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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”
—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
“So how’s the president?” Mae asked.
Forteson had recently returned from another tour on Air Force One. Mae wasn’t invited and remained in DC.
“Paranoid as ever,” he answered as he sat up in her bed, found the remote on the nightstand, and turned on the television.
“…The president was in Minneapolis today to present his economic recovery plan in advance of the Summit of the Americas that is scheduled to take place next week in Banff. Upon arrival at the event, the president’s motorcade was accosted by a small but very animated throng of unruly protestors. Estimates put the mob at around 900, with many behaving erratically. Officials suspect that many were under the influence of illegal narcotics. The president, reportedly working twenty hour days since the crises began, was forced to cancel his appearance and return to Air Force One. National Guard units and the Executive Security Detail of the Secret Service were brought in to disperse the mob, make arrests, and restore order. White House Chief of Staff Gabe Truth told AmericaOne that the president was very disappointed about having to cut the trip short, but that he was encouraged by the initial positive reception his plan has been getting from allies and representatives of the international banking sector.
The president is said to be catching up on some much needed rest and…”
“Does this mean he’ll be flying back tonight?” Mae asked.
“In all likelihood.”
“Will he stay in DC for a while?”
“No. He’ll want to be in his bunker, always moving. Want to do a line?” Forteson reached over and snatched his blazer off the arm of Mae’s leather accent chair and produced two vials, offering one to Mae.
“It’s too early,” she said.
“Suit yourself.” Forteson twisted the cap off one and poured its contents onto the glass surface of her night table.
“Actually, I changed my mind,” she interrupted, “but just a small one.”
Mae’s cell phone buzzed as Forteson chopped the stimulant with his black card. She rolled away from him towards the other night table and grabbed her phone. T was texting her.
You with Forte? He asked.
None of your damn business, she replied.
“Who is it?” Forteson asked, after his snort.
Her phone buzzed again.
POTUS flying into Andrews. Wants us there at 0800 tomorrow.
“Looks like I was right,” Forteson replied, looking over her shoulder and reading her texts. He pulled Mae back over on to him. The starched Hanover 800-thread-count cotton sheets slid off her naked body. Her perfect, porcelain face, bejeweled by her piercing dark eyes and framed by loosened strands of her silken hair, was illuminated in the bluish glow of her cell phone. Forteson, one nostril still powdered in coke residue, slid his hands up from the outside of her cool thighs, raising them over her hips, thumbs passing into the flume of her navel, then climbing up her lean, smooth body, plowing gently through her breasts, up over her erect nipples, and interlocking around her neck. With his thumbs pressed gently into her jugular notch, he pulled her into him. Her unbound chestnut hair fell forward, hiding her face. He brushed it back, pulling her down further until their mouths engaged. She was still clutching her cell as he pressed his erection into her. Her phone buzzed again. She pulled back.
“Doesn’t T ever fucking sleep?” Forteson asked.
“No,” she snarked. “He takes hourlong power naps.”
“Is he at the office?”
“He’s home in Connecticut,” she answered, thumbs texting away.
“Have you been there?”
“It’s nice. It has a small apple orchard. He’s got a full security detail now. Not sure what his wife and kids think of that. I imagine it puts a strain on their love life.”
“I’m sure they appreciate it,” Forteson replied, feeling for the other coke vial on the nightstand. “There are lunatics everywhere that want to kill him and anyone else in the government. Even us.”
“I wish they’d just round them up and put a bullet in them.”
“It may come to that,” Forteson answered. “So tell me, when do you ever get back to see home?”
“What do you mean? This is my home.”
“I mean home home.”
“I don’t have a home home.”
“Everyone has a home home. You weren’t born in the Treasury Department nursery.” Forteson pried the cell from Mae’s hands and powered it off. “Tell me about your life before you became T’s step-and-fetch-it.”
“Tell me or I’ll smash your phone with that lamp.”
Mae grinned. “You’re such an alpha.” She repositioned herself and writhed on top of him, slowly grinding her pubic bone on his, her mouth opened and the tip of her tongue moistened her lips as she stared down into his eyes. Forward and back and forward and back on the shaft between her thighs.
Forteson passed the cell to his other hand, set it on the night table, grabbed hold of the neck of the lamp preparing to obliterate it.
“Okay,” Mae said, as she stopped. She pulled her hair back and tied it up. “But my life story is really fucking boring.”
“It won’t be boring to me.”
“Yeah, it will be. Trust me. So…” Mae yawned. Her eyes wandered away as she began to reminisce. “I grew up near Omaha. My dad owned a trucking business. My mom was a housewife. Exciting stuff, huh?”
“Fascinating. Any brothers? Sisters?”
“An older sister. She married young. Divorced. Raised two boys.”
“What were you like in high school?”
“I was in a clique made up of the bitchiest girls. We were called the Twinkies.”
“Twinkies? Where did that come from?”
“Some jock, probably. I don’t know.”
“I was a cheerleader..”
“Oh really? I’d so love to see you in your uniform. Please tell me it was one of those pleated skirts that fly up when you kick your legs. I bet you fill it out nicely, now.”
“I filled it out nicely then.”
“Oh, you were a heartbreaker. I bet you had your way.”
