Taking long gulps from his third mug of instant coffee, Weller paced the house, red-eyed and sour-stomached, trying to figure out what the hell to do. He had been up till nearly three the night before doing likewise. Call the Celebrity Center? Go to the L.A. Transformation Center? Call the police? No course of action seemed viable. Calling the Transformationalists would be pointless. What could he tell the police, that he had had a fight with his wife and would they please find her? Even if they would try to track her down, which they wouldn't, even if they could find her, which they couldn't, they certainly couldn't arrest her, and even if they did, it would certainly only serve to turn Annie more against him.
He had finally knocked himself out with sleeping pills, gotten maybe four hours of fitful, sweaty sleep, then called the studio and told them he had a stomach virus, and was barfing his guts out, and couldn't come into work. They had screamed and moaned about the schedule, but obviously they couldn't expect to get work out of a director who was puking every fifteen minutes.
He had chosen the stomach-virus schtick because that particular bug usually lasted about twenty-four hours, and he just couldn't believe that this nightmare wouldn't be over before tomorrow morning. This wasn't real. Annie hadn't seriously left him; they had just had a fight, and her car would be pulling into the driveway any minute now.
In the meantime there was nothing to do but wait and go slowly crazy.
Through the living room, down the hall, into the mocking, empty bedroom, a shudder, and back down the hall into the living room again. Maybe this will turn out for the best, Weller told himself. Maybe when she calms down and comes home, realizing what insanity this Transformationalism crap led her to last night, she'll come to her senses and this whole mess will finally be over. Sure, a scene like that is just what it takes to --
The phone began to ring.
Weller pounced on it like a hungry hawk. "Hello!'"
"Jack? It's me." Annie's voice on the other end of the wire was leached of all nuance, any hint of emotion.
"Are you all right?"
"Where are you?'
"I can't tell you that."
"What?" Weller shouted, snapping right back into last night's screaming match. He quickly regained control; the worst possible thing he could do would be to pick up the fight where they had left off. "Never mind," he said, with some semblance of calm. "Just come home; all is forgiven."
"I can't come home, Jack." Annie's distant electronic voice said. ''I'm not coming home. You have to come to me."
"All right, all right. Where are you?"
"I can't tell you that."
"Jesus --" Again Weller caught himself, forced an icy calm. "You're not making sense, Annie," he said. "How can I come to you if I don't know where you are?"
''I'm going to work for Transformationalism," Annie said, "and I don't know where they're sending me. I won't be allowed to contact you again, except maybe for a letter under certain circumstances. But Benson Allen himself has assured me that we can be together again as soon as you've had enough processing to evolve to my level. A month or two, Jack, that's all. This isn't good-bye, just so long."
"Annie! Get a hold of yourself! You can't --"
"I can't talk any longer, Jack, I have to hang up. It's a whole new life for me now, doing work that really matters. The only thing I miss is you. I hope you'll join me soon... I love you, Jack, I do still love you."
But the phone clicked loudly, and a moment later the dial tone was buzzing emptily in his ear.
Woodenly Weller hung up the receiver, forcing himself to think calmly, mechanically, logically. All his shouting, all his emotion, all his pleading had gotten him nowhere or worse than nowhere. I can't afford to kick and scream and throw things, he told himself. I've got to act. In order to be able to act, I've got to figure out what I can do.
The first step had to be to find Annie. Could the call be traced? No, not after she had hung up, and the phone company wouldn't do it for anyone but the police anyway. Is it time to call the cops?
Wait a minute!
"Benson Allen himself has assured me that we can be together again ..." she had said. Allen is the head of the Los Angeles Transformation Center. He'd damn well know where she was.
And I'll damn well get it out of him! Weller told himself. He felt the panic that he had been holding back receding, his artificial calm firming up into cold resolve. All I have to do is get it out of Allen. They can't seriously believe that they can get away with this kind of crap. All I have to do is call his bluff.
The Los Angeles Transformation Center was a small converted hotel in Hollywood, just south of Sunset Boulevard and just west of Cahuenga, not too far from several studios. A fading tan stucco building eight stories high with a dirty red- tiled roof; a brand of cheap hotel common to the area. In the Golden days of Hollywood it would have been in good repair and filled with bright, handsome young people slinging hash and waiting on tables while they tried to break into the movies. These days such places were inhabited by sleazy failed pornographers, down-at-the-heels hippies, homosexual hustlers, the flotsam and jetsam of seedy downtown Hollywood.
This was definitely not a location chosen to attract the elite, and from the outside the building had none of the tone and class of the Celebrity Center. A rather crudely lettered sign above the entrance was all that identified it as the "Los Angeles Transformation Center." And Weller had to park on the street, for the Center had no parking lot -- usually a sign of a second-rate operation in car-dependent Los Angeles.
Sleazo! Weller thought as he walked up the short flight of stairs and through the unlocked outer door.
He found himself in an open area that had been the hotel lobby. There were benches along three walls, the lime-green paint was beginning to peel and crack, and there was the inevitable giant photo of John B. Steinhardt hung high on the left-hand wall. There seemed to be no central air conditioning, for the lobby was hot and sticky. About a dozen people were sitting around the lobby -- mostly under forty, mostly tackily dressed, a lot of long hair and an unusual amount of bad skin for Southern California. Hollywood losers, Weller thought contemptuously.
