Second Coming: Chapter 21
We managed another day of interviews before the weekend came. Those who had already been scheduled were interviewed that day, luckily with no large distractions. Friday afternoon, Joseph pulled himself away from the desk and returned to the RV with a sour look he had been mostly hiding the whole day. I joined the family for dinner that night inside, but Joseph held his sullen attitude even around his family.
That Saturday I remained alone in the office and continued to avoid Joseph and his sudden yet unsurprising melancholy. I even allowed myself to sleep in slightly, a luxury those days. Outside the windows was Washington D.C., I thought to myself, but as a result of the work I had been putting in up until then, I had barely ventured farther than a single block away. Out past the dirty windows of the rented office space was the capital, and with it, likely countless opportunities in the hopefully inevitable case of Joseph’s campaign falling through.
After freshening up, I turned to the internet to test the waters of employers in the area, constantly looking over my shoulder to make sure neither Joseph nor the others were going to sneak up behind my back. Despite the variety of positions, the likely unrequited loyalty to the Pastor kept me from sending in my resume.
The next morning, Sunday, I went to the RV to hopefully sneak in a shower when I was met with the groans of a broken man. Joseph was leaning on the table face first, and there was a certain something missing from the atmosphere. “Joseph?”
Joseph didn’t respond. I looked to the assumed holy man who was sitting, legs crossed, on the seat beside him, nonplussed. Sharon walked out of the back and shrugged. “He’s fine, Jude. Our coffee maker broke, and we’re having just a bit of a slump because of it,” she said, making puppy-dog eyes at her husband.
I had observed the daily consumption of decaf by the Pastor and his wife, but I had no idea that it meant so much to him, especially without the caffeine. “I actually noticed…” I spoke up, causing a slight reaction out of Joseph, “A coffee shop a couple blocks down. I don’t mind just running down there…”
Joseph sat up with a sigh, brushing down his face with his hands. “Can you do that, Jude? It would be wonderful. You know what we like?”
“I do,” I affirmed, looking to the wife. “I’ll be back. Just the two for you?”
Jess poked her head out of the bunk near the rear. “Can you… perhaps buy one of those fancy drinks? With the whipped cream on top? I’ll pay you back.”
I looked to her mother for the okay. She nodded, “Just no coffee, Jude.”
I was just around the corner of the office when Agent Barth caught up to me on foot, nicely suited and pristinely groomed. “Jude, good timing.”
“I can’t imagine this is on purpose,” I said, eying him from the side. “Did you break their coffee maker just to guide us to this interaction?”
“Coffee maker?” He said indignantly. “What are you talking about? Well, allow me to keep up and borrow this rare moment from you.”
I sighed and continued walking. “I hate saying this, but can we hurry up this whole process? I feel bad about betraying Joseph, and it would be best off being able to find a new job before the primaries conclude.”
Barth scratched at his face. “I’d love that too, but so far nothing.”
“NORAD picked up nothing that would have been the craft that dropped off JC.”
“JC? Oh.” I mumbled back, realizing the meaning of the initials. “So, what then?”
“Well, my higher-ups have been discussing various things. One is to engage in the security clearance process, a fabricated one of course. We would have temporary discretion to attempt to take fingerprints and samples directly from our character. If you and the rest of the family go along with it, nobody should object. Unless that man has something to hide, of course.”
I huffed in surprise. “Well, that’s a whole lot,” I commented, keeping a lookout for the coffee shop’s sign. Barth kept by my side as we came across it and entered.
The Sunday morning line was fairly short. My desire for real coffee returned with the intoxicating odor of brewing grounds. Barth hung back while I ordered. “Hey, uh. Two medium decafs… black… a frappe, minus the shot… with caramel drizzle… medium as well, and a large latte, with soy, please.”
After paying, I stepped back and waited among my fellow caffeine compatriots. Barth was focused on the hefty stack of Sunday papers by the door. “Anything new?” I asked.
The agent simply pointed to the cover story, containing a distinct color image of the Pope. Vatican Chastises Presidential Hopeful Joseph Cummings and his Questionable Holy Entourage of One. “Well… First, I’m disappointed that they don’t want to include me in his entourage,” I said, picking up the paper for the bottom half of the article. I gazed at the story in awe, but the sudden call for my order forced my attention away.
“You might show that to Mr. Cummings,” Barth suggested as I was stepping away.
“He has enough on his plate,” I countered, taking up the cardboard drink holder, “let’s rein him in with a more civilized manner.”
I departed the shop and allowed the agent to find his way back on his own. When I returned to the RV, I was suddenly the talk of the town. “Perfect!” Joseph said, likely his first words of the morning.
I delivered the two other drinks and then sat down to enjoy my own. Joseph loudly slurped his own through the slot in the lid before slapping it down on the table. “Very good. Just what I needed. Thank you, Jude.”
“Not a problem.”
“I feel up to dealing with the world now.” The Pastor toted, “Can’t get the little things get me down.”
“Right you are.” Sharon praised.
A hollow knock came to the door of the RV, and outside was standing Barth, something in his hands. “Mr. Jackson, you left this behind.”
The wife was quicker than I, and took the agent’s delivery through the door, placing it on the table. As I feared, it was the uneven roll of newspaper, with the headline in plain sight. Joseph squinted at it and pulled it his way. I watched his brow furrow as he took it in. “Well, this is just unacceptable,” he said, not even daring to look at the words of the article itself. “Who does he think he is? No pope of mine!”