CONDONE/CONDINE

Copyright © 1979 Duane R. Hurst

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

“Tired!  Another half mile and I head home.  I’ve got enough time for a shower before

 

work.”

 

Blair Pershing jogged in a ground‑eating lope, dripping perspiration as he passed over the

 

14th Street Bridge.  The Jefferson Memorial, brightly lit in a cold white light, was behind him.  He

 

turned left into a lane which wound around the eastern shore of the Tidal Basin.  Japanese cherry

 

trees lined both sides of the lane, which actually was an elongated parking area for tourists visiting

 

Washington D.C.

 

Blair regularly jogged around the Basin.  Although it was a popular location, he often en-

 

joyed solitude on his pre‑dawn jogs.  He had not seen anyone else during his run on this particular

 

April morning.  Perhaps he was too early for the Washington bureaucrats.

 

He had gone scarcely twenty yards when he noted a white Toyota Celica parked ahead.  Its

 

running lights were on but no one sat inside.  Blair slowed down and scanned the vicinity.  Stopping

 

beside the vehicle, he glanced inside.  The driver’s window was down and a key was in the ignition. 

An expensive leather bag lay on the front seat.  Nothing was in the rear area.

 

“Of all the stupid things to do in Washington!  Whoever left this has got to be from out of

 

town.” Blair thought.  Worried, he shone a small jogging light to his right, into the cherry trees.   

 

In the dim light he saw a bundle near some bushes and two trees.  Something dark protruded from

 

it.

 

Blair cautiously walked toward the object.  It was a man.  He lay on the ground as if asleep,

 

both arms straight beside his body.  Blair’s light glistened off freshly‑shined shoes.  The suit pants

 

were of an expensive English material and lacked any sign of grass or briar seed.  The oddity stuck

 

in Blair’s mind, as he saw a few burrs sticking to his own shoes and sweat pants.

 

“Hey, buddy, are you asleep or drunk?”

 

He bent over and touched the man’s shoulder.  But in so doing, Blair directed his light on

 

the face.  A trickle of blood oozed from the mouth as the head moved from his touch.  Some dried

 

blood spatters also were on the man’s shirt collar and front.  Just above the right ear was a fresh 

 

bruise.

 

“Damn!” Blair said aloud while recoiling from the body.  He jumped up and looked around

 

again.  Nothing.

 

Despite himself, he began trembling.  He took a few deep breaths and squatted beside the

 

body.  “Maybe he’s not dead,” he thought as he squeezed the man’s right‑hand forefinger.  The tip

 

stayed white.  Neither could he detect a pulse.

 

Blair experienced another shock after checking for the pulse.  He noticed a small caliber

 

handgun in the grass near the man’s right hand.

 

“Oh, hell,” he muttered.  “I gotta get a cop.  I don’t know if this guy killed himself or not,

 

but I’m not getting into this any deeper than I am already.”

 

He stood again, looking at his watch.  The luminous face showed 5:18 a.m.  Being careful

 

not to disturb the body or gun, he hurried back to the lane.  A short jog brought him to Independence

 

Avenue near the Kutz Bridge.  The Washington Monument was ahead and off to his right.  It rose

 

as a bright shaft of hope above the dank, dismal park.

 

Several pairs of headlights sped past Blair, the drivers probably too afraid to stop as he

 

frantically waved at them.  One honked and swerved to get farther from him.

 

“Come on!  Somebody stop!” he shouted in vain.  The few drivers he saw refused even to

 

slow down.  “Nobody will stop because they’re afraid of a black man in the morning.  Wish I had

 

a cellular phone,” he reflected in disgust.

 

Blair did look somewhat disheveled from his jog.  He was a handsome, 27‑year‑old six-

 

footer, who diligently exercised to maintain a muscular 195 pounds.  He preferred to be called black

 

rather than African‑American, telling his friends and family that he was all American.  Hair was cut

 

short and he was clean‑shaven, due in part to his employer’s rigid grooming standards.  Even so,

 

Blair had chosen similar standards since his college years.  He had graduated magna cum laude and

 

recently gained his master’s degree in business administration.

 

Another seven cars passed before one finally pulled over to the curb.  It was a Park Police

 

cruiser.  Two officers were inside.  Both stepped out of the vehicle.  The passenger, a white, took

 

his flashlight and shone a beam directly into Blair’s face.  His other hand hovered near a service

 

revolver.

 

The driver, a black, called out in a gravelly voice.  “Don’t move!  Why were you waving at

 

us?”

 

The white officer continued shining the light in Blair’s face while speaking in a gruff  tone. 

 

“What’s the matter, boy?  If you’re looking for trouble, you found it.  You trying to score some   

 

drugs in my park?”

 

Blair blinked in the harsh light.  “Great!  A couple of losers.  Probably too stupid to tie their

 

shoes,” he thought while grimacing to himself.  He kept his arms slightly out‑stretched to ensure that

 

the two “Looney‑tuners” did not mistake his movements.  Then he spoke clearly and slowly.

 

“Officer, I was almost through with my morning jog when I saw a man on the ground.  He

 

is in the park behind me.  He is dead and a gun is in the grass near him.  I don’t know who he is or

 

how he died.  I have been trying to wave a car down for the past eight minutes, so that I could report

 

this to the police.  Will you please follow me to the body?”

 

The officers exchanged surprised looks.  The white, a tall and rather thin fellow named Rick,

 

opened the back door and motioned to Blair.

 

“Get in.  You show us where the body is, boy.  But first, turn around and put your hands on

 

the vehicle.  And don’t move sudden like.  I wouldn’t like that.”

 

“Why should I do that?” Blair demanded hotly.  “I haven’t committed a crime!  You would-

 

n’t know anything if I hadn’t waved you down.  I’m not carrying a weapon.”

 

“I don’t know that, and I ain’t taking a chance neither.  Do what you’re told, damn you!”  

 

Rick put his hand on the revolver.

 

“Hold it, Rick.  Let me handle this,” the black officer interceded and stepped close to Blair. 

 

“Listen, I’m just going to pat you down.  We’re not charging you with anything, OK?  But my part-

 

ner is nervous.  So, cooperate with me, brother.”

 

The officer quickly frisked for weapons and stepped back when he found nothing.  Blair was

 

furious, but controlled himself.  “I’m lodging a formal complaint against you both when this is over. 

I know you’re violating my rights and not following police procedure,” he stated.

 

“Go ahead and complain.  This is our procedure.  Tough luck if you don’t like it!”  Looking

 

at his partner, Rick ordered, “Get him in the cruiser, Bill.”

 

The black officer pointed to the open door and Blair sat in the back.  Before shutting the

 

door, Bill said, “Please let us know when we get close to the body you claim to have found.”

 

Bill drove with his lights flashing and parked beside the Celica.  They had Blair precede

 

them until the trio neared the body.  Both officers used flashlights to view the dead man.  Rick knelt

 

over the body and began to probe and poke the face and chest.  He took out a handkerchief and   

 

wiped his bloody fingers on it, then reached for the pistol.

 

 “Better not move the gun, Rick,” his partner warned.  “The lab guys will want to photograph

 

everything as we found it.  Maybe you should check his pockets for I.D.”

 

Rick grunted and stood up without touching the gun.  “Huh?  No, I guess we can call dis- 

 

patch.  Looks like a suicide to me.  Pretty clear‑cut case.”

 

“Yeah.  I think you’re right,” Bill agreed.

 

Blair could not believe what he saw and heard.  “Geez!  These two clowns are completely

 

incompetent!” he thought.  He could not resist saying to the patrolmen, “Why don’t you check the

 

man’s car license?  It ought to give you his name.”

 

Rick jerked around and glared.  “Don’t tell us our job!  We know what to do.  What’s your

 

name, anyway?  You better give us a full statement.”

