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  • James Sargent

A Writer's Take

Thoughts from the author on The Frightened Physicists



TMay 24, 2022

Mickey Mathews originally met Frank Tuttle, a major completing his 30th year with the US Army, in Honolulu in the spring of 1941. The two became best friends during an adventure later written into the novel The Final Secret by Mathews. An investigative writer who grew up in Flint, Michigan, Mickey finished his college education as well as his famed football and baseball career in the Class of ‘33 at Michigan State Normal College, today’s Eastern Michigan.

As the years passed, Mickey continued to produce articles and novels based on his research and adventures. In the summer of 1945, he helped his best friend Frank solve a missing persons case in Buffalo, New York. Frank, prevailed upon by a woman he loved in 1939, and Mickey traveled by train from Washington, DC, to help Carol and her best friend ?. Both were married to troubled physicists who were reported to have stolen atomic secrets in Los Alamos. With Russian agents in the background, the tale became a new Mickey Mathews mystery.

This section appeared The Frightened Physicists, chapter 2:

Frank took a look at Mickey, hoping he would understand. “At the time, we couldn’t talk about the affair. If General Marshall had learned about us, she might have been shuffled off to some military base. I figured my time in Washington was limited. Sure enough, I got transferred to Pearl on the first of October in ‘39. I had to leave the next day. I told her goodbye the night before … That was it.”

Frank glanced at Mickey. “I won’t pretend I didn’t think about her once in a while. She was the sort of the dream girl every guy has in the back of his mind. But I was in the Army. You go where they say. I met Norma Jean when I was sent to Ypsi in ‘42. I haven’t thought about Carol since then. But when she called last night … Well, I just couldn’t say no.”

The DC-3 flew steadily toward Washington, bouncing occasionally in an air pocket. The two friends fell silent, both thinking about the mission ahead. The roar of the engines changed, jumping a notch as the silver aircraft descended below the cloud cover. In the front of the cabin, Betsy was joking with another blue-uniformed blonde who looked like she got makeup tips from her friend with the rouged face. Frank closed his eyes. He didn’t like flying, and the landing was less than an hour away.

After some time he continued: “You remember Bill Thorpe from Pearl Harbor?”

When Mickey nodded, Frank added, “Thorpe got promoted to the War Department on June 1, 1945, right after he turned thirty-eight. Bill’s a major, the last rank I held. He told me a while back if I came to town, we should meet for drinks. He recommends the Mayflower.”

“Sounds all right to me. Does Thorpe know Carol?”

“Sure … And I believe Bill knew her husband, too. I never met George Jensen myself. I figure Bill can give us a feel for the situation. If Jensen’s in trouble over stolen secrets, or whatever, I’ll try to help Carol, but I’m not protecting any spy.”

Mickey nodded. He glanced out the window as the DC-3 banked into a turn. He heard clunks as the plane’s wheels were lowered. Below the wing he could see the National Airport in the distance. He thought, This affair of the frightened physicist is gonna be dangerous.




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