J.D. Tippet’s Revenge
Chapter 16 – Shiva’s Messenger
J.D. Tippet’s Revenge
Policeman Jerry Burke had been elated by the word on the radio about shots fired at the president. How opportune that it had happened on such a perfect day, when he was already set to capitalize on it. He had brought a small quantity of drugs and a throwaway gun on his patrol today. His nefarious plan had been to find a likely looking subject in an unobserved location. By the time he called for backup, the evidence would prove that Jerry had killed an armed drug pusher during the commission of a brilliant arrest.
Jerry could rationalize slaying a possible innocent, to further his selfish aims in the fact he was a policeman and therefore he was above the law. Shopkeepers should pay him in free donuts for keeping thieves at bay with his presence. It was only Burke’s due for streetwalkers to give him free services because he carried a badge. Though she had reneged on her obligations, his wife owed him release from his tensions in whatever way he demanded. Now someone could pay a life to buy Jerry Burke his deserved stature.
Then suddenly, an assassin had fired shots from one of the buildings where he should have been standing escort. Now the whole department was on full vigilance looking for the escaped subject. Burke had the opportunity to gain everything he wanted and far more. He just needed to find a sole occupant in a rental car. He could murder the hapless driver and plant the disposable firearm. The FBI would have a dead suspect and the fame would be Burke’s. The foul patrolman ditched the dope and went hunting.
“This looks perfect.” Waiting stealthily on the highway on-ramp, the cop very shortly spotted a lone male in a late model car. Highway traffic was sparse and Jerry gunned his engine to follow. Sure enough, there was the leasing company bumper sticker. He had his high-visibility bust and even if this guy had nothing to do with the shootings, his situation and locale fit with a getaway attempt. “You’re mine, Lee Harvey Oswald.”
Allen checked and then rechecked his speedometer. He was definitely not speeding and he couldn’t think of any reason why he would be stopped. Is this my second mistake today? A wait of a day or two in Akron before trying to leave town might have been wiser. He reduced his speed slightly to let the police car travel by him but instead the lights flashed and siren started wailing.
“I hope that I don’t have to kill another policeman.” He might not have any choice in the matter. As he turned into a lonely siding, Allen leaned naturally away from the centrifugal gravity of the corner and used the movement to reach into the glove box for his gun. He slipped it into ready reach, out of sight beside his seat. Maybe I can talk my way through this without bloodshed. He braked smoothly to a halt then observed the officer exiting his cruiser with a hand on his Sam Browne belt. Allen took several deep breaths in case a parley wasn’t going to be sufficient.
“What’s the problem, officer?” Allen’s voice was in a questioning lilt. “I’m not aware of anything that I’ve done wrong.”
“Then this is just your unlucky day.” With a malicious snarl, Jerry Burke slapped at the leather holster. He drew his sidearm and pointed it into the driver’s window. “Get out of the car.”
“Yes officer.” This doesn’t look very promising. Allen agreed meekly to give himself the seconds that he needed. Did he have a bumper sticker that said ‘I’ll shoot the Sheriff’? With the shifter in park, he couldn’t just step on the accelerator and peel out.
Instead, Allen stomped both feet onto the brake pedal and straitened his legs to almost stand up in the seat. ‘If you can’t avoid being shot, don’t take the bullet in the head.’ Here was a snippet of his father’s instruction that he never planned on using. With his skull pressed against the car’s padded ceiling, only his torso was now vulnerable. In two simultaneous motions, he opened the door latch with one hand and drew his own weapon in the other.
Jerry had planned to kill outside the car but he saw movements and pulled his trigger.
Allen took the murderous shot in his lower chest but if he didn’t complete his maneuver, the next would kill him. He dropped his left shoulder into the door, thrusting with all the force he could muster. It smashed into the policeman’s legs and staggered him back. Allen’s face was now in the open but so was his gun. He fired once without aiming, catching the cop in the neck.
Both men fired once more at almost the same instant. Burke’s aim was off due to his throat wound and his second hit near to the entry point of his first shot.
Allen had already squelched his pain and his bullet was precisely on target. The policeman took the round in the small point between his eyebrows. The assassin’s third projectile struck just an instant later but centimeters away on the forehead. The job Burke intended was murder but now he was dead on his feet. With the spinning gyroscope of the brain to maintain equilibrium now in full stop, the lifeless patrolman toppled to the ground.
