Sitting on the plane heading back to D.C., I was talking to Mike. He told me of a story that had gone the rounds on the Hill, a few years back, that Branigan was once investigated by the CIA; details unknown. I have a close friend working high up in the chain of command within the CIA, and I would just subtly ask what was what.
"They don't investigate until they have to," he added, and smiled.
Bob Lincoln is the Director of the CIA, and has worked there for almost 26 years, in one capacity or another; and I am sure the person sitting in front of me knows him very well, higher up than my contact.
"You know Bob Lincoln, don't you, Mike?" I asked, still looking at my tablet, but not really paying attention to it.
"Yeah, we went to Harvard, a year older than me, I think," he added.
"A friend?" I asked.
"More an acquaintance," he replied.
"What are you after, Bryce?" he asked, and then I just smiled and hoped he got the hint and then slowly but surely the realization hit him.
"Oh, so the gloves are coming off?" he smiled.
"About time, my boy. I'll make a call," he smiled, and stood up and went to the galley, for a drink.
"Let's see what he's hiding," I said to myself, as if he is and has been investigated the CIA will have something.
The following night, a day of campaigning done and much needed sleep attempted.
A phone call came at 3 a.m., from Mike. I picked up my cell and answered.
"Mike, man, can't you sleep?" I moaned, being awakened so God damned early.
"Sorry, Bryce, but I thought you should know the content of my conversation with…" I cut him off.
"Ears, Mike, can you come over?" I replied.
"On my way," he concluded, getting my meaning, and yeah, a little paranoia.
I got out of my empty bed. I missed Danny so much, it hurt. I rose and went to my kitchen and switched on the coffee pot. Agent Lucas was napping at the table. I dropped a cup in front of him and he woke up, startled.
"Coffee?" I asked.
"Sir, sorry, I mean.." I again cut him off.
"Lucas, it is Lucas, isn't it?" I asked.
"Yes sir, I am sorry, I don't usually fall asleep like that."
"Busy time, agent, going to get busier" I added.
"Coffee?" I repeated, and he accepted.
"Senator Longo will be here shortly; show him into my study, please," I informed him, and left him with his coffee.
Twenty minutes later, and Mike was sitting on the leather sofa in my office.
"So, he was investigated?" I asked.
"Yeah, selling jobs to third world countries. Electronics at low dollar count, but charging the earth; and American jobs were lost," he added, and it brought a smile to my face.
"The hypocrite; promising jobs to Americans, when he had sold out so many families. Explains the animosity down in the south," I added, my smile growing.
"Home affairs; the next debate is on internal issues. Mike, this couldn't do anything but help us. He is going to attack the policies of this lame duck of a President; and I am going to have to defend the ass," I add, my smile diminishing, somewhat.
"You do know if he calls you on this, you have to go for his throat; but Bryce, he will look to come after you in some other way," he adds.
"Bring it on, I love a good fight," I snicker a little.
3 days later...
"So, you ready?" Danny asked, kissing my cheek as I prepared for the final debate. Mike had his final running mate debate the night before last, and wiped the floor with his opponent. Our numbers now level; this debate could make or break my campaign. The little bit of information received from the CIA, may be very useful.
"Yes, I was born ready," I replied, and kissed him back.
"I've read your notes; stick to your message, and play down his. If he attacks you or your politics, which he will, then use what you know," Danny said, while tying my tie.
"There, ready," he said, and I did look sharp.
We walked into the auditorium, and talked to a few executives of the network. Home affairs was the final debate; then the big push was about to start. Every state over the following two weeks, campaign speeches and kissing babies and stroking dogs; but strangely, I was looking forward to the whole damn thing.
"Five minutes, people," some kid shouted across the stage. I could see Branigan, and I could see he was talking to one of the President's aides. What the hell was his problem? It's not as though I was fucking his son, or anything; and he is ignoring the party line.
Soon, the show was on, and the moderator laid down the rules, again.
"Senator Noda and Senator Branigan, you have had the rules of the debate read to you and you have agreed to them. Senator Branigan, you have the right, by the drawing of lots, to give a short speech, laying out your vision for the home affairs policy; and, Senator Noda, you will then give your rebuttal. Then, the same, in reverse," he repeated what we had already known for a few days.
"Senator Branigan" he started, and I watched him take a quick look at his notes, then step away from his platform, and walk around the stage.
"America, my policy is simple; keep American jobs in America. No more farming out the work to third world countries. We also need to tackle the issue of the national debt. Also, why are we manufacturing munitions outside of the United states, and paying over the going rate to foreign powers for the privilege?" he said with a hint of scorn, as he spoke to the camera, and the audience.
"I worked as man and boy in the south of this wonderful country. I have seen poverty first hand. I have seen the poor beg to be fed. I say, keep America working, and help this proud nation to feed and defend itself," he went on, and I waited for some substance to appear.
"My fellow candidate will say his party has done a sterling job, and he's right; a sterling job that has increased the national debt by 22% in four years, and 14.2 million more people claiming welfare. It's time to put some morality and knowledge back in the White House," he concluded.
"Senator Noda" the moderator spoke.
"America, I will answer each point, individually; since I apparently lack the knowledge to stretch out a sentence," I joked, and Branigan, the ass, smiled.
"Jobs for Americans. Hmm, interesting statement, Senator Branigan" I started, "How do you intend on creating jobs for Americans, How can you attest to bring Jobs to this great nation while you're history dictates otherwise," I started.
"Senator, didn't you once own, and run, Layton Tech products, based in Idaho?" I asked.
