The world was just learning that a new president had been elected in France. FOX commentators offered the news gravely, mirroring a corporate media that felt it crucial to mention President-elect François Hollande was a socialist, as if that was an accusation. A social resurgence was taking hold across Europe, enlivened as more and more people learned the truth behind the financial crisis, and that ordinary people were being burdened with the results of predatory debt schemes or the ever-growing military budgets spurred by a global arms industry that drew a tighter and tighter control around governments and politicians.
In Chicago the media was qui ck to blame the protesters for the security insanity beginning to strangle the city. They never once questioned the unprecedented security apparatus that insulated and hid heads of state and their military servants from any oversight or redress by their constituents. Like the Ponce brothers, whose father Phil was an icon in Chicago journalism, who on the WLS Sunday radio show merely accepted the security measures that even kept a so-called free press at bay. Blamed were the protesters who demanded democratic transparency, which was an absolute travesty. Perverted in such a way, it was easy for men like Angelo to lose sight of the truest stakes.
Angelo didn’t recognize the two men with Tom Koffer. He recognized the other man, staring grimly out at the cityscape below. Her was Congressman Joe Rand, the firebrand Republican from the northern suburbs. He was dressed in a plain brown leather coat over a white broadcloth dress shirt. And faded jeans pressed neatly to a crease. He looked back with decided disinterest as Angelo entered. He was as far from the others as possible, the expression telling, as if he’d just taken some distasteful medicine. Koffer made no effort to introduce or identify him at all.
They met in a corner conference room overlooking the city, still bejeweled despite the overcast. The fast-moving mist condensed in drops against the floor to ceiling windows and ran in crooked rivulets. It was conspiratorially dark, but for a couple of recessed lights. Congressman’s severe expression was reflected against the dark skyline. Angelo stood at the end of a long smoothly polished oak conference table, opposite the others.
The others carried themselves like men with a professional military background. They were a team, of that much he could be sure, a very specialized sort of team. Both were reserved and severe and kept silent but for the basic courtesies each man shook Angelo’s hand. There were no formal introductions. There was no need. It was necessary, Angelo gathered, that each man recognize one another, for what he hadn’t figured out yet.
“This is the rest of your team,” said Koffer. “They will be a part of the security for the summit, and will be placed for the final implementation of the plan.”
The two men barely nodded, and remained silent. Koffer pulled a plain white envelope from his pocket and slid it along the table. Angelo caught it at the last instant, stopping it with his fingertips at the edge of the table. He looked at it there without picking it up, as if he could decide not to open it and walk away from the whole affair.
“Your final instructions,” said Koffer. “I’d appreciate if you read them and then pass the letter back. There is a card with an address inside keep that, you’ll need it.”
Angelo took a deep breath and opened the envelope. From the letter inside an index card slipped and fell on the table. It only showed a printed suburban Berwyn address. Angelo opened the letter and read it carefully.. he breathed out deeply, gave a nod and pushed the letter back across the table.
“All three attributed to the target?” Angelo asked.
“Yes, all of them to the same god-damned target!” Rand snapped. “Do you have to be led by the fucking hand?”
The two other men shared a knowing look. Unchecked emotion was a deadly variable. Angelo pursed his lips and looked to Koffer.
“Relax, Joe, said koffer as the congressman turned away again.. “Better we not have any margin for error.”
Rand started to say something, but thought better of it. He rubbed the tension from his brow.
“Registration will be a problem,” Angelo noted.
“It has all been taken care of,” Koffer looked to Rand for a confirmation. “The address on the card is a dealership. They have three vehicles. Koffer lifted a small black backpack and pushed it across the table to Angelo. At the window Rand seemed ready to jump out of his skin. “Twenty-five thousand in cash. In the target’s email account you will find a south side contact who will have everything you need.”
“The trick will be establishing him in all those places,” said Angelo, already thinking through possibilities.
Koffer’s lips thinned, as close to a smile as he could come. “That’s why you were chosen.”
“You’d better be as good as they say,” Rand turned and leaned heavily on the table. “I have invested far too much in this, my life, my reputation. Europe is coming apart at the seams and these punks are taking to the street worldwide, upsetting the balance of things and the way the world ought to be run. The world runs on money, white money, and some communists in the streets think they can change all that? There’s a hierarchy in the world. There’s a reason it is there. We are drawing a line in the sand right here in Chicago to stop this shit once and for all, and in front of the whole world. My hands are clean on this. I’ve covered my tracks, so if this fails, its your asses, and I will bring the full weight of my office down on you.”
Angelo stepped out onto the street and drew in a breath of fresh air. He weighed the pack in one hand then slung it across his shoulder. Up to now there were chances to quit, to walk away from all of this, but he had slipped down that proverbial hill, and now there was nowhere to stop, no turning back, at least that’s how it looked from his ever-narrowing perspective. There was only the bottom and how hard he would land.
Just up the street, two navy recruits on a weekend pass from Great Lakes rounded the corner, arm in arm with their dates. They looked so young and almost innocent in their dark blue uniforms and bright white covers. He recalled his pride when he’d finished basic training, following in a family tradition of service back the First World War. Was he still living up to that legacy, he wondered? He’d pledged to defend the nation from all enemies foreign and domestic, but Angelo could no longer tell if he was the enemy or the defender. He was loyal to the mission, as he’d been taught, but had the mission gone so astray that he could no longer tell right from wrong, patriotism from treason? The thoughts felt dangerous and he shook them away, and in stead thought of the money once again.