Chapter Four: The Praying President
“Mr. President! Mr. President!”
He was sitting at the head of the patio table, his wife and three children joining hands, just about to begin the meal-time prayer, when they descended on him.
Lifting his head, he met them with tired blue eyes. “Yes Roland? Davis?”
“You’ve got to see this…”
He turned back to his wife and gave her a knowing nod. “Rebecca, you take over… Ill be right back.”
Chase Roland and Anthony Davis both wore the stereotypical black-on-black of the Secret Service. They were the President’s closest guards, and somewhat of his personal friends, due to so much time spent together. He had a reputation of sitting down with whoever was guarding him at the moment with a box of pizza and a two-liter of soda and just talking. That’s the type of guy President Caeden Bennett was.
Roland and Davis ushered the President through the double patio doors and into the den, where the large screen t.v. was on full volume.
“The Calvin Hosthner building has been hit by an aircraft, Mr. President, sir.” Roland murmured. “Just five minutes ago.”
Rebecca Bennett held her children’s hands as they prayed. She finished with a final “Amen” and passed around the plates of watermelon and macaroni and cheese. Jamie, the youngest, was eleven years old, and had glitter-gray eyes that sparkled and a mischievous grin that emerged every time he had a new sly idea. Genevieve was the middle child, at thirteen. She wore her long, straight, brown hair in plaits constantly, and was rarely seen in a dress or a skirt, unless she was playing tennis, her favorite sport. Owen, the eldest at fourteen, was the stately young man who was seen at his father’s side every chance he got, and wanted to be exactly like his father in everything he did, despite the fact that he and his father were direct opposite in almost every aspect. Owen didn’t stop talking to breathe, and was easily excitable at every little opportunity that crossed his path, whereas Caeden was slow to speak, quick to listen, and thought carefully before he responded to anything.
“What do you think the urgency is, Mom?” Genevieve asked, grabbing two biscuits and starting to butter one heavily.
Rebecca put one of her daughter’s buns back onto the serving dish and pushed the butter away from her reach. “I’m not sure, dear.”
Owen’s face lit up, but before he could name all the possible catastrophe’s it could be, the President descended the patio steps once again. “Rebecca… kids… I have to go on a trip. The Calvin Hosthner building was just destroyed…”
“Destroyed! How?!” Rebecca shrieked. “You just finished drafting the treaty-”
“I know, but it looks like someone doesn’t like it enough to go to the lengths of killing hundreds of people to stop it.” Caeden’s face was twisted in one of his rare scowls. “I’m sorry,”
“No, this is important… go.” Rebecca got up quickly and gave him a long embrace. The kids ran over and hugged him too, and the parting was solemn.
The flight over the country-side was drowned in silence. Looking out the window next to him, he sighed, wracked in emotion. The deaths of possibly a thousand human beings quaked the very interior of his being. He shut his eyes tight, his closed fist pressed against his chin.
God, I am being faced with what is the most devastating thing that could happen to a leader of a country. If the allegations are true, almost a thousand lives have been forcibly taken from people who’s bodily time was not yet due. But, Lord, you know what is truth and what is false. I need help in this. Give me the strength and the power and the wisdom to know as well.
He sighed again, and his lower lip quivered with pent up anger. The CIA had just made known to him the possibility of the airplane being that of a suicide bomber; the potential that the hit was not only intentional but planned specifically for the ruin of the treaty he had for three years so long and hard finished from the previous President before him, in his last two years of term. He was on the verge of signing the biggest treaty with twenty-seven different independent countries and republics around the world. The Calvin Hosthner building was supposed to be the tower that marked the center of world commerce and peace. Embassies of every country and republic who signed the treaty were going to be located there, centralizing trade communication and immigration negotiations to one building. It was going to be the city’s pride and joy, the gem in it’s crown. They were this close to passing it through and peace could have been just one floor up or down.
The headache that had started at the beginning of the flight had gotten worse, and he called for an aspirin. I cant believe this could happen. I just cant believe it.
