Second Coming: Chapter 7
“Well, why didn’t you say something earlier,” Joseph said, crossing his arms, “before busting in here and scaring my family.”
The lead officer finally pulled his hand away from his earpiece. “Just our protocol. Securing an unfamiliar area.” He spoke with a northern accent.
Joseph shook his head. “Well, we’ve been here over two weeks now, and there’s been absolutely nothing out of the ordinary that would make us worried.”
I glanced back at the suited man behind me. Another- by my count, a fifth- came in through the back door after us. “The girl is in the vehicle in the back. She said the other man was out shopping… or something.”
“Leave our daughter out of this.” Sharon spoke up.
“Take it easy, darling.” Joseph shook his head. “You couldn’t have called, first?”
The lead officer glanced past Joseph and the man to look inside the office. “Lines could be tapped, for all we know. Mr. Cummings, as a prominent candidate in the country’s upcoming election, we have orders to work alongside you to ensure your safety.”
“And your name is?”
“Officer Jude.” The crew-cut man nodded and stared at Joseph’s outstretch hand before shaking it. “We must apologize for any intrusion today, but know there are plenty of unpatriotic folks out there who would wish to step on the democratic process. Know that we’re here to serve you and deter them. Now that we are familiar with the surroundings and those who are serving alongside your campaign, we can better do so.”
Joseph twisted up his face in thought. He looked to the bearded and long-haired man, then to the officer. “Well, I hope not with every single one of these men every day.” He chuckled.
Officer Jude flashed a coy smile. “Of course not. We’ll be here in shifts. It’s best you communicate with us, from now on, about your planned activities so that we may help you go about things safely. Any sort of publicity stunt like the one carried out at your rally this weekend… I should advise against anything more like that.”
Joseph tilted his head and appeared as if he were going to bear his teeth. “Publicity-?”
“Uh, Joseph-” I spoke up to interrupt him. “Let’s cooperate the best we can, if I can express my opinion. If… when we do end up in the White House, we’ll be working plenty more with these fine men.”
Joseph cleared his throat. “Yes, let’s. Always keeping a steady head, Terrence.”
Officer Jude winked at me. “Thank you, Mr. Jackson.”
The desk phone at Sharon’s spot began to ring, but as she went to answer it, the second officer at the front held it in place, shaking his head at the wife. “No phones, just for the moment.”
“For your own privacy and safety, of course.” Jude spoke up. He looked past me to the other two officers. “Have a look around outside, then head back to HQ for report.”
Jude turned back to Joseph and the strange guest. They both studied each other silently, with the man’s soft expression ever patiently looking on. The officer finally spoke up, looking to the Pastor. “I’d like to have a talk with each of the employees here, just to assess where they stand. To see if they’re perhaps not a issue for your security.”
“I assure you, good Officer Jude, that neither my family nor these men I have brought into my company are of any trouble.”
“Protocol, Mr. Cummings.” He repeated. “Just a quick talk. May we borrow your office space here? We can start with yourself, and this man if you so wish.”
The second officer exited out the back and eventually returned with Jess before leaving for a final time. The girl hunkered down in the break area, annoyed as her phone had been taken away under the guise of another security concern. As Joseph and the man were interviewed in his office, Sharon stepped before my desk, head leaned down to speak lowly.
“I don’t care much for these men.”
I shrugged and leaned back in my chair, too distracted to continue with my work. “Well, we drew a lot of attention on Saturday. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how closely the service worked with people like us.”
The wife stood, hands to her hips. “Maybe they know something we don’t. Like how our prospects are for heading all the way to Washington.”
“Perhaps…” I mumbled out, leaning my head to the side wall to possibly pick up any of the conversation.
The door latch around the corner clicked suddenly, and Joseph and the man rounded the corner. “Mr. Cummings, your wife and daughter next, if you would.”
“Not a problem.” He said, looking back. “Jess, love, you heard the man. He’s just got a few questions for you.”
Jess huffed and stood before following her mother into the office. I heard Officer Jude greet them plainly before shutting the door. The long-haired man stood standing as the Pastor took an exasperated seat in his wife’s regular spot. I cleared my throat. “They didn’t drill you too hard, did they?”
Joseph tilted his head. “Pardon?”
“He didn’t catch you out with any hard questions?”
