An American Faces Terror Threat in London in ‘Keep Calm’ (Exclusive Book Excerpt)

In a passage from writer-director Mike Binder‘s new novel, ex-cop Adam Tatum finds himself visiting 10 Downing Street — and in over his head in an international scandal

The bomb went off at 10 Downing Street just after six p.m. Georgia had been in the small private bathroom off her office at Number 11, trying once again, as usual, to make some sense of her hair before she met with Alistair Stephenson, the minister of education. She had just taken her third pain pill of the day. The ache in her leg was a distant irritant most times now, sporadically troublesome in the morning or after a long day of travel, but the pills made the tumult of her life easier to deal with, so she ate them gladly, like a bright red rock candy.

It was a loud, booming roar of a blast that shook the walls, made the building roll, and even, Georgia thought later, lifted it as if it were just a small cardboard mock-up of Downing Street. The explosion was shadowed by an eerie moment of quiet, a confused sea of silence that washed over the building and cascaded down the halls of both Numbers 10 and 11. Georgia, the chancellor of the exchequer, stood alone for several stunned seconds. Jack Early, her private secretary, broke the hush when he ran down the hall just as alarm bells began to ring and voices could be heard shouting down the back corridors.

“Madam, are you all right?”

“Yes, of course, that was devastating. Please tell me everyone’s all right. What was it?” She was dizzy, spinning, or maybe the room was; maybe Early was spinning and not her.

She grabbed the side of her large wooden desk to stay upright.

“I believe it was a bomb. It must’ve been. In Number 10.” Early was even paler then he normally was. The palest, driest-skinned man she had ever known was somehow even whiter and dryer now than usual. He was shaking. Others were now gathering in the hallway outside. The two perky blondes who worked in Early’s office whispered quietly to him about plans on where and how to evacuate Georgia.

A Metropolitan Police officer, from the Diplomatic Protection Group, a tall man with a thick shock of white hair and a stern, worried look on his face, came into the room speaking in a hushed, determined tone. He spoke quickly to Early in the outer office, then turned to Georgia.

“You’ll need to come with me, Chancellor. Straight off, please.”

“What is it? What’s happened?”

“There’s been a bomb. An explosion. Seems to have gone off on the second floor of Number 10. We need to move you at once.”

“What about the prime minister? Where is he?”

“It appears that the PM’s been hit, ma’am. He’s being attended to now.”

“Hit? How? Is he going to be . . .”

“Ma’am, all that I’ve been told is that we need to get you out of the building. Right now.”

“Others?”

“No. Just the PM. We need to go, Madam Chancellor.”

The Second Lord of the Treasury, or the chancellor of the exchequer, has with time become the most powerful office in the British government, next to the prime minister. Georgia Turnbull was the first woman to ever hold the post. She was Prime Minister Roland Lassiter’s longest-running trench mate in politics. Brilliant, steel-willed, and confident to a fault, her relationship with Lassiter was complicated and intricate. It ran hot and cold, was deeply important to both, and confusing to all others. She was Lloyd George to his Asquith or, more to the point, Brown to his Blair. They had gone to university together, had come up through the rough and tumble of party politics, won a bitter election, cobbled together a government, helped the country climb out of a prolonged triple-dip recession, twisted and tugged new life out of a broken civil service, and had even, two years earlier, survived a horrific helicopter crash together. The relationship was so intense that quite a few friends had quietly always suspected that Ms. Turnbull had secretly been in love with the extremely photogenic and very married Roland Lassiter.

Physically, Georgia possessed a brand of beauty that was all her own. The word “striking” had been always used in any description of her. She was tall, with a commanding presence and dark penetrating eyes on a radiant face blanketed with creamy alabaster skin. She had wild hair that ran afoul of any sense of direction or obedience to grooming. Even as a young woman, her drive, candor, and razor-sharp intellect had all combined to make an extremely attractive, if not run-of-the-mill, kind of beauty. She had a slight stoop that was only exaggerated with the fallout from the helicopter accident, her gait now stilted with the constant need of a cane.

