Mrs. Kara Daniels
The Montgomery Report
The spot light opens on the stage. The familiar oak table and chairs sit encircled in its beam, alone. A few papers and a tablet computer lay scattered on the table before the chair stage left. His chair. Gerald Montgomery’s chair. The most watched man in the world. Each week he sits down with people you have never heard of, everyday people, and they reveal the most fascinating stories. Everyone loves Montgomery because he brings excitement to the mundane.
From opposite sides of the stage, two people enter. From stage left, in a striped blue and white tie and blue suspenders over a white button down shirt tucked into black slacks, strides Gerald Montgomery. Rolling his sleeves up as he walks, he smiles and waves to his guest.
Kara Daniels appeares both graceful and sad as she glides across the stage, long red hair pulled back and held at the bottom of her neck by a silver clasp her husband had given her for their 2nd anniversary. A single strand ‘accidentally’ falls across her face, setting off the angle of her left cheek bone. She lookes stunning in a black blouse and skirt which fit her form well but not so as to be inappropriate; showing off her calves, but not her thighs, highlighting the curve of her breast without displaying any cleavage. A young widow.
As she reaches for the back of her chair, a deep disembodied voice fills the room, “Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight on The Montgomery Report, we are pleased to introduce, Mrs. Kara Daniels, school teacher, mother, and wife of Lt. Jacob Daniels, Deceased .”
Sitting, Mrs. Daniels gasps back a tear, the audience offered polite applause. Mr. Montgomery waits for her, before sitting himself. Ignoring her failure to shake his hand. He smiles across the table at her, “Good evening Mrs. Daniels, and thank you for coming tonight.”
“Thank you Mr. Montgomery.”
“Please, call me Gerald.”
“Okay, if you will call me Kara.”
“Its a deal. So Kara, before we get into the events which made you, not famous, but let’s say well known, perhaps we can learn a little bit about you. Do you work? Do have a family? Where are you from? That sort of thing.”
“Well, I’m from Claire Creek, born and raised. As the creepy voice said,” some laughter from the audience, “I work as a school teacher, 8th grade history. And yes, I have 2 children; Adam and Lydia.”
“And you parents were from Clair Creek?”
“Yes, actually everyone, on both sides of my family has been living in Claire Creek since it was founded in 1763. Same is true of Jacob’s family. In fact, it was weird, because neither of us knew this about our families, I mean we new our families dated back to the founding but not the 100% thing. After we had Adam, we decide to look into the family tree, through one of those internet things, and it turns out that we are the last 2 people who are from 100% Claire Creek stock that are not related to each other and therefore can marry. Which means our children are the last generation of pure Claire Creek citizens. Which, doesn’t really mean anything, I suppose, except to us just cuz, you know, its a cool little factoid.” Kara shrugged her shoulders and smiled nervously. The audience responded with supportive clapping. She blushed, just a little, enough to contrast well against her pale skin.
Gerald, realizing the audience was now with her, grabbed for the dramatic moment, “And your husband, what did he do for a living? He was no longer in the military, right?”
Kara’s shoulders sagged, her face turned wistful. The mood of the audience turned palpably from supportive to pity. “He was in the reserves. He had a job at factory, as a security guard on the day shift. He was coming home from there when this all happened.”
“I have read the reports, and of course, the papers published your husband’s note, but could you explain to the audience what happened that day. From your perspective.”
“From my perspective it was a normal day that went completely insane in just a few moments. I call the police to report my husband missing. He was hadn’t been seen by anyone since he left work a day earlier. About 15 minutes later, the deputies show up at my house telling me I’m in danger and I need to get my kids into the basement. I thought they were insane, and they couldn’t tell me anything other than, ‘the sheriff told them so’.
“Well, next thing I know there are bullets flying through my front window and the house and furniture are exploding around me. That deputy, Andy, pulled me down just in time. He saved my life. Then they gather the kids together and get us into the basement, all while the gun fight continues, like something out of a movie.”
Montgomery sensed the audience tension level rise as they imagined their own homes riddled with bullet fire, “That must have been horrifying for you.” Gerald Montgomery reached across the table and rested his hand on Kara’s. She pulled it away and rested it on her forehead.
