Oliver's days were full, and he loved every minute of what he was doing. There were political appointments to be made, legislation to be put forward, appropriations to be approved, meetings and speeches and press interviews. The State Journal in Frankfort, the Herald-Leader in Lexington, and the Louisville Courier-Journal gave him glowing reports. He was earning the reputation of being a governor who got things done. Oliver was swept up in the social life of the superwealthy, and he knew that a large part of that was because he was married to the daughter of Senator Todd Davis.

Oliver enjoyed living in Frankfort. It was a lovely, historic city nestled in a scenic river valley among the rolling hills of Kentucky's fabled bluegrass region. He wondered what it would be like to live in Washington, D.C.

The busy days merged into weeks, and the weeks merged into months. Oliver began the last year of his term.

Oliver had made Peter Tager his press secretary. He was the perfect choice. Tager was always forth-right with the press, and because of the decent, old-fashioned values he stood for and liked to talk about, he gave the party substance and dignity. Peter Tager and his black eye patch became almost as well recognized as Oliver.

Todd Davis made it a point to fly down to Frankfort to see Oliver at least once a month.

He said to Peter Tager, "When you've got a Thoroughbred running, you have to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn't lose his timing."

On a chilly evening in October, Oliver and Senator Davis were seated in Oliver's study. The two men and Jan had gone out to dinner at Gabriel's and had returned to the Executive Mansion. Jan had left the men to talk.

"Jan seems very happy, Oliver. I'm pleased."

"I try to make her happy, Todd."

Senator Davis looked at Oliver and wondered how often he used the apartment. "She loves you a lot, son."

"And I love her." Oliver sounded very sincere.

Senator Davis smiled. "I'm glad to hear that. She's already redecorating the White House."

Oliver's heart skipped a beat. "I beg your pardon?"

"Oh, didn't I tell you? It's begun. Your name's becoming a byword in Washington. We're going to begin our campaign the first of the year."

Oliver was almost afraid to ask the next question. "Do you honestly think I have a chance, Todd?"

"The word 'chance' implies a gamble, and I don't gamble, son. I won't get involved in anything unless I know it's a sure thing."

Oliver took a deep breath. "You can be the most important man in the world." "I want you to know how very much I appreciate everything you've done for me, Todd."

Todd patted Oliver's arm. "It's a man's duty to help his son-in-law, isn't it?"

The emphasis on "son-in-law" was not lost on Oliver.

The senator said casually, "By the way, Oliver, I was very disappointed that your legislature passed that tobacco tax bill."

"That money will take care of the shortfall in our fiscal budget, and - "

"But of course you're going to veto it."

Oliver stared at him. "Veto it?"

The senator gave him a small smile. "Oliver, I want you to know that I'm not thinking about myself. But I have a lot of friends who invested their hard-earned money in tobacco plantations, and I wouldn't want to see them get hurt by oppressive new taxes, would you?"

There was a silence.

"Would you, Oliver?"

"No," Oliver finally said. "I guess it wouldn't be fair."

"I appreciate that. I really do."

Oliver said, "I had heard that you'd sold your tobacco plantations, Todd."

Todd Davis looked at him, surprised. "Why would I want to do that?"

"Well, the tobacco companies are taking a beating in the courts. Sales are way down, and - "

"You're talking about the United States, son. There's a great big world out there. Wait until our advertising campaigns start rolling in China and Africa and India." He looked at his watch and rose. "I have to head back to Washington. I have a committee meeting."

"Have a good flight."

Senator Davis smiled. "Now I will, son. Now I will."

Oliver was upset. "What the hell am I going to do, Peter? The tobacco tax is by far the most popular measure the legislature has passed this year. What excuse do I have for vetoing it?"

Peter Tager took several sheets of paper from his pocket. "All the answers are right here, Oliver. I've discussed it with the senator. You won't have any problem. I've set up a press conference for four o'clock."

Oliver studied the papers. Finally, he nodded. "This is good."

"It's what I do. Is there anything else you need me for?"

"No. Thank you. I'll see you at four."

Peter Tager started to leave.


Tager turned. "Yes?"

"Tell me something. Do you think I really have a chance of becoming president?"

"What does the senator say?"

"He says I do."

