It had been my first experience with death – losing someone
I had been deeply fond of. I didn’t want to think about it.
myself instead with the promise of freedom that lay before me. It
was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My father would still be
at work when I got home, but my mother and my younger brother would
likely be around. I would have most of the afternoon to cruise about
town with old friends – certainly enough time to sneak a beer or
two and a few cigarettes.
home was a modern architectural marvel for its time. A long, split-level
structure, spacious and light-filled, with large picture windows
in most rooms, the house was nestled in one of the last enclaves
of Washington’s woods, sheltered from the cacophony of distant traffic.
At dinner that evening, I looked out from the split-level dining
room through the living room’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Beyond
the verdant lawn was the concrete swimming pool, half-drained and
dotted with logs to prevent winter ice from cracking its walls.
I took my usual place at the table facing my brother, Christopher,
with my mother to my left and my father to my right. On the wall
behind my mother, an original black-and-white Morris Rosenfeld photograph,
Spinnakers Flying, announced the family passion – sailing.
My parents had met during summers spent on Cape Cod, and they had
imparted their love of navigating the open sea to my brother and
me. By the age of seventeen, I had already spent long stretches
offshore in the Atlantic racing to Bermuda, and from Annapolis to
Newport, Rhode Island.
that evening, my father mentioned that it was not too early to think
about racing our sailboat from Annapolis to Newport again in the
coming year. Sailing was a rite of passage for me, and I looked
forward to continuing to master its intricacies under my father’s
guidance. The previous summer had already extended my knowledge
and experience with a small group trip down the Dalmatian coast
from Venice to Athens on a seventy-seven-foot Rhodes ketch. Its
colorful skipper, a gallant, distinguished former World War II Marine
combat captain named Horace (“Hod”) Fuller, had been a delightful
legend to sail with. An accomplished sailor, he sometimes kindly
took me aside for tutorials on some of the idiosyncrasies of sailing
in the Adriatic Sea.
however, a couple of instances during the trip that disturbed me.
Late one night, I had awakened to the sound of Hod Fuller having
what sounded like combat nightmares from his World War II experiences.
No one else in our group wanted to acknowledge it. Years later,
my father, a career CIA senior official, having had his usual “generous”
intake of alcohol one evening, remarked that “Hod Fuller was one
of the best damn assassins we ever had. . . .” A bit stunned, I
curiously inquired as to how he went about his assignments. In
at least one instance, my father said, Hod had taken his victim
out in a rowboat and shot him in the back of the head and then dumped
But on the
evening before Thanksgiving, diving into a sumptuous meal of veal
scaloppini, I was happily anticipating the short recess that lay
before me, and dreaming about being on the ocean again, a place
where my freedom flourished. It was comforting to be home, to have
a reprieve from academic pressures and boarding-school life, and
to be with my family. Amid the challenges and turbulence of adolescence,
hearth and home was still a place I could count on. It wouldn’t
last much longer, I soon discovered. I wasn’t at all prepared when
the conversation took a sudden turn.
died earlier this fall,” my mother said, looking at me. I reached
for my water.
“What do you
mean?” I asked. Her words bludgeoned me.
“She was murdered
while walking on the canal towpath,” my mother explained. “They
caught the guy who did it. She was taking one of her usual walks
during the day. It was a sexual assault.”
tried to make sense of what she was saying. “How was she killed?”
I asked, trying to orient myself over the eruption of pounding in
“She was shot.
It’s very sad for all of us.”
her for more details but absorbed little. Numbness and shock were
setting in. I remember my mother mentioning Mary’s funeral, and
then something about how my father and another man had gone to the
airport to meet Cord Meyer, who had been away on the day of his
ex-wife’s murder. My mother was doing all the talking; my father
didn’t say anything. He just sat there, staring vacantly off into
space. There was something almost eerie about his silence.
was in knots. Was it only confusion, or was it fear? After a while,
I excused myself from the table, saying that I had plans to go out
for the evening. In fact, my only impulse was to go to my room
and curl up in my bed. That night, I was in and out of sleep. I
wanted to cry, but couldn’t. Memories crashed through my mind like
a hurricane’s pounding surf. Seeing Georgetown Day School from the
plane earlier in the day had already stirred something in me, and
now there was no escape.
