Chatter …Part 9 ...Rumours and Secrets

in #writing4 months ago

Embittered people find heroes and madmen a perennial source of fascination, for they have no fear of life or death. Both heroes and madmen are indifferent to danger and will forge ahead regardless of what other people say.
― Paulo Coelho

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I'm not the type to take risks and would never put myself in mortal peril, but here I was meeting covertly with Elise, the receptionist from the radio station, who was telling me my life was in danger.

I don't know what it was―the shadowy parking lot where we sat whispering in my car, the mysterious army colonel or the realization that Shannon betrayed my trust, but I was literally quaking with terror.

It was absurd to even be in this situation. I can't watch spy films―such things are totally foreign to me and I shun them―but here I am, caught in the middle of some intrigue and I haven't a clue what secrets are involved and why merely interviewing this man could result in my being terminated.

Elise's eyes were huge and dark―she was frightened too and I was no help. It was a helpless position to be in and she knew it as well.

"Can you tell me anything at all about this colonel, Maine Blair?" I asked her, desperately seeking some scrap of information.

She shrugged. "I only know little snippets of facts and scraps of conversations I partially overheard. I know he was privy to secrets that even the U. S. President couldn't access. I also know he was a hero with combat experience in both Gulf wars and was said to be fearless."

That last detail didn't help my mood. A man who's icy cool under combat situations is not a man given to fear and not easily intimidated. Whatever secrets he's intending to divulge, he's not afraid of the repercussions.

Going into hiding would not be a good idea because of my high profile and carrying on with the interview and claiming innocence just wouldn't cut it either.

If Blair is going to be a high profile Edward Snowden, then he'll be liable to the same measures the government used to try to track and kill him and anyone connected with him.

There's only one way to resolve this and that's for me to meet with Shannon Holmes and confront her with what I've learned about her mysterious guest.

When I got home from my dinner date with Elise , I messaged Shannon and told her something came up and I needed to meet with her immediately.

Just before midnight, she texted and suggested a breakfast meeting at nine at the restaurant in the Park Hotel . I texted back my acceptance.

I went to bed in a troubled state and had a restless sleep filled with nightmares of being pursued by nameless enemies.

The following morning was bright and mild for mid-January and I was hopeful that she and I could come to some mutual understanding. All I knew was that I didn't want to risk my life for the sake of an interview.

Shannon looked fabulous even at that early hour and smile lit up the room.

"You're not getting cold feet, are you Cole?" she asked. "You know you can do this."

"It's not my own self-doubts I'm worried about―it's your mysterious guest."

Her jaw dropped in surprise. "I haven't announced yet who it will be. Are you sure you got the right information."

"Is it Maine Blair I'm scheduled to interview?"

She nodded. "It is, but I have no idea how you found out."

"It doesn't matter. I have no intention of interviewing him and must say, I feel betrayed you'd even put me in this position."

"And what position is that?" she smiled mischievously, playing on the double entendre.

I ignored her flirtatious remark.

"I know he intends to reveal state secrets and I want no part of that type of that scandal."

Shannon didn't blink. She seemed totally unfazed by my response.

"I can see you've made up your mind."

"I have," I replied hotly and resent your putting me in this position."

Again the flirtatious smile. "Really? I thought you were adventurous."

"You can try to make light of my concerns but I'm adamant."

"But what exactly are you adamant about―what 'state secrets" do you think he'll divulge―do you think he'll compromise the security of the U. S. or the western alliance?"

"In a word, yes," I glowered, angry she'd try to minimize my fears.

"What if I told you Main Blair was trying to serve his country and the world by his disclosures and they're not concerned with national defence, but a cover up of a waste of our precious national resources?"

"So, you're telling me he's not jeopardizing national security?"

"That's right. He's a whistleblower performing his patriotic duty in revealing wastage of our valuable resources―not to say the tremendous cost being shouldered by taxpayers. Surely you know government personnel are protected by The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 that was enacted to protect federal employees who disclose Government illegality, waste, and corruption?"

"No, I didn't. But I did think he was someone akin to Edward Snowden."

"Edward Snowden was a traitor. Colonel Blair is a decorated war hero and a patriot. He would never betray his country's national security secrets"

I was reeling from her explanation and felt foolish for blindly accepting Elise's suspicions that she admitted were based on snatches of partially overheard conversations.

"So, if what you're telling me is true, why all the secrecy?"

"I told you when I selected you as moderator―I didn't want someone glib and polished like a news celebrity―I wanted someone ordinary people could trust and identify with and someone who would spontaneously ask the right questions. I didn't want you prepped and prepared. So, you see. your fears are unfounded."

I felt embarrassed I overreacted based on partial evidence. I should have spoken to Shannon first instead of probing Elise for more hearsay.

I didn't fault Elise for her concern which was genuine, but blamed myself for being impulsive and jumping to conclusions.

"So, we're actually going live tomorrow," Blair said, "but I could have you meet with Colonel Blair first if that would make you feel more comfortable."

"No that won't be necessary―as you say, it might prejudice the interview and rob it of its spontaneity. Let's just carry on as planned."

Shannon's smile beamed. "I'm glad, Cole―now let's enjoy this delicious breakfast."

While driving home I reflected on the meeting. I could see how Elise only heard fragments of conversations and probably misheard the mention of natural resources and thought they were saying national security.

I could clarify things with Elise, but thought it best not to speak with her before the interview.

I wanted to meet the great war hero and hear his views without prejudging them.

And I wasn't sure where this left my relationship with Elise going forward.

To be continued...

© 2021, John J Geddes. All rights reserved