By David Marsh
Copyright 2016 David Marsh
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The US Constitution. Looking back over two centuries, it is hard for modern Americans to understand the struggle our Founding Fathers faced when writing it. Issues, such as slavery or whether the Federal Government should be allowed to have an army, seem to have ridiculously obvious solutions. The experiment they contemplated, democracy, allowing the rabble of uneducated commoners to determine the fate of the nation was unthinkable. Yet, they thought those thoughts, and thought them on a continental scale.
Somehow they succeeded and created the greatest achievement ever devised by the human mind, The Constitution of the United States of America.
These people were far from perfect. James Madison, often hailed as the father of the Constitution, was a small sickly man who suffered from epilepsy, and some say, autism. Robert Morris was a wealthy pirate, Gouverneur Morris a womanizer unparalleled in modern politics, William Blount a thief, and Luther Martin a perpetual drunk. Above it all presided the stately George Washington who never publically expressed his opinion or engaged in any debate.
How this odd cadre managed this feat, we will never fully know. The Constitutional Convention was conducted in secret. Every one of the 55 delegates who attended took their silence to their graves.
Perhaps this was their story.
“That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States”
- Richard Henry Lee, The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
“Thirteen sovereignties pulling against each other, and all tugging at the foederal head, will soon bring ruin on the whole…. I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation.”
- George Washington, ten years later
Akira heard a noise and struggled to open her eyes. Her head hurt and her back ached. Where was she? A rattle of metal and a low rumbling growl of a voice made her heart speed up.
Instantly she was awake, staring at a tall man looming over her, pointing a long barrel in her direction.
“Sleeping in the high school newspaper office, Ms. Madison?” he said, waving a pen at her, “This package came Fed Ex. Unfortunately, I am bound by duty to deliver it.”
“Ah, thanks Principal Higgins.” She rubbed her face trying to shake off her haze of sleep. Between volleyball, being the editor of the high school newspaper and the vlog she did with Ty every week she barely had enough time for her homework, never mind sleep.
Stifling a yawn, she took the pen from the principal and signed the receipt.
Higgins grunted a doubtful harrumph and gave her the box. He took a step back, scanning the all too familiar Rogue Rat design on her t-shirt. “How in the world do you expect to get away with wearing that in here?”
“It’s for the Rogue Rash vlog. We’re live streaming this afternoon.”
“I see.” Higgins hated anything he couldn’t control. And Rogue Rash was on the top of his list. Every week Akira and Ty live-streamed it from the high school auditorium. And every week Higgins gave them a hard time about it. The fact that their vlog had gone viral and was watched by millions only made him madder.
It made Akira smile to think about it.
“I still haven’t received your proposal for your Senior Civics Project, Ms. Madison. When might I expect it?”
“Soon, Principal Higgins, very soon.”
Higgins looked her in the eye and his face softened. He sat on the corner of her desk and folded his hands. “Ms. Madison…Akira…you are the smartest person in the area of American History that I have ever known. Why are you dragging your feet on this Senior Project, in Civics of all topics?”
Higgins’ warm smile reminded Akira that, despite his gruff exterior, he was a softie inside. Being a principal in a New York City high school was a tough job and Higgins truly cared about his students.
Akira paused, and leaned back in her chair staring off into space. “Ever since I first learned to read I’ve been fascinated by our history. The more I read, the more I realize there’s so much we still don’t know about our past. I want my Senior Civics Project to be more than just another essay. I want to discover some new unsolved mystery, some great uncovering of how our nation was really formed. Just imagine, me up on a huge stage, ready to present my paper to a standing-room-only crowd, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and every major network hanging on my every word.” She heaved a wistful sigh. Then she noticed Higgins’ doubtful face. “Well, that kind of excitement isn’t going to just land on my desk.” She picked up her letter opener and began slicing through the tape on the package.
“Akira, you need to be realistic. Just give me your proposal and write an ordinary essay. What do you say?”
“I don’t know….” Her voice trailed off as she thought about the long history her family had and how she felt she needed to contribute to that history.
“Another thing,” Higgins’ face became more serious and folded his hands, “you really shouldn’t be spending as much time as you do with Tyler Yates. He’s a bad influence.”
“Oh my God, how can you say that? At nineteen he is the youngest New York State Senator in history.”
“Oh please,” Higgins said examining his fingernails, “don’t remind me. I certainly didn’t vote for him. He is simply too young.”
“There have been younger legislators in other states. Saira Blair was only 17 when she won her first election to the West Virginia House. Founding Father Jonathon Dayton was only a few years older than Ty when he helped write the US Constitution. Besides, Ty knows as much American history as I do.”
“A subject he is failing because he doesn’t show up for class.”
“Principal Higgins, he’s never missed a senate session. Besides, why should he go to class? He already knows more than the teacher.”
“The rules are the rules. Besides, the two of you don’t agree on anything. You are exact opposites. Ty’s family is typical WASP, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and rich beyond measure. You are, well.…”
“Go ahead and say it. I’m black and my aunt and I are poor. But we are just as proud of our heritage as anyone in Ty’s family.”
“For that I give you credit. But you need to be careful dating a boy like Tyler.”
“We are not dating! We are friends, strictly friends.”
Higgins crossed his arms and looked doubtful.
Akira crossed her arms and glared back.
“Okay, okay,” Higgins conceded. “Friends. A friendship I simply don’t understand.”
“Ever since Kindergarten, Ty and I have fought. Then when we found out our families have always fought, well it only made things worse, and better at the same time.”
Higgins forehead furrowed questioning her comment.
“It’s true. If you go back far enough it was Ty’s ancestor, Robert Yates, that led the battle at the Constitutional Convention against my ancestral uncle, James Madison.” She paused, letting Higgins remember the details. “Who knows where we’d be if Madison had lost – still struggling under the Articles of Confederation and a powerless central government.”
Higgins’ face grew hard again. “And like his ancestor, Tyler thinks a powerless government would be a good thing. He says he’s sick and tired of what he calls our oversized government stepping on the rights of the people. Rubbish. The Federal Government protects our rights. It doesn’t take them away. And, why does he call himself Dr. Rogue? Tyler is a perfectly good name.”
“Mr. Higgins, that is his right, is it not?”
Higgins blew out a long breath. “Yes, it is his right. It is also his right to not to get a diploma. You’ll be in that same position if I don’t get your project proposal soon, young lady.” Higgins stood and huffed out of the room nearly running into Jenin as he left.
“Princ-pal Higgins, he look mad,” Jenin said, her voice thick with a Chinese accent. Jenin was about the same height as Akira, barely five feet, but of a more normal build rather than Akira’s almost scrawny frame.
“He’s just being over-protective. Again.”
Jenin hefted a makeup tote. “Ty, he send me to get you ready for vlog.”
Akira nodded and turned her chair around so Jenin could work on her hair.
Jenin pulled a comb through Akira’s hair. “Higgins, he no like Ty.”
“Ty is just one of those people. Either you love him or hate him.”
“What about you? What you think?”
“Both. Definitely both. And never in the middle.”
“I like Ty. He say government need serious haircut. Thomas Jefferson said, ‘That government is best which governs least.’”
“No Jenin, Jefferson never said that.”
“But, Ty say…”
“Ty loves to misquote Jefferson as a way to make his point of view clear. It is a technique used throughout American history.”
On the outside of Jenin’s tote was a photo of Ty, Dr. Rogue himself. Long brassy hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, jet-black goatee, his massive, bulked-up torso straining through his wrestler’s tights. Lord help us. How he ever got elected to the New York Senate was beyond her. On the other hand, he certainly did stand out. Behind him was his blazing stars and stripes Mustang, its overdone engine barely contained under a massive chrome air-intake that mountained up from the hood. Having infinite money made toys like that possible. She re-read the title for the hundredth time.
“The Rogue-mobile?” Akira tisked. “Couldn’t he have come up with a better name than that for the most infamous car in America?”
“You no like?” Jenin protested. “In China I think all Americans like Ty. So that easy for me.”
“You named it?” Akira was shocked.
Jenin didn’t answer. She just kept working on Akira’s hair, then swiveled her chair around to apply makeup to her face.
“Jenin, that car wouldn’t be legal even on the Daytona Speedway, never mind the public streets. The only reason he gets away with it is that he is a state senator giving him immunity. Not exactly setting a good example.”
Jenin held up a mirror for Akira. “Ty say all this government mess need be cleaned up. I senior. Next year I live on my own. Government need be fixed now before it too late.”
Akira checked herself in the mirror. “Thanks Jenin.”
Jenin started packing away her stuff in the tote. “Vlog in twenty minutes. You go.”
Akira smiled as Jenin closed her door. Democracy, or as Jenin called it, “all this government mess,” never claimed to be clean and easy. Rancor and contention were intentionally built into the Constitution, carefully engineered into the document. E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one. Without the Constitution there’d be no Unum. Today we take democracy and the Constitution for granted. Up until then, every democracy, from the Greeks on forward, had always ended in disaster. Democracy was an impossibility. The very word itself was considered inappropriate for public use, and everyone disagreed as to what it meant.
Even still, the Founding Fathers believed. What we have today all boiled down to their faith that somehow, someway, democracy could be made to work. But, how?
It wasn’t just the battle between James Madison and Robert Yates. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Despite thousands of letters and reams of essays, so little was known today about the people themselves. What were they thinking, what were they feeling, what backroom deals were made to give us our Constitution? That’s what she wanted to write about for her senior project. All her life Akira had dreamed of finding out, and all her school career she’d dreamed of finding solid evidence of what had really gone on back then.
She sighed. Looking back at the now half opened Fed-Ex box, she pulled back the top flap.
Philadelphia, February, 1786, fifteen months before the Constitutional Convention
Candle light glimmered and glinted from the freshly polished chandelier, casting rippling shadows into the stemmed goblet of Port in his hand.
“I cannot yet fully comprehend why you brought me here Alexander. Four days carriage ride from the Virginia House of Delegates in Richmond. And what is to be accomplished? I should not be absent from the sessions at so crucial a time.”
“My dear James sir, it has been my experience that men of Guvernur’s stature will not concede to such matters as are being planned unless it be on their own terms. Having you here in his home will lend his mind to ease and better contemplation.”
“Man of his stature? Surely you do not consider a man of such lavish arrogance,” James swept his hand around the conspicuously decorated room, “who obtained said wealth by piracy on the high seas to be a man of true gentlemanly stature.”
“A more loyal patriot you will not find. He was deprived of a leg during the Revolution in an accident delivering provisions to the troops.”
Madison looked skeptical. “It is my understanding, declaimed by many, that his leg was lost due to an inauspicious leap from a second story window escaping a jealous husband.”
“James sir, take caution. The chamber has many ears.” Alexander’s eyes gestured toward an approaching servant.
“More Port Mr. Hamilton sir, Mr. Madison sir?”
Hamilton held out his glass without speaking.
“Stature, indeed. Even his servants,” James spoke after the servant had left, “are better dressed than you or I.”
“I urge you to overlook the sources of his wealth. Guvernur Morris has the means we so desperately crave.”
“My friend, you must speak in the singular. My mind is most unsettled by your devious plan.”
“Devious it may be and it is not my plan alone, as you well know. Moreover, it stands in great necessity. If you are in disagreement, I urge you to speak to me of it presently, for you are about to encounter men who fervently agree with the deviations of which you speak.”
“Other men, beyond Guvernur?” Madison took a step back from the taller Hamilton. “Of whom are you speaking? Men the likes of John Hancock?”
Hamilton laughed. “My dear sir! John Hancock threatened to hang you for treason for your last proposal for amendment of The Articles of Confederation.”
James sniffed with a prideful smile of memory. “Tis true. By my Lord in Heaven, they have accomplished naught in Congress. A decade on from the Declaration and they cannot even vote to allow Vermont into the Union. No deeper impossibility is there in this life.”
The corner of Hamilton’s mouth curled into a half smile. “Before I joined, when you were yet in the Congress, they voted to allow Canada into the Union.”
James’ knuckles whitened as he gripped his goblet in frustration. “Imbecility upon imbecility. All will be lost if we do not take action. We might do better to hand the country back to King George.”
Hearing a clamor at the front door, Hamilton turned. “You are acquainted with Guvernur, are you not?”
“We were seated in Congress together, but I have not met with him since he resigned.”
The front door opened and two servants entered, taking places on either side. Then Guvernur entered, his long coat swirled around him, hiding from view the source of the clomping sound from his wooden leg.
“James Madison sir,” Guvernur effused, “so very good of you to come.”
James winced as his hand folded under the taller man’s overly firm grip. “Your servant, sir.”
“And Alexander sir, I hope you’ve treated our guest handsomely.”
“Most certainly he has,” James replied for his friend, shaking his hand to restore it.
“Come, let us be seated in comfort.” Guvernur loped his way into his study, sweeping off his coat as a servant scrambled to catch it before it fell to the floor. Collapsing into a heavily padded red leather chair, he held his hand up to accept a glass of dark red wine. Following a deep draft, he released a long sigh. “There, that’s better. Now, you were saying, James?”
“I answered only that I have been well used.”
“Splendid. But you must be wondering why I sent for you to join me here.”
James nodded skeptically, and took a sip of his wine.
“The reason, my dear sir, is simple. You are a Continentalist, a man who believes that America’s only path forward is the path of strength, strength in unity. You tolerated the futility of the Confederation Congress for three long years.” Guvernur turned to Hamilton. “How long did you serve, was it three months before you stormed out?”
“Four. I served four very dreadful months.”
Guvernur turned back to Madison. “I complement you on your steadfastness, James. The only item of merit to come out of the Congress since the Declaration was your momentous work, the creation of the Northwest Territory. Remarkable, yes, yes, most admirable.” Guvernur raised his glass to Madison and took another deep draught. “Your work declares you a man of broad philosophy.” He looked up into Hamilton’s scowling face. “As is my friend Alexander, no doubt there. But you James, have a sweetness of words, a softness of tongue, which, unfortunately, is not in the possession of my dearest friend.” He looked to Hamilton’s grimace. “Yes, ‘tis true, and it will please me to no end if you will not hold my words against me.” He looked back to Madison, holding him for a moment in his gaze. “James, you possess the ability to turn people to your way of thinking. And your thinking is good and sound and moreover is a match for the way my friends and I are thinking.”
“And will you name these friends of whom you speak?”
“Shortly you will know, shortly you will know.” Guvernur leaned back in his chair and pulled the window curtain, squinting into the darkness to see outside. “Ah, yes! For here they are now to present themselves to you.”
There was a knock on the door, and a servant moved to open it.
“To answer your question, James sir, simply look to the door.”
Madison’s eyes narrowed as he watched three men walk in.
“Do you know them, James?”
“I am acquainted with each. Robert Morris, the merchant admiral with a private navy of two hundred ships, John Jay, Superintendent of Foreign Affairs, and James Wilson the land speculator. A peculiar collection of men.”
“Men of vision who risked everything during the Revolution. Continentalists all. Come. Let us meet the men who will lead the new empire to its final victory.” Guvernur stood and took several awkward steps forward to greet his comrades before he noticed Madison lagging behind. With a huff he took Madison by the arm and pulled him forward. “Come, James dear sir. Don’t allow your shyness to keep you from your destiny.”
“T’is not shyness that holds me back.”
Guvernur responded with a gentle pat on his back then a less gentle push forward. With a quick swirl of his other arm he summoned wine for the new guests.
“Gentlemen,” Guvernur announced, “you all know the brilliant James Madison of Virginia. Come let us toast him and his new undertaking.”
All glasses were raised. Except one. “I know naught of an undertaking.”
“You, my dear, patient James,” Guvernur paused with a self-pleasing chortle, “are going to build a nation.” Guvernur blinked, and then nodded yes. “An easy task for a man such as you, one would think.”
“I, ah, know not what you may mean, sir. I beg you to be plain. I assure you that I am inclined to listen, though I may not find favor in your explanations.”
“Come, let us sit, and I will reveal all.” The group followed Guvernur into the study. Guvernur winced slightly as he collapsed into his chair. “Now that our discussions are about to become more serious, I believe brandy is more appropriate than this Port. Yes?” Moments later everyone had brandy in hand. Turning to Wilson, Guvernur said, “Mr. Wilson sir, I will let you start. But please, speak slowly, your Scottish tongue is difficult for my ears.”
Wilson stared down at Madison through his spectacles balanced on the end of his nose. “You agree, nay, Mr. Madison sir, that the Articles of Confederation need t’ be amended.”
Wilson’s Scottish burr lent his words near incomprehensibility, but James listened intently. “My opinion to amend the Articles is well known.”
“Nay, t’ amend them is a sorry waste. We believe they need t’ be thrown onto the fires of Hell.”
“Forgive my impertinence sir, but I was present when the two of you,” Madison pointed to the two Morrises, “had a hand in writing them.”
“Aye, we did. A country with no government at all is not a country. You know full well that during the Revolution, France refused to come to our aid until we signed. The Articles were the best option the desperations of war would allow.” Guvernur held his brandy crystal to the candle light, letting the deep colors sparkle. “That is why you yourself supported it.”
Madison stood motionless, his face devoid of all emotion. Then he let out a resigned breath. “And a country with too little government is also not a country.”
Guvernur slapped the table with his palm. “That is why I like you, James. You wield words as others wield a sword. We have before us a new era, and we are in need of a new constitution. And you, my scholarly friend, will write it.”
“Impossible. The populace will never accept it.”
Guvernur swept his hand around the room. “We agree. We must change their minds.”
“Again may I say that I have tried. That of which you speak is impossible. I have spoken a hundred thousand words, and have not convinced the Congress otherwise.”
“Ah, my dearest James. You are correct. And a hundred thousand more will not help in the smallest possible fraction. But one thing will.”
“What is that?”
The previously jovial man’s face turned dark and solemn. “Fear. Blood red fear.”
“I confess I do not take your meaning.”
“Let me explain. But first I need your solemn vow, whether you join us or not, that my words will not pass beyond these walls. Do you so promise?”
James paused, then nodded his head. “I do so promise.”
“Excellent, now allow me to explain.”
Akira pried open the last flap of the cardboard box and pulled out a hand-written letter.
Dear Cousin Akira,
Thank you for your thoughtful sympathy card. Please don’t apologize. I understand the reasons why you couldn’t come to my mother’s funeral. Senior year of high school is always so busy.
I went through some of my mother’s things in the attic and found these. I thought they might be of interest to you, being the family historian and all.
Write when you can.
Your cousin Lanora
Akira dumped the box contents out on her desk; some old post cards from Niagara Falls, a gray tin-type photo of her great-grandparents and a faded plastic flamingo that said Florida on it. The tin-type was good, but the other stuff? Oomph. Oh, well, she’d just have to file them away somewhere.
She was about to throw the box into the recycle bin when she noticed something stuck in the bottom, an old crinkled yellow paper, folded in three. She pulled it out.
As she unfolded it, the writing came into view and her jaw dropped.
February 18, 1786
My Dearest Nelly,
The long fought Battle of The Revolution has not brought us the Fruits of Liberty for which we had longed. Only a robust, foederal Government can provide the Nation with the Backbone it needs to prosper, yet the Congress remains Deaf to the Weaknesses of the Articles of Confoederation. This very Day I have once again put forth a Petition for Amendments to the House of Delegates. And once again I have been denied. I am ashamed to admit that in my Vexation over the general Ignorance of this supposedly august Body I raised my Voice amidst the pointless Noise and demanded that the Articles be rewritten. President Henry threatened to have me placed in Irons for speaking such a Treason. It is now overwhelmingly clear to me that Amendments sufficient to rectify the Ills of the Articles may not be the best Path.
While I contemplated my Failures over the Articles, I was drawn into numerous Discourses of which I have not sufficient Time to recount to you. These Men are the most outspoken among those with whom I have common Philosophy. The Thrust of the Debate is thus: If our Nation is to survive such rampant Indecision, we ought to do away with the Articles of Confoederation entirely and design a stronger Instrument of Government to secure the Future. I fear this Path almost as much as I find myself compelled to follow it.
With reluctant Affirmation I have resolved that I can not join them, neither can I betray them. To assist the Alliance of such Men as will seek a deliberate Solution to the Stagnation of the Articles is beyond my Oaths of Office.
With a Number of these fresh Patriots they have named themselves Unite or Die. They have found a Captain in the Revolution who is sick of Heart with his Mistreatment by the Tyrants in Boston who claim to serve the Republic of Massachusetts. His Name is Daniel Shays. By providing him with Coin, he will raise an Army to force his Repressors to relent. The acute Danger of an Uprising will demonstrate to the People of all the Republics the Need of a strong central Government.
As is Captain Shays, I am sick of Heart over Worry for our fledgling Nation. How I long for the joyful Days of our youth, swinging on the Rope in the Barn, hiding our Treasures.
Your loving Brother,
Wow. Could this be real? Not only was she holding an original letter written by James Madison to his kid sister Eleanor, it was a letter that shed light on one of the great unsolved mysteries of American History – who had funded Shays’ Rebellion?
The stunned Akira got up and paced in back of her desk, her poodle slippers slapping on the tiles as she breathlessly murmured to herself.
“Shays, Shays, Daniel Shays.” She snapped her fingers trying to get her numbed mind to remember the details of the history. “Yeah, former Captain in the Continental Army. Formed his own private army of ex-soldiers about to lose their farms because the Confederation Congress wouldn’t pay them the back wages it owed them. Confederation Congress had no money and no way to get any. Shays started a second American revolution, blockading bankruptcy courthouses, driving off judges, and even attacking the national armory. Then, General Shepard stepped in with another private army to put down Shays at the Battle of Springfield. Shepard fired cannon point blank into men who were once under his command during the Revolution. It was anarchy. Americans battling Americans. Horrible.”
Akira stopped pacing and reread the letter.
“Fresh Patriots. Could be any number of prominent politicians of the day. Unite or Die? Never heard of it. Yeah, it was Benjamin Franklin’s infamous political cartoon depicting the states as a severed snake. But, not a group. And they wanted a revolution to demonstrate the need for a strong central government. Wow.”
She plopped back into her chair. This was exactly what she wanted her senior project to be on. What a research paper this would make! Ty was going to be green with jealousy. She could see it all so clearly, the press-filled auditorium, the spotlight shining on her, the audience silent with anticipation.
Then reality struck when her computer chirped a fifteen minute warning for the vlog. She placed the letter on her desk and gave it a gentle pat. “O-o-o-o,” she giggled as she slipped off her poodle slippers and stepped into her pumps. With one last glance at her new-found treasure, she turned and trotted off to put her purse and cell phone in her locker.
Moments later, as she darted to the auditorium, she stopped back for a quick check on her prize. With her hand on the office doorknob she paused, savoring the moment. Closing her eyes, she popped open the door. “Well, hello my passport to…” She froze.
It was gone.
“No! No, no, no…” She looked everywhere, under the desk, in the wastebasket, in the recycle bin, in the empty cardboard box. The letter was nowhere to be found. Everything else was there. Was her sleep-deprived mind making up daydreams? She picked up the stupid flamingo and stared into its eyes. “The letter was real, wasn’t it?”
The flamingo didn’t answer.
“I had rather be a free citizen of the small republic of Massachusetts than an oppressed subject of the great American empire”
– A. Federalist, Boston Gazette and the Country Journal, November 26, 1787
Akira sat alone on the auditorium stage, drumming her fingers as the clock ticked down the last seconds to the vlog. “Where is he?” she murmured to herself.
Then, just as the countdown turned to 0:00, the lights slammed off in the auditorium.
“What the heck.” Akira croaked
“And now,” an announcer’s voice boomed in the hall, “live from the Rogue Rash Auditorium in the heart of New York City, it’s Akira Madison…” Out of the blackness a spotlight flashed down on her. She held up her hand to block the blinding light. “…and…,” a drum roll tatted across the hall. “…it’s our own pile-it-deep pundit, the rascal of the right, Ty, ‘Dr. Rogue’ Yates!”
Amid sparks and smoke, the back doors of the auditorium exploded open. In rolled Dr. Rogue on an over-chopped Harley.
As red, white, and blue lasers streaked through the smoke, he gunned the throttle in a ripple of long roars like a warrior trying to psych-out his enemies.
Popping the clutch, he burned a wheelie down the center aisle, shooting flames from the tailpipes. The deafening concussion flattened the grinning, cheering fans against their seats. A ramp vaulted the bike up onto the stage. Akira screamed and stepped back from her host desk as the bike tires scored a set of black streaks into the flooring as he side-slid to a stop and killed the engine.
Ty arched his deeply-knotted arms over his head and pulsed his muscles, his arms and chest doing a hoola as the frenzied crowd screamed. A searing guitar riff tore through the auditorium.
“Let me hear you say Yeah!” he bellowed.
“Yeah!” the audience chorused.
“Talk about the Second Amendment right to bare arms! Yeah! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”
Akira turned around. Their usual talk show metro scene backdrop had been replaced with a live-action screen that showed a snow-boarder doing a flip. In precisely timed succession, a surfer tunneled down a tube of water, then an air-borne four-wheeler flashed across the backdrop. This was America, as Ty saw it.
Akira rolled her eyes and turned away. “Ty, what have you done?”
“Great, isn’t it?”
Ty turned to the student audience. “What do you think? Like the changes?”
“Yeah!” came the over whelming response.
Ty looked to Akira and smirked as she put her hands on her hips with a huff. He moved to the front of the stage, “I have one for you. If you took all the dollars the Federal Government will spend this month, just this one month now mind you, and laid them end to end, how far would they reach?” He looked to the audience. “What do you think? Kansas?”
“More,” came a cry.
“The moon,” came an outrageous guess.
“They would reach all the way,” his arm arched a long trajectory, “to Mars.” He put his two fists on his hips and nodded in unbelieving confirmation. “It takes NASA’s fastest rocket two years to get there. Washington can do it in a month. And you thought they couldn’t do anything right.”
The crowd roared at the absurdity. Akira winced.
Ty looked to Akira. “It takes a lot of creativity to misspend that much money, doesn’t it Akira?”
“Of course it’s a lot of money. It’s a big country. Ty, your ideas are so simplistic, lacking real world realities. Born rich, you’ve never had to worry about where your next meal was coming from.”
“And that is just this month,” Ty continued. “Next month it starts all over again, but it will reach even farther. Every day since the Constitution was ratified, the federal government has grown. Inch by inch, step by step. Every day for ninety thousand days. Akira, tell us of one day, just one day, when that has not been true.”
“When America stops growing,” she challenged, “that is when the federal government will stop growing. Until then it will continue to serve the American people.”
“Okay,” Ty said to the audience, “show of hands. Who believes the feds will just give up their strangle hold just because they are good guys?” No one raised their hand. He turned back to Akira. “Go ahead, count ‘em. I’ll start, and then you take over. Let’s see, let’s start with zero. Now your turn.”
Akira stepped in front of Ty. “Okay, let’s play your game. Show of hands. How many of you will use a federal backed loan or grant for college next year. Go ahead, no cheating, raise your hand.” About half of the students raised their hands.
“Nice shot, Akira. But the truth is that Washington is in a mess,” Ty continued. “However, I don’t believe it’s their fault. They can’t stop it. They’re addicted to it, like junkies always needing a money fix. It’s up to us to push back. To put the government in its rightful place. As Thomas Jefferson once said ‘Most bad government has grown out of too much government.’”
“Jefferson never said that.”
Without responding, he turned, and in bold, muscle bound strides, stomped to his desk. “I got another one today,” Ty boasted, holding up another of his famous traffic tickets. “Let me hear you say Yeah!” his gravel-and-tar voice scratched. Not his real voice, not the one she knew when he was off stage. The one full of urgent seriousness, full of mindfulness about the proper role of government and the power of the people.
“Yeah!” the crowd enthused.
The live-action screen behind them switched to a video of Ty prancing around the City in his behemoth Mustang, its belching tailpipes roaring his presence for everyone to hear, whether they wanted to or not.
“Yeah,” Ty boomed. “It’s the Rogue-mobile. Isn’t she beautiful? Just like our country.”
“Ty, you are just trawling for trouble. Why?”
“Great isn’t it?” Ty grinned as blue lights flashed on the screen.
A smile spread across Ty’s face as a police cruiser pulled him over. He leaned on his horn, and the car’s massive air trumpets blew an ear-piercing rendition of The Stars and Stripes Forever. How the cops must hate to have to stop him.
When the officer handed over the citation Ty revved the engine in a series of ever increasing waves, blue nitro flames flaring from the air intake. He pumped the engine to a fever pitch and popped the clutch. Blue smoke bellowed from screeching tires as Ty burned a victory circle around the forlorn officer.
Akira placed her hand on her forehead and shook her head no.
When the video ended Ty strode to a corkboard full of safety violation tickets, and pinned up his latest one.
“Bam!” With an emphatic splay of fingers he marveled at the wonder before him. “The Wall of Reclaim! Thomas Jefferson told us that ‘dissent is the highest form of patriotism.’”
Akira rolled her eyes. “Jefferson never said that.”
“We need to push back,” Ty explained as he turned to his host desk and sat. “Akira believes, the government can solve all our problems. As Thomas Jefferson said, ‘A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything you have.’”
“Ty, Jefferson never said that either.”
“Every time the government gives,” Ty made finger quotes around the word, “us something, they take something away. That something is always Freedom. Every day we are one step closer to the inevitable.” He turned to her. “Isn’t that right, Akira?”
“Yes, your inevitable. The inevitable you are pushing our country into by tearing apart the very core of our nation.”
“That’s what I like about you, Akira, you can dish it right back.”
“Ty. It’s not intruding when people are in need of help. The Government is only trying to help people.”
“Yeah, yeah. Washington knows what’s better for us than we do.”
“That’s it!” She stood and stomped to Ty. Staring him eyeball to eyeball, her standing height equal to his sitting, she pointed an out stretched finger at his chest. “Stop…” she jabbed the finger into his chest. A look of mock horror spread across Ty’s face as he pushed his chair back as if the force of her finger had done it. “…distorting…,” another gab, and another roll back “…everything!”
With a Ty like snort of victory she crossed her tiny arms and glared at the audience as they broke into cheers of approval.
“Okay, okay,” Ty conceded. “Just put that thing away before you hurt somebody. We have the right to bare arms, not fingers.”
Cheering laughter continued as Akira returned to her seat.
“You know, Akira, you remind me of someone. One of the Founding Fathers, a drafter of the Constitution. He wanted big government. James something-or-other.”
“Yeah! That’s it. Wait a second. That’s the same last name as you.”
“Ty, you know full well that James Madison was my ancestral uncle.”
“And he’s the one man most responsible for the mess we have today. He bullied through his notion of big government into the Constitution. And in doing so, formed the largest, most invasive organization on the planet.”
“Our government is not invasive, and James was a true patriot who worked hard to form an effective, not invasive, government.”
“Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, and my ancestor, Robert Yates. They were true patriots. They refused to go along with James’s grandiose ideas.” Ty flipped open the copy of the Constitution he always had at hand. “Look for yourselves folks. Not there.” Ty held the signature page to the camera for all to see.
“Gimme that thing.” She pulled the document she had long since memorized and pretended to read. “Let’s see, hmmm, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin. They signed. Besides, Thomas Jefferson was Ambassador to France and couldn’t be there.”
“Jefferson was still against James Madison’s lack of federal restraints. He even called James’ tricks at the Constitutional Convention ‘abominable.’”
“Tricks? What tricks?”
“Like posting armed guards at the doors so no one would know what was going on inside. Despite the sweltering summer heat, they even kept all the windows closed so no one could hear.”
“He posted guards to protect the delegates from outside interference.”
“Interference? You mean a country who didn’t want his grandiose ideas? Even during the height of the war with Brittan they didn’t post armed guards. Every historian worth his salt knows many of the Founding Fathers, were against James’ version of the Constitution. Of the fifty six men who signed the Declaration of Independence, only seven, count them, seven, signed the Constitution.”
“Ty, every schoolchild knows the Constitution was unanimously endorsed at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.”
“Unanimous? Hardly. Initially only two states even bothered to show up for the Convention. It was only when the other states found out about James’ shenanigans that they sent delegates to counter him. It took another two months before the rest of the states showed up. Rhode Island never did. Of the seventy three delegates nominated to the convention, nearly twenty downright refused to go. Fifty five delegates did show up, but thirteen left in disgust including my ancestor, Robert Yates, Supreme Court Justice of New York. Three of those who remained refused to sign.”
“But thirty nine men did vote for it.”
“Read the wording in the Constitution. They were only witnessing that others consented, not that they voted for it. I believe many voted nay.”
“Ty, that is not a proven fact.”
“Of course not, because the official vote count somehow disappeared. Poof, gone. Just a simple note ‘All the states, Aye.’ The most important vote in the history of our beautiful country just disappeared, along with almost all of the other official records. But don’t worry folks. We still have James Madison’s version of what happened. How convenient.”
“Your Robert Yates was the other person who took extensive notes. Besides, America was imploding under the Articles of Confederation. The situation was desperate, and no one was doing anything about it. At least James had the guts to do something.”
“Akira, everyone agreed we needed a new constitution. Just not the one James wrote. Even Benjamin Franklin himself openly criticized it. The whole affair was illegal.”
“Illegal?” Akira gasped. “Are you saying the Constitution of the United States of America is not legal?”
“James’ Constitutional Convention was illegal. And my ancestor tried to stop him.”
“Ty, you can’t go around throwing out wild speculations as if they were confirmed facts.”
“Let’s get another opinion,” Ty said, turning to the audience. “My fellow students, I have as a very special treat for you this afternoon, a woman who needs no introduction. A true patriot who believes the states should be given back their rights taken away by James’ version of the Constitution. A great leader, my personal friend, and the next president of the United States of America, Mercy Warren!”
Akira’s face dropped. How on Earth did he get her to come to their school?
In walked a tall, slender woman with a head full of dark wavy hair, and a mouthful of gleaming teeth. She shook Ty’s hand, then Akira’s. She waved to the cheering crowd, beaming from ear to ear. She laughed, pointing to individuals in the crowd as if she knew them personally. For several moments she basked in the adulation then took a guest seat next to Ty’s desk.
“Thank you, Ty. And thanks to all of your fellow students for such a warm welcome. It feels like I am coming home to a place that finally understands the true role of government.”
“Amen to that, Mercy. Amen to that. Tell us, what is your view of government?”
“It’s all very simple, Ty. The closer government is to the people, the better. Washington is so far removed from the average citizen that it has lost touch. Only the states are close enough. True, some things are best done by a national government, such as defense. Everything else should be up to the people, up to the states.” Mercy looked to Akira. “Your ancestor, James Madison, was a true patriot, in my opinion the greatest American hero that has ever lived. With his mighty pen and his gentle voice he did something even George Washington couldn’t. He hammered together thirteen wayward colonies into one nation.
“But he couldn’t foresee the outcome of his ideas of big government. He had no idea that Washington would force national healthcare down the throats of the states. He couldn’t. When he drafted the Constitution, there was no such thing as healthcare or even Washington. The result is that today there are a thousand areas where the federal government runs rough-shod over the states. I don’t blame James. But I do blame what he wrote into the Constitution.”
“Ms. Warren,” Akira interjected. “With all due respect ma’am, you are wrong. In 1935, during the Great Depression, millions of older Americans were starving, literally starving to death. The states did little more than ladle out soup. It took the federal government to form Social Security that has helped hundreds of millions of our most needy citizens.”
“And spent a hundred trillion dollars. If Social Security was a nation, it would be one of the largest in the world.”
“One of the most efficient and best run nations,” Akira blurted.
“Go ahead, Akira,” Ty boomed. “Outsource our lives to the government. It’s good for us.”
“Exactly,” Mercy agreed. “We need the government to protect our rights and freedoms. We also need to protect those same rights and freedoms from the government. To do that we need a fundamental change in the way the federal government does business. We need to rewrite the Constitution.”
“Ms. Warren. That is ridiculous. If you want change, propose an amendment.”
“Akira, it’s not what James wrote into the Constitution, but what he left out. James’ Constitution is short, only four pages, the shortest national constitution in the world. It would take a hundred amendments. Besides, there is so much bureaucracy in Washington that of the hundred or so amendments officially proposed every year, the last one took two hundred and three years to pass. Over two centuries. That is not acceptable.”
Ty stood. “Who wants to wait two hundred years for change?”
“Noooooo!” came the chorus of voices.
“You see, Akira,” Mercy voiced, “there is a fundamental problem. The people didn’t want James’ invasive ideas then. The people still don’t want them today. That is why I am making a Second Constitutional Convention the central issue in my campaign.”
“You can’t do that,” Akira protested.
“Why not? Article Five of the Constitution specifically allows a second convention. As of today my campaign has filed petitions in all fifty states. If two thirds of the state legislatures vote Aye, then on May 14 we will start work on our new Constitution, and we’ll finish it in one hundred and eight days. That’s what James did, and how long he took to do it.” She turned to the students. “I speak to every one of you who will be eighteen on election day, please, register now. No matter who you vote for, it not merely your right, it is you duty to register and vote. I hope you will then find it in your hearts to vote for Change Now.”
Ty stood, pumping his raised arm. “Change now. Change now.”
The frenzied students joined in. “Change now. Change now.”
White House Chief of Staff, Chet Steward, sat forward in his chair, his eyes locked on the image of the President’s rival. Mercy Warren was good. Too good. She was the kind of person who could look unruffled in a hurricane. Very presidential. She was gaining ground in the polls, and kids like Ty were helping her get the critical youth vote. Warren might actually win this election.
He scanned his dossiers of Ty and Akira on his lap, the muscles of his jaw bulging in and out as he munched on M&Ms. Ty was the brilliant brat son of a US senator. Fluent in five languages, he had traveled the world and was on speaking terms with countless US and foreign leaders, including US Senator Mercy Warren. Himself a New York state senator, he and Akira co-hosted the wildly popular video blog Rogue Rash.
Akira was just the opposite, straight A student, class valedictorian, never missed a class, quiet and reserved. However, when speaking out on something she believed in she could become a wildcat.
Yet somehow they were the best of friends. Go figure. Ying and Yang, opposites who somehow needed each other to complete the whole.
He poured another handful of M&Ms into his palm, carefully picked out the yellow ones and tossed them into a basket. This situation could get very dangerous. If Warren ever found out about Akira’s letter she would have all the ammunition she needed. Good thing he had realized the threat Ty presented, and had recruited Principal Higgins to keep an eye on him. Intensely loyal to his students, Higgins at first said no. He only came around when Steward told him they were both Marine Corps vets and his country needed him. The Marine Corps part was a lie. That his country needed him was true. It was a God-send when Higgins retrieved the letter. Semper Fi!
“You need to push back on this, Mr. President.” Steward popped two of the tiny candies into his mouth and chomped.
“No one will take Warren’s ideas of changing the Constitution seriously.”
Chet popped two more candies. This could turn into a real challenge for the Constitution. As a member of Unite or Die, he was charged to protect the Constitution at any cost. Any cost. “Ty’s charge that James Madison pulled a number of underhanded tricks to form the Constitution will add a lot of credibility to Warren.”
“Well, Chet, as far as I’m concerned, the Constitution is the Constitution. Has been for over two hundred years.”
Chet rolled the candies in the palm of his hand. The Brothers of Unite or Die needed a man like himself, and they’d had one in every presidency since Washington. They’d had to. All but a very few presidents had been incapable of protecting either the country or the Constitution. This president was certainly no exception. Perhaps even on the low side of the spectrum. Chet wished the man would stop flip-flopping on important issues. All he had to do to settle the country down was anchor himself on the principles of the Constitution. After all, it had held the country together from its beginning. Its true beginning.
Chet popped another candy. “Mr. President, there are some serious issues causing us problems with the states. Immigration, healthcare, the environment, medical marijuana. The states are rebelling. They will use Warren’s ideas to push back against the authority of your office.”
“The Constitution gives me all the authority I need.”
He just wasn’t getting it. This could mushroom. Maybe even take down this presidency. Oh well, any one presidency was expendable. The Constitution and its secrets were not.
The Brothers needed to rise to this occasion. And he was just the man to lead them. This could usher in a whole new era for The Brotherhood. He could picture it now, rising through the ranks. Maybe even the Chairmanship.
Chet slapped the remaining candies into his mouth. Sitting back, he slowly munched and watched the clueless man who thought he ran the country. If you only knew the real story.
“Excuse me, Mr. President. I have some phone calls to make.” He slipped out of the room and dialed a number. “Did you get the bug I sent you?”
“Yeah, I’m opening her locker now.”
“Just open the back of her cell phone, slip out the battery, and slip in the bug.”
“Got it. I’m putting the battery back in and replacing the cover.”
“Did the phone power up?”
“Yeah, but I don’t have her password.”
“No need. Hold on a moment.” Akins booted up an app on his phone. “Yep. Got a clean signal. Good job, Higgins. An unknowing country thanks you.”
The love of Power is so alluring that few have been able to resist its bewitching influence.
– New Hampshire Convention, 1781
“That’s a wrap,” the Rogue Rash stage director called out. “Great show, everyone.”
“Ty, why did you, ah, I mean, couldn’t you have…” Akira put her palm to her forehead. “I’m sorry, Senator Warren, I don’t mean to offend you, it’s a great honor to meet you, but…”
“It’s alright, Akira, I understand. You were caught off guard. I didn’t know that I would actually be able to attend until just before your vlog started, so there was no time to warn you.”
“You’re in the middle of a presidential campaign. Why would you come to our high school, of all places?”
Warren swept her arm over the students as the left the auditorium. “This is the future of America. Not only that, but the youth vote is absolutely critical to any presidential campaign. In recent years, no presidential candidate has won without it. The keys to the White House lie right here, in the high schools and colleges of America.” Warren nodded to an aide as he tapped his watch. “I have to go. Please, it is important that the two of you keep up this debate on the role of government in America. The future of our country depends on it.” Warren trotted off.
Ty put on his boyish grin that had softened her heart a thousand times before. “I really am sorry. I didn’t mean to blindside you.”
“Yeah, I know.” She reached up and patted him on his shoulder. “You just can’t help yourself, can you?”
“I’ll make it up to you. Let me buy you a coffee.”
“It’s almost suppertime, and I’ve still got homework to do.”
“Luigi’s Pizza? Here’s your chance.”
She blew out a long breath, then a smile cracked the corners of her mouth. “Okay. But do we have to go in that thing you call a car?”
“What? The Rogue-mobile is a creation of beauty.”
The rotund NewsNow pit boss paced the control room, his gaze darting from monitor to monitor. He checked his watch. It had been hours since his crew had brought up anything good. The best they could do was Mercy Warren’s constitution thingy, whatever that was. Couldn’t get much more boring than that.