People outside were running around Number 10 and Number 11 in what seemed like every direction. There was panic in the wind, sirens bouncing up Whitehall in a pack now, forming together into a single war whoop, coating the air with a blanket of fright. Georgia reached the street outside the buildings just as armored cars and SUVs screeched to a desperate stop. Men in bullet proof police uniforms hunkered down with rifles and communications gear. The entire area was transformed with lightning speed into a locked-down armored military theater. She and Jack Early were quickly and carefully ushered into an army-outfitted SUV and driven out of Downing Street past a never-ending line of arriving squad cars and a short, sturdy row of tanks that were set up in the middle of the main road. A hazmat truck barreled up to the front gate and was flagged in past all of the other vehicles. Helicopters circled overhead, both army and police. An overeager news copter was instantly forced away. As if a switch had been flipped on, a parallel chaotic universe came instantly into existence. Georgia looked back at the rush of manic movement as her vehicle hustled away up Whitehall, smoke billowing toward the sky from a fire in Number 10, her thoughts only on Roland Lassiter, not even daring to think the worst.

***

A few hours later, the world had been told — not in the way they had all wanted the world to be told; not in the way Georgia wanted to see it unfold; not to the liking of Kirsty Lassiter, Roland’s beloved, permanently put upon wife, or Sir Melvin Burnlee, the home secretary, and least of all not to the satisfaction of Alan Munroe, Lassiter’s long-hovering director of communications and strategy. They hadn’t even had the chance to inform anyone at Buckingham Palace. The word was out to the world before any of them really had a clue themselves as to exactly what had transpired.

The entire government was frozen in a shell-shocked daze for more than two hours. In the vacuum, the press took the ball and ran with it. The news was leaked out in a typically tawdry modern way: a patchwork quilt of guesswork and innuendo that belittled everything about the situation, the integrity of the government, the life of Roland Lassiter, and the emotions of the British people. There was no waiting out of courtesy, no checking of facts. The press just tripped over themselves to be the first to report on the tragedy: an explosion at Number 10, Roland Lassiter on his deathbed. He hadn’t even reached the hospital when Sky News broke the story with helicopter shots of the Metropolitan Police shutting down and evacuating Downing Street, front and back.

In lieu of any substantiated information, these were the images that the entire world watched, over and over on a continuous loop for several hours. Blurry video from a God’s-eye view showed police, government workers, and military figures, running to and fro in odd confusion-driven circles, like worker bees whose hive had been shot through with a shotgun blast. Number 10 was utter chaos.

***

Late in the evening, Georgia and Early were more or less hidden in a secure COBRA conference room somewhere in Whitehall. They were with Sir Melvin Burnlee, whose brief included MI5, the Met police, the Diplomatic Protection Group, and all of the police and investigation services in matters of interior, and Felix Holmby, the deputy prime minister. Georgia had just hung up with the palace and was told she would be getting a call from His Royal Highness, the king, in a short time. She also took a call from the American president and the newly elected president of France.

Finally a call came in from Louise Bloomfield, the prime minister’s private secretary. She had traveled with Mrs. Lassiter to the hospital behind the ambulance. The only news she offered was that the PM was still unconscious and that the bomb had done serious, yet not necessarily life threatening damage to his midsection.

Lassiter may well survive this one, Georgia thought to herself in the form of a silent prayer. Maybe he truly does live some kind of magically dusted life, just as he always claimed he did.

“The gods are on my side, Georgia. I predict we will take South Ribble, Stafford, Ilford North, and even Elmet and Rothwell tonight. They may have history, them, but I’m one charmed bastard on a whale of a run lately, and they’ll all have to just deal with it up there.”

She thought back on that night of their first general election, the night they came to power, the night the world changed. She also remembered the morning three years later when they crashed to the sea in a giant metal army helicopter, her leg shattering into fifteen pieces, her collarbone breaking in half like a holiday wishbone, two soldiers dead from the crash, another drowned during the rescue, and Lassiter without a scratch. He walked away more or less unharmed. Maybe he was right; maybe he was of a special breed. Maybe he could survive this awful blow. Dear God, please let it be so.

***

Before long it had fallen to Georgia to make the first official public statement, to address the press on behalf of her government, her party, her country, and Roland Lassiter. She dreaded it. It wasn’t that she was press shy — she wasn’t — and it wasn’t that the press disliked her, as she felt they always had. It came with the job, and she lived with it. This was different: she was too gutted, too emotional to make a calm statement.

She normally enjoyed public speaking, got a quiet kick out of the limelight, whether she was addressing the press, the annual party convention, the G20, the Trades Union Congress, or even when she took prime minister’s questions at Commons for Lassiter. She reveled in it when she had a point of view, when she argued ways into or out of an issue. In those moments, on the stage or at the podium, she thought of herself proudly as a conviction politician, a soldier with a cause, and it lifted her above anything as petty as stage fright.

