Read Presidential Shift - Episode 1 Online

Authors: C. G. Cooper

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Presidential Shift - Episode 1 (2 page)

BOOK: Presidential Shift - Episode 1
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“Is that the reason you didn’t come see me
the day I called?”

There was no accusation in the president’s
tone. Just a question.

“That was part of it. The other part, that
you might not know, is that I’d just buried one of my best friends.
Put the two together and yeah, you could say I wasn’t exactly in
the mood to visit.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” offered the
president. “I didn’t know.”

“Thank you.”

“Would you like to go on?”

Cal rubbed his eyes slowly.

“It’s not that I don’t think you’re a nice
guy, Mr. President. I came because I’m a Marine and I respect the
office that you hold. I don’t agree with your policies. In fact, I
think they’ve weakened our country. Your push for social welfare
reform is giving people a free pass. Americans’ sense of
entitlement is obscene. Whatever happened to an honest day’s work
and helping your neighbor? Now it’s all about how the government
can support me. Me, me, me.”

The president nodded grimly.

“I understand how you feel,” the president
said.

“I’m not so sure about that, Mr.
President.”

“I think you’d be surprised.” He stopped and
smiled. “Your reservations actually play perfectly into why I
called you.”

Cal’s face scrunched in confusion.

“How is that?”

“Let me back up a bit. I’m not a stupid man,
Cal. I may have walked into the presidency a little naïve, but I’ve
kept my eyes and ears open. I understand that many of the
initiatives I first sought to introduce were well meaning,
but…misguided. What I failed to see was man’s greed. I’ve watched
as billions of dollars have been wasted on junk programs. I’ve seen
my constituency beg for milk money and spend it on drugs. I’ve
shaken hands with members of Congress only to see them take their
money and funnel it into their pet projects. Most Americans have no
idea the level of corruption that exists within their own country.
I can tell you that I’m quietly trying to root out these
elements.”

“So why do you need us?”

The president looked at each of his three
visitors.

“Someone is trying to stop me.”

“Stop you from doing what?”

“From cleaning up Washington.”

There was only silence in the conference
room. An amused look fell across Cal’s face.

“No offense, Mr. President, but that sounds a
bit grandiose.”

The president chuckled.

“I know how it sounds, but I’m dead
serious.”

This time it was Brandon who broke the
uncomfortable silence.

“And how do you propose to do that, Mr.
President?”

“I don’t know yet. I’ve been putting out
feelers to some of my most trusted advisers. They’re all telling me
it can’t be done. One of them even had the nerve to tell me to let
it lie.”

The president shook his head angrily.

“I will not stand by and watch this country
be ripped apart. We have enough enemies overseas. Killing ourselves
from within is suicide.”

“How can we help, Mr. President?” asked Cal.
His demeanor had calmed. He could see the president had changed.
Now it was time to see how much.

“I need two things. First, help me come up
with a way to dig out these parasites and expose them for what they
are. Second, find out who is trying to sabotage my efforts.”

Cal exhaled.

“I’m not sure you want me doing that,
sir.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t think you’d approve of my
methods.”

“And if I did?”

“Then I don’t think you’d like what we’d
find.”

The President put his chin in his palm.

“You mean you think this will lead back to
me.”

“Shit rolls downhill, Mr. President.”

Instead of being angry, the president
laughed.

“Did you learn that in the Marine Corps,
Staff Sergeant?”

“I did, sir.”

“So tell me, what happens in the Marine Corps
when a unit is found to be ineffective or negligent?”

“They go after the commanding officer. But
that doesn’t happen in Washington.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Unless a politician murders someone or
sneaks gold bricks out of Fort Knox, they won’t be fired. Let me
equate it to the civilian world. If a CEO leads his corporation
into bankruptcy or even has bad quarterly earnings, the board lets
the CEO go. That doesn’t happen here. It’s okay for politicians to
play with our money, waste it, misspend it, and yet they keep
getting reelected.”

