was a hint of the approaching winter in the air as the
smartly dressed woman and her well-tailored
twelve-year-old son walked from their limousine to the
waiting airplane. She paused at the top of the stairway
looking at the early evening lights around them.
father is an idiot for ever wanting to come here. Well,
he got his wish, but you and I are going to head for the
islands for some time in the sun."
Mom, he gets to be the president. Thatís pretty neat,
not the point. Weíve got to live in this horrible
place when we could be back in our own home enjoying our
his motherís hand, the boy said, "Iím getting
cold. Can we go now?"
a final look around, Alice Valentine, wife, mother and
reluctant first lady of the United States, nodded to the
waiting steward and led her son onto the plane. She
acknowledged the captainís greeting with a short,
"What the hell are you doing back here, Sky King?
Letís get this show on the road. Get back up front
where you belong and get us the heck out of this
godforsaken place." She and the boy were led to the
forward section of what would have normally been the
presidentís personal aircraft ("You bet Iím
going to use it," she told the new chief of staff.
"He certainly isnít going anywhere without
sit next to me. Weíll kiss this town good-bye
together. Three weeks in the sun will do us both a world
of good. No school for you and no nothing for me."
are you sure itís okay for me to just leave like this?
I mean itís really cool, but Ö"
you even begin to worry about that," she assured
him. "All your assignments will be sent on.
Besides, your father is the president, after
I was hoping to get to talk to Dad about my school
project," the boy said wistfully.
be plenty of time for that when we get back. Right now,
I want you to put on a happy face, buckle up and get
ready to have some fun."
Viper and Tadpole are on the way."
message crackled in Thomas "Tom Tom"
Hammerís ear. Hammer was the head of the Secret
Serviceís presidential security detail. Heíd been
doing this for twelve years and was still amazed at the
man the "people" had elected to lead them into
the future. Ten months after his swearing in he was
still greeted some mornings by President Michael
Valentineís hearty, "I still canít believe
Iím the president? Can you?" Lately Hammer had
been leaning toward answering, "Me neither. You
lost again? Think a GPS might help?"
presidents found their way around the big house pretty
quickly, but this one had to have an escort for the
first six months before the first lady had had enough.
she scolded Hammer, "knock off the seeing eye bit.
Heíll find his wayósooner or later. And whoís
going to complain? Besides, where can he go? This place
is like living in a prison. Itís fenced in and he
always shows upóeventually. Right? You people are
driving me nuts with the "shadow" bit. So back
off! Thank you very much."
all the inside agents were on double alert. You never
knew when or where the president might pop up and it
wasnít enough to just know where he was, everyone had
to be aware of where he was supposed to be. That way he
could be gently guided toward his true destination.
the president would want to know that his wife and son
were safely on their way, Hammer headed for the Lincoln
Room, where he had left his charge a few minutes
earlier. The "Man" wanted to make sure the
room was perfectly prepared for tonightís guest of
honor. Ms. Dawn OíDay, heíd been told, really wanted
to see this particular room and was overcome with
Hollywood joy when told she could spend the night there.
She was portraying Mary Todd Lincoln in a new-age
off-Broadway show and was convinced that seeing and
sleeping in this particular room would elevate her
acting skills to Tony Award status and win her a gold
everyone, this is Tom Tom. Whereís Shamu?"
I believe he was headed for the Oval Office."
Stan. Did you actually walk him there or just point the
Tom Tom. I walked him to the door and I didóI repeat,
I didósee him go inside."
Iím headed that way now. If he comes out, keep a real
close eye on him. Heís due to greet his guests in
about ten minutes and I need to see him first."
newest president of the United States thanked the Secret
Service agent for the escort and mused out loud (to be
forever captured on the video cameras that recorded for
posterity and possible prosecution every sound and all
the action in the Oval Office) how he never understood
those people who complained about all the attention you
got while serving in high office. "Heck, that was
what made all the campaigning worth the effort."
Mrs. V certainly resented the lack of privacy, but he
enjoyed all these helpful people. It allowed him more
brain space for other things. Besides, he really felt
they must enjoy helping him.
Alice, theyíre always around whenever I need some help
getting somewhere." Like now, for instance. Heíd
checked out the Lincoln Room. It looked perfect to him
and he hoped Ms. OíDay would be impressed. She was his
favorite actress in the whole wide world. Probably
because she was the first real celebrity to endorse him
when he announced his candidacy for the presidency.
Heíd been the vice-presidential candidate and only won
the number one spot on the ticket because Edward
"Big Ed" Washington, caught a coronary on the
eve of the convention. Since "The show must go
on," he was the only logical choice. Ms. OíDay
had never met him or "Big Ed" before and was
just a little confused by all of the excitement.
Throughout that turbulent evening sheíd called him
"Big Ed" so often, heíd accidentally
introduced Alice to the Reverend Jes. B. Goode, as Mrs.