The press platform was placed out in front of the Whitehall gate on the far side of the security booths. Downing street was shut down tight until it was made sure there weren’t additional bombs still to go off. The press camped along the front sidewalk and the lip of the driveway. Georgia, Early, and Munroe came up Whitehall in the army SUV and tucked in right behind the platform. As she disembarked from the SUV she thought that maybe she would do without the cane. It obviously spoke of infirmity, an image she wasn’t the least bit eager to put forward. In the end she decided she needed it, and the fallout if she couldn’t make it, if she needed to be walked back in after, would have been much worse than people seeing her with the cane she’d already been married to for almost two years.

She hobbled out slowly, facing the overflowing crowd of cameras, reporters, sound technicians, and segment producers. It was the biggest gathering of its kind she had ever witnessed at Downing Street or, for that matter, anywhere else. She did her best to settle at the portable podium and meet the crowd out on the avenue there with a brave resolute stance.

“Good evening. As you may already know, we have had a most cowardly act visited upon our house. We are all in a state of shock, to say the least. Our hearts and minds are steadfastly alongside Roland Lassiter and his brave family today. Our prime minister, our friend, our leader, has suffered greatly . . . yet I am pleased to say that though he may be slightly weary from the events of today, his gentle smile and his renowned faculties are all intact and will soon be ready to once again be put to service by us all.”

Her speech went on, giving details where she could, in as plainly personal a way as she felt comfortable. She reminded herself that she was there to calm. She tried desperately not to show the fear and the dread she felt, so she spoke clearly, looking into each of the different cameras, hoping not to transmit the doubt she was choking on.

It was the final line of her statement that both she and Munroe knew would get the largest share of ink, would stir the most emotion: a bellicose warning, wrapped in her sharp Scottish accent — a shot across the bow to the perpetrators of the act.

“In short time, as the dust settles, we will piece together the events of this dark day and then, with the warm light of a clear morning, we will come for you, we will find you, and I promise, on behalf of our United Kingdom, there will be hell to pay.”

Her statement read, she turned and burrowed her way back inside the SUV. As the press shouted a barrage of questions to her, she ignored them all. She just kept moving into the truck where once inside, she slumped into her seat, settled her body in, and then, as they pulled away from view, quickly and energetically, she began to weep.

Before the Bombing

The best thing about living in Wilmette, Illinois, was how easily Adam Tatum could get to the train station and then to downtown Chicago to his office at Heaton Global Investments, or HGI as it was known in the eleven nations where it had offices. This job, the first he’d ever held that had required him to wear a jacket and tie, still baffled him. How he had gotten it, what they saw in him, what he was supposed to do, and if he was going to be any good at it were still unanswered questions, even after he’d been there for eight months. The only things that made any sense to him were the forty-minute train ride into Chicago and the moments every morning when Kate, his wife, and Trudy and Billy, his two children, all dropped him off at the little red- brick Wilmette train station.

They had previously lived in Michigan before being uprooted by this new job. He had been born and raised in Michigan. He and Kate had met in Ann Arbor when she was a student at the University of Michigan. The gods had somehow sent her to him from London. He was a first-year member of the Ann Arbor police force, three years older than her, nice-looking, quick- witted, and charismatic. He was a cop, he started as a patrolman and had gone on to quickly climb the ranks of the police department and had been made detective in record time. He had spent his life overcoming every obstacle en route to every single thing he wanted to achieve.

In truth, he never really loved being a cop. He became one because his father and his father’s five brothers were either cops or reps for the policemen’s union. He had floated along in the wake of his family, happy to just do what had been done, to excel in the arena that Tatums had always excelled in — until he met Kate. Kate changed everything.

She was in Michigan studying art and running away from either someone in Britain or Britain in general. She was an answer to a dream he hadn’t remembered having, a prayer that had been granted before it had even been solicited. They dated, fell in love, started a family, and built a life — a life that just two years earlier, he had stupidly done his best to smash against the rocks.

He kissed his wife and kids good-bye and settled into a seat on the second level of the aging passenger train. He watched as Kate’s Jeep Wagoneer tucked into the morning traffic going out of Wilmette Village, into a line of nice cars driven by all the other moms who looked like they’d been pulled straight out of the background of one of those old John Hughes films: all pretty and relatively thin with bobbing hair and brightly colored Banana Republic wool sweaters, smiling wearily in the morning light as they dutifully dropped their husbands at the train station.

