Read Dev Conrad - 03 - Blindside Online

Authors: Ed Gorman

Tags: #Mystery

Dev Conrad - 03 - Blindside

BOOK: Dev Conrad - 03 - Blindside
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A Selection of Titles by Ed Gorman

The Dev Conrad Series




The Sam McCain Series










* available from Severn House

Ed Gorman
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

First world edition published 2011

in Great Britain and in the USA by


9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

Copyright © 2011 by Ed Gorman.

All rights reserved.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Gorman, Edward.


1. Conrad, Dev (Fictitious character) – Fiction.

2. Political consultants – United States – Fiction.

3. Political campaigns – United States – Fiction.

4. Murder – Investigation – Fiction. 5. Suspense fiction.

I. Title


ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-162-0 (ePub)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8025-3 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-395-3 (trade paper)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

To Kathy Giusti and her Foundation,

who give hope to all of us suffering from the incurable cancer multiple myeloma. And to my friend and first editor Linda Siebels, whose generosity and sense of humor make revising almost fun.



always feel right at home when a large number of people at a political rally are carrying guns and assault weapons. I'd been planning on bringing my rocket launcher but in my hurry to get here I'd forgotten it.

And what the weapons hadn't said as yet the placards certainly made clear:





On a chilly but colorful fall afternoon in the small city of Atherton, Illinois, somewhere around a thousand people had gathered to hear Rusty Burkhart tell them how he was going to burn and pillage Washington, D.C. when they elected him their congressman.

He was going to start by making every sitting member of Congress sign a loyalty oath and then he was going to subpoena the private e-mails of a target list of House and Senate members he suspected of being ‘anti-American.' During all this time he was going to permanently shut down the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency and he was going to prove once and for all that the president was a Muslim Manchurian Candidate.

The fact that a congressman couldn't do any of these things – well, he could, I suppose, burn and pillage, but then he'd be arrested for arson and at a minimum criminal trespassing – did not keep his admirers from shouting encouragement and screaming nasty remarks about the president, who had the unmitigated gall to have been born half black. I was no longer much enamored of our president as a leader but I sure as hell felt sorry for him as a man.

Rusty Burkhart was a sixty-three-year-old multimillionaire. He was CEO and chairman of the Board of Burkhart, Inc., which owned everything from chains of supermarkets to coal mines. A man just like you and me, as he liked to say, never mentioning that he'd gone to Yale and owned a yacht big enough to launch an invasion.

He was also a fixture at local city council meetings. What should have been one-hour meetings frequently stretched to three and even four because of his rants. And he always brought at least a couple dozen people along to help him. They loved to hiss and boo. His main issues were taxes and money allotted for helping people at any time and in any way. He had been quoted as saying that ‘God has a plan for poor people and it's not right to interfere with that.'

He was six-four and burly with a comic red toupee that needed to be drowned. He was given to Western shirts and jeans with a giant belt buckle of gold that bore a Christian cross. His most famous piece of attire was his red, white, and blue cowboy boots. Another Yale cowpoke who later in life began channeling John Wayne.

‘This is really scary,' Lucy Cummings said to me as we stood on the edge of the crowd sipping coffee from paper cups with George Washington's face printed on them. ‘I really hate guns.'

The coffee was surprisingly good and Lucy, whom I'd met an hour ago, managed to forget the firearms long enough to pick up a donut. She was in the thirty range, a slightly overweight woman in a gray pantsuit. She had a youthful and attractive face and smoked a lot, something far too many political operatives on both sides do. She was one of Congressman Jeff Ward's staffers. Against my better judgment I was working on Ward's campaign for a couple of days. Lucy and I were checking out the competition, Mr Burkhart.

I'd tuned Burkhart's barking out and was instead trying to make some sociological sense of all the cars parked to my right. A number of the trucks looked as if they'd done service in the Dust Bowl while the two Jags and large number of beemers appeared to have been driven straight from their country clubs to here.

‘This is the end of civilization, Dev, I swear to God.'

‘Close. But probably not quite the end.'

‘How can these people believe all this crap?'

‘They will themselves to believe it. They're angry about the economy and they gravitate to people who let them express all their prejudices as well as vent their anger. It just about always works.'

‘Hey, Conrad, where's your gun?'

And then she was there. Sylvia Fordham. ‘The Boss-Bitch of Political Consultants,' according to
in a piece they'd done on her the year she brought down a congressman who'd served four terms. He'd lost both his legs in Nam but she'd found – the rumor was she'd paid them close to two hundred grand to split – four men who claimed they'd been in over there the same time he was. They not only claimed that he was a coward who'd deserted his unit, but also hinted that he was into pot and even heavier drugs the whole time he served. Add to that the fact that he was black and she was able to exploit an impoverished Southern town's racism into a landslide.

