Spirit of Security
The usual rooftop gunners are at the stations they man twenty-four hours a day every day, but today there seems to be more of them. Maybe they’re just more exposed than usual. Can’t imagine why, unless it’s so they can get a better look at Lorelei Walquer. I can dig it, although I should hope they have a better reason, a security reason. I hope they’re taking this job as seriously as Special Agents Orlo McClean and Hector Cyre. Assigned specifically to guard the President’s body, they are standing next to the Oval Office, in front of the colonnade where the ceremony will take place, practicing their surveillance swivels.
Of the two, McClean is the runaway smoothest. He may be the smoothest who ever lived. By contrast Cyre seems like a mechanical doll: left, 180 degrees right, then quarter back, center, quarter left, left, 180 degrees right, 180 degrees left, then quarter back, center and so forth. His moves aren’t grotesquely jerky, but there’s a certain sameness about them. The timing didn’t vary. Anyone keying in on him could figure out the pattern in no time, then do whatever they don’t want him to see when he’s at the back of his arc, like the Stalag 17 boys playing mouse to the Nazis’ searchlight cats.
McClean is an artist, an actor. His baggy suit, sunglasses and earplug give him away as an agent, but his head swivels are much craftier than Cyre’s. McClean uses a syncopation - a little quicker here, an elongated pause there - and other movements, such as rubbing his fingers under his chin, to distract from the positioning of his head. And he looks like he’s really looking at things, that things have gotten his attention. There’s brow movement as if he’s squinting to get a better focus. He’s so convincing in appearing to be actually looking at something that if you’re watching him and if it’s not you he seems to be looking at you’re inclined to take a look yourself and try to find out what it is he may be seeing.
Only if you watch him awhile does it become obvious there can’t be that many different things of interest to a Secret Service agent that don't require more action than hard looks. There’d be running, leaping, tackling or even gunfire, surely. And if you’re watching Cyre, too, you’d know that if he saw something really suspicious he’d become less mechanical, more reactive or, one would hope, more improvisational. Their lips would be moving as they murmured into their little throat-worm microphones.
Which is precisely what they’re doing as I speak. Oops, here come Warren Hendrian, Special-Agent-In-Charge Bob Rose and Fee Klaus, the President’s press secretary, across the south lawn leading a gaggle of media geese, the TV ones toting their tripods, cameras and sound gear and - the well-dressed ones - patting their hair. Fee, a trim, Van Buren-coiffed, savvy and articulate former major market TV anchor, is directing her former colleagues with crisp, graceful hand gestures and, I am certain, a pleasantly modulated voice.
Warren keeps bolting over to Fee and putting his mouth up to her ear, which causes her to nod vigorously before she turns back to her charges as Warren sprints awkwardly, coat flapping like the wings of a frightened hen, to catch up with Rose, who is busy murmuring into his worm mic and not paying any attention to either Warren or the geese.
There seem to be a lot more people with Fee than usually attend these shindigs. They can hardly be all media. Too many of them are wearing suits. But of course, they’re some of the extra Secret Service people Warren is bringing in. Apparently these guys, and probably a few women, think they’re passing as reporters. Not that the real reporters give a damn. In fact, some of the real reporters are probably already practicing their interviewing skills on the imposters. Good luck, people. Secret Service agents regard you with about the same affection they shower on dog shit that sticks to their shoes. Too, the agents are busy practicing their surveillance swivels and are not apt to catch all of the questions.
Most of them, that is, are practicing their swivels. I see one guy who’s not. Big guy. Looks like the others but he’s standing completely still, staring at one of the guys who’s swiveling. The group is spreading out now, many of them disappearing into the rose hedges. The real newsies are setting up their equipment in front of the portion of colonnade that’s marked by the flags and the Presidential Seal. The big guy in the suit is still staring at the other guy who’s doing the swivels. Maybe they’re from rival commands or maybe the big guy is the other guy’s supervisor. That would be unusual, at least from my experience, because I’ve never seen a Secret Service agent on the job, supervisor or no, who wasn’t doing the swivel. I think they can’t help it. They probably spend their time off with their necks in ice packs.
