Politics Ch. 06byhal_tee©
Chapter 6: From the sublime to the ridiculous
Thomas was frustrated. Boy, was he frustrated!!
With the General Election only three days away, he was now working sixteen-hour days. That meant that he and Becky hadn't made love for over a week. Not since she'd practically sexually assaulted him the day he'd arrived home following his night with Erika. It was making him irritable, affecting his demeanour, and his judgement, too.
Becky must be feeling the same way, but she was putting in similar hours in an effort to get her exercise studio up and running. Erika had found her the prime position and helped negotiate the lease. It wouldn't take much to have it exactly as she wanted. The formal opening was right on schedule. Only two days away.
Opening so close to the election was an ironic coincidence. Both of them were working ceaselessly towards a common timeframe, yet such different objectives.
Her total concentration on that project was overshadowing everything else in her life, including him. Not that he was complaining. It was such a wonderful opportunity for her and one she deserved. The next time he spoke to Guus Kessen, he'd have to thank him for so generously financing his girlfriend.
The lack of sex wasn't his only frustration, of course. It's just that it was making it more difficult to concentrate on the political campaign. They were in a mess, and if they were unable to find a way forward, Alistair's chances of becoming the first black British Prime Minister were all but buried.
For a couple of days, after the Northern Ireland debate, they were flying high. Some polls even had then five percentage points ahead of Labour. But now that Jack Murphy had broken the Mary O'Leary story—despite all the threats Thomas could come up with—the percentage lead had reversed. Five points behind with three days to go!!
Things had gone from the sublime to the ridiculous!
It didn't matter that there wasn't a single shred of evidence, nor that they'd denied every single allegation made and threatened to sue, the tabloids and the Labour broadsheets had picked up the story and were all running with it.
Nor did it help that Alistair was so short-tempered. The negative impact on his chances of winning had hit him hard, though Thomas had a feeling there was more to his constant irritability than that. Although the atmosphere had improved between the politician and Erika, there were some underlying currents that didn't quite add up.
Nor had any donation from Brian Sterling been forthcoming as far as he could tell. He'd caught Alistair trying the businessman's office a few times but it appeared they weren't taking his calls. That reminded the Campaign Manger—Guus Kessen's donation hadn't arrived yet, either. With the Dutchman backing Becky financially, he hadn't wanted to chase him for the money.
But they needed that million...
Despite their depressing poll ratings, it was impossible to fault the politician for effort. When he wasn't attending to other matters, he was out on the streets, canvassing, wearing out his shoe leather and putting the hours in. If the Election were judged on effort alone, he'd be the clear winner. Hell, if it were based on policies, he'd walk away with it too.
But it wasn't. It appeared to be simply based on the Mary O'Leary story!
That disclosure had fucked them and the public seemed to believe he was guilty by implication. Not only that, there were already internal rumbles of discontent, though it was too late for the Party to do anything other than close ranks and support their leader. Still, one or two of those on the backbenches weren't helping with the leakages to the tabloid press!
And Alistair's decision to ignore that particular section of the media was self-defeating. Okay, it stopped him from having to face the same banal questions over and over again. But some people were seeing it as an admission of guilt. The whole thrust of their campaign had changed. It had stopped being about politics, or the people, and instead focused on his battle with the media. And on this fucking story, of course... or should that be, a story about fucking?
There had to be a way forward. They were dead otherwise. But what?
"Guus!" Erika checked her face in the mirror as she spoke, running a hand through her wavy blonde hair.
"Hello, my dear," the Dutchman warmly murmured. "I do look forward to our regular chats."
"Me too," Erika murmured, flicking her tongue across her glossy red lips.
It had become her morning routine over the past week; the only way to deal with Alistair and the mess of the election. Call Guus. She'd made a point of having a daily conversation with the Dutchman, despite his stay in Monte Carlo being extended.
But now he was back in London, it was time to up the ante.
What had become known in the tabloid press as the 'Mary O'Leary affair' was destroying their hopes of an election victory. And if that happened, there was no doubt that Alistair would be outed as the Conservative Party leader.
