Hillary Clinton, ten years into retirement, restively watched from the sidelines with growing concern as two feet of rising seawaters tipped the course of America’s history.
All of South Florida had surrendered to the sea. Abandoned high-rise buildings poked out from the ocean floor like a multitude of forlorn hands reaching out from overturned graves.
Rich cities, like Boston and New York, privately financed seawalls and pumping systems, creating mammoth projects employing ant-like armies of construction workers.
As resources diminished and scarcity spread, border-states degenerated into lawless territories. Horrendous hate crimes were on the rise, as vigilante groups flying the banner of ‘America First’ made broad daylight attacks in armed SUVs against immigrants. When night fell, whole towns came under control of a shadowy group known as ‘Native Force.’
When her party drafted her to stand once again for the Presidency, she reluctantly agreed, and the convention’s hall soon shook in response to her rousing pledge to make the number one security goal of a Clinton administration the ending of domestic terrorism and the restoration of law and order to the land.
The red security phone started to trill in the middle of the night, waking a jet lagged and emotionally exhausted President Clinton.
“Madame President. This is Winston Adams; I’m tonight’s national security emergency officer. I’m sorry to wake you, but Homeland Security just issued an internal ‘code red’ alert.”
“What’s the threat?” Hillary said, slurring her words.
“I’ve the Secret Service Director on the line. He wants to brief you.”
“What’s going on?” Hillary groggily asked as Caleb Toussaint, the Director of the Secret Service came on the phone.
“A murder, a very ugly one, happened a few hours ago,” Toussaint said.
“Where?” Hillary felt her blood rush and her heart began to race.
“Just outside Las Cruces, New Mexico— a few miles from the Mexican border.”
“Who was killed?” Her voice tightened.
“An extended family of Mexicans executed and butchered. It could be a Native Force operation.”
“Oh my God,” she said. The room gyrated and her chest felt like a boa clamping on it.
“Our head agent at our field office in Albuquerque got a call from an old Army pal in the New Mexico State Police. He told him to chopper into the crime scene … right away!”
“The crime scene has the blood prints of ‘Native Force’ vigilantes all over it. They wrote their call letters, NF, everywhere and used the victims’ blood to write a graphic threat. I want your authority for the Secret Service to intervene on this case.”
“Intervene? On what grounds? What did the threat say?”
“CLINTON is next!”
“Did they’ve cell phones? Was there no cry for help?” Hillary asked sitting behind her desk in the Oval Office as Toussaint and the Army’s Chief of Staff General Peter Grace briefed her. She wore an embroidered blue silk dressing gown, a present from China’s first woman premier—Bai Ling. Underneath were her favored L.L. Bean flannel pajamas which her eldest grandchild Rebecca had given her. She nervously licked at her lips; they tasted bitter like dandelion greens.
“Three cell phones were found on the crime scene,” Toussaint said. “They all belonged to the Diaz family. It looked like each one tried to place outgoing calls, rapidly, in a two-minute period to 911. But none of the calls completed.”
Hillary looked sharply at Grace.
“Two years ago, the Navy Seals lost, among other things, portable all-frequency cellular jammers,” Grace said. She clenched her right hand so tightly that the veins on her arm popped out. “What else did they lose?”
“I’m not sure you want to know,” Grace said.
Hillary’s hands formed into fists. She squeezed them so hard, pushing downwards, that she rose up off her chair. Following this reflex, she stood up fully; pushing her eyeglasses down, her eyes peered blazing over the frames.
“Stop pulling your punches. I’m not a Girl Scout. I want it all now.”
“Enough weaponry and related equipment are missing to amply stock a half-a-dozen field units. My aide just shook this information out of the Navy.”
She turned away and looked out the Oval Office window into the Washington night sky. The last flights that night had landed hours earlier at Reagan National, and the sky, in a moment of clarity, sparkled with stars. Hillary thought about the coming day: dawn would break soon, alarms would go off, coffeemakers would percolate, showers would run, people would start off to work, but for Hillary time had stopped. She could tolerate attacks on herself, being the butt of late night show host attacks, but she wouldn’t let innocent people be murdered. It was a mater of principle, but it was more—like instinct, as strong as a migratory bird determined to reach its destination overcoming endless obstacles.