Tager walked back to the desk. "I've known Senator Davis for many years, Oliver. In all that time, he hasn't been wrong once. Not once. The man has incredible instincts. If Todd Davis says you're going to be the next President of the United States, you can bet the farm on it."

There was a knock at the door. "Come in."

The door opened, and an attractive young secretary walked in, carrying some faxes. She was in her early twenties, bright and eager.

"Oh, excuse me, Governor. I didn't know you were in a - "

"That's all right, Miriam."

Tager smiled. "Hi, Miriam."

"Hello, Mr. Tager."

Oliver said, "I don't know what I'd do without Miriam. She does everything for me."

Miriam blushed. "If there's nothing else - " She put the faxes on Oliver's desk and turned and hurried out of the office.

"That's a pretty woman," Tager said. He looked over at Oliver.


"Oliver, you are being careful, aren't you?"

"Of course I am. That's why I had you get that little apartment for me."

"I mean big-time careful. The stakes have gone up. The next time you get horny, just stop and think about whether a Miriam or Alice or Karen is worth the Oval Office."

"I know what you're saying, Peter, and I appreciate it. But you don't have to worry about me."

"Good." Tager looked at his watch. "I have to go. I'm taking Betsy and the kids out to lunch." He smiled. "Did I tell you what Rebecca did this morning? She's my five-year-old. There was a tape of a kid's show she wanted to watch at eight o'clock this morning. Betsy said, 'Darling, I'll run it for you after lunch.' Rebecca looked at her and said, 'Mama, I want lunch now.' Pretty smart, huh?"

Oliver had to smile at the pride in Tager's voice.

At ten o'clock that evening, Oliver walked into the den where Jan was reading and said, "Honey, I have to leave. I have a conference to go to."

Jan looked up. "At this time of night?"

He sighed. "I'm afraid so. There's a budget committee meeting in the morning, and they want to brief me before the meeting."

"You're working too hard. Try to come home early, will you, Oliver?" She hesitated a moment. "You've been out a lot lately."

He wondered whether that was intended as a warning. He walked over to her, leaned down, and kissed her. "Don't worry, honey. I'll be home as early as I can."

Downstairs Oliver said to his chauffeur, "I won't need you tonight. I'm taking the small car."

"Yes, Governor."

"You're late, darling." Miriam was naked.

He grinned and walked over to her. "Sorry about that. I'm glad you didn't start without me."

She smiled. "Hold me."

He took her in his arms and held her close, her warm body pressed against his.

"Get undressed. Hurry."

Afterward, he said, "How would you like to move to Washington, D.C.?"

Miriam sat up in bed. "Are you serious?" "Very. I may be going there. I want you to be with me."

"If your wife ever found out about us..." "She won't."

"Why Washington?"

"I can't tell you that now. All I can say is that it's going to be very exciting."

"I'll go anywhere you want me to go, as long as you love me."

"You know I love you." The words slipped out easily, as they had so many times in the past.

"Make love to me again."

"Just a second. I have something for you." He got up and walked over to the jacket he had flung over a chair. He took a small bottle out of his pocket and poured the contents into a glass. It was a clear liquid.

"Try this."

"What is it?" Miriam asked.

"You'll like it. I promise." He lifted the glass and drank half of it.

Miriam took a sip, then swallowed the rest of it. She smiled. "It's not bad."

"It's going to make you feel real sexy."

"I already feel real sexy. Come back to bed."

They were making love again when she gasped and said, "I - I'm not feeling well." She began to pant. "I can't breathe." Her eyes were closing.

"Miriam!" There was no response. She fell back on the bed. "Miriam!"

She lay there, unconscious.

Son of a bitch! Why are you doing this to me?

He got up and began to pace. He had given the liquid to a dozen women, and only once had it harmed anyone. He had to be careful. Unless he handled this right, it was going to be the end of everything. All his dreams, everything he had worked for. He could not let that happen. He stood at the side of the bed, looking down at her. He felt her pulse. She was still breathing, thank God. But he could not let her be discovered in this apartment. It would be traced back to him. He had to leave her somewhere where she would be found and be given medical help. He could trust her not to reveal his name.

