“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
It was almost midnight.
The man’s footsteps echoed down the dark hallway, the leather soles clicking loudly against the marble and linoleum-tiled mosaic floors of the Capitol Building. He flashed his badge at another security checkpoint and they waived him through.
As he walked, disdain permeated his thoughts. What was this country coming to, that a greasy little weasel like Sheldon Runyon was the best hope the once proud Republican Party had to preserve its relevance? He stopped to light a cigarette. He wouldn’t be but a few minutes late. Runyon could wait.
“Fuck’em.” He thought to himself.
He liked this particular corridor. No guards at night. Few smoke detectors. He took a long draw off his Marlboro and continued down the hall, crushing it out and tossing it in the last garbage receptacle before reaching the office of one Senator Sheldon Runyon, Republican from Louisiana. He knocked on the door, opening it when asked to come on in.
He opened the door with a smirk. Apparently he had extinguished his cigarette prematurely, as the Senator himself was sitting behind his desk, puffing away.
“Good evening, Jacob. Come in, come in. Sit down.”
Jacob did not care for this man, but he made himself comfortable. He pulled out another cigarette. “Do you mind if I…?”
The Senator just shook his head, and offered him a light. “Officially, this building is smoke free, but this is MY office and I’ll do as I please.” This air of defiance struck Jacob as odd, coming as it did in what he felt was a distinctly effeminate-sounding Southern lilt. Runyon was unmarried, and whenever Jacob had seen him, or heard him speak, he always wondered if he was secretly gay. “Christ, Teddy Kennedy used to bring his god-damned dogs right into the Senate chambers! So screw ‘em, am I right?”
An uncomfortable moment, during which Jacob tried to figure out if he meant that remark sarcastically or sexually. He’d have to stop that line of thought. He really didn’t need the visuals that came with it. “Sir, there was the something you wanted to discuss with me?”
Runyon leaned back in his chair, took a long draw of his cigarette, and exhaled slowly as he carefully regarded the young man in front of him. “Jacob, tell me: What do you think about what has been going on lately. Politically, I mean. Do you like the direction this country is heading in?”
Jacob squinted back at him, talking a draw himself, and then quickly blowing upwards, as if to avoid sending smoke in the direction of the Senator. “Sir, this country is going to hell in a damned hurry. We’re quickly become a terrorist-coddling, nurse-maid welfare state. Does that sum it up nicely enough for you?”
Runyon smiled. “Almost, son, almost. Except that it far more insidious than that. In truth this country is fast becoming a Socialist dictatorship, in which Patriotic Americans such as you and I will soon find our voices silenced and out very political views systematically squelched, if not outlawed strait up.”
The extremism in the Senator’s evaluation surprised even Jacob. “With all due respect, sir, I think you’re being a bit of an alarmist.”
“Well… Look, it’s not like I support, well… ANYTHING that’s been passed since our Community Organizer-in-Chief took office; but what you’re suggesting…”
“Is crazy?” Runyon asked, raising his eyebrows. “Tell me, Jacob, are you familiar with the new Campaign finance rules that were passed earlier this year?”
“And you are aware that the Bill’s primary backer made sure to flood the bankrolls of its supporters, and those who’ve supported everything else that’s been passed into law, BEFORE the Bill took effect?”
“Well, no, I wasn’t aware of that, but still…”
“And now there’s THIS,” he said, pointing to the pages spread across his desk. “This… ‘Proportionate Pay Act.’ Have you heard about it?”
“Yes, I have.”
“And it’s just more of the same Socialist Bullshit that’s been getting crammed down our throats all year. So?”
“Son… The campaign finance laws might have easily circumvented: A single vote to raise the spending limits, which few would oppose outright, and we could close the gap, even outraise them, fairly easily. But THIS? Well… Once passed, it’s NOT something the public is going to let go of very easily. And the REAL effect of this will be that no matter how much money we raised from our supporters – those job-creators and captains of industry and entrepreneurship that they keep derisively referring to as ‘the top 1%’ – they will be able to counter, as they will not only outnumber us, but our supporters will be forced, by law, to overpay theirs. Think about that: They will be able to use our own money to drown us out.”
Another long drag. “How absurd. The founding fathers would be throwing up in their graves.”
A smile from the Senator. “I’m sure they would. Tell me… What do you know about… Edward Carpenter.”
Jacob Shrugged. “I’ve heard the name.”
“And what, exactly have you heard?”
“Just rumors really. That he’s blackmailing some people; bribing others. That he’s somehow connected to all the New Year’s Eve deaths; though I don’t really buy that. Even something about him ‘rising from the dead,’ if you can believe it.” Jacob was laughing at that last bit. Runyon was not. “Sir…?”
“Jacob, the fact is that there IS a man named Edward Carpenter. He is a real man, and he certainly holds some significant sway over many members of Congress. I don’t know if he’s connected with those deaths or not, but enough people seem to believe he is that the real truth of the matter is irrelevant. The fact is that he is a man who has become very much feared.”
“So he’s… pulling the strings, then?”
Runyon nodded, giving a satisfied smile. “The fact is that there is no shortage of Congressman willing to kill this Proportionate Pay Act, and even dismantle most, if not all, of what he’s ramrodded through these past months.”
