A twisted tale of Life, Politics, and what some might consider cruelty to animals ...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chapter 18

The rest of the campaign seemed to almost be an anti-climax. Our morning began with our normal meeting the next day, and it was surprisingly subdued considering the previous evening’s successes. The newspapers, which should have been filled with the pictures and transcript of the debate, were instead filled by the shocking revelations that had been made afterward. The front page of every paper was full of stories about the confession, the subsequent reopening of the investigation, and the possible crimes and people with which people could be charged. Speculations as to how this might affect Christy’s campaign were also made, but almost in a sarcastic way. One paper even took the time to seek a comment from Christy about his feelings about the potential impact that the day’s events might have.

As if having your father and campaign manager admit that he was a murderer three days before an election could or would cost you some votes in that same election, and whether that admission, the potential vote loss, and the potential criminal charges were concerns you had. The only real question in my mind was whether Christy knew anything about it, and under Macundo law, could be charged as an accessory before or after the fact.

As for Phillip’s campaign, most of us had not stayed that night to see the furor that erupted from Randall’s revelation, and so had not discussed any of this with the rest of the group. Angela and I had in fact, spent most of the night discussing how this revelation affected her and the rest of her life. There were more than a few tears that flowed that night, but I think that maybe for the first time, the experience was a healthy one for her. While it was gratifying for her to know how it had happened and that her father’s killer could now be brought to justice; it did nothing to bring back her father or all of the lost years she had spent without him. On top of everything else, she was no doubt about to be bombarded by the press again. There would probably be little chance of avoiding it in light of these revelations, and she needed to steel herself for the coming media assault. Phillip, though knowing how tender the subject had to be, knew that it had to be addressed first thing in the morning meeting.


Angela, you know how I and all of the rest of us feel about what happened to your father those many years ago. There is nothing that can be said in consolation for your loss, but our thoughts are with you at this time. You know better than anyone, that the press will be at our door today with questions for both you and the campaign, and we will follow your wishes as to how you would like us to handle them. What would you like us to do?”

It was generous of course, to let her make the choice, since what we said or did in the next couple of hours could have a great deal of impact on the election. It was typical of Phillip however that his first thought was of others, and not personal advantage.

I would like you to tell them all to go to hell, but I won’t. On the other hand, I will not answer any more questions for the press about this. They have already had one chance at me during this campaign, and I don’t want to be made the issue this close to election. Andy and Katie, can you guys put together a statement and give it to the press? I don’t want or need to approve it, since I don’t care in any way what you say to them. Just make them understand that as far as I am concerned, this is over.”

Consider it done sweetie,” Katie said. “Andy and I will put something together and get it out to the sharks in the water in such a way that they know that you are to be left alone. In fact, I can guarantee you that it will be put to them in such a way that no one will bother you.”

The rest of that meeting was a series of reviews of the various statements and responses that were given during the debate. Few, if any of us, thought that we would be receiving any questions about the debate over the next couple of days, but I wanted to be prepared on the off chance that a reporter would use such a question just to find a way to throw us off. Since our candidate had stayed on message the entire evening, there was little for us to discuss, and the meeting broke up fairly quickly. Andy and Katie quickly left to meet with the writing staff on Angela’s statement, and to begin to fend off the barrage of press people who were camped outside the Manor House. Phillip and Lorelei had both agreed to take questions from the unruly mob out there, in part to be able to spare Angela any further embarrassment and in part to continue our strategy of access to the candidate. With a clear understanding of the sacrifice that everyone was tying to make in order to spare Angela any additional hurt, she and I went out through the back, and into the gardens, where the press had not been allowed to gather.


We walked through those gardens for what seemed like hours, mostly in silence. Knowing that my best course was to let Angela lead the conversation where she would, I simply followed where she led, physically and conversationally. Eventually she began to speak of things about her father that didn’t have to do with the work that he did for the government or the king. She spoke of him as the man that she had known. She spoke of similar days and walks that she took with him through these very gardens with as a young girl. The two of them just enjoying the sights and the smells of the flowers, and sometimes discussing the things that were happening in her life at the time. She was amazed that with all of the duties, responsibilities, and burdens of his own life, that he was able to express an interest in her lessons, her friends, and just the things that she took pleasure in. I think what she most enjoyed of the remembered experiences though, was the company of the father that she so loved and admired. As she did, I could see some of the little girl of that time begin to emerge again, and that with that emergence, the beginning of an understanding that there was so much more to this man’s life than the manner of his death.

It is a tragedy that he can’t be a part of my life any more,” she said. “But of course in a way, because of the man and the father that he was, he always will be.”

Dad’s are like that,” I replied, “and so are moms for that manner. When we’re young, we can’t wait to grow up, move away from our parents, and be on our own. When we finally do grow up and move away from them, in one way or another, we find that the things that they gave us when we were children mean that they will always be there. We find out that what we have become and the person that we are is really because of all those things they gave us. Our only hope then is to hope to be able to pass something half as good on to our own children when the time comes and because of this, contribute to own future.”

And what about our future, Sean? Neither one of us has wanted to bring it up, but is there going to be a future for us?”

God Angela, I wish I knew. I know that I want one. I want it more than anything that I have ever wanted in my life. I also came to the realization some time ago that there are a lot of things in my life that I just don’t have any control over. No matter how much I want to have you as a part of the rest of my life, whether or not I'll be able to, or how long I will be with you is just one of them.”


I guess that I always knew that Sean. I couldn’t expect much more with the way that you entered my life; but just like with my father, it was something that I just chose not to face. We've seen where that kind of thinking can get you, so I’m just not going to let it be that way any more. I guess that if the experience with my father has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t get to choose when the people that we love will leave us. We have to be able to let go of worry on that score, and just enjoy the time that we do get together.”

There was nothing I could do at that point but take her in my arms. It was a great speech on both of our parts, but I don’t think that either one of us really bought into it. Circumstances may cause us to accept whatever comes our way, but that doesn’t mean that we have to like it. On the other hand, I was in love with a beautiful woman who was in love with me; and here we were, wrapped in each other’s arms, on a lovely warm day. Such things should not be wasted … and weren’t.

