IT’S A NOVEL WITH A MESSAGE: OUR UNITY IS IN CHRIST; NOT THE BALLOT BOX.
February 14th, Tuesday, Atlanta GA
“Why are you calling me at this time of day?!” That was what I wanted to scream into the phone, but was not able to because Sister Woodard was taking me to my seat in her salon.
Instead I clicked on the button which sent an automatic message, and I typed in 7pm.
Hopefully that idiot Clyde can wait till then.
“I hope that wasn’t nothin’ serious, Sister Mortenson?”
I gave a little correction through my throat, which she picked up on immediately, “I mean, Apostle, Pastor Mortenson.”
Ever since my unfortunate business partner went missing and left all his churches to me, we have changed my title, so it is consistent with my position, namely, leading hundreds of churches.
Everyone still calls me pastor, but I am trying, one at a time, to get the lowlier, simpler people to correct themselves, but many of them are just so slow.
I’ve decided that this woman is such a loudmouth, if I can get her to call me Apostle, Pastor Mortenson, I can then introduce it to the church, and they will follow suit.
Old Lady Woodard is slow on the uptake. She kept talking. “I shore do love our church, Mrs. . .Apost. . .Past. . .Ma’am.”
I smiled at her, somewhat condescendingly, which she probably didn’t notice anyway.
“Are you getting plenty of business from us?” I changed the subject.
“Oh, I surely am. I’ve had to hire three new full-time associates, ever since you announced it from your pulpit you were comin’ to see me.”
“Great,” I said. I’ll just look and see if her giving has improved also.
I smiled. I didn’t want to talk, so I just shut her up by saying, “If you don’t mind, I’m going to just rest my eyes while you do. . .umm, what you do so well.”
“I surely will, and if you falls asleep I’ll let you snore, like you did last time.”
At that she laughed and inwardly I snarled but said nothing.
An hour and a half later I left Sister Woodard, two hundred and fifty dollars lighter, but with beautiful nails on hands and feet, and with some fresh quaffing of the hair. I loved it.
At seven o’clock on the button I called Clyde, who had made some excuse to his wife to extricate himself from her.
“What do you want, Clyde?”
“I had lunch with Dr. Dale today. He is the one who goes to D.C. once a month and has made contact with one of our friends.”
“Keep going,” I said, reading my emails.
“I decided you need to know more about him, since I dropped your name, talked finances with him and began the process of drawing him in.”
“How does he get his financing now?” I demanded.
“He trusts God,” said Clyde.
To which I guffawed.
“I’m serious, I asked him the same thing and at first he replied, ‘I don’t know how I live,’ And then he got embarrassed and said, ‘Of course I know. God places it upon men’s hearts to donate, and they do.’ Which I’ll admit, sounded like a holy-roller line. So, I went a different route.”
“I asked him, ‘How many people give to your ministry, monthly?’”
“He looked a little suspiciously at me, so I said, ‘I represent a ministry which likes to help other ministries.’ And that seemed to appease him.”
“So, what do you want from me, Clyde. Do you want me to give him five or ten thousand dollars? Or should it be more?”
“No, no, no, ma’am. That would be way too much. I looked his ministry finances up online, and the government department I hacked says his annual donations are under fifty-thousand dollars per year.”
“Wait, Clyde. Are you saying this man is in our governmental halls, with our elected officials, praying with them, sharing his brand of Christianity, encouraging them, and he brings in less in one year than we pay in utilities, in the same timeframe?
“Yes, ma’am,” said Clyde with an air of superiority.
“Did he tell you how many people give to his ministry monthly?”
“Yes, ma’am. And that’s the good news.”
Clyde paused as if to build up a crescendo. “Speak, Clyde, speak!”
“Nine people,” he said.
I gave him a low whistle, because I kept hearing more and more for our potential with this man. Besides his funding, I liked what I heard about his dismissal from the university. Depending upon the circumstances, this could make him very vulnerable in our hands. After all, he won’t want this information out in the public.
“Tell me about lunch,” I snapped.
Clyde is so slow. I wondered if it were possible for him to talk any slower.
“Let me tell you what I learned,” he said.
I was getting frustrated with this conversation because it wasn’t moving fast enough. I wonder if I could teach him to speak faster. I decided Clyde had ninety-seconds before I hung up on him.
“He meets with people from both sides of the aisle and has relationships with both the elected officials as well as their staffs.”
Clyde dutifully paused, so I could think through what this meant.
After a long fifteen seconds I made sure he was still on the phone, and then told him to keep going.
“I started asking him about specific people and he clammed up, but I think he was just being a tease, not wanting to give away too much, too soon, especially if we might be a source of income for him. I think he was just showing me enough of his hand to keep me interested.”
“So, what makes you think he has influence, Clyde?”
“Well, of course, I had to put my interrogation hat on, without tipping my hand to him.”
I never know how much of this stuff to believe, coming from Clyde. While I think he’s an oaf, he might actually have some brains. So, I let him keep talking without interrupting.
“The first thing I did, boss, was to analyze the breadth of his contacts, which seems to reach into every facet of elected officialdom.”
“Next, I squeezed out of him anecdotal stories I could analyze for authenticity. And it was the stories he told about the congressmen and senators which made me think he is everything we want and would give us all of it, for the right price.”
