Marguerite hoped to put Harding scandal behind her.
She moved into an apartment in midtown Manhattan with her son, Tommy, now twenty-two, and resumed her lectures and writing. She told herself that this time, she would settle down for good. Her family was wary. “I do not know that I will ever unravel the mysteries connected with her because I never ask questions,” Ames wrote to Herter in the Commerce Department. To Dewitt Poole, Ames wrote: “I have no idea as to Mrs. Harrison’s plans, but if I ever learn the truth about her experiences and her projects, I will let you know.”
Marguerite wrote about her Asian adventures in a book, “Red Bear, or Yellow Dragon.” She resumed giving lectures on world events. But after a few months, she grew tired of New York. She felt driven to go “somewhere—anywhere.”
She sent out queries to magazines and was awaiting an assignment when she ran into her old friend Merian Cooper, who had just returned from a trip to Abyssinia in northern Ethiopia. In the two years since they had last met, Cooper had been indulging his passion for adventure. He had worked briefly as a reporter for the New York Times, then joined an expedition sailing the world in a search for ape-like people purported to be the “missing link.”
Cooper also had been working as an American spy. Just before leaving for his voyage on the Wisdom II in September 1922, he dashed off a hurried note to Army Major J. L. Collins offering to collect intelligence as he journeyed through Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. “I am going to the East—Archipelago, India, Persia, Abyssinia, Egypt, Tripoli, Morocco and Algiers on a private yacht and will travel in the interior—whole trip about two years. My purpose is to do magazine work and travel books. I have thought that perhaps I might be of some service to the government. If I can get you any information, please wire me immediately in detail what you wish.”
In their response, Army commanders noted that they could not assign him any particular mission, but they did want to use his services. They urged him to make direct contact with the military attaches in Peking and Manila, and provided him with reference letters to show local officials.
When Cooper reconnected with Marguerite in the spring of 1923, he had a new mission. He was planning an intelligence operation to the Middle East and already had enlisted the help of his friend Ernest Schoedsack, a former Army signalman. He wanted Marguerite to join them.
As a cover story, they would make a movie about nomads who travel for survival. It would be a dangerous trip that would take them to the doorstep of old friends and enemies. One of the Americans working for U.S. interests in the region was former Russian spy operative Robert W. Imbrie, now charged with establishing an espionage network in Southern Russia. His adversary in Tbilisi, Georgia: Solomon Mogilevsky.