Authors: Stuart Woods
Colonel Wade Sykes got an encrypted phone call while having breakfast. “Yes?”
“It’s me. We lost them during the night.”
“How did you manage that?”
“Well, this is kind of embarrassing, but we found out this morning that Broad Cove Cottage isn’t on Broad Cove Road. It’s on the next road to the north. We found the other road, with a house at the end. They were gone, but left lots of car tracks in the mud. We checked the airport at Rockland, and the big hangar’s door was open; nothing inside. They probably left in the middle of the night or, at least, before sunrise.”
“Hang on,” Sykes said, and turned to his laptop. “This Barrington fellow has a lot of houses: one in L.A., one in
Key West, two in England, and another in Paris. His airplane has the range for any of them from either Bangor or Presque Isle, one of which is where they’d have to clear customs on departure.”
“Have you checked any destination airports?”
“Yes, we’ve checked Key West and both Burbank and Van Nuys, which are the most likely general aviation airports for an aircraft of that size. Nothing.”
“Where does he land in England?”
“One of his houses is in London, the other is in the country, in Hampshire. He can land at London City, but hangarage is jammed there. He could also land at Northolt, west of the city, but the hangarage there is packed, too.”
“Check Southampton and Bournemouth, in the south.”
“I’ll get back to you.” He hung up.
Sykes was washing his dishes when the phone rang again. “Yes?”
“Bournemouth and Southampton come up zero.”
“Maybe he drove someplace from Maine,” Sykes suggested.
“Why would he do that? The weather has cleared, and he could go anywhere in the Gulfstream, and much faster. We’d be wasting our time to do a search for a car, when we don’t even know if or what he’s driving.”
“All right, shut it down and come home. Thanks for putting in the extra time on this.”
“No problem. We’ll be there tonight.”
They both hung up.
Stone and Holly were having breakfast in bed when Stone checked his e-mail and found one from Sam Meriwether, the former senator from Georgia and the vice president–elect.
I can’t find our friend anywhere. Has she fallen off the map? If you’re in touch, ask her to call me without delay; there are things afoot that she needs to know about.
Stone handed Holly the phone. “Maybe you’d better call him.”
They finished breakfast, then Holly called Sam on Stone’s phone.
“Well, you’re alive,” Sam said. “When are you planning to appear on Earth again?”
“Well, I know where I’ll be on January 20.”
“We need you sooner than that.”
“We didn’t have time to talk before you vanished into thin air, so nobody’s had a chance to tell you that you’re booked on the Sunday shows of all four networks this weekend.”
“Blow them off.”
“We can’t do that, Holly. You’ve already been gone too long. You need to take a victory lap, to let the folks who voted for you see your smiling face.”
“Hang on, Sam.” She covered the phone. “Stone, they’ve
got me booked on all networks Sunday morning. When would we have to leave to make them?”
“Saturday night, latest,” Stone said.
“Sam says I have to do this.”
“I’m all for it,” Stone said. “Aren’t you getting tired of hiding?”
She went back to the phone. “All right, Sam. What time do you want me, and where?”
, Sunday, at your house. I’m assuming the Secret Service will transport you, but I’d like to have somebody in the car with you who knows the ropes with the networks.”
“Okay, have ’em ring the doorbell. The Service will want to board me in the garage. E-mail me a schedule on this phone, and I’ll pass it on to them, so they can make their arrangements. See you on the tube.” She made a kissing noise, then hung up.
“Well, so much for your vacation. I’m afraid it wasn’t much of one.”
“At least I got in some sleep and a few drinks,” she said. “Not to mention your body, and I want some more of that right now.”
Stone set the breakfast trays outside the door, then dove into her waiting arms.
After taking care of that, Stone sought out Bill Wright. “We’re going to need to fly to Washington tomorrow night,” he said.
“What’s the occasion?”
“She’s booked on four television shows on Sunday, in the Washington studios of all four networks.”
“May I make a suggestion?” Bill asked.
“Why don’t we do a TV setup at her house, and she can do all four from there, remotely. She’ll still be on live TV, and we won’t have to secure four studios.”
“I think that’s a great idea,” Stone said. “I’ll call Sam.”