I think the guy doing the swivels is aware of the other guy staring at him. The swivels are becoming more oriented in that direction - the 180 sweeps more sudden and frequent to the side where the other guy is standing. They are about twenty feet apart. The big guy is leaning his back against the old sycamore that Lyndon Johnson used to piss on after too many Cutty Sarks. The swiveler is in front of a trellis of pink New Dawn, positioned to cover anything suspicious that might develop in the left quadrant in the President’s view from the colonnade.
Oops, the Secret Service guy sees something suspicious. No question. This can’t go on much longer. He’s probably murmuring carefully into his mic to help guide his colleagues toward the big guy. Maybe the big guy is doing the same thing with his people, although you’d think they’d all be on the same frequency. Maybe they are and they’re simply cursing at each other.
Uh oh, here’s another pair-off. To my right. Same thing: one guy in a baggy suit staring at another guy in a baggy suit who’s doing the swivels. My god, there’s another pair doing the same thing behind me. What the fuck? Where’s Warren? What’s going on here? I should be hooked into their god damned network instead of just jabbering to myself.
I’ve got to find Warren. The President and her guests are due out on the colonnade in less than half an hour. People seem to be multiplying here in the garden. They’re all wearing suits and half are swiveling while the other half are staring at them. Where the hell is Warren?
“WARREN! WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU, GOD DAMMIT?” The sonofabitch is gone. I don’t see Bob Rose anywhere, either. Well, fuck ‘em. I’m gonna brace somebody and find out for myself. I’m going up to the big guy, the first staring bastard I saw, and find out who the fuck he is. Whoops, the swiveler’s gonna beat me to it. This could get interesting.
The swiveler is about a head shorter than the big guy and skinnier, but he’s in the big guy’s face. And the big guy’s not backing down. I can hear their voices. They’re not discussing bonded indemnities.
“SECRET SERVICE, ASSHOLE! DON’T MOVE!”
“EAT ME, MOTHERFUCKER! FBI! LET’S SEE SOME I.D.!”
“YOU FIRST, SHITBREATH!”
“Hi, guys! Al Geddes. Welcome to the White House! HEY, GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME! HEY! HEY! YOU’RE BOTH WAY OUT OF LINE. I’M CHIEF OF STAFF HERE! I SAID GET YOUR GOD DAMNED HANDS OFF ME! WARREN, GOD DAMMIT, WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU? WARREN!!”
“All right, fellas, all right. It’s all right. This is Al Geddes, the President’s chief of staff.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Hendrian. Sorry, Mr. Algeds.”
“Mr. Hendrian, I apologize. We’re just a little jumpy, I guess. My apologies to you, too, sir, Mr. Gits.”
“Jeezuz, Warren, what the hell? You brought the FBI in on this?”
“Well, Al, I thought we might need the extra manpower. I’m sure this is just an isolated incident.”
“I hope you’re right because these jerks are paired off all over the garden staring at each other. Weren’t they briefed?”
“There probably wasn’t enough time. Their supervisors know but maybe the word didn’t get down to all the troops.”
“Maybe it did but they just hate each other too much to be able to work together, especially on one agency’s turf. We should declare the Rose Garden an international zone.”
“Oh, fuck you, Hendrian. ROSE GARDEN! ROSE GARDEN! ROSE GARDEN! There. Whattaya gonna do now, arrest me?”
“You’re so immature.”
“Thank god for that.”
“Look, I have a million things to do. This ceremony starts in less than twenty minutes. Do you think you can stay out of trouble if I leave you here?”
“Warren, when this is over I’m gonna hang your fat ass from one of these rose trellises, right here in the ROSE GARDEN!”
“You should be so lucky.”
“Jeezuz, Warren, if I didn’t know you better I’d think you were being indiscreet.”
“What you know about discretion, Geddes, would fit easily inside a mouse’s rectum.”
“I’ll have to trust you on that, Warren. I’ve no knowledge of such cavities.”
“That’s not what I hear. You get in trouble again out here don’t be calling daddy. I have work to do.”
I bit my tongue to let him get away with the last word. Otherwise we’d still be hissing at each other when the shindig comes down.
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