Friday, August 30, 2013

Chapt. 36 (1st draft) - The Drop

Warren Hendrian was disappointed to be meeting Speaker Glick at the off-Beltway McDonald's. He'd been hoping she'd agree to a new little place in Georgetown he'd been wanting to try, but she vetoed that without hesitation.
Warren dear, we don't want to be recognized, do we? I've been wanting to try Hoolio's, too, the brisket is supposed to be devine, but not today...” Her trademark nonstop ramble rambled on oblivious of Hendrian's efforts to break in until he finally gave in.
You're right, Edie. McDonald's it is,” he said, trying to sound enthusiastic. He knew better than to try to argue with “Satin Edie”, as she was known by allies and adversaries and in the press corps, because she loved to argue, rarely conceded a point and never, in her mind anyway, lost. Oddly, she never came across as stubborn. A key to her political success was an uncanny knack for making others feel that she agreed with them, when, in fact, she had subtly persuaded them to agree with her. In this instance, Warren Hendrian knew she was right, yet he secretly felt he'd be in no danger of having anyone remember him were an investigation to be conducted into the outrageous behavior of Vice President Quentin Kudlow. That is, assuming Edie could manage to get a dose of Vulcana into the fatuous, bumbling former senator from Virginia.
It was Ruth's idea to drug Kudlow. Might have been a hard sell even for Ruth, herself no slouch in the persuasion game, had it not been for one irresistible inducement: the scheme, mad as it seemed at first blush, could vault Speaker Glick into the seat she'd most coveted as far back as she could remember.
You're mad, Ruth! What on earth have you been smoking?”
In normal times...Ha! Let me start again. These are the times that try...Nah. Yikes, Edie, WACKO's setting that pompous asshole up to move in after they take Morowitz out. It's a coup in the making, pure and simple...”
OK, sure. I agree Morowitz is shrinking by the day – by the hour – but you're not suggesting they're actually going to...kill him, are you?
They won't have to, Edie, although I certainly wouldn't put it past them. All they'll need is for Morowitz somehow to be declared incompetent. They could drug him so he's incoherent in, say, a press conference or some other public appearance. Once the folks in the white coats tote him away, that's all she wrote for Good King Geoff.”
Jesus, Ruth. Weak Sister Geoff, I know. But, you know, I like the guy? He really does have a good heart.”
He does. But we both know a good heart doesn't get you much in politics. Not in the bigs, anyway.”
Not in the littles, either. Doesn't say much for us, does it, kiddo?”
They smiled at their smart phones. Ruth's face was tinged with sadness; Glick's, less scrutable.
Ruth had decided not to share her knowledge of the president's plan to undergo “Vulcana therapy” with live telecast coverage. It wasn't a matter of trust, despite the fierce rivalry between them when the House Speaker and Ruth butted heads for the presidential nomination before Ruth's first term. There had never been a public display of animosity between them, and Glick had been a loyal supporter of Ruth's programs as president. Her opposition to Morowitz's legislation, while effective, wasn't enough in a season of growing dissatisfaction with incumbents in general to keep her own influence from sliding along with the president's diminishing popularity. And although her decline was not as noticeable as the president's, Glick knew she was probably serving her last term as speaker, and possibly as a member of Congress.
It's this damned rider on the...”
I know. I know. It's unconstitutional as hell. You can't outlaw something before you can prove it exists. And I know Morowitz says he'll veto it, and that's got WACKO mad as hell and they figure if Geoff is out dumbo Kudlow will sign whatever they tell him to sign. I know, Ruth. The whole thing stinks.”
Can't you kill it in committee?”
Too late. Senate's already passed it and I can't get the votes to kill it on our side. Still two or three holdouts, but I ain't holding my breath.”
Edie, this is why we need to take Kudlow out of the game. We simply can't take the chance.”
You saying something's gonna happen to the president?”
If he won't change his mind on that veto, you know WACKO will make something happen. It's in the air. I can feel it.”
I know. Me, too.”
Yes, Ruth, I'm in. Tell me what you want me to do.”

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chapt. 35 (1st draft) - White House Rumble

The barking stopped within seconds after Trueblood spoke. He wasn't certain whether it was because of him or if perhaps The Undertaker also had said something and that it was his words that brought about Buford's obedience. Whatever the reason, the barking stopped. Trueblood saw Buford straighten up and back away from the corner. The bald behemoth was still gripping the pistol, but it was pointed at the floor.

As Trueblood started shifting his attention to the other side of the room, where The Undertaker stood, his eye caught movement in the corner in front of Buford. The back of Bart's suit coat was undulating as the man wearing it struggled to rise from his kneeling position. Trueblood looked away, not wishing to witness the remnant of his boss rising in his humiliation.

