|Chapter 3: Dr Gieldgood
A tall, sandy-haired, stiff-backed, hollow-cheeked man in his early fifties breezed past an old, frail-looking black man pushing a trash collector. The metallic name tag above the pocket of his white lab coat identified him as Dr. Nelson B. Gieldgood, Chief Surgeon. The black man wore a cloth name tag on his coveralls that identified him as, "Mays." The doctor had bigger things to concern himself with than acknowledging the black man.
Gieldgood entered his spacious hospital office with Jack Fleetwood on his heels yammering about "impossible demands."
"Nonsense," said Gieldgood. He closed the door and faced the attorney general who's sweating face and wringing hands made him look more like a candidate for a lethal injection than a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. "The Circle wants one of its own to be the next surgeon general. Thats me, not Estelle Gidarb. And thats all there is to it."
Gieldgood pointed a demanding finger to a low-back leather chair in front of his huge, polished maple desk as he stalked to his high-back leather chair behind it. "Sit your weak, sniveling ass down and shut the fuck up!"
The younger man stood stock stillnot out of defiance, but out of cultural disorientation. Only once in his 36 year span of existence had anyone spoken to him in that way. That person was his wife Kimberly. An emotional lava flow rose swiftly from his gut to his chest and head threatening to erupt in terrible violence as it had with Kimberly when theyd argued about the fate of Blue Monday.
The doctor recognized what was happening and readied himself for a physical attack. "Sit down," he hissed between clenched teeth.
Fleetwood looked as though he had been thrown off balance by a backhand across the cheek. He huffed as though he were about to cry. Then his shoulders slumped in defeat. He zombie-walked to his designated seat as Gieldgood strode confidently to his. The two men sat down at the same time.
"Now," said Gieldgood quietly, like a kindly personal physician giving instructions to a gravely ill patient, "lets look at where we are and where were trying to go."
Jack listened to the doctors words through a cacophony of conflicting needs and emotions which included the need for Gieldgoods services and the desire to kill him. He didnt want to listen to anything the man had to say, but he was smart enough, scared enough and ambitions enough to understand that he had to.
"First," said Gieldgood, repositioning on his desk the holographic portrait of himself in a tuxedo and a lovely, chestnut-haired woman in a white wedding gown, then leaning back in his chair, "we have to see our place in the greater scheme of things. At the center of everything is God and the Bible, wouldnt you agree?"
"Naturally," said Jack, seething.
"Next come the American people, which includes our wives and children." His eyes turned momentarily toward the picture on his desk. "Then comes The Circle to serve the people. After that, the American Party. After the Party come servants of the people like you and me. You must never forget that, Jack."
"What makes you think I have?" Jack wanted to snatch back his words before the doctor could react to them. That, of course, was impossible.
The gaunt man then did something Jack had never seen him do. He reared back his head and laughed. Then he leaned forward and glared at the man across the desk from him, pulling his eyebrows into a menacing "V" and baring his teeth. "You self-centered bastard. The only thing youve thought about is yourself. You didnt even know The Circle existed until you pulled that stupid publicity stunt with those STOPIT lunatics and we had to reign you in before you blew the cover on our X Channel operation."
"How was I supposed to know that The Circle was behind the X Channel? How was I supposed to know that guys like Blue Monday were only allowed into the network as decoys to cover what you were doing to discredit the Democrats and Republicans? How could anybody have known you were going to shut it down as soon as you put those fucking Liberals out of business? Hell, Dean Pipers wife is a charter member of STOPIT, and, as I understand it, Piper was the guy who founded The Circle. You said it yourself, I didnt even know your organization existed."
Gieldgood pointed with his eyes to the ring on Jacks finger that matched his own, one with a flat, black stone the size of a quarter encircled by a thin, gold ring. "Its our organization, now. Before then, it wasnt your place to know."
"But what about the nomination. If Id been told that it was in the bag, I wouldnt have done anything out of the ordinary to try to win it."
Gieldgood smiled ironically. "Actually, you didnt have it in the bag until you pulled that Gidarbing stunt that got all of us into trouble."
"You were wishy-washy about too many things the party had to be firm about; like manhunting licenses in New Economic Zones, education privatization and local financing of law enforcement time scans. But even though you jumped the gun on the smut issue, you picked the right issue and the right defendant. If it hadnt been for you, we would have lost our influence on X Channel programming with the big shake-up at CBI. Given the information you had to work with, what you did was a smart move."
Jack lifted his right hand as though a fifty pound weight were attached to it, and put his fingertips to his temple. Christ! he thought. What am I supposed to make of that? "Look," he said, slowly rubbing his temple, "I talked Dr. Gidarb into relocating STOPIT headquarters to Michigan."
"And you made a big telewindow production out of letting her and Euel stay at the Fleetwoods fabulous home away from home in Farmington Hills."
"It is not a home away from home. It was my Great Aunts estate. No one has lived there since she died six months ago and left it to me. If you remember that big telewindow production so well, you should remember that I also promised to appoint"
"I cant. Everybody knows. Everybody is expecting it. If I dont make good on that promise Ill loose my credibility."
"Not if the decision were out of your control."
Jack resisted the urge to offer a quick rebuttal and gave the doctors words time to sink in. Nomination equals Presidency. Presidency equals appointment. What could take the decision out of my hands? Then it hit him: A sex scandal could do it. Or a corruption scandal. Or...
Jacks eyes asked the question in his mind. What are you going to do to her?
