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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

The Brotherhood #25

By Mark W. Meier

Part 25

Act III

The First Horseman


You watched the television report of Frank’s assault with glee, then switched off the unit. “How did you do it, Leo?” You sipped gin from a tumbler. We were forming a tradition you appreciated.

“You don’t want to know, Bob.” I took the remote and slid it into a drawer.

You frowned. “Mandy claims Frank never laid a hand on her.”

I gave a mysterious smile. “Tomorrow the newspapers will publish a story about Mandy attending a support group for abused women. Frank will be unemployed by Monday. People will wonder why Small would hire a campaign manager who abuses women.”

The story ran, using the angle I’d paid for. Small’s primary campaign never recovered. A twelve-point margin of victory energized your backers. Contributions flooded your accounts, and your victory in the general election was easily predictable.

Your acceptance speech at a college football stadium mentioned me by name. I slipped into the shadows behind a floor-to-ceiling banner of your face. No sense having my likeness noticed since the national media were there. My Brothers and I work best while unnoticed.

Your first months in office were busy. Significant donors needed a quid pro quo. With my help, your services went unnoticed.

Two years later your reelection’s victory reached legendary proportions, thanks to the spin I managed to give your useless floundering. Your approval rating skyrocketed, despite having proposed no serious legislation. Kowtowing to everything suggested by your party’s leadership gave you broad support, and you never noticed the goals you’d had in the beginning had faded away in favor of the unending quest for reelection.

You invited me to visit your office and asked about running against the president at the end of his term. Your dwarf mugo pine had moved with you on your way up the political ladder, giving off a scent pleasant to humans and Brothers alike.

“No. It’s too early to run for president.” My denial surprised you. “You need at least two more terms, then you should run for governor. Congressmen don’t do well when they try to win the presidency.”

You dropped the pen you were using to edit a speech you would give next week to the UAW convention at the Walter E. Washington Center. Though you still thought of yourself as an idealist, your power-hunger had outgrown everything you’d stood for. “Governor? Of an insignificant plot of land in Middle America? The whole state is routinely bypassed by presidential candidates because the electoral votes are meaningless.”

I shook my head. “Your state may look like it’s nothing, but in six years it will become the most important state in the union. If you’re elected to that seat in four years, you’ll be in the middle of a term in office that will give you the attention you need to campaign for president.”

“How could you know that?” You didn’t believe me. “I should run now, while I have the approval rating.” You returned to your editing, only halfway listening.

Perhaps you were the wrong person. “Your approval rating is what gets you into the governor’s mansion. That chair will be pivotal to your presidential run in eight years.”

That is where I wanted you – where the Brotherhood needed you. As president, under my control, the possibilities were enormous. If you rebelled, though, you’d be useless.

The Oval Office is where you wanted to be, and my mention of the presidential race finally stopped your pen. After a moment you turned your chair around and picked up a decanter of twenty-four year old McCallum scotch. You poured a tumbler half full and sipped. “I’ll do it your way. For now.” No offer of a drink for me.

I left, fuming. Some of the plants in the corridors of power wilted as I passed. Yes, I was that angry. With a flicker of will I killed your dwarf pine tree. Nobody would notice the death of an evergreen for a couple of weeks.

After your reelection you announced a run against the incumbent president. Foolish, to say the least. The current office holder had too much value for the Brotherhood. I tried talking you out of it, but you wouldn’t listen.

On the streets of Washington D.C. we argued as pedestrians swirled around us. Bystanders interrupted to greet you. You spoke with each of them, blocking my attempt to get you to listen.

After one brief chat with a lobbyist you turned to me. “Leo, I’ve seen your reports. They show me as the first horseman, the man who conquers the world. I’m not going to give you twenty percent of the Earth.”

I could crush you as quickly as I’d killed your tree and you’d never know who made it happen. “You need me, whether you admit it or not.”

Another sycophant approached, but I shot her a withering glare. She gulped, eyes bugged, and she turned away. The streets were full of people like you, and she found a senator in seconds.

“Why did you do that, Leo? Her firm could bring millions to my war chest.”

I took a deep breath. “Bob, if you run for president now you’ll fail and ruin your chances to win later. The nation is about to be hit with an illness that will kill millions. We’ve invested heavily to get this timed just right for you to ride the wave of success following a cure by a researcher in your state. You have to be governor – not congressman.”

Your eyebrows drew together. “How do you know there’s going to be an outbreak?”

You no longer cared about the millions of deaths, only what it would mean to you. “You’re not the only one we work with, Bob. We’re more than political advisers. We are everywhere, in every industry, in every country, and we control things you’ve never dreamed.”

Your expression faltered. “You can really control diseases?”

If we wanted to, yes. My instructions, though, were to corrupt you and put you to use. Killing was beside the point. I leaned in and said, “Try me. Before we go on I need certain assurances. You’ve resisted me for the last time.” Foot trafficpassed within inches of us, but we were alone.

“What ‘assurances’ do you mean?”

I’d prepared for such a moment. Years of planning and maneuvering had gone into this project, scores of Brothers both higher and lower had worked for occasions like this. Regardless of your cooperation, my goals would be advanced. In the long run you were meaningless. Your inflated ego, however, would never let you see that.

“Your life is mine. Say it.”

You blanched. “What?”

My eyes narrowed. Our noses nearly touched. “The only thing you value is your life. If you defy me again, I’ll kill you.”

Your chest puffed out. “You wouldn’t dare. I’m a sitting Congressman.”

I smiled. “If I remove you nobody will ever know it was me. Would you like a demonstration?”

I raised a finger and your heart thudded three times before pausing. You clutched your chest and struggled for breath. Your knees wobbled and you grabbed my lapels for support.

I relented.

Your heart beat once.

Twice.

Then it found its natural rhythm.

“I did that to Congressman Gordon's replacement. Remember him dying on live television? I was seven states away at the time. I can do the same to you – from across Pennsylvania Avenue, the other side of the Potomac, or from Pakistan.” Stretching the truth, but he wouldn’t know that.“You are mine. Say it.”

You let go of my suit but didn’t look me in the eyes. “I am yours.”

My voice snapped. “Look at me. Say it like you mean it.”

If looks could kill, you were capable of murder. “I am yours.”

Hatred is beautiful.


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