marie single devlin

The Emperor Remains

by Maire


"It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor."
Neil Gaiman

***

Goddamn Oz, thought Governor James Devlin. There were four other prisons in the state and none of them needed the amount of hand-holding Oswald State Correctional Facility did. Privatization had not lessened his role in certain damage controls. He was on his way back from there now, and as satisfying as it was to wield his power over Glynn and McManus, there were other legitimate state affairs to resolve.

As soon as he entered his office, he was accosted by his assistant. "Mr. Devlin, sir. Catherine is on line one."

"Damn it. What does that bitch want now?"

"Mrs. Devlin wouldn't say sir. She'll only talk to you."

Even more out of sorts now, he took his time; hanging up his suit jacket, seating himself at his desk and flipping through some papers on his desk before finally picking up the telephone.

"Yes, Catherine. What can I do for you?" he said in a voice nothing like the smooth tones heard by the electorate.

"It's about Sandy. I just got a call from the school. They're threatening to expel him."

"This couldn't have waited until tomorrow?" The Governor and First Lady Devlin still met for lunch as a photo opportunity once a month. This was one time too many in both of their opinions, but it looked good in print.

"No, it can't. They're claiming he helped vandalize the auditorium."

"You want me to make some calls, I'll make some calls. Tell Sandy to keep his mouth shut and I'll take care of everything."

A misunderstanding, claimed The Glaeser Academy when called by the governor. Alexander Devlin was only questioned for any information and told that the offenders would be dealt with harshly. There was no need to mention that the auditorium was built with state funds augmenting the $6,000 a year student tuitions.

Still, when the phone conversation was over, he sighed and rested his head in his hands. The baby that had been so helpful on the campaign trail for attorney general fifteen years ago was turning into a major liability. At this rate, he would have to suck up big time to the state university since Yale was looking to be a dimmer possibility by the day. At least his daughter Angela, conceived right before the lieutenant governor's race without any help from him, was all of six years old so she was less of a problem for now.

There was a knock at the door. Devlin had discouraged use of the intercom.

"Yes?" he called out.

"Mr. Devlin sir, Miss Hoyt is here."

He looked up to the head floating in the doorframe. "Who?"

"The new press secretary you told me to hire," answered Susan Ward, his assistant. "Shall I send her in?"

He nodded, the day had already gone to shit. At least breaking the spirit of a new employee was always good for a laugh.

A few seconds passed and no one had entered the room so he went back to reading the papers on his desk. James Devlin was not a man who waited for anyone.

"Governor?"

He looked up and wished he had rewind and was able to watch this tall blonde woman walk in again. He stood up quickly as she sat down across from his seat behind the desk.

"Miss Hoyt. It is Miss, isn't it? Or do you prefer something else?"

She smiled. "You can call me Alice."

"Well then , Alice. You may call me Sir." He grinned to himself as she lost her rhythm.

"Yes, of course," she replied quickly. "I would just like to say it's an honor to be here working for you, sir. I know you had some trouble with the last person but I am committed to releasing your statements in a manner most satisfying to you."

"I'm very glad to hear that, and I'm sure we'll get along just fine."

"Is there anything in particular you would like me to start on?"

"Hell if I know what goes on around here from day to day. You'd be better off asking Susan." He gave his best altar boy smile. Playing dumb around his subordinates made his life easier, and theirs seem useful.

"Um, well, " she stood. "I guess I should get going. I don't want to intrude on your time any further."

"Nice to meet you."

They shook hands, and Alice Hoyt walked out of the room. I hate to see you leave, but I love to watch you go, he thought. Susan sure knew what he liked. He didn't even need a press secretary. He was quite comfortable in front of the cameras himself. The girl must be intelligent in order to secure such a position in the state, but under that he saw that she still was young and impressionable and easily awed by the trappings of power. Yes, just his type.

***

"James?"

He turned to face his wife. "Yes?"

"Are you going to free on Wednesday for Angie's ballet recital?"

He tossed a small black binder her way. "You tell me," he said and finished off his glass of wine.

Catherine Devlin turned the pages of his appointment calendar. "You have a meeting with the Future Accountants of America at nine. I think there would plenty of time for you to be at the recital at six, then drive over there."

He lifted his glass to her. She hadn't seen a waiter approach, but there it was, full again. "I'm only doing this for Angie."

"That and you know your numbers are down with parents of young children since you cut back on the day care funding."

"What a happy coincidence."

***

"So what do you think of your new boss?" One of the secretaries asked Alice Hoyt.

"Oh well, I worked on his election campaign three years ago, and my parents are great contributors. He has made great improvements across the state..."

The woman smiled patiently. "I meant, what do you think of him? Weasely little bastard, isn't he?"

Alice stared at her with wide green eyes. "Oh... Well, I haven't spent more than those five minutes around him. He does seem like a little puppy. I don't know whether to kick him or chain him up."

