where the writers are
Installment 3, Chapter 2 of Moonshine, by Johnny Haslam (unedited material)

 

Chapter 2

 

William Wyckoff witnessed death many times before on the battlefield as a soldier, but he had never witnessed anything quite like this in any war. He had watched many men die – either soldiers under his command, or enemy soldiers his men helped kill. But now, he was forced to watch a woman die – who happened to be the President of the United States – and the only woman he had ever loved.

 

As he helplessly watched Stephanie Roosevelt-Hill die on the floor of the House, the red blood flowed around her head and neck and onto her white blouse. The puddle under her continued to grow larger and larger and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. As Wyckoff looked at her, his mind flashed back to the day he fell in love with her.

 

. . .

 

It was just after he and President Roosevelt-Hill had been involved in a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff early in her first term. It was during Roosevelt-Hill’s first national crisis as President. A canister of sarin nerve gas had been released on a subway train in New York City. One hundred and three people had been killed in the attack, including the terrorist who packaged the gas canister on the bicycle he rode into the subway station. The canister looked like a water bottle that bicyclers attach to one of the bars under the seat on the bicycle.

 

A quick investigation by the FBI discovered the identity of the person who rode the bicycle onto the subway. In less than 24 hours after the attack, it was discovered that the suspected terrorist was in New York on a student visa and he attended the City College of New York. It was believed the young man – only 22 years old – had released the gas as the train stopped at a station just inside Manhattan on the route in from Brooklyn during morning rush hour. Preliminary investigations had shown that the student was a Saudi nationalist, who had recently made a trip to Syria and returned to the United States in time to re-enroll for the spring term at City College of New York.

 

The town in Syria where he visited was also known as a site where several terrorist groups trained. This link to Syria was all Wyckoff and the other Joint Chiefs of Staff members needed to make a hasty decision to retaliate for the terrorist act.

 

In the meeting with the Joint Chiefs, Wyckoff took a hard line on retaliation for the attack and wanted to send a strike force into Syria and destroy any camp where terrorist were training. He was unanimously backed by the Joint Chiefs, but Roosevelt-Hill would not allow it. She knew that the hawks that made up the Joint Chiefs always thought of war as the first option to any problem and she couldn’t help but question the intelligence information which had been gathered hastily overnight during a national emergency. As she listened to the intelligence reports, something made her think back to the way President George W. Bush launched the second invasion of Iraq based on faulty information about weapons of mass destruction that were never found. She was not about to make the same mistake and start another war in the Middle East.

 

Angered by the lack of support from the President, Wyckoff openly criticized her in the meeting. Her lack of action on the terrorist attack made him think she was weak and couldn’t make tough decisions.

 

“I can understand why you know absolutely nothing about war, because you are a woman, and have never served your country, but I cannot understand why you will let the murderers of innocent American citizens go unpunished. You should listen to the advice of these men in this room,” he had almost shouted at her.

 

“I will take your recommendations under advisement,” she told the group, seeming un-phased by the verbal blast from Wyckoff. “But for now, until we get more information that I can trust, I will not order a strike on anyone. Is that clear?” Her voice remained cool and calm.

 

The Joint Chiefs nodded. The frustrated Wyckoff refused to agree.

 

“That’s all gentlemen,” Roosevelt-Hill said, ending the meeting. “Thank you for your time.”

 

The President walked with the men toward the door for a few steps and then stopped. As the men were leaving the Oval Office, she asked Wyckoff to stay. “Mr. Vice-President, can I have a word with you?” She motioned for him to sit in one of the chairs in front of her desk. She then turned to her personal staff members, who were still standing near the center of the office.

 

“I need to speak with the Vice-President alone. Give us the room please”

 

As the staff members followed the Joint Chiefs out of the room, Wyckoff moved to the chair and sat stiffly, still showing disgust from being rebuffed at the meeting. When the others were gone and the office door was closed, President Roosevelt-Hill walked back past the sitting general and stood behind her desk, facing him.

 

“Let’s make one thing perfectly clear, General,” she said, while placing both hands on the top of the large wooden desk, leaning toward him and staring with blazing eyes. “I run this show and I call the shots. The sooner you get on board with that idea, the better off you’ll be. If you ever show me disrespect like that in front of any of my staff again, I’ll drill you a new ass hole big enough to drive an M-1 tank through. Are we clear on that Mr. Vice-President?”

 

Stunned by the tough side of the President he didn’t know existed, Wyckoff could only mutter a “Yes M’am.”

