Sex stories

Erotic fiction and short sex stories




"Little" Sister Pt. 04

Author's note: Virtually no sex this installment. Siobhan goes into business and gets pulled into politics.

Chapter 17 – Office Politics

The dinner in White Plains would echo for years. I am very glad I had no true understanding of the importance, because even Dr. Richards might have frozen. That said, it had little impact in Hanover. There is a reason higher education is referred to as a tower, ivory or otherwise. What happened in the real world took its time filtering into our world. For example, it was nearly Christmas before someone inquired if I had seen Hard Time, then were shocked when I said I had.

Part of it was the work load. I had classes to teach, papers to grade, TAs to supervise and research to do. On top of that was my new social calendar. Mother would be shocked to learn that I knew how to deport myself at a proper tea. Once the Powers That Be learned the fact, I received a great deal of practice. To a degree it was like ballroom dance. Early training was not entirely wasted.

To a larger degree it was having an example, even if she was fictitious. Frau Doktor was Lars' term. In my own mind, she was Dr. Richards. The result was the same. She was above petty annoyances. She could listen to the worst sort of crudity, without reacting, but never miss a word. Real life examples like Sheila and Christine were helpful, but neither would do well in politics. As Gerald said, soft handling of fools was not one of Sheila's talents. However, it was one of Eleanor Roosevelt's many skills.

I was glad for the impulse that moved me to think of ugly leaders. I was, obviously, no Lincoln or Churchill, but Eleanor Roosevelt was someone Dr. Richards could admire. Part of this was her ability to handle the press. Another part, just as significant, was her ability to cope with a self absorbed, philandering husband. I spent so much time reading and considering Eleanor that my wardrobe started to mimic hers. When I noticed, I decided this was not a bad thing. It even came up in interviews a couple of times.

Wardrobe was an issue that I had never needed to deal with before. In this, Elspeth proved invaluable. While I had a good start from Elizabeth, it was only a start. For example, I had little of business casual and nothing for outdoor use. Once again I was buying jeans, but the boots came from Lands End and the shirts from Pendelton. This led me to my signature piece—the leather topcoat.

Have you ever noticed how many movie posters show the hero in a flowing overcoat? Neil (Keanu Reeves) in Matrix is an obvious example. I leaned more to Selena (Kate Beckinsale) in Underworld. Regardless, winter in New England is harsh. I had two British style trench coats and a quilted down jacket, but none were really suitable for heavy snow. Elspeth came to my rescue, in a backhand way.

When I returned to campus in late July, many changes occurred. I was no longer one of the pure lesbian sisterhood, for example. This was not easy. Every social group has an "Us vs. Them" mentality. Since I was no longer a member in good standing, I was suddenly an unwelcome outsider. Countering this was a wave of appreciation for my new style. Many of my old acquaintances expressed appreciation and offered to talk shop, meaning shopping.

Somewhere to the side of this, with overlap, was the bondage role playing culture. I had known of them all along. I had dabbled a bit, but never took time to get serious. That all changed Labor Day Weekend. There was a back to classes party planned. Elspeth wanted us to attend as a couple. Part of this was Elspeth's desire to show off her new corset, so I allowed it. Elspeth would attend wearing her corset, Victoria's Secret lingerie and a velvet choker. I wore my familiar underwear, corset, heels and attitude.

To say I was a hit understates things considerably. If I had not had the experience in Brooklyn, I might have thought I was impressive. As it was, Dr. Richards simply acknowledged the attention as her due, without believing she had ascended to true mastery. She was gracious, but declined adoration. This attitude was well received by both Doms and subs. For the rest of my time in Hanover, I had a secure position in the BDSM community.

A sidelight of this were contacts in the custom leather market. I was somewhat aware that there was such a market. Sean once showed me pictures of a Hollywood collection of bondage leathers, which sold for well over a million dollars. Sheila gave a flogger to Sean, which involved shark skin and kangaroo hide. When I did my summer session with Mario, Richard used a viscous two stranded whip called a dog quirt. Someone had to be manufacturing them.

My new contact was more in the apparel line. Everyone was impressed with Julian's corsetry, but felt other things could be improved. For example, one of the Doms wore thigh high boots. Leather briefs were common on both sexes. Leather harnesses could be found on almost anyone. That first night, I contracted for lederhosen and suspenders. A picture of me wearing them, wool stockings and not much else, was part of Lars' birthday gift.

Two weeks after I returned from Thanksgiving, New Hampshire had it's first winter storm of the season. London Fog makes an excellent raincoat, but it is not up to blowing snow and single digit temperatures. My coat from the previous winter was (supposedly) a Soviet military coat. While it had seen better days, it was warm, sufficiently long and a suitable color. I set about trying to find a newer version of the same thing.

To some extent I was frustrated. I found a workable substitute coat, which pulled me through the next week, but I was not thrilled with it. For one thing, it was much shorter. My military coat came down to my calves. The new one was only thigh length. It was also a men's style, which made it tight over my bust. Even a trip to Manchester produced nothing better.

I might have suffered through December, but I chanced across the man who made my lederhosen. We greeted each other, then he asked how the leather shorts had worked out for me. I described my bare picture on the bear rug, which he appreciated. I commented that the lederhosen was not suitable for recent weather. He laughed and said I needed a longer coat. An hour later he took my military coat as a pattern, promising three custom coats. The price was obscene, but I never regretted a cent of it.

The pay off began almost immediately. Dartmouth is on a session schedule, which is fairly close to trimesters. Finals are the center of campus life for the first half of November. Once they are over, the Holidays begin. From Thanksgiving to New Year is one fairly continuous party season. My first leather coat arrived the day before my first obligatory reception, thrown by Philis Harmon, the President's wife. Almost worse than a blizzard, the weather was a "winter mix" of freezing rain, sleet and/or snow, varying with the temperature at the moment.

Driving around campus was difficult, but parking was next to impossible. With a full length coat, I elected to skip the issue and walk. In the six blocks, I passed two traffic accidents. When I arrived, my coat had acquired a layer of slushy mess, so I asked for a small towel. Mrs. Harmon quickly provided one. As I dried the leather, she asked how far away I had needed to park. I told her I had walked over from campus.

I thought nothing more of it, but he next day the story was all over the department, possibly the whole graduate school. I am convinced people dropped by just for a look at my coat. Thursday another coat was delivered. This one was sealskin and I loved it on sight. The dark gray color would go with almost anything, yet it was fur lined for warmth and almost waterproof. The timing was slightly less perfect, since the storm did not hit til Monday afternoon. Even by New England standards, this blizzard was impressive.

Tuesday classes were postponed, but the snowfall stopped by midday. Wednesday morning was clear and bitter. Though the streets were open, I elected to walk rather than risk black ice. With good boots, the fur lined coat and a wool cap and scarf, I was fairly comfortable. That made one. Half my class stayed home. Those in attendance enjoyed a dead easy (attendance graded) pop quiz, while I saved the lesson for another day.

It might have ended there, except for the campus paper. Naturally, there was a cover story on the storm and the snow day. The associated picture was of me, walking through the middle of the quadrangle in my past knee length coat. I was simply striding along. What made the picture interesting were the people at the edges of the shot. All had normal winter wear and were huddling against the cold. It was so good I requested a digital copy to send to Sheila. Again, I thought nothing of it.

The full nickname is The Dark Queen of Winter. This could be a reference to my hair, which Sean compares to Mila Kunis'. More likely it is a reference to the sealskin coat. Queen is more clear. Even I think the picture makes me look disdainful of the cold. After all, Dr. Richards is not distracted by petty things like weather.

