It only took a few shifts before I was standing in the receiving line waiting to meet the President. My ride was an elderly ketchup heiress who enjoyed society events, and her knee was killing me. She carried a cane which I leaned on heavily. I always wondered who paid five thousand a plate for a dinner, and then I knew. Rich people who have nine digits in their net worth and want to play king-maker.
The President looked just like he did on TV, tall, fit, with a smile that could span the Grand Canyon. As he got closer, I started to perspire. I had ridden Congressmen a few times and a governor or two, but never someone as important as the President. Power never attracted me and frankly I thought it would just be irresponsible. What the hell did I know about managing a country? Plus it would be a damn good way to get caught. There were already two conspiracy websites out there detailing reports of possessions by unknown spirits or demons or some such nonsense. Most of the incidents had nothing to do with me, but a few of the reported cases were people I had ridden. And I strongly suspected many of the other cases were the ‘others’ that I encountered.But they weren’t like me at all, and I just thinking about them made the hair on my wrinkly neck stand up. I couldn’t resist the urge to look around the room nervously.
A secret service agent was staring straight at me from five feet away. I wiped the sweat from my forehead with a hanky and looked at the agent. His dead eyes behind black sunglasses bored into me.
“Don’t get old laddie,” I said, smiling. “Hot flashes and wobbly knees.” He smiled, nodded and looked away. Just another harmless grandma.
The President was close now. And then he was next to me, shaking my hand.
“Well Mrs. Pendergast, it’s a pleasure to see you again. You’re looking very well.”
“Thank you Mr. President,” I said nervously. Shit, I couldn’t think of anything witty to say. “It’s always a pleasure to see you.”
He continued gently shaking my hand tenderly with both of his. “I want to thank you for all your support to my campaign. Your work in rallying your friends here in Cleveland has been essential to our efforts.”
“Well I do what I can.”
“Thank you again Mrs. Pendergast, and please take care of yourself.” He gently moved to pull away. This was my time. I shifted.
And Mrs. Pendergast collapsed in a heap right in front of me. There was nothing I could do. Her cane went out from under her and she went down like an anvil. I bent over to help her up as minders swarmed and secret service pressed in tighter. Cameras flashed and bobbed overhead.
Perfect. All I needed was for one of the conspiracy wackos to see this footage and they’d start wondering. I needed to move fast now. Thankfully Mrs. Pendergast was able to get up, so I put my arm in hers and helped her to a chair.
“Well, I think I must have had a spell,” she said.
“Are you alright Mrs. Pendergast?” I asked. She smiled thinly and waved me off.
“Can we get her some water?” I asked. A bottle appeared out of nowhere.
“I’ll be just fine, Mr. President. Don’t pay me any mind.” She waved to the rest of the receiving line. “Don’t let me keep you.”
“Quite.” She said. She looked in pain, but her dignity wouldn’t allow her to show it. I patted her shoulder and turned to the rest of the receiving line. Anxious faces waiting to touch my flesh in front, security and cameras behind. I had to perform. I raised on a big smile, walked to the next donor and scanned the Presidents memory palace. It was nanometer precise. I put out my hand.
“Baxter Parker, so good of you to join us.”
Two hours later, I was on Air Force One heading to Andrews Air Force Base. I looked out my window at the F-22 fighter flying in formation off our wing. I was now riding the most powerful man in the world. If I wanted to, I could start wars, have people arrested or killed, or change human history, for good or worse. I had nuclear weapons at my disposal. Fuck me.
I needed to get what I wanted as soon as possible and get out of this guy before I screwed something up. My campaign manager, Chief of Staff and I were sitting at the airplane’s conference room talking about the election. She was telling me about the itinerary for the next week, and I interrupted her with a raised hand.
“All very important Marie, but I’m afraid I have something else to take care of right now.” I turned to my Chief of Staff. “ Scott, can we arrange a call with Director Jennings?”
“David Jennings?” he asked. I nodded. “Certainly. When would you like us to schedule him?”
“I’d like it now.”
“Ah, yes sir. It might take a few minutes to track him down, but I’ll make it happen.” Scott left the small airplane office. I stretched back into the seats. The conference room was leather everything and my personal office was the size of an entire first class section. I could get used to this.
Fifteen minutes later, I was alone in the conference room, door closed, and the Director of National Intelligence, David Jennings, was talking to me from a flat screen display.
“David,” I said, “I hope I didn’t pull you away from anything important.”
“Nothing too important for you Sir. I apologize for the delay. I just returned from Langley.”
“No problem at all. Listen David, I’ve just learned about a group that I’d like more information on. I’d appreciate if you could pull together anything you have on an organization called Ought Six.”
“Ought Six sir? Like zero six?”
“Yes. You don’t know them?”
“No sir, I’m not familiar with that group. But I can find out and get you anything we have. What’s the priority?”
“I’d like the information quickly.”
“Is tomorrow morning too late?”
“That would be fine,” I said. “How’s Charlotte doing?”
“Very well sir, thank you for asking. The cast should come off next week and she’ll be back playing soccer soon enough.”
“Good,” I said, “when she’s able we should set up a time to get the kids together. My boys enjoyed it the last time.” It never hurts to dangle a carrot in front of someone you want something from.
“I think they’d like that like that.”
“Good. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I keyed the touchpad to terminate the call. That little inquiry might be setting off alarm bells all throughout the intelligence community right now. For all I knew, some secret cabal would be assembling tonight to determine how the President learned of their existence and how exactly they could assassinate me in some innocuous fashion. Or perhaps I was just chasing some lunatic fringe no one gave a shit about. No way to tell.
I could have summoned my campaign minions for more briefings, but I figured the less I did, the better. I flicked on the TV and turned to the cable news. They were already showing repeating clips of Mrs. Pendergast collapsing at my feet. One station spun it as evidence that my charm was simply overwhelming for people, another station implied my supporters were so old they were literally dying on the spot.
I needed to get out of this body and move on before I lost the President an election.