“High school was horrible. I hated everyone.”
“Oh come on.”
“I did. It was crude. Keggers and skunk weed. Hand jobs and date rapes,” she said without flinching.
“Mostly. The quarterback. The point guard. Thankfully, it was always over in about thirty seconds.”
“You survived. Then college?”
“I went to Arizona.”
“Cheerleading scholarship?” Forteson quipped.
“Daddy paid for it.”
“No. I kept a low profile. I graduated cum laude, political science. Then I took a job in Denver.”
“For the government?”
“Cheese manufacturing? In Denver?”
“That’s where the headquarters was.”
“What does political science have to do with cheese?”
“Everything. The government fixes the price. They needed interns to help the execs sort the whole Byzantine system out.”
“I met my ex-husband. We got married.”
“Why didn’t that work out?”
“I got accepted to Harvard’s global economics program.”
“Oh right. Impressive.”
“But Bob didn’t want to move to Boston.”
“What did Bob have against Boston?”
“Bob lived in Colorado his whole life. Colorado and Massachusetts might as well be Botswana and Sweden. It was not a good cultural fit for him. We tried the long distance thing for a while but when I finished the program I took a job at Treasury. We divorced soon after that.”
“So tell me more about Bob.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Was he abusive?”
“No. He could be controlling and jealous but he never beat me or anything like that. I think he was afraid I’d leave if he did. He was careful. He knew I was way out of his league.”
“Did he cheat?”
“No. I don’t think so. If he did, it wouldn’t have been anyone I would be concerned about…maybe some whore at the pub. That would be all. But I seriously doubt he cheated.”
“But you left anyway.”
“Like I said, he wouldn’t come.”
“Do you still talk?”
Mae stared at Forteson coldly. “He’s dead.”
“Oh right, I apologize. I forgot.”
Mae softened. “It’s been over a year. It’s all right.”
“How did it happen?”
“Everything around Denver’s been a mess since the crisis began.”
“Bob got caught up in that chaos—gangs, terrorists, insurgents. He worked for the sheriff’s department. It was right in the middle of all that chaos. His job required him to make very tough decisions—extra-judicial decisions, if you know what I mean. He had a lot of enemies.”
“And they got to him?” Forteson asked.
“How’d they do it?”
“Broke in at night. Tied him up. He was tortured. Then they murdered him.”
“Oh. I’m surprised I wasn’t aware of this.”
“T got it scrubbed by his pals at NSA. He didn’t want it associated with me. He protected me.”
“Sounds like a good boss.”
“He is. He’s my mentor.”
“And father figure?”
“Since my real father died, yes.”
“Oh fuck, I’m sorry about that, too. I’m really blowing it, aren’t I?”
“It’s been years.”
“When was the last time you saw Bob?”
Mae looked down and away, searching for an answer that couldn’t be exposed later as a lie. “I was in Denver that night.” She reached for her cell phone on the nightstand but Forteson blocked the attempt. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. It’s depressing.”
Forteson handed the cell to her.
“What do you think knocked the grid out there?”
“In Denver?” Mae asked as she read her texts.
She knew that if anyone knew that answer, Forteson did. She knew the answer, too. Everyone in the Beltway did. But she sensed he was testing her. There was nothing to be gained by expressing her beliefs so she avoided it. “I don’t know,” she answered, shrugging her shoulders and averting eye contact. “What does AmericaOne say?”
Forteson grinned, revealing that he knew that she knew. Still, he toed the official line. “More than a few military techs have crossed over to the other side. If you throw the Russians and the Chinese in the mix, it’s reasonable to assume that Doc has access to a lot of advanced weaponry.”
“Should we all be worried?” Mae asked, cavalierly.
“Worrying won’t make any difference. But I doubt they would waste their good stuff on two anonymous bureaucrats like you and me.”
“What about Air Force One?”
Forteson chuckled. He reached up and massaged the back of her neck. Her eyes closed and she set down her phone, again.
“I want you to know I’m sorry about your husband and your father.”
“Just shut up. I told you I don’t want to talk about it, anymore.”
“I want you to know that I care about you.”
“You’re not just fucking me?”
“Come on, Mae.”
“Prove it, then.”
“Prove it? How would I do that?”
Mae raised her cell again but Forteson grabbed her arm.
“I’m thinking that you shouldn’t go.”
“To Andrews, tomorrow. To Air Force One.”
“Why not? You afraid you won’t be able to control yourself? That we might get caught screwing in the theater or something? What a scandal that would be.” She searched his face but she couldn’t read him. She broke loose of his grasp, spun off of him and switched on the lamp on the nightstand. “I said why not?” she repeated, sitting on the edge of the bed covering herself with the starchy designer sheet.
“It’s getting dangerous.”
“Why? You said Doc can’t get us.”
“It’s not Doc.” Forteson explained. “I know things, Mae. I’ve heard things. There are plans being put into motion.”
“Reassignments. Promotions. Terminations. Loyalties are being tested. Alliances are being re-formed. An innocent slip could be perceived as an alignment with the wrong clique.”
“I’m with T. Is he in the wrong clique?”
Forteson sighed and the conversation abruptly ended.