The nickname was not the original caption for the picture. Someone scribbled it at the bottom of a copy and tacked the picture on the message board of the Union, next to the tutoring ads. It must have been around for a week or more before I heard it. By then it was too late. The photographer titled the image "Queen of Winter" when she entered it in a regional photo contest.

They say reputation for power is power. For me that is certainly true. The nickname morphed into several versions—Dark Queen, Dark Lady, Winter Queen, even Ice Queen, though that was sarcasm when spoken. Add that to the distinctly British style of my suit at Sheila's wedding. The common thread is royalty, or at least nobility. To this day people ask for my title. I tell them I was American born, but the titles stayed in Europe.

The sealskin coat became iconic. If you saw the headless politician skit on Saturday Night Live, that was Francine inside the same coat, wearing heels to keep the fringe from dragging the floor. What I thought was screaming funny was Francine playing me using stilt shoes. The jacket came to her knees and the slacks had to have a meter (39") inseam. Francine moves so well that most people noticed the wig. How could you not see the T-Rex arms?

Regardless, during one spring semester I acquired a nickname and signature fashion piece. What really helped was acquiring the name recognition to go with it. It happened during the Presidential primaries. I must give talk radio its due. A lot of people listen to it, though sometimes I wish they never heard of me.

New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Presidential primary is a very big deal. Interest starts in earnest around Labor Day the year before. By the voting in January, literally every house in the state will be called by the pollsters, often a dozen times. Since I had been on Sean Hannity's program once, I was on call lists for expert opinion. Between job, research, social functions and my dissertation it was easy to beg off. But, eventually, I was cornered.

They wanted Susan Miller, but she was home sick (she says). She recommended me to be her stand in. Under the circumstances, I could not refuse. I intended to not say anything controversial, but their other expert was a vapid twit. When she cited my family money and challenged my ability to relate to common people, I countered with two summers in Roxbury, part of her hometown Boston. I personally knew many of the people she misquoted and said so. We went at it. A lot of this was lost in commercial time, but some juicy parts went on the air.

My next day was surreal. It was like the summer before when people came just to look at me. Dr. Krelinov cautioned me to use restraint. Susan Miller told me I hit a home run. Elspeth kept laughing all night. She and the twit knew each other for more than a decade, from primary through high school. Elspeth made the grades for Holyoke, but the twit had to settle for Fisher College, "so she could ride her bicycle to class." I called the Residence and asked security to find the twit's cell number, so that Elspeth could rub the salt in.

Whether because of the fight, or some other reason, I was soon getting many requests to comment on air. To make matters worse, the University approved. Purely in self defense, I set out a schedule of times I might be available, then let Elspeth deal with the prioritizing. It never occurred to me to be careful about using my brother's first name.

On the Hannity show the oversight tripped me up. I said, "Sean says..." meaning my brother, not the host of the show. I was very embarrassed, but no one else noticed. It was exactly the kind of thing Sean Hannity might have said. Sean Hannity and Sean my brother are temperamentally similar. Both believe in consistent rules, gun rights, paying bills and butting into someone else's conversation.

Sean Richards is called 'The Bear', partly for his lack of tact. I leave it to you what that says of Sean Hannity. Regardless, I found it very easy to work with Hannity, even though we agreed on almost nothing political. For his part, he comes across as unexpectedly egalitarian. I became a semi-regular Tuesday afternoon guest on his radio program.

Back in my life, such as it was, I was almost ready to propose to Elspeth. She had developed into the perfect aide. In addition to her own studies and research, she did a great deal of work on mine. I needed to track down two or more prior generations of people who had moved from country to city. Since my original work was in Boston, so were most of the leads. Elspeth developed a pattern of returning to Beacon Hill on weekends, by way of some working class neighborhood or retirement home.

In other ways she was generally useful. Many people keep appointment books, or the electronic equivalent. I had Elspeth. If I needed a phone number, Elspeth would get it. If I needed an internet search, Elspeth would do it. If I needed to blow off steam after a trying event, Elspeth would massage my shoulders. She took care of my leather coats and showed every sign of enjoying it. My highest compliment was to say that Christine could not have done it better. All she wanted in return was a hug, a snuggle and an occasional spanking.

All that changed one weekend. School was out between sessions, about when most schools have spring break. I told Sean Hannity's people that I was unavailable for my usual Tuesday slot. Once they found out I was going to drive down to New Jersey, Sean Hannity personally asked me to come in for a television broadcast on the way south. There are problems with being comfortable with someone. One is that they can talk you into doing things you would normally avoid. With a sense of foreboding, I agreed to visit the New York studio and tape a segment.

As usual, I let Elspeth handle the details. I dislike driving in the City, so they agreed to have a car meet us in Connecticut. I had to drive the beater, which irritated me, but what can you do? We were picked up and driven to the studio. I spent an hour in makeup. Rather than have Elspeth doing nothing, I told her to mingle and exchange numbers with some the other aides. I was led to a waiting room somewhere backstage.

That was where I met Ann Coulter. For once, Francine did me a service. Ann Coulter is like a taller, halfway caffeinated version of Francine. Her first words to me were, "So you're the ice bitch from up north. Why has Sean got you on this time?"

Instead of replying, I did my usual deconstruction. Ann Coulter was attractive and knew it, but she was fifty plus and working harder to show well than she used to. She was chewing gum at a manic rate, so it was probably for nicotine. She was brash and pushy, but under it was a fine mind and attack dog instincts. No wonder everyone hated debating her. In fact, her instincts were good enough that she was tracking me.

She said, "Damn. No wonder Sean likes you. You could make a living in Washington, just doing that. Does it always work?"

It had not worked just then, but I did not say so. Instead I told her about meeting Sheila at the airport. Since I was talking about someone iconic, Ann immediately started making connections. First the PDAs came out, then I opened the laptop for a better screen. Before long we were deep into the images from Civitano's. Ann knew at least half the people personally.

We talked for an hour before being interrupted. One of Sean Hannity's aides told us that our segment was being bumped for late breaking news. That was cool, since I was enjoying the conversation. Unfortunately, Elspeth came in right behind the aide. She saw Ann Coulter and hissed. In reaction, I did something ill advised.

I said, "Elspeth, be polite or I will not arrange any more sex with Jason Porter."

I instantly knew that the words would keep going and going, like the Eveready bunny. Even Ann Coulter had nothing to say, for a moment. When the moment passed, chaos broke loose. For what had been a quiet waiting room, there were an astonishing number of people present. Everyone wanted to know exactly what I meant, but the most obvious meaning was true. Elspeth had had sex with a national heart throb.

Whatever her other virtues and vices, Ann Coulter is decisive when she wishes to be. In short order the three of us were in a private room. I apologized to Elspeth for the embarrassment. Then I began the long explanation of how Jason Porter came to be a personal friend. I started by showing the cover shot of the catalog. Not surprisingly, Ann had seen it, though not in digital format.

I told her that I had met Mistress Cynthia, who is also in the image, but that the image editor was the important one. To support this, I pulled up the list of Academy Award winners. There, next to Hard Time, was the name Sheila Schwartz-Richards. Once again I pulled up images from the reception at Civitano's. This time I told Ann to assess the pictures based on composition and framing of the shot.

Not satisfied with her own expertise, Ann summoned a video geek. That was the event that changed everything. In the process of explaining why Jason Porter would be willing to do me a favor, I introduced Elspeth to W. Richard Willingham IV. I am not sure what it is about geeks, but I seem to live knee deep in them.

