Time flies, it hardly seems possible that three months ago, Bud and I were summoned to the Washington Offices of Henry Baines Truscott, the head of the Democratic National Committee. We were happy; Bud thought we were getting the call. Before the meeting, we imagined all the possibilities of being officially endorsed by the party. The feather in our cap that could propel us. It would sure make things a lot easier lining up the party faithful.
"They want you to run," Bud whispered before we were ushered into the corner office of the Chairman. "They're making the right move; they know you'll bring a lot of votes in on your coattails." It was rare to see Bud this excited. There was a spring in his step; he literally beamed with anticipation.
Henry Truscott was a tall, impish man of Scotch – Irish descent. He was young looking at forty-five, but the new Chairman of the DNC had a weak looking build. His most imposing feature was his shoe polish black hair worn slicked back over his high forehead. Henry had eager looking eyes, exaggerated through the amplification of thick lens-end black rimmed glasses. Obviously driven to gain political power as a substitute for his lack of physical prowess. Everyone who knew him recognized at least that.
"Gentlemen," Henry beckoned us to a large antique conference table.
Speaking through his trademark toothy grin, "Jack, so glad you could make it." He said, extending his hand forward.
"Bud, it's always good to see you. Have a seat," motioning to the large high back leather chairs positioned evenly around the dark oak table, "of course you know the speaker."
The Chairman was accompanied by the former Speaker of the House, Herb Farley, a white-haired three hundred pound bear of a man with a triple chin and double stomach. The speaker held out his meaty paw to shake our hands. I didn't know the speaker personally; we'd met casually at a few Washington parties, but our paths didn't cross too often. I did know he wasn't to be trusted; his reputation as an opportunist preceded him. However, that could be said of most the Hill. After all, who isn't looking out for their own ass in this town?
"I'm a fan of your work in the Senate," he boomed. The speaker's forehead was damp with perspiration around the edges of his hairline. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe it.
"Thank you, Mr. Speaker," I was guarded, but always friendly.
"Call me Herb, please," Henry asked, "Can I get you guys anything… coffee, something stronger?"
"Nothing for me," Bud answered a little too quickly.
I shook my head, "I'm all set. Had a cup this morning." The truth is, I never drank more than one cup in the morning and it was too early for hard liquor.
The speaker engaged us in a few minutes of small talk before Bud, with his typical impatience, asked, "So fellas you didn't bring us down here for girl talk. What did you have in mind?"
I was running my hands along the old wood, pretending to admire the table, my ears perked for the response. I figured I'd let Bud do most of the talking. After all, he knew these guys better than I did; he'd spent the last forty years working for the party.
Henry started, "We know you're preparing for a run at the White House."
"We haven't announced," Bud was being coy.
They knew we had been approaching donors for some time now, that we'd arranged for office space and already hired some staff. Despite our best efforts to keep our plans low-key, when we are all asking some of the same people for money -word gets around.
"I'll get right to the point. The thing is, Jack, we brought you here today to ask that you sit this one out." My heart sank. I looked over at Bud and saw a surprised look on his face. Almost shock. I thought what the fuck?
The words hung in the air. I turned and looked behind me as if to say, who the hell are you guys talking to?
This fat piece of shit and his bug-eyed greaser sidekick can't be talking to me. Don't they know I'm going to be the next president?
Bud was readying himself for a response when Henry quickly added, "If you'll be patient, the DNC will get behind you the next time around; believe me you will have our full support and resources."
Bud fired out, "That's a load of crap, Henry… who the hell are you guys clearing the field for?" Bud had a mean temper and his ire was up. You couldn't blame him for bristling—he was being 'jilted at the altar' by the party he loved.
I worried about his heart.
The speaker wiped his sweaty brow again, then lowered his head and rested his bulky chin on his chest. "Bud, try to have some perspective here; you've always been a good party man. If your guy runs against Griffin, we fragment the party and all lose to Barker. That's why we need you to step aside... for now. If Jack runs, nobody wins; it's that simple."
I said, "Griffin?" I could hardly believe my ears. They were giving the nod to Anne Griffin, the Governor of Texas.
"No way. You're joking, right?"
Henry kept on talking, "If you guys play ball next time, you'll be the guy. You have my word on that."
I didn't want to say anything in anger I would regret later, so I kept shaking my head no to everything Henry said. What a total asshole!
"I'm starting to see the picture a little clearer here," Bud was flip in laying out their strategy, "Jack is a popular senator with leading man good looks - you want him to wait eight years for that old witch Anne Griffin. What did the Texas Tornado offer you guys?"