The room went silent waiting on her response.
“Madam President?” Grace finally said. “What do you want to do?”
Her mind raced as she spun back around.
“First … Caleb,” she paused briefly, “your people need to take charge and secure the crime scene. Fly in a full Secret Service lab. If it’s the work of Native Force vigilantes, then get me the hard evidence. And get it soon!”
Hillary paused to digest the gravity of words before she spoke. “If the facts support it, I’ll declare it a terrorist act and use the full powers of the Presidency to bring these goons to justice.”
Within a few hours a full national security task force had convened in the White House situational room. A Secret Service informer had confirmed that the Diaz murders were the work of Native Force.
President Clinton was prepared to act.
“Peter,” said Hillary, as her gaze flew at the general, “are you ready to put Zebra J-4 teams on the ground to do advance work?”
“Willing, ready, and able, Madam President.”
“My intention is to deploy self-contained J-4 teams into the mountains of New Mexico immediately,” Hillary said, using a laser pointer to scroll a large electronic wall mounted plasma map of Las Cruces. “And then followed by more units dropped into Arizona, Utah, and Idaho,” she said, as she zoomed the map out to show the surrounding states. “We’ll spare no resource to bring these butchers and their associates to the ground.
J-4 teams were the most elite of Zebra forces. They could rope down from helicopters into the most difficult terrain, live off the land indefinitely, and break an opponent’s hip with one kick. The laws and findings that established J-4 specified they were not to be used domestically, but the last Patriot Act had overturned that restriction.
“We have to lay the groundwork flawlessly for a future, full operation,” Hillary said.
“Can I give them full air support? Drones? AWAC IX’s?” Grace asked.
“Give them everything they need,” Hillary said, “and then give them a lot more.”
“I’ve been waiting for years for a President to say that.” Grace’s body stretched well past his armchair. His eyes keenly narrowed. “My soldiers are ready … and the orders? What is the ultimate disposition? Dead or alive?”
“Alive, if possible. We don’t need martyrs. I wish these barbarians a long, unhappy life in a Federal prison.
“Questions?” Hillary said, “Before I leave you to the logistics.”
“What about the border with Mexico?” asked Colonel Andreas Paz.
“I discussed this scenario earlier with Gen. Grace. I’ll authorize moving five thousand regular Army troops to the border section near Las Cruces.”
Another hand shot up. “We’ve issues with the New Mexico National Guard. They’ve to be … ” a young black woman Lieutenant-General who was speaking paused as she realized the irony of the statement she had begun to frame … “segregated from the regulars. There might be problems. Their ranks are infiltrated.”
“I’ll be calling the Governor of New Mexico,” Hillary said, “and I’ll order him to confine all his Guard troops to their barracks.”
“And if he disobeys?” asked the same officer. “He’s believed to be a fellow traveler to the ‘Firsters.’”
“If he refuses,” Hillary said. “I’ll issue orders to the Secret Service to arrest him.”
Around the table jaws dropped at the President’s last directive, but many faces in the room showed smiles of satisfaction. Colonel Paz, sitting at the far end of the conference table, had been decorated three times for bravery on Zebra combat missions. Last year, near the Mexican border, vigilantes murdered his second cousin, dragging his body with a pickup truck five miles. Hillary watched him as Paz’s face swelled with pride, his fist curled and rose up under his chin and his neck jolted. It appeared to her that his training intervened at the last moment and constrained him from expressing a full Mandela thrust of solidarity.
“Let’s be clear,” Hillary said. “The actions I take are fully invested in the powers of the Presidency as defined in the Constitution and the War Powers Act. I believe if Lincoln, Eisenhower, Truman or Roosevelt sat today in my chair, they would take similar action. As to the nuances of these actions, they’re enabled by four different Patriot and Homeland Security Acts.”
Every man and woman in the room wore full, broad smiles.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Hillary said, as she felt a shiver tingle down the length of her spine. “I intend to pray tonight for the souls of the Diaz family and for our soldiers who’ll be facing danger in the coming days. Before we break-up this meeting, we need to talk about their funeral, which will be held the day after tomorrow.
“I will be joining the mourners.”
