In the den of lions
My need to relieve myself was great, but I deferred to the others, as my companions did. Three urinals, two toilets, they waited. I waited. There was no hatred now, only urgency. Weird, our human needs superseded the general mistrust that these men had for us. “Long briefing” one said. “Too much coffee.” Said another.
Then those that had finished, noticed us. The second class people. Now it came back. That distrust, that hatred. If I understood Mac, they didn’t know what we were. They only knew that they were to take what we said as some sort of holy insight into the jobs that they prided themselves on doing. Protecting. I resolved to change that. Ignorance bred hatred. And if they had no idea why we were there, then they needed to know. To know about us, to know why we were invaluable, and that we were doing what we did, to help.
Finished, we all went down to the garage. Loading up the four towncars, we drove off and up into daylight. Then in a line, our car at the end, we drove through DC and came to a hotel. There, we met up with two black vans that preceded us to park in the underground garage, each of the vans had a compliment of men dressed in black clothes. Not suits, just black shirts and pants. No insignia, no identification. I guess it wasn’t like a TV crime show where they all had big letters defining which particular agency they were with. Eight of them. They all had rifles. They were ambivalent to our presence. They exuded purpose. Death. They were the assassins of the protection detail. They must have had a separate briefing, they all knew what they were to do.
Nodding at our regulars, they all walked off, confident in their tasks. Our guys now had envy in their hearts. The Service had their own elite. Knowledge is a great thing.
In a line, we hiked over to the elevators. Nine crowded into the first. Distaste in those that had to wait with us. However their purpose, their jobs ahead, began to overshadow their feelings toward us. When the second car came, we entered and rode up to the ground floor. The others had already moved outside. Our regulars led us to the main doors. Walking toward them, I could see the first group, dispersing up and down the street. As we exited the hotel, the man that had given the briefing pointed at two of our companions, “Go with Dickson and stay up with them.”
Cryptic commands I thought. But probably ones that they were used to. They walked off. Up street from the hotel. There was a covered entrance to the hotel and the three of us, with our assigned regular stayed near the north side of the awning. The other three began to work on a pile of stanchions and ropes that had been place on a wooden pallet off to one side. As they worked to set them up, I looked over at our man and asked. “Can we help setting those up?”
He looked at me as if I was from outer space. A jab with an elbow from Happy told me that we weren’t welcome helping with anything. I looked over at Happy and expressed what I felt. ‘It’s better than just standing here doing nothing. Right.”
He shrugged his shoulders, looked at Jake who also shrugged. Then nodded. “Why not?”
We all three looked at our guy and he shrugged his shoulders as well. We all walked over and began to help pick up the poles and ropes. The two regulars that had begun the task looked at us. Bewilderment. As we helped carry over the equipment, that ended and they directed us as to where to place the poles. In less than a half hour, we had the whole area cordoned off, a wide path from the road up to the entrance to the hotel. I estimated it took a third the time as if the two had done it themselves. They looked grateful, and felt as such. The beginnings of an introduction to our humanity.
The four of us then walked back up and stood near the entrance doors. Waiting. Our regular was now next to me. An opportunity. “Hey, my name’s Dennis. I think you know, it’s my first time doing this.”
There was that amazement now from him. I was a person. A real human. I extended my hand to him, he shook it. Then he told me. “Yeah, I know. I’m Todd. Todd Peters. Thanks.”
Happy and Jake just stared at me. “Nice to meet you Todd. You know my friends, Happy, or as you call him Doc. He really has a PhD in neurobiology. And of course Jake. I just want you to know how glad I am to be here helping all of you.”
Now that distrust, those beginnings of hatred coming back. “Sure, I guess we’re glad you’re here as well. Helping.” That last said with distaste.
“Thanks.” Ignoring his intonation. “You know why we’re here though don’t you?”
The man looked puzzled. Happy and Jake looked absolutely catatonic with fear. I think I was treading in very unfamiliar waters. It took a moment as Todd thought about it. Again, puzzlement, interest, shock. None of the irregulars had probably ever talked to them. He was in unfamiliar territory. He thought a moment, then spoke softly. “We’ve heard things. You guys know when someone wants to kill someone.” And then he was silent.
Waiting a moment, I looked at him, ignoring the silent pleas from my companions. “Yeah, sort of. Do you think it’s weird?”
There was no waiting, he answered immediately. “Shit yeah. I’ve been on this detail for three years. We’re told to follow up with anything you guys say. Nothing has ever happened. And that’s good. But I, well, none of us really know why you’re here. There’s stories about Ford. But that was a long time ago. Why are you guys here?”
Curiosity was the overall perception I got from him. “Well Todd, I suppose we are more sensitive than most. Does that make a difference though. I mean, I kind of get the impression that most of you don’t trust us.”
Looking over at Happy, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. Jake was big eyed and shocked as well. I had opened the book, we needed to read the pages. Todd looked at me and then at my companions, even he could tell that we were going into uncharted waters. That curiosity though, overcame any reluctance, and he began. “Look, Dennis, right?” I nodded. He continued. “We just have no idea why we need to put such importance on the two of you. You don’t train, you don’t, you aren’t regulars. Some of you are too young, or too old to be in the Service. You just, well, you aren’t part of us.” Waiting a moment, then he added. “And we’re supposed to take orders from any of you whenever you announce something. It’s just weird.”
