Not Without My Children
“Mr. Vice President! Madame Vice President! We need to go! Now!”
Richard Deming, Vice President of the United States, shielded his eyes against the sudden blazing light in his elegant Queen Anne bedroom. Secret Service agents were boiling into the room, guns drawn, taking defensive positions with rapid efficiency. He could hear the whine and whir of a landed helicopter keeping its blades spun up. His wife Beth pulled up the blankets to shield her body, squinting against the light. There was no need. The agents weren’t looking at her, but outward toward any possible threat.
“What’s happening?” Richard asked, scrambling out of bed and reaching for his boxers.
“Plane crashes. FAA is reporting six so far. Most near or at major airports, but one went down in Iowa. DoD has declared Washington restricted airspace and they’re scrambling fighters.”
“Shit!” Another goddamn 9/11! Awkwardly stumbling into his boxers, Richard grabbed some sweats from his wife’s bureau drawer and had them in his fists, when he froze. The agents upstairs were still calling the names of his children.
He tossed the sweats to Beth, feeling a mounting sense of worry.
“Are there any planes headed this way? How much time have we got?”
“Sir, one of your detail is also missing. Your evacuation is a top priority.”
“Leroy? He just left?”
“We found his clothes and weapon in a pile at his post.”
“Why aren’t the children answering?” Beth said worriedly as she squirmed into the sweatshirt.
“I’ll find out,” Richard said, jogging out of the bedroom, a pair of agents automatically forming up on him. He spotted a couple agents in the living room, crouched around what had to be Jenkins’ suit. On impulse, he sprinted over to it and bent down, reaching for the jacket. His hand froze.
The agents had rifled through the abandoned clothes and DragonSkin bulletproof vest, but it was still apparent that the suit had been found still buttoned up. As if Jenkins hand stripped out of it, then took the time to put it all back together again, including the top button of his shirt and his tie, all in place. But that was impossible. The agents patrolled.
“James! Emilie! Aisha!” An agent’s voice from upstairs.
“He won’t be needing this,” Richard said, finishing his reach under the jacket to pull the gun from Jenkins’ shoulder holster. In the back of his mind, Richard knew he looked ridiculous packing a Desert Eagle in his boxers with his paunch hanging out, and that the agents were all better shots than him. But it still felt better to have a gun in his hand. Keeping his finger outside the trigger-guard, he bounded up the stairs. By now Beth had emerged from the bedroom, and turned to run alongside him, her own pair of agents giving cover.
“Get to the helicopter!” he said.
“No!” Richard knew there was no point in arguing with her, especially when she was right. Beth’s blue eyes landed on the gun, and her eyebrow twitched upward with a hint of mischief. “I’ll get the baby.” He flashed her a brief smile, then hurried into James’ bedroom. The boy was nowhere to be found. His closet was already opened. His bed was empty, but the covers weren’t thrown back.
“Emilie! James! Aisha!” he called out sternly, with a creeping fear in his voice. “Now is no time to play hide and--!” He was cut off by his wife’s scream.
Richard turned back and ran to her side, his dutiful agents in tow. Beth stood by the crib, her face pale as death. Richard stepped up beside her, fearing what he would see. It was almost a relief to see the crib empty. No blood, no horribly mutilated child…but the crib wasn’t empty. Beth had pulled back the little quilted blanket. Rickie Junior’s knit cap was there, as were the matching knit booties. Between them was the diaper, still taped closed.
He exchanged a look of baffled horror with Beth. Then he reached in and pulled up the waistband of the diaper, looking inside for something…anything. It wasn’t even soiled. Beth looked over at the baby monitor. Its green LED was lit and cruelly steady, like a treacherous guard saluting crisply in front of a looted treasury.
Richard turned and ran to the next nearest bedroom, Aisha’s. Yanking back her blankets, he found her little nightgown crumpled onto the sheets, one sleeve draped over the stuffed unicorn she never went anywhere without. He reached out to touch the indentation on her pillow where her head should have been with trembling fingers.
“Oh, God, no…” Richard spun and ran back out into the hall. Beth emerged from Emilie’s room, flashing him a look of terror. By unspoken agreement, they ran into James’ room, Richard stalling just long enough to let Beth through the door first. She pulled back the blankets, then turned and threw her arms around her husband, burying her face in his shoulder.
Agents downstairs were still calling the children’s names, but the sounds of systematic ransacking were subsiding as the agents searched the last few possible hiding places.
“Sir…we have to go now.”
Richard whirled on the agent.
“WE ARE NOT! LEAVING THIS HOUSE! WITHOUT OUR CHILDREN!”
The agent consulted his earpiece.
“Sir, we’ve searched the house and the grounds completely.”
“SEARCH AGAIN!” Beth cried.
“Ma’am, we have to get you and your husband to a secure location.”
“Why? I’m just the fucking understudy!” Richard snapped. “If any of our children get away from whoever’s got them, they’re going to try to get here. And by God, their mother and father are going to be here waiting for them.”
“Sir…President Huckabee is missing as well. His entire family…” Richard stared into dark glasses for several pounding heartbeats. The gun in his hand snapped up to point its .50 cal. muzzle in the agent’s face. “Mr. Vice President—“
“The best goddamn security force on the planet,” Richard said in a low, deadly tone. “On the fucking planet! Now, I want you to tell me how in the hell someone can just waltz in here and steal my children out of their beds—out of their goddamn clothes for Christ’s sake!—and not one of you guys hears or sees or does a goddamn thing! What is this, a coup d’ etat? Hell, they even took one of your own guys for bonus points! Do you seriously expect me to believe that shit?”
“Mr. Vice President,” the agent said with a level of calm Richard would have admired under any other circumstances, “We don’t know any more than you do. That’s why we need to get you and Mrs. Deming to a secure location—“
“Secure location? THIS is supposed to be a fucking ‘secure location!’ Here’s the deal: You tell me what. The fuck. You people have done with my children. Or I blow your brains out, and then ask him" Richard said, jerking his head to indicate the detail's second in command, "what the fuck you guys have done WITH OUR CHILDREN!”
“Mr. Vice President, lower your weapon!” another agent said. They were clearly reluctant to make a move against the man they had sworn to protect, but they also had procedures in place for dealing with a charge who became mentally unstable and dangerous.
“You lower your goddamn weapons! Or use them. There’s two things I will not stand for: One is some banana-republic coup d’etat in my country. The other is anyone on this green Earth threatening my family, for any reason, what-so-fucking-ever.”
The phone rang.
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