Time in Exile (2)

I appealed to the director and deputy director of NSA for respite from my exile to no avail. The president’s orders were not to be questioned. I came away with the impression that no one at NSA was cleared for the operation the president was pushing. I got the feeling that NSA leadership was embarrassed by my dilemma but was powerless to act.

To fill the empty hours, I read from the stack of waiting books I always have in my study. I brought in a portable typewriter and worked on my own novels and short stories. I got caught up and even ahead in my letter writing. I was an avid runner in those days, so I allowed myself long runs several times a week, occasionally covering over ten miles.

When, after weeks of banishment, I still didn’t resign, my captor upped the pressure. The heating in the room was turned off. Bulbs in ceiling lights were removed. It got dark and cold in there. So I invested in a space heater and a floor lamp. I brought in turtleneck sweaters and heavy sweatshirts to stay warm.

The president, as it happened, was late in his second term. As winter closed in, he left office and a new man moved into the White House. I immediately appealed to NSA to intervene in my behalf. As soon as it did, my exile was ended. But I didn’t go back to my assignment on the intelligence budget staff. Instead, I returned to NSA. Soon thereafter I was assigned to a responsible and challenging job.

Over time it became obvious to me that the entire episode of my expulsion from the budget staff job had embarrassed the NSA leadership. The less it was spoken of, the better. If anything, the entire episode probably helped my career along because of management’s desire to make reparations for a president’s egregious error.

Over time, as a result of my devotion to the principles of leadership as opposed to management and the great success it brought me, I ended up in the high executive ranks at NSA and was able to retire with a generous annuity that has allowed me to write full time.

As is standard for me, I used the fact of my ostracism in my fiction. It became Gene Westmoreland’s story in my novel Secretocracy published last year. But because persecution of intelligence professionals became one of the hallmarks of the Trump administration, I set the story during his time in office.

I have no complaints, but I wouldn’t advise up and coming government employees to defy the president. It doesn’t usually work out.

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