SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. This story is also being published on my blog and you can find a longer synopsis there. While some events, locations and features in the story have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, it takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still in its infancy. Italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
WARNING: Sex is not the primary focus of this story. If you're looking for erotic content, you'll do much better with other stories on Nifty. While sexual content is secondary and incidental, the story does include some scenes that depict sex and violence, sometimes graphically depending upon the characters and circumstances involved. For that reason, the story is intended for mature audiences only. If you do not wish to read such material or it is illegal for you to do so, please look elsewhere. The story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.
AUTHOR NOTES: This is my first effort at writing a story. As a general rule, I only plan to publish one chapter a week, usually on Thursdays. The latest chapter will always be posted on my blog before being published here. You may want to bookmark the location of my blog in the event you cannot find the story here at some point in the future and you wish to continue reading it: https://cafepalermoannex.wordpress.com. Hopefully you've reviewed Chapter 39 already or at least the summary of Chapter 39 you can find here since this chapter and the next will shift the focus of the story back to Nolan and reintroduce us to Josh. As always, comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. If you would like to let me know what you think, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading the story. I hope you enjoy it.
THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 41, Andy skips his meetings with other congressional staff and outside organizations in order to take Sean and Tommy to the hospital to visit Teddy, who is in terrible shape following a brutal beating. Andy stays until the end of visiting hours at noon. Then he goes back to the office while Sean and Tommy remain behind. Knowing how much he enjoys them, Andy brings some teen romance magazines to the hospital that evening and reads them to Teddy, substituting the names of boys for girls. That lightens the mood in the room and helps Teddy begin to feel better. Later, Teddy is released from the hospital and taken back to Ray’s place to rest and recover. Distraught about his fractured teeth, Teddy is overwhelmed when he learns that Andy has paid for the dental work needed to fix them. Tommy moves in with Andy temporarily so Sean can nurse Teddy back to health. Back at his apartment, Andy is turned on watching Tommy’s web cam performance and later still when Tommy practices his dance routines. While massaging Tommy in bed, Andy does something that helps Tommy realize just how much Andy likes him. Tommy responds in a way that surprises Andy, seemingly taking their friendship to an entirely new level.
Part - Virtues and Vices, Public and Private
It had been a humiliating experience, no doubt about it. Still, I was grateful to Harlen for putting me through it and showing me just how little I knew. It was his way of forcing me to decide just how interested I was in pursuing a political career and whether I wanted to be taken seriously as a player in Washington.
Up until then, I had been ambivalent about the whole thing. I had enjoyed being part of the Clay campaign and had taken the job Harlen offered even though others were better qualified than me. I knew it would help me in the future.
For one thing, the job title would look great on my résumé and the connections I made in Washington would undoubtedly come in handy down the road. Then, too, Harlen was a real master of the craft and the job would give me the chance to see how things got done in Washington. By then I was pretty sure it would be a lot different than how they taught it in college.
The first couple of days at the DNC were uneventful enough. In fact, I hardly spent any time at my office. Instead, I wandered up to the Library of Congress, found a quiet place off by myself, and set about learning everything I could about the McPherson amendment.
I read the floor debates on the amendment in the Congressional Record for the previous two years. They made for fascinating reading. I had been impressed by Congressman McPherson. He came across in those debates as the epitome of all those virtues that had made America the great nation it was. Intelligent and passionate, there was also a fundamental honesty and decency about the man; and there was compassion as well. The man seemed to bleed for every young American boy who died in the war.
I had only discovered that when I began looking beyond the debates on his amendment to see what else interested the guy. I learned that he routinely made remarks on the House floor eulogizing those who died in the fighting regardless of whether they came from his own congressional district. It was unusual and different and I came away impressed.
But McPherson was just a congressman after all, not the President of the United States. Harlen had introduced me personally to the President early on. He had made sure I was invited to several meetings with her to discuss legislative strategy.
I didn’t say anything at those meetings, of course, but I was impressed with Anne Henderson Clay. She was witty, smart, and deeply committed to making a difference for the American people; and she was the President after all. Unlike Congressman McPherson, she got briefed by the intelligence agencies every day and was constantly meeting with the Joint Chiefs to discuss the war. You could see how much the fighting weighed on her.
