by Carl L. Biemiller,
edited by C. J. Carnahan and Eric Biemiller

lightning Copyright © 2005 by Eric C. Biemiller

Please respect the copyrights.
The chapter links are located at the end of each chapter.
Chapter 16

They were all staying in a big, rambling frame house on Sixteenth Street, Northwest, which had been converted into apartments. Morris T. Otten had borrowed a vacant one from a tenant who had taken his wife and vanished for a visit to her parents in Iowa.

Emily and Sue shared one bedroom, Woodie and Tinker another, and Dr. Bailiff had one alone although its walls were a tight fit. Senor Rumpel Gomez had a choice of sleeping in the third pullout of a huge chest-of-drawers or the davenport in the living room. He said he would decide when he got sleepy.

The apartment was on the third floor of the house. Congressman ‘Twit’ Otten shared the one beneath it with a companion he had known for years, a man who arranged old bones and other exhibits for the Smithsonian Institution.

They were staying there because all the hotels and motels in Washington, D.C. and for fifty miles in the surrounding countryside were not worth a tinker’s dam. Congressman Otten said so. He did not care about the hotel and motel vote.

“There isn’t a hotel or motel worth a tinker’s dam,” he said.

Sometimes he went into details.

Coach Hubert Rosebrook Porter had gone home to Marterville after the meeting with the President. He had gone home by train and his wife and six children would meet him in his 1965 Dodge at Trenton station for the drive back across the state to Marterville.

Minus Porter had taken a sudden dislike to the city of Washington, D.C. and he would not have cared if the British Army came back and burned it down as it did in the War of 1812. He did not care if the State of New Jersey, ugly, over-populated and lovable, sank into the Atlantic Ocean.

Emily had told him that she did not intend to run on the high school track team anymore.

“Do not count on me for next year,” she said. “I have enjoyed the experience, but I see nothing attractive or fulfilling about being a female athlete in any sport with the possible exception of mountain climbing.”

“What did you want to tell him that for?” demanded Tinker.

“How else would he know?” asked Emily.

“You could have written him a letter in the fall so he could have enjoyed his summer.”

“I’ll confirm it in writing later,” said Emily snootily. “And I’ll thank you to mind your own business.”

“Then stop hanging around me all the time.”

“Consider it ended,” said Emily.

Tinker and Rumpel were staying over but they were going up by train in the morning. Tinker’s father would meet them at Princeton Junction. They would all probably say hello to Woodie’s parents who were taking the southbound train to Washington leaving their car in the lot en route to pick up Woodie. The Kynwood’s planned to spend a day or so sightseeing. Emily and Sue would stay and go up with the Kynwood’s.

Representative Otten and Dr. Bailiff arranged an early dinner for the group at a Chinese restaurant. It had been a long day and an exciting and memorable one. Everyone wanted to go to bed early.

The dinner was fairly exciting too as the hat check girl refused to guard Emily’s hockey stick and Rumpel was noisy because he could not order arroz con pollo, and Tinker challenged Woodie to a duel with the chopsticks.

“What’s the matter with you, Woodie? You seem very low, man. You sulking about something?”

“Just tired, I guess, Tink,” said Woodie.

There is much more to Woodie than most people think,” announced Emily suddenly. “I have this feeling about him.”

“Es muy macho,” said Rump beaming. “All man, man.”

“I said I was tired. What is this?”

Dr. Bailiff looked at Woodie keenly.

“We’ll sleep early. I did say that before, didn’t I? I work hard down on that Hill. I go to bed practically every night real early,” said ‘Twit’ Otten genially.

The waiter brought them a big plateful of fortune cookies with a fruit dessert, little printed slips of paper baked inside the hollow sweet dough that had messages printed on them.

Congressman Otten’s said, “You are a man who goes to bed early.”

Tinker’s said, “You will take a trip soon.”

Emily’s said, “You will know a new lover.”

Sue’s said, “Strangers will bear riches.”

Rumpelstiltskin Gomez’ said, “Get a hair cut.”

It did not amuse Rumpel who read it slowly.

“W’at ees these, som’ kin’ wise guy Cheenaman?”

Dr. Bailiff’s said, “Black is not your color.”

Woodie’s was blank. There was no message at all on his little strip of paper. The silly little fact bothered him. Maybe this was not his day for messages. Or was he getting messages that he could not understand? Or didn’t even recognize as messages?

He thought of the President. What was so special about that one clean mental sequence of waxed floors and blowing curtains? About stairs and a white wall and a huge grandfather’s clock and a white frame house on a sloping hill near a church? Certainly the boy then was the President now … but he wasn’t clear about the boy’s dreams, the odd dreams. There was something in them of trumpets, of jewels, of furred robes, of scarlet uniforms and massed voices singing.a ceremony.

“Come on, Woodie,” said Tinker. “Saddle up, man. We’re moving.”

Dr. Bailiff asked Woodie into his bedroom when they got back to the apartment. Emily and Sue made their ‘good-nights’ and vanished. Tinker and Rump disappeared into the bedroom that Woodie would share with Tink. Rump had decided to bunk on the davenport. He wanted Tinker’s best judgment on whether to sleep in his skivvies or bust out new pajamas bought for the trip, and if the latter, where to put the pins.

