Presidential Shift - Episode 1
Chapter 1
Vienna, Virginia
7:04am, December 15th

    The runner sped past a woman pushing
a lime green jogging stroller. Despite his fast pace, the
jogger didn’t look
winded.   Adjusting his white Adidas cap as he
turned into the public park, he scanned the area from behind Oakley
running glasses. His brown hair could barely be seen peeking
out.
    There was a hidden alcove of trees off to
the right and he ran that way. Headed toward a row of park benches,
he waved to a thin man seated wearing a heavy parka. The
dark-complexioned man looked up from an Arabic newspaper at the
sound of the man’s footfalls and returned the wave with a
smile.
    The runner floated to a halt in front of the
bench surrounded by a tight copse of pine.
    “Morning, Mansoor!” the runner offered with
a smile.
    “And a good morning to you, Richard,” the
Middle Easterner replied, in slightly accented English. “Are you
finished with your exercise already?”
    The man nodded. “Yeah, just a quick run
today. Probably head to the gym after work. Mind if I stretch while
we chat?”
    “Not at all. May I offer you some of my
tea?” Mansoor asked.
    “Is it the stuff your cook makes?”
    “It is.”
    “That stuff is amazing. Much better than the
crap you get at Starbucks.”
    Mansoor nodded. “It is one of the many
things I miss about my country.”
    While the young runner Mansoor knew as
Richard stretched, the Arab poured out a cup of tea. Richard
glanced up casually to see his friend pouring a second cup, and
without taking his eyes off Mansoor, he reached down and looked to
be adjusting the sock around his ankle.
    “Funny I keep bumping into you like this,”
Richard said.
    Mansoor looked up from his tea. “If I was a
suspicious man, I would think you might be following me, Richard,”
he responded playfully.
    His companion shrugged. “What can I say? I
guess I’m into good-looking Arabs with hot tea.”
    Blood rose to Mansoor’s face as he waved
away the compliment. They’d only met days earlier, but had quickly
found they believed in many of the same things. Most importantly,
they’d spoken at length about the wars still being waged in the
Middle East. Mansoor had found it comforting to meet such an
enlightened, and handsome, American. It hadn’t taken long to figure
out that Richard was probably gay, although his last comment was
the most overt flirting either one had yet attempted.
    “Why don’t you come have your tea?”
    Richard nodded and sat down next to his
friend. He took the paper cup and held it up in a toast. “To new
friends.”
    The two men tapped their cups together and
took sips of their tea. Mansoor savored the taste of his past. A
few minor errands, and soon he would return to his country. He
smiled at the thought.
    Richard looked up from his tea and cocked
his head. “What are you thinking about?”
    Mansoor shook away his thoughts and focused
on his prize. “I was thinking that maybe we should do dinner
sometime. What do you think?”
    Richard’s light complexion flushed slightly
as he took another sip of his tea.
    “What is it, my friend?” asked Mansoor,
stroking his slick goatee carefully.
    Richard shook his head as if to say he was
too embarrassed to respond
    “Come, Richard. You know you can tell me
anything. What is the matter?”
    “I don’t know if I should tell you.
It’s…it’s kind of a secret.”
    Richard took another hurried sip of his tea.
Mansoor placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
    “Please tell me,” he whispered. His
oversized obsidian eyes glinted with excitement.
    Richard nodded and leaned in to whisper in
his ear. Mansoor shuddered involuntarily and moved in closer.
Richard used his left hand to bring Mansoor’s head near. It was an
almost intimate gesture. His lips were right next to Mansoor’s
ear.
    Richard whispered, “I have to kill you
now.”
    Mansoor’s eyes widened as the killer
inserted a double-edged blade into his throat. He struggled against
the pull, but the

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