The country became nervous as fear of insurrection spread across the land. Some businesses closed early, restaurants everywhere reported a surge in cancelled reservations, audience numbers for network news shows soared, and reporters did sidebar pieces of farmers sitting in pick-up trucks in their fields listening to all-news radio stations. Some ministers scheduled special services and photographers recorded small groups conducting prayer vigils in town squares and crossroads.
A Nation on Edge read many headlines.
The murders had taken place on a Thursday. By noon Saturday, Secret Service agents swarmed all over southern New Mexico. By mid-afternoon their support teams landed in airports at Boise, Twin Falls, Provo, Flagstaff, Reno and Las Vegas. History would record it as the largest operation every launched by the Secret Service.
By the time the sun set that day in the west, two-person Zebra Force expeditionary teams had begun parachuting into the western mountain ranges stretching from Silver City, New Mexico to Boise, Idaho. From the air drones fed them constant information on the terrain in front of them, monitoring each unit as they moved silently through rugged remote land. More teams would be deployed by nightfall Sunday.
Sunday afternoon, a chartered Aeroméxico jet dropped down between the Sandia and Manzano mountains landing at New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base. It carried Augusto Diaz’s younger brother, Eduardo, and Diaz family nieces and nephews from the village of San Jose del Penasco. All day Sunday buses filled with Mexican-Americans and their sympathizers convoyed from the west coast across Nevada, Utah, and Colorado before turning south at Durango toward Albuquerque. They avoided traveling through Arizona. From cities across the mid-west—Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul—more buses headed toward Colorado turning south at Trinity. At the Colorado-New Mexico state line and patrolling Interstate 25 and old route 550, five thousand federal marshals staged to protect the mourners and their buses. An executive order federalized the New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona State Police for seventy-two hours, putting them under direct control of the marshals.
Air Force One took off from Andrews at five a.m. Monday morning. The trip to New Mexico represented a major logistical undertaking and Hillary agreed to fly on the plane historically used by the President—a huge gas guzzling Boeing 797. Hillary had requested that the Congress appropriate monies for a carbon-free hydrogen liner, but like most of her requests, the Congress refused to act. The funeral was scheduled for two p.m., Rocky Mountain Time.
Hillary and Toussaint stood alone in Air Force One’s executive cabin, continuing an ongoing argument that had been raging between them for the last twenty-four hours.
“I’m not happy,” Toussaint said. “You’re taking unprecedented risks. I can’t guarantee your safety.”
“Yes, you’re right. I agree,” Hillary said. “But sometimes you’ve no choice in life and you’ve to take risks …” she paused, her voice softening. “You’ve been there.”
“God might be on your side,” Toussaint said, “but the Kevlar protecting your body won’t protect your face. These guys are lunatics … the Navy trained some of them as Seals. They love knives … they know explosives.”
Hillary sighed. Toussaint was right. Knives, like worms, made her squeamish. She wasn’t scared, just terrified, but not so much physically. Her real fears were of failing, not finishing her mission, not doing her duty to God, country and her loved ones. She faced a crafty enemy, sick and deranged, and she knew another part of their profile all too well—they were smart, twisted overachievers lacking emotional outlets.
“No one is expecting me. The press pool, upfront in the plane, were woken in the night, escorted by your agents to Air Force One, surrendering their cell phones.”
Toussaint slammed his fist against the cabin wall. A vein popped on the surface of his face. She had never seen him livid.
“You’re giving me a load of crap … I’m sorry … but they painted a personal invitation to you … in blood … to the Diaz funeral. They’re expecting you to attend.”
CLINTON is next. A bugler’s call resounded in her brain, as a memory fragment scudded by her of one of her recurring Civil War Dreams, which had disturbed her sleep since moving back to the White House. Her brothers Hugh and Tony dressed in Union blue rode to Hillary’s right. Some shots came at them from their left; the boys began to whoop as their father had taught them and steered their horses straight ahead in the direction of the incoming fire. Hillary hesitated as she saw figures rustling in the wood.
“Hillary,” Toussaint’s voice broke into her distraction pushing the fear momentarily out of her brain. “Damn it. This is personal to me,” he said, as he reached and touched her arm with a firm grip. “I’d be heart-broken, and I wouldn’t be the only one if something happened to you.”