"Bud, the bottom line is… we think Jack's ideas are too ambitious and would be better served in a future race. Right now, we've got a safer bet. We know we can get the money from Big Oil to elect Griffin and defeat Barker. Bud, be realistic. Jack will be viable when his time comes. We can almost guarantee the Presidency if you'll wait your turn," Henry was pleading.
Bud countered back, "I'm judging by the fact you neglected to mention the VP Spot, the Speaker here gets that as part of the deal. Bud raised his voice another notch, indignant at the outrage, "Otherwise, Herb, why would you lend yourself to this meeting?" He looked directly at the Speaker for a reaction.
When we were alone, I mentioned to Bud I was proud of him; he'd told Truscott and Farley to shove it up their collective asses. Bud couldn't play politics half way.
He shared his thoughts with me, "We had nothing to gain in there. They've made up their minds. I hope I scared the crap out of them."
Bud stood up at the end of the meeting and pounded his index and middle figure into the desk, mashing them to make his point. Red-faced, brow furrowed the rest of his bald head glowing flush.
His last words had been, "In six months you'll be crawling to Jack Canon for a handout. You've got one shot; undo this mess."
Henry looked at me, disappointed, "It's done. I'm sorry."
Bud's anger made the ride back to the office seem longer than it should have. The conversation consisted of us rehashing the meeting.
"You may forgive those clowns, but I won't. Griffin loses to Barker in the overall. This is your time. You can win!"
"I don't believe those two a-holes speak for the party, Bud."
Bud shook his head, "You're damned right, they're full of shit. Fuckin' Farley for VP; he was called out on Ethics!"
I said, "Bud, you can't blame Farley; he's playing his only shot to be VP. He could never win the top spot with his tarnished record and Pillsbury Dough Boy looks."
Several years before, the Speaker was ordered to pay three hundred thousand for campaign finance violations. Griffin was his only ticket.
Bud often joked, but there's always truth in comedy, "Politics is a dirty business, you wipe away the surface layer, but you never get to the clean. You end up revealing the real filth beneath."
Bud naturally had a fire in his belly, but after that meeting, he went to work with a vengeance like I'd never seen before. I was almost glad we'd been called out by the DNC.
Change is seldom easy, but moving into our new offices the final year of the campaign was anything but hard. Sandy decorated our campaign offices with style, comfortable furnishings, light-colored woods, and plenty of glass. She said her taste was as big as my pocketbook and lucky for us, friends of the campaign had donated plenty of cash to do the job right.
Sandy popped her head around the door. Dressed in a black skirt and form-fitting zebra print blouse, she carefully positioned the toe end of her black stilettos toward the floor to keep the door from closing. Her foot was flexed. I could see the faint line between her toes.
We had a tight spring closer installed right after one of my senior staff accidentally left the door ajar. There are sensitive issues discussed in here we would never want the rest of the office to know.
"You've got senior staff in 20 minutes." Sandy's voice had an almost musical quality. She rarely spoke to me in anything but the most dulcet tones, a trait which matched her pleasing personality.
"Hey, Sandy," I jumped up from my seat and moved quickly towards her.
"Come with me; I want to show you something."
"What's going on, Jack? You seem excited."
I didn't answer -instead I led her gently by the arm toward the seventh-floor elevator. We passed several staff members busy working at their desks, each calling out like dominoes, one after the other, "Hey, Jack." I smiled and gave thumbs up as Sandy and I hurried past.
"Damn, the elevator is busy; let's take the stairs."
"Do we have enough time?" Sandy sounded concerned as we turned the corner.
Ignoring the question, I pushed open the door and started down the steps. Sandy had one hand gripping the cold metal railing and her other digging into my arm for support, luckily she had short nails. A couple of years ago, I mentioned I didn't like the plastic ones she was wearing. The next day she came into the office, plopped both hands down on my desk, and said, "I cut my nails!"
It was hard for her to move fast in high heels with her skirt, fitted snugly above the knee. She managed by holding tight to my arm, scuffing along, taking small quick steps.
"I'm parked on the third floor of the parking garage. Keep going; it's only one more floor."
"I'm out of breath," Sandy said as I pushed open the door to P3.
We entered a large open area to see a shiny sports car parked alone.
"It's my new car; you like it?"
"What is it?"
"It's a car," Teasing, knowing what she meant.
"I know it's a car, what kind is it? I've never seen anything like it."
