A bead of sweat on Cohn's upper lip, glistening in the television lights. The cruel curl of a lip. One hand to the microphone blotting out the world. He whispers in Joe McCarthy's ear even when he doesn't have to, just because he can. He is so close that when his lips shape a sound, they practically brush against the older man's cheek.
When the hearing is finally over, he has to sit and catch his breath, looking through his files as the television lights switch off one by one. His cotton shirt is soaked. The room empties with a hushed buzz, bodies in motion, a slow dance of publicity. No oxygen left to breathe, only that sweet stuffiness of a day well spent. The circus moves on.
Nobody crosses McCarthy and gets away with it. Which means that no one crosses Roy Cohn. Not the Army, not anyone. They are at the height of the world here, now, even if they fall tomorrow.
They say it's arrogance, hubris, the rush that comes from power. They say he does what he does just because he can. And, you know, they're right about that. Excess is better than sex, anyway. He never met a girl who made him feel this good.
Except for Ethel, of course.
Cohn and Schine are McCarthy's two golden boys, only one of them isn't so golden. A slightly sooty angel, the smudge of his five o'clock shadow dark even against his tanned skin. Roy slicks his hair back with the palm of his hand and accepts a drink from Joe McCarthy. The man has been drinking since Roy was fresh-shaven this morning.
"To loyalty," says Joe.
"To loyalty," Roy echoes.
Who could work in that hole the Senate gave them? They've got a new office now, doing their work in the style that McCarthy's chief investigators deserve. New drapes, new carpet, Roy finally has a desk that he's not ashamed to put his feet on.
"So," he says, "this Voice of America thing, we gotta--"
"I could really use a coffee," says David, lounging in the other desk chair.
"Yeah. Yeah." Roy is still scribbling on his legal pad. "Bobby, couple of coffees? Not like last time, remember David likes two sugars. Good boy."
From the doorway, Robert F. Kennedy gives Roy Cohn a look of undisguised hatred. But Roy is too busy to look up.
It isn't all hard work. Weekends in New York City or in Florida. Nightclubs, double dates, just two young bachelors living life to the full. It isn't that long before David, dim as he can be, figures something out.
"You mean you've never...?" he says incredulously, and then laughs. "God, Roy, you're such an innocent."
"I guess," replies the man who prosecuted the Rosenbergs.
A man who graduated from law school at twenty and spent the next years fighting the red menace can, Roy thinks, be forgiven for still being a virgin at twenty-five. David doesn't seem to think so, though.
"Well, I know what we're going to do tonight, then. I know some great girls, Roy, you'll love it. Just trust me."
That slow, spreading irresistible smile of his. It warms from within.
"What would you do without me, Roy boy?"
All David has to do is pick up the phone. Within half an hour, two young women pose and flutter expectantly in the suite at the Waldorf-Astoria. They could be Vassar girls, all pearls and curled hair. Very tasteful, but he can hardly tell them apart.
In the master bedroom, low light from the chandelier. From under heavy eyelids, Roy watches a girl slide the uniform from David's shoulders, olive drab against his marble-white torso.
Roy does the dirty work so that Joe doesn't have to. Not that he minds it.
"Security risks?" says the Senator, ensconced in his plush Capitol Hill office. "I don't know where you get your information, Mr Cohn, but my son is no Communist."
"You don't know the difference between a security risk and a loyalty risk?" Roy leans forward, his hands flat on the desk behind which the man shelters. "Let me spell it out for you. Your son's a fag, Senator."
"Arrested," Roy continues, feeling an odd twist of pleasure, "for offering to suck off a policeman in Lafayette Park."
"This is filth, Mr. Cohn. Slander. Why are you telling me this?"
"Public service. You're up for re-election, but with this sort of trouble in the family, you wouldn't want to run, would you? Wouldn't want to put your family through all that?"
The man's mouth opens and closes, but for once in his life he can't find anything to say.
"I wouldn't, if I were you, Senator."
Two days later the man is dead, but that's not Roy's problem. Who would have thought he'd bring a shotgun to his Senate office?
