CHAPTER TWO

Miami, Florida

Michael McCoy, the President of the United States, loved being on the campaign trail.  During his almost four years in office, he had become known as one of the most travelled Presidents ever to take office.  A person who loved people, he often found the confines of the Oval Office oppressive.

He was starting the day with his travelling secretary over breakfast on the patio of his penthouse suite at the Four Seasons.  He had received a little bit of criticism for staying in a hotel chain that was a Canadian company, but over time he had developed the thick skin necessary for a politician.  The view of the sparkling Biscayne Bay helped to assuage any lingering concerns he had.  As did the young gorgeous travelling secretary sitting across from him.  He had always been faithful with his wife but…

His wandering thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of Christopher Hewitt.

“Sir,” said Hewitt addressing not only the President but the traveling secretary. “I have made a slight change to your schedule today.  I wanted you to meet with the Florida Governor, John Carr.  If he endorses you, it will really help us here in Florida.  He is very popular here.”

“Damn it, Christopher.  The day is already packed.  And why would he not endorse us?  Of course he is going to endorse me.”

“Well, I just think it would be wise if you met with him, even if it is for only a few minutes. He is going to be here in about fifteen minutes.  It should not interfere with anything.  And if he not only endorses you, but really gets behind the ticket, he can help a lot.”

The travelling secretary began to object but wilted under the stare of Hewitt.  Instead, the President relented as Hewitt knew he would, “Whatever Christopher.  I hate it when you make these executive decisions.  There is only one executive in this room.”

“Yes sir”, replied Hewitt pretending to be chagrined.  With that, Hewitt sat down at the table and poured himself a coffee.  As the travelling secretary and the President resumed their discussion of the day, Hewitt answered some email on his smart phone.

A few minutes early, the phone rang announcing the arrival of John Carr.  Hewitt reminded the President that Carr’s wife name was Cathy, and went to answer the door.

John Carr had been Governor of Florida for six years and was a rising star in the Party.  During his tenure, the Floridian economy had been booming.  This was due to tax cuts and incentive packages that Carr’s administration had given to manufacturing companies.  As a result, he had the highest approval ratings of any current governor from either party, and he was beginning to be noticed on the National stage. John Carr was a large, but slim man.  He looked like he had just stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine when Hewitt answered the door to the suite.  Hewitt took a long, appraising look at Carr before shaking his hand.

“I have never had the pleasure, although I have certainly been following your career.  When you run for the White House in four years…”

Carr cut him off with a deprecating chuckle.  “You are already thinking about four years from now?  Don’t you need to win this election first? From where I sit, you are going to  have enough trouble winning this election.”

With that, the two were interrupted by the President.  “John, John!  So good to see you!  Thank you for coming by.  How is Cathy?”

“Mr. President,” replied Carr.  “She is quite well, thank you for asking. It is nice to see you again.”

“Gentlemen, I do not mean to interrupt,” interrupted Hewitt intentionally.  “Why don’t the two of you go sit down and talk.  John, the President is on a tight schedule, but has 15 minutes.  We really would appreciate your full support during this campaign.  Mr. President, I need to run. I need to run back to Washington for a meeting. I will meet you in Dallas tomorrow.”

Both men barely glanced at Hewitt as he finished speaking and began to saunter to the sitting area.  Hewitt took an extra long look at John Carr before finally turning to leave.

Cape Charles, Virginia

As Hewitt was turning to leave the meeting between Carr and the President, Tony Pena was pacing the driveway in front of Christopher Hewitt’s estate on the Chesapeake Bay in Cape Charles, Virginia. He was too stressed to notice the breathtaking beauty of the Bay.  He was completely annoyed at Hewitt.  A week ago after the “secret” phone calls, Hewitt had been kind enough to warn Pena that “some friends” were coming over to play poker in a week. That was not what bothered Pena. What annoyed Pena was Hewitt’s unwillingness to tell him who was coming, other than to say that they were important and that Pena would need a few extra Secret Service detail to assist him the night of the party.

Hewitt’s reluctance to disclose who was coming had caused a major argument and Tony had come close to yelling at his boss.  “Sir, you cannot expect us to protect you if you do not give me any information.  I can’t protect you and I cannot protect your guests.  This goes against every protocol, and I am not OK with this.”

Hewitt had been unfazed, “I understand, Tony.  But these are very important people to me and to the President.  And they do not want to be known.  We have some important to business to discuss.”

“Sir, that is fine.  But I need to know who is coming.”

“Tony, these are friends of mine.  They are important people, but they are friends.  They are not going to hurt me.  And, some of them will be coming with their own protection.  Everything will be fine.”

“Sir, I do not think this is a good idea. I am going to have to tell Charlie.”  Charles Strong was Tony’s boss and the head of the White House Secret Service Detail.  Pena figured Hewitt would bend once he threatened to involve Charlie.  Pena was wrong.