“You can blame us, if you like. Tell him we’re insisting for reasons of her personal security.”
“Right.” Stone got on the phone with Sam Meriwether and gave him the suggestion.
“I don’t see why not,” Sam replied. “It will give the appearance of a homier feeling. Is it too early for a Christmas tree?”
“I think so,” Stone replied.
“I’ll call you back.”
Stone went back to the bedroom and told Holly what was up.
“Wonderful!” she enthused. “I won’t have to sit around those studios waiting and being nice to people.”
“Right. Sam is setting it up, and we’ll offer the feed to the four stations. They won’t have to do a thing but press a button. They’ll love it.”
Inside of an hour, everyone was in agreement.
“I guess you’ll want to land at Dulles,” Bill said.
“No, at Manassas, Virginia. There’s enough runway, and a lot fewer people around.”
“Okay, that suits us fine. Where will she want to go after that?”
“Hang on,” Stone said. He went back to the bedroom. “Where do you want to go after Sunday?” he asked.
She seemed nonplussed.
“Your choices are: one, a prisoner in your own home; two, a prisoner in my home; three, live your life and the hell with them.”
“I won’t feel safe with option three,” she said. “Where do you want me?”
“In New York, with me,” he said firmly.
“Okay, we’ll stay in New York Sunday night.”
“Great!” He went to inform Bill and the Bacchettis.
The Gulfstream set down just after dark and a new detail of agents took over, moving passengers and luggage into SUVs and leaving the airfield in five minutes.
“Let me borrow your phone,” Holly said to Stone. He handed it over, and she called the chef at her favorite local restaurant. “Hello, Danny? It’s Holly Barker.” There was a moment of ado before Holly could continue. “I’m on my way in from out of town with some friends who are staying at my house. Could you make them some dinner, and deliver it? There are six, and I’ll leave it to you to choose the menu. Don’t bother with wines. Thank you, Danny. Just put it on my tab and add a big tip.” She hung up. “We will be fed in an hour,” she said. “Bill, you and Claire join us. Your detail can fend for themselves.”
“That’ll work,” Bill said.
“I suppose they’ll have to sweep the house?”
“Already done,” he replied. “It’s clean.”
They drove to Georgetown. A few yards from the house, the garage door opened and they entered the basement. A group of cots were set up in a corner, ready for use.
They dismounted and went to their rooms to freshen up. Holly stayed upstairs until the food had been delivered, then she joined everyone else. While they were in the dining room a crew arrived and began to set up camera and audio equipment. Holly went into the living room and approved the corner of the room that would be on camera, then checked out the camera angles. She rejoined the others in the dining room. “We could shoot it tonight, if they didn’t all want to be live.”
After dinner, the White House was on the line for Holly, and shortly, so was Kate Lee. “I understand you’re safely at home and will be broadcasting from there tomorrow morning,” she said to Holly.
“That is correct.”
“I wonder if that might be a good time to say something about the events on Islesboro?”
“A good time for you, or for me?”
“I think it would be a good opportunity to look cool under fire. After the last interview you could be hooked up to all four stations and say a few words. I’ll leave it to you what to say.”
“All right, Kate, I can do that.”
“Did you enjoy Key West?”
“I wasn’t there long enough,” Holly said, “but I enjoyed Stone. I’m going back to New York with him tomorrow and stay there for a while, gradually emerging from my shell.”
“Who was it who said, ‘Never miss an opportunity to have a good meal or sex’?”
“I don’t know. It sounds like Oscar Wilde, though.”
“Will and I are going to be in New York next Wednesday. Perhaps we could have dinner with you, Stone, and the Bacchettis.”
“I’m sure Stone will enjoy hosting that, and we won’t have to bother with a restaurant.”
“Fine. We’ll be there for drinks at six-thirty. Sleep well.” She hung up.
Holly returned to the table. “Stone, Kate Lee has asked if you will give them dinner on Wednesday evening; the Bacchettis are invited, too.”
“Of course I will. I’ll let Helene know.”
“Now, Bill. You and Claire can do your thing at Stone’s house.”
“Of course,” he replied.
