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Home > The Brethren(6)

The Brethren(6)
Author: John Grisham

He returned to his seat. "I don't have enough money;" he offered across the table. He knew it was received by someone who'd already thought about it.

Teddy smiled and nodded and pretended to give this some thought. Lake's Georgetown home was worth $400,000. He kept about half that much in mutual funds and another $100,000 in municipal bonds. There were no significant debts. He had $40,000 in his reelection account.

"A rich candidate would not be attractive;" Teddy said, then reached for yet another button. Images returned to the wall, sharp and in color. "Money will not be a problem, Mr. Lake," he said, his voice much lighter. "We'll get the defense contractors to pay for it. Look at that;" he said, waving with his right hand as if Lake wasn't sure what to look at. "Last year the aerospace and defense industry did almost two hundred billion in business. We'll take just a fraction of that."

"How much of a fraction?"

"As much as you need. We can realistically collect a hundred million dollars from them."

"You also can't hide a hundred million dollars."

"Don't bet on it, Mr. Lake. And don't worry about it. We'll take care of the money. You make the speeches, do the ads, run the campaign. The money will pour, in. By the time November gets here, the American voters will be so terrified of Armageddon they won't care how much you've spent. It'll be a landslide."

So Teddy Maynard was offering a landslide. Lake sat in a stunned but giddy silence and gawked at all that money up there on the wall-$194 billion, defense and aerospace. Last year's military budget was $270 billion. Double that to $540 billion in four years, and the contractors would get fat again. And the workers! Wages soaring through the roof! Jobs for everyone!

Candidate Lake would be embraced by executives with the cash and unions with the votes. The initial shock began to fade, and the simplicity ofTeddy's plan became clear. Collect the cash from those who will profit. Scare the voters into racing to the polls. Win in a landslide. And in doing so save the world.

Teddy let him think for a moment, then said, "We'll do most of it through PAC's. The unions, engineers, executives, business coalitions--there's no shortage of political groups already on the books. And we'll form some others."

Lake was already forming them. Hundreds of PAC's, all flush with more cash than any election had ever seen. The shock was now completely gone, replaced by the sheer excitement of the idea. A thousand questions raced through his mind: WhQ'll be my Vice President? Who'll run the campaign? Chief of stag? Where to announce? "It might work;' he said, under control.

"Oh yes. It'll work, Mr. Lake. Trust me. We've been panning this for some time."

"How many people know about it?"

"Just a few.You've been carefully chosen, Mr. Lake. We examined mate potential candidates, and your name kept rising to the top.We've checked your background:'

"Pretty dull, huh?"

"I suppose. Although your relationship with Ms. Valotti concerns me. She's been divorced twice and likes painkillers."

"Didn't know I had a relationship with Ms. Valotti."

"You've been seen with her recently."

"You guys are watching, aren't you?"

"You expect something less?"

"I guess not."

"You took her to a black-tie cry-a-thon for oppressed women in Afghanistan. Gimme a break." Teddy's words were suddenly short and dripping with sarcasm.

"I didn't want to go."

"Then don't. Stay away from that crap. Leave it for Hollywood Valotti's nothing but trouble."

"Anybody else?" Lake asked, more than a little defensive. His private life had been pretty dull since he'd become a widower. He was suddenly proud of it.

"Not really;" Teddy said. "Ms. Benchly seems to be quite stable and makes a lovely escort."

"Oh, thank you very much."

"You'll get hammered on abortion, but you won't be the first."

"It's a tired issue," Lake said. And he was tired of grappling with it. He'd been for abortions, against abortions, soft on reproductive rights, tough on reproductive rights, pro-choice, pro-child, anti-women, embraced by the feminists. In his fourteen years on Capitol Hill he'd been chased all over the abortion minefield, getting bloodied with each new strategic move.

Abortion didn't scare him anymore, at least not at the moment. He was much more concerned with the CIA sniffing through his background.

"What about GreenTree?" he asked.

Teddy waved his right hand as if it was nothing. "Twenty-two years ago. Nobody got convicted. Your partner went bankrupt and got himself indicted, but the jury let him walk. It'll come up; everything will come up. But fiankly, Mr. Lake, we'll keep the attention diverted elsewhere. There's an advantage in jumping in at the last minute. The press won't have too much time to dig up dirt."

"I'm single. We've elected an unmarried president only once."

"You're a widower, the husband.of a very lovely lady who was well respected both here and back home. It won't be an issue. Trust me."

"So what worries you?"

"Nothing, Mr. Lake. Not a thing.You're a solid candidate, very electable. We'll create the issues and the fear, and we'll raise the money."

Lake stood again, walked around the room rubbing his hair, scratching his chin, trying to clear his head. "I have a lot of questions;" he said.

"Maybe I can answer some of them. Let's talk again tomorrow, right here, same time. Sleep on it, Mr. Lake. Time is crucial, but I suppose a man should have twenty-four hours before making such a decision." Teddy actually smiled when he said this.

"That's a wonderful idea. Let me think about it. I'll have an answer tomorrow"

"No one knows we've had this little chat."

"Of course not."

Chapter Three

In terms of space, the law library occupied exactly one fourth of the square footage of the entire Trumble library. It was in a corner, partitioned off by a wall of red brick and glass, tastefully done at taxpayer expense. Inside the law library, shelves of well-used books stood packed together with barely enough room for an inmate to squeeze between them. Around the walls were desks covered with typewriters and computers and sufficient research clutter to resemble any big-firm library.

The Brethren ruled the law library. All inmates were allowed to use it, of course, but there was an unwritten policy that one needed permission to stay there for any length of time. Maybe not permission, but at least notice.

Justice Joe Roy Spicer of Mississippi earned forty cents an hour sweeping the floors and straightening the desks and shelves. He also emptied the trash, and was generally considered to be a pig when it came to his menial tasks. Justice Hatlee Beech of Texas was the official law librarian, and at fifty cents an hour was the highest paid. He was fastidious about "his volumes," and often bickered with Spicer about their care. Justice Finn Yarber, once of the California Supreme Court, was paid twenty cents an hour as a computer technician. His pay was at the bottom of the scale because he knew so little about computers.

On a typical day,. the three spent between six and eight hours in the law library. If a Trumble inmate had a legal problem, he simply made an appointment with one of the Brethren and visited their little suite. Hadee Beech was an expert on sentencing and appeals. Finn Yarber did bankruptcies, divorces, and child support cases. Joe Roy Spicer, with no formal legal training, had no real specialty. Nor did he want one. He ran the scams.

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