She felt moved, knowing that she had friends who cared about her, and who she certainly cared about. Turning partly away from Toussaint, her eyes welled.
“I’ll listen to my brain … and I’ll listen to my heart,” she said as she fortified herself again with a long held belief—her sense of duty.
“Gen. Grace is waiting for you in the administrative cabin,” Hillary said. “He wants to go over the aerial technology they’ll deploy for the funeral.”
During the previous night helicopter traffic intensified over Las Cruces as Red Hawk Heavy Lifters landed at a hastily assembled off-road base in a hidden canyon just west of Little Black Mountain. The first six Red Hawks carried armored Saber wagons, built by Rover in England to withstand high impact explosions. With ninety-millimeter auto tracking machineguns imbedded inside their front and rear headlights, the state of the art vehicle also deployed flack throwers to confuse an incoming missile’s guidance system.
Throughout the night the helicopters made a dozen round-trips from Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio and Fort Bliss in El Paso. They came back to Little Black Mountain with more combined firepower than Eisenhower’s troops had hitting Omaha Beach.
An hour before the funeral, a fleet of Secret Service helicopters flew Hillary, Toussaint, and two squads of Secret Service ‘line of fire’ agents from Kirtland Air Force Base to Little Black Mountain. She looked at the scene unfolding on the roads below, and in her heart she felt she had done the right thing. For as far as the eye could see, the roads coming into Las Cruces were filled bumper to bumper with chartered buses carrying Hispanic Americans wanting to express their outrage and pay their last respects to the Diaz family. She could read some of the signs hanging out the windows or taped to the top of the buses.
VIVA LA CAUSA! VENCEREMOS! NO VIOLENCA EN LAS CRUCES
Early nineteenth century Mexican settlers built the Church of Santa Maria de Pueblo a few miles to the southwest of Las Cruces. It had fallen into ruins until the Diaz family and their neighbors raised enough funds to buy the land and restore the church. The refinished sanctuary had exterior walls of fresh white adobe and three small wood shuttered windows displayed on each long side. A small cross peaked the front of the clay-tiled roof. A pigeon perched on the church’s steeple could enjoy a panoramic view of Mexico. A white picket fence guarded the church and a stone well stood near the front door offering water to quench the thirst of the parishioners as well to baptize their souls.
Over the Church’s entrance doors hung a small wooden plaque:
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam: For the Greater Glory of God
Hours earlier, nearly a hundred of the neighbors of the Diaz family assembled, quietly sitting in the church’s simple wooden benches and another thirty people filled the back. The front rows on either side of the aisle stood reserved for the family and their guests. The archbishop of Denver and a parish priest prepared for Requiem Mass in a side room. At the foot of the altar lay ten closed coffins.
Outside the Church, in a field at the base of the Santa Tomas Mountains, a temporary assembly area with a stage and broadcast loudspeakers stood for the overflow of mourners. Over thirty thousand had already gathered with another twenty thousand more grievers expected to arrive in the next few hours. Busses backed up bumper to bumper for over twenty miles, delaying the start of the funeral service.
At 2 p.m. Toussaint told Hillary the funeral had to begin. He was unyielding that she had to lift back off from New Mexico before darkness fell. The family of Augusto Diaz had just been seated in the front row pew. Twenty minutes later, the armored Sabers pulled up in front of the church and Hillary entered from a side door escorted by Secret Service agents. The White House Press pool recorded a photograph of her entering the church; inside all press was banned. Murmurs of astonishment swept the rows of mourners as Hillary entered the church wearing a black suit, a pillbox hat and veil.
She spoke softly in Spanish to each member of the family. Eduardo Diaz insisted that she sit with them; two teen-aged nieces gladly accepted the hug she offered them as they sat with linked arms.
The service opened with the parish priest reading from Revelations:
And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
Hillary felt the body warmth of the two nieces on either side of her. They looked confused as they stared at the ten coffins of relatives they never met. Their parents had told them stories for as long as they could remember of their uncle, Augusto Diaz, who had gone to America and prospered. But from the vantage point of the primitive country shack they lived in, it seemed more like a fairy tale.
