The Candidate

By: Josie Brown

He thought he had locked up Calder’s good and tight—thanks to a $3,000-a-week cash withdrawal from a generous trust fund established by a cabal of Calder’s closest good-ol’-boy supporters.

Obviously the Enquirer’s offer had been somewhat more generous.

The smile Ben gave the senator this time was less cocky. “Yeah, well, pristine politicians are few and far between. If you know of one, give him my number.”

Mansfield took out a business card and handed it to Ben. “Looks like you’ll be having some free time on your hands. Headed back to D.C. tonight?”

Ben shrugged and nodded. No reason to stick around now.

“Great. Then why don’t you stop by the Fairmont tomorrow evening, say, around eleven? The Colonnade Room. There’s a little event being thrown, and I’m the guest of honor. Should give you a feel of what I’m about.” With that the senator was gone.

Yeah, as if I’d ever work for a Republican, thought Ben. Even I am not that desperate.

He heard the buzz of his cell phone and pulled it out of his pocket. Chris Matthews’ producer. He hit the mute button.

There was no good way to spin the Calder fiasco. But in good conscience, Ben couldn’t yet turn in his resignation until Calder formally pulled out of the race. No doubt that would happen later that evening. Or even earlier, if Calder’s wife had already gotten wind of the fiasco and was on her way down to the courthouse to file for divorce.

If he hurried, he could still make the last United non-stop back to D.C.

Chapter 2

“You sure are one stupid sonofabitch!” Congressman Calder’s rant, roaring out of Ben’s iPhone, could be heard by each and every wayward traveler in the Manchester Airport lounge, including the bartender who was trying hard not to smirk as he slid Ben’s double Glenlivet, neat, in front of him. “Damn it, Brinker, you told me you had that bitch under control!”

Despite a splitting headache, Ben cradled his cell as close as he could to his head, then grabbed his glass as if it were a lifeline and took a swig. If he thought the scotch’s numbing burn would muffle Dick Calder’s profanity-laced bellowing, he was sorely mistaken. Worse yet, while Calder was screaming into one ear, Chris Matthews was barking his own ruminations about “the politician and his baby mama” on the lounge’s TV set. His guest pundits—Paul Begala, Bay Buchanan, and Arianna Huffington, each wedged into a thin slice of the split screen—were spinning their own theories on the first scandal of the election season.

“Calm down, Dick! I did take care of her. I always do, don’t I?” Ben ran his fingers through his hair. Three strands—all white—dropped on the bar beside his napkin. After today he wouldn’t be shocked to find that they’d all turned white—or that they’d all fallen out. “I just talked to her yesterday in fact, and—Oh...wait!...Shit!”

“What now?”

“I—well...Okay, look: Last night I didn’t have time to swing by there before my flight with—well, you know, her little stipend. I called instead, and told her I’d drop over tonight.”

In all honesty, seeing Jenna never made Ben happy. He’d met her a decade ago, when she was one of the many fresh-faced bright young things on the Hill. Having just been hired on as a Staff Ass to her home state senator, she was a small-town girl with a sunny smile and great legs: something admired by Calder, among others—including Ben. And with so much going for her, Jenna wasn’t exactly a saint. Then again, she wasn’t a Washingtonienne, either. She truly believed Calder’s bullshit when he told her he’d leave his wife for her.

At least, those first three or four years they were together.

Needless to say, when Jenna broke the news to him that she was pregnant, of course he hit the roof. Still, Jenna did her part. She left the Hill before her pregnancy could be discerned under her fitted suits.

Her discretion was part of her charm for Calder, whose wife gave him a wide berth but had made it ominously clear that the gates of hell would open up under him should any scandal threaten her hard-earned standing in Washington society.

As the executor of little Cole’s trust, of course Ben knew otherwise.

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