“That’s an unusual accoutrement.” The dead officer had fallen onto his side and front. Allen could see a second gun stuffed into his belt in the hollow of the man’s back. There had been no overt reason for the cop to suspect anything. The revolver tucked into the dead policeman’s pants and his outward aggressiveness, suggested this wasn’t a routine stop. I was just at the wrong place and time.
“Or was I in the right at the right?” All possible remorse for an unplanned killing was bleached spotless by his solving the cop’s mystery on the clues. The police band radio must be playing the song of an escaping assassin. All the media would sing the praise of the policeman that dragged in his corpse.
Allen put the car into gear and stomped down on the gas pedal. The spinning wheels churned up a rooster tail of gravel as he sped away. As rubber treads bit into highway asphalt, the acceleration jarred his wounds and he wincingly felt them through his blood-soaked shirt. He staunched the further bleeding as well as possible with his hand pressure but putting distance between the participant and the aftermaths took president over his paltry pain.
“A Murudeva is someone that worships dummy gods,” belatedly, Shiva’s warning made sense, “and the dance is to the bongo drums of bullets firing.”
“The only way to avoid the mistake would’ve been to commit a worse one.” Shiva’s Messenger spoke to himself and thought as he traveled. He wouldn’t have been shot if he’d killed the policeman before the first word was spoken. But that isn’t my father’s code.
After driving on the highway for about twenty more minutes, he changed the direction of his route. The deceased officer indicated where his killer had fled as surely as if his dead finger pointed. He turned onto a well-traveled rural road to confound the trail.
“If I don’t stop, I’ll bleed to death.” His interim remedy of hand pressure had helped but he was literally sitting in a pool of blood. At a small bridge, Allen spied tracks leading off on the far side. This would be where anglers parked their cars while they fished in the stream but it was too early in the season for fishing. Big patches of snow still hadn’t thawed. Branches didn’t yet have the verdant twinge that showed the trees were coming to bud.
As he struggled to get out of the seat, his chest felt on fire. The action also opened the wounds as newly formed clots broke and his blood flowed again with renewed vigor. The injured young man staggered towards the small brook, but hadn’t decided what he would do when he got there.
“I haven’t bled this badly since I stabbed myself.” Years ago, a young John was learning how to skin a rabbit. An error in realizing just how little pressure he should put on his buck knife, sent the very sharp tip through the bunny and his wrist. An artery was cut and the blood actually squirted out in pulses until his father held it under cold water in the rain barrel. It worked than and it might now again.
Shiva’s Messenger reached the water’s edge. He kicked off his shoes and tossed his wallet into one of them, then kept on walking. He sat when he reached thigh depth and the numbing cold water eased his pain. His hands busied themselves under the surface stripping off his bloodstained clothing. A fallen snag overhung the creek and he used it as a temporary clothesline.
His fingers searched out his wounds. There were the two bullet holes in his ribcage. Both were lower than his nipple and on the same side of his chest. Is my lung punctured? That would be serious but possibly survivable if he could get some medical aid. In a choice between hospital and death, I’ll accept the latter.
Then, he groped around his back and found only one ragged rent but it didn’t feel as big as he would have expected. The bullet luckily passed between his ribs in front and back, so the lead didn’t mushroom on striking any bone.
“The other bullet either went out through the same hole, or it’s still inside.” The exit wound seemed too small for two, so he suspected the worst. The poisonous heavy metal would have to come out somehow. That meant surgery and he was back to the question of selecting between doctors and demise. His answer remained still the same.
The stream water was a balm and the frosty cold also stemmed the hemorrhaging. Soon he felt capable of pressing onward. The trunk held his duffle but that didn’t have much for first aid supplies.
“An hour ago, I had an ambulance full of triage gear: I could sure use that now.” He set some socks as dressings and ripped both sleeves off a shirt to bind them in place. He looped a spare belt around that so he could tighten it later, if required. This would have to do until he could find a motel or something.
Allen dressed again and then considered the blood soaked driver’s seat. He cast about for a stray piece of cardboard. Where is a litterbug on a unique occasion when someone actually needs one? He dumped the contents of his duffle into the rear seat and used the canvas as a cushion to protect his fresh clothes. The wet clothes stayed in the trunk.
As he climbed behind the wheel, Allen thought of the sopping jeans and shirt in his trunk and that sent his mind to his entire evidence situation. His rental had been intended for a simple drive out of Akron and it would have been returned. At least one bullet from the policeman’s gun was lodged somewhere and DNA was infused into the upholstery. Allen can tack grand theft auto onto his rap sheet. The car wouldn’t show up back at the rental agency.
