Authors: Ronald Watkins
SHADOWS AND LIES
Ronald J. Watkins
© Ronald J. Watkins 2014
Cover by David E. Payne
Other books by the author
A Suspicion of Guilt
A Deadly Glitter
The Flower Girl
Nocturne: A Love Story
Against Her Will
The Naked Streets
High Crimes and Misdemeanors
Hunter: Warrior of Doridia
Against Her Will
Hunter: Warrior of Doridia
The Summit Murder Series with Charles G. Irion
Murder on Everest
Murder on Elbrus
Murder on Mt. McKinley
Murder on Puncak Jaya
Murder on Aconcagua
Murder on Vinson Masiff
Murder on Kilimanjaro
Abandoned on Everest [prequel]
...they are as shadows upon a sea obscure.
SUNDAY NIGHT, August 12
United Wire Service, Washington D.C.
FLASH FLASH FLASH
With the crisis in the Gulf beginning to overshadow the presidential campaign, the party faithful are gathered today at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the Democratic National Convention which begins tomorrow. The President and First Lady remain in Washington until later this week when both will address the convention. President Tufts said in a short statement late Sunday that he is pleased with the party platform. "It is a plank on which I know I can win re-election and lead this great nation into the next century." He had no comment on the deteriorating situation in the Gulf.
MORE TO FOLLOW...
The White House, 6:23 p.m.
"She's blackmailing us."
The First Lady, Rebecca Gordon Tufts, glared at her seated husband. "Did you hear me? Your fucking bitch is blackmailing us!"
Richard Eugene Tufts, seated on a facing couch, blanched, then answered in a quiet voice. “
is trying to blackmail us?"
"Your whore! I told you to keep it zipped, didn't I? I said I'd put up with the rumors, the humiliation, but you had to keep it zipped! That's what I told you, you son of a bitch!"
They were in the private quarters of the White House in what was technically called the Drawing Room. Mary Todd Lincoln had used it as her bedroom and it was between these walls where she began her descent into madness.
"Lower your voice. We don't need that kind of trouble again." He spoke like a husband long accustomed to soothing an angry wife.
The First Lady worked her jaw for several seconds then thrust a video tape at the President. "Here, you watch it. The goddamn bitch taped you fucking her! How am I supposed to react? Like one of your little bimbos? 'Yes, Mr. President. Oh, thank you so kindly for the quickie, Mr. President.' You're an asshole!"
Becky Tufts was out of her seat and pacing in front of the unlit fireplace. She was 49 years old and with her youthful manner and a fresh hair style, easily passed for 40. She was not pretty on scrupulous examination but was curiously attractive, even with slightly chipmunkish cheeks and a mild overbite. One eye was grey, the other just slightly blue, but it was apparent only to someone standing very close.
She was careful with her attire because she considered her behind to be large. Given the criticism Nancy Reagan received, the current First Lady's wardrobe bills were considered a secret of state by the Tufts' Administration.
Becky crossed her arms. "Go ahead, look at yourself in action. I couldn’t finish it. I threw up. Not that you give a damn."
Dick Tufts lifted the black video tape then held it in his hand in the manner of someone hefting a suspect package. "Let's talk about this like adults. How did you get this?"
"By special courier to Alta. I guess I should be surprised your little piece knows the name of my personal assistant, but I'm not. I'm beyond surprise at anything you do to me. Fortunately, I can trust Alta and she gave the tape to me."
"She viewed it?"
"Of course! How else would she know if it was something to bother me with? Don't worry about Alta.
isn't the problem."
The President paused then said, "You're certain this is from..." He stopped.
"Don't want to say her name? I'm supposed to act as if I don't know it? Julie! There! Julie bitch Marei! Why don't you say it? She's your little stewardess playmate. The least she deserves is for you to say her name."
Dick Tufts was also 49. He was over six feet tall, struggled successfully with his weight and bore an expression of concerned interest in almost everything he did. He had a pallid complexion, a problem for a man who blushed easily, and eyes set too closely together to appear entirely trustworthy. His thick hair, the primary focus of his vanity, was carefully coifed. Many women considered him handsome, others thought he looked like the fat boy at school now grown up. His voice tended to be high pitched, especially when he was excited and neglected to make an effort to lower it.
"There was a note with it," his wife said. "Your shack job demands $500,000 for her silence, this tape and others she says she's got." The First Lady nervously tapped a Marlboro Light from a fresh pack on the mantel then lit up and inhaled deeply.
"I can't believe it," Tufts said, appearing more hurt than disturbed. "I just can't believe..."
Suddenly Becky burst into tears. "Well, believe it." She bit her upper lip and turned away from him. "I..." For several long moments the room was as silent as it had ever been since they moved in just over three and a half years before. "Did you know she taped you doing her?" the First Lady finally asked, still facing away.
"Of course not!" her husband protested. His eyes fluttered and he gazed momentarily at the ceiling as Becky spun around.
