Read Eggsecutive Orders Online

Authors: Julie Hyzy

Eggsecutive Orders (26 page)

“What about the clowns and the book readings and the magic shows?”
“Of course. We’ll still have all of that.”
“But there will be added security.”
of added security.”
“And the guests aren’t going to notice?”
She grinned. “In an effort to keep people from feeling uncomfortable, the extra Secret Service agents will be in costume.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Not bunnies?”
She laughed. “Some of them. Others will just be dressed like regular partygoers and will mingle in the crowd.”
“Good plan,” I said. “Thanks for the update, I’ll let my team know.”
A glance at my watch reminded me that my mom and Kap were probably on their date right now. I considered calling my mom’s cell just to check in, but nobody likes a buttinsky, and that was exactly what I would be. I thought about calling my apartment. Maybe Nana would be able to give me an update on the situation.
I made sure to refrigerate tonight’s bruschetta topping before making the call. Just as I pulled my cell phone out again, Bucky grabbed my arm, then let go almost immediately, as if surprised by his own action. “They want me upstairs.”
“Who does?”
“The Secret Service.” He swallowed. “They say they have a few more questions for me. Oh my God, they think I did it, don’t they?”
My number one assistant, I was discovering, went from zero to sixty in the space of a heartbeat. I’d never known anyone who flipped from emotionless to panicked with such speed.
“Bucky,” I said, with intense calm, “if they thought you did it, would they have allowed you back into the kitchen?” I extended my arm out toward our work stations and all the items we had in progress. “Would they allow you to cook for the president of the United States of America if they suspected you of murder?”
Bucky held his hands to his head. “We haven’t served the food, have we? No. They just brought us here for more questioning.”
“Why are you so afraid?”
My question seemed to stun him. “Why aren’t you?” he asked, stepping back. “This Minkus situation gives them the right to poke their noses into our private lives.”
“Yes, but—”
“What will happen if they find out that I’m living with . . .” He widened his eyes as if to say “You know who.” Rubbing his hands over his face, he groaned. “I could lose my job. I could lose . . .”
He didn’t have to finish the sentence. Personally, I thought his fear was over the top. I didn’t believe for a moment that his relationship with a member of the Egg Board would cause any conflict of interest whatsoever. If it did, then what would be said about my relationship with Tom?
That thought dried my mouth. Thoughts of our talk later today sent pillars of fear driving down into my stomach. There was nothing I could say to Bucky to reassure him. And I wished there was because maybe then I could reassure myself.
But before I could even attempt, one of the Guzy brothers came into the kitchen. “Buckminster Reed?”
Bucky lifted his head.
“Come with me.”
Cyan and I tried to smile as Bucky left—an effort to make this sudden summons seem like no big deal—but he wasn’t buying it. His lips tight, he gave us a long, meaningful stare before following Guzy boy out of the room.
“He’ll be okay.” Hearing myself say the words actually made me feel a little bit better as though by virtue of will I could make everything okay. Weren’t we back in the White House? That was a step in the right direction, for sure.
Cyan said, “Yeah,” but her tone was unconvinced.
In addition to preparing dinner, we worked ahead. It had been so long since we’d been in the kitchen that there was a lot of catching up to do. Cyan and I barely spoke as we cleaned out old food that had gone bad and began chopping, cleaning, and slicing items we knew we would need going forward.
Just as we finished, Bucky returned. His pale face was covered with a sheen of perspiration. “What happened?” I asked.
His eyes were glassy. “The dossier,” he said.
Minkus’s. “What did they say?”
“They’re considering suspension.”
“That’s not right,” I said, untying my apron. “Let me talk with them.”
Bucky’s hands came up. “Don’t.”
“What have I got to lose?” I asked, anger making me reckless. “They’re probably going to call me up there next and tell me I’m suspended, too.”
Cyan wasn’t understanding. “What dossier? Why will either of you be suspended?”
I explained about Bucky sending Minkus’s dossier to his home computer. “Bucky made me a copy. So we’re in the same boat.” I cast a glance at the doorway. “Probably just a matter of minutes before I’m summoned, too.”