A steel fence had been erected across the lobby, cordoning off the flight of stairs and the bank of two elevators that gave access to the rest of the building. Beside the only gate in the fence was a desk with a burly young man behind it, dressed in the informal Transformationalist uniform of white shirt and black pants and presiding over a clipboard, piles of Transformationalist literature, and a house telephone. Two other big bozos, similarly dressed, lurked by the elevators.
As far as Weller was concerned, the place reeked of sleaze and grease, but was not without an aura of tight security, which made him wonder whether it was really going to be so easy to bull his way through to Benson Allen. Certainly force was out of the question.
Weller approached the man behind the desk. He was about twenty-five, hawk-nosed, with short black hair, and a redneck-cop look around the eyes. "Yes, sir," he said with the cold politeness typical of the Los Angeles police. "May 1 help you?"
"I want to see Benson Allen," Weller said.
"Do you have an appointment?"
"Mr. Allen may be expecting me. My name is Jack Weller." The man behind the desk looked through some papers. "No," be said, "there's nothing here. If you'll tell me what it's in reference to, I'll direct you to the proper official. Mr. Allen sees no one without an appointment."
"My business is with Allen, it's a private matter," Weller said. "He'd better see me."
The Transformationalist frowned. Something cold, hard and threatening seemed to exude from his unwavering eyes. "That's a regressive attitude," he said.
"I don't care what kind of attitude it is," Weller said. "Allen had better see me, and he had better see me now. Use that phone and tell him I'm here."
"Transformationalism does not respond to threats," the man behind the desk said somewhat loudly. The men by the elevators came to alert.
"Let me put it this way, Charlie," Weller said. "I know that Allen will want to see me, and I know he's going to be pissed off at you if you don't tell him I'm here." He paused, picked up a certain wavering of the Transformationalist's assurance, and then, off the top of his head said: "And John isn't going to like it either." And gave the seated man a disdainful stare of his own.
Surprisingly the man almost immediately broke off eye contact, and his whole demeanor seemed to change. He picked up the phone. "Benson Allen," he said. Pause. "Benson? This is the desk, There's a Jack Weller to see you. He doesn't have an appointment, but --" Another pause. Then he hung up the phone and looked up at Weller with respect, submissiveness, perhaps even a little fear.
I wish I knew what I just did so I could do it again, Weller thought as the Transformationalist at the desk signaled to one of the men at the elevators.
"Karl, show Mr. Weller to Benson Allen's office." Karl opened the gate for Weller and closed it behind him like a hotel doorman.
Whatever I did, it sure worked, Weller thought as he was led to the elevator. He began to feel a little more on top of things. Instinct, so far, had served him well.
The elevator went all the way up to the eighth floor. Here the hallways were paneled in walnut, there was dark blue plush carpeting on the floor, and the light came from modern fixtures set flush in the ceiling. Executive country, for sure -- a sharp contrast to the peon region below.
His escort opened a door at the end of the hall and closed it behind him with a flourish as Weller stepped inside.
Benson Allen's office had a rich patina of Peter Max hippie elegance. The ceiling was tented with emerald velvet. A huge Persian rug covered most of the floor. There were two big corner windows. There were large op-art paintings, all psychedelic swirls and zigzags of primary colors, festooning the peach-colored walls. There were two low white plush couches and three leather beanbag chairs. Allen's desk was a kidney-shaped swirl of loud paisley patterns. It was all too much, too much like a set, too unreal.
The man behind the desk wore a fancy paisley velvet shirt and white pants. Allen had very carefully styled shoulder-length blond hair, and soft, warm puppy-dog eyes set in a beachboy face gone ever so slightly to fat. He looked about thirty-two -- a rich, aging flower child. It was hardly what Weller had expected.
"Sit down, man," Allen said in a casual, all-too-mellow voice. "I knew you had to make it here."
Hesitantly Weller perched uncomfortably on the edge of a beanbag chair in front of the desk. "I'll bet you did," he said. "Where is my wife?"
"Everything's cool, Jack." Allen said pleasantly. "She's at one of our residential dorms. She's fine. No need for hostile vibes."
"Then if you'll just give me her address, I'll leave."
Allen leaned back in his chair. He smiled softly. "You know that's not in the program," he said.
"Surely you must know you can't get away with this," Weller snapped. I'm her husband. I'll ... I'll go to the police. I'll sue you.... I'll ...."
Allen laughed, an infuriatingly mellow sound. "We're a very heavy outfit," he said. "Man, you think we haven't had to deal with this trip before? You think we don't have lawyers telling us what's cool? You think we would do this kind of thing if we didn't know it was legal? Try to sue us, try the police, if you want to run that program. No bad vibes in that. Your old lady is an adult, and she left of her own free will."
"I'll go to the newspapers," Weller said. "I'll go to the district attorney. I'll have your whole organization investigated." But his words sounded futile, even to him.
Benson Allen looked at him sadly, almost sympathetically. "Be real, man," he said. "You can't threaten us. We're too heavy. We're too powerful. We're legally righteous. If you can get into this life situation instead of running paranoia scenarios, then we can rap about what can really be done."
"All right," Weller said. "For the moment I'll let you do the talking."