“You have no idea, Gerald. My whole world just exploded in that moment. I tried to find out, after the gunfight was over, what was going on, but they still had no information for me. And I could hear the most horrific reports coming over their radios, about the attacks on the Senator’s house and the base.”
“And still nothing about your husband?”
“No, nothing. They took my family back to the station for our protection. But really I think they just didn’t know what else to do with us at the time. I guess I can’t blame them, its not like there are terrorist attacks in Claire Creek, ever.”
“And this is when you were told?”
“Not right away. I was actually rather mean to the Sheriff’s deputies and staff, I’m sorry to say. They were very sweet, letting me vent, but they didn’t deserve that. In fact,” Kara turned and looked into the camera, “I’d like to apologize to the Sheriff’s department of Claire Creek for my actions that day, and thank you for your service and sacrifice.” The audience, unable to contain themselves anymore, burst into applause. They loved this women, they loved her message, they loved her strength, they loved her dignity. They wanted to give her a big hug and serve her fruit cake, but all they could do was applaud.
Kara smiled, and bowed her head slightly, “Thank you, so yes, this is when the Sheriff returned, told me what had happened and showed me the letter.”
“Yes the letter, this is quite a powerful document your husband wrote to you. Such reflection on the meaning of our actions and their impact on the world around us, it is not common.”
“My husband was not common, Gerald.” The audience sighed collectively, such tragic a tragic ove story.
“Certainly not. If you don’t object, I’d like to read a section or 2 from the letter.”
“Go ahead, its not like its private anymore.”
“Were you angry about the newspapers publishing it?”
“Of course. It was my husband’s final thoughts, our children’s names are in it, the details of this horrible night are in it for my children to read. Of course I’m angry. It was completely irresponsible. Where is the public’s right to know here?”
“If you would prefer I did not quote from it…”
“No, no, its out there now, I knew you would be asking about it when I accepted the interview. How could you not? Please, continue with your question.”
“Very well. The 1st quote I would like to discuss is this, “I cursed the politicians and generals who had sent me off to war. I cursed myself for volunteering for duty before there was a war. I cursed Saddam for not being a better steward of his nation. And I cursed God for not being a better steward of his creation.”” Gerald looked up from reading and faced Kara. “Strong words.”
“Would you describe the Lieutenant as someone who was angry at the world?”
“What? No. I think you can understand his frustration and angst at that moment. He was being forced to kill or commit suicide in order to protect his family.”
“I understand, I’m just saying there are several lines in here where he expresses anger with the government, for example, “What difference is there between traveling thousands of miles to take lives in service of the political goals of one’s leader, and an individual striking another down for his wallet?” Do you think he was experiencing some form of Stockholm Syndrome? Or was it just some cruel irony that he agreed with these terrorist’s views about America?”
“What the fuck are you talking about? Jacob didn’t agree with any terrorists!”
“Please, Mrs. Daniels, this is a family show.”
“Oh fuck you and your proper manners.” a collective gasp escapes the mortified audience, “Even dead, my husband is being used as a tool for someone else’s plans. First the government sends him off to kill a bunch of arabs so they can steal the oil. Then the arabs use him to get their revenge. Now you want to use him for ratings. Where is the good manners in that? My Jacob was a decent man, who served his country when called and took care of his responsibilities at home. He sacrificed himself so that others would not have to suffer for him. And you want to defame his memory by taking some words out of context? Is this really why you invited me here?”
“No, of course not, I apologize for my poorly worded presentation. My questions were about understanding your husbands thoughts, who he was, before this happened.”
“He was a descent man, proud to have served his county, and happy to be home with his family again.”
“Pardon me ma’am, but he doesn’t sound proud of the battle of Aqaba, in fact he says he’s not.”
“It was war, terrible things happen, that’s why its called war. The fact that the worst of them haunted him, just proves he was a descent man. It wasn’t like he walked around talking about the war and the terrible government all the time. The fact he was talking about it in this letter may have something to do with the events leading up to it.”
“That is logical.” Montgomery desperately searched his mind for another path to take the interview, he was starting to look like the bad guy and that wasn’t going to work for him, “So has the military been in touch with you since the funeral? Do you know what’s going on with the case for this 1 that lived?”
