Chapter 66: Camp david
Camp David wasn’t the relaxing time I was hoping for.
The doctors wanted me to take it easy and continued to monitor me for signs of concussions. My wife Tammy was just happy I was all right; the whole thing had shaken her to the core. She knew I was alive, my staff had updated her, and I had called her directly, but still… she couldn’t get over that it was only a faulty device that kept her from being a widow. We didn’t get much sleep that first night.
I had periodic updates through the night and the next morning on the results of the strikes against the Zetas. I also had some rather animated phone calls with the President of Mexico, who was both outraged and thankful. Outraged that I had attacked his territory without telling him, and thankful that I had done what he was unable to- take out the leadership of the most dangerous drug cartel in his land. To ease tensions, I agreed to two things, both of which he took credit for in his speech to his nation that night. One was to immediately stop all military efforts within Mexican territory; that was all right, the initial salvo was huge and devastating. The other was to offer reparations to any innocents killed or property damaged. It was a small price to pay. We couldn’t afford to have the Mexican people see the President as weak, the Cartels already controlled too much and if he fell, the country would fall into chaos.
The response of other nations was heartening; the brazen attempt to assassinate a state leader and his senior staff sent shock waves through the Americas. Offers of support and intelligence poured in to the CIA and FBI.
My biggest worry was that if the Zetas had penetrated so high in my Administration, who else out there had not betrayed them? Who could I trust?
The next day my Doctor and my wife ganged up on me, forcing my Chief of Staff to clear my schedule for a nap. My senior military, CIA and Justice leadership came to brief me as needed. It became clear that although we hadn’t eradicated the Zetas, we had nearly decapitated them.
Now I wanted to starve them and grind them down. Treasury and the DEA were making progress on the lifeblood of the Cartels, the money laundering and transfers. It would be the biggest investigation in US history.
By midnight, I was in that zone where I wanted desperately to sleep but my brain was still going too fast. I walked out of the bedroom quietly, leaving behind my lightly snoring wife, and went to the bar in my office. Taking some ice out of the mini-fridge, I put a few in a tumbler and poured a good quantity of Bailey’s Irish Cream over it, mixing in some extra Two Gingers scotch whiskey. The Secret Service left me alone in my cabin, but as soon as I unlocked the door to the patio, an agent was opening it for me. “Good evening, Mr. President,” he said as he closed it behind me.
“Good evening, Theo.” I knew every man in my detail, not just their names but their families. I knew now more than ever how difficult their job was, and I appreciated it. “Beautiful night, eh?”
“Yes sir, I love those cool nights after the first hard frost. It knocks the bugs down.” I moved over to the chair overlooking the woods, while he moved to a place near the edge of the patio. “Archer is on the back patio,” he said into his microphone. I could hear, but not see, other agents moving into position around the back.
I sat there for at least half an hour, just enjoying the night and my drink, when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. An alarm was called out, and Theo rushed over to me just as a large wolf entered the clearing. As the agents were responding with Uzis out, I saw the wolf change into a woman, a beautiful woman, wearing only an ID badge on a necklace. “Mr. President, it’s Lisa Giovanni,” she said as the Secret Service converged on her.
The agents stopped, recognizing her as she was the White House Counsel. “It’s all right boys. Escort her over here, and someone grab her a shirt from inside.” I laughed a little, Lisa sure knew how to make an entrance. The agents got over their shock and walked with her, while another agent came out from the room holding a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt.
“Thanks, guys,” she said as she pulled them on. “Sorry about not calling, but I was in the neighborhood and I thought I’d drop by.”
“You’re a werewolf,” I stated, feeling like Captain Obvious. “Is this… recent?”
“Yes, while I was on the run from being framed for murder and being targeted myself, I found my mate. He’s the Alpha of a pack, and he mated and changed me.”
“Congratulations,” I said, knowing that a mating was stronger than a marriage, it was a life bond. “Are you happy?”
“Very happy, Mr. President. I’m afraid this isn’t a social call, could you call any senior staff you have here? I need to talk to all of you.”
I nodded. “You’re still part of that staff, Lisa. You’re still my lawyer.” I had an assistant send out the call, fifteen minutes and we would meet in the conference room that functioned as my situation room here at Camp David. “Are you planning to return to work, Lisa?”
“I’m sorry sir, I brought my resignation letter with me,” she replied. “So much is going on, I have responsibilities now as a mate and as Alpha female of a Pack I’ve barely met. I’m also just learning how to be a wolf. I don’t think it would be a good idea to return, and after we’ve talked tonight you’ll know why.”