 

“My name is Blair Pershing.  I’m not saying anything more until your supervisor comes.  I

 

want it written down properly.”

 

“Don’t get smart with me!” Rick sputtered.  “Bill, take a few pictures with the Polaroid. 

 

When you’re done, bring him.  I’ll call this in.”

 

A few minutes later they joined Rick at the patrol car and waited for the Park Police dis- 

 

patcher to relate the death to higher authority.  Rick also reported the Toyota’s tag number.  In a few

 

moments the dispatcher radioed for Rick, speaking in a tense voice.  Blair overheard the entire con-

 

versation, but felt a jolt as he learned the identity of the dead man.  It was Macy Hamilton.

 

“I heard that name before,” Rick said to his partner.  “How ‘bout you?  Sound familiar?”

 

“Yeah.  Someone big in the administration, I think,” Bill answered.

 

“He was Chief of Staff to President Albertson,” Blair told them loudly.  “Bobby‑Rae Albert-

 

son is President of the United States of America.  I suppose you both have heard of him.”

 

“I knew that name was familiar.  Oh, hell!  We’ll be here all day on this one,” Rick grumb-

 

led.  “Better not do anything more.  The FBI and every agency in town will horn in on this.”

 

Within 20 minutes a host of officials began arriving to investigate the presumed suicide.  

 

Among the arriving vehicles were a city ambulance, two Park Police cruisers, three metro squad 

 

cars, and several official vehicles from unknown federal agencies.  A Park Police captain appeared

 

in charge of the circus‑like congregation.  Surprisingly, no official FBI presence was on the scene. 

 

Neither had the media hounds swarmed in for the story.  That was sure to change, as the death of

 

a ranking administration official was sure to draw them like vultures to a carcass.  Blair had given

 

his statement several times to various police officers and signed each one.

 

He watched as an officer took numerous photos of the corpse, both close‑ups and from dif-

 

ferent angles.  Later, the paramedics did a professional job examining the body.  One of them ex-

 

claimed in surprise, “This is strange.  There’s hardly any blood for a head wound, especially in a sui-

 

cide.  And I’ve never seen a body laid out like this before, except at a funeral.  Looks as if he lay 

 

down prior to being shot.  Either that or somebody placed him here.”

 

“Don’t look like suicide to me,” his colleague stated.  “Why was the gun so close to his   

 

hand?  Not only that, there wasn’t any blood on it.  Did you see powder burns on the face, Dan?”

 

“No,” the first man said with a shake of his head.  “Which doesn’t make sense.  If the gun

 

had been inside the mouth, there wouldn’t be powder burns on the skin but the gun would be cov-

 

ered with blood and tissue.  We would have seen plenty of burn on the skin if the gun had been held

 

outside of the mouth when fired.  Angle of penetration is unusual, too.  The coroner ought to have

 

a field day with this one.”

 

Whatever else they said escaped Blair, as he was jostled by a man rushing past.  The man

 

was shouting for Captain Barstow, the Park Police commander on the scene.  Barstow turned with

 

a frown splitting his long, bony face and barked, “Over here.”

 

The man proffered a cellular phone.  Barstow grabbed it and listened.  During the brief con-

 

versation he said “yes, sir” eight times.  His only other words were, “No, sir.  The media have not

 

come yet.  I believe we can release that as a plausible cause of death.  I’ll talk to the two officers

 

who first arrived on the scene.  You need not worry about that aspect, sir.”

 

Shortly following his conversation, several reporters and a local TV news crew arrived.  Po-

 

lice prevented them from getting close enough for any pictures.  Nor were they allowed to view the

 

body.  As a sop to assuage the typically bloated egos of the Washington media gurus, particularly

 

the vapid TV types, Barstow consented to issue an official statement.  He strode up to the waiting

 

press, bathed in TV lights.  His tall, lanky form and aristocratic bearing made a favorable impression

 

for the cameras.  His well‑oiled voice carried above background noise and he intoned pronounce-

 

ments with a politician’s skill.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began as cameras and reporters recorded the event.  “I am very

 

sad to report that early this morning the body of Mr. Macy Hamilton, the Chief of Staff to President

 

Albertson, was discovered at the base of a cherry tree here in this historic and picturesque park.  It

 

appears that Mr. Hamilton committed suicide by firing a single round from a .22 caliber pistol,

 

which entered the mouth and did extensive damage to the upper palate.  Further damage has yet to

 

be ascertained by a coroner.  However, the cause of death most definitely was a self‑inflicted gun-

 

shot wound to the head.

 

“This is a tragedy, not only to Mr. Hamilton’s family, but also to the country and President

 

Albertson.  As you all know, he and the President were close friends of many years.  Truly this is

 

a sad day.  A sad day, indeed, for this great nation and the first family.  I trust that we all shall honor

 

the memory of this dedicated servant of the people.

 

“In conclusion, I may add that Park Police officers performed their duties in a professional

 

manner.  Further details will be forthcoming, after requisite officials proceed with their investiga-

 

tion and analysis.

 

“I apologize for making this such a cursory forum, but my responsibility for directing this

 

investigation is quite demanding.  I do have a few minutes to take questions.  Yes, Miss Taylor?  

 

Please ask yours.”

 

Marjorie Taylor, a TV info‑babe and would‑be evening news anchor, shaded her question

 

with the proper amount of consumer‑directed sorrow.  She was of the proper size and shape, with

 

the appropriate hair style and power clothes which research marketers claimed most appealed to

 

the masses.  She was highly polished and self‑assured, having been fostered by years of liberal    

 

coaching and possessing an arrogant contentment for vacuity of thought.  Heavy makeup highlight-

 

ed her pleasing, plastic features.

 

“Mr. Hamilton was a dear friend of both the President and First Lady Loralei Louise Albert-

 

son.  Have they been informed of this terrible tragedy?”

 

Barstow nodded and replied, “Yes.  Proper authorities informed the President of this mo-

 

ments ago.  I don’t know if they have reached the first lady, as she is in San Francisco, participating

 

in a gay rights convention.  Rest assured that White House personnel are informed and will follow

 

their procedure for relating this doleful news to her.

 

“Next question, please.  Yes, Sam?”

 

Samuel Pettigrew, a local newspaperman known for his vitriolic attacks against conserva-

 

tives in Congress, boomed his question.  “Have you found a suicide note or explanation as to why

 

Mr. Hamilton would kill himself?”

 

“Not yet, as we still are in the investigative process,” Barstow declared.

 

Before the captain could select the next questioner, a voice shouted out.  “Why is the Park

 

Police investigating this?  Where is the FBI?”

 

Barstow frowned and attempted to cut that line of interrogation.  “We have jurisdiction here. 

If needed, they will be called.”

 

“That’s a load of BS and you know it!  You’re talking about the death of a key member of

 

the president’s staff.  The FBI must be called,” the same voice countered.  “You’re covering up   

 

something!”

 

A ground swell of murmuring grew, some against Barstow but most against the questioner.

 

The captain spoke loudly and in a clipped tone.  “That is an irresponsible and totally unjusti-

 

fied accusation which does not warrant a response!  I am afraid, ladies and gentlemen, that I have

 

no more time for questions.  My office will keep you informed of developments.  Thank you.”

 

Reporters shouted questions to no avail.  Barstow retreated to the safety of a police cordon

 

and routine, bureaucratic movements.  With their quarry gone, the media hounds turned on the vocal

 

questioner.

 

He was Earl Garfield, a 32‑year‑old, free‑lance journalist who recently had written a few in-

 

vestigative articles for the Washington Times, the only D.C. conservative newspaper.  Garfield was

 

a shade under six feet tall, was somewhat overweight (due to his penchant for fast food), and prone

 

to cynicism.  His face was unremarkable except for gray eyes, which shone with an eagerness to fer-

 

ret out truth.  Brown hair was unkempt.  He sported glasses since he hated to wear contacts.  Even

 

his clothes were in disarray; pants and shirt needed a pressing.

