The Holding Room

Editor’s Note *  “Satire is the enemy of Emperors.”  

The Holding Room

by Mutatis 

The first time that Pepper Lynn gave a tour she hated it.  It wasn’t the tour that made her upset, it was the finale.  The tour always ended at the same place.  The same spot.  Her job, most of it anyway, was to take visitors to different parts of the Capital building.  She memorized all the interesting details. 

Question:  How old was the building? 

Answer:  228 years.

Question: Who designed the Amateis doors on display in the House Wing of the U.S. Capital? 

Answer:  The sculptor Louis Amateis working with the first U.S. Capital and Grounds Superintendent.  The doors were cast in iron, depicting in relief what some call the American gods of jurisprudence, science, agriculture, iron, electricity, and engineering.  Two massive pieces of artwork that could equal to anything seen in Rome. 

She had an answer on every nook and cranny, including the holding room in the basement.  It was below the main structures of the building.  It was down long flights of marble stairs, echoing hallways, and iron gates.  This was her least favorite part of the tour.  The holding room made her want to go to lunch and never come back.  This was her favorite daydream.  Just walk away.  The first time she tried to talk her way out of it by not including it on the tour.  Most times she was told to skip that particular stop, but the holding room was reserved for special visitors.  After her first visit to the holding room, she begged her father to allow her to quite.    Her father put his foot down.  “You have an opportunity to advance in the world.  Some jobs have issues.  Nobody totally loves their job.  Suck it up, and just keep smiling.  You have to keep smiling.  Nothing lasts forever.  Do you know how much I paid in campaign donations to get your there?”

She rarely came down to the basement by herself.  Being with people made it easier.  Pepper had to remind herself that she was the tour guide for the Architect of the Capital.  That had prestige.  Many of her friends had summer jobs working in a library, or assisting in the family business.  This job would be noticed on college applications. 

There were many stops on the tour – the Rotunda, the subway system, the Senate Meeting Rooms.   The holding room was only shown to special guests; to people with connections, and only to those individuals approved by the Capitol Architect.  CNN and MSNBC had made requests to visit the holding room in the past, but soon the requests slowly died away.  Pepper knew the Capitol Architect kept a special list by his computer in a black vinyl cover.  People would come in, and only, and ONLY WHEN the architect gave her the nod she was to show The Holding Room.  It used to be she had to ask for the keys, but the Architect now just motioned her to an unlocked filing cabinet when she needed them.   Sometimes he did not even look up for his laptop.  He just motioned her to get the keys herself.   She felt trusted. 

Today, she was assigned a particular group of VIPs.  She recognized them the moment they walked in the door.  They were related to the President.  The group had two sets of adults, two men and two women, and assorted children of various ages.  The men were dressed in expensive suits and silk ties, the women in New York couture.  The women walked in high heels, and Pepper winced knowing the length of the hallways and stairs they would cover that day.  She wore flats, and her feet repeated thanked her for it.  The children were excited and exploded with unfettered energy by the children’s inability to keep their hands off of the staplers, computers keyboards, and assorted knickknacks that people kept on their desks.  Pepper’s supervisor whispered in her ear, “If they break anything.  Say nothing.  If the children steal something, say nothing.  Do nothing, but smile and show the little monsters the Holding Room.”

A euphemism always helps with the unpalatable.  That is why these kids were here.  Parents and kids were on a field trip.  See Congress, see granddaddy (the President of the United States), and see the holding room.

“I want to see the monsters,” demanded the little girl that tugged on her hand.  “Take us below to the basement.  I want to be scared.”