"Big Ed." "Oh well," he sighed,
"sheíd get over itósome day."
the monitoring booth, Special Agent Tabatha Timkins was
keeping a close eye on the screen receiving signals from
the Oval Office. Muttering to herself, "Now what
the hell is he doing?" sheíd watched the leader
of the free world walk into the office and for the last
three minutes all heíd done was stand inside the door
with a huge smile on his face. Moving her left hand to
cover the newly installed "Ring Button," she
kept a wary eye on her smiling leader and at the same
time, the minute hand of the large wall clock in front
of her. Tom Tom had given strict instructions that it
was not to be used unless the man "got stuck"
so to speak, for five continuous minutes. Then and only
then could the small red button be pushed. This caused a
phony telephone signal to chirp in the Oval Office. The
idea was to snap the man out of his reverie and bring
him back to the real world. The chirp came from a hidden
speaker in the room and not any of the operational phone
lines. It had been installed after the ambassador to
France had been kept waiting for twenty minutes while
Valentine had stared and marveled at the wallpaper in
the number one office in the world. That was not the
first time it had happened. Before the chirper was
installed, an agent would be dispatched to gently
interrupt this sojourn to the unknown. But it happened
with such frequency in the Oval Office, Tom Tom decided
the button was the only answer. Usually, one ring would
do the trick. Heíd blinkólook aroundóthen check
the door. The first time, heíd gone round the room
picking up each phone in turn and softly answered,
"Hello, this is the president. Whoís this?"
Now the chirp was supposed to be kept very, very short.
Just enough to wake him but not long enough to sound
like a ringing phone.
Timkins watched the slowly moving minute hand with
rising expectations. She observed it approaching four
minutes. Speaking softly into the microphone in her
headset she keyed the push-to-talk switch. "Tom
Tom? This is Tabby. You there?"
Iím here. Whatís up?"
four minutes and counting."
heís just inside the room. Mentally, Iím not
just hang on. Iím almost there."
goddamn!" she swore.
What? Talk to me girl! All stations! Standby! Come on,
Tabby. Whatís happening?" he shouted as the
adrenaline kicked in.
sugar, Tom Tom. Nothing happened. He just woke up is
woman. You almost gave me a heart attack. Okay,
everybody. Weíre back to normal. False alarm. Agent
Timkins, letís follow procedures, all right? Like the
man said, ĎJust the facts, please.í Okay?"
Tom Tom. Sorry about that."
it. Whatís he doing now?"
at the desk and it looks like heís reading a file of
Iíll be right there. Let me know if he looks like
heís going to leave."
Tabby sighed, "I almost blew that big-time."
But she did get a kick out of pushing the button. The
last time it happened on her watch, sheíd disobeyed
orders and had him running circles around the room.
Lifting one phone after another. What a hoot. The most
powerful man in the world Ö she giggled.
at his desk, the president stared intently at the sealed
folder before him, then quickly looked around to see if
someone was in the room watching him. Seeing no one, he
examined the folder carefully before actually picking it
up. It was a plain manila folder, deep purple with a
burgundy velvet ribbon tied neatly in front. Across the
top, in bright yellow block letters was the
warningóPRESIDENTíS EYES ONLY. He gently put it back
down on the blotter in front of him. He might not be a
genius but even he knew (mainly because everyone from
the interns to his chief of staff kept telling him),
that this kind of file belonged under lock and key. This
looked like a really hot one and for the life of him, he
couldnít remember leaving it laying out here like
this. Iím gonna catch heck for this, he
thought. Maybe I should just leave it alone and go.
As he rose, he was startled by a soft knock on the door.
"One second please," he said worriedly,
sounding like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie
jar. "Okay. Come on in."
Tom ignored the presidentís obvious stuffing the
folder under the desk blotter, instead, greeting him
happily. "Good evening, Mr. President. I just
wanted you to know Mrs. Valentine and Beau are safely on
their way. They took off about five minutes ago."
you, Mr. Claw."
courseóClawhammer. Splendid. Absolutely splendid. Uh,
sir. Iíll be right outside and your guests will be
arriving in about ten minutes. Iíll be happy to escort
you there whenever youíre ready."
Let me finish up here and then weíll go. All
Mr. President." Closing the door behind him, Tom
Tom told the agent outside to be sure and check the
office for unsecured files (especially under the desk
blotter) once he and the president left. He wasnít
worried about the contents per se of the file the man
was hiding. That was none of his business. The man was,
after all, the president. However, President Valentine
did have a habit of leaving things out that should be
secured. Besides, there was a tour for the Hollywood
people after supper and it wouldnít do for anything to
be out of order.
why did I do that?" the president muttered. And to
be on the safe side, he glanced around the room to be
absolutely sure he was alone. Pulling the purple file
folder from its hiding place, he centered it in front of
him while contemplating opening it. Agent Timkins
couldnít stand it any longer. Not waiting for the
required five minutes, she gave the red "go"
button a quick jab. One little chirp, just to get him
back on the job.
jingles, there must be a whole family of crickets in
here. First itís those pesky squirrels on the lawn and
now this. Well, someone is going to have to do something
about these chirpers. I may be the only one who seems to
be able to hear them, but they have got to go. Oh great,
now theyíve got me talking to myself. But thatís
okay. Iím the only one here. Now. What was I doing?