“One dead patrolman, plus two grievous wounds equals a scrubbed plan.” Including the variables of many spurred decisions and rapidly deteriorating capacities made for a formula that Ptolemy would’ve balked at.
[Bhairava’s begging-bowl returns absolution.]
“That was helpful but I’d prefer an aspirin.” Shiva’s Messenger quipped to the essence that had hopped into his mind like a hobo on a freight train. His namesake’s spirit never engaged in lengthy conversation, so the critically wounded young man resumed his outbound odyssey from Ohio. There was torturous dirt ahead and his biological hourglass was fast loosing sand.
Judith Forrester woke to find herself in the recovery room. A white-smocked man was standing by her bed. She took a moment to orient herself to the recent events while the doctor waited patiently for her to focus. In a preference between hospital and anywhere else, she would choose the second also, but the choice had been made for her.
“How are we feeling?” Dr. Shavers asked the traditional bedside question: it was trite but it came with the sheepskin.
“We’re not sure yet, you tell us.” If he was going to assign her the royal plural, why shouldn’t Judith accept?
“We are a very lucky girl.” He smiled and countered her barb. “You should be feeling better soon.”
“I believe I was almost killed, so you’ve an unusual perception of what qualifies as good fortune. How long was I in a coma?”
“You weren’t comatose. You fainted. Then your body likely decided to accept the downtime.” He then gave some doctor’s advice with a sternly shaking finger. “The candle you burn at both ends isn’t in its twenties anymore. Have you given yourself much rest while preparing for and worrying about the event?”
“No.” She admitted sheepishly but then her feisty nature took over again. “But I was shot.”
“Yes, and the slug hit you in such a manner that it did negligible harm. It didn’t even strike a bone in passing through a fleshy area between your upper breast and your armpit. The bullet would’ve only traveled through layers of skin, in front and in back, if you weren’t somewhat overweight.”
“Oh.” Judith actually felt deflated at not being hurt worse. I could be mocked as a hypochondriac for being carted away in an ambulance after a flesh wound.
“If someone had supposed,” Dr. Shavers mused, “that I could treat a person struck in the torso by a high powered bullet and release them after only an hour, I would have laughed at the impossibility—but here you are. Go and greet your awaiting fans.”
“What fans?” Judith morosely regretted her missed opportunity. “I didn’t even get to deliver my speech.”
“What fans?” Shavers broke out laughing. “Judith Forrester, I vote for you, even though I’m not a Republican and so I’m quite aware of your intellect. I have to chalk that question up to shock, your pain and possibly the medication. You were just wounded on a stage where one of the most dramatic events of the past decade has just occurred. Reporters are stacking up in the reception area like a Los Angeles traffic jam. Most politicians would gladly mutilate themselves for the exposure that you’re going to get.”
“Wow!” With almost greater impact than the bullet, a realization of what that meant struck Judith belatedly. In the crack of a rifle’s report, her career had just jumped from neutral and sputtering, into overdrive with the throttle wedged at maximum and with a full tank of high-octane gasoline. Congresswoman Forrester would just have to hold on tight for the ride of her lifetime.
“I’m going to take Wow as a confirmation that I haven’t over-prescribed.” Shavers was still chuckling as he left the room.
Her young volunteer had been so confident that Judith’s career would take off. He certainly turned out to be right, in a way that he never could have guessed. She could hardly wait for him to return from Las Vegas and was already planning to hire him on full-time. Powers and Wright, the invisible Allens in their big bulky knit sweater, just hadn’t started to unravel quite yet.
“You brought me to a place where the television doesn’t work either.” Larry Weeds hurt all over from the rough treatment and with his caustic voice, he hinted at their failure at keeping a sniper away. The Secret Service had been almost faultless in protecting him but that was akin to a phrase like—a nearly prevented pregnancy. The initial secured location as set up by the advance team, was a hotel’s conference room. The facility was luxuriously equipped on the one end with a grouping of comfortable chairs around a media center. The president sat and keyed the power button repeatedly while he aimed the remote from contorted angles.
Wordlessly, an agent moved five paces from his stance to flick an obvious wall switch. A lamp lighted on the top surface and it could be surmised the switch controlled the power for the entire unit. On the next remote tapping, the TV powered up with an audible click sounding vaguely like—duh.
Larry glared at the Secret Serviceman’s expression to see if it betrayed any mocking he could pounce on but it was stoic. Turning to face the set, Weeds uttered neither an apology nor gratitude.