Pepper’s boss responsible for the structure of the U.S. Capital Building.  The white domed building housed the Senate, and the House of Representatives where the brochure said discussion, debate, and deliberate national policy was discussed to make consensus and craft the nation’s laws.  The entire building covered 1.5 million square feet, has over 600 rooms and miles of corridors.  The chief architect was responsible to keep this neoclassical building together, to fight off the elements, age and whatever termite that might try to destroy any wooden edifice that rose during a civil war.  That took a talent where that talent may not still exist.  Like finding a stone mason that can recreate a design over 150 years old.  Like finding a wood worker that has the talent to carve a copy of some bric-a-brac that finally crumbled from dry-rot.  History walked on those marble floors.  Lincoln may have leaned on a railing.  Thaddeus Stevens may have sat in that chair. 

“I want to see the basement,” said the boy.  He didn’t even look at Pepper as he made his demand.  “There are things in the basement – my daddy said.  Scary things.”

“I want to see the scary things,” echoed the little girl.

So the day was spent taking the happy, happy family through the typical tourist stuff.  They stood under the tomb of the Rotunda, they walked down National Statuary Hall where each state was invited to display two individuals of historical note.   Ghosts of past greatness, men and women of great note.  Each to stand witness to the direction of the great experiment called democracy.    “Whose that?”  The boy shouted, more interested in his echo than the subject of his enquiry. 

“That, is Roger Williams.  He is the founder of the colony of Rhode Island.  He is remembered as a pioneer of religious liberty.”

“He is not as famous as Granddaddy,” the boy challenged.

“Who is that?”  The little girl asked pulling on Pepper’s sleeve.

“That is James Shield of Illinois,” Pepper explained.  “He represents Illinois.  He almost fought a duel with Abraham Lincoln, but the two became friends.  Sheilds became a general in the Mexican American war, and fought in the civil war delivering the only tactical defeat again Stonewall Jackson.  He served as Senator for three different states in his career.

“Where’s Granddaddy?  Where is granddaddy’s statue?”

The adults looked to Pepper for an explanation.  They looked at her with such smug righteousness that Pepper found it sickening.  She smiled and explained that this hall was dedicated to notable citizens of every state.  As why the President didn’t have a statue she really couldn’t answer that question. “I’ll find out,” Pepper quickly added.    “I’ll find out,” was always a good answer.  It delayed, it put it off, it gave her more time. 

The little girl strode up to her like a little ‘imperial’ princess…”Well, my granddaddy beats them all.  They are all…” She paused looking for a word.  Eventually she found it.  “Losers.”  She then pranced away. 

Pepper looked at the parents.  Did they frown?  Did they tell the gorgeous little girl that she was being unkind?  No.  They nodded.  They looked like they wanted to say:  “…out of the mouths of babes.  Absolutely right. Oh how cute.”

It is then Pepper decided that she hated these people. The adults, the parents, were entitled snobs.  The little girl?  She was just an echo of what she heard around the dinner table.  Pepper gave them her best tour guide smile.  Daddy said she could charm the devil with that smile. 

“Let’s go look at the old Senate Chamber,” she directed the group.  She led the way and they followed into the grand room designed in a neoclassical style – very ornate.  A two story semi-circle, with a visitor gallery high up and supported by eight Ionic columns made from marble quarried along the Potomac River.  Mahogany desks were laid out on the floor facing a raised diaz.  Sixty four desks and chairs, the number of Senators in that year of 1859 before  moving to the new chamber.  The room is a representation of the past, caught in how it must of looked in a times when Daniel Webster and Jefferson Davis sat in the room.  From 1860 to 1935 it served as the location for the Supreme Court.   Pepper always paused in this room, to let the visitors grasp the significance.  Some gapped at the beauty.  Many had no idea what this room represented.  Some asked where Daniel Webster sat.  Daniel Webster Senator, Daniel Webster who argued cases before the Supreme Court, Daniel Webster the great speech maker.  Daniel Webster who said that, “…dear to every true American heart, – Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!”   Before Pepper could make her speech one of the wives grabbed he husband’s arm. 

She was staring at an old desk.  In fact, one that had a particular history attached to it.  She turned to Pepper and demanded, “Tell me about these beautiful desks.” 

