Chapter 14

Quiet

Agent Phill Mercer wasn’t what anyone would call an introspective sort. He’d spent his working life apprehending people, occasionally shooting them, and always following orders. When his cellphone rang with the latest instructions, he’d do whatever had to be done. So it was strange walking around the White House and sensing something different. Agent Mercer didn’t do sensing, but he could feel how the tone of the place had changed. For the previous four years there’d been a looming menace and hysteria, where at any moment the next craziness might explode. Employees had walked with their eyes cast down, for fear of being dissed. The big beasts had strode the corridors with their chests puffed out, talking loudly to amplify their own importance. And the biggest beast of all had generated his own forcefield, repulsing some, attracting others. Now, realised Agent Mercer, that almost-touchable fear was melting away. Staffers met each other’s eyes as they went about their business. Only this morning there’d been a sound almost unheard during the Trump years: laughter. Just two interns at a photocopier, but they were actually happy about something. Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead.

The President wasn’t really dead of course, despite a half-assed attempt by someone to bomb him, which was why Agent Mercer was still in the building. People to interview, and the rebuilding contractors to keep a steady watch on. But since the election, Trump himself had faded to grey. He was a sulky presence in the White House, and mostly it was just his Twitter thumbs which were communicating with the country. The scrappy, pathetic attempts to have the election results overturned (pathetic in Phill Mercer’s opinion) were all that remained of the fury which had dominated the lives of so many people serving at the heart of government. It was over, time to breathe again. The pandemic was still raging, but there were vaccines coming, and maybe the new Administration would actually start doing something to fix the crippling problems in healthcare, and the economy. Or maybe not. Agent Mercer had seen enough of politicians to be wary of even those showing their more human side.
But was he a little bit hopeful? Well, kinda. He also hoped for a personal change of scene, away from the big house, and the ongoing investigation into the bombing. The butler guy, Bobby McFerrin Whoever, was still claiming that Rudy Giuliani had given him the suitcase to carry in to the President, which was clearly nonsense, as Giuliani had confirmed. “Why would I of all people want to harm the President?” Why indeed? It was a line of questioning not even worth pursuing, and yet the brain-damaged butler continued to insist that his rendering of events was the truth. Maybe if he recovered all his marbles, he’d realise that the only way was to come clean about the plot he’d been involved in. That way he might get out of jail sometime before his kids were fully grown.

___________________________


Madeline P Moore stayed on in the Warfield household for several days, spending time with Kent to reminisce on their many adventures together in the movie trade. Zsuzsa mainly left them to themselves. She was finishing an essay on the subject of tyrants, and now could polish the text with reflections on being up close and personal with the 45th President of the United States. She was happy enough to leave the two friends to catch up, and bid each other goodbye. Yes, there’d be Skypes and Zooms, and a script to deliver for the theatrical release of The Two Presidents, but they both recognised that they might never again see each other face to face. Autumn was over, winter was settling in, both in the seasons, and for the two of them. Madeline would return to an undecided future in Britain, and Kent was destined to spend the next years fighting protracted court battles.

In the end they were all talked out, and a quiet settled on them. When Zsuzsa popped into the kitchen to brew coffee, she’d notice how like a real old couple the two were, and realise that she and Warfield would never be that. By the time she too had become grey and wrinkled, Warfield would be dead, or at best eking out his days on a respirator, with those once sharp directorial eyes clouded over. Zsuzsa had known what she was getting herself into when they married, but seeing her husband sitting with Madeline showed her a reality that was coming.

Then Madeline was gone, long-hauling in luxury back to the UK. So much hassle to get back through border control, but she supposed it had to be that way, and then at last she was released, to take a taxi to Egham. She was aching in every joint, and longing to see her boys again. It had been a mad, pointless trip, to be on standby for absolutely no reason at all. Still she’d set foot again on her native land, smelt the air and felt the brewing madness, and whatever vague ideas she’d had about resettling there had evaporated. The craziness that Trump and his cohort had spawned would take more than her lifetime to run its course, and although Brexit Britain was not a whole lot better, it shaded ahead of the USA, just.

HRH was shouting upstairs as she entered the house and dumped her bags in the hallway. It seemed early for him to be doing hyper-exciting futures deals, but she guessed it was always a good time in some part of the world, and money never slept. ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ came his voice, and she wondered if that meant another hundred thousand in the bank, or even more. She wanted coffee and cigarettes. She wanted her boys. She wanted Gretchen on the phone. But first. But first, go up to announce her arrival, and take the temperature of their broken marriage.

