The Presidential Assassin - Part I
Post date: Nov 03, 2020 6:56:22 PM
Clint Lattimore was an orphan who grew up in the San Diego County foster care system. His parents, Robert and Lisa, were killed by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 5, near the Palomar Airport Road exit, when he was only two years old. In three different foster homes by the time he finished grade school, Clint worked several part-time jobs during high school, while also volunteering at a local animal sanctuary and food bank.
After graduating from Vista High, Clint enlisted in the Marine Corps. During his second year of military service, he applied for a transfer to the Raider Battalion, a vital component of the Joint Special Operations Task Force. Marines and sailors of this unit support security and counter subversion from internal and external threats.
While on a mission in the West African nation of Mali, Sergeant Lattimore’s unit came under a barrage of small arms fire from a local insurgency group. Four Marines were badly wounded. Lattimore quickly assessed the situation and knew that if the fallen Marines stayed in their current location, they would either die from their wounds or be shot again. With a total disregard for his own life, Clint ran into the line of fire to retrieve his fallen comrades. On his third attempt, he was wounded in the arm and leg. Ignoring the pain, Sgt. Lattimore went into harm’s way one more time to get the last Marine. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery and the Purple Heart for his wounds.
During his seventh year in the Corps, Lattimore achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant and received the Bronze Star for his actions in a firefight while on deployment in Afghanistan. Clint applied to become a Warrant Officer and after graduating from the 16-week course, he gained assignment to an elite unit of Marines, Navy Seals, and Air Force Pararescue personnel as a tactical advisor and weapons specialist. As time passed, Warrant Officer Lattimore had six more deployments to various hotspots around the globe. He earned a Silver Star during one of those deployments and another Purple Heart.
During his eighteenth year in the Corps, Chief Warrant Officer Lattimore was on assignment in the South China Seas. Chinese mercenaries had occupied a disputed island in an important shipping route. All diplomacy efforts had failed to resolve the situation, so military action was the last resort. China denied any involvement, but it was a hollow denial and more of a challenge anyway. The leaders of the communist nation wanted to see how determined the United States was to use its military might.
This mission was strictly off the books, since the Chinese denied any connections to the mercenaries. The United States did the same with its elite force of special operatives. The term “plausible deniability” was being bantered about by the Pentagon if the mission turned bad in a hurry. The objective was so dangerous that Admiral Larry Crowne offered the American warriors the option to back out.
“Last chance, gentlemen. I‘ve been notified by Pacific Command to give you the opportunity to withdraw. You will have no support once you land and if you fail, the United States will disavow any knowledge of your actions. You’ll be at the mercy of the Chinese if you are captured. Just take one step forward if you have any second thoughts.”
Not one of the 50-man team, lined up in a row, moved a fraction of an inch.
“I told them that nobody was going back out, but I was ordered to ask. Let’s go make some chop suey!” Admiral Crowne smiled.
* * *
Cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet into the dark of night, the green light went on. The rear ramp lowered and the American operatives exited in precision quickness. The battle that ensued that day was brutal and hard fought, but the mercenaries were defeated. The shipping route remained unthreatened. China was sent a clear message that America would always rise to the occasion. The mission remained top secret for three years until it was declassified by the Department of Defense.
By this time, Chief Warrant Officer Clint Lattimore had retired from the Marine Corps and was working at two non-profit organizations: The Mighty Oaks Foundation, which helps American veterans recover from trauma and readjust to civilian life, and the American Sentry Dogs, which finds suitable and loving homes for sentry and scout dogs who served in the military and police departments
Lattimore joined an elite group of American warriors as one of the most decorated men in Marine Corps history. The distinguished list includes, among others, Dan Daly, Smedley Butler, John Basilone, and Lewis “Chesty” Puller. During Clint’s illustrious career, he earned the Bronze Star, Silver Star, Navy Cross, Congressional Medal of Honor, seven Purple Hearts, and a long list of commendations.