A lot of literature has taken great pains to explain to us that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Perhaps there is something to all of it, but I think that such statements are usually made by people on talk shows trying to sell you their latest book. You would have a difficult time however, convincing someone who has either just lost that one special person, or knows that they are about to. There is no doubt in the world that all of life's philosophers and poets agree that being in love is the best thing in the world, any world.

Like most things in life however, it's a joy that carries a price at every stage of its existence. In the first stage of falling in love, that price is the frustration of not knowing how the other person feels. The exquisite torture that defines the beginning of a relationship, when you think that you know what you feel, but unsure of your potential partner is also part of the pleasure. You therefore hide most of what you feel behind a self-imposed layer of indifference as a protection for an all too fragile ego. This indifference, rather than the love, is usually sensed by that potential partner, and pushes them into the same shell of uncaring towards you. The dance that ensues, as the two people gradually let down their respective guards, and reveal more of their true feelings has been the stuff of literature, song, and movies for more years than anyone can remember.


The middle stage occurs after the relationship has become firmly established. It usually hinges on one party or the other (or both) beginning to take the other for granted in some way. While this is certainly not what one intends to do, it is certainly understandable that at some point in a relationship, the constant stress of winning the other person and the tension involved in interpersonal relationships should be followed by some sort of let down, either physically or emotionally. This inevitable let down causes stress and strain again in the relationship and forces one party or the other (or again both) to attempt to re-win their partner or face the prospect of losing them forever. Either the partner is re-won, at the cost of the additional effort; or the partner is lost, with the cost of the loss of the relationship.

The last stage is the inevitable loss of the partner. Whether through mischance, ignorance, loss of love, or death itself; it's inevitable that all relationships will end at some point. How large the cost is here, is determined by the personal investments of the parties involved, the length of the relationship, and the nature of the loss itself.

On the other hand, I have never met anyone, nor has anyone that I have ever known met anyone, who has been able to make the claim that they have never loved. Oh, they may talk about unrequited love, or love never spoken, they may even talk about falling in love with the wrong person (in some cases, over and over again); but no one ever claims to have never been in love. In fact, the truest thing said about any of this is that the only thing more costly than the pain of one of the stages of love previously mentioned, is the personal price paid when one is not currently in love. There is little or no doubt that there is nothing more costly in life than loneliness.

In the end, all we really know is that it is better to “be in love” than to have “been in love”. While remembrance of a relationship, good or bad, might be worth something; being in love beats just about anything else in the world. By the way, my book should be on sale beginning … oh, never mind.

Oh yeah, you are also probably wondering what was happening in the rest of the world as that next 24 hours passed for us. Well, as for what happened to Randall after that evening’s events, he was charged with the murder of Angela’s father the following day. The revelation of the newsreel tape in all of the following day’s newspapers and newsreels caused a sensation. While justice moved slowly however, it moved inexorably. A true feeding frenzy built up over the next few weeks, as the public looked forward to what looked to be a particularly nasty trial.


They were to be disappointed however, as nothing ever came of the charges. Randall somehow managed to escape the inevitable fallout of his actions and the retribution that was coming to him by dying in his sleep on the night before the trial was to begin. There were a number of questions asked about the suspicious timing and potentially suspicious nature of his demise, but I’m not sure that too much effort was really put into finding the cause. The truth of the matter was that everyone seemed grateful that the bastard was dead and no one wanted to look too closely into how it happened. If there was anything criminal in passing, maybe that was only justice. The lack of any kind of trial meant that any information that Christy might have had on the issue would ever come out however, and no charges against him would ever be filed against him for any crimes. (Which does seem rather suspiciously providential for Christy, I don't mind saying.)

Randall’s subsequent funeral was a small one. Even though he was a royal family member, he was one who died in shame, and the only people who seemed to be disappointed at his demise were the reporters looking forward to a couple more weeks of headline grabbing stories filled with the putrid details of an event best forgotten.

It's at times like this that you're really forced you to ask yourself the tough questions about the human race. When you take the tragedy of the ending of a human life, add in the potential of political scandal, and multiply that by the prurient interest of the general public, you come up with the kind of answer that sells lots of newspapers. The total picture that this paints of the human race is not a particularly pretty one.

The only thing that I can compare it to is the relationship between the drug dealer and the addict. As reprehensible as the drug dealer is, his services are only necessary because of the needs and desires of the addict. Both and neither are to blame, as neither could exist without the other. There is no good in such relationships, only bad; and the fact that so many of us seem to be addicted to the blow-by-blow descriptions and analysis of such events should be troublesome to us. It will only be when we tell the world that such things should not be treated as entertainment, that we will take our next step forward on the path of societal evolution.


Angela's story however, was not the only one that was seeing some rather startling revelations. Sources now seemed to come out of the woodwork, hoping perhaps to see their stories lost in the landslide of Randall's confession; and in turn further burying the rest of Christy’s campaign in scandal after scandal over the next forty-eight hours. Misha’s assistant confessed to his part in the plot without the introduction of the document that she was holding, and plead out to the crime for a deal on jail time. Katie’s accuser, perhaps sensing the turning of the tide, dropped the suit and admitted that the entire case was a fabrication put up by Randall and the PAC that supported him. The real arsonist who had destroyed Andy’s business was discovered and arrested; and he too confessed to being part of Christy’s PAC. Christy himself had gone back into hiding on his father’s estate, and was having nothing but ‘No Comment’ statements from that refuge on his behalf. In the span of just 48 hours, all of the clouds that sat over this campaign and the people who were leading it for months had disappeared. The press was singing our praises unceasingly for the next week, and we seemed to sail forward on a tide of positive public opinion right through Election Day.

Oh yeah, the election. As you might imagine, the success that Phillip achieved in the debate, added to the backlash caused by all of the information that had come to light about Christy’s family and campaign made the election a foregone conclusion. Christy lost by a 98% to 2% margin, and there was some investigation into voter tampering on his part to make it that close. I can’t tell you that the result presented our team with any real degree of jubilation, (I think that most were equally happy to be out from under their personal problems.) though it was very gratifying to be able to see that the right man would get the job. Certainly there was celebrating being done on Election Day, but for those of us closest to Phillip it was all rather subdued.

We gathered together for dinner as usual on the day after the election results were beginning to be posted. Katie had already released a statement to the press thanking everyone that had supported the campaign. It was pretty amazing to realize that while we were going through all of our trials and tribulations that apparently everyone was on our side. Of course this might have been some twenty-twenty hindsight in light of the recent revelations about the competition, but who cares. No one could be found on Election Day that said that they hadn’t supported Phillip from the start. As we sat around the empty plates that evening, enjoying the last of the wine, discussions naturally began as to what was next for each of us.

