The show manager caught up with us- myself, Barth, Joseph, and the man. We were trying to keep up with the Pastor, but he seemed instead intent on finding the exit. “Mr. Cummings,” the pencil-skirted woman caught up to him with clipboard in hand. “We still have 15 minutes of segment to broadcast.”
Joseph brushed her off. “You and your man are here for nothing else but to smear my image. I won’t be on it. Get me back to my RV.”
The manager cornered Joseph somewhere near the green room and attempted to talk him down. Barth and I watched on. “It’s amazing in the first place that Joseph would even consider reaching out to these guys, without even taking a look at their content.”
Barth folded his hands in front of him. “Actually, he wasn’t the first to reach out. There were… a few choices in this part of the plan, but this network was one of the more promising.”
“You contacted them first?” I turned to Barth, puzzled.
“Well,” The agent hummed, “Yes. All we had did was pretend we were you. Then we set up the connection for them to reach out to Joseph himself, creating the illusion that they were doing so organically.”
I balked at the idea. “You’re going to get me in trouble with Joseph if he thinks I’m the one who put him through this. Next time, won’t you tell me what your side of the plan is going to involve?”
Barth shrugged. “To be honest, we weren’t sure you were going to move on ahead with the plan as I directed you to. But I’m glad to see the coaching you offered the both of them made it so much easier for good Mr. Pilatus to do what he does best.”
Joseph stomped our way, the long-haired man in tow. “Come now, fellows. I have no desire to allow this deceitful media make me look like a fool. Agent, your sedan has enough space for us, correct?”
Barth pushed on the headset in his ear and at his neck, although I doubt he was hearing or speaking anything of importance. “Yes, Mr. Cummings. The way out is just this way.”
When we returned to the RV, Joseph immediately put us to work stowing the contents of the vehicle back in their places in preparation for our departure. We pulled out of the city just as night began to fall. Joseph’s driving was angry, to say the least, with the engine revving loudly. I convinced him to trade with me at the nearest rest stop, to my relief. I drove from there on until Joseph finally calmed himself and declared his hunger, directing me to pull in at the nearest exit where there was evidence of fast food.
For the next two days of driving in the direction of D.C., Joseph was calmer, but would occasionally shout back from the driver’s seat his thoughts on the man and the media in general. During Joseph’s breaks from driving, he would be on the phone with his family or trying to reach out to various offices about the country to see about them lending their support. As for myself, I was on news watch for the time I wasn’t behind the wheel, following the reactions from the show, and the general feelings regarding the Pastor and his presence.
A good many reactions were being thrown around social media as well. Many voices sustained that Joseph was in the right and that Mr. Pilatus and the show were there to unfairly humiliate him and the holy man. Some mocked Joseph with passages from the bible and using haughty religious imagery with pseudo-witty text and cutouts of the Pastor pasted on it. The biggest legitimate criticism being parroted was that Joseph planned to run the country through the use of scriptures rather than any real policy. Somehow I felt relieved that the Pastor was inherently innocent, in the way that he had never pursued much interest in the workings and passages of the internet, especially during times like the present. The best I could do was tell him of the people who still supported him, knowing fully well that I myself was not on the same side anymore.
At the last gas station stop before we finally arrived at our destination in the capital, Agent Barth cornered me and pulled me into the convenience store to talk. He led me into the vacant aisle of overpriced travel-sized toiletries and spoke to me in a low voice. “How’s Mr. Cummings handling things?”
“I’ve been keeping him settled, convinced that he’s got nothing to worry about.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that you’re not fully lying to him,” Barth said with a frown. “Opinion polls all over are still offering him a load more support than Caine.”
I recalled meeting vice-president Randy Caine back in Texas, and his words to Joseph that he would drop out in the case the supposed-holy man was legitimate. “I’m surprised he’s still into it.”
Barth shrugged. “Our sources say he’s still busy with his VP duties. But it is in everyone’s best interest that he remain in the running.”
“We’re not too far off from primaries… super Tuesday. Got a few weeks left.”
Barth gave a short nod, keeping his eyes toward the windowed entrance. “We have to make sure Mr. Cummings isn’t nominated. If it comes to that, anything that goes on from that point forward could be looked at as election interference by the public.”
“No doubt…” I mumbled, noticing the odd look from one of the cashiers. I turned my eyes back down to the mini tubes of toothpaste. “What about that NORAD data you were talking about?”
“I’m not at liberty to say.” He declared. He gave me a shove and pushed me toward the end of the aisle just as the bell on the door rang. I caught sight of Joseph walking in, while the agent went the other way around the store, a pack of toilet paper in his grasp. I was able to position myself before the ice-cream freezer before he took notice and approached me.
“We’re all filled up, Jude. Thinking about ice cream this time of the year?”
“Well, it was a bit warmer today.”
Back outside and just before I was going to head into the RV, Barth offered me a passing statement behind my back. “Once we get into DC, we’ll meet with some others who are a part of this operation. We’ll need you for this.”