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 26

Woodie was uneasy. He was uneasy from the time they stepped into the lobby of the Carlton and headed for the large room off to the right where Rembrantdt Rutherford Robert’s dinner was to be held. Worse, his ring prickled his finger, but no matter how he swiveled his head and looked about he could find no focus for his uneasiness. He told Dr. Bailiff about his ring, softly so that Emily could not hear him. Dr. Bailiff only nodded but his amethyst eyes glinted. He touched Dr. Bailiff with his mind and felt the alertness and the acknowledgement of his touch. He felt Dr. Bailiff return his visit with instructions.

“Read the President, Woodie. Do it quickly, and hard, and then leave him. Meanwhile be careful, very careful.”

Congressman Otten met them at the entrance of the meeting room. He had their tickets, which waiters would pick up at the dinner table. He led them into the room.

There was a receiving line headed by Mr. Roberts and some members of the dinner committee to greet and welcome the guests. Mr. Roberts remembered Emily with delight. He remembered Woodie. He was delighted to see Dr. Bailiff whom he called Beetle.

“So good to have you here. My, my, my yes. Visit around. Enjoy yourselves. Many fine friends here, many important friends, many heroes of sport. Yes, yes, yes,” said Mr. Roberts, and his face shined.

There were some important people present. Congressman Otten moved them around the room as it filled with arriving guests and introduced them to some.

They met the new Vice President of the United States who once played football for Michigan and now skied a lot. They met the coach of the Washington Redskins football team. They met John Brodie of the San Francisco 49’ers football team. John Brodie was playing his last season after seventeen years with the 49’ers at quarterback. He was glad that Woodie played quarterback. They met some tennis players and some professional golfers. Congressman Otten introduced them to some other members of Congress, and to some Whitehouse staff people. They met the catcher of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, and two Olympic swimmers who looked as young as Woodie and Emily. They also met a member of a Chinese ping-pong team that Mr. Roberts had invited to the country for some reason, which was not clear to the player, although whatever, it was all right with Chairman Mao as long as Mr. Roberts paid the individual’s expenses.

Emily and Woodie were impressed, but Woodie’s unease did not leave him. His ring still prickled.

It stayed with him as they ate dinner, which was cream of okra soup, breast of chicken on ham with baby peas and mushrooms, and ice cream ring with almonds for dessert.

Woodie and Emily sat with Congressman Otten, Dr. Bailiff, two tennis players and a golfer at a round table.

Rembrandt R. Roberts sat at a raised platform with twenty members of the dinner committee and waved his fork at friends.

The dinner ended and the speeches began. All of the speakers said what a wonderful job Rembrandt Rutherford Roberts had done for the muscle tone of the country, and how his work would endure.

Woodie noticed the appearance of two TV camera crews working hand-held equipment at either end of the speakers’ platform. He also noticed that the corners of the big room each held some hardened men who turned their heads around like owls. More of them seemed to be seeping in through the big French doors, which led to the hotel lobby.

“Secret Service people,” whispered Congressman Otten. “They don’t like the President going out at night especially in the capital of the United States where the streets aren’t safe.”

Rembrandt Rutherford Roberts got up to say thanks to all the speakers. Then he said he would ask just a few of his particular friends to stand and take a bow. Surprisingly enough one of his particular friends turned out to be Emily. Another turned out to be Dr. Bailiff. And still another was Congressmen Otten.

“This table is getting a lot of attention,” muttered Congressman Otten.

“Isn’t it?” said Dr. Bailiff. “You could say that somebody wanted it noticed.”

Emily was excited.

“Woodie, this is a big night,” she said.

Then Rembrandt R. Roberts held his arms high for silence. When he got it, and the big room hushed, he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States…”

And in through the French doors and up on the platform to join Rembrandt R. Roberts moved the President. He was smiling and jolly and much pleased with the crashing applause, which greeted him.

The President was fond of athletes and he spoke to them as one champion to another. And wisely he did not speak long. He finished by saying what a wonderful job Rembrandt Rutherford Roberts had done for the muscle tone of the country, and that R.R. Roberts had done this job because he was a fighter, and that he, the President of the United States was a fighter too.

Rembrandt R. Roberts then led the President from the platform to start another receiving line, only this one led to the lobby, so the President could speak personally to all the great athletes as Rembrandt introduced them to the President for their good-nights.

Woodie got in the line behind Emily and Dr. Bailiff lined up behind him with Congressman Otten behind him.

The President remembered Emily. He smiled and was gracious.

“My dear,” he said. “I’m so glad to see you again and to wish you well.”

“I still have my medal, Mr. President,” said Emily. “And I still keep it in my secret place.”

Woodie surged into the President’s mind.

And there was the grandfather’s clock, and the white frame house on the hill and the nearby church. And there was the carved panel in the pedestal of the clock that lifted out, that lifted out … And there was war in the Middle East, and the energy crisis…And there was Watergate and arrogance and determination…And there was a convolution of tunnels and separate shelves and a thousand traps set for enemies…And the vaulting ambitions.

“Ballard,” said the President, “It’s nice to see you again too, young man. I understand you are playing football and that your team is doing very well.

“Thank you, Mr. President,” said Woodie and moved on.

Emily seemed to be moving much faster.

Two hard-eyed men blocked Woodie’s efforts to reach her.

“Excuse me,” said Woodie politely.

The men moved ever so slightly still blocking his passage.

Dr. Bailiff moved up to join him, saw the situation, and without further courtesy, leaned into the two men and popped a passage for both of them.

There was a cry in Woodie’s head. Emily was pleading for help. She was struggling. Her plea was loud and clear although no voice was raised as Woodie plunged into the lobby.

