“You want I should go over it again?”
“Nuh. Uh, yeh.”
“So midnight you call for some whatevers. Milk, Hershey’s.”
“Sure, warm milk, whatever. I checked, that little black guy Robbie will be on duty. So I wait as he comes down the corridor. I found out there’s a blind spot in the CCTV just by the elevator. Got the building Super to run a check on security compromises. Clever me huh? So I say ‘Pssst’ to your butler, ask him to carry the case in to you. And he does, he will.”
“Donny, of course it’s frickin dangerous, it’s a bomb. But it only gets triggered by phone on my say so, when I know you’re gonna be two rooms away. It’s a little bomb right, anti-personnel. Boom goes the bomb. You rush into the bedroom, lie down somewhere. If you have time, rub some dirt in your face. Two minutes later security run in, you get stretchered out, but you’re safe Donny. Now you’ve got the excuse for your mumble-jumble words and your frozen arm right? You got hit in the face right? And no-one can say a thing about it, because you’re a hero. The survivor.”
“No wan geh hur. No bluh.”
“You won’t be hurt and there won’t be blood. Unless you want that I get some pig’s blood for you to splash around?”
The germophobic President’s eyeroll said enough. “OK,” Giuliani offered, “No pig’s blood. So we’re cool? Say you’re cool.”
“Right, one o’clock of the a.m., boom, troubles over. No need to explain the monkey mouth, and it’ll incentivise your Base real good too – get them out on election day to intimidate the Dems.”
Despite his fear of injury, Donald J Trump liked the sound of that. It was also going to be another historic moment – the only United States President to make an assassination attempt on himself.
Kent Warfield was now the second most written about and commented man in America, after Donald Trump. Possibly the same applied in the world at large. To half the population he was the liberal maverick whistleblower willing to risk all. Or he was a lefty blow-in who had no right to even be in the country, let alone plotting to topple the elected President.
All down his elegant winding street TV trucks were parked, their satellite bowls trained to the sky. Reporters reported against the exotic backdrops of the houses of the super-rich, and any passing delivery or tradesperson would be stopped and questioned. Had they ever met the troublemaker and his almost-Russian trophy wife? Had they ever suspected that among these palm-fringed streets a plan to overturn the very nature of democracy was taking place? And so on.
The FBI came and went, leaving a data forensics team in Kent’s basement cinema, where they endlessly screened the thousands of hours of raw footage collected since the Reeltime Gang had commenced work. In Ireland, France, Switzerland, Germany and the UK, reluctant anti-terrorist units were bullied into action by the local American Ambassador, eager to get the maximum political mileage out of this strange group of superannuated plotters. Agents also occupied Ángel Castro’s studio, while Madeline P Moore was cautioned, but not arrested, as she took her first breath of Washington air on emerging from quarantine. The problem for the authorities was that they couldn’t establish yet whether a crime had been committed. The Reeltime Gang appeared to have been making a series of programmes with the full cooperation of the White House, and the President himself. The fact that the foreigners were now being sued by the Trump organisation, Netflix, and none other than Antony ‘Tone’ Fentick only added to the general confusion. Meanwhile the multiple mini modules which Kent and Ángel had produced and set swarming into the world continued to do their viral work, spreading, spreading, spreading. Even if Kent and his gang had wanted to pack up and walk away from what they’d started, it was too late now – The Two Presidents in both the authorized and bootleg versions had taken on a wild life of its own.
Jamar’s first TV appearance caused a splash of interest. Unlike the tradespeople who didn’t really know the Warfields from any other celebs, this presentable young man was an actual family friend. He’d known of the plot, and had written about it in his blog (which within hours of the interview was catapulted into the millions of views and hundreds of thousands of shares). Jamar’s fame and Kent’s video modules were chasing each other round the planet, playing tag and catch-up.
In the comms bunker in Whitehall, London, Jun Li and Devanshi Misra watched the CNN footage together and Jun pointed to the screen, “That’s my boy. He’s the one I’ve been following.”
