"Are you sure they have him?"
"And are we sure who they are?"
The slightly balding heavy set man behind the large desk leans back in his black leather office chair, moving his fingers in front of his face. He looks at the young man standing in front of his desk between glances at the television screen mounted on his office wall near an American flag. "Pretty sure?!" What the hell does that mean?"
Brian Temple, the man expected to respond, knows he must give an calculated and short response. He's worked as the top administrative assistant to Secretary of State Eugene Harberts for over a year and he is fully aware of the cabinet member's two most famous traits: Volatility and a short attention span. A lengthy answer will set him off, and causing volcanic eruptions is not good for one's career. "Ninety nine percent certain," Temple says.
"Based upon?" Harbert says, almost absent-minded, keeping his eyes
on the TV monitor.
"We're receiving intel as to Jasper's whereabouts."
Harberts sits forward in his seat, holds both arms out in front of him, extended with the palms up in a look of bewilderment, "Well, then go pick up Jasper and get the asshole back here. It's not a big deal."
Temple raises his right hand in a small fist and coughs lightly into it. He feels perspiration form on his slender five foot eight inch frame, clothed in his navy blue Capital Hill Clothiers suit. He takes a moment to again prepare a response. He looks at Harberts, who is six foot and two hundred and fifty pounds, dressed in a white sport shirt, black pants and cowboy boots that he has now propped on his seventy thousand dollar desk. The man somehow manages to llok both intimidating and ridiculous, like a genetic mix of Conor McGregor and Louis Anderson.
"Well, Mister Secretary," Temple begins, "Jasper was carrying certain documents with him when he...disappeared. So, it's kind of a big deal."
Harberts pulls a Rum Crook cigar from his pocket and lights it with a wooden match he retrieves from a buffalo head match holder and ashtray set on his desk.
"Of course he was carrying documents. He's a goddamn State Department courier," he says. He looks quickly at his aide, then nods back to the television. "You know what Temple?"
Harberts points at the TV screen with the lit cigar. "That fat boy lost all that weight and he still ain't a hair on Barker's ass. Price is right is just not the same.. Yes sir, Bob barker was the man. Old bastard was so ancient and leathery, he looked like a shoe tongue with a Q-tip head for hair," he said. "But he was still throwing the strap to the show-gals after a full day of getting physically mauled and jumped by every bun-haired, dimple-assed housewife that showed up on the program. And not once did he ever forget to tell us to get old Fido's nuts cut so he wasn't knocking up the neighbor's poodle. Hell of a guy."
"Sir," temple intervenes.
"Huh?" Harberts says. "Oh yeah. So what was it we were yakking on?"
"Jasper being kidnapped and missing documents, sir."
"Oh yeah, that's right. Well, hell temple, we can always get another courier. Besides, what's he carrying, the menu for the dinner for the ambassador from the Ivory Coast?"
"Uh, no sir. He was delivering the dossier to the White House."
Harbert's eyes widen, then close, then widen again. "Holy shit," he hisses. "Where the hell was security? Who was covering him? Get their boss on the phone! He did have somebody with him, right?"
"Oh yes. Calvin Wasyl was with him sir," Temple says.
"One Secret Service guy?!" That's it?!" screams Harberts.
"No, not exactly," Temple says. "Wasyl is not with the Service...or at least, not that Service."
"What?" Harberts asks, a little quieter now. 'Who is he?" Local P.D.? Marshall?"
"No," temple says. "He's with the custodial and maintenance services."
'He's with...He's a janitor?" Harberts rises from his seat, placing his hands, palms down on his desk top leaning toward Temple's airspace, "We sent a janitor to guard the dossier? Are you shittin' me? Where was the Secret Service detail?"
"Guarding the menus for the Ivory Coast dinner."
"Oh great. Well, hopefully they were sober enough to do that!" Harberts leans back in his chair again. He looks back at his TV. "Can you believe this?" He says.
"Which part, sir?"
"That broad just put a $6.99 price on that macaroni and cheese. How god-dammed stupid can you be? It's not even Kraft." He turns back to look at Temple. "Maybe I should call the President," he says reaching for the phone.
"No can do, sir."
"He's in his personal quarter, sir. I believe he's Tweeting."
"Tweeting? Goddamn bird impressions?"
"No sir. He's messaging the public."
Harbert leans back in his chair. "Christ. He'd be better off doing crow crackles. Can't someone take that damn thing away from him?"
"He is the President, sir."
"Yeah, he is. Amazing isn't it? What's he going on about now?"
"He's responding to a CNN report."
"About a cabinet member calling him a peckerhead, sir."
"Which cabinet member did that?"
"The report says you did, sir?"
"Really? Don't remember that."
"Probably best that you don't, sir."
"Oh well, so who the hell has Jasper anyway?"
"Ricardo Reyes, the head of the Mexican and Central American Drug Cartel and Home Health care Deliver Services Incorporated," Temple says, reading from a file then lays it on the Secretary's desk.
"Delaware corporation. Tax purposes. Anyway, sir, they will kill Jasper and Wasyl and expose the dossier if we don't meet their demands."
"The janitor, sir."
"Hell of a threat. Do what we say or we'll kill your janitor," Harberts says as he stands up and walks across the room and takes a seat on a full-sized brown sofa.
Temple takes a moment to look around his boss's office, with its wall hung African hunting trophies, honorary degree plaques, plush carpet, and the large framed photograph of Harberts and Merle Haggard's bus driver drinking beer while sitting on a wooden horses.
"Could call the FBI...hell, better not," Harbert says, as if talking to himself. "Sure was easier back in the old days. Years and years ago. had a real director then. A real man of action. The kind of agent you could count on."
"You mean Hoover, sir?"
"J. Edgar Hoover. Is that who you are talking about, sir?"
"Get your head out of your butt crack, boy. I'm not talking about Hoover, god-dammed cross-dressing gargoyle, I mean the other guy, Ethan or something."
"Ethan, sir?" Temple says. "I'm not following you, Mister Secretary."
"Oh hell, don't you know your history? How'd you get this job anyway, kid?" Was your dad a huge donor or something?"
'Actually, yes he was."
"I'm talking about that Zimbles or Zombie guy, you know, Ethan, or whatever," Harberts says, somewhat exasperated.
"Sir," Temple says in disbelief. "Are you talking about Efrem Zimbalist Junior?"
Harbert stands up, slaps Temple on the back and strides over to his desk and takes a seat again.
"That's the guy. Now THAT was a Federal law enforcer."
"Uh, no sir. That was an actor."
"Yessiree, my boy. Much bravo on that guy. Hell of an FBI man."
"It was just a TV show, sir."
"And his daughter was hotter than three days in hell," Harbert winks.
Temple retakes his position in front of his bosses's desk. "Uh, sir. Maybe we should revisit the topic at hand, Jasper...dossier...drug cartel."
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