Fade to Black
Part 19

All disclaimers and notes may be found in the introduction.

I'm going to guess Havverson didn't just check out of the hotel. The
entire Virginia delegation is starting to go nuts. He missed the caucus
this morning, and he hasn't been heard from since..... since he gave me
that damn file. My guilt complex is kicking in, but I don't think we've
got time for that. Hell, I'm not sure I've got time to take deep breaths.
Not only do I have an election to win, a Convention to run, a scandal to
exploit..... I also have this fairly pressing worry about people dropping
dead.

Leo's been locked in the proverbial smoke-filled room with Hoynes all
morning, and Cordova's people keep wandering in and out. I'm trying to
farm some of this stuff out to Toby, but he's not buying my excuses. I
think he's going to figure out we're leaving him out of the loop on
something, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that. Of course, I'm not all
that sure I'm ready for this either.

Sam and Lisa vanished right after our little conference this morning, and
her father and the Dick Tracy wannabe left right after. I can't quite
muster up the energy to do much, and the urge to put my head down on the
table is growing by leaps and bounds. "Josh!" CJ's holding a phone in my
direction with this odd wrinkle in her nose. I'm not going to like this,
am I? I grab the receiver and manage to mask the confusion pretty well -
of course, I have a bad poker face, so maybe CJ just doesn't feel like
asking. Okay, how does this work? Havverson vanishes and now Bennet? Are
the Virginia boys showing us some bipartisan cooperation or something? I
doubt it. I really doubt it. That begs the obvious question though -
where are they?

A second line is ringing now, and it's really too early for things to get
crazy. I grab it and toss the other line onto the cradle. "Joshua?" Lisa
doesn't sound quite right. She sounds..... actually, I can't pinpoint it.
"Joshua, I need....... Detect......ext....k......" There's this odd
static sound breaking up the connection, and I can't quite figure out
what she's saying. "......osh...... in the......way.........ing for
a....... in the book." I keep jotting things down, trying to figure out
what she's talking about, but I can't. When the connection ends abruptly,
I'm left staring at the phone, trying to decide what I'm supposed to do
next. The book? She wanted some book given to that detective. That much I
could figure out. Well, the only place I can go right now, where she
might have a book, is the hotel.

*

There's a cardboard box in the closet that's packed full of dusty books
and papers that have started to yellow and crinkle. Somehow, I don't
think this is what I'm looking for. I mean, I couldn't catch everything,
but she wasn't on the phone long enough to be specific, and I know she
wouldn't have sent me to dig through papers, so maybe it's not..... Hold
on, Lyman. That looks like a book alright. Lying on the bed, the bed that
I remember being empty when Sam and I left, is a book, and I can see a
bookmark or something sticking out of it. Kneeling down, I pick it up.
The cover is plain, and I flip to the marked page. The London underground
bombing? Why would Lisa need this? Great, I've got the wrong book again.

There's this line though, that catches my attention, where the bombing is
called artistic. Artistic? Didn't Lisa call the.... the other scenes
artistic? Are artistic wackos common? I sit down then, on the edge of the
bed, and flip back a few pages to start at the beginning. How do you
determine that the same guys who knocked off a bunch of people in the
subway also blew it up, I mean, besides the obvious connection? There's
this part though about the killer's calling card. I sort of expect it to
talk about something that he always does, but it's a literal calling
card. He always left some sort of business card, blank except for a Union
Jack emblazoned across it. I freeze. There's this hammering in my chest,
and I swear the entire hotel must hear it.

Reaching for the bookmark, I finger it carefully. It's the right size and
shape for a business card, but there's nothing on it. I thought it was
just, you know, a bookmark that Lisa or Sam or whoever was using.
Hesitantly, I flip the card over between my thumb and index finger. The
hammering stopped. The hammering stopped and so did the blood pounding
through my ears. Everything came to a shuddering stop. There, underneath
an embossed image of Old Glory, is a hurried scrawl. "Checkmate."

Shit. I have got to get out of here. I grab the book, Sam's pills, and
the nearest agent I can find. If anyone but Lisa, Sam, or I goes in
there, arrest them, shoot them, I don't care. Just don't let it happen.
He gives me a blank look and tells me that he's under orders to protect
the President. End of story. I am not in the mood for this. I've got to
find Lisa and Sam.

She said something about being in the way...... why would she be in the
way? Wait. The book. The book and the static over the phone. She didn't
say she was in the way. She said she was in the subway! She's in the
subway. Well that narrows it down - it's a big subway. She might be
anywhere. There might be a bomb, and they're trying to kill the President
so..... I try to get Sam on the phone, but I get that stupid message
telling me his phone is temporarily out of service. Okay, where would
they look? Under the Convention.... they'd look underneath the
Convention. By the time I get in the cab, I'm feeling smarter, but a
little strange. I mean, I'm going towards a potential bomb. Stupid,
right?

*

They've closed off the streets about Madison Square Garden for the
security, but the subway lines in the area are staying open until
morning, when the Presidential detail is supposed to be shutting
everything down for protection. I can't see a single Secret Service
agent, but there are a half dozen police cruisers and a big white van
near the entrance to the subway.

The detective, George What's-his-name, is standing next to a police car
shouting into a two-way radio and looking pretty formidable. This
guy..... I don't think Lisa can walk all over this guy. That's good. I
like my best friends safe and sound. He wouldn't let her do anything
overly stupid, besides, you know, involving the White House in a murder
investigation. "Hey!" He glances up at me, and waves me over. He asks for
the book, says Lisa told him I'd bring it by. I tell him about the
bookmark and the bombing thing, and he nods. Then I show him the
bookmark. He stares at it for half a second and then he bellows. "Get
Seaborn on the phone..... No, not that one, the other one!"

Wait, where are they? "They went down with the bomb squad." Excuse me?
Lisa doesn't know anything about bombs, does she? I know Sam doesn't. Sam
most definitely does not, and Lisa doesn't look for bombs, she looks for
psychos. Two completely different things. Why the hell are they down
there?

*

I'm pacing. I know I'm pacing, but time seems to be crawling along. I've
called Leo four times. Konrad isn't taking phone calls, even from the
Chief of Staff. I really don't know if he'd take a call from the
President, but we have to keep him out of this, so it's a moot point.
Alright, Konrad's locked himself in his office at Langley, Havverson
vanished after slipping me bank statements linking Lillianfield to some
guy whose personnel file was in Havverson's hotel room. Bennet gets
caught accessing classified records and starts a huge national security
issue, and disappears. I'm not liking this. Not at all.

See, things like this, they get me thinking. Maybe this thing, just
maybe, is related to the killings. Lisa'd probably think I was being
paranoid, but hey, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not
out to get you. That's one of the first things I learned in politics. The
detective is sitting inside his car now, flipping through the book. He
keeps trying to talk to me, but since he might as well be speaking
another language, I'll wait until Lisa and Sam get here and dumb it down
for me. That Fulbright Scholar routine didn't quite prepare me for a life
of crime fighting.

I stand up from my seat on the hood of a police cruiser when radios
crackle to life. I can hear Sam's voice asking for a camera. He repeats
himself a couple of times, and George What's-his-name. Something with a B
maybe.... I don't know, but he's getting out of the car, and he hollers
at someone to take one of the evidence cameras down. The radios crackle
to life again, his voice dies out as a voice over the radio yells
something about smoke.

Nonononononono..... No smoke. Please no smoke. We're all still standing
up here, so if it was a bomb then it must not have been a great one.
Please, no smoke. Sam and Lisa are down there. No smoke, please no
smoke........

 

TBC

Fade to Black - 20

 

 

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