 

Samuel Pettigrew pushed his way to Garfield.

 

“You big‑mouthed jerk!  We could have gotten more information if you had acted like a pro-

 

fessional.  You haven’t been in Washington long, and you won’t last with this kind of attitude.  I’ll

 

see to it that you’re banned from any White House coverage.”

 

Garfield glared with contempt at the shorter man.  He pointed a pen menacingly and spoke

 

loudly, not caring how many other journalists heard him.

 

“Up yours, Pettigrew!  You’re no different from most of the clowns who cover the White

 

House.  They get spoon‑fed whatever the president decides is his belief of the day and report it as

 

gospel.  You didn’t get any news tonight because you don’t know how to investigate.  You’re not

 

a reporter.  You’re just a cantankerous lickspittle.

 

“Now, if you want to do more than just toss words, here’s your chance.  Plenty of cops are

 

around to help after I knock you on your fat butt.”

 

Pettigrew spluttered but backed away.  Garfield was known to be a scrapper.

 

“I’ve got witnesses,” Pettigrew hissed.

 

“So, call a lawyer,” Garfield barked with a short laugh.  He turned and stalked off, drawn

 

by the police lights and yellow, barricade tape.  He had a story to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

 

 

“And a FINE morning it is to all of you, my friends, in Talk‑Radio Washington, D.C.  I’m

 

Alan Colwyn, the voice of truth here at WTRU, on your AM dial.  Give me a call at area code 202

 

434‑WTRU here in the metro area, or call toll free at 1‑800‑421‑WTRU.  Send me a fax, if that’s

 

your thing.  And for you cellular and car phone users, hit star sign WTRU for a free call.  Let us pay

 

those exorbitant rates.  Just give me a call.  Give me a piece of your mind.  Let’s get ROLLING!”

 

Alan Colwyn was the newest figure on talk radio in the Baltimore‑Washington area.  He rap-

 

idly was gaining listeners, despite his conservative message in a bastion of liberalism.  He was black

 

and thoroughly enjoyed antagonizing pundits, politicos and mainstream media hacks.  One reason

 

for his rising popularity with both liberal and conservative listeners was the affable, yet biting way

 

he demolished rigid‑thinking callers.

 

It was 9:05 a.m. on that same “suicide” day.  Garfield had returned to his Georgetown flat,

 

where he always wrote his articles‑‑amidst a room cluttered with books, files, discarded clothes

 

from yesterday and last week, photographs, charts and his favorite autographed picture of Ronald

 

Reagan.  He usually listened to various talk radio shows while he worked.  Lately, he had been lis-

 

tening to Colwyn.

 

“Whoa, what’s this I see in the a.m. news?” the WTRU host continued with his morning up-

 

date.  “Macy Hamilton is dead!  Police reports claim that he shot himself not far from the Jefferson

 

Memorial.  That’s Macy Hamilton, folks, the President’s Chief of Staff, who was scheduled to ap-

 

pear before a Congressional oversight committee later today.  First, I offer condolences to his family.

 

 No one seems to have any details yet.  It’s all rather quiet.

 

“Speaking of quiet, the mainstream media have kept mum about Hamilton’s subpoena to

 

testify.  The Inside‑the‑Beltway crowd are afraid the truth may come out.  They don’t want any in-

 

vestigation into the sleaze of this administration.

 

“That’s right, you got it.  I’m talking about the liberal Democrats again trying to throw dust

 

in the taxpayers eyes and protect their favorite duo in the White House.  Well, you suckers who

 

voted for Bobby‑Rae, how long will it take before you realize that you were stiffed in the last pres-

 

idential election?  Remember the promise:  Vote one, get two?

 

“So, now it looks like the Republican majority in the House finally is sniffing at some rancid

 

doings of our beloved First Couple.  I tell you, my head’s in a whirl.  It’s hard to keep track of every

 

morbid morsel that comes out of our Alabama aristocrats, both the mister and the little missus.  It

 

reminds me of something I saw in Yellowstone National Park.  The mud pots.  Those nasty, smelly

 

things boil and churn sulfurous bubbles into the clean air.  Whew!  Smells like rotten eggs.

 

“You remember Hamlet?  Something was rotten in Denmark.  And we certainly have got it

 

over that tiny country nowadays.  Now, don’t get the wrong idea.  Washington long has been home

 

to scandal.  It breeds here.  So, it’s no surprise that political hustlers bring their own home‑grown

 

baggage when they get elected into the Big Time.

 

“On yesterday’s show a caller asked me to enumerate what President and Co‑President Al-

 

bertson had to hide.  I didn’t have time to answer, since he was the last caller and we only had two

 

minutes left.  As I promised him, here’s a short list of what we know so far:

 

“1. Our illustrious Commander‑in‑Chief avoided the draft by lying to his local board.  He

 

had a family friend, a good‑ol’‑boy doctor, falsify his medical record so that he was declared 4F. 

 

That saved him from Vietnam.  Just coincidence, of course.

 

“When that became an issue during the election, Albertson again lied until confronted with

 

proof from the Alabama draft board.  Then the spinmeisters dismissed it as immaterial, claiming

 

that it happened a long time ago and was irrelevant today.

 

“2. Bobby‑Rae is a known womanizer.  While governor of Alabama, he kept a girlfriend on

 

the state payroll as a consultant for the state liquor board.  She certainly was qualified.  Her name

 

was Glynis ‘Knockers’ Savoy and she was a popular stripper in Elmore County, just north of Mont-

 

gomery.  Seems that the ex‑mistress is unhappy with whatever settlement had been made prior to

 

the governor’s leaving for Washington.  She is trying to bring a civil suit.  Stay tuned for details.

 

“3. Seems unclear what course the War to End Drugs will take from week to week.  No sur-

 

prise here, folks.  His governorship finally admitted to using pot during his college days.  His earlier

 

denials are behind him now.  The newest allegation surfaced when Knockers told newsmen that the

 

governor experimented with cocaine.  Who are we to believe, eh?

 

“4. Now who understands the tangled mess with that land deal in Randolph County?  Con-

 

gress is just beginning to look into it.  For those of you new to this, the co‑couple were up to their

 

eyeballs in a scheme to get the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Alabama to build a dam

 

on the upper Tallapoosa River.  With that done, property they owned in the vicinity would be turned

 

into a resort.  Too bad the whole thing fell apart.  What a financial loss‑‑which should have been

 

included on tax returns.  Oh, well, the taxpayers bailed out the disappointed investors.

 

“5. Pork bellies and peanuts.  Yep, I had to bring this up.  Loralei, that walking paragon of

 

lawyerly wisdom and virtue, who thoroughly denounced ‘The Rich’ during the election, made a

 

bundle in speculation.  She just stumbled into a 15,000 percent profit on her first‑ever delving into

 

the hazardous world of commodities futures.  Well, now that she recalls, a friend he’ped her just a

 

tad.  Who was the friend?  Why, shucks, y’all, it was nobody important.  It was only Rob Chilton,

 

financial advisor to Mr. Monroe Knox.

 

“Knox, as any sausage and pork eater knows, is the country’s biggest hog grower.  He deals

 

in almost as much pork as Congress.  He also helped bankroll Albertson’s political career from his

 

days as Commissioner of Highways to becoming governor.

 

“6. My, this list keeps growing‑‑just like Pinocchio’s nose.  As President, the darling duo

 

have given us a slew of shady appointees, both in the cabinet and as judges or federal prosecutors. 

 

FBI Director Reginald Sumner is a prime case.  Morale at the agency is at a new low.  But Loralei

 

sings his praises.

 

“Oh, Loralei, sing your sweet siren’s song; so high above us, up in those lofty rocks of La‑la

 

Land.