Ann called him W, in an obvious reference to former President Bush. I asked for his full name—Warner Richard Otis-Willingham IV. Elspeth (Otis-Endicott) jerked when he said it. Time proved that they were related, distantly, by three distinct lines. They were raised in similar circumstances, though in separate cities, so several areas of their lives overlapped. Elspeth looked at Richard Willingham seriously, for the first time since he entered the room.

Ro (from his initials ROW) was impressed with Sheila's work. When discussing technical questions, he was fine. When Ann Coulter asked him a personal or family related question, he was flustered. I asked him to wait a minute while I talked to Ann. Elspeth picked up that I wanted her to stay with Ro. She may have missed that their conversation was the point, not the sidelight.

It took only a few minutes to explain that Sheila had asked Jason to initiate a couple of lifelong lesbians to the bisexual world. Soon things were back to normal. As I collected Elspeth, I told her to get Ro's personal contact information, in case we needed some more background. Sheila calls it her inner yenta. We all have it.

It was not as if Elspeth and Ro fell madly in love and eloped. In fact, they never seriously dated. However, Elspeth did introduce Ro to his cousins in Boston. For her, openly spending time in the company of a male relieved some pressure. Tolerance is the ideal, but rarely the reality. More than that, for Elspeth having a friend—and Ro was a lifelong friend—of the other sex proved enlightening. I think they became friends with benefits, but I never asked.
At the time, I picked another two new contacts in the political sphere. Ann Coulter and I had an adversarial relationship through the years, but it was a friendly one. Unlike some of her right wing friends, Ann could be counted on to do the basic research. If you did not know the facts, she would bury you with them. This is not to say she was not also a mistress of spin, but that's how politics is played. Like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter was in my Rolodex and I in hers. This would prove useful when I moved to Concord.

Though he was not a national figure, like Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity, Ro Willingham proved to be just as valuable through the years. If I wanted information, but did not want to cause waves, Ro was one of my more reliable sources. Not surprisingly, he got on fine with both of my brothers and my fiancé/husband. Somewhat more surprising was his long term relationship with Elspeth. When she chose someone very like Ro to marry, it came as no surprise.

That was still a ways away. Personal events came first—Sheila gave birth. While this was expected, the event came as a surprise. Sheila delivered just over three weeks early on Sunday, February 12, after two false alarms and four hours of labor. Initially, her OB/GYN tried to end the labor, but the efforts failed. Sean called me at 10:30 PM, telling me that they were going to deliver. He was very firm when he told me not to come.

That did not mean I could not make the baptism. Lutheran baptisms are typically done in the first few weeks, even earlier if the baby is in distress. While my niece, Cindy, was only three pounds, seven ounces at birth, she was never in infant ICU. The baptism was held the day she was two weeks old. I arranged for someone to cover my Monday class and drove to New Jersey.

I arrived early in the morning on Saturday. Sean was up, waiting for me. Sheila was sleeping. Most of the day we spent talking of inconsequential things and waiting for other arrivals. An interesting one was a senior executive from Sony's home office in Minato, Japan. Kiku was also there to translate. It was one time having Lars in Tokyo proved handy.

Francine flew in from California on Saturday afternoon. Roxanna picked her up and brought her to the Residence. Why Roxy was still Francine's designated driver remains a mystery. Perhaps it was because Francine served as her admission pass to things like our home. I must admit, we could be entertaining.

Sunday, we all dressed nicely and went to the church. In the middle of the service, we went to the baptismal font (a simple bowl with water) and held a short ceremony in front of the local congregation. After the service, there was a cookies and punch reception. While nothing unexpected happened, the event remains ingrained in my memory. Even now, I can close my eyes and picture the minister's hand holding a scallop shell, from which he poured water over Cindy's downy head.

After the service, Sean took us to Albert's for dinner. Everyone wanted to see the baby. My best recollection is of Christine eyeing everyone who came close, while Sheila smiled indulgently. After nine difficult months, Sheila seemed battle tested. For Christine, the baby was a new level of responsibility and she takes any responsibility seriously. I could have written a publishable paper on the two of them. There was a sense of completion about the day, though it did not apply to me.

My completion had a ways to go. First I had to finish the term of my Fellowship, submit and defend my dissertation and gather another sheepskin for the wall. Same old song, different verse. At Yale I had done all the research myself. At Dartmouth I had my own research to draw on, plus Elspeth and a small host of groupies. After the wedding, and the accolades it brought, I may have been the most sought after adviser on campus. In addition to my own two, almost any grad student in the social sciences might show up to ask advice. In self defense, I assigned them homework.

It was all very up front. I would give them a point to research, inform them that it related to my own dissertation, then critique their work. It was usually not difficult to guess why they were having problems, so I tried to make the assignments relevant. Still, all the work went into my research file, not theirs. For some reason, this did not slow down the demand. In fact, I had two particular students that would take an assignment almost every week. They both claimed my assignments were more interesting than their own work. I had mixed feelings about that.

For whatever reasons, I spent the March break at the Residence, culling a large pile of research notes into a manageable stack. Once that was done, I hoped the thesis would become follow the dots. It worked, to a point. The first draft emerged on the Saturday night and Sunday morning before classes began on Monday. After crashing til two PM, I woke to find a note on top of the printout.

Sheila suggested I shift from simple chronological sequence to grouping by origin or occupation. She had a point. The date ordering made look ups simpler, but provided no insight. Reworking into clusters of some sort might provide additional grist. I ruminated on the idea all the way back to Hanover. I spent most of the week finding the right cluster. It turned out to be surprisingly simple. Success bred activity.

It did not matter if a person was successful in blue collar, white collar, performance or athletics, every success seemed to inspire more attempts. Sometimes success bred competition, but just as likely the new attempt would go off in its own direction. The example was more important than the specifics. Once I understood that, everything seemed to fall into place. Oddly, this seemed to be true of my group of students, including Elspeth and the two weekly visitors. On the first of May, I took what I hoped was my final draft to Dr. Steele.

Unlike my Yale dissertation, this one was compact. Without the notes and appendix, it was only eighty six pages. Add the footnotes and it grew to one hundred twelve. Fully documented it was 358 pages, but more than half was a collection of case studies. As I turned it over, the whole thing seemed light and flimsy. Dr. Steele did not contradict my misgivings. Instead, he promised to have comments in a week.

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but no one claims the same of scholarship. That said, the fewer words needed to make a point, the more powerfully the point is made. See, for example, the speeches of Abraham Lincoln. There is a reason school children used to memorize the whole Gettysburg Address. It only counts 262 words. The Declaration of Independence is many times longer, but no one forgets the first paragraph. I kept telling myself that short could be good, but I didn't believe it.

My worst fears seemed to be realized when I received a request to call on Dr. Krelinov. It became even worse when I reached his office. Ann informed me that our meeting was moved to the conference room. That meant other persons sitting in, for example the disciplinary committee. For once Dr. Richards abandoned me. I squared my shoulders and prepared for the worst.

It was even worse than I imagined. Sitting with Drs. Steele and Krelinov were Dr. Fidelas, Dean of the graduate school, Dr. Wheeler, Vice President of the University and Dr. Hanson, President. I greeted each by name, then cast an inquiring look at Dr. Steele. Dr. Steele's lips twitching was the first clue I was not in trouble. Dr. Wheeler said, sub-vocally, "Damn. She's cool under pressure." Never in my life was I so glad to read lips.

I said, "Is this a prank, or did you really like it that much?" Everyone in the room choked.

Like with Dr. Harrigan collapsing from shock, this was not an expression to use lightly. Everyone seemed to swallow down the wrong pipe. It took a full minute before they were all back in control. By then, Drs. Steele and Fidelas were chuckling wryly.

Dr. Krelinov asked, "What gave us away?"