I thought for a long time, that this was it for me and that when the campaign was over, that I would finally retire,” Andy began. “But more and more of late, I think that I would like to begin my business again. In fact, I might say that I have been hounded into making such an attempt.”


Damn right you have,” Katie put in. “I won’t have any partner of mine in as a short-timer or in only half way. He’s in it for long haul if he knows what’s good for him.”

Really” I exclaimed! “The two of you going into a partnership?”

Yep,” she said. “But not of some two-bit printing business like he had before. We are starting a full service advertising agency that will handle every aspect of the clients needs, including the printing. What’s more, we’re taking my entire writing staff with us. I can’t let people that I care about go back to the bottom feeding life of the newspaper world.”

But weren’t you part of that world?” Andy asked sweetly.

Shut up partner,” Katie smirked, “We’ll get along a lot better and much longer if you stop casting aspersions on my name and character.”

Don’t forget about me,” Misha added. “I'm going to be part of this partnership as well. Much as I like government service, I think that it was time that I moved on. Besides, maybe this time somebody that knows how to can and should keep Andy from getting himself into the financial trouble that got him locked up with this nest of thieves. And speaking of thieves, it will also give me a chance to protect Andy from letting his partner abuse her position and her expense account.”

I never did any such thing!” Katie sputtered as the rest of us laughed. “Hey, what about you two?” she asked looking at Paul and Melissa.

He is already signed up for another movie, and I’m sure that the exposure of the campaign will help his career immensely,” Melissa informed us. “I on the other hand, will be taking a little time off. You see I’m getting married.”

Congratulations!” came from all over the room, but I followed with the inevitable question. “Is he someone that you can admit to, or just some movie hunk that you couldn’t keep your hands off of?”

Both,” Paul replied laughing. “At least in a way he is anyway. You see, it’s the stunt double of her co-star in this last movie.”


Hugs and handshakes were exchanged all around, and the ladies immediately huddled together giggling for some time over the subject of men in general and husbands in particular. In addition, there were bridal showers and wedding plans to discuss. Paul shrugged; knowing that in such discussions, brothers are no longer family, they are simply men. It was also quickly apparent that such discussions are also a queue to the men in the room that their presence was no longer required. We men therefore adjourned to the patio adjoining the dining room, and though it was premature even by Macundo standards, cigars were passed around. Arturo’s stand was duly set up, and he joined us in the celebratory atmosphere. Fragrant smoke soon began to fill the area, carrying even into the dining area and drawing the ladies out to join us. Glasses were refilled, and a toasts proposed to the happy couple and their impending nuptials.

Hey, what about you?” Melissa asked, turning towards Angela. “What can we be looking forward to in your future?”

Well, there are some things that I’m not sure of yet,” looking in my direction. “I’ve never left the service though, so I expect that I will be going back to where I left off before the campaign began.”

That’s not entirely true Colonel,” Phillip put in.

What do you mean Colonel?” She shot back, her eyes wide.

Well, it won’t be official until after the coronation, but a promotion and appointment to the cabinet of the new government is already in the works.”

Such news called for additional hugging and toasting and was duly performed. That it was well deserved was beyond question. That everyone was as genuinely pleased for Angela as she seemed to be for herself was also apparent.

As for my own situation, no one asked, and I volunteered nothing. Angela and I continued discussing the situation since that day in the gardens, but with no further results. I wouldn’t ask her to marry me, not knowing whether I could stay, no matter how much both of us wanted it; and she would not press the issue, knowing my mind on the subject. We could do nothing but enjoy each and every day that we were able to spend together, and try not to look too far into the future. The looks that the two of us got from around the patio made me believe that we were not alone in the awareness and understanding of our current situation.


To be honest with you, I thought that I would be gone the moment that the election was over. If the truth were told, I hadn’t been able to sleep a wink since Election Day. I kept expecting to fall asleep in Macundo, and wake up God only knows where. I knew that if I let that happen, it would be without Angela. The resulting stress had played hell with my sleeping and waking, and I can’t help but believe that it showed. There was nothing I could do to change the outcome of the situation of course, but being helpless was not going to stop me from fretting about my future constantly.

Wasn’t I sent here to see that Phillip became King? Wasn’t he now going to do exactly that? And if I wasn’t sent here to see that done, why was I sent here at all and placed in charge of the campaign? The questions kept coming, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted any of the answers. I couldn’t bring myself to face a problem that I didn’t understand, so I chose instead to ignore it. I knew that doing so wouldn’t make it go away, but I didn’t know what else to do. I pushed all of this away again for a time as Angela stepped up to my side and slid her arm around me. This was a night of good news, and I wouldn’t let my somber thoughts intrude upon it.

The evening of celebration continued long into the night, and soon even my lovely Angela left my side with a snuggle, a kiss, and a promise to be waiting. The hour had gotten late, and the lack of sleep, the two cigars, the wine, and later the whiskey had all taken their toll on me. As I looked with somewhat bleary eyes around me, I suddenly noticed that only Arturo, Phillip, and I were left. All the others had undoubtedly taken their leave at some earlier point, but when that might have happened, I couldn’t quite seem to remember. I was attempting to blow smoke rings into the night air, which should have been a dead giveaway to me that I was more than slightly inebriated and should be leaving myself. Sober, I knew that I couldn’t do it and didn’t try.

Sean,” a voice said, and I turned to find Phillip at my side. “I can’t tell you how grateful that we are for everything that you have done. I know we’ve said it before, but it is nevertheless true. I can’t say that I understand where you came from, or even why you were sent to us, but it has meant a great deal to me, and to all of us. I don’t know what your future plans are, but I want you to know that you are always welcome here.”


Thank you Philip. I really appreciate the offer, but quite frankly, I know even less than you do about what my future plans are. I think that you know how much I would like to stay here and why, but I don’t know if I can. I fear that as they always have been, these decisions are not mine to make. As for the thanks, I don’t know how much I really did, but whatever it was, you are more than welcome to it. It was the least I could do for a truly good guy.”

