This is a truly memorable tale about Governor J. Fife Symington III and his dearest friend in government, the voluptuous Miss Annette Alvarez.

It's bizarre, loony, absurd-even silly. It's also quite zany.
Up to now, we've thought about Symington and Alvarez only in terms of romance. This latest tale adds a touch of the Marx Brothers, the Pink Panther and Alfred Hitchcock to the story of the Symington administration.

We should be forever thankful to them. They have given us a vision of romance, comedy and melodrama all wrapped into one package.

The Scene: Nosh-A-Rye deli is a dingy little eatery in a shopping center at 40th Street and Camelback. The specialties of the house would appear to be bagels and lox, chicken-fried steak and a product known as Dr. Brown's Cream Soda.

The deli is located in the same shopping center as an Italian restaurant called Chianti Ristorante, which has known better days, a Baskin-Robbins store and Reay's Market, where yuppies buy the health food and facial moisturizers they hope will keep them looking forever young and vibrant.

In Nosh-A-Rye, there are a dozen booths set along two walls. The booths are covered in dark-brown plastic. The walls are decorated with forgettable prints.

You can get a breakfast of lox with bagel and cream cheese for $2.95, and it will come served on a dishwasher-safe plate with silverware bent and bruised from overuse.

There's a sign over the cash register warning that bounced checks will result in a $10 service charge.

There are two things you would never expect to occur in Nosh-A-Rye. First, it's not the place in which a restaurant critic would arrive incognito to review the food and check out the ambiance.

Second, it's not the location for a trench-coated John le Carre melodrama to unfold.

But thanks to Symington and Alvarez, espionage activities are precisely the activities that came to light in Nosh-A-Rye last week.

So this, believe it or not, is a tale about spies busily at work in Symington's employ.

And once again, the focus is on that mysterious and always inscrutable femme fatale Annette Alvarez.

Until recently employed by Symington as a $60,000-a-year specialist in international affairs, Alvarez does a cameo this time as a daring undercover agent.

In her maiden voyage in this capacity, Alvarez spied not only on one of Symington's former business partners but on two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well.

The target of Alvarez's sleuthing was Jerome Hirsch, Symington's former partner in the multimillion-dollar Esplanade project. Hirsch was being interviewed by the FBI agents in the rear booth of Nosh-A-Rye at the time.

The reason for Symington's interest in the outcome of such a meeting stems from the fact that the FBI has said that it is investigating the possibility of a criminal action against Symington stemming from his Esplanade deal.

Hirsch, who is best known as the owner of Rawhide, once owned the plot of land at 24th Street and Camelback before becoming Symington's partner in the Esplanade. He has always been a wild card in the equation. If anyone can upset Symington's alibi, it is Hirsch.

Reporters have been eager to talk to Hirsch for months about his dealings with Symington. He has always refused. All that anyone has known is that Hirsch had written a letter highly critical of Symington's role in the Esplanade.

It is also known that he has told close friends that he is angry at himself for ever getting involved with Symington. For Hirsch, known as a shrewd operator, he feels mortified because he allowed Symington to con him.

The first reporter who actually sat down and talked with Hirsch now appears to be John Dougherty of the Mesa Tribune. The two met two weeks ago in Nosh-A-Rye. And this meeting was also spied upon by one of Symington's minions.

Here's how Hirsch describes what happened to him last week over the two-day period while breakfasting at Nosh-A-Rye.

Preface this with the understanding that Hirsch apparently trusts no one. His written statement was delivered to the Tribune, which covered the story, and also to the Arizona Republic, which did not. The Republic printed a story that was based only on Hirsch's letter.

But no matter. The letter is marvelous and good enough to stand on its own.
Even with the advantage of its reporting and superior knowledge of the incident, the Tribune somehow saw fit to print the letter in agate type so that it became virtually unreadable.

The Republic didn't even use the letter.
Helping Hirsch to write this statement were his lawyers, Paul Meyer and a former state attorney general, Jack LaSota. As you can see, Symington has finally met up with an adversary who knows how to play the expensive lawyer game just as well as he does.

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Tom Fitzpatrick