Posted June 30, 2012

Legacy

A Naptown Tales Sequel by Altimexis

Chapter 11 - Out of Guatemala - Jeremy Kimball

Time stopped when I realized my husband had been seriously wounded. His shirt was soaked with blood, which meant he’d probably lost a lot more than what was visible.

“Why didn’t you tell me you’re injured?” I admonished my husband.

“It doesn’t really hurt all that much,” he answered. “Not really, anyway, and besides, I didn’t want to worry you.”

“Honey, it’s my job to worry,” I replied, and then added, “Let’s get you to the nurse and see how bad it is.”

Moments later, David was sitting on a cot in the clinic tent.

“OK, David,” the nurse, whose name was Stephanie, began. “Let’s have you take off your shirt and we’ll see what we’ve got.”

David complied, and I gasped when I realized just how serious his injury really was. On the right side of his chest, just above and to the right of his nipple was a hole. The hole wasn’t very large, but it was oozing bright red blood at an alarming rate.

“There’s an exit wound on the back side, too,” she noted and in curiosity, I moved around my husband to take a look. Sure enough, there was a larger hole in the middle of the right side of his back. It wasn’t bleeding as much, but it looked more ominous.

“Why is the back wound so much larger than the one in front?” I asked.

“Exit wounds always are,” Stephanie explained. “It’s the nature of the injury. The bullet loses momentum as it passes through the body, and so it exits at a much slower speed, giving up even more of its energy as it does so. Had it been from a handgun, the bullet would have likely never made it out of the body, giving up all its energy inside and doing considerably more damage. Because it was a high-power rifle, however, the bullet passed right through his chest, doing relatively little damage to his lung along the way.

“He must have been leaning forward,” She added, “which is why the exit wound’s so much lower than the entry wound.”

“He was firing a rocket launcher,” I interrupted.

“That certainly explains it,” she agreed. “It’s a good thing he wasn’t leaning even farther forward, or the bullet would have passed through his liver and he’d have likely bled out by now.”

“So he’s gonna be OK?” I asked.

Sighing, she said, “I didn’t say that. There’s no way to know just how serious the damage is inside without getting him to a hospital. Obviously the bullet didn’t pierce any major blood vessels or he wouldn’t have survived, but he’s still obviously bleeding, and probably bleeding internally.”

After thumping on the outside of his chest, which caused David to wince, and listening with her stethoscope, she continued, “It doesn’t sound like there’s been much internal bleeding, thank God, but the lung has collapsed.” Turning to face my husband directly, she asked, “David, are you having any trouble breathing?”

“A little bit,” he admitted. “I feel OK, but I feel kinda winded, like I’ve run a marathon, you know?”

“That’s because about half your blood is passing through your lungs without being oxygenated,” she explained. “You’re surviving using only your left lung, which is the smaller of the two, and no matter how hard you breathe, you cannot make up for the blood that’s still flowing through your right lung and not getting any oxygen.

“What we need to do, David, is to put in a chest tube. Hooked up to suction, it’ll re-inflate your right lung. You won’t be mobile, but you should be stable until we can get you to a hospital.”

“I have to be mobile,” David complained. “Jeremy and I are the only ones here to defend the village against attack.”

“You won’t be able to defend us if you’re dead,” she admonished my husband.

Pondering the situation for a moment, he finally consented. “But if anything happens, I’m pulling the tube out and joining Jeremy to fight for our lives. If it comes down to that, I’ll be better off helping fight the insurgents than waiting for them to capture and kill me anyway.”

“Fair enough, David,” she agreed.

Watching Stephanie put in the chest tube turned out to be more of an ordeal than I was expecting. After washing an area on the side of his chest, a few inches below the armpit, she smeared it with iodine, then took a scalpel and made a small incision between the ribs. She didn’t anesthetize the area and David grimaced, but he remained calmer than I ever would have been.

The chest tube itself was bigger than I’d been expecting. It was about as big around as my ring finger, and made of hard plastic. She hooked it up to a portable suction machine, which was powered by our portable generator. I could only hope and pray that the generator didn’t fail.