“I will clear it with Charlie.  I will have the President himself talk to Charlie.   You do not need to worry about this.”

Now, Pena was pacing the front of Hewitt’s home.  Hewitt was not even at his house.  He was in Miami with the President.  Pena decided he better walk the yard and decide where to set up stations for the men. There were six extra Secret Service people joining him tonight. He would put four outside, and two would be in the house with him.

He walked toward the back of the property, and was finally captivated by the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay.  Passing just stone throw from shore, a large sailboat was taking to sea.  Pena stopped and allowed himself a moment of jealousy, dreaming what it must be like to go for a day of sailing.  Pena’s grandfather had had a small sloop, and some of Pena’s fondest memories were the carefree days of his youth when just he and his grandfather had gone fishing.  Pena’s mother had been mortified, not because she was concerned for Pena’s safety, but because it caused Pena’s olive skin to turn dark brown.  Pena’s mom was a first generation Mexican immigrant and Mexicans of here generation did not like dark skinned Latinos.

Pena’s daydreaming was interrupted by the sound of an approaching vehicle.  Pena turned to see a panel truck pull up with “Ana’s Cattering” emblazoned on the side.  Pena had been with Hewitt long enough to know that this was the Chief of Staff’s favorite catering company.  He quickly approached Ana and her husband, Jeff as they were just starting to unload.

“Hi guys”, greeted Pena.

‘Hi, Tony.  How are you?  Do you know anything about this thing tonight?”

“No,” replied Tony.  “You probably know as much as I do. What I do know is that there will be about 12 people here, a few bodyguards, and six Secret Service detail besides me.”

“OK. Well we are cooking tri-tip with all the trimmings.  Pretty standard stuff.  We will make sure to take care of your guys too,” said Ana.

Tony remembered that Ana loved Sally, one of girls on Tony’s detail.  “Sally is going to be here tonight too, Ana.  But I do not want the two of you talking; Sally needs to do her job, at least while the guests are here.”

Ana smiled and said, “OK, Tony. I do love that girl. Girls with guns.  She is my kind of girl. In fact, she isn’t married.  She would be a good catch, Tony.”

“Ana, I don’t wear a wedding ring, but my wife would not appreciate you trying to set me up with Sally.”

Ana was slightly embarrassed.  “Oh, Tony. I am sorry. I didn’t know you were married.”

“No problem, Ana. I will let you guys get to it.  The guests are supposed to be arriving a little after dark, around 7:00.  They will probably want to eat almost right away.”

“Thanks, Tony,” Carl finally spoke up. Carl had been feeling left out of the conversation.

Tony made the one more walk around the property, decided where he would position two of the guys, and decided to have the other two outside guys walking around the whole night.  They would switch every hour.  With that, he decided to return to the White House.  He checked in with Hewitt’s housekeeper who ran the household, told her he would be back in the late afternoon with his full detail.

As he was leaving, Pena’s cell phone buzzed; it was Christopher Hewitt.

“Hello, sir,” said Pena as he answered.

“Hi, Tony.  Are you at my house?”

“Yes, but I am just leaving.”

“Are the caterers there?”

“Sir, I am not your errand boy.  My job is to protect you, which you are making difficult.”

“Tony, stop your belly aching.  I called the housekeeper, but you know how she hates to answer the telephone. I just wanted to be sure the caterers had made it.”

Tony was still annoyed.  Finally, he said, “Ana is at the house starting to set up.  I am on my way back to the White House. Sir, will you please tell me who is coming?” tried Pena one more time.

“I know you are mad at me,” replied Hewitt. “Everything is going to be fine, Tony.  These are upstanding gentlemen.  I will tell you that one of the people coming is the Chairman of the Joint Chief, Admiral Johnson. He will bring at least one or two bodyguards with him.”

Pena’s mind was now racing.  Having two “principles” in one place made it more complicated.  Part of the problem was the Marines that guarded the Chairman tended to not want to take orders from the Secret Service.

“Sir, I wish you had told me this earlier” said Pena after a long pause.

Hewitt failed to note the annoyance in Tony’s voice, “What difference does it make?”

Pena sighed in exasperation. It was going to be a long night. Pena then had a bright thought.  The poll numbers showed that the President was losing quite badly.  Pena might only have to put up with Hewitt for six more months.   Tony realized that he had been quite for too long while taking pleasure in the President’s likely defeat. “Sir, I will see you at your house around 4 this afternoon.”

“Tony, I am going to pick up a friend from the airport, and I will see you at around 6.”

Tony almost crashed his car with this new revelation. If he had been frustrated before, Pena was now about to explode.  He did not hold back when he emphatically yelled into the phone, “Sir, you cannot go to the airport without me! I don’t care what you say or who you call. If you are going to the airport, Sally and I are going with you.  No questions asked.  What time do we go?”