The secretary smiled a little uneasily and went back to her typing.

***

"I hope you kept the photographers outside," said Catherine Devlin as her husband slid into the folding chair next to her.

"Didn't you want a couple snapshots of this to take home to Dewayne?"

She gave him a razor glance. "Declan. His name is Declan."

"Of course, how can I forget? He was Sandy's tutor for seven years. Seen him around the house enough."

"You know," she whispered to him as the lights darkened. "If you got a regular blow job every once in a while, maybe you'd lighten up a little."

"What can I say? No one does it quite like you could." Before she could respond he was clapping to the entrance of twenty kindergarteners onto the stage.

To his credit, James Devlin was genuinely fond of Angela. The time around her birth was quite exciting and exhilarating as he had just won the lieutenant governor's race in a landslide and he always associated the two events together. She was a sweet little girl who had no idea that the stocky Irish man always around the house was her father and not him. His heart lit up when she called him "Daddy" the way it always did when he received credit for something he had nothing to do with.

After forty five minutes of nausea-inducing spinning and jumping the girls ran down the stage to their families.

"Mommy! Daddy!" Angela Devlin yelled as she jumped at them. "Did you see me up there? I saw you!"

He picked up the little girl and held her close. "Yes we did. You were a real ballerina. I'm so proud of you."

"Did Shandy come?" She wriggled around to search the crowd.

"No darling, I told you Sandy had to stay in school, but he'll be home tomorrow," said her mother. She reached for the girl, but she turned back around to face James.

"Daddy, are you coming home with us?"

He bent down and put her feet on the floor but she bent her knees and he had to pick her up again. "No princess. I have to go to a meeting tonight, and I won't be home until after you're in bed."

Angela did what she did best. She pouted. "Dadddeee.... you promised!"

"What did I say, angel?"

"You. Said. You. Would. Take. Me. Out. For. Ice. Cream. Just. You. And. Me!' and yes, every word was like it's own sentence when little Angie Devlin got angry.

"Tomorrow. We'll get some on the way to pick up Sandy."

She tried to stay angry, but that sounded like a good plan to her. She wrapped her arms tighter around his neck and kissed him on the cheek.

Catherine reached out for her. "Time to go, honey."

Knowing he still had the advantage, James whispered into the child's ear. "Can I walk you to the car?"

"Yes!" She jumped down and held his hand as they stopped before the photographers waiting by the door. She posed and answered their questions just like a Devlin, proof that all traits are not genetic.

***

He didn't arrive back to the governor's mansion until nearly midnight. It was a large colonial house, a couple hundred years old, but sturdy enough. Tourists in loud shorts and wifebeaters stomped through the downstairs eight hours a day, listening to the tour guide with more enthusiasm than any teacher as children screamed with boredom. It got disgustingly cold in the winter, the main stairs squeaked in the middle but most importantly there was enough room upstairs that Catherine and James Devlin never had to see each other.

The thing was, Catherine Devlin did not leave because of anything her husband had done. She had gotten a midlife crisis bee in her bonnet that she needed to go out and live life, have new experiences in the real world and such. Once she was there, it had been no fun at all. She had no preparation for it at all, having gone from sheltered parents right into the Devlin household, and that bit of self-sufficiency was shortlived as James almost immediately got into the profitable realm of public service.

After seventeen years, she had next to nothing of her own and nothing she had earned. Declan was supportive insomuch as he hadn't been warned in advance and had grown quite comfortable in his space in the governor's mansion. An Irishman trained in the classics, he had been hired by the Devlins to give their seven year old son tutoring in his education. In all honesty, he kept away from Catherine as long as he could. James knew all about it the whole time and preferred to save that scandal for a special occasion.

It had taken her a month after leaving to return back. She had some demands and since they were completely reasonable, he accepted them. They never had shared a bedroom in the governor's mansion anyway. Ever since Sandy, Catherine was more interested in playing mother over whore. This had thrown him for a loop for a little while, until she said outright she'd prefer if he took his libido elsewhere. That weight lifted, they maintained a perfectly civil relationship. Sandy was of an age where he didn't want to know whether his parents were screwing, and Angie hadn't ever known anything different. All in all, your typical family near the end of the twentieth century.

***

Alice Hoyt walked into the office. "You wanted to see me, sir?"

Devlin was wandering by the windows. "Yes. Alice, would you take a look at this release concerning the cuts in the state employees benefits. It just doesn't sound right. I figured with all your education and background you could help me out."

"Might as well earn my paycheck, you mean?"

He nodded and she sat down in a chair facing the desk.

"No, no. I thought we could sit over here, " He pointed to a couple of chairs by the window. "It would be easier for me to review the changes. That desk just gets in the way."

She stood up and walked across the room. They sat down in the chairs which were placed so close together that their knees would touch if moved the wrong way. Sure it was better to admire from a distance, but he wasn't in the mood to look but not touch.