Unbeknown to others, it wasn't just his career that would be in tatters. Although he's attempted to keep it from her, his parents were very unhappy with the situation, too. Irrespective of whether there was any element of truth, they saw their son as dragging the family name through the mud. If there wasn't an immediate resolution, he could say goodbye to his inheritance.
If that wasn't bad enough, it wasn't the only thing he was keeping from her. The poor bastard was mooning around like a lovesick dog. After their chat in his office, he'd been more open with, even going so far as to confess he had 'some feelings' for this Katie.
Some feelings? What the fuck did that mean? And did he expect her to listen patiently to him and sympathise? Allow him to humiliate her by signalling he was on the verge of dropping her for this bitch of a shrink?
She had listened patiently, of course. It was important to her plan that he thought she was on his side. Inside, of course, she was seething. Irrespective of the General Election result, it was over between them. If he lost the election and his inheritance, it was over between them. Why would she stay with a loser?
And if by some miracle things worked out, she had no intention of remaining with someone who was so flagrantly dishonouring her. The photographs she had in her possession would find their way to the press. What better time than after he'd been voted into power? Revenge would be so sweet.
And then there was the revenge she wanted on this woman. It appeared that Katie was refusing to return his calls, and he was handling the rejection badly. It was pathetic. But if they did get back together, she knew exactly how she'd deal with the two of them. It made her mouth water...
All of this led to one thing as far as Erika was concerned. A need to cultivate Guus Kessen! With money like his, who cared how overweight he was? He'd be the perfect short-term replacement until she advanced to her next victim. Victim! What a wonderful description. It fit perfectly.
"Yes, Guus, I'm here," she responded, pulling herself out of her thoughts. "I was just thinking, now you're back in England, how good it would be for the two of us to meet up sometime during the next week. It's been too long, don't you think?"
The sigh of approval at the other end of the line suggested she'd surprised but pleased him. "That sounds wonderful, my dear."
"I mean," she continued, lowering her tone to what she regarded as her seductive Scandinavian lilt, "we seem to make such a good team, don't you think. After all, you helped with Rebecca, and gained your—shall we say—reward? I feel as if I owe you something. Don't you?"
"I see," the Dutchman slowly responded, his change in tone telling him that realisation was dawning. "And Alistair?"
"Well, Thomas doesn't know anything about your... er... arrangement with Rebecca. Why should Alistair need to know anything about our arrangement? Besides, I've wanted to get to know you better for some time..."
"I see," came the studied response. "And tell me, Erika. Do you see our arrangement containing the same sort of benefits I enjoyed with Rebecca?"
"Well, Guus," she purred, putting even emphasis on her sultry Scandinavian accent. "I'd say that anything is possible, wouldn't you?"
"What is it?" Alistair Brinkley-Jones asked as he joined Thomas and Sally in the conference room. He was sick of the sight of those bloody walls. "I have a few things to tidy up before I take to the streets of London again. The great unwashed gave me a right ear bashing yesterday, but I'm fucked if I know what else to do."
Sally glanced across at Thomas. It wasn't just the words. The strain on the black politician's face was plain enough. She had no idea how he'd react to Thomas's suggestion. She wasn't even sure how she felt about it.
"Doesn't anyone ever tidy this place?" Alistair grumpily asked, pulling a chair out and wearily plonking himself down. There were papers spread across the glass table—faxes, newspapers, campaign literature, even some spoiled fruit, half eaten food and empty cans.
"Look, I don't have much time, he continued, picking up a bottle of water and downing half of it in one go. "Can we make this quick and painless?"
The door burst open just as Thomas started to respond. "Sorry I'm late," Erika smiled, looking as composed as ever. "Phone call. Have we started?"
"No," the Campaign Manager advised, pushing back his golden farmer boy hair. Her timing was ideal. He needed Erika's opinion on the idea he was going to float. He glanced at the three faces staring in his direction. "But Alistair's in a hurry so let me get right to the point..."
He paused, grateful for Sally's warm nod of encouragement.
"Our ratings have stalled over the last week," he continued. "No, that's wrong. They've gone backwards at a rate of knots. And it's not because of anything that Paul Collinson or George Blair are doing. It's all down to this one story."
"Tell me something else that's new..." the politician irritably growled.