"Groovy," Allen said. He reached into a drawer, took out two manila folders, and laid them down on the desk top. Leafing through one of them, he said, "Anne Weller has had five weeks of processing. Her psychomap shows blockages in creative commitment and career satisfaction, which externally translates into dissatisfaction with an acting career that hasn't made it and probably wouldn't result in eptifying her consciousness even if it did." He put down the folder and smiled at Weller. "Good news for you, Jack." he said.
Weller looked at him blankly.
"Nothing in here about blocking on you, man," Allen said. "Most of these kind of cases show heavy marital dysfunction. But according to the psychomap a fully transformed and eptified Anne would still love you. The relationship would not dissolve. Other things being equal."
"So what the hell is all this about?" Weller said. "If that's what you believe in your vast wisdom, why won't you tell me where she is?"
Allen began leafing through the other folder. "Because according to your file --"
"My file?" Weller shouted. "You've got a goddamn dossier on me?"
"For sure," Allen said mildly. "We always start one when somebody signs up at the Celebrity Center. And of course we've added the data we've gotten from your wife's processing. We have to be into our members external environment if we're going to epitify their lives, don't we?"
"Of all the --"
"Now dig it," Allen said. more loudly, overriding Weller without cracking his facade of sympathetic cool. "Your file show's that you're a heavy regressive influence on Anne. You've got a very negative attitude toward Transformationalism which you've been laying on her. Your head is full of blocks. You've got a low career-satisfaction index, so we can predict that you would get down on her if her satisfaction index started to go up. And of course this factor comes down very heavily on the evolving state of her Transformational consciousness. In your present state it just bums you out. The relationship could only stabilize if you dragged her back down to your level."
Allen paused, leaned forward, gave Weller a warm, concerned look. "Or," he said, "if we brought you up to her level."
"Which brings us back to square one," Weller said.
"We never left it," Allen said. "You can dig that our first concern must be for Annie, our current member. We can't let you bring her down to your regressive level of consciousness. But we also care about you." Again he fingered Weller's dossier, probably for sheer effect.
"Jack, you've got heavy problems," he said. "Can't you see that? Your work is bumming you out, you can't find a way to change your karma, and you probably couldn't dig it even if you did. Game it through, man: what if your problem isn't with your luck but with your head?"
"Get behind why you're afraid to try Transformational processing," Allen said. "Your blocked personality is what's afraid because it doesn't want to be transformed into something else, it's afraid of dying in a way. Man, it's the most common syndrome there is; your kind of hostility to processing almost always turns out to be a badly blocked personality matrix fighting to keep control of your head."
"What a crock of shit!" Weller said. "Because I don't want you people messing around with my mind, I'm crazy?"
"No," Allen said, "because you're crazy, you don't want us to process your mind. I mean, look at your scenario. You want to get back together with your wife. Now the only way that is going to happen is for you to agree to processing. Run whatever number you want, you're gonna find that out. So you've got everything to gain and nothing to lose, but you still fight it. Now is that really having your head on straight?"
"Nothing to lose? What about a little thing like money?" But that rang falsely to Weller even as he said it. I wouldn't spend a few hundred dollars to get Annie back? Can I kid myself that that's really the reason?
"Okay, man, if that's your cop out, I'm going to take it away from you," Allen said. ''I'll show you that you're your only enemy, in this scenario. I'll authorize a free introductory lesson and demonstration for you. It usually costs fifteen dollars, but you can be my guest."
Weller felt as if he were slogging through glue. Threats had proven useless, and now Allen was working on him, being so totally helpful, benign, and sympathetic that there was no way of coming on hostile without feeling like a nerd and an ingrate. But in the process he was not only closing off every possibility save his agreeing to be processed, but rolling out the red carpet to Room 101. Why don't I just play it their way? he asked himself. If it's not going to cost me any money, what's really stopping me?
He studied Allen's benign, assured, puppy-dog face, and he had the sudden urge to smash it with his fist. This son of a bitch thinks he has me trapped, he thought. He's sure he's in control. And that, Weller realized, was why he couldn't agree to processing. If Allen were able to dictate this first step, that was frightening. Weller finally had to admit that he was afraid of being processed by Transformationalism. Annie, after all, was an intelligent, perceptive, reasonably together person, and look what had happened to her once they got their hooks in. And that business about how he felt about his career had cut too close to the bone, had given him a taste of his own potential vulnerability.
"Well, what do you say?" Allen said. "You've got nothing to lose.
"The first shot is free, kid, is that it? The price only starts to go up once you're hooked."
Allen sighed. "That's really lame," he said.
"Is it?" Weller snarled.
"You really are resistant, Jack," Allen said, perhaps with a hint of petulance.
"You bet your ass I am!" Weller said. "In fact, that's exactly what you're betting. We'll see what the police really have to say about this! And the district attorney, too. How do I know you didn't really kidnap her? How do I know you didn't have a gun to her head when she called me?"
"Oh wow," Allen said, with a disdainful little laugh.
"Oh yeah?" Weller said. "Seems to me if I made such a charge, they'd at least have to investigate, and then they'd have to question Annie, and if you didn't produce her then, you'd be obstructing justice." It began to sound plausible to Weller himself.
"Oh man," Allen said softly, ·you've got to run it all the way up that blind alley, don't you? Maybe you'd feel better if you went ahead and gave it a try."
