SCENE FOUR : THE PARTY
The North had greater agricultural and industrial output than the states in the south. However, the crops in the south were more labor intensive. The demand for farm hands was met from across the Atlantic through a system of promises and contracts. What followed was mankind’s most atrocious project of trafficking humans from one continent to another so that a few families could control the cotton trade globally. The slave trade boosted recruitment into the army, helped the shipping business and created a demand for skills that could help settle a new civilization in the new continent.
Henry was a patron of the Ku Klux clan, and was to be elected to the senate. In the year 1944, Henry was governor of the key southern state of Florida. Henry’s family emigrated from Europe, lured by the potential of cotton cultivation here. By early 1900, the family had earned the reputation of being an illustrious family that espoused the true virtue of the great American dreams. By now, the family had its presence in shipping and banking, and as it moved to the 1910, it began to enter the military hardware market. The massive shipping contracts from the army led to millions of dollars in turnover even while the national economy was reeling under a slump in demand.
In the year 1944, Warren was born to Henry and Suzanne. A pink-cheeked child, Warren’s stars had already chosen for him a life, an education and a career long before he could walk his first steps.
Warren was brought up in the traditions of a Republican, and introduced into the early history of America, according to which the virtues of individualism, profit and common good were eulogized. Warren went on to graduate from Columbia, where he majored in politics and philosophy. He soon joined the Republicans and donned the role of drafting his father’s speeches as well as managing his public engagements.
At the age of 32, Warren was elected to the senate of Florida. He showed signs of the right-oriented politician that he was to become later in life. Profit is what drives the human species, and those profits could only be used for the common good if the state stayed away from business. With his own family fortunes dependent on defense, he was only too smug to support America’s war in Vietnam and the many covert operations it was carrying out in Latin America. At 34, he had led the largest recruitment drive for the army in Florida, and this catapulted him to a household name across the country.
Warren turns 68 on the 15th of June 2016, and with two terms of Presidency of the United States behind him, he is content at being the de facto Republican patriarch. The party will turn to him towards the end of the summer to nominate the presidential candidate. His vital connections within and without the party mean that the party will continue to repose its trust in his wisdom.
Anybody and everybody with a say in world politics and economy is being invited. Members of the “Collective” will attend along with the representatives of other influential groups. In addition to this, members of the press, leading democrats, many republicans and a multitude of Hollywood stars have received the invite to this grand celebration.
Behind the scenes, the massive rooms in the farm house have turned into cigar rooms. Fully conscious that these occasions offer opportunities for fortune seekers, appointments for personal meetings with Warren and Timothy have also been sought.
As the 15th of June draws closer, the place has been visited multiple times by the secret service, the local police and the fanciest of party planners. Arrangements have to be made to house the snipers who will be keeping a watch on everybody and everything at the farmhouse on the day of the event.
A jazz band (Warren’s favorite) will play through the party and add to the gaily atmosphere of the party.
The guests are to be seated on the plush lawn that has been delicately set up by the planner. The tables will be decorated with lilies and orchids, and each table is to have its own cigar holder and dumb waiter. The menu is spread over three varieties of cuisines ranging from continental, Mexican and oriental. This will cater to the palates of the multiethnic guests who plan to come visiting Warren on his 68th birthday.
Just a short distance away from the farm house is the family’s private golf course which is also where the helipad is located. Most of the guests will be received here. The golf carts will be put to good use for ferrying the guests.
Every minute detail was being attended to. The day before the party, a full-fledged rehearsal was conducted. The secret service did its evacuation drills, while the Jazz band kept them company with a jamming session. The florists and the caterers could be seen giving final touches to their unending preparations.
As the evening sun began its purposeful descent, the activities at the farmhouse took a leisurely pace. There was a relaxed look on the faces of the men who had worked through the afternoon as though they were on the line of fire. There were no more any shouting of orders for something to be moved to the other side or the carpet to be replaced with a newer one. The band also had settled down to a slower and sober tune. The event manager strolled into the main banquet hall, walked the whole length of the magnificently decked up place absorbing every detail with his microscopic eyes, and finally nodded in appreciation. One could see smiles on the faces of his lieutenants who had waited till then with bated breath. Finally, they could catch some much needed rest before the show begins a few hours before the sun would make his reappearance.
The sun will have to wait. Even before Franklin D Roosevelt’s summer home in West Quoddy Head would see the first rays of June 15, the AugustaWestland AW109 carrying Warren emerged out of the horizon and headed in the direction of the farmhouse. Presently, the powerful navigation lights of the chopper built a halo around the farmhouse. The white ‘H’ on the helipad came alive and men were already standing in attention around the place. As a bird that descends on to its familiar perch, the helicopter made a smooth landing, and as the rotors began to idle and gave up their frantic chase, the door opened and a smiling Warren stepped out. The old man jogged down on to the waiting golf cart. He has always been like this. A meticulous planner, he believed that the more time you spent on preparing for a meeting the better the outcome would be. Today, he needed to make elaborate preparations for the afternoon. Today, he will have to be on top of his form. He will need to invoke all elements of his negotiating skills today, for the sake of America, for the party and for himself.