Not Kate. She was no background character. She was the exception. She had star billing in whatever it was she did. She was a one of a kind, his Kate: blond, buxom, and sturdy; British to the tee; a stunner; thirty-seven years old, with bold blue eyes and hardened opinions that could bend solid steel.

Adam’s sight was locked onto her and the Jeep as the train pulled away, the village traffic letting up at the same time. They drove along side by side, just for a moment, until the road forked off. She didn’t feel him staring; she was too busy arguing with Trudy, their perpetually heartbroken sixteen-year-old, to notice her husband watching her lovingly and longingly from the second story of the old Amtrak runner. She couldn’t see the want in his eyes, the desperate wish he was making that he could somehow will it all to be better for them, to somehow make her understand that the hell he’d put them through these last two years was truly over.

As the train barreled south and the quiet commuters read their papers, watched their iPads, and sipped their travel cups, he thought again about his job, toiling away at the biggest financial services company on the planet, just one of the many things he’d said yes to Kate about during these last tumultuous two years. He would do anything to make things right. Even take a job in a city and a state in which he knew no one, and in a business which he knew nothing about. Every day he put on the pants, jacket, and tie, boarded the train, went downtown to Heaton Global Investments off the Dearborn Street Bridge, and tried like hell to fit in and to learn — all for Kate and the kids.

In actuality he wasn’t doing badly. Not for a neophyte. Not for someone who had never sold a thing in his life. Least of all institutional retirement packages. He’d had a lot of jobs; aside from being a cop, he’d done construction, even been a set carpenter in a movie studio in Pontiac, Michigan, a few years back. He’d done a lot, but he knew nothing about setting up annuities for group retirements and saving plans. This was all a foreign language to Adam, but he was doing it, showing up every day and sometimes, some of those days, people even said he had something of a knack for it.

Kate had gotten him the job. Not Kate actually, but Kate’s father, Gordon. Gordon Thompson, who, at least in Adam’s mind, never liked Adam and never forgave him for brainwashing his daughter and settling her permanently in Michigan. In America. Yet with all the alleged animosity, it was Gordon, the distant father-in-law, who, after Adam had had his troubles, once they seemed to have finally ended, when he had no work, no idea what to do next, called from thousands of miles away, coming to the rescue with a job at Heaton Global Investments.

Gordon Thompson had been alone in London after the death of his wife from cancer thirty years before. He missed his only child with a hunger that, at least from the other side of the ocean, had made him seem bitter. Kate’s father wasn’t one to travel. He had left England only once as a young man, when in the service in the Far East. Kate and Adam had only gone to see him three times in the eighteen years since they were married. Gordon and Kate spoke regularly, even talked over Skype, but the decades and the distance had done their damage. Over the years the two of them had grown into something more or less resembling strangers. Gordon’s heart was broken.

Two men then, Gordon and Adam, both with a deep, endless, aching supply of love for Kate, both did what they could for her. Gordon stuck his neck out and approached his childhood friend and current boss, Sir David Heaton, the British billionaire CEO of Heaton Global Investments, and got his ne’er-do-well son-in-law a job; and Adam showed up every morning in an unfamiliar suit, week after week, trying desperately to make sense of a new set of obstacles. Both of them doing it all for Kate.

Kate, who dropped the kids off, picked them up, got the dry cleaning, did the shopping and the laundry and paid the bills as she wondered if it had all slipped away. If she could ever feel like she once felt before. If she could ever laugh and play and coo and pet with her big bear of a handsome husband who she once thought the very sun rose and set upon. She took the dog for a walk every morning when the kids were at school and every day, like clockwork, she wondered whether she’d ever get over the three months he spent in jail, the charges he faced that could have had him in a federal prison for over twenty years, the shame he brought to his family. Would she ever excuse him for doing something as stupid as he’d done, for putting all of what they’d built and held holy at such silly risk?

She blamed him for everything: for losing their home in Royal Oak, for her friends abandoning her during his incarceration, for the emotional roller coaster on which he had taken their two children. She even found the moral high ground to blame him for the hours she spent staring at photos of Richard Lyle, her high school boyfriend, on Facebook. She blamed him for the afternoons wasted ruminating over Richard and the life she could have had, for combing over his posts, for marveling about what great shape he was in all these years later. It was even Adam’s fault she’d been desperate enough to send several messages to Richard’s Facebook account. This was all emotional weight that he had dropped onto her when he shattered their lives almost two years ago.