"Don't think I won't!"
"I can see you will," Allen said benignly. "That's cool. Maybe it's for the best. Just remember that there won't be any hard feelings. My offer will still be there when you're ready to take it. We want to straighten you out, Jack, and we will. We will."
Weller stood up. "Your last chance, Allen," he said, "If I walk out of here now, I go straight to the police."
Allen just smiled, opened his arms, and shrugged.
"Good-bye, Mr. Allen," Weller snarled, heading for the door.
"Not good-bye, Jack," Allen said. "Just ... later."
Steaming with rage and frustration, Weller slammed the phone receiver back onto its cradle. The police had given him the politely sympathetic stone wall, and now the district attorney's office had in effect told him to get lost. When it had come down to it, Weller bad been morally and psychically incapable of feeding either the police or the district attorney's office a cock-and-bull story about a kidnapping. It had sounded all very well as a threat in Benson Allen's office, but when he got the cool, authoritative desk sergeant on the phone, he found himself telling that impersonal voice the unvarnished truth. The thought of inflaming the Los Angeles police with a phony kidnapping charge was more than he could contemplate in a real-life situation.
"When did you last see your wife?"
"Did she give any indication that she was being held against her will?"
"No, but I have reason to believe she's been brainwashed...."
"Look, Mr. Weller, to tell you the truth, we get lots of calls like this these days. Not just about Transformationalism, either. Est, the Jesus Freaks, the Moonies, people get involved with them, and their wives or their husbands or their parents don't like it, so they call us. If you're talking about an underage minor, sometimes we can do something, consider them a runaway and at least try to track them down. But when it's an adult, it's just not our business. No crime has been committed. You don't have any evidence of a crime being committed, do you? Mail fraud? False advertising? Anything?"
"No, but --"
"Well then, I can't help you. I'm sorry."
"But this whole Transformationalist racket --"
"If you think you've got a consumer-fraud case against them, you can try the DA. Okay?"
Weller had hung up, feeling, in a curious way, as he had in Benson Allen's office. The police too had a procedure for cutting off your avenues of possibility, for forcing you to accept their interpretation of the situation, for controlling your possible responses. Any bureaucracy interfaced with the individual on its own terms, and there didn't seem to be any way to get it to accept your viewpoint on reality.
So he had tried the district attorney's office, and what he had gotten there was even worse. Yes, we have had many complaints of this sort against Transformationalism. Yes, we have looked into their operation. Three times in the last five years. No, we have never uncovered grounds for prosecution. No, we won't start another investigation. Why? Because we've already wasted tens of thousands of dollars of the taxpayers money investigating Transformationalism. Because getting involved in another investigation would be a political liability, Mr. Weller. Because we have no evidence of any illegal activity, and neither do you. Good-bye, Mr. Weller.
It seemed to Weller that there had been something else going on too, some strange undertone of uneasiness in the voice of the assistant DA, as if he were slightly afraid to even talk about the case, as if the line he was handing Weller had been the Word passed down from on high. Could Transformationalism have political connections at City Hall?
Well, maybe that's an angle to try, Weller thought, dialing the number of Johnny Blaisdell, a press agent he had had some dealings with. I've done Johnny a few favors, maybe he can do me one.
He got Blaisdell on the line, and laid out the whole story. Johnny started out interjecting questions, making little comments, like his usual bouncy self, but before Weller was more than half through, he was talking to dead silence on the other end of the line.
"So what do you want me to do, Jack?" Blaisdell asked dubiously when Weller had finished.
"Call up some of your press contacts. Have someone from the Times come and get my story. Maybe instigate a little good old-fashioned muckraking reporting."
"Oy," Blaisdell said, "I love you like a brother, Jack, but you don't know what you're asking. Better you should ask me to plant some gossip-column items on the sex lives of Mafia dons."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means," Blaisdell said, "that presswise Transformationalism is poison. Let a line about them appear in print, and they sue -- the paper, the writer, the writer's doctor's dog. It doesn't even matter if you can prove what you're saying, they just nibble you to death with court costs on nuisance suits. There isn't reporter in town who will go near them."
In the mid 1970s, the IRS hired a clerk-typist named Gerald Bennett Wolfe. What they didn't know was that he was a Scientology plant — code name "Silver.''
He broke into an attorney's office at IRS headquarters in Washington and copied government documents for months, with help from the Guardian's Office, the church's secretive intelligence arm.
The IRS had revoked Scientology's tax exemption some 10 years earlier, saying it was a commercial enterprise. Scientology fought back, withholding tax payments, unleashing its lawyers and using Silver to infiltrate the agency.
But his undercover mission backfired. On July 8, 1977, the FBI raided Scientology headquarters in Washington and L.A., seizing burglary tools, surveillance equipment and 48,000 documents.
In October 1979, Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue, who directed the Guardian's Office, and 10 other Scientologists were convicted on charges of conspiring to steal government documents or obstruct justice. Her husband, named an unindicted co-conspirator, went into seclusion at his ranch near La Quinta, Calif.
By the late 1980s, the battle with the IRS had quieted from the wild days of break-ins and indictments. But Miscavige was no less intent on getting back the church's tax exemption, which he thought would legitimize Scientology.
