The Candidate

By: Josie Brown

“Interesting that the client was Venezuelan. That was right before Padilla toppled Chávez’s handpicked goon, wasn’t it? I would have guessed that a boy scout like Mansfield wouldn’t have taken it on. Considering Talbot needs his own Axis of Evil, Venezuela gives our creepy veep a great place to start. He’s made it his mission to crucify anyone Venezuelan—that is, until his puppet dictator was in place.”

“That’s why you two would make such a great team. I’m just being selfish.” Roberta pulled off her gloves. “Ben, I have something to tell you, in the strictest confidence. I’m leaving the bench. I’m turning in my resignation on New Year’s Eve.”

Ben dropped the manure with a thud. “But you love the court! You were meant to be there, Roberta. The way it stands now, you’re its moral compass.”

Roberta laughed. “That is certainly kind of you to say. But sadly, the doctors give Mother just six months to live. She raised me on her own, Benjamin. We didn’t have a pot to piss in, but she worked day and night so that I could finish college, and then continue on to law school. This is the least I can do for her. All the more reason I should leave now, while Barksdale is still president. Should the vice president take his place…”

She was too upset to finish the sentence.

She didn’t have to. He knew what she meant.

It was why she was pushing so hard for Mansfield.

Roberta stood directly in front of the December sun. It radiated around her like a halo.

How appropriate, he thought. She’s an archangel seeking justice for all mankind.

“Why not help elect a man who follows his own convictions? Maybe he’ll rub off on you a little. Remember, Benjamin, in the final analysis it’s not the party; it’s the candidate and his platform. Consider it your shot at redemption.” She pointed to the manure. “Now, no more lollygagging! It’s time to mulch the hydrangeas.”


Venezuela’s Padilla Nationalizes USCo Oil

After Failed Takeover

12/31 - CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s president, Manolo Padilla, announced today that he has nationalized USCo Oil Corporation’s multibillion-dollar investments in the country’s massive Orinoco reserve.

Whereas four other oil companies have agreed to negotiate deals involving current and future participation in projects based in Venezuela, USCo, the United States’ largest oil producer, refused to sign an accord that, in effect, would have transferred operations of the six heavy crude upgrading projects to Padilla’s Ministry of Petroleum.

The Venezuelan president also ruled out paying cash compensation, or buying the debt they took on to develop the projects.


Chapter 4

It was Vice President Talbot’s idea, and Smith had to admit, it was sheer genius: Whenever the two men had the need to talk, the vice president gave Carl, his usual Secret Service driver, the day off. Then he had his assistant, Eloise, call in Mr. Smith as Carl’s substitute. Having once been in the Service (Presidential Protection Detail, in fact) and the Agency, Smith already had all the necessary security clearances.

There, in the privacy of Talbot’s armored limo, the two discussed anything they wanted. On that crisp, frigid first morning of the New Year, the topic at hand was the undoing of a government.

Specifically, that of Venezuela’s dictator, Manolo Padilla.

Since Padilla’s ousting of USCo Petroleum that morning, Mr. Smith had been anticipating the vice president’s call. That Talbot had waited until that evening had demonstrated unusual restraint on his part.

“Already the old men are on the warpath! Do you know how much of a financial loss this means? And trust me, it’s not just the USCo holdings that are at stake here.” Talbot’s breathing was labored. Whenever he was upset, like now, he paused between words.

What a sniveling pussy, Smith thought, but he kept his mouth shut and let the other man rant. The limo, flanked front, back and on both sides by the usual battalion of black SUVs loaded down with Talbot’s Secret Service detail, was supposed to be on its way to the White House, where he was to join Mrs. Talbot, who was already with the president and his family, ringing in the New Year. But at Talbot’s behest, Smith went by way of the National Mall. Talbot’s favorite monument was the Lincoln Memorial. It gave Smith a chuckle to think of the vice president attempting to channel Honest Abe.

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