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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fiction: Unwanted President. Chapters 19 & 20

Just Another Day
& A New Plan

By edRogers

Chapter 19. Just Another Day

It was eleven-thirty on a cold, rainy Tuesday morning. Spring was around the corner, but today it was just nasty. Ted was waiting in his car by the curb. He hadn’t told Tom he was picking him up, so he had to keep an eye out for him. He was in the hospital’s pick-up and drop-off zone, so all Ted could do was wait for him to come out.
    He had decided at the last minute to come get Tom –against his better judgment. But Tom was still one of his reporters so what was he to do?
    The newspaper and Ted had been busy the last thirty days. The police in two European countries wanted to talk to Tom, along with the police in some town in Virginia. Several government agencies contacted the New Daily inquiring about Tom’s health.
    Ted wasn’t sure how things were going to work out for Tom, who had written a story while in rehab, but Ted had reluctantly decided against printing it. He had always stood by his reporters, but Tom had crossed the line by getting involved with the police and not notifying him. The paper couldn’t open itself up to lawsuits to cover for a reporter when they had no idea what the reporter had done. Laws had been broken, that much Ted was sure of, and he would have to have a lot more proof to back up Tom’s story than what Tom had offered. Ted had put his job on the line before, but not this time – not for the story Tom had turned in.
    Ted saw Tom stepping out into the rain and quickly pulled up beside him and opened the door. “Get in, before you drown.”
    Tom slid in and shut the door. “I’m not sure why you’re here, Ted. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you just washed your hands of me.”
    “You still work for me and I take care of my people – even if they don’t deserve it.”
    “Listen, Ted, I know I’ve let you down, but I can make it right by you. You got my story – did you find my notes?”
    “Yeah, we found them, for all the good they will do you.”
    “What are you talking about? I’ve got the scoop on the killing of the President,” Tom cried, “the lowdown on a worldwide conspiracy to control world governments with oil and drug money, and how people within the CIA plotted with Cahill to assassinate the President. I’ve got it all!”
    “Tom, before I could run a story like that, I would need signed statements from these people saying that what you have written about them is true. What you have is hearsay at best and made-up bullshit at worse.”
    “Why now?” Tom pleaded. “Why this story? You have never asked that for any story I have ever written.”
    “You’ve never written a story accusing the President of attempting to murder the entire Congress and take over the government,” shouted Ted. “With a story like that, I need something more than just hearsay before I go to press with it.”
    “Newspapers print what people say,” Tom countered. “If it’s a lie, and we know it’s a lie, we say so; if it’s the truth, and we know it’s the truth, then we say that. We aren’t lawyers in a courtroom. We don’t need to prove anything. Our job is to report what people say and do. It’s someone else’s job to prove if what they say or do is right or wrong. Besides, you have more: you have the names of the people who were there and know what happened. What else would you need?”
    “I need to know this thing is not going to turn around and bite me in the ass. People expect the New Daily to be above reproach.” Ted looked over at Tom and said, “Look at you! You have just spent thirty days drying out. Hell, I don’t know how long you have been on this drunk. As far as I know, you may have got on the booze the first day you took off, and this whole thing is just a drunkard’s nightmare.”
    “Ted, I swear to you. It did not happen that way. I never had a drop until the day before I got back here.”
    “Tom, you’re talking to an ex-drunk. If I took off for close to half a month and I showed back up so drunk I didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground, and I told you I only started drinking the day before, would you believe me?”
    “No, I guess I would think you had been on a bender. But that isn’t what happened with me! What can I do to make you believe me?”
    “You get quotes from at least two sources – I want it on the record and on tape – and I’ll print the story, on the front page.”
    “Ted, they killed someone I loved very much. They have to pay for what they have done.”
    Ted pulled into the underground parking lot at the New Daily. “You have one week. Either pull the story together, or walk away from it.
    “Your bag is upstairs and your car is still parked over there.” Ted nodded his head toward Tom’s car as they passed it. Then he pulled into his own spot and parked.
    “Ted, wait a minute. First, I want to thank you for all you have done. But I don’t know whether I can get those statements in a week – or at all.”
    “Tom, those are my terms. I have a newspaper to run – a newspaper that you haven’t been a part of for a long time. Your freelancing days are over at the New Daily. You have one week. Then you go back on the clock, or I cut you loose. The ball is in your court.”
    They didn’t speak again until Ted turned to go into his office, when Tom said, “Ted, I think I’ll get my things and go home for a while. When, and if, I get those statements, we will have a sit-down. Until then, it might be better if I work out of my house.”
    “However you want to do it is okay with me, Tom. Just remember: one week, not a day longer.” Ted closed the door to his office.
    Tom picked up his bag and headed home with the dark feeling of failure tearing at his guts. He had no idea where to start. Stepen or even the other Russian he talked to – they wouldn’t be willing to sign anything. Then there was Jake – he would just laugh at the mess Tom was in.

But maybe his luck would change, for, despite all, the seasons were changing, and in the air was the sweet promise of spring. The driving rain that had been coming down all day had been driven out by a southern wind, and the sinister overcast had turned into a blue sky with fleecy clouds floating above the landscape. The air no longer had that freezing cold bite, and you could see a little green here and there.
    Warm rain would come soon and bring out nature’s palette of colorful flowers. Tom loved the springtime.
    He wished Mary were here to welcome in the summer with him. But Mary was gone, and the sadness of losing her made his whole body ache.
    Tom’s story could, in some small way, be Mary’s payback, and somehow he would get it printed. There must be a way! He just hadn’t seen it yet.