Just then I heard what sounded like the outboard motor of a boat taking off. I ran out of the tent and could definitely hear a boat, but I couldn’t see much of anything. Running quickly to the supply tent and grabbing a pair of binoculars, I took another look and what I saw made me shiver in terror. Headed downstream and out to sea was a boat with a humongous rocket launcher mounted on the stern.

Obviously if they’d wanted to, they could have fired it at us by now, so they must be after another target. Perhaps they were pursuing the boat we’d sent out an hour before but, if so, why did they wait? The rocket launcher would have been tremendous overkill for taking out a small boat. The rockets mounted in the thing looked to be big enough to take out a battleship, and that thought really did make me shudder. The U.S. Navy did, indeed, have a battleship out in the bay.

Running back into the clinic tent, I explained to David what I’d observed. “Why would they attack an American ship?” I wondered aloud.

“Because we have a history of tucking our tails and running,” David answered. “When the going got tough in Lebanon and Somalia… when large numbers of servicemen started to die, we hightailed it out of there. They’re probably trying to send a message that America should stay out of this so-called civil war.”

“But won’t they see the boat coming and blow it to bits before it gets too close?” I asked.

“Ever since Yemini terrorists put a hole in the Stark, they won’t let another ship get anywhere close to them but, from what you described, those rockets are surface-to-air missiles. They’re designed to take out an airplane, but they’ll work as well with a ship. They’re heat-seeking, and they can travel for miles. They don’t have to get anywhere near the ship to launch their missiles and blow it up.”

“Fuck!” I exclaimed. “We need to warn them!” I shouted.

“Unless they took their jamming equipment with them, I don’t see how we can,” David replied, stating the obvious.

“Then I’m gonna have to find the transmitter and take it out,” I decided.

“How the hell are you gonna do that?” David asked incredulously.

“I’ll triangulate the location,” I suggested. “Look, I can run a kilometer in about four minutes, so in eight I can get a couple of readings from points a kilometer apart. If the transmitter’s close enough that I have a chance in hell of reaching it in time, that should be enough.”

“It sounds like quite a long shot,” David exclaimed.

“I know it is, but I gotta try,” I replied.

Grabbing a walkie-talkie from the supply tent and a wire coat hanger to use as an antenna, I went outside and carefully lined up the walkie-talkie with the shadow it cast on the ground. I then bent the hook end of the coat hanger and stuck it into the antenna jack on top of the walkie-talkie and turned it until the sound of the static was the loudest. I marked the position of the coat hanger on top of the walkie-talkie.

Next, I set off on a run, following the riverbank to the west. I timed my run at exactly four minutes, which I estimated to be pretty close to a kilometer. I then repeated the procedure and marked the position of the antenna. The difference in direction was significant. Running back to the campsite, I got out a map and plotted the directions I’d measured from the locations where I estimated I’d taken the measurements. The two lines intersected in the middle of a large island that was directly across from our location.

Running back into the clinic tent, I got out the map and showed it to David, pointing to the place where the two lines crossed and said, “The transmitter’s right here. I’m gonna grab some grenades and take it out.”

“But how the fuck will you get across the river, and how will you find it when you get there?” he asked.

Shrugging my shoulders, I said, “I’ll swim, and I’ll take a walkie-talkie with me to help me find the transmitter.”

“You can’t swim across the river!” David admonished me. “The current’s too swift!”

“David,” I reminded my husband, “I won a gold medal for swimming a 1500 meter breaststroke a few years back, I’ll remind you. That’s a kilometer and a half. The river’s only a couple hundred meters across and, even if the current carries me downstream, the shoreline across the way’s at least a couple kilometers long. I can do this.”

“Why not take a boat?” David asked.

“Because they’d hear me coming,” I explained. “They’ll never expect someone to swim across.”

“How will you get the grenades and walkie-talkie across with you?” he asked.

Shrugging my shoulders, I said, “I guess I could wrap them in plastic and tie them to my belt.”

