The President's Son Ch. 03byDWSimon©
The drills had been run several times, at various times of day. Once clear of the base's gates, it would take the driver approximately thirty minutes to reach the cove where the modified seaplane was kept. Losing a man hadn't been part of the plan. Captain McNeely was a crack shot, that hadn't been in his file. Paul Johansen slapped his hand against the van's dash, letting the frustration and fury loose for a moment. Then, as he was trained, he put it away. The temporary glitch forced him to compromise. With one of their own men dead, there was no choice but to bring Masterson along. The original plan called for his disposal. That changed.
Paul drummed his fingers on his thigh, smiling slightly, hiding his anxiousness at reaching the plane. Once they rounded the bend in the road to the North Shore, the cove came into view. The plane sat in the water, bobbing slightly breached on the beach. Designed after the Pan American China Clipper, it was sleek, meant for long hauls, and could land where they were going. Ditching the van, the two assailants hefted Captain McNeely onto the plane. For a split second, Paul considered leaving Masterson in the van, to be the scapegoat for the abduction. Instead, he ran back, and dragged Masterson to the plane.
Once secured, the plane's engines roared and the plane began to cut through the spray, gathering speed. With a mighty rumble, the plane lifted from the sea. Keeping low, below most radar, the plane circled until it headed north, the cliffs and mountains of Oahu slipping further and further behind.
* * *
Twenty minutes after the plane had taken off; the two bodies of the secret servicemen were discovered along with the body of an unknown man. By unknown, his record was non-existent. He had no finger prints. No identity. When the USS Baton Rouge was searched, when James's base housing scoured over, it became apparent he went missing. With a quick call, the FBI's Honolulu office started the intelligence network to begin hunting the kidnappers of the son of the President of the United States.
* * *
On the first Wednesday of each month, the President sat down with his entire cabinet. They discussed current goals, issues, and concerns. He met with each member individually as needs required. Some, he met with more often, like the Secretary of State, others, less frequently. The meeting had been progressing well, comfortably, when a page entered and whispered into the ear of the Chief of Staff. He excused himself and stepped away from the room to find his deputy waiting for him.
"What is it, David?"
David Branson found his job enjoyable, even fun, until this moment. "There is a situation in Hawaii. Captain McNeely's secret service guards are dead. He's missing."
Chief of Staff Ken Simonson cursed vividly under his breath. "How long?"
"The bodies were discovered an hour ago."
"Christ, David. This is going to be ugly." Pacing away, he turned sharply. "Any information?"
David shook his head. "Not much. The Captain's lieutenant is missing as well. There was another body found, but so far, no one knows who he is."
"The FBI hasn't determined anything yet."
Muttering under his breath, Ken paced slowly. When he stopped, he looked at David. "Where is the Vice President?"
"He's just touched down in Australia."
Ken nodded. "Call him back." Walking back to the door, he cursed again. Because the FBI fell under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department, the Secret Service under the Commerce Department, and since the incident took place on a Navy base, the Secretary of Defense would need to stay behind. But before they could talk to the President, Ken had to tell the man his son was missing.
* * *
John was discussing with the Secretary of Agriculture the plans he'd tried for the six years he'd been in office to increase grain yields and cattle production in Wyoming and Nebraska, while working to increase the buffalo population. As Ken Simonson entered the room and the brisk nod he gave his people, John felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
"Excuse me, Mr. President. I must speak to you."
John looked at Ken, and somehow knew this was important, but would cut deep. Excusing himself, John stood and walked ahead of Ken, directly for the Oval Office. Sitting behind his desk, he waited for Ken to shut the door.
"Mr. President, there is a problem in Hawaii."
Before the last syllable had left Ken's mouth, John felt his blood run cold through his veins. James. "What's happened?"
"James's secret service guards were found dead. There's a third body, but no one knows who he is." Ken looked down on he file he was given as they walked to the oval office. "No one knows too much, I'm afraid."
John stood and clutched the back of his chair. "Where's the rest of my family?"
"Your wife is on her way back from New York. Sam and his wife are at their home, the children are with them. Luke and his wife are being escorted from their work. Lisa and her husband and kids are accounted for."
Shutting his eyes, John paced to look out the windows. Cursing silently beneath his breath, he turned to find Ken watching him expectantly. "Any hints who did this?"
