Coup de Grace

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man is faced with a test he was never prepared for: war. Out of depth he struggles to save the ones he loves, and those he is responsible for in a time of severe turmoil.

Submitted: October 30, 2018

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Submitted: October 30, 2018

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Alone in an ornate office, curtains drawn, a man sat hunched over a large mahogany table. He was scrawling notes on a desk littered with pages.

It was a quarter to ten in the evening and he had almost finished a new bill for farming land reforms.

“I just need to…” he said thoughtfully tapping the end of his fountain pen on his chin.

There was a knock at the door.

“Come in” he yelled absentmindedly lost in his own thoughts.

A middle aged man stepped in wearing a black suit and red tie. He had short cropped black hair and his suit was disheveled and creased. It was his Chief Aide.

“Kinsley! I thought I told you to go home an hour ago. I will not have Caren berate me again about never seeing her husband.”

“Sir, something urgent has come up” Kinsley replied nervously.

“Actually I was just thinking about our time on the campaign trail” the man at the desk replied seemingly ignoring Kinsley’s reply “there was a farming town we passed through, a small one remember? I helped dig that well for a photo op with Maggie and her TV News.”

“It was Bilgeton but sir I really must-”

“Don't interrupt Kinsley” The man said “I was talking to a farmer there and he told me a story. His crops were failing. His home was in desperate need -”

“MR PRESIDENT!” Kinsley shouted. The silence that followed weighed down like liquid iron.

The president sat silent at his desk mouth agape. Kinsley had never dared shout at him before. He was wounded, unable to speak.

Kinsley, out of breath, whispered “we are under attack”.

Shock turned to horror as the President raised his hand to cover his mouth.

“Oh my God..Oh my God.. Wh-who? Where?”

“None of that matters sir” said Kinsley back to his kind measured self “you must organise your people, you must retaliate”.

“I must retaliate” the President mumbled half heartedly.

“They’ve attacked in the North East. I’ve put a message through to the General Chiefs. Contingency plans are being drawn up and the reserves are mobilising. But I can't do anything without your permission sir. Sign orders to send in the military. Let the army do their job.”

The president sat motionless.

“Here” Kinsley said softly placing a short document on the President's desk “it just needs your signature”.

The president stared into the abyss. Drowning in the overwhelming responsibility. His hand slowly moved over the page and he signed continuing to stare down the void. Kinsley snatched up the document.

“Thank you sir” he said warmly before turning and marching out the door.

 

The president leaned back in his chair and ran his fingers through his hair.

“Holy shit” he exclaimed. We are under attack. There are greater men than I that sat in this chair who would be well equipped to deal with such a crisis he thought. The generals would want to escalate, fight it out. Unleash unholy fury and the fire of hell on our enemies. But what if the report is wrong? What if there is some mistake. They could be rebels or terrorists. What if we strike too soon and are now the ones to start the war?

“Why me? Why now?” he moaned clutching his hair.

Time dragged on. It was only half an hour but every minute was torture, every second an agony. These thoughts and many others kept whirring around the president’s head but everything kept coming back to one simple truth. He was chosen by these people to lead them. He must protect his flock whatever the cost. He had to act. He had made the right decision. Unleash death.

 

There was another knock on the door.

“Come in” the president said.

It was Kinsley again.

“Sir, the Generals are almost at the bunker they want you with them.” He said peeking his head around the door.

“Absolutely not! I was elected into this office and no band of barbarians is going to kick me out it!” he yelled causing Kinsley to recoil.

It appears the President has regained his confidence Kinsley thought sarcastically.

“I’m sorry Kinsley, I’m just not prepared for this”

“I have to show you this”

Kinsley cautiously made his way into the room and up to the President’s desk. He unfurled a map.

“Cobbled together from initial reports this is a best guess at the current situation. It's quite sombre.”

The map showed long spikes of red protruding from the east. Enveloping large swathes of countryside.

“The army wants to begin a new counter-offensive here in the south. They say it can buy us more time to get the reserves organised. The Navy wants to begin attacking our own ports that have fallen to the enemy in order to cut off their supply and the Air Force is having a hard time of it. They say they need more resources to make up for the terrible loses they have accrued. Sir we only have enough supplies and time for one of these plans.”

“Thats… thats Queensmeadow” the President’s face became more pale.

“Yes sir, your hometown has been taken”

This man and his damned mood swings thought Kinsley.

“There was a -”

“Spit it out!”

“There was a massacre. They rounded up anyone who couldn’t escape the town. They were forced into the church sir and they- they burnt it down. Sir we must do something. We must take action!”

“I.. I don’t know how- I...” the President looked up at Kinsley shivering with fear.

Kinsley’s impatience was starting to show.

“W-what about the reserves?” the President said desperately.

“At least twenty four hours.”

Silence.

“Pick something” Kinsley muttered angrily.

