Man of Honor
Chapter 6: Preemptive Strike
“I’m not sure about this, Claire.” Something in the air felt wrong. Very wrong. “It’s almost as if Osama were still-“
Out of nowhere, the whole room shook. The sound went away and my head hurt. We were both knocked off our feet, me off my petite, earnest feet, him off his strong, experienced feet. The threatening letter slipped out of my hands. What was happening? Where was the Secret Key? And why was my forehead wet?
His piercing grey eyes were seeking mine, he was shouting something, holding my head up. I just wanted to sleep, just let me sleep, sleep…
The ringing woke me up to find a strange, dark blue bedroom. The bed below me was soft, a canopy bed draped with gauzy satin. Where was I?
I rolled my head to the right, and noticed the military headshot hanging over the antique dresser. Of course, this was David’s secret apartment. The one I’d pretended not to know about. I tried to prop myself up, but got hit by a wall of inescapable pain. Where was he? What time was it? What day, even? Where was the Secret Key? And what was that sobbing sound from the other room?
I lay there and stared at the stark white ceiling, steeling myself against the pain. I thought of Paula’s cold eyes, laughing at my resume. “You’ll never get anywhere in this town,” she’d said. “And you’ll never get anywhere with him.” Of course, at the time, I’d had no interest in him. I was just a biographer-intern, hardworking, well-behaved, talented, inexperienced. I loved D.C. and wanted to know everything. Now, things were so different. After the way Jill Kelley had embarrassed me at my first big government party, baiting me into texting her about my feelings for him, then threatening to show everyone during her champagne toast… I feared I’d never see him again. The thought brought on another wave of blinding pain.
Almost silently, the door opened, and he slowly strode, confidently, manlyly over to my bedside. I knew he had been crying, but he’d have died first rather than show it. He was a soldier. An Army soldier.
“David,” I said. “What ha-“
“They’re all dead, Claire.” His eyes focused on the middle-distance. The words hung like wet laundry in the air. He swallowed and spoke again, slower, steadier.
“Al Qaeda targeted them with a rocket bomb, and now they’re dead.”
My heart stopped. I couldn’t believe my still-bleeding petite inexperienced ears. “A-all of them?”
He looked at me. “All of them.” He looked at the floor. “Holly. Paula. Jill. Dead. Dead. Dead!”
His head fell onto his big strong army hands, and he wept openly, his heart-water streaming from his eyes like a masculine mountain stream. My hand sought his, and he returned by embracing me fully, helplessly, strongmanly.
My heart sunk. It leapt. It sunk again. I’d wanted to feel his strong broad strong chest on my petite petite one for so long, but not like this. His heart was my heart, and it hurt. And leapt again.
Hot tears rolled down my neck. His or mine, I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. I kissed his Army hair, salt and pepper after so many years of taking care of his country and literally thousands of mistresses.
Suddenly, his strong Army mouth lip-mouth brushed my tiny full petite Not-Army mouth-lips. Together we lingered in mouth heaven for what seemed like years, a drone attack of emotions swept through my head and the pain went away. We pulled apart, my eyes watching him like a fawn flushed out of the underbrush, a fawn is a tiny deer, catching my breath. He looked confused and not-confused all at once, and in his eyes I saw a summer in Cornwall-on-Hudson, a peaceful Army strong river of love, going on forever…
Just then, the door burst open. It was President Barack Obama.
“Sir- ah, sorry, I just-“
“It’s fine, Barry. What did we find out?” His voice was calm now, and his eyes stayed locked on mine. A bold strong strong bold hand found mine.
“General Petraeus…” he faltered. His mouth twisted in an unusual shape of doubt. “Osama has the Secret Key.”
His eyes flew open, and his heart which was also my heart sank. “No! How?”
“We don’t know. He’s shut down all our hackers one by one. The only way to get it back…” he shifted uncomfortably, “is by tracking down a skilled psychic… who can read his thoughts.”
I couldn’t believe my petite ears, again. Could it be?
David turned towards me. “Claire…”
“I know it’s ridiculous,” said Obama. “But it’s our only shot.”
I sat straight up. “Call the chopper, Mr. President. I’m the one you need.”