“Getting a serious look on his face, David said, “You’re really gonna do this, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I am,” I replied, “but you know, this may sound crazy, but I think my brother Cliff is here with us today.”

“Ordinarily I’d say you’re right, you’re crazy, but I feel it too,” David agreed. “Be careful, my love, and come back in one piece.”

“I will, David… I promise,” I replied, and then gave him a peck on the lips. As I started to leave, I turned around and added, “Oh, have someone get on the radio. I’ll call on the walkie-talkie to let you know when the transmitter’s down, and then someone can send out a distress signal and warn the Navy.”

“Good Idea, Jer,” David agreed. “I’ll have Stephanie get someone to do it.”

Running out the clinic tent and into the supply tent, I quickly unlocked the munitions and grabbed two grenades. Placing the grenades in a heavy plastic bag, I pulled off my shirt, then I pulled off my left sneaker and stuffed the grenades down into it and tied it to my belt on the left side of my shorts. Similarly wrapping the walkie-talkie in a plastic bag, I stuffed it into my right sneaker, which I secured to my belt on the right side of my sorts. Now I was ready!

Running out to the riverbank, I waded into the river and immediately felt the pull of the rapid current. Launching myself forward I began to breaststroke, taking advantage of the fact that it was my most efficient stroke and that it allowed me to see where I was going without having to open my eyes under salt water. The current carried me downstream much faster than I was expecting, but with the speed of my stroke, I had no difficulty reaching the other side, and quickly.

Once I pulled myself up on land, I quickly realized that there were still fires smoldering from our rocket attack on the sniper or snipers, so I would have to be very careful not to burn myself. Untying my shoes from my belt, I extracted the grenades and tied them back to my belt, then I removed the walkie-talkie and clipped it to my belt on the other side.

I put my sneakers on and tied them, then headed into the forest cover of the island, taking care to avoid making a sound. I was stealthy, but fairly fast. As I moved further inland, I started using the walkie-talkie to listen for the jamming signal and walk in the direction it was strongest.

After about fifteen minutes, I realized I was hearing voices and so I slowed down and moved more cautiously. I soon came to the edge of a clearing with a couple of tents. Carefully turning the walkie-talkie on with the volume down, I quickly verified that the transmitter was in one of the tents. I placed the walkie-talkie back on my belt, took out the first grenade, pulled the pin and tossed it to the base of the farther tent, then I took the second grenade, pulled the pin and rolled it to the base of the closer tent.

My mission nearly complete, I quickly took off in a dead run. Moments later a pair of explosions shook the island. Within seconds, the sound of gunfire echoed through the forest. Soon the staccato of automatic weapons could also be heard. I heard the sound of bullets pinging all around me and I knew I was literally running for my life. I realized I should have thought to have brought a gun, but then realized it probably wouldn’t have helped much in any case.

Barreling toward the shoreline, I quickly pulled out the walkie-talkie and shouted into it, “Breaker! Breaker! The jamming field is down. Repeat, the jamming field is down.”

The “Roger that!” that came back through the tiny speaker was the most joyous sound I’d ever heard.

Throwing down the walkie-talkie, which had served its purpose well, I quickly pulled off my sneakers and jumped into the river, swimming rapidly toward the other shore. The sound of gunfire continued to echo around me, so I stayed as much under water as I possibly could, surfacing only to breathe and to catch sight of my progress.

When I reached the other side I ran into the village, but quickly realized I was nowhere near the Red Cross campsite. The village was a few kilometers in length along the riverbank and I was at the easternmost edge of it. Without shoes on my feet, it took me nearly an hour to make my way back to camp.

When I finally reached our campsite, I ran for the clinic tent in spite of being barefoot. When David saw me, his whole face lit up and he exclaimed, “Oh thank God. I was so worried about you.” Leaning over him, I passionately locked my lips to his. Stephanie had the good sense to leave the tent, giving us our privacy.

I quickly filled David in on my escapade, and he told me that someone, a volunteer named Garrett, had warned the Navy of the missile threat and explained our need for rescue. The word was the Navy was ‘monitoring the situation’, and that a rescue by the Navy, the Guatemalan Red Cross or the Guatemalan military would commence as soon as the situation was ‘stable’.