You always have underestimated your role here,” Arturo said standing up as he entered the conversation. “I only hope that you choose to stay with us and continue to play some advisory role in the government.”

Any government that would be worth being a part of wouldn’t have people like me involved with it. The kind of advice that I spread around should be used to fertilize roses. That being said, any help that I can give, I will; but please let’s not make this formal arrangement, it would only ruin both of our reputations.”

We’ll put that aside for now Sean, but there’s something else that you need to know about all of this that's very important. Something that we need your advice on desperately. In fact, I would venture to say that you might be the only one that could be trusted with this. Sean, I am not going to become king tomorrow.”

Huh,” I sputtered, sobering up in an instant. “What do you mean you’re not going to become king? What about all of that stuff about the people and having the best leadership? What about serving the people’s best interest? What about all of the speeches that we've been … uh, you've been making? What about all of that stuff that you said at the debate about serving the future? What have we been doing all of this for?”

I didn’t say that I wouldn’t serve. I just said that I wouldn’t be king.”

Wait a minute,” I said, trying to slow my racing brain. “There’s something else going on here. Why the sudden change of plans? Why do you seem so calm about throwing a job away that you have been fighting to get? Why does Arturo seem to know what’s going on?”


It’s simple enough Sean,” Arturo said, stepping up between us. “I am the elder brother. I will be king.”

I know that I have been drinking boys and girls,” I replied, trying to clear some of the fog from my head however unsuccessfully. “But can we please run all of this by the dumb guy one more time, preferably in single-syllable words.”

It’s really quite simple,” Arturo said. “As Phillip and I were working on his preparation for the debate, we spent more and more time together. Over time, we rediscovered the bond that we had as young boys and never really lost.”

I don’t know when exactly it happened,” Phillip continued. “But suddenly I knew that this was the brother that I had lost.”

The brother that I had lost! This put a rather unique spin on the events of the previous days and weeks. Of course now that I knew, I could put the signs together;, but the implications of what they were telling me was staggering.

Our father knew it, of course,” Arturo continued. “I told him soon after it happened and I had returned to the Manor, though I suspect that he knew it immediately. How exactly it happened, neither father nor I was able to find out, though both of us suspected that Randall and his family had something to do with this as well. He always felt that he would find a way to tell the others and that in the end, it would make no difference. But he died before he could do whatever it was that he wanted to, and the chance was gone. That Randall was in fact involved seemed confirmed, at least in my mind, when Christy made the crack about the country going to the dogs during the debate. But by then, Phillip and I had already made the decision as to what we would do. If Christy lost the election, I would take the throne that Phillip never wanted in the first place.”

I suddenly remembered a similar remark on that first night that I had met Christy, though I chose not to share it. It was only now that it began to mean something ...

Yeah, OK,” I stammered, “but how can you decide that? The people voted in Phillip.”


That’s not exactly true, Sean,” Phillip smiled. “By the laws of our election process, the people of Macundo voted against Christy, not for anything. Since Randall’s heir lost the election, Arturo’s heir won it. No one ever asked during or before the election who that heir was going to be.”

I'm not sure I can wrap my head around that still, but no matter. Don’t you think that there will be some kind of public outcry when you pull this one out of the drawer?” I asked, shaking my head.

Maybe at first, but I think that they will see the logic of it over time,” Arturo said.

Wait a minute. What about Katie? Arturo, she told me about the two of you. Have you told her?”

As a matter of fact, I did last night. Though you wouldn’t know it, she has been very important in my life for some time. I hid a situation from her that neither of us could fix for some time, but the choice that Phillip and I decided upon made it imperative that she know, and know it from me. I have known that woman for a number of years, and thought that I knew everything that might be expected in dealing with her. I was never so thoroughly wrong. Oh sure, she was initially surprised, but not as much as I would have thought. What she really was, was mad as heck that I had kept it from her for so long.”

I can only imagine,” I replied chuckling. “That would have been a dressing down worth hearing.” (At this Arturo looked embarrassed, and if I didn’t know better, I would have said that he even blushed.) “Hey what about your heirs Arturo? I don’t want to get too personal, but I mean…”

You needn’t worry Sean,” he replied. “Phillip and I have worked that out. Katie will be my queen, and who knows, maybe some day we can find a way to reverse this spell, or maybe it will just wear off on its own. Then she and I can have the family that we always planned. In the event that this never happens, Phillip’s heirs will be named my heirs, and the succession will be assured.”


It sounds like you guys have worked out most of the details, and I’m sure that once the dust settles, if it ever does, that you'll be able to work out the rest. I have to say that I am certainly surprised by this, though I always thought that there was something about you Arturo. I also appreciate you sharing this with me before the ceremony tomorrow. Will you be unveiling this slight revision in plans to the people at the coronation tomorrow?”

Of course,” they answered at the same time. “It wouldn’t do to have the wrong brother crowned king?”

Right, this ought to be some party then.. Well if you don’t mind gentlemen, I’m going to toddle off to my room and sleep on this one. The two of you have given me quite a bit to muddle over for one alcohol soaked evening. If I have any thoughts on the subject I will be happy to share them with you tomorrow. In the meantime however, if you will excuse me, I will take what is left of the night to consider these events carefully.”

Yeah right,” Arturo snickered, as I turned to find my way back to my room. “Try not to keep Angela awake all night with the snoring.”

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chapter 17

Everyone was up early the next morning and the level of energy in the room was electrifying to behold. We raced through the morning meeting agenda, as the only real things on it were those in preparation for the evening’s debate. What little we could discuss and do at the meeting was accomplished without prolonged debate, and we dispersed quickly to our various duties for the day.

For myself, I spent most of the day in the theater, seeing to the final preparations of the room. While everything seemed to be generally in order, there were always those last minute details for any public gathering that never seem to be taken care of unless someone is there to make the on-site call. Lighting was currently under discussion, with Christy’s team concerned about the color that it would make his skin look on the newsreels. The temperature of the room was also a topic of discussion, and one I had been hoping to avoid. With Christy’s size, it was my assumption that he would tend to sweat a great deal if there was any heat in the room. If I could keep the room at a comfortable temperature before the debate began, I knew that the lights and crowd would raise the temperature enough to make him uncomfortable before it was over. His people were not that savvy however, and after wrangling over the issue for no real reason we finally agreed to set the thermostat at the equivalent of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

What they didn’t understand was that by setting the temperature at that level now with an empty, dark building, that the temperature would increase by at least 10-15 degrees from the body heat of the thousands that would be in attendance by the time that the debate began. It was a cheap trick I know, but I rather liked that I had been able to put one over on them in spite of their apparent precautions. Besides, I was supposed to be working for my guy, and any advantage that I could give him without cheating was just doing my job.

