Book of Dreams
Teddy Wainwright was a very happy man. Not many people had the chance to reinvent themselves at the ripe old age of sixty-three. He finished typing his resignation, hit the Send button, and gave a satisfied sigh. Shirley would be so proud of him.
His young aide set the photographs of Teddy’s wife and daughters into the last crate. “That’s the lot, sir.”
“Thank you again for your help.” Teddy slipped his aide a letter. He had been up until almost dawn, working and reworking the words. There was so much to pack into a few paragraphs. The envelope bore his wife’s name. Nothing more. “Here, put this on top.”
“No problem, sir.” His aide set the envelope in the box and fitted on the lid. “I’d just like to say again how sorry I am you’re going.”
“That makes two of us.” His secretary of nineteen years walked through his open door and waved the multiple copies of his formal resignation. “This is so hot it must be radioactive.”
Teddy Wainwright signed each letter in turn. “This is also a long time coming.”
“Your daughter’s on the phone.”
“Put her through.” He reached over his desk and shook his aide’s hand. “I wish you every success in your new position.”
“I could come with you, sir. Matter of fact, I’d like to.”
“You’re better off here.” Teddy had rewarded the young man’s loyalty by promoting him to a junior vice presidency. “The legislation required to formally start the financial oversight commission is months off. Until then, I’ll be cooling my heels in Washington. Which is why I haven’t even invited my secretary to join me. Yet.”
“I’m a patient guy. You should know that by now.”
“If or when things get going, I’ll give you a call, see if you’re still interested.” Teddy lifted the receiver, waved his former aide through the door, and said to his elder child, “Perfect timing.”
“You really did it?”
“The letters are winging their way to the board and the papers as we speak.”
“Mom must be so thrilled.”
Teddy Wainwright turned and stared at the spot where his wife’s photograph had sat since he had become president of the Centurion Bank seven years earlier. His throat was so tight he found himself unable to respond.
His daughter asked, “When are you giving the speech?”
Teddy checked his watch, though there was no need. He had been counting the minutes for a month. Longer. “Five hours.”
“I called because I wanted you to know Sis and I are here together and we’ll be praying for you.”
He had to clear his throat twice before he could say, “Thank you, honey. That means the world.”
“Go out there and knock ’em dead.”
“I intend to.”
“They’ve had this coming for a long time.”
She hesitated a long moment, then said softly, “I’m so proud of you, Daddy.”
Teddy Wainwright told his daughter good-bye, then pressed the phone to his heart. He held it there long enough for the receiver to emit the beeping alarm, telling him to cut the connection. His secretary reentered his office and saw him sitting there, staring out the window. “Everything all right?”
“Everything is fine.” He set the receiver down in the cradle and wiped his eyes. “Everything is just great.”
“The garage just called to say your car is waiting downstairs. I checked with the airport and your plane is inbound. And your wife is on line three.”
Teddy Wainwright rose from his chair, plucked his suit jacket from the back of his door, and slipped it on. “Tell Shirley I’ll call her from the car.”
His secretary handed him a plastic file. “Your speech.”
“I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“The banks won’t like this. It’s one thing for some politician or journalist to take aim. But when one of their own turns on them, it’s war.”
Teddy Wainwright heard both her years of experience and her very real fear. But all he felt was the same sensation as the previous evening, kneeling on the floor of his home office. The strength he had known at that point, the conviction, the certainty. He slipped the speech into his briefcase. “I should have done this years ago.”
She did not say anything more, just stepped away from his office door. They had said all the farewells that were necessary, shared the meals and the hugs and the tears. His departure was anticlimactic.
Teddy crossed the foyer shared by the bank’s five senior executives and the boardroom. All the doors were shut. His so-called friends had turned their collective back on him. The other two secretaries refused to meet his gaze. When Teddy reached the elevators, his secretary was still standing in the
doorway to his former office, a strong, intelligent woman who had watched his back for years. Worried for him.
Like everyone else on Wall Street, the bank’s executives used so many limos that they had their own parking area just beyond the handicapped zone in the basement garage’s first level. Teddy did not recognize the driver, but this was nothing new. The man was pale-skinned and lean, with clean hands and a well-pressed suit. He held Teddy’s door, then slipped behind the wheel and said, “We’re headed to Teterboro Airport, Mr. Wainwright?”