He pressed his fingers against his temples to rub away the stress of another no action day. He chomped the stub of a dripping wet cigar that lay almost hidden in the folds of his jowls. He looked out the plate glass windows to the 24/7NewShow studio across the street. Another nearly identical control room, with the scrawny pit boss puffing away on a cigarette. Two weeks ago he had stacked two chairs together to jam a screwdriver through the smoke detector on the ceiling. Some things in life are best enjoyed live and in person.
With a chuckle, the corpulent boss turned back to his own studio. On the other side of the sound proof glass, his broadcast pundits droned on, trying to make a boring news day seem interesting. Two guys and a gal, cackling on about nothing. At least she had great legs. The pundits sat on stools in a red, white, and blue studio. The Motorola logo blazed on large football game headphones clamped on their heads. Without the headphones, viewership would drop 1.37 points. They had the studies to prove it, so the headphones remained.
On a monitor he tracked the opposing network’s pundits. The 24/7NewShow also used nearly identical headphones, but theirs said Bose. The legs weren’t as good, but the cleavage, whew. Good thing he was a leg man. Their studio was blue, white, and red.
He turned back to his own studio.
“There is no historical basis for Ty’s claims that James used trickery,” one of the guys spouted.
“Actually,” Legs lectured, “there is a lot of mystery surrounding the Constitutional Convention. For instance, Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Howard Temple Franklin, was supposed to be the secretary recording the proceedings. However, he was replaced at the last minute by Howard Jackson, who somehow forgot to take notes.”
The boss watched the ratings readout tick down a tenth of a notch. Then two tenths. Boring. He spun his finger over his head for them to pick up the pace.
“Tell me,” one of the guy pundits asked, “did George Washington really have wooden teeth?”
Legs looked disgusted at the stupid question.
The boss shook his head. She might have to go. Maybe fighting cleavage with cleavage was the better option.
“Okay, listen up people!” he shouted for everyone in the control room to hear, clapping his hands over his head for added effect. “We’re running with this Constitution thing, whatever that is. You and you,” he pointed at random to two assistants who had been scanning Twitter and Facebook postings for news, “figure out what Warren’s talking about. Everyone else find something, anything. We’re running with this one. Make it big people. And don’t forget who watches us. It’s anti-Ty the whole way. Give me everything and anything that supports that Anita girl.”
“It’s Akira,” one of the assistants corrected.
The boss glared at him for a long moment. “What’s your name, kid?”
“Danny.” The high school grad smiled in anticipation, eager to make his mark with the boss.
The boss raised one stub of a finger. “That’s one. I’m in one of my better moods tonight, so I’ll give you three strikes before I fire your sorry keister. And I don’t count so good. Got it?”
Deflated, Danny shrank back into his seat and started a flurry of keystrokes.
The patrons of Luigi’s pizzeria looked up in amazement as the mighty machine roared to a stop in front.
“Dr. Rogue!” they enthused as he walked in with Akira.
“Rogue-Rats!” he called back. In a flurry of backslaps and handshakes Ty was peppered with questions.”
“Who was that lady?”
“Is our constitution gone?”
“Was James Madison arrested?”
“Whoa, slow down people,” Ty replied. “That was Mercy Warren. Her ancestral grandmother was a famous playwright and an outspoken critic of the Constitution when it was up for vote in Massachusetts.” He stopped, noticing the questioning look on several faces. “Did you know that no one had even seen a copy of the Constitution until after the Convention?”
“How is that possible? Didn’t they have to sign it?”
“Well, yeah. Obviously the delegates saw it. They debated it, wrote it, and then endorsed it, that is, they signed it, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. It then had to go to each state to be ratified at a special state convention.”
“Yeah, ratified. I remember that word.”
“Good. But no one else had seen it or a copy of it until after the Convention. Everything was done in secret until the very end. Well, when great-grandma Warren finally got to read it, she thought it was terrible, way too much power concentrated in the federal government. Using the pen name A Columbian Patriot, she wrote a series of newspaper essays against it. She almost succeeded in getting it defeated in Massachusetts, and forcing a second, more open convention to write a different constitution.”
“Why didn’t she use her real name? Was she afraid of getting arrested?”
“No, it was just the style back then. For example, my ancestor used the pen name Brutus, and Akira’s used Publius.”
“Why was everything at the Constitutional Convention done in secret?”
“James Madison said it was because everyone had a different idea of what was needed. To get everyone to agree, they would all have to compromise, change their minds along the way. If they did that in public, they would look foolish. However, I think it was so James could force through his ideas.”
“Why do you think that?”
“You see, we already had a constitution at the time, called the Articles of Confederation. It was the law, just like our Constitution is the law today. It had legally binding rules about how the constitution could be changed. But James immediately had the convention vote to ignore those laws, simply have them thrown out. He couldn’t do that in public. And no, he wasn’t arrested.”
“He had some powerful men agree with him, including George Washington.”
“Why would George Washington agree?”
“I don’t know, no one does. But, boy, would I love to find out.”
By this time the last of the adoring fans had wandered back to their tables, and Ty led Akira off to a table and ordered a garbage pizza and two Cokes.
“So, Akira, what’s wrong?”
“What do you mean?”
“Every time I accuse James of conspiring, you usually let me have it. Today, you hardly said boo.”
“What do you mean? I let Mercy have it pretty good.”
“But you hardly laid a glove on me. Just a finger. So, what’s up?
“Come on. I know you. It’s written all over your face. Fess up.”
“Well,” she faltered, “I got a letter this afternoon, just before the vlog. At least I think I got a letter. It was from James.”
“James Madison sent you a letter? Akira, he’s been dead for nearly two hundred years. You’re working way too hard.”
“No, silly. It was an old letter that my cousin found in my aunt’s attic after her funeral. It was written to Eleanor.”
“Whoa, an honest-to-goodness historical find! All of his best letters were sent to his favorite sister. What’d it say?”
“That he formed an alliance to fund Shays’ Rebellion.”
Ty’s eyes went wide. “No sh-”
“Watch it.” She held up her schoolmarm finger. “Clean, not mean.”
“Sorry. I forgot. That’s amazing. Daniel Shays was great. Love that guy. He was the single greatest reason the reluctant states agreed to a Constitutional Convention. Half the states were terrified that their citizens would follow Shays and revolt against them. The other half thought King George was behind it, waiting for his thirteen wayward colonies to implode. We almost did. To this day, no one knows how a poor farmer like Shays was able to pay twelve hundred soldiers their wages.”
“Correction,” Akira interrupted. “Until today, no one knew.”
“It was just James and his buddies, putting everyone in the right mood. Scaring them into his ideas for big government. I told you there was a conspiracy. Where’s the letter?”
“I don’t know. It just disappeared. I left it on my desk when I went to my locker, and when I came back, poof, it was gone. Maybe I just dreamed it. I had fallen asleep at my desk just before I got it.”
“I know you, Akira. You are the most level headed person I know. For a liberal that is. If you say you saw it, you saw it. What did it say exactly?”
“It was dated February 18, 1786.”
“Just before Shays’ Rebellion.”
“He said a number of patriots were going to fund Shays. Called themselves Unite or Die. Even though James agreed with them, he couldn’t join them due to his oaths in the Congress and Virginia Legislature. It really bothered him. Said he wished he could go back to his youth with Nelly, playing in the barn on their rope swing and hiding treasures.”
Ty slapped the table with his palm. “I told you so. Didn’t I tell you so? There was a Constitution conspiracy, Unite or Die, and it was founded by James himself.”
“James’ letter didn’t say that. He wasn’t that kind of man. For years he believed in reforming the Articles.”
“Then he went over to the dark side.”
“No, sounds like he was torn about what to do.”
Ty sat back and put his feet up on the table. “Yeah. Besides, James couldn’t help much in the cash flow department. Although he was a man of privilege, it was his dad who paid for everything. But even James Sr. had nowhere near enough scooch to fund Shays’ Rebellion.”
“So who then?”
“Unite or Die. Hmmm. Alexander Hamilton comes to mind. He was pretty radical and loved a good fight, but he had even less than James. Robert Morris had some seriously deep pockets. During the Revolution he contributed over a billion dollars in today’s money to the war. Never got a dime back.”
Akira leaned back to let the waitress place their pizza. “Maybe Guvernur Morris?”
“Possibly. He was rich enough, and radical enough.”
“Someone else. Hancock?”
“John Hancock was rich, and on Shays’ side. When he was the President of Massachusetts he allowed the continental solders to pay their debts with worthless Continental dollars. Really ticked off the bankers in Boston. However, Hancock hated James.”
“Then who?” asked Akira. “Could have been a number of different men, or groups of men.”
Ty’s face lit up. “Maybe the Society of the Cincinnati.”
“You and your Society of the Cincinnati. Did you ever apply to be a member?”
“You betcha. Why wouldn’t I want to be part of the oldest patriotic society in America? It makes me proud that it was named after Cincinnatus.”
“Yeah, right. The Roman farmer who led his army to victory, then returned to his farm rather than become emperor. To join you must be a descendent of a Continental Army Officer. Blah, blah, blah…”
“Hey, George Washington himself was our first president. You can’t bash George.”
“A bunch of snobs if you ask me.”
Ty threw out his chest. “You got that right. More importantly, at the time of Shays’ Rebellion, we were rich snobs.”
“One problem. General Shepard was a founding member of the Society. Why would they first fund Shays, then crush him?”
“Perhaps Shays went too far and Shepard had to rein him in. Or maybe this Unite or Die was a splinter group.”
“Neither Robert Morris nor Guvernur Morris fought in the Revolution so neither could join the Cincinnati.”
“Hold on there. Guvernur was granted honorary membership after the Constitutional Convention.”
Akira put a straw into her Coke, and took a sip. “I guess we’ll never know who else was a member of this Unite or Die cabal. James’ letter is gone, disappeared from my desk, in the newspaper office of all places.”
“Not necessarily. We both know someone who would be able to shed some light on this.”
“Not Howard Jenkins. He’s a wacko,” Akira sneered.
“The most brilliant wacko on James’s letters in the country.”
“And the richest. He’s on the board of every defense contractor in the country.”
Ty crossed his arms. “Someone has to defend the country.”
“And suck down a third of the federal budget.”
“It’s only a quarter.”
“Whatever. A hundred billion here. A hundred billion there. What difference does it make?”
“Rich or not, wacko or not, Jenkins is a true American.”
Akira took a testing taste of the steaming pizza. “In tenth grade I wrote an essay on his grandfather who was once curator of the Madison Papers at the Library of Congress.”
“James had a prolific quill, 72,000 pages worth.”
“And Jenkins and his grandfather have analyzed every single one of James’ letters.”
“Apparently, all but one.” Ty stood. “Come on, let’s go.”
“To see Jenkins.”
“Ty, it’s suppertime.”
“Don’t you remember? He works all night, sleeps all day. Timing is perfect.”
She shuddered. “Yeah, I do remember.”
“Good. Let’s go.”
“Ty, we’ve got school in the morning.”
“Don’t worry. Jenkins’s estate isn’t that far, only an hour.”
“Ty, it’s at least two.”
“Not in the Rogue-mobile.” He grabbed the pizza box.
“Lord help us,” she squealed as Ty pulled her to the door.
“Yeah,” the Chief of Staff barked into his phone.
“Hank Lloyd here. The Chairman assigned me to this case. We’re listening in on Akira’s phone. She told Ty about the letter.”
Lloyd, Chet thought, why did the Chairman have to pick him of all people? “That won’t be a problem. No one will take Ty seriously.”
“They’re headed to see Howard Jenkins. Should we stop them?”
Steward popped an M&M. “No. Just track them for now. I’ll let the Chairman know.”
“What about the other missing letters?”
“Even Jenkins hasn’t been able to figure out what they said. Our Secrets will be safe.”
I cannot help suspecting that persons who attempt to persuade people that such reservations were less necessary under this (proposed US) Constitution than under those of the States, are willfully endeavoring to deceive, and to lead you into an absolute state of vassalage.
– Brutus (Robert Yates), November 1, 1787
There was no sign that marked the night darkened driveway to the Jenkins Mansion. Ty had to slow down to the speed limit so as to not miss the tiny road that appeared only as a dot on Akira’s cellphone GPS.
“Here, turn here,” Akira instructed.
Ty turned up the tiny lane.
“Would you slow down,” Akira scolded as Ty navigated the sharp twists and turns. Then the headlights caught the brick wall topped with barbed wire that surrounded the complex. As the Rogue-mobile pulled up to a guard house, two husky guards in business suits stepped in front of the car. Behind them red laser intrusion beams streaked across the dark air.
Ty rolled down the window.
“Hey guys. How ya doin’?”
The guards didn’t move.
Ty eyed the bulges under their suitcoats.
“Packin’ some heavy heat there, don’t ya think?”
The guards still didn’t move. Then one pressed a finger against his earbud and nodded to the other. The red lasers turned off. The guards stepped aside and waved them through.
Ty pulled his raucous car around a circular drive. At the apex of the drive stood an old mansion, its lights all ablaze. The house looked like it belonged in medieval England, rather than rural America. Brick and stone, stained glass windows, and dark brown wood formed the three storied building, topped by castellated turrets in the four corners. Ty blew his air trumpets.
“Ty, knock it off.”
“I just wanted to make sure Jenkins is awake.”
“That was loud enough to make sure James is awake.”
Ty twisted the key and the throaty Mustang rumbled to silence. The cool night was quiet except for the slow, last-of-autumn buzzing of the cicadas in the lush maple trees that dotted the inner gardens that surrounded the mansion.
“Nice digs,” Ty commented scanning the ornate mansion.
“Your tax dollars hard at work,” Akira jibed.
“Morris’ defense companies do just that, they defend America.”
The massive front door was carved oak and bronze. Akira went to push the bell, but the door creaked open before she could. An old man appeared. Wild white hair vaulted from his head, a threadbare housecoat hung down to his bare feet. Yellowing untrimmed fingernails scratched against his scruffy chin, pondering his new guests. Without a word of greeting, Jenkins turned and stepped back into his foyer. “Close the door behind you.”
“Mr. Jenkins, I’m Ak-”
“I know who you are. My people recognized the two of you from your television broadcast. Your ancestors’ letters are this way.” Without waiting he walked deeper into the mansion. At a heavy wooden door he pressed this thumb against a scanner, then pulled an old skeleton key from his pocket. “I never did trust these electronic things,” he muttered as he swung open the door.
Crystal chandeliers hung down the length of the long cathedral like vaulted room. Dark, deeply carved walnut paneling lined the walls. Matching wooden beams arched the ceiling. Portraits of American leaders, from the very beginning to the present day, stared down at them. Down the center of the room were rows of tall sealed glass cases, hundreds in all. Inside each of them, brown and crinkled parchment paper hung in plastic sheets from a rotary file holder. Each case bristled with electronic probes to carefully control the air inside to ensure the letters would remain perfectly preserved for eternity.
“Madison’s letters are here. Yates and Hamilton over there. John Jay and others over there.”
Akira gently ran her fingers along the glass of the case in front of her.
“Mr. Jenkins, these copies look so old, great job with the copying. But, the originals are in the Library of Congress. Why all the elaborate protection for mere copies?”
Jenkins stared hard at a spot on the floor.
“Mr. Jenkins…?” Akira repeated.
In a voice barely audible Jenkins began to whisper. “Grandfather didn’t think the Library of Congress was taking preservation seriously enough back then.”
“You mean he…” Ty let out a long low whistle. “Bravo, gramps. Americans stepping in when the government botches.”
As they moved down this hall of history Akira ran her hand along the line of cases holding James Madison’s writings. She stopped at one dated 1783. “Mr. Jenkins, why is this case so sparse.”
“That was when James was engaged to Catherine Floyd. He burned many of his letters after she broke off their engagement.”
“Yeah,” Ty broke in, “he was devastated when Kitty jilted him. Took him eleven years to get over her.”
“Grandfather thought,” Jenkins interjected, “that Madison threw himself into the battle for the Constitution as a diversion from her.”
“Do you think he confessed to her that he had epilepsy?” Ty asked.
“Could be. Medicine was still in the dark ages then. Many people still believed epilepsy was caused by demons.” Jenkins recited. “When James was a child his mother actually fed him mercury to solve the problem.”
Akira stopped in front of the case marked 1786. “May I?” she asked pointing to the rotate buttons.
Jenkins just crossed his arms and waited.
As the spindle rotated, the letters in their plastic sheaves swung into view. Then she stopped. “Why is this one sheaf empty?”
“It’s for a missing letter.”
“How would you know if a letter is missing if you don’t have it?”
“Would everyone not present please raise your hand,” Ty joked.
“My grandfather,” Jenkins continued, ignoring Ty, “and I analyzed each letter. Based on timing, content, and letters from others, we calculated the missing letters. In the constitutional period there are three missing in all.”
Jenkins rolled his eyes. “Yes, Ms. Madison. Three. It’s a number, you know. Comes between two and four.” Jenkins’ voice lowered, muttering to himself as he adjusted his housecoat. “I’d hoped more of Madison’s genius would have passed to later generations.” As Jenkins tugged and pulled as his housecoat, Akira looked away with a shudder fearing the coat might pull open. With his adjustments complete, he focused on the empty plastic. “That one would have been from February, 1786.”
Akira reached to Ty and squeezed his hand. Ty nodded understanding.
“That was a strange one,” Jenkins continued, “to his sister Eleanor. I don’t know what was in it, but it was just before Shays’ Rebellion. James Madison must have sensed the rebellion was coming because Eleanor wrote back telling him this might finally unite the thirteen wayward republics.”
“Do you have Nelly’s letter?”
“Could we see it?”
“It is sealed in my archive vault. I only open it on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of every other month.” He turned to leave the room.
Akira shivered at the peculiarity of the man. “Do you have a copy?”
“Yes.” Jenkins answered without turning back.
“Could we see the copy?”
“Yes.” He continued his plod toward the door.
“Could we see it now?”
Jenkins stopped. With a huff he turned toward a computer. “But you can’t see the actual letter for another,” his gaze turned toward the open air above him and tapped his fingers on an imaginary calculator, “49 days, 22 hours, and 17 minutes.”
Carefully maneuvering his long fingernails around the computer keys, he typed a few commands. A moment later a high resolution image came up.
Akira scanned it. “What does she mean here?” Akira tapped the monitor to point out the last line of the letter.
Yes, the Crook of the Beam over the big Door.
“A puzzle. Neither I nor my grandfather could calculate the meaning of that statement.”
She continued down the line of cases. “What about the other missing letters?”
“Strange really.” Jenkins gazed into the nothingness before him. “James was a quiet man with a prolific pen. He faithfully protected all of his letters, with only a few exceptions. There are thousands of his letters here. Only a few are missing. Nothing hidden or secretive during the Constitutional period except for these three, all to his sister. All just before some major historical event surrounding the Constitution.”
“I thought many of James’s letters were written in a secret code.”
“Not those to Eleanor. Only those to his friend Thomas Jefferson were in code. Of course we’ve broken the code and found the content was not secretive.”
“That’s strange, don’t you think, Mr. Jenkins?” Ty questioned. “Secret codes, missing letters.”
“Not at all. This was a volatile time, and James wanted discretion. The United States was falling apart. It seemed certain three separate nations would emerge, the East, which was their name for what we now call New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the South. Even George Washington was ready to give up. But Madison would not. He was desperate to build a national government strong enough to hold the states together. But he was blocked at every turn. It must have been a time of galling frustration for him. My grandfather thought the missing letters to Eleanor were his safe outlets to privately vent his anger. Nelly, as he called her, respecting James’ privacy, would have hidden them.”
Then the old man simply turned, and wandered off toward the far end of the hall.
“Ah, thank you,” Akira called after him. He limply raised a hand without turning. “We’ll let ourselves…,” the sound of Jenkins closing a heavy door reverberated throughout the hall, “…out.”
It was long seconds before the echo died and the ticking of an old clock became the only other sound in the grand hall.
“Well,” Ty spoke as they retraced their steps back to the front door, “we happen to know that James did more than just rail in frustration to his sister. He formed an army of rebellion.”
“James would not fight with a sword. His weapon of choice was his quill.”
Ty gave Akira a once over. “Yep. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” He flexed his bulbous muscles. “Not my ancestors. We didn’t even need a sword to fight.”
“That’s it,” Akira gasped in revelation. “Unite or Die must have been a diverse group of people with different skills and different viewpoints held together by their common devotion to America.”
“Yeah.” Ty agreed. “Sorta like you and me.” He grabbed her hand and raised their arms skyward. “Ty and Akira, defenders of America!”
“Sheesh. No wonder America was in so much trouble.”
“Then or now?”
“I guess that confirms the letter is real,” Ty spoke, stepping outside into the cool night air, closing the door behind them. “And that someone doesn’t want you to have it.”
“But why? It would have made for a great research paper. One of the great unsolved mysteries of American history. What harm could it be now?”
“Someone thinks it’s dangerous. And I’m going to find out who and why.” Ty turned the ignition key, and the Mustang growled to life.
“Ty, that makes absolutely no sense.”
“Think about it. I’ve been saying all along that James conspired to play dirty tricks to get the Constitution written and approved. That letter proves it.” With a squeal of peeling tires, Ty whirled past the guards, down the serpentine lane, and pulled onto the street.
“It only proves that James was frustrated with the Articles of Confederation and worked with some others to get America out of the crisis it was in.”
“It adds credibility to my claims about James shenanigans, and Mercy’s claim we should rewrite it.”
With a huff, Akira put her seat back, folded her arms, and closed her eyes. “Wake me up when we get back to New York. I’ve still got homework to do.”
“Jenkins said there were three missing letters. I wonder what’s in the other two?”
“Would you mind? I’m trying to get some sleep.”
“What did Nelly mean by the crook of the beam?”
With a tisk Akira sat up. “In my missing letter, James lamented about the nation, longing for his youth, to swing on the rope by a big door with his kid sister. Playing games. Hiding their tiny treasures.”
“That’s it. Children hiding their treasures in the crook of the beam over the big door. A place where, as an adult, Eleanor might hide another letter. As children, Nelly and Jemmy spent a lot of time at their grandfather’s Belle Grove homestead in Port Conway.”
“Ty, the homestead is gone, along with the barn.” Akira turned in her seat, trying to get comfortable, and closed her eyes. “But she might have hidden the letter where she was living when James wrote the letter to her. So the question becomes where was Nelly living at that time.”
Ty drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and pinched his brow in thought. “Nelly was married to Issac Hite by then and he built her a new plantation in Middletown, Virginia, a hundred miles north of the old homestead. Named it Belle Grove after the original. It’s a museum now.”
Ty’s high speed maneuvering around the corners of the winding country road jostled Akira back and forth in her seat. “The new Belle Grove wasn’t built until ten years after the letter was written,” Akira murmured.
“Still, Issac and Nelly must have been living somewhere in Middleton. Let’s go.”
“Ty, I have to get some sleep now so I can do my homework when I we get home.” She glanced at the time on her cell phone, “It’ll be ten o’clock before we get back.” Her phone gave a low power wail, and died. “What’s wrong with this thing? I charged it up all last night.”
“I’ll get you there sooner than that.”
“I’m tired. We can play sleuth all you want. After we graduate. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to sleep.”
No morn ever dawned more favourable than ours did; and no day was ever more clouded than the present!
–George Washington, letter to James Madison, 1786
The sound of Chet’s iPhone startled him. “This better be good, Lloyd,” he scolded.
“Akira and Ty may have located another missing Madison letter.”
“Middleton, Virginia. They don’t have an exact location, but they put pieces of several letters together and may have something.”
“Where are Ty and Akira now?”
“Don’t know, but they were speaking of going back to New York when Akira’s cell phone died.”
“I’ll send someone to Middleton.” Chet barked.
“We still need an exact location, but I know some people who could help. I’m on my way now.”
Lloyd was good, Chet thought, rapidly rising in the hierarchy of the Brotherhood. Too rapidly. Can’t have him passing me. Showing Lloyd a bit of good old fashioned leadership would keep him in his place. Plus, he needed to show the Chairman he could control a man like Lloyd.
“And just who,” Chet barked, “authorized you to do that?”
“Look, Steward,” Lloyd shot back, “do you want the letter or don’t you?”
“I want you to follow orders, not make up your own.”
“The Chairman himself called me in on this.”
Chet reached for a bowl of M&Ms, grabbed a handful, and began scanning for yellows. “And he put me in charge. Now stand down.”
Hank didn’t answer.
Chet popped two M&Ms and chewed for a moment. “Here are your orders, track down the letter, and if you encounter Akira and Ty I authorize you to finish this.”
“Look, Steward, you’re moving too fast. Too much too soon. We don’t need to…”
“Did I ask you?”
“If they get in the way, I said finish this. That is an order.”
“Yes, sir.” Hank’s voice carried notes of both contempt and commitment.
“Keep me informed. And no screw ups.” Chet punched off the phone.
The sound of the Mustang turning off woke Akira. “We in New York?” She looked out, pulling her poodle embroidered scarf around her neck to ward off a sudden chill. The orange glow of the sun sat on the horizon. Around them was green rolling countryside. It took a moment for her eyes to focus. The car sat on a dirt road a distance from an old brick farmhouse and a stone foundationed barn. “Ty! What did you do? I’ve got homework to do. I need to get back to New York.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s still early. There’s time to get back. Besides, you always do your homework a week in advance. You can let it slip a day.”
“Where are we?”
“Where Issac and Nelly lived in 1786.”
“How did you…?”
“Issac was in the Society of the Cincinnati. I made a few phone calls.”
Akira sat up in her seat. “No. We are not doing this.”
“But, Akira. We are right here.”
“Ty, this is private property. I don’t do breaking and entering. Start the car and take me home. Now.”
Ty started the engine, and in a spray of gravel drove away. Ty pulled the Mustang into a tight turn, but instead of making a U turn to head back, he drove up a set of ruts that ended in a tight grove of trees.
“What are you doing? You promised to take me home.”
“And I will. As soon as I check out the barn.”
“Tyler Robert Yates, just what do you think…”
Ty killed the engine, and cut her off mid-sentence. “No one can see the Rogue-mobile hidden here, and the house is hidden on the far side of the barn. We’ll be fine.”
“I am so not doing this.”
“Okay.” Ty pushed open the door and stepped out.
“You’re leaving me here?”
“You betcha.” He started walking. “And if I find the letter, I’m taking credit for it. I can see the symposium now. Me standing on stage behind the lectern, everyone hanging on my every word. You in the back row, your arms all crossed, your sweet little face all puckered in knots.”
“Okay, okay. Maybe the judge will only charge us with misdemeanor trespassing and not felony B&E.”
Past an overgrown field of tall grass was the barn. Unpainted and leaning to one side, it looked ready to collapse at any moment.
Akira’s pants legs were soaked from the grassy dew of the un-mowed field as they came up behind the barn. Ty’s flip flops were saturated and the hems of his shorts were damp, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“Ty, I don’t think it is safe to go in there. Looks like the next breeze will knock it over.”
“Safe? No comprendo.” He pulled at a small side door, but it wouldn’t budge. “The tilt has jammed the door. Stand back.” With a hard kick of the sole of his foot he shattered the boards that formed the door.
“Come on.” He beckoned as he slipped through.
Inside, sunlight streaked down from holes in the roof, lasering brilliant patches on the floor of the dark barn. A dozen barn swallows, disturbed by Ty’s explosive entrance, darted about. The massive double barn doors stood in front of them, split by a vertical beam that disappeared into the hay loft overhead. An old rope was secured to the beams above, loosely tied at the ceiling at the other end of the barn.
“A rope swing,” Ty answered to her pinched brows, “just like Jemmy and Nelly’s. Looks like fun.”
“Stay focused, Ty. I want to get out of here.”
Akira ran a curious finger over one of the wooden beams. “It’s all burned and charred.”
“Yep. This is the Shenandoah Valley. During the Civil War this was the breadbasket of the South. The Union Army burned every barn to starve their way to victory. Looks like the beams survived. Maybe the letter did too. The rest of the barn must have been rebuilt.”
He led the way up a set of boards nailed to posts that formed a ladder to the loft. Once they were in the loft the hewn beam split, the joint forming a hollow crook easily reached by a child or adult. Akira went to reach into the crook, but spider webs covered in centuries of char and grime stopped her. Ty rolled his eyes Akira style and reached in. His eyes widened as he pulled out a sheaf of papers. A 1983 copy of Playboy magazine.
“Hey, not a total waste,” he said popping open the center-fold. She slapped his arm. He reached in again. “Nothing. The trail’s gone cold over the centuries.” He shrugged.
“Check again.” He felt around in the tiny cavity. “Nope, nothing in there. I’m surprised. I guess I believed we’d find something. You know, destiny and all.”
“Ty, be realistic.”
“I guess. I just believed…. Well, that’s all there is.” He shoved the magazine back in.
They climbed back down the ladder. Akira sighed in relief as they slipped out the door and into the sunlight. The grassy field was only somewhat drier as they worked their way back to the car. Akira took one more glance back.
“Ty,” she said, putting out her hand to stop him. “The barn doors are facing away from the house.” She pointed.
“Yeah. That’s how they did it to keep the animals out of sight. Not to mention the smell.”
“No. That was later in history. In the early 1700’s when this barn was first built, the Hites, would have put the door facing the house for easy access. If the barn was rebuilt after the Civil War, then maybe the original main door was on the other end of the building. Maybe we looked behind the wrong beam.”
She couldn’t keep up with his long strides as they raced back into the barn, and up the ladder. The far end of the loft was piled with plumes of loose dusty hay. They crawled over the soft tops and pushed back the fluffy stalks, burrowing back down to the floor. There was another crook and another trap door with a ladder going down.
He reached into the joint of the beam. This time he pulled out a yellowed parchment.
“What does it say?” Akira squealed as Ty unfolded the old paper.
They both heard the sound at the same time. Click-scrape. Click-scrape. They froze. Crouching low in the hay, they peered through cracks in the floor boards.
A tall, handsomely trim man appeared. Brown hair, distinct jaw, proud nose, he held himself with a commanding air of poise despite his two metal prosthetic legs scraping along. He scanned the area. As he turned, his right hand came into view.
“He has a gun.” Akira whimpered in Ty’s ear.
Ty held his finger to his lips, staring through the cracks.
The man pulled out his cellphone and pushed an ear bud into his ear. “Lloyd here. I’m in the barn my contact in the Society told me about. Nobody here.” He pushed his gun into a shoulder holster under his suit jacket. “They really did head back to New York after we lost the signal from our bug when Akira’s cellphone lost power.” He stepped toward the ladder, then took a deep breath, bracing himself for the challenge the ladder presented to his legs. As he climbed his strong arms made up for his lost legs.
Crouching low behind the mounds of hay that separated them, Akira and Ty could see only the very top of Lloyd’s head move about the far end of the barn.
“I found the crook.”
Ty and Akira could hear him fumbling trying to get in position.
“Let me see if the Madison letter is in here. No, just an old magazine. I’ll look again. No, nothing. I’d better go before the owner finds me.”
When he reached the dirt floor, a pair of pigeons swooped past him to the other end of the barn.
“Wait. There is another beam at the other end. I better check it.” Lloyd started his clattering walk toward their end of the barn. Then he stopped and stared at a spot just below Ty and Akira. They looked down, and saw a trickle of dry hay dust drift down from the boards they kneeled on. The tiny flakes of gold shimmered and sparkled in a ray of sunlight, tracing a line that pointed directly toward them. Lloyd pulled out his gun.
Ty and Akira were trapped.
A dozen people sat at computers and TV monitors scattered about the 24/7NewShow studio. The scrawny, weasel-faced boss paced the room, chain smoking cigarettes. The sign said no smoking. The smoke detector still had his screwdriver jammed through it.
It was a slow news morning and he needed a story to fill the void. With so little incoming material on Ty and Akira, viewership was already starting to trail off. But the same was true for NewsNow. He looked out the only window. Across the street, also on the fifth floor was their studio. Their boss was also pacing the floor. If he could just find a story it would be a perfect time to stick it to him.
Another Hamas rocket attack; okay, if he had nothing better. Protests in Uzbekistan. Where the hell is Uzbekistan and who even cares? The president was making another speech; yawn.
“Hey boss, I found a tweet showing Ty and Akira eating pizza after the show yesterday.”
“Geeze, is that all you got?”
“What about Mercy wanting to rewrite the Constitution?”
The boss ignored him, focusing on the screen. “Wait a second, zoom in on her left hand. Is that a wedding ring? Did they elope?”
The tech squinted at the screen. “Naw, it’s just a regular ring.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I can see poodles on it.”
“Should we go with the Constitution thing?”
“Naw. Try to work an angle with the poodles. More interesting.”
Richmond, Aug. 30, 1786, eight months before the Constitutional Convention
A stiff hot breeze blew down the cobbled street, blowing the tavern door from James’ hand. Inside a man chuckled at the feeble man’s lack of grip.
“What mean you in here, boy?” the innkeeper growled from the dim interior, the only light coming from a single window of glass.
“Hold there Cyrus,” a brown haired man assured. “He’s with me.”
“Thank you, Mr. Jay sir,” James said, straightening his waistcoat and smoothing back his hair, still powdered from the Virginia House of Delegates.
“I’d be pleased if you called me John. Don’t mind the comments,” Jay apologized.
“John then. And no matter. My age is often misjudged due to my youthful face and frame. It is a pleasure to see you again. Your devotion to the Congress is sorely missed both in the President’s chair, and on the floor.”
“James, dealing with Britain, France, and Spain as Foreign Superintendent is far easier than was your work as a delegate to the Confederation Congress or your work now in the Virginia Legislature.”
The two men laughed.
“What business have you?” James asked, taking a seat.
“Tis about the convention next month in Annapolis. I fear the states have little mind to resolve a treaty of commerce between them.”
The innkeeper placed brandies on the table. “There be you, Mr. Jay sir.”
“Thank you, Cyrus.” The secretary played for a moment with his glass, spinning it between his fingers. When the keep was safely out of hearing range, Jay stopped the spinning. “More willing to negotiate with a rifle than with a pen.”
James nodded and took a tentative sip of the brandy. “Your proposed treaty with Spain gives all to the Northern states, and takes away much from the Southern. As a representative of Virginia, I cannot abide with it. It divides the states.”
“Precisely,” Jay continued. “The states are not yet ready. They will abandon this misguided Annapolis Convention. There shan’t be a quorum. Lack of attendance will serve to enhance Hamilton’s claim for a broader convention. Perhaps attendance can be further reduced as an aid to compel their willingness to fulfill the original purpose of the Revolution.”
“I don’t follow your meaning.”
“If we can reduce the attendance numbers further, we can leverage the lack of a quorum into yet another disaster. The states will recognize that they need to come together. Together with the news of the calamity we have created with Captain Shays in Massachusetts we can influence the lack of tranquility in the states.”
“I read twelve thousand have joined with Captain Shays.” James’ face twisted in concern. “Why so many?”
“A convenient over-exaggeration. One intended to induce insecurity in the states. The failure of the Annapolis convention and my treaty with Spain will complete the deed.”
“But how can you be certain the Annapolis Convention will fail?”
“We shall arrange for the detainment of some of the delegates.”
“But, General Washington himself has asked for this convention. He wishes to expand the navigation treaty you negotiated between Virginia and Maryland to include all the states. He wishes the American Union to be solidified by such a treaty.”
“General Washington’s hopes for a truly united country cannot be fulfilled by such a treaty. A new constitution must be formed.”
“I must protest. General Washington himself…”
“Mr. Madison sir,” Jay interrupted. Holding out a stopping hand he paused, taking a slow sip of brandy. “General Washington, dear as he is to us, is not always correct.” Jay laid a heavy hand on Madison’s shoulder. “Which do you desire? A country or anarchy?”
“My opinion is already well known in the Congress.”
Madison rose and turned toward the door. “Sir, I find myself in agreement that we need more than amendments to the Articles. However, I will not commit treason against my country.”
“Your country of Virginia, or your country of The United States of America? Think carefully James. The time will soon be ripe for your decision.”
“By your leave.” Without another word, Madison walked out.
From the shadows a man walked to the table.
“What’ll you be having, Mr. Morris sir,” the bar keep asked.
“What thinks you, John?” Robert Morris asked.
“That Mr. Madison is not one of us. We must find another, John Adams, perhaps. His Thoughts on Government is a masterpiece of philosophy. Perhaps we could recall him from Britain. What thinks you, Robert?”
“Ambassador Adams has earned the honor of many men. However, he does not have the tongue of Madison. No one else will do. I have witnessed Madison in the Congress. He has a most pleasant manner of persuasion. His knowledge of the philosophy of government is unmatched by anyone on this continent, save Adams. He possesses a singular lucidity for the complexities of the monumental task before us. Only he will do.”
“He was not ready for Shays. Neither is he ready for Annapolis, nor for my treaty with Spain,” Jay said.
Robert stared into his brandy as if plumbing its depths for answers. “Agreed. But, he has kept his oath of silence.” Robert took in a deep breath, then slowly let it out. “John, you must work with him. My mind is of a favor that only you can do so.” Robert’s steel hard stare bore into Jay, carrying with it the seriousness of their plight.
John Jay sat back into his chair and let out a heavy sigh. “Very well, then.” He rose. “I accept your challenge, Mr. Chairman. I take my leave, good sir, least our very honorable Mr. Madison escape forever.” They clinked glasses, each downing the remainder. Jay turned his glass over and slapped it down on the table. “A good day to you.” Jay hurried his steps to overtake Madison.
Maddison among the rest,
Pouring from his narrow chest,
More than Greek or Roman sense,
Boundless tides of eloquence.
- Massachusetts Centinel, June 25, 1788
Akira pressed Ty’s hand, pointing to the gun.
Ty grabbed Akira’s waist, pressing the folded letter into her hands. “Jefferson said, ‘When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.’” He grabbed a clump of ancient dirt from the crook, opened the trap door, and pulled her through.
She clamped shut her eyes. “Jefferson never said that,” she squealed.
Lloyd pointed his gun, and fired, just as Ty’s dirt ball hit him in the face. Inches above their heads, a wooden beam splintered from the bullet’s impact. Ty grabbed the old rope swing with one hand, and clutched Akira against his body with the other.
With a Tarzan caterwaul, Ty swung.
Lloyd wiped the smear of grime from his eyes and re-aimed, but Ty made a running landing, crashing into him, knocking him to the ground. Pulling Akira along with him, he bolted out the door. Halfway across the field he looked back to see Lloyd aiming again from the door. “Move!” Ty ordered as he half dragged Akira across the wet grass. A whiz buzzed by her ear, then drilled a hole into the Rogue-mobile.
“My car!” Ty wailed.
Panting, and nearly out of breath, Akira opened her door as Ty turned the key. The hidden Mustang roared to life. In a cloud of dust and gravel the Mustang launched down the rough pathway and burned onto the dirt road.
“You care more about your car than you do me!” exclaimed Akira.
“Not true. I care a LOT more about my car.”
“He knew where we were,” Akira groaned.
“Gimme your purse.”
She huffed and stared back at him, clutching her pink poodle embroidered handbag. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“For God’s sake, Akira! This is not the time for…,” Ty gaped at her intransient face. “Okay, okay. Please may I have your purse?”
Bracing the steering wheel between his knees, Ty took her purse and pulled out her cell phone.
“Ty, get your hands back on the steering wheel. You’re going to get us killed.”
Ty popped out the battery and slid out a paper thin circuit board. “There,” he said, holding it up. “You were bugged.”
Akira stared at the tiny object.
“What did you say earlier?” Ty continued, “There is no conspiracy?” He tossed the module out his window. “So, read the letter already.”
“I can’t believe…” Akira faltered as she stared at the receding spot where the now lifeless bug had landed.
“Akira, the letter?”
“Ah, yeah. It’s dated September 9, 1786.”
“A couple of days before the Annapolis Convention. Eight months before the Constitutional Convention.”
“Ty, why do you always interrupt me?”
“September 9, 1786,” she repeated.
My Dearest Nelly,
President Gorham has convened a Meeting of Commissioners to remedy Defects of the Federal Government here in Annapolis. The Congress has limited the Purpose to merely form a Treaty of Navigation between the Thirteen Republics to fulfill General Washington’s Dream of creating a Confluence of the Potomac and the Monongahela Rivers. It is Evident even to President Gorham that the Confederation Congress is so entangled that I have been empowered to inaugurate this separate Committee to compose a Treaty outside of the Articles.
To me such a Treaty is entirely Insufficient to meet our Needs. The Congress has repeatedly denied my Call for a broader Convention, despite my earnest Persuasion.
Yet again, The Brothers of Unite or Die have told me of a Plan they contemplate.
Today Representatives from five of the Republics have arrived. Representatives of four other Republics are still upon their Journeys. The Brothers claim these Four have refused to attend. I am sorely vexed that the Brothers of Unite or Die have in fact caused a Delay of the Ones en route. I must express that I agree with them that without a Quorum, I will be able to adjourn the Meeting with no Decision. I will then be able to submit a petition to President Gorham to address the Need for a broader Convention to be held in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation. So hated is this hideous Document to me that I wish to join The Brothers as they throw it onto the Fires from below and initiate a new Constitution. Only the Overthrow of the Articles of Confederation will permit the true Birth of our Nation.
Your loving Brother,
“Akira, this is more than just conspiracy against the Republic of Massachusetts. This is High Treason against the United States of America.”
“James didn’t commit a crime.”
“He knew that others did.”
“But, Ty,” Akira finally stammered, “James was right. America was so hobbled by the Articles that the nation was falling apart. We had no army, no navy. American ships were open prey to pirates. The national debt was so high no one would loan us money. We were in a deep recession complete with riots in the streets.”
“Riots apparently funded by The Brothers,” retorted Ty. “This was a conspiracy to twist America into something no one wanted.”
“Ty. America was not a real nation before the Constitution. It had a name, but little else. It was a conspiracy to make America.”
Ty snorted but didn’t rebut her as she expected.
Akira rummaged in the glove compartment. She slipped the owner’s manual out of its plastic sheath.
“Hey!” protested Ty.
Akira frowned at him. “This letter is way more important than your stupid car’s owner’s manual,” she said as she slid the folded letter into its rudimentary protective cover and tucked it into her suit jacket pocket. “Now get me back to my house.”
“Your house? That’s the first place they will look for you. Akira, in case you might not have noticed, but someone was just shooting at you.”
“There must be a mistake. No one would shoot at us. We’re only high school students.”