“I didn’t tell them that you have it,” he said.
Taken aback, I could only ask, “You didn’t? Why not?”
Bucky boosted himself onto the stool we kept near the kitchen computer. He leaned his elbows on his knees and lowered his chin into his hands. “Why get us both into trouble?”
Never in a million years would I have expected this show of unity from Bucky. I patted him on the shoulder. “Thanks.”
He nodded absently. “We have to worry about the eggs,” he said. “If they suspend me, they sure as hell aren’t going to want to use the eggs I have stored at my house.”
That had the potential to become a problem. “Unless we work through Brandy,” I said quietly. “She might be able to use other channels to bring them here.”
I expected him to react—to scold me again about bringing up her name—but he just blinked. “Yeah.”
“When will you know?” Cyan asked. “I mean . . . whether they’re suspending you or not.”
He shook his head. “No idea.”
“I’m still going to talk to them.” I folded my apron and placed it on the counter. “You know this is all for show—to make it look like they’re running the most thorough investigation they can. If it were up to Mrs. Campbell . . .” I stopped myself before finishing the sentence.
“What were you going to say?” Cyan asked.
Bucky glanced at me with the most curious expression. Half-cynical, half-hopeful. This man was a walking contradiction.
“Just that I believe the investigators aren’t seeing the forest for the trees.”
“Never mind,” I said. “I’ll be right back.”
I caught Paul in his office. “Ollie,” he said, not smiling. “I think I know why you’re here.”
“They can’t suspend Bucky.”
He shook his head. “My hands are tied.”
“We all take paperwork home. It happens all the time.”
“But guests don’t usually die,” he said, then added, “Thank God for that.”
“You mean to tell me that if Minkus hadn’t died, and yet the Secret Service had found out Bucky forwarded that document to himself, they wouldn’t raise an eyebrow?”
Paul made a so-so motion with his head. “That’s impossible to tell, but I have to believe they’re cracking down especially hard in this case. There’s no textbook on what to do when a White House visitor dies—or is killed—while at dinner with the president.”
“What can I do to vouch for Bucky?”
Another so-so motion; this time Paul’s eyes looked sad. “I don’t think that will do much good at this point.”
“My support wouldn’t count for anything, would it?”
Paul looked away. “It’s not that.”
“Sure it is.” I heard the bitterness in my voice and then I couldn’t stop myself. “Doesn’t anyone care about what might have really happened here? Why is everyone so suspicious of us? And why bring us back if the Secret Service isn’t going to trust us? If they’re so leery about us being here, how can they be so sure we won’t try to poison someone else?”
My voice had gotten louder and even I realized I was approaching panic. Not very professional. I toned down immediately.
“Sorry,” I said. “I guess I just don’t understand any of this.”
“As I mentioned,” Paul said, “you—and your staff—are back because the First Lady requested it. When the word comes down from that high up, the Secret Service has no choice in the matter.”
The thought that had occurred to me earlier sprang back into my brain. “Thanks, Paul,” I said.
“Is there anything else you need?”
“No,” I said. “Not unless you can prove that Carl Minkus died of natural causes.”
He opened his hands. “I’m sorry there’s not much I can do.”
I forgot about calling home to check with Nana until I was back in the kitchen. I would have pulled out my phone, but I caught sight of Bucky removing his apron with a look of abject defeat on his face.
“They didn’t . . .” I said.
He didn’t make eye contact. “One of those twin agents— Guzy—came by to tell me. Said I could finish out the day, but I figured why bother?”
When he finally looked up at me, his eyes were glassed over and held such weight that I could barely stand to look at him.
“Don’t go yet,” I said. “Please.”
“I have an idea.”
He started to shake his head—to argue—but I stopped him.
“Just a couple more hours, okay? Just trust me.”
The words fell out of my mouth and with them, I realized I was almost promising him I’d fix the situation. But could I? Did I have the support I needed to pull this off?
“Come on, Buckaroo,” Cyan said, with a lightness so forced I felt her pain. She pointed to the clock with a floury finger. “It’s only a couple more hours and we could sure use the help.”
“Don’t know what good I’ll be here,” Bucky said, but he tied his apron back on.