"Don't feel bad. I didn't know either; I had to look it up. It's French-made, a Bugatti. The guy that delivered it said it's one of a kind."
Sitting before us was a machine that pushed the envelope to unreal. Lines so amazing it seemed to be in motion standing still. The Bugatti Veyron is a street legal racecar. Exciting as all hell to drive. I never dreamed I'd own an automobile that could hit a top speed over 250 miles per hour. The truth is, before last night I didn't even know I wanted one.
My version was custom painted black metallic with shiny chrome over dazzling wheel rims in a wave pattern over the single door. The porcelain moldings formed a body impossible to duplicate with steel alone. The styling was accentuated by a triple round grill that gave the car personality and elevated the handcrafted masterpiece to a work of art. To say this car was rare was an understatement; I'd seen only one similar car and that was in a magazine. The Bugatti was hot, a real head turner, all eyes were on it as I drove to the office this morning.
Sandy said, "It's handsome. When did you get it?"
"They dropped it off last night." I ran around the car and opened the passenger side door for her.
"Sandy, get in. Let's go for a spin around the block; we've got time." She tried to enter, first sideways, then lowering herself gracefully as far as she could. Instead, she ended up plopping down, practically falling into the low seat. She crossed her legs, trying to get situated and buckled in. The seats were so steeply angled, they looked like twin toboggans racing downhill. Watching Sandy try to get comfortable, I thought, cars like these, are not made for long drives or tight skirts.
Sandy warned, "I hope you're going to take it easy."
"Engine on," I spoke. The car was outfitted with prototype voice activated controls. The engine obeyed, immediately humming to a start. The understated throatiness of the exhaust stood in quiet contrast to all the glass packs out there trying to Sound Street tough. All the gauges lit blue and the dials went to the hilt before settling down. The windows looked like mirrors from the outside and the interior cabin was nearly sound proof.
"Hear that purr?" I revved up the 16 cylinder 1000 horsepower engine, flooring the accelerator several times, burying the tach.
"Look at this thing Sandy -it doesn't red line until 12,000 RPM!"
Sandy was admiring the leather wrapped interior, running her hands over the dash settling on the round vent of the chrome airstream.
"We won't need the air conditioner today," I joked.
"You think? – It's like 40 degrees outside; I should've brought a sweater. You hurried me out so fast I didn't have time to think. "
I told her, "You won't need it in here; the cabin heats up in seconds." The car must have been equipped with some type of radiant heat system.
I flipped the dial and we were warm, almost immediately.
Sandy said, "I wonder how they do that; I freeze waiting for my car to heat up. You know, I never thought I'd say this about a car, but this one is sexy… I guess some guys need this sort of thing."
I sank back into the driver's seat richly upholstered in a diamond patchwork of raised blond leather. The headrests had the Bugatti Logo richly embroidered to adorn the center. Everything in the cockpit was chrome or leather trimmed with a fragrant new car smell.
It's always amused me that people are willing to pay many times the intrinsic value of an item to obtain the status of a brand. This was not one of those times. We were seated in an example of excellence, worth every penny of the $1.6 million price tag. It wouldn't have mattered what they called it.
"Reverse," I eased off the brake. My left hand barely guiding the wheel, I backed the car from its lone parking spot.
When I arrived this morning, the first and second floors of the garage were filled with cars so I took the third level to have it all to myself. I knew I was going to take at least one person for a ride today!
"Drive," I said, and with both hands on the wheel at ten and two, I asked Sandy, "Are you ready?" Before she could answer, I pressed my foot down on the pedal. The tires spun, smoking for a second on the slick cement floor. I smelled the hint of burning rubber as we laid our first 10-foot strip.
We were off!
"Hold on, Sandy," I warned as we slowed quickly to negotiate the first turn.
"Please be careful," Sandy pleaded as we tore through it. The thick rear of the car fishtailing, tires screeching, turn by turn we made it to the ground level. We tested the acceleration, racing full throttle the entire length of the floor. I hit the brakes hard, skidding right through the exit booth. The attendant raised the traffic arm just in time.
Ceramic Brake Pads, built to withstand enormous heat, allowed the car to stop faster than it accelerated. Sixty to zero in a mere 2.3 seconds… on this stop, I could've used another tenth of a second for Sandy's sake.
"Oh my God, you almost hit the bar. You're the last guy on earth that should own a car that goes this fast."
"Oh, I knew we weren't going to hit the bar. This car was made for this type of handling."
I really did know it as fact. In practice this morning, me and the kid worked it out. I slipped him a twenty.
