|All The Pretty Things
Author: Rogue Roxness PM
Tess Daubney is ready to follow in her father's footsteps and run for the House of Representatives, but her plans are disrupted by a mudslinging opponent, a mysterious blackmailer, and a sexy FBI Agent investigating corruption charges. F/F NaNo FemslashRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 10 - Words: 16,717 - Reviews: 24 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 20 - Updated: 12-02-10 - Published: 10-31-10 - id: 2860536
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Yes, I did hit 50K words written for NaNo. No, I did not finish ATPT although I am close. More updates to come.
October 4th, 2012. Cincinnati, OH.
"So, you having fun with your stint in the News business, Jane Reporter?" Harkiss asked, coughing as he crushed the cherry of his cigar against the ashtray on his desk. Robin blinked, her eyes stinging slightly from the smoke that filled his room, but tried not to show any outward signs of discomfort.
"You could say that," she said, breathing in as little of the toxic air as possible. Oh well, it was Harkiss' office and a free country. He could smoke if he wanted. Back in her Counterterrorism days, her ADIC had smoked foul-smelling imported cigars, and this was far more tolerable.
"Then why are you back here? I don't suppose you want to give me that story you promised..." he trailed off hopefully, fingertips drumming impatiently on the keys of his laptop.
"Not yet," Robin said, "but I do have a few questions about interview decorum. I've got one scheduled – yes, I'll give it to one of your reporters or copyeditors to turn into something workable once I clear it with my bosses." She answered his unspoken question. "You should put me on the payroll," she added dryly. "Showing up in this cramped building – with no elevator, too! – and doing all your work for you."
Harkiss' jowls quivered as the muscles in his face twitched, studying her closely and concentrating hard. "Hm. You're the big bad FBI Agent, Hart. You don't know how to conduct an interview?"
Robin grinned. "If it involves smashing a perp's head into a wall," she said, her tone much more cheerful. At the horrified and slightly hungry look on Harkiss' face, she hurried to retract her statement. "I was kidding! Damn, tough crowd. Anyway, what equipment do your reporters usually use for personal interviews in swanky places frequented by the muckity-muck variety? What kind of body language or phraseology do they use? This cover isn't deep, but I don't want to come across as inept. I was hoping I could ask you some questions."
Harkiss looked interested and willing to help, which made Robin's life a lot easier. In her opinion, the less time needed to convince somebody to help her, the better. "I'll do you one better. You can take a look at some of the unedited camera interviews we've got in the archives. If you can find them, you can watch them."
"Any of them have politicians?" she asked.
"Sure, lots." He picked up the phone on his desk. "Remember how helpful I'm being when it comes time for that story, Hart," he said, dialing an interoffice number and speaking into the receiver. "Harkiss... yeah... yeah, have someone take her through the archives."
Several minutes later, Robin found herself with several VHS tapes and a small television screen. Some of the more recent interviews were on DVD, but only about half of the Sun's interview backlog had been converted yet. One thing Robin was learning about the News business so far on this trip was that they kept everything. It reminded her a little of the Bureau. They were packrats, holding on to every scrap of information they came across just in case they needed it in the distant future.
To her surprise and good fortune, one of the early tapes she pulled out from 1993 was of Representative Cal Saunders, an interview from his earlier political years. His name was marked on the peeling label, along with several others. Sighing as the screen of the ancient mini-television jumped, she fast-forwarded through an interview with an older, balding gentleman until she saw her target's familiar face.
"As I was saying, the American People need legislation protecting them from sudden interest rates," said Saunders in his smooth, coaxing voice. "Imagine you're a small business owner that has to balance some debt in order to push a new product, a minimum-wage worker barely making rent, or even a stay-at-home parent that just bought a new sun roof for the back patio... you open the mailbox and find a statement from your credit card company saying they've jacked your interest rates up to 30%! What are you gonna do? Consumers can't protect themselves..."
Thinking back, Robin sorted through the information she had already collected on Cal Saunders' voting records and statements to constituents. From what she remembered, he was not in favor of credit card legislation, drawing the ire of his more liberally colleagues while moderate democrats hailed him as the voice of a 'sensible, independent' generation of politician, 'not afraid to veer from the party course'. Perhaps that was why Schope had little to no chance in the election, Robin thought. Most of the liberal-leaning moderates were comfortable with Saunders.
Nowadays, it was common knowledge that Saunders favored legislation that helped the credit card companies, even if his critics called it 'anti-Democrat' of him. His Republican opponent had even cited the relationship in their debate a few nights ago, pointing out that she had no corporate masters financing her campaign.