During the China mission, Clint led his team against overwhelming odds and took control of the command center. While the remainder of the strike force fought the mercenaries at various locations around the island, Lattimore and his men were engaged in hand to hand combat with their entrenched adversaries. By the time the day ended and the American operatives rendezvoused, 13 of the 15 men in Clint’s team were either killed or wounded. Lattimore would be hospitalized for several months afterwards to recover from his wounds.
Once again, his bravery was in keeping with the highest tradition of the Marine Corps. Clint showed a total disregard for his own life while protecting his men and accomplishing the mission. Four years later, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in the rose garden of the White House.
* * *
Clint was a humble man by nature and never spoke of himself or his military exploits. His modesty almost bordered on reclusiveness. He was cleaning the kennels of several dogs at the American Sentry Dog sanctuary when volunteer Krista Anglin approached. “Clint, there’s a man in the office who wants to speak with you.”
“I’m almost done. Tell him I’ll be there in about 20 minutes.”
“You go ahead, I can finish up.”
Krista smiled. “Go.”
Arriving at the reception area, Clint saw an elderly gentleman flanked by two younger men standing in the lobby. “Are you looking for me?”
“I’m Warren McNally and it’s an honor to meet you, Chief Warrant Officer Lattimore.”
“I’m not in the Marines anymore…the name is Clint.”
“They told me you were cleaning kennels. It seems that would be beneath a true American hero.”
“For the record, no honest job is beneath me and number two, all the real heroes are buried in cemeteries. I’m just a guy who tried to do his job and God was merciful enough to let me survive.” The tone in Clint’s voice was unbending and self-reflective.
“I stand corrected,” Warren McNally replied. “Is there some place we can talk in private?”
Clint glanced around and responded, “The conference room is available.”
The two men walked into the room and Clint shut the door. Sitting across from each other at a long wooden table, Warren McNally was the first to speak.
“On any given day, I fluctuate between being the seventh and eleventh richest man in the world, depending on the stock market and the global economy.”
“And why should that matter to me?” Clint asked.
“Because I am in a position to offer you something that very few people can.”
“I’ve got pretty much everything I need.”
“How would you like to run for president?”
“President of what?”
“The United States.”
“I’ll stick to cleaning kennels and walking dogs.”
“You haven’t heard the rest of my offer. I will make a five million dollar donation to Mighty Oaks and the same amount to American Sentry Dogs if you accept my offer.”
“I have no experience and even less interest in being a politician. You couldn’t have made a worse choice than me.”
“That would be true if I was looking for a politician, but I’m looking for a patriot. There is nobody who has risked more and served his country with greater distinction than Clint Lattimore.”
“The answer is still no.”
“How about if I made you an offer that you couldn’t refuse? I’ll make it ten million to each charity. You can help a lot of veterans and dogs with that kind of money.”
“What’s in it for you?”
“Good question. I love my country, but I’m disheartened and disillusioned. The Democratic and Republican parties have become too entrenched and self-serving in their own philosophies. Politicians are too concerned with getting elected and staying in office rather than doing their jobs. It’s the Washington beast and the toxic environment of the swamp that it resides in that brings me here today. Before I die, I want to send a clear message and a stern warning to these self-serving bureaucrats that there’s another team in the league.”
“And you want me batting lead-off?”
“Exactly.” Warren McNally smiled.
“I’ll give you my rules of engagements up front so there’s no misunderstanding. First of all, I’m not your flunky or puppet, where you tell me what to say and I’ll just say it without question. I will never do anything that is in conflict with my code. My truth and your truth might not be the same thing. Last and most importantly, I will walk away anytime I feel that this not for me. Agreed?”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ll make the donations tomorrow.”
“Don’t you want to see if I’m any good at this before you start giving away your money?”
“If you give me your word, then I’m sure I’ll get your best efforts. Men like you don’t do anything halfway.” Warren McNally smiled. “I’ve already put a campaign team together. You’ll hear from me in the next couple days.”
“I’m only doing this for the donations…like you said 20 million can do a lot of good.”
“I knew you wouldn’t do it for yourself.”
