I glance absently around the oval office, unconsciously tugging at my skirt. I have always hated wearing skirts, and the fact that they practically a fashion staple in the 1960s makes my undercover work just that much more uncomfortable.
A pad and pen are both carefully balanced on my knee, as I anxiously wait for the president, his brother, and Lyndon B. Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover to enter.
Focus, I tell myself. I will never pick up on everything if I am distracted as I am.
The doorknob turns, and four gentleman, all of whom hold significant power in the country, enter the office that contained so much of our nation's history.
"I am telling you, Jack, this new initiative will do all the more to help push your re-election next year," I hear Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General, say.
"Mr. President, if I may object, tracking down major crime lords and members of the Mafia will only put an additional burden on the precinct captains in districts you need to carry in order to be able to win in 64," Hoover objects.
"Gentleman," the president turns to the three other men. "Let's have a seat and a cup of coffee before we start to discuss the issues here".
The three other men eye each other, then somewhat grudgingly sit down in the semi-circle of couches. The president himself gradually lowers himself into his rocker, tailor-made especially for his many back issues.
As if on que, Tory enters the room, carrying a steaming pot of coffee along with five mugs. As she serves us, I notice Johnson acutely studying my sister in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable.
"Miss," he speaks up in his southern drawl. "What is your name".
"Victoria Thompson, sir," Victoria answers smoothly, not at all phased as she continues to pour the coffee.
"Victoria, what is your view on the Civil Rights movement?" Johnson prompts as he accepts a cup of coffee from her.
"Well, I suppose it would be nice for people of my kind to gain equal rights to vote and such, but all in good time," Tory hands me a cup of coffee, and quickly takes her place at the back of the room, near where the President is sitting.
"You see, Mr. President," Lyndon turned back toward Jack, "Maybe we should be focusing our efforts in the Civil Rights movement and not tracking down members of the mafia as your brother here has proposed".
The President is thoughtful. Bobby is scowling in Lyndon's direction and Hoover is smirking in an eerie display of glee.
"Jack, as much as I would like to see the civil rights movement achieve some success, you will lose most of the southern states in the election with or without Johnson here on the ticket if you make the push too soon," his brother counters.
Johnson glares in the Attorney General's direction. Lyndon has an active dislike for both of the Kennedy brothers. Yet if it is one thing I have learned so far here is that both Bobby and Lyndon have it out for each other. One would probably not hesitate to arrange to kill the other, if they could make it untraceable that is.
"Gentlemen," a very distinct Bostonian accent breaks in. "Like it or not the issue with the crime lords is not why I requested your presence here this evening".
Bobby's eyebrows shoot up, and Hoover and Johnson immediately shut up. Obviously this is bound to be something new for all three of them.
Kennedy slowly withdraws a letter from his suit jacket. I resist the urge to look over at the address, knowing I would be too obvious. It is with some relief that I note Tory happens to have positioned herself within reading distance of the envelope, without seeming to be suspicious. On glance is all I need to tell me that her eyes are indeed skimming the front.
"This here is from Mr. Khrushchev himself, with a personal offer of peace beginning with each of our respective sides de-mobilizing".
Bobby has immediately snatched the letter from his brother's outstretched hand, not bothering to wait for him to finish.
"If we can negotiate a treaty with the Soviets, we can end these brewing hostilities between our two great countries, along with the threat of potential total annihilation of mankind itself with nuclear warheads".
"We don't need peace with communists!" Hoover vehemently interjects. "Mr. President I have intelligence units located here in our very country stationed to take down spies that want to ruin our way of life!"
"Mr. President," Lyndon has leaned forward in his seat in a much more rationally calm manor, eerie considering his personality. "You must remember that the Senate will never approve any type of treaty leading to a mutual surrender in this arms race we have locked ourselves in. The only way anything will pass the Senate is if it results for greater losses of arsenal for the USSR than for ourselves. You remember good and well the Cuban missile crisis. We cannot trust the Soviets to do a dang thing when it comes to disarmament".
I had been furiously writing notes for the whole exchange, yet still trying to keep an eye out for body language and mannerisms at the same time. The quick glances I have managed to snatch in between my note-taking have told me that the President is not paying much attention at all to Johnson. Instead he is acutely studying his younger brother reading the letter, waiting for some sort of response.
Bobby finally glanced up, making eye contact with his big brother. "I think this is worth pursuing, providing we can arrange for terms that can assure a mutual disbarment".
"Son, you have got to be insane!"
Now there is the LBJ I have seen, I think as I try to contain a smirk.
"Not so much insane as you are to think a lopsided treaty is something the Soviets will really go for!"
Bobby retorts, jumping from the sofa and flaunting the letter at Lyndon's face. Lyndon snatched the letter from his hands with a huff, sitting down next to Hoover to read the letter with Hoover looking over his shoulder.
A side glance at the President causes me to have to hide my amusement, as Kennedy has been casually sipping at his coffee for the whole exchange. I get why he had to choose Johnson as a running mate, but you had to have thick skin and a decent sense of humor set aside as well in order to be able to work with Johnson to begin with.
As Johnson and hoover finish pursuing the letter, the President finally speaks up, setting his mug of coffee down on an oak side table.
"I also agree with my brother that this is certainly something worth pursuing, regardless of the current terms. That is why I have invited Khrushchev here on a White House visit at the beginning of next month".
Johnson and Hoover both state at the President with looks of disbelief written on their faces, while Bobby is smirking at them in triumph.
"Well," Hoover stands, tossing the letter back to the president. "I do not see why Lyndon and I were so desperately needed here if all you were planning to do was this to begin with".
"Do what you want, Jack," Johnson adds with a snarl as he makes to join Hoover. "Just don't come crying when you lose the election in '64 for your mistake".
As the two men storm out of the room, Tory finally makes a move to clean up the discarded coffee cups while I stand and make my way out to the hall.
"Wait, Ms. Thompson," the president interjects, following me out into the hall.
"Yes, sir?" I turn abruptly, turning too abruptly, and almost send us both crashing to the floor. He settles his hand on my arm, and I try my best to ignore what implications the touch could have and do my best to not cringe away.
"I want you to follow them," his voice drops at a whisper. "I do not and cannot trust the either of them. Report back to me with any suspicious activity they may be involved in".
I nod quickly in understanding, and quickly make a move towards the White House exit. I will need to hurry to catch up least the two men get too far ahead of me.