Second Coming: Chapter 20

Things started moving fast after we settled in. The new office space was furnished in a matter of days from donations from the local party offices, churches, and even individuals themselves. The RV was parked out back and served as our sleeping quarters still, but at least I felt some reprise from the prolonged contact with Joseph and the man.

Agent Barth and some other members of the impostor Secret Service kept continued watch and presence about the office building, but I was never approached for further instruction. No doubt the reason had to do with being unable to properly distance myself from Joseph and the man. I kept my head down and continued doing the absolute minimum to further Joseph’s desires.

The Pastor gave me the go-ahead to post the job listings I had written up. We began receiving replies within the hour, and before that weekend, the inbox I had setup was way more than either of us could handle. Many, predictably, were those who simply wanted to reach out and be in contact with the supposed holy man. Even with going through and deleting all of the spam, we were left with too many to filter through. Joseph folded and called up his wife. Two days later, Sharon and Jess had been flown out to meet us and join the cause once again.

With the RV filled up with the family, I was forced to sleep in the office space. All things considered, it was nice having a bit of privacy away from all of them. During the day, the four of us filtered through the many emails, ditching any that seemed less than professional. It only took a day or so from there to settle on a list of people to call and set up interviews with. The morning before the first of the in-person meetings, I was awoken early by Barth while the family was still away in the RV.

“Jude, are you awake?” He said, leaning over me.

“Huh, what?” I said sleepily, forcing myself to roll over and get a better look at him in the dim room.

“No need to get up, but take what I’m about to say to heart.” He said, leaning back against a desk. “Remind anyone that their employment is only on the basis of Joseph being nominated in the primaries.”

I rubbed at my eyes and check the time on my phone. “I… believe that’s… a given, right?”

“Yes, but the knowledge between the lot of you isn’t terribly conventional,” Barth said with a shrug. “Just know that none of these people will likely end up being employed here- ever.”

I sat up, shielding my face from the sunrise crawling through the dirty, unshaded front window. “What do you mean? Are you planning on something before the end of the delegation process?”

“Can’t tell you that now, but for the time being, just keep doing what you’ve been doing.”

When Joseph finally came into the office that morning, we began setting up the smaller room by the entrance to undertake the interviews in. As we sorted through the stacks of printed-out resumes and cover letters, I voiced a thought of concern to Joseph. “I was thinking… perhaps we should keep… his holiness… from the interview process. Just to keep them from being too nervous, you know.”

Joseph thought silently for a moment. “Good thinking Jude. I’ll tell him he’s best off staying in the RV for today.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and watched the front window for the first of the cars to pull up off the road. The list of people we had called in that morning came from a wide range of expertise. Some worked in journalism, or law and even some came from up near Capitol Hill. The first three that came to us that morning were mostly well-spoken and well-meaning and we let them know that they would be receiving a call-back at some point.

The fourth person to come in, a Hispanic man, was immediately shifty as he came through the doors, but as he settled at the desk before us, his energy suddenly concentrated. “Mr. César, thank you for coming today,” Joseph began like always.

“Good to be here, thank you for having me.” He replied with a smile and a nod. “Now, before we begin, I might offer you some information about myself.”

“Oh?” Joseph said, offering me a glance that was just short of wary.

César leaned his weight on the edge of the table. “I’d just like to say that if I get this position, I would require no salary for as long as you’d like to have me.”

Joseph’s eyebrows raised at the idea, and I couldn’t help but wonder what was coming next.

“The only thing I ask of you is this. My father- he’s dying of cancer. If I may borrow the divine power of our Lord and Savior here on Earth to cure my father and return his vitality, I will gladly offer my services and expertise to you for as long as you are in office.”

I attempted to furnish a response to the desire and looked to Joseph for help. The Pastor’s eyes narrowed, and he shoved the papers from his hands onto the tabletop. “Sir, while the situation with your father is regrettable-” he began, gritting his teeth in a way I couldn’t have imagined the Pastor doing, “ but his divine power is not something I can so easily offer up to anyone and everyone who asks.”

César stood, gently pushing the fine, heavy chair aside. His tone was aggravated, but even. “So, you won’t do this for me? You want to keep his holiness for yourself to only your own benefit?”

Joseph folded his hands as if to stop himself from rattling them about the table. “There are more than a few issues with your thinking sir.”

“All I need to know is that you are willing to let my father die,” He huffed, pushing out the door and nearly running over the following interviewee who was coming in at the same time.

Joseph and I exchanged glances, but couldn’t find it in myself to fully agree or disagree with either of their actions. Joseph stood and said a silent prayer to himself before sitting back down. With a shout out to his wife, the following person came to sit before us. By mid-afternoon, all of the question and answer sessions began to blur together. The final interview concluded sometime around three, and by then, we had already forgotten about the fiasco that morning.

The next day was a similar pattern of taking interviews, mostly of reasonable people. There was a trend of those citing their religious beliefs, or talking specifically of Joseph’s overarching plan, but regardless of their stance, I could do nothing but hope I would never see any of these people again. My hopes were crushed that very night, however, as I tuned into the news.

Mr. César, whom we had seen the previous day, was side-by-side with one of the major anchors on a particular station local to the area. I pulled Joseph out of the RV and dragged him back to the office space to have him watch.

“That’s right, Mr. Joseph Cummings doesn’t.” The man said, midway through a thought. “It isn’t about the power of God, the Son of the Lord, or either of their graces. It’s about him, and making every one about him believe that he, the Pastor himself, is the only one who is able to carry and speak the voice of the Lord. It’s as if he’s trying to bring everyone back to the Middle Ages when only the elite of the Clergy could read the word of God, and thus, were able to so easily rein over an unquestioning society.”

Joseph stomped his foot and separated himself from the screen. “Is Agent Barth around here?” He growled.

“Huh?” I replied, having not seen the man since the previous morning. “What for?”

“It seems that if we’re going to have any more interviews, it will have to be after proper background checks. We can’t have any agents of the mass media in here trying to smear our names and reputations.”

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