Disclaimers: See Part 1
Violence/Sex: Some (brief) violence. This story does involve a consensual loving and sexual relationship between two adult women. It is not explicit, but if it offends you, is illegal where you live, or if you are underage—please consider another story selection.
Warning: This story contains profanity—lots of it. In fact, Evan Reed should will her mouth to science. For those of you who are brave enough to persevere—my heartfelt thanks in advance.
Dust is complete, but will be posted in installments.I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright Ann McMan, May 2011. All rights reserved. This story, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any format without the prior express permission of the author.
On Sunday morning, Julia called Evan to fill her in on her disturbing encounter with Andy.
Evan was incredulous—and more than slightly pissed—off about this turn of events.
“Why did you wait so long to call me?” she demanded.
There was a hiss of dead air—then Julia sighed.
“Because I needed some time to process it for myself—without any filters.”
“Is that what I am? A filter? ” She knew it was a petty response, but she couldn't help herself.
“Stop it, Evan. You know what I mean.”
“No. I'm not sure that I do know what you mean. This isn't a game, Julia—these people play for keeps. My ‘filter' might just be the only thing that keeps you from becoming the next casualty in this sick little drama.”
There was another pause.
“I think you're overreacting. Yes, Andy was… upset —but he'd never do anything to hurt me.”
Evan silently counted to five before allowing herself to speak.
“Sweetheart, I think you're underestimating ‘The Marcus Factor.'”
“No. I'm not. I have no illusions about what that man might be capable of.”
There was more dead air on the line.
“Then I'll ask again: why did you wait so long to let me know about this?”
“I'm letting you know about it now.”
“Twenty—four hours later?”
“I mean it, Julia. One day can be a lifetime when you're dealing with a scumbag like Marcus.”
“I don't even know how to respond to a comment like that.”
“Well, I don't either—and that's why we need to make use of every second.”
Julia exhaled. “All right. What do you think we need to do?”
Evan relaxed a little. At least she said “we.” That had to be a good sign.
“Let me get a few things squared away on this end—and I'll call you back.” She considered that. “Where will you be for the rest of the day?”
“I was going to go into the office for several hours—if you'll recall, I didn't get much work done on Friday.”
Evan felt her face grow hot. She was glad that Julia couldn't see it.
“Right. Good idea. Go on to the office, and stay there until you hear back from me.”
“I mean it. Stay there until you hear from me.”
She sighed. “ Okay —but will you please calm down? Your tone is scaring me more than any suppositions about what Marcus might do.”
Evan sighed. The truth was that she needed for Julia to be scared. But she needed her to be smart, too—and careful.
“I need you to trust me,” she said instead.
“I do trust you.”
“Then I don't see that we have a problem.”
Julia gave a laugh of resignation.
“I guess not. Call me later.”
She hung up.
Christ. Now what?
She opened her desk drawer and pulled out her stack of timetables. Stevie's train for Albany was leaving at 2:35. She could catch the 3:10 for D.C. and be at Marcus's office on M Street by 5:00. She knew he'd be there. The scumbag had no life—and he always found other goons to do his dirty work.
She shook her head. “I should buy stock in fucking Amtrak.”
She stuffed the timetables back into the drawer and closed it.
She looked toward the doorway to be sure that Stevie was still upstairs, gabbing on her phone. She waited until she heard the muffled sound of her laughter, then she walked over to her bookcase and picked up a small ceramic mug. It was misshapen and haphazardly decorated with gang symbols in bright, primary colors—a “craft project” she once had made years ago, when her grandfather forced her to attend one of those lame—ass CYO summer camps. The only reason she got away with the “design” was because the nuns were so fucking clueless—but she recalled that Tim, who had been at the camp with her, just shook his head and told her that she was begging for it.
Not much had changed since those days.
She took the small brass key out of the cup and walked back over to her desk, unlocking its' big bottom drawer. Beneath a stack of fat file folders sat the wooden box that contained her handgun. She kept the ammo in a box on the top shelf of her closet.
She hadn't fired the thing in about two years—not since she spent that weekend with some pals at Quantico. She hoped she could still shoot straight.
She pulled the box out of the drawer and opened it.
But that was one thing about a Glock—it was very forgiving of a limp—wristed shot.
And that was just the kind of insurance policy she needed right now.
Marcus was losing patience with this. He hated repeating himself, and it was clear that this conversation was going no place fast. He'd already made his decision—and he never changed his mind. Never.
He tried again to make his position clear.
“I've already told you that I can't undo any of this. It was all set in motion long before the former first lady took her playmate to the Plaza. Calling me about it now is pointless— and dangerous. I suggest that you don't do it again.”
He started to hang up the phone.
“Don't you dare hang up on me, you bloodless asshole! You're the one who got me into this mess in the first place.”
