Aware he’d lingered a fraction too long inside the door, and fingered his cuffs a little too nervously for such a routine, not to say, humble event for a man in his position, he threw his head back like a pianist. He started to walk on, in slow, deliberate and dignified steps, across the front of the class room of the elementary school in Sarasota.
Would he be able to go through with it? He asked himself. He drew in a sharp breath, straightened his navy blue jacket. Would he really be able to carry it off? And in the glare of the entire world’s media?
The smell of cleaning liquids hit his nostrils. He felt nauseous. Why didn’t someone open the windows? He threw a glance over at the 100 or so reporters. Mostly from the Florida media, they stood crammed at the back, uncomplaining, unaware that their lives had just changed for ever.
It was only 9 am, but sweltering, boiling hot, unendurable. The reporters were adjusting their recorders and checking their camera equipment. Obviously, they hadn’t heard the news...not yet…
An image flashed before his mind’s eye. He saw a jet crashing into the top of the World Tower Center in New York. He saw an orange ball of fire. Walking along, he recalled every detail of the sequence he'd seen replayed on a TV screen for the umpteenth time while he was sitting in the back of a limo as his motorcade had barrelled down Highway 301, running red lights with impunity.
He glanced up at a clock on the wall…9:03 am. And the second plane? His heart started palpitating. He swallowed hard. Millions of people out there must be watching the collapse of the WTC live right now on the internet or on cable TV as history turned on its axis. And millions of people around the world would be wondering where he was right now, too....
A gleam of fear appeared in his ice-blue eyes. He scanned the room with a hawk-like gaze. He lifted his hand with a rapid jerk and adjusted his Burgundy tie. Just under six foot tall, well built, slim, a little over fifty years old he had short, cropped grey hair like a ancient Roman patrician.
In spite of spending the night in the Colony Beach Resort, on a tropical island off the coast of Florida, enjoying Black Russian cocktails at his private bar with his brother, the state governor, as well as a midnight swim in the ocean, he felt strained and tense. Though he'd gone for a 5 mile job that morning around a golf course with one of his secret service agents that morning, and eaten a breakfast of Musli and French toast, orange juice and coffee, he still felt weak. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in a mirror above a washbasin in a corner of the classroom. He saw his face with close set eyes and a razor thin mouth trapped in the metal frame. Holy Smoke! He looked like death warmed up! What colour was his complexion! Pebble grey?
The further he walked, the tighter his shirt collar felt around his throat, the more cramped the classroom seemed; the lower the ceiling.
With its chipped desks, the classroom was shabby even by the standards of the run down school buildings so typical of the southern black neighbourhoods that he scarcely ever had reason to venture into except for a photo op like today's. He turned his head, and tried to look like he was interested in his surroundings when all he really wanted to do was assess the impression he was making on the audience. Had someone noticed anything? Apart from the fact that his wife - usually always at his side at events like this - was missing!
Aware that his movements were laden with tension, stiff and jerky, he made an effort to relax his shoulder muscles and swing his arms back and forth in as casual a way as he could. After all, predators have always disguised themselves to make it easier to sneak up on and pounce on their prey. Animals that understand how to camouflage themselves and blend in with their surroundings are the most successful hunters.
Turning his head from side to side, he scanned his surroundings.
“My name is Mrs Philips, Mr President, Ann Lauren Philips. I'm the teacher of this second grade class. Proud moment for us in this school to receive you here, sir,” the teacher said, offering her hand up to him.
“Glad to meet you,” George said, stiffly, pressing Mrs Philips’ hand.
He met the woman’s calm gaze. His eyelashes trembled. The whites of eyes turned whiter than snow. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. He saw the teacher's eyes widen in amazement.
Just follow the script, he thought to himself. He turned to the photographers. They were snapping away. He stood there with the teacher and the 16 kids and smiled.
“Thank you for coming,” she was saying. “Sorry our wife couldn’t come. We were looking forward to seeing her here.”
“Thank you, thank you,” he stuttered, omitting to mention what was the reason for his wife's striking absence.