Shifting from foot to foot, Ken looked down for a moment. "None." He cleared his throat and braced himself. "Mr. President, the Vice President is on his way back from Australia."
Shaking his head, John looked at his Chief of Staff. "The Australia trip is important. Why's he coming back?"
"We will have to invoke Amendment twenty-five, Mr. President."
"But..." The words died on John's lips. The questions, the morals of the situation made him pause. Of course he'd have to sign the paper. When faced with the issues of the world or the safety of his own son, the President of the United States became simple John McNeely, father. Turning away, John nodded his head. "You're right. Get the letter ready. I'll sign it and send it over to the Speaker and Senate."
Ken stepped towards the desk, putting the file on it, bracing his hands on either side of it. "We truly don't know what has happened. It could be—"
"No! I know something is wrong." Schooling his temper, John turned back to his trusted adviser and friend. "If it were your son, what would you do?"
Nodding, Ken stood erect. "The Vice President will be in California within eight hours. By the time Congress is made aware; he'll be ready and on American soil."
Rubbing the tension from his neck, John let out a huff of breath. "Bring the Secretary of Commerce and Defense in. Bring the Attorney General as well." Chuckling without humor, John strode toward his suite. "This is a jurisdictional nightmare."
Ken left the office quickly to follow his orders. John sat down on the sofa and told himself he could give in for just a moment; a brief moment to be a father. He shut his eyes to keep the tears at bay. Flashes of memories passed before his eyes, like a slide show of James's youth. He opened his eyes to look at his fingers and cursed because they shook. John stood and walked into the suite, to grab a bottle of water. With his hands busy and the water to cool the acidic lump in his throat, he was nearly calm when the knock came at the door. "Enter."
As Joanna Lyons walked inside, he let out a small smile. He'd chosen her over more popular choices for Attorney General. The political backlash was harsh and she nearly didn't get confirmed. But she had served far better than anyone had expected, John included. "Joanna, thank you for coming."
"Mr. President, I'm—" She was interrupted by another knock on the door.
Ken entered with Commerce Secretary Craig Stubinsky and Defense Secretary Randall Thompson. They came into the room and sat on the sofas before the fire. John took his seat at the head. Ken stood by the wall.
John looked at each in turn before speaking. "Your jobs just became more complicated. As your boss, I could pull rank. But I won't." He paused and though bitter in his mouth, he spoke the words anyway. "Craig. I promise my family will not make the Secret Service's job harder. They will cooperate completely. We simply ask that they keep us all safe."
Craig nodded and looked at Ken. "They are protected now. They won't get by them."
"I'm sorry for the two men in Hawaii. They will be given full honors." Turning to Randall. "This happened on military ground. I ask that you cooperate and have the Navy cooperate fully with the FBI."
Randall looked at Joanna Lyons, and though his lip wanted to sneer, he couldn't begrudge her the good work she'd done. "It will be rough, but we'll cooperate."
"Thank you." Turning away to face Joanna, John's smile grew a bit stronger. "Since the FBI reports to you, I ask you do your job, and don't give in to any sense of favor you might feel you owe me." He looked at the three members of his staff. "I will remove myself, temporarily, from office. Barring an objection from the Secret Service, I'd like to have my family moved either here, or to Camp David. Within eight hours, you'll answer to the Vice President. Thank you."
Standing, John walked back to his desk and stared out the window. He heard Ken take the others out of the room. Not much time passed, John only watched the gate guards pace the grounds three times before the door to the office opened again. "John?"
Shutting his eyes before turning; opening them to see the scared, panicked look on his wife's face, hurt to the bone. "Maddie."
They crossed the room together, meeting in the middle, coming together in a relieved embrace. Kissing her brow, John kept chanting her name. She clutched his shoulders, rocking in his arms. "What's happened to our baby?"
Pulling back to look down into her eyes, his thumbs gently brushed the tears away. "I don't know. I only know what they found, not what happened."
"And the rest?"
He patted her back and drew her face to his shoulder. "They're on their way here. All of them." He whispered into her ear. "We'll go to Camp David, or stay here. We'll be safe."
She shook her head and punched his shoulder. "Not all of us."
John's voice cracked as he ran his hand up and down her back. "No. Not all of us."
