Chapter 11

A sick President

The general response among Team Trump was that Frederick Polson II had let the side down badly by contracting Covid-19. It certainly wasn’t in the script, and one day before the final Presidential debate it created impossibility piled on impossibility. How could they field a President who was still having difficulty speaking after a stroke? Which had been disguised as Covid? Which would mean the President had now had Covid twice, despite his alleged invincibility? Cancel the debate and hand the opponent a huge advantage? Find another jobbing lookalike actor with one day’s notice?
In the fever of questioning, no-one asked how unwell the old actor might be, although his temperature was high and he confirmed that his sense of smell had already deserted him. No question, said the onboard Doctor, on landing, the fake President must be taken straight to hospital – the man was already breathing with increasing difficulty.

“Geh Jools,” was the President’s first response on hearing the news of his double’s illness. In his stroke afflicted voice he grunted out, “Tell him geh his hans outta his pans and we talk. Fi minutes.” And whatever he might have been doing, within five minutes Rudy Giuliani was indeed on the line. The two talked in private for half an hour before Trump called several aides into his airborne office. “Right, we gog a pla…” And, they soon agreed, it was a good plan.

When Air Force One landed back at Andrews, and a medical team smuggled Frederick Polson off, the President and his closest courtiers stayed onboard. The call had been placed, the translators were ready on their secure lines, and all they needed was for the distant dictator to agree to an unscheduled chat. He and Donald J Trump had publically declared undying admiration for each other, and now a favour was needed, which is what friends are for, yeh? 


Party over

Kent Warfield was wearing a groove in the kitchen floor. He’d been pacing since the call with his partner in the plot to overthrow Trump, using the artistry of movie making. And now his partner was having second thoughts. “Yeh, of course I hate Trump,” Tone had explained. “Of course I want to see the back of him. But.”
And what was that ‘But?’ Kent wanted to know.
“It’s complicated, but, I had an approach.”
“An approach?”
“You’ll have to tell me more than that Antony. I’m not a mind reader.”
“Yeh. Well. You see, certain people think maybe I have a political future. That I’d be cut out for it.”
Reagan, Schwarzenegger, the reality TV host Trump… now add Antony Fentick to the list?
“Well yeh, kinda. Look, I’m sorry Kent, but I have to think strategically.”
“Isn’t making a programme which will unseat the President of the United States strategic enough for you Tone? It’s just over a week to the election and we still haven’t pulled the trigger. The next episode has to be it. We have to show all the deceptions. And you’re telling me you’ve been ‘approached’, whatever that means. By the CIA, what?”
“Certain significant people in the Republican party.”
“But you’re a Dem.”
“Actually Kent, I have always been apolitical. I’m a small-D democrat, and yes, I think Trump is the worst thing to have ever happened to America, so of course I bought into your ideas to get him out. Now though he’s ejecting himself it seems, by simply being as crazy as a hog, so we don’t need The Two Presidents to do it for us. Fred’s performance at that first debate actually started the slide, so we’ve been kinda successful anyway. Now I have to think of my own future.”
“In the Republican party?”
“In politics. I can make a difference, I know it.”
Kent had a sudden insight, “This is Ivanka isn’t it?”
“I. Um. Yeh, kinda. She’s the candidate.
“So whatever happens this election, come 2024 we’ll see a bid for the first female President of the United States, and the continuation of the Trump dynasty?”
“Yeh.” At least Tone looked a little shamefaced.
“And they’ll be needing a Veep who looks really good on camera?”
“Yeh, kinda.”
Kent Warfield smacked his fist down on the countertop he’d been obsessing over in recent days. Well, he’d complained to Zsuzsa that there wasn’t enough challenge in his current work. Be careful what you wish for.
“Here’s the thing Tone. Maybe I’ll just go ahead and release some of the fess-up versions tonight. No more hanging around.”
“And here’s the thing Kent my friend – you can’t. Who owns the rights? Fentone Productions. Who did the deal with Netflix? Fentone Productions. Who is the public face of our enterprise, the charming well-known guy who introduces it all and chats with the President? Let me tell you – it’s Antony ‘Tone’ Fentick. Sorry Kent, but you’re a semi-famous backroom boy who isn’t even an American. And you’re going to insist on what gets screened? I don’t think so.”
“But I have Director’s Cut rights.”
“Which amount to diddly shit if there’s no distribution, as you well know. Kent, you have been here before…”
Which he had.
“…be happy that we’ve made a pretty good series so far, which will be a great redux docudrama in the movie theatres, if they ever open again. We’ll get good ROI, people will admire the camerawork and great editing, and on November 3rd the electorate will decide what happens, like they were always going to, with or without our propaganda.”