The new strategy, according to Rathbun: Overwhelm the IRS. Force mistakes.
The church filed about 200 lawsuits against the IRS, seeking documents to prove IRS harassment and challenging the agency's refusal to grant tax exemptions to church entities.
Some 2,300 individual Scientologists also sued the agency, demanding tax deductions for their contributions.
"Before you knew it, these simple little cookie-cutter suits … became full-blown legal cases," Rathbun said.
Washington-based attorney William C. Walsh, who is now helping the church rebut the defectors claims, shepherded many of those cases. "We wanted to get to the bottom of what we felt was discrimination,'' he said. "And we got a lot of documents, evidence that proved it.''
"It's fair to say that when we started, there was a lot of distrust on both sides and suspicion,'' Walsh said. "We had to dispel that and prove who we were and what kind of people we were.''
Yingling teamed with Walsh, Miscavige and Rathbun on the case. She said the IRS investigation of Miscavige resulted in a file thicker than the FBI's file on Dr. Martin Luther King. "I mean it was insane,'' she said.
The church ratcheted up the pressure with a relentless campaign against the IRS.
Armed with IRS records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Scientology's magazine, Freedom, featured stories on alleged IRS abuses: lavish retreats on the taxpayers' dime; setting quotas on audits of individual Scientologists; targeting small businesses for audits while politically connected corporations were overlooked.
Scientologists distributed the magazine on the front steps of the IRS building in Washington.
A group called the National Coalition of IRS Whistleblowers waged its own campaign. Unbeknownst to many, it was quietly created and financed by Scientology.
It was a grinding war, with Scientology willing to spend whatever it took to best the federal agency. "I didn't even think about money,'' Rathbun said. "We did whatever we needed to do.''
They also knew the other side was hurting. A memo obtained by the church said the Scientology lawsuits had tapped the IRS's litigation budget before the year was up.
The church used other documents it got from the IRS against the agency.
In one, the Department of Justice scolded the IRS for taking indefensible positions in court cases against Scientology. The department said it feared being "sucked down" with the IRS and tarnished.
Another memo documented a conference of 20 IRS officials in the 1970s. They were trying to figure out how to respond to a judge's ruling that Scientology met the agency's definition of a religion. The IRS' solution? They talked about changing the definition.
Rathbun calls it the "Final Solution" conference, a meeting that demonstrated the IRS bias against Scientology. "We used that (memo) I don't know how many times on them," he said.
By 1991, Miscavige had grown impatient with the legal tussle. He was confident he could personally persuade the IRS to bend. That October, he and Rathbun walked into IRS headquarters in Washington and asked to meet with IRS Commissioner Fred Goldberg. They had no appointment.
Goldberg, who did not respond to interview requests for this story, did not see them that day, but he met with them a week later.
Rathbun says that contrary to rumor, no bribes were paid, no extortion used. It was round-the-clock preparation and persistence — plus thousands of lawsuits, hard-hitting magazine articles and full-page ads in USA Today criticizing the IRS.
"That was enough," Rathbun said. "You didn't need blackmail."
He and Miscavige prepped incessantly for their meeting. "I'm sitting there with three banker's boxes of documents. He (Miscavige) has this 20-page speech to deliver to these guys. And for every sentence, I've got two folders'' of backup.
Miscavige presented the argument that Scientology is a bona fide religion — then offered an olive branch.
Rathbun recalls the gist of the leader's words to the IRS:
Look, we can just turn this off. This isn't the purpose of the church. We're just trying to defend ourselves. And this is the way we defend. We aggressively defend. If we can sit down and actually deal with the merits, get to what we feel we are actually entitled to, this all could be gone.
The two sides took a break.
Rathbun remembered: "Out in the hallway, Goldberg comes up to me because he sees I'm the right-hand guy. He goes: 'Does he mean it? We can really turn it off?'''
"And I said,'' turning his hand for effect, " 'Like a faucet.'''
The two sides started talks. Yingling said she warned church leaders to steel themselves, counseling that they answer every question, no matter how offensive.
Agents asked some doozies: about LSD initiation rituals, whether members were shot when they got out of line and about training terrorists in Mexico. "We answered everything,'' Yingling said, crediting Miscavige for insisting the church be open, honest and cooperative.
The back and forth lasted two years and resulted in this agreement: The church paid $12.5 million. The IRS dropped its criminal investigations. All pending cases were dropped.
On Oct. 8, 1993, some 10,000 church members gathered in the Los Angeles Sports Arena to celebrate the leader's announcement: The IRS had restored the church's tax exemption, legitimizing Scientology as a church, not a for-profit operation.
"The war is over," Miscavige told the crowd. "This means everything.''-- Scientology: The Truth Rundown, by Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin
"You're kidding," Weller said. "You've got to be kidding."
"Har-har," Blaisdell said in a sepulchral voice.
"You can try...."
"Yeah, I can try," Blaisdell said. "But don't expect me to succeed. Like they say, don't call me, I'll call you. And Jack --?"
"Be careful, man, be really careful," Blaisdell said, and hung up.
Weller collapsed onto the couch. That son of a bitch Allen was right, he thought. The police won't help, the district attorney won't do anything, and even the press won't go after them. He felt small, powerless, and isolated -- one man going up against a huge monolith of an organization without a friend or ally. Without even Annie to back him up.