As might be expected of such labors, most of this work was little more than very tedious and time consuming crap, though all it was of the necessary variety. The morning went by without incident, but it was well into mid-afternoon when I finally got back to the Manor. When I arrived at my room, I found some sandwiches set out on a table, and my clothes for the evening had already been laid out on the bed.



I knew that you wouldn’t have managed to find the time for anything to eat today, so I took the liberty of making sure that you tried to eat something. I also took the liberty of laying out some clothes that I think you would look particularly handsome in. I will see you at the hall this evening.



If I have learned one thing in life, it is that a woman who is not in the room with you cannot be argued with. One that's in the room with you can in fact be argued with, but can seldom be argued with successfully. (The truth of the matter is that the only way to win an argument with a women is to lose gracefully and quickly; but that’s another subject.) I therefore ate one the sandwiches before taking a quick shower.

As for the clothing, while I neither usually want, nor need anyone to help me pick out the clothes that I dress in, it's a corollary to the axiom about arguing with a woman especially not to argue with her over wardrobe selections she makes for you. ff a woman that you care about thinks that you look good in something; you should shut up and wear it, even if you think it makes you look like you should be handing out tickets at a Carnival entrance. So believing, I swallowed my pride and independence with the last of the sandwiches provided, and dressed in the clothing that had been laid out for me. Refreshed, fed, and dressed for the evening; I caught Patrick on the first of many shuttle runs that he was making to and from the theater this evening. In point of fact, we felt that there were to be enough trips on this route throughout the evening, that Patrick had felt that he could not handle the traffic alone, and had taken the liberty to recruit some additional help.

Don’t you worry sir,” he assured me about it, as we made our way towards the city. “These are all relatives of mine, and I’ve got them all on their best behavior, to be sure.”


With such reassurance as this, I put the subject of transportation out of my mind and settled in for the ride. As we approached the theater, I noticed that the crowds outside of the building had begun to thicken in almost an alarming way. It was as if this were the opening night of a play, and everyone felt the need to come down to be a part of it, whether they had a seat or not. Patrick had to slow down on a number of occasions to keep from striking anyone and complete the last few blocks of the journey, as the crowd seemed either curious about the occupant of this particular vehicle or just reluctant to let it pass.

I had frightening visions of the ADL here, and wondered if there was a branch lodge operating in Minica. I even briefly pondered whether such a trans-dimensional branch might be this organization’s only way of bringing a journey of mine to a grinding halt. I chose not to mention any of these thoughts to Patrick however, as there was not enough time to explain such things to him, and if he doubted me, any attempt at defending myself against the charge of being a complete mad man would delay me even further.

We finally pulled up in front of the stage door, where the leading members of both PACs were to be let into the building. Concerned now about the level of crowd control that the local constables were going to be able to give, I instructed Patrick to make his way as quickly as possible back to the Manor House. He was then to wait on Phillip and Lorelei specifically. He should see that they were encouraged to leave for the theater with at least twice as much time as they needed to get there. It was not that I thought that there was any evil plot afoot that would prevent Phillip from attending, or even to prevent him being on time; but I wasn't going to be fool enough to challenge the Fates on the eve of the election. I think with the urgency of my appeal, that Patrick understood my meaning, as he started off briskly as soon as I had closed the door to the cab. Sounding a horn that had always made me cringe and look for cover, he quickly found a cleared path out of the town center, and was off to see to his passengers. After allowing myself a brief recovery period from the mind-numbing din that had come from my former transport on its departure, I made my way into the theater itself.

The work crews were finished with their work on the stage, and the only people not directly connected with the debate that were milling around were the few cleaning people making a last sweep and polish before clearing out of the area as well. The camera crews and their equipment were already in position, and technicians were running a final sound checks on the microphones built in to the podiums. As I stood there, I noted the nods of approval from the technicians at either side of the stage. They were getting the proper sound levels to the recording cameras without any problems


I noticed that everything else that the two PACs had agreed upon for the stage through our seemingly endless periods of negotiations had been properly set up and was now in position as I wandered the lower seating area. Looking up towards the stage, I found that they had hung a background at the rear of the stage that gave the area the appearance of a forest clearing. I had been working with the stage manager to try and come up with something like this to give the stage the feeling of a field of honor, and he had come through for me wonderfully. The lighting had been tested during a kind of dress rehearsal using stand-ins for the candidates earlier that day, so even thought the opposition was worrying about the lighting, the fact that the house lights were up now was of no concern to me. (The fact that the house lights seemed to be generating a bit of noticeable heat, in fact pleased me.) Seating in the orchestra area had been set up according to plan, and the place cards that somehow seemed to appear of their own volition in these situations were in place on the back of each seat. I moved to the back of the lower level, and took a seat in the last row on the aisle, my mind lost in thought and wandering over individual details, hoping that by either skill or luck, I had everything covered.

Well,” I heard from a voice interrupting my whirling thoughts. “Is this is the way you think to behave when you take a lady out in public?” Angela had somehow managed to approach, and sit down next to me without my even noticing.

My apologies, lovely lady,” I replied, taking her hand and giving it a squeeze as she bent down to give me a kiss. “I was trying to make sure that I hadn’t forgotten something, and in spite of all of my detailed preparations, it appears that I have. I have forgotten to tell you today what a lovely creature that you are, and how much I adore you.”

Let us only hope, my love, that our prince manages the same silver tongue in swaying the audience this evening,” she said with a smile, and some color rising to her cheeks.

Angela, if there is anything in the world that I am not concerned about, it is the ability of Phillip to win the hearts, minds, and votes of these people when he puts himself into it. My only concern is for what the bad guys might have up their sleeve.”


Sean, there comes a time in everything, when you have to let go and let it happen. Everyone has done everything that they can, and now it’s time to just let it go.”

