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The Big Tease | The Nation

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The Big Tease

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"Let's assume for the moment we believe you, Mr. Beemish." Valdez handed the man's driver license back to him, after writing down the pertinent information. She'd have a civilian friend of hers in the Department run a background check.

About the Author

Gary Phillips
Gary Phillips's short stories have appeared, most recently, in Los Angeles Noir (Akashic) and in Full House (G.P....

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In this last episode we mostly wrap things up, but leave a few strange matters for earthly or cosmic interpretation.

Breakfast turns violent, more is revealed, and while a decent president gets elected, there's no rest for Congresswoman Kang.

"Please, call me Lynton, ladies." He smiled a toothy grin at both of them. The three sat at the tidy table in Representative Kang's kitchenette. Kang had brewed coffee and each had a stoneware cup before them.

Valdez asked, "So why were you keeping watch on us, Lynton?"

"Actually just the Congresswoman. I was staked out to see who else might be keeping tabs on your place." He shifted in his seat. "I'm rather cautious by nature."

Kang and Valdez glanced at each other. That sounded pretty weak. Beemish claimed to be an oppositional researcher with extensive campaign experience. He mentioned that he knew McNair, the maniac chef and conspiracy nut Kang had tried to sic on Gilmore's trail. Beemish also provided other names, K Street types, familiar to Kang. She'd put in a call to one of them back in DC.

"So Grish hired you to excavate the dirt on the Fallenbee Directive?" Kang reiterated, again looking at the man's business card. It was bone white, pebble finish, with his name, his attribution and phone number. All in ten-point sans-serif type, set flush left.

"Yes. Ma'am," he reconfirmed. "I was exaggerating some when Ms. Valdez got the drop on me."

"Meaning Grish didn't tell you to find me in the event of his questionable death," Kang finished.

"Yes, that's right."

"When did he hire you?" Kang said.

Beemish looked toward the ceiling. "I'd say it was about two months ago. He was interested in their corporate holdings, of course, but also in me running down the ties and links among and between the various board members of the Directive." He sat back, a lopsided grin on his face. "Very interesting stuff, as you might imagine..."

"How often did you report this to Grish?"

"Oh, we didn't have a set time but as things came up, I'd tell him."

"In person?"

"If at all possible, yes," Beemish replied, sweeping a hand through the air.

"And I gather you have written versions of what you've amassed," Kang said.

"Absolutely," Beemish assured her. "I write out my compiled notes on a computer that's not hooked up to the Internet. In this age of surveillance," he repeated the hand gesture, "you can't be too careful. And that's bearing in mind the multiple firewalls and safety measures I have installed on my connected computers.

His subterranean hive must look like geek heaven, Valdez pictured. "What's your angle, Lynton?" She sipped her coffee, eyeing him over the rim of her cup.

Before he could answer, Kang's cell phone chimed. "Excuse me," Kang said. "Hey, Mark, thanks for calling me back," she said, walking into the bedroom.

"Yes, yes," Beemish nodded his head up and down. "Trust but verify."

"Mm-hmm." Valdez crossed her legs.

"That's him," Mark Garrison said over the phone after Kang described the man in her kitchenette. He was an inch or two under Kang's five seven, rangy like a marathon runner, with thinning, close-cropped blond-brown hair. "Odd duck, but he knows his shit," Garrison enthused. "Remember that campaign I ran for Colletta as lieutenant governor in Wisconsin? Well, it was Beemish who unearthed the skinny on our supposed family values-spouting squeaky-clean GOP opponent. Turned out he was quite the knob polisher. Shit. Make Larry Craig blush... or jealous"

He guffawed at his witticism as she heard his fingers tap computer keys. Garrison was a mother of a multi-tasker. She'd seen him field "gotcha" calls from the New York Times while simultaneously texting tasks to staffers.

" 'Preciate this, Mark."

"Not a problem. You looking to hire the lad? If you're finally decided to explore that bid for mayor of LA like I said you should, you know where to reach out and touch, Cynthia. Your boy Villaraigosa is hungry for the governor's soon to be empty seat," he said, referring to LA's current mayor. "Musical chairs you know."

"Hey, is he going to change his name back to Villar now that he's divorced? Of course that sounds like there's something left off... like his future maybe." He cackled again, enjoying himself

Garrison was projecting his ambitions onto Kang. Not that he ever wanted to be a candidate, she mused, but it was a trait among his ilk to get a vicarious thrill from moving pols around on the big board in their minds. Political hacks were motivated, as much as by ideology, by the desire to execute their strategies, to experiment with the ever-changing formula for success--and success meant winning an election and then being re-elected.

Garrison had run local and statewide campaigns, up-ballot federal seat contests, and even been on Gore's team when he ran for the presidency and was undone by hanging chad and the Supreme Court, as he was fond of saying. When the HBO cable movie Recount premiered, he'd sent out e-blasts pointing out this or that factual error, but enjoying the underdog-fighting-uphill-for-justice status the Dems had in the feature.

Given his experience, it might seem odd that Garrison had yet to run a campaign for the mayoralty in his hometown. Sure, Kang had her seat on Capitol Hill, but being the mayor of the most populous city of the United States, that was something else altogether, he'd urged her. Being the first Chinese-American woman mayor of Sprawl City, Garrison had said, could open the door to much higher offices. He was a local boy from the San Fernando Valley. The campaign guru had graduated from Van Nuys High School, as had such Hollywood alum as Natalie Wood and Robert Redford, albeit a few decades after them. But unlike those staid Valley patricians who felt downtown City Hall paid little or no attention to their needs, fueling a secessionist movement in the seventies and then in 2002, Garrison had grown up with a sense of Los Angeles as a whole, having done summer lifeguard jobs at public pool such as the one at Exposition Park in South Central.

Corny as it was, like the ironic Randy Newman song, he loved LA.

"Mark, look I better get going, but thanks for this," Kang said.

"Oh it's like that. You can't throw me a bone?"

She decided to tease him, and no self-respecting politican never said never. "You'll know when I know, slick."

"I dang well better."

They severed the call and she stepped back into the other room, having closed her bedroom door. Valdez was leaning against the kitchenette counter, arms folded, a sour look on her face.

Beemish had that toothy grin firmly in place, looking at Kang. "So how much you gonna pay me for what I've amassed about the Fallenbee Directive?"

To Be Continued...

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