I had known
the Meyer family since 1952, when I was five years old. My mother,
Mary Draper, and Mary Pinchot had been classmates in Vassar College’s
class of 1942. My father, Wistar Janney, had met Cord Meyer after
World War II, and they now worked together at the CIA. Our families
were socially entwined – we went camping together, played touch
football, visited each other’s homes frequently. The Meyers had
three children: Quentin, Michael, and Mark. Michael and I had been
born less than one month apart, and Quentin – or “Quenty,” as we
called him – was a year and a half older. Mark and my brother, Christopher,
were the same age, about two years younger than Michael and I. By
the time Michael and I were seven, we were best friends, and often
inseparable. We shared a number of bonds, especially baseball and
fishing. We had been in the same class at Georgetown Day School
for three years, our desks side by side for two of them.
As I lay crawled
up in a fetal position that night, the shock of Mary Meyer’s murder
brought back a flood of memories of being at Michael’s house in
McLean, Virginia, just a few miles from my own house. One sunny
spring day, we had been hunting for copperheads in the backyard
forest behind the Meyer house. Brandishing knives like the “young
bucks” we thought we were, Michael pulled a long stick out of a
hole we’d been investigating. Suddenly, a snapping snake came out
right behind it, narrowly missing his face. We pulled back, both
screaming, and ran as fast as we could. We finally stopped, both
of us shaking with an adrenalin rush and laughing uncontrollably.
Regaining a bit of composure, we realized that both of us, out of
fear and excitement, had urinated in our pants. Humiliated, a bit
defeated, but still giddy from the adventure, we returned to the
house. Michael’s mother, Mary, was painting in a small studio just
off the patio.
“Mom, a copperhead
almost bit me!” Michael announced.
Meyer looked up from her canvas. Even then, I distinctly remember
feeling that there was something unique about Michael’s mother,
beyond her glistening, radiant beauty. She was so unlike any other
adult in my world at that time. Calm and still, at peace with herself,
she had a presence and demeanor that struck me. Less than a year
before, Michael and I had been playing baseball in front of their
house when Michael sent one of my pitches zooming off his bat and
over the house. I ran around to the back in search of the ball and
came upon Mary reading on a blanket. She lay completely naked,
her backside to the sun. I was breathless. She hadn’t heard me coming,
and I stood there for what seemed to me a very long time, gawking.
At the time, I had no words for the vision that I beheld, but I
knew that beauty such as hers was something I longed to know better.
When Mary finally looked up and saw me, she wasn’t embarrassed or
upset, or even startled. She just smiled, letting me know that
it was okay; no sin had been committed. I found the ball, ran back
to play with Mikey, and felt somehow irrevocably altered, even blessed.
But it wasn’t anything I could describe at the time.
I had a similar
feeling about Mary the day of the copperhead hunt. Mary’s outer
beauty seemed to be a manifestation of her inner freedom and peace.
Whatever it was, it made me feel safe, and free. I remember her
smiling at us in a prideful way. Here we were – dirty, sweaty, and
soaked in piss, to boot – and Mary responded by being tender. She
had guessed what must have happened and, laughing, directed us to
the laundry room. We slipped out of our soiled clothes, put them
in the washing machine, and put on the clean underwear that Mary
had given us, along with a pile of clean clothes to wear.
“You two look
like little Indians,” she said teasingly. “Where’s your war paint?”
how Michael’s eyes had lit up with excitement.
an arrowhead on my face!” he blurted out.
“Go get the
watercolors I gave you and I will!” she said.
We stood in
our underwear on the patio under a warm spring sun. Mary made intricate
designs that we took to be tribal symbols on our faces and arms
while we began emitting loud Indian war cries. While Mary was painting
my face, Michael went in search of two Indian headdresses.
our exuberance erupted. Michael and I made guttural noises, each
trying to outdo the other. War paint in place, we danced as we had
seen Indians do on television. Flapping our hands over our mouths
like trumpeters with plunger mutes, we shrieked louder and louder,
jerking our bodies in wild leaps across the room. We strapped our
knife sheaths onto makeshift belts, donned the headdresses, and
descended into a kind of primal expression of childhood glee and
human joy, running barefoot in circles. It was as if Mary’s brushstrokes
of “war paint” had transported us into a primal place of wildness
that demanded a surrender to the life force itself. In a sudden,
simultaneous move that was pure, unbridled innocence, we stepped
out of our underwear. Naked now, our playing became even more frenzied.
