Cloak & Daggar, Recap

On July 2, 2004, I wrote this post, which I reprint in its entirety here, before the conclusion. The conclusion is tucked away in the extended entry.

Two days ago a lady was suppose to give me a package that contained incriminating evidence about a client’s opponent. This stuff happens. I’m in politics and you always hear these stories, but it never happens to you.

Well, she called and said she was making a copy of the information because if my client refused to use the information, she was sending it elsewhere.

Yesterday, my phone rang.

“Meet me at the corner of Cotton and Second,” the female voice on the other end said.

“Okay,” I replied.

I hopped in my car and drove the three blocks as the steam started to rise off the baking streets newly washed with muggy rain.

I made it to the intersection, parked my car, and got out. My phone ran the T-Mobile jingle. “Damn,” I thought, “I thought I changed the ring back. My Treo is starting to piss me off.”

I answered.

“I see you. Go down to the corner of New and First,” the anxious voice commanded.

It was definitely a black female. She had a low husky voice that quivered under the implications of her package.

When I reached the intersection I hadn’t even parked my car when the T-Mobile jingle sounded again. It was not Catherine Zeta Jones Douglas on the other end. It was her.

“Go to the Burger King parking lot and wait.”

Again, I complied.

I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes watching the clouds build up for another storm. If I had only known the storm that was about to be upon me.

2:48 p.m. my car clock read. The phone rang. “Go back to your office and wait. I’ll call at 4 o’clock. Be there.”

She was getting cold feet. She tried to sound brave, but she was nervous.

I went back to my office. Rumors were circulating because the day before I off handedly said I’d be getting a package that could destroy someone. Everyone wanted in on the secret. We had all laughed it off as a big joke in political season.

It happens all the time. Someone says they have something. Usually it’s nothing. When it is something, it rarely is anything that amounts to much. “Was I being set up,” I kept thinking. When it is real, the weight of it falls on you and you regret every conversation about it, every little inkling that you were being given something that you wanted no one else to know about.

My adrenaline was pumping. My office was cold and I was sweating. That pain I get in my chest — the one necessitating the stress test — was back.

4:00. 4:01. 4:02. 4:03. The phone rang. 999-999-9999 my phone display read. This was probably her.

I picked up.

“Go back to the corner of New Street and First Street. Wait there,” the newly calm, but still distinctive voice said. She had won a battle between her inner demons and angels. I still don’t know which side won. I don’t want to speculate.

I ran downstairs. Everyone knew what was up. It was hard to be calm. I was either being set up, or I was about to gain the upper hand.

New Street and First Street is a quaint corner of town with old houses, live oaks, magnolias, and the stained glass of the Jewish temple. For the second time that day at that intersection my phone rang. Did she have cold feet again?

It was a commanding voice. She was in charge and she knew it. She had me right where she wanted and, cutting through the shake in her voice, the hesitation and doubt, she felt like victory was at hand.

“Go to Washington Park. Park your car by the road. Go up the steps, over the bridge, turn left and go up the brick steps. You’ll see three park benches. Go to the third one and there will be a pile of trash in the bushes behind the bench. What you want is in there. I have made a copy. If you don’t use it, I’ll find someone else who will.”

She was out for blood. “Call me tomorrow at 11am,” I said. I didn’t know if she heard me. The line went dead.

I sped. I sped like hell itself was right behind me and I was either running from it or being propelled by it.

I parked. I finally exhaled my breath, the day, the stress — I was exhausted. Chasing ghosts all day will do that.

I went up into the park. It was green. There were few people. A homeless man muttered to himself. He had just had a bath provided by Mother Nature. He stayed soaking it up under a magnolia.

I approached the benches … the first . . . the second . . . the third.

There was a pile of trash tucked in the bushes. Someone had pulled trash back from the trash. A coupon book from Longhorn Steakhouse. A piece of torn newspaper. A plastic bag. A videotape sealed in a wrinkled plastic bag — the kind you put vegetables in at the grocery store.

There it was, but what was it?

I went back to the office. I drove slow. I don’t want to get arrested. I walked into the office and hid the tape. I breathed hard. I was sweating. It was humid, hot, body odor sweat mixed with scared as shit, it’s all fun and games until someone gets their eye put out sweat.

I grabbed the firm’s VCR and checked myself into a little room out of the way. I locked all the doors.

I turned on the tape.

Nothing at first. Then something.

“Oh shit. Oh holy shit. Oh fuck.”

Yeah, my thoughts were out loud. I had lost my inner-monologue and all my thoughts were streaming out in real time and they were crude thoughts, vulgar words, wicked ideas.

