“You don’t blackmail a congressman,” said Karl. “We’re in over our heads.”
Elliot pulled his chair back from the guards’ desk. He gestured to the hotel’s tiny security office; their foil-wrapped fast food lunches on a desk, the sickly glow of monitors. There was barely enough space for the two young men to sit, and it was their home ten hours per day.
“Look at this coffin we’re working in,” he said. “We’re Have-nots. Congressman Dowd is a fully-certified Have. Everything he does in Washington is designed to enrich him and his buddies, at the expense of schmoes like us. If he didn’t want to put temptation in the reach of the Have-nots, he shouldn’t have been groping his mistress in the hallway outside the room, in full view of all of our cameras.”
With satisfaction, he lightly tapped the CD upon which he’d burned the incriminating footage.
“I still don’t like it,” Karl said. “We’re talking past each other. You’re talking about what’s morally right, I’m talking about what’s legally right. If we try to get any money out of this thing, I think it’s a felony. Blackmail, extortion, something like that.”
“Then we can sell it to a tabloid. That wouldn’t be illegal, would it?”
“Hell, I dunno! If I was a lawyer, I wouldn’t be working here, that’s for sure.”
“So? Let’s get a lawyer!” Elliot said. He radiated the good cheer that was sucked in by his fellow security guard’s black hole of moroseness. “Find out what we can get out of it without screwing ourselves.” He looked again at the CD. “Speaking of screwing, can you believe the resolution on these modern cameras? You could see tongue and everything!
Elliot called several attorneys. His spiel began: “We have incriminating footage of a well-known leader of the Christian right — ” which was a phrase he’d heard on MSNBC in the break room. Most wanted nothing to do with it. What the hell, he’d thought. Lawyers with ethics?
Finally, one of the disembodied voices on the other end said, “You want a fixer. And the attorney who fixes things in this city is Mort Landry. You couldn’t get past his receptionist, but give me your number and I’ll make sure he calls you back.”
Elliot thanked him profusely for doing this out of the good of his heart. (He did not know there was such a thing as a ‘referral fee’).
The voice had been as good as its word. Mort Landry’s office called back within an hour.
Karl, nervous as always, had tried to dress up for the occasion. He rocked nervously back and forth in a tie that had been tied too short, so it barely reached his belly, and a job-interview shirt that had frayed unacceptably at the cuffs.
Elliot, more casual, wore a T-shirt; in keeping with the formality of the occasion, it was logo-less.
“You’ve got this video,” Mort Landry said; he was summarizing what they’d told him. “Dowd is giving an inappropriate display of affection to a woman-who-is-not-his-wife in the hallway. It was recorded on the hotel’s equipment, up to and including this,” he gestured to the CD that Elliot had insisted on holding in his hand.
Landry was bald, but his skin was so gray that his dome wasn’t shiny. Perhaps he could have been called frail; he’d have lasted half a minute in a bar fight. But his no-nonsense manner and clear determination somehow offset that impression.
Karl sighed. “Yeah. I really think we’re in over our heads.”
“Enough with that,” Elliot said. He regretted that Karl had been in the control room with him when the congressman had been seized by that fit of passion; he’d had to bring him in on it, but oh the cost! “Mr. Landry here is going to tell us how to sell it without jeopardizing ourselves, isn’t that right, sir?”
“Oh yes,” Landry said. “You came to the right place. I’m very glad you consulted me before you even thought of trying to sell this to some tabloid. That’s not where the money is.
“The real money comes from selling it to congressman Dowd himself.”
“Wouldn’t that be blackmail?” Karl said.
“No!” Landry looked enraged that he would even suggest that. “Not the way I’ll approach his people about it, it won’t be!”
Elliot grinned. Karl, for the first time, looked like something other than a scared rabbit.
“My office will contact you both very soon,” Landry said. “You’ll get directions to a meeting place. Bring the CD. I’ll be present at the location as well.” He leaned over to pat Karl on the shoulder. “Stop worrying. I’m a very experienced fixer.”
The waterfront didn’t stink like it had in years past; the waters were so polluted that fish couldn’t live in it, so dead ones didn’t wash up to the surface. The docks, in long decline, were practically deserted.
Mort Landry watched as one of his men got into Elliot’s car (which both security guards had arrived in); it would be driven a long way away. Three more of his men took Karl’s and Elliot’s keys and went to ransack both apartments.
“I expect my money will arrive in the Cayman Islands within the hour, right, Congressman?” he said into a cell. He got a pleasing answer, hung up, and tossed the cell into the water. He watched the surface ripple briefly, and then it was unbroken once again.
“I’m a fixer all right,” he murmured to himself. “The real money did come from getting it back to the Congressman — we’ve always had a productive relationship, so I knew he was good for it.
“And you boys really are in over your heads.”
Eric Cline is a Gen-Xer in a Gen-Y world. Pity him. He is a 2012 winner of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. He has sold two stories to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, including “One of Those Plans-the-Perfect-Crime-but-then-Something-Goes-Teddibly-Teddibly-Wrong Stories” (February 2013). His web-original short stories and novellas are available on Kindle, Nook, and other devices. Check out his occasional web ramblings at www.cruelcline.blogspot.com.