FOR AS LONG AS he could remember, Jack Kunkle had wanted to be a member of the Secret Service.
In the First Grade, he hadn’t run for Class President. Instead, he’d offered his protection services to Hank Foster, the kid who had been elected. He then spent the rest of the year hoping for the chance to step in front of a bullet for President Foster, but it never happened.
In the Fourth Grade Sally Hoople had been elected Class President by the smallest of margins. She had been the first female ever elected as Class President in the history of John J. Johnson Elementary. She had run on a platform of banning the practice of trading food at lunch, a proposal that had polarized the entire Fourth Grade. Jack liked being able to trade food. His mother, despite his continuous protestations regarding his hatred of coconut, insisted on packing Snowballs with his lunch two or three times a week. Luckily, Jack’s best friend, Janice Franklin, loved coconut and was always willing to trade her cupcake.
Needless to say, Jack had not voted for Sally. Still she had won and so she had become his President. So, when she had approached him at recess the week after the election to ask for his protection, he had stepped up. She’d handed over a folded piece of white construction paper. On it, written in red crayon had been the following words:
I WILL BEAT YOU UP.
For a Fourth Grade Class President this was tantamount to a death threat.
Jack had taken it very seriously.
He spent the rest of the year keeping an eye on Sally Hoople. In the end nothing came of the note. Which was a win as far as Jack was concerned.
He continued protecting Class Presidents up through the Sixth Grade. By Seventh Grade it had all felt a bit childish. But only for everyone else. To Jack it was serious business. Until he graduated high school, he’d put himself in charge of keeping each Class President safe, just like Grade School. The only difference was that none of the Class Presidents were aware that he was doing so.
Jack had enlisted right out of high school, hoping that the military would be the path he needed to the Secret Service. And it was. Unfortunately his time with the Service had been short lived.
He didn’t like to think about it. He’d made his choice that fateful day in Florida. If given the chance to do it all over again he would have gone the same way. His superiors however, weren’t too happy with the outcome. But then, looking back on it, Jack wasn’t either.
Twenty years, two divorces, a slight drinking problem, and seven paid gambling debts later, Jack was back in the protection game. It wasn’t the President, but he’d take what he could get.
He wore a suit and had one of those microphones you kept up your sleeve. He even had one of those ear buds with the curly wire that ran down underneath his suit jacket. He felt pretty good about the deal.
Jack and his partner, Florian Gibbs, were standing sentry outside a door at the end of a long hallway, deep in the bowels of the hospital in the hospital. Jack had been trying not to think of his bladder when the two heard the distinctive sound of gunshots from above them, somewhere within the building. They kept their cool—of course, they were professionals after all—and took a quick glance at each other over the tops of their sunglasses. The look spoke volumes. Something had to be done.
“Falcon to Eagle’s Nest,” Jack spoke into his sleeve mic. “Falcon to Eagle’s Nest. Acknowledge. Over.”
“Falcon,” said a small voice in his ear bud. “This is Eagle’s Nest. We acknowledge. Over.”
“Eagle’s Nest,” said Jack. “We are hearing the sound of gunfire above us. Requesting permission to investigate. Over.”
“One moment, Falcon,” said the voice. “Over.”
Jack and Florian shared a look.
“What do you think?” Jack said, knowing that Florian, with his own ear bud, could hear what he heard.
“Those were gunshots. We’ve both seen enough combat to know that,” said Florian. “And considering who hired us, it can’t be a coincidence.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Jack said.
“Eagle’s Nest to Falcon,” said the voice in Jack’s ear. “Acknowledge. Over.”
“Eagle’s Nest, this is Falcon,” Jack spoke into his sleeve mic. “I acknowledge. Over.”
“Request denied, Falcon,” said the voice in his ear. “Remain in position. Over.”
“But the gunfire, Eagle’s Nest,” said Jack. “It could mean—”
“Negative, Falcon,” the voice in his ear said. “The Big Man’s safety is your primary concern. Remain at your post. Eagle’s Nest, out.”
“Roger, Eagle’s Nest,” Jack said. “Falcon, out.”
He and Florian shared another look. They each frowned.
“That’s a bunch of crap, man,” Florian said. “You heard the gunfire, same as me. As many shots as we heard means we’re looking at more than one shooter. We got and unknown amount of bad guys running around this hospital with guns, Jack. People could be hurt. And we’re gonna just stand here like a couple of losers?”
“Those are our orders,” Jack said.
“The orders are crap, man.”
“No, they’re right,” Jack said. “The Big Man is our priority. Anything comes for him, they gotta come through us.”
- Is the Big Man actually a really big man?
- Will we ever learn who threatened Sally Hoople?
- Do you think it's easy coming up with three questions each week?
Find out the answers to none of these questions in the next exciting installment of: The Mighty Piñata!
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