The joy of my success was short-lived, however, as a nearby explosion shook the ground beneath us.

“Fuck!” I cried out, but at least we were still alive. It was then that I noticed that David was having trouble breathing and that the suction apparatus was no longer working. In fact, fluid was being drawn back from the machine into his chest! I realized the rocket attack must have taken out the generator and, recognizing the danger, I quickly yanked the chest tube out of his side. His yelp reminded me after the fact that the damn thing had been sutured in place.

I found some gauze and bandages and covered the hole where the chest tube had been as best I could. The thunderous explosion of another missile landing nearby struck immense fear into all of us.

“We gotta move inland!” I shouted. “If we stay here, we’re sitting ducks!”

Helping David to his feet, we exited the tent, only to be greeted by a scene of devastation. There were dead bodies strewn all around us, including Stephanie’s. I tried to pull David with me into the forest, but he made a break for it, running to the supply tent, which was miraculously still standing. He emerged a moment later, carrying a rocket launcher.

Dropping to the ground, he fired a missile at the island across the way, reloaded, and fired a second missile. I could hear the sound of sniper fire and it was a miracle David wasn’t shot again.

Running back to me, he said, “That should hold ’em off for a little bit.”

Although he quickly became winded, David and I managed to run into the forest, to relative safety, where we waited for the promised help to arrive. The longer we had to wait, the more and more likely it would become that the insurgents would cross to our side of the river, and then it would be all over.

As we continued to wait, I noticed that David was having more and more trouble breathing. He was becoming pale and when I checked, his pulse was extremely weak. I knew he was going into shock, but what could I do?

Drawing on some of the training the American Red Cross had given us in emergency first aid, I remembered that a collapsed lung could turn into something called a tension pneumothorax in which air became trapped inside the chest, pushing more and more on the remaining good lung, causing it to collapse as well and preventing the heart from functioning. I had to act, and I had to act now. David couldn’t wait for help to arrive.

“┬┐Alguien tiene una pluma?” I asked with a shout.

“Tengo una pluma!” a man shouted, and I took it from him. It was just a disposable ballpoint pen, and it wasn’t exactly clean, but it would have to do.

Removing the ballpoint, the ink cartridge and the end cap, I took the remaining hollow tube from the pen, removed the dressing from where the chest tube had been in David’s chest and inserted the pen barrel into the hole. There was an immediate hissing sound, and the color returned to David’s face. He was a long way from being out of the woods yet, but he was alive.

Moments later the distinct sound of helicopters could be heard overhead. Soon there followed the sounds of explosions, coming from the riverbank. About a half-hour after that, soldiers began making their way toward us… American soldiers.

 

“And so Pop and I were evacuated by helicopter while a contingent of soldiers remained in the village. We received basic first aid onboard the ship, and then we were evacuated back to The States, where Pop was hospitalized for a couple of weeks, but made a very speedy recovery.

“In the meantime, America entered the war, routing the so-called insurgent forces, destroying the cartel’s crops and sending the drug lords back to Mexico, to be dealt with another day. It was, after all, our war too. Those drugs were headed to America.”

“Do you really think Uncle Cliff was watching over you in Guatemala?” Sandy asked.

“I felt it, and Pop felt it,” I answered. “By all accounts we should never have survived and yet we did. Had the bullet been an inch lower, Pop would certainly have died. I should never have survived my outlandish attack on the jamming radio transmitter. There were just too many things that went right for it to have been a coincidence.

“So to answer your question, yes I do think Uncle Cliff was watching over us.”

“How long was it before you learned you were getting the Congressional Medal of Honor?” Josh asked.