It was all happening so fast he found it hard to keep track.
He blinked. Cameras flashed. Why did no one open the windows?
The teacher handed him a book. Chairs scraped; the kids sat down. A glance, and he saw the kids were the “well behaved” kind; they were the kind who had been taught respect for those in authority, to sing the national anthem – and wasn’t that the way it should be for the lower classes?
He sat down awkwardly. He caught sight of kid's drawings of angels and devils and funny bicycles tacked to a board behind him. But he was in no mood for a joke He knew that the second tower must have collapsed by now and millions of people around the world would be stopping what they were doing to follow the events, and asking: where is the President? He tried to act unconcerned, casual, indifferent even though there was a volcano of emotions seething inside him.
The kids all had their heads down, following the instructions of their teacher.
He opened the book, too. He was so nervous he didn't notice he was holding it upside down. He drew in a sharp breath, then quickly scanned the faces of the kids, but no one seemed to have noticed anything unusual about the way he was behaving.
Next, he heard yells of bewilderment and dismay outside; his staff were watching a TV in the room next door.His heart started palpitating. His breath was coming in short, sharp gasps. Next, he heard the door open. Rapid steps. It was Allan White, his chief of staff, coming to tell him that the second plane had hit the WTC in front of the world's cameras. What an alibi! His stomach flipped over in a sickening lurch as he pictured how millions of people would be tuned in and watching his reaction. The blood drained from him when he thought of how much could go wrong. Trying to look casual and surprised, he looked up. He saw Allan White walk up to him looking so tense with hands crossed in front that the situation struck him as absurd and he almost laughed out loud. White stopped, bent down and whispered in his ear.
“A second plane has hit the World Trade Center. America is under attack.” White mumbled the words in such a low voice that George would never have understood them if he hadn’t known anyway what he was going to say.
George nodded, trying to look alarmed, strained, tense, bemused, but not too much. After all, how could he suspect it was a terrorist attack? The first thought that would spring to anyone's mind was an accident.
He stiffened his face and pursed his razor thin lips and held inside him the volcano of emotions. Millions of people around the world were now watching these events live on television. The success of the whole enterprise depended on controlling the message, but with such a large number of people involved something could easily go wrong in spite of the organisation. One of the lower rank secret service agents or freemasons might make a slip up. His mind was racing between hope and fear.
Pagers were going off all around him. He could see his press secretary out of the corner of his eye reacting. Some of the local reporters were starting to whisper among themselves.
“Voices were getting louder. Disbelief, fear, anger, perplexity mingled with the sound of mobiles going off.
He glanced looked up and saw bewilderment. He could see what the reporters were thinking: why the hell aren’t you doing anything? What's going on? Two planes have just destroyed the World Tower Center! Why are you pretending to be interested in a lousy kid’s book? Why aren’t you asking questions? Giving orders or something?
Would they really be able to pull if off? He asked himself, biting his lip. Was this going to work? Were the towers really going to collapse from the demolition explosives as planned? Were his friends, who controlled the mainstream media, really going to be able to control the message and convince the world plane's impact had caused the towers to collapse even though that was impossible from the engineering point of view. No steel framed towers had collapsed in their 100 year history. Temperatures of 4,000 degrees were needed to melt steel; high explosives to pulverise concrete.
Would people be able to put the pieces together and work out that this was a con, a fraud, yet another "false flag operation" to justify another war in the Middle East and contracts all around for his freemason Bilderberg buddies.
And would he and the rest of the gang be put on trial for hatching one of the most spectacular plots in history? After all, even Louis XIV was swept away by the fury of his people.
But he was worrying too much, he thought to himself. There was nothing he could do now anyway, he mused, sweat gleaming on his forehead. The Rubicon had been crossed. The whole thing had been planned for years, so it should go smoothly. The fixers in the media had perfected the art of deceit. Deceit is natural, after all. Animals use it all the time to hunt their prey, he thought to himself. Trickery, intrigue and traps have been used by rulers since time immemoral to get power. There is nothing wrong with wanting to survive and prosper and following nature’s instinct….
