by 50K or bust
Would this day be one to remember or one he'd never remember?
The sunrise signaled a fresh start. William Belton didn't notice the rare, beautiful scene outside his bedroom window. He didn’t see the sun as it edged up the mountains and cast a kaleidoscope of colors over the Puget Sound and Seattle; the emerald city on the Pacific. All he saw was the faces of his family in the pictures hanging in the upstairs hallway. Where would they all be after this week, or even today?
The inbox folder in his computer held threats against the upcoming convention and the emails from Homeland Security in Washington DC with more of the same. Nothing eased the pain that began to tighten around his chest
He touched the faces of his children in the pictures and his grandchildren that he loved and did everything he knew how to protect.
Will descended the steps to the main floor and entered the kitchen. He could smell the coffee and bacon frying. The familiar breakfast smell eased the tension that built as he dressed for work.
He moved quietly toward his wife and slid his hands around her stomach.
“Will!” you scared the life out of me,” She twisted in his arms lifting her face for a kiss. “M-MMM Mint and do I smell some PS cologne?” She raised her eyebrows at him. “You just want to make me think about you all day long?”
“What is all this about? I know the World Trade Conference starts this week, but you’ve had big projects like this before. You’ve been tense before,” She squinted at him, “This time I sense something different.” She held him tight but he gently pushed her arms away.
“Thanks for breakfast. I hope I can do it justice.” He sat in his favorite chair, his back to the cabinets where he could see both entrances to the room. Karyn placed the plate of eggs, bacon and toast in front of him and sat next to him with her identical plate before her.
She held her hand to him and bowed her head. Will took her hand said grace and they ate in silence.
“I’m not giving up on this. What’s going on? Will, talk to me. We’ve been through tough times before, now is not the time to get squeamish.” Karyn sipped her coffee then held her knife and fork in her fists against the table, both utensils pointed to the ceiling.
"What makes you think somethings wrong?" He forked the food in his mouth to stave off talking.
"Last night, your kiss this morning. We've been married too long for me to ignore the signs."
Will let the corners of his lips curve up at her mock aggressive stance. His face lost its humor and he swallowed some coffee to give him more time to think of an answer.
“I’m waiting.” She hadn’t moved, her food would get cold if he didn’t speak.
“I am going to ask you to do something and I need you to do it without too many questions.” He held up his hand to stop the response he knew would burst forth. “Please, let me finish. I want you to call the kids and have them meet you for an emergency meeting at the cabin. I don’t want you to let them give you any excuses. I haven’t asked them or you to do anything like this before. I need your assurance that you will do as I ask and go there for the weekend.” He waited for the usual barrage of questions. There was silence. He looked up at her his salt and pepper brows raised in question.
“OK.” Karyn looked at him with the same serious expression he gave her, “I’ll see if Kaitlyn can get an emergency leave and Kyle can arrange his schedule. I’m sure Angie would love to take the kids to the cabin.” She kept her voice even and her eyes never left his. “Will, come clean. I want the whole story. You don’t have to give me details but give me some idea why the urgency and what I should prepare for.” She gripped his clenched fist resting on the table.
“We’ve received notice there is a lot of chatter about possible bomb threats, or series of bombings going to happen sometime this week. No dates, it could be this weekend when everyone is arriving or during the week when everyone is here.” He moved his hand from hers and rubbed his face. He massaged his temples that began to ache and continued, “I can’t talk about the specifics but there may be multiple sites. It’s not known if these are in the same city or across the United States.” He looked at her with all the love and concern he felt. “I want you and the kids safe. I want to go to work and know if something happens, you're safe.”
“What about me? How am I going to know about you? You want me safe? We’ve had thirty-five years together. We’ve had four children, two that were taken to heaven before we even got to know them. I need you. I need to know what to expect if I’m safe. Are you?” She fought to keep the tears from her eyes.
Will saw the moisture gathering and he stood to pull her into his arms. He buried his face in her neck. “I love you more than my own life. I love all my children. I took this job and I have to do what it demands. I can’t leave to go and be “safe” when others will remain risking their lives so others can live.” His voice broke a little and he cleared his throat. “I know where I stand. If I don’t see you again here, I’ll see you in heaven.” He held her tighter and felt her shoulders shake. They stood like that for a long moment until Will finally put some space between them.