I stared at her for a moment. “You know something about the assassinations.”
She nodded. “You were the only innocent among the targets, Mr. President. The Packs haven’t trusted the Government; it was shaky after the peace deal, but the Scrabble Killer investigation ruined any progress. They don’t want to be a part of the process, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas where we can help each other. Common goals, common enemies.”
“Do you speak for yourself or others?”
“The Alpha Council and over two dozen Packs met a few days ago and asked me to approach you directly, sir. There aren’t many we trust, but you have earned that.”
I looked into her eyes, they were the same as before, yet different. They had a brightness, almost a glow, that they didn’t have before. Whether it was her wolf or her happiness, I didn’t know, but I trusted her and right now that was enough. “Thank you for coming, Lisa. I’ve missed having you around. Now, come on, the cart awaits.” We walked around the cabin to where the Presidential golf cart waited. He got in the driver’s side, nodding for me to ride shotgun, while two agents took their posts where the golf bags would normally sit. A minute later, we stopped outside the administration building. “They’re all waiting for you, Mr. President,” his Chief of Staff said as we got out. “Good to see you again, counsel.”
“Thank you. It’s good to see you all again,” Lisa replied.
We moved into the room, them all standing until I sat at the head of the table. Lisa was escorted to the other end. I looked around, a few had managed to put suits on, but most of the people were in casual clothes, my Press Secretary was in his pajamas. “Thank you all for coming. Miss… I’m sorry, Mrs. Giovanni, the floor is yours.”
“Thank you, Mr. President.” She had two small scandiscs in front of her at the table, she handed one to the Air Force technician who was controlling the audio/visual equipment in the room. “Bring up the file marked interview on the screen, play it when I tell you,” she said. “For those who haven’t heard, I was targeted for assassination and framed for a murder I didn’t commit. When I fled for safety, I found myself with a pack of Werewolves, and there I found my mate. I accepted him, made the change, and am now a Pack Alpha Female of the Thurmont Pack.”
There was murmuring in the room. “Here,” I asked. Thurmont was the small down at the base of the mountain where Marine One would land, from there a motorcade went up to Camp David.
“Yes, Mr. President. Our Pack actually borders this retreat.” I could see the Secret Service agents talking into their arms, thinking it was a threat. “The Pack has been there as long as this retreat has been here. They aren’t a threat, they just wanted to make sure I got to you all safely. Now, as I was saying earlier, dozens of Alphas and the Alpha Council sent me here because we didn’t know who we could trust.” I watched as she pulled a piece of note paper off of the stand in front of me, and quickly wrote down something. Folding it in half, she had it passed down to the FBI Deputy Director who was sitting a few chairs to her right. He opened it up, his eyes widened, and he got up and talked to the Secret Service senior agent in the room. While we were all looking around in confusion, the two suddenly grabbed two men, a Deputy Director of the Customs and Border Patrol, and the CIA Branch Chief for Central America, and pulled them out of their chairs and to the ground. In seconds, the two men were handcuffed and protesting loudly.
“You can’t do this!” The CIA man struggled as he was pulled to his feet, but the Secret Service quickly escorted the two men out.
“Both of those men are paid operatives of the Zetas, and having them here would endanger the President, and the country. And yes, I have proof of this.” She paused and looked directly at me. “Mr. President, the Packs were approached recently by a man who had been a high-level Zeta Cartel operative in the United States. He was responsible for smuggling operations and intelligence.”
“You have Charlie Stillwater in custody?” The DEA representative was leaning forward and almost ready to come out of his seat. “He’s the highest-ranking Zeta leader in the states, he’s number one on our most-wanted list,” he explained as he sat back.
Lisa nodded. “We do. He came to us because he is a mountain lion shifter, and the Zetas were holding his sister and mother captive to force him to help them. We broke them and others out of a Zeta safe house, but his story is better told by him.” She nodded to the video tech, and the screen came to life with a conference room. I recognized several of the Alphas and their mates in the room, and Charlie was easy to figure out because he was handcuffed.
I listened as he laid out what he had done, and what the Zetas had planned. I was shocked, along with everyone, to hear that the Scrabble killer was just the beginning of a campaign to restart the Were Wars, this time for them to be wiped out. I was sick to my stomach at the thought, too many good people on both sides had been lost. I did not want to see the peace treaty I fought hard for destroyed in the name of greed. When the video stopped, I wasn’t the only one with a headache.