“This is the Jefferson Davis desk, before he became the President of the Confederacy.  He sat here deliberating matters before the Senate, and before he became the First and last President of the Confederacy.”

“Oh, I want that desk,” said one of the women.  It is so beautifully made.”

“I’ll talk to Daddy,” the man said.

“It’s the property of the United States,” said Pepper.  “In fact the desk is a copy.  The originals were moved.  There may be copies on the internet for puschase…”

The man shushed Pepper.  “Oh, be quiet will you?”  He then smiled at his wife.  “Oh, I’ll talk to Daddy.  Everything is negotiable.”  His wife smiled. 

“It will look wonderful in the study,” she said.

She smiled at Pepper.  There you stupid little cunt.  Power, money…you ain’t got.  

Pepper decided to keep her mouth shut.  The day was almost over.  The day will come to an end.  In fact, she wanted the day to end – soon!  She did not like these people.  From the old Senate Chamber the tour went below ground.  The stairs, still marble, slightly bowed from 200 years of feet, went lower and lower past the basement terrace which contained offices and workshops to maintain the building.  Behind her the wives carefully walked in their high heeled shoes, using the bannister to prevent a spill down the steps.  Click, click, click.  The marble stairs stopped at a set of double wooden doors.  An iron grill blocked access to an old black iron lock, attached to two stable like doors. 

“Let us in!  Let us in!”  The children chanted.  They sensed this is where the excitement started.  It looked like the entrance to a Disney Ride, the doors reminded them of Pirates of the Caribbean, or a place where Captain Jack might spring forth.

“Please, excuse me a moment,” said Pepper as she fumbled with her key.  The iron grill was drawn back.  The old wooded doors was opened after the black lock was unlocked and the bolt drawn back.  Pepper pulled the doors open, with a squeal of old hinges.  “This way please,” she said. 

The families moved forward.  The kids pressed to enter.  “I have to do one more thing,” said Pepper.  “Please hold on to your kids, they might set off an alarm.”

Pepper went to a wall where a numbered keypad was behind a thin swing panel.  She punched in the code.  “We don’t want to alarm the Capitol Police.”

After a green light lit up on the panel, she swung the old gate and doors wider revealing a hallway made of ceramic green brick.  The children danced through.  “We want to see the monsters.  Where are the monsters?”  The kids chanted as their Sunday best shoes clicked on the bricks below their feet.  There was a bench.  The children climbed on top of the Georgian Chippendale, their own personal balcony to the joy that awaited them.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, let me show you what you came here for.”    Pepper unlocked what looked like two stable doors on the left and right of the room.   She rolled one back, and then walked to the other side.  She grabbed the heavy handle and rolled the other to the side.  That is when she felt a certain nausea sweep over her.  She took out a tissue and held it to her mouth.  There was a smell.  A stale stink of an enclosure.  Behind the doors were a barrier of iron bars.  Behind the bars were two darkened rooms.  The waiting room lights sent a glow to the back of each room.  There was a chair, table, bed and toilet.  Pepper could see a person in each room.  ON the left a man sat on the bed looking at his shoes.  He wore nothing but pants and a white shirt.  He had no belt.  On the right a woman sat staring at a piece of paper in her hand. She wore a baggy dress, gray, totally unflattering, a work matron style of dress – prison garb?   

“You have visitors,” said Pepper, hoping this would bring solace to this couple that spent most of their day in solitary confinement and alone.

The woman looked up and smiled.  “Hello Dear.  And who are these fine people?”

The female prisoner was old.  No make-up.  She had gone completely gray.  No eye liner.  Yet she still had that smile that she was known for on countless TV interviews.  She had been the Speaker for the House of Representatives, the only woman in U.S. history to serve as speaker of the house.  Once she was third in the presidential succession.  Once she was powerful – once.  Now her domain was a converted holding cell from civil war days.   The public thought her missing.  Fox News, now an official arm of the government, listed her as missing.  They ran new pieces of how she was sighted in the Bahamas, or in Canada planning a coup.  All manner of devious political maneuvering was attributed to her. 