Oh, right. The file. Presidentís Eyes Only. Well,
open the special seal, he gave no more thought as to how
this file came to be on his desk. Instead, he focused on
reading the report. It didnít take long before he was
engrossed in his reading. So much so that he wasnít
aware of Tom Tomís soft knock on the door or that
heíd stepped into the room.
realizing the president was still busy, the security
chief withdrew without a word, taking up a position
outside the office.
stunned president closed the folder and placed both
hands on top of it as if to keep the information from
escaping. As his mind tried to absorb the immensity of
what heíd just read, his fingers attempted to retie
the burgundy ribbon and replace the seal on the folder.
like this? he mused aloud. "No warning? Just here
it is? Why would Ö Who would Ö? Tonight of all
nights. Wait a minute. First off, who put it here? Henry
must know about this, but why just leave it here? Heís
always after me about leaving stuff out. No Ö But who
else? And why not talk to me first? Sweet petunias! Why
Tom? Four minutes and counting. Iím gonna chirp him,
youíre not. Iím right outside the door. Whatís he
hell, the pictureís down again. But he was finished
reading and just muttering to himself and staring at his
donít do anything. Iíll give him a minute before I
bet it was a whole lot simpler when you had the reverse
but after the last presidentís problems, they decided
to take them out. And Iíll tell you. I, for one, am
glad. There are some things I donít want to see my
letís concentrate on the here and now, okay? You have
a picture yet?"
Still blank. When are we going to get some decent stuff
to work with? This is happening all the time now."
I work here, too, you know. I donít raise the
chickens. I just fry the eggs."
is that supposed to mean?"
have to ask my dear departed Aunt Belle for the answer
to that. It was her favorite response to almost
anything. Okay. Enough of this. Iíll go in and then
weíre off to the party."
Hello? Oh Christ. Tabby, where the hell did he go?"
goddammit. Now where is he?"
trying, Iím trying. Jesus, come on you piece of junk.
Okay, okay. I gotcha, you bugger. Iíve got him, Tom
Tom. Heís hot-footing it to his quarters."
But he's moving out at a pretty good clip and I think
heís got something under his shirt. Iíll bet itís
worry about that. Just keep him in sight."
any help there, boss?"
thanks. I think weíve got it. But let me know if he
turns up somewhere without me. And have someone check
out the Oval Office for unsecured files."
just went inside, Tom Tom."
Iím right behind him. Your picture still working,
itís crapped out again."
he swore, trying not to run but worried the man had some
secret agenda and was trying to lose him. He no sooner
arrived at the door to the first familyís personal
quarters than the door flew open and the president came
out in full stride. The two men almost collided and
ended up in each others arms. "Whoa there,
Mr. Claw. Iím ready to go now. Mustnít keep the
guests waiting, you know."
of course it is. Iím sorry Clawhammer. Someday,"
he continued, as they walked down the hall, "you
must tell me how you came to have such an interesting
anytime, Mr. President. But right now, with all the
preparations for the party and all, would you like me to
make sure that all your files are properly
secured?" Heíd mentioned it because while they
were walking to the party, heíd gotten word through
his earpiece that there were no loose papers in the Oval
Office. That meant heíd taken something, probably the
file Tabby saw him reading, to his quarters and more
likely than not, left it lying on the kitchen table. Not
really Hammerís concern, but anything that kept the
house and its occupants operating smoothly made his job
No thank you. Iím sure allís safe and sound. Henry
checks up on me, you know. Iím sure heís got it
under control. He, well he thinks Iím Ö say,"
he stopped suddenly. "Would it be all right for me
to call you by your first name?"
like that, Mr. President. Itís Thomas, although
everyone calls me Tom Tom."
you, Tom Tom." Then with a twinkle in his eye, he
started off again for the reception room, chuckling,
"Tom Tom Clawhammer. Yes sir, I sure would like to
hear that story." And knowing this man hadnít an
ounce of racial bigotry in is bones, Hammer, too, had to
laugh as he finished, "You really donít look like
an Indian to me." Stepping into the open doorway to
greet his guests, he turned to Hammer and whispered,
"If Iím not out in three days, send in the
do, Mr. President. Have a good time," he replied,
as he turned and headed back down the hall.
Iím on my way back. See you in a few minutes."
Passing a large mahogany framed mirror in the ornate
hallway, he paused to check his reflection and he had to
agree with the president. He sure didnít look like an
Indian. Wait until he told his mother this one. Well
maybe not. She could trace her family tree all the way
back to a particular African village and the closest
sheíd ever gotten to a real Native American had been
in the movies, and she might not see the humor in this.