Running Mate(4)

By: Katie Ashley


It was then that I quietly began humming “He Had It Coming” from the musical Chicago. After spending middle and high school immersed in musical theater, I often resorted to humming show tunes whenever I was nervous. Most of the time, I managed to find a tune to go with my current mood.

As the driver opened the limo door, Mr. George patted my back. “Stop worrying, Miss Monroe. Your job is safe, but better yet, you are safe.”

At his knowing look, a relieved breath whooshed out of me. “I’m glad to hear that, sir,” I replied as I dropped into the limo. I slid across the seat, leaving plenty of room for Mr. George, who eased down beside me.

Once we got on our way, Mr. George dug a mini bottle of Moet out of the mini-fridge across from us. “Would you like some champagne?” he offered.

Although it would have probably settled my out-of-control nerves, I decided I should pass. After a breakfast of champions comprised of black coffee and donuts, I wasn’t sure my stomach could handle the bubbles. Besides, I needed a clear head for what was about to happen, and alcohol wasn’t going to make me sharp. There was also the less than desirable fact that champagne always made me burp, and the last thing I needed was to gross Mr. George out after cursing around him.

“No, thank you,” I politely declined.

With a wink, Mr. George put the champagne back and handed me a bottle of water. “Just so you know, I wasn’t trying to ply you with alcohol to make a pass at you.”

A flush of embarrassment tinged my cheeks since that thought had crossed my mind. “That’s not what I was thinking,” I lied.

“It’s exactly what you were thinking, along with the fact that you didn’t think drinking would calm your anxiety about your meeting with Senator Callahan.”

I widened my eyes. “How could you possible know that?”

“Because the whole limo ride to see a powerful man thing would seem nefarious in most people’s minds. Throw in the fact that you are an attractive young woman and it makes it seem even seedier.”

“Well…I…”

“Since I could read your apprehension, I thought a sip or two of alcohol might calm your nerves.”

“Did you also anticipate that I refused on the grounds that champagne makes me burp?” Oh Jesus, did I actually say that out loud?

Mr. George chuckled. “No, but I know what you mean. It gives me the worst indigestion.”

I smiled. “Let me guess, you worked in profiling before you switched over to campaign work?”

“You’re very good, Miss Monroe. I worked thirty years with the FBI. Becoming a campaign manager is part of my retirement.”

“Doesn’t seem like a very relaxing job to me.”

“It keeps my mind active, which is what I wanted, and I still get time off between election years.” Mr. George turned in his seat to face me directly. “Enough about me. Tell me, how familiar are you with James Callahan?”

A smirk crept across my lips. “I could probably recite his stances on foreign and domestic policies in my sleep, not to mention his voting history in the Senate.”

Mr. George nodded. “I imagined as much. I’m more interested in what you know about him personally.”

It was an odd inquiry, but while I rarely concerned myself with Senator Callahan’s private life when I was working with volunteers, it didn’t mean I was unprepared. If there was one thing I prided myself on, it was being over-prepared for any given situation. “Before interviewing for the job with the Callahan campaign, I did extensive research on his background.”

Stroking his chin, Mr. George questioned, “And what did you learn?”

I furrowed my brows in confusion. “You want me to tell you what I know?”

“Yes.”

Okay then, ask and you shall receive. After sucking in a breath, I began reciting what felt like a class report. “James Thornton Callahan III was born in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1943. He attended military prep schools before graduating from West Point and was decorated for his service in Vietnam. After leading two tours as an Army Major, he returned home to work at The Callahan Corporation, the company his self-made grandfather had built from the ground up. His first wife, Celia, died of cancer just two years after they married. Like John F. Kennedy, he was elected to his first term in the senate as a bachelor. A decade after losing Celia, he wed his second wife, Jane Barrett, a distant cousin of the famous Vanderbilt family, and they had three children, James Thornton IV, or Thorn as he is called, Barrett, and Caroline.”

When I finally paused to take another breath, Mr. George smiled at me. “Very impressive, Miss Monroe.”

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