“Oh, no. Nice man, actually.”
I looked to the long-haired man. His gaze was already upon me, ready to speak. “If you are wondering, I don’t think the man was of true faith like Joseph Cummings or yourself, Terrence Jackson, but he accepted the answer of where I had come from.”
“From my father’s side.” The long-haired man concurred.
As quickly as the two girls had entered, they exited once again. Officer Jude stepped out and looked to me. Joseph hugged his wife who had a slightly more relaxed expression. “I wonder where Hank has gone off to.” The Pastor spoke up. “He should have been back already now.”
“We can talk to him when he returns.” The crew-cut man replied. “Mr. Jackson, let’s have a talk now, shall we?”
I stood and walked to the office. The officer waited for me to enter before shutting the door and finding his way behind Joseph’s desk to his seat. “Let’s see,” he began. “Twenty-five, graduate of Tallahassee State. NGO work for the past two years. Mr. Cummings says that a campaign manager better than you doesn’t exist.”
I twiddled my thumbs and kept my eyes to the backside of the wooden desk. “If he says so.”
“Did you happen to find the events of the rally on Saturday strange at all?”
I jerked up, surprised by the words. “I… well, yeah.”
“In supporting Joseph Cummings, The Pastor, I would assume you are a religious man yourself, correct?”
“Well, I, more or less.”
Jude clicked his pen absentmindedly. “Anything you say here will be kept confidential. Well, most things.”
“I’m not terribly religious, this is just a job for me.” I said, glancing back warily to the door.
“Well then.” The officer noted, scribbling away at the pad on his crossed leg. “Being from such a point of view, would you say that your boss, Mr. Cummings, is either superstitious, gullible, or overly… assured?”
“No more than any other man or woman of faith.”
He held silent afterword, employing a trick I had experienced plenty of times previous: the silent-until-the-interviewee-spills-their-guts technique. I took the bait. “Believe what you want about that holy figure, I think that’s the trick to it after all. Faith goes a long way for those who have it.”
“Mr. Jackson.” Jude spoke up in a way that suggested the changing of topic. “You were filming at the rally, correct? And there was one other man there, someone you know, who was recording as well.”
“The news as well. And plenty of people with phone cameras.”
The officer frowned at me. “We’d simply like to ask about yours and that man’s footage. I’m sure you know that any such media recorded while undertaking duties relevant to work is copyright of the employer- Mr. Cummings’, in this case. If you could simply tell us the whereabouts of your friend.”
“Are you asking on behalf of Joseph?”
“It isn’t that hard, Mr. Jackson.”
“I asked Joseph to allow my friend to record for him and make a publicity video. There’s no funny business here, sir.”
“Sharon Cummings already told us his name, Steven was it? But if you’d like to aid us, we can make things a lot easier for everyone.”
I chewed on my lip. “Like you said, it belongs to Joseph. You’re not going anywhere, so when my main man is done editing it, I’ll bring it in and let everyone watch it.”
Officer Jude stood and began to pace, looking out through the small window in the door. With arms folded, he spoke again through grit teeth. “You know… it will be in everyone’s interest if nobody sees that footage, especially if you want to keep your employer away from the unnecessary attention.”
I held my breath with head faced away from the officer’s studious eyes while waiting for him to continue. I spoke up first instead. “Whatever was seen there… whatever you’ve seen second hand though some person’s random footage… you better believe me that I think it’s just as crazy. That man. All of this. And whoever you are, whoever you’re working for… I couldn’t tell you anything you don’t already think you know.”
Jude clicked his tongue and pushed the door open. He cleared his throat and spoke loud enough for the whole office to hear. “That’s all. This area is safe enough, your RV back there too. Expect at least two of us around for the time being, Mr Cummings.”
“Wonderful.” The Pastor hummed thoughtfully. “Well, back to work, all y’all.”
Hank didn’t show his face again that day. I watched my rear-view mirror my entire drive back home, but never saw anything that piqued my suspicion. Steven was back to his normal carefree video game life when I returned home, but I couldn’t help but interrupt him.
“Huh?” He said, pulling out one of his ears from his headphones.
“Don’t answer the door from now on. And for all that footage… make a backup somewhere.”
“I already don’t answer the door, and, uh… gotcha.” He nodded. “Something wrong?”
“Just taking precautions.”