“Eh.. th-the Navy. Tell the Navy to cut off their supplies.”

“Sir you want the Navy to attack our own ports? Our own people?”

“And the enemy too. Goddammit Kinsley get it done!” the President was getting heated again and his face was turning bright red.

“The authentication sir.” Kingsley thrust a small voice recorder in front of the President.

“Admiral Guilfoyle, you have my permission to begin bombarding our ports along the eastern coast.”

Without another word Kinsley turned and marched out of the room. The President immediately began sobbing. What am I supposed to do? He thought. People are dying and I don’t have the answers. The guilt will tear me apart for the rest of my life. However short that might be. What I wouldn’t give to be back in Queensmeadow walking around the lake, kicking the autumn leaves, and sharing old stories with Anne. Oh Anne what do I do? How do I save my people? Anne… Anne! Oh my God!

The President’s hand jumped at the yellow phone at the edge of his desk. It was answered immediately by Walton, head of the President’s personal security.

“Walton!”

“Good evening sir” replied Walton somewhat surprised by the President’s urgency.

“Where's Anne? Get her and the children to the bunker. Make sure they’re safe. We don’t have much time.”

“Yes sir, I will do that” Walton replied calmly and confused.

“And Walton”

“Yes sir?”

“Thank you, for everything you’ve done”

“Thank you sir. Is everything going alright?”

“We have our backs to the wall but we will put up one hell of a fight.”

The President hung up the phone.

At least that’s one thing accomplished. He sighed and rolled his head back to stare at the ceiling. Think you fool, think. Ok the next step should be evacuation of the civilians. Move as many people as we can out west. We can still save lives.

The President jumped as Kinsley barged into the room.

“Sir we have to go. We have to leave now. The bunker is going to be closed they’ll be in bombing range of here in two hours.”

“Two hours?!” the President said as he stood up from his desk. They’re making more progress than I thought.

“What about the Navy? We have to evacuate the civilians west Kinsley. If we retreat to a river or-or mountain range we can hold them off there. We just need more time. We have to save more people.”

“The Navy are doing their job sir. We can discuss more options once we are in the bunker.”

Kinsley began shepherding the president towards the door.

“But one last thing Kinsley. Assemble the press, I want to address the nation. I have to tell the people to evacuate. To move west. We can still do some good.”

“Very well sir. There are some journalists waiting outside. Lets go.”

The President followed Kinsley out of the door. His feet sank into the thick red carpet as they marched down the ornate halls of the Old Palace and wound their way down marble stairs. The President could see a podium set up already just outside the front doors with hundreds of press gathered.

How did he organise so much so quickly? It would take hours of preparation. Then how could he know to organise a press conference before we knew we were under attack? Unless-

The President’s jaw dropped.

Kinsley stopped walking and turned around to face the President.

“I have followed you for years” he whispered into the President’s ear venom dripping from every word “on the campaign trail from senator to President. I have put up with your overbearing arrogance and egotistic megalomania. You mistake loyal servants for zealots. Crushing everyone beneath you to get to the top. This is the end of your term President Grace. I will be sure to wipe you from the history books.”

Kinsley turned sharply and marched towards the podium and the awaiting press. President Grace began jogging after him calling out his name. Two security guards grabbed him under the arms and dragged him to the side.

An orchestra of camera shutters and flashes erupted as Kinsley had taken to the podium looking calm and composed.  

The President looked up to his right. Walton was one of the men who had dragged him to the side.

“Walton? What’s happening? Walton? Is my family safe?” he began shouting louder “What about Queensmeadow? Why are you all sitting here when Queensmeadow is burning?!”

Walton stood stone faced staring straight ahead. The media turned their attention to the President snapping and shouting.

Once the journalists had quietened down Kinsley’s well rehearsed speech began.

“It is with the deepest regret I must inform you, the nation, that our President, Howard Grace, has lost the mental capacity to continue in his role as President.”

The room exploded once more.

“Now now, please” Kinsley said with authority calming the room down into silence once more.

“The President just this evening told his head of security to rush his family into the bunker shortly after ordering our Navy to open fire on our own ports. The government has seen fit to dismiss Mr Grace from his role as President to avoid any further catastrophes.”

“Who will replace him?” a voice shouted from the middle of the mob of journalists.

“Before his bought of madness the President saw fit to sign one last executive order which, in the interests of stability and to enable a smooth transition, gives his Chief Aide temporary control of the Presidency. That is all.”

Kinsley smiled and waved to the photographers before heading back into the Palace. He didn’t give the President a single glance.

“The ambulance is here” the President heard squawking from Walton’s radio.

President Grace was strapped down to a gurney and carted off in front of the media like a circus animal. He was loaded into the back of an ambulance. Lying there staring at the ceiling trying to comprehend what happened he didn’t notice the medical attendant slip a needle into his arm.

“How could he do this to me?”

The President’s final words trailed off as he collapsed into history.

 


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