Timothy will be arriving at around 10:00 hours with Chris and Ray, and will be eager to get his meeting with Warren. He had to look relaxed at the party.
As he was being carted towards the farm house, Warren began to wonder if he ever had any quality time spent with his family. Each gathering often turned into an official get-together, where people networked and struck deals with one another. Knowing that his birthday celebrations were being put together by dear Timothy, he was particularly aware that he must be able to balance his time between his official engagements and his children and wife. He hoped Timothy would have pulled off a coup of sort and got Robert to attend the party. There wasn’t much news on him for a while now, and perhaps the birthday would have been an ideal day for a fatherly hug.
The cart drove up the cobbled entrance to the large farmhouse, and as it broke to a halt, the main staff of the house came out to greet him on his special day. As Mr. Humphrey, the caretaker, handed him a bouquet, his whole team, as if a band had been given the cue by its master, started singing the birthday song. Warren seemed to be overwhelmed as well as amused, and patiently waited for the song to end before shouting a “Thank you” while the applause went on. The smile that had made Americans vote him in twice was back on his face without any of its charm missing.
Warren walked past the hallway turning right into a corridor lined with pictures of him and his family. The corridor goes straight to his office from where he has fought many a political battle over the years though he himself has often wondered if had won the war.
Seated in his leather chair he waited for Laura to settle in before they could discuss the important situations for the day.
“Laura, have you heard from Shwarps? Something’s really brewing at the Collective. They met a couple of days back, and unless Shwarps has a crisis on hand he wouldn’t stay away. Hope they haven’t decided to go with the democrats this time around.”
“I hope not, Mr. Warren. Mr. Shwarps and all members of the Collective have acknowledged the receipt of the invitation and will be making it to the party today. My friends in the Dem camp tell me that no contact has been made with them yet.”
“Alright, so let’s begin. What does the day look like?”
Warren straightened out on the chair. A small strain of worry that had appeared on his forehead had disappeared now.
“If the Collective haven’t already gotten in touch with the democrats, they will try to push forth a proposal this afternoon when they meet you. You can also expect quite a few lobbyists later in the evening. The recent decision by Richard to control gun trade will prominently figure in the discussions.” Laura paused.
“And yes, Timothy Arnold. His speech at Kentucky has not been well received by the older members. Timothy seems to have turned the Republican agenda on its head.”
Warren had been intently listening to Laura.
“Timothy is a wise boy. He is running the family business and also Anna’s husband’s business. There is more than what meets the eye. The applause he is getting around the states is a good way to know what the public here want. If there can be new Labor and new Tories, there is certainly space for the new republicans.”
Warren stopped and there was silence in the room. Laura knew the old man had not finished. He was thinking. Warren leaned back on his chair. His mind began to wander around his relationship with Timothy. Before marrying Barbara, he had dated Timothy’s mother for 3 years at university. Warren wasn’t sure if he felt guilty for not only walking out on that fine lady but also for whatever she had to go through in her later life. Whenever this thought forced open doors to his past life, he has justified to himself that his decision was dictated by political compulsions rather than his lack of fidelity. They had stayed in touch, and though she went on to marry a Jewish businessman, Warren would remain in and out of their lives with uneasy regularity.
Timothy’s father Isaac died an untimely death. It was with Warren’s help that the family was able to tide over the loss as well as carry forward Isaac’s vast business enterprise. Rumor mills had it that Warren may have played a role in the sudden death of Isaac. When a big business man running businesses in America and Europe is found dead in his hotel room, speculations are bound to rise, and given Warren’s proximity to the family, especially his old love, eyebrows would be raised in his direction. A full federal enquiry had ruled out foul play and blamed depression to have triggered the tragedy.
Timothy was very young when he first saw Warren leaving his mother’s bedroom. Timothy was clueless about their relationship until much later.
Now older and wiser, he has frequent appointments with Warren, when they discuss matters pertaining to business and politics. They had appreciation for each other’s intelligence and acumen. However, what kept their bonding intact was their love for Anna; for one it was driven by lust and nostalgia whereas the other owed his existence to her. Nevertheless, the very same nucleus was an irritant that kept a mutual distrust burning underneath the cordial exchanges the two have had. Neither of them attempted to address the differences as any intelligent man would know that such matters are better not exhumed or else the stink can make life miserable. Warren never forgot the suspicion and unease in the eyes with which the boy had looked at him while leaving Anna’s bedroom many summers ago. Timothy’s love for his mother stopped him from questioning the relationship between his mother and Warren; a relationship which caused considerable unease in him. Entering politics as a brand with an ideology that put Warren in discomfort was Timothy’s very way of retaliation.
When Warren read Timothy’s speech at Kentucky, the shrewd patriarch knew exactly this.
