Guests are filling the place up now. It’s funny the attraction Hollywood has for people - even the real people that Hollywood people pretend to be. A dozen Medal of Honor winners would hardly draw the likes of both House Speaker Edith Glick and House Majority Leader Gus Rosenow and Sen. Jay C. Tillers and Edna Usher and the Vice President and Sen. Bart Gladstone and…Bart Bullshit is here? Why that sure as hell is him, and that’s Crowell Kenyon pushing him in a wheelchair. Well, shit, will wonders never cease. But of course. The old lecher wouldn’t miss a chance to try and pinch Lorelei Walquer, death bed or no. I suppose I gotta give the fat prick some credit for gumption.
My kids’d be here, too, under normal circumstances. As it is, they don’t even know Lorelei Walquer is in town. The President’s nanny is tending them and has instructions to keep them away from the West Wing, no matter what.
So which TV crew is Lorelei’s? There is quite a pile of them gathering in front of the colonnade, but I should be able to recognize one or two of our villains if they look anything at all like the photos I studied. Trouble is, all the men are wearing hats, or caps or bandannas - not because it’s sunny, which it has become, which is why I’m wearing my faded black Leon Russell cap (visor forward), but because it’s fashionable. I am not being condescendingly judgmental of them. Simply stating a fact. I assume they’re the same bunch that routinely attends White House press events and their heads are covered, always, as they are now whatever the weather, outdoors or in.
My watch says three o’clock. This is it. Any minute now. My god, here comes the President. Adele is with her. I should be with her, too. They came out of the Colonnade Door precisely seven steps from where the dais and bank of microphones are set up. [sustained applause] And there’s a group right behind them. I see Lorelei. [applause continues] She’s wearing white pants. God, I love white pants on women. Don’t know why. Just do. Her blouse is black. Great combination. Hair is kind of piled in back. Parted a little left of center over her forehead. Devastating. Thank god she’s wearing shades. I’ve been worried about the danger of looking in her eyes. Now I won’t have…
Jayzuz, something’s wrong! Roger Ashmore is supposed to be with the decoy van, but he’s up there with Lorelei. He looks funny. I’m, what, ten feet from the dais and it looks like…oh, shit. Ashmore’s wearing the girdle! Something is wrong. WARREN! GODDAMMIT, WARREN, WHAT’S HAPPENING?”
People all over the garden are yelling FREEZE! and DON’T MOVE! Where the hell are Warren and Rose? This is totally out of control.
“OOOF! Get off me, god damn you!”
“It’s all right, sir, it’s Special Agent McClean. Just stay down..”
“What the hell’s happening, Orlo? Where’s Bob…where’s your boss?”
“I’m not permitted to say, sir. But you know he’s supposed to be with the President. I’m assigned to you right now, but if it looks like the President needs help I’ll be following my secondary assignment, sir, and I’ll have to go to her.”
“Well you damned well better, Orlo. Protecting the President is your primary assignment. Always has been, always will be.”
“Strategically, yes, you are correct, sir. But this is a tactical assignment, and until I learn differently I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”
“Not going to argue with you, Orlo. You have the gun. Just don’t freak when you hear me talking to myself. I’m wired. Transmitting to a tape recorder in my office. Historical record, you see.”
“I see, sir. You go right ahead, sir. I won’t pay it no mind.”
“OK.” Ashmore’s face has gone almost as white as Lorelei’s pants. A couple of men wearing reversed baseball caps are moving from the press area toward the dais. They’re reaching into their vests. Guns? No doubt. Orlo McClean is raising his pistol toward the two men. He’s holding it with both hands. I think he’s going to shoot.
“Wait, Orlo! Follow the script!”
“Can’t do that, man. Looks like the script’s been tossed out. [UNGH] Orlo’s just collapsed in front of me. Someone’s grabbing my shoulder from behind. “What…”
“Stay down, sir. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
The man is wearing a black SWAT-team suit and holding a very odd kind of gun. “WHO ARE YOU?”
“Stay calm, sir. I’m Animal Control Warden-in-Charge Anthony Cromwell, sir. SPCA.”
“SPCA? DID YOU SAY SPCA?”
“Yes, sir. Society for the…”
“I KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE?”
“We’re trying to keep the people with guns from hurting each other. I just used a tranquilizer dart on the gentleman here who was pointing his pistol at the others.”
“ARE YOU FUCKING NUTS? HOW THE FUCK DID YOU GET IN HERE?”
“There are thirty-seven of us here, sir. We were assigned by Ms. Schwammel.”
“Adele? ADELE! WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE?”
“She went back inside, sir. If I may suggest, sir, please keep your head down. I’m afraid some of these people might start shooting.”
“OF COURSE THEY’RE GOING TO START SHOOTING, YOU IDIOT! THEY’RE TRYING TO PROTECT THE PRESIDENT! WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU PROTECTING, THE FIRST CAT?”
“Calm down, sir. You’re getting hysterical.”
“CALM DOWN, MY ASS! WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO TELL ME ANYTHING? NOW YOU GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE. DO YOU SEE ANY GODDAM ANIMALS OUT HERE?”
“Well, yes, sir, I do.”
“WELL, WHERE, GOD DAMMIT?”
“Right here, sir. People are animals, too, sir.”
Oh, jayzuz. Of course, he’s right, but…now I can see Bob Rose and Hector Cyre on the ground, to the right of the dais. There are some flag colors under them. Thank god, that would be the President. She must be safe. I haven’t heard any shots yet. Poor Roger Ashmore’s still standing there, white, frozen, his middle corrugated with the dozen sticks of dynamite wrapped around him. And there’s Lorelie, standing next to him, looking straight at…me? ME! She’s holding something over her head. It flashed. The sun glinted off it. It looks like a god damned badge!