“Looks like you were right then,” Devanshi edged close to almost congratulating her subordinate. Not that there were subordinates in the techno-meritocracy of Dominic Cummings’ Spadiverse. Everyone knew that everyone was equal, obvs. “Everything means something,” Devanshi purred. “And you found the something. I suppose Bozo will need to pretend this is the first he’s heard of it.”
Alone among the core team comprising the Reeltime Gang, Jet Lassiter seemed to have successfully disappeared. No questions were being asked, no attempts were being made to trace her. She could be seen in videos, and was known to be the daughter of the old British movie director. She had attended at least one meeting with the President, and yet she was apparently not a person of interest in the ongoing investigation attempting to frame whether a crime had been committed. As Jet herself was fond of quoting, ‘The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that – poof – he’s gone!’ And like that – poof – Jet had gone.
As no-one had ordered them to do otherwise, the tireless video and audio ninjas with Reeltime Gang: Crew emblazoned on their black outfits, continued working. They shot everywhere they had access to, which by now really was almost everywhere, and captured most everything that was happening. When Ángel’s edit suite was overrun by investigators, the ninjas got clandestine, meeting his edit assistants in mall carparks at night to hand over the latest footage. Anyone with a fast computer could ingest the material and keep it safe, or share it around with others. “We are the resistance,” said Gennifer-with-a-G, giving a pep talk to her team. “The old people started this, but now it’s down to us to finish it. Keep at it guys. Election day is just one week away.” As if anyone needed reminding.
The White House spinmeisters were also hyper busy elaborating on The Two Presidents theme, and how Kent Warfield had been using a lookalike actor to fake scenes. Now the actor had been found dead of Covid-19 in his Phoenix home, but was his death really from natural causes? The Press Secretaries were letting it be known that as far as they were concerned, Warfield and his self-styled gang should also be investigated for murder. Kent responded by releasing footage of the two old gentlemen chatting amiably in the Walter Reed hospital, as Trump rolled out brag after brag, “I never said ‘Grab them by the pussy’. That was fake news. But of course I did grab them by the pussy. Let me tell you this Frederick my friend, women love that stuff. They love that you’re a real man. You should try it.”
‘Frederick my friend’ didn’t sound like the actor had secretly infiltrated the President’s circle, but the White House responded with the accusation of ‘Trick Photography’, saying that anything could now be faked. And they should know.
On any other news day the mini video of the President freely admitting to manifest sins would have exploded across the world’s media. As it was, it became just another piece of space debris flying around the planet. Each new Fess-Up video might be prefaced by comments like, ‘Now I’ve seen it all,’ except it never was all. The late night TV shows had wall-to-wall clipfests of all the modules out there on social media, while the lawyers for Fentone Productions were in overdrive trying to put out the fires. “So sue me,” said Trevor Noah on the Daily Show. “Sue my ass off Mr ‘Tone’ Fentick, because there’s no way folks should be stopped from seeing this shit. And shame on you Mr Hollywood Star, for trying to keep we-the-people from discovering the truth.”
Warm milk and Kisses
At fifteen minutes after midnight, Robert McFarland had just finished bidding his wife goodnight, by way of WhatsApp. Nia was still kind of frosty about her husband’s uncalled for celebrity, and his lengthy absences as he’d been pinballed around America. He’d changed, said Nia. And she worried for his soul, that he might become tainted by proximity to the sulphurous group of people around the President, and Trump himself. Tonight though they had managed their call delicately, and without expressing any hurts. Robert told Nia that he loved her, and Nia told Robert that she loved him. He said this whole thing would soon be over. Maybe he’d leave the White House behind him, use their newly-acquired wealth to do something real good. “So you gonna take me to Par-ree when this Covid’s over?” Nia sounded almost flirty.
“Might just do that honey. Might just do that.”
As he rang off from Nia, the special line chirruped in the butler’s pantry. The special line on which the special operator summoned special orders for the special man upstairs. Go collect warm milk and Hershey’s Kisses from Chef, take them up to Mr President, and be quick about it.
“Mr President Sir,” Robert entered the bedroom awkwardly, balancing the silver tray with a leather briefcase that he’d just been handed by Rudy Giuliani, some way down the corridor. “I was given this for you.” He held out the briefcase but the President shrank away from it. “Puh ih oh theh.”
