Below is the First Offenders' contribution to Bryon Quertermous and Dave White's third Blog Short Story contest. The rules were that it couldn't be longer than 1,000 words and blogging had to be involved. Enjoy!
By Karen E. Olson
He couldn’t figure it out, though. He was sure he’d locked it up tighter than a fucking drum. There had been no proof. But as he clicked to “Watch Again” over and over, he knew. Someone had been there. Someone had a camera. And now it was all over.
He couldn’t stand it anymore, but he had to see if it was out there yet. He clicked on his bookmarked pages.
They all had links to the video. The Daily Kos said his career was over; Andrew Sullivan was calling for an immediate criminal investigation. Drudge led his page with it, with all those goddamn flashing police lights and in blood red letters: “Senator shot on tape.”
The phone rang on the desk, startling him in the dark, the glow of the computer screen illuminating his office. He glanced at the number, flipped the cover, said nothing.
“I’ve got CNN calling, Senator. And Fox News. And CBS, and, well, shit, all of them.” His press guy was pissed. He didn’t really blame him, but he was still the boss.
“What are you telling them?”
“I’ve stalled, said I would try to reach you. What can I tell them?” James’ tone was demanding; he couldn’t blame him for that.
Now that it was out, it wouldn’t take anyone long to put the pieces together.
He’d gotten the email in his personal inbox — not the one for the public, not even one that James knew about, but the one he used just for very close family and friends — just seconds before the video showed up:
“Here’s a link to something you might find interesting.”
It had looked like spam initially — he almost deleted it without opening it — but then the letters in the middle of the strand of numbers caught his eye and tugged at his memory. EWB.
Edmund White Barton.
It couldn’t be. He clicked on the link and ended up at YouTube. Only 4 viewers the first time. Now there were over 3,000.
He’d been so careful. But here it was, and there he was, staring at the camera. Where the hell had it been?
“Senator?” James was still waiting for an answer.
What the fuck could he say now? No, it really isn’t me?
Jesus, anyone who watched the news these days would recognize him. He’d risen from a freshman senator to head the judiciary committee in just 12 years. His face was all over goddamn C-Span every day.
It had been six months. He’d started to feel safe; no one would know. Barton’s disappearance barely made a blip. He started the rumors himself: Someone told him Barton had taken a job out West somewhere. That was always happening. Lobbyists came and went like yesterday’s news.
He’d rented the boat under an anonymous name, paid cash, wore a hat and sunglasses, the guy hadn’t even glanced at him twice. Barton had been waiting outside with the fishing gear. Barton was a smarmy bastard, even though he’d been useful early on. But all those lobbyists were smarmy. Usually, though, once the votes were in and their bosses were happy, they laid off a little. Barton didn’t.
The Senator knew he shouldn’t have taken as much as he did. All those free trips, the hot tub at the country house, the deposits into his Cayman account. Barton seemed to have an unending supply of cash and trinkets that he dangled before the Senator, teasing him until the Senator couldn’t say no anymore.
But when he became chairman of the judiciary committee, he started saying no. He couldn’t afford the risk anymore. Barton was pissed; the Senator voted the wrong way. Barton reminded him about what he’d done. That he could destroy him. The Senator told him he’d changed his mind. Why don’t they go fishing, they’d done that before, it had been a long time. They could talk about it.
The video showed the Senator pulling out the gun, firing, Barton falling overboard with the impact. There was no sound, but it didn’t need it.
The body had gone down quickly, and he’d spun the boat around, headed back to the dock. When he got there, he didn’t see anyone except the same guy behind the counter inside, who again barely looked at him as he turned over the key.
Barton was such an asshole that no one gave a shit when he wasn’t around anymore. The Senator had expected someone from Barton’s lobby to call him at some point, he expected to repeat what he’d told everyone else, but no one ever did.
He kept James waiting as he froze the video, a clear picture of his own face. Where was the camera? Who put it there? Barton?
How could someone rise from the dead?
The computer dinged, indicating he’d gotten an email. “Hold on a second, James,” he said, hitting the “hold” button on the phone and putting the receiver down. He clicked on his email icon.
From 156EBW234 again. He clicked again.
“So how’s that working out for you?”
That was it. If this was an attempt at a bribe, there was no mention of it. No, this was a deliberate attempt to take him down. And it would work.
He hit “reply.”
“What do you want?” It was a futile question, but maybe would elicit a clue as to who this was, what was going on.
While he waited, he took James off hold. “Don’t say anything. Don’t return the calls.”
“What’s going on?”
Another email popped into his inbox. “I’ll call you back.”
He hung up, looked at the response.
"Next time you think you've killed someone, make sure he doesn't have a bullet-proof vest on."
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