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Check Your Pockets for Scandal

by Craig W. Turner about a year ago in politicians
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Stay warm.

Calvin Chase shook his head as he crept away from the crowd listening to the presentations. U.S. Senator Gerald “Jerry” Stevens’ speech had been his motivation to bolt. He knew that he would, by nature and by occupation, disagree with every word the senator said, but today’s comments at the chamber of commerce’s annual political soiree were beyond bearable.

So, out into the cold, and onto the next event – his third of the evening. He understood why so many events were scheduled in January, with people’s ability to gather and raise money stunted by busy holiday schedules, but up north, like here in Providence, on a cold day like this you really just wanted to get home. He loved his job, but if he had to do three events in one night, he’d prefer them to be outside, on a patio, in warmer weather.

Sifting through a coat rack sporting an endless array of seemingly identical charcoal gray trench coats, he found his, pulled it on and headed outside. Immediately upon leaving the building, his breath illuminated into steam, and the sting of temperatures hovering around zero hit his nostrils. The devil on his shoulder reminded him how warm and cozy his couch at home would be, but he’d get there soon enough.

Once inside his Honda Civic, he was immediately thankful for his parents’ help in leasing a newer car. Not because of the finances, or the convenience, but because it warmed up very quickly.

His next event, a library fundraiser, was a short jaunt away. He had no formal role, but needed to be seen before he could head home.

Arriving at the library, he hopped out just as a breeze hit him, certainly dragging the wind chill into the negative numbers. He stuck his gloveless hands – he hated gloves and refused to wear them – deep into the warm pockets of his London Bay coat, a gift from his mother when he’d gotten his first “real” job, at party headquarters.

Cal stopped short.

He’d picked up the wrong coat.

His right hand felt a small notebook, which wasn’t his. He pulled it out to inspect it, hoping it would offer some clue as to what poor soul he’d left coatless. It was non-descript from the outside, just a plain black leather cover. He flipped through the first dozen pages to find a list of women’s names with phone numbers scribbled in pencil, almost comically stereotypical for an actual “little black book.” After each woman’s first and last names was a man’s name in parentheses. Cal took in page after page of these until he reached blanks two-thirds of the way through.

Checking the left pocket, he felt a plastic sheet, easily identifiable from touch as a nametag with a lapel clasp. He still had on a sticker name tag from the chamber event, so this was from another. He pulled it out and nearly dropped it when he saw whose coat he’d taken.

United States Senator from Rhode Island, Hon. Jerry Stevens.

Strangely, the first thing that went through his mind was how his team let that happen. The senator had walked into the event with an entourage of at least a half-dozen people. No one carried his coat for a faster exit?

Next, he flashed to what needed to happen to get the coat back to them. By now, they were likely searching for it, and wouldn’t be able to deduce where it had gone until everyone had left, with only one coat remaining on the rack. His. But he knew there was still at least an hour left in the event, and the senator wouldn’t wait around forever.

He pulled his phone from his suit coat pocket to see if he had contact information for anyone at the chamber of commerce. He did, the deputy government affairs director, a young woman he’d once asked out on a date. Hoping she hadn't slipped him a fake cell number, as he’d never actually followed up, he went to make the call.

But he stopped himself. Was that book filled actually filled with women’s names?

Suddenly, he was in the midst of a moral dilemma. Here he was, a low-level political operative now in possession of a book containing women’s names and contact information that belonged to one of the most powerful people in the state, and the enemy of their party. At some point, they would learn that he had it, putting a target on him, but for the moment he had a unique opportunity to become a hero and potentially change the face of politics in the state, not to mention the country, given the balance of power in Washington.

He took a deep breath and returned to his car, contemplating possible courses of action. He would have to give the coat and book back as soon as that evening. There was no way around that. He didn’t need to spend the rest of his life worrying if starting his car would be the last time he did so. But could he somehow get the scandal into the hands of his own people in the meantime?

Knowing time was against him, his first step had to be letting someone know. If they found his coat alone on the rack, then his control over the situation was gone. He dialed his contact at the chamber.

She answered and he could hear the din of the crowd behind her. He explained the situation.

“Oh, great,” she let out a sigh of relief. “We were looking everywhere for it. The senator left already, but I’ll contact his folks and tell them to connect with you. Is this your cell?”

He confirmed it was and they hung up. The clock was ticking. They would know that he was had the book, and he would ultimately have to face one of the senator’s staff members.

Having activated the process, another thought hit him: what kind of a person did this make him? Politics was a game of cut-throat strategy, but something felt wrong about what he was plotting. The senator was a political enemy of what Cal stood for, but he didn’t know anything about him as a person. Would leaking the information in his little black book end his career? Ruin his marriage? Was he a person who wanted to be responsible for doing that to someone?

His phone buzzed on his lap and he answered.

“Cal Chase?”

“Yes.”

“This is Scott from Senator Stevens’ office. I hear you picked up the senator’s coat by mistake.”

“I did. How can I get it back to you?” They’d probably already compiled a detailed file on him, knew his job and his affiliation, and would have to be concerned that he’d gone through the pockets.

“Can you meet me at Hallowed Grounds in fifteen minutes?”

That was strange. A coffee shop? Couldn’t they just pull to the side of the road somewhere? “I can.”

He laughed that, oddly, he was still wearing the senator’s coat as he plotted his demise, and before driving away, he stepped out of the car and slipped it off. It was freezing, but it would be exceptionally bad form to show up actually wearing it.

The pause led him to go through his options again, and he decided to leave them open. Picking up his phone, he switched on the interior light and began taking pictures. First, of the cover of the book, on the passenger seat with the nametag. Then, with haste, he ran through the first twenty pages or so of the book, snapping shots of the list. His heart pounded as he envisioned the hero’s welcome he’d receive at headquarters when he delivered the filth.

Finally, he shoved things back into their respective pockets and pulled away, making the quick drive to the agreed-upon rendezvous. He saw no one waiting outside, so he grabbed the coat and made his way in. Only one customer was inside, a thirty-something, suited man with short black hair, sitting at a table alone and making eye contact with him. Cal recognized him from the event, so he approached.

“Thanks for meeting me,” Scott greeted without introduction. Cal handed the coat across the table. “Have a seat.”

He obliged, sliding into the closest chair, confident where the conversation was headed. He was surprised, however, when Scott produced a brown paper bag from his lap and slid it across the table to him. Confused, he opened it to find cash inside.

“That’s twenty thousand dollars,” he said.

“Twenty thou-” he stammered. “What’s this for?”

“Look, Cal, we know who you are, and who you work for. I’m assuming you looked in the coat pockets?”

He nodded. “I did, yes.”

“And you found a book?”

“Yes.”

“What did you see in the book?” He was calm and matter-of-fact, especially given the enormity of what could result if the conversation went badly.

He didn’t show it on his face, but he felt an air of cockiness. “Women’s names and phone numbers.”

“Anything else?”

He shook his head. Wasn’t that enough?

“But you knew you had to give it back, and right away. So, I’m betting that if I looked at your phone right now, I’d see that you’ve taken pictures of all those names and numbers, yes?”

That one he didn’t answer.

“I’ll take that as a yes. What do you think you found, Cal?”

“Something that wouldn’t be very good for the senator.” He was impressing himself with his ability to hang in a tense conversation with a seasoned operative.

But now, Scott reached into the coat and produced the book, then leaned forward onto the table. “Let me tell you what you found.” He flipped into the first few pages and held up a random one. “These women? They’re Navy wives, stationed at Newport. Their husbands – you see the names in parentheses here – are overseas. When they’re deployed, the senator reaches out personally to each one of these women to offer them encouragement, then explain to them their benefits. He’s been doing it for years. In fact, deeper into the book, you’ll see that there are now military husbands listed, as well, with their wives’ names next to them.” He flipped again, showing him an example, then paused for a reaction.

Cal had none. Depleted, he could only nod.

“The senator keeps this book on him at all times to honor them.” He paused. “But, it’s refreshing to know that you think he’s having sex with all of these people.”

He let out a sigh, which hung in the air for a moment, then touched the bag. “What’s this for then?”

“Get out your phone.”

He did, thumbing voluntarily to his photo gallery, and began deleting the pictures. “But, for that? Wouldn’t a leak be more embarrassing for me than for the senator?”

“All of them?” Cal nodded. “Now, the trash bin. Did you e-mail any?”

He shook his head and followed the directions, finally setting his phone on the table. “You can check it, if you’d like.”

“No need.” Scott held up the book again. “I’m gathering in your haste, you didn’t look through to the end of the book?”

“I didn’t.”

“The last few pages are a hit list of people who have crossed the senator. It’s something else he likes to keep on him at all times. This twenty thousand is to ensure that your name never has to be included in those pages. Clear?”

“Crystal clear.” Which it was.

“You probably want to go get your coat,” Scott said, ending their meeting. “You’re a smart guy. Big things ahead of you. I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail.”

Cal didn’t know if he should thank him or acknowledge the faux encouragement, so he simply stood, nodded, and walked away.

Outside, the frigid air went immediately through him, focusing his mind on one thing and one thing only…

Getting his coat.

politicians

About the author

Craig W. Turner

Whether he’s writing political thrillers or science fiction, Craig’s experiences in politics can be felt throughout his novels. His writing is painted with real-life experiences and perspectives.

www.craigwturner.com

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