In 1982, seven very intelligent young men attending Harvard Law School discovered they had quite a lot in common. That discovery occurred in a small Boston book shop where they furtively saw each other on a regular basis.
Trying to hide their disgusting habit from prying eyes, they nevertheless pried into the dark netherworld of child pornography.
Eventually, a cohesive group was formed. One that met weekly to share photos and stories…and sexual gratification. They called themselves ‘The 7-Up Club’…”up” being the operative word.
Thirty years later, six of them worked for the President of the United States. The seventh? He was the President…
Matt Dawson had been an FBI agent for almost twenty years. Yet, in all that time, he’d never vomited at the scene of a crime. This time, he did.
Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, Dawson walked back to the corpse and took a deep breath. The man’s chest was ripped to shreds; his face, a bloody pulp of gore; and his throat was slit from ear to ear. He was also naked from the waist down…his shriveled penis cut in half, the tip found a few feet away. The message scrawled across his groin in bright pink nail polish was short and scary in its brevity: “One down, six to go” was punctuated by a smiley-face, an arrow pointing to the remains of the decimated flesh below.
“So, people. Looks like someone was really pissed off.” The two wide-eyed and pale-faced patrol officers who’d found the body – and the equally distraught D.C. detectives – simply nodded in unison, afraid to open their mouths lest they suffer the same embarrassing fate of losing their lunch in the bushes.
Dawson turned to his partner. “Hey, buddy, how about you? You okay?”
“Hell, no.” Guido Sanchez was a former gang member who’d had a sudden change of heart after two years in ‘juvie jail’ and was now one of the bureau’s most dedicated agents. “Ain’t ever seen shit like this, man. Ever.”
Dawson pulled on a pair of gloves, gingerly removed the deceased’s wallet, and scanned the driver’s license. Lyle Bronson; age, 56. Of course, he already had that tidbit of information. It was the reason he was standing in Rock Creek Park at six o’clock in the morning. For the late Mr. Bronson also happened to be a United States Senator.
“Fuck, what a mess,” he muttered under his breath as the CSIs arrived right along with the media.
* * *
President James Drake sat in the Oval Office, swiveling his chair to and fro as he listened to the gory details of Lyle Bronson’s murder.
Press secretary, Arnie Whitman, stammered his way through the police report like a kid in first grade and Drake knew some extreme damage control was in order.
“Okay, Arn.” Drake shrugged. “Just issue the standard press release stating how sorry and shocked I am, my condolences to the family, the killer will be found, blah, blah, blah.” He stood up and straightened his tie. “The usual pap.”
“Yes, sir, but…” Whitman looked up at the ceiling and cleared his throat. “Doesn’t this worry you at all?”
“Not really. Like I said, just make us look good and everything will be fine.” Drake turned his back in blatant dismissal and Arnie Whitman slunk out of the office, worried as hell.
* * *
It was Sunday afternoon yet business was booming at Hard As Nails, a specialty boutique on Fifth Avenue. A shop that catered to the vanity of New York City’s elite – men and women alike – who just had to have their nails pampered like a Westminster poodle, the place was booked solid on a daily basis even though a manicure alone cost $500.
But the shop’s owner was a walking billboard. Tall and rail-thin, eyes of ice-blue, waist-length blonde hair cascading down her back, she was a stunner. Not to mention that her hands were, too. Long, slim fingers ended in inch-long, acrylic nails always painted in bright and unusual colors.
Strolling through the store, flashing pearly whites and chatting with customers, she mused that such had not always been the case. For, once upon a time, Ariel Drake had been the proverbial ugly duckling…..
Once upon a time, there was a homely and lonely little girl who lived in a big house in a big city. No one wanted to play with her; they picked on her instead. All because she had a hideous purple birthmark that splayed across her cheeks and nose.
…..Ariel silently thanked God for the miracle of plastic surgery that had wiped away the horror on her face, turning the beast into a beauty. So she’d put the bullying behind her. But one thing she could never forget – or forgive – was the monster who began fondling her when she was five, fucking her when she was ten. Her father. The President of the United States.
* * *
Jon pulled the BMW out of the underground garage and drove slowly into the drizzly day, headed for Connecticut. He hated this monthly trek with almost as much passion as he hated the reason for it…to visit General Joshua James Drake. His father.
Stricken with severe Alzheimer’s, 85-year-old ‘General J.J.’ – as he was affectionately known in military circles – resided in an expensive dump euphemistically called Heaven on Earth. Yet Jon continued to pay the hefty annual fee in a twisted sort of allegiance to a man who had shunned him his entire life.
As he meandered along the back roads, Jon mulled over the ‘talk’ he would have today with the old man. A continuation of a one-sided conversation he’d been having for two years, spilling his guts to the heartless soul who – he prayed – would go straight to hell when he finally died.