"There that's better, isn't it Alice?"

"I guess so, sir."

"What I want to change is the fifth line to: 'The expenditures are needless, and border on redundant when taking into consideration'... what?"

She had stopped writing and smiled at him, helplessly. "I'm sorry, sir but you'll have to speak slower. I am a blonde and I can't write it all down so fast."

He bent forward in a conspiratorial pose. "Are you really?"

She answered, "I don't think I can prove it at the moment!"

Ah, he tried. Maybe something less subtle next time.

"You see," she said and took his hand and placed it under her skirt. "I just shaved last night."

He maneuvered his fingers along her thigh. Yes, she certainly had. Alice wriggled in her chair, the wide eyed innocent look missing from her face.

"Fuck." Someone had knocked on the door. He jumped up and started pacing, his hands in his pockets. "Yes?"

Susan walked in. "Governor. The copy of Resolution 927 you wanted." She placed the papers on his desk, and looked curiously at the two of them.

"Thank you, Susan."

She nodded to Alice and left the room. Devlin knelt before Alice's chair and said, "Now where were we?"

She looked down at the paper before her. "The expenditures are needless and redundant."

He sighed. "I believe we were having a non-verbal moment."

Her vixen look returned. "So we were, but I have to leave now. Is there any way we can continue this on Sunday? My place?"

"Now, you know a man of my position can't go off at the drop of a skirt. I say you join me on my trip to the eastern end of the state next week."

Alice pretended to consider. "Sounds like a plan." She stood and smoothed her hands across her hips. Waving the papers, she said. "I'll have this typed out and sent off immediately. If you wanted anything changed, you would have changed it."

***

"No sweetie, use your napkin. Don't wipe your hands on the seat cushions."

Devlin looked up into the rearview mirror to look at Angie. He had tried to reason with her that Sandy might want some ice cream as well so they should wait, but she screamed so loud he was forced to leave the highway at the nearest exit and find a bubble gum sugar cone.

His driver had politely offered to drive them to the school, but he insisted on driving the 85 miles himself. Part of his initial state budget was to reduce the number of state cars anyway.

The campus of the Glaeser Academy looked as if it hadn't changed in over 150 years, and it took a lot of money to keep it so well worn. The headmaster was waiting by the main entrance when they pulled up. Devlin got out of the car and looked around for Sandy.

"Governor."

"Doctor Miller." Doctor of Alchemy and Flat Earth Studies, Devlin supposed. The good doctor was 120 if he was a day.

"I just wanted to assure you in person that everything has been straightened out in regard to the vandalism."

"Glad to hear it," Angie was hanging out of the open window in the back seat. Thankfully, Sandy appeared and allowed him to take his attention away from the doctor.

"Hey Dad, hey Angie."

"Son." James shook his hand. Almost sixteen and taller than his father already, the school had done him every good but educationally.

"Doctor." Sandy turned and shook the man's antediluvian talon.

"Devlin," the doctor replied. "Have a good vacation, and we'll see you back here next week for midterms."

"I hate that guy," said James as they left the grounds.

Sandy sat up and grinned. "You hate everybody."

"Yes, but I do have my reasons. So how have you been?"

"Fine."

"Your mother is looking forward to seeing you, and Declan, and Suzanne." Suzanne Wilgis was Sandy's girlfriend whose father was Devlin's lieutenant governor.

Sandy looked out the window at the random cattle. "Dad, I have a question."

"Yes?"

"How come Declan still lives in the house if I've been away at school for two years now, and Angie is too little?"

Finally. The light brightens. Which way to go? Is there really a choice? "I don't know. Your mother likes having him around, and I see no need to kick him out of the house. It's not even my house to kick him out of."

"I always thought Mom didn't like him?" Was that sound seeds of doubt germinating? Must be.

"Really? I never thought that, but then again I'm never around both of them very long. He does help your mom with her literacy programs, as well. They're always planning something or another about that."

"I thought you didn't like the literacy program."

"The whole thing amuses your mother and keeps it out of the state budget. Why wouldn't I like it? Nothing wrong with reading."

"Sandy, let's get some ice cream!" said Angie from the backseat.

He turned around and looked at his little sister's dirty face. "You already had ice cream."

"But you didn't!" answered she.

He smiled at her without teenage angst. "Dad?"

Devlin's heart, which was normally three sizes too small, bumped up a notch. "Fine with me, as long as no one tells your mother."

***

"Sandy!" Catherine Devlin went to hug her son. He pulled away a little. "Please Mom, call me Alex. Sandy's a girl's name."

"It is not! Sandy was your grandfather's name and he came from Scotland in 1925 to build the largest something in the state. You should be proud."

He noticed Declan standing in the doorframe. "Hey! You're still here?"

The man looked uncomfortable. "I was here when you left for school in August, and I'll be here at Christmas."

"That's good to know." James knew they all could hear the new tone in his son's voice.

