Tuesday, December 8, 2054

Chapter Twenty

Paul walked into the bar about 45 minutes later. As instructed, he gave his name to the Maitre D’ and was shown to the same back room Addie had used for the luncheon.

As the meeting had broken up, the group had agreed that Addie and Senator Bolling should remain behind to plan their approach to Harkness. They’d gone through two pots of coffee and were having their first cognac when Paul showed up.

Addie strode toward him and shook his hand with both of hers. “I really appreciate you coming, Paul. I’d like you to meet Senator Bolling of Michigan”, she said as she gestured toward the man standing at the table.

Paul walked over and shook his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Senator”.

“Please, call me Reese,” he said. “What’re you drinking?”

“Jameson’s, neat, please.”

Bolling nodded toward the waiter who went to a discrete sideboard and got Paul’s drink. The three of them took seats at the table, Paul waiting for someone else to begin. He was completely on edge about the purpose of this meeting and the presence of Senator Bolling only made him more uncomfortable. He looked toward Addie, the question obvious in his eyes.

Instead of Addie saying anything, Bolling began. “Paul, you’ve made something of a splash this last week or so. It seems as if everywhere I turn, there’s Paul Harkness telling me what’s wrong with the government. I’ve got to tell you, you’ve ruffled some feathers in town. So much so that Addie here, brought me and a few other acquaintances together for quite a remarkable discussion today.

“What acquaintances would those be, Senator,” Paul said. His use of Senator instead of Reese was not lost on anyone.

“Let’s leave their names out of it for the moment. And its Reese, remember”?

“Fine. Give me the story the way you want but I’ll stick with Senator for the moment if it’s all the same to you”.

Bolling smiled at Addie and continued. “Suffice it to say, the people we met with today are some of the wealthiest and most influential people in America. If you’re half as well informed as you claim to be, you know I’ve got a reputation for being a straight shooter. Bearing that in mind, trust me when I tell you that unlike a whole lot of rich powerful people, the group we met with today was composed of people who got where they are through merit and determination. There were eight of us in the room with eight very different political ideologies at work. The one thing each of us has in common is an unquestioned devotion to this country. You with me so far, son?”

Paul wasn’t sure he liked being called son, even by a senior U.S. Senator. Alarms were going off in his head like a pinball machine. Suddenly, his conversation with Darrell Wainright came back to him. Was it really possible he had pissed off so many people so much? It was obvious this was a lot more than Rotholz getting her pound of flesh. He couldn’t imagine how or why she’d been able to get a group like this together just to nail his ass to the wall. He decided to hold his tongue, waiting for the other shoe to drop. “Yeah, money, hard work, love of country. Got it”, he said.

“Yes, well anyway”, Bolling continued, “we spent a few hours talking about you. Addie has some rather astonishing ideas involving you. What’s even more surprising is that by the end of the discussion, we were all in complete agreement with her.”

Paul was doing his best to remain calm, but the longer this went on, the more furious he grew. If they thought they could line up a bunch of Washington insiders to teach him a lesson, they had another thing coming. He could feel himself trembling with anger. He turned to Addie holding his finger inches from her face. In a quiet yet menacing voice, he said, “You set this whole thing in motion...you not me. I may have pissed off Harper and Tom Douglas, but I’ve made my apologies. Look, I’m sorry you lost your job, but shit happens when you play with the big boys. If you think you can call in a bunch of your cronies to intimidate me, you’ve got another thing coming.” He turned his wrath on Bolling. “And you, Senator”, he said with venom dripping from his words, “you’re right, I’m aware of your reputation. And the fact that you’d involve yourself in a petty act of retribution like this is just proof of everything that’s wrong with this government. I don’t believe I care to hear what Ms. Rotholz and her friends have in mind for me. I think I’ll leave now.”

He rose and started toward the door. Halfway there, he hesitated, turned back and returned to the table. He spoke in a voice so quiet, they had to listen carefully to hear his words. “And listening you spouting about love of country...don’t make me sick!” He picked up his drink and finished it in a gulp

As he turned once again toward the door, he heard Addie laughing. “Paul, we want to run you for President”.

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