We ran through the woods toward a small barn, chased each other
around a riding circle, and back to the patio, waving our knives
in flagrant violation of every childhood safety rule known to man.
As our excitement subsided, we dropped to the floor, laughing and
exhausted from the thrill of what we had just experienced. Peace
and serenity returned, but eventually I became self-conscious. Where
were my pants? Shouldn’t I have something on? Once again, Mary’s
tender gaze delivered me from any embarrassment.
“Mom, do we
have anything to eat? I’m hungry!” asked Michael. We were putting
on the clothes that Mary had given us, while Mary directed us to
cookies and lemonade in the fridge. It seemed like an eternity had
passed. A bit disoriented, I was calm – yet also exhilarated by
the sense of an unknown powerful life force that had just moved
through me. Mary’s quietly spirited presence had made it all possible.
It was as if she had extended her freedom to me, giving me
permission that day to explore and experience my own boyhood wildness
like no other adult ever had.
contrasted sharply with that of Michael’s father, Cord Meyer. Insensitive
and dismissive, Cord was arrogantly patronizing and never fun to
be around. One day Michael and I went fishing on the Potomac River
with Cord and his CIA friend and colleague Jim Angleton, who was
also godfather to the three Meyer boys. I always found myself completely
inhibited around Cord. Michael and I took turns climbing out onto
a set of rocks that jutted out from the shoreline. There, we snagged
herring by casting into a huge school of passing fish with a three-pronged
snag hook. Cord’s demeanor that day had been as intimidating as
it was uncomfortable. He and Angleton spent most of the time criticizing
our techniques. Already self-conscious, I had to watch my every
move lest I provoke one of Cord’s or Angleton’s withering stares.
Truth be told, I never liked Cord. Michael feared his father, inasmuch
as telling me so. His dread of his father was such a contrast to
the connection he had with his mother.
if it came at all that dreadful night before Thanksgiving, was fitful
as I wrestled with Mary Meyer’s death. Ominously, one horrid thought
was the realization that Quenty and Mark would now have only Cord,
their aloof father. In my agitation, I continually tossed and repositioned
myself, hugging a second pillow for comfort. At one point I woke
up; it was still dark outside. I was soaked in moisture, then realizing
that in my sleep, I had been crying for my lost childhood friend
Michael, and the memory of what had occurred on December 18, 1956.
Christmas vacation began, our school’s holiday festivities took
place – a Nativity play, Christmas caroling in the Georgetown Day
School assembly, and painting ornaments in the school’s art studio
where Mary Meyer and Ken Noland sometimes taught together. The Meyer
family didn’t have television in the mid-1950s – only because Mary
was against it. Her prescience regarding the docile passivity that
television engendered was remarkable. But it didn’t keep the two
older Meyer boys – Quenty and Michael – from stealing away to a
friend’s house to engage the technological marvel. The way home
to the Meyer farmhouse required crossing a busy thoroughfare known
as Route 123. Two years earlier, the family’s beloved golden retriever
had been hit by a car and killed crossing that roadway. The two
boys were on their way home, rushing to be on time for dinner. In
the waning winter solstice light of Tuesday’s evening rush hour,
some cars had not yet turned on their headlights. The agile Quenty
made his way across first, dodging cars as he ran from one side
to the other. His younger brother wasn’t so lucky. Michael was struck
by an oncoming car and killed.
The next day,
after returning home early from work, my father and mother summoned
me from my bedroom, where I had been playing. I joined them in the
living room, taking a chair opposite the fireplace. My mother sat
on the sofa and my father reclined into his favorite orange Eero
Saarinen Womb chair, his legs stretched out on the ottoman before
him. He was sipping his usual first martini of the evening. Our
house was resplendent with FAO Schwarz Christmas pageantry – holly,
mistletoe, a towering spruce pine that twinkled with lights and
ornaments, with colorfully wrapped gifts everywhere. It was an idyllic
scene, but I sat with the unease of one who hears his name called
and wonders what he’s done wrong. I was braced for some kind of
reprimand, but not for what came next.