"We've got lasagne for dinner. Your favorite," said Catherine leading her son into the dining room. James and Angie followed. Passing the Irishman, who was still five inches taller, he said. "You don't mind taking Sandy's bags upstairs do you? No one seems to be around to do it."

"I'll gladly do that for him"

"You're a good man, Dermot. I've always said that."

"I wish I could return the favor, Jimmy."

"James," called Catherine. "Angie says she's not hungry."

"I don't know why," he replied. He had an ally now, and that's all that mattered.

***

"Real quality place you've got us booked in here," remarked Landis Dewey, one of his aides, as the driver pulled their bags out of the car. It was a small family-owned establishment, probably a hundred years old or so. Neon signs advertised the various amenities, and quite a few people loitered around the entrance even though it was 3pm on a Monday.

"Your tax dollars at work," replied Devlin. "Even if there was a better place to stay here in East Bumfuck, I can't let them see me spend it that way. Totally undermines the reason for this visit."

"And that reason is, again?" asked Alice.

"That I care about them and their concerns and their profitable coal mines. That the higher taxes on their profitable coal mines goes right back to them."

"Despite your assurance last year that there would be no increase, sir?" said Dewey.

"Exactly. Your average man in the state could give a shit about coal, probably never seen any in his life; but these people have the black lung to prove they know all about it, so I have to be kind and compassionate, etc."

The woman at the counter just about wet her pants when she saw them walk through the door. She waddled around the counter and grabbed Devlin's hand. "Oh Mr. Governor sir, I can't tell you how honored we all are to have you stay here!"

Alice could see the charm meter click up several notches in his eyes. "Dear lady. It is my pleasure. Lovely country you have around here. I only wish I could stay longer this time."

Dewey quickly was at the woman's side as her knees buckled. "Anything you need, Governor sir. Just let us know." She paddled back behind the counter and picked up keys. "Your rooms are on the second floor facing the lake. I'm afraid the elevator's broken but it's a short walk up the stairs."

"That's just fine ma'am. We don't mind."

He walked into Alice's room twenty minutes later. She was lying on the bed in her garnet colored silk slip. Her legs were crossed at the ankle, and she smiled when she saw him.

"Is anyone going to miss you?"

Devlin removed his jacket and tie. "I left orders with the desk to block all calls to my room. I told Dewey to not come near my door until eight and my cellular is right here." He pulled the phone out of his pants pocket and placed it on the bedside table.

"Oh and I thought you were just happy to see me."

"But I am," he responded and proceeded to unfasten his belt. Alice swung her feet over the side of the bed and sat up facing him. Within seconds she had his trousers and boxers off and his erection in her hand.

Tilting her head to the right, she ran her tongue slowly along the underside. He shuddered, remembering how long it had been. Her hands were on his hips and he clutched her wrists as she swirled her tongue around the swollen tip of his penis. Since it had been so long, he was already at the point of orgasm. He felt the release and how smoothly the woman below him handled it. Alice pulled away, leaned back on the pillows and poured a glass of wine from the bucket Devlin just now noticed.

"So, was that enough for you or would you like to stay?"

Standing there in his oxford and wingtips, he considered the options. "Did you have anything in particular in mind?"

Resting the glass on her collarbone, drips of condensation slipping off onto the tops of her breasts, she answered. "Anything you wish, sir."

He pulled the bottle out of the ice, and took a drink. "You must have brought this with you," he said and she nodded.

Watching him, he looked completely comfortable where he was, and if the president of Burundi were to walk in the door right now, nothing about him would change a bit, Alice had no doubt about it.

He seated himself in the side of the bed and absently stroked her thigh as he thought of something. Shaking it off, he turned to her, keeping his hand on her thigh and reached up to kiss her shoulder. It was tender and at the same time without any real emotion. His other hand reached up and pulled one strap down and then the other, pulling the garment off completely. Alice's breath caught as his lips hovered over her breast. Her eyes closed only to open again as his hand, cold as ice, took hold of her hip. Looking down quickly, she saw he was holding a piece of ice from the bucket and making small circles down her leg. It was horribly cold yet incredibly exciting.

Devlin's blue eyes had his signature look of focus and concentration. This is the way he makes everyone feel, she thought, as if nothing else in the world could distract him. Even though she knew it, she couldn't help but feel a little smug. This was completely different than the way she had planned it. Alice had figured he was a another pathetic middle aged man up for a screw, but all of a sudden she felt completely overwhelmed. No one else had ever gotten the better of James Devlin, what made her think she could?

Popping the ice into his mouth, he dropped down to her skin. She just about screamed from the sensation. He was tumbling the cube around with his tongue while tracing a line down her abdomen. She sat up before he made it all the way down, just to show she had some say in this as well.

With an amused look on his face, he patiently waited until she leaned back again. Devlin hadn't bothered to shave this morning and his chin scratched her thigh as it passed. The ice had melted but his lips were still cold. Good Lord, thought Alice, the bastard knew quite a few tricks.

