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                                                     KNOCK KNOCK                         
                            by Jonathan Lowe     
                    

      ”Let me see if I’ve got this straight,” said Russell Anderson, 60 Minutes co-producer and bureau chief for CBS News. “You’re saying that Thomas Sidon, a rancher from Naco, Arizona, captured the head of the Calli cartel on his property the day before yesterday, and has offered him to the Border Patrol in exchange for what, again?”
      There was a momentary silence at the other end of the line, which was ghosted by background noise. Then the White House press secretary replied evenly, “Anything he wants. And I mean anything. Including what he did choose, which I will agree is highly unusual. The President wants a victory in the drug war to sidestep other problems, and we believe Raoul Gasparta is the key.”
      “Go over that part again, will you? The part I’m not understanding. I understand about Gasparta. . . his full disclosure on Sidon’s interrogation transcript, the record of kickbacks and the reparations promised to avoid the death penalty. That’s obvious, and—may I speak frankly?--boring. Tell me exactly what the President promised him again.”
      The press secretary sighed. “I thought I made that clear. Didn’t you hear me, Mr. Anderson? Maybe you should wait for the press conference in one hour, and ask that question again.”
      Anderson coughed. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to imply that Gasparta is not important. But you know what it is people will be asking about, surely. So I have to ask you several things, just to be clear. One more moment, please, just to verify?”
      The press secretary sighed again. “Very well. As I said, a deal was struck with Sidon, whose ranch in Arizona is some five thousand acres.”
      “Straddling the border?”
      “That’s right. On both sides.”
      “And the President has agreed to the terms of this agreement by signing an executive order into law?”
      “That is correct.”
      “When?”
      “Two hours ago, in the Oval Office. In exchange for Mr. Sidon’s  cooperation in acting as agent for the U.S. government, he has been granted carte blanche for one year, effective immediately.”
      “And that means. . ?”
      “It means that as of today, Mr. Thomas Sidon has the legal right to enter any private home in America at any time he chooses. He cannot remove anything, nor can he take photographs. He may only enter and observe at his leisure. No U.S. citizen may refuse him entry, under penalty of law. He is free to come and go as he wishes for the duration of one year.”
      “And this is specifically what he requested?”
      “Yes.”
      “Not a million dollars, a new red Porsche, or an ambassadorship to Mexico?”
      “Yes, Mr. Anderson. He didn’t want my job either, thank God. Although it was offered to him.”
      “But. . . why? I mean, what’s his motive? What’s he hope to gain by—“
      “There has been some speculation on that point here. Perhaps the power or the novelty of it is attractive to him.”
      “Or maybe he’s a voyeur?”
      “Please don’t use that word, Mr. Anderson.”
      “Why not? Haven’t you walked down your own street at night, and looked at the windows of your neighbors’ homes?  Imagine being able to legally enter any home you want at any time, and the owner of that home can’t bar your entry. What I want to know is how? What about rights to privacy? How can the President do this? Even this President.”
      “Privacy rights are waived solely on behalf of Mr. Sidon, and only for one year. He is exempt and immune from any violation, and Congress has been unable to prevent it as they are deadlocked in other matters as well. So for the duration of Executive Order 1482-421 no homeowner may prevent Mr. Sidon from coming into their home and observing, or searching.”
      “Searching?” Anderson stood and circled his desk in awe.”Oh. . . now I get it! He’s going to be cooperating with you guys, isn’t he?  If he finds drugs or evidence of murder, they’ll be admissible in court because he has the sole right to enter without a warrant! That’s it, isn’t it?”       
    The voice on the line tried to evoke calm. “I have no comment on that point, Mr. Anderson, except to say that Mr. Sidon will have the full cooperation of the law enforcement, including an escort if he desires. Police must remain outside, however. They do not possess his rights. Whether Mr. Sidon chooses to reveal what he finds is entirely up to him.”
      Anderson cleared his throat, and steadied himself with his free hand on the chair. “Oh my God. . . peeping Tom does want money. Millions. Guilty people will pay him a fortune not to tell. He’ll be as rich as Midas. Won’t he? Where’s he go first, Beverly Hills?”