“About a month after Pop got out of the hospital, we got a call from the President,” I answered. “We were astounded. Technically since we weren’t in the armed services, we weren’t even eligible, but the President requested it and Congress went along with his request. We were credited with having saved the lives of more than a thousand servicemen aboard the navy vessel, and five hundred men, women and children in the village. A lot of it was luck…”

“But Dad,” Josh interrupted, “most of it was bravery. I can’t imagine what it was like for you, swimming through the rapid current with bullets flying all around you, or for Pop to fire those missiles back at the insurgents, putting his own life in grave danger… twice! You really were heroes. What you did was awesome!

“We just did what we thought was the right thing to do,” I replied.

“When everyone else just wanted to save their own skins and get the hell out of there,” Sandy countered. I had to admit she was right.

“Jer?” the intercom buzzed with Trevor’s voice. “I think we may have a break in the investigation into David’s death. Could we meet with you in your office?” he asked.

“Of course you can,” I answered.

“I guess that’s our cue to leave,” Josh stated as he got up from the loveseat.

“As long as you’re dressed for it, why don’t you go for a swim?” I suggested.

“Sounds like a plan,” he replied, and then turning to Sandy, he asked, “You care to join me, Sis?”

“I’d love to,” she answered.

“In the meantime I’ll see if I can get us some more clothes,” I added.

Lifting up the phone, I called Henry and asked, “Henry, do you think you could retrieve some clothes for the kids and me from the Residence?”

“Of course, Jer,” he answered. “I don’t want to even imagine you guys running around in the nude,” he laughed, “especially you.”

Laughing with him, I replied, “Actually, Josh is pretty close. He’s down to a pair of Speedos.”

“Damn,” Henry exclaimed. “I bet at least he looks hot in them, though.”

“You know I do too,” came my retort.

“In your dreams, Kimball,” Henry replied. Yeah, Henry and I had a playful camaraderie that went way back.

“Mr. Kimball,” my secretary buzzed, “Dr. Austin, Dr. DeWitt, Dr. El Tahari and Dr. McLaughlin are here to see you.”

“Send them on in,” I answered.

“Hey guys,” I said in greeting. “What’s up, and why are you meeting with me instead of the President?” I asked.

“It’s… complicated,” Kurt answered. “What we have is very preliminary and a lot of it’s circumstantial. The ramifications will be huge if we’re right and we thought, as David’s husband, that you’d want to know.”

“We’re also very concerned about what President Schroeder might do with this information,” Trevor added. “How he might act on it before we have the complete picture.”

“You weren’t there for the cabinet meeting early this morning,” Debbie chimed in. “It was scary. Schroeder actually suggested we go to war… possibly even nuclear war.”

“You’re kidding me,” I replied. “Not even Schroeder’s that crazy.”

“Yes he is,” Debbie reiterated. “If Kurt hadn’t threatened to invoke the twenty-fifth amendment, he might well have led us off a cliff.”

“The twenty-fifth amendment!” I exclaimed. “You mean to remove him from office? Only the Vice-President can invoke the twenty-fifth.”

“In case you haven’t noticed,” Trevor replied, “we don’t have a vice-president.”

“I threatened to invoke the twenty-fifth and let the Supreme Court sort out the legality of it,” Kurt explained. “I even called for a vote of the cabinet on a motion to remove the President. Then and only then did he back down.”

“It was scary,” Debbie exclaimed. “For a while there, I thought we might actually go to war with a random target in the Middle East, or that Schroeder was going to completely melt down.”

“I figured that even if the Supreme Court ruled I didn’t have the authority to invoke the twenty-fifth,” Kurt added, “as was quite likely, that Schroeder would have had little choice but to resign anyway if the majority of the cabinet gave him a vote of no-confidence.”

“I’m almost glad I wasn’t there,” I replied. “Sometimes ignorance really is bliss… but seriously, what do I have to do with all of this?”

“If nothing else,” Trevor began, “today showed us that we really need a vice-president, and sooner rather than later.”

“I spoke to Schroeder about it after the cabinet meeting,” Kurt went on, “and he actually agreed with me. He asked me to draw up a list of potential candidates.”

“Really!” I said in surprise. “He asked you to do it?”