Woodie was blunt, and surprisingly unpleasant.

“I felt sort of dirty,” he said. “Why didn’t you read him yourself?”

“I did. I have in the past. Ask no more questions about that now. Only know, as you do, that it was important for you to try and, perhaps, see that denied others to see. What did you see?”

Woodie was tired. He felt confused, angry and somehow sad.

“I think you’d better read me, Dr. Bailff.”

There was confusion in the morning, which did not seem to surprise anyone. There is confusion every morning. It comes with awakening, particularly in a strange place where nobody can find dishes, and breakfast food, and there isn’t any milk and who needs instant coffee.

One of the congressman Otten’s office staff showed up to take Tinker and Rumpel to the train station and was glad he wasn’t taking them to the airport. Emily and Sue were staying over to go sightseeing with Woodie and his parents, and also because it seemed that one of Representative Otten’s public relations men had a Washington Post sports writer coming by to do a special piece on Emily.

“Nobody tells me anything,” said Woodie.

“Don’t be grumpy,” said Emily.

“All arranged by telephone,” said ‘Twit’ Otten handsomely looking as though he deserved congratulations for inventing the telephone.

“We can go to the FBI and get fingerprinted and shoot a machine gun maybe,” said Sue hopefully.”

“I’ll be with you part of the day,” said Dr. Bailiff. “Some people I have to see later.”

“What time are my folks due in?” asked Woodie. “And where are they going to stay?”

“Before lunch and here,” said Congressman Otten. “Everything laid on everywhere. And you can see the House in session from the visitor’s gallery this afternoon. Lawmakers making law.”

They noodled away the morning. Congressman Otten retreated to his own apartment and the telephone. Dr. Bailiff found a similar instrument and settled in with it.

“Woodie, I’m glad we’re here together,” said Emily. “It gives us a chance to talk about life.”

“Did you talk about life with Tinker?”


“What did he think about it?”

“He never said, directly. I’m guessing for him it was only one sports season after another. He paid more attention to the fields than he did to me even after I bopped him with the hockey stick.”

“Emily, you are a kook.”

“I’m growing up, and it ain’t easy.”

Woodie felt very comfortable with Emily.

“I guess you’re doing ok at it,” he said.

The sports writer from the Washington Post showed up. He was old. He had a girl’s name. Emily liked him. He let her do most of the talking and he wouldn’t even listen when Congressman Otten’s public relations man tried to say something. He also thanked Emily when he left.

“Thank you, miss,” he said. “The news of your retirement is big news, indeed.” He grinned. “I’ve got a notion that you already know that you don’t have to run to stay in first place in any league.” He winked at Woodie who had been silent through the interview. “I’m told you run the 440 pretty well. That’s good, son. And you look like a winner too. Goodbye.”

“He’s one of the best sports writers in the country,” said Congressman Otten’s public relations man moments later.

“Do you know any FBI men?” asked Sue.

“This is no time for anybody in Washington to know any FBI men,” said the PR man gravely. “See you later,” he added. “I’ll leave the keys to my station wagon with the boss and take a cab down to the hill.”

They picked up Ballard Kynwood Senior and his wife Connie at Union Station just before noon. Ballard Senior was enthusiastic about the train ride. “Great, great. First time I’ve been on a train for years. This fool country is going to be sorry someday that it sold its soul to automobiles and let its trains rot. And that day is almost upon us.”

“You are righter than you know,” said Congressman Otten.

The Kynwood’s were also enthusiastic about their son.

“Hello, Woodie …the President and everything, eh?”

“Hi, Dad. Yes sir.”

“Did you sleep well, dear? You look tired. Are you tired?” asked his mother.

“Fine. No. And you both know Emily and Sue don’t you?”

“We do now,” said his mother.

“Ballard. Connie,” said Dr. Bailiff. He peered down the length of the station. “Place is full of a million ghosts,” he rumbled. “And I have an idea that they’ll all come back to life and mess the whole thing up again any day now.”

“One or two to tote the bags wouldn’t be bad,” said Woodie Senior.

They had lunch at a tourist restaurant down by the river. On the way to it they passed the curving cliffs of a huge apartment complex.

“Watergate,” said Representative Otten glumly.

Much of Washington is still lovely in the spring. Trees leaf early and there are glimpses of flowerbeds. Even the massive concrete and brick ugliness of government buildings is softened by sunlight. The streets were crowded with people, many of them tourists, but even the pleasure seekers seemed sullen, restless and disappointed, and just a bit angry with themselves for being so.

“What a beautiful day,” said Connie Kynwood. “It’s nice to be away from Marterville for a change.”

“They all walk weighted,” muttered Woodie Junior.

“They do. They do indeed,” agreed Congressman Otten softly and surprisingly.

Emily and Sue sat silently prim. Their eyes were busy. They didn’t miss much.

Woodie missed something, however. He missed Emily’s hockey stick.