She smirked. "Of course you did. It was probably your idea. My God you are an idiot! I should have divorced you years ago when Daddy first wanted me to. You really better watch that tape. It isn't just sex, you know."
"What are you taking about?"
"That's the part that really hurts. I've put up with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum on the staff, those tarts you fuck on the road. I even tolerated your stewardess shack job. But to hear you talk about me like that." Her eyes were suddenly vulnerable. "That's what really hurts." She collapsed into a chair.
"Ah, shit," Tufts muttered.
"It's not just me either. You should hear what you say about Jesse Jackson. You call him a 'colored welfare bastard' with, as I recall, 'an IQ the size of his puny cock.' There goes the black vote if this gets out. You call the National Organization of Women, the National Organization of Nags and say they're a bunch of 'butch dikes.' Environmentalists are ‘wacko tree hugger Commies.’ But worst you brag that liberals are chumps, that all you have to do is say the right things and they fall for it every time." The President started to speak. "Wait. There's more. You were on a roll. You insulted every interest group you need to get re-elected. Gays are fags or queers. Latinos are beaners. Then, when you had your say, you eat her out. Oh, fuck you!" Becky gabbed the nearest telephone.
"Don't!" Tufts shouted throwing his arms awkwardly in front of him. She let fly as he ducked but the cord pulled the telephone up short and it fell loudly to the carpet with a single half ring of the bell.
It was Martin Karp, Chief Counsel, peering around the door.
"I said we weren't to be disturbed!" the First Lady shouted not taking her eyes from her husband.
"I'm sorry," Karp said, "but the National Security Council is seated and waiting. Mr. Kissinger, who we especially asked to attend so this would be seen as a bi-partisan effort, is threatening to walk out. You know how he can be. We were already forced to advance the time for the meeting to accommodate your coffee klatch later tonight. It’s the Thai group we discussed. There’s a lot of money at stake so we don’t want to irritate them as well by starting late. But we certainly don't want Kissinger holding an impromptu press conference on the White House steps. Ferguson needs to issue a statement within the hour to catch tomorrow's newspapers. The last thing we want is for this meeting to turn into a PR disaster."
"I'll be out in a few minutes, Marty." The President had locked eyes with his wife.
"He'll be out in a little while!" Becky shouted. "Now get the fuck out of here!"
Once the door was closed Tufts sighed then said, "Let's talk about this. But like adults."
Becky's eyes narrowed. "Fine. Let's talk." Her jaw was set at an ugly angle and she flicked her cigarette repeatedly with her thumb. "You're the Teflon kid. Let's see you sleaze your way out of this, Dicky boy."
The President cleared his throat. "First, I can't believe she'd do this. Someone must be putting her up to it, holding a gun to her head or something."
"Oh, that's a fine thought. Just how many people know about you two, and your orgy tapes, do you think?"
"No one. We've always been very careful. What I'm saying, is I just can't accept she'd do this on her own."
"Well, she better be. Use your
head for a change. If anyone else is in on this with her, we are dead meat." Becky returned to her seat on the powder blue couch in front of her husband. "Who's getting us out of this? That's the question. We have to pay, right? And get the tapes back. There's no choice. Guthers will chew us up and spit us out if he gets his hands on any of this. Hell, our dear friends in the media will do the job for him, and I'm not even considering talk radio.”
“I know how this sounds," the President said tentatively, "but maybe we should risk the Secret Service. We can go straight to the director. After all, I appointed him. What do you think? We obviously can't trust the Bureau, the CIA, or any of the intelligence people."
"And you trust those asshole Secret Service types? The director's no friend of ours and even if he were, he can't control his troops, not like we need. They're the ones who told the press about our fighting. Don't you remember? Jesus, they can't wait to learn about something this juicy. They want to pull us down, don't you get it even now? It's just like back home. Anyone, I mean
, we give this mess to will
us. Don't you see? We better be damn certain we aren't just substituting one blackmailer for another."
Tufts sounded hesitant as I said, "Maybe Marty then."
Becky guffawed. "If word gets out that the President's Chief Counsel is nosing around some stewardess type, and it will, since he's as well-known as any of us inside the Beltway, we'll have a disaster. Any more bright ideas?"
This time Tufts sounded resigned. "I suppose Chesty then. He..."
"Fucking Chesty? That's your best thought? I've told you and Marty from the start that I think he's a slime urchin, slithering around in the dark, doing God knows what. We never should have brought him with us to Washington. He knows way too much. You've used him too often in the past. Are you forgetting that he came to us from military intelligence? Yeah, he'll take care of the dirty little hack jobs, but do you really trust him with something like this? I sure as hell don't. I've always suspected he was a plant even if Marty says he’s the one who found him. I don't care how much he's done for us in the past, I still don't know his loyalties and neither do you. We're in Washington now, remember? He's got way too many connections we don't know about.”