“Let’s just worry about planning next week’s menu,” I said.
“Being suspended and all, I probably won’t even be working here next week. They didn’t even say how long I’d be off. Maybe indefinitely.”
His tone was gruff, as might be expected, but yet again Bucky’s vulnerability caught me by surprise. He’d always been my loudest critic and biggest annoyance. To say I’d been tempted to serve him notice—more than once—was an understatement, but recently I’d begun to see him in a different light. What had happened to cause him to be so contrary all the time? What made him so difficult? I was just grateful to know that apparently Brandy had been able to pierce his armor. At least he had some sunshine in his life.
I had an idea. A good idea, I thought. But it had the chance of coming back to bite me, too.
“Okay,” I said. “We have no major events next week after the Egg Roll, so we can probably bring out a few of the family’s favorites while tossing in a couple of new items. Any suggestions?”
We discussed the menu at length and I was encouraged to note Bucky getting into it—crabbing at me when I disagreed with him. Bucky’s complaints actually made me feel good. Almost like we were getting back to normal.
When we had the week’s worth of meals planned, I headed to the computer to put it into our standard format before submitting it to the First Lady. Behind me, I heard Bucky sigh.
“So, that’s it, huh? I guess I should get going.”
“Did you refill our tasting spoons?” Cyan asked him. “We sent the ones that had been sitting here over to the dishwashers, but they haven’t brought us any clean ones back. Would you mind checking on that before you leave?”
Bucky rolled his eyes, but complied.
As soon as he was out of the room, Cyan sidled up next to me. “He doesn’t want to leave.”
“If I have anything to do with it, he won’t.”
She peered over my shoulder, then whispered, aghast, “You aren’t.”
Not looking at her, I shrugged, returned to the e-mail I’d been writing. “We all do our part,” I said. A couple of keystrokes later, the message was sent. “Now, let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
At least I was doing something. My spirits buoyed, I took a deep breath and reveled in the joy of moving forward. But that feeling was short-lived.
“Olivia Paras.” Peter Everett Sargeant III’s pronouncement was not an inquiry. More like a command.
I turned, dismayed by the unexpected arrival of our sensitivity director. “Yes,” I said. “What can I do for you?”
He stared at me through hooded eyes. “We need to talk.”
“I am up to date on all the schedule changes, Peter,” I said. “And since we are no longer serving dinner on Monday, we no longer are dealing with ‘sensitivity’ issues with regard to meal planning. The Egg Roll menu was approved a long time ago. If whatever it is you need to discuss can wait until next week, I would prefer we do so.”
He tilted his head in his inquisitive yet condescending way, but I caught the underlying glee in his eyes. “I wish it were that simple,” he said with a smile. “But I’m afraid this matter is much more grave than that.”
I couldn’t imagine anything more serious than canceling a White House event, but I took the bait. “Fine. Let’s step—”
Wrinkling his nose, he turned to Cyan. “You will excuse us.”
She looked to me. I nodded. “Sure,” she said. “I’ll be downstairs.”
He watched her leave. “Why do you keep her on staff?” he asked. “For one thing—”
“I don’t believe you came here to discuss my staff,” I said, interrupting. “So if you don’t mind, let’s get to the heart of the matter, shall we?”
As it always did when I dealt with Sargeant, my posture became more rigid, my speech pattern more formal. There was nothing casual about this man. Perhaps subconsciously, in an effort to facilitate more efficient communication, I parroted his terse, prim demeanor.
He began: “You are incorrect in your assumption.”
I startled, and it bugged me that he noticed.
His smile grew broader. “This is most certainly about one of your staff members. I am here to discuss the immediate dismissal of Buckminster Reed.”
Whatever I’d expected, it wasn’t this. Gathering my wits, I searched for a comeback. “Bucky doesn’t report to you. He isn’t even within your chain of command.”
“Which is why,” he said with exaggerated patience, “I am coming to you first. It is unfortunately true that I have no authority where Mr. Reed’s continued employment is concerned. But I heard what he did, and I find that wholly unacceptable.” The smile never wavered. “As should you.”

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