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.