The Help

Second Coming: Chapter 8

One of the secret service men was at the front of the office when I arrived the next day. He was wearing a less conspicuous white button-up shirt and khaki pants but had the recognizable curled wire of a headpiece traveling from his waist to his ear. As I stepped through the door, I was greeted by Sharon’s eyes guiding me to the office door to her right. Joseph’s voice came to me usher me inside. “Terrence, if you could?”

Inside was The Pastor at his desk, with the assumed holy man standing beside him. With back against the front wall was Officer Jude in the plain dark colors of his posse. “Good Morning Mr. Jackson.”

I forced out a smile and allowed my bag to fall from my shoulder and into my hand. “What’s new?”

Jude cleared his throat and stood up. “You haven’t come into contact with Hank Matthews since yesterday, have you?”

I looked to Joseph, then out back to the outside of the office. “He still hasn’t come back? Northing’s happened to him, I hope?”

Joseph sighed and looked to his lap. “So you haven’t either?”

“Well, there are details about that man that you should be familiar with.” Jude touted, moving to the door to shut it. “Mr. Cummings, can I assume you are content with your campaign manager being privy to certain information?”

Joseph sat up and nodded. “He is my left hand, so of course.” With such strange words on his breath, he looked up and winked at me. “Symbolically speaking of course. I recently came to the conclusion that his holiness best be at my right hand, as he is in the scriptures.”

Jude grunted and shut the door heavily, swinging it heavily just beside me. Joseph leaned slightly in my direction. “Your importance has not changed in the slightest of course, Terrence.” He muttered under his breath.

“Returning to the topic of Mr. Matthews.” Jude spoke, trudging about the room. “As you do not have the manpower or connections here, we took the liberty of doing a background check on those you’ve hired. Mr. Jackson is, of course, squeaky clean. Your Hank Matthews, however, has multiple convictions of credit card fraud- a felony, in this case- along with a few minor charges.”

I jumped to look to Joseph, who held steadily nonplussed. “I know very well, officer. That’s why I took him in. Jesus Christ is about forgiveness. And if you don’t believe me-” He paused to laugh and smack the edge of the desk adjacent to the supposed holy man. “-well, you can ask him yourself.”

A barely audible tongue click came from the agent, who turned about to stare at the wall. “Mr. Cummings, your faith is admirable, but I encourage you not to offer it up to just anyone. Mr. Matthews has served his sentence for his past crimes, but do not think-”

“If the man’s done anything against me, then it shall be my retribution he faces, not the retribution of the land’s crazed legal system.”

I grit my teeth and looked to the ground to keep myself from reacting any more violently to Joseph’s statement. Jude opened the door enough for Joseph’s wife and daughter outside to hear. “So be it, but we’d still love to hear from you if you happen to come across him. No guiltless man suddenly disappears out of the blue.”

I caught Joseph rolling his eyes as I turned back to his desk. I took a deep breath before speaking up. “Joseph… I think there may be reason to look over your accounts and spending so far, just in case…”

Joseph pursed his lips, then turned his face up to me in a smile. “When Hank gets back, I’ll surely ask the man to sit down with me and we can look over the books, ya’ll as well. Now, back to work, my boy. We’ve got an office to run for!”

The rest of the day went by normally, save the extra one or two Secret Service type about the building. I headed straight home after leaving the office, only to find a car I hadn’t seen before parking in my spot in front of the apartment complex. I parked by the sidewalk outside the lot and began a more roundabout way to my place, but was stopped suddenly just around the corner from my door.

“Lordy me, Terrence, it’s about time you’ve come back,” the hefty man stopped me in my tracks.

I jumped back, tilting my head up to Hank’s face. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Ope-” He huffed, looking up and around. “Well, you know, I was in a different part of town, got a little lost, couldn’t get back last night. But then I remembered you were nearby-”

“How do you know where I live?”

“Oh, well, it was on your resume that you brought in when we hired ya’. Listen, Joseph might not be kindly to me havin’ disappeared, probably, right? I just need a place to stay the night- a couch, even the ground is just fine for me. But tomorrow- tomorrow-”

I shook my head and looked over my shoulder. “This is crazy. You’re crazy. Hank, you just ran off at the same time a bunch of guys in suits showed up. How else are we supposed to take that?”

“Guys with suits?” Hank held his hands up in a shrug. “I have no idea-”

His words were lost to me as my phone began to buzz somewhere in the deep reaches of my slacks. I pulled it up and confirmed Steven’s contact on the screen before answering. “What?”

“Don’t hurry home.” Steven said, voice wavering with just having woken up, possibly with worry, or both. “There’s some strange a guy outside, knocked on the door a bunch. I didn’t answer, just like you told me. I just called 911 to have them stop by and check out whatever’s up.”