And so we sat, quietly in the back row, as bit-by-bit, the backstage crowd from both sides began to enter the hall. Our key players managed to find where Angela and I had taken our quiet hiding place by the time that the lights flashed to signal that they were going to begin to let the crowds in. We all stood and seemed to share a quiet look of confidence and pride amongst ourselves (a look which I'm sure that we were all attempting to put on for each other’s benefit) before making our way up front to the stage. We filed up the stairs at our side of the stage by ones and twos. I was the last one up, and by the time that I got to the off stage area, Arturo, Phillip, and Lorelei were approaching the group from backstage. Phillip didn’t appear at all nervous, though I knew, of course that he had to be. Lorelei was a beautiful, and as quietly confident of the situation as I had ever seen her. Arturo, tail wagging and a smile on his face, looked like he had just won Grand Champion at the Royal Kennel Club Show. Again no words were exchanged, but as the hall began to fill quickly, Phillip took each one of us aside briefly for a handshake and a hug. There was an emotional sharing in that moment, that I have trouble even now defining. He seemed at the end, to be on the verge of saying something to the group, when the house lights flashed twice and then dimmed, interrupting the moment, and giving the signal that the event was about to begin. As we all turned towards the stage, one of the reporters stood up from the table in the back of the room.

Ladies and Gentlemen of Macundo, I would like to welcome you to the first ever candidate debate challenge. This will be the first time in history that the candidates for king of Macundo have ever met peacefully face to face during the history of it's leadership selection process. With the election now only three days away, let me waste no time in this historic and unique event and introduce them to you. To my right, we have the younger son of Simon our late king, Phillip; and to my left, the only son of the Grand Duke Randall, Christy.”

Both candidates, as previously agreed to, entered the stage at the same time. The crowd was on its feet, and applause rang throughout the hall. The two candidates met at center stage and shook hands (rather perfunctorily it seemed on Christy's part), then turned to stand at their respective podiums while this applause continued. While Christy raised both hands in the air, often clenching them together in a victory sign, Phillip merely smiled and waved, quietly acknowledging the crowd. When that crowd finally began to settle down at the signals of the moderator, things could get started. Phillip had lost the coin toss (I wondered briefly if Randall had rigged the coin, but wrote it off to luck in the end.), and Christy would go first with his opening statement.


People of Macundo,” he began. “First let me thank you all for being here tonight. These are historic times that we are living in, and this gathering will usher a new era in the political future of Macundo into being. I have come here this evening to talk about the choice that you will be making in just a few short days. It's a surprisingly simple one. You will be deciding on why you do not want Phillip to be the next king of Macundo. There are certainly many reasons for this, which my PAC staff has ably spoken about for over two and one-half months. They include: the questionable character of many of the people who work for and with him and how this reflects upon him as a leader, the financial negligence which he has shown even in the small leadership role that he has recently assumed during his candidacy, and most importantly, his own admission that he doesn’t want the job.

The truth of the matter is that you should never have had the chance to vote for or against Phillip. The mistake that you or your parents made when they should have voted against his father those many years ago, should have made all of this irrelevant and unimportant. That you didn’t do what you should have all those years ago, is something that we have all had to live with, and as a consequence of that action, you must now face the potential of his inadequate son. I ask you now to correct the mistake that was made years ago, and to redeem the poor choice made when you failed to vote against his father the last time around. You have an opportunity now to stop living with the consequences of that failure today, and keep this country from the failure of leadership that it has had for these many years. It is incumbent upon you to right that wrong from long ago and to vote against Phillip now.”

It wasn’t poetry, but it was to the point, and it was pretty much the negative attack that I had expected him to make. There was a lot of history for him to overcome, as well as the bitterness that his father must have communicated to him over the years. Such resentments build up a tremendous amount of momentum, and overcoming it can be impossible even when you want to. In Christy’s case, I’m sure that even if he did, his father wouldn't let him. I looked across the stage, and noticed Randall behind the curtain nodding, smiling, and applauding (as were a fair bit of our audience) as Christy finished. I waved to him from my side of the stage to get his attention, and was gratified to see the smile become a frown as his eyes met mine. I know that he felt that I should have looked more unhappy than I was currently showing. It worried him, and that’s what I wanted. Now it was Phillips turn.


People of Macundo, I would too like to thank you for being here tonight. This is indeed an historic occasion, on the eve of the only election of my lifetime. (There was polite laughter here.) I can’t tell you how happy that I am that the two of us, my cousin and I, are able to come together in peace and freedom to discuss things that will be important to all of us for many years to come. We as a people have come a long way since the days when armies of men sacrificed their very lives to insure that this country was ruled wisely and justly. Their ultimate sacrifice was both a noble gesture to insure the very future their families and of our land, and one that I'm sure they made gladly at the time, knowing what was at stake. Times change however. Now we as a people stand here with a choice to make in just a few days, and that choice can be made without a single drop of blood being shed.

I must tell you, that in fact Christy is exactly right when he says that the question before you is simple. It’s as simple as realizing when you are truly happy in life. We've all known the times in our lives when we were happy. Why even a baby knows without being told when it is happy, and it smiles without having to be told to. It seems however that as we get older, we seldom stop to think whether we are happy or not. We consider whether things are going well or poorly, whether the health of ourselves, our family, and are friends is good, or whether we feel safe. We even ask whether we are well enough off.

I'm going to challenge you to stop ask yourself now however; haven’t we all been happy these many years, ruled by the wisdom of my father Simon? Haven’t we been prosperous, healthy, and secure in the knowledge that the right things were being done for us under his guidance? Don’t we want more of that same happiness and good life that has meant so much to so many to continue in the future? If we do, then you should vote against Christy.”

Applause filled the room again, though Phillip did not acknowledge it this time. Again, this was an opening statement was short and to the point, but our message was the positive one that we were striving for. I thought that Katie and the staff had hit another home run, and we were off to a running start in the evening. Though the short period didn’t allow a lot of time to digress or defend and we didn't know what the attention span of our audience was supposed to be. Keeping it brief was our best chance to have it remembered.

I was pleased to note that the frown I had gotten Randall with my signal had not yet left his face. It had in fact deepened, and he was muttering to one of his cohorts, surprised I think, by the tone that we had taken. So much for round one, now both candidates would face the questions.


Phillip, your campaign and its staff has faced a number charges during the campaign. Is this any indication of the kind of government that we could expect from you?”

