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The rule of the people, p.2
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       The Rule Of The People, p.2

           Christopher Read

  Chapter 1 – Friday, November 11th

  Washington, D.C. – 12:02 Local Time; 17:02 UTC

  Anderson sat in the Smithsonian’s Moongate Garden, enjoying the peace and tranquillity, needing somewhere well away from the FBI’s mobile command centre to relax and reflect on why he was not already on a flight home to the UK. There was also the vague hope that the symbolism of the garden’s circles and squares would work some form of healing magic on his body, Anderson wincing with just the thought of eventually having to stand up.

  It wouldn’t have been so bad if the bruises and scrapes had actually been as the result of something worthwhile, but true to form Pat McDowell had been unwilling to oblige. The FBI was still no nearer making an arrest, resources having to be diverted to deal with the aftermath of McDowell’s earlier actions and several parts of the National Mall remained cordoned off. Flowers and messages of condolence surrounded each bloodied scene, people standing in respectful silence while trying to make sense of what had happened just forty-eight hours earlier. Nine had died that day, the Mall the setting for a chaotic scramble to escape as without warning violence had flared. Two agents had also been killed, yet many observers were still keen to condemn the Secret Service and FBI for starting it all, the media over-analysing each new image in order to apportion blame. Anderson’s prominent role in the resulting melee was now part of a Department of Justice investigation, his every action subject to minute scrutiny.

  Could he have really done more to prevent it? It was becoming a pointless exercise in self-doubt, others just as guilty as Anderson of mistakes or simple misjudgements, the animosity between the FBI and the D.C. Police revealed for all to see. With the Capitol Building virtually under siege and a beleaguered president struggling to tell friend from foe, the end result had seemed almost inevitable. Now America had a new and untested occupant of the Oval Office, Bob Deangelo’s whirlwind rise to power seeing him take a new oath of allegiance twice in less than twenty-four hours – first as Vice-President, then as President. The legal and constitutional experts were still arguing as to the validity of the accelerated process, with Congress apparently regretting its own impetuosity; yet many in America had demanded someone more dynamic in the White House, a person able and willing to lead the fight-back against Chinese aggression.

  Anderson’s brief time in America had so far proved fairly contentious, his status seemingly varying from day to day: tourist, fugitive, FBI consultant – even Anderson found it hard to keep up. Although The Washington Post was keen to maintain contact, he was still theoretically at the Bureau’s beck and call, Anderson working hard to convince them that he really had paid his dues; he certainly couldn’t just get on a plane and head back to Heathrow, his passport, phone and laptop still being held somewhere inside the FBI’s Hoover Building.

  For the moment such restrictions were merely an irritation, the conflict between his present commitments and his personal life rather more of a problem. Charlotte’s patience had already been stretched to the limit and she was starting to sense that Anderson was quite happy with his enforced stay in the U.S. Although he hadn’t admitted as much, to return home while the crisis in Washington remained unresolved would be idiotic; some unexpected political twist was being revealed every few days and the new man in the White House had set himself a tough agenda, perhaps even an impossible one.

  The rapid demise of President Will Cavanagh had in turn led to a rash of conspiracy theories, some cleverly throwing Pat McDowell into the mix, a few assuming that Bob Deangelo was involved to some extent. The official news media were rather more generous, recognising that Bob Deangelo’s confirmation as President was an inevitable consequence of Cavanagh’s increasing isolation, the key moment when ex-Secretary of State Dick Thorn had broken ranks to show his contempt for Cavanagh.

  From the FBI’s perspective, there were just too many unanswered questions to be certain who was involved and to what degree. McDowell and his sophisticated operation wouldn’t have come cheap, no expense seemingly spared; yet every new financial lead had quickly stalled as it came up against another dummy corporation or some foreign-based ghost company. Whilst a handful of McDowell’s accomplices had been arrested, several of the main players remained unknown, prime amongst them McDowell’s likely contact within the FBI. It was a problem that had dogged the investigation from the start, McDowell able to stay one step ahead and maintain the pressure on Cavanagh’s Administration.

  Spying on the new President and his close associates might not be the wisest of options, even for the FBI, and that one crucial image or recording that would tie everything together now seemed likely to be buried forever. At the very least, the FBI’s Washington investigation would be reined in, its focus directed well away from the President and his inner circle – if the latter eventually turned out to include Dick Thorn then the conspiracy theorists could rightfully lick their lips in anticipation.

  It wasn’t in Anderson’s nature to leave such mysteries for others to solve but by himself his resources were severely limited, and his relationship with the FBI was one based on mutual interest, Anderson very aware of the penalty should he ever abuse his special status. The Bureau still seemed unsure how best to make use of his slightly unpredictable skills, yet nor were they willing to let him go it alone: he was after all the supposed expert on Pat McDowell, a reputation based more on an unfortunate predilection for being in the wrong place at the wrong time than any true understanding of the American’s convoluted thought processes.
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