Palm trees and surf and rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful at the Hotel del Charro. He's going to bet on the ponies at Del Mar and work on his tan. Just him and Joe, one last bachelor fling before Joe ties the knot in September.
It's pure coincidence that J. Edgar Hoover is staying at the same hotel.
So Joe says, handing Roy an airline ticket. Bought by the oil man who owns the place. All expenses paid, just like the weekends in Florida courtesy of David's old man. Power isn't having money to spend, it's being able to spend other people's money. After all, Hoover isn't paying his own bills either.
Deals to be made, sure. There's nothing like a deal made poolside. Roy was Hoover's before he ever was Joe's, and he can't help feeling that Hoover is a better deal long term. Not that he'd ever let on. He has enough loyalty for two men, at least.
The lobby of the Del Charro is fragrant and cool. Palm trees cast brilliant-edged shadows on the parquet floor. The little minx behind the desk blinks at him oddly and tells him to wait. She needs to check something; she gets on the phone and leaves him to cool his heels. Birdsong. He's just starting to complain when Joe McCarthy himself appears.
"Good to see you Roy, glad you came all the way out here." Joe leads Roy off to one side of the lobby, one slightly unsteady hand on his shoulder. "But, uh, we've got a problem."
"Murchison, owns this hotel, he, uh, doesn't like Jews all that much. Actually doesn't want them staying here. Now, Roy, I..."
"No, that's all right, that's all right," says Roy, standing there with suitcase still in hand. His palm is sweating, sticking to the leather of the handle. "Fucking Jews, huh?"
Smiling an uneasy smile, Joe slaps him on the back.
"Good boy. You know it's nothing personal, just the way these things work. The Director's as cut up about it as I am."
The Director is sitting by the pool with a pina colada in his hand. Still, like Joe says, it's just the way these things work.
"They're both faggots anyway," says David, surprising vehemence in a young man whom very little can rouse.
Roy looks away. Outside the limousine, the streetlights of Washington DC roll past in stately procession. Heralds to a long-awaited dinner. He doesn't know now why he feels slightly queasy.
"The director of the FBI? No fucking way, David. What sort of idiot would he have to be? With everyone in the world watching him?"
"Lots of people are idiots," David replies thoughtfully.
And Roy can't argue with that.
Clyde Tolson is a quiet, courtly man who stoops slightly as he removes his hat with one hand. Hoover bustles in behind him, as uncompromising as a fire hydrant.
"I'll bet you a quarter," says Roy to Joe, sotto voce, "that you can't get J. Edgar to take his jacket off."
During his previous two visits to the McCarthy home, Hoover has remained imperviously jacketed, watching with abstemious disapproval as Joe rolls up his sleeves to the tune of a whisky or three after dinner.
"David can take your coat, gentlemen."
David Schine smirks. Tolson looks to his boss for guidance; Hoover stands firm.
"Not necessary," he says.
"Not necessary?" echoes Joe with forced jocularity, smiling broadly in that man-to-man way that he has. "Why, Director, the boys are going to think that you come to dinner wearing a wire."
Hoover grunts and humorlessly divests himself of his jacket. Tolson, of course, follows suit. A perfectly matched pair. One in shirtsleeves and one not? Unthinkable. You can't beat that sort of loyalty. There's nothing you can do.
And if you find someone to stick with you like that, if you have someone who will stand by you and cover your back, not to mention write all your boring memos... well, then you can just about rule the world. Every man should have a Tolson.
It's finding one that's the problem.
Together Hoover and Tolson disappear into the damp Washington night, Tolson bending towards the director to hear him speak. At the end of the front walk their black car waits in the shadows. Roy shuts the door and locks it behind them.
From the window, open only a crack, he can catch only snippets of the conversation. He pulls the lace curtain to one side and doesn't hear much more.
"He's an old drunk, Junior, but..."
"I know, Eddie..."
"...and I can't see..."
