BY: JJ BURKE
The US President is abruptly awakened and summoned to his study. “What’s up that required my presence at 2:30 am?” Sam Carstairs, the top man in the Secret Service responds. “A junior senator was murdered in his home.” Sam’s assignment—find the senator’s killer. Time is his enemy, and the clock is invisible.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS:
REGAN MURPHY SAYS:
The life expectancy of a democratic society has been said to be approximately two-hundred years. The United States has now entered the three-hundredth year period and although experiencing some shakiness is still going forward.
With age, growth, and wealth have come the varied, but similar hypothetical questions. Basically they all amounted to, “What if?” Could a strong democratic country, occupying a major land area, be quietly and subtly taken over? The responses, although varying, all add up to the same answers. “Impossible, never, couldn’t happen,” or “Too many checks in the system.” No one could just take over the United States of America—or could they?
One of the failings of age—whether in a person or a nation, is complacency. This is like a cancer—slowly eating away, unnoticed at the very life of the subject. Defenses tend to wither, laws tend to weaken, and the general population, as well as the governing bodies, tend to settle into a dull and repetitive routine. The false contentment that nothing will change—tomorrow will be the same as today becomes the norm.
It requires an unusual event, coupled with an inquisitive and aggressive observer to start the cycle that will cut out the cancer and reverse the complacent decline of a once great country. A human catalyst—one who is capable of creating, out of dire necessity, the formula of change.
Should this change not occur, the nation and the democratic society will no longer continue and will be replaced by elements opposed to the general welfare of the general populace.
A Rude Awakening
A sharp pinging tone in variables of first two then three repetitions, accompanied by a bright, small, and intentionally flashing strobe light, shocked him from a deep sleep. The bedside clock read 2:18 a.m. Reflexively he pulled the phone from its cradle and pressed the number 3. One short ring and a voice at the other end responded. “Mr. President, can you be in the study in fifteen minutes, please?” Without waiting for an answer, the call was terminated. He wasn’t being asked, he was being politely summoned.
Sleep deprivation came with the office, but when an interruption came unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, it only meant trouble. He threw back the light cotton quilt and slipped out of bed. A glance at his wife indicated that she was still asleep or, perhaps, simply feigning sleep to remain uninvolved. A jogging suit in his dressing room, a splash of water on his face, and he left the peace of the bedroom to face some unknown disaster, waiting in the Presidential study. As he opened the bedroom door, a Secret Service agent stated simply, “Good morning Mr. President.” This was followed by a gesture, toward the end of the hall, and another terse comment. “Shall we?” The agent gestured again with his hand, down the hall—indicating the need to get going. They walked at double-time, without conversation, to the study.
Three men were standing in the oak-paneled room when the president entered. The S/S agent, who had accompanied him to the study stopped politely at the door, closed it after the president entered, and remained outside. The president knew two of the men in the room. One, the head of White House security, the second, was the number one man in the Secret Service. The third man introduced himself as agent Reynolds, CIA. President Branhoff didn’t waste any words. “What’s happened that required my presence at,” he glanced at the clock on the wall, “two-thirty a.m.?”
The silence following the President’s remark was almost palpable.
Samuel Carstairs, a man of average stature, had been the top man in the Secret Service for eighteen years. His appearance was deceptively average. That was where some of his past adversaries had gone wrong. He held a fourth degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, a first degree Black Belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, was a qualified expert in knife fighting, as well as a deadly shot with both hand guns and rifles. Sam was a soft-spoken man, but one who would stand up to any adversary; with little doubt as to the outcome. Sam cut through the silence. “Sir, Senator Edward Stanley was found murdered, in his New England home, late last night, in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. His body was found in the living room, seated in a recliner. He was found by an aide who had been summoned to a late get together. The murder, at this time, has been kept from the press under the guise of security. The fact that he was murdered is unfortunate, but these things do happen, regardless of your position in life. The circumstances, however, are why you are being briefed. Someone rammed a six-inch ice pick in his left ear canal…to the hilt.” The President winced, his hand moving reflexively to his ear, upon hearing this, but offered no comment. Sam continued. “The weapon is unusual yes, but not unheard of. However, this was not a robbery gone bad. Apparently, nothing was taken—either from the Senator’s person or from his home. What raised our level of concern is what was written on the handle of the ice pick. The written words are and I quote, “You didn’t listen.” Rather ironic considering the placement of the murder weapon, but it appears that a message was being sent. What we need to know is what the killer was seeking, why this Senator and what did he not listen to?” All eyes were now on the President.
Carl Branhoff was elected President, just over two years ago. He had vowed, to the public, that he would change the country, reduce the national debt and improve life for all citizens. Instead he had taken the country down a perilous road. His programs of public support had increased the national debt exponentially, and unemployment had risen dramatically. He was now moving to socialize health care. His policies had alienated important foreign allies. His reduced border security was enabling illegal immigration to increase at an alarming rate. The illegal immigrants were receiving multiple services, reserved for US citizens. In spite of this, both the vice-president and his political party were blindly behind him. The press, for the most part, had only kind words and simplistic statements of praise, for his administration.
The fact that someone had just murdered a United States Senator, leaving a cryptic message, did not go without some registry of recognition. For all of his political failings and unwelcome achievements, this president was not stupid. The message on the murder weapon had a chilling effect on him. He looked up at the three men awaiting his response then looked slowly around the oak paneled room, paused, took a deep breath and responded guardedly. “Gentlemen, so far, from what you have told me, we have a junior Senator, heinously murdered in his home. Other than a message without specific and direct reference, found on the murder weapon, you have no logical reason for this killing. Am I correct in my summation?” He looked at the three men and received a general consensus of agreement. He continued. “I suggest that this be downplayed, kept from the press and quietly investigated. Unless something else shows up, to indicate otherwise, we will probably find this to be an individual crime by a deranged and disgruntled individual. Keep this under wraps and keep me informed!” With that he turned and walked to the door. “Good night!” The S/S officer was waiting outside to accompany him back to his bedroom.
©2020 by JJ Burke