The youngish man molded like an all-star running back, took his five steps again. It was better to show dispassion than what he truly thought. Jefferson’s weather prediction was far more accurate than aching corns. Black thunderheads were indeed boiling overhead. Old customs in some remote places had practiced human sacrifice for appeasing angry gods. That was destined to occur again here too and each agent could guess whom the first virgin into the volcano would be. This ex-football player had witness the play and felt it would be wrong for the referee to toss a penalty flag at her.
“You’re supposed to be bringing Taylor to me.” Weeds barked impatiently: but he didn’t target his remark and none volunteered a reply. The president had his eyes glued on the picture tube where a news anchor was mouthing words. The volume was sufficient to hear but his attention was welded to the background visual. The scene of his holding Tom Albertson’s dead hand matched the one playing predominantly in Larry’s mind since the stage.
‘Mayhem in the Midwest’. The channel Larry was watching had dubbed the incident with a catchy name and the text graphic was in bold lettering to add dramatic oomph. There were more camera angles and carnage on the main screen behind the anchorman. A small picture-in-picture was a serious looking on-scene reporter. Weeds didn’t listen to what he was saying either.
“I’ve seen this nightmare I’ve lived through replayed over and over.” The president muttered but the footage on the television was oddly soothing: the visuals in his mind were much more terrifying.
“Why wasn’t President Weeds killed?” Weeds caught a question posed by the anchor. In the smaller cut-away box, a pundit in a suit jabbered some lingo that rendered down into a much less verbose answer—I don’t know. The president continued watching intently but listening sporadically as he waited for his Chief of Staff and longtime friend. Only five minutes passed.
“Why wasn’t President Weeds killed?” Weeds quoted the line heard only moments ago as the tall and slimly built man took a seat on a chair facing. Larry clicked off the TV’s power with vengeance. “I heard that line twice while I watched. They don’t care to mention how fortunate the nation is to still have a president.”
“Half empty glasses draw better ratings.” Nick Taylor didn’t add that the office would immediately switch to the vice-president so the country would still have a leader. The Chief of Staff then remained quiet as president launched into a tirade vehemently berating news coverage and then continuing into butt ripping the Secret Service. A lifelong friendship told Nick how to calm Larry down—wait for it to pass naturally. He remained silent.
“Leave us,” Weeds testily barked, then waited for the guards to depart before continuing. “I want that Messenger’s head stuffed and mounted on my trophy wall. Nobody does this to me”
“I’m already working towards putting it there,” Taylor ran a hand front to back smoothing out his hair. The action was cognizant of his pulling his already receding hairline even further over his scalp. “It’s still to early too know much about him yet.”
“Shiva obviously sent him so let’s go after that organization.”
“We’re fairly confident that the Hindu God of Destruction didn’t personally endorse this use of his name.” Nick was mildly surprised that fact hadn’t been news coverage Larry had watched.
“I want to nail Shiva in a state that still has the death penalty.” Weeds took Nicks lesson and learned from it as he always did. He nodded thoughtfully then continued and used the new knowledge. “Even if it’s not the same State as the Hindus come from.”
“That should be doable.” Taylor was a master at correcting Weed’s lack of knowledge in a manner not overtly condescending. “After emigration from India, Hindus settle in many different states, including ones that condone capital punishment.”
“If India is behind this, I’ll nuke their capitol,” Weeds hotly threatened atomic retaliation, then considered the proposed flight plan of the B-1 bombers, “whatever city that is.”
“I sincerely doubt that Delhi is part of a plot. I’ll get the best people working on it. We’ll find whoever is responsible.”
“He shot Tom Albertson while I was shaking his hand. The bastard didn’t even shoot at me first. He nailed four others and I was almost a piddling afterthought. Do you know how the media is going to rip into me over that? I’m going to be made the butt of jokes by every comedian in the free world.”
“Would you have preferred that he killed you?” Taylor’s question brought the president’s thoughts back to reality. “Have patience. We’ll get him. People don’t take shots at an event where the president is and then get away cleanly.”
“Damn straight on that!” The President was as grim as he could manage and then he changed the subject. “I want that female Secret Service agent protecting a penguin-counting station in Nome. Women should know their place and it isn’t doing a man’s job. She was hanging off of me and hindering my escape.”
“After all the penguins relocated to the South Pole, we closed that facility but I’m sure I can find a suitable assignment.” Taylor had seen some of the first footage. The fault was definitely not with the girl. She had done everything she could possibly do to protect the POTUS: even to the point of taking a bullet in the leg. It was male agents and the president himself that created the bottleneck.
With the trivia regarding penguins, the Chief of Staff may have been deemed as patronizing but few knew the depth of latitude that Nick enjoyed. The parameters were set by a long ago event.