Junior and Eddie. If he's going to catch anything, he won't do it by watching at the window. Would they? Are they? Pictures he doesn't want to see. Would Tolson do it if the Director asked? Anything, everything. He's sure of that. But he's not sure whether it matters.
"Roy," comes the voice from the living room, querulous and slurred but still commanding. "Roy, get in here. I need you."
And Roy lets the curtain fall, and obeys.
"Don't think I don't know what the Army's doing. You're making Dave Schine eat shit, just because he works for Joe and me. Don't think I don't know. And I'm not going to stand for it, I--"
"Roy," says John Adams, leaning back from the table and looking around the emptying restaurant. "I don't--"
"You're making him eat shit!"
No one is making Roy eat anything, but he can't help it. Two sundaes in two hours, and all the time talking with his mouth full. Not that Joe is any help, sitting there quiet as a lamb with his double Manhattan. And Roy can't stop, he's on a roll, any minute now they're going to see. Any minute now. In the mean time, the chocolate ice cream slides so smoothly down his hoarse throat.
When he can't sleep, he lies there in bed and pictures himself giving the closing arguments in the Rosenberg case, sending Julius and Ethel off to the electric chair. Which he didn't do, but what the hell. It's his fantasy, he can imagine what he damn well pleases.
In real life it was what seemed like hours standing in a damp telephone booth, talking the judge's ear off, watching the raindrops roll down the little panes of glass. It was like your living embodiment of a back-street deal. No glamor, but those two traitors were just as dead at the end.
If he still can't sleep, he gets up and telephones someone. Anyone, really, it doesn't matter. If Schine wasn't away it would be Schine, but he's at Fort Dix and he probably will be until they ship him to Korea. The cold and the snow and the slog, and the thought of it just makes Roy shiver even lying in his warm feather bed on Park Avenue with the phone heavy in his hand.
So maybe a few things do slip out that he shouldn't be saying. Maybe he does say that he'll wreck the Army. Sure. It's the middle of the night, how is he supposed to remember?
He sleeps like a baby afterwards, though.
Outside the gates of Fort Monmouth, Roy Cohn throws a scene.
"What do you mean, classified? Do you have any idea who I am? Do you have any idea how many FBI files I've read?"
The man assures him that Roy Marcus Cohn is very welcome on the base, simply not in the laboratories where top secret work is being conducted.
"You got Communists in there, and me out here? Do you know how bad that looks? Do you think the Army doesn't know what they're doing? They did this just to embarrass me. They're shitting all over me! This is a declaration of war!"
"Mr Cohn, I really don't think that they're declaring..."
"No? Well I am. Hear that? This is war!"
"Is that a threat?"
"No," says Roy. "It's a promise. I can make Joe McCarthy do whatever I want."
It's all gravy until Joe goes and drops him in it.
There he is, sailing along, humble and respectful and modest about his talents in the way that only a brilliant Columbia lawyer who's spent weeks practicing in front of a mirror can be. That mirror has seen more of him than his own mother. More than Joe McCarthy, even. Joe's been practicing his lines over a bottle of whisky, and it's starting to show.
From a long way off, he can see the windup coming. Through the ether he can feel the TV cameras readying their close-ups, every housewife in America putting aside their ironing to lean a little closer to the screen. Old men in the Senate committee room hold their cigarettes un-smoked, burning down to their stained and calloused fingertips.
And Roy Cohn, in slow motion, shakes his head, mouthing "no, no," and it's the one time that Joe McCarthy doesn't listen to him.
Poetic justice, in a way, what happens then.
Last time Roy sees Tolson is at a dinner party at Hoover's place. A wavering ghost, a frail old man in a bathrobe wandering down to the landing on the stairs, drawn like a moth to the music and laughter and the sound of his boss's voice. Like he has been all his life. Two strokes, all those secrets buried in his brain never to be revealed. He can't hurt anyone now.
I will never be old, thinks Roy fiercely, already considering his first face lift. I will never be old like that.
Eighteen years, already, since he met Joe McCarthy. Eighteen years since he met Dave Schine. And fourteen years since Joe drank himself to death.