“FBI! EVERY MEMBER OF THE SECRET SERVICE, PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPONS. I AM FBI SPECIAL AGENT LAURIE WALQUIST. THIS IS AN FBI OPERATION. EVERYONE WHO IS NOT AN FBI AGENT LIE DOWN ON THE GROUND AND DROP YOUR WEAPONS!”
My god. It can’t be. Is she nuts? Bluffing? People are dropping like fainting goats in a hailstorm, but I haven’t heard any shots. It must be those SPCA freaks, zapping everybody with tranquilizer darts. People are animals. Yeah he’s right, they sure as hell are. What? It’s Roger Ashmore. He’s moving. Toward Lorelei. He’s got…”a GUN IN HIS HAND! SOMEBODY SHOOT HIM! SHOOT HIM WITH A DART! SHOOT HIM WITH ANYTHING. JUST SHOOT THE SON OF A BITCH!”
He’s pointing the gun at Lorelei’s head. Why hasn’t somebody shot him? What happened to the SPCA SWAT guys? Out of darts? Afraid of the dynamite? It must be fake. Lorelei must have strapped it on him. It wouldn’t be real, but how would anybody else know that? I know it. I’m going to tackle him. The wire might break in all this. If it’s bumpy now it’s because I’m running. Jayzuz, I can’t believe I’m doing this.
What? Somebody else is running toward them, too. A fat guy. What? “NO!” It’s Bart Gladstone, running like a god damned halfback. “NO! SHOOT THE FAT SON OF A BITCH! SHOOT HIM! HE’S THE REAL ASSASSIN! HE’S TRYING TO KILL THE PRESIDENT. SHOOT HIM… UNGH… OOF… SHIT… UNGH… SHOOT…BART???”
“Now look what you’ve done, Al. That damned Ashmore is getting away.”
“He’s trying, but Lorelei is hot on his tail. Ooh! Attagirl! Nice flying tackle, and on the cement. I hope you landed on him. I hope the dynamite is fake. Bart, you’ve got some explaining to do.”
“And what a relief, after all these years!”
“What the hell do you mean?”
“Undercover, man, since law school. Long, lonely life.”
“Undercover? You mean under covers. What gives here, Bullshit?”
“Naw, it’s all an act. I’m Special Agent Bartholomew Benjamin Gladstone, FBI. At your service, sir.”
“But you’re a god damned United States senator. Goddammit, get off my ankle. You mean that’s been part of your cover?”
“Oh, sorry. Well, sure. I mean, I got into politics, and one thing led to another. I agree it got a little bizarre.”
“A little bizarre? Jayzuz, man, did you have to be such a god damned corporate whore, such a fucking shill for the greediest assholes in the country? Couldn’t you have been something less disgusting, say, a moderate?”
“Hey, it got me elected. It got me inside.”
“It got you inside the belly of the beast, and you like it there, don’t you.” “Loathed every minute of it. Who do you suppose it was blew the whistle that started Abscam, eh? I could name off some others, but I think you should be catching my drift. If it weren’t for me…”
“Bart Bullshit, if I didn’t know better…”
“But you didn’t. You knew just what I wanted you to know. You bought my cover hook and line. So did everybody else.”
OK, big shot, so what the hell just happened here?”
“Pretty simple, really. Ashmore’s working for Cohen.”
“Ron Cohen? The Special Prosecutor?”
“None other. Surely you’re not surprised? The kidnappers get her to admit she’s hooked on the stuff, that she lied to the grand jury. They tape the confession. Play it on TV. Cohen may not get his indictment, but at least he’s vindicated. What more can a special prosecutor without a case want?”
“Such an elaborate setup over a god damned petty-ass fib, over a god damned unauthorized orgasm? What the fuck is happening to us?”
“Al, my boy, you’ve hit upon the question of the ages. And I wish I could answer it for you.”
“It was rhetorical.”
“My question. It was a rhetorical question.”
“Uh, oh, yeah. But it’s still a good one.”
“So what are you gonna do?”
“Hell if I know. Now that my cover is blown, the Bureau will probably put me out to pasture.”
“You’re still a senator.” “Yeah, but how long do you suppose that will last, now that the bullshit’s out of the bag, so to speak?”
“You’re a patriot. You did your country a great service. Surely your constituents will reward you for that.”
“Hahahahaha. Yeah, right. They’ll kick me out on my ass. That’ll be my reward.
“Because despite my profession I’m a politician, Al. I know what people want. They want a big, bluff corporate whore whose staff returns their calls and letters and holds their hands when they’re getting pissed on by the bureaucrats. They want somebody who makes ‘em feel good, a rogue, a rascal - their rogue, their rascal - somebody who let’s ‘em know it’s OK to get away with things, it’s OK to cut the occasional corner, even to be fat and greedy. They may pretend to despise him, but they’ll vote for him so long as he’s unfailingly friendly and brings home plenty of pork.
“They want an ugly winner, one like they want to be, who wins by scheming and scrabbling, not by being pious and good. They want my cover, and after all this comes out there’s no way I could live down to it anymore.”
“Bart, there’s Lorelei running again! And that asshole Ashmore. He got away from her. Oh, shit, there go two of her groupies!”
“Get after ‘em, my boy. They’re working for Ashmore now. Don’t let anything happen to that lovely little…er, to Special Agent Walquist. I’m too old for these chase scenes.”
“Do you have a gun?”
“Are you kidding? Haven’t touched one since the academy. Go, boy! They’re getting away!”
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