By Mark W. Meier
The First Horseman
Your opening statement was a bombshell. “Congressman Franz Gordon will not be running for reelection.” They’d expected a simple announcement you’d be running again for state senate. “Rules don’t allow me to run for Congress while seeking reelection. Therefore I’ve chosen to run for Congressman Gordon’s seat.”
The announcement sparked questions, and within minutes more reporters and supporters crowded into the hall which was suddenly far too small. You were there for hours.
I sat in your office that evening, giving you the illusion that you were controlling the course of events, that you were the one making decisions about your career. “You shouldn’t have done that. It’s too early.”
Your contemptuous smile told me you thought you didn’t need me. “We’ll see, Leo. When I get to the House, perhaps we’ll renegotiate our deal.”
“When.” I laughed as I walked away from the door I deliberately left open. The echo of my mirth reverberated into your office and stuck in your head, making you worry.
Without your knowledge, my Brothers backed your opponent. You lost by an epic margin of fifty-three percent. If you wanted to conquer the world you’d need my help.
“How could I lose so badly?” you lamented.
We were in my office again, with my freshly installed hardwood floor and solid oak paneling. You needed me, regardless of how much you resented it, and my renovations demonstrated I didn’t need you.
“We did everything right. I read your speeches and followed your instructions, and we lost.” The sulfuric stench of your despair overwhelmed the lingering traces of wood polish.
I remained calm, which only irritated you. “I told you it was too early. We need to wait for a better opportunity.”
“How can there be ‘better’ than an open seat?” You summoned enough energy to climb to your feet, then paced. Defeat didn’t look good on you. “That guy is a total unknown,” you snarled, pointing at my television where a news show chattered.
“That’s why he won.” I turned off the TV. “The climate now is for people who are not part of the machine. You don’t fit that bill. And now you don’t even have your state seat.” The “I told you so” remained unsaid so it would have more effect.
Six months after taking office the man who beat you died of a sudden heart attack while making an appearance at a local festival. He turned away from an interviewer and pointed to someone who wasn’t there, then clutched his chest and fell to the sidewalk. The reporter performed CPR while the cameraman kept the congressman center frame. Nobody knew a supporting imp had reached into his chest and squeezed his heart until it stopped.
You came to my office to ask if you should try for the seat again. The governor was too indecisive to make appointments and announced a special election.
“You’ll give politicians a worse name than they already have.” Inside I smiled. You’d asked. Whether it was for permission to run or my advice didn’t matter.
“I should be a shoo-in.” Anger flared in your voice. Looking at your bottle of pop you asked, “Do you have anything stronger?”
“You’ll lose again because of your name recognition and previous margin of loss.” I poured a glass of gin – laced with a mild barbiturate – and placed it on a coaster within your reach.
You pounded my desk before taking the drink. “My finances aren’t infinite. I have to keep up my private office, the people working there, my image.” Most important to you was your image.
“Did you want to resort to accepting bribes?” When you gasped in disbelief, I held up a hand to stop your outrage. “I’m not suggesting, only checking.”
You glared at me over the edge of your glass. “I’d never accept a bribe.”
Liar. “It’s tough to keep an office without an income. I could provide money if you’re willing to renegotiate our contract.”
You snorted. “You must be joking. I – we – lost that last election.”
“You ran against my advice. If you’d waited, you’d still be a state senator collecting experience. Right now you’re a has-been party hack. Your investments earn barely enough to pay your bills with nothing left over for maintaining an office in your district.” After a pause I added, “Think about my offer.”
You threw back the rest of your gin and left.
When you got to your office you locked the door and fell into your chair. You held your head, sulking. I savored it. Despondent people are easy to manipulate.
“I was supposed to take over the world. I’m the first horseman, riding forth to conquer.” A sob slipped out. The money you’d socked away wouldn’t last long if you weren’t getting handed more from people seeking favors.
You were right where I wanted you.
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