Authors: Avery James
Callie laughed. "If I quit the job, I doubt they'll lend me their private jet. And I think I want to get a little farther away from DC than New Jersey. I was thinking somewhere with a beach, maybe a few handsome men who can rebuild my faith in human nature."
"You're not thinking of going all
Eat, Pray, Love
on me, are you? Callie, you're not going to find yourself by doing yoga. Besides, I happen to like the current version of you, even if it means occasionally getting dragged out of bed to role play a vacation request."
"Maybe I'm just making a big deal out of nothing. I should just forget about it."
"Callie, you deal with powerful people all the time. Why can't you ask your sister for some time off? You work insane hours, you do incredible things, just go and ask. If you don't, I'll march down there in my pajamas and do it for you."
"As much as I'd love to see that, you're right," Callie said. She grabbed her bag and turned for the door.
Callie paused in the doorway for a moment before stepping into Amy's office. Her palms were sweaty, and she couldn’t remember if she had put on deodorant, and every moment she waited, her confidence dwindled. It was now or never. Callie pushed the door open and announced, "I've thought it through, and I need some time away from Washington. I need a break." Callie felt a rush of anxiety as she waited for a response. Then she looked up and realized that Amy wasn't alone.
"Good morning, little sister. I think you remember Hank Harris."
Callie felt her cheeks burn as she started to blush. She placed her hand over her mouth in surprise, and then mumbled through her fingers. "Mr. Harris.” Hank Harris stood before her, his white hair sticking out beneath his stetson. With his broad shoulders and his deeply tanned face, he looked every inch an oil man. Though that was how he made his fortune, the seventy year old billionaire had taken on a second career as an environmentalist.
Hank pulled off his hat and held it over his chest. “Ms. Haven. Do you mind if I call you Callie?”
Callie pulled her hand down from in front of her mouth and repeated herself. "Mr. Harris, good morning. I apologize for interrupting your meeting. I'll come back when you and Amy have finished your business. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
"That's quite alright, Callie." Hank said. "Come on over and have a seat. Amy and I could use your help. We were just discussing the problems we’ve encountered with a piece of legislation.”
"Your environmental bill?” Callie asked. Hank’s nonprofit had drafted the language, identified the sponsors and done the heavy lifting to move the bill through committee. Haven Communications had helped persuade a few individuals who had been on the fence. Callie had personally been twisting arms and wrangling votes for this bill for months. As far as she knew, everything was set, and the bill had support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Please tell me this doesn’t have anything to do with the video.
“One of the original sponsors of the bill has gotten cold feet.”
“Right,” Callie said, “Congressman…” Her mind went blank. She could almost see his face. The Congressman was young, from a prominent political family. Oh, his name was just on the tip of her tongue.
“Jack Coburn has gone from lead on the bill to mucking it up in committee, delaying things as he contemplates his next move. He’s gearing up to run for Senate in a few years, and now he thinks this bill could be a liability.”
Tell me this doesn’t have anything to do with the video.
“It seems like a natural fit for him,” Callie said. “He’s a young, unproven Congressman. This would look great on his resume when he’s running for higher office, and it would help him shake his image as a bit of a partier.”
“When the sponsor of the bill is trying to bury it, what does that tell you?”
“There’s something else going on,” Callie said. She swallowed hard. She was starting to get the feeling that Hank’s presence wasn’t a coincidence. This had to do with the sex tape Callie had unearthed the night before. There was no point in trying to avoid the discomfort of talking about it. Callie turned to Amy. “So, this has to do with the video?"
"Yes," Amy said. "Let's just say that Hank also has a vested interest in keeping that material from ever seeing the light of day."
"Understood, but what am I missing?” Callie asked.
"How much do you know about my son?" Hank replied.
"I'm sorry?" Callie said. She really didn’t understand what the misadventures of a heartthrob with a trust fund had to do with an environmental bill. "Other than the fact that he was at Amy's wedding, and that he has a bit of a reputation as a wild child, I don't know anything. As far as I can tell, he hasn't made the headlines in quite some time.” Of course there was more than that. She remembered exactly how he had looked at her from across the crowd at Amy’s wedding. Specifically, she recalled how at odds it seemed with what she had heard of him. According to Amy, he was hot-blooded, impulsive and charming. He had been arrested more than once, and he had been in the center of a fabricated sex scandal that had almost brought Amy’s career to a halt. What else did she know about him? Oh, apparently he had a sex tape. “Has he done something?”
Hank laughed a deep belly laugh and then sighed, the kind of long, weary sigh that only came after years of exasperation. ”No, until I heard from your sister this morning, I hadn’t heard a peep about him in months. He's been behaving himself for a record amount of time."
"So what's the problem?” Callie asked. “I don’t think anyone will be using that tape anytime soon.”
“It’s not that tape that we’re worried about. You see, we need your help keeping him from doing anything else that would jeopardize this legislation. We just need you to keep him from making poor decisions. Think of how much Amy was able to help Ethan."
Callie did a double take. Surely Hank wasn’t suggesting what she thought he was suggesting. Amy had entered into a marriage of convenience with billionaire and perpetual bachelor Ethan Cole in order to help Ethan clean up his image. In the process, Amy fell in love with him, and they had been blissfully married for nearly two years. Hank had even known about the whole thing. “Mr. Harris, if you think I'm going to fake marry your son, you're crazy."
"That's not what we had in mind," Amy said, shaking her head.