It took him almost half an hour to get her dressed and to remove all traces of her from his apartment. He opened the door a crack to make sure that the hallway was empty, then picked her up, put her over his shoulder, and carried her downstairs and put her in the car. It was almost midnight, and the streets were deserted. It was beginning to rain. He drove to Juniper Hill Park, and when he was sure that no one was in sight, he lifted Miriam out of the car and gently laid her down on a park bench. He hated to leave her there, but he had no choice. None. His whole future was at stake.

There was a public phone booth a few feet away. He hurried over to it and dialed 911.

Jan was waiting up for Oliver when he returned home. "It's after midnight," she said. "What took you - ?"

"I'm sorry, darling. We got into a long, boring discussion on the budget, and - well, everyone had a different opinion."

"You look pale," Jan said. "You must be exhausted."

"I am a little tired," he admitted.

She smiled suggestively. "Let's go to bed."

He kissed her on the forehead. "I've really got to get some sleep, Jan. That meeting knocked me out."

The story was on the front page of the State Journal the following morning:


At two o'clock this morning, police found the unconscious woman, Miriam Friedland, lying on the bench in the rain and immediately called for an ambulance. She was taken to Memorial Hospital, where her condition is said to be critical.

As Oliver was reading the story, Peter came hurrying into his office, carrying a copy of the newspaper.

"Have you seen this?"

"Yes. It's - it's terrible. The press has been calling all morning."

"What do you suppose happened?" Tager asked.

Oliver shook his head. "I don't know. I just talked to the hospital. She's in a coma. They're trying to learn what caused it. The hospital is going to let me know as soon as they find out."

Tager looked at Oliver. "I hope she's going to be all right."

Leslie Chambers missed seeing the newspaper stories. She was in Brazil, buying a television station.

The telephone call from the hospital came the following day. "Governor, we've just finished the laboratory tests. She's ingested a substance called methylenedioxymethamphetamine, commonly known as Ecstasy. She took it in liquid form, which is even more lethal."

"What's her condition?"

"I'm afraid it's critical. She's in a coma. She could wake up or - " He hesitated. "It could go the other way."

"Please keep me informed."

"Of course. You must be very concerned, Governor."

"I am."

Oliver Russell was in a conference when a secretary buzzed.

"Excuse me, Governor. There's a telephone call for you."

"I told you no interruptions, Heather."

"It's Senator Davis on line three."


Oliver turned to the men in the room. "We'll finish this later, gentlemen. If you'll excuse me..."

He watched them leave the room, and when the door closed behind them, he picked up the telephone. "Todd?"

"Oliver, what's this about a secretary of yours found drugged on a park bench?"

"Yes," Oliver said. "It's a terrible thing, Todd. I - "

"How terrible?" Senator Davis demanded.

"What do you mean?"

"You know damn well what I mean."

"Todd, you don't think I - I swear I don't know anything about what happened."

"I hope not." The senator's voice was grim. "You know how fast gossip gets around in Washington, Oliver. It's the smallest town in America. We don't want anything negative linked to you. We're getting ready to make our move. I'd be very, very upset if you did anything stupid."

"I promise you, I'm clean."

"Just make sure you keep it that way."

"Of course I will. I - " The line went dead.

Oliver sat there thinking. I'll have to be more careful. I can't let anything stop me now. He glanced at his watch, then reached for the remote control that turned on the television set. The news was on. On the screen was a picture of a besieged street, with snipers shooting at random from buildings. The sound of mortar fire could be heard in the background.

An attractive young female reporter, dressed in battle fatigues and holding a microphone, was saying, "The new treaty is supposed to take effect at midnight tonight, but regardless of whether it holds, it can never bring back the peaceful villages in this war-torn country or restore the lives of the innocents who have been swept up in the ruthless reign of terror."

The scene shifted to a close-up of Dana Evans, a passionate, lovely young woman in a flak jacket and combat boots. "The people here are hungry and tired. They ask for only one thing - peace. Will it come? Only time will tell. This is Dana Evans reporting from Sarajevo for WTE, Washington Tribune Enterprises." The scene dissolved into a commercial.

Dana Evans was a foreign correspondent for the Washington Tribune Enterprises Broadcasting System. She reported the news every day, and Oliver tried not to miss her broadcasts. She was one of the best reporters on the air.

She's a great-looking woman, Oliver thought, not for the first time. Why the hell would someone that young and attractive want to be in the middle of a shooting war?

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