Then it became a one-on-one with The Undertaker. The success of his initial effect neither surprised Trueblood nor emboldened him further. His mental and physical state, this sense of unwavering equilibrium, was beyond his conscious control. He'd become a weapon, operating on instinct and intuition. He experienced no emotion in this condition yet knew without hesitation the appropriate passions would rise and enable him to neutralize an opponent at whatever moment such action was needed.

You should be director here, not...” Trueblood watched The Undertaker nod toward the corner, where Bart Gladstone was still struggling to his feet.

The Undertaker's words startled Trueblood, because he was not accustomed to hearing anyone else when in his present condition, or, rather, hearing their voices as anything beyond background noise. In this instance The Undertaker's voice was no different than Trueblood had heard it previously. The same conversational but oddly flat, slightly nasal tone with seemingly exaggerated inflections at the end of certain sentences. The nod toward Bart took the place of what otherwise likely would have been an emphasis on thing, had he said “that thing over there.” The Undertaker fixed his eyes on Trueblood's.

The Undertaker's eyes looked mild, at a distance. They were not noticeably large or small or spaced too wide or narrow. Ordinary eyes. Mild, some might say meek, unthreatening eyes in an unobtrusive face. The face's vague heart shape rising balloon-like from a fragile-looking chin to a mat of sparse, mousey hair further robbed it of manliness. At a distance.

Trueblood was near enough, half a dozen or so feet away, to see the sneering slant of The Undertaker's mouth, which, with its compressed lips pushing dimples into the cheeks at each end, lent much at a distance to the illusion of easy friendliness his face projected. This was the nearest Trueblood had been to The Undertaker since he'd begun accompanying Buford to Bart's office. Now, the facial features, both in their components and in the whole, revealed a mien that was subtly hard and cruel. The eyes in particular, buttressed by the sneering mouth, played the treacherous game of luring you in with a tired ambiguity that delivered you to their soul-dead unforgiving centers.

The rest of him was unprepossessing, at any distance. Thin almost delicate build, no sense of being tall nor short nor quick nor strong nor athletic in any way. His tan chinos and unzipped, faded denim jacket implied no intimidating intent. The ambush revealed itself solely in his face.

What should it matter to you?” Trueblood said.

The Undertaker cocked his head to one side and squinted, as if appraising his opponent. The compressed lips twitched, offering a partial smile that conveyed derision. “A reasonable question,” he said.

Not that you deserve an answer, but let's just say I would find it more amusing to watch your inevitable descent into total corruption than to see that bag of gas over there even for one more minute pretend he has the remotest iota of integrity left in him.”

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chapt. 34 (1st draft) - Saving Bart

Trueblood heard the barking as soon as the elevator door slid open. He recognized the voice as Bart's although the sharp bursts had a different timbre, a loud but strangely meek hollowness absent the personality of their habitual bullying bluster. It was as if someone were doing a poor impression of Bart, or practicing to imitate him. And it continued longer than Trueblood remembered it ever had. Three or four in a row, then a pause, then three or four more. These series repeated without variation as though following the percussion notations on a music sheet. They continued while Trueblood walked from the elevator to his office, and diminished in volume after he entered and closed the door to the hallway.
Doris looked up from something she'd apparently been studying on her desk. Her face was tense, lips remaining pursed as they resisted her effort to stretch them into a smile. “Morning, boss,” she said, her voice low and tight with caution.
Happy Monday, Doris,” Trueblood said quietly, then,” What's with that?” He tipped his head toward the barking, which had indicated no sign of letting up.
She motioned him closer and began speaking in a near whisper. “The goonies,” she said, using her name for the two WACKO men who of late had commandeered the National Drug Control Policy offices.
Didn't think I could ever feel sorry for that bag of wind, but they've been making him do that ever since I got here this morning. It's been going on over an hour now. Poor Cathy came in here crying. Said she's never been so scared. They've made him kneel on the floor and say Bart Bart Bart like he does, you know, and they won't let him up.
You know, boss, how irritating that was at first, for me, anyway, but I got used to it after a while. Hardly even notice it anymore. Until now.”
Yeah, I know. Where's Cathy now?”
I sent her home. She was afraid to go back over there.”
Same two guys?”
She said yes. The big goon and that skinny one, the one I think is creepier. Talks like an undertaker.”
Did Cathy say what set them off? Bart's been cooperating with them, so far as I know.”
She said she heard their voices get louder, Bart's, anyway, but she couldn't make out what he was saying. She went to the door to hear better, and that's when she heard the undertaker tell him to start that Bart Bart Bart business.”
Did she say what he said? The undertaker?”
She started crying again when she told me that part, and I was afraid her voice would carry and they'd hear her. She said once the undertaker started talking Bart hardly said anything anymore, until he started with the Bart Bart Bart.
She couldn't make out most of what the undertaker was saying because his voice was so quiet, like it usually is. But then she said it got louder, when he told him, Bart, to start saying his name. He got real sarcastic, like, You like to bully people? Huh? Makes you feel like a big shot when you bark at them, make them say your name? Huh?
Let me hear how you say it. Go on, bully me. Tell me how you say Bart! He started shouting at Bart then, saying he couldn't hear him, to say it louder, and pretty soon she could hear Bart saying his name, but the undertaker kept telling him to say it louder, and finally she said he told Bart to get on his knees.
That's when she said she got scared and thought maybe they were going to shoot him, like they do in the movies, like they do when they make someone get on his knees. That's when she came over here. She was practically hysterical. I calmed her down but then she started crying again when she was telling me all this. I told her she might as well go home, then, that I'd tell Bart she was sick.
And that would be the truth, boss. She was sick by then, and I'm starting to feel sick now, too. What on earth is happening here?”

