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The Adventure of the Agitated Anchor

It was an evening in the summer of ’04 when a sudden commotion on the stairs announced that a client had arrived unexpectedly to consult with my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Our door flew open and in staggered our old acquaintance from CBS News, Dan Rather. Holmes had previously aided him in the case I chronicled elsewhere as “The Adventure of the Battered Broadcaster,” in which by closely studying the contents of the frog’s sidepockets, Holmes determined not only the frequency, but also the identify of the mysterious Kenneth.

“Mr. Holmes, you are my last hope,” the distraught Texan said. “I don’t know what to do. I’m as nervous as a dust devil at a vacuum cleaner convention.”

Holmes chuckled wryly. “I’m pleased to see your nerves don’t interfere with your colorful similes,” he said. “Pray, take a seat and tell us what troubles you. Watson, perhaps some brandy for our guest.”

“A Lone Star would do nicely,” Rather replied. “I’m as thirsty as a Seventh-Day Adventist at a wine tasting.”

Cold beverage in hand, our guest told us his story. “Mr. Holmes, what I am about to tell you involves the military service of an august personage whose identity I fear I must withhold,” he began.

“My dear Rather, you know you can trust me to handle with the utmost discretion any case that involves the President of the United States.”

Rather stared at my friend in shocked silence. “Yes, Mr. Holmes,” he said at last. “The case does involve the President. But how on earth did you determine that?”

“When the anchorman of a major network news program calls on me unexpectedly in the night and I detect the cuff of pajama bottoms projecting from beneath his pants leg, it takes no great mind to determine that something of the utmost importance sent him out from his bedchamber. What august personage could cause such a reaction? It certainly could not be the vice president, for we know he never served in the military, citing ‘other priorities.’ Who could it be then? When I note a CBS memo tucked away in your breast pocket with the heading ‘POTUS Documents,’ it does not take long to determine just whom that august personage must be.”

“POTUS?” I asked. “What on earth is a POTUS?”

“President of the United States, Watson. A common abbreviation among members of the secret service. And among some Texas newsmen, I might add.”

“Yes, Mr. Holmes, it does involve the president, specifically his actions when he was with the Air National Guard in the 1970s,” said Rather. “Last week we received these faxes”—here the Texan pulled a sheaf of papers from his pocket—“that demonstrated once and for all that George W. Bush did not fulfill his military requirements.”

“Then you are to be congratulated, Rather! You appear to have what newsmen would call a scoop.”

“There is one problem,” said Rather. “Some people in our division believe these documents may be fraudulent. That is why I’m here, Mr. Holmes. If I have been taken in by a hoax, I will be in what our president’s father would call ‘deep doo doo.’”

Holmes examined the documents, his lean attentive figure reminding me of a bloodhound on the scent. After a moment he looked up with sharp cry. “Even a cursory examination of these documents raises some serious questions in my mind,” he said. “You say they were supposedly written in the 1970s?”

“Yes,” said Rather. “1972 to be exact.”

“Then how do you account for this reference to the television show Party of Five? If I recollect correctly, that program did not debut until the 1990s. Watson, please be so kind as to pass me my book on television trivia.” Holmes studied the thick, leather-bound volume. “Yes, it says here that Party of Five debuted in September 1994. How then could this Lieutenant Colonel Killian say he has ‘to cut things short’ so he could catch that particular show?” Holmes picked up Rather’s documents once more. “Furthermore, do you not find it dubious that an Air National Guard officer in 1972 would employ the word ‘snizzle’?” Holmes tossed the papers contemptuously to the ground. “Bah!” he said. “These are among the clumsiest and most obvious forgeries it has even been my misfortune to examine.”

Our client sunk his head into his hands. “Then I am ruined!” he wailed.

“Yes, Rather, things do look bad for you,” Holmes said seriously. “Like the purported author of these frauds, I am not one to ‘sugarcoat’ things. You have been taken in by a clever and fiendish adversary. If it is any consolation, better men than you have fallen victim to his ploys.” He helped the shaken newsman up and escorted him to the door. “I have but one word of advice for you, Rather,” Holmes shouted down the stairs after our departing guest. “Courage!”

Holmes returned to his seat by the fire. “Dark waters, Watson, dark waters,” he murmured.

“What do you mean, Holmes?”

“Do you not wonder why anyone would create such shabby and obvious forgeries?”

“Perhaps they wanted them be exposed as frauds?”

“Yes, Watson, but first they wanted Rather to take the bait. Our foe knows only too well the proclivities of these newsmen, always hungry for the scoop and willing to stake anything if it means getting the story first. It’s genius, Watson, sheer genius. I take my hat off to him.”

“To whom, Holmes?”

“You have probably never heard of Karl Rove?” said he.

“Never.”

“Aye, there’s the genius and the wonder of the thing! He is the Napoleon of politics, Watson. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are numerous and splendidly organized. I tell you Watson, in all seriousness, that if I could beat that man, if I could free society of him, I should feel that my own career had reached its summit, and I should be prepared to turn to some more placid line in life.”

Then one morning there came an enigmatic note slipped into our letter box. “Dear me, Mr. Holmes. Dear me!” said this singular epistle. There was neither superscription nor signature. I laughed at the quaint message; but Holmes showed unwonted seriousness.

“Deviltry, Watson!” he remarked, and sat long with a clouded brow.

The evening paper revealed the secret behind the mysterious message. “It appears that our friend Rather will be leaving his post a year ahead of schedule,” Holmes said. “The arrow has found its mark.”

Do not tell me this is Rove’s work!” I cried. “Do you say that no one can ever get level with this king devil?”

“No, I don’t say that,” said Holmes, and his eyes seemed to be looking far into the future. “I don’t say that he can’t be beat. But you must give me time–you must give me time!”

We sat in silence for some minutes while those fateful eyes still strained to pierce the veil.

 

By: Tom Huntington

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