The two women in his bed-- Suzie, he thought, and Lynda? Lydia?-- had been a good distraction from the polling numbers lately, but he needed to get his mind back in the game. Work hard, play hard. He left a couple of hundred-dollar bills on the end table and let the girls sleep in. The maid service would eventually come and kick them out of the room, and he didn't want to leave them stranded. He liked these two, and would probably call them again, especially that Suzie.
With a grin, he exited the hotel lobby and stepped toward the waiting limo. Cassius, his driver, was holding the door open with the professional, blank expression that Marcus had come to know and trust. Cassius had seen some things happen in the back of that limo, and had never once so much as batted an eyelash. He also carried a supply of cleaning chemicals in the trunk that were quite good at removing certain bodily fluids from the supple leather while leaving it soft and buttery smooth. He was a keeper: good help is hard to find.
"Good morning, Marcus," said a deep voice from inside the back of the limo as Marcus moved to sit down. Startled, Marcus looked into the eyes of his Uncle.
"Uncle Quint, what an unexpected surprise."
Marcus quickly regained his composure, seated himself and adjusted the sleeves of his shirt. He did this more to display the family-crest cufflinks that his uncle had bequeathed upon him when he had turned 18 and been given the position of prime assistant to Governor Cato. His uncle was one of the behind-the-scenes movers and shakers in the political world, a "facilitator" in polite terms. In less polite terms, he was a "fixer", or a "cleaner".
Cassius rolled up the privacy wall and pulled the limo away from the curb.
"Have a good night last night Marcus?"
"Yes, Uncle, it was rather nice."
"I'm sure it was, the young ladies seemed rather pleasant. I do hope you tipped them well. It does make them easier to keep quiet in the long run, but you really should consider finding just one or two and sticking with them for a while. It would help make my job easier."
Marcus opened a bottle of water from the limo bar and washed down a couple of blue-and-white pills provided by his doctor. His uncle snorted with disapproval.
"May I assume, Uncle, that this is not purely an inquiry into my social life?"
"Marcus, we have a problem."
Quint handed Marcus a manila envelope, thick and heavy.
"As you know, your journey from Governor to Senator has been well-received, despite your somewhat extravagant dalliances. We've been readying the path for the advancement of your career to the next level."
"And I do thank you for that, Uncle. You have been very good to me."
"Yes, well, it hasn't always been easy, as you do tend to require some extra care from time to time. Unfortunately, this latest problem has become something not so easily handled."
Marcus was staring with disbelief at the papers in his hand, the words SUPERIOR COURT and COMPLAINT FOR DIVORCE in capital letters on the front page. He quickly flipped to the last page, where he saw his wife's signature in blue pen.
"Porcia? But we have an agreement..."
"Apparently she no longer wishes to abide by whatever agreement you may have had."
"Oh, God. What am I going to do?"
"Marcus, there are a lot of people who are very heavily invested in your future. This kind of disgrace is not the kind of thing that will withstand public opinion, and we simply can not let this run its course."
Tears were beginning to form in Marcus's eyes. "I'll talk to her. We can work things out somehow. I'll convince her."
"It's too late for that, Marcus. She had already filed the paperwork with her attorney. Luckily, he's one of ours, so the papers were intercepted before they could do any real harm."
Marcus felt the blood drain from his face.
"What... what did you do?"
"What we had to, dear boy, what we had to." Quint took a couple of cigars out of his inner coat pocket, trimmed them, and lit one, handing the other to Marcus.
"It was no mean feat. Your dear wife has a history of mental illness that goes back some time before you even met. Depression, chronic but treatable, and she was doing quite well. Unfortunately, she developed a rare, fast-moving form of cancer that was untreatable, and the stress simply proved to be too much to bear, dear thing. That will be the official finding. Oh, and she wrote a note describing her undying love for you, and how she didn't want to burden you during your transition to the next leader of the free world. Quite endearing, really. At least that is what the final reports will show."
Marcus felt the world begin to turn white around him, and a rushing sound began to fill his ears.
"The sudden but inevitable death of your loving and devoted wife will have the side effect of a swelling of sympathy, which has a fairly large expected return in the polling numbers. You will of course be taking some private time to mourn and dwell on whether or not you should remain in the race, but after a few weeks, you will decide that in honor of your deceased wife, and because of her pleadings, that you will continue with your campaign. It's quite brilliant really. Should have thought of it long ago, before we had to take down Jules. That whole mess could have been avoided. And you child, you know well enough how messy that whole incident was."
Quint took the unlit cigar from Marcus's hand and lit it for him.
"Oh, and Cassius is turning out to be quite an excellent writer. We shall likely employ him as your head speechwriter once your term begins, Mister President."
Marcus looked at the lit cigar in his hand for a long time before slowly raising it to his lips.