“Put it there?” Robert placed the case on a chest of drawers. Trump eyed it fearfully, “Yeh, theh.”
Robert set down the milk and chocolates on the nightstand. The President looked at them longingly, but restrained himself, just. “Bobbeh, you beleeg in Goh?”
“Yes Mr President Sir, I do indeed believe in God.”
“Is Goh ree?”
“To me God is very real Mr President. I think you saw me praying sometimes on Air Force One and at the rallies. Well that’s for real. I talk with God, and sometimes God talks with me.”
“You shihhin me?”
“No Mr President Sir. You and I have talked plenty about God over the last few weeks. I assumed your beliefs were similar to mine.”
“Yeh. Pehaps. Bud how to pray? Wha you do?”
Robert looked momentarily bemused. Was he really being asked by the President of the United States about the mechanics of praying? No, surely not. Or was this his moment? The moment when the President whisperer could truly, decisively change things? ‘You can do this Robert McFarland’, he told himself. ‘Do it for Nia, and Martin, and Barack. Do it for this poor country, ripped apart by the madman I’m serving.’
So Robert McFarland got down on his knees beside the Presidential bed and said a prayer out loud. When he finished, he said, “OK, you do it.” He didn’t add ‘Mr President’ or ‘Sir’. Now Robert was the master, and his pupil obeyed. Casting a nervous glance over to the chest of drawers and the suitcase there, Trump lowered himself to his creaking knees. “You’re probably going to need to repent a whole lot,” Robert advised. “And be real sincere. I guess you want to get your powers back so you can talk up a storm in this last week before election day. Well the Lord is all powerful and all mighty, so you just go ahead and ask, and if God wills it, it can be so. You ready to pray like your life depends on it?”
“Then get praying, and make it real.”
“You’re not going to believe this, but we’ve got someone sort of interesting calling you.”
“Please, please, give me a break.”
“I think you’ll want to talk to him.”
“People seem convinced this is some sort of helpline. And where’s my son when I need him? Oh, what the heck. Put him through, whoever he is.”
“Uh, hi is tha Goh?”
“Of course it’s God. And who are you, and why are you speaking funny?”
“Donah Truh. Presiden of the Unihed Stah.”
“Look, I’ve had a busy week. I’ll fix that voice of yours so I don’t have to listen to you sounding like a chimpanzee on largactil. Right, done. Try it.”
“I don’t think you can do anything to fix it. I got a stroke. I’ve got the best doctors, the very best. They couldn’t fix my voi… Hang on. Holy shit, you fixed my voice! And my arm is good too. It’s the best arm.”
“Who did you say you are again?”
“Donald John Trump. I’m the 45th President of the United States.”
“Never heard of you.”
“But I’m like the most famous person in the world. After Jesus. I said that. I said I wasn’t as great as Jesus. But almost. And you’re God?”
“You need to see my ID or something? Of course I’m God. I just fixed your monkey voice. What do you want? I’m busy resting.”
“My friend Bobby here said I should pray. I wanted my voice fixed. I got that. I want to win the election next week. And I’d like my wife to like me.”
“Hey, I’m only God, not Santa Claus. Some things you have to figure out for yourself. And as for the election, well quite frankly from my perspective it’s a boring crock of shit.”
“But I need to hold onto power!”
“Because. Um, because.” Trump’s fervent praying faltered at this point. Because his father was always about to appear through the adjacent wall, wagging his finger at little Donny? Because his debt mountain would cripple him for life, but while he was still in the White House the creditors might be held back? Oh, and because he’d made promises to certain friends in certain countries that might be difficult to renege on.
“You are aware that I can see into your heart and mind aren’t you? Didn’t Robert mention that?”
“I was just thinking how great you are God. Really great. The greatest.”
“No you weren’t.”
Donald Trump tried very hard to block all thoughts from his mind. Melania said she did that in yoga sessions, but it seemed impossible. His thoughts always burst out of him like a twitterstorm.
“Look Mr Tramp…”
“Trump, the name is Trump.”