I met eyes with Hank, who was exchanging glances with me and the street over his shoulder. I sighed and responded. “You’re a bit late to tell me that.”

The black and white crown vic pulled up first, then began flashing its lights as soon as it saw the two of us on the walk outside. I held my hands up high, phone still in my grasp, as Hank hustled off between the sets of apartment buildings.

“Stay put!” The officer barked while drawing his weapon, and speaking into the radio receiver on his shoulder. In my peripheral vision, I saw the second officer dash off, likely a taser in his hand, after Hank. My eyes focused back on the barrel pointed at me. “Officer, my roommate is the one who called, he’s on the phone right now.” Without a word of acknowledgment, the officer had me down on my knees and the phone tossed to the side, luckily on the grass.

By the time Steven came down to diffuse the situation, another patrol car had pulled up. Hank was being dragged back and read his rights, his face sweaty, shirt marred with a dark grass stain, and hands held behind his back. “Do you know this man?” They asked Steven first.

“He’s a coworker.” I spoke up. “To be honest… I’m not sure why he’s here, though.”

Steven frowned and leaned by my ear. “Now that you mention it, I did see him at the rally…”

The officer who had subdued me was now taking my name and information on a pad of paper. “So you want to press charges for trespassing? He’s already bein’ brought in on a count’a evading the law, no helpin’ that.”

Just before Hank was stuffed into the back of the patrol car, a third vehicle came to a stop midway up the street- a black sedan, the likes of which had been previously parked outside the office.

Officer Jude and another of the supposed Secret Service fellows stepped out, readying their shiny leather badge holder. “Gentlemen, we’ll be taking it from here. That man you’re taking in is under our jurisdiction.”

Jude stepped forward, offering me only the slightest of nods, before speaking to the police and flashing his badge. The police officer grimaced and waived to his partner to release Hank. “Come on, we’re to be gettin’ on with business.”

Hank and the second serviceman found their way to Jude’s sedan, while the familiar leader of the bunch confronted myself and Steven. “Mr. Jackson, isn’t the situation favorable we just happened to be by.”

“We both know that’s not the case.” I sighed and examined my phone for any signs of filth or moisture having gotten past the case during its time on the grass. “Well, if Hank was your target, you got him. I’m going to see about removing the grass stains from the knees of these slacks and try to forget about being profiled by our men in blue here.”

“Hold on just a minute now.” Jude spoke up as I pushed Steven to begin heading back to our place. “I wouldn’t suppose that’s our filmographer here, is it?”

“Who are these guys, Ter?” Steven huffed under his breath, just behind my shoulder. “So what if I am?” He called back.

I shoved my hand to his chest. “Chill.” I hissed. “I’ve told you, the footage is Joseph’s property; it was all taken for his sake alone. Leave us be.”

“I’m not going to take your damn footage.” Jude shouted, standing stiffly and rapping his knuckles on his thigh. “For all I know you may have already burned a stack of DVDs and auctioned them off to those Bible thumpers willing to follow Mr. Cummings.”

“Then go find one of those.” I shrugged. “Or just watch the news footage.”

“Steven was it?” Jude called out past me, still halting our retreat. “I pulled up your portfolio. Not bad. The footage that day from the news looks like it was taken by amateurs. Guess they’ll hire anyone these days. The vertical phone shit plastered on Twitter looks is pure garbage too. I want to see what either of you captured that day.”

I turned back and stepped up before Jude. “I know you know the whole situation in that office is beyond mental, with that man… you know who… at the top of the mountain of insane batshit.”

Jude licked his lips and smirked. “I certainly don’t know who you’re talking about.”

I shook my head. “If I lose my future in politics because of this, I’m blaming it on you.”

“If it ends up that way, I’m sure our organization can take you in instead.”

Steven had taken the footage and had somehow already turned it into a… flashy display for Joseph and the campaign. It almost seemed as if the entire ray of light, the descent of the man from the sky, and his approach to Joseph, was a sort of set-piece or creation of special effects for the video itself to highlight The Pastor as some sort of man connected to the divine. Me having been there, however, was a reminder that it was very real and still quite puzzling.

Officer Jude watched both the video and raw footage from both cameras with only slight interest. After the awkward viewing in Steven’s cramped room, he offered a few last words before allowing himself out, “Well, I see. Still not much to see. Another dead end.”

At my request, Steven copied his composition to a USB stick for me to bring in the next day. Jude was there, indifferent to me and encounter from the day previous. With the entire family gathered around, I played it, and immediately knew that it was exactly what they didn’t know they wanted.

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