“The one thing he does realize is that he has a long way to go in gaining the trust of the public that David had,” Kurt explained. “He actually said that in not so many words. He’d like to find a V.P. that people will trust. Since David was a left-leaning moderate and he’s from the far right, he’d like someone from the middle to give the people confidence that he’ll continue David’s policies. He made it clear he’ll consider both Republicans and Democrats.”

“So you’d like to pick my brain on possible candidates?” I asked.

“Actually,” Kurt countered, “I’d like your permission to put your name forward as one of the candidates on my short list.”

I was dumbfounded and rendered speechless. Never did I expect this.

“Of course it’s far more likely that Schroeder will pick a fellow Republican,” Kurt continued, but with David’s assassination, I think the public would feel more confident if you were the second-in-command. It may not do any good, but I’m going to lobby Schroeder strongly to choose you.”

Regaining my composure, I replied, “When the Founding Fathers wrote the constitution, they set it up so the vice-president would be chosen by the electoral college, and would be the person getting the second largest number of votes. In 1796, John Quincy Adams received the largest number of votes and Thomas Jefferson the second-largest number, making Adams the President and Jefferson the Vice-President. They were from different parties and diametrically opposed to each other on a number of key policy issues. Needless to say, they fought each other tooth and nail for the next four years.

“In the election of 1800, the Democratic Republican party, in a bid to avoid a repeat of the previous election, instructed their electors to vote a straight party ticket… and they did, resulting in an electoral tie between Thomas Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr. The election was thrown to the House and it took thirty-five ballots for the House to break with party politics and elect the man the populace intended to elect. This led to the passage of the twelfth amendment, which gave us the electoral process we use now.”

“This is a fascinating lesson in History,” Trevor commented, “and I’m kind of amazed you remember all of this… my husband’s the one with the photographic memory and I would expect it of him, but coming from you… well, anyway, what does this have to do with your being vice-president?”

“I’m not sure it’s wise to have a president and vice-president from different parties. The vice-president needs to be able to support the president, even when they disagree, which would be frequently if I were the V.P.”

“But the President needs a V.P. who will advise him… someone who will keep him grounded and keep him from moving the country too far to the right,” Kurt pointed out. “Schroeder has asked specifically for someone who will help him stay the course with David’s policies…”

“No,” I interrupted, “he asked for someone who will provide him cover… who will make it look like he’s continuing David’s policies. Let me make it clear right now… I will not be Schroeder’s cover. If I’m the V.P., he will need to stay the course and not just give lip service to it.”

“So you’re willing to consider it?” Altaf asked, speaking up for the first time.

“If, and only if, asked,” I answered, “and only if Schroeder agrees to my terms, but there’s another concern, too.

“Next year is an election year. Assuming Schroeder’s the candidate on the Republican side, there’s no way in hell I’ll support him. There’s no way in hell I’d agree to be his running mate…”

“You may well be his opponent,” Trevor stated with a surprisingly straight face.

“Yeah, right,” I replied.

“Seriously, Jer,” Kurt chimed in, “I’d say there’s a very good chance you’ll be the Democratic candidate.”

“I very seriously doubt it,” I reiterated.

“Well regardless,” Kurt countered, “I have it from a very good source on the Hill that the RNC isn’t thrilled with the idea of a Schroeder candidacy. In fact, he scares a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle. The bottom line is that, short of a war or other national catastrophe, Schroeder won’t be running for re-election.”

“That’s good to hear,” I snorted, “but I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t take your word for it.”

Kurt actually pouted - I’d never seen him do that before - and said, “If you knew my sources, you wouldn’t doubt me, but I’m not at liberty to reveal them as I may need their cooperation again.

“Before you decide on saying yes or no to being V.P.” Kurt continued, “we need to discuss some things… things I’ll be discussing with all of the candidates I select for the short list.

“First of all, you weren’t exactly off the mark bringing up your concern for a repeat of the Adams-Jefferson debacle. The administration needs to speak with one voice, and that is the President’s. Behind the scenes there is always debate and sometimes it becomes heated. Once the President makes a decision, however, it’s final and all debate must end, no matter how much you may personally disagree.