The reference to propaganda was what had tipped Kent Warfield into a towering rage where he said things that would be hard to take back. Things about Antony Fentick having been a talentless nobody, raised to stardom by the famous British director. Things about Antony Fentick being a delusional, opportunity-grabbing fool, dazzled by scheming would-be politicos intent on retaining power at all costs. Things about Antony Fentick being a rat and a fink and a dickhead.
At which point the dickhead terminated the call from his luxurious island hideaway.


At the brink

As the Presidential motorcade prepared to leave the White House, on the way to Andrews Joint Base, and from there onwards by Air Force One to Nashville Tennessee, communications systems across the country were going into meltdown. The CIA, Homeland Security, Black Ops units across the globe, and every military watch post on American territories, spy satellites, overflying stealth bombers, hackers, crackers and interpretative experts, Generals with chests full of medals scrambling to reach their underground bases, as well as the fake mainstream media, waking up to another day and trying to get a handle on what was happening. All watching, waiting, a giant collective intake of breath. Was this it, the big one? The Bay of Pigs for our times from which there might be no turning back? Reporters on every channel did standups in front of maps of the North-South Korean border, speculating on the massing of troops on the North side, and the appearance of missiles on their mobile launchpads.
‘It’s just regular manoeuvres,’ a source in Pyongyang stated, while defence analysts begged to differ. This looked like the start of a dirty little war. Or maybe a dirty big war. Naturally the 45th President of the USA could no longer head off to the planned debate – there were far more Presidential things to do than argue for ninety minutes with Sleepy Joke Biden. So hardly had the cars pulled out than they were turning back, to deliver the President to the war room in the White House, where the Joint Chiefs of Staff were gathering to review the situation. The TV crews that had shot the departing leader had barely started packing their gear away when he was back, providing excellent footage of him looking grim and determined. Actually, looking like a leader.

The official White House photographer Shealah Craighead, was soon able to recreate something akin to the celebrated shot of Obama and his team, when they’d monitored the attack on Osama Bin Laden’s compound. The shot was requested personally by President Trump, because this day he was determined to make history.


Beyond the brink

Well I guess he did.

                Excuse me?

He did make history. Faced off against the little fat guy and his missiles, got the North Koreans to stand down.

                You believe that shit?

Of course. I mean it was on every news channel on earth. In years to come people will still be talking about the one statesmanlike thing that Trump ever did in his time in office. We all lived through it. I mean that coulda been the start of the end of everything. Whatever else you say about the guy, at least he saved us from the missiles being fired. And if North Korea had fired first, the US would have been in there five seconds later, with Russia not a whole lot behind, and China reaching for their button too. Trump walked to the brink, and the other guy blinked.

                And here was me thinking that you are an intelligent person.

I am, I think. Are you suggesting… Are you saying this was a scam? Like a setup? It was to get Trump out of trouble so that he didn’t have to face up to Biden on the TV debate? Because he had a frozen jaw? You have got to be shittin me.

                But it’s true. Trump wriggles out of the debate, Biden gets left looking like an ineffectual unimportant bystander, and even the Never-Trumpers have to admit that this one time, he’s saved the world’s ass.

Except you’re saying he also created the crisis with the help of his dear friend in Pyongyang.

                Exactly. He calls up Kim Jong-un, ‘Hey bud, do me a favour will yah. Throw a few troops around the border, make some shapes, bring your ICBMs out for a bit of sunshine. Everyone will go batshit, but you and me bud, we’ll know what’s really happening. And bud, I’ll make it up to you later, and that’s a Presidential promise.

Great theory, but wild speculation.

                Nope, au contraire mon ami. Remember Gennifer-with-a-G?

Sure, the young, roving Producer-Director for the Reeltimers?