Nick had written two assignment papers for a shared university class and he offered the better of the two to Larry. The higher graded accolades accrued to the undeserving scholar. They later discussed the incident over some beers and Weeds had made a remark that made up for in astuteness, for what it lacked in oratory composition.
‘You think you’re smart but I’m much smarter than you. I have the smarts to surround myself with smart people that work harder than I do at making me look smarter.’ It was his influential family rather than smarts that initially drew Nick to fostering the friendship but the sentiment was essentially true. Taylor lived by it.
“First, though,” the advisor resumed, “you’re going to have to make a show of gratitude to her. There is no way to banish Agent Withers before her moment of fame fades. I’ll make the Alaskan deployment look like a promotion but she’ll be gone from the detail.”
“Yes, you always manage to get what I want done and still make me look good.” As his friend Nick Taylor left the room, it seemed that all Larry Weeds’ strength left with him. His hands had been quivering slightly since the near miss but now they started to quake badly. Looking at them now, brought on the memory of Thomas Albertson’s hand. It suddenly closed like a vice. Just in that fraction of a second, a man had been there and then a corpse stood in his place. The shuddering turned into violent convulsive shaking and the president gripped his cushion to help it abate.
Beth foresaw that her posting in the POTUS detail was finished when they scheduled her for some interview news events. The Secret Service wasn’t very secret if everyone knew who you were.
She had all of the publicity that she could ever want and then some. Her picture, along with the president’s, was plastered all over the newspapers. Beth had a nice trophy wound in her leg and the comfort of believing her actions were right. It was galling that she was being inexorably expunged. Agent Withers had to talk with someone about this and she chose Bart Jefferson. Calling him off duty, she invited him to join her for a drink. With a crutch for support, Beth hobbled into the lounge.
“I was hoping you’d call.” Bart smiled as she awkwardly lowered her body onto the bench seat. “I would’ve phoned you but I didn’t know how to get through to your press secretary.”
“Laugh it up.” She couldn’t help but be morose. “I feel like I’m about to be chased into a box canyon because of the assassin. I hate it and I loath him. Don’t make me despise you too.”
“I want to be completely off the record with you about a few things.” Jefferson leaned forward and lowered his voice. “The guys think of you as a hero right now, because of what you did in Akron.”
“If you want to cheer me up, you need to come up with a load of crap that is at least partially believable.”
“Your problems are all coming at you from the man you took the bullet for, not the one you got it from. The guy at the top has some unresolved issues with women in non-traditional roles. That’s mostly why things have been tougher for you than they would be for a male. Shiva only made that much more obvious. Every time Weeds looks at you now, he remembers that you, the woman, were brave in the line of fire. That reminds him of how weak kneed that he was. The president is getting rid of you so he can forget.”
“I can’t think of anything I could’ve done differently.”
“You did everything exactly as you were trained. With sniper bullets whizzing all around, you guarded our charge while he was sliding in slime like a snail. That’s the stuff of Secret Service legends so feel proud. You took a bullet headed for a man we’re sworn to shield. That alone vaulted you to the highest standing that an agent can possibly aspire to, in the eyes of his or her peers.”
“I didn’t know the shot was coming.” Beth felt her eyes starting to well up. She daubed at them with a napkin and covered her emotional weakness with a lie. “Excuse me, it’s a bit of dust.”
“Does seeing the gun make the slightest difference? I feel a little bit of that grit coming on also. At least I’m a secure enough man to admit what the dust really is.” He further proved his self-confidence by stepping slightly out of his role as a boss to stroke the back of her hand with concern. “Would you take some advice from a guy who has only steered you horribly wrong once?”
“That wasn’t your fault. Who could have really known? It was my responsibility and I made the call.”
“You’ve shown yourself as one of the elite. Choose another challenge and move onto it. Go on your own terms and don’t let that coward cheapen who you are or run you up that box canyon.”
Cindy Smart and Jessica Ellis sat down to one of their frequent lunches. When Roger or Romero had been actively creating such a stir in Canada, they had followed with interest. It was a game for them to deduce what he was up to. Since the killings in Windsor, there had been nothing. Still they met regularly to faithfully follow the news together.
Generally, they attended a Creston café that had a TV and again today, the two girlfriends settled in to the gossip. As expected, the hot topic was the Akron shootings. Shortly after the story broke, Cindy had tentatively suggested that maybe it was their boy resurfacing. Neither of them found that very likely. Nothing he had done previously suggested any political inclinations. Still they discussed the event and speculated with the rest of the world while the television set chattered in the periphery.
