Authors: Howard; Foster
“Mrs. Dalton and Mr. Rokeby won't reach a deal with the state to end the boycott. I've offered a fair and reasonable compromise. They want this crisis to go on. I find their behavior absolutely unreasonable. I reach accommodations with people from all parts of the state every day. These two are the most intransigent, the most confrontational people I've ever dealt with. I have no idea where this comes from, quite frankly. But they need to hear from you. You can tell them how you feel. And that's what we need to hear.
“I'm going to ask each one of you to tell me where you stand, with me or with them. Mr. Dalton?”
“Governor, I find their hardball tactics distasteful, but I agree with what they are doing. We must save our towns.”
“You told me something very different just yesterday.”
“Frankly, Governor, I don't approve of you using me as a pawn. If Miranda's tactics put my teeth on edge, yours make me want to walk out of here. Surely you will never have my vote again. Politics is a dirty business, I understand. And maybe that's why it should be entrusted to the two political parties. Outsiders promise they can rise above it. But they can't. Governor Clean shouldn't be blackmailing me.”
“You were all for it yesterday.”
“Yesterday it was a theory, like something Miranda would concoct. Today it's real. It's playing out in front of me.”
He started to leave. The Governor stood in his path.
“I'd like you to listen to what the members of the Conservation Commission have to say about Miranda. He looked at Julia Nickerson.
“Commissioner, how say you?”
“Miranda got me into this. She seduced me with power. There never was any real danger of this zoning bill. It was a way for us to get power. I don't want it anymore. This shouldn't have happened. And now we need to get out of it. I trust Stephen Rokeby will do that. He's not going to take us over the cliff.”
“But Stephen can't keep up the fight,” said the Governor with the smugness he had suppressed since they reconvened, “because that would end his chance to be a Congressman.”
“I'm done with the race,” Stephen said. “I emailed my statement to the state party Chairman ten minutes ago.”
He pulled out his smartphone.
“Want a copy?”
“You can't do this to the Republicans. It's too late for them to get anyone on the ballot.”
“The Republicans are better off without me. And they can't win this race now anyway. But I'm not dropping out of this, Governor.”
“Everybody out!” the Governor barked.
Stephen put his right hand on Miranda's shoulder and guided her down the hall, to the elevator, down another hall and out to the parking lot. He called for his car.
“Don't say a word until we're in the car.”
“Now here's the plan,” he said when they were in the back of the SUV. “You and I need to get a list of properties together today. I'll set up the land trusts we need to hold the titles. And then we need to meet with Tony tomorrow to open accounts and start making offers. And we'll issue a public statement within an hour. All we're saying is we met with the Governor, we didn't reach a deal, our boycott is continuing. That's it. Have you got that?”
“I've got it,” she said. “It's my plan. It's going to work.”
“Now where would you like to go?”
“I parked my car on Clarendon Street. My mother-in-law lives there. But I don't feel like being alone.”
“Well, we've got work to do. Now.”
“I wanted to force him to kill the bill. And he can do it with one phone call.”
“Our cause lives on. It was the most brilliant political maneuver sinceâ¦” he hesitated, “well since the primary. I'm in awe.”
“The bond boycott was your idea, Stephen. I got us into this. You found the way out. I don't understand capitalism as well as you. And it would seem I don't understand Lincoln.”
“You do. You knew they would only go so far. You took it to the edgeâand then they said no more.”
“That's how refined capitalism works?”
“Capitalism and turmoil don't mix. Capitalism won out, and I'm ecstatic. And I'm out of the race. I'm almost free!”
He called Alicia, put her on speaker and told her the news.
“Is Miranda with you?” Alicia asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Want to say something to her?”
“Thank you for being reasonable, for saving our lives.”
“Is that what I did?”
“I'm happy for you two.”
Stephen wrapped up the call.
“Take me to Tony's office. You know the building, right? One New England Center, the temple of capitalism.”
When the SUV stopped in front of it, she opened her door and stepped out.
“If you go public with anything, anything at all, I'll go into Samuelson's office and settle this without you,” Stephen said.
“I'm sure you would,” she said and slammed the door shut.
She went into the building and up to Tony's office. The receptionist chatted with her. She felt welcome. She was bringing Tony a superb deal, millions of dollars. She was very much a part of his enterprise now.
“He'll see you,” she said to Miranda and let her in without calling him.
“Close the door,” he said when she was inside his office.
He opened his arms and swept her off her feet.
“You're brilliant. You did so well!”
Then he went to his desk and touched a button on his console launching a PowerPoint presentation. Maps of each of the snob-zoning towns with red dots signifying each targeted property appeared and then disappeared as he zipped through them. He'd already selected thirty-seven.
“Sure, I'm not going to end up with all of them. But my guys are out there now making offers, discreetly, of course. We'll get some. And we're looking at closing fifteen to twenty in the next thirty days. Some I'll flip as soon as the deal is reached. Some I'll develop. I figure five to ten million in profits by the end of the fiscal year. And it's all because of you, my dear.”
“I don't want any of it. Not a dime. I have money coming. It's not a lot of money in the larger scheme of things, but I can pay my own way in the world, whether we're together or not. And that lets me focus on other things, like you.”
He kissed her.
“I like your attitude,” he said. “It complements mine so well.”
“Let's go out of town this weekend,” she said.
“Where to, Montreal?”
“Surprise me. We'll go to the airport. You take me to a gate. And I find out. I just need to get the hell out of here for a bit to breathe some air that hasn't been polluted.”
“I know the perfect place.”
“And the Republicans are going to need a new candidate to replace Rokeby. That means a convention next week to pick a replacement. I could do it.”
“You might learn the party faithful aren't interested in what you're offering.”
“I'm free, Tony. There's no deal with Samuelson. I can go in there and say, keep up the boycott, expand it, never say die. And Archer can't touch me.”
“I actually might like the excitementâas long as it doesn't hurt my business.”
“Hurt? I just made you millions today.”
Miranda spent the rest of the afternoon prioritizing the offers and dispensing background information on some of the owners. At 4:30 she announced she felt like having a drink and wanted to leave for the day. They went to the lobby, then to the parking elevator and up to the fourth floor of the garage. Miranda told Tony she'd forgotten a notepad and needed to go back to the office. She went to the garage elevator, rode up a floor and made her way to Ted's assigned space where his Jaguar was parked. She withdrew a pocketknife from her handbag, pulled out the largest blade and crouched by the front passenger-side tire. But she couldn't bring herself to do it, folded up the knife and walked back to the elevators. Her tire-slashing days were behind her.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright Â© 2016 by Howard Foster
Liberty Island Media Group
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