Chapter 60 – False white baby
The next day the Asteroid grew in size, and the story featured on the front page of Le Figaro in France, the Daily Telegraph in the UK, Der Spiegel in Germany and several other European national newspapers as ‘highly embarrassing’ for ESA who had ‘obviously got it wrong again’.
Michel got a dressing down from the ESA Chief Executive, but when he called Sally for explanation his call went straight to Sally’s voicemail and he assistant said she was in conference with the President and could not be disturbed.
Sally Carmichael was alone in her Washington apartment working on her laptop. Her evenings alone were rare and she treasured them. Her life was a whirlwind of dinner’s, formal White House events and less-formal meetings with key journalists and influencers. She sat on her large double sofa, in a comfortable track suit. She sipped at a mineral water, she was glad to miss dinner, and take a chance to detox.
She was looking at the latest economic data and preparing a briefing paper for the President. She paused to look up at a vase full of a dozen beautiful red roses that had delivered with a note from the NSA Director, Kevin Alexander. It read, ’I apologise for excluding you, K’.
Her Blackberry buzzed and she saw a text message from Keith, Did you get all 12? K.
She looked up again at the roses. He was clearly flirting with her. She knew how to flirt and she knew how to keep men at bay. Hardly a day or a meeting went by without a man trying to get her into bed. She smiled to herself as her Blackberry beeped again, as another email from Michel Devereau from ESA arrived, asking her to call him. She noticed he only added one kiss this time.
She mused on Kevin Alexander, the NSA Director. He was a tall good looking man, the wrong side of 50. He was a strong candidate for the next Presidential nomination when the President ended his second term. He was estranged with his second wife, she had never met her, but she was quite a feisty woman by all accounts. Kevin came from a banking family and was rumoured to be worth over $100m. He had chosen a military career rather than banking, and had drifted into politics after he appeared regularly in the press as a military spokesman during the second gulf war. Quite a catch really.
She replied to his text, Yes all 12 lovely, thanks S. She resisted adding an x for a kiss.
She returned her concentration back to the economic data, which was surprisingly good. She noticed a comment from one of the analysts that linked the economic progress to the hailing of the second coming.
A year had passed since she had orchestrated the White House campaign to reveal the false white baby and the actress to the world. During that time, stock markets around the world had risen to all-time highs, investment had grown to unprecedented levels and world economic activity had surged. She flicked the page to look at a page of graphs, which all showed positive growth. The analysts also said there had been a surge in incumbent Politicians being re-elected, and of conflicts being curtailed, truces reached and tensions eased. Charities and not-for-profit organisations were reporting surges in donations. In most of the developed world the number of people getting married rose, the number of divorces fell and the maternity clinics noted an increase in expectant mothers.
The report also looked at crime rates, and could show a decline in both violent and non-violent crimes in most US cities since the news of the baby Jesus.
Sally opened a file on her laptop that monitored the press references to a story over time, and saw clearly that after the initial flurry of press comment the ‘Baby Jesus’ story was largely lost from the front pages. Few continued to follow the story, apart from the eccentric. Largely the veteran British Royal Family PR expert Malcolm Packer’s tactics had worked. Although Sally knew that the execution of his PR strategy was somewhat altered by the White House, it was a gamble that had paid off.
Sally remembered from a confidential briefing note that the actress they had used to play Mary in the press conference with the false white baby had adopted the baby as her own, and met a young man from a god-fearing family in Alabama. She moved to his farm, married him, became pregnant and they lived happily in wonderful isolation without an internet connection or TV. But Just in case the FBI kept her under surveillance.
To all intense and purposes the false white baby disappeared from public view.