Just think about the cuckoo, he thought to himself, shifting awkwardly in his plastic seat. The cuckoo certainly knew how to fool other birds. That’s how it got them to raise its own offspring. Now that was quite a scam! The method the cuckoo employed was pretty neat, too. The male cuckoo, a menacing enough looking bird, would fake an attack on a nest and so distract the birds guarding their nest. While the male cuckoo flew off pursued by the angry birds, the female cuckoo slipped her egg into the nest after pushing out one of the original eggs. The clever bit was that the cuckoo’s egg looked exactly the same as the other eggs in the nest with the same brown speckled pattern and the same colouring as the meadow pippits and reed warblers … Now that was attention to detail, he thought to himself, as he stared at the upside book in his hand. The rest? Well, everyone knew how the young cuckoo was the first to break out of its shell and then, driven by an instinct instilled by nature, push the other eggs out of the nest one by one until it was the only one there, sitting in the nest, getting all the food.
Now that’s the kind of story, these kids should be learning, he thought to himself, glancing up to scan the faces. Instead, they were given this stuff about looking after a horse and being altruistic to read, he mused.
Next, he noticed the reporters were getting so upset that some of them were actually openly pointing at him.
They weren’t buying it, he thought to himself, panicking. He had to do better. He had to be more convincing. He knew what the subtitles of the news channels would be saying as they rolled across the screen right now. He knew the words “America under attack!” “Terrorist attack!” would be rolling across the news bulletins. He just hoped that those subtitles were in big letters.
His every move had been choreographed months in advance. Everything had been done to seem natural – but his very determination to carry out the plan down to the letter, his lack of any spontaneous emotion, now seemed unnatural. He knew he had to do a lot better.
He focussed all his soul energy on playing the fatherly leader, the totally innocent guy, absolutely shaken to the core by a diabolical attack on his country, but determined nevertheless to stay in control and not let these kids down…The cramped classroom, the low chair, the voices of the reporters in the background and the heat all increased his nervousness.
The teacher put down her book. The kids got up from their seats.
He got to his feet, his eyes blurry. He could not bear to face their questions right now. He was sure his voice would quiver, crack. He stuck to the script. He threw himself the role of the passionate educator. To cover up his excitement, he started talking in a loud voice.
“Wow, I just want to say how impressed I am by the reading skills on display here,” he began making gestures to underline his enthusiasm. ”I want to congratulate you all on your fine efforts. Reading programmes like this make our country great.”
He saw the reporters staring at him. He raised his voice and gesticulated with his hands even more to make a more convincing impression of passionate involvement in the reading scheme of these black kids.
“And books like this make such a difference. A great book with great pictures. I liked the white stallion, didn’t you? I liked the way it was galloping along in that field. A great book! A great reading drill with plenty of visuals. All kids benefit from this kind of thing!” he cried.
He was chattering too much, talking utter nonsense, but he didn’t dare stop and face the reporters’ questions. Luckily, the teacher nodded, and so gave his act a certain credibility.
“Have you been using this scheme long?” he asked her.
“One year, Mr President.”
He expected her to say something more, but she didn’t.
“You’re doing a great job,” he cried, trying to spin out the conversation as long as he could. “Like I say, these drills are so important. It makes learning fun. Terrific! You know when I was a kid, I just hated school,“ he continued „ I just wanted to be anywhere but in school. But kids, you know, need to get their education, need to learn to be honest, upright people who serve their country. It’s schools like this that produce our future leaders in the community and in the army and the police and fire services. That’s why we all support a solid education. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for coming today. That's about it, I think!"
He said in a rush, rubbing his hands together, and smiling while cameras flashed. The reporters rushed out of the room, some of them clamping mobile phones to their ear. In the meantime, the school principal had come in. She walked up to him, her face expressing shock and horror.
"Mr President. Two planes have crashed into New York," she said.
"Yeah, fraid I've gotta cancel the reading in the library," he said, lingering to talk to the principal, glad of another excuse to postpone the moment when he had to step outside into the glare of the world's media.