Parker closed the door and sat down as directed. Even from this distance, the guest chairs at least five feet away from the desk, the familiar look of distress clearly marked the senator’s face. Parker laid a legal pad upon his lap and pulled a pen from his shirt pocket. He waited. The senator had called this meeting; it was on his terms and would start when he was ready.
Senator Dennison finally looked up. He cleared his throat. “You’ve seen the video?”
Parker nodded. “It’s not very flattering.”
“Not very flattering?” Dennison glanced away. “It’s a god-awful mess, you ask me.”
“There’s been worse, you know. Bill Clinton inside the White House or JFK. Every last one of the Kennedys, for that matter.”
Dennison shook his head. “The liberals are going to have a field day with this.”
No news there, Parker thought. Just like Cain and Abel, only without the blood. If Washington were a serial killer, then politicians would be its prey. Well, that and principals.
“A reporter from the Post keeps calling,” Dennison said. “He’s left three messages already.”
“Marc Thomason.” Dennison snorted. “You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was him who set me up, sent me the video.”
Parker nodded, thinking about a line in a song by Crosby, Stills and Nash: Paranoia strikes deep. “The reporter can wait.”
Dennison looked away again. “What a mess.”
“Granted, it’s embarrassing. A mess for you, though? It’s not conclusive.”
Dennison looked up again, his expression changing—expectation and hope fighting for a seat at the table. “Oh?”
“In the first place, you never see the man’s face.” Parker scribbled a few notes on the legal pad. “No face, no case.”
“But there’s the girl.”
“True, but the question is who and what, exactly, was she doing there.”
Dennison frowned. “Nobody’s going to see it any other way, Parker. It’s not like she was using her mouth to help me unstick my zipper.”
Parker frowned. Stupidity ran deep, too. “Stay with me,” he said. “The man in the video, not you.”
Dennison rubbed at the back of his neck. “Okay, the man in the video. But what do you think it looks like she’s doing there.”
“I’m not talking about the physical actions; grainy image or not, that part’s pretty clear. No, what I’m asking is why she was in the video at all. Where was this taken?”
“How am I supposed to know? I’m not the man in the video, right?”
Parker smirked. “Once we leave this office, out under the public microscope, you’re not the man in the video. For now though—for me to help you—I need to know where this took place.”
Dennison looked away for a moment. “The Worthington.”
“A small B-and-B across the Potomac.”
“And did this woman pick the place?”
“No, it’s a place I regularly visit.”
Parker nodded. “By now, it goes without saying how crazy-reckless that was.”
Dennison looked down. “I know, I know. Repetition is the grain that gets the deer shot.”
Parker made a few more notes. He allowed for a pause. “Okay, I know a guy that can handle things discretely. He’ll check into this situation at the Worthington, find out who the players are, what their game is. After that, we’ll figure out our best plan of action.” He placed the pen back in his pocket and stood. “Again, this is not as bad as it seems.”
The look of hope started to fight for the chair again as Dennison glanced up. “Thank you.”
Parker said nothing and turned toward the door. As he placed his hand on the knob, the senator's voice stopped him.
“I mean that, you know.”
“I truly do appreciate this. I know we haven’t been on the best of terms after our disagreement over Lockney-Harris, and I know there’ve been rumors floating around that I was looking for a new chief of staff. But I want you to know that I still support you.”
Parker didn’t turn around. The Lockney-Harris bill would have settled the issue on guns, and it was good for the country; Senator Dennison didn’t see it that way, however, and killed it in committee. And as far as the rumors of a pending termination went, they were all true.
He nodded and said, “Thank you, sir. I can appreciate that.” He opened the door. “And don’t forget to call the reporter back. I advise you to deny everything.”
He stepped out and closed the door. In the parking garage, the car’s engine warming up in the cool October air, Parker sat behind the wheel of his Lexus and dialed out on his cell phone. A familiar voice answered.
“I have another job for you.”
He told his friend how he wanted a report. Make up the names. The report would give the senator more hope and bolster his actions before the media. Then, in about a week, they would release the second video, the one with a clear shot of the senator’s face, along with the details of the Worthington’s records–only all of this, as agreed, would go to the Senate Majority Leader’s office before it went to the press. In return, the Majority Leader promised to re-visit Lockney-Harris during the next session (“I’m sorry about your sister, by the way.”) and see to its passage. As an added bonus and a welcome to the other side, there would be a nice office with a view waiting for Parker.
Parker smiled as he hung up. There was some truth to what he had told Dennison. It wasn’t as bad as it seemed. It was far worse.