You say the word charge as if making such a charge were the same as conviction for a crime. Some of the staff of my PAC have been falsely accused during this campaign, as happened during my father’s time. Let me state here now and for the record that have the utmost confidence in these people, that I believe that it will be proven that each and every one of them is innocent of any of the charges set against them, and that they will be cleared of any taint on their names and reputations. They have faithfully served both my campaign and Macundo.”

This is typical of that family,” Christy responded when his turn came. “The people that Phillip, like his father has chosen to surround himself with are liars and cheats; and some whose background and history are apparently non-existent. When you see the character of the people that a man surrounds himself with, you see the character of the man. There can be little doubt that what we see in this case is one flawed and incompetent at best, a fool and fellow conspirator at worst.”

Again, this was the tone that we expected; but even I had to admit that there was the potential that he was making points with our audience who had never been exposed to this process before. The maxim that the bigger the lie, the easier to believe it often holds true; but there was no time to worry about such things as the questions went on.

Christy, under normal circumstances governing an election, you would not even be part of this process. What right do you think that you should have to even be here tonight?”

Right! I have the right of a man who wants and deserves to be king birth! I have the right of a man and a family that was wronged in its past. What’s more, I have the right of a man who can offer the people of Macundo a choice. Phillip’s father cheated my family out of the throne years ago, and now his descendent, a man who doesn’t even want to be king stands across from me. The question instead should be, what right does he have?”


Christy is quite right in part of his assessment of me and quite right to question my intentions. I have stated more than once in the past that I never sought to be king. I always thought that such a duty would be the privilege honor of my brother Arturo. I too have a right though, and not just that of my birth. I have the right of a man who wants someone truly responsible to the people to sit on the throne. I have the right of someone who cares for the people of this country and not simply for what might be regained by he and his family. Though this is not an office that I ever sought, it is an obligation that I take very seriously and would gladly fulfill to serve the citizens of Macundo.”

You can begin to sense the tenor of the night’s event by now. I won’t bore you with every one of the questions, because quite frankly, I don’t remember all of them, or the answers that were given. The questions went on however, for another thirty to forty-five minutes (which seemed like an eternity) with things going pretty much the same way. Christy spent most of the time he had throwing rocks at Phillip, at his father, and at us. He attacked at every opportunity, and seemed to get nastier as time went on and his efforts were not responded to in kind. Beyond the historic tenor of the campaign and the attempt to gain power, there seemed to be a true feeling of ill will that couldn't help but be noticed in the vitriolic nature of the responses that Christy was giving.

I admit that I thought that it was just part of the act as the debate began, but as time went on, it became increasing apparent that there was a deep seated hatred of Phillip and his family here, and this forum was giving Phillip’s cousin and uncle the chance to vent something that they had long held inside. Unfortunately, Christy's continuing hostility was not playing nearly as well with an audience as it might have when voiced from the shadows of the normal campaign format. The crowd was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the caustic tone of the personal attacks. Even though I am sure that they didn’t want to admit it, there was little doubt that both Christy and Randall could sense it.

This sense of the failure of their tactic over the course of the evening finally began to show on both father and son. Christy’s overconfidence in the early going was slowly being replaced with a growing insecurity about the success of his responses. His hands could be seen to be shaking, when they were not tightly grasping the podium. The fact that the temperature in the room had gone up exactly as I had predicted wasn’t helping anything, and sweat was freely rolling down forehead as his face gradually became a deeper shade of red through the duration of the event. He seemed more nervous than when he first came in, and he kept looking off stage to his father for encouragement and incentive in between his answers. For his part, Randall appeared to be losing it. Oh, he managed to keep his voice level low enough that the podium mikes didn’t pick up his voice from backstage, but he was pacing back and forth and waving his arms furiously at his subordinates as time passed. At one point, during one of his son’s diatribes, he struck a member of the entourage, sending him crashing to the floor. If this demeanor was any indication of our level of success, we were doing well indeed.


As for Phillip, you would have thought that he was speaking to us in our little conference room. He was calm and deliberate, making sure that he addressed each and every question without getting into name-calling. He spoke of his father, and of the code of conduct that he and his brother had been taught as boys and young men. He spoke often of his brother, whom he loved and considered a kind of hero. He spoke of Macundo and what the happiness of its people meant to him. He spoke of Lorelei, and the love that they shared, both for each other and for the people of his home. And the more that he spoke, the more he seemed to capture the crowd. The wave of supporting energy that was returned to him by that crowd brought even more depth from him. He and the crowd fed off of each other, like an actor or singer on stage, and the more they gave him, the more he gave back in return.

I have to tell you that what he did that night made me proud watching him. He was a knowledgeable, dedicated, and compassionate person who truly cared what happened in the place that he lived. Anybody who wasn’t blind, deaf, and stupid could see and feel what was happening at this moment; and that he seemed to be winning over many of those who had been sent to this gathering as his detractors.

Quite frankly, he made me a little ashamed of my own ignorance regarding the leaders of my own government. I was just about to start working myself up into a first class guilt trip when I remembered some of the recent holders of my own country’s highest office. No insult intended to some well-intentioned people that have tried to do their best at the job over the years, but the comparison between this man and those who served put the whole thing into perspective rather quickly. I smiled at the bewilderment that my feelings caused, and let myself off of the hook.

The bottom line was that Phillip really was a class act, as a person, and a potential ruler. The job he sought was one that not only he deserved, but one that I thought that his country deserved. I sat back thrilled to be in the room watching, while such a thing was happening, and before I knew it, it was time for the closing statements.


Ladies and gentlemen,” Phillip began quietly and almost wearily. “The process of choosing a king is the most important duty that you will fulfill in your entire lives, for it's a decision that most of you will live with for the rest of your lives. It's not something to be entered into lightly, rashly, or frivolously; for the decision that you will make is one that's not only for you, but for those who come after you. It's their future that you will gamble with as well. For the first time not only in the modern electoral process, but also in our country’s history, you have been provided with the opportunity to make a truly informed choice where that future is concerned. For the first time in our history, you have been given the ability to question each of us about our mostly deeply held feelings and beliefs. For the first time in our history, you have been given the opportunity to know about each of us not just as candidates, but also as men. This experience, and the discussions of it that will continue until the election itself, are something that you should treasure all of your lives.