                Exactly. So Gennifer is onboard Air Force One the night old Fred gets carried off sick, and Trump makes his call to buddy boy in North Korea. Gennifer is a very naughty Producer-Director, because she accidently leaves a minicam running in the Presidential office on the plane. Oops. So believe it, this story is for real, and it’s documented. The Reeltime Gang’s ninjakids and their equipment have gotten kinda invisible in the eyes of all the White House people. They’re so used to being on Celebrity Love Island 24/7 that they don’t even question they might be caught on camera, or microphone. They’ve gotten careless, none more than Trump himself. You see he expects to be adored by cameras everywhere he goes, so he hardly sees them anymore.

The world was pushed to the edge of a nuclear war so that Trump could avoid a TV debate?

                Yep, exactly.

OK, let’s just suppose that you’re not smoking crack and this really did happen, where’s the footage?

                Aha! For that, we need to track down Mr Kent Warfield, movie director supreme, but sadly a piss-poor politician.


Social media murder hornets

The activity in edit suites in Britain, Ireland, and around LA was intense as Kent Warfield marshalled all his resources to tell the true story of The Two Presidents in one night of killer exposés. But if they did it in linear form it would take too long to air, and the online platforms could shut down a single source, if they got breathed on the way Antony Fentick had been breathed on. Kent had always been a person who was big on loyalty, but when anyone strayed from his own standards, they instantly became a non-person to him. Antony Fentick, until recently first choice for almost any role in any Kent Warfield movie, was now a nothing, a betrayer.
To Antony Fentick, Kent Warfield was the same loose cannon he’d always been. Brilliant, erratic, and now deeply out of touch with the global realpolitik. Tone Fentick was setting up to play the long game, and benefit the world that way. He knew that Kent would be plotting some comeback, but hey, let him. When it came to reach and distribution, Kent merely had the recourse of posting clips on Facebook, while Fentone Productions had a blockbuster series running on Netflix, which was licensed around the world. Shame that the plan they’d jointly anticipated hadn’t come to fruition, but a person had to flex. If they didn’t, they weren’t a person, they were a dinosaur, and Kent Warfield certainly belonged in that category. A roaring, wounded dinosaur, from an already bygone age which might never return after the ravages of Covid-19. The movies were so last year.

Ángel Castro and Kent Warfield were supervising the completion of multiple micro clips from the vast library of material they’d collated. Like a swarm of murder hornets, the clips would be released in as many corners of the world as possible, that evening. Each member of the Reeltime Gang had promised to post a clip on their own social media channels, and use their businesses and friends to repost, and repost, and repost. Cease and desist orders were already flooding in from Fentone and Netflix, plus the Trump campaign (now how could they have possibly known?) but Warfield was unbowed. He’d promised his gang their Fukushima moment, and he was going to take this all the way, whatever the consequences. The mini modules were stacking up in hard drives around the world, and Zoom and Skype were alive with the chatter of excited – and fearful – Reeltimers. This is what they had said they would commit to, but now it all seemed so close, and so real. They were going to bring down the President of the United States in a mire of lies and treason, only days before the elections. How mad and bad and crazy was all that?

For Gabriel Delors, in the Dordogne, the drama and intrigue was a long way away. He’d joined Kent from loyalty, rather than specific political intentions. As an Irishman, Lyle O’Nolan was a Biden fan anyway, and a Trump hater from the moment the TV-host had slimed his way onto the political stage. Lyle had plenty to lose, but he was ready to walk the talk, and take the consequences. Pete Pinter jutted out her big jaw as if saying, ‘Come and get me, just you try it,’ while Debs Maugham shivered in terror that she had been the arranger of a forgery on a fake contract. Meanwhile Sundeep Ghatak and Jewel McClintock were frantically moving funds away from possible sequestration, and to provide the bankrolling of major lawsuits.
The great storm was coming.