“I don’t care how many experts point out differences.” Cindy responded thoughtfully to the current dialogue on the set. “It still reminds me of Dallas.”
“You aren’t old enough to remember the J.F.K. assassination.” Jessica smiled as she thought of how many of that generation told of lingering remembrances. “Or will you claim to recall the womb you were in when you first heard the news.
“Thanks for not bumping me up by a decade.” Cindy laughed. “There I was in a delivery room when a doctor swatted my bare butt and told me what had happened. Having been born on that day, I’ve always had a fascination with the event.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“What mostly reminds me of it is that no gunman was taken on the spot.” Cindy returned to her previous thread. “I keep watching for the F.B.I. to pull a Lee Harvey Oswald out like a rabbit from a hat, as the police in Dallas did.”
“He must be over eighty but the shadowy dog-faced man still seems spry.” The young lawyer called the doctor’s attention to the television where a fuzzy sniper could be seen at the brink of a roof.
“That’s a steady hand for an amateur.” Cindy remarked. “My camera work usually looks as if it were done by a palsy patient.”
“I wish it were Romero.” Jessica sighed and her imaginative vision zoomed in on a face she recalled in its vivid detail.
“This isn’t really my business.” The doctor studied her friend’s rapt expression for an extended moment before offering some non-medical words. “I enjoy our time together but you should be looking for a boyfriend.”
“I don’t really want one just yet.” The young woman’s dreamy eyes swung to her girlfriend and focused.
“Waiting for someone not likely to return isn’t healthy. A young person has desires and needs.”
“I can get physical intimacy at the drop of a G-string.” Jessica grinned impishly. She didn’t mind the older woman’s possible intrusion on her privacy. In fact, she welcomed the gift of another opportunity to scandalize the less unabashed woman.
“A nubile female has the tools to get the sex life she wants.” Cindy laughed. Between her time with Roger and now with Jessica, her tender sensibilities had toughened like overdone steak.
“I’m spoiled.” Jessica sighed. “My mind likes fishing in a conversational stream that runs deeper than ‘hey, let’s get naked’.”
“That one did fight like a steelhead.” She recalled discussions over a scrabble board. “He didn’t have to be begged to strip either.”
“I can play the talks with Romero back in my mind and find a multitude of levels that we were communicating on. I thought he liked ‘double’ entendre but after I realized what he was—even those replays delved much deeper.”
“I noticed that too.” She related the episode of his talking about the death experience and the part of his suggesting that he would use fake ID. “It was probably the one thing he ever said to me that was an utter truth. Yet I don’t think he wanted to lie to me either.”
“He did have an honesty about his deceptions. How is that for a contradiction in terms? Whew!” Jessica humorously fanned her face. “I’m randy enough to drag our busboy into the broom closet.”
“Jessica!” Cindy’s eyes flicked to the employee in question. At about thirty-five, the man exuded an air of his having spent twenty of them in prison. About once every ten minutes he dropped his duties to open the side door. There, he would sit on an upturned bucket and smoke a cigarette while ogling the young lawyer’s form.
“Seriously though, I will consider your good advice. Romero’s still got my heart now but as the saying goes—you use it or you lose it.” Jessica caught a glimpse of a face on the television and she pointed. “Look. Here’s an interview with the lady politician who was shot in the shoulder. This could be really interesting.”
“Congresswoman Forrester.” The host of one of America’s top talk shows beamed at her guest. It was a definite coup to get this interview. “Thank you for joining us.”
“Good of you to have me, Barbara.”
“We in the press have been unable to figure you out. Most politicians would line up at the studio door to be on-air, yet you’ve stayed incommunicado for two days despite news crews camped in your driveway.”
“My doctor advised me to rest.” She had anticipated this query and she smiled at having it come at the outset. There’s no second chance for a first impression. “I also felt my flesh wounding was of far less importance than the other events of the day.”
This was a good answer. By mentioning her minor injury first, Judith seemed brave in downplaying the gunshot. Especially as her preamble to it seemed to indicate medical concern. Had she waited to be asked about severity, any answer could sound as her milking it into more than it was. Her true cause for waiting was complicated.
Her injury was paltry when compared to the three men killed. She also felt it would be ghoulish to capitalize on their demise so soon, especially as she couldn’t think of anything nice to say about them if pressed. Of probably more importance, Congresswoman Forrester needed the time to think before plunging. It would’ve been nice to have her favorite young sparring partner to help with that but he failed to return. Since then, some other troubling information had come to light. Allen might not be who he seemed.