Laura was reading out from a diary, but Warren did not hear the names of some of the dignitaries who would be present at today’s celebration. He took a deep breath and leaned forward in his chair. “Can you read the list again, please? I was lost in thought”, he said apologetically.
“Gosh, Tim’s got everyone to be a part of this event”, Warren said.
Tim had made sure nobody who mattered was left out. Laura herself had to work double shifts to with Tim to get the final list.
Butler Robin gently knocked on the door, and strolled in behind the silver plated trolley carrying breakfast. The top shelf of the trolley held a bowl of porridge, Warren’s staple for as long as anyone could remember, accompanied by an apple and two pieces of toasts with marmalade. On the lower shelf was Laura’s serving; poached eggs along with a few buttered toasts complimented with a cup of black coffee.
Robin, a very old hand of the house, kept an eye on Warren’s diet and medication while the old man was at the farm house.
Warren handed over a plate to Laura. “It’s getting late. Tim will be here any minute.”
They finished the rest of the discussion over breakfast, engaging in some light banter about the state of things in the party. Warren was privy to the lives of the most influential people in the States. Just when the plates were being cleared, they heard the sound of a helicopter hovering above. Tim was here, and again on time.
Tim got off the chopper and got on to his cart, choosing to drive it himself. Ray and Chris were aware that Tim would be closeted with Warren for a while, and so decided to try a few swings on the range. Unbuttoning his suit and loosening his tie, Chris reached for his wallet and pulled out a 100-dollar bill, setting the tone for the next hour. Being around Tim meant there was very little free time, unless an occasion like this came along.
As Tim drove through the angular path ways toward the farm house, he thought about how today was an important day for his work and family, and how he needed to put his best foot forward. The republicans could win this election and he needed a lot of money to get that done. Having hand-picked the invite list, he was aware of the responsibility that fell upon him. Being a politician meant that he lived a dual life; one in which he was always shrewdly planning his next move to outsmart his opponent, and the other one retaining the sense of idealism that he now spoke so passionately about.
As he appeared at the entrance, he was greeted by Robin. While shaking hands with the old Butler he enquired about the preparations.
“Everything is in place. If there is one thing missing, it is Robert.”
‘Hmmm…’, Tim sighed and wondered when Robert would see the light of the day and come back to join his family.
Tim headed straight towards Warren’s study. In the corridor, he met Laura who was on her way out. She would know that both Tim and Warren would like to discuss things in private.
As Tim entered, Warren rose to give him a bear hug, something Tim has been used to for a long time.
“Happy birthday”, Tim said warmly. Then he made himself comfortable on one of the chairs. He loosened his tie and reached out for a glass of water.
“How is my mum keeping? It’s been so long since I last saw her.”
“Your mum is well. She is happy and excited to be seeing you today.”
Anna had become even more dependent on Warren over the years. Tim’s political career gave him little time for his mother, so much so that he could only afford an occasional call to her. At times, she would worry if Warren was deliberately keeping Tim away from her.
It was Warren’s final word on what responsibilities Tim would be given. These whirlwind tours around the states addressing public gatherings meant shrinking personal space, where everything was out in the public domain. Now, fully entrenched in the Republican cause, there was no looking back. The decision to join politics was never his. Having managed his father’s business he knew what it takes to make money. But politics was never even a consideration, given his Jewish ancestry.
It was Warren who enabled him to manage that balancing act between politics and work. Aware that Robert was never much interested in the family tradition, Tim seemed like a useful hand in looking after Warren’s political interests as well as business.
Business and politics seemed like natural bedfellows to him. Both these required friends, allies, enemies, competition and strategy. It was only a matter of time before he took the plunge. Warren’s guiding hand enabled Tim to make both the worlds meet.
Over time, Tim was working round the clock. So much was riding on the young man that Warren could never find fault with him or his politics If Tim saw a hidden agenda in all this, Warren was only too quick to realize Tim’s apprehensions. Tim’s tone would often change at the mention of his mom, at times appearing numb and sometimes sensitive. It seemed like Tim tried looking for her in this deep sea of business and politics, and Warren slyly would push him into it deeper and further away from Anna.
Warren had just gotten into his seat when the phone rang. It was Laura. She had just received a call from the White House confirming President Richard’s attendance at Mr. Warren’s birthday celebrations.
Putting down the phone, he passed on the information to Tim.
Warren knew why Richard would be keen to make it to the party. The president would surely know that the Collective had met and they had not sent any overtures to the Democratic Party. Richard was coming to have an audience with the Collective and not the former president.
The timing of his birthday and the overwhelming response to it meant that Warren’s birthday would seem like the closing hour at Wall Street.
Tim slowly drained his glass, and waited for Warren to begin the conversation.
“Timmy, today might just decide which way the winds blow and how we fare in a few months from now. I thought it would be fit to hear your mind on a variety of things.”
Warren paused for a few seconds before he continued. The old man is always like that, thought Tim.
