Ecochondriacs [20]

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Please note well: In case you were wondering, even though November is over, I will be publishing the rest of this book here, section by section. But if you can’t wait to see how it ends, you can order this book in hard copy, and the link for that is here. In addition, audio chapters are being recorded and released on the new Canon App.

Del Starts to Kick a Little More

Keith Everett had been with the Secret Service for about five years, and had excelled there. His current assignment was that of serving on the detail that protected the vice-presidential candidate and his family, an assignment that he had initially accepted with some reluctance. Most of the guys detested serving on the Democratic side of things, not because of politics or character, but mostly because of personalities. The Republicans tended to be every bit as sinful, but nowhere near as entitled. And it was the entitled part that would always get you if you were part of “the help.”

At the same time, it was strictly verboten in the Service to point out such obvious things, at least verbally, and so the received wisdom among the agents was transmitted from the older generation to the newbies by means of eye rolls and the waggling of eyebrows. This is how Keith had initially developed his distaste for serving on the Democratic side.

And it was also why he was pleasantly surprised by Gina Martin. She was, and there is really no other way to put it, nice. Her husband was something of a hard driver, and very fastidious with his staff—that is, the people who reported to him directly. But Del Martin was not a terror to any by-standers—the Secret Service, hotel staff, and other random types who brought him coffee. If you weren’t a direct report, he always said thank you. But there was still a visible hardness about him. So he hadn’t exasperated Keith yet, and his wife was nice.

Keith was built like a couple of fire hydrants, one on top of the other, and the top one was a little bit wider. This was not an accident of nature, although nature had granted him a head start, but rather was diligently maintained by his regular early morning work-outs at a hole-in-the-wall gym he had found a few years before, just the kind he liked. It was an old school gym, with a punching bag and everything. It had some new equipment, but was not anything like one of those techno-mart wall-to-wall muscle factories. He detested those. Mirrors everywhere, as though a gym was supposed to be some kind of a satanic and narcissistic fun house.

And it was during his early morning workout sessions that he had first met Larry Locke. They had first passed casually a few times and exchanged pleasantries. After that, they got into a few conversations and discovered a mutual likemindedness. Then they started spotting one another occasionally on the bench press, and it had evolved to the point where they were now work-out partners, at least when they were both there. Keith’s travel schedule meant that he frequently was not there, but they got on famously whenever he was.

And on this particular morning, Keith had a story for Larry, which had happened to him on the previous day. He was both encouraged and mystified by it.

“What happened?” Larry asked. And so Keith told him— there were some interruptions, but when the whole story was out, it went like this:

“Agent Everett,” Gina had said, “may I speak to you for a moment?”

“Certainly, ma’am,” he said, and stepped over toward her.

She spoke to him cautiously, but not like she was whispering a secret or anything like that. At the same time, she spoke in   a way that seemed natural enough, but not in a way that the agents in the next room could hear. And if they did hear bits and pieces of it, they would think it was totally normal. Which it wasn’t.

“This might seem random to you,” she said, “and I apologize if it seems a bit personal. But picking up on a few odd things here and there, I wanted to ask you if you were an evangelical.” “Yes, ma’am,” he said, grinning slightly. “I am glad it is noticeable, at least if what you noticed wasn’t terrible.”

Gina stood silent for a moment, and Keith was thinking about asking if that were all, and going back to his spot in the corner. But he noticed that she seemed like she was going back and forth in her mind about whether to say anything more, and then saw that she was going to say something in a minute, if he would just give her a minute. So he just waited.

“I . . . I think that my husband has recently become . . . one of those . . . one of you, I mean. Sorry. I don’t know what it means, and I have really no idea how to respond or what to think of it, but I . . . I am worried about him. The campaign is, um, not a God-fearing place.”

“No, ma’am,” he said. “It isn’t.”

“Is there a way you might throw him a rope? Let him know that somebody there understands it? I am concerned he is headed for an epic collision with . . . with everybody else there.”

And Keith was thinking to himself something like you have no idea. But what he said was, “I am glad you told me, ma’am. This does explain a number of things.”

“You’ve noticed a difference then?”

“Well, yes, I have. But so has everybody else, or virtually everyone. But no one has any idea that it could be anything like this. The most common theory is that the campaign doctor was experimenting with the uppers again.”

“Oh, no,” Gina said. “Just the opposite. That was one of the first things I noticed after . . . after. He quit taking all those pills the next day. I found them in the garbage.”

And so Keith promised her that he would keep an eye out, and that if there was something he could say that was consistent with the strict protocols that the Service had regarding personal interactions with the candidates and their families, he would do it. Gina seemed genuinely reassured and relieved.

And just that afternoon, an opportunity had opened up, like there was a higher power at work. Keith was standing at the side of the same room where the candidate would meet with pollsters and consultants, at least when they were there, and Del was at the other end of the room, working through a sheaf of papers. It was some of the background material he needed to master before his upcoming debate with Billy Jerome. The two men were alone together for a couple of minutes before Del noticed. But as soon as he noticed, he gave a little start and put the sheaf of papers down and stood up.

Putting his hands in his pockets, he walked over toward Keith.

“Keith,” he said, coming right to the point—and not having any use for the Agent Everett stuff—“do you believe in God?” “Yes, sir,” Keith smiled. “And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.”

Del looked around the room like he was about to sell some classified material to a swarthy Russian named Oleg. He looked back at Keith. “I think we are the only two here.”

“Yes, sir,” Keith said. “I believe that is correct.”

“Okay,” Del said. “So here’s the problem. You guys know how to bustle us into limousines. You know how to push us down to the asphalt when the car backfires. You know how to jump in between the candidate and some aggressive member of the public. Hats off to you all.”

“Thank you, I’m sure,” Keith said.

“But it seems to me that we might have a situation coming up where I and my family might need protection in a way that I suspect was not covered by any training manual that you have ever seen. No offense, but this is a weird one.”

When Keith finished laying everything out for Larry, Larry nodded his astonishment. “The good senator wasn’t lying to you. This is a weird one.”

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Steve boggs
Steve boggs
10 months ago

Houston, we have a problem.The Christian agent qua Christian was good to have the conversation with the VP candidate he was tasked to serve. Very cool, believable, and a real God thing. Not so cool, and I’d like to think less believable, is how quick you have him breaking protocol/rules/whatever and telling Larry private information like that. Could happen, I’m sure, but the moment it does he’s just another Washington leaker.

I’m sure though you thought of that, and it will all be plausible soon.

My Portion Forever
My Portion Forever
10 months ago

Who’s Larry?

Nathan James
Nathan James
10 months ago
Reply to  Douglas Wilson

It’s a lot of characters to keep in mind, especially when reading only a chapter a day. If I had the physical book, I’m sure I’d read 5 chapters in a sitting and it would be easier to remember who’s who.