Originally published: November 15, 2008
“OK, Mo – make a path right between the chick in the halter top, and the dreadlock guy.”
Chet reached his muscled arm past the figure seated on the creamy leather upholstery in front of him, grazing the man’s Versace four-button cuff. Flicking the lock of the limo, he murmured, “Excuse me, sir,” Into his wrist he said, “We’re on the move. Mo, take your position. Do you have his ID? Make sure it scans on the first try – tell the guards to back off this time. I swear, IMF ain’t International Monetary Fund – it’s gotta stand for Interfering Mother Fuckers. Damn, I need a clear entry or we’re gonna get mobbed.” He cast his eye out the rear window, over the head of the man in the rimless glasses for whose safety he was responsible. “Oh, and Vince, we got a weeper. Clear that baggage, and set up the perimeter. Over.”
An enormous man in jeans and a leather jacket stepped out of the following SUV and shoulder-checked the sobbing young woman who was hanging onto the limo’s antennae, causing her to stumble into the crowd. There was a general swaying as the other women absorbed the weight of her, and then surged forward again, calling out things that the man in the backseat couldn’t hear through the bullet-proof glass. He was reading his magazine, and sipping oolong tea from a travel mug.
Straining to see over the heads of people in front of her, a black-clad law student looked wistfully at the limo’s sleek outline. She turned to her boyfriend. “My dad followed the Dead when he was my age, so I figured, you know, that this is legit. I mean, this guy is so much more fiscally in tune than Jerry ever was”. Her boyfriend nodded. “This guy’s totally neo-Keynesian. He’s a rad thinker who knows his way around the theory and actuality of the markets. Have you heard his latest? The whole stabilizing exchange rates riff? It was like seeing God, man. I mean, he’s an economist’s economist, know what I’m saying?” They clasped hands and crushed forward with the crowd, some of whom were calling out for quotes from the man’s most popular articles.
He went by the name of CredX - to his fans, around the lecture circuit, and on his record label. Of course both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, in interviews he’d given in the Business pages and Weekend Arts respectively, referred to him as Dr. CredX, which he found unnecessarily stuffy. In the New Yorker article he was currently perusing, they had headlined his four-page spread, The XQuisite Dr. Cred. He looked up with a sigh – at least the Leibovitz photos were nice, he thought - and glanced out the window at the women, in particular the one who had slipped past Vince and was pressing her open blouse against the window. A hard-boiled DC cop expertly peeled her off the glass and frog-marched her back into the crowd while the rest of the officers were barely holding back the now shrieking crowd. In a strangled voice, a sergeant radioed for barricades.
Chet took a deep breath before opening the door. Two blond girls were hugging each other and jumping up and down, their cell phones pointing at the limo. A brunette was waving a slip of paper – which Chet assumed had her phone number on it. A thin young woman looked as if she might faint. Not overly threatening, but you never knew with these econ groupies. They could be awfully wily. He put his wrist to his lips.
“This is it. The Professor is moving. Vince, on three.”
He looked at the slight man across from him, at his flash suit and his thinning hair, at his discrete progressive lenses and rain-stained briefcase. This guy was the real deal. It was an honor to protect him.
“Three!” he shouted, as he threw open the door of the limo. Vince loomed up and plowed the way with his big arms while Chet shielded the Economist from any who might approach him from the other side. Camera lights flashed and reporters were surging forward, shouting questions about his game theory models and the new paper that was currently in revisions, and the Italian actress with whom he’d been seen having a late dinner. The crowd went wild, and the shrieking could be heard up and down 19th Street, from Pennsylvania Avenue to the dorms of George Washington University.
One small Asian woman suddenly darted past Chet and threw her arms around the Economist’s neck, practically toppling him to the ground in her passion. But before Chet could grab her, CredX had gently taken her hands and smiled, calming her with the intensity of his gaze. The crowd hushed. Then he cupped her face in his soft palms and planted a long, soulful kiss full on her lips. Chet barely caught her before she hit the pavement in a dead faint. The crowd then screamed as one and moaned, leaning in, the mixture of perfumes and sweat almost overpowering the men.
They reached the entrance and were ushered in, the doors shushing behind them with a welcomed finality. CredX was smiling, wiping his lips on a silk handkerchief and straightening his tie before heading for the elevator, to ascend to his windowless office and the formulas and graphs awaiting him on his computer screen.
Outside the crowd, now deflated and abandoned, milled at the doors and peered into the smoky glass, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Economist, or even of one of his associates - perhaps rising stars themselves. The girl he’d kissed was still out cold on the sidewalk.
Then someone yelled, “Oh my God, it’s Ûbersight! He’s back from the summit tour! Look! OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGod!! There he is!”
Cars and buses slammed on their brakes as the screaming crowd ran flat out across the street to the World Bank, where a limo, sandwiched between two black Escalades, had just sidled up to the curb, its engines purring.