In college they had taught me that where you sit determines how you stand. President Clay was the only person who sat in the Oval Office and she had to make tough decisions every day. To me, she deserved some flexibility doing that. She had inherited a mess from her predecessor and I felt Congressman McPherson was making a mistake by not cutting her some slack, especially during her first year in office.
Having brought myself up to speed on the McPherson amendment and the man himself, I spent the next several days cataloguing all of the arguments against the war and then drawing up the counter arguments we could make in response.
Then I set about organizing some of the volunteers and staff at the DNC to produce opinion pieces and letters to the editor opposing the amendment. Usually I let them take the lead in drafting those using the arguments I had previously catalogued for them. When they were done, I would edit what they had written before sending them off to our friends on Capitol Hill or out to our affiliates in the states.
I wasn’t surprised when my secretary informed me that Bill Brennon’s office had called and she had arranged for the two of us to have lunch the following week in Arlington. When we finally met, I remember being surprised. I had been expecting someone larger than life, but the man sitting across the table from me seemed eminently nondescript.
Like Harlen, he was much older, in his late sixties or early seventies as best I could tell. His face was heavily wrinkled, presumably from being out in the sun in Afghanistan so much. While he wasn’t exactly fat, he wasn’t in the greatest shape either. I remember being disappointed. He was never going to play James Bond in the movies.
He greeted me casually and we talked about the restaurant initially. From what I gathered, he liked it because there wasn’t a lunch crowd, certainly not one from Washington and probably not even one from Arlington as best I could tell. The place was dead. It was perfect if you wanted to avoid being seen or overheard.
After we placed our orders, I got straight to the point.
“So what do you have for me, Mr. Brennon?” I asked, trying to come across as confident and self-assured.
He reached into his briefcase, retrieved a thick folder, and placed it down on the table in front of himself.
“We have a couple of things,” he said. “We have a long analytical memo here that identifies all the different groups opposing the war, how they’re connected, their strengths and weaknesses, and the key players for each. You can read that later, but I think you’ll find it helpful.”
“And then we have this dossier on Andy Blanchard,” he continued, pushing the folder across the table toward me. “Do you want to look at it first or do you want me to summarize it?”
“Well, why don’t you begin by telling me who Andy Blanchard is?” I suggested. I had never heard of the guy before.
Brennon looked at me strangely, as if I had just made some kind of serious faux pas, then began rubbing his temples.
“Blanchard is Congressman John McPherson’s legislative assistant. He was the fellow my firm was hired to investigate. I thought you already knew that.”
“The only thing I knew was your firm had been retained to do some background research on the McPherson amendment,” I replied. “No one ever told me you were focusing on a specific individual.”
“You heard wrong then,” he responded. “The focus has been on Blanchard from day one. He drafted the McPherson amendment originally and got Happy Jack to support it. He put together the coalition that’s backing it. There’s not much relating to that amendment he doesn’t have his fingers into.”
“As you’ll see when you read that analytical memo, Blanchard’s the glue holding the whole operation together on Capitol Hill and across most of the country for that matter. Not many people know that, of course. Like most Hill staffers, he keeps a low profile. But without Blanchard the anti-war movement would be a hell of lot less well organized, that’s for sure.”
“I see,” I replied.
I remember being mad at myself for not knowing any of this. I hadn’t seen any references to the guy in anything I had read. There was no reason I should have known him, but it still made me mad. I should have known someone had been doing the staff work for Congressman McPherson.
I won’t make that mistake again, I said to myself.
“That’s certainly helpful to know,” I continued, trying not to let on what I was thinking. “He sounds like someone I should know more about. Why don’t you tell me what you’ve found out about him?”
“He’s queer,” Brennon replied, his voice flat, detached, and devoid of emotion.
He was staring across the table at me waiting to see how I would react.
I was surprised by how blunt he had been, but tried to avoid showing any reaction to what he had said.
“Um, well, that’s interesting, I guess, the fact that he’s gay,” I responded.
