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Pressure Points | The Nation

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Pressure Points

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In an unadorned room in the rear of a wholesale plastic gear distributor, Chet Kimbrough read a piece on the Huffingtonpost. The article was by Peter Dreier, a former deputy mayor of Boston and currently the director of the urban and environmental policy program at Occidental College in northeast LA. He was a baseball fan--Kimbrough had last run into him at a Dodger game. Oxy was where Barack Obama, sometimes called Barry then, sporting a medium- sized afro, attended in 1983.

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.

Dreier's piece compared Hillary Clinton's ungracious, non-exit speech of June 3 at the end of the Democratic primaries and Obama's clinching the nomination to the now campy "Checkers" speech given by Richard Nixon in 1952. Nixon, the veep candidate to the popular Eisenhower's bid for the presidency as head of the GOP ticket, had been accused of taking some eighteen grand in under-the-table campaign contributions. He gave a precedent-setting live nationwide TV and radio broadcast from Hollywood stating his finances were an open record, and that he did not maintain a slush fund--a claim would certainly come back to haunt and taunt him a couple of decades later during Watergate.

Nixon did say his family had received a cocker spaniel as a gift from a traveling salesman, but that, by gosh, "the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it."

Dreier's point being that Clinton and her camp were engaged in an act of desperation. Nixon gambled and asked the viewership to decide whether he should remain the vice-presidential selection. His move paid off, as the RNC received scores of letters and telegrams urging the party to keep him as the nominee, pressuring Eisenhower to not drop him as damaged goods. Clinton in her speech called on the 18 million who voted for her to go to her website and make suggestions on what she should do next. In the speech she'd stated she wasn't going to make any decision--the idea being that her supporters would of course want her to stay in the race and this would put pressure on Obama's camp to bring her on as the VP choice.

Kimbrough clicked off the article as the chime sounded announcing he had new e-mail. He'd remained online anticipating this message. He opened and read the brief note. It was from his contact to the former special ops soldier, an enforcer who'd done strong arm work for Countryman at the behest of the Fallenbee Directive's Mace Gilmore. The man had said he wouldn't talk to Kimbrough again, this after they'd been surprised by two of Mace Gilmore's employees. But he'd reached out again hoping the man wouldn't stay spooked. The note from his friend indicated there was a possibility the hired muscle might meet with Kang's chief of staff once more.

Kimbrough tapped off a response quickly. The enticement he'd offered to the soldier was a book deal. He knew several head editors of New York publishing houses. He knew too that this was irresistible bait. Who didn't want their vindication, their say preserved for history on the printed page? A decent advance, notoriety while maintaining his anonymity, with the mystery only adding to sales... that was one sweet deal. For surely even a hard case like the soldier might envision Brad Pitt playing him in the big-screen version.

He sat back, resisting the siren's cry to make more coffee. This was the pause before the war and he best get on the discipline tip, he chided himself, patting his too-soft stomach. In the recently outfitted situation room he and the Congresswoman were calling in was a coffeemaker atop a small cabinet, the desk with Kimbrough's laptop, a telephone (an unlisted land line), a swivel chair and, propped against one wall below a barred window looking out on a nearby brick wall, three folded folding chairs. The laptop was not his regular one and had been purchased just for use in this room. Possibly they were being extreme, but surveillance devices had been found in Kang's apartment, he'd been attacked and there were those nagging anti-Kang rumblings. The protesters had come and gone for a week or so picketing her Monterey Park office, while her staffer Brian Betters crisscrossed her district to get to the root of who was spurring this activity. Thereafter these actions had dissipated.

More likely, the three surmised--Kang, he and Betters--the latter's digging had sent the instigators underground.From what Betters had gleaned, this was truly a case of "outside agitators"--to evoke segregationist Governor George Wallace during the civil rights era. But they didn't take the current lull as a sign the problem had gone away; it was more likely the instigators were regrouping. The real question was who had put them in motion: the Gilmore faction or what seemed to be Countryman, Cenine, hot third wife of Gilmore, operating their own cozy agenda?

Cynthia Kang had met with her brother and Conrad Waller two mornings ago before heading back to the Hill and supplemental hearings with oil industry fat cats--all of whom, to a man, pleaded innocent of gouging the public, seemingly confounded by the mysterious ways of the market. Yet the price at the pump kept rising and their profits kept apace as well. Kang's fellow representative Maxine Waters, frustrated by the oilmen's slippery responses, told Shell suit John Hofmeiser she'd do a Hugo Chávez and nationalize their companies. He didn't blink and threatened back that unless he and his ilk were allowed to drill with abandon in other regions--like, say, protected reserves in the Arctic--then paying five bucks a gallon would seem like the good ol' days.

Kang was only half-joking later when she told Kimbrough that bugging the offices and private jets of these petroleum plutocrats would be of great service to the public. "We get them to do right by getting dirt of them and putting the squeeze to them. Nationalize smashinalize," she'd gone on. "If there was any real will to do that, these assholes would hire Blackwater and literally take over the capital by force. Could you imagine? If Barack gets into office, he'd have to send in the Army and the Marines to take them out."

"Well, the good thing, in this regard," Kimbrough observed, "is the oil execs are more despised than Congress, so you'd have the American people on your side."

"Make a great update of Seven Days in May," she'd said.

Kimbrough ceased his musings and stared to make a call on his cell phone. One of his immediate tasks was continuing negotiations with Lynton Beemish for the information he'd amassed on Gilmore and Fallenbee.

Then there was a knock at the door. This shocked Kimbrough--only he and the out-of-town Kang knew about this room.

To Be Continued...

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