NOTES: The more I write, and read what you guys are saying, the more I think this is going to grow into an epic. There's so much to put on paper, so many issues to tackle. I want it to be such a tangled web that none of us have a clue how to get out. Fun times for us all.
Today you get to see an old character again, one of my favorites. Enjoy...
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined. Keep in mind that I don’t review what I write until after the first draft of the whole novel is done.)
2:25pm, December 5th
Congressman Antonio “Tony” McKnight (R-Florida) didn’t come from money. His father had been a drunk and died serving a life sentence in some backwater Florida prison. His mother…who knew. He’d lost track of the woman years ago.
McKnight was a survivor. He’d ascended the political ranking system despite the dead weight of his lost family. A quick learner, McKnight had stepped into the bureaucratic arena like he was slipping into a pair of well-worn house slippers. It just fit.
He was young, good-looking and single. He surfed the web and scoops up social media followers with ease. There were weeks when a new model clung to his arm daily, and there were others when his relentless work schedule imposed a celibate break for the dashing up-and-comer. The Washington Post had recently named him America’s Number Two most eligible bachelor, one step behind President Brandon Zimmer.
Nicknamed ‘The Miami Matador’, a nod to his Hispanic heritage, his electorate base and his dead serious talents., McKnight was becoming known for facing down the onslaught of stalwart old-timers of both parties, much like a matador in the bull’s ring. McKnight had at first laughed at the moniker, but the name and its deeper meaning grew on the social media savvy politician.
He’d taken to re-tweeting photo-shopped pictures of his face on some matador’s body, usually shirtless. His favorites were the amateur cartoons that cropped up every other week, depicting him in one or another scene where he (as the matador) was taking on some stodgy bill or lumbering curmudgeon in the nation’s capital.
Tony McKnight had never been to a bull fight, but his publicist was working on it. It would be a perfect photo op, another notch in his belt.
As the Hispanic community swelled in America, so did the need for fresh-faced newcomers on the political scene. McKnight was the right’s coming Hall of Famers. He’d made it to the Majors but he hadn’t cracked into the All-Star game.
It was just a matter of time.
In the beginning McKnight sought out benefactors, men, and occasionally a woman, who had their own needs. Most were wealthy investors or business owners. In exchange for his ear and a chance on The Hill, they lavished him with trips and donations.
There were legal ways of turning these thinly-veiled bribes into legitimate income. Again, his chameleon-like ability to blend in ensured that there would alway be a fresh supply of cash. Instead of going to them, donors were coming to him. It was always satisfying to the man who’d once stood ashamed behind his mother as she handed over food stamps for milk and cereal.
He liked his life. Men of lesser talent and middling ambition might let things ride. That wasn’t McKnight’s way. He looked around at his colleagues as they convened for another four hour session. McKnight didn’t see competition, he wasn’t even in awe of a single one of them. No, what he saw as plain as if it were, in fact, the case, was a herd of cattle, the odd bull mixed in, milling about like cow on the plains.
It would soon be time for The Matador to tame them, one by one if he had to. He was smart enough to know that it wouldn’t happen overnight. Overt frontal attacks would rarely be the way. There were plenty of ways to break a man, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
He smiled, relishing the moment, his hopes for the future. If they were anything like the dreams of his past, he had no doubt that his vision would become a reality.
Not for the first time, McKnight silently addressed his father, who he could only assume now rested in Hell, I’ll be President of the United States in spite of you.
Rep. Tom Steiner sat down with a smug grin. He’d played second fiddle to fellow New Jerseyean, Ezra Matisse, since his first day in Congress. He replayed the look of shock on Matisse’s face after the comment of the Marine Corps’s defunding.
“Mind if I scoot by?"
Steiner looked up to see the face of the handsome Floridian, Tony McKnight. He didn’t know the man, but he sure knew the upward trajectory of the charismatic newcomer. He hadn’t been in Congress a month before he was gracing magazine covers nationwide. Steiner didn’t have anything again McKnight, but he wouldn’t have minded a sliver of the recognition the Miami native got on a weekly basis.
“Sure,” responded Steiner, moving his legs to the side so McKnight could walk by.
“Thanks.” McKnight moved by then turned around like he’d forgotten something. “Hey, are you going to the U2 concert tomorrow? I heard you were a fan.”
Steiner perked up. The question surprised him. He’d probably never said more than a few words to the younger statesman. But Steiner had been a fan of U2 since their debut record, Boy, hit the airwaves in the States in the eighties. He wasn’t about to tell McKnight that though, and he was always wary of favors.
“No. I couldn't get tickets,” he replied.
McKnight flashed his world-famous smile. “I'll let you know if I hear of any extra tickets.”
Steiner nodded as McKnight went on his way. The New Jersey rep watched McKnight go, wondering what it was like to live a day in the life of political superstar.
McKnight waved to friends and enemies alike as he made his way to his seat. He’d never officially met Tom Steiner before, but he knew his type. Steiner was a fringer, always on the outskirts of the big time. If McKnight was the soon-to-be All Star of the team, Steiner was the sometime reliever that was sent in during throwaway games. His reputation was nonexistent. He could disappear and few would notice.
Every reelection Steiner faced was hard-fought and always contentious. He didn’t have the bag of money like McKnight.
But Congressman McKnight had seen the flicker of jealousy in the man’s eyes, followed by the “just wait and see” grin. Tony McKnight knew all about Steiner’s proposal. Steiner was looking for the big payoff. High risk, high reward. Steiner didn’t have a clue. He wasn’t even the architect.
McKnight knew the man behind the plan. He was intimately familiar with every word in soon to be public file.
How did he know? Because he, a Republican, a staunch conservative, the youthful face of his party and a likely contender for the next Presidential election, was the man behind the idea, the conductor making the music, the plan that would see him ushered straight to the White House.
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