Hewitt realized how stupid he had been to think he could go the airport alone.  “OK, OK, Tony.  The flight arrives at 3:30 in Dulles.  It is a private plane.  I am on a flight right now back from Miami.  We will meet at the White House at 1ish and go over to Dulles together. I am sorry.”

Pena was surprised to hear Hewitt apologize so he backed off.  “OK, sir.  I will see you at 1.  Bye.”

Even so, Tony was shaking his head in frustration and stress as he hung up the phone.  “I just have to keep everyone alive tonight,” Pena thought to himself.

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CHAPTER ONE

Washington, D.C.

Christopher Hewitt closed the paper with a sinking feeling and the shake of his head.  As Chief of Staff for the President of the United States, he simply could not stomach the fact that the president now trailed his Democratic opponent by double digits.  Hewitt had dedicated his life to the Republican Party, devoted his career to electing the president.  And now that they had finally made it to the grand prize, it was to be thrown away after only four years.  This was simply unacceptable to Hewitt.

He sighed deeply, the sigh of pure dread that is felt deep in one’s soul.  He pensively took a piece of paper out his desk drawer and stared at it.  The paper contained a list of twelve names and telephone numbers.  He was amazed that it had come to this.

He pressed the intercom for his secretary.  “Stephanie, I need to step out of the office for about a half hour.  You can reach me on my cell.”  He quickly snapped off the intercom before she could object, knowing that several appointments—with people who thought they were important—would have to be cancelled.   Feeling some of his childhood Catholic guilt, he intercomed her again, “Stephanie, sorry, but this is a minor emergency.  I know that Senator Pauls was coming to talk to me about the defense bill.  Call his office real quick and see if he wants to wait for me to get back, or if he can come later this afternoon.  Like, I said, I’ll only be gone about a half hour.”

With that, he strode to the door.  As he stepped through it, Tony Pena, his Secret Service detail, was already striding alongside him.

“Where are we off to, sir?  Do I need to call someone?”  What Tony was really asking was if they were to be leaving the White House, because Secret Service protocol required a minimum of two Secret Service agents to travel with the Chief of Staff.

Hewitt paused and looked Tony straight in the eye.  “Well Tony, this is a real quick errand that requires a bit of discretion.  I would appreciate it if just you and I could go. And please don’t call it in.”

Truth was Hewitt loathed the security detail because of its cumbersome nature and because he grew tired of someone always being with him.  This was especially true in this instance when he needed privacy.

Hewitt could see Tony wrestling over whether to pacify his boss or follow his training.  Tony had been by Hewitt’s side for the better part of every day for nearly two years.  Hewitt strode on, knowing that Tony would comply.

“You are putting me in a difficult position, Mr. Hewitt.  You know I am not supposed to let you off the grounds without another person with me.”

“Tony, I know.  But like I said, this is a sensitive item.  The fewer people who know about this, the better.  We are just going to run down to Toomey’s.  We’ll be there for about 10 minutes.  Okay?”

Tony could see he was going to loose this battle and resigned himself to accommodating Hewitt.  “Okay, Mr. Hewitt, but if I get in trouble for this . . . .”

“Tony, stop worrying.  First, nothing is going to happen, so you won’t get in trouble.  But second, if you do, I will personally make the president pardon you.”  He said the last part with a bit of levity, trying to ease the tension.

They traveled down to the underground parking, where the Lincoln town car assigned to Christopher Hewitt was parked.  Just as they were approaching the vehicle, Hewitt asked, “Tony, where is your car?”

Tony stopped walking, obviously troubled.   “Why are you asking about my car?  I don’t like this one bit.”

Hewitt decided he better level with his guardian.  Tony was clearly wrestling with what was happening and if he pushed him much harder without much of an explanation, he would no longer willingly bend the rules.  Tony was smart and willing to bend the rules . . . a little bit.  But the idea of needing to take his car had pushed Tony close to his limit.

“Tony, I have to make about a dozen phone calls which no one can no about and no one can trace.  I need to get to a pay phone, and the fewer people who know about this the better.  I can’t tell you what this is about, but I can tell you that this is very important to the President.”

Though still skeptical, Tony was temporarily satisfied.  He pointed across the parking structure to a mini-Cooper.

“Cute, Tony”, said Hewitt sarcastically.  “When did you get that?”

“I just got it.  It’s supposed to be for my wife.  I just drove it to work today to try it out.”

Hewitt grunted.  “Couldn’t you have got something that I could fit in?  And couldn’t you buy American?” complained Hewitt.

“I didn’t get it with you in mind,” Pena declared indignantly.  “Beggars can’t be choosy.”