The two men stepped forward and smiled.  “You know us, don’t pretend you old hag.”

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” The woman asked.  She squinted through the bars.

“We wanted for the kids to see you.”

“Oh, the circus clown, am I?”  She then looked over the shoulder to the man in the other cell.  “House Minority Leader?  Are you there?  Are you well?”

“As best I can be,” said the man who stood up and seemed to stretch.  “I hope these two men have cancer.”

“Me too, Senate Minority Leader.  I wish on them a particularly horrible death.”

“Testicular cancer.  That would be delightful,” the male prisoner said.

The blond one said, “No luck.  I’ve been tested.”

“What have you been tested for?” asked the former speaker of the house.  ‘Tell me, is his majesty still pretending that I’m on the run?”

Ads had been run on local news stations.  A photo and caption Be on the lookout for this man ran between shows and commercials.   Local hunting groups were featured ‘beating the bush’ and sending posses through forest looking for the missing ‘Shu.’  He was spotted in Kansas, Florida, and on a beach in Cuba.   

“You’re both horrible,” one of the wives said to the prisoners.  “Kids, babies come here.  Honey bears, come and see the monster.” 

The children hesitantly walked forward.  They hid behind her skirts.    

The woman in the cage smiled at the children.  “I have five kids.  I have grandchildren.  I haven’t seen them for about a year.  I wonder what Simmi is up too?   What are your names?  Tell me your names.”  The woman in the cage was sweet.  She slowly got on one knee to talk to the little girl.  Pepper could tell that it took effort.  The woman in the cage winced, but she got on one knee and motioned the girl forward. 

One of the girls began to say her name.  The mother grabbed her arm and pulled her back.  “Just look dear.  Just look at the very, very bad lady.  Your Granddaddy, put her in a cage.”

“Your granddaddy is a dictator.  Your granddaddy destroyed his own country for his own geed,” said the former minority leader.      

“Shut up!”  The little boy screamed. The little girl joined in.  “Shut up.  Don’t speak bad of Granddaddy…” the following words just spilled out of the little boy’s mouth.  “He’ll hurt you. When Grand Daddy gets angry, he’ll punch back.  He’s a fighter.”

The man in the cage looked up for a moment at the boy.  “Yes, he put me in this cage. He put us all in a cage.”

One of the men, the eldest son, simply said, “Shut the fuck up.”

The man in the cage said, “If you don’t want the monkey to throw feces at you, don’t taunt the beast.”

“Senate minority leader, look at them,” said the female prisoner.  “Just look at them.  Puffed up by their own importance.  Like all sons of dictators, they are nothing but blow-fishes.  Hot air is what grants them their size.  They will never measure up.  They will wear the same tie as dad.  They will wear the same suits.  They will even marry the same type of women, in hopes that Dad grants them power and possible prestige.  It’s not a family, ‘Shu’.  It’s a cult.”

“You know,” said the former Senate Minority leader.  “I’d really like to know something.  How is that mansion you building on public land?  The papers are filled with it.  What are they calling our private homes?  Palaces on the Hudson,” said the man in the cage.  “The newspaper are filled with it.  Two hundred and fifty rooms, and 600 acres of public land.”

The other man, blond and a bit dumb, smiled and said, “900 acres.”

“Yes, thanks for correcting me,” said the prisoner.

“How could you know that?”  The smarter brother asked the man in the cage.

“I didn’t.  I guessed that is what happening due to the appropriations monies you’re shoving through Congress.”

“How could you possibly know that?  You don’t get newspapers, you aren’t allowed a TV.  How could you possibly know that?”

“History.  What else do dictators do?  Open a book.  Dictators loot the government.”   

I think we need to shut you up forever, old man,” said the smarter son.  “Let’s have the Architect of the Capital simply wall up this part of the building.  How would you like that?”