“I know what I’m asking is tough, but it’s the same thing you’d expect from your V.P. if you were president. As Schroeder’s V.P., however, you’ll have his ear and have more influence on his decisions than just about anyone else. It’s better to be on the inside with the attention of the President than on the outside with the attention of the press.”

Thinking seriously about what Kurt was saying, I replied, “As long as Schroeder is prepared for some heated debates, I’m game and I’ll support him in public, no matter how distasteful that may be. However, if he ever makes a decision that I think would amount to leading America off a cliff, I won’t hesitate to invoke the twenty-fifth amendment.”

“That was actually my second question,” Kurt continued. “Too often vice-presidents have stood steadfastly behind their presidents and allowed them to make disastrous decisions. I know of at least two instances in history in which the twenty-fifth probably should have been invoked, but wasn’t. Not that it should ever be considered lightly and, if the rest of the cabinet disagrees, it would be incumbent upon you to resign. I won’t put forward any candidate, Democrat or Republican, who can’t look me in the eye and tell me they wouldn’t hesitate to invoke the twenty-fifth if it became necessary.” Then smiling, he added, “I think you just did that.”

“Could you promise me at least that I won’t be the first name on your list?” I asked.

“Jer,” Kurt answered, “I’m going to have to use my best judgment in presenting a list of names to the President. I would be remiss if I didn’t organize them for him in order of preference and qualifications. I’m not going to make any promises until I know who else will be on the list. If it’s any consolation, I think it’s unlikely Schroeder will choose you. No doubt you’re a moderate, but he’ll likely opt for someone a bit more right of center, and more likely someone from his own party.

“Be prepared for a speedy decision once I present the list, however,” Kurt cautioned, “and be prepared for a speedy confirmation process. Congress is sequestered in the Underground Capitol with not much else to do. Schroeder just nominated Altaf, Randy and Kevin this morning, and already the Senate has confirmed them.”

“Nominated for what?” I asked in surprise.

“Oh that’s right, you weren’t there this morning,” Trevor stated. “That’ll change if you’re the V.P.”

“Trevor suggested to the President that he nominate me to serve as Secretary of State…” Altaf explained.

“That was after I suggested Sammy,” Trevor interrupted, “but Schroeder was afraid of tipping the balance of power in the House. In retrospect, of course, Altaf’s an equally good choice, particularly with what’s going on in the Middle East. Schroeder went along with Altaf and then nominated Randy to replace him as Secretary of Health, and Kevin Williams to replace Randy as Surgeon General.”

“Whoa!” I exclaimed. “Why haven’t I heard any of this?”

“No one has been informed, yet,” Kurt answered. “There will be a news conference this evening at which the new appointments will be announced. Everything happened so fast.”

“I’m amazed the Senate took so little time to confirm both appointments,” I thought aloud.

“That’s probably because the nominations weren’t at all controversial. All three were thoroughly vetted and underwent extensive confirmation hearings for their old positions. Other than concerns over Altaf’s qualifications to serve at State… concerns that he quickly laid to rest, there was nothing to debate.”

“There is another reason we came to see you,” Debbie broke in. “We have evidence to show you that may shed some light on who was involved with your husband’s assassination.”

It took the four of them more than an hour to show me what they had, during which I whistled out loud more than once. As they said, much of it was circumstantial but taken together, it made a compelling case.

“This will send shockwaves around the world if it’s true,” I said once they were finished.

“If even a hint of it got out to the public, it could cause problems,” Altaf agreed. “We need to keep this very close to our chests.”

“And Schroeder mustn’t be told any of this until we’re more certain,” Kurt reiterated as we all nodded our heads in agreement.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing, Low Flyer in proofreading and Ed in beta reading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting them.

DISCLAIMER: This is a fictional account of the assassination of the first openly gay president of the United States. Except as noted, all characters are fictitious and the reader is cautioned against attributing anything from the story to real individuals. There are occasional descriptions of consensual sex between underage boys and it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure the legality of reading this material. The author retains full copyright.