“And you don’t put any blame on the American
people?” asked the president, eyebrow raised.

“Of course I do, sir, but it starts at the
top. If I were a CEO and led my company poorly, I would feel it was
my obligation, no, my duty, to step down.”

“You know I can’t do that, Cal.”

“You asked, Mr. President,” Cal answered with
a shrug.

“So what do you propose we do when we find
these corrupt officials?”

Cal grinned. “Go after them with everything
we’ve got.”

“And how would we do that?”

“We’d run it case by case. We’ve been known
to get creative.”

“You’d have to promise me that no one would
get hurt.”

“You mean physically?”

The president nodded.

“That wasn’t my plan anyway, sir. There are
plenty of ways to skin a cat.”

“So you’re saying you’ll do it?”

Cal looked to his two friends.

“I’ll do it on two conditions.”

The president’s eyes narrowed.

“And what would those conditions be?”

“One, I bring in anyone I need.”

“And the second?”

“The gloves are off, Mr. President. We expose
these crooks to the world. No second chances.”

“Agreed,” replied the president without
hesitation.

“So, where would you like—.” Cal was cut off
when five Secret Service agents burst into the room.

“What is it?” asked the president, more
annoyed than concerned.

The first agent into the room answered.
“There’s been an attack, Mr. President. We need to get you to
safety.”

“Where?”

“At the Air and Space Museum.”

The president’s eyes widened. Cal, Daniel and
Brandon looked confused.

“The first lady?”

“She was wounded by the blast and taken to
the closest hospital for emergency surgery.”

The president stood up from his chair and
moved toward his security detail. He looked to his guests.

“I’m sorry, gentlemen, but if you’ll excuse
me.”

The three men rose quickly and moved in the
direction of the exit. One of the large agents put his hand to stop
them from coming closer. Cal looked annoyed.

“Mr. President,” said the lead agent.

The president turned to face him.

“There’s more, sir.”

“What do you mean?”

The agent’s stoic face hesitated
momentarily.

“The vice president is dead.”

Chapter 3

Smithsonian Institution National Air &
Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

11:09am, December
15
th

At the direction of the president, Cal and
Daniel accompanied one of the Secret Service vehicles heading to
the scene of the deadly attack. The agents hadn’t been happy about
it, but took their orders.

They sat in the back of the armored SUV as it
maneuvered through the winding streets of D.C. Tourists stared as
processions of siren-wailing vehicles sped in the same
direction.

“How many people were hurt?” Cal asked the
agent sitting in the front passenger seat.

The man held up an index finger as he
listened to the chatter on his earpiece. Cal waited. Finally the
man turned.

“Initial estimates say forty-two civilians
killed, another fifty wounded. We lost four agents along with the
vice president.”

“I’m sorry,” offered Cal.

The man nodded.

“You want to tell me why the president asked
for you two to come along?”

Cal shrugged. “I’m in the dark, just like
you.”

The agent stared at his unwanted passengers,
and then huffed.

“Just do me a favor and stay out of the way,
okay?”

“No problem.”

The agent glanced at the driver and turned
back to listening to his earpiece.

Daniel nudged Cal and whispered, “What do you
want me to do?”

“Let’s just go see what we can see. Who
knows, maybe two dumb Marines will be able to do some good in a
shitty situation.

+++

They arrived at the scene minutes later. The
attack had occurred on the National Mall side of the museum, so
their vehicle parked along the grass edge of Jefferson Drive SW. A
mix of metro police and FBI had cordoned off two full blocks.
Everyone looked on edge, weapons drawn.

Cal and Daniel got out of the vehicle and
looked up at the devastation. Half of the windowed entrance of the
Air and Space Museum was gone. Glass littered the ground both
inside and out.

The driver handed each a badge on a
lanyard.

“Put these on,” the man ordered. “Remember
what I said. You can take a look around, but stay out of the
way.”

The two Marines nodded and were left alone.
They surveyed the scene.

“How do you think they did it?” Cal asked his
companion.