“First up are the speeches you have been making and the responses you have generated. There is an opinion within the party that these speeches are compromising the core tenets of the Republicans, while there are those who think that your approach is our only chance this time around.”
“When the presidential candidate does get named, it will be interesting to see which way the fortune tilts. Will the party play it safe and go with an old hand who espouses the old values of Republicanism, or will there be a change in thought and action?”
“Son, no matter how well you run your campaign and no matter how good your chances are of winning, the decision will be mine, and my decision, as everyone knows, will be above my relationship with you. It may mean deciding in favor of the old guard, who command the loyalty of millions of workers around the country.”
Tim wanted to speak, but the old man continued.
“You represent the new age of hope for America and no one denies that. I hope you will realize that people attending your speeches are people who are unlikely to line up to vote. On the voting day, it will be those Republicans standing by us who have done so loyally for decades, and are we in a position to risk their votes? I personally loved the things you said at Kentucky, because it had the democrats worried. You seemed to have dented their traditional base. So, if we can manage to wean away some traditional democrat votes and at the same time assure our followers that their apprehensions will be addressed, we have a strong case for running this country for two terms.”
Tim was thinking about his mother. He only managed to pick a few lines of what Warren had said.
“Sir, I have gotten into this fully aware of who my friends and enemies ought to be. The old guard is old, and they do not want to budge. Do you even realize the possibilities this party can achieve if we can bundle them out? It would mean new ideas, new leaders and new vision.”
Tim stared at the old man. He wanted to know if what he said had hit the right nerve. He was not sure.
“Yes, I agree that their apprehensions need to be addressed, but just as they are bent on holding onto their core principles, I have mine too. If I represent a future, I can only claim it by holding on to the issues that are closest to my heart and the millions of Americans who are cheering for me. But don’t, for once, doubt my ambitions and the way I go about doing things. I am a businessman and I am fully aware of how this game should be played. There will be a lot of fun and games today on the side lines, but I am here for the more serious business of finding friends who can take us to the finish line. So, be assured that I have everybody’s best interests in mind.”
Tim got up without waiting for the Patriarch’s reply.
“And, when you said that your decision will be above your relationship with me, I am sure you did not mean that I would be expecting any favor from you. I am also sure that you wouldn’t risk losing another election for the republicans just for the sake of keeping some grey heads in good humor. I believe the key factor behind your decision will be as to who stands a better chance to win. Have a wonderful day!”
He wanted to catch some of the action with Chris and Ray before they got ready for the festivities in the afternoon.
As he left the Room, Warren kept staring at the door for some time. The he returned to the notes Laura had left for him.
There was a difference in work ethic between the two generations that had just met. Warren’s breed liked to have all notes and speeches ready with a brief on who they would meet and what to expect.
Tim preferred to work with more of nonchalance. He made notes on the day of his speech and seldom kept a close tab on his opponents. This, he left to Chris and Ray to handle. They would brief him a few hours, or sometimes a few minutes, before an event.
The signature of a good businessman or politician is his golf drive. The number of friends one makes on a golf course is directly proportional to the number of deals one can cut while on the golf course.
By now, Chris and Ray had played a couple of holes and were seated on garden chairs under an umbrella enjoying some gin and tonic. Just then they catch a glimpse of Tim’s cart heading towards them.
“Ready for round three?” Chris turns to Ray.
“Oh yes, let’s check if Tim’s standing on firm ground today”, Ray responds with a smirk on his face, still sipping on his gin.
The three spent the next one hour outdoing one another, but with time running out, they left the game midway to head back to the farm house.
It was around 12:45 in the afternoon when the three reached their rooms to get dressed. Tim had not checked his mail or phones ever since he had reached the farm house. There were several messages from his friends in the party wishing the old man a happy birthday.
As he scrolled down, he came across one from Uncle Theodore. It read, “The Collective is real excited about us. Let’s make things happen today.”
Grinning to himself, Tim sends his doting uncle a wicked smiley face.
Theodore, Anna’s brother and Tim’s ‘go to man’, has been Tim’s closest aide, even before Chris and Ray came into the picture. If Warren gave Tim responsibilities, it was Theodore who helped Tim execute them. A member on the board of all the companies Tim is in charge, he holds the reins of Tim’s business interests. Politics came easy to him, and his deft handling of Tim’s political opponents earned him respect inside Tim’s world.
If Tim created a flutter with his speeches, Theodore’s connections in the party helped nullify the negative impact of it on the old guard. Coming across as a prudent businessman and being in complete alliance with American policies, Theodore was Tim’s alter ego.
Tim wrapped himself in a towel, and was ready to head to the shower for a quick bath when there was a knock on the door. He walked across the room and opened the door. Standing outside was Debby. Tim was a little surprised. Debby, Warren’s daughter, was a free spirited lover, and now officially the family’s problem child.
She pushed the door open and entered the room with a swagger, carried with a finesse of sensual womanhood.
It had been months since Tim had got in touch. Their previous rendezvous had ended in a bitter acrimony and a minor scuffle. Tim loved the sex, but had little time for her idiosyncrasies.
