Bryce Gives Maggie a Migraine
July 28, Monday
Maggie Mahoney’s mind screeched with pain. A dazzling, gasoline-colored spot blossomed on her husband’s cheek, disappeared and popped up again over his nose.
She asked, “You did what?,” and fished in her briefcase for a pill to short circuit the migraine distorting her vision.
“For heaven’s sake. We’re not talking about a production of Aida.” Bryce Chandler jabbed the button for the privacy screen to shield their conversation from the driver. “It’s a —”
“A reception for two hundred people on the day we’re scheduled to fly to Chile with Wade.”
“Not to worry. I’ve cleared it with Wade. We’ll all fly down together the next day. He has first call on the jet.”
“You talked to Wade before you talked to me?” After five years of marriage, she still didn’t seem to mean as much to her husband as Wade Johnson did.
Bryce’s face took on the stony, long-suffering expression he adopted whenever she displayed too much emotion, or what he thought was too much emotion. He had inherited an instinct for detached decorum from his Boston Brahmin ancestors.
“Maggie, what was I to do? Erling Anderson asked me if we would host the reception. After all, it will be a simple repeat of the one we did for O’Toole three weeks ago – different donors, but the same musicians and caterers. I can hardly say no to the firm Chairman.”
“Since when were you intimidated by Erling Anderson?” She ripped open the foil pouch and slipped the wafer under her tongue. Tasted like melted plastic, worked like a miracle.
“Andy most certainly doesn’t intimidate me. But if O’Toole wins the party’s nomination, he’ll take the general election. And given Andy’s stint as White House counsel and his connections with party loyalists, he has an excellent shot at Attorney General.”
“Giving you an excellent shot at firm Chairman. You’ve covered enough for Andy lately, you must have the job down pat.”
“Yes, but not the title.” A corner of his mouth flicked up. “Does the prospect of being the wife of the Chairman of Sweeny, Owens & Boyle, the country’s most prestigious law firm, excite you?”
“Excite isn’t exactly the word I’d use.” Certainly not in a physical sense. Like almost everything else in their relationship, the sex had grown cold. “But I suppose Andy would make a decent Attorney General. The position calls for someone clear-thinking, able to resist political pressure.”
“Andy is certainly clear-thinking. I can’t vouch for his ability to resist political pressure.”
“He seems to have resisted the pressure to host the reception himself. And why does O’Toole need another one so soon anyway?”
“The latest polls show Miller closing the gap in the delegate count. O’Toole needs a media offensive.”
“Okay, but why doesn’t Andy do it himself? He drove me crazy with the last one. He’s always been controlling, but lately he’s gone around the bend.” When they had started planning the last reception, she’d been willing to attribute his anxiety to the high profile event. But as his micromanaging went into warp drive, she’d begun to wonder if something else was looming.
“The reception at Andy’s townhouse? The prospect of a crowd milling around his Louis XVI antiques would give him a nervous collapse.” He sniffed. “Such a peculiar garish choice in décor.”
“Garish, yes. But not peculiar for someone destined for the coal mines. It represents how far he’s come.”
“That’s how he likes to spin it, but he never actually worked in a mine.”
“Oh, right. Because he grew up in an orphanage after his father died in a cave-in and his mother couldn’t feed the family. That’s much less impressive.” She made a sound like escaping steam. At times she suspected Bryce was utterly devoid of compassion.
“I never realized you were such a fan of his.”
“I wasn’t until I saw his name on yesterday’s ad in the Times urging the closure of Guantanamo Bay. He was at the top of the list of heavy hitters.”
“Given Anderson is his last name, where else would he be?”
“What I mean is that he took a very public position on a controversial issue. Andy took a strong ethical stance.”
“Indeed he did. Let’s see if he can keep his footing during a Presidential campaign.”
The car pulled to the curb outside the Metropolitan Bank Building. Maggie lowered the privacy screen. “Thank you, Gustavo.” She pecked a perfunctory kiss on Bryce’s cheek, slid to the door. “Don’t forget we have an eleven o’clock with Ira Davidoff.”
“How could I possibly forget? Andy sent me an e-mail at five-fifteen this morning with a collection of supposedly punchy arguments to persuade Davidoff to hire us.”
“I don’t get it. Why is he so determined that the firm represent Davidoff? The treason charge makes it an interesting case, but it’s not like Andy’s going to be in the trenches.”
“You seem to be the expert on his psychology, my dear.” Bryce smirked. “You tell me.”
Her husband could be a genuine asshole sometimes, but she bit back the temptation to tell him so. “Maybe something will come out at the meeting that makes it more clear.”
A blast of muggy air hit her as she opened the door to the crowded sidewalk of Lexington Avenue.