After making love with Stone, Holly went to her study, got pen and paper and wrote a couple of drafts of what she wanted to say the following day. Then she took the list of names of the murdered agents and wrote a letter to each of their next of kin, put them in envelopes, then stamped and
sealed them for mailing by the Secret Service the following day.
Finally, she crept into bed beside the sleeping Stone and went to sleep.
Holly awoke at five
and went down to the kitchen, where she had coffee, then turned herself over to the hairdresser and makeup artist. The TV director came into the room. “Good morning, ma’am,” he said. “We’d like to propose a slight change in our plans this morning.”
“As long as it doesn’t require a costume change and new makeup,” Holly said.
“Senator Meriwether thinks you might be interviewed on all four programs at once. Each would be cued when it’s their turn. Then, when that’s done, you can say that you have an announcement to make, and we’ll cut their mics, so you won’t have to deal with their reactions.”
“I think that’s a brilliant idea,” Holly said.
“It’s a one-hour show, so each of them will have about fifteen minutes, and I’ll decide when to cue them. We’ve set up a monitor with a quartered screen, so you can look them all in the eye. Or at least, that’s how it will seem to the viewers.”
At ten minutes before the start time, Holly was led into the living room and seated in a comfortable chair with an extra
pillow for a better altitude for the camera. She was fitted with an earpiece in each ear, so that the director could speak to her without the world hearing it. “I’m in your left ear, and the questioners are in your right. Got it?”
“Got it. Oh, if it’s all right, I’d like for Fox News to ask the first question. My history with them has always been a little contentious, so we might as well get that out of the way.”
“I can do that,” the director said. “Here we go, in five, four, three, two, one . . .” Music and an announcer’s voice came on to introduce the show. The director would moderate from off-camera.
“Good morning,” he said. “And welcome to the home of our president-elect, Holly Barker. I will call on each participant for questions, which should not be longer than fifteen seconds, and the president-elect will have approximately ninety seconds to answer. Our first question comes from Fox News.”
Holly looked at the woman occupying one corner of the screen before her.
“Good morning, Ms. Barker,” the woman said. “I think Americans would like to know why you have been in hiding for the past week or so.”
Holly smiled. “Not in hiding, but in the company of old friends in a quiet place. It gave me a little time to collect my thoughts and rest my body, after a hectic campaign schedule. I’ll have more to say about that at the end of the program.”
The next questions were asked, and Holly gave them thoughtful, sometimes witty, replies, exhibiting her
knowledge of policy and her vivid intelligence. An hour later, they were at the end.
The director spoke up. “The president-elect has asked for a moment to say a few words on another subject,” he said.
“Thank you,” Holly replied. “During my time off, with friends in a secluded place that will remain unnamed, an attempt was made on my life. I was away from the house at the time, and as you can see, the attempt was not successful. However, in my absence, a tragedy occurred: six members of my Secret Service detail were attacked and killed by automatic weapons fire in a building near my quarters. The weapons were apparently silenced, because my friends and I heard nothing. I and my companions were removed to a safe location very quickly, and the Secret Service felt strongly that this announcement should be postponed until the situation was stable and pursuit of the perpetrators had begun. I could not disagree. Those violent people have not yet been brought to justice, but every available resource of law enforcement has been deployed, and I hope they will be arrested soon.
“These fallen agents gave their all to protect me, and I shall always be grateful to them. I mourn with their families, whose losses are incalculable and unbearable.
“Thank you for listening so that I could share this news with the nation. Goodbye for now.”
“And out,” the director said. His crew removed her earpieces and began restoring the living room to its previous order.
“Good job,” Stone said, kissing her on the forehead.
That evening they arrived at Teterboro. The Bacchettis’ car awaited them, as did Stone’s. He explained the armor contained in his car.
“Who did the work?” Bill Wright asked.
“Strategic Services. They have a branch that does special vehicles.”
“Have you ever put its defenses to use?”
“I had a window fired on once,” Stone replied. “It stopped the bullet and starred, but it didn’t shatter.”
“Those people do good work,” Bill said, taking the shotgun seat.