 

“Ah, babe!  Sing to me.  It surely is time for you to sing.  But be careful of them rocks, now,

 

honey.  If you sing too loud and people investigate too deep, you might slip off that perch.

 

“OK, it’s time I took some calls.  Here’s Bob in Arlington....”

 

The doorbell rang.  Garfield stopped writing and frowned.  The bell rang again and someone

 

pounded on the door.

 

“All right!” he yelled while striding over and jerking the door open.  “Oh, sorry.  Didn’t ex-

 

pect you so early,” he apologized.

 

A rather short, slim woman stood in front of him.  Long auburn hair flowed over her shoul-

 

ders and down a light blue sweater.  Light danced in matching blue eyes.  Dimples highlighted a

 

pleasant smile on her oval face.  She wore little makeup but smelled of Chanel Number 5.  Small

 

hands held a bulky package towards Garfield.  Her name was Ariella Phelps.  She was a 25‑year‑old

 

student.

 

“Good morning, Earl,” she mentioned while pushing the package into his arms.  “Take it.

 

Those are the books you wanted, along with a few files I researched last night at

 

Georgetown.  Well, are you glued down?  I can’t come in unless you move.”  Her laughter was soft

 

and a bit throaty.

 

Garfield quickly stepped aside with a sheepish look.  Ariella entered and looked at the room

 

in disfavor.

 

“This is a mess!  You need a keeper.  If I weren’t so busy and determined to finish my grad-

 

uate studies, I might marry you.”

 

“Sounds like a good offer to me,” he countered.  “How about fixing me breakfast?  I haven’t

 

eaten since yesterday.  I seem to remember stopping for a Whopper at noon.”

 

“Forget it, you lazy bum!  You owe me a dinner for all the work I did for you.  What are you

 

writing today?” she asked.

 

Garfield glanced at his cluttered desk.  The radio droned in the background as a caller spoke

 

to WTRU and an unseen host of talk radio junkies.  “...that SOB and his harridan are a couple of

 

crooks!  I don’t believe those Congressmen have the guts to dig into what happened in Alabama. 

 

Too many of them are pettifogging shysters....”

 

Ariella grimaced and demanded, “Why do you listen to that crap?”

 

"It’s not all crap," he replied while turning off the radio.  “At least it’s one way to counter

 

the heavy liberal bias pumped out by the media.  You ought to listen once in a while.  Then maybe

 

you wouldn’t believe everything your professors teach.”

 

“Hah!  What a shallow argument.  Besides, my left‑leaning tendency is checked when I’m

 

near you‑‑or read your articles.  So, what are you working on now?  You still haven’t answered that


question.”

 

Garfield surrendered the debate with a grin.  He stepped over to the desk and plucked a paper

 

from the computer printer.  Ariella took it, tossed a rumpled shirt and smelly socks off an easy chair,

 

sat down and began reading.  He gave her a wistful look, shrugged his shoulders and went into the

 

kitchenette to scramble three eggs.

 

Shortly Ariella, with a distracted frown, turned from the paper to follow a clatter of pans and

 

cupboard noise.  “Get me a large orange juice,” she ordered.  “I skipped breakfast, too.”

 

Garfield stepped out of the kitchenette, holding a box he had taken from the refrigerator. 

 

“Want an Eggo?” he asked.

 

Ariella’s frown deepened.  “No!  I don’t like frozen waffles.  Juice is fine.”

 

“How about an egg?  I’m scrambling a few for myself.  Or do you prefer them fried?”

 

“Earl,” she retorted, “you know that I don’t eat many eggs.  The cholesterol is terrible.  So,

 

why feed a heart attack?”

 

He pulled a face and declared, “I don’t care squat for that brown rice and roots nonsense. 

 

Some left‑coast nut claims a staple food is unhealthy and tries to force his damned opinion on the

 

rest of us.  Like that group of so‑called scientists who rant about the evils of theater popcorn, Chi-

 

nese food and Mexican burritos.  Nitwits!

 

“Anyway, here’s your orange juice.  Don’t look at it that way!  The glass is clean.  I washed

 

the dishes last night.”

 

She peered closely at the glass a bit longer to irritate him, took a sip and said thanks.  “This

 

article of yours seems far‑fetched to me.  The news reports all say Hamilton committed suicide, but

 

you don’t agree.  Why?  Do you have proof to the contrary?  If so, why not include it in the article?”

 

Garfield put the Eggo box on a table and sat on a chair opposite Ariella.  He then took the

 

paper from her, pointing to a paragraph.

 

“Look, the Park Police are handling the investigation, not the FBI.  That’s ridiculous!  They

 

aren’t trained for that.  Any competent journalist knows that the FBI should have been called im-

 

mediately.  The guy was the President’s Chief of Staff, not some wino off the street!

 

“I tried getting details after Barstow’s misleading press release this morning.  No soap.  The

 

death scene was sealed up tighter than any I have seen anywhere.  I couldn’t interview the officers

 

on the scene, medical personnel or positively learn if there had been witnesses.  Even though the FBI

 

wasn’t there, some federal people made sure that the media didn’t learn too much.”

 

She was skeptical.  “Oh, come on.  You make it sound like some sort of conspiracy.”

 

“Ariella, I know how the cops operate in this city, both local and federal.  The Park Police

 

can’t keep the FBI out, no matter what a clown like Barstow says.  I dug up two different versions

 

out there today.  One, that two Park Police officers found Hamilton’s body while on routine patrol. 

 

Two, that an unidentified black man discovered Hamilton.

 

“Barstow is dancing around the truth.  The media believe the first version, but I think some-

 

one else found the body.  The suicide story is so convenient‑‑just hours before Hamilton was to tes-

 

tify about the land deals in Alabama.  Why aren’t we seeing a real investigation into his death?  I’m

 

convinced that someone in the White House is behind this.”

 

“Do you mean that someone had Hamilton killed?”  Ariella was shocked.  “Earl, I can’t ac-

 

cept that!  We certainly don’t agree on President and First Lady Albertson or many of their policies,

 

but surely you don’t believe they would be involved in a murder.”

 

Garfield took her hand while looking directly into her eyes.  “I’m not saying that.  I don’t

 

know what happened or whether it was a suicide.  What I do mean is that there is a cover‑up, which

 

I think is connected to someone in the administration.

 

“I intend to investigate this until I learn what really is happening.  It’s contrary to police pro-

 

cedure to announce a suicide before an investigation is concluded, and certainly not while in the pre-

 

liminary stage!”

 

Ariella squeezed his hand, returned the paper and stood up.  She finished the orange juice,

 

then took the glass into the kitchenette.  The speculation disturbed her more than she would admit. 

 

Her face appeared calm; however, Garfield’s claims screamed for consideration.  She trusted his 

 

analytical skill, that being one of  his strengths which first attracted her to him nine months ago.   

 

Despite the sneering evaluation of pundits and many journalists, she knew that Garfield was scrupu-

 

lous and meticulous in all phases of his work.  He had an eerie, almost prescient, ability to detect

 

truth.  He thrived on discovery.

 

Ariella found herself absently turning the glass in her hands.  She jerked back to the present,

 

quickly washed the juice glass, then walked purposefully over to Garfield and took his face between

 

her firm hands.  Before he could say anything, she pulled his head down a bit and kissed him gently. 

He started to embrace her, but she drew back while tousling his hair with her right hand.

 

“Sorry,” she chided softly.  “I have to go or I’ll be late for class.  Earl, be careful.  I don’t

 

want you getting hurt out of an excess of indiscretion.  I’ll see you later tonight,” she promised    

 

while turning towards the door.  “Be sure to let me see what you write.”

 

Garfield grinned.  “You can read it, but don’t expect me to change the text‑‑unless you back


up opinion with fact.  I won’t compromise in order to be safe from others’ criticism or actions.    