“I’d say it was some kind of mortar or
rocket.”

“That’s what I was thinking. Let’s go take a
look inside.”

Federal personnel rushed around them as they
ascended the stairs. It looked like the majority of the wounded had
already been triaged and the worst of the injured had been
transported to local hospitals. Near the welcome desk was a growing
row of bodies laid side by side. They looked to be covered with
curtains that someone had ripped down from inside the building.

Museum pieces that were once hanging now sat
on the ground or dipped precariously. Everyone avoided walking
under them, and workers were already trying to secure them in
place.

Cal pointed over to where the center of the
carnage appeared to be. They had to dodge pools of blood as they
walked carefully around debris. A crew of forensic men and women
were taking pictures, using large cameras with high wattage
flashes.

Cal tapped one of the photographers on the
shoulder. The man turned and looked down at Cal’s badge. He
adjusted his thick glasses as he sized up the stranger.

“Can I help you?”

“Is this where the vice president was
standing?”

“Yeah. There was a podium right there,” he
pointed to a spot on ground now gouged and twisted. “Witnesses say
he was introducing the first lady when the explosion happened.”

“Where was the first lady standing?”

“Over there, behind that corner, waiting to
be announced.”

Cal and Daniel looked to where he was
pointing. Black streaks marred the wall’s sturdy white surface.

“Hey, I need to get back to taking these
pictures.”

Cal let the man get back to his work.

“Let’s see where the first lady was
standing,” Cal suggested.

Walking around the corner, they found a small
area marked with orange cones. In the center of the cones was an
index card taped to ground. It was labeled,
First Lady
.
Blood spatter streaked angrily along the floor.

“That’s a lot of blood,” Cal thought
aloud.

“Yeah. She was darned close to the
explosion,” said Daniel.

They took another loop through the site, and
then exited the way they’d come. Federal agents and emergency
personnel continued to stream in and out of the entrance as the
Marines walked out onto Jefferson Drive. Daniel cupped his hands
over his eyes and surveyed the area.

“What are you thinking?” Cal asked.

Daniel pointed across the lawn. “What’s that
building over there?”

Cal squinted. “I think that’s the National
Gallery of Art.”

“Let’s go take a look.”

Cal and Daniel scanned the vicinity as they
walked across the now crowded National Mall.

“There don’t seem to be many vantage points
on this side of the museum,” said Cal.

“I was thinking the same thing. They would’ve
needed some serious weaponry to shoot from across the lawn. From
looking at that point of impact, it reminded me of some of those
laser guided systems we used in Afghanistan.”

“Those things are pretty big. How the hell
did they get it in here without being seen?”

Daniel didn’t answer and continued to inspect
the scene.

As they neared the opposite side of the Mall,
Cal pointed.

“Looks like they’ve already got the area
cordoned off.”

Masked men in black SWAT suits guarded the
entrance to the columned structure. Cal and Daniel showed their
badges and were ushered through.

Cal walked toward an agent barking
orders.

“Excuse me.”

The agent turned, an annoyed look already
plastered on his face. He glanced down at Cal’s badge.

“Can I help you?”

“Find anything?” asked Cal.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but can’t you see
that we’re pretty busy around here?”

“We’re not here to get in the way. The
president sent us over to take a look around. That’s all we’re
doing.”

The annoyed agent stared at both men for a
moment as if deciding whether to continue the conversation.

“And what makes you so special?”

Cal shrugged. “We’re not. Just a couple of
dumb grunts.”

The agent actually grinned.

“Okay, dumb grunt. We’re trying to find out
where the weapon was launched from.”

“Going with line of sight first?” Daniel
questioned.

“Yeah. The most obvious place was here
because of the clear shot.”

“Any surveillance video?”

“Not yet. Some of our guys are working on
that now.”

“Have you found pieces of the warhead?”

“Just fragments so far. Forensics is still
putting it together.”

“What’s your gut telling you?” Cal
interrupted.

BOOK: Presidential Shift - Episode 1
8.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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