After the multibillionaire left the room, Clint hung his head and closed his eyes. “I sure hope I know what the hell I’m getting into.”
* * *
Warren McNally deposited one billion dollars into the Lattimer election fund and told campaign manager Bob Ward, “I want a saturation campaign; television, radio, and social media. Spare no expense.”
“Yes sir,” Bob Ward replied.
The first group of commercials was simple. Clint Lattimore appeared at national monuments around the country, speaking these few words: “I am an American and I love my country.” The second barrage of public advertisements showed Clint standing in front of military backgrounds with these words: “It has been my honor and privilege to serve my country in the military. Please give me another opportunity to serve as your President.”
As the weeks passed, Clint slowly and steadily began moving up in the polls. Powerful leaders in the Democratic and Republican parties held an emergency meeting in a hotel suite in Washington DC to discuss the newest political threat to their power.
A Democrat operative commented in frustration, “We’ve got nothing we can go after him on.”
A Republican leader echoed the same sentiments. “Even if we fabricated a scandal, the American people would never accept an attack against a war hero. The backlash against us would be swift and merciless. To make matters worse, he has the unlimited funding of McNally. The fact is, the longer Lattimore is in the race, the worst it will get for both our candidates and our parties.”
A middle-aged woman was browsing through a file.
“Lattimore has escaped death more times than any person has a right to expect. Maybe it’s time that his luck ran out. I’m sure there are foreign radical groups or domestic terrorists that could be blamed for his untimely and tragic death.”
The Democrat operative smiled deviously. “Now that you mention it, I think that I have heard there are some threats against Lattimore’s life.”
The middle-aged woman then made eye contact with the men in the room and joked, “Arlington National Cemetery…get ready, one of your boys is coming home.”
* * *
Clint had his issues with PTSD and always slept with a loaded automatic pistol under his pillow. Its closeness gave him a sense of tranquility. Sleeping in his trailer on the Sentry Dog property with Spencer, a Pitbull Labrador mix lying in the bed next to him, both man and dog sensed something and awakened at the same time. Clint reached for his pistol, walked over to the computer terminal, and accessed the surveillance cameras. He saw five men with assault rifles approaching the trailer.
One minute later, two intruders entered the trailer while the other three stood guard outside. The two gunmen opened fire on what they thought was Clint lying in his bed. When one of the men pulled back the covers, he saw the bed was empty.
A man with a thick foreign accent turned to his comrade. “Nobody saw him leave, he has to be around here somewhere.” The two men walked outside to inform their cohorts of the situation.
Before the men could spread out and search the area, Clint rolled out from under the trailer and shot four men dead. He put the muzzle of his weapon to the head of the fifth. “It’s your call.”
The man dropped his assault rifle and Lattimore slapped the assailant across the side of his head with his pistol. The man fell to his knees. “Call me over-sensitive, but I don’t like being ambushed.”
Early the next day, Warren McNally and his entourage arrived at the property. Clint led them to a storage shed. The four dead men were lying on the floor with a tarp over them. The fifth man was tied and gagged.
“I guess they’re more desperate that I thought,” McNally commented. “Sorry for putting you in this position.”
“No apologies necessary. I knew what I was getting into. I just didn’t figure they would be coming after me this quick. That’s a mistake I won’t make again.”
“You sure you don’t want to back out?”
“After this? Not a chance.”
“I’ll have my men interrogate the survivor and see what they can find out from him.”
“No need. He doesn’t know anything. He’s part of an Albanian hit team that accepted a contract. They got my name, photo, location…and nothing else.”
McNally hesitated for a minute then called one of his men over. “Albie, take care of the bodies and get the live one ready for transport.”
“What are you going to do with him?” Clint asked.
“I’ll turn him over to Interpol. If you want to proceed, then I’m going to triple the security around you.”
“I can handle myself.”
“I’m not disputing that, but I’d rather you focus on your primary mission than standing guard or constantly looking over your shoulder.”
Clint would do what McNally wanted. When the time came, he’d find the people who put the termination contract on him and deal with them accordingly.
End Part I - Part II next week