“As I’m sure you know, however, being homosexual doesn’t carry the same stigma today that it did five or ten years ago. People disapprove, of course, but I hardly think that’s going to make much of a difference if it ever comes out.”
“Not that it should come out,” I added. “We want to win this fight, but we want to win on the merits, not by peddling information about someone’s personal life.”
“Is that right?” Brennon responded, seemingly bemused. “Far be it from me to disagree, son, but personally I would bet the White House wants to win this vote however it can; and I’m pretty damn certain Harlen Lane wants to win. He always does and he isn’t a stickler for how.”
“I don’t work for the White House,” I replied calmly, trying not to be intimidated, “at least not at the moment. I’m currently detailed to the Democratic National Committee.”
“Same difference,” Brennon responded, shrugging his shoulders.
“Well that’s neither here nor there,” I said, trying to move on. I didn’t like being lectured to by the guy although I knew he was probably right.
“To get back to the point, do you really think the fact McPherson’s aide is gay is going to make very much difference?” I asked.
“No, probably not,” he replied. “That’s what wrong with this country these days. We’ve lost all sense of right and wrong; so, no, the fact Blanchard is a faggot probably won’t make much difference by itself. But the fact that he’s dating a kid who may or may not be 18 years old might raise an eyebrow or two,” he added, reaching into his briefcase and pulling out still another folder.
“This is what we have on the kid Blanchard’s dating; and I use the term dating loosely,” he added, pushing the second dossier across the table toward me. “Fucking is probably more like it.”
“It isn’t as much as we have on Blanchard,” he continued. “The truth is, we haven’t been able to tie down exactly how old the kid is or when Blanchard began dating him. We think he’s probably somewhere between 16 and 19 years old.”
“That’s still not very much,” I replied. “Does this kid have any connection to the McPherson amendment other than the fact he’s seeing Blanchard?”
“No, none at all,” Brennon replied.
“Well, there you go,” I replied. “Like you said, it might raise some eyebrows, but I’m not sure it would have any real effect.”
“How about if I told you the kid was a male prostitute?” Brennon asked. “Would that change the equation for you?”
I remember being shocked by that revelation. Like Harlen, Brennon was dribbling the details out piece by piece and I suspected there was more to come.
“Probably,” I responded. “Why don’t you tell me everything you know; and what you don’t know for sure as well?”
And that’s exactly what Brennon proceeded to do over the course of the next hour.
They knew the kid was a prostitute and who some of his customers were. They knew he was a dancer at some male strip joint in town. They knew he had a web cam and had even signed up for it so they could get their hands on the videos he was streaming out to the internet. And they knew a lot more about him as well, at least about what he had been up to recently. They had documented all of this carefully, not just in words but with pictures and videos as well.
What they didn’t know for sure was the exact nature of the relationship between Blanchard and the kid. The kid wasn’t living with Blanchard and Blanchard wasn’t staying overnight at the place where the kid was living. In fact, the kid was living with someone else entirely and they didn’t know a lot about that guy either. All they knew for sure was that Blanchard and the kid were spending a lot of time together in various gay establishments, but Brennon assured me they could find out more if needed. That would cost additional money, of course.
I demurred for the moment, promising I would get back to him after thinking about whether more was needed. After Brennon finished his presentation, I picked up the folders, the rest of the stuff, and the check. Then I headed back into town.
My head was spinning from what I had heard. The whole thing seemed tawdry somehow, but I needed to review the documents carefully and figure out what to do next with the information Brennon had so conveniently dropped in my lap. When I got back to the office I told my secretary I didn’t want to be interrupted. Then I sat down at my desk and opened the folders. I took out the pictures and the videos and set them aside without even looking at them. I decided I would begin by reading the reports first.
It didn’t take long to realize they had some weaknesses. For one thing, there were a lot of holes in the information they had about the kid. They had a first name, Tommy, but even they didn’t believe the last name they had was correct since it didn’t check out in any of the databases they had run it against. Where he was from, who his parents were, and a lot of the rest of the stuff I wanted to know was missing; and yet the evidence he was a prostitute was compelling enough. They had names, dates, and times, stakeout videos of the kid coming and going, deposits into a bank account, and more.
