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.
Larry sat up in bed suddenly. That was it. What to do with Helen’s emails. The thought had come to him unbidden in that drowsy doze between sleeping and waking. It was a long shot, but as far as he could see it was the only good shot they had. They could always get the emails published, and that easily enough, but Larry also knew that if any conservative outfit did it, the story would be yawned out of existence. And nobody but a true-blue conservative outfit would even touch it. In fact, he knew there were even some true blues that wouldn’t do it. The crazies would be eager to do it, but they would be easily handled in the media war that followed.
And he had already ruled out the Billy Jerome approach as being something the handlers would almost certainly reject.
Then, while he was semi-sleeping, something else hit him. Why not the other veep candidate? Keith had been telling him some amazing stories about Del Martin’s behavior in the campaign offices, and the utter inability of any of the staff to make any sense of it. For Keith, who was evangelical himself, the whole thing was as plain as something that was . . . that was pretty plain. If Del wanted off the ticket, which Keith thought he did, then going out with a bang might be the way to do it. If the initiative for his departure came from within the campaign, they would have to do something damaging to him in order to justify it. But if Del knew that his days were numbered anyhow, it could make sense for him to get out in front of it. At least that is what Keith had told Larry, and Larry was chewing on it now. This could be just the ticket.
Larry had been thinking that the best thing to do, if they couldn’t get it done in some place that would create an impossible-to-ignore traction, would be for him to publish the emails himself in the Ecosense newsletter. But he and those three guys in the email thread were mortal enemies already. Half the people that read them would think that Larry was just having a little fun and had just made them all up.
But this idea was a hummer. Del Martin, vice-presidential candidate for the Democrats, he could do it. All he would have to do is mention the emails, and a summary of their import, during the vice-presidential debate that was coming up. It would be perfect. Keith had told him that staffers at the campaign were already making worried noises about Del. “He’s not the same man he was at the beginning of the campaign,” one of them had said.
“That’s really true,” Kara had said, trying to keep the catty whine out of her voice. As Del’s former mistress, she had not taken kindly to her dreams and ambitions being peremptorily side-lined the way they had been. She had cultivated that relationship with Del for months before she had tricked him into thinking that he was seducing her. And then to be set aside, somewhat abruptly, had been hard on her views of herself, which—truth be told—were somewhat elevated. Or, if not elevated, at least higher than her current position, and higher, perhaps, than a strict interpretation of the data warranted.
The point of such reports, rumors, grumbles, and complaints, Larry thought, was that Keith had said that it seemed to him that some in the campaign were starting to think about replacing Martin, and that it also seemed to him that Martin was more than halfway looking for a chance to jump ship. Larry rolled the options around in his mind. So Martin could just stagger on until there was a messy parting of the ways, and judging from what Keith was saying, that could be just a matter of time. Or Martin could just make it to the night of the debate, hoist the Jolly Roger in front of everybody, and have the whole thing done as a clean break inside of two days. And the emails would then be a story that no one could smother with a pillow.
Larry jumped out of bed, almost ran to the shower, and just a few minutes later started to dress hurriedly. He needed to talk with Jill. This was perfect. The only way it might not be perfect, he acknowledged to himself, was that not everybody thought about life in the same way he did. Not everybody would think to make a green-friendly statement by having a Hummer running outside their office all the time, say. Maybe Del Martin wouldn’t want to immolate himself on national television. That was certainly possible. Not everyone can avoid being a sissy. But . . . perhaps Del would want to be dumped from the ticket in a way that didn’t involve scandal, or a contrived and alleged scandal, but rather was a situation that was a clear matter of principle, right out there on the surface.
He had to talk to Jill. He was already down in the parking garage. He hopped into his Jeep, chuckling to himself. He thought that Keith would be willing to hand a nondescript thumb drive to Martin. This is perfect. It was no doubt contrary to some trifling regulation of the Secret Service, but Keith’s job was to protect Del, and this was protecting Del.
It would be about ten minutes to Jill’s apartment, and so he called her quickly to see if she was still home. It was Thursday, so he knew she didn’t have to go into the senator’s office as early as she usually did.
“Hey, Jill. Larry. Can I swing by? I have a really hot idea.”
“Sure, I don’t have to leave for an hour yet.” Besides, she thought to herself, you can swing by any time you like. Swing on by. I wish you would swing by more frequently than you do.
“But! . . .” she said, before he could hang up, “I am across the park, the one out front of the apartment house. I came over here to get a coffee and bagel, and the line was way longer than anticipated. I was going to grab something, and then go back and grab Piper for a walk. Could you just get her and then meet me at the fountain in the middle? We can give Piper her walk, and you can try to persuade me that you do in fact have a hot idea. I promise to be open-minded.”
“How will I get in?”
“Shelly next door is still home. She keeps a key just in case for me. She knows you’re a friend, as I had to explain to her several times last week. She couldn’t get over how big you are. She thought you had to be at least two friends. She will let you get Piper, and I will text her now just in case.”
“Deal. See you at the fountain.”
About twenty minutes later, Larry was standing by the elevator doors on Jill’s floor, with Jill’s spaniel Piper running around his feet in an agitated manner. The doors opened, and two middle-aged women, the previous denizens of the elevator, both gasped inaudibly when Larry stepped through the elevator door. It seemed to them that he filled the door first, and then after that he practically filled the elevator. Once Larry turned around to face the doors, they both moved silently back to the back wall.
Piper, meanwhile, was busy wrapping the leash around Larry’s right leg. He looked down, and patiently unwound her. When she looked as though she was going to start right up again, Larry spoke to her sternly. “Sit,” he said. A moment later the elevator dinged them as arriving at the lobby, and so Larry turned to let the two women disembark first. His mouth opened suddenly, and then shut again like a trap.
The two women had obeyed his command and were both on the floor, seated with their backs against the wall, legs stretched out, purses beside them. Larry looked at them, aghast, and they stared back at him, terrified out of their minds. Their eyes were bulging.
“Oh, ladies!” He said. He stretched out his hand and they shrank back halfway into the metal wall. There was nothing for him to do but retreat out of the elevator as unobtrusively as he could manage, which was not very.
A few minutes later he and Piper emerged into the sunshine, and Piper repaid him by not running around his leg anymore. She was out in front, straining against the leash. They walked for about five minutes, straight ahead, until they saw Jill waiting for them, seated on the edge of the fountain. What a fine woman, Larry thought. I need to do something about this. Something other than just swinging by. She’s not scared of me. Not like those ladies in the elevator.
Jill had just finished her bagel, and was now working away at her coffee. As Larry and Piper approached, she got up, smiled at him, and reached out her left hand for the leash, thinking that, as Piper was her dog, she should hold the leash. But instead of handing over the leash, Larry shifted the leash into his left hand, and took her outstretched hand into his, and turned left to take a turn around the park.
“Um . . .” Jill said.
“Let me tell you my idea,” Larry said. “It’s a corker.”
“Okay,” Jill said.