Burying the Past
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
They spent the rest of the day working on Bennett without much success. Taylor had been more right than he knew, as her rumblings became more incoherent with each hour they pressed her. After six hours and five interrogators taking a shot at breaking her, Crawford held up his hands in disgust.
“You’re right, she’s batshit crazy.”
“I told you,” Taylor said. “Someone’s done a serious number on her. She might be telling us something we can use, but it’s impossible to tell with it mixed in with all the crazy.”
“You two go home,” Crawford said. “We won’t get anything from the lab until the morning.”
“We could keep working on finding the other kid,” Taylor offered.
“We don’t have anything new, you’d just be spinning your wheels. Trust me on this, take the moments when things slow down to get some downtime. I’ve worked a bunch of red balls in my career so I understand the feeling of urgency. These things don’t go down overnight and you don’t want to wear yourself down to the point that you’re no good to us when something breaks. I’ll have the lab push overtime looking over her clothes and possessions for trace evidence and we’ll keep someone going at her for most the night. Hopefully between the two we’ll have some new leads for you in the morning.”
“See you in the morning,” Whitaker said, grabbing Taylor’s arm and leading him to the elevators.
“I just don’t get how you people work. Once I’m on something, I can’t just go home for the night and chill until something new drops. I’m not a fan of waiting for new leads to find me.”
“The difference is on your cases, you work alone and you have to dig up all the leads yourself. You’re working with us now. We may be going home but there are still a couple of dozen agents working on this overnight. We’re not waiting on leads to come to us, we’re working as a team. Your real problem is you’re a control freak and don’t like handing over the reins.”
“Look who’s talking,” Taylor shot back.
“You don’t see me getting my panties in a bunch.”
“Fine. We’ll let other people work on it for now. Let’s go get Kara and go home.”
Taylor wasn’t happy to see several reporters lined up outside the gates to the Senator’s townhouse. He knew it wasn’t unexpected, considering it was the middle of the election season. Taylor didn’t follow politics closely, but he knew she’d won her party’s nomination and the election was contentious. News that her daughter had been kidnaped and taken out of the country had thrown gasoline on an already impressive fire, and the media had worked themselves into a frenzy.
They’d called ahead, so one of the Senators’ security people was already at the gate that nominally blocked off her DC home from the street. It was more of a gesture at security than an actual boundary and wouldn’t keep out anyone actually determined to get into the Senators’ home. That’s what her armed security (which was now the Secret Service rather than private security now that she was one of the two major nominees for President) was for.
While it was an impressive home in the elite DC suburbs used by high ranking politicians going back to Woodrow Wilson, it didn’t compare to the massive compound she maintained in South Carolina. While fancy, this looked a lot more normal, if you managed to look past the obviously armed men standing around watching the reporters who in turn watched them.
They’d pulled up to the curb in front of the Senators’ home and as soon as Taylor was out of the car the reporters recognized him. It wasn’t the mad rush he’d experienced at the press conference since there were a lot fewer reporters stationed outside the Senators home than had been present at that event, but they tried their best to make up for their lower numbers by sheer volume.
The questions ranged from the fairly normal ones like ‘What do you think the Senators chances are?’ to the tin foil hat variety, including one guy who asked over and over if Taylor was in a secret relationship with Senator Caldwell.
Taylor glowered at them, but Whitaker was surprisingly good at saying ‘no comment’ in a way that didn’t sound like she wanted to kill the person asking questions. They’d called ahead and were both already vetted by the secret service, so they were able to get through the gate and into her house quickly, limiting how long the reporters had to yell questions at them.
“John, Loretta, how’s the investigation going,” the Senator said as she breezed into the entryway to greet them, giving both a hug.
“Progressing, but slower than we’d like,” Whitaker said.
“My committee met last night to talk about the attack in Virginia. Some of the members are making noises about calling out the National Guard until John’s terrorist has been caught.”
While Taylor had by far the most experience with Qasim as anyone else in US law enforcement, he had to wonder at what point Qasim became ‘his terrorist’.
“Where would they even be deployed? Amberville was a tiny dot on the map and clearly a test for wherever the real attack will occur. We still have no idea what his final target is, nor can we rule out another test in some other small town. You can’t just deploy the guard across the country, not and actually do any good at least.”
“That was pointed out, but these are politicians. There was an attack on U.S. soil and they have to be seen doing something. The President is currently holding them at bay, but I know he’s already getting an earful. You’d make all our lives easier if you’d just catch them.”
“We’re really trying ma’am,” Taylor said.
“I know you are John. Now let’s talk about what’s really important. I understand congratulations are in order.”
Whitaker held up her hand to show the Senator her ring.