“What do you think just happened, they were only kinda shooting at us?”
Akira crossed her arms and turned away. “I don’t know.”
“Think about this, the only thing that makes any sense at all is that there was a conspiracy to make the Constitution, and that same conspiracy continues today to keep the true story of the Constitution secret.” Ty drummed the steering wheel in thought. “Time to fight back.”
He punched the call button on his steering wheel. “Yeah, Jen, get a Tweet out.” With guttural flamboyance, Ty cleared his throat. “Lloyd we’ve got the second Madison letter. James Madison started Shays Rebellion and Unite or Die rigged the Annapolis Convention. Back off.”
“Got it, Dr. Rogue.”
Ty fed Jenin the gist of a new blog for the Rogue Rash website, telling about their adventures and calling for fans to write to their legislatures supporting Mercy Warren’s petitions for a new Constitution. “End it with Change Now!”
“Okay, ETA for blog go live two minutes,” said Jenin.
“Thanks Jen. You’re the cat’s meow!” Ty grinned at Akira. “Let’s get some breakfast.”
Akira could hear Jenin typing furiously as Ty ended the call. “Ty, are you sure you this is a good idea?”
“Breakfast is always a good idea. Didn’t you ever wonder why so many places offer breakfast all day? Always a good idea.”
“No, silly, your blog. Going public will only escalate things.”
“Exactly. Now, back to the subject of breakfast.”
“Is that all you think about, food?”
“No. I think about my car a lot too.”
“Okay. Maybe a nice Frittata Florentine would be good.”
“Frit-who-a? Akira, I thought you were an American.”
“Don’t give me that country bumpkin malarkey. You’ve cooked a few gourmet meals at my aunt’s house.”
“Yeah,” he said in fond remembrance. “Okay, Frittata Florentine as an appetizer before bacon, eggs, home fries, hash, toast. Um-m-m!”
“First, let’s put some distance between us and this Lloyd guy. Now he’s got two reasons why he wants us dead, and riling things up on social media isn’t going to help resolve this.”
“I have a GPS lock on Ty’s cell phone. Should I intercept?”
“Yes, but not out in the open. Wait for a clear opportunity. Track them for now.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll let the Chairman know.”
“Did I ask you to call the Chairman?”
“Then you are not to call him. I am in charge of this operation. Do you understand?”
Lloyd bit back his answer.
“Was that a yes or a no?”
“Good. Let’s keep it that way.”
Lloyd ended the call. Immediately, his social media tracker pinged his phone with a tweet from @DrRogue. Great, so much for not being out in the open.
The scrawny 24/7NewShow pit boss lit another cigarette from the tip of his previous one. “What’s that?” he asked.
“A cell phone video upload from some hick.”
“Is that really Ty Yates flying through the air?”
When the gun shots rang from the video, the glowing butt fell from the boss’ mouth, burning another hole in the carpet.
“Oh my G…,” he croaked. “Okay, people, we got a big one,” he announced, clapping his hands for attention. “Breaking story. Five minute repeats. Get the pundits going. Gimme promos, background stories. The whole enchilada. Don’t forget which show you work for. Be sure to make Ty look good. We own this one, so make it big, people.”
“You got it, boss.”
“You.” He pointed to a young man at the computer. “Find the owner of that cell phone video. Get him on the phone. Treat him like a king. He gets whatever he wants in exchange for exclusive rights to the video. You got it?”
“Hey boss, phone call for you.”
“Put it on speaker,” he barked. “Wha-da-ya-want?”
“Look out your window,” the electronic voice of the NewsNow pit boss reverberated in the room. Across the street the rotund man stood by a monitor he had turned for the 24/7 NewShow boss to see. “Like my exclusive of Ty on the flying trapeze?” With a roaring laugh he punched off his cell phone.
The 24/7 boss gaped at his opponent. “You sonnafa…” He pulled out two cigarettes and stuck them both in his mouth.
The tires of the Rogue-mobile crackled and popped as they pulled into the gravel parking lot of the rural diner. The rusted and battered hulk of the once gleaming metal diner looked for-all-the world like an alien spacecraft still showing the aftereffects of a fiery reentry. The sign over the structure read Comet Diner. Above the words a sequence of blinking lights streaked across the supposed sky, ending in what should have been a brilliant explosion had more bulbs been working.
The screen door slapped shut behind Akira and Ty, and a dozen stares tracked the odd couple as they sat on stools at the counter.
“Hey!” one of the patrons said. “You’re that guy, uh, whats-his-name, uh, with the loud car,” the man snapped his fingers trying to remember.
“Ty Yates?” Akira offered.
“No, that’s not it. Ah, Blogey, yeah that’s it. Hey everyone look here, it’s Dr. Blogey.”
Immediately Ty was surrounded by adoring fans. Shaking hands, and signing menus, Ty relished in the attention. “Hey, everyone,” said Ty, “thanks for your support. I hope you’ve all got plans to call your state legislators to get on board with the new Constitution. Change now!”
“Change now!” the patrons chanted. They started murmuring, “Who is our US Senator?”
“No,” Ty exclaimed. “Not your US Senator. They can’t vote on this.” He scanned the puzzled looks on everyone’s faces. “This is up to the states. Only the state legislatures can vote on this on. You need to call your state representatives and senators.” Silence. “Okay, here’s what to do. Go to www.legis.state.pa/findyourlegislator, and find your district on the map.”
“Hey, I got it!” one of the Rogue-Rats called out. “Huh, never heard of her.” Everyone pulled out their phones, searching for who were their state legislators as they returned to their seats to resume their foraging.
Ty gave a snort of satisfaction and turned to drool in wonder at the assortment of pies and donuts that sat under glass domes. A sign stuck to a mirror with yellowed tap read “Belly Buster Breakfast, eat the whole thing and its free.”
“The word its is missing an apostrophe,” Akira corrected, seeing that Ty was considering the offer.
“Well excuse me. Ms. Proper. But, in the Constitution, James did spell Pensylvania missing an n.”
“That was Hamilton’s mistake, not James’. Besides it was Guvernur Morris who wrote the final draft.”
“What can I get for you?” the aging waitress asked, snapping gum as if she were still a teenager in the 1950s.
“What’s in the Belly Buster Breakfast?” Ty asked.
“A dozen eggs, three scoops of hash, three scoops of home fries, a dozen strips of bacon, and a dozen sausages.”
“Great, I’ll take two.”
“Two?” the waitress faltered, looking to Akira. “She can’t eat a Belly Buster.”
“No, both are for me.”
The waitress gave Ty a doubtful look over her glasses. “Alrighty, there big fella. How’s about you there missy?”
“Frittata Florentine, please.”
“Sorry honey,” the waitress continued, “we ain’t got nothing like that.”
“That should be we haven’t any…”
“Akira!” Ty snapped.
“Oh, ah, then just a glass of skim milk.”
Shaking her head, the waitress scribbled in her notebook as she yelled out her order to the cook.
“Well, looks like we got away, nice and clean,” Ty boasted. “And good old Jemmy’s letter is a golden ticket to a new Constitution.” Ty took out his phone and scanned the thousands of replies to his twitter feed. “Good, the whole world is on this Lloyd character to back off. We’ll be safe now.”
Outside the diner, a black sedan rolled next to the Rogue-mobile. Lloyd stepped out, snapped a magnetic pod to the inside of the Rogue-mobile’s massive air intake, and then drove away.
Ty’s phone rang. “Yeah, talk to me.”
“Ty, this Vasyl.” Vasyl’s voice was thick with a Russian accent.
“Vasyl? I don’t know any Vasyl. How’d you get this number?”
“I hack NSA database.”
“We Russians are being exceptional of hacking. We even give blame to Chinese. Lots of fun.”
Ty chuckled. “I like you already Vasyl. So you’re Russian?”
“Da. I being big fan of yours. I being even wearing Rogue Rat tee shirt.”
“Glad to hear it. So what do you want?”
“I am seeing your tweet and because for you big trouble. Just am wanting to let to you know they are active in tracking cell phone of you.”
“Ooo, let me see, I zooming in little bit here, panning little bit there. Da, it coming from 2118 Massachusetts Avenue in Washington of DC.”
“Whoa, that’s The Society of the Cincinnati.”
“Da, address matching.”
“You must be wrong. The Society wouldn’t track me.”
“Ty, my new friendly guy, as we say in Russia, there many layers in onion.”
“But, I’m a member, well almost a member.”
“Da, me too.”
“You? There is no way you are a member of the Society?”
“You knowing of that, I knowing of that. It being our little secret, da? Lots of fun with computer.”
“Not sure why, but somehow this is making sense. What should I do?”
“See guy at end of counter?”
“How do you…?”
“They are shutting off phone of him. He owing 837 dollars US. Too much. Name on account Allen Parks. Allen being guy’s name, da?”
“So he must being guy and his GPS is at end of counter, da?”
“I’m with you so far…”
“So he must be guy at end of counter. Change Now. Change phone now. Ha, I making for you joke, da?” Vasyl paused a moment, hoping for a laugh, or at least a chuckle. “Offering to him fifty buckies. He give phone. After I am turning phone of him back on for you. Poof, nasty, bad, smelly onion all gone. Change now!”
The call ended leaving Ty to stare in bewilderment at the now silent device. He shrugged his shoulders, and looked to Parks.
Akira gave Ty a puzzled look. Ty just put his palm out, signaling her to give him a moment then gestured for her to follow him.
At the end of the counter the waitress refilled Parks’ cup. The man’s bony hands trembled as he lifted the brew to his lips. Thick white side burns faded to a three-day stubble. His bloodshot eyes looked out from beneath the puffy plumes of his eyebrows, showing the pain of a never ending hangover.
Ty sat next to him and Akira followed.
The old man reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one. The waitress made no effort to stop him. He turned and looked to Ty and Akira realizing their presence for the first time. His trembling fingertips were charred leathery black, no longer feeling the painful burn as they flitted and danced with the glowing cigarette ember.
“Allen Parks,” he said at last, extending his hand. “Pastor Allen Parks, at the Lord’s service, and yours, my son.”
Ty stood to shake the skeletal hand “Glad to meet you, reverend.” The waitress placed their order on the counter. “You’re a pastor? Like with a church and everything?” Ty mumbled around his mouthful of food
“You betcha. Five hundred sheep in my flock. Television and radio every Sunday.”
“Really. How come I never heard of you?”
“That was a few years ago. The Lord works in mysterious ways. No telling what he has in store for us in this world or the next. What’s your name, son?”
“Ty Yates. And this is Akira Madison.”
“Ty Bates you say.”
“Yeah, Yays. What do you do there, son?”
“I’m a state senator.”
“Really. How about you there little lady.”
“I’m a high school student. Ty and I have vlog.”
“Imagine that,” the pastor said blankly. “What’s a vlog?”
Ty shoveled a mouthful of hash browns. “Having trouble with your phone?”
“Yeah. Piece of junk. The company keeps hassling me. Why can’t they just leave me alone?”
“Yeah, I hear ya. Hey, I’ll give you fifty bucks for it.”
“Really? Why?” He looked Ty up and down. “Make it seventy five.”
“Sixty two fifty.”
Ty handed him a hundred dollar bill. “Keep the change.”
Ty shoveled another mouthful when his new phone rang.
“Good change. Now, turn old phone of you off. I am downloading phone list of you to new phone. Huh, what is this? Who Fifi? Fifi being girl name, da?”
“Never mind.” Ty pressed end call.
“And this just in,” the NewsNow announcer intoned, from the TV behind the cash register, “As if Dr. Rogue hasn’t created enough trouble with demands for a new Constitution, we have a cell phone video of Dr. Rogue and Akira Madison attacking a crippled man in an abandoned barn.”
…the power retained by individual States, small as it is, will be a clog upon the wheels of the government of the United States…
-Brutus (Robert Yates), Oct 18, 1787
Ty froze, a forkful of hash browns suspended in mid-air. On the television dimly lit image of Lloyd appeared, standing in the barn.
“How did they…?”
Then the image spun around, and caught Ty and Akira flying through the air and knocking Lloyd to the ground. After a bouncing blur, the two ran across the sunlit field. Several gun shots were heard, and the video ended.
“We have live on the phone Fred Adamson, the person who took this amazing footage. Mr. Adamson, could you tell us how you took this video?”
“Hello. Is someone there?”
“Yes, Mr. Adamson. Could you tell us how you took this video?”
“Who the heck are you?”
“Johnny Weber, NewsNow. You are live on TV.”
“Oh. Yeah. Well, I was outside getting ready to do some chores when I hears this ruckus out in the barn so I goes out to look. And I sees this crippled man with metal legs, standing under the hay loft, talking to someone. But there weren’t nobody there. Probably talking on his cell phone, I figure. So I takes out my phone, ‘cause he ain’t suppose to be in there, trespassing and all. And all of a sudden this guy and a girl come flying out of the loft, and knocks him down. And I see it’s Dr. Rogue. Can you believe it, Dr. Rogue himself. ‘Magine that. They runs off and the man shoots at them. Pretty good shot. Almost picked ‘em off. Then he takes off after them, but he couldn’t move so good, with metal legs and all. They never even saw me standin’ there, and all.”
“Did anyone say anything?”
“Yeah, the cripple said he was looking for the Madison Letter.”
“Are these the Madison letters Dr Rogue mentioned in his tweet?”
“Well, I couldn’t tell ya. But a long time ago James Madison’s sister used to live here. So who knows?”
“And there you have it. Another stunning twist in this unfolding saga of lies and deception. This is Johnny Weber, NewsNow.”
“Whoa, love the Tarzan gig, bro,” one patron said.
“How many times did you have to reshoot that one?” asked another.
“Did you really shoot at a cripple?”
“Whoa,” Ty said standing. “That was real, and he shot at us.”
A dozen pairs of eyes stared back.
“Okay, everyone, come with me. Come on, stand up,” Ty waved for them to stand. Everyone obeyed. “Now follow me.”
Ty led the patrons out to the Rogue-mobile.
“It’s the Rogue-mobile!” a patron squealed. “The real genuine Rogue-mobile. I can’t believe it.” The crowd circled the mighty machine, poking and prodding the gleaming paint.
“Now look.” Ty pointed to the bullet hole.
“Wow, it looks so real!”
“I got some of those decals on my pickup.”
“No, it is real,” Ty protested.
“Mommy,” squealed a little girl, “I need go potty.”
The crowd followed mother and child back into the diner, leaving Ty and Akira outside.
“Well, big fella,” Akira mocked, “That went well. I guess I’ll go finish my milk.”
Ty trailed behind Akira back into the diner.
“Back to the topic of Lloyd and your attack on him, what are we going to do?” Akira asked.
“I dunno. Hide,” Ty said, nodding at the waitress refilling his coffee.
“Hey look!” one of the Rogue Rats called out. “They’re showing my picture! The one I
Up on the TV was a photo of Ty and Akira taken only moments before. The waitress pointed the remote and upped the sound.
“… of the famous couple and their bullet ridden car taken at the Comet Diner in Front Royal, Virginia.”
“Hide,” the waitress chuckled. “Right.”
“We have to go, Ty,” Akira whimpered.
“Why?” he asked, scooping a forkful of sausages.
“Lloyd. He knows where we are.”
He swallowed a half-chewed lump. “I’m not afraid of Lloyd.”
“I am,” her voice cracked. Her jaw trembled as Ty looked at her.
Ty’s brows stitched in concern. He put down his fork. “We’ve really enjoyed the hospitality,” he called out, throwing a few twenties onto the counter.
Akira stood back, avoiding the throng of back slaps and handshakes.
“Just remember,” Pastor Parks advised, “the Lord works in mysterious ways. He has a plan. We might not know what it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
Ty shook Parks’ hand. “Amen to that reverend,” he said, and headed for the door.
With the Rogue-mobile purring down the road, Akira closed her eyes, put the seat back, and blew out a long breath. “Where are we going?”
“Anywhere but here.”
“Oh, great, same plan as you have for America. I feel so much better.”
“Okay, Ms. Brilliant, what do you suggest?”
She pulled her seat back up, and heaved a sigh. “I don’t have a clue.” She pulled a poodle hankie from her purse, and wiped a tear from her eye. “I need some stuff from my aunt’s apartment.”
“Akira, I told you, that’s the first place they’ll look for us.”
“Then I’ll just grab a few things before they show up.”
“Okay, but make it quick.”
Akira neatly folded her hankie and placed it back in her clutch. “This makes no sense at all. Why did he shoot at us?”
“Same reason why the first letter disappeared from your office. James was involved in a conspiracy. Someone knows it and wants to keep it under wraps. This proves my point, and Mercy Warren’s. The Constitution was an illegal deal.”
“Never mind the Constitution. How do we defend ourselves from these guys?”
“Defend? I don’t defend. I attack.”
“Great. One you, one me, and one stupid car. All on a righteous rampage against people with guns.”
“You’re right. So unfair. How can we help them so they can have a fair fight?” He glanced at her, hoping for a smile.
“Ty! Be serious.”
“I am being serious. We have the whole country with us, maybe even the whole world. You saw all those Rogue-Rats back at the Comet Diner. They gave us ten thousand percent support.”
“And they couldn’t even remember your name, let alone mine.”
“It’s not us that they need to support. It’s America, and they know that name very well. Everything else is secondary.”
Akira leaned her head back. “Oh, now my head hurts.”
Chet Steward’s cell phone rang. He turned and took several steps so the president couldn’t hear.
“What’s the status?”
“Looks like they’re heading back to New York. I’m trailing several miles behind.”
“You need support. I’m sending in back up, satellites, helicopters, the whole enchilada.”
“If I may suggest, sir, that we try to keep this low key. Under your orders, I could do this alone. Keep the profile down, and our risk exposure to a minimum.”
“Lloyd, I’m glad you’re finally getting the point of my strategy.”
Lloyd, unseen on the other end of the line, rolled his eyes and shook his head no.
“You are authorized to proceed,” Chet firmly ordered. And Lloyd, I want this quick and I want this quiet.”
Akira turned the key in her aunt’s apartment door, and they stepped inside. “Auntie is at work. I’ll only be a minute.”
Ty sat on the couch and picked up a copy of Poodle Variety magazine from her coffee table while she darted into the bathroom.
She ran the water until it turned warm, then splashed several handfuls onto her face. She turned the water off and hung her head. All she wanted to do was cry. Looking up, she stared at her dripping face in the mirror. “This can’t be happening,” she whispered to herself. She grabbed a towel and patted her face dry. Turning the cap off a bottle of Poodle Fantasy cologne, she daubed one wrist, then rubbed her two wrists together. As she raised her wrists to her nose, the fragrance grew. She breathed deeply. “Ahhh. That’s better.” She straightened her back, replaced the cap, and stepped into the living room. “I’ll just get a few things,” she said, pointing to her bedroom.
As she stepped forward, the apartment door opened. They both heard it. Ty jumped up, but Akira froze.
The tall man from the barn stood before them, pointing a gun.
“What do you want from us?” Akira railed.
“Ms. Madison, you have something I and my colleagues want very much, a very old letter from your ancestral uncle.”
“James Madison believed in openness and honesty.”
“Openness? Honesty? Had it not been for the Brothers of the IVI, there would be no Constitution and there would be no America. Please don’t tell me that the American public understands the issues of the day, either then or now. Half cannot even find America on a globe.”
“You’re wrong. The American people are the source of American power.”
“Oh my dear, it is you who are mistaken. Had it been up to the people, our unborn nation would have dissolved into three bickering confederations, each only able to survive by capitulating to some foreign power. France, England, and Spain, these would have been the true rulers of what could have been America. Thirteen free and independent pawns of super powers who only wanted to use us.”
Ty stepped between Akira and Lloyd. “Leave her alone.”
“I want the Madison letter.”
“Why? It is a part of American history, something that belongs to all Americans,” said Ty.
“Two centuries ago America needed the Constitution, but didn’t want it. Like children in a candy shop, they couldn’t see past the sweet colors of absolute freedom to the realities of a real, not hypothetical, government. Times haven’t changed.”
“So your brothers of the, ah…”
“IVI, as in Iunctus vel Intereo. Mr. Yates, you know Latin. Would you be ever so kind as to translate.”
“Iunctus vel Intereo, Unite or Die. James Madison’s buddies.”
“I think the term ‘buddies’ is a bit of a stretch.”
“By any name, they decided to overrule the will of the American people. You’re doing the same and the word is out on you Lloyd. You’re all over social media. You can’t hide anymore.”
“Enough debate. The letter please.”
Ty didn’t move.
Lloyd looked past Ty’s overdone torso. “Ms. Madison, there appears to be vinyl sheath protruding from your jacket. May I see it, please?”
She pulled her jacket around her. “No.”
Lloyd’s eyes narrowed and his grip on his pistol tightened.
Ty stepped aside. “Give it to him.”
Akira indignantly slapped it into Lloyd’s outstretched hand.
Lloyd reached in and carefully pulled out the yellow parchment. His eyes widened at the prize before him. “The Brothers of the IVI have searched for the missing letters for over two hundred years. In just 24 hours we found not one, but two. Amazing. The Chairman will be very pleased.”
With a sudden thrust, Ty reached for the doorknob of the half open door. With an equally swift poof of Lloyd’s silenced gun, the doorknob went skittering across the room.
“Despite my handicap, I am still an excellent shot.” Lloyd’s expression became somber. “I cannot let word of the existence of the IVI leave this room.” He leveled his pistol at them. “I am sorry Ms. Madison, but I have my orders. I wish this could be different.” His gaze turned to Ty. “I am less sorry about you.” He turned his gun toward Ty.
Indian Queen Tavern, Philadelphia, Sept 19, 1786, five days after the Annapolis Convention, eight months before the Constitutional Convention
The steel gray skies carried a cold rain, foretelling an early, hard winter. The slender man shook the rain from his coat and opened the door nearly blowing out the three candles on the table inside.
“My dearest Ambassador Jay, please close the door before we all freeze to our deaths.”
Jay doffed his cap, and ran his hand over his receding hairline and smoothed out his light brown hair. “Colonel Hamilton sir, I would have thought your days at Valley Forge would have prepared you for such seasonable weather.”
The clutch of men began to laugh, all greeting the newcomer with handshakes and slaps on the back.
Hamilton smacked down a bottle of brandy and put a glass in front of Jay. Jay poured and took a clean shot. “Oh, that does so warm a man’s soul!” Sitting, he poured another.
When the brandy had returned the color to Jay’s face, Hamilton spoke. “Shall we begin?”
All stood around the small round table, and one placed a Bible in the center.
“I do solemnly swear that I, Alexander Hamilton, will faithfully execute my loyalty to the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the republican spirt of the Revolution for which our fallen brethren have sacrificed so much blood.”
Around the table the Bible was passed, each reciting the oath.
“I Guvernur Morris…”
“I James Wilson…”
“I, John Jay…”
“I Robert Morris…”
With a nod, they all sat.
“What business have we?” Hamilton asked.
Robert Morris rose. “We have successfully blocked the pointless and distracting business of the convention held in Annapolis.”
“His Excellency, General Washington, will be most distressed and aggrieved when he discovers the outcome of his most favored convention.” The voice was that of Jay.
“Nay,” Wilson said, “that boy Madison has already discoursed the outcome of the convention t’ His Excellency. I have heard the General is most distressed, and I fear he is suspicious of the contrivances of the men in this room.”
Hamilton pushed back his chair and crossed his legs. “The General is no fool. I swear he is able to look into the hearts of men.”
Robert Morris looked to Hamilton. “Tis true.” Then turning to Wilson, “And Madison is no boy. Be careful at whom you point a drawn sword. The ink of his pen can most easily silence the blood of your throat scarce e’re you are able to provide a defense.”
“Madison!” Hamilton scoffed, pouring more brandy. “He still believes the Articles of Confederation can be amended to make our dear thirteen republics into a true nation.”
“As I have stated before we are in need of him here, at this table,” Robert Morris said.
“Mr. Chairman, dare I query as to why?” Hamilton objected. “I have devised a Constitution worthy of a great nation. Let us make a new convention and prepare it for the grandeur of the new empire.”
“My most beloved Alexander,” Robert Morris spoke, “you and I have shared many hours, and much ink in the discovery of the politic that will bind our nation. But the sharpness of your tongue far surpasses that of your sword. Neither you nor I will be suffered long enough to ensure a new constitution to enlighten all thirteen republics.”
“And Madison will be so suffered?”
“You have witnessed him before the Congress. Most pleasant are his words, and the acuity of his philosophy is unsurpassed. No man stands long before the gentle scythe of his tongue.”
“Did he stand to fight in the Revolution? Did he win the favor of His Excellency? Does he contemplate the happiness of a new government? No, thrice no.”
“Does he close the ears of men, Alexander?” Robert Morris stood, his steel eyed stare cut into Hamilton. “For that is the talent you offer and this body is not presently in need of that particular wit.”
Hamilton’s fist clinched around the hilt of his un-present sword.
“Placate your temper, my brother-in-arms.” Morris sat back in his chair and swigged his brandy. “I do not seek to anger you, but to enjoin you in seeking a new glory for our country. To do so we require Madison.”
Hamilton relaxed back into his chair. “Madison declines to join us. I scarce believe he had held his tongue from words against us.”
“Madison can be no fool. He knows that without our body here gathered, our country will never celebrate the sunshine of its first day. For ourselves we must hold up our truth for him until he can see his way to us. I reiterate, only Madison will do.” Robert Morris turned to Jay. “Have you spoken with him?”
“Indeed, I spoke to him in Richmond. He is of like mind with us and now views a new constitution as the means of happiness for our country. But he cannot suffer in his heart to join us outright. He agrees to rail against my treaty with Spain. Then, while the blood of the Virginia legislature is still hot, to push for a new convention to further stop me.”
Robert Morris’ eyes sparkled and he sat back in his chair. “Well done, Mr. Ambassador, well done. Now I know how you were able to acquire all the lands next to the Mississippi from the British.” He raised his glass.
Ty stood, staring at the silencer that extended from Lloyd’s gun. “Please don’t shoot me,” he whimpered, stepping an inch further from the door. His face was a torrent of pain, his right hand extended out, palm up, pleading, while his left slowly snaked behind him. “Please, I beg you.” His head drooped and knees began to buckle. “Shoot her, not me,” Ty pleaded falling back against the wall. Then suddenly the lights went out.
With a hard lunge, Ty sidestepped back to the door and pulled it open, smacking the gun from Lloyd’s hand. A silent blaze of light erupted from the muzzle as Ty grabbed Akira and pulled her out the door, slamming it shut.
With the door knob shot off, Lloyd was trapped inside.
“Shoot her not me?” Akira questioned.
“Hey, it worked. I had to distract him somehow.” Ty yanked Akira down the hall.
Lloyd flipped on the lights and searched for his gun. Finding it, he pumped three shots into the heavy wood before the latch splintered open. He stood in the hall looking up and down the empty corridor trying to decide which way they escaped. Then a hollow thud of a closing door echoed up the stairwell. “Damn!” He lumbered to the elevator.
As the elevator rumbled its slow descent, Lloyd tucked his gun into his belt under his suitcoat. When the doors opened, he gave a slow nod to an old lady pulling a shopping basket. With a slow click-scrape, click-scrape cadence he stepped past the woman and out the door.
The screech of tires on asphalt drew his attention. With his body turned to block the view of the woman, he pulled out his gun and fired from hip height. The distinct ping of metal being pierced gave him a moment’s hope. But the Mustang roared on, undaunted by his bullet.
“Jerry Meyers, NewsNow,” the TV reporter spoke to the camera, “I am standing in front of the Delaware State House as this state becomes the first to debate the merits of a Second Constitutional Convention proposed by Presidential Candidate, Mercy Warren. Normally, parliamentary procedures would take months or even years for such a proposal. However, with the high profile provided by Ty ‘Dr. Rogue’ Yates and the public support he has generated, the Delaware House of Representatives has fast-tracked their debate. Earlier today they voted unanimously in favor of a second convention. It is now in the hands of the Delaware Senate.
“As you may know, Article Five of the Constitution allows for a second convention if called for by two thirds of the states’ legislatures. In the long history of our country, this has been proposed many times, but has never achieved the needed votes.
“When the original Constitution was up for ratification by the states in 1787, Delaware was the first to approve it, and by a unanimous vote. Judging by the debate on the Senate floor today, history may very well repeat itself.
“Hold on, one moment,” Meyers pressed a finger to his ear bud. “Yes it is now official, Delaware has again become the first in the nation for a change in the law of the land, and by a unanimous vote in both the House and Senate. This is indeed an historic moment!”
“Move, move, move!” Ty ordered as he pulled the breathless Akira from the stairwell to the waiting Mustang. “In!”
Ty jumped into the driver’s seat, and twisted the key.
“Wait a second,” Akira paused, standing outside the Mustang, her hands on the roof, panting in exhaustion. “You hired that guy, didn’t you. This is all fake. The barn, the letter. All designed to add to your agenda.”
“Akira! Get in!”
“Oh, no. You are not fooling me. I know yoooo…”
Akira squealed as Ty grabbed her by the arm and pulled her in through the open window.
“Ty! Knock it off already. Stop playing games.” She tried to sit up and put on her seat belt, but Ty’s wild gyrations of the car made it impossible. As the tires squealed onto the roadway, she finally clicked her seatbelt.
Then she heard it, the ping of metal. A few seconds later she saw a trickle of blood form on the top of Ty’s thigh. “Ty, your, your…” She stared and pointed.
“Fake. Right. Tell you what. I’ll turn around and drop you off for a conversation with our new friend, Hank Lloyd. That sound better?”
Slowly Akira shook her head, transfixed by the growing trickle of blood.
Ty looked sideways at Akira and snickered. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen your face whiter than mine.”
“Ty, you’re laughing? How can you laugh at a time like this?”
“Because Hank Lloyd just played into our hands. All we need to do is find some talk show jerk to blow the lid right off this party. And I know just the guy. It’ll be the show of a lifetime!”
“Oh, God. Ty, you can’t be serious…please think about what you are going to do before you do it. For once…please.”
Parks’ cell phone rang.
Akira jumped, then checked the caller ID. “Jenin,” she said punching on the speakerphone.
“Dr. Rogue, police come looking for you. Say they have arrest warrant because you shoot Mr. Lloyd.”
“Well, they got that backwards.”
“I tell them, I tell them, but they no listen. Say you should no knock down cripple.”
“What about the barn video?”
“Yes, I tell them, I tell them. They say barn video no clear.”
“Lloyd can’t get away with this.”
“He do, he do. Police looking for you. You be careful.” The line went dead.
“Clever. He looked pretty smart.” The flamboyant car thundered into the parking garage next to the high school. Ty pulled into his Rogue Rash spot, the sign spattered with spiky stars. “Police or no police, it’s show time!” Ty beamed.
Mount Vernon, Oct. 10, 1786, seven months before the Constitutional Convention
“My dear Alexander, I beg you. Cease your pacing.”
“Robert, you do not know His Excellency as I do. He has suffered us to wait beyond an hour. He is angry.” Hamilton continued his fitful motions about the vivid green receiving room. Then he stopped, his gaze locked on the tall figure standing still as a statue in the doorway.
In walked Washington. Hands behind his back, his face knotted in concern, he moved to the center of the room. He paused for long moments, then turned to face the two men, making intense eye contact, first with Hamilton, then Morris. Finally, he stepped to a corner chair and sat, holding both men in his stare.
“May we sit?” Morris asked.
After a brief eternity, Washington crossed his legs, folded his hands in his lap and nodded to Hamilton.
Bowing his head, Hamilton moved to the center of the room and stood at military attention, his eyes focused at a point directly over Washington’s head. “Your Excellency sir, the battles we have fought, the blood we have shed, the treasure we have expended have come to naught. The several states have refused to cede to the central government the necessities required of any body of men who would govern. The battles ahead lie not on the field of honor, but in the minds of men. It is those minds that we seek to change.”
Washington sat motionless. “Shays?” he questioned.
“It was of the gravest of necessities that….” Hamilton was halted by a mere flexing of Washington’s hand.
“The coin?” Washington asked.
Robert Morris stepped forward. “Came from my private coffers.”
“Hancock?” Washington asked.
“Had we not…” Again Hamilton was halted.
“Some, not all.”
Washington stood, and walked to the hall. In the door frame he halted. “You have my leave.” The great man then disappeared down the hall.
Chet swiped his phone on. “Gimme some good news.”
“They got away.”
“I said good news. Dammit, Lloyd, I told you we should have brought in back up.”
“Steward, you need a Plan B on how to deal with the blow back. And there will be plenty of it.”
“You worry about your part of the job, and I’ll worry about mine. Got it?”
“I didn’t hear you, Lloyd.”
“Yes sir, I got it.”
“Do it. Do it now.”
The … question … is, whether … the thirteen United States should be reduced to one great republic … or whether they should continue thirteen confederated republics, under the direction and controul of a supreme federal head for certain defined national purposes only?
-Brutus (Robert Yates), New York Journal, October 18, 1787
“Ty. You can’t. Lloyd called the police. They’ll find us.”
“Yeah! Even better!”
“Ty, this is a mistake. You can’t go on a national vlog with this.”
“I can and I must.” He jumped out of the car, came around and pulled open her door. “Stay here if you want. I’m sure Lloyd won’t track you down for several minutes.”
She blew air into her cheeks and got out. “Fine.” Akira quickened her steps to catch up to Ty as he headed for the garage’s elevator.
“Besides, if they arrest us, at least we’ll be safe from Lloyd.”
A few minutes later she watched as Jenin trotted alongside Ty, daubing makeup on him as best she could as he marched to a camera to tape a pre-show promo. She finished by roughing Ty’s pale hair into vertical spikes. Ty dropped to the floor for a quick series of one armed push-ups to engorge his arms with pumped up blood. Then he stood and nodded.
The camera zoomed in, and the stage director counted down. “Five, four, three…” As silent fingers finished the count down, Ty knotted his muscles, and angered his face.
“Pro-government secret society tries to silence Dr. Rogue,” he growled point blank into the camera. “The bloody details on the next Rogue Rash.” He showed off his blood-soaked pants leg and snorted. The camera light went out.
In just five seconds he managed to light the nation on fire. Again.
The pudgy NewsNow pit chief chomped on his soggy stogie. “Okay people, listen up. We just got a call from Hank Floyd, the guy in the Ty video…”
“Hank Lloyd,” Danny corrected.
“Look kid, what’d I tell you?” The pit boss turned back to the crew. “The guy says Ty shot at him. Says he’s a Vietnam Vet.”
The pit boss whirled around, and Danny stopped mid word. “Says he’s a war hero. Look him up. Get his bio, photos anything. Make him big. A protector of America. Get any little shred you can.”
Danny handed him a page of notes with his full bio and photos.
“Where’d you get this?”
“I found him on Facebook and messaged him. He gave me his phone number. I’ve still got him on the line.”
“You,” he pointed to another staffer. “Do a telephone interview. Pronto. We gotta scoop this before Ty does his next Rogue Rash.”
“The guys at NewsNow and the 24/7NewShow are going to rip each other apart over this one,” said Ty.
“You actually watch that garbage? That’s not real news,” said Akira.
“Real? I’m talking about the pulse of America, not reality. What do you watch? PBS?”
“No. I’m forced to listen to you. Gag.”
As Jenin worked on Akira, Ty gloated. “So admit it. I’ve been right all along. The Constitution is a fraud.”
“No it’s not. It is the law of the land.”
Jenin came up to Ty with an open first aid kit. Ty grabbed a roll of gauze, wrapped it around his wound and tied it off. He looked at Akira, his eyes aglow with anticipation.
“Tell that to the American people. In about ten minutes you’ll have the whole country listening. Admit that your ancestor lied to build his inflated view of what our government should be.”
“What the hell?” Chet sputtered as he watched the image of Hank Lloyd appear on the TV. He punched speed-dial. “What did you do?”
“I am containing blow-back.”
“No. You are intentionally being insubordinate. As soon as this fiasco is over with, I am bringing you before the Chairman himself.”
“You do that, Steward. And you tell him why you let power surge to your head and cause you to overshoot your target by a mile.”
“Lloyd, if I don’t see both Ty and Akira’s heads speared on a pike within one half hour, you will wish you never joined the IVI. Now follow your oath and follow your orders. Got it?”
“Excuse me,” Chet whined, “but I asked you a direct question, and I expect a direct answer.”
Chet punched off his phone and snored in self-satisfaction. “And that is how we do that,” he murmured to himself.
“Positions, everyone,” the director announced. Akira frowned as she sat at her host desk, while Ty sauntered away.
“And now, live from the Rogue Rash studio in the heart of the New York City, it’s Akira Madison and,” the announcer paused as a drum roll resounded across the auditorium, “Ty ‘Dr. Rogue’ Yates!”
A Tarzan caterwaul echoed throughout the auditorium as spot lights focused on Ty near the ceiling at the back of the room. As an ear piercing guitar riff blasted the room as Ty grabbed onto a zip line, flashed over the audience, and thumped to a landing on the stage.
“Yeah! And you thought the barn was great!”
The audience whooped and hollered.
“Akira and I have just returned after the adventure of a lifetime.” Ty turned to the audience. “Yes, folks you are about to hear a fantastic story. You won’t believe the details, but every word of it is true.” As he spoke, Ty stepped to his desk. “And Akira hardly even blinked. I was impressed.”
Ty sat back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head.
“But first, I’m going to tell you another story. A very old story. And I want you all to listen very carefully.”
Ty closed his eyes. The audience fell silent like obedient elementary school children and listened.
“It was a cold dreary day in George Washington’s home of Mount Vernon, September 15, 1786. Three years earlier the Revolutionary War had ended, and the thirteen former colonies had been in jubilation.
“But now, everything had fallen apart. States were fighting states. England still had forts in our western territories. Spain had shut the Mississippi River to American commerce dividing our western frontier from us.
“But George Washington had a vision that would unite the thirteen wayward colonies into one nation, create many new states beyond the original thirteen, and work around the Spanish blockade. He envisioned a grand series of canals and roads that would link the Potomac and Ohio Rivers
“First he needed a treaty between the states. Starting with the Mount Vernon Convention in 1785, he got Virginia and Maryland to agree. Then he planned another convention, in Annapolis, where the other states would join in to share the wealth. Bound by common interest, and a shot at a huge profit, the states would come together and a Federal Government would slowly grow. In time, America as a true nation would emerge.
“But on this day, as General Washington stared out over the Potomac, he received word from his friend, James Madison, that his hoped-for convention in Annapolis had failed. Only five states had even bothered to show up. He, the man who, in the face of impossible odds, defeated the greatest army on Earth, wasn’t even shown the respect of showing up for his convention.
“Oh, the disappointment George must have felt, not for his plan, but for the future of his country. Everything he and his soldiers had sacrificed for during the Revolution, was being swept away.
“In his letter, James told George not to worry. James said this proved that the only way forward was to form a new federal government, one framed by a new, rigorous constitution. Reluctantly, George agreed.”
Ty sat forward in his chair and rubbed his temples as if trying to rub out a headache. Then he stood.
“But the truth is that Washington had been deceived. That is not what really happened. No. The truth is that a group of men had decided to railroad America into a new form of government, a powerful new government, one that only they wanted.
“The real truth is that the delegates of the four missing states had been intentionally waylaid by a radical group called the IVI a splinter group of the Society of the Cincinnati. They intentionally sabotaged Washington’s plans to force their own plan for a federal constitution.
“At some point, George must have found out, probably from James during one of his visits to Mount Vernon. Do we know this for certain? No. However, even though George was President of the Society of the Cincinnati, he refused to go to the upcoming annual meeting in May. He also refused to go to the Constitutional Convention. Why? It would have been easy. Both were to be held at the same time in Philadelphia. He pleaded poor health. However, visitors to Mount Vernon found him in great health. So again, why?
“The answer is easy. He was a.n.g.r.y., mad. He had been lied to by his closest confidants. And who were these confidants, these Unite or Die Brothers, who also used their Latin name, the IVI?
“A few names come to mind, and no, James Madison is not one of them.
“Alexander Hamilton is first among the names. Brash and bold, he was the first person to propose a new constitution to the Continental Congress. A month later, when it was shot down, he stormed out of the congress never to return. He had been one of the needlessly starving troops at Valley Forge and knew firsthand of the inadequacies of The Articles of Confederation.
“During the Revolution, Hamilton was George Washington’s chief advisor. They were close. Washington viewed him as the son he never had. Historians have often wondered why throughout the winter between the Annapolis and Constitutional Conventions, Washington and Hamilton never spoke to each other, never even wrote to each other. Could it be that George found out about the IVI conspiracy and broke off contact with Hamilton?”
Another name is Robert Morris. Fabulously wealthy, Morris, as Finance Minister, became second only to Washington, as most powerful man in America. He bankrolled the Revolution out of his own pocket, to the tune of a billion dollars in today’s money. That was billion with a b. So trustworthy was his word that his IOU notes, known as Morris Notes, became the preferred currency throughout the colonies. Yet, he too quit in disgust over the Articles of Confederation.
“A third name is John Jay. He was the brilliant mastermind who negotiated the Treaty of Paris that formally ended the Revolution, and gave us all the land from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. During the negotiations, he let Benjamin Franklin be the point man, leaving Jay free to quietly work the backroom deals. Just the kind of guy a group like the IVI needed.
“Others? I’m sure there were. Guvernur Morris, no relation to Robert Morris, was also fabulously wealthy and became the penman of the Constitution, the man who actually wrote the words of the Constitution we have today.
“But these men had a problem. Without Washington, no one would go to their Constitutional Convention. They needed a new name, someone who Washington, and everyone else, trusted. Someone with a soft voice, and a devastatingly powerful mind who could argue the merits of a new constitution, and win.
That person was James Madison.
In the lost Madison letters that Akira and I have found, James anguishes over the whole affair. At first, he thought the Articles could be amended to correct their faults and unite the country. Then, when he realized that his friend, Alexander Hamilton was right, that only a new constitution would work, he reluctantly agreed to work with the IVI. James never actually joined, he was too much of a Goody-Two-Shoes to join any conspiracy. But so desperate were the times that he agreed to keep quiet to everyone but Washington.
“Throughout that winter, James pleaded with George. However, George steadfastly refused. Finally, with word of the bloody end to Shays’ rebellion, George acquiesced. There was no other way. America was bleeding to death.”
Mount Vernon, Friday March 23, 1787, 7 weeks before the Constitutional Convention
Cold gray shadows of evening gloom seeped through the window panes. A servant, entered, his freshly pressed shirt ruffles bustled under his black chin. He bowed as if to ask for forgiveness, and began to light candles strategically placed about the room.