Chapter 20. A New Plan

As Tom pulled down the drive to his house, he felt a warmth come over him. It had been almost a month and a half, but it felt like years since he was home. This was the first time he had thought of this house as his home. In his mind, it had always been the place where he lived, but now he understood what it meant to come home. Mary must have given him these feelings. He wondered what else he would find that Mary had changed about him.
    Tom parked the car and leaned against the door. He felt at peace looking at the shadows from the setting sun – yes, it was good to be home. He also felt the deep pain of being alone.
    Tom closed the car door and went into the house through the kitchen, where he sat his bag on the counter, intending to go on to the living room. The one thing that had sold him on buying this house was its big living room with the large fireplace. And he wanted to go in there right now and start a fire.
    A voice from a dark corner of the kitchen said, “Mr. Warring, don’t do anything you’ll regret and you will live to see tomorrow.”
    Tom froze. His mind began racing to find an idea what to do, but nothing made good sense, and every option ended with him dead.
    The voice said, “Sit down in that chair. I’m not here to hurt you. If I were, you would already be dead.”
    Tom was not feeling all that heroic at the moment and quickly decided that sitting would do just fine since he was having a hard time standing. His legs were suddenly weak and his stomach felt as though it were tied into a knot.
    Tom pulled out a chair from the kitchen table and sat, with his elbows resting on its arms. His could hear footsteps moving around from behind him. The first thing he saw was the gun – it was big, and a black hole of death was aimed at his head.
    “You can call me Pete if that will make you feel more at ease.”
    The voice pulled Tom’s attention away from the view of pending death and he saw a well-tanned man with black hair and cold blue eyes. He was an over-dressed, handsome person who looked more like a banker than a killer.
    “Okay, Pete, what’s this all about?”
    “It’s about the story you think you have. You see, there is no story.”
    “There is a story,” Tom said, “and I know what it is. And so do a lot of other people.”
    “If there were a story you would be dead, killed the second you entered the house. However, your death now could cause your paper to rethink discarding what you have told them. Certain people would not like that. You see, you’re the only one alive who wants that story told. No one will be willing to corroborate your allegations. So, like I said, there is no story.”
    Tom asked, “Just who are these people you think won’t corroborate my story?”
    “Well,” laughed Pete, “there was the pilot in Finland whose plane crashed in the mountains. There’s the professor here in the States who died in a house fire. Then there were the two Russians who both died in explosions. Then there was the German couple – but I don’t think you knew them, they were friends of the Cahill girl, who ran off the road and died.”
    Tom was on his feet again, his blood coursing.
    “Now, now, Mr. Warring, sit back down…unless you wish to join your girlfriend.”
    Reluctantly, Tom sat down.
    “Let me see, is that all? Oh, that’s right. I almost forgot your friend Jake in Vietnam. Hell of a thing. His whole house blew up. Then I understand that a General Wainwright was killed by friendly fire while on a tour of Iraq.” Pete spoke with a contemptuous sneer. “There may be more. But you get the idea. You are alone in this, and because of that, we are going to let you live. It would only draw more attention to your story if we killed you. We know your paper has refused to publish it. It is better if we just let people think you’re a drunken fool. How many people do you think are going to believe that the President of the United States would be part of a plot to take over the government?”
    Pete looked closely at Tom to see what effect his words were having on him. “I should warn you: don’t start feeling too safe – the vote to let you live was a close one.
    “I’m here to tell you to stay out of our business, and we’ll forget any of this ever happened. Your problems with the police have been resolved – we don’t need outsiders poking around. Now we can all just get on with our lives.”
    “What kind of men are you?” Tom asked. “You kill all these people, and yet you can talk about getting on with our lives. What about the lives of those you killed? They have to count for something.”
    “What you need to ask yourself, Mr. Warring, is how many more could die because of you?”
    Pete stood up and pointed the gun at Tom’s head. “If that many people died because of how stupid I was, I’d want someone to pull the trigger on me.”
    “If you’re going to kill me,” Tom replied, “then get it over with. I’m tired of listening to this bullshit.” As Tom waited for the bullet, he was thinking that Pete was right – death wasn’t such a bad thing. But he was now gripping the arms of his chair tightly.
    “I would love to put you out of your misery, but I follow orders. This time they’re to talk to you. Maybe next time I’ll be lucky and they’ll order me to kill you. Until then, remember what I told you: stay out of our business.”
    Pete stepped toward the kitchen door. “Don’t get up. I’ll see myself out.”
    Tom heard the door close but he didn’t make a move to stand up. His mind was running ninety miles per hour and going nowhere. His eyes were fixed on the back kitchen wall in front of him. He still had a death grip on the arms of the chair.
    He spent the night sitting there reliving the love, hate, and fear that had become his life. It was one long nightmare, which ended only as the warm morning sunlight came in through the kitchen window.
[Editor’s Note: The novel from which these excerpts are taken can be ordered from Amazon, as either a paperback or a Kindle book.]

Copyright © 2017 by Ed Rogers

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