But the other side of that sense of impotence was frustrated rage, and he flipped back into it almost immediately. Fuck you, Transformationalism! he thought. Fuck you, Benson Allen! Fuck you, John B. Steinhardt! You're not going to do this to me, not to Jack Weller, you don't!
He picked up the phone. There was still one more thing to try -- Wally Bruner, his lawyer. Wally was a sharp guy; maybe be could come up with a legal angle.
"Wally? Jack Weller. Look, I feel like I've told this story a million times already, so pardon me if I give it to you as quickly as possible."
"Shoot, Jack," Bruner said crisply. "You really sound upset."
"I am. To make it short, Annie has gotten involved with Transformationalism. They've got her brainwashed. They ordered her to leave me if I wouldn't join the club, and she did. I don't know where she is, I have no way of contacting her, they won't tell me, and the police and the district attorney have told me to get lost. What the hell do I do?"
There was a long silence on the other end of the line; Weller could all but hear the gears grinding in Wally's head. He'll think of something, he's got to.
"Well," Bruner finally said, "if the police won't get involved and the DA won't get involved, charges against Transformationalism are a legal dead end."
"There's nothing I can do?" Weller asked plaintively.
"I didn't say that, Jack. There is one thing we can try, but I warn you, it's heavy."
"What could be heavier than what's already going on?" Weller said. "Let me have it."
"Speaking as your lawyer," Bruner said, ''I'd advise you to file divorce proceedings against Annie on the grounds of abandonment."
"What?" Weller shouted. "That's crazy? I'm trying to get her back, and you tell me to divorce her?"
''I'm talking as your lawyer," Bruner said. "If you filed against Annie, sooner or later she'd have to appear in court or let the divorce go through uncontested. It's the only way I know of to force her to contact you."
"And then what?" Weller snapped. "I drag her into court against her will, and that's supposed to convince her to come home? That's crazy, Wally. She probably wouldn't even show up. And what would I have then -- a divorce I didn't want."
"I can only give you legal advice, Jack," Bruner said. ''I'm a lawyer, not a shrink."
Weller found himself folding up inside. He wanted to scream and run around the house breaking things. He wanted to go after Benson Allen with a sawed-off shotgun. He wanted to cry. And he knew that all of those impulses were just hallmarks of stupid, trapped, impotent frustration.
"Oh shit, Wally," he whispered, half sobbing, into the phone. Oh shit..."
There was dead silence on the other end of the line. Had his own lawyer hung up on him too? "Wally?" he demanded. "Wally?"
"Huh .... ? Oh sorry, Jack, I was thinking, trying to remember a name.... Bailor, yeah, that's it. Garry Bailor!"
Bruner's rising voice was a life preserver in a hopeless sea. "Who's Garry Bailor?" Weller asked hopefully. "What can he do?"
''I'm not sure what he can do," Brunner said, "but he is an expert in these matters, a deprogrammer, he calls himself. He works mostly with patients of kids who have been gobbled up by the Moonies or the Jesus Freaks, I think, puts their heads back together, so to speak. But I think he may have done some work with refugees from Transformationalism too. "
Weller rose off the couch on a wave of hope. Good Lord, he thought, there's an expert in fighting these bastards! A hired gun! Who would've thought it?
"That's beautiful, Wally," he said. "I love you. Can you set up a meeting?"
"I should warn you that this guy is no philanthropist. He'll cost you. It'll cost you a hundred bucks just to talk to him."
"Screw that," Weller said. "Can you arrange a meeting for tonight?"
"I think so," Bruner said. "You don't mind if I'm not there?"
"Huh? I guess not. But why --?"
"Let's just say that Bailor's operations walk a very thin legal line," Bruner said. "In fact, let's say that he walks both sides of it. As a lawyer there are certain things it's better for me not to know about. If that doesn't scare you off .....
"Hell, no!" Weller said. Bailor sounded like just what the situation called for, and as far as Weller was concerned, the dirtier he played the better. "Do it, Wally," he said, realizing that he was committed to going all the way, and feeling better about himself for it than he had all day. If there were anything that one man could do, he was going to do it, and to hell with legal niceties. Benson Allen, watch your ass!
The address that Bruner gave Weller for Garry Bailor turned out to be a seedy-looking apartment house in southeast Hollywood -- three stories of motel-like apartments around a grim looking concrete central court. According to directions, Weller arrived promptly at eight o'clock and rang the bell marked "Larry Jonas." He was buzzed into the building, climbed two flights of stairs, and knocked three times at the door to apartment 3C, feeling a bit dubious about all this hugger-mugger.
A wiry man in his late thirties answered the door. A thin, angular face, suspicious eyes like hooded ball bearings, and a strange, anachronistic military haircut, almost a crew, straight out of the 1950s. Again following Wally's bizarre instructions, Weller handed him a check for one hundred dollars and said, "I'm Jack Weller."
"Garry Bailor," the man said, pocketing the check. "Come on in."
Weller followed Bailor into a small living room furnished in standard Southern-California motel modern. There was no television set, no radio, and the only thing on the wall was an awful floral painting that obviously came with the apartment. No personal touches at all; the place looked totally unlived in.
"Sit down," Bailor said. "Have a beer. Included in the price."