“My dearest James,” Washington contested, “how would it be possible for me to attend your convention after I have promised the world my retirement from public life? My permanent retirement.” His posture was relaxed, almost slouching, as a brandy glass dangled casually from his hand.
Madison, still weary from his long cold ride from Montpelier, took a warming sip from his own glass. “My dear General, there is not a soul on this side of the Atlantic who doubts your honor.”
“My honor, no, you are correct. But what of my word? I have made a promise and I intend to hold to it.”
Madison rose, and took a short step toward a window, glancing outside as if to take his bearings. “I do not fault your intention, General, and yet if you were to look out this window and see there was a fire at the courthouse, would you not rise to aid in its extinction?”
“But of course. I would do all in my power for such an immediate and obvious alarm.”
Madison nodded acknowledgment, and stepped to another window, and again took his bearings. “And if you looked out this window and saw a British frigate appear there on your Potomac, you would also rise to oppose such affronters to our nation.”
Washington said nothing. He sat more upright in his chair and drew his brandy glass up into his fist.
“My beloved General, look out any window,” Madison raised his arms and gestured about the room, “and you will see your nation on fire and its enemies cresting at every horizon.”
Washington’s posture relaxed. He snickered and shook his head no. “My dear sir, you are indeed clever with words that beg men to arise to action before a full consideration of the consequences.” Washington finished his brandy, and held out the empty glass. The servant standing silently near the door strode toward the men to refill it. “I have outmaneuvered many of Cornwallis’ traps. I shall not fall victim to yours.”
Madison sat and studied the General’s posture and facial expression. “I would indeed shame myself were I to employ ruses be they of mere words or even of sterner substance to deceive you.”
The General crossed a long leg over the opposite knee and warmed his large hands together. His face appeared bland and untroubled.
“My purpose is not to deceive, but to enlighten.” Madison waved the servant away from topping off his brandy. His gaze transfixed upon the contrast of the servant’s white gloves against his black-skinned wrists.
“It is not I who need enlightenment,” Washington continued, “but the many men who are left behind to carry on the great work that I began. Why not work the magic of your words upon those who require it?”
Madison sat staring, his focus transfixed upon the spot before him where the servant had stood to offer brandy.
Washington cleared his throat, but Madison seemed frozen in thought. Washington leaned forward to catch James’ eye. “Madison?”
Madison’s face blanched.
Washington cocked his head in concern and began to rise.
Then Madison’s face flushed and he swallowed. As his focus returned, he pulled his handkerchief from his sleeve and dabbed at his lips. “Ah, forgive my momentary lapse. I grieve that you think I would attempt to deceive you.” He took a healthy gulp of brandy and let out a slow breath.
Washington sat back and set his hands cradling the brandy glass in his lap. “Perhaps I misjudged your words and deceive is too strong a term to apply to you. Your passion for our nation is genuine, and yet I will reiterate. Nothing can move me from Mount Vernon after my promise to retire from the public sphere.”
“No one could doubt for a moment the onerous neglect of duty it would be for you to leave your cherished Mount Vernon that your brother Lawrence so expertly crafted and charged to your devoted care.”
Washington drew in a stiff breath and sat upright, clanking his brandy glass onto his side table, half of the brandy spouting into a wave that splashed wayward droplets onto the table.
Madison’s eyes darted over Washington’s crossed his arms, his left eye half closed, his right eye burning a ray of fiery heat at his young colleague. After a long moment with his right cheek twitching anxiously, Madison stammered, “I meant no offense. I only meant to convey that I understand the duty you have set for yourself here. And you must in turn understand the duty I have set for myself in coming here. One of us must be moved or the entire nation will dissolve into chaos.”
Washington sat unmoving, his gaze probing Madison’s.
Madison’s cheek continued its tic. “Please tell me which words I spoke that gave you displeasure, and I shall immediately retract them.”
“I have taken my brother’s parched soil and made it verdant with fruits and vegetables of every variety, meticulously documenting every advance in horticulture made on these grounds. Am I thus not worthy to possess Mount Vernon in my own right?”
Madison’s cheek stopped twitching. He stared blankly as before, his gaze focused at the drapery behind Washington’s head.
“Mr. Madison, I am speaking to you. I demand an answer.”
The brandy glass dropped from Madison’s hand, wobbling on the thick Persian carpet a moment before coming to rest unscathed.
“Madison?” Washington questioned, leaning forward.
Madison’s eyes lolled in different directions, his lids fixed open as if in shock.
“James!” Washington motioned his servant closer as he crouched before his unconscious guest. Loosening the cravat at Madison’s neck, he signaled the servant to refill the brandy. Holding the glass to Madison’s lips, Washington started to pour. Madison gurgled and choked, but the scent revived Madison who sniffed and blinked.
Covering a cough with his raised handkerchief, Madison sputtered, and sat forward. His frightened gaze rested on Washington’s face. “My General, I ah, ah.” He tried to stand.
“Sit, my dear fellow, sit. Rest.” Washington returned to his seat. “I have heard of your fits, of your loss of composure.”
“My deepest apologies. I hope I did not alarm you.” Madison took the brandy from the servant and took a sip. “I have lost the thread of our discussion and do not wish to offend you further. Of what were you speaking just now?” With a trembling hand, he mopped his clammy brow.
Washington sat, spinning the brandy glass back and forth between his fingers. Then he gave a long sigh and a resigning glance toward heaven. “We were discussing how I shall go about announcing my acceptance of Governor Randolph’s invitation to your convention in Philadelphia.”
Ty stopped and scanned the studio audience, then he looked directly at the center camera.
“Whatever happened to this IVI group? Believe it or not they are still with us. Why? Because the Constitution that their ancestors pushed through was the wrong one. Throughout the history of America, people have been trying to undo the damage they caused, and rewrite the Constitution. If word ever got out about the tricks they pulled, then anti-federalists like Mercy Warren and me would have a powerful argument, powerful enough to succeed.
“How could word ever get out? The history should have died with the men who made it. The answer is that they knew that James Madison had written three letters to his sister Nelly confessing his sins. But the letters were lost, and they’ve been searching for them ever since.
“Then, after a two hundred year interlude, Akira and I beat them to two of them. We had them in our hands, we read them, and then the IVI took them. One they stole from Akira’s desk right here in this school. The other they took at gun point.”
Ty scanned the audience, nodding in affirmation. “They say that without the letters we have no proof. But, they are wrong. We do have proof. Undeniable proof. You want to see it?”
The crowd cheered and whistled.
He stood and unwrapped the bandage from his leg. The camera zoomed in on the center of his thigh. Across the front was the ragged bloody burn of Hank’s bullet, little rivulets of dried blood ran down to his ankle. Akira winced at the painful sight.
“Here is the proof. Yeah! Battle scars for America!”
The audience cheered and clapped.
“This is the final proof. The smoking gun that Mercy Warren needs to win the presidency of the United States of America!
There was a scuffle of noise at the back of the auditorium. A police detective and four officers walked down the aisle and up onto the stage.
“You know I am.”
“I have a warrant for your arrest for the attempted murder of Hank Lloyd.”
“This is great!” Ty enthused. “Arrested live in front of the whole nation! Show me your warrant.”
Ty read over the document. “Yep. Another shot in the battle for liberty.” He stood and pinned it to the Wall of Reclaim. “Bam!” he enthused. Back at his microphone he bellowed to the crowd, “What do you think, should I let them take me?”
“Noooo!” came the long chorus from the crowd. The officers stiffened. Five against one, and they were outnumbered.
“Hey, I think I’ll let them. Just to prove how wrong our government is. Yeah!”
Ty put his thick arms behind himself, and let an officer ratchet on a set of handcuffs over his tree-trunk wrists. Another set went on Akira. As the officers led them away, Ty relaxed his wrists and slipped his hand out of one cuff, Houdini style, pulled a hammer fist of victory to the cheering crowd, and wriggled his hand back in to the dangling cuff.
Akira shook her head. Part of her still wanted to believe that this was all a giant hoax.
A student with a camera followed, but he was blocked at the elevators by the officers. Ty and Akira were placed in the back of a squad car in the parking garage, and the doors closed.
The police had all disappeared. They were alone, trapped in the back of the squad car. Akira glanced around the parking garage. Empty.
“What’s going on, Ty?”
Then she heard it. Click-scrape, click-scrape. Up walked Lloyd. He opened the front passenger door and slipped in.
“You can’t do this!” roared Ty.
“You seem to have underestimated me, Mr. Yates,” said Lloyd in his calm voice. “The IVI is very well connected.”
“You’re too late. The whole world knows,” said Akira.
“You are correct, Ms. Madison, and yet surprisingly little damage was done. Most Americans think Dr. Rogue is a raving lunatic. We’ve done surveys. Without this,” Lloyd held up the second Madison letter, “you have no proof. But I’m afraid I still need to complete my task.”
“I am mortified that I alone am from New England…Pray hurry on your Delegates”
- Rufus King of Massachusetts to Jeremiah Wadsworth of Connecticut, May 20, 1787
“Jerry Meyers, NewsNow. I am standing in front of the Pennsylvania State House where this state has just become the second to ratify a Second Constitutional Convention. As you may recall, Delaware was the first, with a unanimous vote. In a matter of hours, Pennsylvania has become the second, but with a slightly less enthusiastic, but none-the-less dramatic two thirds vote.
“Many experts believe New Jersey will soon follow. At this rate the new convention could become a certainty in a just a few days.
“However, fierce opposition is now mounting in other states. Many experts believe Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York will not succumb to the allure of a new law of the land.”
Before Lloyd could pull out his gun, Ty slipped his hands out of the cuffs. Grabbing Lloyd’s arms, Ty pulled the crippled man back into the seat with them. Caught off guard and off balance Lloyd couldn’t fight back as Ty took the handcuffs, ratcheted to the size of Ty’s massive wrists, and pushed them over Lloyd’s hands. Ty ratcheted them down tight. He dove over the seatback and out the door. He opened the door and let Akira out.
“This way.” Moments later the parking garage reverberated with the sound of the un-muffled Mustang.
“What are we going to do?” Akira wailed.
“Well, the police are out of the question. I suggest we get the hell out of here, and worry about the rest later.”
The car blasted onto the street. People turned and stared at the garish, noisy car.
“Ty, we’ll never get away in this car. It’s the loudest, most visible, and well-known car on the planet.”
Akira leaned to get a good look at Ty’s sour expression. The poor guy normally reveled in the stares the Rogue-mobile drew. But not with Lloyd and every New York cop after them.
He swung off the main street, hauled the car over into a parking lot, and eased into the shadows behind a dumpster.
“Why are we stopping?”
“Be right back.”
“Honey, you’re home early,” Chet’s wife said as her husband came in the door.
Chet gave her a peck on the cheek. “Yeah, well there was a lull at work, so I thought I catch a few minutes with my lovely wife.” He stepped into the kitchen, and came out with a bottle.
“Wine? In the middle of the day?” his wife asked. “What’s the occasion?”
“Oh, nothing. Do I need a reason to spend a few pleasant minutes with my beautiful wife?” Chet sat on his living room sofa. “Join me.” How long had it been since he had taken the time to enjoy a glass of wine with his wife? Too long. He flipped open his laptop and opened the vlog. Together they watched Rogue Rash. The last Rogue Rash.
All so easy. It had taken only twenty four hours, one day, for his victory. Two Madison letters found, and one opponent of the Constitution eliminated. He put his arm around his wife and waited.
He nodded in reverent silence as the police officers led the mismatched couple away. He tried not to think about Akira. Was she – gone – yet? Ty, he was easy. However, Chet had actually liked Akira from the moment he first read her bio. Smart girl. The Brothers had had a few important sisters in its long history. In a few years he would have recruited Akira.
There were times when he hated his job with the President. But not now. Now he felt the rush of glory that lay just around the corner. His status within the IVI was now secure. By tomorrow he would be vice-chairman. His cell phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it to his ear, bracing himself for the ugly confirmation.
He listened for a few moments. Remorse for Akira quickly changed to panic. He closed his eyes, then pocketed his phone.
“I’m going back to the office,” he told his wife.
“Everything okay, honey?”
“Yeah, fine. Just the usual. Sorry about breaking up our time.”
By the time he reached his car, all empathy for Akira had evaporated, replaced by desperate measures and scenarios that played out in his head.
Philadelphia, Saturday, May 12, 1787, two days before the scheduled start of the Constitutional Convention
“Welcome, Your Excellency, sir.” The servant bowed as Washington stepped through the front door of Robert Morris’ Market Street mansion.
Behind him, Robert Morris motioned to James Madison. “Please, James sir, proceed ahead, and be welcome in my home.”
Guvernur Morris entered last.
A servant collected everyone’s hat as Robert motioned them into his study. Moments later, all had a glass of Madeira in hand.
The General selected an upholstered chair, and sat. He gave a long sigh of relief as the servant pulled off his high boots. “I’m uncertain which to term the more satisfying, this Madeira, or escape from those infernal boots.” A light chuckle moved across the room.
Robert Morris turned to James. “I hope that both you and Mistress House will forgive my impertinence of stealing His Excellency away from you after you had arranged lodgings for him with you at her boarding house.”
James’ face wrinkled for a moment as he tried to hide his disappointment that he wouldn’t have the General’s ear every night. “Not at all, dear sir. Your gracious home is more suitable to the General’s exceptional tastes. Being also closer to the State House as well lends more efficient use to his most valuable time.”
The General looked around the room in appreciation of the far better accommodations than Mistress House’s boarding house would offer, and took another draught of wine. “Tell me, Robert, have the other states arrived?”
Robert turned to Guvernur to answer. “I believe sir, that many are still underway.”
“We must have seven at a minimum. That is the requirement for a quorum.”
“Yes, we must. However, we do not yet have that many.”
“Besides my Virginia, and of course you from Pennsylvania,” Washington pointed to the two Morris’, “how many states have arrived?”
Guvernur gazed for a moment into the depths of his wine glass, and then lifted his face to the general. “That number would be not yet one, Your Excellency sir.”
Washington stiffened on the edge of his chair. “Not yet one.” His eyes penetrated his three colleagues in turn. “Surely you have had word of imminent arrivals. Perhaps at the start of next week.”
“Sir, I am not aware of any states that will arrive within a sennight, nor a fortnight even.”
Washington deflated back into the soft cushions of his chair, his eyes staring forward at no one. He turned to Robert, “Am I expected to preside over an empty chamber? I will not play the part of a fool. I shall journey back to Mount Vernon on the morrow if this present circumstance proves accurate.”
Robert turned to Guvernur and James, gently waving them out of the room. “My dear General sir, if I may have a word.” He closed the door to the study, leaving Guvernur and James in the foyer.
“Not one state yet beyond we two?” James asked.
“My dear James sir,” Guvernur took a sip of his Madeira, “a framework must be in place before a house can be built upon it, no? Once you have put our framework in place we can allow all the states to join us.”
“Allow? We do not allow, we request.” James took a step back from Guvernur. “Have you arranged this delay as you did in Annapolis?”
“Of course not. We would not repeat that ploy. To obvious.”
“Deputies from each of the states have been selected. Delaying them is inconceivable now.”
Guvernur stepped forward, placing a warm hand on James’ shoulder. “They will delay themselves.”
“Please I beg you, speak plainly. I cannot take your meaning from such ambiguity.”
“You have served in a state legislature. You well know the methods under which these projects move. The deputies’ journeys must be funded and their stipends established. The state legislatures must form committees, investigate required funding, hold meetings, and take votes of approval.”
“Guvernur sir, I congratulate you on your calculations.” James let out a pent breath. “And in this vast meanwhile, to what occupation shall I turn myself while you persuade His Excellency to preside in sullen contemplation over an empty chamber?”
“Why time is of the essence my dearest James. E’re long there will be men arriving whose minds are shut against a strong central government. I can give you only this gift. A moment of time, free of the clatter of opposition, barely long enough for you to establish what is needed for a constitution, and not merely amendments to the Articles.”
“And how am I to fashion a new constitution without a quorum?”
“You will soon have your quorum. Certain select deputies have, as of this very day, had their travels funded, and ample stipends established. Very ample stipends to assure their moods are undisturbed. And when they arrive, you, my brilliant friend, must bend your thoughts to prepare them for an iron clad constitution.”
“And who are the persons who have made this selection of deputies?”
“Why James, you are in the presence of one, and General Washington is in the presence of the other.”
Ty walked to the back of the car and opened the trunk. After a bit of rummaging that Akira could only hear, he pulled a greasy jump suit and a change of clothes out of his trunk. A minute later he threw a hack saw onto the front seat, tucked his ponytail under his collar, and moved toward the strip mall stores.
“Ah, Ty? My hand cuffs…”
“You can wait.”
Akira gawked in disbelief as he walked to one of the stores. Her hands were still cuffed behind her and her wrists were getting sore.
“I’ll show him.”
She swung her arms to one side and managed to snag the hack saw with her right hand. Slowly, painfully, she managed to saw away at the left cuff. After a few minutes the metal saw felt hot in her hand. She stopped sawing. All she’d made was a little ragged indentation. Undaunted, she switched hands and sawed at the right cuff, like a wounded animal trying to escape from a trap. Several minutes later both hands ached and her wrists were chafed red.
“This is pointless.”
Ty was heading back to the car, a plastic shopping bag in one hand. He put the bag on the ground and stared at the hood of his car. With a sudden massive lunge, he kicked at the brilliant chrome air intake. The gleaming metal bent and buckled under the force of his kick, but it didn’t budge. A second kick, and two of its hold down anchors snapped, bending up a section of the hood. A third kick finished the job, scraping the intake across the hood, gouging the glorious paint as it slid to the ground. He carefully picked up the mangled sculpture, then bowed his head and drew in a deep breath. Unable to look, he tossed the now worthless artifact into the dumpster. He opened the plastic shopping bag, and pulled out a spray can of dull gray primer.
With a tear in his eye, he surveyed his beauty.
“I’m sorry, darlin’.”
He pressed his teary eyes shut and aimed the can. Six cans later, the marvelous Mustang looked ready for the junk heap. He slipped into the driver’s seat, and hung his head in shame, as if he’d just sold his first born child. He reached for the key.
“Ah, Ty, My cuffs. I need your help. It’ll take forever to get these sawed off.”
“Oh yeah. I forgot.”
He lifted her hands and cocked one dark brow at the little dings she’d made in the metal. Several hard strokes cut nearly through each cuff. Bracing his steel hard thumbs on either side, he snapped one cuff in two, then the other.
The old heap of a car pulled out from behind the dumpster. Within a few minutes they were on the George Washington Bridge heading into New Jersey. With the Rogue-mobile purring forgivingly along, Ty noticeably relaxed.
“Okay. Is now a good time to worry about the rest?”
“Nope. Not yet…gotta put some distance between us and the Brothers. Gotta keep you safe.”
“Thanks, Ty. Thanks for saving my life back there…all three times.”
“Of course. Can’t lose my best friend, can I?” He flashed his classic boyish grin.
She grinned back. “You’re my best friend, too. Hey, how’s the leg? Do you need to get it looked at?”
“Nah, it’s just a big scrape.”
“Pretty bloody for a big scrape. You’re my hero, Ty. My frustrating, irritating, antagonizing hero.” Akira patted the thick arm.
“You’ve been good to me, too, Akira. You’re the only friend I know I can count on to put me in my place when I need it.”
“Which is always,” Akira joked.
“You never turned away from me, no matter what. Even when my parents practically disowned me.”
“You don’t even like your family.”
“Hey my parents are okay. They’re into their own brand of extremism.”
“It’s easy to be a libertarian when you’re filthy rich.”
“Are you saying that James did what he did because he felt sorry for poor people?”
Akira frowned. “No, I don’t think he thought about poor people to tell you the truth. James wanted to forge America into a great nation by building a strong central government.”
“Right. And Robert Yates wanted to build a great nation by forging a strong self-empowered people. Who’s empowered, the people or the government? You can’t have both. Who was right? In some parts of American history, James has been worshiped as the great founder of our nation, and Robert vilified as a mean spirited naysayer. Other times this has been the opposite. Who is right today, you or me? Who can say?”
“I disagree with your approach, Ty. I don’t think it is a case of either or, but how we balance the two. We need government. Without it we’d have anarchy, like before the Constitution. But we also need to control the government so it serves the people.”
“As Jefferson said, ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.’”
“Jefferson never said that.”
Ty winked and focused on his driving.
The scrawny sallow-faced 24/7NewShow boss stood looking over the shoulders of his crew, jacking espresso, trying to throw off the remnants of his three Martini lunch. Okay, so maybe it was four. When NewsNow aired the barn video, his own ratings tanked. A bit of an uptick when Ty got arrested, then things went dead quiet. There was nothing to spice up the boring day.
All that he had to go on was reruns of Ty’s wordy story about the letters and the IVI. Nothing else. Nobody ever heard of the IVI. And nobody cared about the letters. All the calls to the station earlier were asking for news of Ty’s arrest. At least he had one consolation. NewsNow had been promising footage of Ty and the little black chick being fingerprinted, but so far, nothing.
The rerun finished and the tech guy shrugged at him. The boss flapped his hand at the guy to start it over again. It started with Ty showing off his bloodied leg. Good stuff. The kid really knew how to put on a show. But it was hours old. Might as well have been taped last century.
Along the bottom of the screen a ribbon of news floated from right to left. A senator was in Beijing extolling the communist party bosses about the beauty of free speech. Another bomb in Mumbai. Whatever happened to Bombay, anyway?
He gulped more espresso and paced along the bank of monitors, their eerie glows blinking useless drivel about political unrest, global warming, another famine, another earthquake, another oil spill.
“What’s that?” he asked, looking over a shoulder at a fuzzy image inside a store.
“A cell phone still of Ty buying spray paint at a hardware store.”
“I thought he and the Madison gal were in jail.”
“Nope. According to the text message, they’re out and about.”
“No kidding?” His face brightened. An exclusive. “Put it up. Track down the owner of the store even if you have to go there yourself. You,” he pointed at another tech guy. “Hunt for more of these.”
“I cannot silently witness this degradation without calling on them…to turn back their languid eyes on their lost liberties…”
- A Columbian Patriot (Mercy Otis Warren), 1788
Green fields passed by the Rogue-mobile, then faded to strip-malls as the country side turned from rural to urban. Ty’s goatee moved in and out as he pursed his lips in thought. “Well,” Ty finally said, “James got Washington to the Convention, and managed to keep him there for two more weeks until they got their quorum.”
Akira nodded. “And everything moved along great. James was getting everything he wanted. He got the Articles ignored, and within a couple more weeks got his draft Virginia Plan constitution through preliminary approval. They were headed for an early finish. James must have been heady with excitement.”
“Then, Bam! The bottom fell out of the bucket when William Paterson showed up and proposed the New Jersey plan.”
Akira shook her head. “Some plan. Take the Articles of Confederation, add a little salt, a little pepper, and voilà, the New Jersey Plan, much of it written by your Robert Yates.”
Ty guided the Mustang off the highway, and into a fading urban neighborhood. They rolled past several brick buildings bearing fading For Rent signs. “There,” Ty pointed. The sign declared that Pammy’s Pancakes had been existence since 1952. Ecstasy spread across Ty’s face as he guided the car to a stop directly in front of the door. With a blast of his horn, he announced their arrival.
“Knock it off, Ty. We’re hiding, remember?”
“I don’t do hiding.”
“So learn, already,” she scolded. “Park in the alley in back.”
With a roll of his eyes, Akira style, he complied.
Once the Rogue-mobile was safely hidden, they walked around to the front door. Stepping inside, she blinked. The door must have been a secret portal to an alternate universe that warped them back the better part of a century. If the place was started in 1952, then the gold speckled Formica countertops must have been bought used.
“How do you find these places, Ty?”
“Instinct,” he beamed. “Pure instinct.”
The waitress was too old for the too tight tank top that showed off too much of what shouldn’t be shown off. Akira stared at the hand typed menus sandwiched between dog-eared cellophane. “What are Chicken Riggies?” she asked.
“It’s like American Chop Suey on steroids’” Ty explained. “It’s got chicken in a tomato cream sauce on Rigitoni.”
“I get it,” Akira responded, “Riggies – rigatoni. Ha. I’ll try it.”
“It’s got just a bit of spice too,” the waitress added, licking her pencil stub and scribbling on her green check pad.
“Yeah, fine. And green tea, please.”
“Black coffee,” the waitress recited as she wrote down the closest thing she had.
“Same. I’ll take two double helpings,” Ty added.
Within a minute Ty was surrounded by two huge steaming bowls. He started shoveling.
“Looks good,” Akira said, blowing on a tiny spoonful until it cooled, then popped it into her mouth.
“Ah!” she screamed. “Hot!” She dove for a glass of water.
“It couldn’t be that hot. You blew on it.”
“Not that kind of hot,” she said between gulps of water. “What’s in this stuff?”
“Let’s see,” Ty said rolling a gulp in his mouth to let the flavors develop. “There are wax peppers, jalapeno peppers,” he rolled his tongue again, “and oh yes, the real kicker, serrano peppers. Great, isn’t it?” He reached for the tabasco, and gave his bowl a few extra shakes.
“No!” Akira wiped the sweat from her forehead and pushed her bowl away.
Ty stopped mid-bite, staring at a TV that was strategically located near the grill.
“Hey, darlin’,” he called to the waitress. “Wanna turn that thing up, honey?”
With a sour curl of her lip, the waitress snapped her gum, then reached to the set.
“… thousands of protesters outside of the White House demanding information on Ty, ‘Dr. Rogue’, Yates and Akira Madison who was last seen being arrested on live television last night. Ty’s father, US Senator Robert Yates has instructed his legal representatives to demand access to his son and his companion. Authorities refuse to confirm whether the pair have been placed under official arrest, or charged with any crime.”
The image switched to Dr. Rogue pulling his victory fist to the crowd as the police thought he was securely cuffed. Then there was a close up of his warrant pinned to his famous Wall of Reclaim.
“Yeah. That’s what I’m talkin’ about,” Ty bellowed in his Dr. Rogue voice.
“Ty. Stop it! Don’t draw attention. This could get ugly. People could get hurt.”
“There is no bloodless revolution.”
“Ty. Grow up. This is the twenty first century, and you are not Samuel Adams fighting for liberty.”
A heavy set, middle aged man in a black leather Harley Davidson vest pointed at them. “Hey! It’s Dr. Vogue!” All eyes turned toward the couple.
“Rogue Rats!” Ty bellowed, his hands outstretched to the crowded restaurant.
He glanced at Akira, who’d buried her face in her hands, trying to hide from dozens of probing eyes. Instantly they were surrounded by adoring fans. Ty shook hands and slapped shoulders. Akira tried to slink away, but he pulled her back and put his arm around her shoulders to pose as a dozen cell phones took pictures. He tore off his bandage and showed off his ragged wound with pride.
“Hey, we saw you arrested on TV. We thought you were in jail.”
“Naw. Changed my mind.”
Slowly the crowd settled back into their seats, cackling and pointing at the celebrity before them.
Ty returned to his seat while Akira continued to stir what should have been her tea, hoping to avoid actually drinking it. “Now what?”
“The answer to that one is simple. Eat.”
“Ty, be serious.”
“You need to do like James Madison,” a tiny woman interjected, her voice thick with a foreign accent, her arms laden with plates headed for the dishwasher.
“Excuse me?” Akira asked, eyeing the woman’s hijab.
“Before Constitution Convention, Mr. James, he prepare for battle.”
“He study, he take notes, he write many letters to friends.”
“How do you know so much American History?”
“I study for citizen test. I become American.”
“Now that’s what I’m talking about. This is what makes America great. Millions of people, just like – ah, what’s your name?’
“Just like Elfida, reaching for the stars. Hey everybody,” Ty said, standing and speaking to the crowd, “this is Elfida, our soon-to-be American. Let me hear you say yeah!”
“Yeah!” the restaurant chorused in well-practiced Rogue Rash tradition.
“Come over here little lady and tell us your Madison strategy.”
The dish woman timidly placed her load on the counter, and took off her apron. “James Madison, he make big plan. He design entire government. At Constitutional Convention he make President, House of Representatives, Senate, and Judissss.” The woman stumbled on the word, trying to work her tongue around the difficult English sounds.
“Judiciary,” Akira filled in for her.
“Yo! This is great! She just described James Madison’s Virginia Plan. I say let’s give her the oath right here and now. Let me hear you say Yeah!”
Akira stood and turned to the woman. “But, the Virginia plan, didn’t work out, did it Elfida?”
“I, ah, don’t…”
Akira turned to the crowd, putting on her sweetest lecturer’s voice. “You see, Madison thought the common man wasn’t educated enough to make good choices when it came to voting. However, to Madison, the common man, was capable of electing his ‘betters.’ So in his plan, the voters would elect their betters to create a House of Representatives. The House would then elect their betters to create a Senate. The Senate in turn would elect their betters for the executive, which would be a committee of three or more people. To Madison, during each step the quality of the candidates would get better and better until only the very best would become what we now call President.”
Ty crossed his arms and turned to the crowd, “Talk about dumb. Can you imagine politicians electing politicians to elect other politicians? The party bosses would run everything, crony politics at its worst!”
Everyone shook their head. “No way!”
“Hey,” Akira interjected, “it was better than Hamilton’s plan to elect the president for life. A virtual Monarchy.”
“Or Nathaniel Gorham’s proposal to have Prince Henry of Prussia become our King.”
Everyone in the room burst into laughter at the ridiculous thought.
Except Ty. He re-crossed his arms and put on his infamous scowl. “People, it almost happened. Really. They actually sent the invitation letter to Prince Henry. At the convention, things were getting pretty wacky.”
The room fell silent.
“Madison also feared,” Akira continued, “the one-state/one-vote part of the Articles of Confederation that made it only a treaty between independent states, and not a real working government. During the Constitutional Convention, the one-state/one-vote legislature was being demanded by the small states, and rejected by the big. Why would Virginia, the mega state at the time, give little Delaware equal say in the government? And, why would Delaware allow Virginia, with fifteen times the population, to overwhelm it?”
“The entire convention came to a halt,” Ty broke in. “And James wouldn’t budge, not one inch. For almost two months they argued. Almost half of the entire convention was spent on this one topic. Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey were ready to walk. New Hampshire would have joined them except they hadn’t even shown up yet. Rhode Island never did show. So what happened next?”
“I know, I know,” blurted one of the Rogue Rats, “this was called the Great Compromise.”
“Yo, give the man a Rogue Rat tee shirt. And how did the Great Compromise come about?”
“I don’t, well I ah…”
“It’s okay that you don’t know, ‘cause neither do I. No one does. You know why? Because it was done in secret. No records, no nothing. The fate of America hung by a thread, and even James didn’t record what happened.”
“Whatever did happen,” Akira added, “a lot of people were upset. Madison went into a month long depression. Hamilton was so mad he stormed out of the convention, and didn’t return for two whole weeks. Your Robert Yates and his buddy John Lansing never did come back.”
Evening, July 4, 1787, Independence Day Celebration, Robert Morris Mansion, Philadelphia
The bright notes faded as the minuet came to a stop. Washington bowed to his dance partner, and then turned to the lady waiting to his right.
“My, how he does love the dance,” said Robert Morris, watching from the fringes of the room.
“Yes,” said Guvernur Morris, “he dances when he can, but never with his wife, Martha.”
Robert pursed his lips and shook his head. “Such a shame. I believe that must be due to his unrequited love of Mrs. Sarah Fairfax.”
“The General is by all accounts a man of strong composition. He survived small pox, a bullet hole through his hat, and the woman he called Sally.” They clinked their glasses.
“I believe,” Guvernur breathed after a hearty draught of wine, “that a man of his stature should be bedding the ladies with whom he dances.”
“His Excellency is a man of true honor. I think you will find that though he may envision the prospects, he shall by no means act upon them, despite frequent solicitations from his dance partners.”
“I, too, am a man of honor, and of wealth,” Guvernur replied, “I do not shirk my obligations to the ladies to treat them, how should I say, properly.”
“To that both His Excellency and I leave to your far greater talents.” Robert paused then continued. “My dear friend, I do yet wonder how the General tolerates men of your, well, proclivities.”
“I am honest to a fault about who I am. Above all else, His Excellency admires honesty.”
Robert nodded in agreement. “Is everyone in place?”
“Yes,” replied Guvernur.
“Charles Pinckney, Roger Sherman, Luther Martin?”
“And what of our dear little Madison?”
“He is in his chambers, sulking.”
Robert Morris took another sip of his Madeira, and then heaved a long sigh. “I confess I fail to apprehend Madison. We selected him because he is a man of unsurpassed learning. He ought to comprehend politics, the give and take, the compromise that must accompany every great decision. This is the way of democracy.”
“Yet consider Robert, his Virginia plan was the perfect clockwork of poise and balance. Suffer a change in one cog and the whole is disturbed beyond functioning.”
“True. However, a clock that neglects to articulate the correct time is of use to no man.”
Guvernur nodded in agreement, and turned his attention to the lady Washington was dancing with. “I shall presently go to smooth Madison’s ruffled feathers. I will agree with him, argue his points, rail against anyone who disagrees with him, and in the end of course, I will lose.”
“You are a wise man, Guvernur.” Robert took another sip of Madeira. “Is the brilliant Luther Martin drunk?”
“Of course. He toiled all day in special committee.”
“Would he be less drunk if it had not been for the committee?”
“Of that I doubt.”
The two men chuckled and clinked their glasses.
Robert turned when Alexander Hamilton signaled from a side door. Robert nodded and then settled back, waiting for the dance to end. As the music slowed to a stop, Robert gestured for Guvernur to move forward.
“Your Excellency sir,” Guvernur interrupted, “a moment of your time, if it please you.”
Washington bowed to his dance partner, then tipped a finger to his temple in apology to the lady waiting, then let Guvernur lead him away.
The doors to the antechamber closed behind him, and Washington stepped forward to the position of command, just off from the center of the room.
“Your Excellency sir,” Luther Martin slurred, swiping a soggy sleeve across his wine stained face, “surely you must understand that Maryland could never give up its sovereignty to the giants of the big states. It is impossible for any state to allow….”
Washington stepped between Luther Martin and the rest of the group, his back to the unkempt man.
“Excuse me, your worship sir,” Martin hiccupped, “but could you not…”
Washington turned about, and faced the astute, but absent-minded man. He scanned the gravy stains on the man’s shirt, and the unwashed lace at his wrists. With an ever so slight flaring of his nostrils he pointed to a chair. “Sit,” he commanded.
Martin, his jaw agape, did as he was told, staggering then collapsing into his chair.
Washington gracefully turned to face the rest of the group. He slowly moved his gaze about the room, pausing to acknowledge individuals. “Many in this room fought beside me in the Great War. We witnessed the soil soaking up the blood of our fallen heroes. And out of that soil has sprouted the hope of the people to build a new nation. Tomorrow we will decide the fate of that nation. I am not worthy of such a great honor. No man is. But it is upon our shoulders that the weight of decision must be borne. We must fulfill the destiny that was started by so many who sacrificed so much.” He faced Gunning Bedford of Delaware. “Has the special committee on the apportionment of the Senate reached a conclusion?”
Bedford stepped forward. “I beg your forgiveness, Your Excellency sir, we have not.”
Hamilton, leaning against the door frame, blurted out, “The small states must agree.”
Without taking his eyes off of Washington, Bedford pursed his lips and closed his eyes, containing the remarks that seethed on his tongue. Then, with poise he continued. “With all due respect, Your Excellency, we would favor to depart before agreeing to such a dishonor.”
Without rising to a properly respectful standing position, Hamilton shot back, “The small states must realize that if they leave this convention, they must eventually join the nation that will be formed. If they do not, they will be doomed. You must agree.”
Bedford whirled about and pointed a hard finger at Hamilton. “Untrue,” the hot tempered man shot back. “You might continue without us and get the endorsement of the Convention without the small states. But if even one small state were to withdraw, then Virginia, Massachusetts, and especially your New York will never ratify this so-called constitution you and your other bed-fellows are forcing down the throats of the people. If the results of this convention are not completely unanimous, it is you who will be doomed, not we. You must have all twelve of the states to be in agreement, or your grandiose ideas will be lost.”
Hamilton stiffened upright, his right hand in a tight fist, and took a threatening step forward.
Washington raised a halting hand.
Hamilton took in a sharp breath. Standing ram-rod straight, he gave an ever so slight nod, and took a half step back.
Unruffled, Washington turned to Pinckney and Sherman, who were standing side by side. “Are you willing to risk anarchy for the narrow suffrage of your states?”
Sherman stepped forward, and took a long pause. Eleven years Washington’s elder required that Washington indulge the old sage. “Are you?” was Sherman’s terse reply.
Washington pursed his lips. “What say you?” he asked of Robert Morris and Guvernur Morris.
Robert turned to Guvernur, and nodded for him to continue. “No harm has ever come to a big state from too much power being vested in the small. I agree with Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut that the opposite is not true.”
Washington drew his index finger and thumb along his chin in contemplation. The room became pin-drop quiet as the great man weighed the balance. The massive clock in the corner of the room slowly ticked out its seconds while the muffled chatter of the people outside the room seeped through the heavy doors.
“Each state will have equal votes in the Senate,” Washington stated.
“But, Your Excellency sir…” a cacophony of voices protested. Too late, for Washington had already turned and slowly strode out the door to resume his dancing.
[The Articles of Confederation] is in fact nothing more than a treaty of amity of commerce and of alliance, between so many independent and Sovereign States. From what cause could so fatal an omission have happened…? From a mistaken confidence that the justice, the good faith, the honor, the sound policy, of the several legislative assemblies would render superfluous any appeal to the ordinary motives by which the laws secure the obedience of individuals: a confidence which does honor to the enthusiastic virtue of the compilers, as much as the inexperience of the crisis apologizes for their errors.
-Vices of the Political system of the U. States, James Madison, April, 1787
“Jerry Meyers, NewsNow. I am standing front of the Georgia State House where this state has just become the forth to ratify a Second Constitutional Convention and did so by a unanimous vote. Just a few hours ago New Jersey also ratified unanimously. The tide of rising support for a new constitution has turned into a tsunami, washing away all opposition.
“We now await the vote from North Carolina, where the senate is at this very minute taking its vote. One moment, the vote is finished, and we will soon have the final tally. Will North Carolina vote Yay, or Nay? One moment, one moment.
“Whoa, the vote is in, and it is Nay. It is an overwhelming support for our existing Constitution, and an annihilating rejection of Mercy Warren and her new law of the land. Many experts believe that once the first state breaks the strangle hold of support for change, that many other states will join in. It is expected that Rhode Island will follow North Carolina’s lead, with many more to follow. For the proposal to pass, and for us to get a new constitution, it will take a daunting 34 states to vote Yay. Up until a few moments ago, what seemed like a certain victory for Mercy Warren has become darkly shadowed with doubt.”
Chet paced in front of the windows of his office. According to closed-circuit TV, the crowd on Pennsylvania Avenue had grown. This was not good. He could smell it, feel it in his bones. It was going to get very ugly very soon. Could even take down this presidency. He pictured President Nixon stepping aboard Marine One helicopter after his resignation, waving his V for victory finger sign in the midst of his humiliating resignation. Oh well. Any one administration wasn’t worth much.
The Madison letters, however, were.
And Chet wasn’t about to breach over two hundred years of IVI protocol.
He sat and watched a silent TV as Rhode Island prepared for its historic vote. He couldn’t believe how fast the states had taken up Mercy’s cause. The nation had become so polarized. Three of the four states that had voted yay so far had done so unanimously. North Carolina had been almost as adamant in the other direction. If Rhode Island could only see the light and follow North Carolina, then he could ride that wave to victory. All he needed was seventeen nays.
With his eyes glued to the ornate senate chamber, he watched the senators vote. This vote would be closer than North Carolina. He closed his eyes, unable to bear the final outcome. When he opened them he read the banner that streamed across the bottom of the screen.
Rhode Island had become the second state to reject a new constitution.
“Yes!” he spoke out loud, pulling a hammer fist of victory. His strategies were working. Finally he was getting the results he needed. He’d just have to keep up the momentum by continuing to come down hard on Ty and Akira.
His phone buzzed. Perfect timing. “Send him up.”
He stepped from his office and opened the door to the Oval Office. Overhead lights came on automatically and Chet reached to the dimmer. The room was empty and he wouldn’t need much light for this task.
He crossed the room and peered out at the darkened rose garden.
On his deathbed, James had told the Brotherhood of the missing letters. Letters he’d sent to his sister, who had died three decades earlier while birthing her twelfth child, leaving the letters hopelessly lost. Together, they were enough to piece together the whole story of the conspiracy to forge America into the nation it is today. The Brotherhood did not blame James for what he had done. Desperate times called for desperate measures. He did what he could, and he succeeded. That was all that mattered. As long as it was kept a secret.
There was a knock on the door.
“You called for me, Mr. Steward?”
“Yes Mr. Director.”
Jake Wesley was a no nonsense man, who ran the FBI with an iron fist. The chiseled contours of his hard face clearly expressed his dislike for Chet. Chet needed to establish himself, establish his authority within the IVI. He moved to the big chair and sat.
Jake rolled his tongue in his mouth as if he were about to spit.
Chet leaned back in the leather chair that commanded the world and tented his fingers. “I need extra protection for the President, and I need the Vice-President moved to a safe location.”
“Where is the President now?”
“Downstairs preparing for a press conference.”
Wesley bent his head forward a moment and took a breath. “Then you don’t need me. That is the function of the Secret Service.”
“I also need to know who is behind the crowd outside.”
“Look, Steward, they’re just a bunch of protestors. They’re always there.”
“The usual groups are there. But now there are different elements. New elements. This is going to go viral on us. I need you to plant people in the crowd. Listen for patterns. The last thing I need is a stream of fifty thousand protestors breaking the fence and streaming across the White House lawn. The Secret Service can’t handle that.”
“That is reasonable. But you didn’t need to drag me over here to get that. What do you really want?”
“I also need Ty and Akira.”
“On what charges?”
“Fugitives from justice.”
“Those were New York cops who served the warrant. Not my jurisdiction.”
“Make it your jurisdiction. I want Ty and Akira.”
“You are way out of line here, Steward.”
Chet stood, and faced the window.
“Not out of line, Jake. Just a different line. You are still loyal to the IVI, aren’t you?”
Wesley sniffed a hard breath. “Of course I am. You already know that.”
“And you know that the Chairman has put me in charge of this operation.”
“Yes. Clearly a mistake, but yes I know of his decision.”
