Note: Krandall Kraus has published six books, including the Lambda Literary Award winner It's Never About What It's About, co-authored with his partner Paul Borja. He is the recipient of the 2006 Christopher Isherwood Fellowship in Fiction; his first novel, The President's Son, was a bestseller. A former consultant to the Office of the Vice President, his political thrillers are filled with White House insider details. Interestingly, many members of the current administration worked in The White House while he was there.
Begun in 2003, Last Days was written, Kraus says, 'because I wanted to be rid of these people and the only way I could do it in a moral way was to make it happen in writing. I would certainly never hurt anyone. I went to school in Texas and hung out around Lyndon Johnson and John Connelly, so I've been exposed to politics all my adult life. Things are worse than people imagine. But I was stunned when everything I had written in 2004 about gay adoption started coming true.'
Kraus approached the Windy City Times with the idea of serializing the book when his publisher suddenly dropped it, fearing reprisals from the Bush administration. His response to that? 'For God's sake, it's fiction. And this is America, land of the free. At least it used to be.'
Follow this 44-part serialized book in Windy City Times for the next several months.
Late Spring 2007, 5:35 a.m.
To: President Nancy Pelosi
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Routing: EOPOTUS-001Flamingo Via Federal Courier
Enclosed you will find the diary we discussed on the telephone last evening. Although One and I had an agreement that he would compile such a journal, I didn't actually come into possession of the diary until I ordered the room unsealed and personally began directing an inventory of One's personal effects. Mr. Adams kept the diary between the mattress and the box spring at the head of the bed, which clearly tells us that he wanted it found. A man with his training could easily have chosen a place where none of us would have found it had he desired.
An intriguing hiding place: directly beneath his head. In ancient Greece and Mesopotamia it was believed that items placed under one's pillow would inform a person's dreams. But perhaps such a detail is of interest only to a woman in my profession. I suppose it is misleading to say he was hiding it, really, as he and I had discussed his diary often in our therapy sessions and we had an informal agreement that I might eventually read it. While keeping the journal was my idea in the hope of getting some insight into his psyche, I believe his true motivation in writing down his 'story' was to explain himself to his children.
The most interesting thing about One is that there is really nothing very interesting about him. He was Everyman. He was the average American. Middle-class, hard-working, a good father, divorced but in contact with his former wife; in other words he was what anyone would describe as normal. The question begged by his psychological profile is this: Does the normal, average American want to kill the President of the United States? More accurately, does the normal, average American want to kill this president?
Far from what we might expect, One was politically and socially conservative, right down to being opposed to gays in the military, but believing his own gay son had a constitutional right to privacy and the pursuit of happiness. ( Echoes of Barry Goldwater, wouldn't you say? ) In fact, it wasn't until Clinton's first year that One even knew his son was gay. Clinton, in his inimitable 'man-of-the-people' fashion, used to coerce One to join him in a whiskey highball when he was working late in the Oval Office, and it was during one of those late-night chats that One told Eagle he was against Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He would find out within a matter of weeks that his son was living with a man in New York and they were filling out applications to adopt a son of his own.
One's parents moved from Ohio to Midland, Texas, when he was starting high school so his father could pursue a career in the burgeoning oil industry. When he graduated from high school his father got him a college deferment from the draft, and when One graduated college his father pulled strings to get him into the Secret Service. He carried a torch for his high school heartthrob, Laura Welch, until he realized she would never marry him. Then he married someone else, had twins and went on with the most ordinary of lives. Because he saved the life of George H. W. Bush when he was running for Vice President, he was transferred from the Houston regional office to D.C. to work in The White House.
The supreme irony in this American tale is that if it hadn't been for saving the life of Vice President Bush he never would have been in a position to assassinate the man's son, President George W. Bush, 25 years later. It's almost Shakespearean. One—like most average guys—was a noble man in many ways: patriotic to a fault; distinguished in his career; a physical—if not a moral—hero three times over; a loving, if belatedly dedicated, father, and—what I am most grateful for professionally—he was intelligent and articulate as well.
What I find intriguing—and strangely reassuring—is the fact that this was clearly not a politically motivated act. He was following his conscience and doing what he believed was in everyone's best interest: his children, Mrs. Bush, and the country at large. One might even say he was motivated by 'family values.' For someone in his position, with his intimate knowledge of people in seats of power and his personal life history, that leaves us all something to ponder for a long, long time.
Debra Haber, M.D., Chief
Homeland Security Psychiatric Division
St. Elizabeth's Hospital
Route: A 411: Anacostia
Clearance Code: 2006PT
From the journal of John 'Jack' Quincy Adams, Chief Secret Service Special Agent in Charge, The White House. Code Name: One.
Part 1. Tea and Therapy
I meet every day with the doctor. The psychiatrist, that is. She probably thinks I don't know who she is, but I do. Dr. Debra Haber, Director of St. Elizabeth's. St. E.'s. The nut house in Southeast D.C. Not only do I get a psychiatrist, I get the head of the hospital. A pretty famous hospital, at that. Ezra Pound was locked up here. Hinckley's still here somewhere, even after Ford is long gone. There are even three Iraqi and two Saudi terrorists—suspected terrorists, 'detainees'—that no one knows about. And the leader of the ring that set off the dirty bomb is here, too. Everyone thinks he's at Guantanamo, but I know different. Perk of my job.
Dr. Haber is trying to determine if I'm crazy. I could play games with her about it, but I'm not like that. She seems sincere, besides being intelligent. The truth is, I like our daily meetings. I like talking to someone that sharp, that perceptive. Part of her treatment, she says, is to encourage me to write about it. I can write about anything I want, of course, and she's hoping that by reading what I write she can determine what led me to want to assassinate the President of the United States.
Dr. Haber has negotiated a 'deal.' She has given me a laptop computer and asked me to write something every night and to let her read it. In exchange, every evening she has the transcripts of our recorded daily therapy sessions delivered to my room, some of which I may include here. She gets to read my work and I get to read hers, so to speak.
I am escorted to our meetings by no less than four armed guards, which I cannot help but find amusing. Perhaps they fear this sixty-two-year-old man with aching joints might use his training in karate to take out his captors and flee over the rooftops a la James Bond. My colleagues in the Service would know better, but the chaps in the FBI, CIA, and especially the inner circle of this particular administration, think in strange, Machiavellian ways.
These are virtually the same group of advisors who were with Sheepskin, Trailblazer's father, 16 years ago. Espionage, subterfuge, and a pervasive 'spy vs. spy' mentality seem to be part of their DNA. I hear the new president hasn't had time to clean house yet, which I'm sure she's anxious to do. Surely, every last one of these Yahoos will get the axe. Eagle ( Clinton ) likes to say the differences between him and the Republicans isn't about good and evil. He says it's just about different ways of looking at things. I have come to the conclusion that Eagle is wrong. I think it is very much about good and evil, greed and largesse, meanness and compassion. Very much, indeed.
But I am getting ahead of myself. I should begin at the beginning. I should begin with the day I fell in love with Laura Welch.