So yes, Adam went off to his strange new job every day on the old clanging commuter train, but the real learning curve belonged to Kate: figuring out from nine to five, day after day, how to get to the next chapter of their story; how to forgive; how to let go; how to get herself home to Adam.

***

Adam made his way down the back hallway of the tenth story of the HGI building. It was a big, modern, metal-and-mirror thing that had been designed and built during the last raging bull market and plopped down onto the river along West Wacker Drive, facing north. The building never seemed to blend in with the other Chicago skyscrapers and it more or less sat there, away from the pack, its own towering entity.

As he ambled through the gauntlet of offices, more than one of the secretaries gave him a sweet smile. He was a regular fixture around the floor by then, and was well liked. The younger women saw him as cute, humble, fun to look at, and safe. He was a married man who knew how to smile and maybe flirt in a friendly way, but not one to send out any signals other than that he headed home every night to Kate and the kids.

Retirement Services had the whole tenth floor, and Adam was headed toward the office of his boss, the head of the Chicago unit, Barry Saffron. Saffron, an ambitious forty-four-year-old transplant to Illinois from Boston’s Back Bay and a lifer in the financial services world, had had Adam plopped into his lap ten months earlier in the same way that the Chicago River had landed the HGI building. Needless to say, Saffron wasn’t the least bit happy when he got the call from Betty Roytan, in the London office.

“Shit, I get it, Betty. This comes from the big man himself, but why Chicago? Send the little fucker to New York or to Dallas! I got way too much on my hands as it is.”

“I don’t understand it, either, love. This is very out of character for Sir David,” replied the very dry and very British, Roytan, who headed the London Pensions Package office. “All I can tell you is this young fellow’s wife is the daughter of one of Sir David’s security men, who also just happens to be one of his best boyhood mates. Give it your best. That’s what I would do had Sir David sent me a handful. Give it my all.”

With that the phone went dead, she was gone, and Barry was stuck with a new man who for some reason was handed a damn good job and a fat starting salary with absolutely no experience. Zero. Nothing.

When he got to his boss’s office, Adam could see that Saffron was not in anything close to a good mood. Saffron waved him in and told him to close the door. Adam did as he was told and sat down in the contemporary leather black greeter chair. The office was stunning. No expense had been spared in interior design and furniture–modern, crisp, and clean. There were three large flat-screen TVs on two different walls so that Saffron could watch sports, world news, and business news, all simultaneously.

Adam noticed immediately that Saffron was plunked deep into his chair, all three screens dark.

“What should I make of you, Tatum? Huh? What are you, Forest Gump or something?”

“I don’t know what you mean?” He was being sincere; he had no idea where Saffron was going with this.

“I’ve worked my ass off for this company — for thirteen years, Tatum. I worked my way up in this business, since I was just out of college. First one in my family to ever even go to fucking college.” Adam nodded. He more or less knew Saffron’s history. He also knew it wasn’t easy having a new guy just dropped into his world, as Adam had been. He always tried to be respectful, though, and went out of his way to be grateful for all that Saffron did for him, so he truly didn’t know where this was going.

“They’ve put together a delegation on the fucking magnitude of this civil service pitch in London next month, and they cherry-pick from all the offices, and they didn’t pick me. I know, I could trust that it was an oversight, I could give them the benefit of the doubt, but they picked you, fucking you, Tatum, and I’m sorry, but that sucks to me. They picked a friend of the boss’s son-in-law, and it just kind of makes me want to take a steaming shit right here on my desk and walk right the fuck out.”

“I really don’t know what you’re talking about, Barry. I swear I don’t.”

“Ah, please.”

“I don’t. What is it again?”

“A few of the New York group that does all government union services, employee pension specialists, some of them down in Texas that did the whole deal with the Texas government workers program we did, and a bunch of that team in Paris that always gets written up in the company newsletter are going to London next week. They’re going to a round table with Sir David himself, and guess where it is? Guess where?”

“Where?”

“At 10 fucking Downing Street. You know what that is?”

“Yeah sure, I mean, it’s the White House of England. Right?”
“Good. You’re not a total moron. Now guess who they’re meeting with, this group? Who they’re gonna put the big squeeze on for taking over the investment services on the pension program for the entire British civil service? It’s landmark if it happens. Guess who they’re meeting with?”

“Who?”

“Roland Lassiter. The prime fucking minister. Among others. And guess who’s going from the motherfucking Chicago office. Guess!”

