Four weeks stuck in a room drying out. Sheesh, I’m bored. I agreed to this. It's actually like a resort. Real food, I have to use a knife and fork to eat the stuff. No pizza. It isn't any sort of a rehab place. No rah rah god is great meetings nor any group sob stories of how people do horrific things when drunk. Nothing like that. Everyone, even women, wear those dark blue or black suits. All look busy, going from meetings to the dining room to meetings again. I’m ignored, mostly sitting in my room. Got over the DT's and had sex with any woman that walked. A few of the ones in suits. The receptionist sitting at the front desk scared me so I stayed away from her.
Mr. MacGyver comes to see me. I haven't had a drink in a month, but then after the third week, I didn't care. And the food is spectacular. I owe him.
We sit at the small table in my room. Coffee for him, sparkling water for me. He seems pleased, and yet, that's only a guess. I feel nothing from him.
"So Dennis, I hear you’re doing quite well. Pleased few of the staff as well."
Everyone talks I guess. "Yeah, a few. What did you hear?"
"You put on weight. Actually, ya look good. Tremors and night sweats stopped. And it appears you’re bored. Angela, is madly in love with you and talks incessantly to the other staff. When you leave, won’t be problem."
"Which one is Angela?" Although I know. My playful side.
"Really Dennis." And he sort of tsk tsks at me a bit before continuing. "Tomorrow we go to DC and start to train you. Really won't be much, I believe you’re able to step in and do what needs to be done. Some formal training to go over though."
"And what is it that I'm supposed to do. You've never told me. No one has told me, well, anything."
"It’s simple Dennis. Your new existence is protect someone. A task y’all be specifically suited to do. Only a few got the gift such as you. I, ... I ain’t ever felt," And here he stops, unable to continue. He turns away from me. For the first time, I think I feel something from him. Jealousy. He continues. "I ain’t ever felt the gift this strong in someone before. When we met, I told you we, people like you and I, protect important people. You agreed. I suppose you were a bit drunk that morning and don’t remember. So, the question is, you okay with this?"
"Important people Dennis."
"How? I'm not trained in Kung Fu. I really can't and don't want to shoot a gun. And certainly not at someone. I guess I don't understand."
He smiles. Nodding his head, he begins again. "Dennis, all you gotta do is travel around the country, at times, other countries. Stand near someone. Pretty simple. Your awareness, your gift, that’s what we want. What we need. Y’all can detect emotions from someone, and I don’t mean hate. When someone wants to kill a man, and has a plan to do so. Murder. That sort of hatred is why we need you. To feel within someone out in crowds, across the street, somewhere close by. With murder in their heart. That's something you’re capable of doing."
I nod, it all makes sense to me now. I had guessed this might be it. I thought of a thousand differing scenarios only barely remembering this part. It was way more than a few swallows that morning. "Okay, so who am I going to protect?"
"Ah, I better not screw up then."
"Nah Dennis, don’t screw up."
“So what is this place anyway? It isn’t a rehab facility.”
“It’s a meeting place, part of the Secret Service. For training.”
That makes sense. Finally.
The next morning, a train for an hour to Washington DC. I have no idea where we had been. I ask no questions, he offers no answers, no comments. No feelings.
"Any regrets Dennis?" He finally asks as we move from the train onto the platform. People. Masses of them. As he asks, my attention is elsewhere, everywhere. I freeze. He grabs my arm, we’d been standing blocking others from entering the train.
Pulling me away to stand some six feet from where I had been rooted by my shock of awareness of the crowd. I relax. I nod. "Sorry, you said something."
"I asked if you got regrets. Must be difficult for you. A crowd, bein sober. If it's too much Dennis, we can sit down outta the crowd for a bit." Genuine concern showing in the crinkling of the skin around his eyes, deep furrows in his age spotted forehead as he quietly speaks to me.
Shaking my head, I begin. "No. I'm okay. It's just, well, a bit overwhelming. You're right, I haven't done this in years. At least not when sober."
He looks at me again, and more forcefully asks, "Now then, are you sure there ain't regrets? This is what you’ll subject yourself to. And with bigger crowds. More intense, more driven. With hate in some. Think bout this Dennis. You can leave now, no questions asked. No repercussions."
I slowly shake my head. I’m committed. "No, I want to try. I kinda like that idea you’ve given me. Life with a sense of purpose. I think I need that. I want it."
Nodding his head, he smiles again. "Good, I knew you’d stay."
Grasping the older man's arm, I smile at his shocked response. "Let's start a bit of training now." I use his hand to point, that man, that one. Then toward a woman. "He's angry, that one, filled with hate. Her, sheesh, one horny woman."
"So, you distinguish between hate, and anger?"
"Not many can, that's tough one."
Dropping his hand, now it’s my turn to be a bit surprised. "What do you mean? I guess, there are others like me? How many?"
"Hmmm, Dennis, ain't you met another gifted before?"
I think about it a moment before responding. "I don't know. How would I know?"
"The same as me. You feel nothing. We cancel each other. We're unable to sense that ability in others like ourselves. Don’t know why, just is.”
