Craig, is my 9:30 appointment here yet?"
"Um, yes, sir. They've just arrived."
"Well show them into my office, please."
Spencer Hammond smoothed back his hair and adjusted his already-straight tie before standing from his chair and stepping around his desk to greet his…visitors.
His squirrelly new intern entered the office first, waving in a scruffy, scowling man and an immaculately dressed woman with a pinched-looking face. "Senator, this is Larson James and his Personal Assistant, Brigid Connolly."
"Mr. James," Spencer moved in for a handshake and was surprised at the intensity of Larson's direct gaze and the firmness with which the disheveled man gripped his proffered hand. "Ms. Connelly. It's a pleasure to meet you both. Please have a seat."
Spencer returned to the chair behind his desk as the two made themselves comfortable in the seats across from him. He took some time to give Larson the once-over, paying particular attention to unruly hair and a stubbly jaw, before leaning forward and folding his hands on top of his desk blotter.
"Mr. James, I'm sure you're wondering what prompted me to extend my request to meet with you today." When Larson only raised a thick eyebrow in response, Spencer inhaled deeply and continued. "I want to discuss with you something that is of a rather sensitive and…personal nature. Before we begin, I might suggest that you may want to have this conversation remain confidential." His eyes slid pointedly to Brigid, who was slipping a tiny pair of glasses onto her nose and pulling a tablet computer from her briefcase.
Larson merely slouched down in his chair and crossed an ankle over his knee. "Senator, Brigid probably knows more about what goes on in my personal life than I do. She's gonna stay in here for your 'Super-Secret Clubhouse Meeting,' or whatever this is. If that's a problem for you, she and I can just excuse ourselves, and you can go about your day of jockeying for campaign funds while doing a whole lot of fuck-all for your constituents."
Spencer clenched his jaw for a moment. "Very well. I'll get to the point, then. A few months ago, my office began to receive letters from an anonymous woman claiming to be the mother of my illegitimate adult child and demanding an exorbitant amount of money in back child support. It is not uncommon for public figures to be subjected to this type of attempt at fraud, and usually the perpetrator will eventually stop after receiving no response to any baseless claims.
"This particular woman, however turned out to be quite persistent, and when her demands were ignored, she began to include proof in her missives in the form of bits of increasingly obscure personal information from my past. Information that, even in itself, could prove to be…detrimental to my career. And my marriage."
Larson crossed his arms over his chest, and his seemingly permanent scowl deepened even further. "Look, it's not exactly classified intelligence that politicians tend to have an inability to keep their married dicks in their married pants as soon as their wives leave the room. I don't see what your failure to use common sense and a fucking condom when you bent Barely-Legal Barbie over this desk has to do with me."
Spencer fought to control the flush of anger he could feel inching up his neck, but before he could respond, the woman- Brigid -spoke up:
"Larson, weren't you listening? Senator Hammond said this woman was claiming as of 'a few months ago,' that his bastard is an adult, so she would have had to have slept with him at least 19 years ago. He wasn't a politician, then. According to the bio on his official website, he hadn't even met his wife, then."
"Oh, okay. Well, thank god for that. I'm so relieved, I could shit. That still doesn't explain what the fuck I'm sitting here for, Brigid. The man needs a private investigator and a DNA test, not a comic book artist."
Spencer could feel a headache settling in behind his eyes. He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Mr. James, we've already completed the most thorough investigation possible, given the information available to us. We were able to trace the letters back to a woman with whom I associated briefly, roughly 30 years ago, while I attended law school: one Luz Ana James. That is what the fuck you are sitting here for."
The creeping dread that had been working its way through his guts from the moment he'd made eye-contact with Spencer Hammond finally wrapped around Larson's lungs and squeezed all the air from them.
Larson hadn't heard much from his mother in nearly a year, and he'd assumed that she was off living in a hovel somewhere, getting high with whatever loser she happened to be fucking this week. This, though…this wasn't just some brainless, drug-fueled scheme, like trying to con the senile old woman down the street into signing over her pension checks. This was screwing with someone who had considerable power and a lot to lose. This could be dangerous.
"Look, Senator. I honestly had nothing to do with this. My mother and I aren't exactly close; I haven't even talked to her since just before last Christmas."
"I am aware of that, Mr. James. I didn't invite you here because I thought you were directly involved."
"Okay. Good. Listen, I don't think you have anything to worry about from a legal standpoint, do you? The statute of limitations has to be up on proving paternity and suing for child support; I'm 29 years old. Anyway, Luz only had custody of me for a little over 8 years, and even then, she wasn't around for much of that time. She didn't raise me, my Grandmother did. Gran would never be involved in anything like this, either- just so you know. She doesn't want or need any money from you. Neither do I."
"I am quite aware of this, Mr. James. I'm not accusing you, nor your Grandmother, of anything."