Weller sat down on the slablike couch as Bailor disappeared into the kitchen and came back with two open cans of Coors. He handed Weller one can, took a swallow from the other, and sat down on the couch beside him.
"Okay, Mr. Weller," he said. "What's the mission?"
Weller was beginning to feel this was a mistake -- the phony name on the bell, the tacky apartment, the cans of beer, it all added up to a total effect that did not exactly inspire his confidence. "Do you ... uh, live here, Mr. Bailor?" he blurted.
"Hell, no, I don't live in this shithole," Bailor said. "But in my business you don't want clients or anyone else to know where you live. It's smart to keep your personal life in another drawer, so to speak. You can't help making enemies in this business, you know."
"Just what is your business?" Weller asked. "Wally didn't make that too clear.... "
''I'm a deprogrammer," Bailor said. "You won't find me in the Yellow Pages. There are a lot of people these days making money by programming people's minds. I make mine by eradicating that programming to order. The culties brainwash, and I debrainwash, you might say. It keeps the money in circulation."
Weller found Bailor's up-front mercenary attitude disquieting. It did not exactly inspire trust. "Uh ... what about your qualifications?" he asked. "Are you a trained psychiatrist?"
Bailor laughed contemptuously. ''There isn't a shrink in the country who can do what I do," he said. "Try to find one! My qualifications? My training? My man, reality was my training. I've been through them all. I've been a Scientology auditor, I've worked fur Esalon and Arica and EST, I've flunkied for all the scams. Each time I thought I was going to make my fortune, and each time I found out that the organization was making the real money and the lower-level people like myself were only marks of a slightly higher quality. So I found myself broke and with experience and training in the various mindfuck games. It was either this or set myself up in my own cult, which seems like an overcrowded field. There are too many outfits in the programming racket, but deprogramming is a sellers' market, in case you haven't noticed."
''That all sounds pretty cold-blooded ... ," Weller said.
"It's a cold-blooded business," Bailor said. He shrugged. His expression softened slightly; he seemed almost embarrassed. "Of course, there is another side to it." he said. "As a deprogrammer I sleep better at night knowing that I'm freeing people's minds instead of enslaving them. They take your bread, and you're hooked, I take your bread, do a job, and get out of your life. And the money is good enough so that I can do my untroubled sleeping between silk sheets. But you're not paying your money to hear my life justifications, Mr. Weller. What about your problem?"
Weller found Bailor's stark candor somehow a little more reassuring, though there was still a certain cynical edge to the scene that made him nervous. "Wally probably told you something about it," he began.
"Yeah," Bailor said. "Your wife got programmed by Transformationalism. What I gather, she got a life directive to leave you, and she split. Pretty standard stuff."
"Standard stuff?" Weller said.
"You think not?" Bailor said. "The Jesus Freaks, the Moonies, Scientology, Transformationalism, Nichiren Shoshu, they all run some variation on this 'life-directive' number. Hell, the Communist Party was doing it in the thirties. So relax, you're not alone; it isn't all a plot concocted specifically against you."
'"You've been successful in this kind of situation before?" Weller asked hopefully. "With Transformationalism?"
"A few times," Bailor said. "A lot easier with minors, my main business. There you can just have the parents snatch them, and then I kind of get inside the programming and destroy it from within. I mean, you name the cult, I know as much about it as the people working the scam."
Weller took a big slug of beer, feeling much better now. "So you think you can deprogram Annie?"
"I can deprogram anyone," Bailor said flatly. "Kids are a snap because you've got them in parental custody. With an adult it's trickier because holding them against their will is kidnapping. So we have several possible approaches in your case. I can pose as a friend and begin the deprogramming on the sly, or you could have your wife declared mentally incompetent and hold her that way, or if none of that works, I might be willing to risk the kidnapping charge and deprogram your wife against her will, trusting that she'll thank me later. For a substantial extra fee, of course."
I'd risk that if I had to, Weller thought. He felt quite confident now. This guy really seemed to know his stuff, his self- confidence was impressive, and the fact that he seemed cynical and hard as nails about it might be repulsive but also seemed like the kind of strength that was needed for the task.
"Okay, Mr. Bailor," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, you've sold me. You're hired. What do we do now?"
Bailor seemed to measure him with his eyes. "There's the mailer of my fee ..." he said.
Bailor looked at Weller speculatively over the top of his beer can. "Sounds like this is going to take a couple of weeks," he said. "Three grand for the complete deprogramming, fifteen hundred up front and fifteen hundred on successful completion."
"Jesus," Weller said, "that's a lot of money."
"So is what Transformationalism sucks out of its victims," Bailor said. "Someone who's really sucked in can be shelling out a grand a month to them. Besides, I'm in a high-risk business."
"You're really serious?"
"I can't afford not to be."
Weller sipped at his beer and thought about it. Bailor was the only hope he had, and he seemed like a total pro: cold, hard, confident, and competent. He didn't have much more than fifteen hundred in the bank, but he was making two thousand a month. It would be tight, but what was the alternative? It's like being hospitalized for a major illness, he told himself. You can't afford to do it, but you can't afford not to.
"All right," he said. ''You win. Three thousand it is. Now what?"
"Well, I'd go with the old-friend technique before we get into anything heavier. So what you do is invite me --"
A chill burst through Weller's balloon. "Didn't Wally tell you?" he said.