"A story that you were supposed to be controlling..." Erika added.
"That's unfair!" It was Sally who cut in. As loyal to her employers as she was, the diminutive redhead wasn't going to see Thomas blamed.
"That's okay," he smiled at her. "This story has us all at our wit's end. But we can't go on like this. We aren't going to make up five points in three days by doing the same thing. We've gone into our shell, cutting contact with the less salubrious sections of the press, staying out of the firing line. We need something drastic. A change of direction."
"Such as?" Erika asked, crossing her arms over her full breasts as she leant back against the conference room door.
"We go on the offensive."
"Offensive?" Alistair snorted. "Which means exactly what?"
Thomas turned a seat around and sat down, leaning forward on the back of the chair. "Which means instead of hiding away from publicity, we go looking for it. Instead of ignoring questions on Mary O'Leary, we answer them. Instead of looking guilty, we take the higher ground."
"It won't work—" Alistair began.
Sally cut in. "It's got to be better than what's happening now. We've effectively lost eight percentage points in a week. We're heading for earth in flames and we've got to get ourselves out of this nosedive."
"Flying a fucking airplane, are we?" Alistair ungraciously said. "Look—"
"She's right," Thomas interrupted. "Basically, we're fucked. We've just been denying that. You might not see it this way, Alistair, but the way you've reacted is the way of a guilty man. If there's any chance of winning this, we need to dramatically change people's perceptions. Overnight!"
For a few minutes, no one spoke. It was Erika who broke the silence. If they were crashing and burning, that was fine by her. So was getting Alistair back in the spotlight. Make the bastard suffer. "It makes sense, darling," she said, smiling sweetly at the black politician. "You have such charisma. If anyone can turn this round, you can."
Brinkley-Jones didn't speak at first. His eyes were rolling around his head, his face creased in thought. He bit down on his lower lip. "Isn't it all too late?" he said with a sigh, his shoulders sinking into a resigned shrug.
"Possibly," Thomas admitted. "Probably, even, if we're honest with ourselves. But I don't want to go down without a fight."
"You think I'm not fighting?"
"Of course you are, Alistair. We all are! But effort alone is no good, and especially if it's misplaced. If we're going to lose, let's go down in a blaze of glory."
"Which means?" Alistair and Erika chorused in union.
"I rang Larry Paxman this morning. Offered him an exclusive appearance on tonight's Newsnight show."
It was as if a cold wind blew through the room. "You've what?" Alistair confrontationally asked. "How fucking stupid—"
"Wait," Erika interrupted, thinking it through. He was right—it was fucking stupid. Larry Paxman was a rottweiler and would tear Alistair limb from limb. What a delicious thought! "It makes sense," she added, her heart leaping at the embarrassment it might cause. "Shows that you're not frightened to face him, face the country. I think you should do it!"
"It's a risk," Sally interjected. "But in our situation, we need to take a risk. It's our only chance."
"Think about it," Thomas urged, leaning forward in his chair so that the back legs rose from the floor. "The programme gives you two opportunities. Refuting everything about the woman, and then getting your policies across. And the fact it's live let's you control it better, Alistair. When you're in full flow, there's not a more impressive sight."
The black politician grunted, his lack of objection indicating he was coming around to Thomas's way of thinking.
"Let Paxman ask what he wants" the fair-haired Campaign Manager continued. "Then it's all about how you respond. Answer everything truthfully. Then when the time is right, hit him with, Larry, I know why you're asking the question, but should someone as experienced as you be indulging this rubbish? Why are you dignifying such ludicrous accusations? There... is... no... truth... in... the... story! Period!"
The room quietened again, but this time it was a warmer silence. Thomas's enthusiastic words had taken them all by surprise. The young man pressed his point home.
"The crucial variable in all of this isn't Mary O'Leary. It's you, Alistair. People don't know you well enough yet. The Belfast debate began that process, but we've backed off. However painful the questions, we need to let the public see the real you again. What you believe in. Show that you care."
"What have you got to lose?" Sally cut in. "We're dead otherwise. "
Thomas jumped up from his chair, as if standing would emphasise his point. "We only have the final appearance in Scotland between you and the Election," he rasped. "If the Paxman appearance goes well, and you wow them in Glasgow, we might just have an outside chance."