“Very nice, it fits her very well. You did a good job, John.”
If Taylor didn’t know Caldwell so well, he would have taken the ‘fits her well’ comment as a slight on the smaller size of the stone. The Senator, however, had never made him feel bad about their different status levels, so he took it at face value.
“Kara helped me pick it out.”
“Ahh, that explains it,” she said, patting him on the cheek. “You’re a good man, but fashion has never been one of your strong points. Have you set a date?”
“No, Ma’am,” Whitaker said. “He just asked me last night, and there’s so much going on with the case right now that there isn’t really time to talk about it.”
“I want to put you in touch with Meredith Smoot. She plans all my parties and did mine and my late husbands’ wedding. She’s a miracle worker. I know you two never stop working, and she’ll make sure you have the wedding of your dreams.”
“That’s a lovely offer,” Whitaker said giving Taylor side-eyed look, “but we wouldn’t want to impose. Once you win you’ll have a bunch of parties to plan and...”
“Nonsense. Most of those will be thrown by the party, and they’ll handle it. I know you’re probably thinking you can’t afford to use my wedding planner, so I’ll make this easy and pay for it myself.”
“Senator,” Taylor protested. “We couldn’t possibly...”
“John, I won’t take no for an answer. Besides a debt that I’ll never be able to finish repaying, we love Kara to death, and you two are some of my favorite people. A woman only gets one show at this - well, ideally - and it needs to be magical. Now, no more protesting. You know I get my way when I set my sights on things, so either give up now and accept my offer or I’ll just browbeat you, and then you’ll give up and do it my way. Either way, we all know how this is going to end.”
She was smiling, but her tone had changed almost imperceptibly. It was still friendly and warm, but with a steel edge to it. He’d never seen her go full Senator before and knew this was only a taste of her powers of persuasion, but he found it hard to say no. He couldn’t even imagine what she was like when she really got going.
“We accept,” Whittaker said, earning a bright smile.
“Excellent. I’m glad he has someone reasonable keeping him in line.”
Whitaker and Caldwell laughed but smiling at Taylor. He knew he was beat and just held up his hands.
“Now that I’ve shown what a wonderful person I am, I can impose on John for a favor.”
“You don’t need to do anything to ask me a favor,” Taylor said.
“Yes, but this way it’s harder for you to say no. I was talking to my campaign manager today and he says you are testing extremely well across most demographics. I know right now you have to be focused on catching your terrorist, but once you get him I’d like for you to help me with some of our campaign events.”
“I’m not much of a public speaker.”
She laughed and said, “I won’t have you giving any speeches, just shaking hands and saying nice things about me. While I’m getting a lot of support from women and young people, we’re having trouble with the more traditional sections of the public who aren’t sure of a woman being in command of the military. We want to use your glowing military credentials and grizzled veteran persona to put them at ease.”
“I’m not sure why people would care what I have to say, but if you need me, then sure, I’d be glad to help.”
“I’m glad you feel that way, because I already have something I need you to do.”
Taylor thought ‘of course you do,’ but managed to refrain from saying it out loud. Not only because it would have been disrespectful, but he’d meant it when he said he was happy to help. He just couldn’t help but notice how easily she had walked him exactly where she wanted him to go.
“What do you need?”
“I’m not sure if you realized it or not, but tomorrow night is the first of my three debates with my opponent. We’re allowed to have guests sit in the family section to support us, and I wanted you and Whitaker there. I understand you want to keep Kara off camera so I understand if you wanted her to stay home. You will be on camera and shown on national TV, so you’ll have to dress professionally. We’d want you to sit next to Mary Jane. You won’t have to give any speeches or anything. Just clap for me when you feel it’s appropriate and look supportive.”
Taylor hadn’t realized they’d already gotten to the debates. He always thought those happened closer to election time.
“You want him to sit next to Mary Jane so that people will connect how they know each other, don’t you?” Whitaker asked.
Caldwell lifted her hands in small gesture, sighed and said, “Yes. When you say it like that it sounds bad. I’ve already discussed it with Mary Jane to make sure she was okay with it first; but like I said, the election’s closer than I’d like. My campaign manager feels it’s a good strategy to not only remind people I’m a mother, but that my family has undergone its own hardships. I know it comes off a bit sleazy and I’d understand if you didn’t want to do it. Please believe me though, that Mary Jane has been a politicians daughter for a long time and understands the realities we sometimes have to deal with.”
“I get it,” Taylor said, “and if it won’t bring up anything negative for either of the girls, then I don’t have a problem with it. I’d be fine doing it, but we are also in the middle of a pretty important case. There’s a strong chance I won’t be available if something breaks.”