''Tell me what?"
"That Annie left me. That I don't know how to get in touch with her."
Bailor whistled, shook his head, and said, "Uh-oh. Bruner told me she had left you but not that they were holding her incommunicado. This does make life difficult."
"Oh shit," Weller said. "I thought you'd know how to handle it ..."
"I didn't say I couldn't," Bailor said. He took a drink of beer, contemplated the ceiling, then looked at Weller. ''This isn't standard," he said. "Transformationalism usually likes to keep a channel open so they can use the one they've got to rope in the frantic spouse. Pleading phone calls, tearful visits, the whole bit."
''They've told me that Annie can't communicate with me till I've been processed to her level," Weller told him.
Bailor frowned. "Heavy," he said. 'That's a new one on me. Hmmm ... how did you say your wife first came into contact with Transformationalism?"
"At their Celebrity Center in Beverly Hills."
"Ah!" Bailor said. ''This going after the elite is a new twist; none of the other cults have tried it yet. So it looks like you're getting special treatment. The chain-letter technique among you media types. Hook Jack Weller's wife, use her to convert Jack Weller, use Jack Weller to convert his producer, build up an ever-widening network in the media. So each link in the chain has personal importance to them, no mass-marketing techniques on this one! A lot like the way the Communists operated in the thirties...."
"Jesus," Weller whispered. "But ... but what do we do?"
Bailor put his feet up on the coffee table, finished his beer, put it down. ''They've called the game," he said. "You've got to go along with them, let them process you long enough for you to play a true convert credibly. Long enough so they'll let Annie get in touch with you. At which point I can take over."
A sour bubble of beer burst in the back of Weller's throat. Jesus Christ, he thought, back to square one again! But now, sitting in the tacky living room with his last possible hope, the narrowness of his choice was finally sinking in. Either I give up and admit that there's nothing I can do to stop these bastards from taking my wife away from me, or I play Bailor's game with them. Either I let them get away with it, or I fight them. Fuck it! he thought. So I blow another few hundred bucks -- it's gonna cost me three grand anyway -- and let the assholes run their stupid numbers on me. I should be a good enough actor to pull it off. What am I afraid of? What choice do I really have?
"Okay," he said. "If that's the way we have to play it, that's the way we have to play it."
Bailor eyed him narrowly. "Look," be said, "you'd better understand what you're getting into. These people aren't stupid, and they're going to know exactly where you're coming from. They're going to know why you're doing it, they won't believe in any instant change of heart. They're going to use all sorts of techniques on you, and they know what they're doing. They're going to know you're resisting and they're going to know you're trying to con them into believing that you're becoming a true convert against your will. You've got to convince them that they're converting you without actually being converted while they do their damndest to make it real. It's a heavy game you're getting into."
"I am a director, after all," Weller said. "I do know how to handle actors, which means I've got to know a few things about acting myself." Then, much more uncertainly: "You don't think I can handle it?"
Bailor thought about it for long moments. "Maybe you can," he finally said. "You being experienced in the acting game. And of course, you'll have a session every week with me. You tell me what numbers they're running, and I feed you the proper responses for a true convert. And, hopefully, erase any programming that might be taking hold in your mind."
He grinned at Weller. "You might say I'll be your director," he said. "That should be interesting."
Weller smiled wanly. "Ready when you are, C. B." he said.
"Uh ... now the matter of money...."
"I thought we had settled that," Weller said.
"That was before I found out we had to get to your wife before I could do my stuff," Bailor said. "Now there's more of my time involved ..."
"Don't you have any heart?" Weller snapped. "Are you a total mercenary?"
Bailor laughed. "Not a total mercenary," he said. "But I'm not in this racket for my health, either, believe me! Tell you what, though. You give me the fifteen hundred up front, and then you pay me a hundred a week until we get to Annie, and for that, you have my unlimited services. Could be worse, right? Cheaper than a shrink ..."
"I guess so," Weller admitted. He was depressed by the growing hole forming in his pocket, by the way Bailor rubbed his nose in the fact that he was hiring a money-grubbing professional, not a committed ally. But there was also a certain elation in the sense of dedication that came from the total commitment of whatever resources he had. At least I'm fucking well going to do something! he thought. He felt a strange new sense of vitality, almost as if he were getting the chance to direct that forever illusive first feature. How, he wondered, could such a good feeling come out of such rotten circumstances?
"When do we start?" he asked.
"You might as well call them now and set it up," Bailor said. "Then I'll brief you on how to handle your first session." He studied Weller, and for the first time Weller sensed a certain unpaid human concern. "You're sure you want to go through with this?" Bailor said. "You're sure your marriage is worth this much to you?"
Weller sighed. He took a slug of beer. "Yeah," he said. "I mean, how could I live with myself if I didn't? And to tell the truth, the fact that it scares me only makes me want to do it more. I mean. the fact that these bastards can do what they've done and then even have me thinking that maybe they're too heavy to fight ... That really makes my blood boil. You know what 1 mean?"
"Who could know better?" Bailor said dryly. "Believe me, Jack, I understand where you're coming from a lot better than you do."
"Yeah, maybe you do," Weller said. He paused, hesitated, then went to the phone and dialed the number of the Los Angeles Transformation Center.