I said, "Gentlemen, Ma'am, you need to keep your smirks on a leash." Dr. Hanson looked thoughtful.

Dr. Krelinov continued, "We will take that under advisement. To answer your question, yes. We liked it that much. I will admit, I was concerned when Remington told me you were doing yet another major revision of your thesis. Please, feel free to revise away. This is everything I hope for and rarely see.

"Now, if you have no objection, we have some questions. You may consider this your formal defense, unless you would prefer the more traditional setting." I felt a little light headed, but assented. "Very well. In the second paragraph on page sixteen, you assert that..." That is not how oral examinations are given, but if the Pope offers to officiate your wedding, you get married.

An hour later, I returned to my office. Elspeth was waiting. She immediately asked what was wrong. I was too drained to play her along. Instead, I told that I was done with my oral defense and told her who would be signing off on the thesis. Oddly, I was still surprised when the degree was granted Summa Cum Laude. I get humble at the strangest times.

The next week lived in surreal and visited bizarre. The story of my unique oral exam was all over the department by morning. I still needed to do a final proofing of a thesis that had already been approved, though official word of the approval took til Wednesday. Students in my class would fall silent when I came close. My own TAs were wide eyed the first time they met me that week. Naturally, the thesis itself was available for download. That happened over a hundred times the first day it was up.

I asked Dr. Steele about the attention. He started to reply, then asked me to sit. For the first time, he called me by my given name.

"Siobhan, it has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your faculty adviser. I must admit, my first impression of you was otherwise, and I had read your first dissertation. That was Magna Cum Laude, but this one is much better. It is already serving as an example of how a good thesis paper is written. That will continue for years. Be aware that it will be, has been, read far outside the confines of these walls.

"That brings me to the subject of your future. In case you had not figured it out already, there will be a tenure track position available for you, here at Dartmouth. As the saying goes, that ain't hay. But, I doubt you are leaning in that direction. The changes in your life have been profound. I have been privileged to witness them, even to receive a belly button ring. My wife thinks that's hilarious, by the way. At this point in your life, I doubt academia will satisfy you.

"So", he reached out his hand. I took it and we shook. "This is not 'goodbye', but 'til we meet again.' When you tire of the world, rest assured you will always have a place here."

I pulled him from his chair and hugged him, crying all over his shirt. I'm such a girl sometimes.

Chapter 18 – Breaking Ground

Nothing is ever as easy or simple as it looks from afar. I had finals to give and papers to grade. If anything, the number of students asking advice increased. Still, I had unusual amounts of free time. I used much of it to check in on my nine assistants. Evaine was also in Anthropology. Her paper on Amish adjustments to the 21st century would be Magna Cum Laude.

Elspeth received her PhD, though without honors. I felt badly about that, considering how much time she devoted to my paper, but it was her choice. In truth, she was probably happier with the attention I received than she would have been for herself. I recognized this as true, but it was still difficult to accept. In any event, it came as a shock when she invited me to Boston to meet her parents.

The occasion was Elspeth's graduation party. Sean wanted to throw me one, but I told him it was too soon after the baby. Cindy was born three weeks early. The birth was normal and the baby healthy, but the early labor was a scare. Francine had Michael on March 12, one month later to the day. In the confusion, no one noticed he was also born on his father's birthday. I could almost relate. Mother and I are only two days apart.

My return to Boston was surreal for a number of reasons. Rather than drive, I flew to Logan International Airport. A limo and driver were waiting. Rather than going to Roxbury, we drove to Peabody House on Cambridge Street, which the driver informed me was designed by Charles Bulfinch. Apparently the Otises, the Peabodys and the Rices maintained the historical landmark, using it for private parties and important receptions.

The reception was exactly what seven years of Ivy League led me to expect. The buffet was vegan, the bar was home grown and the politics were left of left. A year before I would have been as out of place as a real bull on Wall Street. That was a year before.

What a difference a year makes. I was verging on celebrity status. Three fourths of the questions related to how I had survived Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, Ann in particular. How could I say that both were easier to deal with than my own family? Sean Richards and Sean Hannity would enjoy a game of pool and beer. George is no one's ideal as the third sibling. My saving grace was Ro.

Richard made the journey to support his shoestring cousin. Since he worked for the evil-right-wing-syndicate, he was the lightning rod for all the criticism. When Elspeth defended him, shock waves went through the party. Make no mistake, Elspeth was a born and bred liberal, but she would not allow her friend to be railroaded. Friends were more valuable than politics. To divert attention, I told everyone that I was supporting a new half-way-house in New Hampshire.

Unofficially it was the beginning of my career as a lobbyist. In certain circles, half-way-house is a buzzword for get-out-of-jail-free. Beacon House was nothing of the sort, but I downplayed that aspect. By Massachusetts' standards I was a raving conservative. Since I already knew Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, I knew how far that was from the truth. My first conscious political decision was to ignore the fact. If they wanted to dedicate money to a half-way-house, I was not going to say no.

I suppose you could read something into the fact that Elspeth showed up at my hotel room at 3:00 AM, wanting abuse. You could probably make some hay with the fact that I tied her up and wore her ass out with a horse hair lash. For me, what mattered is that one of my people needed me. Nothing more, but nothing less. If Elspeth wanted to be punished, sobeit. Surely she deserved it for something. When the chastisement was finished, Elspeth would still haul my ashes. That was what mattered to me. Call me selfish if you wish.

The upshot of the trip to Boston was that I needed to get serious about moving to the state capital. Sheila said we needed to present Beacon House as a going concern. That meant we needed an actual location, with real people. This proved surprisingly easy to produce. I wrote a check for a three month lease and violá, a halfway house. We had a list of volunteers from the university. Newly graduated Evaine Schaeffelker was the first Director. It would look good on her resume, though she would not assume her duties for several months.

I always expected accusations that it was all a sham, but they never materialized. Part of this was because Beacon House found genuine clients the first day. Somehow, we hit an existing need. Who knew? By the end of the first week, my made-to-order charity was a going concern. Even the IRS had no problem when Beacon House applied for non-profit status. Out of fiction, reality.

This gave me something to do. Once my second PhD was in hand, I was out of a job. A new Teaching Fellow covered my class for the summer session. My TAs reported to him. When the lease was up in August, I did not renew my room in Marbury Hall. Instead I rented a room in Hooksett, halfway between Manchester and Concord. This put me five minutes from Beacon House's future site, just north of Manchester, and ten minutes from the state capital.

FD Consulting rented a small storefront in Concord. Beacon Light Services occupied a corner. I was the Director. Elspeth was the secretary/gofer/janitor. She actively enjoyed being assaulted in her office. I once tied her up and left her stewing for several hours. Richard Willingham drove up from New York to "rescue" her. It was an anxious couple of weeks before Elspeth's next period. I told her (tied up on my desk, with welts on her ass) that she should at least inform men when she was not on the pill. Elspeth was disappointed when her period arrived on schedule.

There is a funny thing about politics. If people think you have influence, you really do have influence. As the visible face of a charitable organization and a lobbying firm, people started showing up at my door. Many were crackpots, though even a crackpot theory can be interesting. Most were a total waste of time. Most, but not all. Carlton Weber walked into the office one afternoon, asking to see me.

Carlton Weber was the son of James Weber and Fiona Endicott. Fiona was one of Elspeth's many shirt-tail relatives. I gave Carlton thirty minutes to make a case. He only needed five. The short version was that Fiona was fired, because her husband James was caught selling drugs. I might not have paid any more attention, except that the drugs were magic brownies for cancer patients.

