“She was a heck of a woman, your mother,” Carl Storm said. Then he crushed his beer can between his hands and vaulted himself with surprising agility from the Barcalounger. “Anyhow, if you’re staying for dinner, we might want to pick up a pizza or something. I don’t really have any food in the house. I’m gonna go wash up.”
Derrick listened as the shower in the upstairs master bathroom turned on. In a few hours, he would have to head to the airport and catch a red-eye heading east. He had time for dinner. He consulted a menu, picked up the phone, and ordered a large sausage pie that he knew would be eaten with no mention of the woman who watched over them from her place on the mantel.
R oughly twenty miles away from the Storm ancestral home, just a short trip down Interstate 66 and across Constitution Avenue, Senator Donald Whitmer (R-Alabama) was pacing around his corner office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. And he was fuming.
Ordinarily, there was only one thing that would get Donny Whitmer this mad, and that was if the Alabama Crimson Tide football team somehow lost.
Jack Porter had unwittingly stumbled on a second.
“You’re wrong,” Whitmer roared at Porter. “Goddamnit, that’s impossible.”
Porter was a pollster. The best. A pro’s pro, he had been around for twenty years and had developed statistical methodologies that would be the envy of Gallup, Quinnipiac, and every other public pollster out there—if only they knew them. He had advised the election efforts of sitting presidents—and future presidents—congressmen, senators, pretty much anyone who could afford to pay his rates.
This was the third campaign Porter had worked for the Alabama senator. In the first two his information had been dead-on. Months out, he had identified areas of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses with voters that allowed Whitmer’s campaign totailor its message and target its delivery. In the closing weeks, he told Whitmer exactly where to put his resources. His final polling had always turned out to be accurate within one percentage point of the actual election results.
He was a good man. A smart man. An honorable man. And he was never wrong.
“You’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” Senator Whitmer yelled.
“I’m sorry, Senator,” Porter said. “But the numbers are what they are.”
Thirteen points down. That’s what Porter was trying to tell him. But there was just no way he was thirteen points down. He was
, damn it. As chairman of the all-powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, Whitmer was the kind of man who could turn a cabinet member into a fawning sycophant, have a governor crawling on his hands and knees, or make a lobbyist jump through a flaming hoop.
During twenty-four years in Washington, Whitmer had become known as a legislator who could untie the purse strings of government and sprinkle gold on just about anything. He had delivered for his constituency countless times, the undisputed king of the pork barrel project. There were not only bridges to nowhere in some parts of Alabama, there were bridges
no-where, an even more impressive feat. There wasn’t a pet project he couldn’t get funded, even if it was just relatively small potatoes. Two hundred grand for a children’s museum. Four hundred for some small city park. Eight hundred to preserve some historical landmark.
It didn’t take much, relatively speaking, to make people feel like they owed you forever. And Donny had been doing it for years. Now silver-haired and seventy, he still considered himself at the peak of his powers. He was listed at number nine in
’s “Hundred Most Powerful People in D.C.” He hadn’t been out of the top twenty in years.
So there was no way, just no goddamn way, that he was thirteenpoints down—in a
no less—to some Bible-thumpin’ Tea Party asshole.
“But that’s… What in the