I can’t now tell you what I had. I don’t have it any more. My client, though he had the ability to win, refused to use the tape. It was damaging, but it was personal. He made mistakes in his youth and he wasn’t about to find someone guilty when others had forgiven my client his mistakes. I talked to the lady this morning. I returned the package to the bushes behind the park bench.

I posted earlier what I had seen, but thought the better of it. I have saved that post and, the day after the election, I’ll tell you the rest of the story in detail.

Right now I can’t. But this story explains my yesterday and today.

Now, go to the extended entry for the rest of the story.

With the runoff going on today, there is no harm in releasing this. I don’t know if my candidate will win or lose today, but here’s what I know about the other side.

When you go to campaign management school, you hear war stories from veterans in the field. They tell you about the dirty tricks they played — the time they waited in the bushes to catch the opponent screwing his daughter’s sorority sister; the time they listened in on an opponent’s conference call and got their strategy; the time they left their strategy in the open, only it was a phoney strategy, but the opponent bought it; the discovery that their opponent, a military pro-lifer, had a girlfriend that aborted the Congressman’s child with his knowlege and money.

These things don’t really happen. They are fiction. Fiction from which life lessons can be drawn. Like the stories in the movie “Second Hand Lions.” Only, like the stories from that movie, these stories usually are true — at least to some extent short of the exaggeration.

Here I was all alone in a little room unto myself where no one could find me, reach me, or call me. On the television screen was my client’s opponent making an amateur porn video in his office with someone not his wife.

They set up a mirror so the camera could be seen in the reflection. They would “couple” for a while and then he would withdraw, go to the camera, refocus, reposition her, and get back to it.

After thirty-seven plus minutes of this (!!!!) he pulled out. She was in tears. He was covered in blood. No, it wasn’t because of a particular time of the month. We all know the stereotype of black men. At least in this case, it was true. This was not a sex act, it was a violent impaling and the willing victim was on the floor shaking and in tears. But, she consented to it. I held my breath. The chunks were about to blow.

The next image caused an explosion of everything in my life I had ever eaten. The naked opponent got up, waved to the camera, looked back at his partner, and pressed the power button. Immediately a new image appeared. A totally different image. The asshole had recorded over his daughter’s cheerleader tryouts. There she was with her pom-poms and there was the noise of her father, just seconds before groaning, moaning, and cussing, cheering on his teenage daughter.

Yeah, my thoughts were out loud. I had lost an inner-monologue and all my thoughts were streaming out in real time and they were crude thoughts, vulgar words, wicked ideas.

I was ready to destroy the bastard. He’s unqualified anyway.

The ending here, people, is an anti-climax. I called my client and told him what I had. He was disgusted. I told him how to use it. We could leak it cleanly. We could keep clean hands.

“No,” he said. “I’ve been an irresponsible shit in my life. I didn’t do that. I did worse. People forgave me because I was young. He ain’t young. He won’t be forgiven and he has a kid whose daddy made a porn tape over her cheerleader tryouts. Call the woman back and tell her you are leaving the tape back under that g–damn bench.”

“But,” I stammered with visions of political legendom streaming out the windowless office’s window.

“No, g-ddammit. You don’t destroy people. Don’t do that. Take the shit back. Don’t copy it. Don’t leak it. Don’t mention it. This is between you and me and her,” he commanded in a voice that was more rage at pandora’s box being opened than anything else.

“But, you should tell him and he might drop out of the race. You know the opponent in the general election will use it,” I countered.

“I know. And if I lose I’ll kick myself. But a little girl needs to worship her dad and I need to know I didn’t destroy his life. Take the damn thing back. Wash your hands of it.” He was pleading. He was doubting himself, but he was pleading. Temptation was upon him and he was fighting like hell.

“I don’t have her phone number. She’s calling me at 11am,” I admitted feeling like I should repent for sins I wasn’t sure if I had committed.

“Tell her then,” he concluded in a wistful, silent, sad voice. He hung up.

Today I had that call. I went out to that park with a plastic bag and committed an act of public littering. I prayed someone else would find it first and then prayed that God forgived me for that last thought.

Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned, but heaven has too few people like my client.

One day I’ll write a book.

[UPDATE:] The lady apparently, unsatisfied with us giving the tape back, has apparently littered the town with copies. A number of prominent people have gotten copies of the tape in the mail. The local news media has determined there is nothing newsworthy in the story and have not released it to the public.

About the author

Erick Erickson

View all posts

5 Comments