Hank sat up a little straighter in his chair and smiled at Callie. He took another long breath, like he was purposefully slowing the pace of the conversation. He softened his tone. “Please, Callie. Call me Hank. As much as I think that would help him find his way, it is not what we had in mind. We just want you to keep an eye on him, you know, keep him out of trouble long enough for us to pass this bill without any additional incidents. Nobody wants to associate themselves with a scandal-marred family.”
"Do you really think a few gossip columns about your son can kill a law?” Callie said.
"Callie, have you paid attention to anything I've taught you?" Amy said. "Remember what happened with Senator Clark last spring?"
"That was different. We caught him with a trunk full of —"
"We all remember the headlines, Callie," Amy continued. "And whose job was it to make sure that story leaked to the press?"
"And whose legislative agenda got railroaded in the process?"
"Senator Clark," Callie said softly. "But that was just one case."
"Well, how about the pictures you and Rich recovered? How do you think Gavin was planning on using them?"
"It's not like it's that common."
"I can think of a dozen cases in the last year that were exactly like it. What about Judge Howard and his affinity for women's underwear? How about the minority whip's little love nest in Columbia Heights? I can go on and on. Face it Callie, this is what we do, and this is what our opponents do. We don't have to play defense on this one. Hank is here, and he's asking us to go on the offensive. This is what you signed up for. We have a chance to help pass a great law that will help this country and protect the environment. All you have to do is say yes,” Amy said. The rhythm and rise of her words had puffed up a grand sense of importance inside Callie. She had a way of making it sound like even the lowest, most tedious work could change the fate of nations.
Callie tried to push down that feeling. She knew that it would only lead her to more stress and anxiety. She needed to stand her ground and ask for her vacation. “I already told you, I need time away from all of the insider politics."
"And that's exactly what you'll get. The bill should be up for vote in a few weeks. All we have to do is get it out of committee and up for a vote. Between now and then, you'll be in Newport, keeping an eye on Logan. Hank and I will be here working on Congressman Coburn. You’ll have the easy part. Who knows, you might even enjoy yourself. Hank has quite the guesthouse. It’s right on the water.”
"I don't know." Callie cracked a smile. "You never mentioned the private guesthouse." She was starting to realize that this was the closest thing to a vacation that she was going to get.
"You were too worked up to ask about one," Amy said.
"It's all yours, and it's right on the water," Hank added. "Whatever else you need, you'll be able to find in the house. We don’t carry the staff we used to, but my assistant, Donna will handle your arrangements.
Your fridge will be fully stocked, and the cleaning service will come once a week, so you won’t have to worry about any of that.”
Amy pushed a few papers across her desk toward Callie. "I've already booked your flight to Providence. You'll have a rental car waiting. Callie, this is the easiest assignment you'll ever get. Spend your days relaxing; spend your nights finding some way to keep Logan out of trouble. I doubt he even gets up before noon. You’ll have mornings to yourself to explore Newport. I kind of envy you.”
"Won't he suspect something?"
"I have guests at the house all the time. One of the benefits of barely spending any time there is that I get to open my home to family and friends. He's living on my boat right now, so he won't even be at the house. I’ll let him know you’ll be in town. With any luck, he’ll be more interested in you than whatever else is going on in Newport this summer. He has a reputation, but he’ll respect your wishes. Do you think you’ll have a problem fending him off?”
“Why do I feel like I’m being set up?”
“Oh it’s nothing like that. He’s been good lately, but my son has about as much commitment and foresight as a fistful of dirt, which is to say not much. I just need insurance as I push this bill through. It would be one thing if it were just my time and reputation at stake here, but I'm working with senators and members of Congress. One wrong move could ruin all of the good work they've done over the past several months to help push this legislation forward. I'm just asking that you keep an eye on him. If there's any trouble, you can call me directly. I'll make sure you have my direct line."
"I'm sure that won't be necessary, Hank," Amy said. "Would you mind giving me a moment alone with my sister? I need to go over a few things with her."
"Of course," Hank said. "I have a few phone calls I need to make."
After Hank left the room, Amy motioned Callie closer to her. She pulled a folder out of a drawer and slid it across her desk to Callie. "This is Logan's file. It's not everything, but it's a good start on what you need to know about him before you leave for Newport. I just want to make sure that I'm very clear with you about my expectations. You need to know what you're getting yourself into.”
“Couldn’t you just send Vi?” Callie joked. At Amy’s wedding, their Aunt Vi had spent the whole reception dancing with Logan. While Callie and Amy were both straight-laced, Vi was a free spirit. Sometimes Callie had trouble believing that they were even related. Whether she was concocting homemade love potions or offering to rearrange all of the furniture in a house to improve the feng shui of the space, Vi was the one who made family gatherings memorable.
“If I sent Vi, she’d find a way to make this an international incident. Now take the folder.”
Callie took the folder and started to look through it. It had everything from college transcripts and credit card records to articles written about Logan and his wealthy family. Then there were the pictures. "I think this will be more than enough to get started," she said. "I like pulling together my own research anyway. Are these stills from the sex tape?"
"Yeah, that's him on the, um, top, and I'm sure you know who she is."
"I think all of America knows who Veronica Jones is."
"You can understand why Hank doesn't want video of Logan and Veronica leaking to the press. He says it’s about the bill, but I also think it kills him as a father to know this stuff about his son. Hank’s a good man, and even if he weren’t a client, I’d hate to see all his good work come to nothing because his son couldn’t get his act together.”
Callie's eyes widened as she looked at the photos. “This doesn't leave much to the imagination," she said. "Wow, look at his — " As she stared down at the photo, she half forgot why she was even talking.