Pepper tried to fade into the wall.  Did he really say that?  Oh god, oh god…why didn’t I quit when I had a chance?  The intern kept her head to the floor.  She had witnessed a death threat.  She wanted to run from the room, but what would these people say to her boss?  She gritted her teeth and hoped that no one would notice her.  That no one would say a word to her. 

The man in the cage laughed.  He sat down and laughed.  “Montresor, you want to wall me in!  Is that what it has come to?  I now live on the pages of Poe.  I am now in the story of The Cask of Amontillado.  What is my name?  FORTUNATO!  I am chained to the wall. Walled up for perceived wrongs.”  The former Minority Leader laughed.  It was a long laugh, which was interrupted by long coughs.  Tears ran down the man’s face as he tried to bring himself under control.   COVID had already killed two-million people.  It was rarely reported, and so called cures were being sold on the TV and on the internet.    What didn’t exist, what

The visitors stood there shocked.  The children pulled on the Mother’s hand.  “Let’s go Mommy,” the girl whined.  “This isn’t fun anymore.  I WANT TO GO!”  The boy shouted.  The prisoner looked across the room.  “Did you hear that, House Speaker?  I AM FORTUNATO.  I am Fortunato.  I am the man chained to the wall.  Did you hear that Madam Speaker?”  He called to the woman locked up mere feet away from his cell.

“I did.”

The Senate Minority Speaker began to quote.  His voice echoed through the brick basement.  His voice took on an echoing macabre roar of fear and death.  Every syllable filled the room.  Every vowel seemed to come from hell itself.  The boy was now edging towards the door.  His mother was about to follow.  This was not the Sunday outing envisioned. 

“FORTUNATO HAD HURT ME.  A thousand times and I had suffered quietly.  But then I learned that he had laughed at my proud name, Montresor, the name of an old and honored family.  I promised that I would make him pay for this – that I would have revenge.”

 

The male prisoner held the bars.  He aimed his words at the men.  The tour group did not know where the words came from.  They never read anything beyond their father’s biography and the sports page.   Ignorant, uncomfortable laughter fell from the mouths.  A response when experiencing or listening to the unfamiliar.  The men scowled at the Senate Minority leader. 

“You’re crazy!”

“Crazy old loon!”

Shu spat in the visitor’s direction, and then shouted again so that his voice echoed through the small chamber.  “Montresor!  For the love of God!!”

The male visitors had never read Poe.  They did not recognize ‘For the love of God!!’ as taken from the story.  They heard the plea and took delight in it.  What was the old man saying?  For them, ‘…For the love of God!!‘ was just a plea from an old man. 

The reply to Poe’s prose came from across the room.  The female prisoner shouted the response:  “Yes.  For the love of God!” 

“Daddy, I want to go!”  The little girl was clawing at the exit door.  The little girl had recognized the pain and the desperation in the words.  Her little cousin joined her at the door, trying to get it open.  The two mothers began to back away. “We need to leave!  Now.”  This was a day for ice cream, lunch at a trendy bistro, a walk in the park.  This was not the day they expected.  The little girl decided that she much rather see the Panda Bear at the National Zoo.  “I want to see Qi Ji,” the girl demanded.  “I WANT TO SEE QI JI!”  The boy decided that he much rather watch TV in his room.  This room spoke of things beyond comprehension.  These old people smelled.  These old people stank of desperation and lack of soap. 

The last speaker of the house knew this story.  She had read it to her grandchildren to make them quake in fear.   What better children’s treat that a story of Poe?  She recited the words as best she could:  “I heard no answer.  Fortunato!  I cried.  Fortunato.  I heard only a soft, low sound, a half-cry of fear…I hurried to force the last stone into its position!”

The man turned to Pepper who was still against the wall.  “Get moving, you little bitch.  Open the god damn door.  Let us out.”

“Yes,” said Pepper.  “Of course.”  She nearly lunged at the door.  She wanted out as well.  To get away from this scene; from these people.

