Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 7
But he was now. Arliss had gone through, double and triple checking everything with Bubba’s help.
Including removing a few…roadblocks.
One of whom, it turned out, was on Reverend Hannibal Silo’s payroll.
Was being the key word, since the man had since been mulched and was now forever part of the Potomac River.
It had taken Arliss the better part of two months to methodically replace staff in the White House, the Pentagon, in the halls of Congress, and in his own food chain.
He’d had to be sure, damned sure, of who he was dealing with before this step could take place.
Some of the people he’d had replaced after Bubba discovered things like mysterious irregularities in their bank accounts had since disappeared.
Arliss wondered when Silo would actually start missing some of his contacts, or if he’d assume they fled in the face of a potential Kite pandemic like so many others were doing.
Arliss, who today was dressed in civvie clothes and had arrived early enough that he hoped most of the press had never spotted or recognized him, focused his steady gaze on Marcus.
“So we’re absolutely clear on what’s going to happen tonight?” Arliss asked Marcus.
Marcus nodded. “No matter what, I will stand by Tracy. She was a young woman in a panic about her future. The man who’d seduced her lied to her about who and what he was. She was afraid to raise the baby alone, and wasn’t sure about the psychological condition of the man since he used her the way he had. I love her, and if I could get my hands on the man who’d destroyed her trust, I’d kill him myself, because I’m the first man she’s been able to trust since then.”
That particular man in question was also dead. Although the First Family and First Fiancé didn’t know that. He’d been a little harder to track down, but SOTIF11, a team not even President Kennedy knew about, had been busy little beavers. They’d found the weasel hiding out in Key West, living in a cushy apartment bought with the funds Silo had paid the guy to do the deed several years ago.
The man was now a dissolved chum slick in the Atlantic Ocean.
Silo had paid the guy to seduce Tracy, who was then a freshman in college while her mother was still a Senator. Tracy wasn’t sure how she’d ended up pregnant.
Arliss had a good idea, especially since the guy had insisted on using his own condoms, claiming a latex allergy.
No doubt he’d simply poked holes in all of them and waited for nature to take its course.
As soon as she’d turned up pregnant, he’d literally laughed in her face and told her good luck with keeping the abortion a secret before walking out on her, never to have contact with her again.
Arliss wasn’t sure how Hannibal found out about the abortion. He assumed Silo simply had her tailed round the clock once the guy knew she was pregnant, and accessed the clinic records somehow.
Even though she paid cash for the procedure and used a false name, all Silo had to do was bribe the right office worker to get a list of the patients’ names for the day, track them down, and then figure out which one was Tracy.
Marcus did a good job of looking upset, too.
Marcus knew he damn well better, because only twelve hours earlier, he’d been hanging upside down by his ankles from the top of the inner wall of the Pentagon by a SOTIF team member who had no compunction whatsoever about following orders to drop the dweeb.
While Marcus had hung upside down, Arliss had leaned against the edge of the wall and told him the facts of life. He had two options. Option one, Marcus did what he was currently doing, playing the faithful fiancé in such a way that the American people—nay, the world—would eat it up and long to marry him themselves.
In exchange, not only would Marcus stay alive, but when a Kite vaccine was discovered, he’d automatically get a dose even if the wedding hadn’t happened yet.
As would everyone in his family.
All Marcus had to do was marry Tracy and stay married to her at least until after the election. During that time, he had to do everything in his power to campaign for the President for her re-election. If she won, he had to stay married to Tracy at least until after the next Presidential election, and had to help campaign for whoever President Kennedy’s hand-picked successor was.
And then after, if he wanted to divorce Tracy, he would give up all claims to any property or kids they had, but Arliss assured him he would be provided for. He’d be given a cushy, well-paying job, and a decent home.
Option two… Well, that was pretty obvious to Marcus.
Fortunately, Arliss thought the guy really did want to marry Tracy, even with her admission about the abortion.
Arliss simply needed insurance.
No way would Arliss go into this without insurance. He was not a man to take chances.
And he never bluffed.
Tracy had also been pulled aside, alone, for a little heart-to-heart talk with Arliss. For the duration, she would portray Marcus as her knight in shining armor, white steed, the full bullshit. She would be a perfect, doting wife, would look at him with love and adoration in her eyes, and she’d keep her goddamned mouth shut.
She would also agree with whatever her mom publicly said, even if it didn’t exactly portray her in the most positive light. They had been given a brand new “spiritual advisor” in the way of one Reverend Norman Karsu.
A good, easy-going Methodist preacher of over forty years, whom Arliss had carefully vetted. A widower, the man was honest and had not made a lot of waves or headlines in his career, which had recently ended in retirement. Now he was a “circuit rider,” filling in for vacationing ministers or in churches which didn’t have a permanent preacher.
