Thursday, June 15, 2017

Fiction: Unwanted President. Chapters 21 & 22

A New Port
& Sister, Sister?

By Ed Rogers

Chapter 21. A New Port

The sun was coming up and its warm rays bathed Tom’s body. Much renewed, he watched the new morning breaking through the big oak tree in the back yard.
    It was as though God had given him a vision. He didn’t know why he hadn’t thought of it before. With renewed hope and probabilities of success racing through his head, Tom started to the bedroom to shower and get dressed.
    He had sat in the kitchen chair all night, reliving every hour of the past few weeks, repeatedly going over every last detail he could remember, at times dropping to the lowest depths of despair: The lives of so many people gone and nothing he could do to repay them. Mary’s life wasted on some mountain in Germany and the people responsible for her death free to walk in and out of his house, knowing he could do nothing to stop them.
    For hours, he had fought against the downward vortex that was pulling him into the gloomy hell of self-pity. At one point, he thought he had reached the bottom and all was lost. That was when it came to him out of the blue – a plan so clear and so simple – why had it not crossed his mind before?

Warm water cascaded over Tom’s body from the shower nozzle above his head, which he held onto with both hands, his head resting between his arms, which he pressed against the tiled wall. My God, what a train wreck his life had turned into. Several people he had talked to in the last month were dead. The woman he loved and wanted to grow old with was gone forever. Why hadn’t he listened to her? She wanted them to run away from this mess. Even his friend Ted didn’t believe his story. Well, someone out there would believe it!
    Tom pulled himself together and set his mind to the task ahead. After showering and shaving, he wrapped his towel around his waist and put on a pot of coffee before he got dressed.
    Ten minutes later he came down the stairs wearing a fresh suit and tie. He poured himself a cup of coffee and walked outside into the cool morning air. Tom hoped the cold air would take the last of the cobwebs from his brain. He looked at his watch; it was 8 o’clock, Ted would be awake by now.
    He went back inside and set the coffee cup in the sink and picked up the telephone. Ted’s home telephone rang four times, and as Tom was about to hang up, he heard a voice on the other end. “Hello, Tom, this better be important. I got out of the shower to answer the phone.”
    “It’s important to me, Ted,” he said. “But I don’t know how you’ll feel about it. You have done so much for me in the past, there is no limit to the gratitude I have for you.”
    “Okay, Tom. Let’s hear it.”
    “Okay. I know you will never print my story. In fact, Ted, I think you already knew all of those people were dead.”
    “I knew some of the people you were quoting were no longer alive, and I knew that unless you had other sources, the story was dead. That is how the New Daily operates. Tom, you know we don’t print what we can’t prove. You get me the proof, and I’ll print your story, but I need more than just your word.”
    “I know. That is why I’m quitting, as of right now.”
    Ted didn’t say anything for a few seconds. “Tom, you’re not drinking, are you?”
    “No, Ted, I’m not. I simply came to the realization that the New Daily never was the right venue for a story like mine. If the New Daily printed this story, the lawyers would swarm like bees to honey. We would be in court for the next ten years. The spin doctors would go to work on us and by the time they got out all their misinformation we would, at best, look like a bunch of liars – or worse – a bunch of fools.
    “I need a venue where the more people attack the story, the more its readers will believe it to be true. I need a venue where attacks are welcomed.”
    “Good luck,” Ted whispered, “but I don’t think you’ll find a newspaper that will be able to stand up to what’ll come if this story is printed.”
    “Well, keep your ear to the ground, Ted. You’ll hear it when it happens. Goodbye, my friend, and thank you again for everything you have done.”
    “Bye, Tom. Keep in touch.”
    The telephone in Tom’s hand went dead.

It was ten-thirty when Tom walked into the lobby of the Worldwide Globe, the most sued newspaper in the world. The receptionist greeted Tom with a warm smile and asked how she could assist him. After Tom told her he needed to see Ned Jenkins, the owner of the Globe, her attitude changed. “Do you have an appointment with Mr. Jenkins?”
    “No.” Tom started to explain.
    “Then, I’m sorry,” said the receptionist. “No one sees Mr. Jenkins without an appointment.”
    Tom leaned in a little closer. “Look, I know this is against your company rules, but if you will tell him Tom Warring is out front with a story for him, I assure you he will be happy to see me.” Tom didn’t feel quite as confident as he was trying to project.
    “Do you know how many people walk in here with stories?” asked the receptionist. “We have rules. You submit your story to the story editor. He reads it, and if he likes it, your story goes up the line. It may or it may not reach Mr. Jenkins. The one thing I’m sure of is that it will not reach Mr. Jenkins through me.”
    “Ms, if I take this to another paper and Mr. Jenkins finds out you turned me away, it could mean your job.”
    “Mr. Warring, stop wasting our time. I told you how to submit your story, and that is all the help I can give you.”
    Tom turned and started to walk out. It had all seemed so easy that morning. Tom didn’t know what to do next. Any reputable newspaper he went to would want him to prove his story was true. The Worldwide Globe had been his only hope. There were other papers like the Globe, but their creditability was so bad Tom would be better off never getting the story published.
    Deep in thought, Tom was not watching where he was going and ran into a man coming through the door. Having almost knocked the man down, Tom took hold of his arm and asked, “Are you all right? I’m so sorry! My mind was somewhere else.”
    “Yeah, I’m fine. It was just as much my fault. I was in too big of a hurry. Say, aren’t you Tom Warring?”
    “Yes, I am.”
    “I read your articles in the New Daily. Some of them are damn good. Not my cup of tea, but good anyway. What are you doing in my part of the world, slumming?”
    “I had a story I wanted to pitch to Jenkins, but I can’t get past the receptionist.”
    “We pay her well for her skills at keeping people out, even those we might actually want to meet with. How is the New Daily going to take you pitching a story to the Globe? You can change your name, but the New Daily has a good editor. You won’t be able to hide your writing style from him.”
    “I no longer work for the New Daily. I quit this morning. It was over this story. A lot of the people I quote are dead and the New Daily has refused to print it.”
    “I’m the story editor here at the Globe, and I would like to hear more about the story that made a man like you quit the New Daily. I’m Wayne Timberman.”
    Wayne took Tom’s arm and they headed toward the elevators. Tom could feel the arrows from the receptionist’s eyes hitting him in the back.
    Tom was on his third cup of coffee when Wayne finally put his story down. He sat there looking at Tom for a long time, neither of them saying anything. Then Wayne asked, “Is any of this true? No, don’t tell me. It is too damn good of a story to worry about the details. We have lawyers who get paid for that.
    “Do you want a job, Tom? We could use someone of your caliber here, and after this hits the streets, none of the mainline newspapers are going to touch you with a ten-foot pole.”

