Read The Fury and the Terror Online
Authors: John Farris
Geoff stared at the dpg.
"Right now I'm the only one who can help Eden. Keep her alive. You don't know what my fathah is capable of. And without Eden, what are you?"
THE WHITE HOUSE â¢ MAY 29 â¢ 4:24 P.M. EDT
efore meeting with her own staff, Rona Harvester had a chat with four of her husband's key people: Chief of Staff "Pep" Slingbury, National Security Advisor Bayard "Beau" Chanson the Fourth, Cody Vollers, White House Communications Director, and Val Domingues, the press secretary. "As you know, I was at Camp David this morning. After visiting with Clint and Tray Daufuskie, I made the decision to bring Clint home."
They were on the terrace below the solarium on the south side of the executive mansion. Pink geraniums and purple petunias were in bloom. Rona's favorite colors. She was dressed casually, in size-eight Wranglers and a calico shirt, with a kerchief knotted casually at her throat. They were drinking sodas. Rona didn't allow boozing in the White House except for wine or champagne on state occasions. She had cleaned up too much of her father's vomit in her youth, and liquor had never passed her own lips.
The men looked uneasy, but none of them wanted to speak up.
Rona smiled. "Clint and I had a nice talk. Of course I did most of the talking; he does have this little impediment, still. But I know his mind. I know it will do him a world of good to be back at his desk. And I'm confident that the American peopleâ"
"Mrs. Harvester," Beau Chanson interrupted with a nervous twitching of his shoulders, "the President certainly is looking fitâhe was when I saw him toward the end of last weekâbut I'm wondering if we're not perhaps being overly optimistic in assuming that he is ready for the, the level of exposure that you're contemplating while he, in all fairness, seems less than a hundred percent mentally."
"I'm never overly optimistic about anything except my next lay, Beau. But I'm quite confident that the rapport my husband and I have enjoyed for twenty-two years, the extraordinary like-mindedness we share, will be more than enough to overcome any small difficulties Clint may encounter while resuming his duties. I will be there for him, every moment. At his side. Getting back to the American People, and what they wantâ" She turned her smile on Cody Vollers. "It has been made abundantly clear that they want to feel good about their country again. The shock of Portland hasn't begun to wear off. The American People want the man they elected by a fifty-six percent popular vote three years ago
, at his desk, leading them in difficult times."
"I knowâwe all knowâwhere your heart, and your loyalty is, and it'sâinspirational to all of usâ"
"You break into a sweat when you're shoveling heavy shit, Pep."
"Then may I speak as frankly as I feel I must, given the circumstances?"
"You know me and I know you, Pep. Wouldn't have it any other way."
"Thank you. Our President, Clint, probably my dearest friendâ" His lips trembled. "A man whom I admired without reservation is ... he's hopelesslyâthe stroke has left him with the mind of a very young child. God knows I would give my own life to change that. But it
a medical fact."
"While that is factually correct, it is also a gross misrepresentation. Just how damaged is his mind? We don't know. All I know is what was in his head before the stroke, and what I believe is in his heart even now. Together, Clint and I can do this. His appointed task. Together we will reassure the American People that there is hope in a world turned against us. Belief is better than dread. Hope is the balm for grieving hearts. We are giving back to the country our beloved leader."
Again Rona endured their silence, while she drank from a wineglass filled with Orange Crush and watched them coolly, wondering who would challenge her. Beau Chanson was her odds-on favorite, and he didn't let her down.
"Well, if this isn't a masterpiece of badly used inspiration," Beau Chanson said in his famous going-to-battle growl. She'd been waiting for this. Beau was old Birmingham money, a wing shooter and a horse-and-hounds fancier. They'd ridden together in the Virgina hunt country. She'd once walked in on Beau in his hunt club suite when he was wearing nothing but an unbuttoned shirt and had given him a friendly feel, saying, "Now I know why they call you 'Mr. Beau-dangles.'" While he looked down at her with smiling disdain. Should have let it go at that, but then he said, "You can get it hard if you want to, Rona. But I'd sooner stick it in a beehive than give you a hump."
"Qualms? For the love of God! How do you have the effrontery to believe you can pull off this
âno, I'll name it what it is, an outright farceâand not destroy the very soul of our republic? You do Clint Harvester neither credit nor honor with your scheme! We must accept that his time is done. You have always been astute in your depredations, but you must reconsider this course of action and not diminish what was pure gold in Clint Harvester to pennyweight."
"I'll bet you swiped that one from the old Confederate spellbinder, your great-grandfather. Glory be, they sure could spiel in those days."
"You would be well advised to accept my advice," Beau Chanson said with a hard glower.
"I was wondering if you still have that old beehive I mailed you, once upon a time."
Slingbury and Vollers looked puzzled and wary. Chanson set his glass down.
"I believe I have overstayed our little get-together. I intend to fax my resignation to Allen Dunbar before rejoining my wife and children in Nantucket for what is left of our Memorial Day weekend."
Rona was smiling. Within her smile a serpent lay coiled.
"Nonsense, Beau. You're not resigning. And if the thought crossed your mind, Slingbury, dump it. No one is stepping down from Clint's staff or his cabinet. No excuses will be permitted. We
have a unified show of strength and support for his return. So now you all look as if you've lost your zeal for public service! Pity. As us kids used to say, way back in the peaceful and prosperous Eisenhower era, 'like it or lump it."
"If you think you can intimidate me." Beau Chanson was furious to the point of an arterial blowout.
"I'm giving you a chance to leave gracefully after our inspirational heads-up. Otherwise it's time for hard knocks, and you won't be neglected."
Chanson said through gritted teeth, "Just where do you think you can go with that threat?"