Strangely the noise was not coming from HRH’s study, but from their bedroom. Oh, and that was the bedhead banging rhythmically against the wall, a sound Madeline remembered from some ancient time. It was an impossible to be happening sound, and yet there, as she opened the door, was a large woman riding on top of a red-faced Henry Armstrong-Brooks, who happened to be staring pop-eyed in the direction of the opening door.
“Darls,” he grunted to his wife. “I didn’t know you were coming.”
“Eh?” The large woman on top of him slowed, then followed his gaze to the doorway. “Oh.”
“It’s not what you’re thinking,” HRH started to explain.
Recovering her poise, Madeline searched for the telephone function on her smartphone. “Actually, it’s exactly what I’m thinking.” She took a few snaps of the couple on the bed, making sure both faces could be clearly seen. “I think you just boosted my alimony payments significantly. Thanks Darls.”
“Bitch,” said the woman straddling HRH, but without conviction.
“Oh, sorry,” said Henry Armstrong-Brooks, remembering his normally impeccable manners. “Madeline, this is Fenella. Fenella, meet Madeline.”
“Charmed,” said Madeline, and turned away to go reward herself with the coffee and cigarettes. “As you were,” she waved over her shoulder. “Please don’t let me put you off your stroke.” She went down the stairs doing something she didn’t recall ever managing in her whole life: whistling. She had the idea it was an old tune called Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

___________________________


Wrap-up time, right?

Darahaas Trumpti was rehearsing his new routine, very aware that the clock was ticking down on the time remaining when he could coin it as a comedian channelling Donald Trump. Since spotting the two Presidents phenomenon, making his discovery public and then having it confirmed, he had been in considerable demand. News reports and Talkshows had him guesting and performing, and now, the ultimate, his own half hour TV special. Unglaublich! There were calls coming in from Bollywood too, and Darsh was living the dream.
He practised the move again, watching himself in the rehearsal room mirror. He had a Dresser who was fussing around him, but Darsh was skilful in manoeuvring his own bulk around the slight man. With the movement came a change of voice, because this part of the act was a take on the two Presidents. Here, Darahaas Trumpti would become confused by a conversation with his double, the old actor. Who was who, and which of the two was telling the truth? The result of the confusion would be a hilarious meltdown. Marcus watched his husband and laughed admiringly, even though he had heard the gags hundreds of times now. He was so proud of Darsh, and even if the Trump bandwagon might soon grind to a halt, there would be new opportunities for a German Indian comedian making a name for himself.

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This is like the wrap-up right?

                Yeh, kinda. It’s the end, coming up in the fast lane.

Except Trump isn’t over so it’s not the end.

                But at least he’s contemplating defeat now, nearly a month on from the election. That’s something at least.

But will he go quietly?

                It’s a little outside our scope to predict that. Maybe they’ll have to carry him out of the White House kicking and screaming, but who cares? Stick a fork in him, turn him over, he’s done.

And the Reeltime Gang?

                They’re pretty much done too. Jewel and Sundeep will continue to count the money, and arrange the defence fund. Debs Maugham will live in constant fear that her part in faking the President’s signature will be discovered. The techy-people like Matt and Lyle will have months of work ahead of them, cataloguing all the footage, and keeping Kent and Ángel fed with new clips. By now there are hundreds of hours of material that hasn’t even been viewed. And in case we forget, Gennifer and the camera and sound kids are still out there, generating even more video. They’ve got killer shots of Trump brooding, and freaking out, but it’s going to take a while for Kent to reach those.

                OK, but Jet, I really want to know about Jet.

Ah yes, Jet...

___________________________


Lassiter and McFarland

Jet slipped easily around the White House. She’d established her base in the eaves of the building, among water tanks and power units. Her pup tent was at the far end of a long, clean loft, hidden from casual view by a stack of humming comms equipment. By the end of her first day she had collected several uniforms, and could pass as waiter, cleaner, or security. As long as she glided around looking confident, then she could operate without challenge. She used staff toilets and showers, and helped herself to whatever supplies of food she needed. It was all so easy.
Jet had never required major entertainment, and when she wasn’t exploring the place and stealing whatever she needed, she was perfectly happy to curl up in the tent and stare into nothingness. She occasionally sent texts to her father, but Warfield answered distractedly, not even asking where she was. He was used to his favourite daughter disappearing for long periods. Why worry? Pronto was a capable person, always had been.

___________________________


OK, we’ll put a checkmark against Jet for the moment. Got where she is, but not why. So Robert? The guy’s in trouble?

                Yes. He’s still recovering in hospital. Under guard.

Nia must be going crazy.

                Exactly. And the investigation has sowed doubts in her too, y’know? She was already feeling that her Robert was kinda retreating from her, getting too caught up in the power games, and now she’s unsure about everything. She can’t visit him because of the virus, so they talk on skype. But he’s vague and distant, like he doesn’t really recognise her.

That’s tough. Because of the blow to his head right – that’s why he’s distant?

                Exactly. The medics don’t know how far he’ll come back from the injury. And if he does come back properly, then four different Agencies will be on his back, trying to suss out the conspiracy.

Poor guy. Is he screwed?

                There’s a world of pain and worry ahead for Robert McFarland and his family. It will take them to the brink of despair.

And then?

                Stay tuned. We’re gonna jump forward in time now.

Oh yeh, I like this scene. We start with the sound of young teenagers right? Chatting, a bit excited.