Thinking about Tess made Robin's face feel warm, but she ignored the physical reaction and honed in on one question: "Why did he change his mind?" If she could answer that question, she might catch a break in her case. As morally reprehensible as it was, simply taking campaign donations from corporations was now legal according to the Supreme Court. However, taking bribes for specific pieces of legislation was not.
"Well," Robin mumbled to herself, not overly worried that she was working through her thoughts aloud since there was no one else in the room, "I guess that gives me some questions for my interview with Tess." No one would know more about Cal Saunders' possible political indiscretions (even unproven ones) than his opposite-party opponent.
October 5th, 2012. Cincinnati, OH.
Robin narrowed her eyes, scrolling through the Cincinnati Library's online database of newspaper articles. Special Agent Slade had been kind enough to loan her his library card, giving her access to their entire collection. Running a search for the name Cal Saunders, the website loaded several pages of results. A few were straightforward biographies, but most were political analyses and a couple of op-ed pieces. Robin decided to start with those. Maybe there would be a sliver of truth somewhere in the crossfire.
Taking another sip of her apple juice, she moved her scrambled eggs around her plate with her fork, not really hungry for anything substantial. In fact, Robin rarely ate breakfast. She was usually too wrapped up in her latest case. This trip to Cincinnati was almost like a vacation, and so far, the natives had treated her fairly well. As peaceful as moments like these were, she still missed the good old days when she had been a Counterterrorism agent in the field. White-collar stuff was interesting, but not nearly as exciting. Had it really only been two years since she left?
Wiping her fingers on a napkin to make sure they were clean before she touched the keys of her laptop, she continued scrolling through the articles. "Hmmm." The sound rumbled in the center of her chest as she looked through the articles, trying to decide which to read first. Most of them were scathing political reviews (were politicians ever written about favorably?) but one article caught her eye.
Opening another browser window, she typed in the URL of the Federal Election Commission's website and scanned a graph of his campaign donors. "If only the public knew the information they could find on the internet," Robin said to herself. Most people were under the impression that FBI agents spent most of their time in shoot-outs and hacking in to secret databases. There was some of that, too, of course, but a lot of their work was just good old fashioned research. Slogging through pages and pages of data to find relevant information was the really time-consuming part of the job.
Finally, she found what she was looking for. "Here we go..." Not everyone knew that all candidates for federal office were required to submit a complete list of the people and organizations that contributed to their campaigns. It mattered less than it had two years ago, before Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission changed the rules. Now, corporations could donate to political candidates or causes directly from their treasuries without any legal finagling or straw bundling.
Noticing the large brown segment of the pie chart, Robin clicked through. The Political Action Committees loved this guy, despite the op-ed pieces that called him a fascist Nazi or a liberal tree-hugger. That last inaccurate description amused Robin, because his Blue Dog voting record clearly indicated a strong lean towards United States oil drilling despite his party's stance and the message he gave to voters. Cal Saunders certainly seemed to be an oxymoron.
Businesses and the regulation of business. That's what it all seemed to boil down to.
Robin scanned through the familiar names – United States Petroleum Industries Political Action Committee, American Gas Association Political Action Committee... the list was beginning to get monotonous. Then, she found what she was really looking for. The credit card companies. Visa and Mastercard were both on his list of donors.
This mostly confirmed information that she already knew. The op-ed pieces were full of accusations that the credit card companies lavished money and gifts on Representative Saunders in order to receive his help within Congressional business regulation committees.
Her phone rang, interrupting her train of thought. She answered it through a cheek-full of scrambled eggs, trying to mouth the words around the food. "Hello?"
"Hello, Nina," said a familiar alto voice that Robin had already learned to recognize. "So, I was just wondering if you wanted to do that interview today? I just got an opening in my schedule during my lunch break."
Robin smiled. "Oh, hello Tess – is it okay if I call you that? I guess I never asked."
"Sure, but don't tell anyone. I usually avoid first names."
"Even though everyone knows yours?"
Tess groaned. "More like everyone knows my last name... Sorry, I'm a little crabby and I don't have time to go out for lunch today..."
That answer confused the fake reporter. "Um, I know you were the one that called me, but if you don't have time to squeeze me in, I totally understand. You must be really busy–"
Robin smiled as the pleasant sound of laughter drifted from her cell phone's earpiece. "Actually, I used you as an excuse to ditch a meeting with a bigwig investor that I absolutely despise. If I didn't make up another conflicting appointment, my campaign manager would have forced me to go. I can't leave my office to get lunch, though, or he might suspect something."
"You like Chinese?"
"I think I can pick up some on my way. Consider it your payment."