Wednesday, December 16, 2054

Chapter Twelve

The general attitude at the White House that afternoon was,
"This too shall pass".

The President was pissed off about the whole affair
and he certainly didn't have anything pleasant to say about
"…that ungrateful fucking bastard", but he figured, at
worst, he'd just inherited a small footnote on his legacy.
Clinton had Monica-Gate (far worse); Bush
had Iran-Gate (also worse); Reagan proclaimed
ketchup to be a vegetable and solved homelessness in
America by inventing "Urban Campers"
(nothing stuck to that man); and Jimmy Carter
got attacked by a rabbit. Hell, Ford couldn't take two steps
without falling down…usually on camera. If they could
survive those stories, Harper shouldn't have any problem
getting re-elected in spite of Paul Harkness, (may he rot in
Hell).

The White House staff steered clear of the President
for the rest of the day when they were able to. They were
strictly business when they couldn't. A few people made
jokes about the whole thing (very quietly), and one or two
staffers thought there was a kernel of truth to what
Harkness had said. That opinion, though, was not
expressed out loud.

Tom Douglas, however, was not a man to let things
slide and he'd started his revenge machine about three
minutes after Harkness had left the reception. He'd quickly
seen Wainright's wisdom in getting Harkness out of the
building. His first reaction had involved visions of
Wainright on the janitorial staff, but that had been quickly
replaced with resignation. The President's chief of staff
can't strangle a man who's just gotten the Medal of
Freedom, no matter how richly the guy deserves it.
(Douglas never considered actually thanking Wainright for
saving him from himself; absolution was the only reward
that ever entered his mind.)

He strode angrily through his office's reception area
and directed his secretary, Anne, to get "that moron"
Carmichael on the phone. He didn't even spare a glance
toward the freshman Congressman from Wyoming who
was sitting patiently in the anteroom. (Congressman
Redmond was there to ask for an audience with the
President to solicit support for a pet project he'd brought
with him to Washington. Even he realized he'd have to get
a lot more senior before he could expect any deference
from Tom Douglas.)

Douglas's phone was ringing as he slid behind his
desk. Anne was very efficient. He picked up the phone
and in a growl recognized throughout Washington, said, "I
hope you're happy with how your brilliant fucking photo-
op turned out".

As usual, Carmichael was way behind the curve. He
had been "taking a meeting" with a team of creative
directors from BBD&O Worldwide Advertising. They had
some very exciting ideas for when the campaign heated up.
Thirty-seven minutes after the fact, Carmichael had no idea
what had transpired in the Rose Garden. Oblivious, he
said, "Tom, whatever are you talking about"?

"Your boy Harkness cocked up the whole show. He
stood right there in the Rose Garden and told the whole
damned world that he's as qualified to be President as
Harper is. Right to his face! On TV, Goddammit!"

Carmichael said, "Well, that's just terrible, Tom.
What are we going to do"?

Douglas exploded, "We are not going to
do anything. You are going to have your letter
of resignation on the President's desk by the end of
business today".

It finally sank in to Carmichael that this was not a run
of the mill set back. Heads were going to roll and he had
only one chance to get his own off of the chopping block.
"Now wait a minute, Tom", he said, "This wasn't my show.
This whole thing came from Adelaide Rotholz; you know,
that pipsqueak Alan Gardner stuck me with".

Before Douglas had a chance to respond, Carmichael
added, "If you doubt me, I've got the conversation on
tape".

Douglas was silent for a moment as he considered the
fact that Carmichael might be a moron, but he was a
paranoid moron who probably did
tape all of he conversations. He'd have covered his ass as
usual. Quietly, with a large dose of the menace he was
known for, he said, "One: Rotholz is out. Now.
Immediately. Have security escort her off the premises.
Tell her you'll clear out her office and send her her
personal crap. Two: From this moment on, you don't so
much as take a leak without clearing it with me. Do you
understand?"

Almost a whisper, "Yes."

Douglas continued, "And three: As far as you're
concerned, my name is Mr. Douglas, Sir, you
fucking piss-ant."

Before Carmichael could respond, Douglas had hung
up the phone and was politely asking Anne to contact the
F.B.I. and I.R.S. for additional background on Paul
Harkness. Anne had long ago grown used to her boss's
mood swings.

Douglas was starting to feel much better.

2 comments:

Jeri said...

Very well characterized antagonist! This chapter really moves along, well done.

It was worth the wait. :)

Nathan said...

Jeri,

Thanks for the encouragement. I'm glad you're enjoying the story.

I know that most writers claim they write because they must write and that the audience reaction is secondary. I'll totally cop to the fact that I want people to like it.

We'll be getting to know some of the other characters better in the upcoming chapters. I'll be curious to see if you folks think I've given them distinct voices of their own, since I think that may be the hardest part of the whole process.