She was a small, slight woman cast in the Audrey Hepburn fashion. If she wasn't quite as luminous as Hepburn had been, she was skilled at playing the public role of the bright, quick, upper-class woman who issued her lies with quiet charm and big-eyed innocence. Off-camera her thirty-something prettiness contrasted sharply with her bitchiness. But in twelve years of battling each other's candidates I'd learned she was as ruthless as she was appealing.

‘I'm surprised you'd risk your life by coming here, Dev. If I told some of these patriots who you are, they'd probably open fire.'

‘Any of them able to count to ten?'

‘Always the snob.' She looked at Lucy. ‘I've told you before you'd be pretty if you'd dress better. After November's election, honey, you're going to be looking for a job so you'll have to spruce up your act.'

I smiled at Lucy and nodded in Sylvia's direction. ‘She used to room with Mother Teresa.'

Lucy laughed nervously. ‘I'll bet she did.'

‘But I have to say, Dev, that I'm glad to see you here. That means the Ward people are getting desperate. Calling in a hired gun like you means they've been reading the same internal polls we have. We're running five ahead right now.'

‘Three according to our internals,' Lucy said. She was still intimidated by Fordham's nastiness. Mostly I was bored with it. Her shtick had grown old long ago.

A huge response of applause and shouts rang out from around the bandstand.

‘The people love him,' Sylvia said. ‘They know he's one of them.'

‘Yeah, I'll bet half the people in this crowd inherited ten million when they turned twenty-five. And I bet they went to Yale, too. Just a regular guy. Who, by the way, should stop wearing that shitty rug. With his money can't he find a better toupee than that?'

‘I'm sure when he gets to Washington he'll find one that meets with your approval.' A guy in a suit holding a walkie-talkie waved to her.

‘I've got an election to win. I hope I see you later, Dev. Dinner would be fun.' Then she gave us one of those princess waves that movie stars affect these days. ‘Toodles.'

‘How much time would I get for second degree?' Lucy said as Sylvia walked away.

My smile matched hers. ‘They'd probably let you off with a parking fine.'

Three Iraq veterans in wheelchairs were being escorted on to the stage. Sylvia was good, paying broke soldiers to praise Burkhart. I didn't blame them. I'd have taken the money, too. The people at large and Congress had screwed these soldiers every way possible since they'd come back from that war. I just wondered if any of them had heard that Burkhart, who'd never served in the military, had said he was tired of ‘pampering' veterans with government money.

There were so many large flags on stage people were getting lost in them. Burkhart led the crowd in the national anthem. I guess being off-key meant you were being sincere.

For a few minutes I allowed myself to enjoy the afternoon. I watched hawks ride the air currents and smelled the smoky scent of the breeze and saw the surrounding hills melancholy with leaves that were beautiful in their dying. This was the season of Halloween and football Saturdays and long walks to watch the shadows stretch as dusk came early now. To hell with the Burkharts and Sylvias. If they had their way they'd strip-mine and cut down everything that made the landscape godly. They'd also start revising textbooks the way Texas and a few other states already had – you know, the John Wayne mythic America. There was a time in my life when I occasionally voted for men and women of the other side. But that party and those people had no place in the opposition anymore.

I listened to Burkhart start his salutation to the whites-only world he'd grown up in. Talk about your opium for the masses as Marx said of religion. The portrait he painted of Mom and Dad, flag and country, opportunity and riches rang resonantly on the Midwestern plains. The anger at a black president and liberals and immigrants and gays would come a bit later. For now he was letting his supporters feast on this picnic lunch of treacle and bullshit.

Burkhart was a cunning politican. He'd started his political career a few years ago guesting on a local radio hate show called ‘Freedom's Way,' hosted by a bilious racist named Paul Revere. This was his actual given name and he never let you forget it. I always pictured his audience as people sitting around in white sheets dousing huge crosses with gasoline in preparation for the night ahead. Burkhart became a legend on that program and, because of that, when the country was confused and enraged over Wall Street billionaires and endless charges of bank fraud, he recognized that this was the time for fanatics. He had a great presence, was a good speaker, and for all his average-guy hoo-hah was a bright, savvy man. In private he was said to frequently quote Ayn Rand. This wouldn't do when he was addressing the little people whom Rand scorned so much. They might think he was, you know, unmanly.

BOOK: Dev Conrad - 03 - Blindside
12.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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