Also compelling was the evidence he was selling himself in other ways; as a dancer at a male strip club and on the web, for example. It was all there in black and white; and I was pretty certain it would all be there in color too once I got around to looking at the pictures, videos and the rest of the stuff they had gathered. As much as I wanted to take a peek, I restrained myself because there was another folder I needed to look at, the one on Andy Blanchard.
They had a lot more information about him, everything from the day he was born to how indebted he was right now. But what they didn’t have was a lot of incriminating evidence he and the kid were sleeping together. That they were spending a lot of time together was clear enough, too much time for it to be just a casual relationship. It was also clear they were spending that time at some pretty disreputable places.
I knew I needed to be entirely detached and objective in assessing the information Brennon had provided. Looked at that way, the evidence of a sexual relationship in the report was circumstantial at best and unlikely to hold up in a court of law. Yet, there was obviously something going on between Blanchard and the kid. In the court of public opinion, the only court we were dealing in, there was more than enough to destroy them and I was pretty certain it would. Washington loved scandals like this.
When I had finished reading the report, I retrieved the pictures and looked at them. I started with those of Blanchard. He looked younger than thirty and was in excellent shape. At first the face didn’t do anything for me, but for some reason it kept drawing me back. There was something there that seemed inconsistent with what I had been reading, something decent, wholesome, without guile. The longer I looked at the picture, the more I felt sorry for what was about to happen to the guy. I didn’t really understand why.
The kid was another story. He was totally hot, so much so I found myself going hard right there in my chair looking at the pictures of him. I could see right away why men paid to have sex with him. He just seemed so sweet and innocent. It wasn’t anything like the image that came across from the report, of course, but it was definitely there in his face. I could understand why anyone would want him, at least anyone gay like I was. I wanted him.
I put the videos into the player and ran them. To say they turned me on would be an understatement. I’m not going to say what I did while watching them, but later I was embarrassed when I thought about what I had done.
I tossed the last of the pictures aside after finishing up with the videos, lifted my feet on to my desk, and sighed. Everything was becoming clearer now. I understood why Harlen had arranged to have me detailed to the DNC. If anything turned up in the report Neilson had commissioned, there was no way he wanted something explosive like that being traced back to the White House.
I also realized why Harlen had selected me to receive the report from Brennon. For one thing, I was young. It was unlikely anyone would ever suspect me of having leaked the information to the press since I wasn’t high enough up in the chain of command to do something like that. If the whole thing blew up in our faces, moreover, it would be easy enough to jettison me as the fall guy. Yeah, sure, I might be a naïf, but I wasn’t as big a one as Harlen seemed to think.
The whole thing was Harlen’s way of testing if I had the right stuff; and the fact I was gay must have added to the appeal because he would be able to see whether I could put that aside and do what needed to be done even if it involved someone gay like myself. It was a test of my toughness, but of my loyalties as well.
But it was more than that, of course. Harlen knew I was smart and would be able to see both the strengths and weaknesses of the information Brennon had collected. He was counting on me to put it together in a way a reporter would find compelling, and the story was already beginning to form in my head.
Robin Gomez and the Post will have a field day with this, I remember thinking.
One of the questions I faced was whether we needed more. More would certainly be helpful; pictures of the kid in bed with some of his clients or, better still, with Blanchard. Those might be hard to come by. A more revealing video of him dancing at the bar would be nice and probably easy enough to come by. Combined with what they already had, the kid would never know what hit him. He would be going down for sure, completely destroyed.
Blanchard was another story. At the moment, he might be able to disentangle himself from the kid if he decided to fight so more would definitely be helpful. Pictures of him embracing or kissing the kid at the minimum; or perhaps some financial link tying him and the kid together. Pay for play was always a favorite in Washington.
More would be better, no doubt about it, and probably could be arranged. But would it be smart to pursue more I wondered?
Right now we had a report that didn’t have our fingers all over it. Sure, John Neilson was a supporter of the President and that might come out if things went south. But even then the report could probably be justified as some normal due diligence background check should it ever come out who financed it.
Going back for more would change all of that. Everyone would know we were digging for dirt at that point. Moreover, it would implicate me personally. I would have to go back to John Neilson and encourage him to put up more money. I would have to give The Brennon Group detailed instructions about exactly what I wanted. All of it would be on me.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to do even when I asked myself what Harlen would do if he was the one making the decision. In the end, I was inclined to think going back for more would be a mistake. What we had seemed to be enough, at least by Washington’s standards when it came to scandal; and once they got their teeth into it, the press could be counted on to dig up more. Destroying people was one of their favorite things.
But now something else was troubling me and I knew why Harlen had said it. The way I saw it, the whole thing wouldn’t be very clean and I wasn’t talking about the ethics of the thing. No one in Washington cared about that as far as I could tell. If I was going to be a player, why should I?
I mean, the thing is, Washington loved scandals like this and what was the harm after all? Yeah, sure, careers were broken and people got hurt. But Washington always moved on after it had extracted all of the sordid details, all those titillating details that allowed Washington to take an occasional break from the mock seriousness that usually prevailed in the city.
Life moved on, even for those at the center of scandal. Look at Wilbur Mills or Monica Lewinsky or Anthony Weiner. Yeah, sure, it killed career paths, no doubt about it, but it was entertaining and it was fun and most everyone lived to fight another day. People moved on; eventually. So, yeah, sure, I would feel bad about doing it. It wasn’t really pleasant to think about doing stuff like that after all. But what bothered me even more was the fact that it wouldn’t be clean, politically clean.
The chances of anyone ever linking the White House directly to the leak were small. Still, everyone would know at some level the information had come from the White House. There wasn’t anyone else who had a motive to leak it. So even though it would never be proved, the information would leave a cloud over the President’s reputation, at least to some degree. It would take the edge off that squeaky clean image she had cultivated so carefully throughout her career and that worried me.
It would be cleaner if Blanchard could be backed off without the information ever being leaked at all. But I didn’t really see how we could pull that off. If he was anything like his boss, he would probably be one of those self-righteous do-gooders who always offended me. In the end, we would probably have to leak the information even if it wasn’t entirely clean politically. It was just too juicy to hold on to and Washington was long overdue for that kind of scandal.
I glanced up at the clock and was surprised. I had promised to pick up Josh at 6:45 p.m. and it was already later than that. I pulled out my cell phone and called him.
“Hi, Josh,” I said, trying to sound cheery. “Look, babe, I really apologize. I got tied up with something here at the office and lost track of time completely. I’m leaving right now. I’ll be over there in five minutes. I’m really sorry, Josh. Forgive me?”
It was a rhetorical question, of course. I already knew he would, but hearing it from him made me feel better. I put the reports, the pictures, and the rest of the stuff into my briefcase, then got up and left. Tomorrow would be soon enough to begin putting together the strategy for getting the story out to the American people.
“See you tomorrow,” I said to a couple of the young volunteers on my way out the door.
They looked up and smiled and I could tell they were a little bit in awe because they knew I was there on detail from the White House. I liked the fact they were in awe of me even though I wasn't much older than them.
I was on my way quickly enough. It was one of the few advantages of working at the DNC rather than the White House. It was a lot closer to where Josh worked from 430 South Capitol Street than from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It just didn’t carry the same cachet.
After picking Josh up, we stopped to have dinner at a little restaurant both of us liked in Dupont Circle. Once we had ordered, I asked Josh how his day had gone and then allowed my mind to drift off while he narrated the latest hijinks involving his students. They were always up to something, those kids, and Josh loved talking about them.
When we got home, I decided to take a shower. I figured it would take my mind off of what was bothering me, but it didn’t seem to work very well that evening. After drying myself off and dressing in something more casual, I sat down in my favorite chair. Then I pulled out the documents I had brought home and began reviewing them once again.
“You sure seem quiet tonight, Nolan,” Josh finally said a little while later. “What’s up?”
“Oh, nothing, babe,” I replied. “Just work.”
“Whatever it is, you seem kind of serious tonight,” he responded. “Usually you’re filling me in on the latest political news; you know, who’s up, who’s down, who’s in, who’s out. But you haven’t shared one piece of gossip with me tonight.”