“Well the public’s been starving for 48 hours now so let’s get strait to the meat they want to eat. You were hit with an assassin’s bullet. How does that feel to you?”
“It is still a little tender.” Judith had her arm immobilized in a pristine white sling, starched for the occasion. The congresswoman rubbed idly at the spot where she’d been hit and her thoughts traced to the shooter that did it. Her volunteer aide was her best guess at the sniper’s identity. On phoning her friend Brian Bain to inquire if Allen were there yet, she’d become privy to some information. Powers was the agent of record on the policies sold to the men killed earlier on in the week. That snippet almost confirmed, what her heart already knew.
It also left her gored by horns of a dilemma. If her suspicions were true, Shiva’s Messenger intentionally gave her a parting gift of her fondest heart’s desire, the chance to be where she now sat. She couldn’t agree with his methods and had no clue of his motives but loudly berating his actions didn’t seem right. It was like telling a friend you hate a birthday present blouse, while being more than pleased to wear it.
“Judith!” Barbara stiffened abruptly and seemed to grow three inches taller in her chair. “I would think words like horrifying, ghastly or perhaps ravaging should spring to mind?”
“You asked how I felt and my pain has been endurable.” While already thinking of him anyways, Judith now recalled her interview with Allen. He had steered her quickly on a road fork, as she had just done to Barbara. The interviewer was also about to find a tray of plump grapes where she could pluck just the one. That was also a page of Allen’s hymnal. “The thoughts in my mind as I was shot might be what you were looking for or perhaps those of when I awoke in hospital. Reporter’s tents are staked on my front lawn and as you said politicians do relish that. I’ve soul searched over the past days so my personal impressions have also shifted since.”
“Is asking about your self examination too personal?” Juicy as the other fruit looked, Barbara this one. The one question on her mind was the one she couldn’t put on her lips. Why, with a country swathed in outrage, was this woman downplaying the seriousness? Being hit by a bullet should be a cause for anger.
“Of course not.” Judith chuckled and smiled for the camera. “The electorate has to know how a candidate thinks before trusting them with their votes. Three men were killed but I wasn’t. I’m now more appreciative of my place in the political spectrum.”
“Did I just understand you correctly?” Barbara’s deep furrowed eyebrows sent the off-camera make-up artist grabbing for his tray. “Did you say your self-assessment suggests your personal platform separated you from those killed?
“I didn’t say that.” Judith also didn’t deny that she might have meant it. “I sympathize with the families of the slain but I was almost the polar extreme in my political and ethical views from Tom Albertson and Evan Masters. I’d never met Giorgio Martini but I’ve read several of his essays and was frankly, appalled.”
“Your courage is what has impressed the nation.” Barbara wasn’t certain she really wanted to touch anything out of Judith’s last answer. Coverage of memorial services was scheduled to air immediately following her segment. “One thing that stands out is how brave you were trying to tend to the WTO rep, instead of seeking safety for yourself. Why did you risk that, especially as you didn’t even like him?”
“Any animosity towards the man doesn’t change the fact that he was a human in peril. People should help each other in times of need. Retrospectively, I don’t think there was refuge to be had. The messenger was perfectly positioned to complete his objectives.”
“You characterized yourself as the opposite of the murdered men, yet you suggest the assassin had a master plan?” Barbara seized this opportunity to drift into the topic of possible motives. “That implies that you believe the targets were random.”
“No, my judgment is quite the contrary. I believe he carefully pre-selected where his aim would fall. His targeting had different motivations, at least four come to mind.”
“Judith,” the interviewer’s askance look suggested a mild chastisement, “we’re talking about a maniac on a roof with a gun. Those four reasons would be what; to commit murder, to sew mayhem, to terrorize and spread destruction in the name of Shiva?”
“That’s a very simplistic view.” Do I dare to defend his actions? I can if I’m careful. “I’ll tentatively agree with your four suggestions in order. Yes, his first intent was obviously to make deliberate kills. Three men were assassinated, one after the other and with deadly precision. Next, he wounded me as part of the chaos created and it did cause a disfigurement, albeit minor. If he wished me dead then I wouldn’t be here. Then his bullet unfurled a banner that must be considered a threat to evoke terror. Finally, he aimed at the president or his bodyguard after announcing his deity. However, if he had meant to kill the president, then he would have done that first. Assassination of the American figurehead would have much more impact than a Congressman, a WTO rep and a DA. I suspect that the last shot was inspired by an urge to non-lethally devastate Larry Weeds.”