“Except that they’re scared. They’ve seen their predecessors take their own lives, renouncing everything we stand for while doing it. The dead may not hold sway over the living, but occuring as it did could not help but to make a serious impression on a man.”
“And they’ve seen they’re cohorts made to look ridiculous, one after another changing their votes, and being rendered permanently politically irrelevant. All refusing to give any explanation of their actions after the fact. What does that sound like to you?”
“Blackmail. But for it to happen on such a large scale…”
“…Means that he’s got to have an awful lot of friends in the know, and on the inside.”
Jacob whistled at the thought of this.
“And that’s why I’ve asked you here tonight. I think you’re someone I can trust, in these… desperate times.”
“Trust with… desperate measures?” Jacob’s enthusiastic smile was met with one filled with daggers from the Senator. “But sir… Surely there’s someone else who can…?”
Runyan leaned backed again, cocking an eyebrow. “Oh, yes, it’s BEEN tried already. It was classified, but apparently back in January, the President authorized his… execution.”
Jacob was shocked. “Huh. I never thought he’d have had in him. So what happened?”
“Change of heart – at the very last moment.”
Jacob snorted derisively. “Typical Democrat.”
But Runyon slammed his hand down on his desk, startling the younger man, “Don’t! Don’t do that! Don’t MAKE that mistake, young man! Don’t start believing the bullshit we used to send out through friends in the media. This President is not the man he’s been painted as. He comes to decisions slowly and cautiously, as any sensible leader should, but he’s NOT a flip-flopper! If something changed, then I have to believe that someone inside GOT to him! Which only further goes to show how well-connected this Carpenter character really is!”
“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to…”
But Runyon waved his hand. “That’s all right. I’m sorry I snapped at you, son. But I have seen too many people underestimate this man already. And the fact is that he needs to GO. And that’s why I’m giving you this.” The Senator slid a .45 caliber handgun across the desk. “You recognize the make of this?”
“Yes, sir, I do.”
“Can you tell me the serial number?”
Jacob picked the piece up and looked it over. “No, sir, I can’t,” he replied, placing it back on the desk.
“Never added. By any official record, this gun, and two others just like it, do not exist.”
Jacob looked back incredulously. “Really? How’s that possible?”
“Well, for starters, it’s just one of MANY things that are possible when you have friends in high places in the industry of firearms manufacturing. As for the exact nature, this gun was treated as a quality defect and disposed of. Except… that it wasn’t.”
“So, fine, it’s untraceable. But… it’s defective?”
Runyon laughed as he finished off his cigarette and put it out. “No, no, son. Nothing wrong with it at all. It was merely marked that way on paper, and then removed from the bin before it could be disposed of. Like I said: Friends in the right places.”
“So… You want me to kill him?”
Runyon nodded, his wolfish smiled never dimming.
“With this? Why not just hit him with a sniper or something?”
“Good question. Tell me, son: Do you know how many agencies, in a post-9/11 world have to be notified if you are putting a gunman on the roof of a building in Washington D.C.?”
“No, sir, I don’t.”
“Well… Neither do I, but it’s enough that it would be nigh impossible to keep Carpenter’s people from finding out about it. And if I just put the man up there myself without telling anyone…”
“He’ll be shot.”
“And I’ll go to jail. So I’m afraid this is how it has to be.”
“OK, so what’s the plan then?”
“There is a procedural vote coming up in the Senate that could table this Bill indefinitely, or put it on the path of inevitable passage. What the Senate needs to hear before this happens is that Carpenter is out of the way. Then they can vote… as their consciences dictate.”
Jacob nodded as Runyon continued.
“The government has been observing these people, and we have reason to believe that they will be gathering at a place called High and Low - It’s a shitty little dive-bar in Alexandria that he owns – to watch the proceedings on CSPAN, if the rumors are to be believed.”
“You say, ‘They.’ He’s got an entourage then?”
Runyon waved his hands dismissively. “Mostly academics and bloggers. No one to be too concerned about, except of one: A Secret Service Agent named ‘West.’ He is a threat.”
“OK, so what do you have in mind?”
“The key here is to keep everything as simple as possible. Once their cars arrive – likely a pair of limousines, if they follow their most recent pattern of behavior – one of you will approach from the North, and one from the South. One of you will encounter West, and the other Carpenter. Whoever draws West need only occupy him long enough for the other to hit Carpenter. West can be killed, if necessary, but he’s not really important either way. The man we NEED dead is Carpenter. So once West is tied up, get as close as you can to Carpenter and pull this trigger until the gun goes ‘click.’”
“How many of us are there?”
“Just three: You and the other gunman, and a driver, who will be waiting across the street from the club. And you three are the ONLY people, aside from myself, who know about this.”
“And you trust the other two?”
“With my life and the future of my country. It suffices to say that they are all of a similar mind to ourselves.”
“And what happens afterwards? What’s in it for us?”
“Well, of course, to start with you will be well paid: Ten million dollars each has already be placed in a Cayman Islands account in your new names. The driver has been supplied with fake passports to get you out of the country. You can stay down there as long as you want, or at least until the investigation into Carpenter’s death has been concluded. Somehow… I don’t think it will be too difficult to wrangle out a couple of pardons. Believe me when I say that literally NO ONE is going to miss this guy.”
Jacob leaned forward and picked up the gun.
Runyon looked him dead in the eye. “Can I count on you, son?”
“Yes, sir. Yes, you can.”