* * *
Malcolm was making his way from the Senate floor, heading across the street to the office building when the press surrounded him. It had been two days; the scandal surely should have died down. Rolling his eyes, he walked off the steps, squaring his shoulders to face the throng, a sweet smile crossing his lips; remembering why he faced the press. Malcolm wondered where James was. Was he underway, under the sea? He probably would never know.
"Senator! Senator! Have you spoken with the President?"
Walking forward, intending to make his way through the crowd, Malcolm plastered a false smile on his face, prepared to say 'no comment' one more time. Slowly, as the barrage of questions heightened, he became aware that they had nothing to do with the picture. Slowing, nearly stopping his steps forward, he looked to one reporter, one he'd worked with in the past in California. "What's going on?"
He stepped towards Malcolm and whispered in his ear. "James McNeely is missing, his guards are dead."
Malcolm blanched before breaking into a run, scrambling through traffic, towards the safety of his office. Slipping into the building, he never made it to the elevator. The Secret Service stopped him in his tracks. "Senator. Please come with us."
Malcolm nodded and stepped into the back elevator. Flanked by four secret servicemen, Malcolm stood in the middle of the elevator, wonder, fear, curiosity flooding through his system. He barely noticed when the doors opened and he was ushered into the back of a limousine. The car left the underground garage and quickly waded its way through traffic towards the White House. Bypassing security, quickly going through the gates, Malcolm stared off into nothing as the car slowed before the main entrance to the mansion.
Malcolm lost two of his escorts at the main door. He was led down the main hall into the Blue Room where he saw a man and woman sitting in chairs, staring off into space. The man stood, and gave Malcolm a slight smile. His hand rested against the woman's shoulder as the secret servicemen left them alone. Tall, blonde, handsome, Malcolm recognized him as James's brother, Sam. He stuck out his hand and offered a friendly smile. "I'd hoped to meet under better circumstances. I'm Sam. This is my wife, Martine."
Martine stood, her dark, curly hair flowing down her back, her dark brown eyes sad as she took Malcolm's hand. "I'm very happy to meet you, Malcolm."
Malcolm absently shook her hand and looked back and forth between the two of them. "What's going on?"
Martine wrapped her arm around Sam's waist and gave a supportive squeeze. Sam looked down then straight into Malcolm's eyes. "James has been taken. His guards in Hawaii are dead." He looked into his wife's eyes and the grief in them was nearly too painful to witness. "We don't really know anything else. Dad's had us all brought here. Just in case."
On an exhalation of breath, Malcolm muttered, "I think I need to sit down." He plunked into a chair, his head dropping into his hands, resting on his knees. "Oh God."
Sam put his hand on Malcolm's shoulder. "He's been missing for about five hours now. There hasn't been any word yet." Malcolm looked up and Sam shrugged. "Dad's having us all brought here. Luke will be here in a couple of hours. Lisa and her family are flying in from Seattle. It will take them a few more hours to get here."
"What can I do?"
Sam shook his head. "Nothing. We're waiting until the family is all here, then Dad wants us to go to Camp David."
Malcolm stood and began to pace. "I can't. I... Shit."
"I agree." The words were spoken from the door. Malcolm turned around and saw the first lady, standing in the door. She came into the room and hugged her son and daughter-in-law. She smiled at both of them. "My grandchildren are wondering where their parents are."
Sam and Martine left the room, leaving Malcolm alone with Madeline. She came to stand by him and stare out the window with him. "I know how you're feeling Malcolm."
Malcolm laughed. "No offense, Mrs. McNeely, but I think you're feeling a lot worse than I am."
She turned to Malcolm. "Don't be cute. I know you're scared for him too."
Malcolm turned and stepped away. "That wasn't what I meant. You're his mother. I don't have children, but I can only imagine how scared you must be."
"You're right. I'm terrified." She came up to Malcolm and put her hand on his arm. "But you have feelings for my son. New feelings, yes, but you do care for him."
Malcolm shut his eyes. "I didn't even know him two weeks ago."
"And this changes things how?"
Malcolm laughed and took Madeline's hand. "I'm sorry. I'm not at my best right now."
"No one is."
"What happens now?"
She smiled and took his arm and led him to the room's door. "That's for my husband to decide." She looked up at Malcolm's face. "And the secret service. And the FBI."
"Okay. If you can point me to a phone, I need to make some calls."