“Oh, I do see your point.” Bravo Judith Forrester! This kind of discussion was good for popularity and it was certainly fascinating. “So why would he want to slay, maim, cause fear and topple the administration, in that sequence?”
“I’m not currently in his head.” Judith chuckled to suggest the absurdity. “I simply pointed out how his rationale was diverse through the event, as witnessed by what we’ve all seen. I think you should ask Shiva’s Messenger to tell you what his full intentions were. I will definitely be in the audience for that show.”
“If I could get him as a guest they would have to put extra digits atop of the ratings scale!” The interviewer examined her guest with her practiced political observer’s eye. Judith was different from most and Barbara believed she would even get her vote. The media circus around her now, was like her winning a lottery but it would take savvy to build on it. Did this Congresswoman have it? Many sweepstakes winners ended up bankrupt.
Judith smiled at the comment and awaited the next question.
“The president said that when Shiva’s Messenger is caught he is to face the death penalty for killing those three men.” Having just decided that Judith could well become a political force, Barbara added some sweetener to their later dealings. Presenting the opportunity to espouse her strongly held view was that treat. “What are your feelings about that?”
“Ohio allows capital punishment, but I strongly oppose it. Killing a human is murder and that is wrong. Commission of the act by the state, makes it no less of a crime.” Judith began her answer but her mind spun. The question was a purposely given gift but this interviewer seldom gave politicians the chance to soapbox their positions. She took pride in being able to understand people’s motivations but this one baffled her. Judith didn’t realize she’d just scored an A+ mark on an extremely valuable exam. “If subsequent evidence brings to light that a travesty of justice has occurred, then shouldn’t the president, governor or even the nation face an indictment for committing a wrongful death? Only God should be dishing out death in judgment.”
“Shiva is a god to the Hindus.” Barbara noted with a hint of irony. “One of the three biggest deities of their pantheon. He is the destroyer who is responsible for handing out death.”
“I knew that, Barbara. I also know that the figure of Shiva, the Lord of the Dance, is a symbol of masculine love.”
Jessica Ellis had been watching the interview with rapt attention. She had been oblivious to everything else. She didn’t see her friend Cindy smile back at her several times and even good-naturedly wave slightly, as if to catch her attention. The young lawyer was scrutinizing the words the American Congresswoman was saying—and her ambiguity. Suddenly Jessica turned back to her doctor friend and her face turned ashen.
“Romero is Shiva’s Messenger!” Jessica announced.
“We agreed that he wasn’t.” The doctor was now quite puzzled. “What’s prompted your sudden change of mind?”
“Did Judith Forester study law? I would bet my new car against your next cup of tea that she did.” That would be quite the wager, as Jessica loved her recently bought, used, but very well kept Alfa Romeo Spyder. Jessica claimed it was a well-crafted automobile, but Cindy chided that she bought it just for the name.
“I don’t know. Probably. A disproportional number of elected leaders seem to be from the legal profession.” Cindy mused.
“Did you ever wonder why that is? I agree with you that the percentage is far above reflective population.”
“Because lawyers are naturally as dishonest as politicians?”
“I’m going to be the only nice kid in the playground and pretend I didn’t hear that,” Jessica warned with a derisive look. “It’s because in law we learn and use logic. That’s also a very valuable tool in government, so it’s a natural progression.”
“Almost every profession uses it. I see a patient’s symptoms and come to logical conclusions about their ailments.”
“Yes you do. However, the actual science is a cognitive evaluation of statements and I loved it.” It was also the only subject where Jessica had outscored Darcy Leach.
“Why does that make you believe that Roger was in Akron?”
“Someone can speak in a way that sounds on the surface like they are saying something else entirely. If taken to task, they can demonstrate word for word, that they hadn’t actually said what was assumed. A really good lawyer or politician never has to lie.”
“I’m sorry, but I still don’t see the relevance.”
“Judith Forrester doesn’t believe in capital punishment, yet she confirms the validity of the assassin’s choice of victims. She forgives him for the injury because the boon outweighs the harm. Her statement of not currently being in his head could imply that she was there previously. Lastly, she specially equated Shiva to love.”
“She agrees but can’t agree.” Cindy suddenly felt a strong kinship with the American lady that epitomized her feelings also.
“There are a lot of murderers in this world,” Jessica’s eyes twinkled, “but how many of them do you suppose are lovable?”
“Roger is Lee Harvey Oswald.” The doctor whose birthday was on Kennedy’s death day nodded knowingly and then paused. “I just hope that Jack Ruby doesn’t find him.”