- AP -
A knock was heard on Bohm's office door.
“Come in,” the President said.
His secretary, Shannon, entered with a pile of folders.
“Finally,” Bohm rose from his seat, excited.
“I'm very sorry for the delay; it took quite some time to find the information you requested,” she explained apologetically.
“Don't worry about it, Shannon,” Bohm smiled, taking off a good load of the folders.
“Do you want that I help you go through it?” Shannon proposed.
Bohm was about to answer when he paused. A strange feeling creeping up his spine, he said instead:
“No, thanks. I need to check this out myself. You've already done so much.”
“It's really no trouble, Mr. President.”
“Robert's fine, I already told you. And thanks; but I insist. Take the day off, and go see your family. That's why I took this job.”
Shannon smiled shyly, and hesitated, but she bowed lightly.
“Thank you, Mr. Pr... Robert.”
Bohm kissed her on the cheek, and returned behind his desk.
When Shannon closed the door behind him, Bohm dug in the pile of folders. With each passing document, his brow frowned in worry more and more.
“What are you up to, Randall?” Bohm wondered out loud, reading pages of the personel files that were taken out from the Confederation Library.
Each visits were cleared by the presentation of Randall Redspear's governmental I.D. Bohm leaned over to a specific note in the second visit:
“Randall Redspear clearance for pickup by assistant Daniel Fitzgerald. Reason: movement restriction due to age.”
“Movement restriction due to age... My ass,” Bohm muttered angrily. “You don't have any age issues.”
He grew worrier every minute as he read the countless useless files on the council members, senators, mayors... but as Bohm suspected, the citizens themselves.
He leaned back, closing his eyes and linking his hands together in an effort to remain calm. He was dealing with something way over his head, and he imaginatively slapped himself on the face for not seeing it coming.
If one thing Bohm could be proud of, is that he never lied about the motives behind his ambitions. Raised indeed in a poor family of five children, there were months where the only food on the table was peanut butter and jelly toasts, grilled cheese sandwiches, and pastas... The only affordable food, while the dismissive high-class society a few miles from them enjoyed fresh harvests, Evropan-imported delicacies, meat, and Gaea only knew what else. His parents would cut on basic necessities to pay off school for their children, to grant them the dignity of education.
Older, he was lucky meeting Frances, a middle-class girl who saw his soul and not his used clothings and his family's poverty. She showed him the kindness and compassion that the Bohms had been looking out for from the people put into power for that purpose. Upon realizing the sad truth of politics, Bohm vowed to change that. As Frances enrolled in the police academy, he enrolled in politics, desperately and clingingly making his way up.
After an eternity, he found himself Senator of Columbus; but the sad reality remained. No matter his benevolence and his compassionate wishes toward the well-being of the population, his hands were tied by still a higher power that wasn't willing to lift a finger.
It was by Gaea's miraculous intervention that after a fervent publicized sermont, Randall Redspear approached him. A shock it was to see such a powerful stranger, an outsider that yielded and directed the nation's top man. But Bohm quickly drew close to the old man's ambitions, and a deal was struck. Randall could not evict the current President; but could use his mysterious power to build up from scratch a brand new political party, putting Bohm at the forefront, ensuring all the necessary steps to success. Randall had warned Bohm that such steps required less than fair game; but Bohm had been willing to take on that sin if it meant he could finally prevent the suffering his family went through.
Bohm looked with growing regret and shame at the pile towering on his desk of all the lives afflicted or lost during his reign. Innocent lives, people trying to find their way through the unfairness of life even if stumbling on the path. Lives that his Counsellor had deemed worthless enough and insignificant to care about or mention.
And even then? Why all those background checks, why all the spying? What was Randall obsessed with that required hiring a fool to hide behind? Bohm found himself having no shame admitting his foolishness. He wanted so badly the power to change lives that he had sold out what mattered the most.
Not everything, his mind answered back.
Sitting back straight, he picked up the phone, and fast-dialed the first number.
"Hi, honey," his wife answered. "Everything okay?"
"No," Bohm replied truthfully. "How far can you go in digging up informations?"
His wife hesitated.
"Robert... I didn't dare ask you the last night, but you need to tell me what's going on."
It was Bohm's turn to hesitate.
"It might put you in danger."
Frances laughed softly.
"Unless you've got a level 5 psychopath, I think I've been in already loads of danger."
"I don't know what level he's at, but we are dealing with a psychopath. Or sociopath, I don't really keep up with the terms."
Bohm could discern the concern behind his wife's silence.
"What's happening?" she finally spoke again.
"I have strong suspicions that my Counsellor is using my position for some plan of his own. I need to get facts and evidences."
"Shouldn't you talk to the Council about it?" she suggested.
"Under his counsel (and, I admit, my own naivety), we demoted almost all the old council members, and put in recruits that he chose. Those that are left are too scared to lose their position that they won't do anything."
"If it went this far, then most of the system that's installed is most likely as corrupted. I won't be able to dig deep, either me or my contacts."
"I don't need a lot," Bohm reassured her. "Randall's own people are probably as foolish as me, in it because he provided them their ambitions. He's not a man that'll let anyone know about his plans. Even our new Public Advisor must be a victim; I need to find a way to talk to him..."
"Well, if it was the same request, I did suggest that you look out for the few rats that he will allow some sort of knowledge," Frances suggested.
"And I found one. Hence my call," Bohm proudly said. "Can you dig up anything about a Daniel Fitzgerald?"
He heard his wife scratch down on a paper.
"Will do my best. Won't say anything more, just in case. Next time we talk, it'll be at home and by writing," she said cautiously.
"Got it," Bohm acknowledged.
"Robert? Be careful, will you?"
"Back to you, Frances."
"Okay, bye," she hang up.
Bohm put back the phone in its socket, and laid back. Struggling between staying at the office, or returning home, he thought deeply. Suddenly, he rose. Taking a note, he scribbled:
"Went to surprise my parents-in-law; her birthday today. Don't worry, am protected."
Smiling mischievously, he walked to the window, and oppened it. He always climbed trees as long as he could; now was the time to test his agility and stealthiness from the fourth story to the parking lot. He knew his bodyguards would wait at the White Castle entrance, so his path would be free.
As he sat behind the wheel, nearly twenty minutes later, Bohm searched around for an handkerchief. He knew he wasn't young anymore, but it still surprised him how exhausting climbing was now. Starting the car, he drove past the gate.
"The guards aren't with you, Mr. President?" the gate keeper asked worryingly.
"Oh, they're following after a few minutes. We just made a bet on how a better driver I am at my age than them youngsters," Bohm smiled innocently. "They're giving me an advance... as if it'll change anything."
"Right... Well, be careful, Mr. President. The population's doing a lot of protests nowadays," the keeper warned, opening the gate and letting Bohm drive through.
"With good reasons," Bohm muttered angrily.
Driving past the Columbus cemetery, Bohm thought with both pride and sadness how he was holding up to what he wrote on the note back at his office. He was indeed driving by his parents-in-law, and today would have been indeed the birthday of his mother-in-law.
"Let no one say I'm not honest," Bohm thought bitterly.
Now, he needed to go home and wait for Frances' return. It was time to uncover Randall Redspear and his equally mysterious rat.