And the Oscar goes to…

Frederick Polson II stepped up to the stage at the 2021 Academy Awards, and the audience of A-listers rose as one. The applause lasted for minutes on end, and he stood there, glorying in it, recognising so many familiar faces looking up to him. People who would once have looked down on him, or not even recognised him as a fellow actor. And now he was here, his hand being pumped by Tom Hanks, who had just announced him, “And the winner, best actor 2021 is none other than the man who changed our collective history, Mr Donald… oh, I’m sorry, I got confused there!” (A roar of appreciative laughter). “Mr Frederick Polson II.” There was a tear of gratitude in Tom’s eye.
Frederick squared himself up at the podium, holding the golden statuette, and tears came to his eyes too. He looked down into the audience, where Margaret was sitting with some of their dearest friends. She was glowing with pride and love. “You know, there are times when I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven,” Frederick began, smiling into the bright lights.


Back home

The doctor was poised to open the chest cavity when she heard the disturbance in the corridor, and “You can’t go in there!” from the attending nurse. But the intruders entered anyway. Two big white men, dressed in matching black suits and neckties, with matching black face masks. “Ma’am,” the taller of the two acknowledged the doctor. “No need for an autopsy here.” He flashed some sort of metal badge at her, “This is government business from now on.”
“Doing autopsies is government business too, Agent..?”
“Mercer Ma’am.”
“We need to know exactly why every Covid sufferer dies – what the mechanisms are.”
The older, white-haired man was bending close to the face of the corpse. “Y’know he really does bear a passing strange resemblance,” he observed. “Except he ain’t got no mushroom-shaped dong, if what we hear about our Commander in Chief is true.”
Out of a sense of decency, the doctor drew a plastic cover over the body. “Do you have any authority for bursting in here like this?” She seemed tiny compared to the two big live men, and the fat dead one on the slab.

“You see lady,” the dark-haired agent examined the toe-tag of the corpse. “It’s like this: This-a-here gentleman was imitating our President, Mr Donald J Trump, and that is a Federal crime of the highest water. So you have a criminal on your hands.”
“Not my problem, Agent Merger…”
“I try and save lives. When I can’t, my team and I collect the data.”
“And my oh my, how we all ‘preciate it Doctor Ma’am, but this man is a suspect and I’m afraid we gotta take him in.”

Another figure entered the room, the Chief Physician. “Hi Ruby,” he sounded immediately apologetic. “I tried to reach you before these gentlemen got here. I’m afraid we have to release the cadaver immediately. This evening. Now.”
“But we haven’t established cause of death. Or anything. Next of kin? Address? Who is he?”
Her boss was splaying his hands in a helpless gesture.
“We got the answers to all those questions Ma’am Doctor,” Agent Mercer tried to sound soothing. “No need to worry your head none about them.”
“These instructions come from high up,” the Chief Physician was now actually wringing his hands. “I mean very high up. We have to comply. We’d be in breach of the law if we don’t comply, apparently.”
“Yep, a big breach,” the white-haired agent agreed.

Ten minutes later the doctor and nurse had been escorted from the autopsy room of the United Medical Center, and taken upstairs to the executive suite, for a quiet and calming chat with the Chief Physician, and the hospital Manager. Yes, removing bodies was all highly irregular, but clearly an important case of some sort for the government. Best not to ask, and certainly best not to tell.

Twenty minutes after that, the body of Frederick Polson II, dead of the Chinese virus that he’d been ranting about in his attack lines for several weeks, was wheeled out to a waiting ambulance. He was now dressed in casual sportswear, looking like any other senior lounging around their home. The ambulance took the body, and the accompanying agents to the air base, from where an unmarked Learjet flew them the two thousand miles to Phoenix. By midnight, Frederick was being removed from another ambulance, and gently carried to his apartment, where he was deposited in his favourite chair, with the TV playing softly. A half-drunk can of Sprite from the fridge was knocked from the arm of the chair, and agents Mercer and Putman fussed around for a while, to make sure everything looked correctly disordered, as an old man in the terminal phases of Covid-19 might exist in. Then as their local colleagues drove them back to PHX in the ambulance, Agent Mercer called the Maryvale police precinct, his voice sounding quite convincingly old and cracked. He didn’t want to cause no trouble nor nothing, and he would prefer not to name himself because folks might say he was a nosey neighbour, but you know he was kinda worried that the nice old actor feller that lived a few doors down might be real ill. Heard him coughin and all, then nuthin. Dead quiet. I mean, he didn’t wanna be alarmist, but a man has to look out for his neighbours.
When he’d given Frederick’s address and rung off, Putman and the local guys congratulated him on his performance. “I think this calls for a cold one on the flight back,” the older agent suggested. “Once we’re on that jet we’re on our own time, so I propose that I buy us both a free beer.”