“I have to get going before the traffic gets too bad.” He pressed a long kiss to her forehead and she hugged him tight and let him walk away. He picked up his messenger bag, the one she bought him for Christmas last year. He’d laughed and asked if this was supposed to be his man purse. She shrugged, “You carry it around for a while and see how you like having to carry it and everyone else’s stuff.”
“I’ll be praying for you.” She whispered as he opened the door to the garage, “For all of us.”
“Text me when you’re all at the cabin.” He touched her face and forced his feet to go out to the car. She stood in the doorway as he backed out and he knew she would watch until he was out of sight. The drive ahead was the worst he had ever made. The traffic made him edgy. His heart ached for what might happen. He prayed all the way to work for strength, grace and patience for what was ahead.
He passed the entrance to Sea-Tac airport. Cars moved slowly toward the terminal, his own goal, the headquarters of Homeland Security for Seattle. As Deputy Director his job at times was nothing less than a juggler. All the balls in the air and he had to decide which ones to catch that day.
Last week he received notice of chatter. Among all the terrorist cells they had contact with in the United States; they listed a vast number of possible cities as targets for simultaneous attacks. Seattle being the most targeted because of the convention it was to host.
He wondered if today would be the day. It was the Friday before the Convention started. Delegates would be arriving today through Monday, even arriving on Tuesday, the first day of the convention. The children were in school. Most had started the week before Labor Day and this last Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. He noticed the freeway was more congested than usual, vacations over and back to the normal grind.
He pulled up to the security check point and after showing his badge and greeting the attendant by name. He drove to his assigned parking spot see a car parked there. Who would park in the Director’s parking space? He grinned, the thought passed through his mind. A new recruit, nervous about the interview had pulled into the closest space and rushed in not to be late. It could be a carrier thinking he had time as the boss surely wouldn’t be in early. As he made the circle to find a spot he came around the corner of the lane to see his space in the process of being vacated. He pulled to the end of the row and looked toward his space. A man in an Marine uniform pushed another Marine in a wheelchair down the sidewalk and stop at his space. He helped him to stand and swing his body into the passenger seat of the sedan. He pushed the chair to the rear and lifted it into the truck and slammed the lid.
William frowned at the spaces closer to the entrance, clearly marked as handicapped parking. They were filled. The cars were ones he recognized. A little Mercedes owned by his Chief of Staff, Greg Moberg. Next to that was the assistant to the Chief Council’s car and the other side were two other cars he didn’t know the owners.
The young man in uniform got into the sedan and backed out. Will pulled into his now vacant spot. At the front desk he spoke to the officer on duty.
“Do we monitor the parking lot?” Will asked the man who sat stiffly waiting for some unseen blade to appear over his head and whack it off.
“S-S-Sir? Monitor? H-H-How do you mean? We have a s-s-security detail. We’ve never had any thefts.”
“No, what I mean is, there are handicapped parking spaces out front. Right now they have cars driven by “un-handicapped” people parked there.” Will eyed the man and then spaces he could see through the glass.
“S-Sir, those are executives. They park where they want.” His already pale face had become even whiter.
“Never mind, I’ll take care of it myself.” He slapped the high counter lighty and winked at the man who visibly sighed. Will grinned; this would make his day a little better. Not that he liked irritating people he worked with, but some of them had an attitude of privilege that was taken for granted. No matter how often he preached they were here to serve the citizens and the people, some thought they didn’t have to obey the rules others did.
He pushed open his office door and Mrs. Christy Landers, his admin assistant, greeted him. “Christy, I’m typing a memo. I need you to edit and send it out building wide. Toes will be stepped on I’m sure.” He moved to the inner office where he set his bag on the floor beside his desk and signed into his computer. While it loaded and he went back the little office that was Christy’s and a waiting room of sorts. He selected a pod for the coffee maker and set his cup under it to brew.
“What’s the problem? Something I can do for you?” Christy peered over her reading glasses. They were bright pink today to match her blouse. She was nice looking, a grandmother at her young age of fifty and a widow. She and Karyn got along which eased both their minds.
“I've been derelict in my duty. I drive in, park, come inside and pay no attention to what goes on around me.” He popped the pod out and dropped it in the garbage can under the counter. He recounted the events after he arrived. “No more "unhandicapped people in the handicapped spaces."