"Well, I mean…if you brought me here to ask me to make my mother stop, I don't know how much help I'll be, in that regard. She never even remembers that I exist until she needs money and can't get it from anywhere else. If she's got it in her mind that she can get some kind of payout from you, I doubt anything I could say would convince her to back off. I mean, if you're worried that she'll, like, go to the press and tell them that she used to get high with you three decades ago…well, you shouldn't be worried about that. I mean, she's a mess; just some old junkie. You've got PR people who can spin that, don't you? Hell, the last three presidents we had, all of them managed to get past the whole 'College Partier' stigma. Just tell the good people of America that you forgot to inhale, or something.
"And I don't know how much you remember about my mom, but it's not even very likely that you're my father. You're just probably the only guy of the many she slept with around that time who actually made anything of himself. I'm surprised she even remembers having met y-"
Larson jolted to a stop when Brigid smacked him on the shoulder, glaring. Why the hell couldn't he shut up? Patrick must be rubbing off on him…
It was somewhat difficult to read the expression on Senator Hammond's face, but Larson decided that he looked mildly irritated as he got up and came around to lean against the front of his desk. "Mr. James, despite the opinions you seemed to have formed about what kind of man I am and where my priorities lie, my main concern- and my reason for contacting you -was not to see about sweeping this whole situation under the rug. While it is true that, depending on how things turn out, I may have to run some damage control behind a little negative press, I don't feel that my career is in danger. I asked you to come here so that we can discuss a paternity test. I would like to know whether or not you are indeed my son."
"Why? It doesn't really matter at this point, does it? I'm not a kid, anymore. I've got my life, you've got yours…they don't really intersect anywhere. Like I said, I don't need any money- or anything else -from you."
Once again, the Senator looked mildly annoyed, but from the way he was clenching and unclenching his fists, Larson wondered whether or not the man was just really good at keeping his stronger emotions from showing on his face. It would be a good skill to have, as a politician.
"Of course it matters. Family is important. If you are my son, then…well, then you are my son."
Larson couldn't hold back the mirthless chuckle that bubbled past his lips. "I've found that the word 'son' doesn't mean very much to some people."
"It means a lot to me. My wife and I…" he clenched his fist again, before shoving them into the pockets of his suit pants. "We have no children of our own."
"Well, you may have noticed that I'm a bit old for games of catch in the back yard and father-son chats about the birds and the bees."
Spencer sighed. "I'm not expecting us to have the kind of bond we would have developed if I'd been in your life from the very beginning, but if I am your father, I would like us to get to know each other; to build a relationship of some kind. Would that be such a terrible thing?"
Larson was dubious. Maybe this guy would turn out to be okay, but maybe he'd turn out to be as bland, valueless, and superficial as he appeared to be in the media. He looked to Brigid. Her mouth was set in a grim line, but she looked into Larson's eyes for a moment before nodding once.
"Alright, fine. Let's just get the DNA test out of the way, first. We'll see what happens after that. Are you really sure about this, though? I mean, I'm sure your thorough investigation turned up the fact that I'm unapologetically homosexual. You might have a queer bastard son. What would the voters think?"
"I have no problem with gay people, Mr. James. I've never taken a stance against the LGBT community, politically or personally."
"Don't really take a stance on anything," Larson muttered under his breath. If the Senator heard, he didn't react to it.
"Should we discover that you are my son, I will leave it up to you whether or not we make that information known. After all, I'm not the only one of us whose career makes him a public figure."
"Yeah, but what about Gabe? He might not want to be publicly associated with either of us, given his lifestyle and public persona."
Senator Hammond's face eased from pleasantly blank to deeply confused. "Sorry. Gabe? My sources said your partner's name was Patrick Henshall. Is Gabe a nickname? I didn't realize he had a…public persona."
Larson sat shocked for a moment before he felt the beginnings of rage seep into his chest. "Okay, first of all, what the fuck? How much of my privacy was invaded by your fucking investigation? I don't know whether to tell you to fuck off or to be terrified of what might happen to me if I do. Jesus!"
"I am sorry, Mr. James. Please understand; I had to determine whether or not you, or anyone else with whom you are close, were involved with your mother's scheme before I could decide how to approach this situation. I meant no harm, but I have to be cautious about things like this. It had the potential to be disastrous, not just for me, but for the people who matter to me, as well."
"You didn't tap my phone or have me followed by some douche in a trench coat, did you?"
"I assure you, I didn't have anyone listening in on your calls or anything else invasive or illegal like that. I'm afraid I don't know who 'Gabe' is, though. Should I?"
Larson narrowed his eyes as he glared at Senator Hammond, who still looked confused, and now a little indignant, as well. "I'm surprised your spying didn't reveal something so important. You know who my boyfriend is, but you don't know about Gabriel? Gabriel Love?"
"Yeah, you know…the Love family. Founded Lovehope Revival Network."
"The Evangelist minister on television? What does he have to do with this?"
Larson's snicker was derisive. "Maybe you ought to fire whoever you had dig up background info on me and my mom, because they missed a doozy. Gabriel Love is not the biological son of Bob and Candace Love. They adopted him. He's my twin brother."