“I have not heard a single word from the military. They did not even respond to my requests for a military funeral. Because he is Jewish, he had to be buried within 48 hours. But because he committed suicide, no Jewish cemetery will have him. So without a military or a Jewish ceremony, he had to be buried in a public cemetery.” Kara hid her eyes with her left hand, elbow rested on the table, occasionally a soft sob would escape, “It was not fair. He died fighting this country’s enemies, and this is how he is treated.”
Montgomery shifted in his seat, appearing uncomfortable, although inside he was loving this moment. A weeping widow of a soldier who died fighting terrorists! This was gold. He Knew he had to push for the big emotional moment now, “Do you need a moment, Kara?”
“No, I’m fine, please, continue.”
“In this letter, your husband, in some detail, transcribes the argument of the terrorists, their justification for their actions. He wrote that the scarfaced man, the ringleader, said, ‘I was no terrorist before that day, but I am one now. I live in constant terror, the memory of my wife and children lying on the floor, bleeding to death, riddled with bullet holes. Not to mention the terror I see every time I look in the mirror and am reminded of your handiwork. I stood up merely to dive in front of my children and protect them, only to be repelled by the butt of your weapon in my face. I regained consciousness only to witness my son coughing up blood as the fire you set, to my home, engulfed us.’ Basically, this person was making the argument that the CIA calls blowback, wherein our actions can result in creating our enemies. The goal of this scarfaced man was to make your husband feel what he felt. Your husband thought he prevented that, but perhaps he just moved the target to you.” At this, Kara turned her head away from the camera to hide her reaction. “And, now having had a similar experience to the 1 described by this man, I wonder how you feel now.”
“You mean do I want to blow up Iraqis? Do I want to get a gun and kill innocent people? Do I want to assuage my suffering by making others share in it? Yes that is a brilliant plan. Soon everyone will be looking for revenge and we can all just stand around in a global Mexican standoff and shoot each other all at once!”
“So this 1 who lived, whose being detained in the military hospital? You have no thoughts of revenge?”
“Of course I hate him. Of course I occasionally think dark thoughts. He is responsible for the worst thing that ever happened to me. But just because a thought pops into my head doesn’t mean I act on it. Eventually someone has to break the cycle or their will never be peace. I don;t understand why peace is such a pipe dream, every single philosophy in the world praises the idea of peace, yet nobody is willing to work for it. Just killing and more killing everywhere you turn. And no purpose to any of it.”
“So, tell me Mrs. Daniels, have you forgiven your husband?”
“Well, in this letter he wrote to you, there were only 2 messages which were speaking directly to you. 1 in the beginning and 1 in the end. He said,” at this point, Montgomery turned back to his tablet and read from the text on the screen, “’I also leave every memory of every day we spent together. My life was never as sweet as when we were together, and nothing pains me more than the loss of your presence. I hope you are able to understand the reasons for my actions, and why I truly had no other options.’ And then at the end, ‘God forgive me. Kara, please forgive me, I can think of no other way to protect you. All of my love to you and the kids’”
Montgomery set the tablet down and looked up at Kara, now sobbing into her hands. Between tears she managed, “Yes, I have not forgotten.”
“So, have you forgiven him? He didn’t really specify if it was for what happened at Aqaba or for the suicide or both, but he did ask for your forgiveness before he died. I was just wondering, considering all that has happened as a result of his actions, intentionally or not, under orders or not, as an act of protection or not, can you forgive him?”
Kara sat back and wiped the remaining tears from her cheeks, “You know Gerald, I don’t know. Some days I’m so angry at him I just wish he were in front of me so I could choke him. Other days, all I do is cry because I miss him so much it hurts. But forgiveness, for Aqaba I definitely do, although he needs none. War is terrible and the crimes of war fall on the heads of those who give the orders. The job of soldiers is to defend our country, if they are ordered into a situation that is not about that, well that sin lies on the head of the leaders.”
“And the suicide?”
“That will take longer. It may have been easier if had been successful, but the attacks still occurred, so…”
“Yes, but if the police hadn’t found his body they never would have gotten to your house or the Senator’s in time, and things would have probably ended much worse. So in that way, he did succeed in protecting you.”
