Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy
Taylor and Whitaker walked out of the Senator’s office, looking for the Secret Service agents who’d been with her previously. Taylor was readying himself for another fight, knowing how they would react to outside interference in one of their investigations. Taylor had dealt with a lot of the U.S. law enforcement agencies over the last few years, and all of them had resented his involvement, even when he’d been right.
They’d only made it a few steps out of the Senator’s office when a short, plump, balding man intercepted them.
“John, do you have a moment?”
It took all of Taylors’ willpower to keep from rolling his eyes. Edward Packer was Caldwell’s campaign manager, and apparently, a shrewd political operative who’d had success getting several Republicans elected in competitive races. Taylor hadn’t been impressed with him during the few times he’d had to deal with the man while acting as one of the Senator’s surrogates at veterans events. He found most politicians to be superficial and worthless, the Senator excluded. Packer managed to take those traits and punch the dial up to eleven.
“I’m busy, Mr. Packer.”
“I know John, and I promise this will only take a few minutes. I just want to get a few things cleared up before you start helping the Senator.”
Most people called Taylor by his last name, even Whitaker. He didn’t hate his name it was just something he’d grown used to when he was in the service. He didn’t usually care if people decided to call him by his first name and actually sort of liked the way the Senator did, although he’d never tell her that. When Packer did it, it made his skin crawl.
Packer herded them into a small side office and shut the door.
“John, I know the Senator asked you to come in and look into our little problem, and I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.”
“Little problem?” Whitaker said. “A man is dead and someone is trying to murder your boss.”
“I know, I know, and I am taking this every bit as seriously as you are, I promise you. However, we must keep things in perspective. I’ve spoken to the Secret Service several times about the letters before this point and while we all agree this person is dangerously deluded, I think we need to consider our actions carefully. The Senator is on the verge of being the first woman to be elected President of the United States, and I don’t want anything to derail that.”
“Her being killed by a crazed assassin would derail it,” Taylor said. “The Senator said she hadn’t been told about the letters until this morning. You knew about them?”
“Yes, and I can see where you’re going with this, John. We felt it was best to keep the Senator focused on her campaign and her duties in the Senate, and that this was a distraction. The Secret Service has assured me that they’ve taken all necessary precautions, and that they will be able to keep everyone safe.”
“Yes, and it’s terrible, but you know what I meant. We are down to the wire, and this is going to be a big distraction for the Senator. She’s always been a shrewd operator, but she sometimes lets her compassionate side get in the way of her politics. I know she has a lot of faith in you and I appreciate that she wants you to help with this, but I want to make sure we can get on the same page. We need to keep this from distracting her as much as possible, and keep it from the campaign, and keep it out of the public eye. Can you promise me you’ll keep this away from the Senator?”
“Packer, the Senator needs to know what’s going on so she can protect herself. The Secret Service is good at their job, but they can’t stop someone truly determined to get to a protectee. They’ve lost several high profile protectees over the years, not just Presidents. This isn’t a knock on the service, just a realization that you can’t predict and stop everything. The best line of defense is the person they are protecting taking all the necessary precautions. Besides all of that, she’s a personal friend, and I’m not going to keep her in the dark to make your job easier. Her public image isn’t what I’m here to protect.”
“I told her this was a mistake. You’ve been fine on the trail as one of her surrogates, but I’ve seen your record. You’re a hothead with no self-control. Half the investigations you’ve been involved with have ended in chaos. You’re as dangerous as whoever sent this packadge and have left a trail of bodies behind you. I’m warning you now that I will not let you upset this campaign.”
“Mr. Packer, I couldn’t give two shits what you think of me. What matters is what your boss thinks of me. She trusts me to do this. She’s my friend and I’m not going to let some political weasel stop me from keeping her safe. If you want to try and stop me, more power to you. Before you do though, consider that trail of bodies you mentioned were all people who tried to get in my way and stop me before. Do you really want to put yourself between me and what I need to do?”
“This is what I’m talking about. It’s always violence and rash action with you. You’re a God damn neanderthal who can’t think about the consequences of his actions. It’s your fault I have to deal with the Senator’s daughter’s ‘roommate.’ Reporters are having a field day with her. If you spent one second to consider what the hell you were doing, you would have realized how idiotic it was to bring a god damned whor ... gahhh...”
