Chapter One of "National Burden"
It's funny what happens when creativity takes over. I thought National Burden was going to be 40,000 words. I'm wrapping up this week and it looks like it'll be closer to 60,000 words. Who knew?
The good news is that I think it's gonna be a good one. Cal, President Zimmer, Travis Haden and Daniel all kicking ass. A bunch more political intrigue because, well, because our political system is so jacked.
The good news is that I've got a little taste for you. Here you go:
(CAUTION: SUPER LIGHTLY PROOFED AND EDITED)
San Pedro Plantation Resort, Riviera Maya
1:30pm, February 15th
The resort was new. In fact, it was even open to the public yet. Mexican laborers could still be heard pounding away, rushing to finish before the hoped for Spring Break rush. Their stay was a perk of the station’s they held. A favor from an a new friend, a developer who owned properties all over coastal Mexico. They wouldn’t be bothered in the elegantly appointed private penthouse on the edge of the resort.
It was probably only seventy degrees, but to the man sitting in the white plastic chair, the temperature felt stifling. His senses were on edge, catching the whir of the air conditioning, the flip of the overhead fan, the light step of his captor.
Santos Lockwood squirmed in his seat, the fabric of his patterned board shorts suddenly clinging to his legs. “It’s not my fault. I tried.”
The man at the window turned, casting a shadow across his face. “I can understand how the last president’s departure was not your fault, but I cannot fathom why you couldn’t make yourself useful to Zimmer.”
Lockwood looked up at his old friend, the annoyingly good-looking, perfectly tanned and quaffed Republican congressman from Florida, Antonio McKnight. “Come on, Tony. It happens every time a new administration comes in. Out with the old, in with the new. It was bound to happen some time.” He added a nervous chuckle, hoping his friend would lighten up.
Tony McKnight put a hand on his trim stomach and closed his eyes. “Yes, that happens when there’s a traditional turnover, but Zimmer took over abruptly when your old boss abdicated the throne. From what I hear, Zimmer hasn’t cleaned house, so don’t feed me your line of bullshit. I’ve bailed you out more than once, Santos.” McKnight’s steel blue eyes flared open. It felt to Lockwood like they were burning a hole in his forehead. “I got you that fucking job! You’ve always been a fuckup, even in college. If it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t have made it out of Florida State with a diploma.” As quickly as his temper burst, it melted away with the tropical air, blown by the seventy degree breeze whirring the scent of the newly constructed condo. “Now, tell me why I should even listen to you.”
Lockwood gritted his crooked teeth. He’d always played second fiddle to his playboy friend, but he wasn’t without his worth. Lockwood thought back to the nights spent tracking down his freshman roommate, finally finding him stumbling home from another girl’s dorm room as the sun peaked over the horizon. Nursing him back to health. Dragging him to class.
McKnight’s moves and cunning improved with age, eventually landing him a republican congressional seat in Miami. Lockwood was the liberal, but their half Hispanic heritage always pulled them together.
“I don’t know what to say, I…tell me what you want me to say.”
Congressman McKnight shook his head. “Wrong answer, Santos.” A shrill whistle from McKnight’s lips caused a side door to open. Two deeply tanned hispanics entered the room, faces placidly menacing, almost bored. “You remember my cousins, Felix and Miguel.”
The blood drained from Lockwood’s face. “What are they doing here?”
Antonio McKnight flashed the brilliant smile that had captured many a young girl’s heart and now captivated much of conservative America. To Lockwood it looked more like wolf preparing to strike, stalking its prey. McKnight nodded to the two men, supposedly his cousins, but Santos Lockwood knew differently. Hired thugs.
Before he could react, they had his arms pinned to the glass table. “Let me go!” he yelled, panicking.
Neither man flinched, faces remaining expressionless. McKnight moved to the wet bar. “Now, the way I see it, normally there’s a time for forgiveness and a time for lessons. This may be a time for both.”
Sweat poured from Lockwood’s gray forehead. “Please, Tony, please don’t kill me.” He knew what his old pal was capable of. The friendly facade that the public knew masked a ruthless personality, chiseled and hammered into a vessel of power. His youth having turned him into a duplicitous monster, Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde.
McKnight laughed, turning back to the trio, now holding a long filet knife in his right hand. “If I wanted to kill you you’d already be dead.” He admired the blade, caressing its length with his index finger. “You had a very simple job. Stay close to the President. Did you do that? No.”
“Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to give you one last shot, and only because I love you like a brother, and your mom was always nice to me. But if you fail me this time, if you once again forget everything I’ve done for you and for your family…” The wicked grin on McKnight’s face left little doubt in Santos Lockwood’s mind. What had happened to the affable kid he’d met that first sunny day of school on Tallahassee?
Lockwood’s shoulder’s slumped and his chin dropped to his chest. “Tell me what you want me to do.”
“I’ll tell you that later, right now,” Lockwood’s head snapped up at the feel of another grip on his hand. It was McKnight’s. “Now, I need to give you an excuse and a lesson.”
Without warning the razor sharp knife bit into Lockwood’s hand. The smile never left the congressman’s face, even as his friend screamed, he sliced away, blood spraying unceremonious across the table, accompanied by the wild cackle from his friend.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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