Some of the facts were clear. James had quantities of a controlled substance, with intention to distribute them. The state and federal government did not care if the recipients were unable to keep food down, or that James' brownies would help their chronic nausea. I, through Beacon Light, made inquiries. The District Attorney's office had no problem issuing a statement of facts, which made it clear that the hemp was used for therapeutic purposes. The rest was leg work.

To make the rest of the story short, after three weeks and many calls and meetings, a meeting took place. I met with the District Attorney and the Governor's designated adviser on paroles and pardons. Neither man was at all interested in discussing James conviction. He would serve the minimum, then be considered for parole at the usual time.

However, in view of the circumstances, the DA was willing to make a statement, including a direct phone call, to the effect that Fiona was not complicit in any wrongdoing. Moreover, the Governor would take the case under advisement. Future medical use cases would get fast track attention. For my part, I would publicize that Fiona had regained her position and why. You scratch my friend's back; I scratch yours.

To me, it seemed as if nothing much was done. Fiona had her job back, but she would soon leave for another firm. James spent the entire minimum sentence in lock up. He did make parole, but I had no influence on that. None-the-less, Elspeth and Fiona thought I walked on water. If everything was so easy, anyone could do it.

Word of mouth is a strange thing. Any marketing professional will tell you it is the best sort of advertising. The downside is that expectations are sky high. Once Fiona's results were known, I was the extenuating-circumstances-conviction faith healer of the month. Every person with a guilty-but-justified conviction wanted my attention. As with most things, 90% was bullshit. Of the remaining 10%, at least ¾ were too close to call. That left three cases.

I have a brother who was a mathematical prodigy. I knew, from George, that self addressing loops are unavoidable. Read Gödel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas Hofstadter. Even mere sociologists find this stuff fascinating. It means that it is mathematically inevitable that there will be cases where we wish the law was written a bit differently. James Weber was peddling drugs to cancer patients, who could not get them legally. Marion Sanduski made the elopement of young lovers possible, by faking birth certificates. Joanna Smith simultaneously married seven times, to keep ICE off her "husband's" back.
All of my "clients" did something illegal, with the best of intentions. Lawyers talk of mens rea and actus reus. In English, that is the guilty mind and the guilty act. I was awash with people that conceded the guilty act, but wanted to challenge the guilty part of guilty mind. Shit.

Part of me wanted to sympathize. Part of me wanted to pick their motives apart. In Joanna Smith's case, that worked. She was paid quite well to provide coverage from ICE. In good conscience, I could tell her she was fucked. She lost her house, but I never looked back.

Marion Sanduski was a pre-marriage counselor, who leaned toward taking the plunge. If it took falsified records, sobeit. Like St. Valentine, he provided marriage to people the government said could not marry. St. Valentine was executed, but I hoped for something less permanent. It took some work, but Marion Sanduski was allowed back into pre-marital counseling—with a state representative looking over his shoulder.

Marion's story made the front page of section C. Along with the result for James Weber, I became locally famous. In some ways it helped. Mostly it was a hassle. I had never envied Francine. My own experience with fame taught me sympathy. It could be worse.

Jason Porter appeared on the cover of an auction catalog. Within weeks, he is one of the most sought after models on the East Coast. That sells things short. He was also the symbol of unreachable sexuality for the younger generation. Flocks of girls and young women would follow him anywhere he went, including the bathroom.

Stories of his size reached fantastic proportions (I once held it in my mouth. I knew better). Stories of his appreciation of fellatio were not exaggerated. Jason really did know all there was to know, from the male perspective. It was no small part of my sexual education to understand that even Jason deferred to his partner in terms of pacing. Therein lay the conflict. Some feminists saw fellatio as the ultimate debasement.

Others, like myself, saw fellatio as woman empowerment. It all depended on who was getting off and why. I have had similar conversations with subs. They will tell you that there is a sense of power in a scene expressly constructed for them. As a Dom, I could understand how much attention is devoted to achieving the correct stimulus for the sub. For example, Mario's flogging—bamboo cane and two strand whip alternating, seven strokes each, just to get a small reaction.

Politics is almost as convoluted. The distinctions of right and wrong fade. Even with win and lose, things get murky. The real standard is supplicant and power broker. At least at one stage, that is always clear. Once in the system, the mesh of favor and favor owed becomes very difficult. Even the terms of legal and illegal can go awry. This is how Congressmen get in trouble with the law. It is sufficient to say that I was an advocate of convicted felons, before I was the advocate of half-way houses.

FD Consulting was a lobbying company for all intents and purposes. To be sure, we received a number of requests for analysis or expert opinion. My first official appearance in the General Court (New Hampshire's House and Senate) was to testify, not to lobby. The State had an issue with foster placements going badly wrong. FDC was asked to quantify the problem and compare the numbers to the rest of the nation.

I subcontracted the statistics to one of my nine students, but I signed the report and I needed to defend the numbers. The questioning was so mundane as to be humorous. Yes, I ran a consulting firm. Yes, I also ran a nonprofit. No, there was no conflict. Beacon Light Services had no interest in foster care at that time. No, I did not crunch the numbers personally. I had an MIT graduate do that. Yes, I approved her work. No, I did not plan to wear a men's suit to my own wedding. My husband could do that. Yes, I would consider adopting if I could not have children. No, I did not think a skirt suit set a bad example.

It was crazy, but my report was well received. Oddly, both sides seemed to think I was an extremist for the other end of the political spectrum. Dr. Richards is patient with the ignorant or ill informed. I thought of how Elspeth looked, with her panties hobbling her ankles and her ass bared for a spanking. The various Representatives seemed to get the idea. My firm collected a nice check and we went on.

Still, Beacon Light Services and Beacon House were not coincidental titles. I named my nonprofit after the planned facility. People came to know me in my FD Consulting hat, but recognized me when I wore my Beacon Light hat. Very few were so slow they did not make the connection of names. When it came to fund raising, it did not hurt that I could use the magic words, "Matching Contribution." Sean signed off on up to $50,000.

Things started slowly, as one might expect. In August we collected less than $500 toward the eventual house. That was enough to rent a storefront (with me guaranteeing the rent) and start looking for volunteers and clients. Christine, while still in New Jersey, was a God send, writing letters to all the area churches and religious affiliated charities. While very little money came from the churches, we did recruit volunteers successfully.

For clients, the priests and ministers were happy to give us more referrals than we could handle.

Chapter 19 – Holiday Cheer

By Halloween, we had a full time staffer (paid minimum wage) and half a dozen regular volunteers. One successful ploy was to offer space for quilting and craft clubs. Many of the participants were raised in rural areas. Some were Amish.

Our Amish connections in Pennsylvania were a big reason why we could afford even a minimum wage staff member. Young people on Rumspringa are supposed to pay their own way. However, their families want to keep in contact. We could help with that. As it became clear we were a good place to learn the ropes of the city, interest in the home community grew. In November, Evaine Schaeffelker took her place as Director. Both activity and support exploded. By spring, it was clear a permanent location was feasible.

Technically, I had nothing to do with the Beacon House project, except as a contracted consultant. The contract was for $1 a month and expenses. Everyone in the the General Court knew that I was supporting the project. In practice, I held the fort until Evaine could take over. After that I spent more time in Hanover working to get long term university involvement. In effect, we were shooting to coordinate a trifecta—initial construction and start up costs, University sponsorship and ongoing State funding.

The first element proved easiest. As expected, the Richards' Foundation matching funds primed the pump. Much of the support from Amish sources was in kind (goods not money), but an authentic Amish quilt can be worth $200. Canned produce sold at $50, or more, per twelve jar case. Our volunteers made cloth caps and gift cards for individual jars, which we sent for a $10 donation. Local churches held bake sales and other fund drives. By Christmas we had over $100,000 in hand, with pledges for that much again.