The black politician rose from his chair and slowly headed across to the conference room door. As Erika stepped to one side and held it open for him, he glanced back at the fair-haired Campaign Manager. "If this goes badly, I'm fucked, and you're fucking fired..."
"So, I'll be sacked soon," Thomas murmured, as Erika followed Alistair out of the door. He swung back to look at Sally. "Fuck me!"
The petite redhead smiled and tipped her head to one side. She'd do exactly that soon enough. "Why thank you for the offer, sweetheart. After a tough meeting like that, sex is often a good stress reliever."
"Very funny," he uncomfortably said, his eyes sliding to the v-shaped red blouse. Her breasts were perky rather than big and he couldn't help but notice her sexy black bra that he could see through the thin material. Hell, even during his discussion with Alistair and Erika, he'd been aware of it.
Sally sat on the edge of the table, seemingly oblivious to the way her short, black skirt rode up her thigh, revealing a flash of lightly tanned skin above her nude coloured stockings. She always wore stockings, he'd noticed. Very sexy.
"Not funny," she told him. "True. And the thing is, with the hours we've both been working—neither of us has had much time at home. You've been more and more irritable as the week has progressed. So've I. You know what that's a sign of?"
Thomas cleared his throat, but didn't answer. He knew only too well. Sally raised an eyebrow, telling him she was waiting for his reply.
"It's only for another few days," he grunted with a shrug.
"Maybe?" the petite redhead sexily murmured. "But tell me the truth, Thomas. You have imagined us together haven't you? I know you have."
He felt his cock stir. This discussion wasn't good for his blood pressure. With each conversation, she seemed to be a little bolder, as if turning the screw. "You're married," he lamely replied, as if that would end the subject.
Sally flicked a hand through her coppery bob and allowed herself a low laugh. "What? You think that would worry me? Thomas, you're such an innocent. What Jeremy doesn't know, doesn't hurt!"
She swivelled around on the table, deliberately crossing her legs to allow him a sight of the suspenders holding her stockings up.
Thomas pulled his eyes away, but knew he was too late. She'd seen his glance. And his blush was a dead giveaway, too. "And I have Becky," he added. "I'm all but married."
"Becky?" she said with another of those child-like laughs. "Thoughts of Becky didn't stop you from fucking Erika in Belfast, did it?"
His pale blush turned deep red.
"Oh, don't worry," she told him. "You're secret's safe with me."
"I... I was coerced," he mumbled.
This time, Sally's laugh was full blooded. "Oh, that's it? You like your women to force you? Then have no fear, buster, I'm just the girl."
Thomas frowned. He couldn't help the way his body reacted to her sexual teasing. But he wasn't going to betray Becky again. Ever. Not with Sally, Erika, or any woman.
"Sally..." he began, but the diminutive redhead was already swinging her body from the glass table as a couple of party workers headed across to the conference room.
"Don't worry," she whispered as the two elderly workers paused at the door, unsure whether to disturb them. They'd booked the room out for a meeting that was already late. "I can tell from your eyes that you want me," the redhead told him, seconds before she pulled open the door. "And just so you know, the feeling is mutual..."
Katie Nichols was in turmoil. Over the man she was beginning to develop feelings for. That thought frightened her.
She was, or had been, Alistair Brinkley-Jones' psychiatrist. And she'd betrayed that bond. Brian Sterling was her boss, and she'd defied his instructions. The Conservative Party leader had a girlfriend, and she'd ignored that fact. They were all considerations that were weighing heavily on her mind.
Yet despite them, she willingly allowed him to fuck her. In a public restaurant. Anyone could have walked in. Anyone could have heard. And it would have destroyed Alistair's reputation for good. Things were bad enough with the lies about him and the Irish girl that were plastered all over the media.
Then there was Brian. He'd go apeshit if he knew what they'd done. What they'd done? Her laughter floated into the empty air of her office. She'd fucked a client, the biggest sin that there was in her world. Hell, she could have embezzled millions from the firm and the news wouldn't be received as badly.
If she allowed the relationship to go any further, she'd have to tell Brian, of course. And that could cost her job.