 

Freedom is like love.  It grows and is maintained through daily nurturing; it dies from neglect.”

 

He suddenly frowned and grasped Ariella’s shoulders in a strong, yet tender grip.  As he  

 

looked deeply into her blue eyes, he declared, “Ariella, I fear for this country.  There is too much

 

emphasis on security‑‑too much clamoring for government action in our lives.  It’s as though we 

 

have surrendered free will in exchange for an oligarchic control over us, foolishly belittling those

 

who drafted the checks on government as ignorant and outdated.  We already are following the   

 

downward spiral which virtually every empire and power in history experienced prior to its demise.”

 

Her mouth opened in surprise.  His baleful comments were out of character, almost being

 

a cry of impotence.  She was uncertain of her feelings, concomitantly wanting to console him but

 

also to reject his assertions.  Yet, she knew there was truth in his view.  The country was at a crucial,

 

historic crossroad. 

 

Although she had voted for President Albertson, lately the many allegations of fraud and ob-

 

vious character flaws were like waves beating against her desire to keep faith in the Democratic  

 

choice.  She truly disliked much of the change introduced by the Albertsons.  At first, she had cheer-

 

ed First Lady Loralei’s sorties into the halls of power, thinking it provident for a strong woman to

 

challenge the male‑dominated arena.  During the past six months Ariella became disgusted and dis-

 

illusioned.  The key stumbling block was the first lady’s blatant attempt to usurp parental control

 

over their children and relegate it to federal agencies through a series of sweeping “reforms” couch-

 

ed in seemingly well‑intentioned phrases.

 

“Can we talk about these things later?” she pleaded.  “Earl, I am beginning to agree with

 

you, at least on some issues, but I just can’t think about it now.”

 

“Sure.  I have a deadline to meet, anyway.  How about me taking you to dinner tonight?”

 

Ariella smiled and nodded in agreement.  “I prefer Italian pasta.  I’ll come here at six.”

 

Garfield turned the radio on again.  An unknown caller was speaking to Alan Colwyn.     

 

“...those idiots on the Supreme Court are no better than accomplices to crooks!  What consummate

 

arrogance to legalize the theft of property by judicial fiat.  Now we have cops grabbing cars because

 

some men stupidly take a hooker for a ride.  How long before they confiscate homes because one

 

family member commits a crime?  These judges are the same as in the third world....”

 

Ariella rolled her eyes and shook her head in resignation.  She reached out, squeezed his left

 

arm affectionately and said somewhat loudly, “See you later.  I’ll let myself out.”

 

She hurried to the door, yanked it open and escaped to the outside.  Garfield, trailing her a

 

bit tardily, shut the door while chuckling to himself.  He understood the reason behind her quick

 

exit‑‑she hated talk radio.

 

“Ariella,” he mused aloud, “you may not like the comments on these programs, but they are

 

the real voice of America.  They are people concerned about rampant crime, moral decay and all the

 

accumulated inner rot generated by decades of feel‑good social programs.  And they are pissed off

 

with both the go‑along‑to‑get‑along wafflers and the arrogant elitists in government.  It’s time to

 

clean house.”

 

He went back to the desk and reread his article.  The rough draft already hinted at an official

 

cover‑up.  Privately, it reflected preliminary steps into an investigation which eventually would   

 

prove perilous and intriguing.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

 

 

 

Spring sunshine filtered through dense bullet‑proof glass of an upper‑level bedroom window

 

in the White House.  Curtains purposely had been pulled wide open.  Light and warmth flowed into

 

the room and caressed the lithe, budding feminine form seated in front of the latest 80 MB hard‑

 

disk‑drive personal computer system.  The girl was Melody Albertson, 15‑year‑old daughter of the

 

president and first lady.

 

Melody was an only child.  She often was careless in appearance‑‑long, ratty brown hair;

 

occasional smudges on the face, interspersed with new pimples; glasses perched on a thin nose (of-

 

ten in need of a tissue); designer jeans and white socks; an old, paint‑speckled plaid shirt (never  

 

tucked inside); frayed tennis shoes.  Her jaws rhythmically chawed a large wad of gum with the con-

 

tentment of a cow in new hay.

 

Her hobby and passion was embodied in the PC world.  She routinely spent hours daily in

 

front of a color monitor, skillfully pounding a keyboard to keep up with her self‑appointed duty as

 

writer/editor of Loralei Lore, a national newsletter “dedicated to the millions of First Lady Loralei

 

fans.”  Melody had a small staff to handle the mail, but reserved the exclusive responsibility to

 

write/print/publish each edition without adult interference.  Since the activity generated a steady fol-

 

lowing of well‑wishers and was good publicity, the first lady encouraged her daughter and ensured

 

that she received not only the current system but a portable laptop (for those occasional trips away

 

from home), together with color laser printer and a quality, digital page scanner.  The equipment

 

was first‑rate‑‑courtesy of the ubiquitous taxpayer dollars.

 

A large stereo/video system lined one wall to the right of her computer.  A selection of Gold-

 

en Oldies boomed whenever she typed.  It was the only music she enjoyed.  Once, her father asked

 

if she would like a CD of Snoop Doggy Dogg or the latest rapper, Back‑Seat Turkey.  She answered

 

with a you’ve‑gotta‑be‑kidding‑me sneer, “No thanks, dad.  I hate rap.  It’s nothing but crap!”

 

Normally Melody would have been in class at a local, very posh private school; however,

 

this was a special three‑day break.  She took advantage of the time to prepare her latest issue.  It was

 

nearly complete.

 

Rrraaah.  There it was again, a stomach growl.  “Criminny,” she complained, “I can’t con-

 

centrate on this when I’m starving.”

 

Melody stood up and headed for the door, leaving the computer program running since she

 

intended a quick return.  Of course, she could have called for whatever she felt like eating.  White

 

House service was efficient, but she preferred getting her own snacks on occasion.

 

A minute later she saw Gerald Kingston, a young White House aide, walking down the cor-

 

ridor.  His back was to her.  She considered him to be the best looking young man who worked for

 

Macy Hamilton.  Since she already had a crush on him and he had not seen her, Melody decided to

 

stalk him and catch him off guard for a joke.  He usually was so engrossed in completing an assign-

 

ment that she easily could surprise him and enjoy the cute way his eyebrows arched upwards and

 

his jaw dropped.

 

He rounded a corner.  She followed and poked her head around to see him not far from Ham-

 

ilton’s office.  But someone was coming out of it, holding a rather large box filled to the top with

 

documents and files.  It was a portly woman whom Melody had known for many years and never

 

liked, Ms Kyla Richmond.  Gerald bumped into her because the woman had exited the office in such

 

a hurry, pulling the door behind her quickly.  The top two files slipped to the floor and many papers

 

fell out.

 

“Oh, excuse me, please!” he cried out.  “Ms Richmond, I’m so sorry.  This is totally my   

 

fault.  Let me help you.”

 

Gerald bent over and began gathering the papers before the furious, fat woman could stop

 

him.  Her mud‑brown eyes flashed and she glared at the crown of his blond head.  Tight lips com-

 

pressed into a razor‑thin line of fury.  Neck muscles corded.  She wanted to lash out, to kick his face,

 

to grab his styled hair and jerk a handful out by the roots.  Her chest heaved and air shot out of two

 

large nostrils while she hyperventilated.

 

Fortunately for Gerald, he did not observe the ogre‑like face as he deftly replaced papers and

 

closed files.  Ms Richmond gritted teeth so hard that muscles shook her jowls like Jell‑O.  Within

 

15 seconds, however, she had checked her anger and told him, “Never mind, Gerald.  Put them back

 

in the box.”

 

He did so and met her slightly‑squinting eyes with a cowed look.  It pleased her.