 

“You need to remember one thing and one thing only,” she continued, pointing her right index finger at him. “I am the elected President and I let the party put you on the ticket with me just to appease some of the good ole boys who think they are running the show. I need to work with those policy makers to be effective . . .”

 

“But Madame President . . .” he tried to defend himself.

 

“Shut up Bill,” she snapped back at him. “I’m still talking. You just sit and listen. I could have you resign right now, goddamn it, but I need your help. If you’ll give me a chance, I’ll surprise you. Now get out of here before I change my mind.”

 

“But Madame . . .”

 

“Go,” she yelled at him, pointing at the door.

 

Wyckoff got out of his chair and moved toward the door that looks like part of the oval office wall. He stopped about 10 feet from the door and turned toward the President, who was still standing. He wanted to further try to justify the position he took in the meeting, but he just looked at the woman. At that moment, he realized who was in charge and that his position was tenuous at best.

 

Wyckoff still believed he had taken the correct position on the strike plan against Syria, as did most of the Joint Chiefs, but on the next day, new evidence was uncovered that proved the young man on the bicycle was a pawn in the gas attack. The new evidence showed that the gas canister was opened remotely with an electronic device. It was also discovered that the student had gone to Syria to meet with the parents of his fiancée, who he had planned to marry in six months. He was getting a blessing on the union from the elders of her family. It was only a coincident that the canister had been placed on his bicycle by some of his classmates, who also happened to be terrorists. A routine FBI check on his friends found the real terrorists, who were later caught trying to escape into Canada.

 

After the new evidence was discovered, Wyckoff swallowed his pride and went to see Roosevelt-Hill. She was discussing matters of state with her personal staff when he entered the room.

 

“Madame President,” Wyckoff said as he walked briskly to the president’s desk, nodding hello to the others in the room. “I would like to apologize for my behavior in the meeting with the Joint Chiefs. I was wrong and even if I was right, I did not give you the proper respect that you deserve as the President of the United States.”

 

Stunned by his move, she did manage to dismiss her staff before he could continue with his speech. “May we be excused?” she asked her staff. Her three aids left the room quickly, surprised by the bold move by the Vice-President.

 

“Sit down, Bill,” Roosevelt-Hill said, peering up from other intelligence reports concerning the subway attack.

 

“Thank you, M’am,” he continued.

 

“That’s enough with the M’am stuff,” Roosevelt-Hill told him. “When we’re alone, please, just call me Stephanie.”

 

“Of course Madame . . . I mean Stephanie,” he started talking again, feeling a bit uneasy speaking with the President on such an informal basis. It was against his staunch military code to speak to a superior in this manner. “We may not always agree on government matters – hell, we may not ever agree on anything – but I wanted to let you know that from now on, you will have my full public support on all matters.”

 

“I appreciate that Bill. You are one of the most beloved statesmen and military heroes of this country. I need your help to make this administration work. As a team, we can accomplish great things in our position.”

 

“I believe that now, Stephanie,” he said, feeling more comfortable as the conversation continued. “Since I’ve had time to think about what happened, I realize that your decision took – might I be blunt?”

 

She nodded yes.

 

“That decision took balls – something I didn’t think you had. But I learned a hard lesson, one that I will not have to be taught again.”

 

Roosevelt-Hill flashed a broad smile, showing her perfectly straight, white teeth and almost laughed out loud. “I’m glad you noticed my balls though,” she said. “Most people usually notice my other features.”

 

Wyckoff had never really noticed her smile until that moment. As she laughed at the attempt at a joke, he laughed also, and he began to notice the other parts of the beautiful woman.

 

“I would love to talk more with you Bill,” she said rising from her chair and walking around the corner of the desk, “But I have a meeting with State Department in five minutes and I’m not fully prepped.”

 

“I understand, Stephanie,” he said getting out of his chair.

 

She extended her right hand toward him. He reached out and shook it.

 

“Now I feel like we have a real partnership,” she said, ending the hand shake. “We must talk at least once daily when we are both in the same location. I think when we get to know each other better; we’ll be one helluva team.”

 

“You know, I hope you are right about that. Thank you,” he said and turned to leave the room.

 

As Stephanie Roosevelt-Hill watched him leave, she was thinking about how strong his handshake was.

 

As William Wyckoff walked toward the office door/wall, he was thinking about how soft her skin was.

 

. . .

 

“Sir, we’ve got to get you out of here,” the secret serviceman grabbed Wyckoff by the shoulder and shocked him back to reality.

 

“I need to stay with the President,” Wyckoff shouted, pushing the guard back with his right arm.

 

“Sir, she’s gone. You ARE the President.”