The Senator rested his glass on the arm of his chair and gazed steadily at Oliver. “Not a bourbon man, eh?”
“No. I try it every now and again to be polite, but I prefer craft beer myself.”
The Senator cleared his throat. “I suppose I can respect that. Small brewers and their customers are a growing constituency in my home state. Tell me Oliver, are you a praying man?”
Oliver was taken aback by the non sequitur. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, studying the Senator though narrowed eyes. “Excuse me?”
The Senator glanced from Oliver to his father, who shrugged. “Give him a break Wheeler. He didn’t know you would be here. Boy’s still surprised.”
“That right, Oliver?”
Oliver nodded slowly, but didn’t say anything. He was still trying to figure out what was going on here. Obviously his father had arranged for him to meet with Senator Wheeler, and it was equally clear that the Senator was trying to get some sort of measure of him, but he couldn’t fathom where this might be going.
The Senator grinned again, a politician smile that reached every bit of his face and eyes, yet still struck Oliver as superficial. Perhaps because it was just a little too enthusiastic.
“I’m just wondering if you’re a man of faith, Oliver. I like to know who I’m dealing with, and the question is absolutely relevant to our topic this afternoon.”
Oliver stood and looked from the Senator to his father and back again. “Why don’t we start from the top. Hi, I’m Oliver Lucas. I’m a travel photographer just returned from a trip to Iceland and I’m exhausted. Depending on what my father has told you, I’m also either a dithering crackpot conspiracy theorist, or a dedicated historian who believes that most of the myths that shape our world today have roots in historical events.” Oliver paused and glanced at Ted, who was standing impassively by the door, eyes fixed on him but not giving any sign that he considered Oliver a threat. He continued, “You’re Senator Gary Wheeler, a career politician with a decent shot at the White House, sitting here in a secret bunker with my father, a self-made businessman who likes to play political power games in his spare time. Obviously I’ve been brought here for a reason, so why don’t you stop dithering about whiskey and religion and just tell me what the hell you want.”
Senator Wheeler leaned back in his chair, apparently surprised at Oliver’s outburst.
Oliver’s father chuckled and took a sip of his drink.
“Alright,” the Senator said, after studying Oliver’s face for a moment. “Sit back down and I’ll tell you why you’re here.”
Oliver returned to his seat and leaned back, crossing one leg across his knee and resting his hands on his lap. He looked at the Senator expectantly.
“Tim. If you could step outside.”
The Secret Service guard nodded, pulled the heavy door open, and stepped into the landing at the base of the staircase, pulling the door shut behind him.