"Where should we go? How far?" Rona stood musing, an eye to the sky as if cloud nine had appeared. "All the way back to Auburn University in '63? The preemie in the toilet in the Chi O house? A
man's baby, delivered in the middle of the night by one of the sisters of an all-white sorority? Very effectively hushed up. But do you think that the mother who was also a murderess wonders, even now in comfortable estate in her late middle age, does she still have images of that expelled six-month fetus, red and dripping until she flushed, and flushed again, and drowned it? Does she see, on those nights when the wind dies and frost first appears and she is sleepless and looking back into a past she can never repair, see her firstborn clinging to a windowpane like an unfinished ghost?"
"Monstrous," Beau Chanson said, staring at Rona with a frayed desperation, the expression of a man undergoing a debacle of the senses. The other men looked elsewhere, shamefaced and with a touch of terror in their own eyes.
"The old sins endure," Rona said, and she sighed as if she genuinely regretted it was so.
"The files. All the files were expunged," Chanson said in the tone of a man uttering last words to a hanging judge.
"But not all the voices were stilled. That's always how it is, I suppose. Anyone else tired of his job? Peppy? No?
derful! I'll look forward to seeing all of you in the Oval Office Tuesday morning, eight sharp. Sorry about Nantucket, Beau. Give my best to Mimsy and her five surviving children when you speak to her again."
ona had kept her own staff waiting in the solarium with the bulletproof glass, part of the First Family's residence on the third floor. She apologized and then took up her first order of business.
"Where is the girl?"
Peach Boondecker, the holder of the slings-and-arrows durability award among long-time Rona staffers, broke the news that they didn't know.
"She's probably lying low until the spotlight is off. Who could blame the poor kid?"
"I can't put too much emphasis on this. I want her. I want Eden what's-her-name
, in Washington, and it had better not be later than teatime tomorrow."
"We know she has a steady boyfriend. Not live-in. He's a cop. Sunday is his day off, so we haven't been able to locateâ"
"I can't believe how badly you're handling this, Peach. Never mind. Melissa, get me Katharine Bellaver. Holiday weekend, she'll probably be at the farm in Westchester." Rona turned to her appointments secretary. "Ingrid, adjust my schedule with Countess Von Alstine and Women Against Female Circumcision, at the Watergate. Dinner's out, but I'll still do the keynoter at nine-thirty."
Another staff member came into the solarium and handed Rona a note. There was a call for her on the secure line in her bedroom.
"Rona?" Victor Wilding said. "Thought we should share this. Robert Hyde is on his way to Innisfall by Air Force jet. ETA in twenty minutes."
"Bureau's after the girl, obviously. Just as obvious, they have a good lead on her whereabouts. And Hyde is taking a personal interest. Hyde doesn't want us to have her. She must be hot. More impressive than we imagined."
"Do you know what their lead is?"
"We had a report from our sources at Cal HP. The FBI accessed the frequency of a LoJack belonging to a young Innisfall cop named Geoff McTyer. We also know they've put an Air Force Special Weapons unit on alert at Travis. Helicopters. Frisco FBI's SWAT team left the Bay Area a few minutes ago, headed north."
"She's with her boyfriend, and they're on the road somewhere."
"More about him. We have his file. McTyer was his mother's maiden name. He's Robert Hyde's son, undercover for the Bureau."
"So they've known about Eden Waring for a long time! But if Hyde's kid has been cozy with her, what's all the urgency? Hyde flying Mach two to the Coast, and Bureau's ordered up the SWATstersâoh, yeah, wait a goddamn minute."
"This kid, McTyer, he turned on them? On his old man? He fell hard for Eden Waring. Now he's protecting her. Which means she's on the Impact list. Just as her mother was. That's why they're running."
"You got it."
"Victor, we must find them first! Who do you have there in Innisfall?"
"A big crew. We're monitoring the Bureau, of course, but that doesn't give us much of a jump. Right now we can only hope we get a break."
"The Bureau. Those sons of bitches. Nothing but trouble for us."
"We go head-to-head on this one, if we have to. MORG and the Bureau. I don't care about the consequences."
"Just find Eden Waring," Rona pleaded. "Congress is recessed and Justice is a shell. We can handle the fallout. Victor, I'm going to have a meet with Katharine Bellaver. Today. Eden may be in touch with her already."
"Be careful. She has important allies. Don't give them cause to unite against you."
"We're taking over, Victor. The sooner Katharine Bellaver has that message, the better we'll get along."
INNISFALL â¢ MAY 29 â¢ 1:50 P.M. PDT
he National Transportation Safety Board and FAA investigators had secured most of the south campus of Cal Shasta University with the help of a platoon of National Guardsmen. Bertie Nkambe and other Sunday joggers couldn't come within two hundred yards of the crash site. There were some picnickers on a hill overlooking the stadium, a few curiosity seekers watching through binoculars the activity around the wreckage of the DC-10. The air was fresher on the wooded hill than it had been close to the site, but Bertie thought she probably couldn't enjoy a picnic lunch while any trace of burnt bodies lingered.
She paused to have a drink from the water bottle she was toting and reported back to Tom Sherard, who was waiting for her on the other side of the airport in the Ford Expedition. She used the limited-range walkies they had picked up at Wal-Mart.
"I can't get close enough to do any good."
"Let's be on our way, then. According to the map I have, Moby Bay is a good two hours from here. There's no direct route. Secondary roads across the mountain range."
"I'll just catch my breath and do my tai chi workout. Be there in twenty minutes."
Bertie put the walkie in a fanny pack and began her exercises.
Three girls, eight to ten years old, came out of the trees on the jogging path and crossed the sunny open space where Bertie was concentrating on her tai chi forms. The girls were having an earnest discussion about something, interrupting each other but not quarreling.