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Los Tres Gatos

River and his two younger sisters are looking for a home. Well, actually, they don't wish to leave the wooded paradise and welcoming house in Gloucester where they've lived most of their lives. Nor do we, their human companions, wish to part with them. But we're selling the house and have no idea yet where we'll end up. More than likely they won't be able to go with us. It will be a sad, traumatic separation for us all.

 Where's the food already?
Let's start again. We, the human companions of River and his two...actually, they're not his sisters, but the three of them definitely act like siblings...are hoping some cat-loving people will welcome our three delightful desperados felinos into their home. We're in denial about what might happen to these guys if they can't find a new friendly place to live.

Vitals: All are up to date with all shots, neutered and in excellent health.

River ~ 8 years old, an orange tabby, gentle, shy, the Ferdinand of tomcats.
Jax ~ 3, short-hair mixed breed, cute as a button, loves to roll on her back for attention.
Sweetie ~ 3, Russian Blue (mostly), affectionate, follows me everywhere when I'm in the yard.

 Sweetie nuzzles Jax, who refuses to perform for the camera

These guys are litter-box trained but spend most of their time outdoors. The two girls are rescue cats and have been together since they were tiny. Jax was rescued from a pipe into which she had crawled and become trapped. She and Sweetie have a little ritual they perform each morning while waiting for me to put food in their dishes. Sweetie nuzzles Jax's neck and Jax occasionally acts as if she's being mortally attacked, rearing up and waving her paws threateningly. Yet she purrs loudly throughout the little skirmish. They need to stay together. It would break my heart (and theirs) if we had to split them up.

 River rises from his nap in the fig tree pot

Please contact me if you wish to come by and meet them.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Coffee Betrayal (Chapter 33 - 1st draft)

“Alright, Harry,” said Miriam, “What is it?”

Trueblood looked up from his coffee and peered at his wife, unaware that his eyebrows had lifted. It was a reaction less of curiosity at her question than from surprise by her tone. The cheerfulness she served at breakfast was as customary as the accompanying black coffee, scrambled eggs, toast and orange juice.

Miriam's smile was the same as always but her voice came out too soft. It was as if she was confiding something to him in a hotel lounge during happy hour. They were alone in their kitchen, and she'd made no effort to lean toward him as one would do in the hotel-lounge scenario. So...

Trueblood set his cup down as his brow relaxed, and considered her words. Off the top of his head what is it? meant nothing to him. A quick scan of likely contexts found no hits. Her question apparently had come completely out of the blue. He focused closely on her eyes.

“What is what, Miriam?” he asked gently.

“Something's wrong, Harry. It's not like you to keep things from me.”

“Nothing's wrong, Miriam. I'd tell you if there was. You know that.”


They sat awhile looking earnestly at each other. Trueblood slurped coffee and his wife munched on a piece of buttered toast. Trueblood broke the silence.

“Look, Miriam, where is this coming from? What makes you think something's wrong?”

“Harry, you put creamer in your coffee.”

“Huh? I what?”

“Creamer, Harry. In your coffee. You put creamer in your coffee. You never put anything in your coffee...”

Trueblood stared at his cup as confusion disturbed the natural composure of his face. “What the...” He cut himself off and looked up at Miriam. “I did,” he said, barely audible, shaking his head as if to deny what he was seeing. He added, “I must have been distracted. I don't remember doing it. I don't know why I did it.

“It is odd, I agree, Miriam, but I don't think it means anything.”

She reached across the table and took his hand. Her smile grew wider. “It wouldn't mean anything if I did something like that,” she said. “You know I get distracted easily. But not you, Harry. You're always so focused.”

He rocked back in his chair, breathing deeply and letting it out in a noisy sigh followed by a half-hearted chuckle. “You're right, Mimi. My focus is my strong suit. I guess...well, I have had a lot of things to focus on lately. You know that. Maybe I've gotten a little jammed up. Too much on the plate, huh?”

“Harry, who are you trying to fool? It's me, Miriam, your loving wife. You always have a lot to focus on. It's what you're good at. Something else is bothering you. Don't try to deny it. It worries me that you're keeping it to yourself. I've never known you to keep something serious from me. Ever. And frankly I'm not sure what to think. I'm a little hurt, Harry.”