                Exactly. And then fade up to a painting of Abraham Lincoln on a wall. Pull back to reveal a group of schoolkids in the Oval Office, the White House.

                Yeh, I know where the Oval Office is. And there’s a White House Guide, and maybe the kids’ teacher as well, right?

                Exactly. And a caption fades up:

FOUR YEARS LATER

___________________________


In the Oval Office

“And this is the Oval Office,” said the Guide, “It’s where the President makes many of the great decisions of state.” The group of schoolkids gathered around him gawped at the big old desk which dominated the room. He saw them looking towards it, “It’s built from wood salvaged from the arctic exploration ship Resolute.
“Please Sir, may I ask a question?” A sweet-faced fifteen year old girl raised her hand. The teacher leading the group smiled encouragingly. This was living history, here in this most famous of rooms.
The girl looked shy, “My question is, are you the Jamar? The famous Jamar of Jamarology?”
Suddenly the class teacher looked less encouraging.

“I’m uh. I’m uh yep,” Jamar shrugged, as if his fame meant nothing to him. This was completely untrue, and he was always thrilled to be recognised. Now that he was an Undergraduate studying history in DC, he’d been given a placement in the White House. His professor wanted to see a proper respect and knowledge developed for the traditions of the country. Professor Dubček didn’t think much of the late-teenage millionaire Influencer (the very term made Dubček shudder), and felt that answering the questions of kids might humble the young man. What hadn’t been factored in was that Jamar was a star, whether the Professor liked it or not.
“Yes I’m Jamar Lindenwood,” he tried to look self-effacing, and flashed an apologetic glance to the class teacher. “Wow,” said the girl, and hustled up a quick selfie with a genuine hero.
“Does anyone have a historical question to ask of our expert guide?” The teacher, Ms Hanson tried plaintively.
A boy raised his hand, “Have you ever met the President?”
Yes, Jamar had, if being in the same room counted as ‘meeting.’
“I have indeed,” he answered. “She was sitting right there, at the Resolute desk, and there were Press people where you all are, and some interns and me over here. She was signing off the final revocation of the Gravity Act, after three years of chaos and riots.” The children were nodding. Yes, this was news that they all knew about, not boring history. On that same day the President, as tradition allowed, had also signed the pardon of the convicted domestic terrorist Robert McFarland, one time White House servant. The President’s advisors had determined that the case against McFarland had been deeply unsound.
Now many hands were being raised, and Ms Hanson looked more reassured. The old history-soaked room was getting to her charges and exciting their interest. “Yes, you have a question?” Jamar pointed to a kid he could empathise with, who looked like the geeky mirror of himself, just four years ago. That was before those people from the English government called him offering riches, and before every TV station on the planet wanted his opinion. “Please Sir,” the boy asked respectfully. “Will President Harris win a second term?”
“In my opinion?”
“In your opinion. Sir.”
“In my opinion, she’s a good President. The Gravity Act was a monster to wrastle down, but she’s succeeded. And I guess you could say she’s ‘levelled up’ some of the, uh, inconsistencies in the country.” He’d had many conversations around these themes with his mentor, the political scientist, Zsuzsa Warfield, who he was proud to call a friend, despite their age gap. “But she’s gonna face some tough opposition from IvankaTone. I mean, they are a mighty popular, glamourous combo.”
“Perhaps we shouldn’t draw out Mr Lindenwood on politics,”Ms Hanson tried to shut this line of inquiry. “How about some questions on the White House itself?”
More hands and faces eager to learn. “Yes, you Miss,” Jamar was enjoying himself.
“Sir, can you tell us about the black cat on the couch?”

___________________________


Jet hadn’t always stayed in the White House throughout the Biden, then Harris Presidency. With Trump running his Government In Exile from the security of a North Korean mansion, she felt there wasn’t a heap to hang around for. Nevertheless, she liked living in the White House loft, and venturing out when the mood took her. Sometimes she’d pop across town to visit Colonel Kendy Henshaw and bug her for favours, like a pass to ride a cargo flight back to the Stans. First time she did that though, it was a disappointment. All the way upcountry, and then at the site where the camp had been, just wreckage and scorched earth. Where the tent stood in which she’d tied her lover to the tentpole, there was a crater. Rocket attack, said some locals who had repurposed the leftover military hardware. Rocket attack then big firefight. Jet thought they said there’d been no survivors, but maybe she mistranslated that part. Anyway, of big muscled men and thumping rap music, there was no longer any trace. She wandered the high desert for some weeks, then reconnected with a forward Evac air base, and threaded her way back to Washington. After that, where else to go but her comfortable bivouac in the roof of the White House.

Jamar looked at the old black cat that had slunk into the Oval Office, and seemed to be taunting him with its imperious stare. “Oh her. She’s been around forever, like from President Trump’s last days here. Her name’s Pronto.”
And the black cat lightly stepped down from the couch where it had sat watching, and stalked off down the corridor.

___________________________






The End.

Probably.

3 Comments
  1. Martin

    Thanks Harlan. Great fun. Next episode pleaase!

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