Taylor lunged forward, one hand wrapping around Packers fat neck, fingers squeezing as he slammed the campaign manager against the wall.
“Say one more word!” Taylor said, fury in his eyes.
“Uruph...” was the only sound Packer could make as Taylor squeezed his neck and pressed against the wall.
“Taylor,” Whitaker said, pulling at his arm.
Taylor squeezed once more, as a reminder, making Packer’s eyes bulge before releasing him and stepping back. Packer gave him a frightened glance and fumbled behind him, looking for the doorknob. Pulling the door open, the campaign manager scrambled out of the room, eyes still on Taylor. Taylor never broke eye contact, tracking him like a lion tracks a gazelle.
Packer never looked away, fear on his face, until he bumped into a table, almost falling over. He scuttled around it and disappeared around a corner, barely blinking the whole time. Once Packer was out of sight Taylor closed his eyes and took a deep breath, calming down.
“You know that’s just going to make him cause more problems, right?”
“I know. I lost my temper.”
“I get it. He’s a worm. He can also make everything harder if he really tries to be a problem.”
“I could always shoot him,” Taylor offered.
Whitaker rolled her eyes and said, “Don’t even joke.”
“Sorry,” he said, although the grin on his face said he was anything but sorry.
They made their way out of the office and saw no sign of Packer, who’d managed to make a fast getaway. Several staffers were staring in their direction, probably wondering what the commotion had been about.
Taylor ignored them. He’d lost his temper, which he shouldn’t have, but he didn’t regret shutting the man up. People like that acted the way they did because people let them get away with it, afraid they might miss out on some of the scraps of power the person might throw their way. Taylor didn’t care anything about fame or recognition; he just wanted to live his life.
The Secret Service was in the Senator’s conference room, waiting on them.
“Sorry we’re late, one of the Senator’s people needed to ask us some questions,” Taylor said as they walked in.
“That’s fine,” the person who was clearly in charge said. “I want to make it clear up front that I think this is a terrible idea. I know you’re a friend of the Senator and if you really want to help her, the best thing you could do is go home and let us do our job. Every minute spent explaining our investigation to you and keeping you in the loop on updates is a minute we’re not working to find this perpetrator. I’m asking you now to go tell the Senator you’ve reconsidered and you think it’s best if we handle this.”
Taylor opened his mouth to speak, but stopped as Whitaker grabbed his hand and squeezed it hard. Taylor knew what she was thinking and she was probably right. He didn’t think she’d have any luck in getting the service onboard with their being part of this investigation, but she almost certainly had a better chance of getting their active cooperation than he did.
“Agent?” Whitaker said, prompting the man standing at one end of the conference room table.
“Michael Cole, SAIC for Senator Caldwell’s detail.”
“Agent Cole, I can appreciate your position. I’ve been with the Bureau for ten years and I know how territorial we can be, so I get it, I really do. I can also understand someone in the Senator’s position wanting to pull every lever she can when she and her family’s lives are on the line. I can promise that we will try and keep our investigation parallel to yours and try and stay out of your way. We will, of course, share with you anything we find. I think, if you look at the situation, you’ll acknowledge that we bring a different set of skills to the situation. If you let us do what we excel at, I can promise you’ll find we will be an asset in this situation.”
“Agent Whitaker, we know very well who you two are. Even if you hadn’t been on the news so much earlier this year, you’ve been in Senator Caldwell’s orbit long enough for us to have looked you up. I’ll admit until recently, you’re own record has been exemplary. However, Mr. Taylor here doesn’t have a law enforcement background, and from your colleagues we’ve talked to, he has been fairly reckless. While we would still have an issue with someone from an outside agency being part of this investigation, Mr. Taylor’s presence is what really concerns us.”
“If you’ve looked at his track record, I think you’ll find his success rate is extremely high. Besides stopping an imminent terrorist threat, the conviction rate and rate of guilty pleas on cases he’s been involved with are very high. I would argue that he has one of the higher ratios of anyone attached to the Bureau at the moment.”