The Brotherhood #21
By Mark W. Meier
The First Horseman
“Hatred is beautiful.”
Manipulating humans was easy after thousands of years of practice. You were no different.
Alderman to ten thousand residents in the north central United States, you knew your idealism would never be realized unless you held higher office. Still in your first term you already wanted more influence to accomplish your goals. I could give you everything you thought you wanted.
At the council president’s retirement party some drudge brought out a cake. I handed you a business card and had to yell to be heard above the thirty-year-old music blaring in the horrid acoustics of the reception hall. “Alderman Wilson, I’m Leo Jeffrey.”
You jerked to awareness and read the card without taking it. “Political Advisers, LLC. You think I need a political adviser? I won this seat by thirty points.”
Politics was my specialty, and I knew you hadn’t learned the most basic of lessons – this is a long game. “You could have won by more. Or lost if I’d helped your opponent.”
You ignored the card and looked to see if anyone important was around. “I can’t afford an adviser.” Instead of a reporter you found a secretary holding out a small plate with a neat cube of frosted white cake – which you took with a reasonable approximation of a genuine smile.
“Can’t afford not to, Bob. We work free for a client’s first term. If dissatisfied, you can fire me any time.”
As a freshman alderman you had no seniority and less power. My card offered you influence. The backing of thousands within the Brotherhood was something you’d never comprehend, and was beyond imagination.
You set the cake aside without eating. “Come to my office tomorrow. Nine o’clock.” You took the card and put it in your breast pocket – over your heart.
The next day, fifty-six minutes after office hours began, you meandered in and swore to yourself for forgetting our appointment.
Leaning closer to the receptionist you murmured, “Tell the Foschard people I’ll be with them in a few minutes.”
You escorted me into your office, closed the laminate door, and perched yourself behind the faux wood desk. “What can you do for me, Mr. Jeffrey?”
Ignoring the shelves of books with titles designed to impress visitors, I sat and opened my briefcase. You busied yourself responding to social media posts as I drew out a folder bearing a single page.
“First off, you should distance yourself from Foschard.” Foschard Partners, Inc. was the construction company preferred by the city, even if other bids were periodically accepted, just to keep up the façade of impartiality and preclude accusations of graft. That was my first order of business, and the real lure for our relationship.
“They’re my biggest donor.”
“You should disavow them today. Tomorrow the Tribune will publish a piece about the aldermen they’ve bought. Your name is listed.” I tapped the folder’s contents to draw your attention.
Tomorrow’s headline, “Bought and Paid,” screamed at the top of the page. You blanched. Sweat beaded on your forehead. “Where did you get this? It’s obviously wrong. This is what I said I’d fight against.”
I’d had your name added. The others named in the story were guilty.
“I have contacts at the Trib. They’ve been working on that story for months, and there’s evidence Foschard has been bribing aldermen. You’re a freshman member of the council. It’s possible the scandal will bypass you – if I have my contact alter documents.”
You gaped. “Won’t your contact be implicated if he changes things?”
“That’s our concern, not yours.” I plucked the paper from your fingers, placed it back in my briefcase and snapped it shut.
“What should I do?” You looked shaken. The long path of your political future might be detoured– or ended.
“Hold a press conference.” I stood and opened your door. “Television, radio, newspaper. Tell them you’ve discovered members of your council have been bribed to procure contracts. They’ll eat it up. Then do what comes naturally.”
I walked past the receptionist as you yelled, “Becky! I need you!”
The news conference went well. The few media who came were provided with documentation, provided by my firm, of high level corruption. The obvious conclusion was that after only months in office you’d uncovered the graft and bribery you’d mentioned in campaign ads.
Over a three-month period the scandal cost half the aldermen their positions. Coverage catapulted you into the council leadership. Despite your first-term status people rallied around you. And jealousy raged. The Brotherhood could use that.
One day in your office, while discussing a councilman’s illegal use of city funding to promote a political group, my cell phone rang – right on cue. I checked the caller ID. “Sally Shoen – my partner.”
“You need privacy for that?” You pointed to another door leading from your office. “That’s a room you can use.”
“One moment, Sally.” I made my way past a stack of boxes ready to move to your new office. When the door to the small conference room closed behind me, voice activated microphones, planted the previous day, came alive. “I’m alone now, Sally. What’s happening?” My voice was piped into your office.
Your jaw dropped as you heard my one-sided conversation. You found one miniature speaker hidden in a tape dispenser, another beneath your desk.
“He could become the first horseman of the apocalypse, just like in the Book of Revelation.” I paused to let the imaginary Sally speak. “I’m sure he’ll need a lot of grooming, but it could happen.”
Still listening, you peeked into my briefcase. Inside was a folder with your name containing a twenty-year schedule of your future political career.
“That’s right, Sally. We’ll start him out slow so he can learn the ropes. State Senate, Congress, the governor’s mansion, and eventually the White House where the world will unite around him.”
A note at the end of the file you read mentioned Secretary General of the United Nations followed by a question mark. Any young idealist would want everything on that list. For a while you couldn’t decide if I should be institutionalized or believed. You settled on believed. Just like Chamos had suggested.
“He’s young and inexperienced, but he’ll be a great candidate.” I sat in a chair at a small conference table. “Certainly better than the previous chairman.” I pretended to listen. “I’m not sure why so many candidates come from here, but flyover country is the best. I’ll let you know.”
After faking the obligatory “thanks-see-ya-later-bye,” I looked through the wall to watch you put the folder back in order. I timed my return to coincide with you sitting again.
“Something’s come up, Bob. I have to return to my office.”
You stood. “Well, so far your firm has done wonderful things. I look forward to putting an end to the rot in our system.”
I pointed to the boxes of paraphernalia littering your open space. “When will you move into the chairman’s office?”
“Next week. I’m having the carpeting replaced.”
“You deserve nice things.” No doubt someone would suggest new paneling and better equipment. Foschard had those contracts. And the Brotherhood had Foschard.
I passed your new secretary on my way out, and when nobody looked I turned invisible and intangible to reenter your office.
You’d called your girlfriend. “Andrea, let’s celebrate. I have good news. Dinner at Forozeo’s?”
I heard her excited reply. She was probably expecting a diamond ring or the key to your home.
“I’ll pick you up at seven.”
You hung up and rubbed your hands together. “First horseman sounds good.”
It would take work on your part. And patience.
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