There was no daylight showing through the curtains when someone knocked on the door. Alice opened the door only as far as the chain allowed her.

"Dinner?" said James Devlin.

She had fallen asleep and hadn't even noticed he'd left, but there he was, freshly shaved and dressed, Dewey right behind. "We've been invited to the fish fry, remember?"

"Of course. Give me ten minutes." She closed the door, splashed water on her face until the flesh felt solid and rummaged through her bags, hoping to find something not wrinkled beyond repair. A quick makeup run and she was set.

"Gentlemen," she said, opening the door again. "Let's get this over with."

***

"Those people loved you," said Dewey incredulously the next morning as he leaned back in the back of the car. "How do you do that?"

Devlin smiled with his eyes closed. "I give them what they want but promise them nothing."

"Next stop is the state university. That has never been one of your strongholds, do you have a plan of attack?"

"I always have three, just in case. Never had to use more than two, however."

Sure enough, as the car pulled into the gate, a group of students were marching along the path. "Devlin supports business over education" "Thanks to Devlin, Latin *is* a dead language " and variations on the theme. One sign in particular caught his eye. Someone had drawn him dressed as Napoleon being crowned Emperor. "I like that," he said. "Find out who did that." The gears were already turning.

The booing drowned out his introduction, but he took it all in stride, actually grinning at the reaction.

"I see I have few fans here. All of you here have the power to vote so next election, we'll see who ends up in the right. I see I'm being blamed for the demise of the Classical Languages degree, but I have no say in dictating curriculum. . To blame me is akin to blaming the cheerleaders for the loss in the Alamo Bowl. Of course I support business in this state. Who else will provide you with gainful employment after you leave here? To say I prefer one over the other is ridiculous. Ex nihilo nihil fit. Without educated people we would have no industry, and without industry we would have no people."

A few of the older members of the crowd applauded, scattered through the crowd and Devlin departed to join the President and the press.

"Why did you even go there when you knew they all hate you?" asked Alice, back in the car.

"I hate having to justify my actions to children, but I was advised," looking over at Dewey, "that it would be best to show them and their parents I was aware of their bitching, er, concerns."

"You wanted to tell them to kiss your ass, didn't you?"

"With every breath."

****

"Come in." The Governor was reading something at his desk and did not acknowledge her further.

It had been a week since their trip, and Alice hadn't seen him much since then.

"Do I really need to accompany you to OZ this morning? I feel a little uncomfortable about it."

He looked up at her, in a gesture perfected by years of being surrounded by taller people. "That's ridiculous. You're not going to be around any actual prisoners. You wanted more responsibility and I'm accommodating you."

Glynn and Tim McManus were waiting in the warden's office.

"Governor, what a surprise," said McManus "I just pricked my thumb and you walk through the door." He held up his hand.

"Good to know you've been reading something older than Getting Rid of the Mother Complex."

Glynn walked around the desk, "What can we do for you today, Governor?"

"I thought I'd introduce my new press secretary, Alice Hoyt."

She shook hands with each of the men, and tried to ignore how curiously they regarded her.

"Don't tell me you've given up going in front of the cameras." said Glynn.

"Not at all, I just figured for certain instances, Alice here will be my replacement if the need should arise."

He grinned his most outright maniacal, and lit a cigarette.

"I just don't see how you do keep away from here as it is." McManus continued and Glynn simply looked uncomfortable.

"Believe it or not," replied Devlin, exhaling smoke, "Sometimes I expect you let these outrageous things explode here just so I show up. You want me here so you can see my downfall firsthand, but I tell you it's never going to happen."

"Lucky for you I have the patience of a saint."

"That's probably the only quality you can hope to cannibalize."

"Sir" spoke up Alice. "We need to get going. Nice to meet you," she smiled at the other two men.

Out of the office, Alice ducked down a hall.

"What are you doing?" asked Devlin.

"You were so slimy," she said. "It was incredibly sexy." She slipped her hand into his pocket. It was a poorly lit area and she reached down and kissed him.

He pulled back. "Not here. Back at the office." he said. "Can you wait that long?"

"No!" she said, a little too loudly, seeing McManus turn the corner. Devlin didn't see him but pulled away and walked to the door. She stood still for a moment then followed, not looking back at McManus, whose Cheshire Cat grin was quite apparent.

***

"But the door! Someone could just walk in here any minute!" Alice glanced over Devlin's shoulder to the wooden double doors, behind which sat four people.

"True."

"You act like you want to get caught."

"No," he said, "I act like I won't get caught. Big difference."

Leaving the office twenty minutes later, she took her time adjusting her hair and jacket to the lateral stares of all in the outer room.

***

Catherine Devlin knocked once on her husband's bedroom door before walking in. He sat up and cupped his head in his hands.

"What is it?"