“And you saw the two traitors tell the world.”
“Yes.” Wesley turned, his hands behind his back, his eyes riveted on a spot on the floor. “Dammit, Steward. Don’t you have people – Brothers – chasing these things down?”
Chet nodded. “We most certainly do. Our best men are on it, one of them the best scholar we’ve ever had.”
“And he never thought to track down this Madison cousin and search her attic?”
Chet narrowed his eyes. “There’s no point in covering all this now. Besides, I’m about to remove him from the operation. All you need to know is that there is enough truth out there to shake the very core of our nation. Ty and Akira must be stopped. You are a Brother, aren’t you Jake?”
“Yes. Of course. But Steward, you made this mess, turned up the heat too fast, and now your pot is boiling over. Thanks to you, the states are galvanized. All are rallying behind Ty. Why should I clean up your mess?”
“Not all states. Four yays, two nays. We are teetering on the edge of the two thirds they need. But, the tide has turned in our favor. All we need to do is to be unswerving in the face of our challenge. Besides you swore an allegiance, and I am holding you to those very solemn vows. I need you to stop them. Deadly force.”
“That will only give the crowd martyrs.”
“Martyrs are better than the alternative.”
Wesley’s brow pinched, but said nothing.
Chet stepped from behind the desk. “You have the resources. You know what to do.”
Jake shook his head yes.
“Do it now. Do it fast.”
Wesley nodded again.
Steward laid a heavy hand on Wesley’s shoulder. “Jake. An unknowing nation thanks you.”
Ty returned to his stool, and resumed his shoveling. “You know, it’s interesting,” he said around a mouthfuls, “everyone at the convention kept their vows of secrecy. Even the sickly James, who always thought he was at death’s door, yet outlived everyone else at the convention. He published his notes only after her died almost fifty years later.”
Akira took a sip of her coffee and winced. “Something happened to James at the Convention.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, he was adamantly against the Great Compromise, yet by the end of the Convention he was all in favor of it. What turned him around?”
“Yeah. If you read his writings you’d swear he wrote the compromise himself. The Great Compromise was exactly what James Wilson proposed weeks earlier yet was ignored. Maybe James was glory mongering.”
“Not James. That was not his style.”
Mistress House’s Boarding House, Philadelphia, Aug 10, 1787,
Steven sat in the corner of the tiny room, struggling to read by the dim candlelight scattering from his master’s desk. Master James always spent several hours transcribing his notes from the day’s session. During the long daylight of the summer Steven could read until his master finished. But now, with daylight gone, reading this late in the evening was impossible.
When they first arrived, Master James would be out many evenings, meeting with other deputies, leaving Steven to eat alone in the kitchen downstairs. Afterwards, Master James would hurry home to organize his notes.
Then suddenly, on Independence Day, all that changed. There had been an argument with Guvernur Morris, about giving the states too much power. Guvernur had agreed with Master James that the state legislatures almost lost the War for them, bickering amongst themselves like recalcitrant schoolboys without a supervising schoolmaster. Mr. Morris had said a compromise was the only way forward, but Master James would hear none of it.
Now, every night Master James sat transfixed for hours, oblivious to the world around him. Tonight he toiled at his papers, unaware of the evening swelter. His candles burned straight up, not a waft of breeze from the window. His mood was dark and heavy, as heavy as the humid air that engulfed the city. Steven agreed with Mr. Morris. Compromise was needed. He wished he could say so to Master James, or at least find a way to lighten his mood.
Steven liked Guvernur Morris, and Robert Morris. Both wanted to end slavery. Master James said slavery would end on its own, simply fade away in time. Steven did not agree. Slavery was too entrenched in the economy and perhaps irreversibly in the culture.
James and his father, James Senior were good masters. Steven had seen the scars on the backs of slaves from other plantations. Whippings were rare at Madison’s Montpelier. Steven had never seen a single one. Some of the Montpelier slaves were even allowed to live by themselves in town, hired out as blacksmiths or carpenters.
Here in Philadelphia, most of the other half dozen slaves were made to wait all day in the foyer of the State House while their masters argued in the main room. Their sole purpose was to show off the greatness of their owners. The only two exceptions were Billy, General Washington’s slave, who was required in the East room during the sessions so he might tend to his master’s needs, and Steven who was permitted to wander the city.
Steven’s black skin and fine clothes clearly marked him as a slave of one of the great men convened in the hall. As he wandered no one noticed him, no one spoke to him, and no one stopped him. He was invisible. So he just wandered. His only duty was to pick up the linen-wrapped lunch Mistress House prepared for Master James. His own lunch was just handed to him without the linen.
Lately Master James ate his lunch alone in the Pennsylvania State House, scratching out his notes while they were still fresh in his mind. Most of the other deputies ate their lunch at the Indian Queen. Drank their lunch was a better description. Steven ate his lunch in the back of the East Room, watching Master James write, waiting in the event he would be needed.
The other slaves ate in the building’s shade along Chestnut Street, their lunch provided by Superintendent Morris. His carriage would arrive and their food would be unloaded. Billy would then follow behind General Washington and Superintendent Morris to the carriage, hold their door, and then jump onto the back for the short ride to The Mansion on High Street. Faster to just walk the one block, Steven often thought.
Steven’s mental wanderings broke back to the present when he saw his master’s left hand absentmindedly swat at a mosquito whining above his head while his right continued scratching out his words. Steven rose, and after several failed attempts, succeeded in silencing the tiny insect. There was a brief pause in the scratching of the quill. Steven thought he heard a nearly silent curse under Master James’ breath. It couldn’t be. He never cursed. Then the scratching resumed.
A knock on the door broke the near silence. Steven looked to Master James, who motioned for him to answer the door.
With his foot positioned to block the door against an unwanted invasion, Steven opened the door to see who was knocking. “Superintendent Morris sir, please come in.”
“My dear Robert sir,” James enthused, trying his best to welcome this unwanted invasion into his nightly ritual.
“Your servant sir, I do hope you will forgive my intrusion.”
“Not at all. Please, sit,” James stood and pulled his desk chair in offering.
“Thank you, I will stand with you.” Robert turned to Steven. “And how are you tonight, Steven.”
“I am very well, sir,” Steven replied, timidly shaking the great man’s hand.
Superintendent Robert always went out of his way to speak with the slaves. Strange, Steven thought, since he wouldn’t do so with his white servants, who he treated with less dignity than did Master James with his Negroes.
Steven thought about the future of Negroes. There was today. There was tomorrow. Was there anything afterwards? Slavery had been debated at the Convention, and then quietly dropped. The southern deputies were absolutely entrenched. Some of the northern ones, such as Governor Franklin and Colonel Hamilton were just as oppositely entrenched. No compromise was possible. The matter was dropped.
“No Robert,” Master James’ voice was suddenly loud enough to break through Steven’s thoughts, “we are back to letting the states have too much power. Time and time again the states have destroyed all hope of progress. It took one vote, only one vote from Rhode Island to block the Congress in its ability to fund itself with imposts rather than futile begging for requisites from the states. Not only does each state have an equal voice in the new Senate, but the senators are elected by the state legislatures. The corrupt state legislatures can still block everything and bring the federal government to its knees.”
“James,” Superintendent Robert drew in a breath, “please consider the elegance of balance. The first house may do naught without the second, and the second without the first. The President has power to veto the Congress. The Congress can reserve funding of any mischief the President may do. There exists the perfect correspondence so that each is independent, yet is able to check and balance the other. For each the affection of power draws it. By that very same thirst it reins the other.”
“You speak precisely of that which James Wilson expounded weeks ago.”
“Yes, and e’re the source was the tongue of James Wilson, the ears of all were closed. To you they will listen.”
Master James continued standing without speaking.
Superintendent Robert placed a hand on Master James’ shoulder. “Consider and reconsider, my friend. We are in gravest desire of your earnest support in this.”
Without another word, Superintendent Robert nodded to Steven, then he and his servant left.
Master James sat down, and remained motionless for half an hour. Then he stood, and spread his arms, signaling Steven to help him prepare for bed. When Master James blew out the candles, a smile had formed on his lips.
“Hey boss,” Danny said, “a phone call from Bill over at Channel 6 News.”
“Tell him to stuff it in his ear,” the rotund man fumed around his cigar.
“Says it’s important.”
The boss wrenched the phone from the staffer’s hand. “Wha-da-ya want?”
“I’m just calling to congratulate you for that Lloyd guy scoop. Nice job.”
“Right. What do you really want?”
“Just to let you know I just scooped you. I’ve got another Ty video running live from some dive in Pennsylvania. Ten grand and it’s yours.”
“Ok, never mind. I’ve got the 24/7NewShow on speed dial…”
“Gimme it. But I also get all your stuff for twenty four hours.”
“Deal. Video’s streaming your way now.”
The boss looked up to the group. “Video coming from Channel 6. Bring it live.”
He glared down at Danny. “Didn’t I warn you not to cross me three times,” he blasted.
“But Boss, I only did twice. And it wasn’t my fault. I just answered the phone.”
“And didn’t I say I don’t care and I don’t count so good? You’re outta here.” He wagged his thumb toward the door.
“But boss, I need to save up money for college.”
“I don’t care!” he roared. “Out!”
With shock painted across his face, Danny laid his headphones down, and slithered to the door.
“They’re coming!” someone screeched from Pammy’s front door.
“Who?” Ty asked.
“Them. Black helmets, bullet proof vests, funny goggles, and long rifles.”
“They sent a SWAT team after us!” Ty bellowed. “Damn! How’d they get here so fast?” The IVI was starting to scare him.
“I thought they couldn’t arrest a senator,” the waitress asked.
“I’m a New York senator. This is Pennsylvania.”
The diner’s owner strode to the front door and lowered the night bar across the door’s push handle. He signaled the waitress, but she’d already twisted the lock shut on the side door.
“Everyone get down.” Ty called. “Under the tables.”
The crowd of people responded as if they’d been trained. Within seconds everyone was securely crouched beneath the Formica tables. Akira’s round, dark eyes peered at him from under the next table. Her face was a mask, like a mannequin. Except for her eyes. He knew that look. She was scared.
“We can’t endanger these people, Ty. Let’s give ourselves up before someone gets hurt,” she said.
Ty hesitated. Giving themselves up meant they’d probably disappear without a trace. For a brief moment he actually thought about calling his parents. Would he just say goodbye or finally break down and ask his dad to pull strings?
“There’s another way,” the owner barked from across the counter. “This way, out the back.”
“There’s no way out. They’ve got us surrounded,” said Ty.
“The diner’s storage cellar has a tunnel to my house in the next block. Come on. You can get out through the alley.”
“Ty and Akira come out with your hands up,” came the megaphoned voice from the front of the building.
“We shouldn’t leave you guys…” Ty hesitated.
“Go,” someone in the crowd called. “We’ll hold ‘em off for ya, Dr. Rogue.”
“Yeah! They’ll never take you alive!” called another.
Ty gulped and took Akira’s hand. He duck-walked under the pass-through to the back of the diner. Once in the diner’s kitchen, he crawled along behind the owner. Ty pressed Akira ahead of him down into the tiny cellar. He hated small spaces.
“You’re fine, Ty. You can do this,” he heard her voice whispering back to him.
“Claustrophobic?” asked the owner.
“I’m fine,” answered Ty, but his voice creaked like a rusty bolt.
Ty mumbled as they went along a dark, thankfully short, passage and up to the owner’s private kitchen. After the owner scanned the alley for them, they darted outside, around the corner of the brick building and into the Rogue-mobile. In an instant the ally reverberated as the mighty vehicle roared to life, launched down the alley, and blasted onto a side street.
Several high-powered shots rang out, pinging against the metal.
“Ha, they didn’t hit me. Lloyd’s a better shot!” exclaimed Ty.
Ty weaved his way down side streets, zipping past brick buildings and parked cars. Ping, went another bullet. “Geez. These guys are really serious.” A couple more pings, then the eager Mustang zoomed to a blur once they hit the main street. Giddy with adrenaline, Ty pushed the horn. A single toot of Stars and Stripes, then a gush of steam blew from the hood.
“Ahhhh! They got the Rogue-mobile.”
The engine spewed grey smoke. The wheel shuddered in his hands. The motor sputtered, a loud ting, ting, ting and the red flash of an oil symbol signaled a serious problem. The mighty car struggled, slowing in a series of jerks, trying to find strength in its dying heart.
Ty’s best friend was fading. It was a glorious, honorable death. The Rogue-mobile had given its all. The last true measure of devotion. Without complaint or remorse, the mighty Mustang staggered and lurched along the road, loyal to the end to serve and protect its master. Behind them muffled sirens screamed to life. Ty’s teary eyes filled with empathy for the pain his beauty was suffering. He reached for the key that would end the misery.
“Goodbye, my friend.”
The 24/7NewShow boss lit another cigarette and stared impotently at the live video of the SWAT team surrounding Pammy’s Pancakes on the rival network. The little boxcar-shaped diner was swathed in blue and red flashing lights. A swarm of men in black uniforms and plastic-visored helmets stood in double formation in a crescent around the diner. Half of them faced the diner, preparing to attack, the other half kept a growing crowd of agitated onlookers at bay.
One eye darted to the dropping ratings readout. With his face calm and serene the boss turned and leveled his eyes at his staff. Then his face puckered.
“No coverage YET?” he blasted. “I don’t see that excuse on NewsNow.” He scanned the room, looking for a victim. “You,” he pointed at random, “what’s your name?”
“But I didn’t …”
“I don’t care!”
“But, I need the money for college,” the man pleaded.
“Oh, that’s different. Why didn’t you say so?” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a quarter, and flipped it to Dave. “Now get outta here! GO!” The boss turned to the group. “Anyone else going to college?”
The eleven remaining heads shook no.
“Coverage! NOW!” he demanded.
With a hissing blow out, the dark smoke turned white-gray and enveloped the proud Mustang. The rising sounds of sirens behind them made Ty’s heart jump. He glanced at Akira. Her expression of abject fear made his mouth go dry. With no way to escape, he couldn’t protect her anymore.
Ty’s fingers tightened on the key. The end of the Rogue-mobile, Rogue Rash, maybe even their lives.
Just ahead of them a teenager in a Rogue Rat tee shirt jumped into the road, frantically waving them down a side alley. Ty yanked the wheel to the left and the Rogue-mobile bounced into the too narrow alley, skimming off paint and scoring a long set of gouges along both sides of the car. Ty winced as if it was his own skin getting scraped.
The white smoke cleared off and Ty’s eyes went wide. There in an open courtyard in the center of a long alley was a car carrier truck with its bed down. Ty swerved, aiming the Mustang up onto the truck’s steep incline as the engine coughed its last. There was a hard crunch as the car slammed the carrier bed, and hurled to a stop on the inclined slope.
With a tug on a handle the guy dropped the bed flat. The Rogue-mobile rocked back and forth like a bobble-head doll.
“Take my pickup,” the Rogue Rat called out, tossing a set of keys up at Ty. As Ty and Akira scrambled down and ran to the black ’84 Chevy pickup, a beige tarpaulin was quickly hauled over the remains of America’s most famous car.
“Out that way, and then to the left.” The guy pointed down a short side alley where his pickup sat. “They won’t see you. Go!”
“Thanks! What’s your name?”
“I owe you one, buddy.”
“America owes you one, Dr. Rogue.”
Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names.
-Article VII – The Constitution of the United States
Danny stood at the bus stop that served the two rival network news studios. On the right side of the street the 24/7NewShow building faced off against the NewsNow building on the left. It was a bit too early for the rush hour crowds, but Danny wasn’t alone.
“What’s the matter?” Danny asked the guy next to him. “You look pretty down.”
“I just got fired from the 24/7NewShow.” The guy glanced up to the office on the right. “It couldn’t come at a worse time. I need to make a college payment. How am I going to do that if I just got fired?”
“No kidding? What’s your name?”
“I’m Danny. I just got fired from NewsNow.” Danny looked up to the office on the left side. “I was saving up for my first college payment.”
They stood staring at each other for a moment, blinking at the coincidences.
Then they both brightened. “There must be two new job openings,” they chorused in unison. They slapped each other high five and marched to opposite sides of the street.
Danny’s guts untwisted. He was certain he could talk his way into the job in less than half an hour. Trouble was, he wasn’t so certain the 24/7NewShow boss wouldn’t fire him a half hour after that.
He yanked open the glass door and stepped up to the reception desk. He had to figure out a way to kick his career into full gear. A career with better odds than being fired on the whim of a cranky boss. What he needed was a unique opportunity to show off his skills. What skills? He shook his head as he picked up a blank application form and a pen from the receptionist’s desk. Well, he’d figure that out in about thirty-one minutes.
Ty hadn’t driven the speed limit since he got his license, but decided that just for once, discretion was the better part of valor. The comfortable old Chevy hummed along the two lane highway as its occupants mourned their losses.
Akira sat with her head hung down. At least she’d finally stopped shaking and crying. God, he couldn’t stand hearing her crying. It made his guts twist in knots.
“You gonna be ok?” he asked.
“This is all too much. Maybe you’re right. The only way out is to go on the attack and find the last letter and disclose all.”
“Atta girl. So what’s next? It seems like the whole US military is after us.”
“Yeah. The IVI or somebody has trundled out some big guns. Whoever is behind it, we can’t just hide and wait for them to get us. We have to get to the third letter before Lloyd does.”
Ty was encouraged by her…well, courage. He took a deep breath. “How?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we need to walk a mile in James’s shoes.”
“You know, Akira, you were once a fairly rational person.”
“Ty, think about it. To restore our credibility and get the IVI to back off we have to figure out what secrets the IVI knows and are afraid we’ll uncover. And we both know what big struggle came up next at the Convention.”
“Ah man, do we have to talk about that?”
“Yes we do. We can’t avoid the slavery issue any longer.”
“I hate talking about slavery in America. It grosses me out.”
“Ty, slavery is the single greatest problem that has ever faced our nation. Its after-effects linger with us today. America defeated Fascism, Nazism, Communism, but not Racism. Early America was built on the backs of slaves. It was slavery that gave men like James Madison and George Washington the leisure time they needed to build the American government.”
“But at the time of the Constitutional Convention, slavery appeared to be on the way out. Importation had come to a virtual standstill. Even the Virginia legislature was debating ways to abolish slavery altogether.”
“Don’t kid yourself, Ty. That had nothing to do with caring about the people who were slaves. The tobacco and indigo markets were collapsing, along with interest in slaves. Besides, with Spain lingering on our western border, licking its lips over American wealth, a slave revolt would have been a cheap and easy way for Spain to wage war against us.”
“But after the Constitution was ratified and Spain was no longer a threat, cotton became king, and the slave trade exploded. So much for the prediction that slavery would fade out on its own. The term slave is not even in the Constitution.”
“True, but it is referred to three times. They used terms like ‘person held to service’ or ‘all other persons.’ There is even a ten dollar federal tax on slaves right there in Article 1.”
“That was put in to discourage slavery.”
“Ty, a healthy slave could go for a couple hundred bucks, about as much as a new car in today’s money. Ten was nothing, about the same as a typical sales tax on that car, a mere token to appease the Northern states.”
“But not enough to upset the Northern merchants who ran the slave trade.”
“Yeech, your right, Ty. This is creeping me out. But where could the IVI fit into this?”
“Well, James spoke out against slavery, and they put in a date in the Constitution when slave importation would end. At least that was something positive, and no secrets there.”
“Hardly positive,” Akira huffed. “The Madison family owned nearly a hundred slaves at the time. And my bloodline comes from both sides, both black and white. After my black side was freed, we took the Madison name.”
“Yeah, that was common.”
“The point is, James could have done more. Why didn’t he?”
“Akira, that is easy to say. Hindsight is always 20/20. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was leading strong opposition, threatening to have the South leave the Convention. Besides, Guvernur Morris tried to have slavery limited to just the deep south, and John Dickenson wanted to have new states be slave free.”
“And James didn’t support either of them. Even Guvernur danced around offending anyone. Both proposals got shot down, with hardly a word of protest. It is sad to say, at the time nobody really cared, except the slaves. The delegates were more worried about the southern states walking out. James could have squeezed more out of Charles than he did.”
“Hey,” Ty said, sitting up straight in the driver’s seat and glaring at Akira, “you can’t bash Charles. He fought brilliantly and bravely in the Revolution, and was treated badly by the British as a POW. He lost everything when they seized his property. He put everything on the line for his country. Everything.”
“Yeah, it is hard for us to understand. Was he an angel or a devil? The correct answer is yes to both.”
“In any case, we have all this in James’ notes, so there is nothing for the IVI to hide about slavery. This can’t be what the third letter is about.”
James Madison’s notes, partial, August 25, 1787
Genl. Pinkney moved to strike out the words “the year eighteen hundred” as the year limiting the importation of slaves, and to insert the words “the year eighteen hundred and eight”
Mr. Madison Twenty years will produce all the mischief that can be apprehended from the liberty to import slaves. So long a term will be more dishonorable to the National character than to say nothing about it in the Constitution.
Mr. Govr. Morris was for making the clause read at once, " importation of slaves into N. Carolina, S. Carolina & Georgia shall not be prohibited &c." If the change of language however should be objected to by the members from those States, he should not urge it.
Col: Mason was not against using the term “slaves” but agst. naming N. C. S. C. & Georgia, lest it should give offence to the people of those States.
Mr. Sherman liked a description better than the terms proposed, which had been declined by the old Congress & were not pleasing to some people.
Mr. Williamson said that both in opinion & practice he was against slavery; but thought it more in favor of humanity, from a view of all circumstances, to let in S. C. & Georgia on those terms, than to exclude them from the Union.
Mr. Dickenson wished the clause to be confined to the States which had not themselves prohibited the importation of slaves.
Mr. Sherman was agst. acknowledging men to be property, by taxing them as such under the character of slaves.
Mr. King & Mr. Langdon considered this as the price of the 1st. part.
Genl. Pinkney admitted that it was so.
Col: Mason Not to tax, will be equivalent to a bounty on the importation of slaves.
Mr. Ghorum thought that Mr. Sherman should consider the duty, not as implying that slaves are property, but as a discouragement to the importation of them.
Mr. Sherman observed that the smallness of the duty shewed revenue to be the object, not the discouragement of the importation.
Mr. Madison thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men. The reason of duties did not hold, as slaves are not like merchandize, consumed, &c
The warm autumn sun had reached its peak, and Ty rolled down his window to let in the fresh air. “My favorite time of year.”
“If we live long enough for the next season. Let’s get back on track with solving this situation.”
“After the debate on slavery and everyone finally hammered out all the details the next step was to write it all up and get sign-offs from everyone.”
“It was Guvernur Morris who put the dozens of agreements into coherent order. Roll up that window. I’m getting cold.”
“Excuse me?” Ty mocked. “What did you say?”
“Please roll up the window.” Akira smirked at being caught in her own trap. “And that Guvernur Morris was the actual author of the Constitution.”
“And, maybe accidentally forgot to put in a few items?”
“Ty, be nice. So the day finally came for endorsement. James had overcome his funk. However, he must have been sick with worry. Endorsement must have seemed impossible. They needed nine states, but in actuality they needed all twelve states present or they would never be able to push things through the thirteen state ratification conventions that were to follow.”
“To this day no one knows how the vote shifted in favor of the Constitution.”
“Not just in favor, but unanimous, not a single nay vote.”
Pennsylvania State House, Sept. 17, 1787, the last day of the Constitutional Convention
Washington paused at the threshold.
“You hold some hesitation in the moment, Your Excellency sir?” Robert Morris asked.
Washington scanned the roomful of deputies. “The next time I meet these men again will either be in celebration, or on opposite sides of the battlefield.”
“My mind is of a certainty that it will be in celebration.”
“My mind is not.”
Robert Morris pulled at the lapels of his suit coat. “You spoke with Franklin of course.”
“He has completed his speech.”
“Has he designated someone to read it for him?”
“Very Good. That will move several of the deputies, but not all.”
“Name the deputies you hold in greatest concern,” Washington said.
“Randolph, Mason, and Gerry. Randolph is your Governor of Virginia. If you speak to him, I am certain he will be swayed.”
Washington nodded. “Perhaps. His concerns are many.” Washington blew a nasal breath. “However my mind is of the gravest uncertainty with regards to Mason and Gerry. Despite my speaking with them, their minds will never turn to vote yay.”
“May I suggest that you persuade them to abstain?”
Washington straightened, placed his hands behind himself and looked down his nose at Morris. “On what basis would they concede to such a fate?”
“As a personal deference to Your Excellency.”
Washington pursed his lips in thought. “I will take up your suggestion, Robert.” Washington looked into the room. “And then there is the issue with New York. With Yates and Lansing gone, that leaves only the one vote of Hamilton. Two votes are required by each state.”
“Perhaps no one will take notice if the secretary does not call particular attention to the fact.”
For a long moment Washington looked askance at Morris, and then shook his head no.
“How would it be if there is no vote, but merely a witnessing of consent? No tally of yea’s or nay’s, only signatures authenticating that others consented.”
“You split fine hairs in the meanings of words.”
“Our choices lie with splitting words or splitting the nation.”
“This requires changing the signature page. Take particular care with the wording.”
Robert Morris looked off toward Guvernur Morris, who smiled and nodded yes.
“It has already been done, Your Excellency sir.”
Washington made a frustrated sigh. “How will this fledgling nation be built of strength upon such pretenses?”
“My General, there is no other way.”
Washington took in a sharp breath then let it out slowly. He scanned the room, nodded, and then moved toward Randolph.
With Washington engaged with Randolph, Guvernur Morris stepped closer to Robert Morris.
“Have you spoken with William Blount?” Robert asked.
Guvernur patted his pocket and the faint clink of gold sovereigns could be heard. “Honoraria in recognition of the selfless devotion of a man who sacrificed so much time and toil for his country.” They both chuckled.
They looked toward Washington who now had a heavy left hand on the shoulder of Gerry, looking down into his eyes while slowly pumping his right hand. “Do you think providence will remember the two of us?”
“No, but he will be remembered forever.”
Akira wondered what was holding the Chevy together. Besides a wish, a prayer, and duct tape. She looked around the cab. Oh yeah, and a couple of bungee cords. A beat up tape player rattled in the dashboard hole originally intended for a much larger device. Stray wires stuffed around its edges was the only thing keeping it in place.
“Watch the road,” Akira scolded as Ty flipped through an old shoebox of cassettes.
“Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about.” He held up a battle-worn plastic case that promised to play Muddy Waters, pushed it into the player, and cranked the volume. As the slow chords of Catfish Blues blasted in the tiny cab, Ty’s face puckered.
“Well I wish,” he wailed along with the blues singer, “I was a catfish, swimmin’ in a ohhh, deep blue sea.”
Akira laughed at Ty’s antics.
“What?” he chuckled.
“Ty, you are the blackest white boy I know.”
“Should I do the Jimi Hendrix version? I don’t think that will make me any whiter.”
“No. You’re doing just fine with Muddy Waters.”
“And what about you there, Akira. You still listen to Lawrence Welk?”
“No,” she chuckled in embarrassment.
“As Jefferson said, ‘Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.’”
“Ty, Jefferson never said that.”
“Come on, Akira. Fess up. You still put on a rerun or two of Champagne Music, don’t you?”
“Well yeah, but no. It’s not what I listen to lately.”
She popped the cassette out and tuned the radio to a scratchy AM station playing Bluegrass.
“I’m telling my troubles to my old guitar,” she throated, “singing my blues away,”
“What’s that?” Ty asked.
“Well, if I’m the blackest white boy you know, then you have to be the whitest black chick I know.”
Akira laughed. “We are the strangest pair of opposites that ever lived.” Ty held up his hand and Akira slapped him a high-five, her tiny hand looking like a child’s compared with his.
“Get Jenin on the phone. I’ll give her an update.”
“Oh shoot,” Akira huffed. “I must have left my purse in the diner. Now we have no phone.”
Ty rummaged in his pocket. “I still have mine.”
“No can do. If you turn it on they’ll have our coordinates within seconds.”
The muffled chords of a cell phone started playing Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba from the glove box. Akira looked to Ty.
“Go ahead and answer it.”
“Akira, this Vasyl. You are putting phone on speaker please.” Akira fumbled for a few moments, then Ty took it from her and put it on speaker.
“Vasyl, my man, how’d you find us?”
“It easy, this only cell phone leaving of area.”
“Whoa, if you figured it out then what about…”
“Not to worrying, my friendlies. I am making you covered. This phone not to exist anymore.”
“Can I make and receive calls on this phone?”
“Da, but only once I checking first, da?”
“Yo da man, Vasyl. When Mercy becomes president, I’ll have her make you a citizen.”
“I am already being citizen of US. And UK, and France, and Ger…”
“Yeah, I get it Vasyl. Thanks.”
“You being welcome, my Ty friend. You too, honey-bunchy Akira.”
Honey-bunchy? Akira mouthed.
Ty just shrugged his shoulders.
Chet Steward paused for a moment before pressing dial on this phone. This was going to be a very difficult call.
“I am watching the results of your failed efforts on the television,” the electronically modified voice began without preamble.
“Mr. Chairman, I don’t know how…”
“That is correct. You don’t know how Senator Yates and Ms. Madison just disappeared without a trace, including their monstrous automobile. All directly under the noses of a hundred armed police officers.”
“We have her purse including a cell phone she has been using.”
“Finally, some good results. To whom does this phone belong?”
“Well, it seems, I mean we…”
“Let me translate. You don’t know.” There was a long pause. “You have disappointed me, Mr. Steward.”
“Yes sir. I understand sir. I’ll get closure soon.”
“No, I think not. You have escalated this beyond all reasonable measures. I need a new strategy. I am removing you from command.”
“But, you can’t just…”
“Mr. Steward, I just did.”
Ty began drumming out a beat on the steering wheel. “I’ve been thinking.”
“Not again.” Akira moaned.
“One of has to.”
She shot him an evil eye. “Well, I’ve been thinking too. We need a strategy to find the third letter.”
“I have an answer. I’m not smart enough, and you’re not smart enough, but I know twenty million Rogue Rats who, all together, must be. Let’s ask them.”
“Are you talking about crowd sourcing?”
“You got it. Everyone suggests a location, everyone get a vote. The spot with the greatest number wins. Sorta like democracy, a hundred and thirty million voting for president.” Ty picked up the phone.
“I don’t know about that,” Akira balked.
“Trust me. This’ll work just fine.” He punched in the number for Jenin. “Yo, Jen. Here’s what I need you to do. Put out the word.”
Akira could hear Jenin typing as Ty laid out his plan. “You got it Dr. Rogue,” she said when he finished.
“There. That’s that. All we have to do is wait for her to get this going.”
“I have a bad feeling about this, Ty.”
“What could possibly go wrong?”
Akira propped her chin in hand, and stared out the window. “Nothing, I guess.”
“Then stop your worrying. You worry too much.”
“And you don’t worry enough.” Akira fidgeted in her seat, trying to avoid a hole in the upholstery fabric exposing a metal spring. “Well, while we are waiting for Jenin, let’s figure out what might be next.”
“We know the IVI pulled every trick in the book during the convention. The indiscretions of the convention have been well known for decades. But, nothing major, no smoking gun At least not anything that compares to what they did during Shays’ rebellion or Annapolis. But, you’re right. It must be a doozy, or else why would Hank be so adamant about stopping us from finding it.”
Ty raised a questioning palm upward. “Okay, so what was IVI’s next step back then?”
“Getting the Confederation Congress to rubber stamp it.”
“That one is easy. The American government was so weak the Confederation Congress had become meaningless. Even before the drafting of the Constitution many of the congressmen never even bothered to show up, never mind vote. Getting a quorum so they could do any business at all was a real problem. All the IVI had to do was tell their people to show up, and poof, instant approval.”
“No secrets there,” Akira said. “They did spend two days debating if they should try Madison for Treason, but nothing stuck. What about after that?”
“Here James was brilliant. The Articles of Confederation said that any change had to be approved all thirteen state legislatures. That was impossible. So early in the Convention, while he still had control, James had the early delegates stipulate that each state would have a referendum by the people instead of a vote by the legislature, with only nine states being required for approval. The people would elect delegates for each state’s convention. Much better odds. Only problem was it almost backfired.”
“No kidding,” Akira smirked. “The state legislatures were the ones who had to set up the voting polls in each of their states. All the anti-federalists had to do to block each state’s referendum was simply do nothing. If they didn’t show up there would be no quorum. Without a quorum there could be no vote to set up the polls. Without the polls there could be no referendum. Without a referendum there could be no vote for ratification. Without ratification, no Constitution. Simple. It almost worked.”
Sept. 29, 1787, Pennsylvania State House, Philadelphia
The gavel echoed in the chamber where less than two weeks earlier the Constitutional Convention had been held.
“The Chair recognizes that a quorum is not present. The Assembly cannot be called to order.”
“You’ve been had,” Captain John Berry whispered to Robert Morris, standing just outside the room. “You’ll just have to wait for the next session of the Assembly to get your referendum.”
“Too risky. The antis are gaining ground, and might win in the November general election. I need a vote today while I still have a majority. I must have Pennsylvania and I must have it this very day.” Morris nodded at an assemblyman on the floor.
“I move that the Sergeant at Arms compel the absent delegates to attend to their duty,” the assemblyman called out.
“I second the motion,” another member called out.
“The Sergeant is so ordered.”
“But, I ahh…,” the Sergeant stammered. “Where could I ahh…”
The room broke into a chattering buzz as the delegates argued who was absent and where they might be found.
“The Indian Queen,” Morris yelled out. “Where else might you find a flagon of rum on a Saturday morning?”
With a wave of his hand, the Assembly President shooed the Sergeant out of the building.
Less than five minutes later, the Sergeant hurried back into the room, hat missing and his hair rumpled. “They won’t come,” the forlorn man whimpered.
Morris turned to Captain Berry. “My dear John sir, may I impose upon you to gather your men and assist the Sergeant to induce the absent assemblymen of their need to perform their civic duties forthwith?”
The Captain turned to a man behind him. “Adam, muster the men.”
The man’s eyes glistened cheerfully. “Aye, Captain.”
“And Adam,” Morris added, “no knives.”
“A belaying pin or two, then, Mr. Morris sir?”
“I would think that most appropriate for the environs and circumstance.”
Outside Morris and Berry watched while Adam assembled a muster of his men. “Shall we follow, Robert?”
“Yes, I imagine we shall be witness to some supreme entertainment.”
At the Tavern, Adam held a club-like belaying pin to the window, and looked back for approval.
Amid shouts and curses, the front windows were shattered and the unlocked front door was broken down. Moments later seven men, their faces bloodied and bruised were dragged out of the building and formed into a line for inspection.
Morris marched down the line, surveying the subdued men. “Release that one,” he pointed. “He’s not an assemblyman.” The released man stumbled onto the cobblestone pavement, and scrambled away. “That one, and that one,” Morris pointed. “Present them to the Sergeant. And keep the belaying pins at close hand to assist the good Sergeant in maintaining their attendance.”
“We’ll vote you down, Morris! That we will.”
“Vote as you will, now be off.”
“What of these?” Adam’s men held four more wayward assemblymen.
“I require only two to make a quorum. I don’t care for any more votes against me than that.”
Morris strode into the tavern and faced the innkeeper. He tore a blank section of paper from a handbill and perused the damage. “Let me see. Three smashed windows, one broken door, four chairs, and two tables.” He scribbled figures on the paper. “Please see to it that when my esteemed colleagues return after their work is completed at the State House that they are properly treated.” He signed and handed the keep the paper.
“A Morris-Note!” The keep’s eyes widened as he read its value. “Yes sir, Mr. Morris, sir. Yes indeed! I will look for their return. And I assure you sir, they will be very well treated. Very well indeed.”
“While some have boasted [the Constitution] as a work from Heaven, others have given it a less righteous origin. I have reasons to believe that it is a work of plain, honest men, and such, I think, it will appear. Faulty it must be, for what is perfect? But if adopted, experience will, I believe, show that its faults are just the reverse of what they are supposed to be.”
-Robert Morris, November, 1787.
Ty turned off the radio. “Well, somehow the IVI got all thirteen states to hold their referenda to elect the delegates to the various state conventions. Then the problem was ratification.”
“That almost failed, too. It came really close, especially in Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York. A few other states actually voted no.”
“We know what happened in Massachusetts. That is open history. It was good old fashioned horse trading. They promised to give the Vice Presidency to John Hancock in exchange for his support. Then after Hancock came through, they reneged and gave the VP slot to John Adams. Hancock was really ticked off. He actually ran against Washington, and lost by a landslide.”
“Ty, it wasn’t that simple. Massachusetts was the first state that attached amendments to their ratification. Before that, the Federalists, aka the IVI, vehemently opposed any amendment. But it worked so well in Massachusetts that the IVI actually changed tactics and supported it. Much softer, much gentler. It quelled the worries of people who feared a new federal tyranny by giving them a voice and a path forward. “
Philadelphia, February 22, 1788, four days after the Massachusetts Ratification
Guvernur Morris glanced up as his servant entered the study.
“Sir, Robert Morris is here to see you.”
“Send him in, send him in. By all means you needn’t delay the man.” Guvernur Morris rose and met his friend who was standing in the foyer brushing snow from his coat.
“Come in Robert sir, come, come.” Guvernur motioned to the servant to bring wine. “I take it you have heard the good news of ratification from Massachusetts.”
“Indeed I have. However, I am not of a mind to say it is entirely good news.”
“Surely, you cannot look upon this victory with distain?”
“I can with regard to the amendments. We cannot allow this Constitution to be delayed by calling for a second convention. Our opposition will seize upon this chance to organize against us and leave us with nothing more than the selfsame Articles that we have fought so hard to replace.”
“Massachusetts did not call for a second convention as I heard it told.”
“Nay but the atmosphere was ripe for it. The next state may, or the one after that. I fear it will not be long e’re we are all back here in Philadelphia squabbling over the same issues yet again!” Robert fumed. “From across the ocean in Paris, even Jefferson is calling for a second convention. He believes we can simply call all the deputies together for a day or two to sort out these monumental issues. The imbecility of those from Virginia is only matched by those from New York.” With a grunt of frustration Robert threw his wine glass into the fireplace, smashing it to pieces. “There, that is our blessed country, shattered to bits by the foolishness of men. We will lose all.”
Guvernur signaled for brandy to be brought in. He turned and sat, waiting for his friend’s temper to cool. “My dear friend, I have been a loyal follower of yours since you first put our brotherhood together. However, this is a time when I must say that I disagree with you.” Guvernur watched the flash of anger in Robert’s eyes. “Tell me, my friend, when one encounters an obstacle, what path is best?”
“Why the answer is obvious. Directly forward. Remove the obstruction, and move directly forward.”
“And how do you remove such an impediment as you see here before us?”
“Purchase it, push it aside, or destroy it.”
“Why not simply encompass it? Swallow it up, if you will.”
Robert brows furrowed in confusion.
“If we embrace amendments,” Guvernur continued, “nay, demand them ourselves, it will leave the opposition with nothing below their feet to support them.”
The two men took up their brandy snifters. “Would such a scheme work in Virginia?” Robert asked. “Patrick Henry has grown fierce in his words. He is supported by Governor Randolph, James McClurg, George Mason, and George Wythe, all deputies at the Convention who oppose the Constitution. I doubt if even Madison can hold against them.”
“If Madison will support amendments he will neatly steal strength from their argument and gain the thrust he needs to seal the vote in our favor.”
Robert belted back his brandy in a single gulp, and pointed with the hand holding the empty glass. “Madison takes a dim view of amendments, especially a bill of rights.”
“True, yet I dare say that Madison is not opposed. He merely thinks they are unnecessary. His only fear is that if rights are delineated, then any rights we fail to name will be lost. And I see his point. How can we create a comprehensive list of rights not knowing what the future may bring us?”
“Hmmm,” Robert mumbled, as the servant refilled his glass. “And yet I think Madison would apply some clever wording to assuage his fears. And then, what of New York? Governor Clinton has demanded a second convention, along with Robert Yates and John Lansing.”
Guvernur laid a hand on Robert’s shoulder. “If Virginia votes yea, we will have our nine states and the Constitution will become law.”
“Even with the Constitution, without New York the new nation will fall apart.” His brandy disappeared in one gulp. He held his glass steady barely long enough for a refill.
“True. New York must come into the fold. That will be most difficult. But, I daresay, not impossible, especially if we use a more amenable approach.”
Robert paced in doubt. “Hamilton, Madison, and Jay have printed long discourses of philosophy, and New York is still unconvinced.”
“Perhaps,” Guvernur explained, “we could print advertisements in the newspapers.”
“Let us organize celebrations over the most positive and glorious vote.”
Robert gave a quick snort of rejection. “Before the vote has even been made?”
“But, of course. They will do little good after the vote. Let the people organize their own celebrations after the vote, if they so desire.”
Robert continued to pace, his eyes fixed on the floor before him, his hands holding the sloshing snifter behind his back.
“Offer positions in the new government,” Guvernur continued.
Robert stopped, and swigged at his brandy. “And what if New York ratifies only with the stipulation of a new convention?”
“Then, I believe the distractions of forming a new government will soon lead everyone’s mind in a new direction.”
Robert’s eyes plumbed the depths of his shallow brandy. “It will take all of that, and more. Perhaps we may need to use some of our old devices.”
Guvernur walked up to Robert and squared his shoulders in his two hands. “If we take all these aforementioned actions, and the situation is yet desperate, then yes, I will support our old devices.”
“Very well,” Robert said, straightening and downing the remainder of his brandy, “you be off to speak with Madison, and I shall travel to New York.”
The boney 24/7NewShow boss stomped back and forth around the studio, leering over shoulders as everyone was turning over rocks looking for anything to recover ratings. Then he stood and pointed his finger at the ceiling like a pistol, readying it to take aim at the next random victim.
“Hey boss,” Danny, his newest employee called out.
The boss pulled a cigarette butt from his mouth, dripping glowing ashes on the floor, and looked over the kid’s shoulder. On YouTube a bunch of kids from Pennsylvania were putting out a nationwide call for help to rebuild the Rogue-mobile. The actual Rogue-mobile. The one that NewsNow coverage showed spray painted, apparently with invisibility paint. The boss leaned down.
“What the hell happened to it?”
“I guess it got kinda shot up and…” Danny didn’t continue. He glanced at the computer clock. He’d been here exactly thirty-one minutes. His mouth went dry. He needed this job. One wrong word and he’d be fired. He had to find the right words. Nothing less would do.