"You think that was fast, you haven't seen nothing yet!"
"No, I really have," Sandy grabbed tight to the armrests.
Looking only to my left I hit the gas and we flew out into the street.
"Jack, are you sure…?"
I answered by putting the pedal to the floor, "We'll take her around the block."
We could feel only mild vibration as we tested the claim of zero to sixty in 2.5 seconds. We were momentarily pinned back in our seats.
"Wow!" I said. Driving as fast as I could, barely stopping at one corner before speeding up to the next, each time announcing to Sandy how fast we'd gotten up to.
"She kept saying, "You're going to get us killed."
"The last run was our best, Sandy, sixty-eight!" I told her, proud of myself. When we got back to our starting point, we turned into the garage. I stopped briefly, thanked the attendant and grabbed a ticket.
Sandy said, "Please, can we take it easy now?"
The cockpit was relatively quiet, even with all the commotion we created. Tires screeching, rear end fishtailing, burning rubber all the way to the third level.
On the way up, I told Sandy, "It sounds worse than it is!"
"Off!" One final command and the powerful machine instantly fell into motionless repose.
"Driving with you feels like sitting in a rocket sled perched on a banana peel! I feel like I lifted off in the space shuttle. You're impossible! Really, Jack, you try sitting in the death seat with someone driving like that! I nearly put my foot through the floor trying to stop the car myself." Sandy threatened with a look like she'd never get in my car again. This time, I think she meant it.
"We have to take the elevator. This skirt is too tight for me to climb stairs." I was laughing, exhilarated as we hurried towards the exit. Sandy was trying her best to keep up, one hand on my shoulder the other on my arm for balance. I pushed the button and showed her my watch, "See we made it."
"We've only made it to the elevator," she said, slightly exaggerated, out of breath. She was shaking a bit. I grabbed her by the shoulders and looked down deep into her eyes.
"Don't worry, I sent everyone a text before we left to hold off for 20 minutes. I wanted to take you for a ride and have some fun. Wasn't that an awesome adrenaline rush?"
"I didn't want them to blame me for making you late." Sandy's eyes were a little watery. She grabbed a tissue out of her purse and dabbed them dry.
"It wouldn't have been your fault. Don't cry, Sandy; I'm sorry you're upset."
"I'm not crying. Sometimes you're a little wild, really! When did you even decide to buy that car? Usually, you have me check around…"
I cut her off, "It was a gift. Somebody Bud's been working with, they dropped it off."
She cocked her head to the side and, wide-eyed, looked at my face, "Who would give you that?"
I explained, "One of our key supporters in the East. I'm anxious to meet him. He's throwing us a big fundraiser the night of the New Hampshire Primary in Upstate New York. Bud's working out the details. I want you to come with us; it'll be fun. Maybe you'll meet some rich guy that drives his Benz like a little old lady."
"Very funny. There is nothing wrong with driving the speed limit. The way you drive, you're going to get somebody killed. Why did he give you the car, though?"
"He wants to be sure that when I'm president, I'll take his call. The car is his way of introducing himself. I'm not about to keep it. I was going to auction it off for charity after the election."
"That's some introduction. They sure know your weakness. I wish someone would give me a car."
"Sandy, the super-rich are drawn to power like moths to a flame."
"Do you know what this means?" She looked into my eyes, "You're going all the way!"
I reached to her shoulders, "We're going' all the way!"
"Jack, I can't wait until you expose these people."
I started daydreaming about my speech... The wealthy want the status quo to continue, they hoard trillions... and move in a world that few people get a chance to see. We'll get a big taste of that up in New York; that's one of the reasons I wanted Sandy to come. She's never seen this before. I wanted her to see this unbelievable wealth first hand.
Most Americans have no idea that the richest 1% control 50% of the income. The system is so broken. We have thirty-eight million kids who go to bed hungry every night while the wealthy in this country can't figure out where to park their extra Mercedes.
"Jack... have you heard anything I said?" She knew I was deep in thought and hadn't heard a word.
"Sandy, my parents have friends who would be embarrassed to stay too long in their winter homes for fear the neighbors would think they'd lost their minds or gone senile. All while millions of Americans are homeless. It's messed up."
"It's awful. The rich are so selfish they only care about themselves!"
"Well, I'll tell you one thing, nobody has ever done anything about it."
"The thing I worry about. If you speak out against them, how are you going to get big donations for the campaign?"
ALL IN: Race for the White House: Jack Canon's American Destiny (Billionaire City Book 1)
by Greg Sandora