Clyde paused as if I was to congratulate him, but I simply said. “Okay, super spy, do you mind sharing the anecdotes with me?”
“Oh, uhm, yes,” he struggled to say.
“The first story I can relate is about a Congressman he went to visit. Apparently, the Congressman was in another appointment, but when Dr. Dale left his office, out a side door the Congressman came running, calling his name, just to meet with him.”
“Really?” I asked doubtfully.
“And he just told you this freely?”
“Well, I may have had to use a few counter-espionage information gathering techniques, but, yes. He told me freely. Let me tell you another.”
“Dr. Dale told me about a Congressman who wanted to meet with him so badly, he excused himself from a Committee meeting he was in, to come and talk with him.”
“And on the heels of that, he told me about a Senator who passed up a closed-door meeting at the White House to spend time with him.”
Clyde started to speak again, and I told him to “Shush.” Which, of course, he did.
This was good stuff and if Clyde was as good at ferreting out information as he seemed to be, we could have a goldmine here.
I started to think this contact may be the way into these Religion Consultants’ lives. I chuckled to my devious self, tapping a sharpened nail on my recently capped front teeth and re-engaged listening to Clyde.
“Well, he didn’t tell me exactly, of course, because it was our first real meeting, and I think he was checking out the monetary considerations we would be open to giving him. . .”
“Yes?” I had to spur him on again.
“But I think he was hinting to me about Congressmen and women with family relations problems.”
“Like what, Clyde, like what?” I wanted to shout at him but was forcing myself to be patient.
“Well,” he said slowly.
If Clyde was near me, I would have kicked him or punched him.
“He hinted towards families who must have drinking problems or something else real bad, because the Congressman often sleeps in his office.”
“Shut up!” I cried out. I wanted to think.
But he kept going, completely oblivious. “. . .One of our consultants is wanting to have regular contact with him again, and it sounded to me like they are working out an exchange of information sortie.”
“A what?” I asked, irritably.
“Oh, I’m sorry, boss. That’s military speak for determining how they would clandestinely pass information back and forth to each other.”
He paused and then asked, “Do you know what clandestine means, ma’am?”
“Shut up, you fool,” I said as harshly as I could.
After a few moments I said, “Clyde, are you embellishing any of this?”
There was a long pause as if he didn’t know what embellished meant, so instead of insulting him, which I really wanted to do, I rephrased the question.
“Are you making any of this up?”
“Of course not!” He almost tripped over the words. “I couldn’t make this stuff up.”
“That I believe, Clyde. That I believe.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said.
What a moron; thanking me for insulting him.
“One more thing, ma’am.”
“Yes,” I said as patiently as I could.
“He’s back in D.C. next week and already has plans to meet with our. . .”
“Our, you-know-who, right?”
“Umm, yes, ma’am.” He couldn’t help himself, so he went on. “Umm, you and I are still meeting at your office in less than two weeks, so I’ll try to have an Operation Judas status report by then.”
I shook my head and spoke. “Got it,” I said, and then hung up.
Same Day, FBI Headquarters
I was working late and was ready to head home when the eyes-only communique from a Homeland Security Listening Post came across my secured comms line.
OPERATION: JUDAS I.
14, February 7:01 pm till 7:37 pm
Since we are surveilling Perp #2, we recorded his telephone conversation in evening with Perp #1. And we were on hand when he had lunch with Dr. Dale Riley (Perp #3), but there was too much noise for our team to hear all details. What they did hear, though, seemed to correspond with the telephone conversation.
Classified, Director Pete Beecham
Copy, FBI, Eyes Only: Jack Jones
I skimmed the transcript and sat by my phone, jacket in hand and waited for the call.
Sixty seconds later it came.
But there was no welcome, no hello, no nothin’ just, “I told you they were dirty, Jack. Just a little more grunt work on our part, and we’ll have enough information to nail those two Religion Consultants, also. With a little luck, they’ll all do some serious jail time.”
I didn’t say anything.
And he continued. “In fact, I suspect the consultants will be going to jail, along with the prayer-guy and the two controllers, Clyde and the Pastor, whom we surveilled tonight.”
“May I make one request, Pete?”
“Ask it, Jack. But I can’t promise to give it to you.”
“Fair enough. I only ask that you not haul in those you are calling Perps #3, #4, or #5, Dr. Dale, Issy or her husband Jude, not for questioning, or anything, until you have something solid on them. And. . .”
He gave a sharp intake of breath, loud enough for me to hear over the phone, and I knew what he was thinking.
“Okay, I have a second request.” I just kept talking so he wouldn’t interrupt me.
“I merely want to be in the loop, so I know what it is you have on them, before you haul them in as criminals.”
He was silent for a long time. Finally I heard his sigh which told me he had acquiesced to my request.
“Also, Pete, I’m sure you plan to, but make your next report on Dr. Dale. I’m not comfortable calling him a Perp, but I agree with you that having lunch with the CI-Guy warrants some investigation.”
“Finally,” I asked very calmly, “Did you attach any significance to the name, ‘Operation Judas’ that your Perp supplied us?”
“No, why?” he asked.
“I don’t know, Pete, but I think we need to find out.” And I hung up.