A half hour later, they were driving into Stone’s garage. “There’s room for some of your vehicles,” Stone said. “I own the house next door, too.”
“That’s convenient for us,” Bill said. “Nothing says
‘the Secret Service is here’ like a few black SUVs parked outside.”
Stone and Holly went straight up to the master suite and unpacked in their separate dressing rooms.
“It’s like coming home all over again,” Holly said, snuggling up close to Stone.
The following morning, Stone’s cell phone rang as they were finishing breakfast.
“Good morning, Lance,” he said. “I’m scrambled.” Lance Cabot was the director of central intelligence, for whom Stone was an advisor.
“Good morning, Stone. How was your vacation with Holly?”
“I’m sure you’ve heard all the details,” Stone said.
“What I haven’t heard or understood is why there was no attack at your backup location?”
“We believe that they had been told to go to Broad Cove Cottage but were not told the house was not on Broad Cove Road, an understandable mistake. So they didn’t get closer than about half a mile.”
“Ah, fortune smiled.”
“Just when we needed a smile most.”
“So now Holly faces assassination attempts right up to her inauguration?”
“Possibly not. The Secret Service is operating now at post-inaugural staffing levels, and the assailants may be put off by the headlines.”
“Have you seen this morning’s papers?”
“Not yet. They’re at the foot of the bed.” Stone picked up the
and shook it from its blue plastic bag. The banner headline read:
ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON PRESIDENT-ELECT
A still photograph of Holly during her television appearance decorated the front page.
“They had to tear up the front page to get that in this morning’s paper,” Lance said. “Usually they can’t manage more than the college football scores the next day.”
“It’s a more important story than the football scores,” Stone replied.
“Quite right. All of my people based domestically have an ear to the ground,” Lance said. “I hope that will turn up something useful.”
“I hope so, too,” Stone said.
“Give my best to Holly,” Lance said, then hung up.
“That was Lance,” Stone said. “He sends his best.”
“How sweet. Is he doing anything about this?” She was reading the front page.
“He says all of his people in the country have an ear to the ground.”
“That must be uncomfortable for them.”
“I expect so, because they will know that he means it.”
“Lance would like nothing better than to one-up the Secret Service and the FBI.”
“He would probably expect the Medal of Freedom for it.”
“Lance always has high expectations. You should know that better than anybody.” Holly had once worked for Lance and had been promoted to Kate Lee’s deputy, when she had been director at the CIA, crowding Lance, who would have liked the job himself.
“I’m sure he will give me plenty of opportunities to make it up to him.”
“You shouldn’t be too hard on Lance, Holly. He’s inordinately proud of you.”
“Taught me everything I know, huh?”
“Well, probably not everything.”
“You go right on thinking that,” Holly said.
“I’ll think it. What does your day hold?”
“I have a lot of pent-up shopping urges I have to satisfy. Claire is working up a schedule and making appointments for me, so her people can stay one step ahead. We’re going to use both an SUV and your car, if that’s all right, just to keep photographers off my tail. One of Bill’s people will drive, so we won’t need Fred.”
“That’s fine. I have some work and correspondence to catch up on.”
She kicked off the covers. “Oh, and I’m getting my hair done, too.”
“Don’t you have something called a transition to deal with?”
“That starts tomorrow. Sam Meriwether is assembling lists of names for court appointments and cabinet posts, as well as for the Supreme Court. I know everybody in Kate’s administration pretty well, and it will help if we can persuade some of them to stay on, instead of writing their books or getting lobbying jobs.”
“Good luck with that,” Stone said. “The ones who were making money before serving will need to make money again.”
“You could be right, but don’t worry, we’re covering all the bases. What job would you like?”
Stone laughed. “The one I’ve got now,” he replied.
“You mean satisfying the chief executive’s cravings on a regular basis?”
“As regularly as you can get to New York.”
“They’ve taken a permanent suite for me at the Carlyle, and I get to decorate it, so we can alternate trysting places.”
“Where’s the transition team working?”
“In an empty storefront on Madison Avenue down from the Carlyle.”
“All very convenient,” he said.
“Especially you,” she replied, kissing him. “Now I’ve got to get into the shower.” She ran for it.