“That’s fine. Your work, especially now, definitely comes first. Please just let me know as soon as you know if you’re free or not. I’ll have someone standing by to take your spot in case you two can’t make it.”
“Then sure, count us in.”
“Great. Now that I’ve bent you two to my will, let’s get Kara,” she said, laughing as she escorted them into the townhouse.It turned out the Senator and her daughter had an event in a few hours which limited the time they had to visit once they found the girls. Taylor realized she’d made a special effort to be at her house once she found out Taylor and Whitaker were coming by to collect Kara. Considering he’d already agreed, at least in principle, to help her with her campaign, she could have asked for more of his help over the phone, but he did appreciate the personal touch she put on things. It was probably one of the things that made her such a good politician.
Instead of going home we decided to go out to eat to celebrate our engagement.
“So I understand I have you to thank for the picking out such a nice ring?” Whitaker asked Kara once we were seated.
“I wasn’t going to leave it up to him. Have you seen how he dresses?”
They both laughed as Taylor, made a face at them and said, “I’m sitting right here.”
“Ohh, she’s just teasing you,” Whitaker said. “But you have to admit she has a point. You complain every time you end up having to go shopping with me. Are you saying you would have had any idea what to have picked without Kara’s help?”
“Maybe,” Taylor lied.
“So how did he do it?” Kara asked.
“He caught me totally off guard. We were in another crappy hotel like the one we stayed at the first time we worked together and he surprised me by getting down on his knees and opening this box. He was really sweet.”
“At least he now makes you honest woman. When do you want to do wedding?”
“I have no idea, honestly,” Whitaker said. “We’d kinda talked about getting married a few times, but I was blindsided by it and haven’t had time to really process it yet. Maybe next summer, but I guess it depends on how complicated the ceremony ends up being.”
“We could just go to the courthouse and have the judge sign off on it,” Taylor offered.
“Ha, I have no doubt that’s what you prefer, but a girl only gets married once and we all grow up with dreams of what our perfect ceremony will be.”
The smile on Kara’s face dropped and she began clenching her hands on her lap. Taylor noticed the darkness that had passed over her face and reached over and put his hand on hers, stopping the fidgeting. Letting out a big sigh, Kara looked up and gave him a weak smile.
“Sorry,” she said. “I just never had that dream and I ... I don’t know. I’m being silly.”
“Don’t be. I get it. You know what your doctor said. It’s ok to mourn the things you didn’t get to have.”
“Plus you can make new memories,” Whitaker said. “Starting with being my maid of honor.”
“Really?” Kara asked, her body language shifting perceptibly.
“I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it.”
“You know now that the Senator’s involved you’re going to lose control of this thing,” Taylor said.
“It’s ok, she has great taste. I’m betting her friend is just as discerning.”
“If you’re happy, I guess it’s ok. I know better than to try and dictate how the wedding’s going to be. You just tell me what you need me to do, where I need to be, and when and I’ll just say ‘yes, Dear,’ and follow instructions.”
“And you said he could not be trained,” Kara teased.
“I’d be careful if I were you. I know where you sleep,” Taylor said with a smile.
“I’m a Princessa, you’d not do things to me.”
“Keep believing that.”
“Don’t worry,” Whitaker said. “He’s all bark.”
“So this is how it’s going to be now, huh? The girls all ganging up on me.”
“We women must stick together,” Kara said.
“So are we all set for your citizenship swearing-in at the end of the week?” Taylor asked, changing the subject before things got even more out of hand.
“I think so. There is nothing left to do after the last meeting. I just have to show up, raise hand and swear oath. I do get to invite people to the ceremony, so I asked Mary Jane and her mom to come. They said they’ll be there.”
“I’m glad they’ve agreed to go and support you, but have you thought through what having the Senator there will mean?” Whitaker asked.
“What do you mean?”
“She’s running for president. Anywhere she goes, the press will show up. The story on you is starting to fall off as the press got onto the next story, but her showing up will bring everything back up again. Immigration is a big thing in this election, and how you were pushed through the process set off some of the people out there making noise. Her being there will turn it into a zoo and you’ll be back in the public eye again.”
“I ask her if it would be problem, and she say no,” Kara protested.
“Once she was able to get your story out last time she picked up ground. Your story is sympathetic and a lot of people came to your defense, so no, it won’t hurt her. If anything, she will probably be able to use you for a second shot at building sympathy and helping her with women voters.”
“She’s no like that!” Kara said defensively.
“I know she’s your friend and she definitely wants to be there to support you, but she’s also a politician working at the highest level. She’s running for the most contested position in the country. It’s second nature for her to consider those things.”