"Why not wait a bit on that. We really need to wait until we hear something."
Malcolm shook his head. "I was right about you."
Malcolm chuckled. "You are the strongest, ballsiest woman I've ever known."
"Hardly. I just look good under pressure."
They both laughed as they made their way upstairs to the residence, to wait. To worry. To pray.
* * *
A low level thrum was the first thing James became aware of. The constant noise impeded on the tranquil oblivion he rested in. Pushing it away, he rolled to the side, and bumped into cold metal. Pausing, keeping still, he slowly opened his eyes. He saw metal walls, slightly curved at the floor. Without moving, he checked as much as he could see. When he saw no one, James slowly rolled to his back.
Blinking his eyes fully open, James tried to recognize what he saw. Steel girders, a few windows, some seats, facing forward, like an airplane, but not any airplane he'd ever been on. Sitting up, finding his hands tied behind him, James knelt between the seats and looked out, and saw a wing coming from the roof of the cabin and two large engines, spinning very large propellers. Looking to the rear of the aircraft, James figured he was on something similar to the Pan Am Clipper, an airplane that could only land on water.
The last of the day's light began to fade very rapidly. The front of the aircraft had a wall, which looked like something added as an afterthought. Except for a door with very secure looking locks, it appeared James was alone with Alec. The sound of locks turning caused James to lie flat on his back, still, forcing his breathing to calm. The door opened, racking into James's ankle. He hoped he stayed still, didn't show any pain or wince.
James called his breathing, trying to appear unconscious. He thought he'd succeeded until a deep, slightly southern voice spoke. "I know you're awake, Captain."
James lay perfectly still but opened one eye, searching in the waning light for who spoke. It was the man who'd held the gun on Alec. "What do you want?"
He chuckled. "Direct and to the point. Thank you, Captain."
James barely contained the bitterness, and deep down fear he felt from coming out. "You're welcome."
The man laughed deeply. "How refreshing." He knelt by James, showing the gun he held in his hand. "Cooperate, Captain, and this will be over with... eventually."
Shutting his eyes to hide his fear, he breathed a small prayer for strength, before opening his eyes. Every ounce of hatred, fear, hurt, betrayal, and every other negative, harmful emotion spilled from his eyes, spearing into his captor's face. Practically spitting his animosity, he quietly spoke, "One day soon, you will pay for this."
The man blinked once before letting out a burst of air from between lips gone tense. He swallowed before speaking, as if his voice were lost. "I agree, Captain." Sitting back, as if to distance himself from the fury that filled James's face, the man took his gun and put it in his pocket. "But are you willing to die for it?"
Using what strength he had, James slowly pulled himself up until he was sitting back braced against the metal seats. "I swore to protect my country, up to and including death. You are a common criminal, a cockroach unworthy of my dying for you."
His captor smirked, but with little conviction. "Me? I am worthless, Captain. But what I believe in is not."
"What are you hoping to accomplish? My father stepping down? The FBI to come down on you and yours? What is so important?"
The captor shook his head and smiled sadly. "When terrorists hijacked airplanes and used them as missiles, we learned how lax we were. But we've relaxed, allowed the terrorists to gather strength. This country and its people are not safe."
James stared at the man, disbelief in his eyes. "You're kidding?"
"Not at all. How safe can any American be if we can take you from a secured Naval Base, out from under the guard surrounding you, in the middle of the day?"
James merely shook his head. The man continued, pontificating, as if he had a rapt audience of thousands. "I could care less if you're gay. But you have been in the news now for three days solid. The entire country knows your name." His eyes bored into James's. "They will know who you are and that you've been taken. And no one will be able to find you."
James merely whispered the words, "You're crazy."
"I'm not crazy. I'm pissed." He stood and headed towards the door. "We'll be arriving soon. Get some rest." He opened the door and walked mostly through it before turning back. "You'll need it."
The door shut with a resounding thud. Over the propellers outside, James couldn't hear the locks turn, but knew that they had been secured inside. Using the seat as leverage, James forced himself up until he stood. He paced around the small area of the cabin, a space with about six rows of double seats towards the rear bulkhead. The first four or so rows had been removed and Alec lay there. James checked each seat, each row, finding no seatbelts, no loose pieces he could use of any sort. Dejected, James sat in the first row of seats and used his foot to gently prod Alec without success.