How Did I Get Here? Chapter 3: 1999

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By Alberto Pupo

 

            “No David, there is no way I am going through with this, I do have my pride.”

He stalks away from the younger man this is the tenth time he has proposed the same meeting with a man he finds to be completely reprehensible.

    “But sir, he is very influential and can help you win, look we are coming down to the wire, and we are in a very tight spot here, and there is only a three percent difference between you and Alan Shields,  we don’t want to let this one slip away.”

His tone is so damn earnest, and he always appeals to his greater logic. This is why he selected David to run his campaign, despite his youth, it is that strategic mind that he truly admires, the young man is sharp, witted and quite frankly a genius this kid has a bright future

    “Fine David, if I must, if you believe this is what will lock up the victory for me, I will give this asshole a shot.”

David could not help but smile.

    “I know he is an asshole Scott, but this is our asshole, this is the guy that will help us get that last hesitant part of the District, he is coming soon so brace yourself, and just get it all out now, so you come off as pleasant as possible.”

He looks at the clean shaven prideful young man and hopes that this gambit does not blow up in his face. The man he is going to meet is a rather shady character but for some reason, seems to have this influence over many voters that reside in his District. His name is Thomas Riley, a bulky, red-faced, Irish man, former police officer and is now involved in some charity for the children or something like that?  But there have always been whispers that Mr. Riley was on the payroll of the mob. In fact, many believe that his rather blessed career as a police officer had a lot to do with being on the payroll of infamous Mobster Billy the Hammer. This is the part that rankles him, growing up his father a strict, straight, and narrow Colonel has always taught him the duality of the world. What is good and bad. In his household, there was never anything close to a shade of gray. Morals, Laws, and Ethics were one and the same there was no room to wiggle out of it, because of this the old man must be rolling in his grave at the very thought of his flesh and blood running for public office, to his father politicians were all scumbags. He, however, has been learning that his father did speak some truth about politicians, to gain elected office you have to bend your principles at times just a smidge. There are times when enemies become friends if even for a moment. He feels dirty about this whole meeting, but if this is what will give him the ability to serve the people of his District in Congress then so be it.

    “Scott, follow me to the living room Mr. Riley is here.”

David now seems very tense, all the confidence that he previously seems to have has been replaced with a rather rigid kind of attitude; maybe he has had some preliminary talks with Mr. Riley?  Maybe this is not going to be an easy sell?

He walks into his very spacious living area, there he is seated, red-faced, looking particularly bloated, pale, skin with sweat beads, on his forehead, he seems to be more nervous. He stands up to greet him, and they vigorously shake hands, each man sizing up the other they lock eyes like wrestlers ready to engage in battle.

    “Mr. Riley, please take a seat make yourself at home.”

He tries to sound as confident as possible; David always told he needs to sound confident, no matter how strange the circumstances, David has prepped for encounters with just about everybody. They would practice ruthless questioning from the media or angry citizens. As a Congressman he must always maintain his poise.

    “Mr. Mills, I am so glad to be here to meet with you, I think that considering where you stand right now in the polls, there is a good chance that comes next week; you will be representing the interest of our entire District.”

The way he spoke the words betrays a certain hint of what path this particular meeting will be taking. He almost sounds like he is about to throw a wrench. He looks over at David, who stands silently observing the two men, he is standing still, but he can see the wheels turning, the young man needs to be ready for anything.

    “Well, yes, I hope that I will have that honor, I have been a longtime resident and have strong connections, and want to finally be able to use my influence to be able to…”

Now as he spoke, there was a strange grin, which appeared on the Irish man’s face.

    “Yes, yes, cut the crap I know why I am here, you need my help it is a tight race, and I can get my people to the polls, one way or another. So I get it… My only question is what are you willing to give me?”

A strange tension fills the room; the air feels oppressive and thick. Apparently, negotiations were not going to be a delicate dance, but more like a quid pro quo.  Thomas is extremely blunt, about what he wants and clearly he has something in mind.

    “Ok, Mr. Riley, it looks like you are quite clear about things, so we will cut to the chase then what is it that you would like to give me?”

The silence now became awkward, the Irish Man stares straight into his eyes, a grin coming to his face.

    “You know Mr. Mills, you have surprised me, here I thought I was going to be dealing with some boy scout, like well your father… unfortunately, he did have a reputation for being overly righteous according to most people in the District, but you seem practical and pragmatic, I like this; now as far as favors go what I want is complete hands off and immunity for my Charity. No audits, or investigations, nobody looking my way, taxes you can forget that as well… you do this for me, and well You will be the next Congressional Representative, and I guarantee easy re- elections until you get bored… and I don’t know maybe you want to be Senator or President?”

Now the silence grows even thicker, his heart begins to race, what he is asking for is not just assistance, but for him to be complicit in crimes and asking to be shielded from them. He looks over to David who stands there stone-faced, not uttering a single word. This is a decision he is going to have to make on his own. What path should he take?  He can almost hear the voice of his father urging him away from this madness, in fact, urging to have the guy imprisoned for even having the audacity to come here to his living room and propose that he engage in crimes to win an election. The silence becomes oppressive the Irish man simply grinning at him with great confidence knowing that for years to come he will always have a “Get out of Jail Free” card courtesy of Scott Mills.

    “I am sorry to interrupt sir, but we need to go now.”

The voice was young but assertive, and at that moment it allowed him time to think this over.

    “David? What is going on?”

Now the young man looks him right in the eye his face without a single trace of emotion.

    “Well I forgot but we have a very important rally we need to go to, so this meeting needs to end now sir.”

With these words, the grin on Thomas’s face vanishes only to be replaced with a look of utter shock.

    “Well Mr. Riley, I am so sorry about this my apologies, this is very last minute, but he is right we have to end this meeting, I will let you know about my decision.”

They stand and shake hands very curtly, and the bulky Irishman walks out of his living room, slamming the door on his way out.

    “David? I don’t understand? What happened what is going on?”

A long silence falls between them as he looks into the other man’s eyes.

    “I made a huge mistake Scott, we don’t need that asshole to win, I do not want you to kill your reputation over him he is just bad news.”

He looks at the young man, who seems apologetic and contrite.

    ‘Thank you, David, I appreciate it.”

The young man smiles back at him, but he seems to have a look of grave concern on his face.

    “Yes, while I think it is the right decision, I think we are going to have to be very careful from now, we will need to watch our backs.”

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