On another front, Dartmouth is the big name in New Hampshire higher education, but there are other colleges. Getting Ivy League schools to "play nice" with state colleges is always an issue. One of my hats was as good will ambassador to all of the other schools. The state's second largest college, Southern New Hampshire University, is in nearby Manchester. I had coordinated my summer research through them. In the state capital is Granite State College, which is part of the state university system. Though GSC primarily focused on online students, colleges could not get any closer. Both could provide local resources and manpower, if they were inclined.

In the halls of state government, Senator Robertson was marking time. She had votes lined up, but not enough of them. An actual building would be important, but a set of annual financial statements would be very helpful. We were waiting for the end of the year, to close the books. With all this as background, Morgan invited me to a holiday reception at the Governor's House.

I was not sure what to expect, but I would at least be able to meet Governor Russam and her husband. I had hopes for getting her support, because she was reputed to be an avid theater buff. She was also a Weld from Boston. Elspeth knew several of her cousins, a generation removed. I was not prepared for the possibility she knew of me, but when I was introduced her eyes lit up. She stepped forward to shake my hand.

Her exact words, "My Goodness, Adele didn't exaggerate. You really do make a statement. I love that top, but I cannot wear lavender. I'll have Jerome bring you by later, so we can sit and talk. Enjoy the party." With that, she turned to her next guest, while a dozen heads turned toward me.

I have never been able to hide. Even as a child, playing hide and seek, I was the one everyone found. Part of it was clumsiness. Part of it was being bigger than everyone else. While it occurred to me that a low profile might be helpful, I made no attempt to escape attention. Instead, I made sure my phone was on record, then pressed as much flesh as I could manage in an hour.

I knew what crowds could be like. If you spend time with Francine Martel or Jason Porter, you understand that people will just walk up and start talking. This was the first time I was the person they wanted to see. Such is the power of the Governor's attention. I recalled the reception at Civitano's and did my best to cope.

Most of the interest was simple curiosity. If the Governor was interested, so were all the groupies. Their interest might have waned, but someone recognized me from a wedding picture. Did I mention the full page article in Unique Bride magazine? That article had two pictures, both in a suit. The larger picture was of me in the morning coat and top hat. The smaller photo showed me in a suit very similar to the one I was wearing.

Once fashion was in play, there was no escape. Before long someone found the picture with the sealskin coat. Another found my two graduation pictures. Talk about before and after. When someone found the one with Angela Molinari and Edith Dryden, followed quickly by one of me with Francine, I was an instant celebrity. Someone asked if I had seen Hard Time. I forgot to be coy and mentioned the special showing. Someone said, "Oh My God. I was there."

It's a small world. Her name was Amy O'Connor. We attended the same high school, five years apart. She knew of my reputation growing up and knew that Francine was local. Most of all, she knew about my relation to Richards Enterprises. Nothing puts the damper on liberal adoration like ties to capitalism. Amy saved things by asking if I really did the whole wedding. We were back to the article in Unique Bride.

For the next half hour I told stories of the wedding preparations. Everyone wanted to know about the merry-go-round. Since half the problems involved making room around the damn thing, I was well equipped to spin yarns. Eventually I moved on to the ceremony and the reception. A surprising number had seen my picture on the wooden horse, but none had connected it to me. From there we moved to the gown, the ball and the duet dance.

Everyone had seen that, so they started talking. I a chance to look around, but I could not see the edge of the crowd. In hindsight, I must be a very good story teller. Even without mentioning the bondage dungeon or hanging Francine out the window, a lot had happened that week. Press attention was world wide, so that much was given. I seemed to have the knack for making it come alive. However, I saw a young man waving for my attention.

Jerome took me to a parlor near the reception area. As I sat and received a cup of tea, Jerome whispered in Governor Russam's ear. As I waited, she stirred her tea, then said, "Jerome tells me you dazzled half my guests. Do tell." What could I say?

I tried, "I was telling stories about the merry-go-round wedding. I supervised the preparations, so I know most of the good ones. If you can name drop Francine Martel and Jason Porter, it's easy to get attention." I was sort of proud of that.

Another assistant came into the room. This one had a stack of magazines. Uh oh. Sure enough, one was Unique Bride. Another was the New York Times Magazine. Below that was the Fortune edition with a feature story on Sean. After those, the articles were printouts, but there were several. Two had my graduations. Another covered my recent dissertation. Several mentioned me in relation to my work in Boston or Manchester. It had the look of a quick search, but by someone good.

Gov. Russam rested her hand on the pile. They had made their point. She said, "You didn't make waves until five years ago. Since then, they keep getting bigger." She reached for a manila folder that was on the the table when I entered. "This is your dissertation from Dartmouth. You are probably aware that we keep an eye on their top students, but you were flagged from your time at Yale. A PhD four years out of high school will turn heads. Doing it at Yale, well..."

She tapped the folder with my dissertation. "I am going to read this tonight. An old friend suggested it. That", she gestured at the magazine stack, "tells me I should. What Jerome tells me suggests it may be urgent. You have decided to go into the political arena, which means I need to know who you are and what you are doing. Don't be too alarmed. This is simple prudence on my part.

"Now, since you are here, we can have a friendly chat. Understand that I would ask most people what I could do for them. You are not most people. Your pet project seems to be a half-way house of some kind. Tell me about that."

I did. I told her about how Morgan brought me the idea. I told her about hitting Marc Brunner with a rock. I told her about Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter. I told her about JFK, Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt. I told her about Lars and Georg Karl. I told her about Sheila, Sean, Christine and the baby. About halfway through, my phone battery went dead.

When I wound down, Gov. Russam simply nodded, then stood. My time was up. She walked me to the door. Her comment was cryptic, "Adele never overstates anything. I should have known."

In the reception room, almost everyone had gone. Staff was beginning to bag trash and collect chairs. I felt a pang of recognition. Morgan Robertson was waiting. Her face was full of questions, but she dragged me to a coffee shop before saying anything. Rather than answer, I pulled out my phone, which was dead. I pulled out a backup battery and played our conversation. It wound down just after Eleanor Roosevelt.

We sat in silence. Morgan broke it, "You know you spent more time with her today than most of the Court have in the last year, more than I have in eight years."

It did not surprise me. I asked, "Who's Adele. She mentioned Adele twice. Who is she talking about?"

Morgan did not know. We talked about the project, then parted for the night. At my apartment, I asked Elspeth, who turned completely white. Adele Cabot was the unofficial Empress of Beacon Hill. All young girls of good breeding addressed her as Grandmother. Elspeth once told me she would correct Cotton Mather's sermon notes. I once referred to her as Elspeth's persnickety grandmother.

Adele Cabot evidently had an opinion about me. Who knew?

Chapter 20 – Spring Planting

My time with the Governor was quietly seismic. Though no one said anything, it was clear the ground had shifted. On one side of things, FD Consulting was soon turning down business. I hired a full time secretary and a 24 hour message service. It still was not enough. My reputation with Paroles and Pardons soon expanded into sentencing issues and similar criminal law concerns. A law firm contacted me about a bill with an upcoming vote.

In case it was not obvious, legislatures pass laws. Representatives, Senators and interest groups need lawyers to give advice about what wording will work best. For this reason, most lobbyists are either from a law firm or are hired to represent one. I set up my shingle as a consulting firm, but it could not last. The question was exactly how to take the plunge into advocacy. When I was first openly approached, I decided I needed time with my own adviser and my guru, Sean and Sheila.