“Sir, it’s a desperate race to restore the glory of America back to Dr. Rogue. The symbol of a free America is at stake here. They need parts, glass, color matched paint, upholstery. Everything. But most important, they need this ornate air-scoop. People all over America, all over the world are being called on to put this glorious symbol back together. And if they succeed, maybe, just maybe, America will survive.”
The boss popped his nearly burned out stub back into his mouth and smiled.
“What’s your name, kid?”
“I want you there, Danny. Now.”
“NOW! If I don’t see streaming video in one hour, your butt is history.” He turned and jabbed his long stalk of a finger at another staffer selected at random. “You. Grab a camera. Sixty one minutes and you’re both fired.”
The entire room froze in fear.
“MOVE! We start round-the-clock pimp the Rogue-mobile coverage in one hour.”
The room exploded into activity. Danny’s heart skipped a beat. Make that several beats.
“The battle for Virginia was fierce,” Akira recalled. Madison and Patrick Henry had a real debate.”
“Slug-fest is a better description, Anyway, after Virginia came New York.”
“Now that was a battle.”
“Yeah,” he recalled. “It took them almost a year to approve it. Most of New York’s ratification delegates were Anti’s, 46 to 19 against ratification during a preliminary vote. The Constitution should have been overwhelmingly rejected. But somehow it barely passed, 30 to 27. But only on the condition that a second convention be called to rewrite the Constitution. New York would automatically secede from the union in four years if the new convention wasn’t held.” Ty looked to his watch-less wrist as if checking the time. “Huh. Running a tad bit late, wouldn’t you say?”
“The only reason New York was against the Constitution was that they would have to stop bilking poor New Jersey with high tariffs on goods going through New York harbor.”
“Akira, it doesn’t matter why. It was their vote to make. No one else’s. Besides, five of the antis never showed up for the final vote. Hmmm,” Ty scratched his chin, “I wonder who could have made that happen? A little IVI mafia shakedown perhaps? It’s hard to walk to the vote with broken kneecaps. Even still, the Constitution passed by only three votes. Two changed votes and we’d have no constitution today. No overinflated federal government telling the states what to do.”
She slapped his knee. “Get off the soap box. We’ve got a letter to find.”
He chuckled aloud, glad Akira was herself again. “So what do we do, drive to Poughkeepsie where the New York Convention was held and yell out, ‘Hey, anyone got a two hundred year old secret letter kicking around? I’ll swap the United States of America for it.’”
“Well how should I know?”
“Gimme the phone.”
Akira crossed her arms and didn’t move.
Ty gaped at her. “You’re kidding, right?”
She shook her head no.
Ty let out a long huff. “Please give to me the phone.”
“Nope. Non-standard English.”
“Oh Lordy! Okay, okay. Please give the phone to me.”
She smiled and handed him the phone.
“Was James that bad?” he asked.
Ty punched numbers on the phone. “Yo, Jenin how ya making out with that crowd sourcing thing?”
“Tweet, it ready to go.”
“Okay, I send.”
“Call me when the responses start coming in.”
“I already got 257, ah 314, ah 569, ah…”
“Alrighty, good luck sorting them all out.”
“My cousin, he taking programming in night school. I get him helping.”
An ancient fluorescent light buzzed over Salvador Salizar’s head, sending irregular pulses of bluish light cascading over the dim bay where the Rogue-mobile sat. Sal didn’t even have jack stands to hold the precious jewel, never mind a lift. The Rogue-mobile squatted on concrete blocks like a worn out prize fighter.
Around him, the tiny auto repair and body shop was a buzz of activity. Half a dozen of Sal’s high school auto shop classmates prepared to meticulously dismantle the mangled car. Sheets of heavy plastic and oil cloth were being laid out around the shop. Each designated to receive the multitude of demolished body parts, seating, doors, windshield, and of course, the twisted hood. Sal let a heavy sigh overtake him. Where would he get the money he needed for parts? If he had the parts, he’d work night and day to restore the car to its glorious condition. But even then, without the custom air intake, it would never be the same.
There was a knock on the outside door in the adjoining office. Sal glanced around in fear, wondering if the SWAT team could’ve tracked him down. Both bay doors were shut, the office was locked. The “closed” sign on the little office window faced out. When Sal finally got up the nerve to open the door, the huge glass eye of a TV camera was thrust into his face.
“Danny Pinkton, NewsNo… I mean, The 24/7NewShow,” the pimple-faced kid announced. “We live?” he asked the cameraman.
“Yep, sat link is up.”
Danny glanced at his cell phone to check the time. “Whew, made it,” he said with a loud sigh of relief. “We both still have jobs.”
The cameraman gave Danny the thumbs up sign.
“Heard you got the Rogue-mobile in here,” Danny said, poking at the Rogue Rat logo on Sal’s shirt.
“Yeah,” said Sal with a reluctant scowl.
“We’re here to help. The 24/7NewShow can give you instant world-wide coverage. If there is anything you need, this is how to tell the nation and the world. With our help you’ll have no trouble getting parts, paint, upholstery, you name it and it’ll be here fast!”
For a moment Sal’s face was unchanged. Then he smiled.
“Yeah,” Sal beamed. “This’ll work just fine.”
He led Danny into the shop. “Normally, my dad doesn’t let customers into the shop area, you know, insurance rules.”
Suddenly self-conscious, Sal glanced around. The shop’s uneven cement block walls were covered with test sprays of paint in different colors. Sal hoped they didn’t look like graffiti to the viewers. The boxy compressor hissed from a dozen cracked hoses lying about the shop. Sal stifled a gasp as he noticed the camera panning over the fire extinguisher with its pressure gauge pointing to empty.
“Whoa,” Danny said in an amazed moan looking over the once gleaming machine. “What the…I mean, do you know exactly what happened, mister…ah…, what’s your name?”
“Salvador Salizar, Jr. of Sal’s Garage in Wallace Town, Pennsylvania.”
As the camera zoomed in on the Rogue-mobile’s every nick and scrape, Sal explained about the SWAT team and how he’d helped Ty escape.
Back in the 24/7NewShow studio Danny’s bean-pole boss glowed. “This’ll kick NewsNow right in the butt.”
When the cameraman was able to get a perfect video shot of Sal and Danny from inside the car, focusing through a ragged bullet hole, the boss's cigarette dropped from his mouth. He glanced at the rating readout on the computer. Up 27% in less than fifteen minutes. And climbing.
He had found News-nirvana.
“Ty, we get 8,247,341 tweets,” the Chinese voice squeaked on the phone.” My cousin, he write program. He say letter in basement of Building 1 at University of Virginia.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. James helped lay the cornerstone of that building with Thomas Jefferson. We’re on our way.” He hung up the phone, and immediately it rang again.
“Ty,” Vasyl’s voice said, “I no liking this. Cousin, he not real hacker, like me. You need me sorting of data.”
“Vasyl, don’t be jealous. You’ve already done a great job.”
“Me not being jealous. I telling you data sort needing me to…”
“What’s that you say, Vasyl. I can’t hear you. You’re breaking up.” Ty winked to Akira and pushed the power button.
Ty turned on the truck’s radio and tuned to a news station.
“… you can’t honestly tell me you believe any of this is real,” the radio pundit spewed. “Escaping police custody, flying through the air with the greatest of ease, evading a SWAT team, both of them and their car just, poof, disappearing. This is all staged. Orchestrated and pre-scripted by Ty Yates for those right wing American’s who will actually fall for this sick kind of game that makes a laughingstock out of our Constitution.”
“As Jefferson said,” his female counterpart retorted, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
Akira tisked. “Jefferson never said that.”
Ty just shook his head no in exasperation.
“That is the reason we have over ten thousand people thronging to the White House right now?”
The male pundit cleared his throat. “Ten thousand. I think that number is a bit exaggerated. And most of those protesters are fans of Ty Yates’ show. They’re just the kind of people least likely to have any legitimate reason to protest. Dr. Rogue fans are, by definition, rabid troublemakers with no valid agenda. Just like Dr. Rogue himself.”
Akira turned down the volume. “I can’t believe they are talking about you that way, Ty.”
“Are you defending the conservative viewpoint?”
“No. I’m defending the truth in the news.”
Ty’s brow furrowed. “Truth in the news? What kind of a concept is that?”
“A needed concept.”
“Akira, from the very beginning the press has not been a voice of the truth. Jefferson bribed reporters to write bold faced lies about Washington and Adams. Why would you expect the media of today to be any better?”
“Because we have greater access to the truth.”
“And more access to opinion, and less distinguishing of the two. But the beauty of it all is that if you take three hundred million misinformed Americans, we somehow get one well informed nation. It’s a thing of beauty.”
“What you call a well-informed nation is really just a large percentage of people reacting on their gut instincts when you stir them up. Anyone can stir people up. It only takes a certain charisma.”
“Gee, thanks! And here I thought you didn’t appreciate that side of me.”
“Get over yourself, Ty. An unscrupulous person in your position could do a lot of harm.”
“Oh, you mean like James?”
“No! Glory, you are infuriating sometimes.”
“Hey, Sal,” one of the shop class students called out from the office, “phone call for you, from NewsNow.”
Danny’s ears perked up. He needed an exclusive, and letting NewsNow in would kill that. “Uh, you,” Danny broke in, pointing at the guy with the phone, “we can’t keep stopping Sal from his important work. We, uh, gotta screen his calls or else he’ll never finish the job. Right? Just tell the guy at NewsNow that he can find anything he needs to know on the 24/7NewShow.”
A puzzled look grew on the face of the guy holding the phone.
“Go ahead,” said Danny encouragingly.
“Yeah, hullo? Uh, yeah, well Sal’s real busy right now. You…ah…you can just go to the 24/7New…” the perplexed man stammered into the phone. His eyes darted around the office and back into the service bay. “Oh no, I couldn’t do that. No, I, uh…well, I guess just for a minute…”
Danny darted over into the office and pushed the receiver button down on the old fashioned corded phone.
“It’s okay. Everybody’s going to want to talk to Sal. We can’t let that happen. Every interruption means one less minute to restore the car. Got it?”
The kid nodded. He still held the phone to his ear.
“Every time they call,” Danny instructed, “just push this down. Trust me. It’ll be just fine. Watch.”
Danny gently took the receiver and placed it back into its cradle. Then he picked up the receiver pretending there was a call.
Danny pushed the receiver button down.
Danny repeated and pushed the receiver button down again.
The high schooler nodded without really understanding. Danny gave him a warm, friendly smile.
“You’re new job is to man this phone. Okay? Never leave it. Sal is counting on you.”
The kid nodded.
“Good. Now…” Danny rubbed his hands together. “Call the local pizza parlor. Tell them if they bring ten assorted pizzas they’ll get ten minutes of coverage on national TV.”
Danny smiled. This was going to work out just fine.
Ty and Akira walked through the door of Building 1, the alumni hotel. “This was the first building of the University.” Ty said. “Thomas Jefferson’s dream. He and James laid the cornerstone in 1813.”
“May I help you?” a ponytailed coed asked.
“I was hoping…”
“Oh, my God. It’s you! You are my favorite.”
“Yeah,” Ty conceded, “everyone loves the Rouge-meister.”
“No, not you. You, Akira Madison.” Within seconds Akira was surrounded by freshmen coeds all squealing and asking for autographs.
“I’ll, ah, just wait over here,” Ty pointed to a chair in the corner, “until you are done. That is unless you’re too busy to rescue the nation from disaster.”
When the crowd finally settled down Akira asked. “We’re doing some research, and maybe you could help us.”
“Sure, the library is just out that door and to your left.”
“No, we need to have access to the basement of this building.”
“You mean this building?”
“Yes, that would be the one we’re interested in taking a peek at.”
“It’s kind of creepy, like something out of a Steven King novel.”
“You’ve been down there?”
“No, but once there was a pledge for our sorority, and well we…”
“Never mind. Could you show us how to get there?”
“Follow me.” A moment later the coed pulled back a rug revealing a trap door with ladder like steps going down into darkness. “No lights, but I can let you borrow this flashlight.”
“Thanks!” Akira took the flashlight and easily stepped down the ladder. “Ty?” she asked. Ty, you okay.
Ty stood frozen, staring down into the cramped darkness. “Come on there, big guy. Don’t let a little claustrophobia stop you.” Ty swallowed hard, and followed Akira down. The floor was dirt, split here and there by dank puddles of ground water.
“You okay, Ty?”
“Yeah sure. Just like a picnic.” He brushed aside a curtain of spider webs and stepped boldly forward, only to crack his head on a low beam, throwing him backwards, landing in a muddy puddle.
“I gotta close this,” the coed whispered, “my boss is coming.” Ty’s eyes widened in horror as the trap door overhead closed off all light except for the flashlight Akira held.
“Don’t worry, Ty. You can stay there while I look around.”
“Funny, very funny.” Ty stood, swiping off mud, crouching low to not repeat his mistake. Then they heard it. Click-scrape, click-scrape. Then a brilliant lamp blasted into their faces.
“Welcome, Mr. Yates, Ms. Madison. So nice to meet you again.”
“Vasyl, he ratted us out, didn’t he.”
“Vasyl? I don’t know a Vasyl. But my colleagues and I managed to stuff a few hundred thousand tweets into your database to bring you here. You really should have used a better programmer to sort your data.” Akira looked sideways at Ty.
Ty looked around. “Let me guess, the letter isn’t here.”
“You are correct, Mr. Yates. It is not.”
“And now you need our help to find it.”
“No, Mr. Yates. We do not. We already have it.”
“And you sent us on a wild goose chase to find it. Thanks a lot.”
“You are most welcome.”
“What was in it?”
“Mr. Yates, that is the whole point of this exercise. For you to not find out what is in the letter.”
“We’ll find out,” Akira huffed. “We’ll work together and figure it out together. Just like the Constitution should have been done in the first place.”
“Oh yes. We should have just let the delegates to the Convention work it out between themselves. Even with all the help of the IVI the Constitution passed by the narrowest of margins. My dear Ms. Madison, how many times do I have to explain there would be no Constitution without the IVI?” Hank leveled the long barrel of his pistol. “I am sorry that I must complete my task.”
Self defense … obliges every one … to resist the first approaches of tyranny, which at this day threaten to sweep away the rights for which the brave Sons of America have fought with heroism… Thus passes the glory of America
-A Columbian Patriot (Mercy Otis Warren) Boston 1788
“Coming off break in thirty,” the cameraman called out as he tripped a switch bathing the garage in borrowed floodlights.
Danny scanned over the dozen new volunteers scattered about the shop. This was perfect.
“We’re live in five, four, three…”
Danny straightened and gave Sal the movie director’s signal to begin.
Sal clapped his hands, just as he had been instructed. “Okay, people, gather around.”
The guy was perfect. A mop of dark hair, big brown eyes and that earnest innocence found on the faces of many second generation immigrants. Said he was holding a wrench before he could walk. Let’s hope the rest of them remembered the lines they’d rehearsed.
“I want to get the Rogue-mobile back to Ty in,” Sal faltered, looking to Danny. Danny held up two fingers and mouthed two days, “in two days. Things are, ah.” Sal choked, forgetting his lines.
“Moving fast,” Danny mouthed.
“Yeah, ah, moving fast. The state legislatures are moving fast and Dr. Rogue needs his car to turn the tide for Change Now.”
Danny nodded approval and then pointed to another person to start his lines.
“Sal. That’s not possible. The bullet holes alone are a lot of body work.”
Danny pointed to a third like a conductor leading an orchestra. “Geez, the upholstery’s a total mess…then there’s the paint. It can’t be done.”
“Ty is running for his life. He needs our support. He needs this car,” Sal insisted. “It’s not an easy job. But, it has fallen to us to do it. Americans have never walked away from a tough job.”
There was a long awkward silence.
Danny thought that when primed with these few lines they would pick up and continue on their own. Instead they balked.
“Dammit!” a guy under the car yelled out. He slid out and started sucking on a skinned knuckle. “Rotten piece of junk. A bullet took the freakin’ bolt head clean off. There’s no way to get it out.” He stood. “What’s the point? It’s just a car. A shot up ugly heap.”
“Whoa,” Danny mouthed, holding up his hand. His crisscrossed his hands indicating that was not in the script.
“Guys, guys, cool it,” Sal commanded. “No one said this would be easy. It is a tough job.”
“This isn’t just a tough job. It’s impossible,” said another voice. “The air-intake is custom made. There isn’t another one anywhere on the planet. It’ll take months to get another one made. Without that there is no point to any of this.” He wiped his grease stained hands on a cloth, threw the cloth on the floor. “No point at all.” He walked out, letting the door slam behind him.
“You guys are all idiots for doin’ this,” the first guy said. “And for what? What’s the point.” He stormed after the other guy.
“Quitters! Both of you.” Sal crossed his arms, and forgetting he was on national television, kicked over a trash can, sending into the Rogue-mobile and adding yet another dent.
Danny looked to Sal. Sal was a high schooler, probably a senior getting ready to graduate and take over the family business. He knew Sal was as desperate to succeed at this as he was. But, there was also something bigger at stake here and Danny was only just beginning to catch on to the implications. As for right here and now he needed something to get these guys back on track and keep himself in a job. Quietly picking up a milk crate, Danny dumped its boxes of spark plugs into a corner. He stepped up to Sal, turned the crate over and invited Sal to stand on it. The young man grinned at the gesture and stepped up onto his soapbox.
“Listen up, people,” Sal said, his voice going deep and meaningful, his big brown eyes glistening in the lights. “This isn’t just about a car. This is about America. My father came to America with nothing. With his bare hands he worked night and day, and built up to this.” Sal broadened his hands over the tiny shop, his face beaming as if it were Palace of Versailles. “The Rogue-mobile is more than just a car. It is a symbol of what Americans believe in. To say it is just a car is like saying the flag is just a piece of cloth or the Statue of Liberty is just a hunk of tin. If you believe in America, if you believe that what we are doing is right, and good, and pure, then you must also believe that we must get this car back to Ty in two days.”
The crowd of volunteers murmured a mixture of approval and discontent. Danny frowned. Great speech, but could they do it? If they couldn’t, this would be the end of his very short career.
“Goodnight Mr. Yates, Ms. Madison.” Hank’s finger moved to the trigger.
Suddenly the trap door flew open, and a dozen flashlight beams glared down at them from a squad of blue uniforms that surrounded the opening.”
Ty squinted into the blinding light from above, expecting to see rifles pointing down at them.
“Okay, cub-scouts, down you go,” their leader ordered.
Ty gaped as a dozen pair of tiny legs began down the ladder.
“Say, mister, what are you doing down here,” the first scout asked.
“We’re, ah looking for something,” Ty answered, stepping to Hank. “My friend and I are looking for something.” Ty put his arm around Hank, and discreetly pulled the gun from his hand. Quietly he slipped it into his pocket.
“Hey, so are we. No fair. We were supposed to be first.”
“Are you looking for something, too?” Akira asked.
“Yeah, we’re geo-caching. You know, you punch in the GPS coordinates and find the hidden container. If we find this one, we’d all complete our merit badges.”
Ty looked to Hank, still locked in Ty’s brotherly embrace. “Well, our friend Hank here will be glad to help you look, won’t you Hank, ‘ole buddy.”
Hank absently shook his head yes.
“Hank was in the special forces in Afghanistan.”
“Really?” the scouts amazed. “That is so cool.”
“Did you jump from helicopters?”
“Did you smear black paint on your face and crawl around in the dark, snipping barbed wire, and setting bomb timers?”
The scouts all looked up in adoration at their new hero.
Hank looked to Ty, his face beaming at the next generation of American patriots as if to say “touché.” He kneeled down to their level, carefully balancing on his metal legs. “It wasn’t quite like that. First we had to…”
“Oh my gosh, just look at the time,” Akira said. “We’ve got to go. Come on, Ty, up the ladder you go.”
At the top of the ladder the coed stared blankly at the scouts below. “Thanks for the flashlight,” Akira said, handing it back. “It was a big help.”
Back in the truck, Akira turned the phone back on. It immediately rang.
“I tolding you so, dodn’t I?” Vasyl said. “But, I forgive of you, and reprogramming of scout GPS to saving you.” Ty stared blankly ahead. “You supposed to saying thank you Vasyl. You being right, Vasyl. I now being always listening you Vasyl.”
Ty continued to stare ahead.
“Thank you Vasyl,” Akira said. “And yes, you were right, and we were wrong.”
“You betcha hoochy-koochy.”
Hoochy-koochy? Akira mouthed.
“Ty, my bestly friend. You never telling me who Fifi?”
“Oh, Ty. You telling me, she a female, da?”
“And she pretty?”
“And you seeing her soon?”
“Well, I hope so.”
“Oh, Ty, you slyly level. You have a girl friend.”
Akira took the phone. “That is sly devil. And thank you Vasyl.” With a huff she hung up the phone.
Akira crossed her arms and looked out the window.
“So,” Ty exhaled. “That was interesting.”
Akira didn’t answer.
“You okay, Akira?”
She still didn’t answer.
“Well,” Ty said exhaling a long sigh, trying to change the subject, “that was quite an adventure with Hank back at the University.”
She didn’t budge.
“As Jefferson said ‘the two enemies of the people are criminals and government.’ Looks like with Hank, we have both on our hands.”
“Jefferson never said that.”
Ty smiled having broken the ice with his trap. “Look Akira, it’s not like you and I are an item.”
“Item? God no. But we are friends. And friends don’t keep secrets from each other.”
“Sometimes a little secret is good.”
“Good? You call this good?” She pulled her poodle scarf around her neck, and glared out the passenger window.
“Alrighty,” he whistled.
She listened as Ty absently drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “You seem to be in a hurry to get to nowhere,” she huffed.
“Oh, we’ve got places to go. We just don’t where they are yet.” He continued to drum his fingers on the steering wheel. “Looks like Hank has changed his strategy.”
“What do you mean? He tried to shoot us before, and he just tried to shoot us again.”
Ty pulled out Hank’s gun from his pocket. “Look at it.”
“Yeah it’s a gun. What’s your point?”
“Not just any gun, a tranquilizer dart gun. Hank no longer wants us dead. He just wants us asleep for a day or two.”
“That’s crazy why would he want that?” Akira jumped when the cell phone started belting out La Bamba. Akira glanced at Ty, but he just shrugged. She pulled out the phone.
“Hi, this is Sal Salizar. You know, they guy who has Ty’s car.”
“Oh, ah, yeah. Nice to talk to you again.”
Ty looked at her with pinched brows. ‘The guy with your car,’ she mouthed.
Ty took the phone and punched on its speakerphone.
“Sal. My man! Hey sweet ride here. I love this beauty of an old Chevy. As American as baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Wall Street derivatives. Thanks a million.”
“No problemo, Ty. My high school shop class, we’re taking real good care of the Rogue-mobile. Fixin’ her all up like brand new. We’re gonna make you proud, Ty.”
“You’re,” Ty choked back a tear, “you’re rescuing the Rogue-mobile?”
“People from all over the country are helping. It’s on live TV, the 24/7NewShow. You know that show? You gotta see it man.”
“Yeah, I know the show. Was…was…she bad?”
Silence. “Yeah, pretty bad.”
“Seventeen nasty, ragged bullet holes. Gouges and scratches everywhere. Even the crank got scored after all the oil drained out.”
“No!” Ty whimpered.
“But, Ty. We’re gonna fix her. Perfect. Ya gotta see it man. Get to a TV. She looks real bad right now, but by tomorrow, she’ll be perfect.”
“God bless you, Sal.”
“No, God bless you, man. I’m a loyal fan. I never miss a show. You tell it like it is and what you say is real, not some puffed up politician’s hot air.”
Ty felt tears prickling behind his eyes. “Gee, that’s real kind of you to say. I really appreciate your support. And what you’re doing for my car…”
Sal made a small choking sound, mirroring the cry in Ty’s voice. “It’s not just for you or the car, it’s …” Sal made another choking sound,” it’s for America.”
“For America. Thanks, Sal. You are a true patriot.” Ty closed the phone.
“Can he do it, Ty?”
“In normal times, I would say no way. That air-scoop alone took six months to make. But these are not normal times. All we need is a miracle.”
She winced at the idea that so much sweat and effort was being poured into a useless car. A thought nagged at the back of her mind, something she wanted to say to Ty, but she couldn’t quite grasp it. Then it gelled.
“Miracle?” she asked. “Are we talking like James’s kind of miracle here?”
“Deceit is not a miracle.”
“But he did accomplish the impossible. Sounds like a miracle to me.”
“Wesley here,” the FBI director said, answering his phone.
“Is this line secure?” the garbled voice intoned.
“Yes, Mr. Chairman, it is.”
“Have you seen the television reports on the restoration of that hideous automobile?”
“Yes, Mr. Chairman. I am watching that zit-popping news hound as we speak.”
“This is most disturbing. If they can restore that car it will raise Ty to hero status.”
“The grease monkey broke the law,” Wesley advised. “Aiding and abetting a federal fugitive. We can arrest him. That’ll stop him.”
“No. Not yet. That would only play into Ty’s hands.”
“Agreed. Too visible and too much blow back. The state legislatures are moving fast. However, we project that the Mercy petition will fail by a narrow margin. Any actions we take could swing the votes the other way. Besides, there is no way they can finish in time. The air scoop is an absolute impossibility. When they fall flat on their faces it’ll make him look bad.”
“Yes, we must be patient. We need a softer approach. For now no one touches either the mechanic or the reporter. However, should the repair become a possibility, then you must use all measures to stop them.”
“I understand, Mr. Chairman.”
The old Chevy purred like a kitten as it rolled down the highway. Ty turned on the radio.
“… and Connecticut are the latest states that have moved forward with Mercy Warren’s petition to rewrite the Constitution. Rapid approval and rejection among the states has been spurred on by the ongoing controversy over Ty Yates and Akira Madison. However, polls indicate that Mercy Warren does not have the support to get the 34 state legislatures she needs to get approval for her proposed Second Constitutional Convention. In other news, oil prices have reached…”
Ty turned the radio off. “Mercy is really pushing this thing.”
“Maybe we should just lay low and see how the states vote. Then this whole thing will just blow over.”
Ty drummed the steering wheel with his fingers. “No. If we do nothing, Mercy will lose. We gotta do something.”
“Ty, there is no we in this. In case you’ve forgotten, I’m on the other side.”
“I guess. But we gotta do somethin’. We ain’t got the third letter, and we ain’t got no air-scoop. I ain’t got no better ideas.”
“Why do you talk like that, Ty?”
“Like that. Like you’re an uneducated blowhard.”
“‘Cause it feels right. It fits me.”
“It doesn’t, though. You’ve traveled the world. You’re on a first name basis with a dozen heads of state. You are fluent in five languages.”
“Hey, don’t tell anyone.”
“Ty, you went to expensive private schools right up until you came to PS 1307. I’m sure you never spoke like that at school. Or at home.”
“Well, I hardly was home.”
“Right. Expensive, private boarding schools. Lucky dog. You should be ashamed of yourself, throwing away all the privileged opportunities you had. I’d have given my eye teeth to have one semester at your last school.”
“We’ve had this conversation before, Akira. You still don’t get it. I had no complaint about those boarding schools. I actually liked them for the most part. It was what my parents did to me that I hated.”
“What, you mean all those ba-zillions of dollars they spent on you and you threw away.”
“Forget it, just forget it.” Ty scrunched his lips, the hairs on his goatee rising and falling as he mumbled inaudible words.
“Hey, sorry Ty. I didn’t mean to hit a sore spot. Try me again, please.”
Ty glanced back at her then stared straight forward at the road. “Okay, try this one. Who paved the way for you?”
“Nobody. I had to do it all myself.”
“Exactly. And how do you feel about what you’ve accomplished.”
“I guess pretty good.”
“Not just pretty good. You are proud of yourself. And me, what have I got to be proud of?”
“You’re a senator for one thing. The first nineteen year old senator in New York history.”
“And I can hear the whispers saying ‘his daddy pulled strings.’ How can I hold my head up knowing people say that?”
“Did he pull strings for you?”
“I don’t know. That’s the frustrating part. Even I don’t know. I’d like to think I did it myself. But the truth is I just don’t know. Akira, you’ve met my parents. They’re about as truthful as a three dollar bill.”
Akira hung her head. “Yes, I’ve met your parents. I agree they are a bit extreme in their ideas, but then I find most libertarians a bit odd. I thought it was because your parents never experienced real life. I mean they lived sheltered lives and so did you. That’s why you can never really understand me. I didn’t have that kind of shelter.”
He nodded. “No, you didn’t and I’m sorry. But you don’t understand me either. Now I’ve broken away from that shelter, so I could experience real life for myself. But, I just don’t know for sure.”
“Okay, what about Rogue Rash.”
“Yes, finally something I did without my parent’s help, something you and I built together. That means a lot to me.” His face softened and he looked her straight in the eye. “You’re the first friend I’ve ever had who appreciated me for who I am, not who my dad is.”
“Not true,” she smirked, “I appreciate you in spite of who you really are.”
“Am I really that bad?”
“Oh, yeah. Big time.” They both laughed.
“Okay, Ty, name something else you’re proud of.”
“My car.” His lower lip began to tremble and a tear came to his eye. “My beautiful, gleaming, brilliant car that I designed all by myself. And now,” his voice cracked, “and now it’s….” He couldn’t finish the sentence.
“But you used your daddy’s money for it.”
“No, I didn’t. It was my inheritance from my granddad.”
“Yup. I knew it.”
“Hey, it was my money. I wasn’t going to hand out my inheritance for free on the streets. I’m not that crazy.”
“Okay, sorry. Go on.”
“I’ve got enough money in the trust fund to pay for college. After that I’m on my own. I’ll earn a living, want to earn a living. Do you understand?”
Akira had a brand new understanding of Ty. She felt as if she was finally breaking through. Finally getting to know the real guy behind the tough guy facade. “Yes,” she said, the germ of his viewpoint taking hold, “you wanted to do it yourself instead of having it all handed to you. I can understand that. Get a job on your own merits.”
“Job? Heavens no.”
“Let’s syndicate Rough Rash. We’ll make a fortune.”
“Fortune? Not for me.”
“I want to go into public service.”
“How? You mean run for office.”
“Not necessarily. I’d like to do what James Madison did. He did more outside of office than in. He lost many of his elections, but he continued to serve. Much of his public career was as a special assistant of some type. You know, special committee member, delegate to the Convention, secretary of state. Things like that. He was shy and didn’t like the limelight. Neither do I.”
“Boy, I guess we are opposites.”
“And best of friends.”
Ty reached out and fist bumped her. “You got that right.”
The Grecian republics [and] that of the Romans … , in process of time, extended … over large territories of country; and … their governments were changed from that of free governments to those of the most tyrannical that ever existed in the world.
-Brutus (Robert Yates) Oct. 18, 1787
Jimbo Wilson sat in a barroom next to an airstrip hidden in Columbia’s steamy jungle. He’d unzipped his greasy gray repairman’s coveralls to his navel, showing off his pale torso to the dark-skinned girls. At six foot, two inches, and 200 pounds, he towered over all of the other men in the village. Of course the girls stared. He wiggled his brows at them. Like girls everywhere, they wouldn’t be able to resist the bright red hair that covered his head in classic wind-blown style. He scratched at the stubble spreading across his face. He should shave. Nah. Some liked it that way.
He guzzled another beer and picked up the TV remote. A few clicks and he hit the American 24/7NewShow channel. Gotta get caught up on how things were going in the states. Huh…that’s funny. A show about car repairs? Wait. That car looks familiar. Jimbo’s jaw dropped as the camera panned across the famous mustang. What the hell happened to it?
A young Mexican-looking kid in the repair shop stepped up on a box to address the group of people around him. A tear formed in Jimbo’s eye as he listened to Sal’s stirring speech.
The door to the bar opened and in walked a tall, lean man. Heavy gold dripped from his neck and wrists.
“Hey, I like what you did with my jet, man,” he said in his heavily accented English. “Your American Air Force taught you well before they threw you out. They’ll never spot her on radar now.”
Jimbo didn’t answer.
“What’s the matter?” The drug lord scanned Jimbo’s teary face, and then glanced at the TV to see the desperate crew working on the car. “Hey, that’s the Rogue-mobile. I saw it on TV last night.”
“They’re not gonna make it in time,” Jimbo sighed.
“No kidding, man. I should know. I have an exact copy of the Rogue-mobile. It took me six months just to have the air scoop made.”
“Yeah,” Jimbo nodded, “I know.”
The drug lord put a comforting hand on Jimbo’s shoulder, and hung his head along with Jimbo. These Latino guys were so simpatico. Best friends a guy could have. If a guy like him allowed himself friends.
“Hey,” the drug lord brightened. “Take my air-scoop. It’s an exact copy. Perfect fit. Really it is.”
“You, you mean it?” Jimbo stammered.
“Hey, of course I mean it. I can wait to get another one.”
“But we’ll never get it there in time. Three days minimum for air freight, two more to get through customs,” Jimbo choked.
“You can take my jet. Let’s call it a test drive.”
Jimbo couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “But it’ll take a couple of days just to file an international flight plan.”
“What’s a flight plan?” the drug lord smirked.
“So here we are, driving to nowhere,” Akira mused, “without a clue as to where we are going.”
Ty sat up. “That’s it, a clue. Maybe the founding fathers left us a clue.”
“A clue. Right. And where would we find such a clue after two and a half centuries?”
“In the Constitution itself.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just call up a copy on the cell phone.”
“Excuse me, but I didn’t hear the word ‘please’ in that entire sentence.”
“Pretty please with sugar on top. Is that better?”
“Much better.” Akira thumbed the phone for a few moments. “Okay, got it.”
“Let me see.”
“Oh, no. No texting and driving.”
“Just hold the phone.”
Akira huffed and turned away.
“Please. I was going to say please. You didn’t give me a chance to finish.”
She gave him a wry smile and held the phone up for him.
“Not a text copy. You and I both have the text memorized. An actual image.”
A few more thumb swipes. “What are you looking for, anyway?”
“I don’t know. If I did, we’d be done already.”
“Hmmm,” she murmured, scanning around the high res image.
“Let me see,” Ty protested.
“You drive. I’ll look.” Lost in her search she started humming the Lawrence Welk Theme.
“I told you that you listened, didn’t I.”
“Oh my God. Ty, look at this. What do you see?” She held up the phone for him to see one single letter she had zoomed in on.”
“The capital letter H.”
She took the phone back and zoomed out a bit.
“Oh,” Ty realized, “it’s actually the scripted letter A in the word Article at the beginning of the seven articles of the Constitution.”
“Yeah, but it looks more like an H to us. Look at how the two side strokes of the letter swoop, concaving toward each other like two reversed parentheses. The center is a diamond.”
Ty looked puzzled. “Yeah, so what?”
“Just look at just the left stroke, all by itself. What do you see?”
“Looks like a capital letter I.”
“And the right stroke?”
“Now look at the central diamond, and tell me what the white space around it forms.”
“It’s the letter V. Whoa! IVI. Hank and company.”
“Akira, that’s amazing, and it gets us abso-freakin’-lutely nowhere. So now we have a clue that tells us what we already knew, that the IVI did help write the Constitution. Even without that, the guys we thought were in the IVI actually did write the Constitution.”
“Ty, don’t you see. If we can figure this out, then maybe we can figure out what was in the third letter without having to actually see the letter.”
“Yeah, and swing some votes in our favor. Once the Second Convention is approved, then we’ve caught the IVI in our trap.”
“Again, in case you’ve forgotten, Ty, I am a federalist. I want the new convention voted down.”
“Aw, gee, I wish you had told me earlier. I still have Hank’s gun so you could save him the trouble of shooting you.”
“No. I don’t approve of what they are doing, then or now. I want Americans to come together for a common purpose. I want the Constitution upheld not because of trickery, but because it is the right thing to do.”
Ty stared at her for a moment. “Have you and I just agreed on something?”
They looked at each other in bewilderment. “Nah,” they both chorused together.
Sal scanned across the garage. The former throng of over fifty volunteers had dwindled down to twenty. “Good,” Sal thought to himself. There were just too many before.
“Okay, you,” Sal ordered, “set up the saw horses over there. You pull the rear fender off and put it on the horses.”
“Sal, why don’t we just patch it up in place. It’ll be fine, and a whole lot easier.”
“No, right is right and wrong is wrong. Pull the fender.”
“Tell you what, Sal. Since you are so big and powerful, then you pull the fender.” The man threw down the rag he was holding and stormed out the door. Two more followed him.
“Alrighty,” Sal whistled. He turned to another volunteer. “You, get the engine hoist, and loosen the motor mounts to pull the engine.”
“Sal, we could just drop the crank without pulling the engine.”
“Look, I’m the one with the plan, and I say…” Sal was stopped mid-sentence by a heavy hand on his shoulder. He turned around to see his shop teacher, Mr. Williams, with the wizened look of experience in his eye.
“Sal, you are right. You are the person with the plan. But that doesn’t mean you can’t compromise. Listen to what others are saying. And once in a while, give in.”
“I do listen. But this is different. This is the Rogue-mobile, not just any ole’ car. It must be done right.”
“Again, you are right. That is why it is even more important that you listen. You might be surprised to find that things will turn out better that way.”
NewsNow reporter Bob Brighton stared at the line of protesters marching in a rough oval directly in front of the White House. During the last segment, Bob had interviewed a police officer coming off duty. He’d been hoping to catch some anger at Ty Yates from the guy, but the officer was pretty low key, shrugging off protesters as if today was no different from any other day.
The protesters were allowed to have cardboard or cloth signs, and they could shout all they wanted, but they had to keep moving. Every now and then a few of them would gather in the middle to chant until a police officer broke them up and warned them to keep moving.
This was the most boring gig Bob had ever covered. The screaming made his nerves jangle and the chanting was monotonous. He’d combed over most of the loud crowd desperate to find one protester willing to bash Ty. Bob’s boss was going to fire him if he didn’t spin this the right way soon.
“We want Ty freed. We want Akira freed. We want freeeeeeeed-ommmm!”
The NewsNow cameraman had rested his load on the sidewalk. He had one foot up on the big stone curb in front of the black iron White House fence. He kept glancing at his cell phone.
“Comin’ off commercial in ten,” the cameraman informed, hefting the camera to his shoulder.
Bob straightened his tie and stood tall. The red on-air light flicked on and blinked steadily.
“Bob Brighton back with continuing coverage of the shocking events happening here in Washington. Controversial high school pundit Ty Yates has spurred his hordes of radical supporters to converge on the peaceful White House landscape. Police estimate the spontaneous crowd of protesters has grown to twenty thousand. Over the last few hours the Lafayette Park and Pennsylvania Avenue areas have become flooded with Rogue Rash radicals protesting the attempts to arrest Ty Yates and Akira Madison.”
Bob stepped to the right as the camera panned over the throng.
“Federal fugitive Ty Yates is the host of Rogue Rash, a right wing talk show program that has been pushing to severely limit the federal government’s power and authority. The bombastic Ty Yates has used his outrageous conservative political viewpoints to propel himself into a New York Senate seat. However, Mr. Yates, or Dr. Rogue as his stage name suggests, is anything but conservative in appearance or behavior. Yates has been expelled from a number of private high schools and now attends PS1307 in New York City.”
Bob edged over to a woman holding a large cloth sign silk screened with a photo of Dr. Rogue in his wrestler’s outfit.
“His startling unprofessional and outrageous appearance accounts for at least seventy percent of his popularity according to data from a USA Daily poll. Akira Madison is a classmate of Yates is at the opposite end of the political spectrum.”
Bob paused as three older men screamed “Ty and Akira forever!” He covered his microphone to limit feedback from the sound system.
“Despite their obvious differences, as you can hear, there are a number of people who believe that both Ty and Akria are working for the same goal. Let’s see if we can find out more about what these protesters want from our president.”
Bob moved away from the marching oval of chanters. He spotted an older man holding a small cardboard sign that read “Freedom is not enough.”
“Sir, I’m Bob Brighton with NewsNow. Where are you from?”
“Binghamton, New York.”
“What brings you to Washington?”
“I’m here to tell the President he needs to do something. Find out what the truth is.”
“What truth is it you are looking for?”
“The truth about Ty and Akira. What does he want them for? What did they do to him?”
“Did you vote for him?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Do you think he has done everything he said he would do during his campaign? Has he fulfilled his campaign promises?”
“Yeah, I guess he has in a way. But, the changes he made only made the government bigger, stronger, more powerful, more oppressive to regular people like Ty and Akira. He’s spending too much money on going after innocent people.”
“So you want him to do more, but spend less.”
“I don’t know. I guess I thought he’d be able to do more with less. You know, reduce waste and all. He ran on a platform of balancing revenue and spending. He was supposed to make it easier for people to find jobs and to live within our means. Instead we wound up with a runaway government freight train headed for nowhere.”
“So, what is it you want the president to do now. Besides releasing Ty and Akira?”
“I figure it’s sorta like doing your own budget. At first it makes no sense. But, if it’s your own money, you start finding ways. Clip a few coupons from the Sunday paper, drive an extra block for cheaper gas.”
Bob nodded, thanked the man and moved toward an elderly couple. The man was thin and white-haired. He wore an old-style uniform jacket. He held the petite grey-haired woman around the waist with one arm. His other arm held up a sign that read, “Only the informed are free” in small black letters.
“Bob Brighton, NewsNow. Where are you folks from?”
The man released the woman and made a smart salute. “Gunnery Sergeant John Jakes.”
“You a veteran?” asked Bob.
“Yes, sir. And former POW.”
The man smiled and looked down at the woman. “Yes sir.”
“How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Not at all. I’m seventy-seven. This is my lovely bride, Greta. We met in Germany.”
“Been married almost sixty years,” said Greta with pride.
“Congratulations. I notice you have a bit of a southern accent,” Bob prompted.
“We’re from Georgia. We ran a little peach operation for many years. Now my grandchildren own it. My bride and I are touring the country while we still have our health. Thought we’d start here at the heart of things.”
“And you just decided to stop by and protest at the White House while you were in town?”
“Nope. Heard about this Ty fella from some folks on our tour bus yesterday. He sounds like the kind of young man we ought to encourage. The kind who won’t put up with a president who abuses the powers of his office.”
“We don’t like what we hear. Our president is not being honest,” continued the woman. “He has been given a great honor and duty to govern our country. We expect him to tell us the whole truth about Ty and Akira. We can’t see that either of them have done anything wrong and it’s very clear that this Hank person is trying to kill them. The president should be offering them his protection not sending SWAT teams after them.”
“Yep. We’re really surprised there aren’t more people out here protesting. I guess folks just have so much on their minds with healthcare and all the states fighting amongst themselves. It’s as if we’ve forgotten that we’re one nation.”