 

“I am very sorry, Ms Richmond,” he pleaded.  “I see that you are moving some of Mr. Ham-

 

ilton’s files.  That box looks heavy.  May I carry it for you?  It’s the least I can do to make amends.”

 

“No.  I can do it myself,” she told him stiffly.  “The first lady wants these right away.  You

 

have other duties.”

 

She began reaching for the box, but stopped short with a twitching eyelid as she heard Ger-

 

ald’s words.  “Yes, ma’am.  I guess she wants to look over these Randolph County papers when she

 

returns from California.”

 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she retorted.  “These are just some old records

 

which never should have been in Mr. Hamilton’s office.  You better watch your mouth, Mr. King-

 

ston.  We don’t need more rumors around here.”

 

“Well, I’m sorry, Ms Richmond.  I couldn’t help but notice that these papers mentioned Ran-

 

dolph County.”

 

Ms Richmond’s eyes shifted from him to the box several times as her mind whirred into

 

high-gear.  She uncharacteristically gave him a smile, though it was lop‑sided.

 

“Jerry,” her voice added sugar to the Alabama drawl, “I believe the box is a bit heavy.  Why

 

don’t you bring it along for me.  And really, these are just old files of no importance.  First Lady Lor-

 

alei didn’t ask for them.  I was supposed to get them from Macy earlier and forgot.  There’s no need

 

to mention this.  We’ll leave them in her office and afterwards, if you don’t mind, you can help me

 

work on a very important matter for the first lady.”

 

“Certainly, Ms Richmond.  I would be honored to help.”

 

She reached over and patted his right biceps.  They walked down the hall together and took

 

another turn, proceeding to the first lady’s private office.  Melody followed discretely.  “I don’t be-

 

lieve it!” she thought.  “That old bag actually smiled at Jerry.  She only does that for two reasons‑‑to

 

suck up or to use someone.  And she sure wouldn’t suck up to an aide!”

 

Melody again poked her head around the corner.  She saw Ms Richmond use a key to un-

 

lock the door to her mother’s office.  She also noticed a Secret Service agent down the hall.  He, 

 

no doubt, watched Gerald carrying the box.  Within minutes Ms Richmond and Gerald exited the

 

office without the documents.  Melody pulled her head back before they could see her.  She hurried

 

back to her room.

 

“I wonder what those documents were about,” she mused while surrounded by the safety of

 

her computer and personal goods.  “I bet they’re hot.”

 

 

 

Even as Melody sat ensconced in presumed security, President Bobby‑Rae Albertson ner-

 

vously paced alone in the Oval Office.  He was a large, big‑boned man.  A powder‑puff hairdo top-

 

ped his box‑shaped head, emphasizing a lantern jaw.  The superfluity of reddish hair largely hid  

 

small ears.  Puffy dark eyebrows rode to either side of a jutting, needle nose.  Lazy blue eyes lack-

 

ed sparkle.  The normally affable smile on his handsome lips was gone.  In its place was the pout

 

of a spoiled brat, chin quivering and disfigured with numerous frown lines.  He alternately clench-

 

ed and wrung big, effeminate hands.

 

A soft knock came at the door.  “Enter,” the President rumbled in a strong baritone.  He stop-

 

ped pacing and faced the door as it opened silently.

 

The man who entered was Edmund Renville, Special Counsel to the President.  His wispy

 

frame starkly contrasted with Albertson’s.  Renville possessed large, flappy ears which he vainly

 

attempted to hide under a mop of black hair.  Likewise, an abundance of facial creme could not   

 

obscure the ravages of previous acne attacks.  At 29 years old, he exuded the arrogance of an Ivy-

 

Leaguer who boasted family connections and regal breeding, but had only a smattering of real‑world

 

experience.  He had never held a real job in his life.  Then again, neither had the president.

 

“Mr. President,” Renville began in his strident, whiny voice.  “Sir, I am afraid the Hamil-

 

ton death poses a problem for us.  Several in the press are urging a thorough investigation.  A few

 

even suggest that you are preventing the FBI from becoming involved.”

 

The President stopped pacing.  His eyes took in Renville, shifted to a plush chair behind the

 

presidential desk, skittered across window panes, briefly rested on the American flag and went back

 

to Renville’s homely face.  Albertson appeared lost for a minute.  Then, taking a deep breath, con-

 

fidence returned and the trademark smile beamed at his advisor.  The confidence seemed to flow

 

from his frame through the right arm he draped around Renville’s shoulders, filling the small man

 

with hope and trust.

 

“Edmund,” the President stated, “Y’all know that I appreciate all your help in this terrible,

 

troubling time.  Don’t fret none.  I had nothing to do with that decision.  I believe someone already

 

talked about it with my old friend, Reginald.  Things will work out.”

 

Renville’s eyes widened in alarm.  “Reginald Sumner, head of the FBI?”

 

“Ain’t no other Reginald I know,” the President chuckled.

 

“But, sir, that would confirm media suspicions!  We’ve got to keep you out of this.  Who was

 

it that saw Mr. Sumner?”

 

The President frowned a bit in irritation and declared, “Ralston.  He came to see me and said

 

he’d take care of things.  Let it go, Edmund.  Everything will be fine.”

 

“Yes, sir.  If you believe Mr. Hewitt can defuse this mess, I’ll certainly support him.  I on-

 

ly have your interest in view, Mr. President.  After all, I am your counsel.”

 

Renville said no more, but inwardly he felt contempt for Ralston Fitzhugh Hewitt.  A more

 

accurate feeling would be jealousy, mingled with a touch of fear and a liberal sprinkling of envy. 

 

Hewitt was the President’s National Security Advisor.  He came from eastern Massachusetts, being

 

part of the formidable Kennedy claque, and flouted his ultra‑liberal bias.  He was a delight to the

 

media, particularly the New York Times and Washington Post.  Airheads in Hollywood adored him,

 

vying for his attention as if he could fill their cerebral void.  He was short, thin, flamboyant and had

 

well‑groomed blond hair.  Like Renville, Hewitt was young.  Both had been hand‑picked by Lora-

 

lei during the hectic presidential race.

 

The President nodded at Renville, then sat behind the desk.  He picked up a paper and thrust

 

it at the lawyer.

 

“This is something I want you to take care of today.  We can’t have those radical, right‑wing

 

Republicans threaten my program for the country just because some of them keep harping about old

 

history.  That Alabama land deal is a dead issue and I want it kept that way.  Loralei drafted this

 

statement for the press.  Go over it and let me know what you think.”

 

Renville took the draft, skimmed it with a practiced eye and raised his eyebrows half‑way

 

through.  Once finished, he slowly read a particular passage.  He cocked his head and confronted

 

Albertson’s placid look.

 

“Sir, are you sure that the first lady wants this released?  It states unequivocally that she had

 

no involvement with Alabama state authorities regarding the land development in Randolph County,

 

specifically either as the lawyer of record or as a consultant.  I, uh, believe there have been allega-

 

tions to the contrary which Congress may decide to investigate.  Perhaps we should add ‘to the best

 

of my knowledge’ or some such qualifier.  Or better yet, just ignore the issue.”

 

“No!” the President shot back.  His eyes had widened at the thought of changing Loralei’s

 

words.  “Don’t change anything unless you talk to her.  Personally, I would rather just ignore this. 

 

Loralei insisted that her name be cleared in a hard‑hitting statement so as to thwart any yellow jour-

 

 

nalism.

 

“But, Edmund, I think you have a good idea.  Sure.  Talk to Loralei when she gets back from

 

California today.  She left a couple of hours ago, soon as she heard about Macy.”

 

“Yes, sir.  I prefer waiting for her rather than release this statement now.  Besides, it  might

 

be better to keep this on the back burner and target our attention on the death of Mr. Hamilton.  I

 

don’t mean any disrespect to his memory, sir.  It’s just that....”

