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Edge of Battle A Novel
By Dale Brown
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright ©2006 Dale Brown
All right reserved.
Later that morning
"Don't talk to me about bigotry, xenophobia, or racism," Bob O'Rourke said even before the country-western bumper music faded completely away. "Don't you dare call this show and call me a racist. I'm mad enough to chew nails right now, my friends, and I might just lose my temper."
Fand Kent, Bob O'Rourke's producer and call screener on the top-rated nationally syndicated talk radio show The Bottom Line, smiled broadly as she turned the gain down on her headphones. If you looked up the term type-A personality in the dictionary, you might find Bob O'Rourke's picture there. He was always headstrong, dynamic, animated, energized -- but he was even more so behind the microphone. During their one-hour production meeting before each show in Bob's office, he had the usual array of national newspapers stacked up on his desk and his ever-present tablet PC notebook ready to take electronic notes, but today when she walked in for the meeting there were just as many newspapers on the floor, and crumpled up and tossed toward the wastebasket.
Bob O'Rourke's loud, deep, rapid-fire voice with just a slight Texas twang in it was exactly opposite of his physicalappearance, which Bob carefully worked to conceal (and which cost the jobs of a few other producers when they slipped up and released unflattering descriptions of their boss): he was five six and weighed one-forty soaking wet, with thin black hair, a thin neck, very light skin, despite living in a town with eleven months of sunshine a year, and rather delicate-looking features. He was so self-conscious of his physical stature that he wore a cowboy hat, boots, and sunglasses all the time, even in the studio, and had trained his voice to become deeper. Some might call it a "Napoleon complex," others might call it ego and vanity carried to the extreme. Fand Kent knew enough to keep her mouth shut whenever that subject was broached. You never knew when a rival producer or media reporter was nearby.
"If you ask me, my friends," O'Rourke went on, "this attack, this assault, this brutal assassination is every bit as serious and troubling as the terror attacks in San Francisco, Houston, and Washington in recent months. Don't give me that look, Fonda. Don't you dare roll your eyes at me! You know what I'm talking about!"
Fand was busy with the phones and her computers and hadn't even looked up at him, but it didn't matter -- he constantly accused her of disagreeing with his comments and ideas, which were all part of the show. She was smart enough never to let him know her true opinions.
"I know, I know, it's not Fonda, it's 'Fand,' the Celtic goddess of truth, goodness, happiness, understanding, and Kumbaya, or some such nonsense that you were named after. To me, it sounds like 'Fonda,' another liberal tree-hugging 'everyone be happy let's all get along' character, so that's what I'm going to call you. I'm warning you, Fonda, the O'Rourke trap is open and you're one step away from getting chomped, young lady." Fand only shook her head and smiled as she went about her work.
"I am not talking about numbers of dead or injured, my friends," he went on to his worldwide radio audience. "I'm not talking about weapons of mass destruction. I am talking about the enormity of the attack, the audacity, the sheer brazenness of it. You liberals think that an attack against the United States has to kill hundreds or thousands of persons, or law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty aren't to be considered victims of an 'attack.' Well, my friends, I don't.
"In case you don't know what I'm talking about here, in case you've been living under a rock or hugging a tree or counting snail darters in Lake Mead with your head underwater and your brains up your butt, I'll bring the ignoramuses in the audience up to speed," O'Rourke went on. "Yesterday evening, four United States Border Patrol agents were gunned down just off Interstate 10 between Blythe and Indio, California. No, wait, just hold on. 'Gunned down' is too soft, too gentle, too Fonda. Let's call it what it was: they were slaughtered. They were shot to death by automatic gunfire as they were making an immigration stop. These men were executed. And for what? For enforcing the immigration and border security laws of the United States of America, that's what.
"The assassins didn't stop there, my friends, oh no, not by a long shot. They killed a total of ten Mexican nationals, including a pregnant woman and an eleven-year-old boy. The killers then made off with a Border Patrol vehicle. Incredible. Simply incredible. Horrifying is more like it. This is the worst killing in the line of duty in the history of the Border Patrol."
As if he needed something to get him even more hopped up, O'Rourke took a handful of chocolate-covered espresso beans and popped them into his mouth before continuing: "So what's the status of the hunt for the killers? I called Mr. James Abernathy, director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the folks who run the Border Patrol. He said he could not comment because of the ongoing investigation. Same response from Attorney General Wentworth. Fair enough. I'm not going to aid and assist the terrorists by pushing the investigators into revealing any clues that might make the killers scatter.
"But I asked both gentlemen what's being done to secure our borders and prevent another attack like this from happening again, and do you know what they said? Mr. Abernathy's spokesperson said, 'We're doing everything possible.' Attorney General Wentworth's spokesman said, 'Everything legally authorized is being done, with all due respect for the rights of those involved in this activity.' Excuse me?"
Excerpted from Edge of Battle by Dale Brown Copyright ©2006 by Dale Brown. Excerpted by permission.
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