The cameraman signaled Bob that thirty seconds were left before going to commercial.
“Do you think this issue with the Constitution is important?” asked Bob. “Isn’t it possible that Ty Yates is just out to gain ratings points for his show?”
“Yes, that’s possible. But I think we should look into it.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Jakes, the president will most likely be listening to this news report. What one thing would you like to say to him?”
“Find the truth!” the man raised his voice.
Nearby protesters who had been quietly listening to the interview started chanting. “Truth! Truth!”
Bob covered his earpiece and tried to speak over the noise. “Bob Brighton, NewsNow, more live coverage at the White House after this break.”
The red light went steady, then flickered out. Bob’s head began to pound. He was one, maybe two interviews away from being fired.
Sal lay face up on a creeper cart under the Rogue-mobile, peering into the open cavity of the engine. The cameraman had to prop himself up on a metal toolbox to position himself over the engine to get a bird’s eye view of Sal. Perfect, he thought as a drop of oil fell on Sal’s face and ran down his cheek, like a black teardrop.
Danny leaned over the front quarter panel. “Sal, whatcha doin’ now?”
“I’m dropping the crank shaft. We decided to not pull the engine. This will be just as good, and will save precious time.”
“Okay.” Danny replied, then he spoke in a low tone into his microphone as if he was announcing at a golf match. “Car repair expert, Sal Salazar, is about to drop the crankshaft from the Rogue-mobile. If you remember from when we were speaking with Sal about his repair plans earlier, Sal needs to drop the crankshaft and repair it because it was scored when bullets hit the oil pan, draining out all the oil, exposing metal to metal, gnawing away the very heart of the engine as the valiant vehicle ground its way along trying to save its master from falling into the clutches of a government unable to contain its greed for power.”
Another face loomed next to Danny’s. It was the guy Danny had originally trained to answer the phone.
“Hey, Sal, I’m fried. I’m heading out.”
Danny looked to the cameraman. He had warned him to be careful with camera angles to hide the fact that they were now down to a skeleton crew. If this guy left they were in trouble. Ratings were dropping off, and the boss was calling every fifteen minutes telling him to pick things up.
“Hey, man. You can’t just walk out. We have a job to do.”
“Sal. Forget about it,” the guy said. “There’s no way you’re gonna get the air scoop, so don’t worry about the freaking crank shaft.”
“Hey, man. That’s no way to talk,” said Sal, peering around the flywheel. “You know what the problem with you is? You got no faith. Where would I be right now if my daddy said that back in Mexico? No negative talk. We hope, and we pray for a miracle.”
“Sorry, man. I’m outta here.”
“No, don’t say sorry. Just keep working. God helps those who help themselves.”
The guy just shook his head no, and walked out.
Sal’s head dropped down onto the creeper’s head cushion. He took in a resolving breath, reached up with his wrench. Then, even that was too much effort. His arm dropped down, still holding the wrench as it clanged against the concrete floor.
The office phone rang and too late Danny realized his mistake of not training a replacement for the phone guy. If that was NewsNow, he was fired. A woman dashed into the office to answer it. Danny clenched his teeth and uttered a silent curse. He was about to motion the cameraman to cut to commercial when the woman’s voice shouted in excitement.
“Hey Sal!” she screamed excitedly into the garage bay. “Some guy named Jimbo says he’s over the Gulf of Mexico flying in an exact replica of the air scoop!”
A collective gasp from the few remaining volunteers filled the garage. Even Danny held his breath in surprise. Sal rolled out from under the car, sat up and looked around at his scant crew.
“It’s,” his lip trembled, “the miracle. The sign we’ve been looking for.” Sal crossed himself. He stood up and faced the camera. “God bless,” he choked, “God bless America.”
A hush fell over the nation as millions watched the small cadre as they circled around the car and bowed their heads in prayer. Danny didn’t say a word. He grinned and motioned to the cameraman to slowly pan across the enraptured faces of the crew. Tears, grease, and oil mixed together on their faces as the crew silently thanked the heavens for saving them.
Miracles really do happen. It was enough to make Danny think about going back to church.
Ty rolled the truck onto the gravel parking lot of a small diner. Mad Maggie’s, the half-lit red neon sign declared.
Akira grimaced. “Do we always have to eat at greasy spoons?”
“What are you calling greasy? This is real American food. It’s home-made. Not like the pre-processed, over-marketed stuff you have tried to feed me in the past.”
He chuckled and made a wry smile as lifted her down from the truck. He held the diner’s door open for her. He always enjoyed playing the gentleman to her, especially since he knew she’d so seldom had the chance to play the lady’s role.
“Ahhhhh,” Ty exhaled as they slipped into a grey and red vinyl upholstered booth. “My kind of place.” He pulled two menus from a wire rack next to a Rock-o-la juke box console. “Chitlins, collards, okra, sweet potatoes. Man, oh man!”
“You do know what chitlins really are, don’t you?”
“Yeah, it’s all the good stuff left over after they make sausage.”
The waitress took their order. Thankfully, she didn’t recognize them, and Ty seemed tired of drawing out his usual fanfare. The waitress clipped their order to a wheel, and spun it around for the cook to see.
“Hey, Pops,” Sal enthused. “How are you?”
His father hobbled into the shop, bending over his cane, his free hand holding a wrapped sandwich. He held the sandwich out for Sal. He must have figured Sal was too busy for lunch when he didn’t come back to the house at his regular time.
The deep folds of the old man’s wrinkled face made shaving almost impossible. Grey stubble sprouted in furrows like some alien food crop. His clear black eyes scanned the unexpected crowd.
“Everyone, this is my Dad.”
The camera swung around to show the old man enter work space. Sal wrapped his warm arms around the hunched shoulders. The brown face smiled awkwardly for the camera.
“Please excuse my father. He speaks good English, but he’s nervous in front of so many people. My dad, he built this shop, every single brick.”
Sal waved to the uneven concrete block walls, and sagging roof.
“I am so proud of him, and of our beautiful country.”
“Dees why I come to America,” the old man faltered. “To build life for my family. My son, he is making me very proud. And I am very proud to be in America.”
“Are you an American citizen now, Mr. Salizar?” Danny held his microphone ready for the answer.
“No. I am too old to change. But in my heart, yes I am American.”
“My mother was a citizen,” Sal boasted.
The old man’s face blanched, and his gaze dropped to the ground. “Sal,” his father’s voice dropped to a whisper. His watery eyes darted left and right, searching for words. “…your mother. She…she was not a citizen.”
“But, I thought…” Sal’s heart dipped in shock.
“I had a green card. But your mother…no. I tried, but there was no time. You were about to be born, I had to do something. I had to make you American. Anything to make you an American. So, I brought her here, brought you here in her belly.”
Sal’s face dropped. He hung his head. He couldn’t look at his father. He thought about the millions of people watching him. American people.
“What could I give you, my son? In Mexico I had nothing. To be an American was the most beautiful gift I could ever give to you. I would do anything to give that to you, my beautiful, beautiful son.”
Sal felt ashamed. All over America people had been watching him work, watching him give his time and effort to fix this famous car. He’d sweated over this car for hours, begged friends and acquaintances and even strangers for help. He’d risked his life and his dad’s business for this car. This cause. He did it for America because he was American. Because being an American wasn’t just a state of being, it was a gift.
“But Pops, you’re saying she was an…”
Illegal. He couldn’t say it. Illegal alien. His father had brought her in illegally. God!
The camera zoomed in as Sal’s father put his trembling arms around his son. “Never mind your mother. She’s resting in Heaven with God. And you are an Am…er…i…can. A real American. No one can take that from you.”
Tears streamed down Sal’s face as he hugged his father.
“Now, Sal,” said the old man. “You must pay back the debt I owe to America. You must give back the car to Señor Yates. This is America. It must be saved. At all cost.”
Sal glanced at his watch. “Oh no. I almost forgot. Jimbo. He’s landing in fifteen minutes. Come on, everyone. Into my van.”
“Eat your sandwich,” Sal’s father called after him.
As Sal darted off, he waved the wrapped sandwich at his father and smiled.
With a hearty sigh of satisfaction, Ty pushed back his empty plate. “Let’s think about this. Delaware and Pennsylvania quickly ratified. But then things stalled in Massachusetts, Virginia, and especially in New York.”
“Yeah, thanks to your ancestor, Robert Yates. Using the penname Brutus, he started a media blitz against it.”
“He was one of many antis. Centinel, Federal Farmer, A Columbian Patriot, and many other antis joined him. Over fifty in all. The antis far outnumbered the federalists. In fact, the only significant federalist was Publius, a.k.a. Hamilton, Madison and Jay. You know, it’s funny. The works of Publius are known as the Federalist Papers. It is revered as a great American document and taught in every law school in America. It is even cited in decisions by the Supreme Court. But there is no Anti-federalist Papers, even though there is plenty of material to draw from. Makes you wonder why. Looks like Hank’s Brothers have been busy for a long while.”
Akira’s jaw dropped as she stared at a silent TV. “Ty….” She pointed to the image of Hank on the screen. Hank sat facing the audience, the camera back just far enough to clearly show his prosthetic legs. “Turn up the sound.”
“Thank you for joining us Mr. Lloyd,” the host said.
“Please, call me Hank. And thank you very much for having me.”
“Before we get started, I understand you’re a war hero.”
“Every soldier who has served America is a hero. I’m just one of them.”
“You’re being too modest. I understand you got those,” the host pointed to Hanks legs, “while leading a rather successful charge over an embankment held by the enemy.”
Hank merely smiled and nodded.
“Is it true you were also a black ops specialist working for the CIA?”
“If that were true, then I would not be free to say so.”
“I’ll take that as a yes. I also understand that you are an historian doing research on the creation of the US Constitution.”
“Yes, I am. I’m very concerned about the claims from Mercy Warren and Senator Tyler Yates that my ancestor, Alexander Hamilton, along with James Madison and various others were members of a conspiracy that used trickery and deceit to push through a version of the Constitution that no one wanted.”
“Is that why you confronted Ty and Akira at the barn?”
“Confrontation was hardly the reason for the research I was doing. I still view Senator Yates and Ms. Madison as expert historians on the Constitution, colleagues, if you will, on the ever-lasting road to truth. In fact, I had discovered from Ms. Madison that she and Senator Yates had located a very important document in a barn once owned by Ms. Madison’s family. This document, she claimed, was a letter, written by James Madison outlining some previously unknown history. I, of course, was immediately drawn by such an important discovery. I was in the process of joining him when Senator Yates so ruthlessly attached me.”
“Forgive me for asking, but if that were true, why were you trespassing on private property?”
“Please, let me apologize to Mr. Adamson, the present owner of the barn. I had rather foolishly assumed that if Ms. Madison and Senator Yates were inside, that they had secured permission to do so. I was merely attempting to join them in a rather historic moment.”
“So you agree with Ty that the Constitution is a fraud.”
“Oh, heavens, no. As does Ms. Madison, I disagree with Senator Yates’ point of view in this area of history. I do believe that healthy argument is the corner stone of good historical research and good citizenship. However, to be attacked in such an unprofessi…”
The TV went silent.
“Ty, why did you turn it off? I was listening.”
“Well, I am not. I don’t listen to lies.”
“Ty, if you listened carefully, every statement he made was true.”
“He didn’t know we were inside.”
“He said ‘if’ we were inside.”
“Oh, with word-smithing like that you are destined for public service, aren’t you?”
“The best there is. As good as you are with your wrestler’s tights and exploding desks that you traumatize the nation with. We’re both identical opposites, just like Brutus and Publius, our ancestors.”
“That’s it! Gimme the phone.” He froze. “Whoa, stop.” He took a deep breath. “Please give the telephonic communication device to me.”
She smiled. “Thank you for asking properly,” and handed him the phone. “Ty, what are you doing?”
“Brutus was the pen name for Robert Yates as he debated with Publius, a.k.a Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Then Mercy Otis Warren joined Brutus writing as A Columbian Patriot. The nation’s newspapers were alive with the Great Debate as they and a bunch of others, mostly anti-federalists, battled for the hearts and minds of America.” Ty thumbed the phone.
Ty Yates @DrRogue
@HankLloyd you have the right to be wrong, but, that doesn’t make you right. Way too much power concentrated in central government.
He showed it to Akira.
“Oh, no. I am not letting this go unanswered.” She took the phone and tapped her reply.
Akira Madison @Akirapoodle
@DrRogue The states are closer to the people, a little too close. Each state is controlled by what is important to them. Each state has its special interest groups.
“There,” she replied, handing the phone back to Ty, daring him to respond.
He read the message, shook his head no, and tapped his reply.
Ty Yates @DrRogue
What special interest groups?
She made a face as if to say “da.”
Akira Madison @Akirapoodle
Texas has its oil faction, Massachusetts has its high tech.
Ty snorted and tapped his reply.
Ty Yates @DrRogue
Washington is the one riff with special interest lobbyists, not the states.
Akira Madison @Akirapoodle
That’s exactly the point. Broaden the sphere & factions blur and merge. There are so many they lose their individual power.
Akira started to hand the phone back to Ty, then halted in surprise.
Hank Lloyd @HankLloyd
The Constitution uses the greed and avarice of each individual faction to control those very same factions in ways that state governments cannot.
Akira Madison @Akirapoodle
Hank is right. For example, what happened on December 1, 1955 in Alabama?
Ty Yates @DrRogue
It was the day Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to sit in the back of the bus.
Akira Madison @Akirapoodle
Right. One big faction was telling a small faction what to do. It took the federal government to fix that, not the states.
Mercy Warren @Warren4pres
But that means giving up personal freedom. In American history nearly 1.5 million brave men and women gave their lives to protect that freedom
Ty Yates @DrRogue
Right on, Mercy. Freedom is beyond any earthly measure. It is the only thing worth that sacrifice.
Mercy Warren @Warren4pres
Then why would we give up any of that freedom? But that is what we do every day. We let the federal government tell us what to think and how to act.
Akira Madison @Akirapoodle
Liberty is not the right to do anything you want regardless of the consequences to others. It is not the freedom to do wrong.
Ty Yates @DrRogue
If the constitution would let them, the good people of America would elect good people to office.
Akira Madison @Akirapoodle
James Madison said “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” You can’t elect good people and expect them to stay good.
Hank Lloyd @HankLloyd
Power is alluring and corrupting. The Constitution uses the greed for power to control that power. Congress’s love of power controls the President, and vice-versa.
Akira Madison @Akirapoodle
People complain about Washington bickering. Democracy isn’t easy. It is the messiest form of government known to mankind.
The pudgy NewsNow pit boss watched as his pundits brought up the tweets, desperate for anything to go against the grease monkey that 24/7NewShow zit popper. Where had he seen that kid before? He looked familiar. Why couldn’t he get people like that to work for him? Oh, well, at least he had Ty keeping the tweet feed going. If he could only get rid of this Hank guy. Smart but really irritating.
“What’s she saying now?” the boss asked the tech, pointing to the image of Warren.
“She’s saying that it is the civic virtue of the American people themselves that we need to let control their own destiny.”
“Oh.” He glanced at the clock. He’d give this another minute, then switch back to Lafayette Park. Maybe a fist fight would break out. He pushed his wet stogie back into his mouth. He leaned over to Dave sitting next to him. “Good thing they didn’t have those same arguments back then or the nation would have died of boredom.”
Dave went to correct him, then stopped and posted the next tweet.
To the People of the State of New York: AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it.
-Publius (James Madison) November 22, 1787
Ty tapped Akira’s elbow and pointed to a TV visible over her shoulder. It displayed an image of fuzzy dice bouncing beneath a cracked rear view mirror. Outside the windshield, the TV view showed a small municipal airstrip just coming into view.
“All right! There it is!” Danny’s voice announced.
The camera bounced and jostled as the vehicle zoomed along an access road parallel to the runway.
Danny continued in a low voice, dripping with melodramatic charisma and veiled emotion. “Stand by folks, you don’t want to miss this. On approach to this tiny, undisclosed airstrip is the jet that is bringing in the last and very critical piece of the Rogue-mobile. It is le pièce de résistance. The desperately needed air-scoop. The only one in existence anywhere on the globe.”
Ty gasped. Akria glanced at him and smiled. His eyes were wide and they glistened with unshed tears.
The TV image spun around to focus on a tiny dot in the sky. The dot grew, the wings and tail becoming clear.
“The small jet has come all the way from Columbia for this historic journey. One pilot, one lone patriot, a brave man named Jimbo, is taking a desperate trek home from over the seas with an exact replica air-scoop that will give a much needed boost to Sal Salizar and his hardworking crew. A miracle, Sal called it and I think we can all agree that this amazing scene was meant to be. We are watching as the very destiny of America unfolds before us.”
Ty touched Akria’s arm. “See…” he whispered to her.
The van, pulling onto a grassy area next to the runway, gave the camera a perfect shot of the landing gear dropping. Puffs of smoke burned from the tires as they contacted the runway.
When the van pulled alongside the jet, Jimbo was just dropping the door that formed the short stairs to the ground.
“Sal?” he called to the guy hopping out from behind the wheel of a van.
“Hey, bro! Nice to meet you. You da man!”
The two total strangers, joined only by their common love of country, embraced. Sal looked lost in the massive arms of the far larger man.
“No, Jimbo. You’re our hero, man. Without you, well, we’d have nothing.”
“Hey, we all need each other. Ain’t that the truth!”
The small audience in Mad Maggie’s cheered.
Then, like a sudden black raincloud on a pristine sunny day, out from a nearby hanger popped a dozen federal DEA agents, wearing flak vests and brandishing M16s.
“James Bradley Osgood Wilson?”
“Yeah, sure,” Jimbo shrugged.
“You are under arrest for …”
The collective groan in Mad Maggie’s muffled the arresting officer’s words. Ty whimpered and Akira squeezed his hand.
The camera zoomed in on Sal, his face had collapsed.
Danny’s low voice could be heard over the commotion of arresting Jimbo.
“This is obviously a crushing blow to Sal. He’s just learned that his dearly departed mother was not a legal citizen. As he left the auto repair shop his father charged him to repay to America the debt owed by his father’s actions. The debt Sal’s father owed for his gift to his son, the gift of freedom and life as an American citizen. Just at the moment of triumph everything has slipped through Sal’s fingers.”
Sal did indeed look as if his every dream was shattering. Federal agents entered the small jet. When they came out, the camera caught a glint of sunlight sparkling from a brilliant chrome object.
Ty rose to his feet. “No way,” he hissed.
It was his air scoop. Or a perfect replica, and the agents were carrying it away. Akira’s hands clenched in anger. She didn’t think the car was stupid any more. It really was a symbol for something greater.
Then the view spun for a perfect shot of the hand cuffs as they were about to be slapped on Jimbo’s wrists. Then it swept back to Sal’s face, wracked in the agony of defeat. The camera jostled as the agents struggled with the resistant Jimbo, who shuddered and swung his body around as if he could shake them off like flies.
Then the camera steadied, and quietly swept over to a lone agent as he discreetly walked up to Sal and put the scoop in his arms. The camera moved in for a close up.
“Get out of here,” the agent’s whispered voice echoed through the restaurant, “before they notice. I’ll cover for you. Go.”
Sal, his face a mask of pure shock, carefully walked back to the old van. No one noticed as he slowly placed his precious cargo into the back. Just him, Jimbo, and fifteen million other Americans. To draw attention from Sal, Jimbo increased his struggles against the agents, throwing himself onto the ground and screaming in agony like a European soccer player. The agents hefted him up and managed to clamp the cuffs on him behind his back.
The restaurant broke into cheers when America’s crown jewel was carefully covered with a colorfully-striped Mexican blanket.
Sal stepped to the driver’s door and looked up to Jimbo. Hands clamped behind his back, Jimbo winked and nodded for him to go as the DEA agents pushed him into a black SUV with federal plates.
“You can stop me, but you can’t stop Ameri-” Jimbo’s thundering voice was cut off as the SUV door slammed shut.
“That’s it!” a man sitting at the counter of Mad Maggie’s fumed. He threw his napkin down and stormed to the door.
“Where ya headed?” Ty asked.
“The White House.”
“Me too,” another guy snarled. A line formed at the door as the restaurant emptied out.
“Yeah,” Ty whispered. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about.”
Akira scanned the empty restaurant. “Well, no one can say Americans are apathetic anymore.”
“As Jefferson said ‘All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent’. They’re not silent anymore.”
“Ty, Jefferson never said that.” She took a bite of her food. “Now what do we do?”
“Find out what’s in the missing letter.”
“The letter’s not missing. Hank has it.”
“And it must be a doozy if the IVI went to all the trouble to set us up for a decoy. If we trace the history of the Constitution we should be able to figure out what the letter said and find the missing piece of the puzzle.”
Akira nodded. “Man, these chittlens are good.”
“Don’t forget what they are.”
“Oh, yeah.” Akira’s face wrinkled as she put down her fork.
Danny and his cameraman circled the cadre as they stood in awe over their re-creation. The new paint gleamed, its mural of stars and stripes wafted around the empty hole in the hood. The air-intake glimmered and sparkled on the old wooden workbench next to the car.
Sal took a deep breath and made a sign of the cross on his chest. His hands trembled as he picked up the blessed miracle. With the solemn steps of a priest about to perform a holy office, he approached the car. Millions of households heard the satisfying thunk as the perfectly matched intake dropped into place.
Sal held out his hand like a surgeon awaiting sutures that would close the patient’s last wound. A set of four bolts were pressed into his sweaty palm. A moment later the rattling click, click, click of his socket wrench rang throughout the nation. One bolt, then two. After the third he paused to breathe and wipe his sleeve over his brow. The camera zoomed in as the socket engaged the last bolt. Zip, zip went the ratchet, then a barely audible squeak as the bolt seated home.
Sal lifted the wrench and hung poised over the hood as if he expected the air scoop to attempt to escape. He looked up into the camera.
“Yeah!” the room chorused.
“Whose got champagne?”
“How about a can of Sam Adams?” One of the older Rogue-Rats shook up a can, and pointed it at Sal.
Sal didn’t even reach to cover his eyes. He beamed in victory as the foam dripped down his face.
“This is the glory of America!” Danny announced into his microphone. “We will never forget this day!”
Sal slid into the driver’s seat, palms sweating that he, Sal Salizar, was about to take control of the Icon of America. He watched his hand in detached amazement as it put the key into the ignition. The key turned.
The pit of his stomach dropped. He had failed.
Then he realized he hadn’t pushed in the clutch. Another turn and the Rogue-mobile roared to life. The smooth rumble of the engine rose to a deafening thunder as he pressed the accelerator down. Everyone covered their ears when the air-trumpets blasted the Stars and Stripes Forever.
As soon as the din of the tune faded, Danny thrust the microphone inside the car.
“How does it feel, Sal? Tell the nation how it feels to be the hero who saved America’s most famous car from the junk pile.”
“I…uhhh…it feels good. I mean great. I’m not a hero. I only..I….have a lot of people to thank…”
Danny saw wide-eyed fear growing in Sal’s eyes as he stumbled for words. He took back the microphone.
“Sal is a genuine all-American guy. He doesn’t want to take personal credit, he wants to thank everyone who helped make this miracle happen.”
Danny moved away from the car and the camera followed him. “The thick sense of victory has touched every single person in this room. To my left is the spray artist, the very same one who did the original stars and stripes, cleaning his just emptied air brush, smiling with the sweetness of the satisfaction of a job well done.” The camera zoomed in on the face of the man as he nonchalantly filled his gun with thinner. “To my right, the mechanic who hands skillfully lathed the scored crank shaft and replaced it in record time, grinning at the sound of smooth perfection as the engine his artistry restored revs up with newfound life. Here in front of the car is the woman whose hands sewed every stitch of bullet-ridden upholstery with new glory. Everyone here contributed. Each and every one a true patriot.”
“Hey Sal,” said one of the workers. “You gotta go, man. The legislatures are voting. Ty’s waiting…”
“You’re right. I gotta get it back to him, right away.” Sal gunned the engine as the big garage door swung up.
“Yeah!” roared the collective crowd.
“There it is, folks!” crooned Danny. “That is the awesome machine that came in here looking like a rusted hulk, not even decent enough for a demolition derby. And there it goes, proudly, back out onto the open road. Back to its waiting owner. Back into the fight to save America.”
The massive car zoomed out of sight into the night. The cameraman switched off the camera as soon as the Mustang’s red lights disappeared from view.
“That’s a wrap,” said the cameraman.
“What?” exclaimed Danny. “Why’d you turn the camera off? We need to keep up the live feed!”
“What for? He’s gone. They’re closing down the garage.”
“Crap!” screeched Danny. “Where’d he go?” he shouted at the exhausted people as they packed up their own cars to leave.
“Dunno. Wherever Ty is at, I guess.”
“I dunno. Sal was talking to him a bit ago. Something about Ty holing up for the night somewhere and meeting in the morning.”
Danny asked several more people, but his questions were met with shrugs and yawns.
“I am so tired,” yawned one of the sleep-deprived Rogue-Rats.
“I am so fired,” said Danny.
The cameraman nodded. “Yes you are.”
“You are too, you idiot. Man, we’re both idiots.”
The cameraman gulped.
They stood in the front lot of the garage as the last of the helpers drove away. One by one the long, fluorescent lights blinked out. Mr. Salazar exited through the small office door. He turned the key in the lock.
“Hey, Mr. Salazar. You must be very proud of your son.”
“Yes, I surely am.”
“Uh…would you happen to have his cell phone number? I’d like to keep in touch with him.”
“I don’t know about these cell phones. I can’t figure out how to work them. My son, he takes care of these things. But it won’t do you any good anyway.”
“Because he left his phone in his pickup truck. The truck he leant to Señor Ty.”
Whoa, thought Danny. A direct line to Ty Yates?
“Are you sure you don’t have any way to get his number, sir?”
The cameraman’s face sank
“That’s fine. Thank you, sir. Goodnight.”
“Well, I’m going to head out,” the cameraman spoke.
“Yeah, I guess we’re both fired. Leave the camera. I’ll bring it back and let the boss chew me out.”
“Thanks, Danny. I’ll see ya around. Who knows where.”
Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government; and it is equally undeniable that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers.
-Publius (John Jay) November 1787
Danny sank down on the worn bench outside the garage office. He’d been up for over two days, and he was fired. Again. He put his head in his hands and sighed aloud. He was sooo dead. There was no way he’d get to college now.
The phone inside the garage rang. For the last two days he had tightly managed the phone, assigning a person around the clock to coordinate offers of help, and block other news requests to talk to Sal. It had been one of the most sought out connections in America. My, how that had changed.
Now, no one cared. The phone just rang and rang. No one was there to answer it. It was as worthless as yesterday’s news. In this case, as worthless as last ten minutes’ news. As worthless as Danny was now. He picked up the camera and trudged toward his car. Finally, the answering machine picked up.
“You’ve reached Sal’s Garage. If it’s after hours, you can reach me on my cell phone number at…”
Danny scrambled back to listen, looking for paper and pen, repeating the series of numbers to himself as he wrote them in the dirt at his feet. As he stored the numbers into his own cell phone it rang. Danny hit a button to take the call.
“What the hell did you just do? Are you some kind of an imbecile or something?” As his boss’s voice barked angry insults, Danny closed the phone without speaking. The only way to ensure that he’d still have a job was to find Ty.
“Don’t know where I’m going…” said Danny as he punched the speed dial for the phone in Sal’s truck, “but I better get there fast.”
A three tone peep followed by “The number you have dialed is no longer in service.” Danny’s hopes sank. Then a few more clicks, pops, and then “Hallo, who being you calling?” in heavily accented Russian English.
“Yes, Mr. Chairman,” Jake Wesley said answering his phone.
“That outrageous vehicle must be stopped, by any means.”
“Yes, sir. What do you recommend?”
“Make it disappear. Permanently.”
“May I suggest sir, a slightly less blunt method?” The silence on the phone indicated permission to proceed. “Perhaps a series of complaints about a noisy car, a possibly stolen car, to a local sheriff might be sufficient.”
“Are you tracking the location of the automobile?”
“Yes, one of the repair volunteers was an agent. He planted a bug.”
“Well done, Mr. Director. Proceed.”
Sharp rays of orange sunlight bolted Akira awake. Holding out her hand to block the painful glare, she slowly sat up from her half folded position against the Chevy’s walls, trying to avoid the creaks and strains that had set into her back. She looked at Ty, still asleep, emitting raucous waves of snoring. God, she must have been exhausted to have been able to sleep through that. She looked around, seeing the half circle of sun rising from the watery horizon. Waves gently lapped at the reeds that lined the myriad shallow channels that formed the muddy shoreline.
Must be the Carolinas, Akira thought. A distance away, a shack, weathered nearly to black, sat on short stilts. Akira rubbed her eyes, trying to focus on small mounds around the shack, then realized they were heaps of oyster shells. She slowly turned to look out her passenger window.
Inches from her nose, the twin barrels of a shotgun pointed at her.
Instantly Ty was awake and scrambled to sit upright.
Behind the shotgun stood a wrinkled old woman. A blue bandana tucked in her grey hair. Sunglasses, meant for a normal sized person, covered half of her face. Her black pruned skin glistened in the morning light.
“Wha’s you two doing in da’ah?” she questioned. As she spoke, her rattling voice whistled through gaps in her teeth.
“Hold on there, ma’am,” Ty apologized. “We ain’t doin’ nothin’. Just trying to get ourselves some shut eye.”
“Come ou’ here,” she commanded. As she motioned with her gun her arthritic hands struggled to keep their hold.
Akira opened the door and slid out. Ty followed, holding up his hands.
As they stood, an old gray mongrel came up and started sniffing, first Akira, then Ty.
“You watch you’selfs, ya hear, or if I don’ shoot you, then Bauby here’ll run ya down.”
Bauby gave a little whine, and licked Ty’s hand.
“Move,” she ordered, pointing toward the shack.
As they walked the short distance, Akira noticed there were no wires leading to the house. On the land side of the house was a rusty oil tank with the word “kerosene” scrawled in faded red paint.
The inside of the house had no plaster, and no paint, just bare wood everywhere. A few glass oil lamps hung on the walls, their permanence indicated by smudges of black soot that stained the walls and ceiling above them. Dusty spider webs on them indicated they hadn’t been used in a long while. Wooden storm shutters cut off most of the light, leaving the interior dark. The only decorations in the house sat on a narrow mantle over a brick fireplace. On the left was a picture of James Madison. In the middle sat a yellowing American flag, folded into a tight triangle. On the right was propped the Life Style section of a Sunday newspaper. Judging from its slump it was only a couple of years old. It showed a picture of the woman with some sort of politician. The headline read “Auntie Mae turns 100.”
“Sit,” she ordered, pointing toward the ancient ruins of an old sofa.
The decrepit couch groaned and squawked as they sat. Several layers of old tasseled throws were their only protection from the springs below them.
The woman’s opaque sunglasses remained in place as she leaned the gun against the wall and walked to an ancient wood stove. Ty stood and moved to the gun.
“Don’ you fret none,” the old woman advised without turning around from her work at the stove, “it ain’ loaded.”
Ty sat back down on the couch, putting his hands behind his neck and smirking in appreciation of the performance she had just pulled off. “Ma’am?” Ty asked. “Are you blind?”
“Took ya long enough to figure t’out.” The woman opened the stove. Smokey steam wafted into the room.
Ty sat bolt upright, nose in the air, as the salty smoke smell of ham mixed with the sweet smell of biscuits filled the room. On the stove, two pots sat bubbling. A blue and white enameled coffee pot slowly rippled steam from its spout.
As she worked, the woman softly sang.
“That song,” Ty asked, “what is it?”
“My great granny taught it to me when I was a lit’le girl. She was as old then as I am now.”
“The words you were singing, I don’t recognize them.”
“They’re the old words, from before. Gullah words.”
The woman continued to work without answering. “Saw ya out there. Figured you’d be hungry so I fixed some breakfast for ya.”
“How’d you find us if you can’t see.”
“Oh I can see fine. I jus’ use my ears, that’s all.” She pointed to an old picnic table. “Sit.” The tabletop was rough and stained, but the seats were burnished to a high polish from thousands of sittings. “My grandson, Roy, he takes good care’n me. Comes by every few days. He’s getting on now, but he still has his-self some hogs. Jus’ finished some hams. The family never could agree if a ham should be smoked or salted. We compromised, a little of bot’. You jus’ in time.”
Ty’s eyes gleamed “By the way, I’m Ty, and this here is Akira.”
“I’s Hany, Hany Mae. But folks around here call me Auntie Mae.” She pulled three chipped plates from a tiny hutch. On each she placed a slab of ham, three biscuits, and a pile of grits. Over the whole she ladled brown gravy and placed two in front of Ty and Akira. A moment later she placed two cups of syrup thick boiled coffee on the table. The handles on both cups were missing.
Akira stared at the monstrous portions of food before her, worrying that her hostess would be offended when she ate only a tiny portion. She tentatively took a forkful of grits dripping with gravy, and blew on it until it stopped steaming.
“Oh, man,” Akira said as the grits melted on her tongue. “This is delicious.”
Auntie Mae said nothing as she sat with her own plate.
“That flag,” Ty asked, pointing to the mantle, “your husband?”
“My Cudjoe, ‘e got ‘is-self killed in Wol War II. Da’s all I got lef’ a ‘im, ‘ceptin’ the childrens.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Ty said. “Sounds like he was a good man.”
Auntie Mae said nothing.
“You do oystering?” Ty asked, pointing to the shell piles outside.
“Some, not much anymore.”
Akira took a bite of ham. She closed her eyes, savoring the salty smoke flavors of the tender meat as she slowly chewed. When she swallowed and opened her eyes, both Auntie Mae and Ty were staring at her.
He snickered and popped a biscuit into his mouth.
“That picture of James Madison,” Akira asked, trying to regain her composure, “why do you have it?”
“It’s ‘cause of the songs, and the stories. Songs and stories. That’s how we remember the old days. We was Montpelier slaves, my people was. My great granny’s gran’ pappy, his name was Steven. He was Mr. James’ house man.”
Ty stopped chewing in mid byte. Akira put down her fork and looked to Ty.
Auntie Mae continued to eat without looking up. “Steven, he was Geechee and spoke Gullah. But, he learn’ good English after Buckram Madison bought him.”
“Who was Buckram Madison?” Akira asked.
“Buckram; i’ means white land owner, Mr. Madison, Sr. After the war and my great granny was freed, she moved back with her people here.” She slowly chewed her food. “They was talkin’ about you on the radio yesa’day.”
“Looks like you got yourselves into a real pickle.”
“Wha’ you going t’ do to get yourselves out?”
“To tell you the truth, we’re trying to figure that one out.”
“They was talkin’ about when my Steven and Mr. James, they was in New York and Mr. James was writin’ for the newspaper.”
“Yes,” Akira agreed, “when Publius wrote the Federalist papers.”
Auntie Mae looked confused. “I couldn’t tell ya. Alls I knows is wha’s in the stories. Well, after that, my Steven took Mr. James back to Richmond where Mr. James got into a real tussle with a man with two first names, and no family name.”
Akira stitched her brows trying to understand the strange comment.
“Patrick Henry,” Ty filled in.
“Could be.” Auntie Mae scooped up a biscuit full of gravy. “The stories don’ say. Steven, he thought Mr. James was goin’ t’ lose. Problem was Mr. James thought he had all the answers. Tha’ he was the smartest person there was. Tha’ he was right and they was wrong. Well, he was still pretty young and hadn’ learnt that being smart don’t make you right.”
“So he softened his approach and gave in to some of Patrick Henry’s demands,” Akira mumbled around a mouthful of biscuit.
Auntie Mae blew on her coffee and took a sip. “Mr. James, ‘e unraveled his mout’ to much. I reckon my Steven finally got through to Mr. James so as he figured he’d do a lit’le less talkin’ and a lit’le more listenin’.”
Chewing on another biscuit, Akira pointed with her fork. “And that’s why James compromised with Patrick Henry and wrote the Bill of Rights, all thirty nine amendments, and got ten of them through.”
“Winning Virginia,” Ty agreed, “and got the Constitution ratified.”
“Took him awhile.” Akira burped. “Oh, excuse me!” she said, her face flushed in embarrassment. She looked for a napkin.
Ty laughed when she gave up and daubed the corners of her mouth with her finger tip. “New Hampshire beat him to it by four days and became the ninth state to ratify making the Constitution official.”
“Yep, my Steven, he done good. Without him, well Mr. James woulda been lost.”
“And maybe,” Ty added, “without him we wouldn’t have our Bill of Rights. You’re right, ma’am. Your Steven done real good.”
Auntie Mae stood and reached for Akira’s plate. To Akira’s astonishment, it was empty.
The holding cell door clanged shut. Sal had failed for real, this time. Arrested for illegal tailpipes. It was funny when Ty did it, getting a ticket and showing it off on TV. Cops couldn’t touch him because he was a state senator. Not so funny when it happened to Sal. A nobody, even though he’d pretty much had his own live TV show for the last forty-eight hours running. But now his moment of glory was gone.
By the time he’d realized his mistake, it had been too late to turn back. Sal wished he had thought to quiet the mufflers long enough to get the Rogue-mobile to Ty. Being on TV twenty-four seven had made him stupid. Not to mention the shake-up over his mother’s, well, situation.
He’d stuck to back roads to avoid being noticed. As the early sun rose, so did Sal’s hopes of getting to Ty without being stopped. But this small town sheriff wasn’t in his plans. Mexican-looking guy in a fancy gringo car. Registration that didn’t match his license. Under age for drinking and his hair smelling of stale beer. Even without the illegal auto accessories he was toast.
So was the dream to save America.
Sal pleaded with the sheriff, but the guy said he didn’t watch TV and didn’t know about any Rogue-mobile. Who doesn’t watch TV in America?
Sal blew air into his cheeks as the sheriff walked away. It might be a day or two before he could make it out. He was offered one phone call, but he didn’t know who to call. He couldn’t call his father. The news that his son was in jail, even for a minor offense would kill him. He didn’t want to call Ty and disappoint the guy. He kind of wished he’d gotten the cell phone of that Danny kid. He seemed like the sort of guy who could solve all kinds of tricky problems.
Sal glanced around the meager cell. On the only cot in the cell lay a drunk. Thick white side burns faded to a three-day stubble. Beneath the thick plumes of his eyebrows, his watery eyes popped open. He looked at Sal and smiled.
“Good morning to you, my son,” the drunk intoned, sounding like a priest. He sat up and looked to the empty hallway. “I’m going to sue you for false arrest, Sheriff.”
“I’d have to arrest you first, Al,” the Sheriff called back.
Then the old man’s wiry frame convulsed in a series of bone rattling coughs. On wobbly legs, he walked to the toilet, and heaved up a dark wad of mucus.
“Hey, Bob, where are my cigarettes?”
“On my desk, like always.”
The decrepit man staggered to the iron bar door. Without hesitation he pulled it open and disappeared around the corner. A moment later he returned and shut the door.
“He never locks it,” answering Sal’s amazed look, “too much work.”
He pounded the cellophane cigarette package against his hand, then offered it to Sal. Sal waved no.
“Suit yourself.” He lit one up, and settled back down on the bare blue-striped mattress. Only then did Sal notice the multiple burn craters scattered across its surface, some looking years old.
“You a regular here?” Sal asked.
“My home away from home. If I had a home.” The old eyes studied Sal through curls of smoke. His trembling fingertips were charred leathery black, no longer feeling the painful burn as they flitted and danced with the glowing cigarette ember. “Allan Parks,” he said at last, extending his hand. “Pastor Allan Parks, at the Lord’s service, and yours, my son.”
“Pastor? Like with a church and everything?” Sal questioned, shaking the skeletal hand.
“You betcha. Five hundred sheep in my flock. Television and radio every Sunday.”
“Really. How come I never heard of you?”
“That was a few years ago. The Lord works in mysterious ways. No telling what he has in store for us in this world or the next. What’s your name, son?”
“Salizar, Salizar. Why does that name sound familiar?” A wizened stare bore into Sal. “Yeah. You’re the guy fixing that famous car. I saw you on TV last night when I was at the barroo – I mean, when I was preaching to the multitudes.”
“You’re famous. Whatcha doing in jail here in this backwater town?”
“I was driving the Rogue-mobile back to Ty Yates when the Sheriff stopped me for illegal tailpipes.”
“No kidding. Imagine that.” The old man slowly consumed his cigarette, watching Sal as he paced the tiny cell, nervous from the penetrating gaze. Finally the cigarette was finished, and Pastor Parks stood.
“Hey, Bob. Why’d you stop this guy? He was just trying to do some good. He’s the guy fixing the car for that Ty Bates guy.”
The Sheriff’s only reply was a long snore.
“It’s the Lord’s will, Sal,” Pastor Parks whispered, putting a finger to his lips. He swung open the door. “After you.”
“But, I, I can’t just leave. I’m under arrest.”
“Oh, please. Bob hasn’t actually arrested anyone in years. Too much paperwork.” He swept his arm to the hall, inviting Sal to freedom. Sal cautiously dipped a toe into the hall, and Pastor Parks boldly stepped by him. “I knew the Lord was waiting to use me for something special. This must be my next purpose.”
The two quietly tip-toed down the hall to Sheriff Bob’s office.
“Snaaaah,” the big man snored.
Pastor Parks raised a finger to his lips and quietly turned on the dusty old radio to mask any sounds they made.
"- now estimated at over fifty thousand and growing..."
"- Marines preparing water cannons and tear gas if the crowd should attempt to storm the White..."
In the office, the sheriff’s chin was firmly planted on his chest, his booted feet inches from the Mustang keys that sat on the desktop.
“-president staunchly refuses to leave the White House.”
Al carefully lifted the keys.
Then he slowly opened the top right drawer.
"- the Marine One helicopter is standing by to evacuate the President, if the crowd were to break through the White House fencing..."
He reached for the Sheriff’s pint flask.
“Leave it, Al,” the Sheriff throated without opening his eyes. “And kid, don’t get caught again.”
Jimbo sat in his cell. He didn’t mind being arrested. It was for a cause. He just wished he knew what was happening with Sal. No TV and no one was telling him what was going on.
“C’mon,” the jailer called to Jimbo as he swung open the cell door.
“Where’m I going?”
“Out. We’re letting you go.”
The guard didn’t answer, just kept walking, leading Jimbo to a clerk’s desk. The clerk dumped out a manila envelope of Jimbo’s possessions.
“James Bradley Osgood Wilson. One cell phone,” the clerk recited from his inventory list.