The short service came to a close. The Archbishop of Denver started to sprinkle holy water on the coffins. The parish priest lit incense, as a pungent smoke floated through the chapel, he read:
May the choirs of angels come to greet you.
May they speed you to Paradise.
May the Lord enfold you in His mercy.
May you find eternal life.
The archbishop showed with a small wave of his hand that the mourners could approach the coffins. The adult relatives kneeled, crossed themselves, and wept. Once a month, Eduardo Diaz and his family gathered for a Sunday dinner after church in the town of San Jose del Penasco. Nearly every month they read a letter from their ‘El Norte’ relatives. Each letter contained a money order sent by Augusto Diaz for a hundred dollars, often more, which paid for their health care, and insured that the children received an education.
Hillary knelt before the coffins and crossed herself. She felt like she aged ten more years. Dear God, she prayed. Let these souls rest in Peace, may they sit as your children on your side.
In her mind, she had drawn a sword; she knew metaphorically or perhaps literally that soon a bloody battle would be fought. Dear God, I beg your forgiveness. I’ve always believed in your enduring love, but I promise, this day, to avenge these deaths.
An honor guard, of Army officers from the regiment that Augusto Diaz served his adopted country in, ceremoniously placed the coffins on donkey drawn carts for the family’s journey to their final resting place. Hillary, the two priests, and the Diaz family surrounded by Secret Service agents gathered up behind the coffins. The carts wound their way down a dirt road south of the Church of Santa Maria de Pueblo. Vehicles manned by Secret Service agents and federal marshals lined the road. Six armored Sabers and four Army ambulances drove a few hundred feet in front of the coffins in a V-shaped protective wedge. Hillary walked arm-in-arm with the mourning family. Under her funeral attire, she wore an earpiece and a Secret Service transmitter on her chest; its microphone cord snaked down her arm and stopped short just at the end of her cuff.
The Church’s graveyard sat at the end of the dirt road. It had been two-thirds full. Now the Diaz family would fill the site. Ten freshly dug graves awaited the pine coffins, which, one at a time, were placed beside their final resting place. The archbishop consecrated the graves. As two Secret Service agents flanked each mourner, overhead Blackhawk VIIs circled the periphery, door gunners clamped to the skids.
Seven miles south in Command Trailer B, two climatologists sat hunched over a computer screen.
“Run this by me again,” said the senior scientist.
“Winds are sequencing, they may converge in the valley outside Las Cruces.”
“Can you be more specific?”
“I’m showing a local cold front coming down over the Baldys and the Tortuga Mountains. And we’re getting hot air coming up from Mexico. That front just passed Guzman Lookout Mountain.”
“Damn, are you talking tornado?”
“No, I doubt that. It’s a tornado scenario. But these winds aren’t cyclonic.”
“I need something definitive for command. Now!”
“Let me finish the modeling; worse case scenario is wind gusts, maybe up to thirty or forty miles an hour.”
The junior officer, with a line of sweat showing on his brow, looked up at his superior.
“But I don’t think they can execute a Presidential liftoff by chopper from the cemetery. Not according to the flying restrictions I’ve read in the Secret Service manual. She’ll have to come back to base by ground.”
“All right, keep watching it. I need to run this information over to General Grace.”
The archbishop read from the Book of John:
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. The archbishop’s words wriggled through her brain. God has a big house with many rooms. So many so dear to Hillary had already checked in.
In the command trailer, Gen. Grace showed Toussaint the climatologist wind sequence modeling.
“We can’t pull her out on a chopper now. The wind is gusting at over thirty miles an hour,” Grace said.
“Damn,” Toussaint said, “that nice quiet dirt road we ran her up on earlier is lined now with ‘America Firsters’ in their pickup trucks, holding ugly signs.”
“Can’t we push them out?” Grace said.
“Nope, Service Legal nixed it. The Colorado State Police we commandeered are manning all the ingresses and egresses. They’ve searched them all for weapons and a bunch of them had to leave their shotguns at the checkpoint. It would take too long to get and put up barricades. Let’s re-position some of those troopers to run a linked-armed barricade. It could get nasty, running a gauntlet with this crowd.”