“Where’s the bat?” he asked.

“Back in the bathroom,” said Emily with dignity.

“Maybe you need it more there than here at that,” said Woodie.

“What are you talking about?” asked his mother.

“Life,” said Woodie morosely.

After lunch which Dr. Bailiff paid for because he claimed that a sufficiency of crab cakes always made him feel giving, they went down to the Hill and Congressman Otten’s office. Morris T. Otten was a different man in his suite of offices than he was when not in them.

“I have just a few things to do,” he said.

He delegated a staff member to take Mrs. Kynwood, Sue and Emily for a short touristy stroll around the House, and asked the men to remain with him.

“It’s the sort of thing that infuriates women,” he explained cryptically to Connie Kynwood.

“Right,” said Emily.

Congressman Otten did not look like a rumpled, blue-eyed country boy in the privacy of his own office. He was keen and to the point.

“Woodie,” he said. “You know that Beetle and I are old friends and medical associates. He’s told me quite a bit about the work you’re doing with him and a lot about your own ESP gifts.

“You met the President yesterday. Maybe that’s all you did, maybe not. I haven’t asked the Beetle. Tell me what you want to tell me about what you think of him. Forget that you met the President. He’s that, all right. He’s man too, a human being, if not, perhaps, a garden type.”

Woodie looked at his father who was looking at Congressman Otten with the moody stare of a man about to swing a fist at his elected Representative’s jaw.

Dr. Bailiff was more placid. He was nonetheless operative. He spoke aloud.

“It would be permitted to read,” he said.

There was a single theme in Morris T. Otten’s mind, and Woodie understood it perfectly, although, until now, he had never shaped a thought of his own concerning it.

Something was going on in Washington that could destroy the country and the way people lived in it. The spirit and the letter of the law had been scorned at the highest levels of government. In the end, it could crush the rule of law on which the American system of doing things rests. And it had already diseased the presidency of the United States and challenged the Constitution of the United States.

Congressman Otten believed with all his heart that without law, and respect for law, the worst in man would conquer the best in man and the United States just might as well be given to beasts.

He was not asking Woodie an idle question. He was not asking any question for selfish reasons.

“I can’t tell you exactly what I think of the President.” Said Woodie softly. “I know he is so secret that he hides from himself that he wants to do good for everyone, but only if he decides what is good for everyone. I know that he remembers a wonderful secret hideyhole that he once loved, and still does. It was part of him as a boy. And I know, but I don’t have the words to explain it, that somewhere in his brain something screams all the time.”

There was a long quiet in Congressman Otten’s office.

Dr. Bailiff’s voice was soft but it sounded as though it had come from a distance.

“Dr. Otten, if I may remind you of a forgotten career, there is a medical description which might fit some of the facts.”

“Paranoia, but I’m not going to say it flat out without a more intimate study of the patient.”

“I’m going to say something flat out,” said Ballard Kynwood Senior. “The ESP stuff stops now. And Woodie, it’s been a long, long time, but when we get home I am going to consider whaling your backside. Not for the President of the United States, whose mind you obviously read. But for me, for disrespect for authority, for bad manners and for what I consider to be common thievery in my own son.”

No one had to read Ballard Kynwood Senior’s mind. He spoke it.

“Okay, Dad,” said Woodie Junior, and there was pride in his voice. “But it’s too late.”

“Maybe,” said Ballard Senior. “But a man does his job or he walks away from it less than a man …”

“You might have to learn what that job is all over again,” said Dr. Bailiff.

“Possible, but right now the President isn’t the only man in town with something screaming in his head.”

Ballard Kynwood Senior was a person of dimension.

So was Congressman Otten. He nodded in recognition of Woodie Senior’s moral stature. It did not stop him from plowing on about his own business.

“Any other impressions you can give us about the meeting with the President, Woodie?” he asked.

“The two men who met the President when he left the room …”

“The President’s top administrative aides …Yes. I know them. They hold nearly as much power as the President himself in this town,” said Congressman Otten.

“What about them, Woodie?” asked Dr. Bailiff.

“Well, when they looked at me ... even when they came into the room … my ring prickled.”

“I understand,” said Dr. Bailiff.

“I don’t,” said Woodie’s father.

“Nor I,” added Congressman Otten.

Dr. Bailiff explained.

Congressman Otten said a graffiti.

“If that pair suspected anything, who knows what they’d do,” he added.

“And especially with the force of the black,” murmured Dr. Bailiff.

Ballard Kynwood Senior said a graffiti.

“It is the seventh decade of the Twentieth Century,” he continued. “This is not a cave full of baby’s blood, chicken guts, candles, crystal balls and the Devil disguised as a goat.” He said another graffiti.

“Kynwood,” said Congressman Otten, and his baby-blue eyes flashed fire. “You mess around this town in these times, and you’ll know that the Devil doesn’t care what year it is.

“Let’s get out of here. I want Woodie’s impressions of the House in session.”

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Chapter Twenty Three Chapter Twenty Four Chapter Twenty Five Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven Chapter Twenty Eight Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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