She threw the morning paper onto the sheets. "Woman Claims to be Carrying Governor's Child"

"What is this shit?" He switched on the bedside lamp and began to read. "That bitch."

"Now you know and I know this can't be true, " Catherine began. ""But what exactly does she have proof of? Does she have witnesses, evidence?"

"Give me a minute." He was not a morning person, but scandals never broke in the evening. "As far as I know, she shouldn't have anything."

"Good. What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to admit to whatever is provable."

"What?" she stopped pacing by the window. "Do you know what this will do to us?"

"Catherine," he threw the sheets off and walked over to her. Automatically, she noted the chill in the air, picked his robe off the chair and handed it to him. "Think about it. Would denial really be our best option?"

Once again, she had to admit he was right. "No. What do you want my position to be?"

"Why, I'd hope you would continue to be my loving and supportive wife."

She didn't respond.

"Would it really be that difficult? It's not like the public thought I was a standup guy before now." He kissed her on the cheek. "Let me know when the press arrives will you?"

Walking to his car, he avoided any comments. "I haven't even had my coffee yet. I'll be happy to answer your questions later in the morning at my office."

****

"What do we know?" Devlin asked Susan Ward. She had followed him right into his office with a stack of papers and thank god, his coffee.

"There was a private detective at the Riverview Hotel when you were there for your tour last month. He claims to have time stamped photos of you going into her room at 330pm and leaving at 7pm."

"What's his name?"

"Kelly, Kellerman. Something like that. He's fairly disreputable."

Devlin nodded. "That's it? What do I have scheduled today?"

Susan looked away. "Actually, you had an appointment over at OZ with Tim McManus. Do you want me to cancel?"

"McManus? No. I'm sure he's already wet his pants at the thought of seeing me today. No need to disappoint him. I'll go."

"After the press conference?"she asked.

"Yes. I want him to think he has some ammunition."

"Any special instructions for the staff or do we just keep with the regular plan?"

"You've been through all of this plenty of times. You could handle the situation with your eyes closed. I bet it will be over by New Year's Eve."

***

As usual there was quite a crowd of cameras and reporters waiting.

"Yes, I do admit to having an affair with Alice Hoyt. It was a one time indiscretion but I will take full responsibility for her and her child. I have always been a great supporter of parental culpability and I won't back down when the issue becomes personal."

"Governor Devlin? Did you manipulate Alice Hoyt into a sexual relationship?"

"No, and I am aware of her statements concurring it was a mutual agreement at the time."

"Governor Devlin? Are you going to demand a paternity test once the child is born?"

Ahh, there was his plant. "I think it is only prudent and appropriate, and is the right example. This administration has supported paternity testing as part of its efforts to enforce child support, and although this was not how I intended implementation to proceed, it's what's necessary under these circumstances."

"Governor? How is your wife reacting to this?"

"Catherine and I have discussed this between ourselves, but she will give her statement in due time. You'll have to find out from her."

"Governor? Governor Devlin?"

"I'm sorry but I don't have time for any more questions."

***

McManus leaned back in his chair fully enjoying the role of aggressor. "Oh, if I could have seen your face this morning."

"I suggest you would have been quite disappointed, as you are every morning. Now I have many other things on my plate today and I did not have to come down here so could you please get to the point?"

"I hear Alice Hoyt is going on the air for a primetime interview on Friday night."

"Are they preempting Providence? I hate when they do that."

"As much as it pains me to say it, you don't seem too disturbed over this."

Devlin lit a cigarette. "This is the perfect time of year for something like this. John and Jane Q. Public are too busy with their holiday shopping, and are more likely to sit down and watch Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas with the tots than a woman who willingly entered into a sexual relationship with the governor of the state. Couldn't have planned it better myself."

"This is the season for goodwill towards men and you're counting on it?"

"Exactly."

"Now what would you say if I told you I saw something that refutes your claim you were not the aggressor in the whole situation?" McManus said, trying for an air of mystery.

"I would say you don't have a leg to stand on. This isn't a sexual harassment case. If it were, trust me I would ask you for your advice, but I think I'll be able to handle this on my own. Anything you could say wouldn't affect the outcome at all. If you could be considered a reliable source at all."

"I am going to love to see what the history books write down under your name."

"I'm not concerned too much with my legacy so far. Governor Oswald, for whom this fine institution is named, was a Class A fuck-up; drove out business, raised taxes, let the infrastructure fall to shit, but as long as he was photographed with sick children and puppy dogs, everyone loved him. Me? I know everyone thinks I'm a shorter version of Lucifer himself, but as long as their jobs are there and there is no tax on their bread, milk and toilet paper, they will put up with me. By finding fault with me, they don't make their choice look wrong but raise up their own level of self-importance by being so gracious as to allow me to continue.