The winds continued to pick-up as sagebrush scrambled across the fields bordering the cemetery. Further out, tumbleweed blew into a cattle fence, catching itself on barbs. The sky darkened, and on the horizon, lightening bolts illuminated Goat Mountain.
From the Little Black Mountain command center, Toussaint transmitted into her ear. “Hillary, you need to move on out now. The Sabers will convoy you back, and a half a dozen helicopter gun ships will be on your bumpers.”
“All right, give me five minutes.”
The Diaz family was now in the ground as the gravediggers finished shoveling reddish clay colored New Mexico soil on top of their caskets. “I want to say my goodbyes to the mourners and the priests.”
“Be quick,” Toussaint said. “I want you out of New Mexico.”
The last hand belonged to the Archbishop of Denver. He clasped Hillary’s wrists. “My prayers will be with you every night,” he said.
“Thank you, you’ve been most kind. I’m sorry we met at such a tragic event.”
“Go with God … my child,” the archbishop hesitated. “You are a Methodist?”
Hillary smiled. “My parents were very religious. We went to church every Sun …”
Her earpiece began to crackle. “Now! We’ve to move out now,” Toussaint’s voice rippled with urgency.
Secret Service agents shouted out orders as they escorted Hillary into her vehicle. The engines of the armored Sabers roared into life linking into a battle formation coupled together with retractable electrically charged rods. The roadbed underneath shook as they started a five mile drive to base camp at Little Black Mountain. The scene felt cinematic to Hillary, like an armored train wintering through the Ural Mountains as Mother Russia shattered into revolution.
As the convoy began to return to Little Black Mountain, America First cadre started to line the road. Silent at first, their faces masked hate. Hillary noted the faces of the women, whose cored out eyes marqueed to her as battered.
They wore their hearts on their signs. DEVIL WOMAN, GO HOME. SATANIST. AMERICA FOR AMERICANS.
Hillary’s eyes narrowed as the faces unfolded. These were the fellow travelers … dupes of other players … trained to hate. The assassins had long fled, leaving the hollowed frames and minds of their supporters as the entrails and detritus of their beliefs.
The winds picked up with the desert dust blowing across the clenched faces. Some hats went flying, but like sentinels at their posts, the America Firsters held their positions.
A mile further down the road, the caravan came to a sudden screeching stop. Hillary could hear an agent transmitting through her earpiece. “Two women and a child are lying on the road in front of the lead Saber. Pls. advise, Command Central, do you read me?”
“You’ve got twenty agents on foot outside the caravan,” Toussaint said. “Move the protestors. Arrest them if you’ve to but try and not incite the crowd.”
“We’re moving in more firepower,” Grace said, “I’ve got six APC’s coming to you. They have veterinarian sniper teams. If we’ve to, as a last resort, we’ll use tranquilizer darts.”
Stopped in her car, Hillary’s eyes honed in on a woman, in her mid-forties, wearing farmer’s overalls, a weathered denim jacket, and steel-toed barnyard boots. Shag-short grey hair framed a tattoo, LIVE FREE OR DIE, etched on her forehead. She held a sign that said, GOD Hates you BITCH. Hillary bit down on her lip, and her skin jumped like a bee’s barbed sting piercing her, injecting its venom as it dug deeper. Sitting in a wheelchair, to the woman’s left, a legless Army veteran sat with his head slumped—he had thinning long hair tied in a ponytail and his face looked pulpy. One his chest he wore a Purple Heart next to a button, which said, I Already Died for America. Two boys wearing Boy Scout uniforms rested their hands on each side of the wheelchair looking embarrassed as they held SEND THEM BACK TO MEXICO signs.
Hillary took a deep breath before speaking into her transmitter. “I’m getting out of the car.”
Her ear rocked from screams coming through her earpiece. “You can’t do that,” Toussaint said. “I can’t protect you … Hillary, listen to me.”
“I know what I’ve to do,” she calmly responded.
“No way.” Toussaint said, his voice pitching up toward a scream. “You can’t do this.”
Gen. Grace interrupted him and started talking through her earpiece. “Hillary, this isn’t a smart move. We need to get you out of New Mexico.”
“Do you’ve any reason to believe there are guns in the crowd?”
