“Gives us more time. And a little more privacy.” Moving into the stairwell, he said, “I won’t tell anyone if you want to take the heels off.”
The reporter blushed. Her feet were killing her, but these were her only dressy shoes. Looking into the man’s face, she saw his sincerity. She nodded.
“Where was I?” he asked. Seeing her hands were full, he added, “I can hold the recorder.”
“Ok, thanks,” she said. “You were telling me that the Fey team was killed.”
“Right,” he said.
“I woke up two days after they were all killed. I can’t tell you how… disturbing that was for me. I mean these people had just saved me, rescued me from hell, and now they were dead. I…”
They went down a flight of stairs before the Undersecretary spoke again.
“Anyway, Mike came to see me. He was visiting a friend at Walter Reed and stopped into my room. He told me there were almost four thousand of us.”
“Us?” the reporter asked.
“People rescued by the Fey team,” he said. “Mike visited me every day. We’d talk about being held hostage and…”
“Michael Roper was held hostage?” the reporter interrupted.
“Uh huh,” the Undersecretary said. “He even took me to get my ‘F’.”
The Undersecretary moved his watch to review a script Vivaldi ‘F’ tattooed on the underside of his left wrist.
“Almost everyone who was rescued by the Fey team has these ‘F’s. Mike said the Fey…”
“Long story. Anyway, the Fey didn’t want to keep rescuing the same people over and over again so people got these tattoos. Frankly, it’s kind of a status symbol.”
“They all had them. The team, that is. These same ‘F’s in a green arm band on their right arms. The guy who’s left – Joseph – he has one too.”
“So the ‘F’ is a kind of marker?”
“Sure. Like a badge or a rank. If you look around, you’ll see that lots of people have these tattoos. Some guys have them on their arm. Most guys do their wrist because it’s noticeable and also subtle.”
“You said guys?”
“Or gals,” he said. He rounded a corner to the first floor. “Listen, when I open this door the Secret Service is going to whisk me to the White House.”
He blushed, stammered a little bit.
“Here’s my phone number,” the reporter said. She put her card into his hand. “I love dinner, but breakfast is my favorite meal.”
“Do you have what you need?” he asked.
“I think so,” she said. “I assume dinner is off the record.”
“Yes, off the record.”
“Then is there anything you’d like to add?” she asked.
“I would not be standing here if it wasn’t for Mike Roper. The doctor’s cured my body. But Mike cured my mind.”
He ran a hand through his short dark hair.
“I mean, I had therapy. A lot of therapy. But knowing there were others and they were doing well? I… I owe my sanity to Mike Roper. He’s a great guy.”
He moved to push the door open.
“I’ll be done by 8, maybe 9? Would you like to…?”
“I like a late dinner,” she said.
“Great! I’m… I’m excited. Mike saved me again.”
The Undersecretary pushed the door open and, as predicted, was whisked away by the Secret Service. Just before leaving the building, he turned and waved to her.
Smiling, she went home to finish the piece, and get ready for dinner.
The retelling of Celia’s Puppies, Denver Cereal Volume 2, continues tomorrow…
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