“For the love of God, Montresor!”  Shu shouted.      

The old woman shouted back:  “for the love of God!’  They both enjoyed performing this play.  It broke the monotony.  It broke up the continuous silence.    

The former Senate Minority Leader laughed.  He began to quote.  “With these materials and with the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance.’

There was a pause.

For the love of God, Montresor” Shu shouted at the retreating visitors at the door.  .

For the love of god!”  The old woman shouted, enjoying the sound of her voice echo from the walls. 

Both regretted scaring the children, but reveled in the anger and fear that ran across the faces of the adults.  Yet, both prisoners knew that it was wasted on them.  The adults would not know the mysteries and the beauty of the writing of Edgar Allen Poe.  The adults read few books, and any literary reference was beyond them. 

Penny was desperate to get out.  She fumbled with the locks.  Her thoughts were scattered.  She hated her job.  I am not a jailor.  I am not a jailor.  This isn’t me.  I am not this person.  Oh, god…  This is something she can’t brag upon when she met her friends at Off the Record on 16th Street.  This stuff gave her nightmares.  She tried to set it off in a box.  To compartmentalize the sadness of it.  It has been three weeks since anyone had come down this far into the Capital to take a look at the ‘monsters.’  There were others.  Campaign contributors, men with red hats, and beer bellies.  Bearded men that spat at the old man and woman through the iron bars.  Always, there was an attempt at a selfie; she would try to stop it but they would do it despite her warnings.  “God will punish you!”  The Red Hats shouted righteously.  The old woman would say a prayer over a rosary, and Shu would recite a prayer of deliverance, “May the Lord answer you on the day of distress; may the Name of the God of Jacob fortify you.  May He send you help from the Sanctuary, and support you from Zion…”

“The little Jew boy is praying!” A shout would rise up and echo through the tiny jail.   

One thousand dollars paid to the Committee to Reelect the President, bought you a visit down into the jail.  It was the hottest ticket in town.  Special people were allowed access to see the monsters. “A good time was had by all!” Twitter accounts tweeted letting the secret go viral on the internet that the President’s rivals were kept in a cage below the capital.  No one thought it possible.  When challenged, the White House Press Office laughed at the suggestion.  The security was blown, but somehow a few misplaced tweets put the fear of God into those weak kneed liberal Americans that were asking the questions.  The mere thought gave them pause.  “He wouldn’t, would he?  Really?  Seriously?  He wouldn’t start arresting people?  For disagreeing with him?  Really?

Pepper got the inner door open.  The door was heavy, possibly made of steel, maybe a heavy iron.  She pulled it aside and the visitors rushed out.    The little girl started to cry.  The little boy whined that he was hungry.  The two women’s heels clacked angrily on the brick flooring as they made their escape.  The tall blond broke a heel, and fell on a heel banging her knee on a marble step. 

Good, Pepper thought.  

The two men followed swearing and glaring at Pepper.  

“Pepper!  Pepper!”  Shouted the old woman from her cell. 

She had used her name.  She actually knew her name.  Pepper simply wanted to slam the door, and go and forget this day had ever happened. 

“Pepper!”   

The intern sighed and told her charges to wait at the top of the stairs.  She closed the door and stepped back to the cages.  The two men swore at her, and the bearded one said they would not wait long.  “I have to lock things up,” she pleaded.  The bearded one tugged at his tie, and said, “Shit, get it done.  GO!” 

She had forgotten to close the sliding doors that would hide their cells.  So she went back into the room.  Pepper, at most, figured she had a few minutes.  She could talk to the old woman, close the doors, and escort the group back to the office.  She couldn’t resist giving the woman a moment of her time.  Who would it hurt?  She had seen her on TV.  The voice was unmistakable.  Pepper never introduced herself.  She had never used her name.  How could she know?   She noticed the old woman was holding a piece of paper through the bars.

“What’s this?”  She asked.