Gieldgood answered the thought. "Were not going to do anything," he said. "Shes going to be a martyr to the cause of decency. Shes going to be the mutilated victim of a deranged killer."
An image of the womans dismembered corpse in the Farmington Hills home he played in as a child, flashed so vividly before Jacks eyes that he reacted to it as though it were real. His head turned to the side as his stomach rolled on a wave of nausea. "Oh my God...You cant....For Christ sake, man, how is that going to make me look?"
Gieldgood glared at him through narrow slits. "Like a fool if you dont stop whining. Youve got to be stronger than that if you want to be the President of the United States. After all, we already have one and he doesnt want to go...You do want him to sit out the next term, dont you?"
Jack didnt answer right away. He was too sick to his stomach.
Having the stomach to do dreadful things for a greater good was part of the Presidents job description. Thats where the incumbent was weak. He had all the right rhetoric, but when it came to action, he didnt always have what it took.
As Michigans top law enforcement official Jack had prepared the way for the execution of more criminals than any of his peers in any other state in the Union. But how could the killing of an innocent woman like Estelle Gidarb be justified in the name of decency? Then again, President Trumans bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed thousands of innocent womenand children, in the name of peace. What would President Fleetwood be willing to do for decency? What did he have the stomach to do for his country?
"Well, Jack? Do you or dont you?"
"Yes, said Jack. I do."
"Good. Now that weve settled that, perhaps youd like to talk about your wifes condition."
Jacks heart sank. "Whats there to say about her condition? You already told me it hasnt changed."
"I also told you that it could at any time. We have to be prepared for that."
"Do you plan on making her a martyr, too?"
Gieldgoods eyes narrowed again. "Your press secretary may have taken care of that for us with those stupid telewindow solicitations shes been running."
Gieldgood looked surprised. After a long pause he directed Jack to turn around so that he was facing the wall-sized office telewindow. He touched a few points on the desktop control panel which opened the window to what the viewers of a talk show in Laramie Wyoming saw on the day Jack was inspired to make common cause with STOPIT. A handsome couple in their early 50s sat between two attractive women, a blond and a brunette, in their mid-twenties. The man with the ruggedly handsome face and rich, chestnut brown hair, was Euel Gidarb. The older woman, holding a naked "Ken" doll was Estelle Gidarb. A window-in-window showed Jack and Kimberly Fleetwood together in mint-green lounging suits.
"Here it comes," said Gieldgood.
Jack sat up straight in his chair when he heard a somber female voice-over soliciting contributions to a STOPIT decency fund set up in Kimberlys name. The implications of such a message going out over the telewindow airwaves gave him a nasty turn.
The window zoomed in on the face of his wholesome blond wife. She was, in a word, beautiful, not in the distant, breath-taking way some women are beautifulbut in the soft, delicate way a rose petal is. Her image morphed into one that was even more fragile, a picture of her in deep sleep with her once long, lustrous hair now only as long as the feathers of a baby chick. She was still beautiful.
The voice-over said, "This is the face of a loving wife and mother, of a decent American woman fighting the forces of darkness to return to her family and to continue the Gidarb crusade. Please give generously to the Kimberly Fleetwood Decency Fund. Dont let the light of her life be overshadowed by the dark forces of perversion she can no longer fight herself."
Jack made a profoundly different connection in his mind between Kimberly and the Gidarb campaign. He felt it as keenly as a knife blade twisting in his gut as a dark shadow covered his wifes face. Another face began to emerge from the shadow. No! he thought, no! no! no!
Jack gripped the arms of his chair tightly at the jarring appearance of a demonic black man bearing a striking if somewhat distorted physical resemblance to Blue Monday. The field of view widened to show him with a younger man...no, a boya white boy no older than Jacks 14-year-old son, Jack Jr. The man was furtively handing the boy something that looked like a computer disk. Jacks grip tightened further with abrupt filed changes between the demonic black man in his world of shadow, and his angelic wife in her world of light. The last scene showed Kimberly kneeling in prayer with Jack and Jack Jr. at her sides. It closed with a close-up profile of her face bathed in light streaming though the stained glass depiction of a seated, white-robed Christ surrounded by children and holding the smallest child on his lap.
"I didnt authorize this," Jack sputtered.
"You didnt have to. Youre a prominent member of STOPIT. Youve done everything to link your whole family to the cause, and you gave your press secretary carte blanche to use your public appearances in any way she saw fit to enhance your image. You had your PR people ELF in your wife on that talk show with the Gidarbs so everyone assumes that Mrs. Fleetwood is also a STOPIT member. As far as anybody knows, shes is as committed to the Society as you are. And every bit as eager to see Blue Monday Gidarbed....But we know that isnt true, dont we? And we dont know what shell say about it if she does come around, do we?"
Gieldgoods deep-set eyes bored into Jacks, robbing him of his last shred of confidence. If Gieldgood didnt know that Kim was far more supportive of Monday than she was of her husband, he was clearly proceeding as though it were trueas though her injury was no accident and Jack was no innocent bystander. He was proceeding as though he knew the truth.
Beads of sweat rushed out from the pours in Jacks forehead and his hands began to shake violently. He was a man exposed to the possibility of criminal prosecution. If Kimberly died, he could be prosecuted for second degree murder at the whim of the hollow-cheeked man sitting across from him or any of his superiors. If she returned to consciousness before the Monday case was resolved, there was no telling what she would say about the Kimberly Fleetwood Decency Fund, or the Gidarb procedure. Or her secret love affair with Blue Monday.
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison