Ecochondriacs [7]

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This Same Larry

This very same Larry was walking across the parking lot toward the offices of Aegis Imprint again. He visited Ken more often now that he lived half the year in the DC area, and he enjoyed the visits. It was one of the few things in DC that he did enjoy. Larry was probably one of three people on the planet who was not in the least intimidated by Ken, and this was something that Ken enjoyed twice as much as he would admit to himself. Larry would occasionally come by just to shoot the breeze, but this visit had a purpose. Ken had been after him to write a follow-up volume to Ecochondriacs, and Larry had just had the idea for the hook two days before. He didn’t want to write anything until he thought he had something worthwhile to say, and now he thought he did. He stuck up a yellow post-it note somewhere in his brain reminding him to drop in on Aegis some time that week. And then he had gotten a one-word email from Ken yesterday, summoning him. C’mere, the email had said. And so here he was, ready to both listen and speak.

Mindi the receptionist was more or less used to Larry by this point, but despite her best efforts she still would go a little pale whenever he would appear, which she did once again this morning. But she quickly got command of herself and buzzed through to Ken while Larry was still navigating through the double doors, which given his size and the size of the doors was something of a production, and which gave Ken the opportunity to bring his phone conversation in for a landing.

As Larry approached the reception desk, Ken suddenly appeared in his doorway. “Larry! Prince among authors! Come in, come in.”

Larry did so, closed the door behind him, and when they were seated, he said. “You’ve got something, and I’ve got something. Who first?”

“You first,” Ken said, gallantly.

And so Larry pitched the hook for his next book, filled it out a little bit, and then sat back and waited.

“Well?” he said after a moment.

Ken was busy chewing on his pen, which he pulled out and stared at as though it were a fine cigar that wasn’t pulling properly. “It is like this, Larry,” he said. “Your idea for a sequel could be terrible, and Ecochondriacs was so good that the follow-up will still sell a million copies. The third one might not, but the second one would. That is why I have been hounding you for the last year. That is how it would sell if it was terrible, and your idea sounds pretty good. How you learned how to type with those bratwurst fingers of yours beats me. But you figured out how to do it, and last time you gave me some of the most lucid prose I have ever seen. Next time around could be half as good, and still be really good. So count me in.”

“Great,” Larry said. “I’ll get it organized, and I might even get started. What was your thing?”

“Do you know your junior senator from Montana? Like, at all?”

“I have met her twice. Once at a hotel chicken event in Bozeman, with some speeches bad enough to make your back teeth ache. Hers was not like that, and was actually pretty good. Wish she would vote as good as she talked. The other time I met her was at a much gaudier event here in DC. She was pleasant enough, even knowing who I was, but as you know, on environmental issues, she is not my dream gal.”

Sen. Marsha Hart was the aforementioned junior senator from Montana, a solid Republican and a wobbly conservative. She managed to keep her overall reputation as a mild right-of-center conservative, but she had also been known to let the side down on certain key votes.

Larry continued. “I have talked to a few of those lobbyists, those K Street konservatives, and they are happy enough with her because on their issues I suppose she is conservative enough. But she has been really bad on environmental stuff. Really bad. I don’t get it.”

“Well, here,” Ken said, “is where I come in. I can increase your storehouse of knowledge. She would actually be happy to vote with the good guys all the time, and that would actually make her campaigning back in Montana a lot simpler for her. It is as tricky as it is because—I have sources—the FBI had some dirt on her that was related to her first marriage and some business deals related to all of that, which in the last two Obama years, found its way into the hands of certain Democratic operatives. They use it to apply just the right amount of pressure to her from time to time. Not so much that they would wreck her ACU national ranking, which might actually threaten her re-election. Whoever these guys are, they are playing it shrewd. They only flex when the vote has to do with the environment, and then only half the time. ”

“Huh,” Larry responded.

“You know,” Ken said, “whenever some politician’s behavior—and I include Supreme Court justices in that category of politician—seems utterly inexplicable, Occam’s razor would tell us to start our first line of questioning at whether or not there are incriminating photos of said politician during his college years. That’s the only thing I can think of that would explain some of John Roberts’ legal reasoning. And given the caliber of that reasoning, I would have to infer that the photos are of him leaning away from a stripper pole with a basket of fruit on his head.”

Larry grinned and acknowledged receipt of the image with a nod, and then said, “I know. This is a sad town, full of sad stories. But what does any of this have to do with me?”

“Well, aren’t you the radical-right enviro meet-and-greet guy? I think you should make an appointment and go see her.”

“Ken,” Larry said, leaning forward in his chair, which made it start to creak more than a little bit. “There was a whole chapter on her pipeline flake in my book. I don’t think that she thinks that what her day at the office needs is a little visit from Larry Locke.”

“You are from Montana, and you are now a big wheel on environmental issues for the right. The biggest wheel, I might add, thanks to your way with adjectives and prose that shines like a mountain lake by moonlight. You being so darn big also helps. She is a senator from Montana. You just drop in, allude to that chapter in a manly way, saying that it was nothing personal. And that if there is ever anything you can do for her, she can feel free to ask.”

“All right,” Larry growled. “The mission is clear enough, and apparently innocent enough. But why? What are you up to? Why don’t you go?”

“I ran her publisher clean into bankruptcy about three weeks after her book with them released. It was supposed to be their event of the season, and subsequent events proved that this was not to be the case. You suspect you might not be welcome there. I know that I will not be.”

“Okay, that’s why not you. Why me? Why anybody?”

“Those mysterious sources I mentioned earlier? One of them was an exotic beauty with a strange accent, a black veil, and a pearl-handled derringer. She told me that she thought Hart is being worked over by some of the bad guys. I had another place I could check, and they confirmed it, or at least said it was a likely possibility.”

“Well,” Larry said, “I can believe it, except for the exotic beauty part. That’s how this town operates, right? What good would it do for me to go shake her hand?”

Ken leaned forward in his chair. “Just do your normal routine, the way you go around the capitol to meet the swells. If she is friendly to you, of all people, then she might be open to some of our people throwing her a rope. Not that we have a rope to throw, just yet. But it might motivate some of us to go look for a rope.”

Larry was dubious. “I still don’t see the point. But part of my task here in this awful town was to go meet all the senators that would be willing to see me. All I need to do is move her up on the list. But only because you asked me sweetly.”

“I did, didn’t I?” Ken said.

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