Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

 

Chapter 1

 

Jack Remington gulped his second vodka martini and raised his voice an octave or two. "Your guy has to get right on the law and order issue or he will lose the election. It's as simple as that, Geena. Is there any part of what I just said that you do not understand?"

Geena hated herself for allowing Jack Remington to lecture her as if she were college girl. He was even more a bully than her father, retired Capt. Joseph "Buck" Fallon of the Philadelphia Police Department.

She forced a countenance of attentiveness while Jack grooved on the sound of his own words and his awareness that he scared hell out of Geena over lunch at the Slate on West 56th street in Manhattan, around the corner from CBS.

Geena thought she spotted Ed Bradley on a cell phone at a table just beyond the mahogany bar. She resisted the temptation to ask Jack for confirmation about Rather's patronage of the Slate. It would only make her look undeniably sophomoric in the backdraft of the Remington glow.

"Likely voters see your boy as half a fag. He has to show he has balls, Geena. The really weird thing is that your boy is not doing nearly as well among women as he should. He's charming and good looking enough to be a movie star. But he doesn't make them feel safe. That's the end game, Geena. Voters want a protector. It's that simple!"

"Every time they pick up a newspaper they read about somebody murdering somebody else," Jack Remington continued. "Or it's about kids dressed in black spraying a school yard with bullets from an automatic weapon. Or a seemingly normal woman killing her own children. These are the things that resonate. At this moment, I tell you, New Jersey voters are looking for a governor who will give them a sense that they're protected. Your boy has to persuade them that he can be that guy."

The waitress, Denise, interrupted Jack's analysis with his usual order, a grilled cheese sandwich with pickle. Denise, a little past 40, kept her legs in chorus line shape even though they failed to carry her to the big show business career she dreamed about upon her arrival in New York 20 years earlier. Geena surmised Jack lunched at the Slate most of the time because of the ego boost he got from Denise's flirtations.

Normally, Jack threw down one martini but Geena assumed he ordered the second one because he felt badly about having to deliver bad news to her on the latest polling results. The statistics showed with election day two months off that "her boy," Matt Moran, trailed Harvey Denton by eight points in the June 4 primary election for governor of New Jersey. Geena knew that Jack took a fatherly approach in his dealings with her, even though he'd jump into the sack with her in a heartbeat if she even hinted at an opening. They had talked previously about how leading Matt Moran to victory would establish Geena as a big-time political guru and the fame and fortune that would go with it. This was Geena's big chance and she knew that within Jack's tough exterior was a heart rooting for Geena to succeed.

Known as the "Silver Fox" because of his shock of closely cropped white hair, Jack Remington had been an established star on the Democratic guru circuit for 25 years. Most of Jack's big wins were in New York providing road maps to the hearts and minds of voters for more than two dozen candidates pursuing the office of mayor, governor, U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, etc. His firm grossed between $6 and $8 million a year, a number that tripled 10 years ago when he was discovered by corporate America and shifted his emphasis to non-political work. Jack is also known as a maverick because of his disdain for political correctness and his unwillingness to open an office in Washington. This places him on the second tier among politicos but he is nonetheless recognized as one of the stars of the game, albeit out of the capital mainstream and growing old.

Pollsters are a special breed of know-it-alls and Jack Remington was typical. They draft their questionnaires, select their test audience and run the interviews. They return with a formula for victory, provided the candidate is willing to tell voters in their speeches, news releases and television commercials only and precisely what the voters want to hear. Really good pollsters, like Jack Remington honing in on the law and order issue, discover in the research the cutting issues that provide an edge to one side or the other. Geena sometimes wondered what George Washington would have done about that controversial war with England if somebody like Jack Remington had been around. What would old George have done if a 17th century pollster advised him beforehand that the voting-eligible population broke 55/45 against crossing the Delaware River to attack the Hessians at Trenton. But then she remembered not even focus group could have been assembled then because there were no freaking registered voters at the time.