"Am I on trial, Senator?" he asked, with a hint of a smile.
"Simple question. I am just trying to work out the morality of your statement," I said, and walked around the stage, showing a lot of confidence.
"I once owned it, yes," he replied.
"Yes, until you closed the factory down and moved the operation to Australia, correct?" I stated.
"It was a business decision; the board voted and passed it," he added, now looking a little worried.
"Birmingham, Alabama, Mitchell Lumber, you closed it down and moved it to Canada. Chillingham Auto, moved to India. Lexington Engineering, one of the biggest firms in the south, but you moved the operations out of state, and again, to Canada. So you peacocking around this stage, proclaiming Jobs for Americans, when you sold out," I pretended to check facts from my tablet, but knew it by heart.
"337,000 jobs, 337,000 livelihoods, 337,000 families sent into poverty. America, do you want to trust this man with your jobs, your livelihood?" I concluded, and I could see Branigan seething.
"Now, the comment regarding new jobs. I have already hit on that, a little. The President, over the past four years, has tried to help firms in difficulty; but the Democrats, who have the majority in the Senate and Congress, have stopped him at every turn, so, of course, jobs were lost. But don't, in one single accusation, claim that the Republicans are solely to blame," I added.
"Senator Branigan?" the moderator asked.
"I stand by my record," he concluded.
I gave my speech and he replied but he looked defeated. He just wanted to get off the stage and start damage limitation.
He had a smirk on his face at the end of the debate. I didn't need polls to tell me I had won this round; but a wounded animal can still be a dangerous one.
The numbers came back the following day. We were, a month or so ago, 18 points down; we now led by 6. We had to work harder, as we are still waiting for his negative campaign to continue. The animosity shown to Senator Branigan from various places where had campaigned, was because of job losses; and he tried to hide behind directors and chairmen. Some went to jail, and he stayed clean; but the CIA was investigating. The information was a matter of public record. just well hidden public record.
I was taken by my agents, back to my home. I would hardly see it for a few weeks, so a night would be great. I waited until Tucker came and told me all was okay, and I climbed out and went into my home.
An hour later, I switched on the news and listened to some pundits talking about my victory in the previous night's debate. But then, the shit hit the fan. My cell rang, and Sarah was frantic.
"Sarah, calm down, what's happened?" I asked. I could hear commotion in the background.
"Danny Logan," she said, and my heart sank.
"What about him, is he okay?" I asked.
"Bryce, the Post has pictures of you and him. Bryce, it shows you kissing him. It was from the same angle as those threatening ones, Bryce," she added.
My world was starting to collapse; I hung up, and waited for everything to implode. A knock on my study door brought me back to reality.
"Come in," I yelled, and Danny stood there, his face looked pained. I stood up and walked to him, and pulled him into a hug.
"Shit, Danny, I am so sorry about this" I said, and he just nodded.
"Bryce, I was stepping down, anyway; but you, this could hurt you," he said, forgetting about all the shit that would be coming his way.
"I've handled the Taliban, the Mujahedeen; I think I can take a little shit from the press," I said, trying to sound a little unconcerned, but failing.
"Your lead will vanish, overnight," he said, as he lay his head on my shoulder.
Then, there it was. The photograph was on screen, and I was kissing Danny Logan. The world knew I was kissing a fellow Senator, and former candidate. That is what could hurt me. Branigan could twist this, and somehow make it all about the gay agenda; fucking gay agenda. I snickered a little, to myself.
Danny's cell began to ring as did mine. Danny flipped his open and looked at me. "My Dad," he said, and left the room. I looked at mine, and it was Mike Longo.
"Hey, Mike," I started.
"Shit, Bryce, did you have to shit so close to home?" he said.
"Subtle Mike, very subtle," I replied.
"Bryce, this has again gone back to sexuality. You were winning on the core issues of leadership. You now have to convince America that is okay for a gay man to do the toughest job on Gods green earth," he said.
"Mike, I always had to say that. It was always there, you know, lurking in the background. Branigan would have let it slip, along the lines of, 'Put a real man in the hot seat' or some shit like that," I added.
"Yeah, he's probably behind the photograph, and you know what that means," he said.
"Yeah, the threats," I reply.
"What about the shooting, Bryce? You cannot rule that out, now, can you? I mean, someone got the shooter in, and out," he adds, and I can see the logic, clear as day.
I ended the call as Danny walked in.
"You okay?" I asked.
"Well, CNN just outed me to my parents; so they are a little pissed, right now. Mom is okay, but Dad is taking it a little hard," he said, sitting down next to me, head in his hands.
"You going to stay with me, tonight?" I asked.
"No point hiding, now, is there? The press will be outside your place now, anyway," he said, and slumped into the sofa. I reclined next to him and kissed him gently. He didn't respond, and I could understand why.
"I love you, Danny. If you want me to walk away from this, I will. I need you more than this. I realize that, now. I love you with all that I am," I said, and he just stared at me, and his expression softened.
"Do you want to quit?" he asked.
"No, I've never quit anything in my life… but, I will, for you," I added.
He stood up, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Nope, no fucking way… if you get beat, fine… But love, go down fighting," he replied, with a tear falling down his cheek.
"Fight? I'm going to win. I have a mission and a purpose. I have to convince America I am the right man to lead them. I have to convince America I am the only man to lead them. Besides, I have an incentive," I ended.
"Huh" his highly educated brain replied.
"You nailing my ass in the oval office, over the executive desk," I smiled, as did he.
"Fuck, Bryce, I love you so fucking much," he added.
To Be Continued...
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