“I don’t have any, babe,” I replied, “no gossip, at least. I guess it’s this damn McPherson amendment. Everyone at the White House and the DNC is suddenly worried about it passing and what a disaster that would be for the President.”
“Well, I hope it does pass, Nolan,” Josh responded quickly. “It should. We have no business being in Burkistan. When I think about all the young men being killed or maimed over there, needlessly, and all the money we’re squandering on that disaster, it just makes my blood boil.”
“It also makes me sorry I ever voted for Anne Henderson Clay, let alone helping her to get the nomination and win the election. What a disappointment that woman has been, going back on her word like that.”
I should have known better than to raise it, of course; and, technically, Josh was wrong after all. The President hadn’t broken her word. She had never actually said she would withdraw all the troops and end the war during the campaign. She had just said she would have voted for the McPherson amendment if she was in the House of Representatives and would order a reassessment of U.S. policy if elected.
A lot of people had assumed that meant she would withdraw the troops, but technically speaking she hadn’t committed herself to that. She had kept her word and ordered the reassessment once the election was over. Like Josh, I had been surprised when she turned around on the issue after the reassessment was finished. Unlike Josh, I assumed she must have good reasons for doing that, reasons ordinary people like Josh and I wouldn’t be privy to.
Josh didn’t believe that at all. He was convinced the decision was politically motivated, that being a woman she didn’t want to be the one responsible for losing the war and thus subject to criticism for not being tough enough for the job.
He had been on my case about the whole thing for months. I mean, for Christ’s sake, he had even written a letter to the editor against the war that the Washington Post had published. That had caused me an enormous amount of grief at the White House. Harlen had been livid about it. That’s why I usually tried to avoid the subject and knew right away it had been a mistake to raise it that evening.
“Okay, look, the two of us have been over this before, Josh,” I responded. “I know how you feel about the war and you know my position. Let’s not talk about it, okay? I’m sorry I even brought it up. But I’ll tell you this. If you knew what I knew, you wouldn’t be on your moral high horse about the whole thing.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Josh responded, challenging me.
“I just mean that I don’t like it when you question the President’s motives,” I replied. “Maybe she made the right decision. Maybe she made the wrong decision. But I have to believe the woman is sincere about this. She’s a decent person with high moral standards. I really believe that; unlike some of those opposing the war, that’s for sure.”
“Like who?” Josh asked.
“Never mind about that,” I said.
I should have stopped right then, but for some reason the whole thing was pissing me off.
“This is frustrating, Josh,” I said, holding up the report and waving it at him. “I mean, this report I’m reading contains some very troubling information that would damage the amendment’s chances of passing if it ever came out.”
“What’s so troubling?” Josh asked.
“Well, for one thing, the brains behind that stupid amendment you support is gay,” I replied.
“Congressman McPherson?” Josh replied, incredulous. “The congressman is gay?”
“No,” I said, exasperated, “his legislative assistant. He’s the one behind the whole thing, Josh, and he’s gay.”
“You’re gay, Nolan,” Josh replied. “So am I. What has that got to do with anything?”
“Yeah, we’re gay,” I said, “but you’re not selling yourself off to old men for money like this guy’s boyfriend is doing, at least not the last time I checked,” I replied.
There. I had said it. I knew it was a mistake, but I had said it nonetheless. Maybe now Josh would know enough to leave me alone.
“I’m sorry,” Josh replied. “This is all just a little too confusing for me, Nolan. Why don’t you start at the beginning and tell me whatever it is you’re trying to tell me.”
I didn’t want to do that and tried my best to avoid it. But Josh kept hounding me about the whole thing so I finally broke down and told him the story, filling him in on all of the sordid details about Andy Blanchard and his cute little boy toy.
“Look, Josh, I know none of this has anything to do with the McPherson amendment,” I concluded. “But it would certainly damage the amendment if it ever came out. It could throw the whole anti-war movement into chaos and confusion, and Harlen is counting on me to help the President out.”
“You can’t do that, Nolan,” Josh said, softly, looking over at me. “It’s just plain wrong.”
“Is it any worse than what this kid is doing by prostituting himself?” I asked, handing the dossier over to Josh.
