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Chapter 3 Cashmere McLeod

Two days later I was back in the campaign office in Mammoth Falls when Libby Holden walked in. She was an enormous woman with angry blue eyes and long gray hair. Everyone in the office stopped working to look at her. She stormed up to my desk and shouted, “I’m HERE!”

“Hello, I’m Henry Burton.”

“Ah HAH!” she answered.

“Was Stanton arrested in Chicago?” I asked.

“OF COURSE he was!” shouted Libby.

“Did he ask a Senator to tell the police to let him go?” “Of COURSE he did! He’s guilty, guilty, GUILTY! But we don’t have to worry about CHICAGO! Chicago is a LITTLE problem. We have a BIG problem—Cashmere McLeod.” “Who’s Cashmere McLeod?”

“Jack Stanton’s lover!”

“His lover?”

“Yes, stupid, his lover! She’s going to tell the National Flash all about Jack Stanton. The National Flash is going to pay her a hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. She’s working with a lawyer named Randy Culligan on this.”

“Are you sure about this?” I asked.

“NO! I’m telling you this because I’m crazy. OF COURSE I’M SURE!”

“When did this happen?” I asked. “When did Stanton meet her?”

“1989. Maybe it was 1988.” She took a book out of her big leather bag and quickly turned the pages. “Here,” she said. “Jack Stanton drove Cashmere McLeod home from a party on the night of April 12, 1989. He stayed at her house for an hour. What do you think they did during that hour? Do you think they PLAYED CARDS?”

As one problem got better the other got worse. That Thursday morning, just as people were starting to forget about Chicago, Cashmere McLeod’s picture appeared on the cover of the National Flash. I was in the hotel in New Hampshire when I saw it. I was surprised at the photograph; Cashmere McLeod had an odd nose and strange lips. The telephone in my hotel room rang while I was reading the story.

“We have TROUBLE, Henry! We have big TROUBLE!” “Good morning, Libby,” I said.

“She’s got tape recordings!”

“Who does?”

“CASHMERE MCLEOD!”

“Tape recordings of what?”

“Try not to be so STUPID! What do you think are on her tape recordings? The Beatles? She’s got tapes of Jack Stanton talking to her on the telephone! LOVE tapes, Henry. They talked about SEX!”

“What’s she going to do with them?” “She’s going to play them for the press tomorrow. It will be on television! Come back to Mammoth Falls as fast as you can, Henry. Go wake up Jack and Susan Stanton. Tell them that Cashmere has love tapes, then get on a plane for Mammoth Falls.” “You think I should tell them now?” I said. “They’re going to be interviewed on television in three hours. Maybe I should wait until they’re finished.”

“BRILLIANT, Henry. You’re BRILLIANT. Do you want someone to tell Jack and Susan that Cashmere has sex tapes while they’re on TELEVISION? In front of MILLIONS OF AMERICANS?”

I went down the hall and knocked on the Stantons’ door.

Susan was sitting at a table drinking tea and reading a newspaper.

Jack was trying to decide which tie to wear.

“Governor,” I said. “I just talked to Libby. She says that Cashmere McLeod has tape recordings of you and her talking on the telephone. She’s going to play them for the press tomorrow.”

Susan stood up, raised her hand, and hit her husband hard across his face. It was a perfect shot and made an ugly noise.

Stanton was still for a moment, then he reached up and gently touched the skin on his cheek.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Henry,” said Susan, “would you please excuse us?

I saw the interview on television.

“Were you arrested in Chicago during the Vietnam War?” asked the interviewer.

Susan and Jack looked calm. Jack said, “I protested against it but I never broke the law. I was never arrested.” “And what about Cashmere McLeod, Governor?” Jack looked shocked. “You don’t believe what you read in the National Flash, do you? I mean look at the rest of the paper: ‘GIANT HORSES LIVE ON THE MOON!!’ I don’t think the American people are really interested in that. I think they’re interested in a better government and a better future.” Susan smiled and held his hand.

“So you deny being Cashmere McLeod’s lover?” asked the interviewer.

“Yes, I do,” said Stanton. He looked angry now. “It never happened. My wife and I have had some problems in the past, but they’re over now.”

“That’s right,” said Susan. “The American people have nothing to worry about with Jack Stanton. He’ll be a wonderful President.” ♦

I flew from New Hampshire to Mammoth Falls. When I walked into Libby’s office she said, “HENRY! We’ve got to move. We’re going to a friend’s house to watch Cashmere McLeod play her tape recordings. Come on!”

“Who’s your friend?” I asked when we were in her car.

“He’s an electrician. He might be able to help us with Cashmere McLeod.”

Libby’s friend lived in a house in the forest. He was a friendly looking man with long hair and a beard. His house was full of tape recorders, cameras, and televisions. We sat down to watch Cashmere McLeod while he made a tape recording.