It can’t be that simple, yet, I’ve never known.
Mr. MacGyver grasps my arm to direct me as we walk off the platform into the station itself. A myriad of souls within the huge building, each leading a separate existence, disembodied emotions fill the cavernous station. I’ve never felt it like this before. Or believed it possible, the enormity, the intensity. Sobriety. Alcohol, once was my relief from the curse. Now, sober, I think, examine, feel all those around me. Surprising myself in ways I never imagined. I’ve always avoided crowds. Today, for the first time, I relish being here.
He grabs my hand, I look at him as he instructs me. “Now, show me hatred.”
“There, and there.” I point at people as they walk in front of us. After a few minutes, “There,” I say, feeling the hatred within them.
We stand together, I garner wisps of the most awful of emotions within the crowd before us. Each hurrying toward some other aspect of their lives which I can never be privy. I can only feel the detritus of their own self-made hatred toward someone. Suddenly it becomes real. I try to wrest my hand from the man next me. He won’t let go. I look at him, and gasp. “Murder.”
“Where? Who?” He demands.
Trying to free my hand, I look into his eyes and see no fear, no anguish, no need to help. Just calm. A need to get answers asked of me. “There, the man in the dark suit, surely, you feel the murder in his heart as well. You feel. You know.”
Then it dawns on me. I look back at the man now less than ten feet from us. That realization I now voice. “He’s one of yours.”
Finally, letting go of me, he states. “Yup. Ours. A final test.”
“I passed I think.”
The man approaches and immediately that which had shocked me becomes feelings of accomplishment. With hand held out for me, I shake it. “I’m Donald Morse. Call me Donny. Pleased to meet you Dennis.”
“Thanks Donny.” Mr. MacGyver tells him.
“Thank you sir. And thanks for selecting me for this assignment.” Donny says.
“Donny. Are you, are you gifted?” I ask of him.
“No, I’m not. I have other gifts though. Time for all that later. It was nice to finally meet you. We’ve heard a lot about you. I’m glad to have been the first to bring you into the fold.” With that, he turns and walks out of the station. So many questions before, thousands more now.
Turning my head, I see the old man staring at me, a smile once again on his face.
Now, my turn. “Um, what did you tell him, them, about me?”
The smile grows, richer, deeper. Genuine. “That you have a gift greater than any I found. Greater’n my own.” He bows his head toward me, an unfamiliar gesture that no one, has ever done to me. Ever.
Looking away from him I’m overcome with emotional turmoil as never before experienced. My curse, my demons, the bane of my existence has changed in the last four weeks. There is uncertainty, there is gratitude. There is amazement. I’m somebody. I’m better than someone who from all I can tell, is the best. For the first time in my life, there is hope. A real life. A way to use my curse, my gift. A way to be useful. A life.
Slowly, reality sets in. I still have things to learn. This test was miniscule compared to the enormity of the task I know will be mine. Nothing is certain, or at least never has been for me. “What if I fail Mr. MacGyver?”
His smile lessens, his demeanor hardens and those furrows upon his aged brow deepen again. “Never consider the possibility, and failure won’t exist.”
“Thank you. I think. I can see the respect given you. It must be something of consequence. Your agent Donny, seems impressed. I must believe that should extend and encompass all that work with you.”
Now once again that left eyebrow rises, not in a grimace, not in consternation in an attempt of understand what I’m thinking. A brief moment passes before he responds. “Yeah, thank you. I believe all our group have such respect. It’s taken years to garner the respect of my superiors. The Kennedy failure was a huge setback.”
What, Kennedy? Really?” I interrupt.
A sad smile now. “Yeah, I was there, alone in my task. Not the group we got now. I felt… something. But the distance. Lyndon and me were old friends, my failure affected him. He wasn’t much for speakin in public. He believed in me, and demanded changes in operations, our methods in protecting him. That was a time of great change in how we view the world. Lotta changes how the Service protected the President. As well as the role I and others I found now take.”
“You went looking for people like me then.” A statement, or perhaps a question.
He grasps my shoulder and turns me toward the exit. We begin to walk toward the exits. “Our transportation is here. We can talk more in the ride to the office.”
A black Lincoln town car sits outside in the “No Parking” zone. Two transit cops stand nearby. One comes and opens the door for us to enter the vehicle. Again, I’m impressed. I enter first and slide across the seat in deference to the man’s age.
“Your people?” I ask.
With a curious look on his face he tells me. “No, just two transit cops. Tell me though, what did you feel from him. The one opened the door?”
I don’t even have to think about it. “Respect.”
“Something to remember. A lesson. People, people everywhere, believe in the appearances presented to ‘em. A black town car, the driver staying in the car, two people walkin toward it. To him, we’re important. He believed it. They both believed it. At that moment in time, that reality, was a certainty. Our actions served to verify that belief.”
“And this is important?”
“Yeah. What we present to the world differs from the reality we work in. You’ll learn. This be just the beginning.”
Where is this car ride taking me?