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Home > The Brethren(9)

The Brethren(9)
Author: John Grisham

He'd take the $90,000 from his backyard, add it to his share of the Angola scam, and move to Vegas. With or without her. She hadn't been to Trumble in four months, although she used to come every three weeks. He had nightmares of her plowing up the backyard looking for his buried treasure. He was almost convinced she didn't know about the money, but there was room for doubt. He'd been drinking two nights before being shipped off to prison, and had said something about the $90,000. He couldn't remember his exact words. Try as he might, he simply could not recall what he'd told her.

He lit another Marlboro at mile one. Maybe she had a boyfriend now. Rita Spicer was an attractive woman, a little chunky in places but nothing $90,000 couldn't hide. What if she and a new squeeze had found the money and were already spending it? One of Joe Roy's worst recurring nightmares was a scene from a bad movie-Rita and some unknown male with shovels digging like idiots in the rain. Why the rain, he didn't know. But it was always at night, in the middle of a thunderstorm, and the lightning would flash and he would see them slogging their way through the backyard, each time getting nearer and nearer to the tooished.

In one dream the new mystery boyfriend was on a bulldozer, pushing piles of dirt all over the Spicer farm while Rita stood nearby, pointing here and there with her shovel.

Joe Roy craved the money. He could feel the cash in his hands. He would steal and extort all he could while he counted his days at Trumble, then he would rescue his buried loot and head for Vegas. No one in his hometown would have the pleasure of pointing and whispering and saying, "There's old Joe Roy. Guess he's out of the pen now" No sir.

He'd be -living the high life. With or without her.

Chapter Four

Teddy looked at his pill bottles lined along the edge of his table, like little executioners ready to take away his misery. York was seated across from him, reading from his notes.

York said, "He was on the phone until three this morning, talking to friends in Arizona."

"Who?"

"Bobby Lander, Jim Gallison, Richard Hassel, the usual gang. His money people."

"Dale Winer?"

"Yes, him too;" York said, amazed at Teddy's recall. Teddy had his eyes closed now, and was rubbing his temples. Somewhere between them, somewhere deep in his brain, he knew the names of Lake's friends, his contributors, his confidants, his poll workers, and his old high school teachers. All of it neatly tucked away, ready to be used if necessary.

"Anything unusual?"

"No, not really. Just the typical questions you'd expect from a man contemplating such an unexpected move. His friends were surprised, even shocked, and somewhat reluctant, but they'll come around."

"Did they ask about money?"

"Of course. He was vague, said it would not be a problem, though. They are skeptical."

"Did he keep our secrets?"

"He certainly did."

"Was he worried about us listening?"

"I don't think so. He made eleven calls from his office and eight from his home. None from his cell phones."

"Faxes? E-mail?"

"None. He spent two hours with Schiara, his-"

"Chief of staff."

"Right. They basically planned the campaign. Schiara wants to run it. They like Nance of Michigan as VE

"Not a bad choice."

"He looks fine. We're already checking him. Had a divorce when he was twenty-three, but that was thirty years ago"

"Not a problem. Is Lake ready to commit?"

"Oh yes. He's a politician, isn't he? He's been promised the keys to the kingdom. He's already writing speeches."

Teddy removed a pill from a bottle and swallowed it without the aid of anything liquid. He finwned as if it was bitter. He squeezed the wrinkles in his forehead and said, "York, tell me we're not missing anything on this guy. No skeletons."

"No skeletons, Chief. We've examined his dirty underwear for six months. There's nothing that can hurt us."

"He's not going to marry some fool; is he?"

"No. He dates several women, but nothing serious."

"No sex with his interns?"

"None. He's clean."

They were repeating a dialogue they'd had many times. Once more wouldn't hurt.

"No shady financial deals from another lifetime?"

"This is his life, Chief. There's nothing back there."

"Booze, drugs, prescription pills, gambling on the Internet?"

"No sir. He's very clean, sober, straight, bright, pretty remarkable."

"Let's talk to him."

Aaron Lake was once again escorted to the same room deep inside Langley, this time with three handsome young men guarding him as if danger lurked at every corner. He walked even quicker than the day before, his head even taller, his back without the slightest curve. His stature was rising by the hour.

Once again he said hello to Teddy and shook his calloused hand, then followed the quilt-laden wheelchair into the bunker and sat across the table. Pleasantries were exchanged. York watched from a room down the hall where three monitors hooked to hidden cameras relayed every word, every movement. Next to York were two men who spent their time studying tapes of people as they talked and breathed and moved their hands and eyes and heads and feet, in an effort to determine what the speakers really meant.

"Did you sleep much last night?" Teddy asked, managing a smile.

"Yes, actually," Lake lied.

"Good. I take it you're willing to accept our deal."

"Deal? I didn't know it was exactly a deal."

"Oh yes, Mr. Lake, it's exactly a deal. We promise to get you elected, and you promise to double defense spending and get ready for the Russians."

"Then you have a deal."

"That's good, Mr. Lake. I'm very pleased. You'll make an excellent candidate and a fine President."

The words rang through Lake's ears, and he couldn't believe them. President Lake. President Aaron Lake. He'd paced the floor until five that morning trying to convince himself that the White House was being offered to him. It seemed too easy.

And as hard as he tried, he couldn't ignore the trappings. The Oval Office. All those jets and helicopters. The world to be traveled. A hundred aides at his beck and call. State dinners with the most powerful people in the world.

And, above all, a place in history.

Oh yes, Teddy had himself a deal.

"Let's talk about the campaign itself," Teddy said. "I think you should announce two days after New Hampshire. Let the dust settle. Let the winners get their fifteen minutes and let the losers sling more mud, then announce."

"That's pretty fast," Lake said.

"We don't have a lot of time. We ignore New Hampshire and get ready for Arizona and Michigan on February twenty-second. It's imperative that you win those two states. When you do, you establish yourself as a serious candidate, and you're set for the month of March."

"I was thinking of announcing back home, somewhere in Phoenix."

"Michigan's better. It's a bigger state, fifty-eight delegates, compared to twenty-four for Arizona.You'll be expected to win at home. If you win in Michigan on the same day, then you're a candidate to be reckoned with. Announce in Michigan first, then do it again hours later in your home district."

"An excellent idea."

"There's a helicopter plant in Flint, D-L Trilling. They have a large hangar, four thousand workers. The CEO is a man I can talk to."

"Book it;" Lake said, certain that Teddy had already chatted with the CEO.

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