"I'm not the President," He paused. "Yet. I'm not a constant enough figure in their daily lives for them to feel indignant and betrayed. I'm glad you made that point though, Tim, because I know if I died tonight I would get at least a paragraph in Time magazine, while you'd be at best a passing mention in the history of the decline of the prison system. Now if you don't mind, is this little lemonade social at its end?"

***

The interview was done by one of the local stations. He had heard that none of the national outlets were interested, and that was a pleasant change. Alice and the six o'clock anchorwoman sat in one of those doctor's waiting room looking sets, and she poured her heart out. The cameraman cut quite frequently to showcase the interviewer's sympathetic reactions.

Devlin rewound the tape, greatly relieved. Alice Hoyt had played the victim, but there was still a tone of self-righteousness there that will alienate a lot of women. She had obviously gone into this plan alone, and she really needed someone who knew all the rules.

He had recorded the interview instead of watching it live. It would be bad enough, watching it and having to sit through commercials would be even worse.

All in all, there was nothing particularly damning. She was young and fell under his charming aura of power. He certainly felt an ego boost on that one. It was an accident of nature and all she wanted to do was have him admit to it. She felt no anger toward him.

The interviewer tried to pull some intimate details out of her, but she wouldn't cave in. James didn't understand this. This angle she was playing didn't seem to be too profitable. Either she was really naive or there was something bigger planned further down the line. He didn't like not knowing and wondered if there was a way to get in contact with her.

Catherine heard him in the study, so she knocked on the door. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Sure." He was lying on the couch, playing with the remote control.

She sat down in one of the large leather chairs facing the couch and nodded toward the television. "The interview?"

"Yes," he replied. "Did you watch it?"

"No. I couldn't watch her talk about your affair."

He noticed the sound of derision in her voice. "Is that some sort of female double standard, because I sit down to breakfast with your lover every morning for almost eight years now and you don't hear anything from me."

"That's because you don't care." She stared at him , begging him to take the bait.

"Now that's not true and you know it," he answered, still lying back. "I agreed to this setup because it's what you wanted. When we first got married, you were unhappy in the city so we moved to the country and I drove nearly two hours to work each day. Then you wanted to show your parents we were more influential than them, so I ran for attorney general. You wanted a baby so we tried and had Sandy. A couple years after that, you decided once and for all that you wanted me out of your bed, I agreed. After a while, you said the attorney general's job was too much work and I was never home and I could advance higher so I ran for lieutenant governor. When you came to me, tears in your eyes, to tell me you were pregnant, I told you there was nothing to worry about. You wanted to start the literacy program and I backed you all the way, gave you the money to start it up. You wanted to leave, and I told you I understood. When the kids were so angry about it, I never said a word against you and made sure they still spoke to you." He laughed. "After seventeen years, you still think I don't care?"

She knew all his points were valid, more than one hit the mark, but Catherine decided to stay on the attack. "Don't you pin this all on me. You can't tell me I'm the only reason you ran for office. I know your grand plan better than that."

"That's true. I'm a man with goals; most of them accomplished, but I would like to think at least in the beginning of this relationship we were in agreement."

Catherine sighed. "Couldn't you at least have been more careful?"

"What do you mean? Find a nice girl to take home and meet the family instead of just fucking the hired help?"

"I just don't know how to explain this to the kids. What kind of example am I showing them by publicly accepting this?"

"Angie doesn't need to know about any of this. She's too young. I'll talk to Sandy and explain the best that I can. He'll understand. They aren't going to think any less of you after this, only me."

He sat up and motioned for her to join him on the couch. He held her hand and spoke softly. "These last couple years have been a little rough, but I want you to know that no matter what I do and what happens to me, I won't let anything happen to you or the kids... or even Declan when it comes down to it."

She laughed.

"What?" he asked, surprised that his serious confession was given this as a response.

"You said his name."

He smiled. "I have my moments of clarity."

He was still holding her hand and gave her a quick kiss. Surprisingly, she wrapped her other hand around the back of his neck and kissed him back harder and less casually.

"What was that for?" Devlin asked.

"Is it that strange for a woman to kiss her husband?"

"In this household; yes. Where's Danny boy?"

"Declan left for Ireland yesterday. His mother is ill and he's decided to stay with her through New Year's."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Is it serious?"

"I don't think so." She stood up. "I'm going to bed." There was a hint of invitation in her voice, but James knew better.

"Good night. Catherine. Sandy and I should be back by lunch."

***

This time the headmaster was nowhere to be seen as James pulled into the Glaeser Academy. He never was a big political supporter anyway. Thank God for the small things.

Sandy was waiting and quickly put his bags in the trunk. He stepped out of the rain and into the car. Glancing to the backseat, he said, "People trust you to go off by yourself anymore, Dad?"

"So much for subtly introducing the topic. Is there anything you want to know that I would be willing to tell you?" Devlin used that technique often. It gave the other person a sense of control while he was able to regulate the flow of information.

"Did you really sleep with that woman?"

"Yes. Are you disappointed in me?"

