By ANDREW FLYNN, Storyteller
Not more than an hour after the Vice President had abruptly dispatched Phil Tulio permanently, many drops of perspiration could be found on his badly-receded hairline. Sweating profusely and with a sharp scent of alcohol under his breath, he briskly walked down the hall of a long and impressive corridor. Two Secret Service agents accompanied him on the venture. A pair of giant doors dwarfed him as he spoke aloud for the first time since he had left One Observatory Circle.
“You’re both going to stay out here, I don’t care how much you don’t like it,” he barked.
“Yes, sir,” the two agents quietly said in unison.
Upon opening one of the doors, a warm and glowing light filled the Vice President’s vision. Inside was an impressive room to the least. Rich with fine wood and leather décor about, it would be enough to make a layman do a double-take. Appearance alone wasn’t enough this time, especially for the number-two in charge of the country.
“I see I’m not interrupting anything, gentlemen,” the Vice President called out.
There were three well-dressed inhabitants of the room. They sat in high-backed chairs, each with rock glasses either in their hands or near them, filled with requisite top-shelf alcohol. As he walked toward them eyeballing an empty yet equally high-backed chair, the sweat on his forehead began to dry. He took out a white, silk handkerchief to dab the drops away. None of the men rose to greet the VP.
The oldest of the three men spoke first, “We’re kind of surprised your visit didn’t occur sooner. Join us.”
“I’ll stand for a minute, Snares. You three ought to know something,” the Vice President explained.
The Vice President discontinued his pacing that he had just begun, still in his tracks, yet still on his two feet. Eccos planted in the well-manicured carpet underneath them. There was close to ten seconds of silence in the room. The magnificent fireplace adoring the wall in the room crackled and popped as if a fresh log had been recently placed on top.
“Oh, shit,” the Vice President blurted.
“That’s right, ‘Oh, shit’, you sure did it this time,” said Snares. “God, if you aren’t the biggest fuck-up who’s ever held your office, I don’t know who is.”
“There isn’t an excuse I came to give you, Jeff.”
“Damned right there isn’t, because none of the three of us want to hear it!” boomed Snares, enough to shake the very walls of the whole room. It was a deep, husky voice, and it reverberated very well anywhere. Here it was on display in true reference-quality.
Jeff Snares hadn’t gotten up from his chair at all, nor had he given any facial cue that he was going to. He sat collected, and with his left leg crossed over his right. A scholarly-looking man of 70 years, he wore an expensive smoking jacket over his suit that definitely wouldn’t be found at a discount clothing store. He carried himself in a cloud of pretension as no one knew better, ever.
“Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself here,” Snares acquiesced. “Now sit down, dammit.” Snares didn’t take his eyes off the Vice President for a second.
“I can’t believe Dale would defect like this, Jeff. I just can’t.”
One of the other two men spoke up. “You should really just shut the fuck up. Sir.”
“Good advice, thank you, Charles,” Snares said sharply but with gratitude.
“So I’m a lost cause then, that’s it?” asked the Vice President.
“Jesus, shut your mouth!” the third man said, eyes fixed on the Vice President. “Right now! Or I’ll shut it for you.”
More silence filled the room. Twenty seconds this time. Snares went on to hold serve.
“Of course we couldn’t not bring you into our plan,” he directed at the Vice President. “Lord knows that we tried to think of every way not to include you. And yes you did provide us some quality resources along the way. But you never could keep all your dogs from barking, could you? No you couldn’t.”
Snares sipped his whiskey sour, and enjoyed the taste for a moment, then proceeded to set his glass down. More crackling from the fire. It brought warmth to those in the room, but it was heat that the Vice President didn’t need at the moment.
“So we don’t know what we’re going to do with you. Yet. I mean, of course, I know what I want to do with you. I want to give you a big spanking. You bald son of a bitch. How you got picked to be number two is something I’ll never understand. But then again, I’m not a politican. None of us in The Society are. You know, when the torch for The Precipitation Above was passed to me back some fifty years ago, I hadn’t a clue how far really we could all go.”
“It was a legacy thing, Jeff. Few in your position would know what to do, especially at that age,” the Vice President stated.