“It’s a note, for you.  Read it when you have time.  Go take care of your people.”

Pepper looked back at the exit door and said, “They are not my people.”

“Good,” said the old woman.  “I’m glad to hear that.  Just read the note when you have time.  Read the note when you are alone.”

Pepper nodded, then closed the sliding doors.  She bottled up the woman behind the old stable doors.  What was next was the old man.  He smiled at her as the door slipped shut.  The room returned to its cold empty purpose.  Now, it hid nothing.   There was nothing to see.  Pepper wondered who fed the prisoners.  She wondered who brought them supplies, and toiletries.  These people were warehoused.  Effectively buried away, bricked up like Fortunato in the cellar. 

She joined her tour group at the top of the stairs.  The two men were livid.  The women were consoling the boy and girl.   The older brother muttered under his breath how he was going to get her fired.  He might at that.  What were interns anyway?  Free help.  Pepper hoped the bearded man would do just that.  She would love it.  Her father would be livid, but Pepper would be free of thinking of those two people in the basement.  

“I wanted real monsters!”  Said the girl.  ‘It was just an old woman.  A stinky old woman.”

Pepper led them back to the office of the Architect of the Capital and the VIPs went into her boss’s office to complain.  She then made herself scares.  Through the glass door the Architect countered any mention of her dismissal with the outrageous amount of money her father donated.  It seemed to shut the bearded one up.  The argument lasted about 20 minutes, and the family left.  There was at least one door slamming, and a couple of glares.  The Architect of the Capital told her to take a break.  She left the building and walked down a long path to a sitting area.  She felt filthy.  She always felt dirty when the tour concluded with the basement.  There was a small breeze, and she sat on a stone bench with a view of the dome.  She sat for a moment with her eyes closed.  She then opened the note. 

Pepper,

It is time you understand the hard facts.  There are sides we have to take when we see injustice.  You have seen the dark side of the man you work for.  Don’t shake your head.  You work for him.  He keeps prisoners.  I am one of them.  You may see only two.  You see an old man and woman.  There are more.  Think about it.  There are probably more about the country, stashed away in so many basements.  I once represented the people.  I was third in line to the presidency.  I made my life in defense of the people of the United States.  The Republic, the Republic your father knew, what you knew, has been chipped away.  I ask one thing.  To remember me and Shu.  To tell the truth to your friends.  To never keep the lie to yourself.  I ask that you keep your job, take notes, keep records, and tell all your friends that in the basement of the Capital of the United States the prisoners are kept.  They may think you are joking.  But keep to the tall tale.  Say it over and over, and see if there is some way to put it on social media.  I think I ask very little.  However, there is a more dangerous path that I wish you would take.  One day, after one of your fabulous tours, simply keep our cells unlocked.  Keep the outer doors unlocked.  Just walk away. I promise there will be yelling, accusations, and threats.  Simply cry.  Shed tears and ask for forgiveness.  Smile prettily when they let you off.  I guarantee Pepper that you will sleep better at night.  Your dreams will be better.  You see, though you are our jailer, and simply an intern, you can be a revolutionary.  I guarantee that keeping prisoners is NOT on your job description.  Just ask yourself, what makes up my character?  I’ll tell you.  “Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking.”  

 There was no signature at the end.  The writing was in cursive, a woman’s hand, done with a cheap ballpoint.  Pepper breathed deeply and sat staring at the piece of paper for 30 minutes.   She finally tore up the note and stuffed it in a public waste container before heading back to the office.  She had another tour in two weeks.  She would make her decision on the next tour.  She would include the jail cells, even if they didn’t ask.  She was an intern in the Public Affairs Office wasn’t she?  Pepper would put it on the tour, until someone told her to stop.   Then she would cry, ask for forgiveness, and remind them how much her father donated to the campaign, and then do it again.  Then one day, she would do the right thing without anyone looking.  She would simply keep the door unlocked and walk away. 

-Fini-

Mors est A.P. Style dux