Part Three: Schaef Earth Garden
The room is even more crowded than it was before. Someone let in select members of the press—CB is pretty sure whose bright idea that was—and the small groups are now besieged with reporters trying to interview them during a wake. The reverend of the church has closed the doors to the sanctuary and is stating in loud, plain terms that under no circumstances will the press be permitted in there. CB smiles slightly as a very startled Senator Tobias Morgan is told, in somewhat more strident language, that if he attempts to bring his cameramen into the sanctuary the reverend will have him ejected immediately.
CB steps out the front door and takes a deep breath. He turns left, and walks down into the garden. A few of the Secret Service are there. He waves as he makes his way over to a bench, sits down, lays his head back, and closes his eyes. He sighs heavily as he tries to gather his wits.
CB opens one eye. A tall, solidly-built, dark-skinned man looms over him, looking down. CB squints while his eyes adjust to the light, then breaks out into a grin. “Roger!”
Roger Whitman is six and a half feet tall. Even in his suit—a relatively inexpensive two-piece with a too-thin tie that was obviously purchased in the 80s—it’s plain that he’s a solid mass of muscle. His dark curly hair is cut short, and his sideburns are showing white. Other than the white in his hair he looks like a man in his late thirties or early forties.
Roger grins in return. “Figured you couldn’t stay in there for long. I was waiting for you to get out of the sanctuary to say hi, but the Senator started making up his own rules and invited the press. I cleared out before things came to a head.”
“Yeah, I walked into a madhouse,” CB says. He stands and holds out his hand. Roger’s grin widens, and he wraps CB up in a bear hug that lifts him off the ground for the second time in two days. CB hears his back crack.
“Ow.” It’s the only word he manages to say, but it’s enough. Roger puts him down quickly.
“Sorry,” Roger says. “Been awhile. Nice to see you.”
“You been in hiding too?” CB twists his upper torso to make sure it still works.
“No, nothing like that,” Roger says. “I have a 9-to-5, pretty simple stuff. Retirement’s boring. I have to do something with my time.”
“You’re still in the city?” CB asks dubiously. “And they leave you alone?”
Roger shrugs. “From time to time the government sends someone by to see if I’m ‘available’ for ‘a problem they could really use my help with.’ I remind them that they’re the ones that wanted us to retire in the first place.”
“I’m sure they appreciate that reminder.”
Roger chuckles. “They act like I’m the most unreasonable person on Earth. But now I know I’m not, because you’re still alive.”
“So where have you been?” Roger asks. “I keep in touch with everyone, but nobody knew where you were. Well. Alex knew, but he wouldn’t say. You doing a thing?”
“Yeah,” CB says. “I’m doing a thing.”
Roger nods slowly. “Well let me know when it starts to spiral out of control and you need someone to haul your ass out of the fire. I seem to remember being pretty good at that.”
“Yeah,” CB says. “I seem to remember that too.”
They both sit on the bench in silence for a while. CB looks at Roger and frowns.
Roger narrows his eyes. “What?”
“How do you feel, man?”
Roger shrugs. “Dunno. Pretty good.”
“Yeah. You look better than you did. A lot better. You looked haggard at the end of everything.”
“I didn’t feel too good,” Roger admits.
“You were always going on about feeling old. I started calling you ‘Mr. Glover’ for a while.”
“Yes you did, you little bastard,” Roger says, laughing. “I’d forgotten all about that. I was actually in pretty bad shape. Doctors said I was on the verge of a massive heart attack, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.”
CB stares at Roger in shock.
“Yeah,” he says, “it was pretty bad. Ironic, too. Theoretically the surgery they needed to do was pretty standard stuff, but they couldn’t do it. Nobody knew how to crack me open.”
“Well what happened?” CB asks. “You didn’t die, obviously.”
“I went to Robert. I didn’t know what else to do. Explained the whole thing to him. He flew me to his island, ran a few tests. Turns out I needed some kind of… amino acid, or something. I don’t exactly know what. I know he said ‘amino acid’ five or six times, but I’m not sure whether he was telling me I needed an amino acid or if he was saying ‘I can’t explain this to you, I might as well just say amino acid over and over again.’ Anyway, he… gave me a pill. I took it pretty regularly for a few years. I’m pretty much back to normal now.”
“Huh.” CB looks at Roger again and shakes his head. “I thought I had problems.”
“Oh, you have problems all right,” Roger says. “No question there.”
They lapse into silence again.
“Have you seen the body yet?” CB asks.
“Yeah,” Roger says. He shakes his head. “I don’t believe that story for a second. The one they’re saying on TV? No way it happened like that.”
“Yeah,” CB says.
“You tell me when it’s time,” Roger adds.
“Time for what?” CB asks.
Roger just looks at him.
“Yeah, I’ll tell you,” CB says. “Believe me. When the time comes, I’m definitely getting the band back together.”