I am assigned to meeting duty. Whenever the Senator has a meeting on our bill, I am the one in his ear, listening and researching and whispering. This suits me. It’s how I always imagined spycraft. Birch sits beside the Senator, listening to both sides of the conversation, keeping notes, and – his favorite thing – being noticed.
“I wish I could give you all credit on this, but I’m not even getting credit. Remember, folks, it’s Senator X’s bill.” Those were the words Birch said when gently but firmly putting us in our places. Nan is now fielding media requests; Kevin is under Victoriana’s tutelage. And I am the bill whisperer. Or something.
Besides being the non-lethal part of spying, it also keeps me off the stage, out of the picture, or whatever metaphor works. It keeps me secret and safe.
At home, things are decidedly less safe. Cal and Stipple drink hard and daily. The only one still on a new-job-high: Breeze. But nobody can tell why. The rest lounge in the evenings, complaining about ‘normal’ life. I want to remind them this is a life they wanted, pined for. A life of working a legitimate job for legitimate money. I even tell Cindi my frustrations.
“But they aren’t working legit jobs for legit money,” she says. “Just because they don’t tell you what they’re doing doesn’t mean it’s nice stuff. Evelyn placed each one herself for specific reasons. They are expected to do things you would never have imagined doing on the Hill. Cut them some slack.”
She’s right. I don’t know what they’re doing. I have pretend conversations all the time. I bring up work and the less-than-straightforward things I’m doing, and they divulge whatever is eating away their joy. The conversations remain in my head, though.
Four days into our new schedule, I come home to Cindi and Stipple shouting each other down in the warehouse. A small crowd of those already home lurks inside the dining hall. Crossing this gladiator fight could end me, so I drop my stuff by the door and lean against a wall.
I want to kick off my shoes. I want to eat. But no, this fight is my schedule now.
“I won’t be her lackey!” Stipple throws a glass to punctuate his sentence.
“You are the one who forced this! It wasn’t enough for you to keep helping kids the way we have for all this time! No! You needed more! You needed to create history!” Cindi’s face almost glows with anger.
“That was BEFORE your sister sold my soul out from under me!”
“You knew exactly what you were getting in this deal,” Cindi says quietly. “You knew exactly who you were getting.”
Stipple snatches up another glass, smashing it for effect. He storms toward the bedrooms. Cindi starts picking up glass until Pye comes and stills her hands. Glow sweeps the shards. Pye and Cindi move toward the dining hall, where suddenly nobody else wants to be.
“Better go with Pye and Cindi,” Cal says to me. “I’ll go calm him down.”