Cashmere appeared on the television next to her lawyer. She was a short, heavy woman, and she wore too much make up.

“Governor Stanton was my lover,” she said. Her voice sounded like a mouse. “I have tape recordings to prove it.” Her lawyer coughed and said, “I will now play a tape recording that Miss McLeod made in November.” He pressed a button on a tape recorder. I recognized Stanton’s voice.

JACK: We’re going to have to stop this for now.

CASHMERE: But you said you loved me.

JACK: I just have to be careful, honey. I’m spending almost all of my time in New Hampshire now.

CASHMERE: You said I could come to New Hampshire and see you.

JACK: I’ve got to go.

Libby turned to her friend and said, “Is that a real tape recording?

Did they change anything?”

“No. That was a real tape recording.” “How could Jack be so STUPID?”

We looked back at the television. Cashmere’s lawyer was holding up another tape recording. He said, “This is one from last summer.” We heard the voice of Jack Stanton again.

JACK: Hi, honey

CASHMERE: You said you would call me yesterday JACK:I know and I’m sorry. I tried to call you from Harlem.

CASHMERE: Don’t you love me any more?

JACK: Of course I love you. Honey, everything’s going to be okay. I mean it.

“He was calling from a pocket telephone on that one,” said the electrician. “It’s easy to change a recording of a conversation on a pocket phone. I’ll have to listen to it again.” “How could he be so stupid?” asked Libby again.

My pocket telephone rang. It was Richard. “Did you see it?” he asked. “What did you think?”

“I . . . There was something,” I said. “There was a sentence or a word in the tape recording that reminded me of something. Hey, could you play that again?”

“Who are you talking to?” asked Richard.

“Richard, I’ve got to go.”

I put my telephone away.

“The second tape recording,” I said.

The man pressed a few buttons and we listened again.

JACK: Hi, honey.

CASH MERE: You said you would call me yesterday.

JACK: I know and I’m sorry I tried to call you from Harlem.

CASHMERE: Don’t you love me any more?

JACK: Of course I love you. Honey, everything’s going to be okay. I mean it.

“Play it again,” I said.

“What is it, Henry?” asked Libby.

“There’s something . . . Again!”

“I know and I’m sorry. I tried to call you from Harlem.” That was it. I knew what it was.

“Of course I love you. Honey, everything’s going to be okay. I mean it.”

“I remember!” I shouted. “He was talking to his wife!” Libby gave me a strange look. “What?” “It was the day I first met Jack Stanton last summer in New York. In Harlem. Later that night his wife called and Jack said, ‘I’m sorry. I tried to call you from Harlem.’ They changed the tape! Everything’s okay!”

“No, it’s not,” said Libby. “We can tell the press that they changed the tape recording, but we can’t prove it. They won’t believe us. Unless . . .”

“Unless what?” I said.

She didn’t answer.

“I don’t know why Cashmere McLeod and her lawyer were so stupid,” said Libby. “They had enough real tape recordings of Jack Stanton and Cashmere McLeod. They didn’t have to change anything.”

“Where are we going?” I asked. It was later that same day and we were driving down the highway in Libby’s car.

“I can’t tell you,” she said.

We parked in front of a large, old office building.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Don’t ask questions,” she said. “Listen, Henry. I’m going to go into that building and do something crazy. It’s probably better if you don’t go with me.”

“I’ll go,” I said.

We walked into the building and went up some stairs. Libby knocked on a door that said, “LAW OFFICES OF RANDY CULLIGAN.” When there was no answer, she stepped back and kicked the door open.

Randy Culligan, Cashmere McLeod’s lawyer, was sitting behind a desk talking on the telephone. He looked up and said “What the . . .”

“HI, RANDY!” said Libby. “Are you talking to Cashmere?

Let me say hi!”

“No . . .” said Culligan. He put the phone down.

It was a small, dirty office. On the wall behind the desk, there was a photograph of Culligan shaking hands with Jack Stanton.

Both men were smiling.

Libby sat down in a chair. “I didn’t know you were an electrician, Randy.”

“I don’t know what you . . .”

“You’ve been making tape recordings of Governor Stanton’s telephone conversations.”

“I have not. Why would I do that?”

“I’m not in the mood to argue” said Libby She reached into her leather bag and pulled out a big gun. “Randy,” she said calmly, “I want you to write a letter to the press. I want you to tell them the truth. Tell them that you changed those tape recordings.”

Randy looked shocked. “You’re crazy!” he shouted.

“YES I AM,” Libby shouted back. “Crazy people can do what they want! They don’t get in trouble “ Randy looked at me. “You’ll get arrested too,” he said.

“No, he won’t,” said Libby. “He didn’t know I had this gun.

Now, are you going to write that letter?” She pointed the gun straight at him. His eyes grew wide—it really was a big gun.

“OKAY!” he said. “Okay, okay, okay!” “Thank you, Randy,” Libby smiled. “That’s very wise.”

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