“The name is immaterial. Trying to block out your thoughts does not work with me: I know what you want.”
“So you wanna do a deal? I like deals. I make great deals.”
“You know what? Maybe I will. Why not? Yes, I know what you really need, and I know what I’d accept in return. So yeh, okeydokey, deal done!”
“But I haven’t stated my terms yet. It takes two to make a deal.”
“Not if one of them is me. Deal done! Next week, Sunday 8th November you will be gazing in the bathroom mirror after a shower. You will see words formed in the steam on the mirror. You must memorise those words, and go out and say them, to the Press, the TV, all of that stuff.”
“Are they magic words God?”
“Kinda. Yes, for you they’ll be magic. Oh, and by the way, if I was you I’d move away from that suitcase on the chest of draw…”
A finger in New York entering the last digit of a telephone number. The connection within seconds. The blast. Robert McFarland thrown across the still-kneeling President who he effectively cushioned from injury. A piece of junk crashing into the back of the butler’s head.
Smoke, a splintered mirror falling to the ground in shards. The President grunting. An alarm shrieking. Pieces of wood scattered over the entangled couple on the floor, ashen dust on their skin.
Security and medics bursting into the room. Rolling the unconscious man off the President and discarding him while they fussed around the leader. “I’m OK, I’m OK!” he was saying, until he saw the blood on his hands. Was it pig’s blood like Giuliani had threatened to use? “Get it off me, get it off me!” He rubbed his hands over a medic’s whites. Or was it his own blood? “I’m bleeding! Will I die? Please don’t let me die! I’m bleeding to death!” The duty doctor rushed in, still pulling on his clothes. He examined the President quickly, “You seem intact Sir,” he tried to calm the hyperventilating Trump. “Shock,” he said. “Check all vitals, and get him out of this smoke. Oxygen, quick.” Even as they wheeled the President out his voice could be heard in full flow, receding down the corridor. “I just made a deal. It was a very good deal, with someone very important. Hey, I feel great! Hear my voice – doesn’t it sound strong? I’m superwell, and I just survived a bombing. A really nasty bombing, but I’m OK.”
“Well, he does sound OK,” observed the doctor. The room was filling with people armed with guns and radios. “This gentlemen however is a different matter.” The colour was drained from Robert McFarland’s face and blood was flowing freely from his head. An agent in black had a machine pistol trained on the unconscious man. “That won’t be necessary,” the doctor gently pushed the gun barrel away from his patient. “This suspect is a would-be assassin,” the gunman said. “He has to be secured.” When the butler was lifted onto the crash team’s trolley, his hands and feet were quickly cable-tied down. “I have to go to the President,” said the doctor. “Get this man to scanning,” he told the other medics. “Check for fracture obviously, oedema, any other head trauma. The rest of him looks probably OK, but full examination, and fast.” He turned to the men who had strapped down his patient, “And gentlemen, this waiter – I think he is a member of our staff – is injured and needs urgent attention. One of you please go down to the emergency room and cut him free there. I insist on this. Even if he were a terrorist, he has rights, and he is hurt.”
In the general melee of guards, police, medics, fire crews, investigators and dwellers of the White House woken from their dreams, no-one was bothered by just another person in uniform striding purposefully through the pandemonium, carrying a rucksack full of the tools of her trade, and comprehensive survival gear. Jet had no sure way of knowing how long she’d be camping out in the White House, so she came well-prepped.
Just when the news buckets seemed utterly full with all the furore around The Two Presidents, they slopped into overflow with the bombing of the White House, and the near miraculous survival of the President. Within an hour he was on the balcony, dressed and wearing a military combat jacket, but with blood and dust still on his face and hands. In his head he was Bruce Willis, in one of those great Die Hard movies, so great. Fighter jets overflew the White House, sirens screamed through the night, and it was all to the max, plus more. It was like being in heaven, in the best action adventure ever.
But before he went live to the nation, there’d been time for a quick call to Giuliani. How to play the Bobby situation?
“We can hang him out to dry. He’s one of the plotters. The Brit guy got to him, convinced him to bomb you.”
