Please note well: In case you were wondering, even though November is over, I will be publishing the rest of this book here, section by section. But if you can’t wait to see how it ends, you can order this book in hard copy, and the link for that is here. In addition, audio chapters are being recorded and released on the new Canon App.
“I might get sacked for this,” Keith had said. “But I think it might be the noblest thing I will ever get to do.”
Three days before the debate, Larry had given Keith a copy of the thumb drive, along with a general explanation of what was on the thumb drive. Keith was going to be on Del’s detail later that afternoon, and he pocketed the drive with satisfaction.
And just as it had happened the first time that Keith had talked to Del, the room emptied out for a moment while Del was trying to shovel prep questions back into his satchel. Keith checked in every direction, and walked up to the table where Del was and placed the thumb drive right in front of him. He had memorized what he was going to say, and so he said it straight out. “I don’t know if you even want to leave the campaign. But if you do, and if you want to depart in a way that will completely dominate the debate between now and the election, this thumb drive is for you.”
Del looked at him steadily. “You have successfully captured my interest,” he said, grinned, and pocketed the drive.
But he didn’t have a moment to read the email thread until late that evening. When he did, he sat back in his chair and stared at the screen for five minutes. Then he read through the whole thing again, his mouth agape. He sat back in his chair again, rummaging around in his mind for something suitable to say. He finally came up with something his grandmother, an old Southern matriarch, used to say when he was a boy. Land of Goshen.
The three days to the debate flew by.
The debate stage was enormous and polished like it was supposed to be marble they had somehow obtained from Kubla Khan’s tomb, and the two lecterns, as per the detailed negotiations, were precisely fifteen feet apart. Out at the front of the stage was a long curved desk, of the sort where imposing news anchors sit, and behind that desk were three journalists. There was Chris Wallace from Fox, Niki DeMartinpray from MSNBC, and, in the history-making part of the event, the first trans interviewer in a vice-presidential debate ever, a gent by the name of Flora. That was all. Flora. Del managed to look at him without wincing, but reminded himself not to try that too many times during the evening. It might wear his resolve down. Flora was a gender dysphoric equivalent of a moonscape. Pretty bleak.
Chris Wallace brought the event to order, right on the dot, and explained the outline of the evening. Each candidate would get a ten-minute opening statement, and then the questioning from the journalists would begin, and all according to the ordered agreement. Del nodded with satisfaction, and noted that Billy looked composed, but a little pale. But then they were into the questions, and he had no time to worry about that. But about twenty minutes in, something happened, and Del felt like someone had tapped him on the shoulder. Wait a minute. He looked up and saw that Chris Wallace had had the same reaction. Wait a minute. Niki and Flora had not noticed anything, unless you count their respective reflections from the polished desk in front of them. They were both noticing that.
Billy had just said that he had been talking with his son Thad about the problem with the Russian special forces in eastern Turkey just the other day, and that he thought that this was an extremely timely question. Now Billy had two daughters. He was famous for having two daughters, especially after they had made that country album that had gone platinum without anybody knowing who they were until after they were famous on their own. That had come out at the Grammys, and where the judges were more than a little peeved that Nicole & Angelica, this pert duo of sprightly up-and-comers, were the daughters of a senator. A conservative senator. After that rumpus, which lasted for two weeks, everybody in the country knew that Billy Jerome had two daughters, and only two daughters. They knew this about no other senator, but they knew it about Billy Jerome.
And Del was almost certain he had heard the senator just say that he had just been discussing the problem of Russians in Turkey with his son Thad. Chris Wallace was almost certain he had heard the same thing. Del’s eyes met Chris’s eyes. Did you hear that? Billy Jerome picked up on what they were doing and thinking, and so he paused for a moment before getting into the thickets of Middle-East policies. Or perhaps it was the policies of Middle-East thickets. At any rate, he paused. The thickets could wait.
Chris Wallace stepped in, and asked, “Excuse me, senator. But did you just say you were talking with your son?”
“Yes. Yes. He is an intern with our campaign.”
There were two sound booths up above the auditorium, one on the right for the Republicans and one on the left for the Democrats. In the back of the Republican sound booth, an advisor to McFetridge was stomping back and forth, swearing and frothing a little bit. Curiously enough, there was an advisor to Brock Tilton doing the same thing in the Democratic booth. They were even using some of the same words.
“What is your son’s name?”
“Thad. Thad Halton. But I just mentioned that in passing. Perhaps I should get back to the Middle-East.”
All over the country, journalists were firing up their search engines, and this is why a bunch of them missed what happened next. Billy finished his explanation of how the McFetridge administration would handle this new crisis (which somehow looked exactly the same as all the old ones), and landed the explanation nicely. Well, the horse is out of the barn now.
And that is when Flora asked Del to speak to the crisis of climate change, and whether a Tilton administration would declare the country to be in a state of emergency because of the clear and present danger presented by the climate change crisis.
Del cleared his throat. Whatever Billy had thought he was doing was soon to be pulverized and scattered to the four winds. He thought that he was making headlines, but the headlines he had briefly made were about to be shouldered out of the way by the headlines that Del was about to make.
“Well, as you know, Flora, the Tilton campaign has a full position paper on the subject, and which definitely supports the need to treat the issue of climate change as a true crisis, a true emergency. However—and I am just speaking for myself here—I don’t see how it will be possible to leave that paper as it stands over the course of the next several weeks. The entire global consensus on climate change will have to undergo a radical revision. I have just come into information that reveals that senior figures, key figures, in the climate change world have been running the largest scam in the history of mankind. And I have the proof of this right here.”
And Del held up the thumb drive.