Harmon Kendrick stepped off of the underground shuttle as it glided to a stop. His security detail, lighter than usual because of the short trip below the Capitol, fanned out and nodded to some of the other openly armed security who walked around in the city-beneath-a-city that undergirded much of the District.
“Mister Kendrick. What a pleasure to see you!” The new House Majority Leader smiled too widely and stuck out her hand, her oversized mouth revealing teeth like a white picket fence. She had an assistant with her, slightly younger than the Speaker, a more homely twenty-something whose name Kendrick couldn’t be bothered to remember.
Kendrick walked past both women, motioning with his hand, “Come on.”
The Speaker dropped in beside him, her heels clicking on the concrete; Kendrick walked just fast enough to make it inconvenient for them both until they got close to the small coffee shop in the square. People milled about, but at a respectful distance from their entourage. Kendrick motioned to a table and he and the Speaker took chairs across from each other. She waved away her assistant while Kendrick raised two fingers at the barista when he caught his eye.
“Sooo…” the Speaker began, folding her hands in her lap, the red nails manicured precisely, with PSA painted in black down each of the tips. She opened her eyes in a manner that made Kendrick think she looked like a caricature, an exaggerated face on top of, he had to admit, a great set of tits.
“Madame Speaker, how are you settling into the new job?” he asked drily.
“Wonderfully. It’s too bad about Nancy, but… this is the nature of things, I suppose.” She smiled without a scintilla of warmth. “The old lions go so that younger, stronger ones can lead the pack.” She stared at him with the hint of a smile.
“Hmm. I take it you have been watching recent events?” Kendrick tilted his head.
“Oh, yes, of course.” She stretched as she leaned back into her chair, arching her back, her firm breasts pointing upward to the ceiling. “Of course.”
“Well…?” Kendrick ignored her movements.
“Well, what?” she asked innocently. Kendrick looked left and waited as a server brought their drinks over. He took his black iced tea and handed the new Majority Speaker her frappuccino. She took a sip and licked her lips as the foam and whipped cream left a white mustache on her upper lip. “Mmmmm…” she moaned.
Kendrick leaned back, evaluating the younger woman.
“You think this is a game?” He looked around and raised his eyes toward the ceiling to indicate the world above them. “You think now that you’re in leadership that you won’t wind up dangling from a lamppost, too? You just joined a dangerous club, Madame Speaker.”
“Oh, Harm…don’t be so dramatic. It’s going to be fine. This little revolt won’t las-”
“Oh?” Kendrick raised his eyebrows. “All it takes is the spark of hope, Madame.” Kendrick leaned forward and hissed. “And word on the street is that this little revolt is handing your BLM and AntiFa troops their asses. You were given one task – one fucking job –” he held up a single finger “– and you’re not getting that job done. You or your teammate at Citizen’s Justice – what is she doing, by the way?” Kendrick kept his face neutral as he sat back.
The Speaker pursed her lips.
“Oh, so now she’s mine, huh? And the state we’re in is our fault?” She sat up straight. “You and all of the rest of the geriatrics have been telling us about your grand experience, about being patient, about how we needed to learn from all of you… but now it’s our fault that things have gone to shit? This is fucking rich.”
“You want to be in charge now?” Kendrick asked coldly. “Your army is getting its ass kicked. You can’t even manage to control your own city. And El Unico just blew up a building and killed dozens of Americans in one of the worst terrorist acts since Oklahoma City.”
The Speaker sipped her coffee but then had to put it down at his last sentence. “Right. How many bodies did you add?” she quipped. “And the California National Guard is getting its ass kicked here in the District, too, Kendrick. Is that also my fault?”
She sat back from the table again.
“You and the other… elders… appointed her to that position, Kendrick. I didn’t. If CJ is fucking up its job with El Unico, then I would suggest that’s on you.” She pronounced El Unico in exaggerated Spanish. “And you should talk to her yourself.”
Kendrick sipped his iced tea. This was not going as he had planned.
“Armies need financing, Madame Speaker. That’s been true for all of history.” Kendrick smirked.
“Mmmmm, true… but at least I have an army, Kendrick. Are you and all of your golf buddies gonna trade in your clubs for guns? Pull a Ulysses and make a last great charge across the Mall?” Kendrick had to force himself to keep his face neutral.
The Speaker sat back and smiled.
“Armies can forage for themselves if they need to. Live off the land, so to speak.” The young woman looked down at her nails and fanned her fingers out. Kendrick noticed her hands were larger than he would have expected.
He sipped his iced tea for a moment. Definitely not going the way he had planned. Then inspiration struck.
“Madame Speaker,” he began, “let’s not bicker. It’s exactly what our enemies would want.” He put his cup on the table. Her eyes narrowed. “You’re right. We’ve been in charge and so this is on us – but now the important question is: what do we do about it? I just had a conversation this evening… and I think I have something that can help us both.”
“Really?” She sipped from her cup and again the foam left a thin, white cream line above what Kendrick presumed were artificially enlarged lips.
“We think we have a source inside El Unico’s camp.”
The Speaker’s eyes opened too wide again, then narrowed.
“Think you have?”
“Do you know my man Jefferts?” Kendrick asked.
“The tall, skinny black guy? Bald, weird Jamaican accent… acts like a mortician?”
“He’s following up – doing some… checking to ensure it’s not a play.”
The Speaker nodded her head.
“If it checks out, I’ll put Jefferts under your control. You can have him to help deal with this mess.”
She pursed her lips in thought, nodding her head while she slowly turned her cardboard coffee cup on the table.
“What’s in it for me if I get El Unico?”
Kendrick realized he was going to have to re-evaluate his opinion of this young woman.
“Well, you’re already in the line of succession for the Presidency, Madame Speaker, what more could I possibly give you?” He said flatly.
She smiled again, this one not exaggerated, but her teeth couldn’t help but show.
“A lot of fucking money, Mister Kendrick. A whole lot of fucking money.” She batted her eyes at him provocatively, then giggled like a teenager, her chest shaking rhythmically as she laughed.
Kendrick smiled in response. This he understood.
“Do you have a number?”
She took a pen out of her white suit-jacket pocket, wrote on her Starbucks cup, and then put it on the table. She slowly turned the cup until the number was facing him.
Kendrick waited for a moment, then abruptly stood up, his height making him tower over her. “I’ll send Jefferts your way tomorrow.”
“Madame Speaker,” he inclined his head slightly and signaled his security detail with a gesture.
“Mister Kendrick,” she nodded, but didn’t bother to stand up. She kept twirling her cup on the table, then took another sip as Harmon Kendrick walked away. She motioned to her personal assistant, who scurried over, her heels click-clacking on the flagstones. She sat across from the Speaker, her knees bouncing.
“Well?” the aide asked excitedly.
The Speaker ran a hand through her thick, dark hair and then shook it. She had her army, and now she was within reach of the money she needed.
“Don’t squirm, Amy. People are watching.”
“Sorry,” Amy said, downcast.
“We’re almost home, lover. Almost home,” the Speaker crooned over the top of her coffee cup. So close.