Prologue, Part 1, Part 2

The Chief of Staff’s administrative assistant was on the phone when Jefferts glided up to her desk. She held up a finger and then finished her call.

“Appointment with the Chief, Mister Jefferts?” Flora Gonzalez was sixty or so, matronly, with a number of years as a loyal personal assistant. She also brooked no nonsense and guarded the Chief’s time jealously.

“Not quite, ma’am. Just back from Camp David. The President asked me to deliver some information to him personally.” Jefferts removed a white envelope from inside his coat pocket and tapped it in his opposite hand. He leaned in close. “It’s some itinerary changes, so I’m going to guess you’ll see this shortly, but I have some related business. Shouldn’t be more than a minute.” Jefferts raised his eyebrows.

Flora was smart enough to know when not to ask questions; she looked at the Chief’s calendar and nodded.

“Your lucky day. He’s got five or so right now.” She lowered her eyes and grabbed the phone. “Hold on a sec.” She pressed a button and a light blinked on the phone. Jefferts remained expressionless. “Mister Jefferts needs a moment of your time, Chief.” She paused and looked up. “Oh, good! Okay, I’ll send him in. Just a reminder, you have that meeting on the Hill- Yes. Uh-huh. You should be fine if you leave in ten minutes.”

“Okay,” Jefferts smiled as she looked up. “He wants to see you, as well, Mister Jefferts.” Flora waved him back and then the door’s lock buzzed as he approached.

Calvin Jefferts made sure not to hesitate despite the clenching in his stomach and the rush of adrenaline that caused the blood to pump in his ears; Jefferts always treated meetings with Harmon Kendrick like entering the lion’s den. Jefferts steeled his will and walked in. He knew Kendrick’s history better than most: the long career as a power-broker and fixer in Democratic – and even Republican – circles; the political fundraising, the ties to K-street, the scandals that never reached the press… the trail of bodies.

Kendrick was fixing his tie in the mirror that was on the wall to the left of the giant oak desk. He didn’t turn his head.

“What do you have for me, Mister Jefferts.” Kendrick paused on the last letter, drawing it out, giving the sentence a hiss; and although it was a question, Kendrick said it declaratively, as if he knew already that Jefferts had something for him. Jefferts made sure he caught Kendrick’s eye in the mirror as he moved to place the envelope on the desk. The Washington Post and New York Times were both unfolded and laid out neatly on the surface.

“Sir, as a result of the incident in Detroit, the President decided to change her travel plans. Your copy is in that envelope.” Kendrick grimaced as he tightened and tried to straighten his double-windsor, his eyes tracking to the envelope in the mirror.

“Mm. And what’s upsetting the President today, Jefferts?”

“El Unico, sir.”

“Well, as it turns out, for a change we agree. You see those headlines, Cal?” Kendrick asked as he smoothed his tie and looked in the mirror. Jefferts looked at the front pages of both papers. Harmon Kendrick walked to his desk and stood behind it. He picked up a tumbler of amber liquid from the corner and drained it, his eyes on Jefferts the whole time. “I expected better,” he said coldly, nodding at the papers.

“Yes, sir, wh-”

“I fucking paid to have DEAD FAMILIES ON THE FRONT PAGE OF EVERY FUCKING PAPER, JEFFERTS!” Harmon Kendrick exploded, his finger touching the papers on each word, the spit from his exclamations landing on Jefferts’ suit. Jefferts didn’t move, nor flinch. He waited while Kendrick sighed deeply. “We’ve got a fucking insurgency out there and the American people need to be horrified by it, Cal! Do you understand me? Is that getting through yet?? These fucking morons are cheering this shit on.” Jefferts waited stoically. “Were the bodies there as I instructed, Calvin?” Kendrick asked, his jaw clenched.

“I ensured they were personally, sir. And I had the copy ready for all of our usual media friends, Mister Kend-”

“So what the fuck happened?!”

“-some wire service reporters were on the scene rather quickly, Mister Kendrick.” Jefferts continued. “As if they had been tipped in advance.”

Kendrick stared for a moment, as his brain caught up with the information. Then his head tilted back.

