Second Coming

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Moving Forward

I paced about my back room. “So, FBI? CIA? Illuminati?”

“FBI,” Barth replied plainly through the phone. “Good guess.”

“Well, there are only so many three-letter organizations out there that have the sort of… power you’ve displayed.”

“How do you feel about the footage Mr. Wang just offered you?”

“I never intended on paying him for his demands, I’ll tell you that.” I said, shrugging and peeking out into the hall. The Asian man was already evacuated, and a sole suited agent remained blocking off the exterior doorway.

“I don’t take it you ever believed in that man, am I correct?”

“Believed in Jesus, you mean?”

“I don’t appreciate you being coy with me, Mr. Jackson.”

“It’s a hard sell, even for someone like me who was raised in the church. But it doesn’t seem like my believing or not matters to you.”

Barth clicked his tongue. “We’re not sure who he is or where he’s from, or how he came to arrive before you that day. The main issue is how he’s currently stirring up the political playing field.”

“We did have big numbers in every rally we held, but that’s the Bible Belt for you.”

“Cummings is polling great in many key states, but of course you know that already, as his campaign manager.”

I sat down on my bed and laid back, sighing with exhaustion and wondering if I was ever going to be able to rest. “All my expertise so far has been wasted on putting up status updates to his social media. He doesn’t care about issues, he cares about praising the lord.”

“Listen, Jude.” Barth spoke up, using my first name. “We don’t know if it's Russia, China, or some other strange organization out there, but Joseph would end up the perfect leader for them to take advantage of. He’s just a simpleton whose only prowess is thumping a Bible and rousing gullible people. It's also clear that he will listen to that man rather than any sort of reason.”

“Just a week ago, you were confronting me and telling me not to ask any unnecessary questions.” I sat up, ready to take the initiative. “What changed?”

“Well, first off you drew out our coincidental informant. Quite nice, actually. We can cross-reference some NORAD sensors and see where that craft… whatever it might be… came from.” He paused and cleared his throat. “Second, we were able to get you away from Joseph and the family. It has appeared of recent that you might be in a mood for cooperating with us.”

“Cooperating with you, as in trying to take down Joseph’s campaign?”

“Our current plan of action is being adapted to involve you, that’s correct.”

I pulled my phone away from my ear for a moment to think and let the thought sink in. The phone screen read still blocked number. “Let’s talk about getting this tracking… spyware… whatever junk off my phone first.”

“That’s in the realm of possibility,” Barth explained. “You may take care of your affairs there at your home, and when you return here to The Pastor’s estate, we can return your device to normal. But from there, I’d require your utmost compliance.”

“Well… thinking about it, I’ve been needing to toss this old phone and get someone more up-to-date.”

I heard Barth’s breath hissing out between his teeth on the other end of the line. “If you want to take that path as well, be my guest. But consider the following: if Joseph is elected and the enemy gets what they want- a mole in the White House- some of that weight will be on you.”

“Is that so? You know that the ball is already rolling, though, right?” I asked, forcing a teasing tone into my voice. “My involvement likely won’t amount to much either way.”

“You’re not far from the truth, Jude.” The agent hummed. “But at least with one choice, you would still be earning a paycheck. And don’t worry about feeling guilty about taking Mr. Cumming’s checks. We’ve had a look at his accounts, he’s no beggar.”

I switched the phone about to my other ear, thinking to myself. “Well, at the very least, I’ll be back to return their car.”

“We will see you then, Jude Jackson.” Barth said, ending the call with a click. After hanging up, my phone power cycled, obviously something of their doing.

Agent Barth’s voice was the first I heard on the intercom when I returned to the gates of the Cummings Estate. “Welcome Back, Mr. Jackson.” A pair of vans an a black sedan were beyond the entryway, but I couldn’t detect anyone inside through the heavily tinted windows.

I parked the bug around back and went to the front door. The ring of keys I got with the little vehicle also had one for the house, but Sharon was at the door already waiting. “Well, look who it is! Did you have a nice drive?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied happily, looking over her shoulder while I wiped my feet. “Good driving conditions all the way.”

“The bug isn’t too bad now, is it?”

“Not at all.”

The woman took my freshly-packed bag out of my hand as I stepped inside. “The Husband is taking a call in his office right now… oh, but you’re free to wait anywhere. I think… our secretive friend Mr. Barth was wanting to talk to you… about security clearance or something.”

“I’m sure I’ll run into him sooner or later…” I mumbled, taking off my shoes. “I’m just going to put my things away in the guest room, I’ll handle my bags, don’t worry.” I heard the TV in the other room and carefully made my way through, hoping to pass by quickly to avoid disturbing the watcher.

Jess was on the couch watching, and to my surprise, on the ground, was also the man. From his cross-legged position, he looked up at me, and then back to the screen. “Hi, Jude.” Jess greeted with a wide grin.

I smiled and nodded and continued through. The TV caught my ear just before I was out of the room. And he did come to us on earth to save us from our sins, a childish voice spoke. I glanced to the screen, where an old animated show was playing. The man’s eyes were glued to it. “Catching up?”

“Huh?” Jess spoke, taking her eyes away for a moment.

“Never mind,” I said, hurrying out to the back hall. Up in the second-floor guest room, I sat my things down and contemplated the urge to use the bathroom after the long car trip. Before I could even take a breath, there was a knock at the door. “Just a moment.”

The door opened without hesitation. Barth stepped through and closed it back after him. “Mr. Jackson.”

“I know I already don’t have any privacy in regards to you, but at least give me something,” I said in a low voice.

“Phone.” Barth said, offering his palm out to me. I took the device from my pocket and offered it to him. He began to fiddle with the case and the back cover within. “Mr. Cummings will be off the phone soon. He said he wanted to meet with the both of us as soon as you got back. Let’s not draw any suspicion, right?”

“…Right.”

With a click of the case and a long hold of the side-buttons, the Agent offered me back my phone. “We’ll get another chance to talk later. You’ll get your instructions then.”

Barth exited before I could get another word in. I slumped back across the bed for a while before finding the energy to finally head back out. Just as I opened the door, my eyes met with the Pastor’s who was preparing to knock. “Oh! Good timing, my son. Welcome back, by the way.”

“What a surprise indeed, Joseph…”

“Well, I just got off the phone.” He explained. “Something you might want to hear, oh, but let’s reach out to the good Agent first.”

“Lead the way.”

When we came across Barth out behind the back door, Joseph gathered us into a tight circle. “Gentlemen- just you, Jude, actually.”

“Yes, sir?”

The Pastor straightened his back. “Good news. Your car is ready. Unfortunately, neither myself nor the wife would be able to drive you out to pick it up.”

“Oh.” I said dejectedly, expecting different news. “Surely we can think of something, but I’m in no rush.”

“Oh, I’ve already thought of that.” Joseph declared. “I’ll have Jess drive you out in the bug. It’s already been warmed up, after all. And furthermore, presidential families don’t get too much driving in after they enter office. Isn’t that right, Agent?”

Barth hummed and nodded.

I looked at Barth and then to Joseph. “I see.”

“One thing, though,” Joseph added. “Mr. Barth, can I ask that you or one of your men accompany them in a car of your own? Just for safety’s sake?”

I took in the words and peeked at the suited man. “Joseph, I’m sure he’s too-”

“That is within our duty, Mr. Cummings.” Barth butted in. “Just tell us when you two will be departing, Mr. Jackson.”

“Oh, well, okay…” I managed to spit out. “That’s all?”

“No, actually.” Joseph shook his head. “It’s just an Interview with a Cable News Network, but I don’t want to burden you with the worry about that.”

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