It happened fast, so fast that it made Dibs’ head spin. Barely 24 hours after that meeting, the National Security Advisor resigned in a cloud, not of sulpher but of mustard gas, which seemed to leave everyone asked for comment choking down their words. Rumors of inappropriate dealings with the Russian government were everywhere. Though they had started as good intel at the Department of Justice, it wasn’t until they were made public that any action was taken. A sign of the times, shrugged Dibs.
Still, it was a relief. No longer needing to feign illness, Dibs showed up to work feeling good. He had a biscotti and a venti Veronese from Starbucks in his hand, perfectly cooled by the short walk to the building. He was a man who did not enjoy things that were too hot. It was about to become the greatest irony of his life.
No sooner had he landed at his cubicle desk than the pool secretary delivered an envelope to him and demanded his signature. “Can’t you forge it yet?” he asked cheerfully.
“Too angular,” she told him. “Looks like chicken scratches.”
“Well, keep trying.”
“I mean yours. I can’t read your writing half the time.”
“Ah. Well, no one writes anymore…” His voice trailed off as he began to read the envelope’s contents.
“Something important?” she asked.
“What? No, no. Say, do you think I could steal a moment with the Director?”
“No go, Joe,” she told him, as if he were simple-minded. “He won’t be in the office all day.”
Of course he wouldn’t. The National Security Advisor had just resigned. His deputy, General Cereal, had replaced him, and would doubtless be spending a good portion of his day being briefed and making his dispositions. Since the President refused to receive the presidential daily briefing, demanding a nine-point summary at most, it actually fell to the head of national intelligence to receive all the President’s intelligence. It made for jokes all around the building. ‘I know we’re all about outsourcing, but now the President’s outsourcing his intelligence? That’s too far.”
So it made sense that the Director was out of the building. Yet it seemed also a wicked trick. Just yesterday Dibs had been foolishly reassured by his boss’ assurances. And here he was, holding in his hand the very order he had been promised would never arrive. He was seconded to the Secret Service to assess the integrity of the Tower’s electronic infrastructure.
The remains of the biscotti now tasted like ashes in his mouth. He knew how it had happened, of course. The out-going advisor had written a request just before signing his resignation, the ultimate ‘oh, you want to fuck with me, I’ll fuck with you back’ move to the administration that had just thrown him under the proverbial bus (though if his ties to the Russians were as strong as it seemed, that bus might not be so proverbial). That it placed Dibs in the crosshairs of every gun, both proverbial and real, mattered not a whit. Having ordered it, the bastard had resigned and allowed his deputy to do with it as he pleased.
And it had pleased the deputy to do exactly the thing no one wanted to be responsible for, knowing his back was covered. ‘Oh, it wasn’t me that ordered it, Mr. President. It was done just before my predecessor was out like Flynn.’ And the Director had gone along with it, knowing that now that it was in writing he was also covered.
As in any game of hot potato, you don’t want to be the one holding it. You have to pass it on. In this envelope the hot potato had come to Dibs. Only he had no one to pass it on to. He could almost feel it scalding his fingers.
He wondered if he could somehow feign the illness he’d been told to contract. Or perhaps he could become genuinely ill. How was his blood pressure these days? Did he know any friendly doctors who could prescribe some time off? Oh, if only he hadn’t come in today! If only he hadn’t signed for these orders!
Well it was too late for that. It was time for damage control. His first order of business was to delay. He would take the morning to finish up some paperwork that had been lingering. And he could ask around to see if anyone needed help at their desks. He could pretend not to have read it for at least a few hours. Then he could pretend to have misread the effective date, could have transposed some numbers, thought it started in two weeks…
He glanced at the effective date. ‘Effective immediately’.
That was when his phone rang. He answered it almost gratefully, hoping for salvation.
It was the reverse. “Is this Joseph Dibs?”
“It is,” he confirmed.
“This is Agent Jay Trevor, Secret Service. I understand you’re coming up to New York this afternoon.” He did not sound pleased.
Nor was Dibs. “This afternoon? Well, that might not be…”
“I’ll meet you at the Tower at three o’clock. Don’t be late.”
“Well, I can’t really…”
But the line was dead.
Fuck fuck fuckity fuck fuck.
It seemed that, like the condemned of England, Dibs was off to the Tower.