Jack clasped his hands behind his head and looked sternly into Geena's brown eyes.

"And what about the Ted Bundy thing? How's that going?"

Diners snapped their heads to focus on Jack and Geena when they overheard the name of the most despicable murderer in history. Even the term serial killer was coined because of Bundy and his horrific crimes. Geena shot a few hard looks around the room to back off the snoopers. She leaned into the table and whispered, "I have been laying the groundwork for the past month and I am now ready to pull the trigger. It's a tough trick to pull off and I had been hoping your polling results would tell us we're on the right track without having to do the Bundy thing. But I guess we have no choice."

"You're damn right about that, Geena," Jack responded, his booming voice at mid-level volume. "Stop wasting time on this. I tested hypothetically how people would feel if your boy solved the Coed murders and pinned it on Ted Bundy. It flipped things completely. It showed them clearly that Matt Moran has both compassion and a pair of balls. Solving the coed murders would mean Moran could beat Denton by eight points rather than the other way around. Believe it or not, this could position Matt for the presidency four years from now. He has everything going for him - except a strong selling point on the law and order issue."

Geena stuffed Jack Remington's written report into her handbag, kissed him on the cheek and hurried out of the Slate. She paid the $45 parking fee to retrieve her Jeep Grand Cherokee then inched her way along Seventh Avenue to the Lincoln Tunnel towards the New Jersey Turnpike.

 

            Bash Kenyon picked up the phone on the third ring. "Kenyon? It's Geena Fallon. Remember me?" Kenyon was stunned and could not speak for a full ten seconds.

           

            "Kenyon?"

 

            "I'm here, Geena, and yes I do have a vague recollection, like yesterday in the gym. My workout calls for ten repetitions of each exercise. I always do eleven. That's because your birthday is November 11, and when I do the extra lift I tell myself, 'This one's for Geena.' Yeah, I guess you could say your name ring's a bell."

 

            "Same old 'Bash' Kenyon. The rapier is never sheathed."

 

            Kenyon wondered if Geena could hear his heart pounding over the telephone. He was thankful she could not see the color drain from his face. Nor could she tell his mouth had gone dry. They had not spoken in ten years, not since he came home from a weekend assignment and found she had cleared her stuff out of the cottage they shared. She left a hand-written note: "Gotta go now. Explanation to come." It never came. Rumors circulated, confirmed by an item in the April 22, 1988, issue of Newsweek about the upset primary election victory of Hannah Springwater.


 

                                                PAT GARRETT'S GRANDSON

                                                FALLS IN HAIL OF BALLOTS

For the past 12 years, DeForrest M. Garrett has represented a State Senate district situated southeast of Tucson, Ariz., based on his tough positions on extending the death penalty to rapists and career criminals as well as his lineage to the legendary Sheriff Pat Garrett.  He lost his bid for an unprecedented fourth four-year term when newcomer Hannah Springwater, a Native-American public health nurse, beat him by 76 votes in the May 2 primary election for the Democratic nomination.

 

Her victory came in part because of an attack on the incumbent's claim to the ancestral Garrett connection. Ms. Springwater's research team traced public records in five states to unearth the truth: "DeForrest M. Garrett" was actually born Noah Doe to Sylvia Frankel, father unknown, in Washington, D.C. on November 15, 1932.

                       

"That would make the incumbent a liar about his age as well as his identity since he claims to be 46, ten years younger than the truth," said campaign consultant Geena Fallon who masterminded     Ms. Springwater's stunning upset of the man who many insiders predicted would run for the U.S. Senate next year once he slilpped past this year's reelection campaign. Most pundits considered the dashing Garrett/Doe a lock for reelection this year prior to a 10-day blitz of television ads, direct mail pieces and local news stories orchestrated by Ms. Fallon.