Lisa handed the second scandisk to the FBI director. “On that disk is evidence Charlie provided us in exchange for saving his family. Zeta agents, how contacts were managed, records of payouts, account numbers, and services rendered. The four men killed by the drones are in there, many more are as well. You have rats in your house, Mr. President, you need to clean it. Quickly and quietly.”
The FBI agent had the file open on his laptop. His face turned ashen as he read through the names, the acting Attorney General at his left, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at his right. “She’s right, sir. The penetration is staggering.”
“I have a suggestion, Mr. President,” Lisa said. “The Alphas were worried about the list getting out and people escaping. We recommend you use agencies not compromised to perform the arrests, coordinated to happen at the same time. Marshal’s Service, local police or Sheriff’s, FBI from other jurisdictions, even military.”
“Do it,” I said to the FBI director. “Is that all for them,” I asked her.
“Yes sir. I have a few other things to discuss with you personally.”
“Very well. Here’s what I want,” I said as I stood, my hands flat on the table. “By dinnertime tonight I want everyone on that list in jail. Keep your mouths shut, no leaks, no mistakes.” I walked out as they all stood, Lisa and the Secret Service following me. I went right back to the golf cart. “What else is there, Lisa?”
She handed me a third Scandisk. “On this is a copy of my resignation letter. The second is a Presidential pardon, names already filled in.”
I laughed so hard people started looking at me. “My God, Lisa, you don’t disappoint. These are getting to be fairly routine.”
“Yes sir, and this is broader and contains more people than the previous ones. When we learned of the actions of the Zetas in the killing of Pack members, we didn’t seek justice through channels we knew we couldn’t trust. There were people directly involved, and we wanted Pack justice.”
“You killed them.” I had seen evidence of how Pack justice was handled.
“We got justice,” I said. “I’m a werewolf now, this is how we work.” I waited for her to continue. “The people and the evidence against them are listed, along with victim statements from those we rescued. The list of agents is separated between those who voluntarily cooperated and those who were blackmailed or extorted. Our way is not to punish those who were acting to protect their family; we would ask that you do the same. Most of those people are on the pardon list.”
“That seems reasonable,” I said.
“Charlie Stillwater is on that list as well. There are also some overseas bank accounts that our hackers were able to liberate,” I said. “We included them and the access codes, so your people can trace evidence. The paperwork you can sign will absolve us of various banking, tax and money laundering crimes that may have been broken.”
“Hackers? Not Josh Spencer again?”
She laughed. “Not just him, but also Enrique Mendez and Carl Smith. They were very busy young men,” she said with a laugh, “and all have found their mates now. Josh is mates with Rose Conspeill’s daughter Charlotte, and Carl is mates with Josh’s sister Jane. The Packs are all benefiting from the money they stole, and the Cartels don’t have it. It’s a win-win.”
“It’s a lot cheaper and more effective than what I have, Lisa. I have no problem with that.” I looked at her, she wasn’t done yet. “What else did you guys do?”
“We knew we couldn’t take the Cartels in a war, they are too violent and we would take heavy losses,” she said. “So, we used our hacking and intelligence skills and started a war between them. The attacks on Zeta assets, we left evidence pointing to the Pacific or Gulf cartels; we also fed intelligence on the Zetas to the same. It was working pretty well, right up until the Zetas decided to attack you.”
“Did you pay off the Zeta’s agents? Was it you who got my staffers killed?”
“No sir, that was all them,” she said. “What we DID do was let the other Cartels know some of the people the Zetas had on their payroll, and how to contact them. We hinted that they could be swayed over to their side for the right money. They took the cash, Mr. President. They didn’t care where it came from.”
“I understand.” I drove us back to my cabin in silence, turning to her when we arrived. “Give me a few days to clean things up, then come back to the White House. You can pick up the pardons and the other paperwork, say goodbye to everyone and clean out your desk.”
“Thank you, Mr. President.”
She turned towards the woods, but I couldn’t look away. “Lisa, can I see your shift?”
“Of course, sir. I’ve lost a lot of my modesty in the last week.” She dropped the oversize shorts, then tossed the sweatshirt by her side. The shift was fast and smooth, and in a moment the big grey and black wolf was back in her place.
She trotted to me, licking my hand as I petted her head and neck. “Your wolf is beautiful, Lisa. Safe travels.”
She ran off as I turned for the door, stopping when I saw my Tammy standing there wide-eyed. “Hank, what the hell are you doing out here in the middle of the night with a naked woman?”