 

“Hey, that’s a great idea!” the President declared with enthusiasm.  “We can sidetrack public

 

opinion and use this to keep the lid on some of these nuisances.  Yeah, I like that.  Go with it. 

 

Thanks, Edmund.  That’s all for now.”

 

“Yes, sir.  Uh, just one other question.  Do you know who told the first lady about Mr. Ham-

 

ilton’s death?”

 

President Albertson became defensive and vague.  “No, I have no idea.  I was too busy and

 

delegated that to someone.  I’m not sure who it was, maybe Ralston or one of Kyla’s aides.  Why? 

 

What difference does that make?”

 

“Well, it’s my duty to protect you.  I understand that a reporter is asking many questions

 

about Mr. Hamilton’s death and White House reaction to it.  I heard that he’s a troublemaker.”

 

“Find out who he is and keep me informed.  Damned nosy bastards!  I love public life, but

 

some newsmen ruin the joy of it.  Cut his access.  Just keep it quiet.”

 

“Yes, sir.” Renville promised.  “I’ll get on it right away.  Thank you for seeing me.  I hope

 

Mr. Hewitt doesn’t forget that I am here to help you.”

 

The President dismissed the statement without comment.  He turned his back on Renville,

 

lost in thought as he gazed over the White House lawn.  Renville frowned but left the room, closing

 

the door silently behind him.  He was convinced that more trouble lay ahead.

 

 

 

President Albertson continued to stare across the lawn, neither seeing it nor caring what his

 

counsel thought.  He was reliving the excitement of his campaign for the presidency, memories   

 

which often filled his mind whenever troubles loomed.  It was an escape from reality‑‑a narcotic to

 

dull his fear of inadequacy to positions of responsibility.  Such a crutch ever had been one of his

 

weaknesses.  Loralei had recognized and exploited it since the first time they met.  He emitted a long

 

sigh as remembrance of their first encounter erupted into his consciousness, pushing aside pleasant

 

campaign memories.

 

It was during his anti‑Vietnam War college days when Bobby‑Rae met Loralei.  He was an

 

imposing peacenik, garbed in a quasi‑hippie style complete with bell‑bottoms, peace symbol and

 

sandals.  Unfortunately, he never could let his red hair grow long‑‑it would not cooperate, thus he

 

had to be content with a reddish Afro.  On formal occasions he traded the sandals for two‑inch  plat-

 

form shoes.

 

While dressed in his regalia and leading an anti‑war rally on Harvard campus in June 1969,

 

Bobby‑Rae felt the world was his.  Hundreds of fellow students whined and squalled against social

 

injustice, gesticulating or yelling to his orchestrated cues.  He misinterpreted senseless mob action

 

for personal acclaim.  His need to feel important fueled the misinterpretation.  Hence, Bobby‑Rae

 

beamed with an egotistical joy born of naivete.

 

A long‑haired, love‑beaded Loralei stood near the speaker’s platform.  Her hair was the color

 

of mustard tinged with rust.  Even as a young woman, she suffered from chunky thighs, over‑sized

 

calves and small boobs.  Her college nickname was “turkey legs.”  But the “turkey” was cute, just

 

missing the “pretty” mark of male admirers.

 

Loralei, he was pleased to learn from her, had shadowed Bobby‑Rae after the rally.  Despite

 

the presence of eight “Bobcats” (official friends of Bobby‑Rae), Loralei boldly confronted the 

 

young man and declared her admiration with such controlled fervor that he agreed to follow her   

 

home.

 

Actually, Bobby‑Rae fully expected his newest admirer to capitulate to the sexual charms

 

he had nurtured since high school.  Loralei shattered that expectation, keeping him in the living  

 

room of her private apartment.  She avoided sex by playing on his key passion‑‑his ambition.  They

 

discussed Bobby‑Rae, politics, the odious “establishment” and Bobby‑Rae.  She revealed little about

 

herself, only admitting that she was a second‑year law student at Harvard.

 

Loralei assiduously pursued Bobby‑Rae during the next six months.  She scheduled time to-

 

gether, arranged his “spontaneous” protest appearances, cooed and chided as needed, prodded him

 

into a business major, and generally manipulated his future.  He fell into line without much com-

 

plaining; he subconsciously welcomed her discipline.

 

There were two occasions, however, when Bobby‑Rae balked and their relationship teetered

 

towards a breakup.  Both involved his insatiable requirement for sexual exercise.  Loralei learned

 

that a cheerleader had intruded into her plans, and Bobby‑boy had intruded into the cheerleader. 

 

Recognizing the imperative to keep his attention on her, Loralei condescended to humping and   

 

thumping enough to win Bobby‑Rae’s eventual request for marriage.  The ceremony occurred during

 

their third year at Harvard.  A subsequent consummation was short‑lived that night, as Loralei had

 

a headache.

 

The ambitious couple gained their degrees and moved along the path Loralei staked out for

 

Bobby‑Rae.  She agreed to one major concession‑‑a career move to Montgomery, Alabama, where

 

he eagerly sought out a few buddies.  Bobby‑Rae proved quite skillful as a shill to the local In-the-

 

Know crowd, which included the owner of Heavenly Hogs, Mr. Monroe Knox.

 

Knox, a fat bald man with steely eyes and jellied jowls, offered to front Bobby‑Rae’s rise

 

in local politics.  The two men met at a fund raising barbecue, which Loralei had organized in her

 

husband’s bid to become a county commissioner.  Despite her being a “damn Yankee” from upstate 

New York, Knox recognized her ability and allowed her to charm him.  A rush of campaign money

 

suddenly appeared and helped sweep the young Harvard grad into elected office.

 

Throughout the rest of Bobby‑Rae’s political career and in every campaign, Knox money 

 

was a sure support.  Few local reporters dared criticize the source of Albertson’s funding.  Those

 

who did either found a new job out of state or received threats of assorted types.  One persistent  

 

fellow died under suspicious circumstances‑‑thought to have committed suicide by jumping in front

 

of a speeding freight train, conveniently having tied both hands and feet to ensure that he would not

 

hop off the tracks before the train could finish him.

 

Loralei and Knox regularly urged the pliant Bobby‑Rae into ever more ambitious positions

 

in Alabama.  Eventually he became governor.  The rapid ascent to power honed his campaign skills. 

He became the consummate politician.  Back room deals, golf course negotiations, barbecue bids,

 

fund raising dinners, campus rallies‑‑all fed Albertson’s desire to be liked, his need for praise.  And,

 

as a fringe benefit, the high‑profile life provided him with ample opportunities to sample a titillating

 

quantity and variety of southern women.

 

For her part, Loralei flourished as a lawyer of repute.  One of the state’s most influential law

 

firms offered her a lucrative position.  She became quite proficient in corporate law and in attracting

 

clients for the firm.  Of course, Loralei could not claim credit for bringing in Heavenly Hogs; it had

 

been a prime account with the law firm for many years.

 

During Bobby‑Rae’s term as governor, Loralei decided to shoulder a “key social burden of

 

our time.”  She proclaimed herself to be a champion for children’s rights, even writing numerous

 

treatises and articles on the subject.  Critics labeled them in such terms as “convoluted claptrap,”

 

“miasmic, Marxist doggerel” and “a load of horse hockey.”

 

Both Bobby‑Rae and Loralei raked in the bucks.

 

 

 

President Albertson sighed and turned from the Oval Office window, letting memories re-

 

cede.  He wanted to forget Hamilton’s death.  It was a problem for an aide to worry about now.  He

 

had more important national and global issues to consider, even though it was not yet time to begin

 

his reelection campaign.