      “Again, that’s up to him.”
      “’Up to him,’” the 60 Minutes producer repeated in a daze. “Holy Hopscotch. This guy is smart. Fame and fortune at the stroke of a pen! What’s he gonna wear, though. . . Kevlar?”
      “He will be protected by both police and by the fame he achieves via executive order.”
      “OhmyGod. And. . . and if this is true, that’s who he is, right? He’s God!”
      “For one year. That is correct. If anyone refuses entry, they will be committing—“
      “A sin?”
      “No, a felony.”
      “What’s the difference?”
      “With a sin, you pay later. With a felony, you pay now, Mr. Anderson. Ten to twenty years in federal prison, based on the severity of the offense.”
      “Severity of the offense?” Anderson laughed, albeit nervously. Yet the smile on his face felt too good to be true. “Who decides the severity of the offense?  No, don’t tell me. He does?”
      “So you see how it works?”
      “I do, I do. But what if someone pretends not to be home?”
      “That would make Mr. Sidon very angry, would it not? Ineffective as well, because he also has the right to force entry when he suspects he has been denied.”
      “How?”
      “With a SWAT team battering ram, should he request it.”
      “Holy—“
      “Listen, Mr. Anderson? I really have to go now. I’ve given you too much time already.”
      “Certainly, sir. I understand. Thanks. Thanks so much! This is the story we’ve been waiting for. . . for over twenty years!” Anderson glanced at his watch. “Tell me, does anyone outside the press know about this yet?”
      “No, Mr. Anderson, and goodbye.”
      “Thank you, sir. Thank you and thank the President!” Anderson hung up, and then punched his intercom. “Julie, get me Steve Croft on the phone, now!”
      “Yes, sir,” his secretary’s voice chimed.  “What about the man who’s been—“
      “Nevermind. Julie, listen to me, this is important. Cancel everything else today. No calls, no appointments. And I want the senior staff in my office in ten minutes. Katie Couric included. Got that?”
      “But sir—“
      “Do it, Julie!”
      “Yes, sir.”
      Anderson sat and leaned back into his leather armchair. He imagined hiring Sidon to replace a retiring Andy Rooney. A one year exclusive contract, with bonuses based on ratings. He linked his fingers behind his head, and now briefly smiled at the prospect of a whole new—and unlimited—source of privileged information. Then he thought about what skeletons he had in his own closet, an obvious consideration in hiring such a man-god. . . What if Sidon became displeased with his perks, over time, or wanted to extend his contract? What documents would need shredding, in that ca--  
    Ohmygod.
    He remembered his complicity, two years prior, in a CIA cover-up, when some idiot in the Bush administration proposed bombing Mecca, leaving clues that unknown radical religious terrorists did it. Of course operation “Budda Bomb” had never gotten off the drawing board, and the CIA operative who’d leaked the memos had since disappeared. But what if Sidon didn’t care about Britney or Madonna, or some mafia don with a beach house and a payroll of cleaning agents? What if he wanted to go after the establishment itself? Would his copy of the CIA nondisclosure agreement protect him, just as it secured certain intelligence favors that maintained 60 Minutes’ very mystique? Several reporters had been KILLED to keep the operation secret, too.
      Anderson finally shrugged off his fear when the CBS regulars gathered in his office, and then he felt a giddy sense of the power hiring such a man would mean, knowing that—at long last—no one would be able to escape public scrutiny. Not even Democratic Presidential hopefuls.
      He waited until it was standing room only to speak.
      “Gentlemen,” he announced, “and Katie. . .”  The phone rang, interrupting him. He snatched it up. “What?”
      “Mr. Anderson?” his secretary said. “I’ve got Steve Croft on line two, but I think you should know. . .”
      “Know what?”
        “Well, remember you told me to cancel all appointments?”
      “Yes. . .”
      “This is odd, sir, but. . . well, I sent the man without an appointment away first, but he got pretty angry. He’d been waiting about twenty minutes, remember? Anyway, he just called me back, and I think you should know he’s at your house, now.”
    “Who, did you say? Who’s there?”
    “I’m not sure, but. . . and here’s the odd part. . . caller I.D. shows it to be your home number.”
   
                                                                --0-- 

(Jonathan Lowe is author of Postmarked for Death, Awakening Storm, Fame Island, and Geezer. His website is JustSayNoWay.com)