Now seated cross-legged on his bed, she lit a cigarette, blowing out smoke in the form of rings which engulfed her like a cloud. She sat there with her newly made curls sitting on her off-shouldered dress, letting out an obvious aroused vibe.
All this while Tim kept looking at her, fully aware that he was getting stiff under his towel. He excused himself and returned in a minute dressed in his boxers. Meanwhile, Debby had gotten herself into the duvet on the bed bare skinned, hoping to make love to Tim.
Tim thought he owed her an apology for the fight they had on the previous meeting, and wanted to talk to her and clear the air about her apprehensions. For too long, she controlled the reins, and Tim, being such an ambitious man himself, felt weighed down by her. What was it about women that they can turn the strongest man into a spellbound Charlie. The moment she entered the room, he was in her spell again, unable to frame the right sentences to tell her what he’d been craving to settle with her. He ran the words in his head. “Maybe, Debby…… you know……. we should limit our engagements to the family lunches that take place once every couple of months.”
However, what came out of his mouth was something different.
“Debby, I am sorry. I wanted to call you, but you know these days haven’t been easy. I am so sorry for not being around when you needed me the last time you got out of rehab.”
Tim, aware that the party would be starting any time soon and meeting the Collective was essential, wanted to rush through this and perhaps get out of it with a quickie.
Debby, now looking towards him from under the duvet, suddenly broke down. She began to shriek, accusing him of betrayal. She yelled that he should have never gotten inside her pants if he was going to turn into an inconsiderate bastard.
“Work maketh you, love maketh me, and life will judge us”, she continued.
Tim sat down on the bed, and gave her a peck on the forehead, apologizing for the past.
Debby continued to cry amidst the sound of landing helicopters. Tim knew he was wanted in the garden, at the stage, at Warren’s room, and practically everywhere, but suddenly all that mattered to him now was the passion he was consumed by. The urge to leave was overcome by the urge to make things up to Debby. He spent the next half an hour holding her close and allowing her to cry until she stopped, obviously pleased with the kisses he showered on her. And as he was making his way into the duvet to get closer to Debby, Warren was playing perfect host to his guests at the party on the other side of the house.
Warren could be seen in the main hall, having a word with Anna. He informed her that he would be closeted for some time in his room with the Collective. Anna assured him that she would be around and that he needn’t worry. Warren asked Anna to send Tim in as soon as he arrived.
Meanwhile Debby and Tim were warming things up in the bed room. Having had Tim exactly where she wanted him, Debby had stopped crying. Impulsively, they went on to indulge in the passionate love making they were so good at. Time seemed to pause for them in those moments. Everything else would be forgotten. Even presidency could wait. It didn’t matter that Tim was a household name in America or that she was the daughter of a former President. Everything just made complete sense for the time both spent together in bed.
Outside, in the lawn, the music was picking up a gentle rhythm and those invited had made their little group discussions on everything from politics to show biz. If there were tables talking art and movies, there were also tables where business was being discussed.
Everyone present was accompanied by a chaperone who went onto other tables introducing themselves on behalf of their boss who was busy fixing a quick meeting at any given possibility. Then there were the members of the Collective, inconspicuously scattered amongst other guests, but always aware that they had an important meeting to attend. All eyes looked out for Tim who was nowhere in sight. They wouldn’t have guessed that he was helping Debby with a second orgasm in less than an hour.
The two were literally jolted out of their embrace by violent thumbing on the door. Chris seemed intent on breaking the door open.
“I’ll join you right away”, Tim shouted and the thumbing stopped.
Suddenly, Tim remembered the presidency. An urgency of a different sort replaced his flesh’s cravings.
“Hey Deb, let’s get out and be a part of Warrens big day.”
The Eve was in no mood to budge and covered herself again, not willing to leave.
“I will catch up with you in the evening, Debb. I want more”, Tim said, running into the bathroom.
In less than five minutes he was out, showered and dressed in his typical suit. Debby was just getting her clothes on when Tim reminded her that he should head out first, lest they should be spotted together. He gave her a warm hug on his way out and headed straight towards the lawn.
Tim saw Chris pacing up and down the corridor looking anxious and worried. Tim looked askance towards Chris.
“Tim!” Chris exclaimed. “How did you manage to delay yourself this way? The guests have been asking about you. You know this is not an ordinary event where the host can be missing for too long. People here are keen to meet you for business, politics and what not! This party was supposed to be our gateway to the funding that we badly require to win this election. Do you realize that?”
Tim did not quite like the sternness in Chris’s tone.
“I’m sorry. What have I missed so far?”
“The president has not yet turned up, but the bad news is that the Collective and Warren are engaged in a discussion for the past half an hour. The meeting will get done soon just so Warren can come out to cut the cake. Get among the crowd making it seem you were always around, and then we can take it from there.”
Tim headed towards the canopies where all the guests were seated at their tables.
