Benjamin Lafarge, the wily politician, found himself down in the polls, and on his third drink by noon, as sweat rounded the corners of his fat cheeks, becoming lost in the creases of his double chin.
Like a snake charmer’s pungi, a knock at the door charmed his pudgy middling-height body to its apex, as the thudding at the door sounded a lot like more bad news.
“Just go away,” he slurred his demand.
“It’s me Ben,” a deep-toned calm voice came through the door. “It’s Jarred.”
Stress, Ben hankered to bellow, “Did I not tell you to go away?” Yet, his and Jared's friendship went all the way back to the fifth-grade playground, when the tall, brown-haired and eyed youth never betrayed Ben’s confidence when he could no longer keep his undying love for Addle Ashmore to himself. Now, 30-years to the date, Jered has been the only individual he could trust with all his secrets, that is why he made him his campaign advisor.
“Please, come in.” Ben, fighting to sober himself, chose the polite route.
One of the large white doors with gilded trim came open enough for Jared to peek his head into the lily-white room, with walls covered with certificates of Ben’s achievements, acting as a pathway leading to a large portrait of Ben, as he stood behind a beautiful oak desk, with a gawdy cashmere rug underneath it.
“I take it you have heard the polling news?” Jarred asked, as his eye fell upon the vanishing bottle of Henri IV Dudognon Heritage Cognac Grande Champagne.
Jarred always warned Ben about his taste for excess, saying it was like rubbing his wealth in the faces of the working-class people he was asking to believe he was one of them.
“You mean down five points with African American, women, and white men, across the board? Yes, I have heard the news. And if that is all you have to discuss with me, please, allow me to return to company,” Ben said, as he held up his half-empty brandy shifter, then took a seat.
“I wish the polls were all I had to discuss with you.” Ben’s mind nearly snapped into two as he asked himself if his best friend had just hinted at there was worse news than his 12 million dollar re-election bid going up in smoke.
“Jarred, can this wait?”
“I am afraid not.” Jarred, now sure Ben was not going to toss something at him, slid his long and lanky body into the room. “I would be failing you as a friend if I did not bring this to your attention, right away.”
Ben leaned back in seat, swirled the amber liquid, then took the entire thing down with one hard gulp. He shook his head so violently, Jarred was sure his eyes would continue to shake back and forth long after his chubby head came to an abrupt stop.
“Ready,” he continued as he leaned forward just enough to reach the sterling platinum, 24-carat gold, six-thousand-diamond-crystal-studded-decanter.
“Well,” Jarred prepared himself to be straight-forward, even though he knew it would crush his best friend’s heart. “You know who I am dating; right?”
“Yes, Alexia Trill. The journalist” The mention of the name of a beautiful woman was enough for Ben to be a bit more reserved with this shifter-full.
“How is that going? She is rather hot, I must say.”
Jarred took a pause to chuck the lustful look on Ben’s face up to the alcohol. “We are fine,” he finally said.
“That’s good… That’s good,” Ben said, woolgathering about the blonde-haired, full-lipped and hipped journalist.
The entire display of wanting shorted Jared's resolve to spare Ben’s feelings as much as possible, and he allowed what he had to say come out of his mouth with no concern over his tone. “Your wife is cheating on you.”
Those words popped Ben’s wet daydream bubble. “What did you just say?” Ben asked, leaning all the way forward in his seat, nearly spilling his expensive spirit.
“Yea,” Jared continued, feeling satisfied about treating Ben as Ben did everyone else, with disregard for their feelings, “she dropped in on a spin class and realized Beatrice was one of the members. After class, Alexia realized she had left her pouch with her keys, credit cards, and license in the classroom. She came back and found this.” Jared went into his pocket and pulled out a printed picture of Beatrice and the Spin instructor naked, on the floor of the class.
Jared knew he had gotten to Ben when he aggressively placed his shifter on his desk, and Ben's stubby fingers snatched the picture from him. “Bea,” he said, as he stroked the photo.
“It’s okay.” Ben looked up sharply from the photo, and instantly caused Jared to regret his words. “I mean, Alexia agreed to erase the photo and bury the story, as a favor for me.”
“Did she really?”
“Yes, she loves me and would do anything for me.” The lost look on Ben’s face prompted Jarred to feel bad for his friend.
Briefly, Ben hung his head in thought. “Well,” he said, as he reached for the decanter, after a heavy moment of silence. “Why don’t you call her down, so we can have a drink, and I can thank her for her discretion,” he finished, and lifted his head the decanter simultaneously, and poured another drink.
“That won’t be necessary,” Jarred said, not fully trusting Ben's intentions.
“No, no,” Ben took a stiff sip, to stiffen his constitution, “I insist, and tell her so.”
Either because he knew it was futile to continue to argue, or he felt sad for his brief revelry in his friend's plight, Jarred whipped out his phone, “Call Alexia,” he spoke into the phone.
“Hey,” he said and waited, listening with a smile. He turned his back so his uncontrollable grin would not offend the grieving Ben, who started rambling through his desk drawer. “Sounds good,” he continued. “But I need a favor,” he paused and listened to a relatively lengthy answer. “I need you to come down, Ben wants to thank you in person.” Again he waited. “I told him that, but he insists, and it would mean a lot to me if you could do this, please, for me.” This pause was the shortest of them all, “Great, see you in 20.”
Jared did his best to remove the smile from his face as he turned to see Ben, still sipping and sweating, but with a pearl-handled 22 trained on him.
“Is anyone else here?” Ben asked.
“No, I waited for everyone to leave so no one would overhear us.”
“That’s good,” Ben said as he took another sip.
“Can I ask, what are you doing?” Jared asked.
“I am problem solving.” Ben slightly swayed, and Jarred thought to react and try to get to the gun, but Ben corrected his shift swiftly, freezing Jared’s motion.
“I know I can trust you with all my secrets. Hell, I already have. But I just can’t trust Alexia.”
“But I can’t.”
“Ben, your wife cheating on you could gain you sympathy with voters.”
“Us being swingers surely won’t.” An odd look came over Jared. “See, that's just how the voters will feel.”
“We can spin it,” Jared reached for straws. “We can say it was all Bea’s fault, she roped you into, and you feel sad that you let your voters down, and you are recommitting to your Christian beliefs. That way we can still make a play at redemption sympathy. Christians love that, “come to Jesus and ask for a second chance moment.” You know how they think. It’s like forgiveness is always an opportunity for them to prove themselves Christian.”
“I’ve got a better play.” Ben sipped again. “The play for sympathy for me losing my life-long best friend, and his beautiful bride, to some left-winged, extremist, nut job. Your last words, as you die in my arms will be, “go win it all, and change the world, like I know you can.” Even facing death, Jared still had to admit that was a good play.
Just then, Ben went to sit his glass down on the desk, when he missed the desk and dropped the expensive liquor on his expensive rug, and his reflexes caused him to look.
With lightning-speed, Jarred made a play for the gun. A three-time, high school All-American basketball player, he thought it would be easy to wrestle the gun from the drunken, pudgy, Ben.
Yet, what Ben lacked in physical strength, he more than made up in his resolve to win. For Ben, winning included never paying for his mistakes.
They tussled for what seemed like an eternity. Going back and forth, all four hands involved in the fight, forcing the gun in every direction. The struggle took the gun downward and in between them. BANG! The gun's discharge was deafening.
24-minutes later, blood spatter covered the walls, and the cashmere rug was rolled up in the middle of the floor, when there was another knock at the office door.
“Hello, it’s Alexia,” the sweet charming voice said.
“Come in,” Ben invited as he took another sip, and checked his to make sure the gun still had bullets.