“Ohhh, oh. That sonuvabitch…” And now Kendrick’s face creased with a smirk. “Well. We’re dealing with someone a little more sophisticated than we thought, eh, Jefferts?” Kendrick smoothed out his front pants pockets.

“Indeed, sir. In light of these events, that is the only copy of the President’s true itinerary, Mister Kendrick.” Jefferts gestured at the envelope. “The President believes that the bombing in Detroit may be related to Baltimore… and the…subversive groups. She also has concerns that Citizen’s Justice or the Secret Service may have some leaks, sir.” Jefferts held Kendrick’s eyes as he said it.

“And where would she get that idea, Calvin?” Kendrick asked.

“Only CJ and the Secret Service had the President’s travel plans-”

“-This office did, as well,” Kendrick countered.

“Well, yes, sir,” Jefferts snorted, “but we can obviously eliminate this office from the list of possible… subversives.” Jefferts rolled his eyes. Jefferts and Kendrick both knew that if it weren’t for Kendrick, the President would never have even been a Senator, much less gotten to the White House. Kendrick was the real power behind the throne, that had always been his ambition and role, while the Egos gripped and grinned for the cameras.

“Obviously,” Kendrick deadpanned.

“Sir,” Jefferts stepped closer to the desk, staring at Kendrick. “I believe I have someone inside El Unico…” Harmon Kendrick raised his eyebrows in response.

“Believe? Care to share a name?” Kendrick asked gently.

Jefferts sighed and paused before answering.

“Sir, she’s using an alias, so I’m not sure it would matter. At this point I’d like to ensure that this isn’t a double-” Kendrick’s eyebrows raised.

“She? Hm.” Jefferts nodded. “Well, let’s suss her out then, Jefferts.” Kendrick opened his middle desk drawer and grabbed a stick of gum, then dropped it back in the desk. “So why am I getting the travel plans like this?”

“Sir, the President thinks it prudent, in light of everything going on, to provide alternate itineraries to those offices…”

“…Ahhh. Flush the poison pill, eh? And you’re going to have the other places and routes monitored for… activity in the meantime… yes?”

Jefferts bowed his head once in assent. “Indeed, sir.”

“So I should keep this close hold for now?”

“If you please, sir, so we can narrow things down.”

Kendrick grabbed the envelope and tapped it in his hand.

“You’ve come quite a ways, Jefferts, from where you started, eh? Quite the rise from your community organizing days.” They both knew what Kendrick meant by that. Jefferts nodded his head in agreement. “You’ve been very helpful in dealing with this-” Harmon Kendrick gestured out of his office windows, “-rabble-rousing.” The men stood staring at each other for a moment.

“Let’s get to the bottom of this Unico and his – or her – gavrons, eh, Jefferts?”

“That is my earnest desire, sir.”

Harmon Kendrick snapped his left arm out and looked at his watch. Jefferts took his cue.

“Anything else, sir? I’ll be on my way.”

“Thank you, Jefferts.”

“Yes, sir,” Jefferts nodded, turning on his heel. He stopped and pivoted back.


“Yes, Jefferts?” Kendrick replied, a bit of impatience creeping into his voice.

“May I?” Jefferts touched his own tie and started to come around Kendrick’s desk slowly.

“Oh, fuck. Is it fucked up?” Kendrick asked. He leaned his head back as Jefferts approached, exposing his neck. Jefferts hands reached out and tightened the knot slightly, fanned it out, and then flattened it, all in one smooth motion. Then he stepped back.

“Perfect, sir. It was just off.”

Kendrick turned and looked in the mirror again.

“Ah, yes. Good man, Jefferts.” Then he waved his hand and poured himself another glass of bourbon.

Just before Jefferts’ hand touched the doorknob he heard Kendrick’s voice call out coldly, but casually, “Verify that source, Calvin… And then I’m going to want a personal meeting.”

Jefferts froze for a moment, then turned to look over his shoulder.

“Of course, sir. I’ll…make it happen.”

Kendrick waved a few fingers and then turned his attention to the papers on his desk.

Calvin Jefferts didn’t exhale until he was past the guards and almost out of the White House. His hands were still shaking as he walked across the Mall.