I contacted the law firm, asking for permission to talk to my family in New Jersey. There was no nondisclosure agreement, but manners are important. As long as it stayed in New Jersey, they were willing. The trip down was a trial. A late winter storm had left mud and slush everywhere. I took the Toyota and vowed to get a decent second car before I came back. Beacon House could have the beater.

I was so glad to turn into the gate, I almost did not notice the lights lining the drive. At the wedding, we had purchased dozens of batter powered LED lights, in several colors. A paper bag and some sand turned the lights into luminaries. I think Sheila must have liked the idea, because little lights were everywhere.

Sean met me at the garage, which meant Sheila was reluctant to bring the baby. That was cool. Protectiveness runs in the family. Sean gave me a big hug, then signaled for a security tech to help with the bags. I snorted as I recalled my attitude of two years before, when no one but me touched my bags. Live and learn.

As expected, Sheila and Christine were in the nursery. Not surprisingly, Sheila was nursing the baby. Christine was carefully not hovering. In a sense, it was comical, but her devotion was fierce. Do not fuck with Christine's people. Just don't.

It was about six weeks since I had last seen Cindy. I could see she had grown. At the christening, she had been tiny, less than five pounds. When I left in August, she was still under eight pounds. At Christmas, she was much bigger. Sean told me the first few months had been a bit slow, but she made up for the growth during the fall. Two weeks before her birthday, she was over twelve pounds and growing at over a pound a month. Everyone was breathing a bit easier.

The feeding did not take long. Sheila passed the baby to Christine. Cindy's open mouth showed at least two teeth. Recalling my nipple piercing, I winced. Knowing both Sheila and Sean, this had to be a conscious choice. I wondered how long they planned to continue, but I was not about to ask. Instead I inquired whether Cindy could eat solid food yet. Sheila smiled. Sean said she would eat mashed carrots and loved avocado. Like mother, like daughter.

Cindy, which was her legal name, was a very alert baby. One test I knew was pulling a bead through a tube. Cindy's eyes would track the position of the bead from one end to another. For under a year, that was very good. I was convinced that she would be at least normal when it came time for school. She was also adorably cute. I had mixed feelings about that. On one hand I felt an urge to praise her. On the other, I could not forget my own childhood.

In the end, I decided to call on Dr. Douglas. I contacted her office and said I would drop by for a courtesy visit. She made a couple of minutes available, PhD to PhD. The short version was that she would call me if Sean and/or Sheila developed a serious case of denial. Otherwise, she confirmed that Cindy was a well adjust baby, working on toddler.

Mollified, I went back to the Residence and packed for New Hampshire. I think I mentioned that Sheila was a bit telepathic. She came to my room, carrying a large box. It was full of things from the "attic", meaning any of the many storage rooms around the house. The highlight of the list was a case of jewelry. Nothing was costume, but there were also no highly valuable stones. Rather these were ordinary pendants, cameos and brooches.
In sum, this was the everyday jewelry of my great-grandmothers. One smaller box contained a number of hair pins and combs, suitable for styles a hundred years ago. Silk scarves and wool shawls were much of the remainder. Winters in New Jersey were mild compared to what I was used to. On E-bay, I could get several thousand for the lot, but not several hundred thousand. That changed with a single small box.

The box was custom made and the top said Tiffany, which gave me some warning. It was a set of custom designed jewelry. There were four pieces, diamonds and rubies set in finely worked gold—two earrings, with pendant teardrop rubies, a diamond and ruby pendant necklace and a diamond and ruby bracelet. The gold weighed at least half a pound, which was the least of the value. Stamped on the back of the necklace were the initials LCT, for Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Also in the box was a piece of paper that may have doubled the value. It was a Tiffany and Company bill of sale, detailing the four pieces. It was written to my great grandmother Blanche Sparks, dated 11 June 1898, for $45,000, signed Charles L. Tiffany, Proprietor. Charles Lewis Tiffany founded the firm and ran it til his death in 1902.

Simple inflation would put that at well over $1,000,000. Because it was well authenticated Tiffany, I suspect Sean would get more than twice that at auction. The box should be carried in a Brinks truck, but Sheila treated it like a nice tennis bracelet.

Knowing Sheila, there would be more. Sometimes being smart is good. Sheila smiled as she produced another box, also from Tiffany. The bill in this one was for $35,000. It was a very good reproduction, using manufactured gemstones, though the gold was still gold. Also included was a thumb drive.

What do you do for something like that? The set was arguably already mine. The real gift was the care it had taken to research the provenance. I had not looked at the thumb drive, but I knew it would contain dozens of images and documents detailing the history of the jewels—measured pictures, newspaper photographs, safety deposit box records, plus the details on every graded gem in the set.

I hugged Sheila close and promised her daughter could borrow them when she was old enough to understand. Then we set about dressing for a portrait, with me wearing the real jewels and Sheila wearing the new set. On a whim, I insisted on another portrait of Christine holding the necklace over Cindy. You can see that one on my desk in Washington.

I gave the real jewels and bill of sale back to Sheila. Security could put them in suitable storage. I drove back to New Hampshire. Though I had gone home to discuss the offer from the law firm, somehow it never came up. Instead, Sheila showed me how much I was worth to the family. Marking your reference points is never a bad thing. I asked for a meeting with the head of the law firm.

It was Monday at lunch. The Senior partners were named Martin Pyle and Sandra Piatowski. Martin was at least seventy, so Sandra probably was the day to day manager. The weather was nasty, so I wore my trademark seal coat over a wool St. Johns suit and a Burberry silk top. I was also wearing the full reproduction set of jewelry. The effect on Ms. Piatowski was worth every penny.

For lunch, I declined soup, because of the silk top. I had a lettuce wrapped steak sandwich, with beans and baby carrots. She had the sandwich with ratatouille and broccoli. I hate broccoli, but the ratatouille looked good. Point for her. Mr. Pyle had French dip, extra cheese, with fries and a pickle. Right. Obviously his advanced age was not because of a lifetime of healthy eating.

We discussed everything but politics for fifteen minutes. As a Yankees and Giants fan, I was at a disadvantage, but sports did not really count. The first break came when she asked about the necklace. I told her it was Tiffany, a reproduction of a 19th century set. She asked me if I knew who owned the original. Too easy. I shrugged and said they were too valuable for casual wear. After a heartbeat she caught the unspoken message.

I must give her credit. When I sandbagged her on the jewelry, she stopped to do a full reset. Burberry and St. Johns, with Tiffany made knock offs is one thing. Owning the original Tiffany is something else. Ms. Piatowski dipped her head, acknowledging the point.

She said, "You're good. I have never had someone say they had hidden depth quite so well. Stories of you and the Governor make more sense. The question is whether we can work together. So far, no one is even sure what party you represent."

I answered, "Thank you. That's high praise from a professional of your stature. The answer is another question. Work together on what?"

That was how I came to front for a Republican highway bill. The bill morphed into an amendment, which was tied to an omnibus finance bill and passed. That counted as a win in lobbying circles. My next project fared less well. It was a variant on the so called Castle Doctrine. The bill never made it out of committee. I turned down two more Republican initiatives, waiting for the right one.

New Hampshire is unusual in that neither Democrats or Republicans dominate. While the state had only voted Republican in the Presidential election once since the 1980s, it was for George W. Bush, when he squeaked out the 2000 election. Four years later, New Hampshire voted for next door neighbor John Kerry, who was the only Presidential loser since 1976. Politically, the state is close to the balance of the country. Believe me when I say that the residents are aware of the fact.