“Dammit, I believe Stahl did tell you something that you’re not doing,” he snapped. “And while we’ve had our hands in some of the some of the most fucked-up shit that this country’s ever gone through, there was always a common theme. And I really hate to say that this theme continues. See, somebody near the top of the chain-of-command always blows it in some respect. “F.D.R. almost didn’t get his poison drink sent to him that night back in forty-five. Ike almost pussied about involving this country in Vietnam at all! And Oswald almost got hit by a bus that morning in Dallas! I won’t even go into the near fuck-ups that almost prevented 9/11 from happening!”
“But they did, Jeff. They did,” the Vice President said, softly.
“Yeah, they did,” Snares went on. And maybe I’m upset over spilled milk here. Except that I’m not. This is a colossal problem. Thirty megatons of spilled milk. And it’s radioactive. And it’s on the way to Grant Park right now.”
“You know, it may really be nothing. Dale did say that he was just going to tell his kids.”
“I give a fuck about anything you’re saying right now. It’s that bastard we’ve got to take care. And by now he’s already wheels-up from Reagan.”
“I really doubt that, Jeff. I think you’re wrong. Macon assured me he’d contain Kravitz until we dealt with him personally.”
“God. Tell me you’re not this stupid.”
“All right, I’ve–,” the Vice President began, but was immediately cut off by Snares.
“You’ve nothing! You’ll sit there and take it all. You’ve chinked our armor. The armor we’ve worn for a hundred and three years! I will tell you you’re an idiot and a dummy and a fuck-up until I’m blue in the face! It’s all I can do to contain myself from going into my desk drawer and getting an immediate solution to my problem. Which is you!”
“Go on then.”
“Macon’s dead. I guarantee that the second he got off the phone with you, Dale put hot lead in his brain. That’s how we trained the motherfucker! Our Society may be in shambles because of his defection, the blame of which I put solely at your feet. You had the ability to control independent thought for Macon, which had Kravitz right under him. He was a good pointman for some big parts of what we did, but can you tell me that you ever trusted him?”
“Yes, Jeff, I did. Guy’s pedigree spoke for itself.”
“Then you are this stupid! That’s all there is to it. The silver lining is that the bomb is on a timer and can’t be stopped. It will go off, and Chicago will be an afterthought. That is for sure. You, on the other hand, aren’t.”
The Vice President sprung out of his chair, a look of horror glazed over in his Irish blue eyes.
“Snares, you can’t kill me. I’m too important.”
“You forget with my office and my connections, I can make your prosecution seem like a legal farce.”
“You think I got to where I am today without buying off every possible federal judge? I have no fear. Realize this, if you haven’t yet. Since we became in your presence back on Election Night in Grant Park nearly three years ago, the plan was going to happen. And afterwards, I am invulnerable, just as our Society is. It’s too entrenched to fail. Unlike you, Mr. Vice President.”
The Vice President sat back down, realizing that he needed to get comfortable with the idea that he no longer had any leverage.
“Resigned to your fate yet?” Snares asked rhetorically.
“Yes, I guess I am. But I would like to help where I can. Seeing is how I’m this far.”
Snares sipped his drink again. Almost down to just the ice cubes. It was fuel of sorts, as all the men in the room had been up for almost two days straight. The alcohol had the opposite effect of being a depressant today.
“You can, actually. And I sure hope you don’t fuck up the final task we give you.”
“Sure, anything. What can I do for you?”
“You can make sure that the President doesn’t take the trip to Chicago today after all.”
“You’re talking about a change in the Presidential schedule, Jeff? Now even I can’t pull that kind of magic out of my bag of tricks.”
“It’s like this: if you don’t do it, you’re dead. And not only will you die, but everyone in your family will die too. Long and painful deaths, too. Torturous, and strung out over days. That’s all there is to it. Make it happen.”
The Vice President glared at the wicked man across from him. ‘How much damage could he and his really do?’ he thought to himself.
“I’ll do my best, Snares.”
“You’ve shown that your best causes things to get fucked up, so don’t do your best. Do my best.”
“Air Force One won’t be going to Chicago after all then. I suppose you’ll now tell me what we do with a living President?”
“Yes, the men and I will. Right after you freshen our drinks up.”