“Who sprung me?” Jimbo asked the clerk.
“One watch,” the clerk continued.
“Hey,” Jimbo demanded, “who is getting me out?”
The clerk stopped and looked Jimbo in the eye.
“Look. If anyone asks, I’m not the one who told you. It’s some mucky-muck I never heard of, but he’s got a lot of connections. He pulled strings for you.”
Then Jimbo heard a sound and turned.
Jimbo beamed in gratitude at the warm smiling face of his new friend.
“Here,” Hank said, handing Jimbo the keys to his car, “you drive.”
Moments later Jimbo opened the door and slipped onto the plush leather seats of Hank’s black sedan. With his cell phone back in hand, Jimbo speed dialed Sal’s number. “Sal, it’s Jimbo. I’m out.”
“Jimbo? How did you get out?”
“A friend of mine sprung me. In fact he’s with me now. Great guy. He’s even letting me drive his car. Brand new, just a couple of hundred miles on it. Where are you?”
“Driving to meet Ty at hotel in Jersey.”
“Where abouts? I’ll meet you there.”
Jimbo repeated the directions aloud as Sal gave them to him so his new friend, Hank, could write them down.
“Yep,” Sal exclaimed on the phone, “our destiny is all clear now.”
“You got that right Bro. See you in a few.”
Everything was working out perfectly. Jimbo settled down for the plush ride.
This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.
-Publius (John Jay) November 1787
Ty sat on the concrete floor of the top level of a hotel parking garage, leisurely soaking up the last of the autumn sun. With his back propped against a concrete wall, he watched Akira pace back and forth. “What are you so worried about?”
“I’m worried because you should be. You have to be in Albany in a few hours for the ratification vote.”
“I’ve made that run a bunch of times. There’s plenty of time. Sal and Jimbo will be here in a few minutes. Just chillax, would you.” He put his head back, enjoying the warm sunshine of the cloudless day.
Then he heard it, and he sat bolt upright and smiled. The dulcet tones of the Rogue-mobile approached the garage. Then, echoing up through the concrete garage levels, tires squealing as they made the tight turns leading ever higher.
The Rogue-mobile thundered onto the top floor of the hotel parking garage and pulled up to the waiting Ty and Akira.
Ty choked back a sob and pushed away a tear. “Oh, man! Sal, she looks … incredible.” Ty did a walk around, running his hands over the perfect paint. “Give her a rev for me.”
Sal revved the engine, turning on the nitro boost. Blue flames shot from the sparkling air intake as Sal pumped the accelerator.
Ty sank to his knees. “She’s, she’s… beautiful.”
He looked to Jimbo. “The air intake… how’d you…?”
“Hey, no problemo, dude. My buddy down in Columbia donated it.”
“And lost his jet.”
“Not to worry, Dude, he’s got plenty.”
“Guys, do me a favor.” Ty stood up, ram rod straight. “Burn one for me.”
Sal’s eyes sparkled at the thought. In a long series of rippling roars the garage reverberated in a cascading cacophony. Then Sal popped the clutch. Ty breathed in the blue smoke from the tires as the Rogue-mobile slowly burned its victory circle around Ty. The circle complete, Sal and Jimbo got out, and Ty sat in the driver’s seat and hit the horn. The perfect tones of Stars and Stripes Forever shattered the air.
“How can I ever thank the two of you?”
“Hey, my buddy wants to meet you.”
“Sure, where is he?”
“At the entrance, paying the parking fee. You know, I’m kinda broke.”
“Send him on up.” Ty handed the keys to the Chevy back to Sal. “Sweet ride, man. Let’s trade off again sometime.”
“Really, you mean it.”
“You betcha.” Ty got out and gave his comrades back slaps.
Sal and Jimbo, turned and shook hands with the pucker faced Akira, and stepped to the Chevy.
“Let me hear you say Yeah!”
“Yeah!” chorused Sal and Jimbo.
“Ty, you gotta get goin’,” Sal advised. “Your vote is coming up.”
“You got it. As soon as I say hi to your friend. Thanks again, guys.”
“No problem, Ty.” Sal turned up the radio and drove away.
“That was ridiculous,” Akira complained.
“That was America,” Ty beamed.
“They were right. We have to get going. The legislature roll-call vote is in three hours.”
“Plenty of time.”
“Ty, it’s 150 miles from here to Albany.”
“Two hours, tops. Besides, I promised to say hi to Sal’s friend.”
Akira rolled her eyes “Then turn the engine off, Ty, I can’t hear a thing over that racket.”
“Racket? Are you calling the melodic tones of the Rogue-mobile a racket?”
“Yes I am. Now turn it off.”
Ty backed into an empty space and killed the engine.
Then they saw the elevator open and heard the all too familiar sound. Click-scrape, click-scrape.
“Good afternoon, Ms. Madison, Mr. Yates. So nice of you to give Mr. Salisar and Mr. Wilson’s new friend this private interview.” Hank’s silencer protruded his jacket.
“Shooting me won’t work,” Ty sneered. “It’ll raise too many questions. The legislature will just reconvene a new vote.”
“You are correct, Mr. Yates.” Hank turned his gun on Akira.
Akira’s eyes widened.
“But, don’t worry, with some degree of cooperation, I won’t need to harm either of you.”
Hank glanced at his watch, looked skyward, and then smiled as the steady thrum of an approaching helicopter became heard. Within moments a massive twin rotor helicopter bearing a Manheim Industries logo blasted the garage roof with its downdraft. Its wheels touched down, and the machine settled down. As the turbine whine slowed, the door flopped down. Out popped two massive guards.
“Hey, we know these guys,” Ty grunted. “From Jenkins’ mansion.”
They scanned the area, and then nodded to the occupant inside.
The gaunt outline of a man appeared in the doorway. Crisp pinstripe suit, gleaming shoes, perfectly pressed pants crease. He stepped forward. Around him scampered two waiters. One placed a chair in front of Ty and Akira while the other placed a silver ice bucket next to it. He pulled out a bottle of Korbel Brut, and showed it to the man. He nodded. The waiter meticulously performed the slow-motion ritual of unwrapping the foil and removing the wire. The other waiter presented a gleaming champagne flute. The cork popped with a fountain of foam.
The man sat, rotated the stem of the flute between his fingers, carefully examining the bubbles clinging to the inside of the crystal.
“I never drink un-American wines,” the man said.
“Jenkins? Is that you?”
Jenkins ignored the question. “Sparkling American wine, not French champagne, is the best way to celebrate, don’t you think?”
“What happened to the scraggly hair and tattered house-coat?”
Jenkins took a taste. “A perfect day to celebrate.” He nodded to Hank who took up a matching glass.
Jenkins raised his glass in an unspoken toast, and the two took a sip.
“I often imagine my ancestor toasting like this after the New York Convention finally ratified the Constitution. It was a massive victory, the culmination of over a decade of unceasing effort.”
“Ancestor? What ancestor?”
“What is my name?”
“Howard M. Jenkins, or more precisely, Howard Morris Jenkins?”
“Guvernur Morris’ descendant?”
“Heavens no. Robert Morris. Guvernur was a very close friend to Robert, a great man. But, no relation to me. As you know, it was Guvernur who actually drafted the Constitution. But it was Robert who formed the IVI and became its Chairman. Robert was the master-mind behind the conspiracy to form the Constitution.”
Akira took a bold step forward. “Is that what this is all about? Protecting your ancestor?”
“Absolutely not. I wish more people knew of my ancestor and what he did. No, Ms. Madison, it is to protect the Constitution.”
“Mr. Jenkins, the Constitution doesn’t need protection. All it needs is itself.”
Jenkins took another sip of wine. “Democracy is so fragile. The people vote one way, then in the next election, vote exactly opposite. They demanded the 18th Amendment to eliminate alcoholic beverages, then they demanded the 21st to repeal it. Capricious. The Constitution protects the people, but who protects the Constitution from the people?”
“And you are the vigilante who does that?”
“Yes. As was Robert. He did what needed to be done.”
“I don’t understand why Robert thought New York was so important back then. And why you think it is so important now. New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify, Virginia the tenth. The Constitution was the law without New York.”
Jenkins chuckled and shook his head no. “How sophomoric, Ms. Madison. If New York had voted no, it would have split the country. New England, led by Massachusetts, was on the verge of succeeding from the Union. New York would have formed the impetus and the geographic buffer that would have allowed that to happen.”
He took another sip, and closed his eyes savoring the flavors that sparkled on his tongue. “New York simply had to ratify. The IVI had to do anything, anything to make that happen.”
Akira looked puzzled.
“New York was on the verge of rejecting the Constitution, led by your,” Jenkins pointed at Ty, “ancestor. We had to, how do I say this, tip the scales in favor of ratification.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Robert did everything he could. Newspaper advertisements, placards, bribes. He even organized a huge celebration parade in New York City to celebrate passage, the weekend before the vote. Your ancestor didn’t budge. So he had to resort to more compelling measures.”
Ty put his hands on his hips. “At the final vote, five delegates didn’t show up for the final vote.”
Akira turned to him. “Yeah, they realized we needed the Constitution, but simply couldn’t vote for it. So they decided to not show. That way they could tell the people they didn’t vote for it, and tell others that they didn’t vote against it.”
Jenkins let out a hardy chuckle. “Decided to not show. Do you really believe that?” He took a long pause looking askance at Akira. “My dearest Ms. Madison, the anti-federalists were stronger than that. They needed a little diversion.”
“Wait a second,” Ty eyes widened in understanding. “That is how you got the ratification through the 1788 New York convention. Five of the leading anti-Federalist candidates didn’t show up for the final vote. Your IVI colleagues ‘delayed’ them. Let me guess, the delay was of the liquid variety,” Ty smirked. “Is that what is in the third letter?”
Jenkins turned to one of the guards and nodded. The guard stepped to the helicopter and returned with hermetically sealed case. With a gush of compressed gas, he opened it, pulled out a plastic sheathed document, and handed it to Akira.
“The original?” she asked.
Jenkins nodded. “Read it.”
July 26, 1788
My Dearest Nelly,
I am sore vexed by the Rejections of the several States in our Battle for Ratification. New York appears to be lost to our Cause. I dare not contemplate that we have come so far along on our tumultuous Journey, only to fail at this final Moment when Success should be the Reward of our exhaustive Efforts.
Robert Morris has devised a Project, I will call it a most wicked Plan, to change the Vote in Poughkeepsie. He will undertake to delay a Number of Deputies, using Liquor and other despicable Agencies the Details with which I would not endanger your pure Mind.
Have we Devolved to Embody the very Enemy against which we have been fighting? Evil can not be broken with another Evil.
In Virginia, my worthy Opponent, Patrick Henry, and I discoursed the new Constitution with much Vigor and Excitement. In the End the Philosophy of which I spoke was plainly Evident to All, and was so voted.
Is New York so different that the only Answer is the Application of Treachery? Is this the Example we intend to establish, the Cornerstone of the new Nation which we are building and which we will pass on to our Posterity?
I pray it is not.
Your loving brother,
Jenkins raised his glass. “Ah, yes.” Jenkins savored another sip. “Perhaps tonight, after this is all over, I will enjoy a cognac. Then again, perhaps a brandy would be better. What do you think Senator Yates?”
“You won’t be enjoying anything, because I’m voting anti-federalist.”
“I’m afraid I can’t allow that.”
“What are you going to do, shoot us? The whole world is watching.”
“All I need is a small delay.” Jenkins nodded to a waiter, who pulled out a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon. “It is too bad you cared so little for your cause that you were too drunk to even bother to vote.”
The waiter handed the bottle to Ty.
Ty threw the bottle against a concrete wall, shattering it into a thousand pieces. “No. I don’t drink.”
“Poor choice, Senator Yates.” He nodded to Hank who aimed his pistol and fired. With a thwack, a dart hit Ty in the upper thigh. Ty pulled it out and threw it to the ground.
The waiter then pulled out a second bottle of bourbon.
“Good Kentucky bourbon,” Jenkins admired. “I don’t want anyone to besmirch your reputation for being an underage drunkard of foreign whiskey.”
Hank took the bottle and walked to Ty. Ty went to grab Hank, but missed, staggering to a lamppost to hold himself upright. Hank poured the amber liquid over Ty’s head. Ty swatted, and knocked the bottle from Hank’s hand, bursting it against the concrete floor.
“How could you,” Akira snarled. “This is not how America was built.”
“Not how America was built? You of all people, Ms. Madison, should know better. General Washington, and his rag-tag band of citizen soldiers, were a joke compared to the British army. They weren’t merely defeated, they were routed at every turn. His soldiers didn’t even have shoes. Until my ancestor gave him a billion dollars in today’s money to build a real army. And how much of that money did the grateful American people give back? Not one penny.”
“A billion dollars earned as a privateer, a license for piracy on the high seas, granted to him by the Minister of Finance, himself.”
“Perhaps you are right. We should have been proper and let the British win. We could then have all watched as Washington was hanged for treason by Cornwallis. That would have been so much better.
“In addition, however it was earned, it was Robert’s money, in his pocket, and he could have simply sailed away on one of his two hundred ships. But no, he gave it all to his country, which wasn’t even a country yet.”
Akira put her hands on her hips. “So Robert Morris single handedly decided to go against everyone else, and take matters into his own hands.”
“Yes he did. It was Robert who won the war, not Washington. And after the war he stayed on and tutored Hamilton to become America’s first Secretary of the Treasury and build what is now the American economy. Those were Robert’s ideas, not Alexander’s. And your ancestor, James Madison, is the father of the Constitution? Ha! His Virginia plan… what a joke. It was Robert who rescued James Wilson’s version of John Adam’s plan that is now our Constitution. “
“Robert made none of the proposals that led to the final draft.”
“Of course not. He was so hated that anything he proposed would have been rejected. No, he had to work through surrogates like Madison, and his favorite student Hamilton. And now I am the most hated man in America, and it is my turn to save the country from itself. And the two of you are my surrogates.”
One of the guards whispered into Jenkins’ ear. “I must be going. You are about to become a national disgrace, and our Constitution will once again be safe. Ms. Madison, Senator Yates, good day.” Jenkins stood, and stepped to the helicopter.
“Jenkins, tell me one thing,” Akira yelled over the now revving helicopter engine whine. “Are you a conservative or a liberal?”
“Ms. Madison, the answer to that is simple. I am an American.”
At the helicopter door he turned to Ty and Akira, tipped a finger to his brow and disappeared inside.
Hank’s cell phone rang. He answered it, smiled, and closed the phone. “Perfect timing. Your reporter friend, Danny, will be arriving in a few minutes.” He glanced at the broken bottles of bourbon and smiled broadly. “Good afternoon, Ms. Madison, Mr. Yates. And just for your information, the highways to Albany have suddenly and unexpectedly become jammed by several freak car accidents.” He turned and took a step toward the waiting helicopter, and then turned back. “I wish it could have been different back then, just as I wish that it could be different now. Everyone here loves America. If we could all agree, then we could just be friends and enjoy the honor of being Americans together. Someday, I hope that wish will come true.” He finished his walk to the helicopter and then the machine lifted skyward.
As silence descended over the garage Ty slumped against the lamppost, sinking to floor, sitting in a puddle of bourbon.
“Ty, are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I pulled the dart out in time.” His eyes drooped. “How come there are two of you?”
Akira turned when she heard a rumbling rust-bucket sound of an old worn out car pull onto the roof level and drive up to them. Danny stepped out.
Ty’s head bobbled in Danny’s direction. Looking up, he saw the gleaming glass eye of a TV camera pointing at him.
“It is a sad day for America,” Danny intoned. “The mighty Rogue-mobile, America’s symbol of all that is good in America, the valiant vehicle that has been so lovingly restored by the hands of so many Americans, now sits a putrid puddle of alcohol as its Master, the now traitorous Ty sits, too drunk to drive, too drunk to vote at the Albany legislature for what he and so many Americans believe in.”
“Danny, stop it already with the media hype, and help me get him in.”
He stood perplexed as Akira grabbed one of Ty’s arms. “Come on. Help already.”
Danny grabbed an arm and started to pull Ty toward his car.
“No, not that thing. There is only one way to get Ty to Albany in time, and that’s the Rogue-mobile.”
“The Rogue-mobile? I…I can’t drive that.”
Akira looked him up and down. “Of course not. I’m driving.”
With Ty strapped into the passenger seat, his headed wobbled toward Akira as she slid into the driver’s seat.
“I shought you din’t wan me t’ vote for a new conshishushun,” Ty slurred.
“Of course I don’t. But you are an American, aren’t you?”
“Then you’re voting. What you vote for is up to you, not me. We all have to defend each other’s right to vote, no matter what. That is what America is all about.” She slammed the shift into reverse as Danny tried to close his door. Blue smoke billowed from the tires as she burned the car forward and down the exit ramps.
“Here,” Danny offered, “use my parking ticket.”
Akira ignored him as she crashed through the lowered gate arm, and onto the street.
“I’ve lost the satellite link,” the Danny said.
Akira flipped him a cellphone. “Use this.”
“Hope against hope, Akira Madison, in a desperate race against time, tries to, whoa,” Danny grabbed onto his armrest as Akira screeched the wrong way on to a one way street, Stars and Stripes blaring its warning to oncoming traffic, and then pulled a hard right hand U turn onto the highway on-ramp.
In less than a mile on the highway, blue lights flashed behind her, then pulled beside her, the officer signaling for her to pull over. “Calling all Rogue-Rats,” Akira called into the cellphone, I need back up.” The blue lights pulled ahead of her, and forced her to slow down.
Moments later the cop car was surrounded by a squadron of Harleys, boxing him in. Akira pulled around the cluster and floored it. “Thanks, guys.”
The Harley leader pressed a finger against his ear bud, and tipped two fingers back to Akira.
Ahead was a solid wall of red tail lights of stopped traffic. In the breakdown lane, a tow truck flashed its yellow lights. The driver, standing behind, waved Akira into the now clear breakdown lane. Bumper to bumper she trailed the tow truck as it accelerated.
“Watch out,” the Danny called, as the tow truck slammed on its brakes. The driver waved them around. Akira, barely inched past it to see a car with a flat tire sat in the breakdown lane. Forcing her way, she pulled back into the stalled traffic lane.
“Damn,” she cursed.
“I thought you never swore,” Danny said.
“Well, I guess now is the right time to start.” She put on her four way flashers, leaned on the air trumpets, and straddled two lanes. The cars ahead pulled over just enough to let her squeak through the middle. Then, even that stopped working, and everyone came to a complete stop at a section of road construction.
Silence. Dead on the highway, there was no way to get to the State House. Akira leaned forward, head on the steering wheel, and started to cry. “I’m sorry, Ty. I tried. I really, really tried.”
“Ish ok-ay.” Ty eyes lolled in different direction as he tried to focus on her. “We botsh tried.”
Then a loud truck horn blast. Next to them a huge dump truck with an orange “Construction Vehicle Do Not Follow” sign waved her to follow. Crashing through a wall of orange cones, they pulled onto a section of unpaved lane. The truck pulled over, and let Akira pass. The Rogue-mobile rumbled and bucked on the rough road. For a moment, Akira imagined the mighty car smiling in joy.
“Woo-hoo!” Akira yelled as the Rogue-mobile launched over a pile of sand, and went airborne.
At the New York state line, a cluster of state police cars pulled in front of her.
“Why can’t they help instead of stopping us?” Akira sputtered.
Then the blue lights sped up. Akira smiled and watched the speedometer as it inched past the 100 mark. “We might make it.”
Danny zoomed the cell phone image at the speedometer. “Akira Madison thinks the armada of police cars clearing a path to the Albany Statehouse will help. Little does she know that the Senate President has moved up the roll call vote. She has just one half hour to traverse the 100 miles that separate Ty Yates from his Senate seat.”
“What? This is so not fair.”
“Can she make it? Can she accomplish the impossible? Can she deliver the nearly comatose Ty Yates to his senate seat where he can cast his vote? Or will Ty arrive to meet the delegates as the make their way from the vacant chamber? As the seconds turn to minutes, and the remaining thirty minutes, correction, twenty nine minutes dwindle away, the nation breathlessly awaits the outcome.”
…it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.
-Publius (Alexander Hamilton), November 1787
“This is Jerry Meyers reporting live from Lafayette Park across from the White House as tens of thousands of protestors eagerly await the votes from the various state legislatures on whether or not to hold a second constitutional convention. As you may recall, America is deeply divided on whether to redo the Constitution or not. Many states immediately voted either for or against a new constitution, locked in an ardent battle of wills. Yesterday Massachusetts became the thirty second state to vote Yay to a second constitutional convention. Earlier today Virginia became the thirty third state to pass the go ahead for a second Convention. Just one more state is needed for the two thirds majority required. Hold on a moment… I have just received word that the New York House of Representatives voted Yay for change. The New York Senate is now about to close its debate and start its roll call vote. If it passes, then bye-bye US Constitution.
“In a strange repeat of history, in the year 1788 the New York Constitutional Convention was expected to reject the then proposed Constitution. However, five of the anti-federalist delegates mysteriously did not show up for the vote, allowing the Constitution to pass by the narrowest of margins. Today, again five senators are missing, one the infamous Ty Yates.”
The TV image switched to the cell phone image from inside the Rogue-mobile in its high speed race to the Albany capitol building. Alongside the live video, a map showed 14 minutes remaining before the state police entourage would arrive at the capitol building. “I have just received word that the Senate roll call vote has begun. As the Senate President calls off the names, Yates, will be the last. As the names tick off the list, so do the miles that separate Ty from his place in history. There is the barest possibility of arriving in time. Can they make it?”
Akira looked to Ty. She had never seen him sedated and he had never touched a drop of alcohol, never mind been drunk before. He looked peaceful, relaxing from the need to always look relaxed. She could fix this whole mess. All she had to do was take her foot of the gas pedal and coast to a stop. In ten minutes, ah make that nine, she’d have what she wanted. Without Ty’s vote, Mercy’s convention would never be. Sure, there’d be an uproar and protests. Eventually everything would settle down, and return to normal.
But she couldn’t do that to her best friend. Couldn’t do that to any American. The right to vote as one so chose was too important, too fundamental to what America was all about.
James had gone the other way, taken his foot off the pedal, letting Robert Morris have his plan. Was he right? Would America have survived without New York? Probably not. Would the nation today be stronger? Probably not. Maybe, just maybe, Robert Morris was right. But today, her foot remained on the pedal.
She watched the odometer tick off the miles. Every few seconds, another tenth, then another. Suddenly, ahead, the squad cars put on their turn signals, filing off the highway without slowing. Together, the fleet tore up Washington Street and came to a screeching halt at the main entrance of the ornately towered New York Statehouse. Instantly, two hefty troopers pulled Ty from the car. With his arms draped over their shoulders, they dragged him to the main entrance.
“Venditti,” they heard the senate president call out over the public address system in the main foyer.
Armed with nothing but a cell phone, Danny continued his reporting. “The heroic high speed race to the capitol finds Ty staggering the last few feet.”
“Hurry!” Akira cajoled.
“Williams,” the Senate president called out.
Ty gaged, pulling his arm from the officer’s shoulder to cover his mouth. The officers grabbed his shirt breaking his fall to the floor.
“Senator Yates is not present to vote. The Secretary will read the results.”
“Twenty nine votes Yay, twenty nine votes Nay.”
“The bill does not pass.” The president raised his gavel.
“It is a tied vote,” Danny spoke into his cell phone. “Ty Yates, the champion of the anti-federalist movement, had the deciding vote. His one vote would determine if we get a new constitution. The entire fate of the nation lay on his shoulders. But in the end has he failed to reform the constitution.”
“Drag him!” Akira ordered.
The officers pulled Ty to the chamber door as Akira jumped ahead.
“Stop!” Akira screeched, bursting into the senate chamber. “There is one more vote. Yates is present.”
The startled senators turned with wide eyed amazement to see the supposedly drunken Ty being dragged into the room.
“I object,” Senator Williams called out. “Senator Yates was not present when his name was called.”
“Sargent,” the President called to one of the state troopers dragging Ty into the chamber. “Was Senator Yates within the building when his name was called?”
“Yes sir, he was.”
“Then he may vote.”
“But, Mr. President,” Williams called out, “he is obviously incapacitated and unable to make a proper decision for his vote.”
“Sargent, are you trained and legally qualified to decide if a person is legally drunk?”
“Yes, sir. I am.”
“And is Senator Yates legally drunk?”
“I may determine is a person is legally drunk and unable to operate a motor vehicle. However, I am not qualified to determine if a person is unable to vote.”
“Mr. President, you must disqualify Senator Yates as being medically unable to vote.”
“Are you a doctor?” Akira asked.
“No.”, Williams replied.
“Then you are not qualified.”
“Is there a doctor in the house,” the President called out.
No one answered.
“Sargent, I insist you arrest Senator Yates for public drunkenness.”
“I may not arrest a New York legislator for any reason while he is execution of his duties.”
“Senator Yates,” the president called out, “please be seated, or whatever it is that you might be able to do.”
“Senator Yates,” the president called, “how do you vote?”
Ty looked to Akira.
“Ty, as much as I want you to vote nay, I want you to vote even more.”
“Akira, I ah…”
“Ty, please vote nay.”
Ty rose to his feet. “I vote…,” his head bobbled and he nearly fell. “I vote…,” His eyes glazed over and his chin fell to his chest.
Akira pushed his head back up. “Come on, big guy. You can do it.”
“I vote … Yay.” Ty collapsed into his chair and immediately started snoring.
“This is Jerry Meyers, 24/7 NewShow reporting from Lafayette Park in Washington DC. Throngs of protestors of all opinions are anxiously awaiting word from New York if there will be a Second Constitutional Convention. You sir, could you tell us your opinion?”
“I think the government is out to get us all. We need to rein them in, let them know who’s boss. Give them as many rules as they give us.”
“One moment,” Jerry pressed a finger to his earbud. “Word is now in. Ty Yates has voted Yay to a Second Constitutional Convention. It is bye-bye US Constitution. What do you now think sir?”
“Well, I don’t know. I mean, gee, I didn’t think we’d have to throw the whole thing out.”
“Do you mean you want to see some amendments?”
“No, that won’t do. We need some teeth. But I just don’t want to change too much.”
“So you don’t want a Second Constitutional Convention?”
“I do, I do. I just don’t want them tinkering around with it.”
“So you want change, but not to actually change anything.”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
Jerry rolled his eyes. “What about you ma’am?”
“I want them to take away the right to vote from illegal immigrants.”
“They can’t vote now.”
“Well, I want that spelled out in the Constitution. It isn’t listed in the Constitution. I saw on the internet that illegals are getting two votes each. That’s just simply wrong.”
Jerry shook his head no and scanned the crowd desperately looking for someone who could give a meaningful answer. “Ma’am,” he said darting over to middle aged woman in a business suit carrying a Change Now placard. “What is your opinion now that a Second Constitutional Convention will be held?”
“I’m all for change. But now that the vote is in, well, I’m not so certain. I mean the Constitution is the Constitution. It’s kind of special, you know. Sacred almost. I guess now I feel a bit queasy about the whole thing.”
Thankfully, the cameraman gave Dave the hand signal for ten seconds to commercial break.
“There you have it, folks. The strong opinions of just a few moments ago have faded to uncertainty in the face of the reality of new and unknown Constitution. Jerry Meyers, 24/7 NewShow.”
September 17, Present Day, the last day of the Second Constitutional Convention
The roomful of reporters fell silent as Mercy Warren stepped to the podium.
“As you know, today is the last day of the Second Constitutional Convention. It is with a sad heart that I announce that we were not able to agree on a new law of the land for our country. Partisan squabbling, special interests, and media interference have made progress of any type impossible.
“It is with a new understanding that I view the amazing feat our founding fathers accomplished over two hundred years ago. Some say they did it by underhanded trickery. Others say by the hand of God. No one today can say. Clearly it was a moment in time that can never be repeated.
“I have also come to understand that it is the very vagueness of the Constitution that makes it so powerful. It is open to constant debate and argument. It is for every generation of Americans to view it anew, amend it, interpret it, and make it the heart and soul of our great country.
“I still believe we need change. Ty Yates, Akira Madison, and I have agreed to work together to draft and seek passage the 28th amendment. I call on the aid and blessings of all Americans to guide us as we try to make this period of the history of our country its greatest, and pave the way for a future that is even greater than this.
“God bless the Constitution and God bless America!”
Ty sat in the back row of the Princeton auditorium watching Akira address the throng from behind the podium. Except for her voice, the standing room only hall was pin drop quiet as everyone hung on her every word. Projected on screens behind her were images of the three missing letters. Ty looked to either side at his new friends, Hank and Mr. Jenkins, sitting next to him.
“She looks great, doesn’t she?” Ty whispered to Mr. Jenkins.
“Yes, she certainly does. Very professional in her grey suit.”
“Look at her lapel. It’s the American Flag pin you gave to her.”
Jenkins just smiled and nodded. “And you, Mr. Yates, are finally wearing some descent clothing.”
“Don’t worry, Howard. I’m wearing a Rogue-Rat tee shirt under this tuxedo.”
Jenkins sniffed, and turned away.
Hank laughed, and fist bumped Ty.
Akira had finally achieved her dream. The New York Times, the Washington Post and every major network was there. The look of absolute satisfaction beamed from her face. He watched as her mouth formed the words, and her eyes sparkled with enthusiasm. He didn’t listen to what she said, she’d rehearsed it with him dozens of times and he knew every word. He just watched.
Ty startled when suddenly, everyone was standing and applauding. She stood for a moment, absorbing the praise. She bowed, and exited off the stage. At the last moment, just as she touched the curtain at the edge of the stage, she turned, and locked eyes with Ty. Silently she mouthed ‘thank you’.
The champagne reception was even more crowded than the auditorium.
“Yo, Ty, over here, dude.”
Ty scanned over the tops of hundreds of heads and found the only other person near to his height.
“Jimbo, my man! And Sal! Hey thanks for coming.” The three gave each other high fives and back slaps. “You guys remember Hank.”
“Yeah. Of course we do. Not packing any heat today?”
Hank opened his jacket. “Nope, not today.”
“And you know Howard Jenkins?”
Jimbo reached around the man. “Howey, dude, how ya doin?’” Jenkins’ eyes looked like they might pop out of their sockets as Jimbo gave him a bear hug.
“Ah, good to meet you, James,” Howard said, trying to smooth out the wrinkles on his tuxedo with one hand while he waved off his guards with the other. “And Mr. Salizar, I heard business is booming for your garage.”
“Yeah, man. Things are great. Everyone wants bullet holes put into their cars. I even autograph each one along with a certificate of authenticity.”
“How very American of you,” Jenkins throated.
“Hey look,” Sal enthused, “here comes Danny.” The pimple faced reporter came up to them, with a very rotund cameraman in tow.
“How ya’ doin’?” Ty asked the cameraman.
The cameraman pulled out a wet stogy from his mouth, uttered a few unintelligible grumbles, and stuck the cigar back into his mouth.
“Congratulations, Mr. Pinkton,” Jenkins praised, “on winning the Emmy for television journalism.”
“Thanks. It feels great. I finally have a real career.”
“Oh look, her she comes,” Ty said.
The room fell silent, then burst into applause as the tiny celebrity walked into the room. Everyone jostled to have a word with the master historian. Shaking hands, laughing, and shaking her head in agreement, Akira slowly made her way across the room to her friends.
“Well,” she said, when she finally arrived, “that was a challenge. It is good to see you all again.”
“Yes,” Jenkins replied. “And I hope you will accept my apology to you, Ms. Madison,” he turned to Ty, “and to you, Senaotr Yates, for my rather rude behavior the last time we met.”
Ty reached out to Jenkins and shook his hand. “Hey, no problem. We accept. Just don’t offer me any bourbon. At least until I’m twenty one.”
“And I heard President Warren has you both running ragged all day working on the new amendment.”
“Yeah. She can be a real task master.”
Jenkins took a glass of champagne from a waiter. He took a sip, wrinkled his nose, and put it back. “French.” He turned back to Akira. “Did she like your latest proposals?”
“Yes and no. She wants a lot of sections strengthened.”
“It will take years to get it through, you know.”
“Tell me about it,” Ty said. “As Thomas Jefferson said during the battle over ratification ‘we are now vibrating between too much and too little government, and the pendulum will rest finally in the middle.’”
Akira looked Ty straight in the eye. “You know, Jefferson actually did say that. And the pendulum is still swinging.”
Hank stepped up to Akira. “These are for you.”
“Roses! Oh, they are beautiful. Thank you.”
“And this, Senator Yates,” Jenkins took a package from one of the guards and handed it to Ty, “is for you.”
Ty opened it and his eyes went wide. “My original air-scoop!” Ty pulled out the mangled sculpture, turning it to see every angle. “How did you find it?”
Hank pulled out a magnetic pod. “I put this in it at the Comet Diner.”
“Hey, thanks man.” Ty stood, and gave Hank a bear hug. “It’s good to have you as a friend.”
“Yeah,” Hank choked, “it’s good having you as a friend too.”
Ty motioned to one of Jenkins’ guards to retrieve a package. “Akira, since it is gift time, I’ve got something for you. But first,” Ty pulled out his cell phone. “Wait just a second.” He dialed his phone.
“Hello my friendlies,” Vasyl’s voice boomed from the phone. “I not being expecting of you.”
“I wanted you to see this.” He held up his phone so Vasyl could see.
The guard presented a package to Akira with a cloth draped over it.
“Go ahead, Akira, look what’s inside.”
Akira pulled away the cloth to reveal a wire cage. “Oh, look! It’s a puppy, a poodle puppy.” She picked up the tiny ball of white fluff, and nuzzled it. “Thank you, Ty.”
“What a cuteski!” Vasyl gasped. “What name being her?”
“That, my friend,” Ty answered, “is your famous Fifi.”
Vasyl laughed. “Oh, you getting of my sheep!”
“That should be ‘you got my goat,’” Akira corrected.
“Is she always being of this like?”
“Oh, yes,” Ty agreed. “She always being of this like.”
Akira laughed. “How did you know I liked poodles?”
Ty looked at Akira’s poodle bracelet and poodle broach. “Oh, just a wild guess. I’ve been planning this for months.”
Akira took a glass of alcohol free champagne from a waiter. “So, Mr. Jenkins, I have a question for you. Why on earth did you promote Chet Steward to such position as you did?”
“I realize now that was a mistake. However, he has an ancestry of American patriots. His ancestral grandfather was our third Vice-President.”
“Aaron Burr?” Akira asked.
“Yep,” Hank commented. “Good thing he is gone, and I won’t ever have to deal with him again.”
Akira nodded in affirmation. She turned again to Jenkins. “Now that the Constitution has been protected, what’s the IVI going to do? Are you going to disband?”
“What do you mean?”
“Since all the deep dark secrets of American history are out, there is no need for the IVI to cover anything up anymore.” Akira handed her glass to Ty and took a piece of cheese from a waiter to let Fifi take a nibble. When Jenkins didn’t answer, she turned around. “Mr. Jenkins? Hank? Where are you?”
All they heard was click-scrape, click-scrape as the two disappeared into the crowd.
1) In the story, James Madison was Akira’s ancestral uncle, not his direct descendent. Why?
2) John Adams’ Thoughts on Government is considered to be the blueprint of the American government established by the Constitution. Why wasn’t he present at the Constitutional Convention?
3) Did the Constitutional Convention really send a letter to Prince Henry of Prussia inviting him to become the King of America?
4) Commodore John Barry is hailed as the father of the American navy, leading many naval battles of the American Revolution, and was America’s first admiral under the Constitution. His statue stands outside Independence Hall. In the story, he is portrayed as being a private sea captain working for Robert Morris. Why?
5) Governor Clinton of New York was one of the fiercest opponents of the proposed Constitution. In the final New York ratification vote he abstained. What major office in the new federal government did he later take?
6) At the end of the book, Hank Lloyd comments that he is glad he won’t ever have to deal with Chet Steward again. What is the irony of that comment?
7) Hana Mae was singing in the Gullah language. What is the Gullah language?
8) Was Robert Yates the real Brutus?
9) Howard Jenkins is portrayed as a wealthy eccentric defense contractor. Who was a real life person like this? Hint, Leonard DiCaprio played this character in The Aviator.
10) In the July 4th scene, Gunning Bedford states that all twelve states must be in agreement or the Constitution will not succeed. Why twelve and not thirteen?
11) In the February 22, 1788 scene, Robert Morris refers to “Hamilton, Madison, and Jay have printed long discourses of philosophy…” To what famous collection of articles is he referring?
12) In the story, Chet recalls the failed presidency of Richard Nixon. Why did President Nixon resign?
13) In the story, the historic figures are often drinking wine or brandy. Why?
14) Was George Washington really The Society of the Cincinnati’s first president? Is the Society still in existence today?
15) In the cover artwork, the Franklin Unite or Die cartoon does not list Delaware. Why?
1) James Madison had no children of his own. His one adopted son, John Paine Todd, was from Dolly Madison’s first marriage.
2) John Adams was in Great Brittan acting as the US Ambassador.
3) Yes. However, several days later the Convention sent a letter of retraction.
4) Due to lack of funds, America had no Navy at that time. During this period, Captain Barry was one of the first Americans to open trade with China.
5) George Clinton became America’s fourth vice-president.
6) Chet Steward’s ancestor was Aaron Burr, who killed Alexander Hamilton, Hank Lloyd’s ancestor, in a duel.
7) The Gullah language is a form of English Creole still proudly in use in the present day by the Gullah and Geechee people of the coastal areas of the Carolinas and Georgia.
8) No one knows for certain, but many historians believe Brutus was Robert Yates. However, computer analysis of the writing style performed by John Burrows indicates Brutus may have been Melancton Smith, a lesser known delegate from New York to the Confederation Congress. Yates also may have written under the pseudonym Sydney.
9) Howard Hughes
10) Because only twelve states attended the Convention. The Rhode Island legislature voted against attendance.
11) The Federalist Papers
12) President Nixon resigned due to the Watergate Scandal where his advisors broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters to steal strategy secrets.
13) Due to cholera and other water-born deceases, alcoholic beverages were safer to drink than water. Many historians believe alcoholism was at a significantly higher rate in early America than it is today.
14) Yes, George Washington was the Society of the Cincinnati’s first president. The Society is still in existence today, promoting the history of the American Revolution and operates a museum that is open to the public. Nineteen American presidents have been members, including Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
15) In 1754, when Benjamin Franklin first drew this cartoon, Delaware was a part of Pennsylvania. Also, the most northern colonies, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and the most southern colony Georgia were not listed by Franklin because he did not view them as a part of the united colonies. The cartoon shown is a later version of the original Join, or Die cartoon. In the later version, the P for Pennsylvania is incorrectly shown as an R.
1) During the Constitutional Convention, the issue of slavery was strongly felt, but largely undiscussed for fear the convention would collapse. Do you think the convention would have failed had slavery been more strongly debated? What might have happened to slavery and to America if the southern states had withdrawn from the convention?
2) All of the constitutional delegates from southern states owned slaves, including George Washington and James Madison. Although neither Washington nor Madison where considered to be harsh masters, how do you view them as great men in American history?
3) How believable is the scene in the story where John Barry and Robert Morris reestablish the quorum in Philadelphia? (search: Commodore John Barry)
4) Captain John Barry was a founding member of the Society of the Cincinnati. Do you think the Society played a role in the formation of the Constitution?
5) One of the reasons the Society of the Cincinnati was originally formed was to petition the Confederation Congress for back wages. Would the proposed Constitution help them with this goal?
6) History shows that the Federalists were well organized and funded. Do you think it was to the point of a conspiracy such as the IVI, or was it simply a group of people with a common belief working together?
7) In the story, the Rogue-mobile is presented as the symbol of American pride. Discuss the symbolism of it being destroyed and then rebuilt? Do you think is was necessary for America to have been brought to the point of destruction in order for it to be rebuilt and improved? How can America be improved today without it being destroyed?
8) In the story, Akira and Ty would not have succeeded without the help of foreigners living outside of the United States. Overall, has the role of foreign individuals or countries in American history been positive or negative?
9) In the story a drug lord is a rescuer of the Rogue-mobile. Robert Morris used money from privateering as a means to support the American government prior to the Constitution. Do you think it is ethical to use money from ill-gotten gains to support a good cause?
Chortle – a nasal chuckle
Burr – the rolling accent of people from the Scottish Lowlands
Corpulent – fat
Rotund – fat
Stogie – a cheap cigar
Hewn – roughly worked by hand
Hamas – a Palestinian fundamentalist movement
Uzbekistan – a country in central Asia
Cabal – a small group of secret plotters
Pike – a simple wooden spear
Madeira – an amber wine
Sennight – one week
Fortnight – two weeks
Hijab – a Muslim scarf
Minuet – a slow stately dance popular in the 1700’s
Palace of Versailles – an ornate French palace of extreme beauty and cost
Libertarian – a political party advocating absolute minimum government
Scythe – a long curved blade on a handle for cutting grain by hand
Semper Fi – Latin for Always Faithful, the Marine Corps motto
Vassalage – oppression
Gouverneur Morris was never a governor of any state. To avoid confusion, the author spelled his name as Guvernur.
James Madison’s notes in Chapter 12 are edited. For the full transcript, please see http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_825.asp or https://www.loc.gov/resource/mjm.28_0001_0269/?sp=108
What made the vlog Akira Madison and Ty Yates live-stream from their high school auditorium go viral? Ever since they met in Kindergarten they've disagreed on everything. Now they're arguing over the meaning of the Constitution, as had their ancestors, founding fathers James Madison and Robert Yates. When Ty, frustrated with the burgeoning federal government, teams up with presidential candidate Mercy Warren, Akira is shocked at his idea to rewrite the US Constitution, claiming James Madison used trickery to push through his version of the Constitution. But evidence for Ty's claims arrives in the form of an old letter written by James Madison confessing that a secret society, the IVI, had been formed to create the Constitution against the will of a reluctant nation. Ty and Akira have to run for their lives when they discover that the IVI is still alive and well, maybe at the highest levels of government and its fanatical members are willing to protect the secrets of the Constitution at any cost. The two high school students' only hope is to retrace the history of the Constitution and expose its secrets to the American public before the IVI silences them forever. The brash Alexander Hamilton, the shy James Madison, the frustrated billionaire Robert Morris, and the outspoken playwright Mercy Otis Warren, all come back to life as their descendants once again battle over the writing of the Constitution, and what it means to be an American. Geared toward high school students and aligned with the Common Core, E Pluribus comes complete with a study guide, bridging the gap between adventure and academics.