“You want me to call ahead, make sure your plane’s ready?”
“That won’t be necessary. Would you mind rolling up the divider? I need to make a call.”
“No problem, sir. There’s coffee in the thermos.”
“Thank you.” Teddy pulled his phone from his jacket, but before he could punch in his home number, the phone rang. Teddy checked the readout and recognized the senator’s office. “Wainwright.”
“Good morning, Mr. Wainwright, this is Allison, in Senator Richard’s office?”
“Yes, Allison.” Teddy recalled a pert young woman who managed to turn every sentence into a question. “What can I do for you?”
“The press has been showing a huge
interest in your talk, so the senator was wondering, could we shift your testimony forward an hour so your comments can make the evening news?”
“Let me check my schedule.” He opened his briefcase and scanned the typed page his secretary had slipped into the folder with his speech. “I’m due to arrive at Reagan National at two thirty.”
“The senator will be so
pleased. Can I ask, do you prefer to be addressed as Theodore?”
“Teddy is fine.”
“Thank you. One more thing, Mr. Wainwright, could we
please make sure you’ll hold your opening remarks to fifteen minutes? This is so
important, since the committee members will want their responses to make the newscast—”
“Fifteen minutes will be more than adequate.”
Terry cut the connection and cradled the phone between his hands. He had spoken several times before the US Senate’s Banking Committee. But on previous occasions he had always been part of a team. His last time seated before the curved dais had been the worst, when the Wall Street banks had come hat in hand to the federal government, begging for a bailout. One they did not deserve. Everything Teddy had spoken into the microphone had fallen from his mouth like dead weight. A ton of lies strung together with desperation and urgency.
Well, not this time.
He phoned his wife. When Shirley answered, he said, “I had the sweetest call from our daughter.”
“She and her sister have their entire prayer group coming over. They’re going to watch you on C-SPAN.”
Sunlight played between the New York high-rises, dappling his side window. He and his older daughter had fought a series of increasingly bitter disputes throughout her teenage years. Then the year she graduated from university, Shirley had brought their daughter to faith. And everything had changed. At least for her.
Teddy had held out for a good deal longer.
Until nine months and three days ago, to be exact.
His wife went on, “I’m supposed to already be over there. But I wanted to speak with you first.” Shirley had been living in a state of perpetual joy ever since he had agreed to pray with her. But Shirley did not sound happy now. She sounded frightened. “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”
The previous nine months should have been the happiest of his own life as well, at least on the surface. Teddy did not merely believe that his burdens had been lifted, he knew
this. He was convicted
by the reality of his freedom.
And that was where the problem lay.
Teddy Wainwright was a victim of his own success. He had lived a life of unbounded ambition and greed. He was a skilled manipulator and a man accustomed to wielding almost unlimited financial power.
Now he had been saved from himself and his misdeeds. But this freedom came at a price. The eyes of his soul had been opened. Coming face-to-face with his true nature, in the one mirror he could not ignore, was a dreadful experience.
Teddy realized Shirley was still waiting for his response. “This is not only what I want. It’s what God wants too.”
Shirley was a solid woman. Strong and beautiful, both inside and out. “The years I’ve prayed, hoping someday you might speak those words.”
Teddy pressed a fist to his chest, trying to push the emotions back inside. “I’m sorry it took me so long.”
They shared a moment’s silence, then Shirley said, “What about all the things you used to describe the opposition? ‘Vindictive, murderous, determined to crush anyone who stands in their path.’ Those were your words, not mine.”
Teddy knew she was hoping for a soothing word, a promise of assurance. But he was not going to lie. Not today. “I had a remarkable experience last night.”
“You certainly were late coming to bed.”
“I like the quiet hours when the world is asleep. God seems a lot closer then.”
“Hold on just a moment, please.” Shirley set down the phone. Teddy thought he heard her sob. He bit down hard on his own emotions. If he started now he might not be able to stop. Besides, the limo driver kept glancing at him in the rearview mirror. Shirley picked up the phone, sniffed loudly, and said, “All right, darling. I’m back.”
“I finished my speech and was sitting there with the Bible open in my lap. And it felt like God entered the room.”
Her voice was unsteady as she replied, “Maybe he did.”
“I’ve had some amazing moments recently. But nothing like this.”
“God spoke to you?”
Teddy stared out the window, and recalled the overwhelming sense of presence.