“No,” Grace said. “They’ve all been searched. And our drones are continuously reading the metal content in the crowd. But these people would kill you with their hands if they could, and eat your remains like a vulture. Don’t do it.”
Hillary hit the mute button on her receiver and pushed the unlock button next to her passenger seat. Inside her chest it felt like a drummer banging at her rib cage. She fought off an aching body—her ankles felt numb and her calf muscles began to brutally cramp, but she refused to surrender to circumstance or … age. She felt alone and anger overtook her overcoming her weariness—she needed to fight again, one more battle.
Never lost sight of the mission, she told herself.
In the command center, Grace turned to Toussaint. “You can’t stop her. We need to make the best of it, if we can.”
Toussaint had no time to reply to Grace; he barked out commands. “URGENT, Convoy Charlie, listen up. IRON LADY is in motion.
“She’s wild carding. Don’t squeeze her, put a V shape of agents in front of her, with titanium shields ready. Expect rocks to be thrown. Don’t react without my orders. The choppers are going move in overhead, doors open with snipers readied.” Toussaint paused and looked at Gen. Grace, who nodded affirmatively while relaying commands to Zebra forces.
“If any metal is flashed grab her and throw her back in the car. End of story. Understood?”
When she stepped out of the back seat of the Saber, the slogan-shouting crowd became eerily silent. Fixing her gaze on the woman wearing the farmer’s overalls, she walked directly toward her inside the cocoon of the Secret Service agents who left a sightline open at the front of their V formation.
Hillary stopped a few feet before the woman and cold-eyed her. The woman raised her middle finger, and mouthed what seemed to be an obscene expression. Hillary smiled while drilling her eyes into the woman, and took a few steps closer. The mob rabbled, like a dead-end bar’s patrons itching for a back alley fight. Hillary took another step closer to the woman; she could see her eyes twitching nervously. Her children were tugging confusedly at her sleeves while the veteran in the wheelchair didn’t look up.
She held out her hand to the woman. “My name is Hillary Clinton, but I guess you know that. What’s yours?”
The woman started to work her tongue and jaws as if trying to create spit, but her mouth must have been too dry. Hillary ignored her now and leaned over to the veteran speaking into his ear.
“There’s too much suffering in this world. It’s not God’s way. You gave up your legs for your country,” she said, as she looked down at his stumps. “We need to help each other.”
The man still didn’t look up. The woman, enraged, took the back of his wheelchair and flipped it over. The crowd became agitated, with some shouting out of ugly slogans as Hillary and two Secret Service agents righted the wheelchair while the woman fled back into the crowd leaving her terrified children. Hillary approached the two boys as her mind searched for some long stored information.
Finding the thought, she asked, “Do you know the Boy Scout Code?”
One of the boys turned and fled into the crowd when Hillary spoke. The remaining child, looking confused and frightened, seemed adrift. His mother, who most likely told him what to do, had disappeared. His father didn’t seem to speak, and so he probably couldn’t look to him for cues.
“When I was your age,” Hillary continued, addressing the child, now looking like a deer, at twilight, crossing a highway suddenly caught by a car’s headlights, “someone told me to be kind like a Boy Scout. I was told that a scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others, as he wants to be treated. He doesn’t hurt or kill harmless things without reason.”
Out of her pocket she took out two gold–plated ballpoint pens engraved with ‘Hillary Clinton, President of the United States’ and handed them to the boy. “One’s for you and give the other to your brother,” Hillary said.
A tentative smile replaced the fear, which gripped the boy’s face as he muttered softly, “Thank you” and a second later he added “Ma’am.” He stuffed the pens in his pocket, looking nervously around to see who might be watching.
“You’re a brave boy … a very brave boy.” Hillary said, as the terror of second thoughts appeared to flash across the boy’s face.
As she backed off toward her waiting car, Hillary stopped and stared intently at the faces of the crowd. A minute later, people started to throw rocks. Secret Service agents snapped open their shields.
Toussaint screamed into the transmitter, “Get her out now.”
“Let it play for a few more seconds,” she said into her transmitter, as her voice filled with a grim determination, “And don’t let the agents touch me.” A dozen more rocks clambered harmlessly against the titanium shields.
“Okay, it’s finished,” Hillary said. “Let’s get out of here.”