He reached over to the seat next to his and grabbed the remote control to the television on the far side of the cabin.
“We’re coming to you live from as close to the Calvin Hosthner building the authorities will allow… the ash cloud has continued to travel into the surrounding area, reaching almost five miles out, now, the wind blowing it north and east. Its not confirmed by authorities of the details of the aircraft that hit the south side of the building just four hours ago…”
A helicopter view of the destruction detailed the report as the woman reporter voiced over; the surging mass of smoke and ash billowed out of the top of the city, little blazes of fire still burning, and the replays of hundreds of people fleeing the scene just minutes prior to the first explosion and collapse of the tower… and finally the one last second before the whole building fell into itself, a mountain of particles rising into the sky after it…
Then the voice of the women changed. The video feed fuzzed out for a second, and then resumed, but with clearer resolution, brighter… At first the man’s voice was hushed, an undertone to the women reporter… but it got louder, until it was on top of the other voices and sounds of the television. The President looked around him to see if anyone else was noticing the change, but none of the secret service looked like they had noticed at all.
“Exactly two thousand, two hundred thirty-seven people showed up at work today at the Calvin Hosthner building today, more than 70% of them not even knowing what it was exactly they were doing, or who it was they were working for. A little more than fifteen hundred of them were just paid to sit in the tower and push paper around for fake companies and fake corporations… It was you who killed innocent people! You knew they would be in danger if anyone found out about the truth.”
Caeden gasped. Did the television just say “you”… was it talking to him? What was this man-reporter talking about?
“The people care about honesty, Martin Hutch. And so far, all you have done for them is cover up your deception with more deception. Are you afraid of what the people will say to a world ‘embassy’ planted in the middle of their city? Are you afraid that they will find out about the secret alliances you have with criminals in foreign countries… and your promises to siphon them into the country, right under their noses?”
Caeden’s hand trembled, and sweat started dripping down his face. Eyes widening in disbelief, He slammed the power button and swiveled around at the other people in the room, but no one looked shocked. In fact, the two guards hadn’t really moved much at all, and looked like they hadn’t heard anything out of the ordinary. Was this all just in his head? How? How? Martin Hutch was the name of the President who had just ended his term three years before. The man who had started the treaty, started it all.
Lord! Is this you speaking to me? Are you telling me the truth? This isn’t at all what I was asking for… but ok, Lord, if this is your work, I will try and understand. What do you want me to do?
The ugly smell of burnt life filled their nostrils as they stepped off of the airplane a short while later. Caeden held a jolting breath and looked at the far-off trail of smoke lifting from the city, marking the graves of innocent human beings.
“Roland, Davis… would you be able to do something for me?”
“Of course, Mr. President.” They both murmured eagerly.
“Get everything you can on the Calvin Hosthner building. I want to see if there’s any treachery involved…”
“The FBI said it was probably an accident.” Roland replied. “That’s what they are telling the press.”
“But the CIA said it wasn’t.” Caeden whispered. “I want to know which it was. I have a feeling someone is behind this…” Suddenly, his head throbbed and he caught his temple with his hand. The man-reporter’s voice murmured quietly, at first in the background, but then joining with the other sounds around him…
“He knows more than he lets on, Caeden. He and Davis have been ordered along with the other Secret Service to relay any information they hear or discover about alternative stories about the Calvin Hosthner incident back to the FBI, and to not mention it to you. The FBI then takes the information and destroys it, feeding you what story they want. But trust Roland and Davis, Caeden. They, out of everyone else, will be the most loyal to you, in the end.”
“You… you hear that?” Caeden asked, rubbing his head with his palm.
“Hear what, sir?” Davis looked around, confused.
“Never… never mind.” Caeden shook his head, and the man-reporter’s voice fell quiet. “Headache, you know.” He sighed. “Roland, Davis… I want you to promise me that you will not report anything you find to anyone else before you show me it. Something… something just doesn’t feel right about this.”