 

The North Koreans again were caterwauling; Japan recently issued a demarche, demanding

 

that Russia return the Kuril Islands; China was selling nuclear material to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and

 

Libya on the sly; South Africa threatened to explode now that Nelson Mandela had died of a heart

 

attack; Vietnamese and Philippine naval forces unexpectedly had coordinated a joint attack against

 

two Chinese patrol ships in the disputed Spratly Islands; the Mideast was close to conflict, despite

 

previous peace efforts; fighting had erupted in Bosnia again; and most ominous of all‑‑the Commu-

 

nist Party had regained ascendancy in Russia and was pressuring for dissolution of the Common-

 

wealth of Independent States.

 

Just thinking about those problems gave him a headache.  He never doubted that he could

 

resolve them, if given enough time to hold meetings with other world leaders.  Bobby‑Rae, the    

 

charmer, was at home in such venues.  Nevertheless, he preferred to concentrate on domestic is- 

 

sues.  Foreign affairs never had interested him much.  His head began to pound.

 

“Damn!” he spoke under his breath.  “Too many things happening at once.  Loralei, you  

 

bitch, what are you doing now?  When do you get back?  What should we do about Russia?  How

 

about Japan or Israel?”

 

He pressed palms to both temples and massaged slowly with increased pressure.  “I need an-

 

swers fast.  Why did Macy have to kill himself?  I always relied on you, buddy.  What will happen

 

next?”

 

Bobby‑Rae sat down and cried.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

 

 

The first lady’s jet was rushing back to Washington even as Bobby-Rae bemoaned his de- 

 

cision-making burdens.  Upon learning of Macy Hamilton’s death, Loralei immediately had order-

 

ed the air crew and her staff to prepare for the return flight.  During the previous evening she had

 

roused the pro-gay marriage conference into a standing ovation, following her blistering denuncia-

 

tion of tradition-minded views.

 

Now she sat alone in a plush, private cabin--one recently configured to her demanding spec-

 

ifications.  It provided the privacy, which Loralei required and claimed was her due.  It also served

 

as an audience chamber whenever she deigned to instruct staff members or admit fellow travelers.

 

Loralei wore a severe, dark Burgundy-colored suit.  It held no more trace of femininity than

 

did her true character.  As many astute observers had noted throughout her behind-the-coattails ca- 

 

reer, Loralei was a clothed harpy.

 

Her hair currently favored a San Francisco style popular with the horde of man-hating fem-

 

inists and lesbians who had fawned over Loralei at the conference.  Back in Washington the first

 

lady would change her hairdo, something which happened at least weekly--in direct contrast with

 

her unchanging support to long-held liberal causes.

 

A vicious frown quickly spread over her somewhat puffy, pasty face as she read a priority

 

message from Bobby-Rae.  The message requested her to prepare appropriate remarks for the press

 

about Macy’s death.  In a footnote he mentioned concern over unspecified foreign ventures and

 

wanted her insight.  Loralei’s face reddened with a practiced fury.

 

“Damn bastard!” Loralei reflected on the President’s ability, while she sat stiffly like an old

 

Prussian drill master.  “Butthead!  Can’t do anything right without me coaching him.  Always the

 

same yellow cry-baby, cringing and carping!  Asshole!”  The first lady crushed the message in both

 

fists, threw it against the nearest bulkhead and jumped to her feet.  She shouted further impreca- 

 

tions, foaming and frothing while her spittle sprayed the room.  Purple veins in her forehead bulged.

 

She grabbed a presidential ashtray and hurled it at a cabin window.  Fortunately for her, the ashtray

 

merely shattered without affecting the plexiglass.  Not content with such minor damage, Loralei 

 

reached for a half-filled glass of bourbon.

 

Before she could throw the glass, a uniformed Air Force attendant opened the cabin door.

 

The young man showed a worried face, wondering if the first lady had met with an accident.  Lora-

 

lei, however, became livid with the sudden intrusion and splashed bourbon in his face.

 

“Get the hell out of here!” she screeched.  “Damned baby-killer!  Get out!  OUT!”

 

She flung the glass at the young man, hitting his back as he hurried out of Loralei’s pres-

 

sence.  Further insults and obscenities chased the fellow as he shut the door.

 

Loralei eventually calmed down.  No one dared communicate with her in any manner while

 

she was in a rage.  Even the Secret Service kept their distance, particularly as she regularly order-

 

ed them to stay back.  Some thought it was due to her desire for privacy; others believed that she

 

just hated any uniformed officer, especially men.

 

“To hell with them all!” Loralei condemned any and all who stood in the way of her self-

 

imposed destiny.  She abruptly stopped pacing and flopped into a seat.  A glance toward the bulk-

 

head revealed the crumpled message.  Again she grimaced, thinking back on the day that she had

 

selected Bobby-Rae as the means to attain her goal.

 

Love had nothing to do with Loralei hitching herself to the man whom she quickly identi-

 

fied as an egotistical jerk.  Likewise, she correctly determined that he was a spineless blatherskite;

 

however, she noted a few promising traits.  Young Bobby-Rae could excite people.  He passionate-

 

ly believed whatever cause any group wanted to hear, at least for as long as he talked to them.  Truth

 

was relative to his feelings.  He was always right--in his own mind.

 

Loralei knew that she could manipulate such a person.  He would be a stepping-stone for her

 

eventual opportunity to wield power.  In actuality, the young Loralei had learned to be an elitist from

 

her arrogant parents.  Others who contributed to her conceit were teachers at private schools she had

 

attended and pompous political hacks who hung about her parents home, groveling for campaign

 

contributions and pretending to advance social welfare.  To complete Loralei’s descent into the hell

 

of liberalism, she chose to study law at Harvard.

 

A sly smirk played over the first lady’s lips.  She pictured her first meeting with Bobby-Rae.

 

He bleated against drafting men to fight in Vietnam, an undeclared war which Loralei loathed.  He

 

ranted against the U.S. government and advocated defiance, all in accord with Loralei’s deep-seated

 

beliefs.  She concluded that the blustering Bobby-Rae would be her husband, even though the de-

 

cision to hook him was not entirely her own.  Another person had encouraged her to seek him out.

 

Getting Bobby-Rae’s attention had been easy.  Only two hindrances came up--those idiotic

 

fools who hung around him, the Bobcats, and a flock of bimbos who offered free sex.  Of course,

 

Bobby-Rae grabbed as many starry-eyed girls as he could.  As with Loralei, he dropped anyone once

 

their usefulness was over; neither was he burdened with a conscience.

 

As for Loralei’s sex life, she smirked a bit as she remembered a few previous lovers enjoy-

 

ed since her marriage.  Several merely were had in silent protest of Bobby-Rae’s multitude of slinky

 

sluts, whom he lured while governor.

 

She truly had enjoyed several years of frequent trysts with Macy Hamilton.  They had met

 

through her work in Alabama as a new lawyer.  Although not an attorney himself, Macy steered

 

much business to the firm in Montgomery.  He was attached to the Knox business empire in a back-

 

room sort of way--likewise being connected to several other local big shots who did business with 

 

state government agencies.  Loralei, of course, later rooted through records and grilled associates

 

to learn what Macy’s relationship to Knox actually was.  Once known, she developed a plan to sub-

 

orn and manipulate him.

 

To her surprise, Loralei grew quite fond of Macy, almost to the point of love.  Her original

 

plan had included the usual ploy of humping/thumping, as had been successful in latching onto   

 

young Bobby-Rae.  Well, it did keep Macy’s attention on her, but she experienced a minor shock.

 

Sex was an enjoyable experience--an excursion into unfamiliar territory.  With Bobby-Rae, it was

 

a nasty bit of spasmodic copulation.  Quick start, jump action, with a lot of noise but about as sat-

 

isfying as smelling sweaty gym socks.

 

A pained sigh wheezed from her throat as Loralei purposely closed the door on Macy mem-

 

ories.  It was over.  He had been useful and a pleasant diversion, but she had more important mat-

 

ters to consider.  She had a destiny to fulfill.  Besides, another lover awaited her return to Washing-

 

ton.