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 tried to have 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.
Finally, Mr. MacGyver comes to see me. I haven't had a drink in a month, but then after that second 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 a doing quite well. Pleased a few of the staff as well."
Everyone talks I guess. "Yeah, a few. What did you hear?"
"You put on weight. Actually you look quite good. The tremors and night sweats stopped. And it would appear you're bored. Angela, is madly in love with you and talks incessantly about you to the other staff. When you leave, that won’t be a 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 we start to train you. It really won't involve much, I believe you'll be able to step in and do what needs to be done. There will be 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 you are specifically suited to do. Only a few have the gift such as you. I, ... I've, never 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, the few 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, are 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. The first real smile. Nodding his head, he begins again. "Dennis, all you gotta to do is travel round the country, at times, other countries. Stand near someone. Purty simple. Ya’lls awareness, your specific gift, that’s what we want. What we need. You'll be able to detect those emotions from someone, and we don't mean hate. But when someone wants to kill a man, and has a plan to do so. That sort of hatred will be why you're there. To feel within someone out inna crowd, across the street, somewhere close by. With murder in their heart, preparing to act. That's somethin you’re capable of doin. That's why you're here."
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."
"No Dennis, don't screw up."
“So what is this place anyway? It isn’t a rehab facility.”
“It’s a meetin place, part of the Secret Service training program.”
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.
Last eve Angela came to be with me. It was different. Sad. She wasn't tossing me out. Her feelings were genuine. There was no hatred, no indecision, none of the usual emotional debris that I fight against. No battle within my psyche as the war of my own demons to keep me at a distance from what should be private for everyone, but is open to me. The Gift! It’s not unpleasant.
"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’ve 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 from the crowd. I relax. I nod. "Sorry, you said something."
"I askt if you got any regrets. This must be difficult for ya. A crowd, bein sober. If it's too much Dennis, we can sit down out of 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 ya sure there ain't any regrets? This is what you’ll have to subject yourself to. And with bigger crowds. More intense, more driven. With hate and anger within some. Think bout this Dennis. Ya 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 Dennis, you can distinguish between hate, and anger?"
"Not many of you can, that's a tough un."
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 ya met another gifted before?"
I think about it a moment before responding. "I don't know. How would I know?"
"The same’s me. Ya feel nuthin. We cancel each other. We're unable to sense that ability in others like ourselves. Don’t know why, it 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 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 once again, I look at him as he instructs me. “Now, show me hatred.”
“There, and there.” I use his hand to 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 amongst 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. I and another like me are on the same detail you’re gonna participate in. For interference. But I said too much. Time enough to learn during training. It was nice to finally meet you. Mr. MacGyver had told us 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 have found. Greater than 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. “Yes, thank you. I believe all our group got 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 wadn’t much for speakin in public. He believed in me, and demanded changes in operations, our methods o protecting him. Thatn was a time of great change in how we view the world. A lotta changes in how the Secret Service protect 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 kin 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 didda ya feel from him. The one opened the door?”
I don’t even have to think about it. “Respect.”
“Somethin’ to member. A lesson. People, people everywhere, believe in the appearances presented to ‘em. A black town car, the driver staying in the car, two people walking toward it. Ta him, we’s important. He believes it. They both believe it. At that moment in time, that reality as presented, be a certainty for em. Our actions only served to verify their belief.”
“And this is important?”
“Yup. What we present to the world differs from the reality that we work under. You’ll learn. This be just the beginnin.
Where is this car ride taking me?