The two slipped into the car, Hewitt with some difficulty folding his frame into the passenger seat.  Tony eyed him and with resign said, “Sir, if you want to get out of here without being seen, it would be better if you were in the backseat.  Then when we go past the gate you can lay down a little bit.  They still might see you, but they won’t be able to tell who it is.”  Hewitt immediately saw the wisdom in Pena’s suggestion, got out of the car, folded forward the seat, and crumpled into the backseat.  The front seat was cramped; the backseat was impossible.  Pena smirked when he saw Christopher’s discomfort.

“Serves you right . . . Sir.”

“Go ahead and laugh.  I am just thankful you are willing to do this.”

Pena backed the car out and headed out of the underground parking toward the exit.  As they neared the gate, Hewitt pressed himself as far down in the back as possible.  With a slight tap of his horn, Pena waived at the marine guard manning the gate.  The Marine barely acknowledge the Mini-Cooper as he was checking a vehicle that was arriving.  Marine guards are much more focused on those entering the White House grounds than those leaving.

“We are clear, sir”, Tony informed Hewitt.

“Well done Tony.  Can you head for Toomey’s?”

“Sir, if I may make a suggestion.  I doubt Toomey’s is open at 8:30 a.m. being that it is a bar.  My sister runs a bakery close by.  She would let you use her telephone. If we tell her this is Presidential business, she will be tickled to think she is helping.”

“Thank God there are still some fans of the President.  Good suggestion Tony.  What would I do without you?”

“I don’t know, sir.  But I can tell you, life without you . . .”, his voice trailed off as he thought better than to complete his thought.

They arrived at the store, and Hewitt was struck by the beauty of the woman working behind the counter.  She registered surprise when she saw her brother and Hewitt, but came around the counter to give her brother a kiss on the cheek.  “Antonio?” she asked.

Tony rattled off a greeting in Spanish; Christopher attempted to wait patiently for them to finish their greeting, but found himself starting to tap his foot.  Pena noted his boss’s discomfort and switched to English.

“Sis, Mr. Hewitt needs to make some calls on behalf of President.  He needs a telephone and some privacy.”

“They don’t have telephones in the White House?” teased Isella Pena.  “Of course you can use my phone; it would be an honor.”

Christopher followed her to a small office in the back of the bakery. While the bakery was spotless, it was evident to Hewitt that a cyclone had recently dismantled the office.  There were filling cabinets and paper everywhere.  There was a small desk in the back of the office with a computer on it.  Isella smiled ruefully at the mess.  “I like to bake, but I hate paperwork,” she said.

“This will suit me perfectly.  I only need about 10 minutes.  Thank you,” replied Hewitt.  As Isella close the door to the office, Hewitt slowly removed the list from his pocket and sat down.  He drew a deep breath at the enormity of what he was about to do and dialed the first name on the list.

Los Angeles

Ted Prager was just leaving the studio from which his radio show that was broadcasted to almost three million listeners daily.  He had just finished his daily talk show and was about to get into his car when his cell phone chirped.  He pulled the phone from his pocket and squinted to see the number.  Not recognizing the number, he debated whether to answer.  He was about to silence the phone when he thought of two things.  First, very few people had his cell phone number and the number was a closely guarded secret.  Second, he noted that it was a Washington, D.C. area code.

“Hello?”, Prager said finally deciding to answer.

Houston:

Jim King was a billionaire who had made it big in the oil industry.  King was on the telephone when his secretary walked into his office.  King showed surprise because Janice rarely interrupted his calls, but, trusting his secretary’s good sense, he asked the person with whom he was speaking to wait a minute.

“Sir, there is someone waiting to speak to you on the phone who says he is Christopher Hewitt, the President’s Chief of Staff.”

“Well, I know Christopher, but I have not talked to him for several years.  Are you sure it is him?  Is he calling from the White House?”

“That is what is odd, Sir.  He is not.  He said is calling from a friend’s phone.”

“Well, this call is not that important.  Put it through, even if it is just a crank call.”

As King’s secretary, Janice, turned to leave, King muttered his apologies to his caller, hung up and waited for the phone to ring.  A few seconds later the telephone purred.

“Christopher?  Is that really you, you rascal?” King answered boisterously.

The Pentagon

Hewitt had much more difficulty calling Admiral Johnson; the midshipman who answered the telephone simply did not believe that Christopher Hewitt was calling. Finally, Hewitt threatened him with being reassigned to Guam before the midshipman transferred him to the Chairman of the joint chiefs.

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Hello world!

Please join me on my creative journey.  The purpose of this blog is for me to write a fiction book, The Twelve Disciples. It will be a political thriller, a la Vince Flynn.  My goal will be to post a new chapter each week.  I hope you write lots of comments, positive or critiques.  I hope to one day get this published, so you could really help me.

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