TWELVE YEARS LATER
The United States House of Representatives was about to open for a new session. The usual excitement of beginning was enhanced by the fact that there were so many new faces in Washington D.C. Even though President Walter B. Webb had been reelected in a landslide, there had been a sizeable turnover in both the House and in the Senate. Amid the natural confusion as to where people were supposed to sit, there was the added craziness of a new political party in power in the House.
The outgoing Speaker of the House stood to begin proceedings, and got everyone’s attention by banging the official gavel on the podium. Representatives, their assistants and interns all found their seats quickly, and the Speaker smiled thinly.
“On the morning of my last day of officiating these proceedings, I will ask you all to stand for a brief moment of meditation.” The traditional opening prayer to begin the session had been replaced by a moment of silence just a few years before, following a successful lawsuit by the ACLU and three other organizations.
Four hundred and four representatives and their staffs stood silently. Some bowed their heads and closed their eyes; most just looked straight ahead, their faces mirrored in boredom. Finally, the Speaker raised his head and smiled at the session.
“We have another session before us, my fellow representatives, and as always, it is a great honor to stand here in Congress and speak in the stead of the voters who have entrusted us with this responsibility. Although this is my fourth session–.” He paused as a murmur broke out in the Chamber, which rapidly became filled with shouting voices.
“Order! Order!” the Speaker shouted, banging his gavel. He then realized that several people were pointing at the wall behind him, their faces white with fear. He turned to see letters in Hebrew written in what looked like blood:
As he watched, the letters seemed to appear and become clearer. He looked at the wall, then at the people around him. One long-time representative from Delaware, Rep. Abraham Berkowitz, stood behind him on the platform. He looked as if here were ready to have a heart attack.
“Are you all right, Abe?” the Speaker said to the old man. Berkowitz shook his head, his lips moving in a silent prayer. Finally he spoke aloud.
“It’s a pronouncement of our doom,” he whispered harshly. “Our actions have been seen by Yahweh, and he is telling us that our doom is upon us.”
The Speaker looked at the old man, obviously in distress, and then and the shouting mass of people below him. Finally he looked at the Hebrew letters that grew more bold with every passing moment.
It was going to be a very strange session of Congress.
“In what appears to be a monumental hoax, incoming members of Congress were welcomed to an ominous phrase written in what appeared to be blood: ‘Mene mene tekel upharsin.’ The words are from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. Simply put, it means, ‘You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.’ Secret service, FBI and D.C. police are still looking for the pranksters responsible for the action.”
Vice President Peter Annaway hit the mute button on the flatscreen TV in his private office and looked at the other two people in the room. The Washington mall was clearly visible from the window behind him.
“Police forensics teams are saying it was a special dye that was put on the fabric on the wall. It reacted to the lights and heat of the room. It could have put on days or even weeks before.”
Attorney General Miriam Case-Hudson looked up from her overstuffed chair as she nursed her coffee laced with gin. “So it just happened to have the appearance of blood?”
Annaway shook his head. “No, my gut tells me that was intentional. Someone was making a statement.”
“Have they dusted for fingerprints, or gotten any other leads on who might have done this?” Supreme Court Justice Aaron McBride asked from the end of the couch where he sat drinking his black coffee, sans alcohol.
Case-Hudson shook her head. “No fingerprints, of course. Their best lead will be checking the logs. No one goes in or out of the Chamber without putting their name on the log.”
“On the other hand, no one is allowed in there without proper identification and a guard escort,” added Annaway. The three of them fell silent as they watched a CNN reporter interview the representative from New Mexico. Their lips moved in mute mode, but all three of them could imagine what words were coming out of the mouth of the politician. As a member of the political party that had fallen out of favor, the representative was no doubt quick to criticize the majority party as being irresponsible.
“Things never change,” McBride said. “Or, the more they change, the more they stay the same.”
“Whoever did this was no college freshman pulling a fraternity stunt,” said Case-Hudson. “They had to have security clearance to get in there—to get in the whole building, for that matter. And then they had to be alone long enough to write that mess on the wall. Which means it was done after hours.”
“But why?” McBride said. “What did they hope to accomplish by risking their life and writing some Old Testament curse on the wall of Congress?”
“It’s got to be some religious kook,” Case-Hudson said. The two men in the room looked at each other, then at the attorney general.
“You don’t think…?” McBride started to ask, and Case-Hudson was quick to shake her head.
“Not…likely? Not likely?” Annaway leaped to his feet from the desk he had been leaning on. “The man has been locked up in solitary confinement for 12 years. He’s not listed in any of the correctional system databases. No one sees him. No one. And you say, not likely? You had better be a lot more confident than that, Madam Attorney General.”
“Sorry,” she muttered, embarrassed. “I mean, it’s impossible. The man is under constant surveillance. We three are only part of a handful who know where he is. It didn’t happen.”
“And yet,” Annaway said, his voice slowing as he thought to himself. “The man has a history of being resourceful, of being underestimated.”
“No,” McBride said. “There’s no way anyone could get out of that hellhole we have him in. No frigging way.”
“What success have we had in turning him?” Annaway asked. “I mean, we’ve had 12 years. He should have gone crazy by now.”
“Oh, he’s a loon all right,” Case-Hudson said. “I’ve seen the video. And yet, we haven’t gotten him to change his mind about his so-called calling.”
“Twelve years,” muttered Annaway. “Maybe it’s time we take another approach with him.”
“He’s crazy, I tell you,” Case-Hudson said, putting down her coffee. “You’re wasting your time.”
“Maybe,” Annaway said. “But I’d still like to see what a professional can do with him. Let’s call in Beldon.”
“So what’s the verdict?” McBride asked. “Was it him?”
“In the Chamber?” Annaway shook his head. “No, there’s no way. It has to be someone else.”
McBride looked at Case-Hudson. “His group? The Heretics? Could they have done it?”
Case-Hudson laughed. “They are long gone. We took care of them in San Pedro. We haven’t heard a peep about Elijah Brown or seen any evidence of activity on their part in 12 years.”
“Then who?” asked McBride.
The three of them looked at each other in silence. CNN droned on in mute mode while they deliberated, an overview of the session displayed with the red letters glowing on the wall in the background. Finally Annaway spoke, his words chosen carefully.
“Has anyone considered why it happened here?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, why here? Why not the Senate Chamber? Why not the Oval Office? What is so special about the Representatives Chamber?”
They paused, then Case-Hudson spoke up.
“Do you think they know about the Homeowners Reform Bill? That’s still in subcommittee. It hasn’t even been made public yet.”
Annaway looked at her, one eyebrow raising.
“I’m more concerned about Project Kryptonite. If that got out, it would ruin all of us.”
Case-Hudson and McBride stared at the Vice President and nodded.
“It sounds like we need to notify General Medfield,” Case-Hudson said. “Get White Raven on the case.”
“Do you think that’s wise?” McBride asked.
“McBride, how did you get as far as you have without taking any risks? You are a Supreme Court justice. Time to be a man,” Case-Hudson looked with disdain at the judge. She then turned to Annaway.
“You want me to make the call?” she asked. Annaway nodded.
“If it’s not Borden, then it’s his Heretics. If it’s not the Heretics, then it’s someone else. In any case, it needs to be dealt with.
“Colleagues, if we are truly going to change history, then we need to make sure that all our dominoes are correctly placed. Let’s make sure they are. Starting with Harris Borden.”