Many little fires

As the latest episode of the officially sanctioned Netflix docuseries on the Trump Presidency aired in America, fronted by the ever-smiling Antony Tone Fentick, little fires were being stoked anywhere that there was social media kindling available. Accounts lit up with shares of the mini clips which Kent Warfield and the Reeltime Gang were carpet-bombing the media with, and for the second time in a week, the world seemed solely focussed on Donald Trump. This time the story was not of him saving the peace through masterful edge of seat negotiations with the rogue state of Kim Jong-un, but the actual living proof of deceit writ large, including the evidence that he’d taken the world to the brink of nuclear war to avoid facing off against his Democratic challenger.

“Basically,” Kent Warfield observed triumphantly as every phone rang continuously in Ángel’s studio. “Basically Trump is now officially fucked. Five days to election day and he’s sunk.” He raised a glass of champagne to his wife, and everyone else from the Reeltime Gang who were sharing the moment on Zoom. “Friends, ladies and gentlemen. You’ve all worked hard in recent weeks, and some of you have worked very hard, but we’ve achieved what we set out to do. I know some people will say that we’ve no business tangling in American issues, but I say to them that what’s happened in the last four years affects everyone living in the world today. That’s how bad things have got. And we can’t let the poison run for another four years. We, my friends, have put our hands in the fire. We have stood up for democracy, and I’m proud of all of us for doing that. The programmes we’re releasing tonight are a mighty work, and if I don’t get thrown in jail, I’m going to see to it that we make an absolute scorcher of a theatrical release out of all of this.”
He paused for the applause and whoops that he knew would come.

‘Nice speech Kenny,’ said Madeline P Moore to herself, watching from her Airbnb. ‘But the script arc hasn’t played out yet. You think you’ve won, and smiles all round. If I was writing this screenplay, now’s the time that we see the monster pulling itself back up in the background. The audience is screaming Behind You, but you’re in the moment, you think the danger is over and the dragon is slain. But this isn’t the final scene, old friend. It can’t be.’


Two remaining snags

“Just nod if talking gets you tired,” said Rudy Giuliani, sitting on Trump’s bed in the private wing of the White House. They both reached at the same moment for the last Hershey’s Kiss on the silver tray. With obvious reluctance, the President’s personal lawyer and fixer deferred to his boss. Trump nodded. Yes, talking did get him tired. He, the champion talker, the great deal-maker, and now his words were strangled at birth. It made him feel pretty sorry for himself.

“So we handled the Debate Thing pretty good,” Giuliani continued. “I mean, you dodged the debate and saved the world, so you’re a hero Donny. Perhaps they really will give you the Nobel prize huh?”
The look on Trump’s face suggested that mention of the Nobel prizes he hadn’t won still rankled. “OK, changing the subject then, here’s the two biggies we have to deal with before election day. Number one, we gotta refute all this shit that the Brit film guy is spreading all over the media. I mean, I thought we had Fentick in the bag, and he was supposed to control wassisname, but now they’re throwing out video clips every which way. But I have a very nice plan emerging, believe me Donny.”
The 45th President of the United States of America nodded, sucking carefully on the chocolate to make it last for as mouth-wateringly long as possible.

“Number two, we no longer have a stand-in for you because the old Hamburger actor guy is dead. So we either gotta get your mouth working…” Trump was boiling up in instant rage, and Giuliani shrank back, “Or – and this is the preference of course – we have to find an explanation for why you can’t speak too well.”
“Stro,” said the President.
“Nope, it’s too late to play the stroke card, and there’s still a lot of floating votes that we want to attract on Tuesday, not repulse because the candidate talks like a fuckin moron.” Overstepping the mark Rudy, he cautioned himself. “Not that you are Mr President, obviously. A moron.”
“So wha we do?” Trump forced out.
“Simple,” Giuliani smiled. “We get the world on our side again. We bomb the White House.”


Chapter 12 will be published on Sunday 8th November

You are welcome to comment on chapters at any time,

and contribute to Chapter 12 up to 6th  November

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