“Just because someone else is a prostitute doesn’t mean you have to take it up for a living as well, Nolan,” Josh responded, taking the folder from me.
“Because that’s what you would be doing if you put this information out to the press, prostituting yourself for Harlen Lane and the rest of that sleazy crowd down at the White House. You know it and I know it. I can’t even believe you would consider doing something that sleazy, Nolan. It’s wrong.”
He was looking me when he said all of that and then he glanced down and opened the dossier I had handed him. The moment he did it I knew something was wrong because the blood drained from his face completely and his hands started shaking.
“This can’t be,” he said. “I don’t believe this. This can’t be right.”
“What can’t you believe?” I asked, delighted Josh was suddenly a little less clueless about what the real world was like.
“That these people supporting the amendment you love so much aren’t the goody two-shoes you think they are?” I added, smugly.
“I can’t believe this picture,” Josh replied, holding it up for me. “This is Tommy. Tommy Taylor.”
I remember thinking the name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly.
“Who’s Tommy Taylor?” I asked.
“He’s that boy I told you about back in high school, the one who was molested by Coach,” Josh replied; “the one who ran away and disappeared into thin air. This is him, Nolan. I can’t believe it.”
I remember being shocked by that. All the details Josh had shared with me years ago suddenly came flooding back. Like Josh, I found the whole thing hard to believe.
“Now you definitely can’t give any of this to the press,” Josh said, looking over at me. “If you make this public, it will destroy Tommy, totally destroy him. You can’t do that, Nolan. I want you to promise me right now you won’t release any of this to the press.”
“I can’t do that, Josh,” I protested. “It goes to the character of this dude who's the mastermind behind the McPherson amendment. If people know this, they may think twice about supporting it.”
“This has nothing to do with the amendment,” Josh replied, angrily. “You know it and I know it. This is about character assassination plain and simple. You don’t even know Tommy, but I do. If he’s prostituting himself, I’m sure there’s a reason for that. I’m going to talk to him and get to the bottom of this.”
I had never seen Josh as angry and upset as he was at that moment. But there was no way I wanted him talking to Tommy.
“You can’t do that, babe,” I protested. “If you try to contact him, he’ll want to know how you found him. And being so honest, you’ll tell him and then he’ll tell Andy Blanchard. You can’t do that to me, Josh. I’ll be totally compromised if you try to get in touch with him.”
“Why can’t I?” he responded, and by then he was pacing back and forth.
“You say you can’t promise me you won’t give this stuff to the press. Why can’t I try to find out the truth from Tommy?”
“I dunno, Josh,” I responded, exasperated by the whole thing by then. “I don’t like any of this, I really don’t. It’s a mess, but the President needs help and Harlen is counting on me to come through for her. I’ll think about it some more, but I don’t see what choice I have. This is too important for me to just sit on the whole thing.”
“Look, Nolan, I’ll make a deal with you,” Josh replied. “I won’t try to get in touch with Tommy right away if you promise not to release any of this to the press right away either. Both of us need to think about this some more, especially you because what you’re doing is wrong.”
“I can’t promise that, Josh,” I said. “I don’t know exactly when the McPherson amendment is going to be considered, but I do know time is of the essence.”
We went back and forth for more than an hour arguing about the whole thing. Then Josh just got up and walked out of the room in disgust. The next thing I knew he was walking back in with his pillow and a blanket.
“What’s that all about?” I asked, pointing to the stuff he had tossed on the couch.
“I’m going to sleep down here tonight,” Josh said. “I don’t think I could stand the stench in our bedroom to be perfectly honest.”
That hurt. It hurt big time.
“Oh, come on, babe?” I pleaded. “We’ve never gone to bed mad in all the years we’ve known one another. Please don’t do that, Josh,” I pleaded. “Please?”
“I’m not mad at you, Nolan,” he said. “But I am disappointed; big time, as you would put it. I’m really incredibly disappointed with you right now.”
Try as hard as I could, I couldn’t get him to change his mind. Eventually I went to bed, but sleeping was hard. I was used to having Josh beside me and ended up tossing and turning most of the evening without his comforting presence there.