Tom had immediately accepted Wayne’s offer, and as soon as the story hit the newsstand, the rats came after the Globe.
    The information Jake had provided was the basic insider tell-all, and although the story was more about the Brotherhood than the CIA, the Brotherhood couldn’t come out and admit their existence. However, the Brotherhood had friends in high places. The CIA filed lawsuits, the Justice Department was demanding retractions, and they had their talk-show hosts denouncing the story and calling Tom a drunk, somehow having obtained Tom’s medical records. They even interviewed Ted, who defended Tom as best he could, but in the end had to admit, he didn’t believe the story to be true. At one point, they had a medical doctor on Fox News saying Tom was menially unbalanced.
    In answer to the attacks, each time they came at the Globe, the story was reprinted on the front page. Sales went through the roof. It was the best sales period in the history of the newspaper.
    After about a month, things eased up. The powers saw that their protests were only giving substance to Tom’s story.
    Tom knew that the killers of Mary and the others were still out there, and he looked forward to the day he could print their names on the front page, and print the names of the people who gave the killers their orders.
    For now, it felt good to know he had hurt them. Even if it hadn’t been a deathblow to the Brotherhood, he had made them bleed a little.

Chapter 22. Sister, Sister?

The woman was wearing a novice’s dress and headgear. Each morning she dressed the same, but the clothes didn’t feel right. The long black dress that dragged along the ground and the hat with the wrap around scarf –it all felt foreign to her.
    She picked up her basket and shears and walked out into the vineyard. Although she still walked with a limp, there was very little pain these days. The scars on her body had healed well, but not all of her scars were visible to the eye.
    Ciara stopped pruning and removed her head cover. Her coal-black hair fell down around her shoulders. The sun shining through her hair made it look like black strands of gold. Ciara touched the scar that started right at her hairline and went back into her hair about two inches. How she wished she knew what had happened to her. The sisters said it was a miracle she was alive at all.

It had been a cold day toward the end of March when Sister Marie found her half dead, crawling across the snow-covered vineyard. She had pulled herself along with her hands. Her fingernails were broken, leaving only bloody stubs. The core body temperature was so low she was on the verge of going into shock, both her legs were badly broken, and she had a large gash over her right eye.
    She hovered near death for ten days, with the sisters praying for her night and day. On the tenth day, she opened her eyes, but it was as if she had just been born. She couldn’t remember anything from her past life – her name, where she came from, or even how to speak German.
    It wasn’t that the order didn’t believe in doctors, but men were not allowed on the grounds of the monastery, and the sisters weren’t allowed to leave unless it was forever. Women doctors weren’t to be found in the countryside of Germany. The sisters had warmed her body, set her legs, stitched her head, and prayed.
    They gave her the name Ciara, after a seventh-century nun, meaning “dark,” or “dark hair.” God had put the poor broken child on their doorstep, and until God told her to leave, they would make her welcome for as long as she was with them.
    This was a monastery of cloistered nuns – they had taken vows of poverty, chastity, and enclosure. They cut themselves off from the outside world in order to have a life of contemplative study, solitude, and silence. Theirs was a life of humble labor and praise, within a cloistered life of fulfillment.
    Ciara was up and around within six months. There was a lot of work to do around a monastery, and it wasn’t long before she was doing her share. Working in the vineyards was what she loved more than anything else she did. Sister Ailbe, who was in charge of the vineyard, had taken her under her wing and instructed her in the care of the grape vines. She had also tutored her in German.
    Ciara was happy with the sisters, but something kept pulling at her, saying, This is not your home, this is not your life, and You have to find your way back before it is too late.
    But where to start? The monastery was the only life Ciara knew. The sisters were the only people she knew. She had no idea what the outside world even looked like or what she would do if she were out there.
    Sister Bridget had told her that the outside world was an evil place, full of evil people, and she was better off not remembering such a place. Sister Bridget said, “I wish my mind was void of the memory of that horrible place, I could then find true peace.”
    Somewhere in the back of Ciara’s mind was a memory of being happy in the world that Sister Bridget despised. Sometimes from the dark regions of her mind she would hear a name or see a face, but she had no idea what it meant.
    Ciara put her headgear back on, pushed her hair back into the head covering, and went back to her pruning. She knew the day would end, and a new day would come.
[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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