"No. All the guys think it's pretty cool. She's really hot."

Ahh, to be fifteen. "You're not upset?"

"Nah, it's normal. I'm not a kid anymore, Dad. I know you and Mom love each other but not, um, in that way." He looked embarrassed having to explain this to his father. "Did she talk to you first about this whole kid angle, threaten you or anything, or did she go right to the media?"

"I had no advance warning. I heard about it same time you probably did."

"Are you going to get in trouble over this, legally?"

"I don't think so."

"I don't think so either. Politically, you made a smart move by admitting everything right away. No one cares about sex scandals these days, especially when you take the secret out of it."

"I'm really impressed with your whole read on the situation, Sandy."

He tried on modesty, but it fit him as well as it did on dear old dad. "Thanks, but I can't live with you all my life and not pick up something."

***

"We must look like we're doing a drug deal!" said Alice Hoyt as she and Devlin walked along the lake in a park just outside the capital three days after her on-air interview.

"Don't be ridiculous, this is the best place to meet these days."

"No one followed you?"

"Not as far as I know," he replied. "One of the benefits of reducing the number of security staff."

"Oh yes, your speech about elected officials not having the divine right of kings and all that."

"I thought it was pretty good."

"I wanted you to know it's nothing personal- this whole mess. It's more of a spotlight thing, and you were a perfect target."

"I know, but you've done it very badly and now you're in a position where you may lose all credibility."

"What do you mean?" she asked, adjusting her collar back up around her face.

"I mean within the next few days either the press on its own, or with a small suggestion from one of my associates, can take a look through my medical records and find out that I underwent a certain procedure six years ago which renders your claim about 99.6% impossible."

"A vasectomy?"

He winced. "It's not a term you use in polite company. If what you say turns out to be true, I don't have to back up a single step, but if you are the one in error, I suggest you check out your Dayrunner for other suspects or get a second opinion. Just out of curiosity; how were you planning on playing this out?"

"These days you don't have to play anything out," she replied. "I got the first shot out and whatever happens next will be second-tier news. I always figured out I'd ride out these next couple months before the stress of it all becomes too much for me."

He nodded. "It might have worked. There is a simple logic to it, but I could always have crushed it at any point. What exactly were you trying to get out of this?"

"I wanted the basics. Personal recognition, a touch of infamy, a chance to be a trivia question ten years from now. My job here is a professional dead end; since Sunday I've gotten quite a few better than average offers."

Devlin glanced once more around the park. "I was hoping this would have been more of a challenge. It just so happens that sex scandals are right below foreign affairs on the least interesting political events at this time, but since we're in no position to bomb another country I suppose it was the best you could do."

"What do you suggest I do?"

***

"I'm very sorry to hear about your loss, sir," said the driver as Devlin walked out to the car for his morning trip into the city two days after Christmas.

"Excuse me?"

"I just heard on the radio Alice Hoyt had a miscarriage last night."

"Oh," he found 'quickly disheartened' and tried it on. "I didn't know about that. Is Alice alright?"

"I didn't hear, Governor. Mrs. Ward will know."

"Yes, she probably will. Let's go."

"I want details," he ordered as he walked into the office.

"Just as you said," answered Susan. "The hospital confirms the Alice Hoyt was admitted last night with abdominal pains and miscarried. She is refusing to speak to the press."

"Doctor Knapp?"

"Yes, sir."

He nodded. "I knew she'd see the logical progression of things."

"Should we expect any other problems with her?"

"I don't think so. Within a month she should be out of the state and enjoying a successful new career."

Over the next few days, with both Alice and the governor denying any interviews, the press moved on to the inaccuracy of reporting the new year as the beginning of a new century and millennium and the slate was once again as clean as it ever got for James Devlin.

No one at the mansion for the New Year's party spoke of it to him, and not knowing exactly who was in his pocket, most likely didn't mention it to any other guests as well.

"Happy New Year, sir," said Susan Ward as she pressed a twenty dollar bill into James' hand.

"Happy New Year, Susan," he returned the money to her. "You know I can't accept this. We never made a formal bet this time."

"I'll just save it for next time then."

"James?" Catherine was holding Angie who was half asleep. "Could you find Sandy to take her upstairs to bed?"

"I'll do it," he said and held out his arms.

"It's almost midnight. People will be looking for you."

"Screw them. They'll still be here when I get back."

Catherine handed her over. Angie woke up quickly during the transfer, but nodded back out when she was safely held again. He carried upstairs, laid her down on her bed and took off her shoes. Her dress was going to get wrinkled all to hell, but it really didn't matter. He pulled the blanket covered with ballet dancers up to her chin, made sure her nightlight was plugged in, then kissed her on the cheek before leaving the room.

He was back at Catherine's side, arm around her waist, as everyone chanted, "Three... Two... One... Happy New Year!"

"Tell me this year is going to be less complicated," she whispered in his ear.

"I promise."

THE END


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