Velma had done her nails for about the 20th time, been through her newer magazines at least twice, and had called every living female relative she had, and maybe a couple of the more recently deceased ones.

So when she sighed and said, “Looks like another slow day. It’s time to go home, boss,” I didn’t give her any static about it.

Even if it was only 1:30 p.m.

Things have been glacial in the political instigator business since people settled down to wondering what schlemiel was going to get the nod to run with Mitt Romney and if Joe Biden was going to survive his pending tongue transplant. Well, it’s good he’s first on the list when a compatible one turns up.

Velma left, muttering something about at least tomorrow being payday (that dame’s an incurable optimist).

So I popped the top on my next-to-last can of Old Frothingslosh, “the pale stale ale with the foam on the Bottom,” as the jingle says, and had just got my feet on the desk when I heard something scratching at the door. The one with the glass that reads “.I.P ,SDRAHCIR KCID” (at least from this side).

I put it down to being a rat or a bill collector, or both, but then I heard a barely audible whisper: “Dick… Dick Richards, help meeee……” So I opened the door.

There on the floor was a man in a well-tailored business suit with an unusual fashion accessory — a knife in his back.

Then I realized I knew him.

“Charlie? Charlie Summers? The secretary of state and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate? What happened, Charlie? Who did this to you?”

“Dick, you moron,” he groaned. “Don’t you read the papers or watch TV?”

“Oh,” I said, the light beginning to dawn. “It was her, wasn’t it?”

“Hell hath no fury, Dick. You of all people should know that.”

I did, so I dragged him in and picked up the phone to call the medics, but he stopped me with a single word: “November.”

Yeah. This wouldn’t look good on the news, would it? Then he added, “Besides, it’s just a flesh wound. I saw a lot worse in the sandbox.”

So I hauled out the first aid kit, discovered the knife was smaller than it looked, and figured out that his attacker had missed all the more important internal organs.

I patched him up, told him I could lend him my overcoat (what’s another bloodstain?), and gave him my last can of suds.

But I had to ask: “OK, big guy, spill it. Why did you decide to kiss her off?”

“You know how politics is,” he said. “I figured everybody’s a big boy, or a big girl, and when I got the SoS job after the GOP won control of the Legislature, I didn’t think it was right for somebody with a nonpartisan post to take sides. So I didn’t endorse her when it looked like she would have a primary opponent for the first time in, like, ever. It’s not as if she had anything to worry about.”

“You did that, even though you worked for her for six years,” I said, shaking my head sadly. “Didn’t you ever hear that you should dance with the one that brought you?”

“Dick, she knows I’m facing not just one but two Democrats. Even if one of them is polling at a level that makes the Titanic look buoyant, the other one isn’t.

“And she’s got $2 million stashed away in a campaign fund she’s not using. What’s she going to do, build shelters for feral felines in every place with a ZIP code?”

“So,” I said, “you went to D.C. to see what support you could get, and she wouldn’t come to the meeting.”

“Not even for a grip-and-grin, or any other kind of photo I could use in the campaign. All I’ve got of us together now are old shots of me with long sideburns and her in a miniskirt.”

“I see your problem,” I said. “What do you want me to do?”

“There’s probably nothing anybody can do. Maybe she’ll show up for a pancake breakfast or a ribbon-cutting. I can hope, can’t I?”

“Hope. Good slogan,” I said. “It’s been used, though.”

“Yeah, too late now. Thanks for the patch job.” He stood up and pulled the overcoat tighter. “Wish me luck.”

“Luck,” I said, as the door swung shut.

I had just sat down again when I heard a now-familiar scratching at the door. This time, I grabbed the first aid kit before I opened it.

On the floor was a woman who looked as if she had been trampled by a whole herd of donkeys.

“Hi, Cynthia,” I said. “Just got back from Washington, I see.”


M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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