“We have something
to tell you,” my mother said, looking in my direction without making
eye contact. “Mikey Meyer was hit by a car yesterday. He was killed.”
rocked me to the core. The disturbance was cellular. The hollow
silence of loss opened into my world. I couldn’t contain it.
true! Tell me it’s not true!” I shouted, before collapsing into
she said, trying to remain calm. I turned toward my father as though
he might have a different version of the story to offer.
me it’s not true, please tell me it’s not true!” Hysterical,
I threatened to throw a heavy ashtray through the living-room picture
window. “Tell me it’s not true, or I’ll break the window!” I screamed.
I don’t remember
what came next, but I eventually found myself in my father’s arms
with my head against his chest. Feeling the thumping of his heart
against my head helped calm my sobs. I remembered looking up at
his face. For the first time in my life, I saw my father cry.
evening, I overheard my parents talking about going to visit Cord
and Mary after I went to bed. I insisted – demanded – that
they take me with them. I didn’t know why it was so imperative that
I accompany them. After some resistance, they relented. During the
fifteen-minute drive to Michael’s house, darkness enshrouded everything,
overtaking me. There was no moon or stars in the sky that night.
Everything and everywhere was dark.
the front door and walked down an unlit hallway into the Meyers’
living room, where their own postcard-perfect holiday scene – the
tree, the wrapped presents – seemed out of place. As my mother embraced
Mary, I felt this house, so familiar just days before, was now alien
to me. In spite of – or, perhaps, because of – the joy I had once
felt in that house, it was almost unbearable to be there now. No
longer would it be Michael’s house; nothing would ever be the same
again. Mikey had left, and a part of me had gone with him. Emptiness
now became my new companion.
I was facing
Michael’s mother, whose gaze was fixed on me. She looked into my
eyes, as she had done so many times before, but this time it was
her sadness, not her serenity, that moved me. I was overwhelmed
by it and wanted to look away, but she drew me into her arms. In
that moment, the child-adult distinction evaporated. We were equals
in our grief, connected by the loss of someone we both had deeply
loved and cherished. As she cried, I felt no need to recoil in any
discomfort. Even as a young insecure boy, I gladly stood to embrace
and hold her, as she had done for me so many times before. It was
a moment of transcendence at a very tender age – an experience of
connection unlike any I had known before. And it would be decades
before I understood the deeper gift she had bestowed upon me.
me up the stairs to Michael’s bedroom. “I want you to have something
of Michael’s to take with you,” she said. “Find something you want,
anything. Michael would have wanted that, I know.” She left me alone
in his room to contemplate, to face yet another level of the reality
of my best friend’s departure. I would never again be in that room
with the Michael I had known and loved. Unbearably, I had to begin
to face the loss that night.
funeral was held several days later in Bethlehem Chapel inside the
National Cathedral. I was still perhaps too numb to register details
of the service, but I will never forget the sight of Ruth Pinchot,
Michael’s maternal grandmother, sobbing on the sidewalk as we left
the church. There was something so pure and powerful about her explosion
of grief, the kind of public display of emotion that was simply
“not done” among her set. But in that moment, Ruth didn’t care what
anybody thought, or how she might be perceived. Her honesty and
courage were so much like her daughter Mary’s.
casket was taken to the Pinchot family’s estate, Grey Towers, in
Milford, Pennsylvania, and then laid to rest in the Pinchot family
plot in the Milford cemetery. He had always shared with me so much
about Grey Towers – its bountiful trout streams, waterfalls, and
forests – but it would take me nearly fifty years before I could
bring myself to actually visit his grave.
The late 1950s
were not an auspicious time to be a grieving nine-year-old. The
“in-vogue” thinking at that time was that beyond a certain point,
displays of sadness were unbecoming. I was encouraged to accept
what had happened and move on. In my attempt to do so, I sometimes
stayed overnight with Quenty and Mark at the Meyers’ house, and
would wake up crying in the middle of the night. On those occasions,
it was always Mary who comforted me. Expressions of sadness were
okay with her, even embraced.
everything changed. Quenty revealed that his parents were divorcing,
and that everyone was moving to Georgetown. Meanwhile, at my home,
my parents were ill-equipped to handle my grief. They sent me to
a psychiatrist, who, in true Freudian fashion, kept making a lot
of allusions to my penis. During the six years following Michael’s
death, I floundered. My self-confidence eroded. Increasingly, I
was impulsive, delinquent, and unruly. Unmoored and untethered,
I packed on weight as I turned to sugar in an effort to self-medicate.