We all want the best for our friends, our families, and ourselves. So too, should a good government want what is best for its people, all of its people. But they are not something that a leader or a government can give us. They are, like the happiness I spoke about at the beginning of this event, something which we can only achieve for ourselves. Our individual freedom to seek that happiness begins with out our own efforts, and ends where it infringes on the freedom of our fellows to do likewise. Government cannot mandate such happiness or dispense it in equal measure to all, but is instead obligated to provide the freedom to seek and achieve it. My father understood that as a king, and made it the goal of the government that he led. My father also understood these principles as a man, and made them the guiding principle for himself and his sons. If I become your leader, I promise you that those same principles will continue to be the cornerstone of our government for as long as the memory of my father or my family lives.”

My opponent,” Christy began then, as his time had come, “has an interesting view of the world in general, and politics in particular. It is interesting, but dangerous. It is particularly dangerous when he not only overlooks the imperfections of those around him, but in fact seems to seek out such flawed characters for guidance. One has only to look at them,” he said pointing to us backstage, “to recognize the dangers that they bring. He places himself in league with foreigners, criminals, cheap performers, and women of cheaper virtue. They are abominations and the children of abominations. We have met their like before and we've rejected them. We should do so again now.


We must face many dangers in this world of ours today, but none more dangerous than the obsolete and misguided beliefs of an old man and his delusional sons. Yes, I said sons. Simon had two children, and as Phillip himself pointed out to you, he fed them both from the same trough of stinking garbage masquerading as truth that we have heard today. If it were not for a fortunate circumstance,” (and at this he laughed) “we could easily be in a position to have let this country go to the dogs with your choice. Now all we have left from their family is their admitted second choice to rule. He is a flawed offering at best and a mad man at worst.

You must reject this mad man and the lies that he has tried to fool you with today. You must reject this man as a second choice, both for his family and for this election. You must reject this man, the delusions of his family, and the people that he chooses to associate with. You must reject Phillip!”

There was a stunned silence for a long second, before the applause began again. You could still hear the moderator, as he thanked everyone involved for their help and support, but we didn’t wait for him to finish as we walked across the stage to Phillip. I noticed out of a corner of my eye that the camera lights for the newsreels were still on, but paid little attention to it. I simply assumed that were getting some end of event footage that they could use as they rolled the credits for the newsreels. Phillip stepped over to the panel to shake hands with each of them before making his way in our direction. Lorelei was the first to get close to him. They embraced briefly, eyes meeting and smiling at each other. The rest of us were close behind to congratulate him. He had done all that he could, and everything that we had asked of him. I shared a quick handshake and backslap with him, and then moved off to allow the rest closer.

You think you’ve won, don’t you?” I heard a venomous voice speak from behind me.

I turned to find Randall leaning against the podium on our side of the stage, having crossed from the backslapping group around his son to the podium on our side of the stage.


No sir, I would hardly say that. No election can ever be decided before the voters speak. I would simply say that we did everything that we hoped to do here tonight.”

Well you haven’t you know,” he continued, with a weird edge to his voice. I noticed that his fists were clenching and unclenching at his sides for some reason, as if he were barely able to hold himself in control. It was obvious at this point that he was even jumpier than his son had been on stage. “I know these people. I have known them longer than you have been alive, and I think that I know what they want and need far better than you. This is not how things are done here. What you have tried to do here tonight was not just to weaken a man, but an entire nation. There will be repercussions to this evening and I hope that you are ready to accept the consequences of your actions.”

I don’t know about weakening a man or a country,” I said, smiling at him, as Angela came up behind me and took my arm. “I merely helped a good man do the right thing. As such, I am quite ready to accept any consequences that come of such an action. Besides, as your son pointed out, I'm a foreigner and don’t know what I’m doing.”

Yes you are a foreigner, though no worse than some of those around you who can't even use that poor excuse,” he said, bringing his narrow gaze around to Angela. “But we know how to deal with such problems in my family. We have after all, done so in the past. Young lady, you have been almost as much trouble as your father, take care that you do not suffer a similar fate.”

I felt Angela’s grip tightening on my arm, but held her back. “So it was you,” she gasped through clenched teeth. “I always suspected that you were ultimately behind my father’s death, but could never prove it. Rest assured that though our customs do not permit me to offer you formal challenge, that I will live for the day that I see you pay for it!”

Now I’m sure that some of you reading this cannot help but wonder why I did not step into this situation and offer to defend the family and the honor of the woman that I love. Some may assume that simple cowardice is the answer. Now while I have never objected to using cowardice to my own advantage when the opportunity presents itself, this was not one of those times. I beg you to read on before you judge me.


Hah! All these years when you questioned everyone and searched everywhere for answers to this issue, and what good did it do you? In all that wasted time, you've never been able find any shred of proof of how I was able to rid myself of that troubling man. Do you think I fear what you can do to me now? Soon me and mine will control Macundo. What will you do then dear lady? Will you be afraid of the fate that may await you?” he said, an evil smile framing his lips.

I think that you are probably the one that should be a little afraid sir,” I smiled back at him. “I don’t know about proof works here, but it might be possible that it would take the form of a confession from your own lips.” He looked behind, and only then noticed the red light still illuminated on the cameras. “Randall, you win. You have somehow managed to take what I thought would be a masterstroke of political strategy, and make it all but inconsequential. Congratulations on making sure that everything the candidates have said this evening will mean little, and on getting all of my hard work of the last week off of the front page of the newspaper until after the election, if not forever.”

And with that we turned away. I didn’t need to see the look panic in his eyes, or the look of tearful satisfaction in Angela’s.

Besides, if I knew Randall he was beginning to exhibit all of the signs of the cornered rat that he was. Such behavior can be fatal to the spectators, and the cowardice that you were ready to accuse me of a couple of minutes ago was asserting dominance over my behavior.

The two of us walked off the stage without waiting for the rest of the group to join us. I spoke to Andy and Katie to have them check with the camera people as we passed, but didn’t tell them why. I had a funny feeling that all hell was about to break loose in that theater, and that it might be a good idea to make a strategic exit with someone who was soon going to be in demand as quickly as possible.

Patrick and the cab were waiting outside the stage door, and before anyone could stop or question us, I pushed our way through the waiting crowd toward him. I quickly handed Angela up, and had barely settled in my seat before Patrick gave off with another mighty blast of that noisemaker of his and started off. It had been quite a day.