“Great show Tim!” Someone shouted out from one of the tables. Tim raised his hand in acknowledgement. He spotted his mother Anna, and headed straight towards her. Anna was busy receiving guests and acknowledging the compliments being paid to her tanzanite earing and her Basra pearls. Anna, even after turning 56, had poise, and carried herself with elegance amongst a crowd that was still finding its feet in the world.
Tim reached out to give his mother a hug.
“Where have you been, darling? It’s almost like, if I want to see my son, I have to put on the television.”
“Mom, you know how things are with the elections coming up. After all this is over, there will be plenty of time for us to catch up unless Warren decides to give me more work to do.” Tim said raising his eyebrows.
Sensing that Tim wouldn’t spare a chance to bring up Warren, Anna changes the topic asking him instead if he had seen Debby and if he could ask her to come by and check on her.
“You kids choose to disappear and hardly ever show up.”
“I haven’t seen her myself for a while now. I am told she is here somewhere. I will have her come meet you.”
Tim turned and made his way to the bar where the shouts were coming from. It was Malcolm, his good old friend from school, who was there with his entourage of buddies that Tim spent his early days with. How he missed them now that he had gotten so busy with things. He made it a point to go check on his mates. There was Rubin, who was with his beautiful wife, Claire, and then there was Michelle who he had dated briefly in school and now was married to Malcolm. None of them were dressed for a formal occasion the party was intended to be. There was this casual nonchalance with an infectious energy that was gripping people at the party. Malcolm stood out in his blue trousers and hat, while the rest chose to go with the suits and long dresses. These guys were already on the flaming shots and were in for their next round when Tim showed up. Handing him a drink, Malcolm pulled out his phone to ensure this was captured and put up on his Facebook account.
One…..two……three…. and the old bunch, the alumni of America’s youth were downing shots and having a fun time, oblivious to the serious talk that was happening around them. Tim had to cut short his time with Malcolm and the others as he needed to get busy with the many people who were present there. There were business leaders, politicians, and friends from practically every industry. Tim carefully carried with him a charm that put everyone at ease. It was easy to start a conversation with him. He knew almost everyone on their first name basis, having met them on many an occasion.
The moment was his now. He was followed around by Ray who remained handy if he needed a word or two to remember before he approached someone at their table. The greetings continued and so did the subtle hints about funding. There was talk about his speech at Kentucky which he engaged in with a tone that indicated intent. The only thing that stung him in the form of regret was that he had missed the meeting with the Collective.
It was time for the cake to be cut. Warren had wrapped up most of his engagements, the most important one having been the one with the Collective.
Earlier in the day, when Tim and Debby were busy tending to each other’s passion, the Collective met Warren. It had been a while since most of them had sat across the table with him. Their previous meeting was prior to the last elections. Then, the Collective had gone on to throw their weight behind Richard.
While walking to his office, Warren wondered what had caught up with Tim that was keeping him from being at the meeting. After the meeting at Davos, Warren was eager to hear from the Collective. He wanted Tim with him when the Collective put its cards on the table. Shwarps had gotten in touch with Laura for a formal appointment while confirming his presence at the party. Theodore too had heard from Shwarps telling him that he would be interested in catching up with Tim. With Tim absent from the scene, it was left to Warren to singlehandedly push the agenda for the party.
A formal meeting in which a formal proposal will be extended to the Republicans is to take place a couple of months preceding the elections. There will be a few, if not more, parleys building up to that final meeting in the coming months. This was the first such meeting, and seated in the room were Mr. Shwarps, Mr. Nagasaki, Mr. Romonov, Mr. Polski, Mr. Agarwal and Mr. Chang. The Sheikhs were held back owing to intelligence inputs that a civil uprising could breakout any time in their city.
Warren greeted his guests and thanked them for making it to the party. It meant a great a deal to him that all his dear friends were present there. At this juncture, just when Warren was making them feel comfortable, his eyes met Mr. Agarwal. He wondered who the new face was.
“I am sorry, but we haven’t met”, Warren said apologetically. “Thank you for being a part of this day.”
Agarwal, who was quite in awe of the company he was present in, was humbled by the kind words extended to him by Warren. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a gift which Warren would later find out was a Cartier watch.
“I am Mr. Ravi Agarwal, having recently managed to get into the Forbes List. Very happy to be here.”
Warren, genuinely smiling, turned to the other members to enquire on the state of business in their respective countries. Noticing an entry point to lead this conversation, Mr. Chang remarked, “The times are always good for business, Mr. Warren. What matters is who has the keys to the clock.”
Warren smiled and nodded an approval. “Business will get better with the Republicans coming to power next year. Our faith in free trade without boundaries will propel the world economy forward.”
“Not if laws that go against the very foundations of the freedom to trade are passed”, said Polski.
Warren remembered the days when he had to deal with Romonov who was a guerrilla leader in Colombia.
“Can’t we be a little straight forward, Mr. Polski? Aren’t we here to sort things out?” Warren said sounding earnest.
