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Murmurs of the Heart | The Nation

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Murmurs of the Heart

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Even by Southern California standards, the press conference was unusual. Posted in the airy living room of Lillian McCord's Malibu home was a fifty-inch monitor. Behind this was a sweeping view of the rolling Pacific with sea gulls and cormorants cawing and pirouetting through the air. Near the monitor was the dying billionaire Mace Gilmore, hooked up to various pieces of life-sustaining machinery and a intrathecal pump--a timed release device dispensing morphine, implanted in his spinal canal. A hospital bed had been delivered to the home at his insistence and he lay propped up in it staring out at the gathered members of the news media. This after Lacy Mills had shown up unexpectantly at McCord's house, having kidnapped Gilmore. They'd had some words and she departed, the billionaire asking McCord to order the equipment on his dime.

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.

Several attentive staffers and two practical nurses orbited Gilmore. Looking on beyond the throng were some hard-eyed members of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, out of the Malibu/Los Hills station. Behind them in a nook, their IT person, a woman with a physique rivaling Serena Williams's, swore under her breath as she furiously worked the keys of a laptop linked to other electronic paraphernalia in a truck parked outside, while she attempted to trace the source of the bounced signal being broadcast.

"I am complicit in the death of Senator Grish Waller," Lacy Mills said evenly, her composed features filling the monitor's screen. "Please," she said, holding up a hand as the reporters began to hammer at her. The monitor was equipped with a two-way camera and mic. "Let me say my piece, then you can ask your questions.

"Grish," she continued, "had been in an introspective state of mind. Not depressed, you understand. He was in good health for a man of his years, but had recently begun regretting not having taken advantage of certain opportunities to leave his version of the history he'd lived. The history he helped make." Mills paused, considering her words. "For instance, he'd turned down, more than once, the invitation by a noted filmmaker to be the subject of a documentary. So Grish, never much of a drinker, was having sleepless nights where he drank whiskey in his study reading over biographies of Lyndon Johnson, Rigoberta Menchú and the like"

She paused again, looking out on the other faces, her pores seemingly expanding and contracting on the high-def screen. "And yes, to address the speculation, I was his lover--certainly not Congresswoman Cynthia Kang."

"Well, glad that's cleared up," Chet Kimbrough cracked to the representative. Kang sent an evil glare his way. The two were in his office at McGoohan's, the watering hole he co-owned in the trendy Adams Morgan section of DC. She sipped a brandy while he had coffee. It was 7 pm on the East Coast.

"It used to be you planned your Twilight Zone press conferences for specific news cycles," Kimbrough remarked absently, "but with 24/7 coverage, that's out the window."

"Shhh," Kang chided, pointing at the screen. "She's about to spill it."

Back in Malibu, Lacy Mills said, "I could have stopped Grish. I should have stopped him. But I encouraged him to put his soul in jeopardy."

Kang and Kimbrough exchanged frowns. "What the hell is she saying?"

Before Mills could go on, suddenly Mace Gillmore began coughing and hacking. The two nurses pounced like tigers on crippled cattle. They became very busy with him, and several of the reporters and their camera people edged closer for a sound bite or a last shot of the dying man. He finished his coughing jag and said, "Some or all of you have already received advance copies of my memoirs. Apropos of this moment and putting all our cards on the table, so to speak, let me state for the record, and in anticipation of your questions, that it was my overt intention to sway this presidential election we're having in less than a month."

Questions were blurted and a din rose. But quiet enveloped the room once again after Gilmore raised his hand feebly and let it flutter back to his lap. He continued, "Not only did I pump money through several 527s in favor of several of the GOP candidates at the time of the primaries, but I also put cash toward the efforts of so-called third-party types like the Greens and the would-be perennial spoiler, Ralph Nader." Several people snickered, including Gilmore.

"You did this to divert votes from Clinton and Obama?" someone shouted out.

"Yes, exactly. But the endgame was to force Congresswoman Cynthia Kang into the race," Gilmore said. "I knew early on she'd been approached about running as an independent, a true independent, in my humble opinion. Her ideas on housing, healthcare and bringing back a form of CETA, job-training programs, are what's needed for this country at this time. That self-described hockey mom from Alaska may give lipstick service to being a Washington outsider, but Kang is the real deal--not some put-up job by the neocon nincompoops."

"What's brought on this change in your philosophy, Mr. Gilmore?" another reporter asked.

The billionaire sat up straighter, seemingly energized by the opportunity to express his thoughts. "I've always been a proponent of the free market and making a decent profit, but despite how my critics have libeled me over the years, I didn't start the Dollarville stores merely to reap rewards. We saw a need for these types of outlets where you could get everything from paper towels to quality meats without paying for undue overhead built into the price of items.

"And yes, I have resisted the incursion of unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers into my stores. I felt that would only drive up costs and not really benefit the workers, as the pay structure was and remains competitive."

He put a fist to his mouth and coughed into it while the nurses leaned toward him. But he didn't have another fit. "But there's one thing to being a capitalist and another to being a raider, a rapacious rapscallion who ignores all save for lining his or her pockets. That is not what drove the likes of Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller, and clearly, as the last few weeks have painfully informed us, it's not what we need. "

From the monitor, where Lacy Mills's head still filled the monitor, there was a crash offscreen, like a piece of furniture being turned over. She stared at something, screamed... and the screen went black.

To Be Continued...

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