Book Excerpt: 'Sammy's House'

So much for my ostrich logic. They'd never struck me as the brightest birds. I reluctantly raised my head. Oh God, it was RG. Why on earth had he stopped? The Secret Service agent who rode in the passenger seat had leapt out and was now looking around alertly as RG leaned out from the shadow of his car. "Hello, sir," I squeaked, stepping hesitatingly back into the light. "Do you need a ride?" RG asked brusquely, indicating the extra SUVs and squad cars that had pulled close to form a protective barrier. Was this like one of those Mafia ride offers? I wondered. It was more my livelihood than my life that felt threatened. If he was going to fire me, I'd rather know sooner than later. But I felt too weak and disheveled and possibly diseased to weather it now.

"No, sir," I answered. "I'm waiting for a friend." "A friend," RG repeated. It did sound implausible. "A taxi-driver type of friend-stranger," I elaborated lamely. "Um, I'm sure we'll be friends by the end of the ride." I considered burying my head back in the towel. "Uh-huh," RG replied flatly. "Well, I'm not going to leave you here alone at night on a deserted street. Climb into one of the support vans. I'll instruct the driver to take you where you need to go." "Yes, sir," I answered meekly. "Thank you, sir." I could see the van he was referring to toward the rear of the motorcade. Should I just hustle back there, then? RG was still watching me. Uh-oh, I knew that look. He was weighing a decision. He was an avid hunter and I imagined that this was the look that came into his eyes as he was staring through his rifle scope, deciding whether or not to pull the trigger.

He sighed deeply and my career flashed before my eyes. "I'm going to tell you something and I'm going to say it only once. Understand?" His tone was harsh. I knew RG was capable of brutal tongue-lashings, and I steeled myself for one as best I could. "Yes, sir," I managed. "Listen to me carefully. You're a smart, capable advisor. You're normally an asset to our team. But God almighty, do you have some blind spots." I gulped. Here it came.

"So just do me a favor. On your ride home, I want you to focus on one thing." He paused. "No matter what loud noises you encounter, try not to fling yourself from the van. Belly flops on asphalt are a lot tougher to recover from." RG didn't lighten his tone or break into his teasing grin. I thought I saw the corners of his mouth twitch upward as he leaned back in his seat, but it wasn't until the car was pulling away that I finally found my voice again. "I'll try to remember that, sir, thank you," I said to the space where his car had been. But I certainly couldn't make any promises.

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