There was silence, for a long moment. Adam didn’t want to guess, and Saffron couldn’t get the bile from his throat. Finally he did.

“You! Adam Fucking Tatum! That’s who. They picked you to be part of the delegation and I swear to God I want to go postal in this damn place. That’s how pissed off I am, Tatum.”

Adam just stared across the giant glass desk. He shrugged in confusion.

“I swear to you, Barry, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He sat back in Barry’s expensive chair as Saffron’s eyes beamed death rays at him. He started to boil now, too. This was Gordon, his father-in-law. This was a setup of some kind, to get Kate home to England. That was what this was: a setup to get Kate and the kids in London with him, and to somehow use the trip to get her to move back home permanently, with or without Adam. He was being set up. He was sure of it, and now he was just as mad as Saffron. They sat there staring at each other.

“I’m sorry, Barry. That’s all I can say.”

“I’ll bet you’re sorry. Go on. Get to work. Ellen Doyle over there in travel’s gonna come see you with the details. Pretend like you don’t know what she’s talking about.”

“I don’t.”

“Okay, fine. Get the fuck out.”

Adam didn’t in fact know about the London trip. He was being straight with his boss. Kate did, though. She was in on it. Whatever this plan was, she was well aware of the details.

He was playing tetherball in the backyard of their two-story rented white-brick colonial on Birchwood Avenue up in Wilmette with his son when she finally just came out and admitted it. On the ride home from the train station she had played dumb. She pretended the London trip was all new information to her. Pretended that she didn’t know that the overly friendly lady in travel would offer up four business-class tickets and a hotel suite in Mayfair so that all four of them could go. Now, there in the yard, she was finally ready to admit the truth.

“Yes, I knew. Okay? You want me to admit it? Fine. I’ll admit it. My father rang me last week and told me he had overheard talk of having you going along in the delegation, and he twisted some arms at the company to have myself, Trudy, and Billy come as well.”

Little eight-year-old Billy, with the crazy head of red hair and his father’s big brown eyes, stopped his side of the tetherball game at once.

“Go where, Mom? Where are we all going?” Kate looked to Adam for permission to make it public but then decided she didn’t need the consent and turned back to Billy.

“London. We’re going to visit London. And your grandfather.”

“Really? This is true? I’m going to really meet my grandfather? This is true?” He looked to his father, but didn’t wait for an answer either. He jumped into the air with childish ebullience and ran toward the house to tell his sister. Halfway to the house he stopped dead in his tracks, and turned back to his parents.

“How come I’ve never met him until now, besides on computer? How come I’ve never met him in person if he’s my grandfather, my only one?” Neither of his parents were quick to respond, each of them sure the answer would either be wrong or would bring on more questions. Kate decided to take charge with a reply.

“He lives a long way away, sweetie. London’s very, very far from here. It’s not so easy for your grandfather to travel all this way.”

“Oh. Okay, but now I’m gonna finally meet him, right?”

“That’s right, love. You are going to meet him. Finally.”

“I can’t wait. I’m gonna bring a lot of my soldiers and my sticker collections to show him. And my Portable Play Station.” He turned and purposefully headed into the house to finish his mission to inform his older sister of their trip. Kate looked back to Adam, now playing himself in a feeble version of tetherball.

“Yes, okay, Adam. I knew. My father had called. Explained the trip to me. Yes. He did pull strings. He’s just trying to get to meet his grandkids. Find some way to be with us. He’s lonely, Adam. Very lonely. For me.” Then, with those awesome blue eyes trained on him, she barreled down.

“As am I, lonely for him. I need this. For me. For my father and for my children and, Adam, I just can’t come up with a good reason that it doesn’t thrill you to no end. I cannot understand for the life of me how you would see this as some kind of plot staged against you?”

He stopped smacking the big rubber ball on the string and came over to his wife. He wanted to explain to her that he was just being stupidly paranoid. Afraid to lose her. Lose her to her father. Lose her to London, to old friends, lovers, favorite street corners and songs on the radio, things and memories that weren’t about him. Afraid that once there, she’d never want to come home. That she would want to reset her life all over, back where she belonged, without her husband. Without the jailbird American wacko who had pathetically lost everything they had ever had. Everything they had built.

He didn’t, though. He couldn’t find the words, so he gently stroked the side of her face and quietly ended the argument.

“It looks to me like we’re all going to London.”

Excerpted from KEEP CALM by Mike Binder, published by HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Mike Binder. All rights reserved.