Ten minutes later, fresh as a daisy in a clean MTSA polo shirt, shorts, hiking boots and the .45 tucked into a waistband holster, Anna and I hiked up to the main office. Afternoon clouds were starting to roll in, but I thought it was all just a bluff. It didn’t feel like rain…yet.
We were just walking up with a barge-sized black Cadillac Escalade SUV pulled into the lot and docked in a handicapped spot. Some functionary jumped out of the driver’s seat and ran around the car to open the passenger door. The man who climbed out had to perform some strange origami unfolding to extract himself from the Caddie’s passenger seat. He was creeping up on the six-and-a-half foot mark, rail thin from his perfectly groomed silver hair to the perfectly polished Ballys. His summer weight wool suit in a pale dove grey hung…well, perfectly. The overall effect was diminished somewhat by his long face and basset hound eyes. “Don’t let those doggie eyes fool you,” said my friend Susan S. Smith, whose relentless publicity machine made him sound like a loveable cross between Mahatma Gandhi, Ralph Nader and Barney the Dinosaur. “Frank Lee James has all the warmth and compassion of a rabid mink.”
“And you’re helping him become the next governor of Tennessee?” I’d queried.
She shrugged. “What can I say? The checks clear.”
Yeah, well, let she who is without sin, etc.
The back door of the Escalade, which appeared to have more doors than one of those clown cars in the circus, opened and the big SUV disgorged a whole posse of suits, including David—“Just call me Davey”—Crockett, campaign manager and one-time used car magnate…”A coonskin cap for the kiddies and a caddy for the little lady.” Rumor was he’d bought up every single piece of videotape that featured his head in proximity to anything remotely racoonish; these days, he was given to Levis, hand-woven sweaters, a huge database of Internet campaign contributors and an army of blog weasels, just waiting to be unleashed on the politically unsuspecting.
Davey was followed by, oh joy, Assistant Chief Armando Clement—proving categorically that my karma was still on a roll—and a suit I didn’t recognize. Just when I thought the car was running out of clowns, it popped two more, obviously a matched set. The first stepped out with endless amount of leg, all lean muscle and pale skin right on up to her thigh. She folded out of the car with a fluid grace that practically screamed dancer, then stepped lightly to the side while the other matched piece crawled out. They could have been salt and pepper shakers, if you’d been buying your table accoutrements in Vladivostok. Twins, a speck taller than Anna’s five-foot-seven, both with the milky pale skin, watery blue eyes, white blond hair and the look of absent distain of long-expatriated Russian royalty. They took two graceful steps to flank the suit I didn’t know, then went still, four blue eyes flickering back and forth, scanning like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.
Behind me, I felt, rather than heard, Anna click on. I know, I know…strange-o, but I don’t know any other way to describe it. One minute she’s off in Anna World; the next she’s 100 percent here, with all her defenses up and phasers set to barbeque.
Without looking, I knew she’d be moving laterally, opening up the fields of fire. The blonde velociraptors tracked her with their heads. Better talk, Kashi, before everything went all O-K Corral for no apparent reason.
“Hi guys,” I said, once again exercising my uncanny ability for conversation. “What’s up?”
“Are those things loaded?” Governor-to-Be James asked, nodding toward the gun on my hip.
“Yep,” Anna said, “but don’t worry. We never shoot anyone on Sunday. Blue laws and all.”
“She thinks she’s a laugh riot,” said Assistant Chief Clement.
“And she certainly is!” G-T-B James said. You must be Anna…” then turning to me and extending his huge hand…”and you must be the celebrated Kashi. Great picture in last week’s SI! I can’t tell you how much we’re all looking forward to tomorrow.”