Mob Rule: Part 25
After receiving an offer that could put him in the Oval Office, Jack takes a moment to reflect on the big picture, and the twisted route to power
By John Armstrong
Well, of course he is. Why not? My grandfather wants to drag the country back into the Dark Ages and he sends the daughter of the Prime Minister of England to seduce me so I can become president. Let’s not even mention this is the country we fought a war with to gain independence from in the first place, and now they’re the allies of the new revolution.
You’ve heard the expression, “the mind reels”? Let me assure you that it does, and “reel” is scarcely the word for it. Mine was doing the Lindy Hop, as demonstrated by spastics.
“Your father is the prime Minister of England,” I said.
“Yes, he is,” she replied. “Edmund Hilliard, the Progressive Conservative party.”
“Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? What’s a ‘progressive conservative’ believe in?”
“Do you seriously want to discuss my father’s platform right now?”
“Maybe.” I thought that was a pretty good answer. “I can’t believe the British have the nerve to try and tell us how to run our country. For Christ’s sake, you’re a monarchy – you’ve got a fucking king. Since when are you such big supporters of democracy?”
She made a face at me. “Oh, come on. The Prime Minister and parliament do all the governing, and the people vote them in. The king’s only a symbol, like Santa Claus. You write to Santa and tell him what you want and then your parents do the real work, shopping and wrapping and figuring out how to pay for it.”
It was the strangest metaphor for the concept of constitutional monarchy I had ever heard and I wished I were still at St. Franks so I could try it on Father Antonius, my Poli-Sci professor. His head would swell up and explode.
“But why get involved in this? Do you normally support insurrection in other countries?”
She finished her drink and held out the glass to be refilled. I took one, too.
“I don’t know. The U.S. has always been …” She groped for what she was trying to say and then, “like a wayward child. You can be very angry at them, but you still want them to be safe and happy. We’re tied together by history and all the things we have in common, far more than we’re separated by our differences. Or we were, until a few decades ago.
“Now, the concern is just that your current …” She had to search for a word again, and came up with, “method of governance is considered a terrible thing, and very dangerous, like one of those African countries with a succession of thugs for rulers. Except that you’re a very large, rich, powerful nation – run by hoodlums. Who knows what you might do?
“We certainly don’t – you’ve cut yourself off from the rest of the world to such an extent. And I don’t even know if you pay any attention at all to what’s going on outside your borders, but there are scary things happing in Europe and England is feeling very much alone. If you were a more responsible nation, with a real government, we’d have an ally, and my father is very concerned that we’re going to need one.”
I thought that over. It’s true that since the takeover we’ve kept ourselves to ourselves. We have no standing army, though I think we could put together a pretty impressive one on short notice, but only for our own defense. Guns we have plenty of, the best in the world, but we don’t build tanks or missiles or battleships. We don’t need them.
Rightly or wrongly, the Commission has always maintained that we stay out of other people’s business so long as they stay out of ours. We’re not completely isolationist but too many of the men on that board remember The Great War. We got dragged into that fight only because we’d lent billions to Britain, France and Russia and unless they won, we weren’t going to get it back. All it cost us to collect that debt was roughly four million casualties. That’s a hell of a lot of vigorish, and charged to the wrong party.
So not only did Joe want us to go back to the days of cops and convicts, shyster lawyers and politicians, when we did we’d be able to help countries like England when they got into a scrap with some other government. Frank always said, ‘Steer clear of any enterprise that requires a uniform’ and I believe that piece of wisdom wholeheartedly.
Well, now I knew more about what this was all about and who the players were. That left only the question of how long I stayed around to find out more.
“I’m going to accept the job,” I said. “If they really believe I’m done with the Lucianos that’ll help, so anything you can let slip about how they 86’d me …”
“I wouldn’t seem too exuberant about it,” she said, and I could hear the wheels turning. “Maybe more that it’s the best of the options, but still be a bit dubious about it – like you really would be, from what you said earlier. Make them convince you it will work. Make them keep recruiting you.”
She had a devious mind, that girl, and she was absolutely right. If all of a sudden I was cheering and saluting, they might – hell, they should be – suspicious of my sudden conversion. But if I kept up the show-me attitude, who knows what I might learn as they tried to convince me? This was obviously much bigger than just the Kennedys and I wondered how many other wealthy civilians were in on it, and in how many states. Joe had said it was decades in the planning. You could sell a pile of memberships in that amount of time.
“And you’re absolutely sure about this? What about your father?”
She reached for my pack and took another cigarette, lit and exhaled.
“I guess he’ll have to find his own boyfriend,” she said.
‘Steer clear of any enterprise that requires a uniform’ and I believe that piece of wisdom wholeheartedly.
Just before ten I washed my face, ran over my lines and went back up to the library, knocked twice and went in. The air was filled with smoke and the strange charge in the air you get when you fill a room with nervous people, like a crowd waiting for the race results in a book joint.
No one said anything. Joe’s face was unreadable, Bobby’s was solemn. The rest of them were leaning forward in their chairs expectantly, cigarettes and drinks ignored.
“Thanks for giving me some time to consider this,” I said. “I still have my doubts about it, and a few hours worth of questions but, after talking to Vanessa about it – I’m in.” I took a breath.
“I accept your nomination for the Presidency of the United States, if that’s still what you want me to do.” I couldn’t believe it, even as I said it.
Me, John Kennedy, a nice boy from the North End, raised decently, from a good family – a politician. I was glad my mother hadn’t lived to see this. She’d rather see me go into pimping – at least it’s an honorable trade, if only by comparison.
But politics? She’d have thrown me out the house and burned my baby pictures.
Mob Rule is a work of fiction, serialized exclusively in The Ex-Press. To read past instalments, click here.
THE EX-PRESS, November 21, 2015