Book: THE BLADE RUNNER AMENDMENT by Paul Xylinides Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paul Xylinides

11 At the White House
    It seemed unfair to him that the President worked at home.
    From the outside, the layout struck Virgil as more real than he could have imagined it: the sky appropriately fissuring its military grey with clear flying blue high above the lower wind. In any other location, the scenic effect would hardly have been noteworthy, but here it presented as an essential and emblematic feature. Whatever appearance the sky took on would provide meaning for a visitor here.
    Within the premises, the crystal clarity of all the polish must be what put everything – most of all, decisions of state – into final focus. The darker lines of intrigue and political machination would stand out more unambiguously against the light that ricocheted in glowing strokes. Whatever had been manually done – relentless cleaning and redesign – had been done in service to this fullness of effect not to mention the better display of the abundant flowers from the greenhouse sometime installed. Sweeping stairways, ranging hallways, and corridor offshoots staged the traffic of state with a discipline and elegance that suited formal wear over casual. Ergo the disparagement that some holders of the office had suffered.
    An intern of sorts, wearing a fuchsia dress, ushered him into Tom’s rectangle of an office and, with a nod, left. What had gotten into him,? He hadn’t known where to turn while feeling he had to turn somewhere. It seemed hardly sufficient as a reason, but a contact was a contact. Humphrey Martinfield was not just anybody, and Chloé was not just anything. Naturally enough, the nature of this sanctum had prevented him from bringing her to support his concerns.
    Tom entered through a portal that he’d entirely not noticed. He got up to shake hands.
    “Virgil! How are you doing?”
    “Well enough, I suppose, Tom. It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?”
    In fact, they had seen each other no more than two or three times in over twenty years since graduating from university when they had roomed together. Not that they had forged bonds that were not severable, although they acted otherwise consciously assuming on their approach to reacquaintance the appearance of relaxed tension that a Golden Gate Bridge’s steel cables suggested. Tom had adopted an expansive show since the unappetizing intimacies and the de rigueur informalities that were inevitable when sharing living quarters, but on this occasion Virgil welcomed it, as he would the brief appearance of sun in an uncertain sky.
    “Make yourself at home!” His host’s invitation filled the room and virtually wafted him to the visitor’s chair.
    “At home in the White House,” Virgil murmured as he sat down. “A historical moment for me.”
    He indulged himself and delivered his earlier sentiment: “The President works at home!” Tom ignored the comment as though it had gone completely by him or was a species of ‘aw shucks’ idiocy and beneath his condescension.
    “Yep. Every day I spend here, every breath I take weaves itself into history.”
    “Busy at the nation’s loom.”
    Virgil cringed for himself while Tom acted his new generous self to a fault.
    “Not exactly tapestry work.”
    “Still, everything here has a significance, doesn’t it? Always the threat that things will come unwoven unless properly done.”
    “The same is true everywhere.” Tom chose a philosophic tone.
    “No, not exactly. It doesn’t much matter which side of the bed I get out of.”
    “But you always get out the same side as I recall.”
    Virgil glanced about, painfully aware that he wasn’t fitting in and couldn’t be without a different tack. The room’s high-placed window made their location in the building difficult to pinpoint. Had that gentle sloping stairway led to a semi-basement area? No carpet softened the mahogany floor in whose polish dimly shone the wood-cut prints evenly spaced along the walls. What was their story? He focused on them.
    “There’s a

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