In other words, perfect to be the new First Reverend. And he hailed from the Kennedys’ home town. They had actually attended his church a few times, but the official story would be, if asked, that the reverend had not sought the spotlight, so they’d tried to protect his privacy.
With the state of the world growing worse by the day, President Kennedy would tell people she wanted the man’s sage advice to help her better serve her constituents.
It didn’t hurt that Reverend Karsu was also a physician, and had run “unapproved” health clinics for low-income and homeless families in his parishes in his “desperation to help his flock.”
Actually, there was nothing illegal or dangerous about the health clinics, he just hadn’t asked his church superiors for permission.
It was all in the spin. It made Karsu look like a maverick angel, a man of the people, a man willing to risk official sanctions by his superiors in the name of helping parishioners.
Something Silo couldn’t claim from his lofty ivory tower. Silo never got his hands dirty. All he did was go on TV, ask for money, and hire people to do the grunt work.
Arliss had more in mind than cushioning the shock of the news about Tracy’s abortion by using the milquetoast minister and the pre-written statement he’d given the man to deliver.
Arliss already had a Secret Service detail set up for Karsu. Starting this afternoon, Karsu would take up residence in the White House as a special advisor to the President. He would help monitor the growing health crisis in the country.
Again, not a feat Silo could manage, because he wasn’t a doctor. The country would gladly overlook the fact that Tracy had an abortion if it meant the President was pulling out all the stops in terms of trying to secure a “cure” for Kite. With Karsu’s sterling record of public health service in his community, word would quickly spread that President Kennedy wasn’t just about trying to protect the Washington elite and power brokers, but was genuinely invested in making sure the common man was looked after as well.
Praise God and pass the ammunition.
Arliss focused on Albert. The man was quick on the uptake and didn’t wait for Arliss to prompt him. “My new mission is work
“You’ve got it.” Arliss studied them all. “I’m serious when I say you all don’t trust anyone unless I’ve specifically told you to trust them.”
He’d made all of them sit through the entirety of the video footage the Drunk Monkeys had taken at the LA clinic before they’d torched it, as well as look at all of the pictures of the corpses left behind from the “project.”
And the photographs and video of the Kite victim they tracked down in Seattle.
The videos of Barstow being bombed.
Pictures and videos of charred victims of Barstow, what few remains there were.
Videos and pictures from euthanized Kite victims at roadblocks.
He’d had to hand President Kennedy a garbage can to puke into, but it was imperative all of them understood how deadly serious he was about making sure the country’s top chain of command was heavily insulated from Silo’s plans.
The Vice-President had also been briefed. Years ago, the man had served under Arliss. Arliss had pulled a few strings within the party to get him appointed as Charlotte’s veep.
Always had to have insurance.
“Silo is trying to take over the country,” Arliss told them. “My job is to stop him. It’s no exaggeration to say I cannot do this without your help. Yes, your family will take somewhat of a PR hit from the screaming meemies on the far right. Ignore those. I’ve already got people placed in key positions who will come to your defense and who will get behind the President and her push to save the country from Kite. That will quickly overshadow any and everything else. The people who insist on harping on the abortion will be drowned out by people telling them to shut up and focus on the real threat—Kite. From this point on, all communications, all e-mails, all phone contacts that do not pertain to government business will be run through me first. Do I make myself clear?”
They all nodded.
“You can use Reverend Karsu as a confessional if you need to unburden yourselves. He’s already been fully briefed about everything. I suspect he’ll have a target painted on his forehead once Charlotte goes on TV tonight, which is another reason he’s getting moved into the White House. I need him here, where we can protect him.”
“How many of Silo’s people did you find on my staff?” Charlotte asked.
“Directly in the White House? Twenty.”
“Oh.” She sounded sick to her stomach. “And you’re sure they’re all gone?”
The latest round of personnel changes had been blamed on the growing Kite epidemic and world events. Arliss had vetted people moved into those vacated positions. They had legitimate knowledge or experience in the areas of expertise required of their new jobs.
And several of them were actually SOTIF team members, making it an even better fit. More people qualified to help protect the First Family.
Whether Silo missed all of the personnel changes once he’d had time to calm down after tonight’s speech and do the math remained to be seen.
“Am I one hundred percent sure?” Arliss asked. “No. I know the people closest to you are clean. That doesn’t mean you can tell them any of what we know. I will reveal the truth about Silo to those who need to know when they need to know it. If we tip our hand too quickly and Silo gets word of it, that could get ugly. He might escalate things. Right now, I think he’s too busy trying to locate his escaped wife and covering his own ass to worry about what’s going on here.”
That was the truth. Bubba had hacked into banking records and found where Mary Silo—or someone using her name—had made a large money transfer into a newly created account just before her disappearance. The evidence they had suggested she was living in the St. Louis area. He had Bubba working on that, but was keeping all of that close to the vest for now, unless the Drunk Monkeys could locate her and bring her in.