“Yes, that is true. And I can not blame him for not going along with them, his options were all some sort of evil and he chose the route which would hurt the fewest people. I understand that intellectually. I support it, intellectually. Emotionally, it is not so easy. My children are still young, how do I explain that their father committed suicide heroically, but suicide is still bad?”
Gerald paused, for a moment forgetting about his big interview moment and instead seeing this poor women in front of him, suffering under the weight of loss and responsibility. Ever tuned to his audience, he could feel their connection to this women turning to real empathy instead of the bizarre mix of sympathy and voyeurism usually enjoyed by the spectator. She had traveled the distance from object of gossip to person.
He leaned in towards her, “I don’t know, Kara, I don’t know. But you should know you are not alone. Your husband sacrificed himself on behalf of all of us, and we are all grateful for that.” The audience burst into enthusiastic applause, eager to show her their support. She strained a smile in response.
Montgomery sat up, a broad smile on his face, “And, speaking of our gratitude, I have a special surprise for you tonight. Mrs. Daniels I would like to introduce you to General Davis Howard, United States Army.” As he spoke those words, his arm swept towards the empty stage behind them, and a screen descended from the rafters with the image of a US general on it.
It was clearly an interactive video, he smiled towards Kara, “Hello, Mrs. Daniels.”
“I wanted to thank you, personally, for the sacrifice your family has made for our country. I heard what you were saying earlier about the funeral. I apologize, I do not understand why such a thing would happen to 1 of our own. If you wish it, I will have your husband’s body moved to a military cemetery and given full martial rights.”
“Thank you, yes, I would like that.”
“Consider it done. I am here today to present you with this,” he waved his hand towards stage right and a Staff Sergeant walked out with a small velvet box in his hand. “In this box is a Distinguished Service Cross given by the Army to honor those who perform acts of extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force . We award this posthumously to your husband. When faced with an armed enemy attempting to blackmail him into betraying his nation and killing innocents, not only did he refuse to comply, but he found a way to defeat their plans by making the ultimate sacrifice. You can proudly tell that to your children, ma’am.”
Kara began to cry again, this time from joy and openly, “Oh thank you, sir. This really means, oh I can’t even tell you, but thank you.”
Again the audience applauded, some even shouted their approval, a few stood and others joined, soon the whole audience was standing and clapping their ovation for the deceased and the honors due him. Gerald Montgomery leaned back in his chair and grinned a grin so large it nearly encircled his head. Kara cried and smiled and blushed, emotions spinning about inside her, not sure what to do with herself, she just stared at the medal in her hand barely noticing the Sergeant walk away.
As the applause settled down and people returned to their seats, Montgomery was the 1st to speak, “Allow me to add my thanks to everyone else’s Kara. General, I would also like to thank you for taking the time to appear here today.”
“It was my my pleasure, Mr. Montgomery, I only wish my schedule would have allowed me to be there in person to meet Mrs. Daniels.”
“Perhaps another time. However we do appreciate that you are attending to your duties, which I suppose you must be returning to?”
“Yes, indeed, Mrs. Daniels, thanks you, and god bless.”
“Thank you, sir.”
As the screen rolled up, the image disappeared, and Montgomery turned back towards Kara, “I want to thank you for coming today.” He then turned to the audience, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mrs. Kara Daniels, wife of American Hero, Lt. Jacob Daniels, Distinguished Service Cross Honoree.”
Kara stood and shook hands with Gerald. Again the audience stood to applaud her. The drapes flew shut blocking them out, yet they continued their accolades for a few minutes before settling down and filing out of the auditorium. Kara sat back into her chair, relieved that it was over.
“I know how you feel.” Gerald smiled at her.
Kara looked at him sideways, “Please, you love it out there.” She wiped a tear off her cheek with the back of her hand.
“I am sorry if that was rough on you. Would you like my staff to bring you a drink? Water? Something stronger?”
“No, thank you. If someone could call me a cab, that would be nice.”
Gerald’s head tilted a little as he smiled at her, “A cab, that’s sweet. Honey, you’re our guest. We’ll drive you wherever you need to go. No charge.”