The voice on the other end of the line was desperate now—he found himself vaguely amused by that. Especially since it was coming from someone who was renowned for being such an icon of ‘restraint.'
“Are you threatening me?”
“You're goddamn right I'm threatening you! I want to know what the fuck you intend to do to short—circuit this catastrophe?”
He exhaled. “Not my problem. All the dogs in this fight appear to belong to you —not me.”
“Is that a fact? You seem to forget that if I go down, you go down with me.”
“I beg to differ.” He glanced at his watch. This was taking up too much time. Time he couldn't afford right now. He had plans to set into motion. The damage control from this one was going to be Herculean. He might even need to add staff. “May I remind you that this whole little scenario was your enterprise—not mine. It was your bankroll that set the ball rolling. Or have you forgotten about that?
There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line. “No. I haven't forgotten that. I have all those pesky pays stubs as affectionate reminders. They should make good reading for a grand jury—don't you think?”
He was unfazed. “I don't know what you expect me to do. In this situation, it seems that you'd be better served by consulting with your ‘friend,' Mr. Nemo.”
“Goddamn it—I've told you what has to happen. You're just not hearing me.”
“Wrong. I heard you perfectly. I'm just not interested—or able to help you.”
“Jesus, Marcus. I'm telling you that this mess is out of control. You have to stop it before it goes any further!”
He sighed. “The only thing I'm stopping is this conversation. Don't call me about this again.”
He hung up, and sat with his hand resting on top of the receiver for a moment—then, he sat back in his chair and tented his long fingers.
One way or another, tomorrow's headlines promised to be very interesting.
The phone on his desk buzzed. He leaned forward and tapped the speaker button.
“Evan Reed is here to see you.”
He shook his head. Of course she was.
“Send her in.”
Margo was making a concerted effort not to panic. She refused to panic because Andy was panicking—and they couldn't both be out of control. There was too much at stake. Everything she'd been working toward since Tom's death was starting to unravel at lightning speed.
If Julia met with her attorneys tomorrow, that would be it —the death knell for Andy's presidential aspirations. For certainly, once the lurid details of their “affair” became public, the party leadership would lay a patch running in the opposite direction. Not because of his infidelity, of course. The American public was bored and jaded enough now that it no longer applied those arcane, Ozzie and Harriet values to its “celebrities.” And that's what national politics was all about these days—celebrity. Who had it—and who didn't. In today's drag—and—drop world, attention spans were like cheap gum that lost its flavor after the first two minutes. And presidential campaigns were won and lost on the cover of People magazine, and not on the editorial pages of The Washington Post.
So it wasn't a pending, messy divorce that would bring Andy's potential candidacy to a grinding halt. No. It was his backdoor involvement with an Arab.
Of course, she wasn't an Arab—but that wouldn't matter. She was from Pakistan —and that, as far as the rank—and—file American was concerned, was guilt by association.
She snorted. The average ‘American' probably couldn't find Pakistan on a map—assuming, of course, that they even knew where to look to locate a map.
It didn't matter. Her accidental relationship to two suspected “terrorists” would be enough on its own to ruin any shot Andy had at national office. That was the real “dust” Evan Reed would bring to light—not anything related to her husband's untimely death, or her own sexual involvement with both of the Townsends.
Correction. Evan Reed would never reveal anything about Margo's dalliance with the sainted Julia.
But Tom's death...something about that still stuck in her craw. She had long suspected that something other than an unfortunate accident had transpired on the slopes in Aspen that day. But as many opportunities as she gave Andy to tell her the truth—he continued to deny it. And the perversity of it all was that she really didn't care, either way. After all, Tom had turned out to be a terrible disappointment—both to her, and to her employer. He'd squandered the potential he'd shown early on, and cashed—in his one shot at political success to join ranks with a bunch of two—bit, Greenpeace ambulance chasers. It was pathetic.
But Andy? Now he was another matter: smart and savvy—and tinged with just enough ambition to make him malleable. But there was a problem. Andy was lying to her. She was certain of it. And if he lied to her about this —there would be no way to predict what else he might lie to her about. And that uncertainty made him dangerous. It meant that she couldn't control him—and if she couldn't control him, then she couldn't count on him. He was a liability—both to her, and to the boys in Lahore.
Just like Evan Reed.
Marcus was right about Julia. As long as Andy remained tied up in knots over his twisted push—me, pull—you relationship with her, he'd be worthless to them both. Something had to give. She knew that Andy was near the breaking point—she hadn't been able to calm him down when he called her this morning from Manhattan. He was irrational—and running scared. He was acting out, and she didn't trust him. She knew that if she didn't step in and sort things out— soon —there'd be no salvaging any of this. She might as well pack her bags, and head back to a life of anonymity in Punjab.
Enough was enough. She picked up her cell phone and punched in the speed dial code for jetBlue.
It was time to take matters into her own hands.
To be continued.
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