“But you gave him the suitcase. It’ll tie back to you.”
“I’m Rudy Giuliani. He’s a schmuck. He’s lying, I ain’t never seen him. Anyway, that’s just one way to play it. Another way is that Bob saved your life. Then you’re both heroes.”
“Nope, I don’t like that so much. Not so much.”
“Hey, what’s happened to your voice? You sound… You sound like you again!”
“I had a word with God.”
“Donny, you’re hilarious. I guess the shock of the bomb going off did it for you. Good. But you weren’t supposed to be in the same room. That was klutzy, but lucky. You wanna take that good voice of yours and do an address to the nation because that would kick ass? You’re dirty? Stay dirty. Be like noble, know what I mean?”
“Noble,” repeated Donald John Trump. “I’m gonna be the nobliest President ever. Just you see.” And he prepared for the balcony scene that all of America would wake up to, only six days out from election day.
Madeline P Moore drifted around town. Everywhere screens showed the rallies with masses of unmasked people risking their lives to howl and bay at whatever latest inflammatory statements their President was making. And when she was done drifting, she’d return to her small apartment, and then like a drug addict, would need another fix. Her hand would creep to the TV remote, and she’d be staring in fascinated horror at the news bulletins for another half hour.
There’d been a few calls to Gretchen, which helped, but her daughter was clearly of the opinion that Madeline had lost her mind. Of course Gretchen knew that HRH was a queer fish, but why leave him now? The two of them were grandparents for goodness sake! Grandparents didn’t go throwing everything over and running off to do… Well, whatever Madeline was doing. Which in truth she couldn’t explain even to herself. She pined to be with her boys, combing them, smelling their fresh funk. She longed to be in the haven of her writing room, tapping out her debut novel, even though it now seemed so inconsequential. One night she even dreamed of HRH, and that he was kind and smiling, almost handsome.
She wanted to speak with Kent Warfield, but weirdly, he felt further away in LA than when the Atlantic Ocean had separated them. She needed a project, something to justify this irrational desire that had overtaken her and brought her back to the homeland. Kent might give her some kind of a reason, but she also knew that he was maxing out, creating video clips by the hundred, and appearing in interviews every other newscast. And if he wasn’t speaking on camera, there’d likely be some scurrilous hatchet piece on him from the Right-leaning media, demanding to know why he wasn’t in jail yet. It had super scared her when she’d left the apartment for the first time, to be almost immediately accosted by a strange man and woman who identified themselves as Federal Agents. They warned her against doing anything ‘inadvisable’, whatever that meant, and told her that she’d be watched at all times. For her own safety and security, of course.
Kent had said this might be their Fukushima moment, and Madeline could feel the toxic radiation all around her.
The countdown went on, and it seemed that across America there was only one subject, the election. Day six, day five, day four. Endless coverage, pundits appearing 24/7 to air their opinions. Day three, day, two, day one. The candidates out on the stump, the President revelling in his newly rediscovered voice, all traces of the stroke swept away. Unlike the claimed miracle of his Covid recovery, this time the astonishing turnabout was for real, and the medical team were dumbfounded. What had he taken to reverse the effects of a stroke? Whatever it was could be a medical game-changer, but the President wasn’t sharing the secret.
Then election day, then… Then deadlock, hiatus, limbo. Trump on the attack, spouting, looking like the loser, threatening a rain of fire and fury, the Disrupter in Chief. Votes being counted, agonisingly slowly, and the count of electoral colleges seemingly stuck, with neither candidate able to reach the figure of 270.
On the morning of Sunday 8th November, a day after the election was called for Sleepy Joke Biden and Cameltoe Harris, a still fuming Donald J Trump stepped from his morning shower and went to the bathroom mirror. There, in the steam, formed these words:
I humbly concede defeat, and wish Mr Biden a successful Presidency.
And hey everyone, I’m really really sorry.
“Screw you God,” said Donald J Trump, wiping his hand across the mirror. “That is so not funny.”
Chapter 13 will be published on Wednesday 18th November
You are welcome to comment on chapters at any time,
and contribute to Chapter 13 up to 16th November