 

            Kenyon -- which is what everybody called him instead of Bash, short for Sebastion, and the key to a distinctive byline for his newspaper column -- kept the Newsweek blurb folded in his dresser drawer. It confirmed the rumors he had heard about Geena having grown infatuated with Sal Virgillio, prominent campaign guru and president of the Paladin Group in San Francisco. The Paladin Group grew quickly in the 1970s managing campaigns in California and other western states. Sal Virgillio figured out ways to help Democrats succeed in spite of the enormous popularity of Ronald Reagan.

 

The secret to Sal's success was an attack dog mentality. His TV spots boiled opponents in oil then peeled off their skin. Sal engineered a bitter campaign in 1987 in which Democrats wrested control of the 40-member New Jersey State Senate from Republicans and set the stage for Democrat Jim Florio's victory in the gubernatorial election two years later. Sal deigned to do the New Jersey race since it was an off-year for high-profile national elections. Besides, his presence in and around New York would help position him for a role in the 1988 Presidential race.

 

            Geena and Kenyon were colleagues at the Trentonian. They also were to have been married. They moved in together after Kenyon had gone through the agony of explaining his decision to his first wife, Christine. The divorce worked out beautifully for Christine. After moping for six months, she landed a job covering sports for a local TV station and met super agent Billy Beck. Christine married Billy Beck. They have two blond children and live in an historic home a block from the Princeton University campus, except when summering at their oceanfront home on Long Beach Island. She sent Kenyon a first edition, signed copy of the book they co-authored, "Six Pack Supple", on staying fit after 40, for Christmas with a card saying the home video would be out in the spring. They projected a market of a quarter million pudge-concious baby boomers paying $19.95 for a quick-fix shape-up featuring Bobby and Chris Beck and the wives of five of Bobby's most famous clients.

 

Geena covered the 1987 campaign day-by-day for the Trentonian; Kenyon wrote a Monday analysis column plus lengthy thumb-suckers for the Sunday edition heavy with shudda-wudda-cudda angles. Kenyon was as impressed as Geena with the genius of Sal Virgillio. In retrospect, Kenyon wondered why he was shocked when Geena took off with Sal. A day didn't go by that she failed to relate an amusing anecdote about a Sal Virgillio tactic or brainstorm in either the New Jersey election of 1987 or others he had run in the past. Sal ran political campaigns the way Tom Landry presided over an NFL football game at Texas Stadium. Landry was the senior man on the NFL Rules Committee and he used the power of that appointment, usually just an icy sideline stare, to psych out game officials faced with the dangerous decision of  calling a Cowboy penalty on anything slightly short of blatant. Like Landry, Sal worked every angle in pursuit of competitive advantage.

 

            A former English professor, Sal was a lethal combination of brilliance and relentlessness. In 1987, anyone could see Sal was one short step away from the big time. Sal spoke frequently of his dream to run the 1988 Presidential race and knock off front-runner George Bush. While under Sal's spell, Kenyon completely missed Geena falling in love with Sal. It crossed the point of no return when Sal let her secretly listen in on a conference call among himself, the New Jersey Democratic Chairman and the top three fund-raisers to develop campaign strategy. Actually, it was Sal announcing the strategy, although he went through the motions of listening to each conferee express concerns and ideas before he gradually took over the discussion and steered it into a Sal Virgillio monologue. Presumably, it would have ended in applause if everyone had been in the same room.

 

            When wide-eyed Geena related the story to Kenyon, he argued with her for compromising professional ethical standards by agreeing never to write about the episode, even in post-election coverage. Kenyon was no prude about the tedious ethical correctness of journalism and had traded off more than a few ethical conflicts to gain a better understanding of a situation or scoop that put him a few paces ahead of his competitors. He could rationalize his own moves because, he told himself, he was doing this in behalf of his readers. But Geena, by having no other motive but to satisfy her own prurient curiosity, had gone way too far over the line. Still, the basic point -- Sal had won Geena's heart -- was totally lost on Kenyon until he came home that fateful night from a two-day assignment in Atlantic City and found the terse farewell note. It, too, yellows in neat folds with the Newsweek article under the socks in Kenyon's dresser drawer.