Romonov repeated most of what he had said at Davos about America being the land of freedom, and that freedom stood at risk if the current government went ahead with its plans to control the gun trade.
“I can assure you, Mr. Polski that this bill is not going to be passed. We in the Republican Party have broad consensus not to support this bill. Unless the president uses his veto, this bill will not see the light of the day”, Warren tried to dispel Polski’s fears.
“The Collective has some apprehensions about what Timothy Arnold has been going around pronouncing. We are concerned that in the event of Timothy being chosen the republican candidate for presidency, he has shown all inclinations to deviate from established republican policies”, Ploski fired his next salvo.
Warren tried to hide his unease. Tim should have been here, he thought.
“I am sure you are aware that Tim himself has interests in the arms industry. Tim’s belief in no boundaries and no restrictions on trade should all be seen in the light of growing restrictions the current government has imposed. Tim is raising the concern of the average American whose ability to grow in life has been hurt by the incumbent government’s policies. He is a politician, and I urge you to see his speeches in that light”, Warren said knowing that his negotiating skills were on test.
It was Shwarps’s turn to enter the conversation, and inform Warren about a consensus that had been arrived at the meeting in Davos. He seemed confident of convincing Warren that there were definite issues that needed to be ironed out, especially because of Timothy Arnold’s overtures towards the working public. He added that there were a few agendas that the ‘Collective’ wished to talk about with Warren before they could each draw up independent plans of funding the election. By convention, they also had to set aside a certain amount for the Democrats.
Moving ahead, Shwarps had a message to deliver on behalf of the Jacksons who had come to terms with the idea of having a common currency governing the world. He had lent his conditional support to the Collective on the grounds that the seed industry remained untouched, and no laws would be passed that would hamper Jacksons’ agenda in America and overseas. Shwarps wanted Warren to be aware of the stakes involved in fiddling with the food industry. “The American food industry is best served if the status quo is maintained. There are just a few fringe organizations who oppose anything and everything about it. The majority are happy getting fat on the bounty that is on offer in every supermarket around the country. (Ram) If these big farms turn unprofitable, are we to expect our people to go back to the land? That would leave us in a worse situation than that of a Maoist state.”
Warren was patiently listening to Shwarps’s speech. “The issue is not about big farms turning unprofitable. I am sorry to disagree, but the party is receiving a lot of stick from several of its regional players who are unable to take seed research forward because the Jacksons have a control on the industry. Then there is the food processing industry that is at loggerheads with the Jacksons, because they again control the main supply chains and the production units. This can be changed if we change the patent rules to suit smaller players and ensure that Oligarchs like the Jacksons don’t have a final word on the price of food production and distribution. I hope you will see the merit in the republican stand”, Warren searched for the reactions on each face that looked at him.
“Mr. Warren, these points may be discussed in future meetings. For now, Jackson is holding the cards really close to his chest. His interests in third world countries with research and farm acquisition give him allies across the globe. Let’s see what can be done about it”, Shwarps said in a conciliatory voice.
So far the score was 1-1. He was willing to take care of the Collective’s concerns about the gun trade. The Collective will have to somehow bring around the Jacksons to fall in line. The issues could always be discussed in another meeting.
With little time left for the meeting to end, Ravi Agarwal decided to enter the discussion to enunciate on his moot point about the currency exchange.
“Sir, in Davos we discussed the way forward for the Collective. You are well aware of the changing times in this global trade. Your own foreign policy experts would remind you of how emboldened we in South Asia are.”
He stole a quick glance at Chang and then continued.
“South East Asia is faring well. It won’t be long before there will be more of us on the boards of important corporations as well as the ‘Collective’. I used to sell tea in a small place in India which is now notorious for all the environmental issues your country has. Our government goes to Copenhagen and Kyoto and allows big countries to tell us to emit less carbon. We go to WTO, and there we are again told not to do free trade agreements. If we want to go for nuclear power, you say first become a member of the NPT.”
Ravi paused to allow time for his words to sink in.
“Mr. Warren, America is a great country and it became great because people didn’t want to continue living in Europe under controls and taxes. The third world is now rising. It does not want the same controls that your forefathers fought against. We just request for one thing from your country, and unlike the issue on seeds, I have the full backing of my friends in the Collective. We have agreed upon asking you as the head of the Republican Party to ensure that the new government takes up currency reforms whereupon the dollar will not be allowed to continue to be the currency reserve of the world.”
Warren put down the glass with a loud noise, largely because he had choked at the outlandish demand. A third world lackey, a tea seller, was telling a former President of America how the game is going to be played. Negotiations were the order of the day, fine. Suggestions were welcome, but you cannot expect that any stupid decision that you take sitting in an anonymous place will be endorsed by me just because with your money we can sway a few million voters more. You better sell tea and get paid in rupees, Warren wanted to say.
Some things are better unsaid. Warren maintained a stoic silence. Although he was a little perturbed, the master negotiator did not look like that to the others in the room. He had played a lot of poker. The collective’s support was essential to win this election. But, taking away America’s hold over foreign exchange would be close to treason.