At fifteen, I left home for boarding school in New Hampshire.
The woman who
had comforted me in sorrow and reassured me in so many other ways
was now gone forever. Like a volcano, the reality of her death had
erupted, and reawakened something awful and inescapable. Why had
my parents waited until I was home to tell me, I wondered? As I
lay in my bed at dawn that Thanksgiving morning in 1964, the apprehension
of uneasiness, even dread, engulfed me. There was something foreboding,
something terrible – something I couldn’t possibly know or understand
at the time. And that feeling would continue to haunt me for more
than forty years.
knocked on my bedroom door; it was time to get ready to go hunting.
As I dressed, I thought back to what a terrible year it had been
for Washington – and the nation. President Kennedy had been assassinated
the previous November. In my American history course at school that
fall, we were discussing something called the Warren Commission
and its final report. I remember that our teacher, Mr. Fauver, had
said something to the effect of “Gentlemen, this is a shining example
of what makes our country so great, our democracy so vibrant, a
government for the people, and by the people.” Reminding us that
America was a republic, not a totalitarian state, he urged us to
reflect on how President Kennedy’s assassination would have been
handled in a country that didn’t have a democratically elected government.
later, in 1966, New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison was challenging
the entire veracity of the Warren Report as a massive cover-up,
implicating the CIA in President Kennedy’s assassination. When I
brought this to my father’s attention for discussion, he became
apoplectic that I should ever consider such a thing.
 Sadly, it was the beginning of a never-to-be resolved rupture
in our relationship, and a dramatic separation from my family into
adulthood. That fall I entered Princeton as an undergraduate. The
Vietnam War was approaching its full escalation, and I made it my
focus to begin to understand what was taking place. Further enraging
both my parents, I became increasingly vociferous about America’s
incursion into Southeast Asia, as well as what the CIA, and my father,
were actually doing in the world.
later, in 1976 – twelve years after Mary Meyer’s murder – the National
Enquirer broke the story about her relationship with President
Kennedy. Awakened, but not yet fully conscious, I began a journey
that culminated in this book. Somewhere inside the recesses of my
being, I instinctively suspected there was a connection between
the assassination of our president, and the slaying – less than
a year later – of the woman he had come to trust and love.
 Erik Hedegaard, “The Last Confessions of E. Howard Hunt,”
Rolling Stone, April 5, 2007.
 This entire section was based on a collection of notes
over a period of nearly twenty years that I began writing in the
early 1970s. As a training clinical psychologist, it was part
of my orientation to begin an intensive period of personal psychotherapy
that lasted a number of years. All of the vivid recollections
in this chapter were based on memories that had been elicited,
and noted, in various psychotherapeutic encounters.
 In the fall of 1966, New Orleans district attorney Jim
Garrison reopened his investigation into the Kennedy assassination,
after having made the mistake of turning over his earlier investigation
to the FBI, which did nothing. Within days after Dallas, Garrison
had arrested David Ferrie as a possible associate of Lee Harvey
Oswald’s. Further convinced that Oswald could never have acted
alone, Garrison soon widened his net to include Guy Banister and
March 1967, Garrison arrested Clay Shaw for conspiring to assassinate
President Kennedy. Shaw’s trial would not begin until January
1969, but in the spring of 1968, after having been undermined
by Life magazine, Garrison visited with Look magazine’s
managing editor, William (“Bill”) Attwood, who had been a Princeton
classmate of my father’s. Garrison, according to author Joan Mellen,
“outlined his investigation through lunch, dinner and into the
night.” Attwood became so impressed with what Garrison had discovered
that he called his friend Bobby Kennedy “at one in the morning.”
Look was prepared to do a major feature story on the Garrison
investigation, but Attwood unexpectedly suffered a significant
heart attack, and the article never materialized. (See Joan Mellen,
Farewell to Justice (Dulles, Va.: Potomac Books, 2005),
grew up in Washington, DC, during the 1950s and 1960s. His father
was a high-ranking CIA official and a close friend of Richard Helms,
James Jesus Angleton, and Mary’s husband, Cord Meyer. His mother
and Mary Meyer were classmates at Vassar College.
© 2012 Peter Janney