Novel Excerpt 2
The following scene actually comes earlier in Black Marbles White Marbles than the previous excerpt. (I see now that I may have jumped the gun and confused readers by getting into the action too quickly.) I've chosen a passage which helps introduce some of the major players and political maneuverings behind the scenes, with perhaps even some foreshadowing of who might be the - oh, but I don't want to give away too much. Enjoy.
Magnusson cautiously surveyed the room. To his right (as reckoned by bisecting the oval) sat respectively his NSA chief (whose name always escaped him - Rex usually just called him "Spike"), the CIA director K.C. Williams, his chief counsel Kessler, and Lorii Chambers, his willowy young Secretary of State, who was nervously bouncing her left leg on top of her right. None of them knew exactly why they had been summoned here.
To his left, as always, perched on his cushioned chair guardingly like a gargoyle, was stationed his top political advisor, Mark Alexander Gauchinsky, who perplexingly (to Rex) insisted on being called "Sasha". Gauchinsky, who had suddenly arranged for this meeting, sat informally with his left leg up on the ottoman, a pose he often, citing leg cramps, reflexively adopted, one which sometimes perturbed Magnusson for reasons he could not quite put his finger on.
President Reginald (Rex) Magnusson gazed distractedly out the window, onto the lawn. Sasha had been strangely insistent on this meeting, but Magnusson knew not why. All he knew was that it had something to do with that mess in Cleveland this morning, and that his morning workout had been interrupted. It had been an uneventful Presidency thus far for the former Navy SEAL.
"Mr. President, sir, it's good to see you", initiated Lorii, hesitatingly. "I have a nine o'clock, can we make this fast?" hurriedly piped in Spike from over the screen of his laptop, precariously poised atop his knees as always. The President grudgingly managed a grunt of acknowledgment to both, yet to neither one in particular. He idly smoothed his graying hair and turned back to the window. The day was sunny out. It was morning.
Gauchinsky, opportunistically taking his cue, began. "Mr. President, thank you for agreeing to this meeting on such short notice. Before we begin...."
"Let me guess", blasted K.C. impatiently, "this has to do with that mess in Cleveland this morning, Mark." Gauchinsky discreetly shot K.C. an angry look at that but said nothing.
"Ohh, I heard about that on CNN. It was awful, just awful", chimed in Lorii, concerned.
"Yes Miss Chambers; but, well, we'll get to that", Gauchinsky continued curtly. "As I'm sure Director Williams has already learned through his channels - and perhaps your people, too, er, 'Spike', have pieced this together -" (quickly nodding a glance at the NSA Chief), "the tragic events in Cleveland this morning were not exactly as they seem. Not as they are being portrayed in the press, I should say. We - the President and I - have found it necessary to conceal the true nature of what has taken place from the public, for the time being." At that, Kessler, who like a recessive gene had been a previously dormant factor in this meeting, opened his notebook and started furiously scrawling notes.
Meanwhile the President's interest suddenly perked up. What was Sasha up to? This wasn't like him. But what did he know about his political advisor, really? Well, no matter; Sasha had loyally served him well thus far. He was indispensable; Magnusson knew that he likely would not have been elected without him. Gauchinsky was an unceasingly-rising star - at Yale, then in journalism, then rising through the ranks at State, Council on Foreign Relations, all that he touched seemingly turning to gold - no, Magnusson trusted M. Alexander Gauchinsky implicitly. After all, Sasha had not thus far given him any reason not to.
"But before I get into that" Gauchinsky had continued briskly, "I'd like to ask Director Williams a few questions." K.C. Williams, a no-nonsense Korea vet, eyed Gauchinsky impassively, neither consenting nor refusing. Gauchinsky returned the glare, asking directly: "What can you tell us about an ongoing operation CIA has in Ankara?"
The hair stood up on the back of K.C. Williams's thick, leathery neck. How on earth...?
"In particular, Director Williams, I understand that this operation involves a particular deep-cover operative by the name of" - here, Gauchinsky peered idly at a file that had somehow materialized in his lap - "Hedge."
The name meant something to Magnusson; he wasn't quite sure what.
"Wallach Hedge, that is, if I'm not mistaken. First initial P. I am very interested to know the background and availability of this man, if he indeed exists. Trust me when I say that it may very well be highly relevant to the situation at hand."
K.C. said nothing. Spike closed his laptop. As Lorii looked, wide-eyed, alternatingly from one end of the room to another, President Rex Magnusson reluctantly picked up a nondescript phone on the side of his desk and spoke softly into it: "Margie, you're going to have to push back a few appointments; oh, and tell my daughter Melanie that lunch will have to wait."
Outside, over Washington D.C., a small hazy cloud drifted effortlessly in front of the sun.