Mary Silo would likely be the key to Silo’s ultimate public downfall.
But right now, publicly dealing with the Kite threat was more important. The Drunk Monkeys would be able to rely upon trusted resources at the CDC in Atlanta, now that Arliss had cleaned house there as well.
Two key high-level staffers had suddenly taken “early retirement” to be with their families, courtesy of Arliss flat-out asking how much they were into Silo for and what they needed to make a clean break.
One was now safely in Canada with his family. The other had skedaddled to the UP of Michigan with his.
Both of them, and their families, now had new identities. Other personnel had been replaced with either trusted contacts or SOTIF team members from other teams.
Arliss knew this was a delicate balancing act on his part, but at least he had the upper hand of knowing Silo had plans. As far as he knew, Silo was still completely clueless about how much they had on him and the steps they’d taken so far.
If it was up to Arliss, he’d drop a bunker buster on Silo’s church headquarters in Albuquerque and be done with it but that would make the man a martyr.
It also might trigger a series of events they didn’t want and weren’t prepared to deal with yet. He wouldn’t put it past the slimeball to have a failsafe in place, much as he had to protect himself.
Only Silo’s failsafe might include unleashing more Kite into the world. Arliss couldn’t risk that happening. He also couldn’t risk having the man arrested, because Silo would no doubt have an army of expensive lawyers who’d get him out of jail. Arliss knew he couldn’t risk doing something that would make Silo look like a martyr to his followers, possibly inciting even more crazy terroristic acts in the process.
Arliss needed Silo taken down, humiliated, exposed, his network dismantled, his plans terminated from the inside out, all at once without giving him the opportunity to recover or respond. Preferably once they had a Kite vaccine in place and ready to distribute.
Only once that happened could he implement part two of his plan to get the country back on course. A plan the President couldn’t know about. Especially since she was a major part of the problem.
They needed to get their hands on Mary Silo. Bubba was working on excavating data hacked from the church headquarters. Arliss already had his eyes on Jerald Arbeid, Silo’s right-hand man.
But even more important was their battle against Kite. That had to take precedence over all else.
Because if they couldn’t stop Kite, the world was fucked anyway.
The Secret Service detail now guarding the First Family had been vetted by General Arliss and Bubba. They’d been given orders not to leave the family alone when they were outside of the residence, and no incoming or outgoing calls were allowed today until Arliss returned.
Normally, that kind of impertinence wouldn’t be tolerated.
Except President Kennedy had issued a secret Executive Order giving Arliss that kind of power for the duration of the Kite emergency.
He would return at four o’clock to dine with the First Family and Reverend Karsu in the residence and go over Charlotte’s speech one last time. Arliss, with Bubba’s help, had written it, much to the chagrin of the President’s chief of staff.
Invoking presidential privilege, no one but the President, First Family, Vice-President, Arliss, and Bubba knew the contents of the speech.
Arliss wanted to make sure there was no way in hell Silo could get a jump on him with the speech. He planned on dropping a few figurative bunker busters on Silo’s plans in a way that would hopefully position Charlotte Kennedy to be re-elected President of the United States.
Arliss was with them when they made the walk downstairs from the residence to the East Room where this was going to take place. He caught the eye of the head agent in charge of the preparations tonight, who gave him a nod of his head.
The man was from SOTIF12, yet another secret unit not even the President knew about.
Once everything was ready, Charlotte Kennedy took her place at the podium where she woul
It didn’t matter if she flubbed her lines in the process. The whole point of tonight was to humanize her and the First Family, demonstrate her humility, and endear her to the nation.
Once the light on the cameras went red and the producer signaled to her, she started.
“My fellow Americans. I come to you tonight to give you not only my usual update, but to bare my soul to you before bringing you some well-needed good news for a change. In light of recent events in the world, it’s time for me to admit a few things. Some of them personal, and some of them things that will affect all of you.
“I don’t want anything to be a distraction from my job, which is right now primarily trying to find an answer to Kite, to stop it, to protect our nation and its citizens.
“It’s come to my attention that something happened that, at the time, I was not aware of. Because I have always believed in transparency, I’m going to lay it on the line. My daughter, Tracy, when she was in college, made a decision to engage in what turned out to be a short-lived relationship with someone who lied to her and took advantage of her. Unfortunately, the result of that was an unplanned pregnancy, which she terminated.
“I come to you to tell you this because now that she is preparing to marry Marcus, someone has attempted to blackmail her—and by extension myself—with this information. Marcus is an amazing man who has sworn to stand by Tracy no matter what. My husband, Albert, and I love her and Marcus both and want nothing but happiness for them.
“As a result of all of this, we consulted with our personal and private minister, Reverend Norman Karsu. Over the years we have respected his privacy, knowing that the health care ministry he’s been involved in would not benefit from the…admittedly crazy circus that can be Washington politics.”
TYMBER DALTON SERIES:
Other author's books:
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