On another side, rural New Jersey is also no stronghold of the Democratic party, despite the states very blue reputation. That comes from the New York and Philadelphia suburbs, which outnumber the rest of the state substantially. Frankly put, the only reason I would lean to Democrats was because I was bisexual. That did not seem like a lot. On the other hand, Mother was a flaming liberal, concerning everything but her own household.

I was of two minds, but I knew I did not want to be pigeonholed. A sure way to do that was to pick a so called "women's issue" as my hallmark. When it came to both abortion and lesbian rights, I tended to think both sides were more wrong than right. Equal pay sounds good until you start dealing with hard numbers.

On the other hand, the glass ceiling was sometimes very real. Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In had a number of good points to make about that. That said, she is more a lifestyle coach than a political force. Besides, she and I were of very different temperaments. Her brand of play along to get along works for team players, but I was not one. That was funny, in a way, because I had a team coalescing around me.

I decided I was an free thinker, who did not fit well in either political party. That being the case, I needed to ride the fence as long as possible. Since I had played two Republican issues, I started looking for a Democratic issue for balance. Elspeth found a good one.

As with most cities, Manchester is reluctant to spend serious money on upkeep. This led to a cluster of dangerously old "red listed" bridges. One was being fixed. The issue was that the detour went exclusively through blue collar neighborhoods, even when it made more sense to go another way. Not-in-my-backyard is an eternal political fight. Since one of the major routes used school zones, the teacher's union was leading the fight.

I was hoping to get my toes wet, but the blood was already ankle deep. Our side had media support and community involvement. The other side had a major Boston law firm on retainer. Every protest met with an injunction. Every story met with expert contradiction. That was where I was supposed to come in. I was not expert in bridge engineering, traffic flow or anything else related to the project, but I was an expert on human interactions. More to the point, I had a secret weapon.

City politics are video recorded. One of the advantages of having a Cal Tech brother is that he could get me the best video cleaning programs. We washed about three hundred hours of video for maximum resolution. Elspeth tagged three major players and reduced the three hundred to about forty. One weekend, I sat and watched them chronologically, making notes wherever I could read the lips. Elspeth cross referenced everything against then current events. Monday I started on the first of three pitches.

The first pitch was to the people who hired me. I needed to convince them to change tactics. One given was that the Department of Transportation was cracking down on bridges. A disaster in the Midwest was prodding higher levels of enforcement. Our immovable point was that the bridge would be rebuilt and we wanted it rebuilt. The monied interests, on the other side of the river, just wanted to redirect the local traffic consequences to our side. My point was that we had a product. What we needed was a suitable price.

Once our people wrapped their head around if-they-want-it-they-have-to-pay-for-it, smiles started coming out. Losing a fight is one thing. Getting paid to step aside is something else. They knew they were losing, so my idea looked very good. Naturally, everyone wanted to know how much they could get. That was where my video reprocessing came to play. I told our group that I had been able to get some information from sound filtering of old meetings. It sounded good enough that I earned the go ahead for a formal meeting.

The next pitch was easy. Mayor Gettys wanted to be seen as being involved. He made the call to the homeowner group, offering to mediate a non-binding "exploratory" session with the Teacher's Union. We offered not to picket, provided there were no lawyers, except the city's regular attorney. The conference table would seat twelve, with wall seating for twenty more. We settled on the mayor plus eight from the city, eight from us and eight from the other side. That was perfect. We brought three level heads and five of our worst rowdies. They could scowl all they wanted, but were told not to say anything.

I did nothing for the first hour. Both sides rehashed positions and hunkered down. The Mayor was beginning to look put upon. I raised my hand to be recognized. The mayor was not pleased with our side, but eventually he granted it.

"Mr. Mayor, Aldermen, concerned residents, I have not come to honor this dispute, but to bury it. As has often been the case, might makes right. Perhaps it would be better said, money makes right-of-way. Morgan – Brown – Campo & Lynch have been enforcing that right of way." This brought a protest from the head of one property groups. I gave him the fish eye til he backed down.

I continued, "We have no access to MBC&L billings, but we can make educated guesses. There is usually a three lawyer team at any meeting of the Board. I estimate $2000 an hour, with somewhat lower rates for the committee meetings. Add consultations and other fees, the totals vary from $50,000 to over $100,000 a month. That's well over half a million dollars to date, with a long way to go. I propose you redirect that money to stay in Manchester, provide a few jobs and even some good will. If we can reach an agreement, your attorney bills can end today."

There is nothing like large amounts of money to hold interest. You could have heard a pen drop. I held up several folders. They contained previously defeated projects for things like installation of a stop light and pedestrian crossing signals, resurfacing pavement, funding of crossing guards and so on. All would benefit the area disrupted by the diverted traffic.

"We propose you pay for a pedestrian bridge near the Charter School. Here is an estimate for $210,000. In addition, you will withdraw opposition to these five proposals, which were narrowly voted down in the last two years. What's fair is fair. If you want something, pay for it. We'll even help you take money from your lawyers to do it."

When I said, "pay for it" one of our rowdies said, "Damn right." When I said, "take money from your lawyers" he said, "Screw the blood suckers." which brought general laughter. So began the battle of the citizens of Manchester and the law firm of Morgan – Brown – Campo & Lynch. My speech was only the declaration of hostilities. The whole affair took six more months to unravel. Before it was done, all three sides found occasion to thank me. The lawyers chose another path.

It came in the form of an invitation, from managing partner David Campo, to visit the firm's office in Boston. We dickered on the specifics, but made the appointment. Elspeth and I drove down in Shadow. We met the senior partners at a French bistro called le Bastille. Who names a restaurant after a prison? I had the baby kale salad and salmon tartar. Elspeth made a face when I ordered the tartar. She had the garden vegetable soup and frisee aux lardons (endive salad with poached eggs).

Our hosts had prime rib, crown roast or porterhouse steak. Sean is a serious beef eater, so I commented that I should have brought my brother. Mr. Campo asked who I meant. That brought up Richards Enterprises and Richards Imports. The international law specialist perked up. When I mentioned that Sean put a carousel in the middle of his wedding reception, they all took notice. One of the younger partners asked if I had anything to do with the wedding.

I bit my tongue and gestured to Elspeth. She said, "Was? Alles?", to which I laughed. I let Elspeth explain exactly what I had done for the wedding. One of the partners had heard of me from his teenaged daughter. Girls in tuxes, standing with their brother, was evidently a fad. This was the first I heard of it. Elspeth showed a picture of me in the suit, beside Sean, then me in the gown with Lars.

I would have stopped there, but she went on to pictures of me with the Otises. That turned heads. One of the partners was a Rice. His wedding reception was at the Peabody House. He and Elspeth went off on Beacon Hill family business. The international expert, a guy name Logan Brown, rolled his eyes. Mr. Campo said, "Too bad you don't know anything about Roxbury. I could use you.", which cut Elspeth off like a knife.

It was time for more pictures, this time of the old me. Mr. Campo knew Mimi by reputation. I rattled off half a dozen legal aid lawyers, plus a few street lawyers from the area. By this point I had their undivided attention. I spread my hands, "Why do you want to know?" The answer was predictable. They had an activist causing problems. I asked for and received a retainer and contact information on the activist.

As we began to collect things to go, Mr. Campo told me that his Roxbury issues were the furthest thing from his mind when he set up the meeting. He just wanted to meet the person that cut through so much crap in Manchester. Laughing as he said it, he told me that if I could fix his Roxbury problem, he would back me in politics.

I held his eye and said, "I won't hold you to that. Someday I may remind you." That sobered him up.

They all went off. I pulled out my phone. It took several calls to reach the right person, but it was worth the effort. "Hello Veronica. This is Jo. We need to meet."

"little"   sister  

Apr 22, 2018 in femdom

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