Nodding my head in agreement with him, I just started off slow. "Yeah. Really weird I'm sure from your perspective. I don't understand it. I really don't. None of us do. We just know things that most people don't. Or maybe, just awareness is heightened. Maybe that's it. We're really kind of freaks in the world. It's possible that everyone knows the same things we do, it's just we're more sensitive to those things. I mean, really, we're all kinda loners and geeks. We study people more than most do. Maybe that's it."
That was something concrete for him to think about. Without actually telling him the truth. Which in reality, even we didn't know why or how we did the things we did. Todd eventually looked over at Happy and Jake, then back at me. "Yeah I guess. Sounds possible. I know when I'm on duty, I'm looking about me like crazy. I don't just study one person that might be acting weird. To me, they're all acting weird. And yeah, from what I've seen of you all, you are kind or freaks."
Taking a moment, I knew what to do. An analogy. And I had the perfect one. “Todd. Have you ever been to the circus?”
Now he was surprised. “Yeah. Been a few times.”
“To the freak show?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen the freaks.”
Nodding my head, this was a good thing. “Todd, those are people. Nature, the circumstances of their birth, were controlled by small abnormalities in their DNA and made them into humans that are different than the rest of the world. Yeah, they’re freaks. But they’re still people. Humans, different from that which we consider normal. In the real world, they would be outcasts. In the circus, they have a home. A place where their particular circumstances and abnormalities are viewed as such, and appreciated. Even though it’s as freaks. But that's an outsider's viewpoint. Within their own group, and those that actually know them individually, they're just people. We’re the same. We know things. We know when someone wants to do harm to the President, or the Vice. Even we don't know how, we just seem to know. But Todd, we’re just people. Freaks in a way, but still people.”
Now he began to consider this bit of information. His overall distrust of us lessened. He saw us as people. Not the enemy anymore. Perhaps comrades afterall. “Yeah, I guess I never thought about you guys like that before. I don’t know why you’re here, I’ve never seen what you’re supposed to do. But then that’s a good thing. I don’t know. I just don’t know. You seem like a nice guy and all.”
“Cool. I hope we can all get along in the future. And let’s hope we’re never needed as well.”
Now Todd was nodding his head. "Yeah, let's hope not."
Just then the main regular that had assigned the roping off of the entrance returned. He was a bit shocked to see that the job was finished and the two agents assigned the task just standing. "How'd you get that done so fast?" He asked of them.
The one pointed to us and responded. "The oddballs helped us."
The leader walked up to the four of us and stood directly in front of Happy before he almost yelled his reactions. "Doctor I told you to keep your people in line and out of trouble. Don't think we're here for your amusement. This is a serious thing we do. It isn't a game."
Happy now came to my rescue. "Chief, all we did was set up the stanchions. How is that getting into trouble. We're still three hours away from the crowds showing up and another two until the Vice President arrives. We're just familiarizing ourselves with the actual topography of the area. It's different from a line drawing on a white board."
That shut the man up. Happy drew the conclusion that perhaps we could learn more from doing things than just standing waiting. The man nodded his head before admitting, "Yeah, okay." And then he looked at the four of us and told us, "All right, come on. Follow me and we can go through and actually get a better feeling for what's happening and where."
Leading, we trailed along right on his tail, Jake was first, then Happy, me and our new friend within the regulars, Todd. Then followed a detail explanation of how the motorcade would approach the hotel, how we were to position ourselves up at the bottom of the stairs, and top. Happy and I at the bottom, closer to the crowd. The man then explained how many police would be there and also how many of the twelve other regulars were to be positioned when the VP began his exit from the limo.
It was then that I noticed a glaring reflection from the rooftop down the street. About three buildings south of us. Something I thought I should mention. "So, Chief. Um, is that one of your men on the roof of the Evanston Brothers building south of us?"
With his mouth open wide for a moment, he was deep in thought. Then he touched his collar and spoke softly into the sleeve of his jacket. Moments later, he walked up to me, a grim look on his face. "Is there someone on that roof top. And don't point, don't even look up there. And you two, neither of you look up that way either." He commanded.
"Yeah, sorry, I thought he was one of yours. But, different. Thought I'd ask." And now that brief glint of sunlight off steel was gone. No need to tell the man what gave me cause for alarm. I really couldn't feel anything from that far away, but he didn't know that.
Our chief then began to point around us, making as if he was explaining points of procedure to us. Distractions. Perhaps they would work, hopefully if it was an actual incident, it would be enough.
As the man waved his arms around in an expansive gesture that allowed him to look up at the building in question, he then was jubilant. "They got him, they got the bastard."
As we looked upwards ourselves, we could see that three men in black were holding another man against the edge of the building. It was then that the reality of the situation hit the man. Turning to look directly at me, he was shocked, confused and ecstatic. He had a capture. And he had to share it with the newest of the oddballs. And he had no idea how it happened. "How did you do that? I mean, how did you know he was there?"
Even Happy and Jake were staring at me. Todd couldn't close his mouth, his jaw slack, amazement coming from him as he just witnessed something that we had talked about previously. And of which he never thought possible he would witness. Nor could anyone explain to him.
I wasn't sure I wanted to tell them the truth.