He could barely see Emily’s tiny form far across the floor. Two men held it locked between them and they were about to leave the hotel with her.

He could see but he could not move with any haste. The dinner crowd milling about prevented that. And the little maroon uniformed doorman was holding the street door open for the two men with Emily pinned between them.

A driveway ran before that door. Woodie knew that a car would be waiting to take Emily and the men away, rapidly, easily and without fuss.

He stopped in his tracks. A glimpse of the wastebasket in Dr. Bailiff’s office flashed into his mind. He threw a surge of power across the lobby.

An immense gout of flames and smoke flared in the doorway. It looked like a crimson explosion. It drove the two men back into the lobby. They threw their arms over their faces to protect them from the flames and the heat, which lanced over them and into the people milling about awaiting a chance to move leisurely into the street.

Emily ducked and ran. She fought her way back to the big dining room. Woodie met her and wrapped his arms around her.

There were shouts all over the Carlton lobby. There was great confusion and screams.

A TV cameraman lugging his hand-held equipment made pictures of the burning doorway.

Then there was no flame. A chill wind blew in through the open door. There was no sign of a fire anywhere.

The President was still in the dining room shaking hands and saying goodnights to Rembrandt Rutherford Robert’s guests. He was unaware of any disturbance in the lobby. The shouts and screams were momentary. And they had turned into a stunned silence.

“What happened to the fire?” asked an elderly lady who had once espoused the cause of female athletics in the days of the first bloomers.

She went unanswered. No one who had seen the flames wanted to see them again, if they had seen them in the first place, which seemed doubtful.

Congressman Otten had seen the flames. Dr. Bailiff had seen them. He had seen similar ones. He got Emily’ blue coat from the checkroom. The four of them walked across the street to the Statler Hotel, and to Dr. Bailiff’s room.

Emily was steady as a rock.

“I may fall apart later,” she said.

The two men had been in the line ahead of her. If she noticed them at all she thought they were two football players who had shaken the President’s hand. Anyhow, she was busy having her own hand shaken. The two men had simply grabbed her and hustled across the lobby to the door. She could not move. They were strong. She was frightened, very frightened. She knew the men were cold and evil. One of them had closed his hand over her face and numbed it so she could not speak or cry out.

“You did though,” said Woodie soberly.

“Yes, I did,” said Emily simply. “And I knew you heard me. Then there were the flames and I heard the men scream with pain. But the flames were only pictures and they didn’t hurt me, and I knew that they wouldn’t.”

“I know,” said Woodie.

“But they hurt the men, and then I ran back to find you.”

Congressman Otten who remembered that he once studied medicine and brain phenomena looked at Dr. Bailiff.

“Yes,” said Dr. Bailiff.

“This was planned,” said Congressman Otten. “But why Emily and not Woodie?”

“Only the power was recognized, but not the person who used it. Somehow it was spotted on the first trip the kids made down here, but it was Emily who got the publicity in Marterville. And the implication was that she owned the wild talent,” said Dr. Bailiff. “Hence, take Emily.”

“There was a previous example in Marterville that you don’t know too much about, the Dr. Finn Stanton incident. But I think that may have been a freak confrontation…maybe like the way the gunfighters in the Old West challenged each other for superiority. I don’t know. But this thing tonight was organized.”

“But who?” asked Representative Otten. “Certainly not the President.”

“Perhaps not, but the President may have allies that he does not know or would not accept if he did know because he could not direct them. But certainly no psychic protectors want him exposed to other psychic powers that might work against him. He would reveal too much…The black defends its own against the white.”

“Which reminds me,” asked Congressman Otten.

“Yes, what did you learn, Woodie?”

Woodie looked at Emily.

“I know you’re a weirdo, Woodie Kynwood,” said Emily steadily. “I saw you do the baby, you know. You did the fire also, Woodie. You read other people’s minds too, don’t you, Woodie? What else do you do, Woodie Kynwood?”

“Oh, shut up, Emily,” he said.

“Well, read mine then, Woodie.”

“I’m not interested, but if I did….”

“You don’t care if I have horrible experiences, do you? Say you don’t care, Woodie, if I’m upset.”

“Okay, I don’t care,” said Woodie.

“Oh, yes you do. I know.”

“Well, I don’t anything,” said Congressman Otten. “What did you see, Woodie?”

“The clock again, and the white house and the church…and an idea about a war against Russia in the Mideast…and, well, Dr. Bailiff will tell you the rest, sir.”

“When did you tell Dr. Bailiff?”

“Just now,” said Woodie.

Neither Congressman Otten nor Dr. Bailiff said anything to Emily about being silent about what she has learned. They were smart men.

The Washington press carried a strange story in the morning.

“Did the Devil Visit the City Last Night?” asked the Post.

CBS television was more graphic. It ran footage of a crowd obviously in consternation, and a zoom shot of the Carlton’s street door, which looked as normal as the normal Carlton street door.

“Why are these people screaming? What are they looking at?” demanded the announcer.

There were no flames, no fire, in any of the pictures of the doorway.

The afternoon stories were equally devilish and full of heavy humor, although they did mention Rembrandt Rutherford Robert’s farewell dinner and the fact that the President had been present when the Devil came in the door.

The White House press secretary issued a statement which said that it was unfair, libelous, slanderous, and proof that the press was out to get the President by indicating the President’s presence and the Devil’s under the same roof at the same time. And, besides, the Great Silent Majority who had elected the President to office in such an overwhelming manner did not believe in the Devil. And besides again, if the press were not out to get the President, the reporters might have remembered that Billy Graham had already chased the Devil out of Washington.

However, it was noticed that in certain parts of town a lot of people packed their bags and went south.

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 Sixteen 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 Seven Chapter Twenty Eight Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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