The unquestionable sense of eternity. “Not in words, no. But the message was very clear just the same.”
“What did he tell you?”
Teddy took a long breath. “I have to do this, Shirley.”
She wanted to argue. Teddy felt her tension and fear radiate over the phone. But all she said was, “Will you be coming back tonight?”
The need for total honesty restricted his response. “As soon as I am able.”
“I love you, darling.”
Once again Teddy cradled the phone tight to his chest, and ended the conversation with a prayer of thanks.
The limo gained speed as it pulled onto the freeway. Teddy fanned the speech across his lap. Six pages in all. Double-spaced, printed in an oversize font so he could look up at the senators and then find his place easily. Each page took just over two minutes to read. He had a great deal more that he intended to say. But the specific details would come out during questioning. Teddy knew his remarks would have much more impact if it appeared that the senators’ questioning drew him out. He intended to use the questions, however they were phrased, to make sure these revelations emerged.
One passage in particular caught his eye: It is not enough that the banks’ misadventures brought the world’s economies to the brink of disaster. Wall Street is not satisfied with all the distress they have created for our economy and political system. The leaders of our nation’s largest banks are intent upon repeating the same dire mistakes all over again.
Teddy had been redrafting that paragraph the previous evening when the divine force had filled the room. Now the limo’s tires zinged and rumbled as it accelerated through traffic. Rushing him toward a new destiny. Teddy felt the same undeniable presence return.
He had faced a series of choices that he now saw stretched back to that first night when he had gotten down on his knees. Each one had carried a genuine threat to the way he had previously viewed his life, stripping away one lie after another. And at the same time, each choice had drawn him a bit closer to yesterday’s experience. He had not realized that at the time, of course. All he had known was a sense of divine rightness, of reknitting the nation’s financial fabric and restoring some of what he had himself helped destroy. Teddy read: I have accepted the position of chairman of the new financial oversight commission precisely because this insanity must be stopped. The banks intend to neuter this commission before it is fully formed. I know this for a fact. Their aim is to render the commission powerless. The American people demand new financial oversight. The banks have resigned themselves to this. So now they have shifted tactics. Their Washington lackeys are peddling influence and spending money, pressuring Congress to transform the commission into mere window dressing. This cannot be allowed to happen.
The sound of honking horns drew Teddy’s gaze from the page. He realized the limo was slowing and maneuvering out of the fast lane. He tapped the intercom button and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“The engine just cut out, sir.” As the driver spoke, it happened
again. This time Teddy felt as much as heard it. The motor went silent, coughed, then picked up again. The limo was so heavy that its forward momentum softened the jerks. “It was going fine until … There it goes again.”
The motor fluttered, surged, then died a third time. The driver turned on the flasher and steered toward the curb. He tucked the car into a bus stop. He rolled down the glass divider and said, “I’ll ring central and have them send you another car …” The driver studied his cell phone’s readout. Then he turned around and said, “Mr., ah …”
“Sure. Could you check and see if your phone has a signal?”
Teddy opened his phone. “Apparently not.”
“We must be sitting in a dead zone.” The driver turned the key. The engine clicked but did not fire. He shook his head and opened the car door. Instantly the limo was filled with the roar of midday traffic. “I’ll just walk around the corner to where I can phone this in, Mr. Wainwright. Shouldn’t be long.”
Teddy did not speak. There was nothing to be said. The car door shut, leaving him isolated. But not alone.
The sensation was far stronger now. Although it was unlike anything Teddy had ever experienced, he had no question what was happening. There was simply no room for doubt.
A young woman appeared by the same corner the driver had just rounded. She was very attractive though quite small, and carried herself with an air of fresh innocence. Teddy sat and watched her open the rear door and slide into the seat beside him. She had a pixie’s face and round, gray eyes, clear and seemingly without guile. “A limo. Wow. I guess you must be someone really important.”
Her hand emerged from the pocket of her raincoat, holding something that might have been a silver pen. When the image had come to him the previous evening, Teddy had faced a dark wraith, little more than a twisting shadow.
Teddy stared at the woman, and for a fleeting instant found
himself seeing her true form. He realized the image had been absolutely true.
His mind locked on to the verse from Second Corinthians that he’d been reading the previous evening when the room filled with that undeniable force. Just like now. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
As the young woman reached toward him, Teddy said, “I’ve been expecting you.”