John and Logan stared at one another, out of sight of the President and anyone else who might be staring in the order window. In an alternate universe, where telepathy was possible, they would have had and incredibly intense conversation about how the world seemed to have turned completely sideways.
“I’ve got a sandwich to make,” Logan finally said, “and I don’t want to keep the President waiting.”
“Right. Don’t forget the GLBT that the First Lady wanted.”
“Thanks for reminding me.”
John turned back to the fryer, and stared down at the oil. He found himself wishing that Etty were near; beside him would have been even better. Had he been one for omens and portents, the solid block of frozen vegetable oil floating on top of the still-boiling container would have given him reason to suspect something unprecedented was likely to happen in the near future.
As a practical person, accustomed to partitioning his brain, and emotions, into manageable containers, he merely picked up the nearest tongs and pushed the block of vegetable fat down into the fryer. It melted again, and everything was back to normal… for almost thirty seconds.
Donna shrieked, and the Secret Service agents bolted up into the truck. John was pushed back, along with Logan, and Donna, away from the order window. One of the agents mumbled into the microphone at his lapel, and it sounded something like, “Stun and EVAC the POTUS. Commence thanks so much plan.”
Outside the truck, an older man swore and yelped in pain. It sounded strangely like the President.
“Oh, dear. He’s had one of his attacks!” The First Lady wailed. “Lois, we’ve got to help him!”
“Mary Beth, let the nice men handle it. Here, eat a cheese puff.” Lois—the woman with the sick-making voice—said to the First Lady. “I’ll take care of everything else.”
The three-man wall of Secret Service agents left the truck as quickly as they arrived, leaving the Manleigh Cheese crew to sort themselves out.
“Mr. Manleigh? Could I speak to you for a moment?” Lois called out from the other side of the window.
Logan excused himself from their huddle, and literally, stuck his head out the window. John watched, agog, and listened to the exchange.
“Mr. Manleigh, you and your crew didn’t see any of that. The President did not grope your blond friend’s breast. Do you understand?”
“Ah, yes, he did.” Logan stated.
“No, he did not. I appreciate your dedication to truth, and to the American Way, but you are sorely mistaken. That never happened.”
“Yes, ma’am. It did.”
“I see,” she said, coldly, “that you need me to be more plain. That moment did not occur. If you and your friends persist in asserting that it did, you will find that your lives have become much more complicated.”
“Are you threatening us?” Logan’s deep voice took a dark tone that John and Donna had never heard in all their years as friends. “I have no problem going to the press.”
“Mr. Manleigh, in fifteen seconds, I can have you and your friends arrested for lacing the President’s cheese balls with LSD. That could be construed as an act of terrorism, and the three of you will discover how pleasant life can be in a non-existent prison in Bosnia.” She cracked her knuckles. “I will pay each of you ten thousand dollars above and beyond the four thousand for this appearance, if you will keep your mouths shut. You will not be flown to Bosnia at taxpayer expense. All you need to do is agree.”
Logan turned to look at his friends, to get their opinion of the deal.
John saw the look on his face, and hoped he’d never see Logan Manleigh that angry again. He nodded mutely.
Donna did the same.
Logan turned back to the woman, nodded his head, and added, “I won’t vote for his reelection.”
“That’s fine,” Lois said, “now feed the First Lady, and we can take pretty pictures. Then the three of you can go home and take the rest of the month off on what you made today.”