Warren looked at his watch, signaling to the Collective that it was time they dispersed.
Warren genuinely wished for Tim’s presence by his side.
“Gentlemen, thank you for your precious time. I am glad you all could make it. That aside, it is unfair on my part not to reply to what Mr. Ravi Agarwal has suggested. Your suggestion sounded atrocious to me, to say the least. What you have proposed is offensive to every American as it is to me. You are asking me to sell my pride, hang my patriotism and walk around Washington DC like an ostrich. I would like to believe that you raised the issue without really understanding the pride that every American attaches to the status of the American dollar. You may be forgiven for that. However, if you came up with such an absurd idea under the impression that Republicans are willing to sell themselves out for a term in office, then I am sorry I must, in all humility, tell you that you are gravely mistaken. We have been around for far too long to know not to buckle under such pressure tactics. I can assure you that America means well for the interests of all who are involved in business with us. We might hold a sway over international currency, but do not forget, gentlemen, it is the third world that leverages on our currency to export to the first world, giving it the competitive edge it enjoys over the first world”, Warren breathed hard.
Having played this game quite successfully for a while now, Warren was aware that biding his time on this was crucial. Knowing that there was a strong anti-incumbency, the Collective would never want to put its money in a sinking ship. Mr. Ravi had chosen the wrong time to take on the dollar.
“However, I want to assure you that we will be talking about all your issues in our future meetings, including Mr. Ravi’s suggestion. We can always work around to address the concerns of everyone involved. I have been honored to have the President of America at this function. He is on his way and is expected any time now. I am sure you will also be glad to have a few moments with him. So, if you would allow me, gentlemen”, saying this Warren got up from his chair and others followed suit. He walked around the oval table and took Ravi’s hand and shook it.
“Let’s make sure we meet again in the near future to talk in a more relaxed environment.” He walked out of the room. He did not seem to have heard Ravi’s birthday greetings.
Back at the lawn after finishing his engagements, it was time to meet up with old friends and foes. On the other side of the party was Tim, now on firm ground having struck up a conversation with people who would matter to him during this election. Debby was there too, on her fifth drink and having a tough time balancing herself on her high heels. Tim, who everyone thought of as Debby’s brother, was at her side giving her a hand to sit down. Having made her comfortable, he personally got her some food to munch on to keep the dizziness away. The president would be here any moment and it was important that she looked better.
Theodore chose to stay away deciding, instead, to keep a tab on the party from Washington. The business had burgeoned over the years, especially the defense orders which had to be met at breakneck speed owing to the number of threats America faced from external enemies. This meant staying back and staying behind the scenes watching over both Anna and Tim.
Warren was clever enough to understand that the purpose of the visit of the President was more for the purpose of catching up with the who’s who among those attending the party than for honoring a former president. Democrats were making a last ditch effort to secure some important names on their side. Warren had reasons to be happy. The Collective had already been spoken to. Tim’s absence from the meeting was a blessing in disguise, because for the time Warren was away it was Tim who was holding fort at the party.
The arrival of the president was met with a rapturous applause from the guests who all stood in honor of the man who ruled America. Followed by his entourage, the President made his way to Warren giving him a bear hug and a gift that was immediately handed over to Anna. Flanked by Tim on his right and Anna on his left now, Warren profusely thanked the President for his thoughtful gesture. He said, the family was honored to have the president with them for the evening. Debby was there too, now standing straight and fiddling with Tim’s cufflinks holding on to him like a doting sister would. It made for a great photo opportunity and they all posed as the cameras fired from all angles.
They soon proceeded to cut the cake. It was around 4:00 in the evening, and the party had been on for a while.
Networking has a life of its own too. After a couple of hours, one invariably bumps into the same person again. Considering this was a party, it allowed one and all to let their hair down and enjoy the sumptuous food and cocktails.
The president’s entourage got talking with the guests making connections and promises. “Timothy won’t make it, the guy is a commie”, said one of Richard’s aides.
“Trust me Frank”, said another. “Tim’s confusing the republican and democrat voters. It’s a great time for a new entrant who can take away our votes and emerge victorious.”
The president made his own rounds, reminding the guests of old debts and relationships. Richard had faith in being able to pull back things for the Democrats once again. Was he right about this or would it be Timothy Arnold – socialist/Jew capitalist/son of a keep – only time would tell.
When the last of the guests had driven away, it was 7 pm. Warren, who had by now had a few drinks and done what it took to make the day important for the Republican cause, seated himself in his office feeling uneasy about something that was close to his heart. His son, Robert, was away, and no one had heard from him. Worried about him, he called in Tim asking him about his son’s whereabouts.
“Sir,” Tim replied, “Robert’s not coming back for a while now. My men tell me he is currently in India, owns a bike, and is hardly identifiable to his old self.”
Warren sunk into his chair, stared at the ceiling for a while, and then closed his eyes.