Marilyn Wright Dayton

The Hollow Soul - Read a sample chapter here



The President was feeling anxious, as he waited as usual, for the rest of his so-called comrades to meet him in the Situation Room, buried in the lowest levels of the White House.

They came racing in from the steel-gray corridors of the underground complex of the White House, looking physically rumpled of clothes, but more importantly, rumpled of countenance.

The large round table in the Situation Room had been highly polished, reflecting in the indirect lighting, the somber faces of the bodies seated around it.
Joel Wattenberg, who had ushered everyone in, closed the door, glancing at the table to make sure everyone had a copy of his interview plan, and proceeded to begin pacing, speaking as if he were dictating, very much in charge. “I assume you’ve all seen the newspaper.” To illustrate which paper and which article he meant, he reached into his dropped briefcase and pulled one out, reading the headlines aloud, “’Hero of the people running for President?’ And I’d like to quote just a few comments from this story, ‘In an interview on last evening’s Damon Sloane Show, Washington D.C. attorney Joseph Pahana showed, once again, how cool he can remain under pressure, how he can commentarily rip apart the government, from the legislature to the Supreme Court, all while retaining his winning smile. He is believable. He is constructive in his criticism. He makes it all seem possible. And when asked if he may be in the running for the nation’s highest office, he didn’t necessarily say no.’ This is a man who on the surface may seem like the most popular candidate to run against our President.”

The President was the first to comment, “Sure an American Indian who had the temerity to learn to read English and suggested to his Indian superiors who themselves could barely read English, that certain restrictions placed on the reservations of their Hopi Nation were too severe.”

DCI Pinkerton quickly leaned forward to add, “Several of the Court’s judges admitted crying their eyes out when they read his case – the whole litany of deceit and dishonesty, killing and starving entire tribes, original settlers of this country. What they did and how they did it – the so-called cruelty of the white man. I really think it was the way the brief played up the Spaniards and the French and how they loved the Indians. It made us look all that much worse.”

The Director of the F.B.I. Gavin Patrick Lafferty O’Toole felt his face redden, making quite a contrast with his partially gray hair, bespeaking a once full crown of bright red. He felt himself vying for attention as he spoke in an almost-too-loud voice, “That Hopi case is pretty damned scary, if you ask me. Not just because of the obvious payment in land and monies we would have to turn over, but the fact that it is so strongly based on a staggering premise, an earth-shaking concept – a magnificent obsession, showing how vulnerable the powers that be in our federal government are. And, even worse, those Indians could win. Several members of the Court have expressed how strongly they feel that the Hopi case may be built on a firm foundation of constitutional law. Of course, they haven’t yet rendered their final decision.”

The President didn’t like the sound of that, turning to look at his Chief of Staff, “Joel, do they have a chance of winning, do they have proof of what they say?”

Wattenberg took a deep breath and looked away, apparently the President hadn’t read the papers, “The case appears to be solid, at least on paper. The U.S. government stole the lands of the Hopi through a series of conspiracies in which promises were spelled out in treaties, treaties that were ignored by the government as if they weren’t worth the paper written on. These papers were then buried in the sealed archives of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington. Some treaties were considered part of the record, others were buried in the vaults. Historical real estate was supposedly compensated by the coin-of-the-era, as spelled out by the Supreme Court in 1912 or 1913…”

Unnoticed the Vice President was sitting at the table, just waiting his chance at comment. He decided to interrupt, since what Joel was saying seemed boring. He tried to appear casual, folding his hands behind his head, stretching, saying, “Those judicial fruitcakes wouldn’t dare give them back the land – they would never survive the polls.”

Surprisingly, no one laughed, at least out loud, but the President, slightly irritated, managed to treat his young friend with patience, “Corky, I don’t think they have to, but I see what you mean. Unfortunately, if these Indian servers of renewed briefs and demands succeed in getting Supreme Court support and approval, our own popularity is nix. Because our white-man constituency won’t like losing their land, homes and rights. It’s like whose rights come first here? We’ve got to come up with something to stonewall or kill the issue. Unless we can find someone else to blame. Certainly can’t blame this one on Mother Nature.”

Joel Wattenberg recognized his opening, “Unlike the flooding, tornadoes and the new disease we seem to have developed this year, you’re right. Mother Nature had nothing to do with this one. However, we can take advantage of it, and ultimately get rid of this Indian and his causes.” All attention focused on this brilliant young man. No one in the room liked him, but they had respect for his mind. He was a boy wonder who only a few years earlier had rescued a failing campaign and placed his boss in the White House. He was also a manipulator who had clawed his way through the inner circle until he was second in command. He had the President’s ear and that was all that mattered to him. All else would follow.

“From all of our information, there are two men who stand out as viable candidates. One is from the South, Senator Clarence Edward Bowles, Harvard man, married to a doctor who looks like a female rendition of Ichabod Crane. So they are very high in the social circles, in both politics and medicine. We could dig up dirt on them, no problem, if needed. And of course, Joseph Pahana is the other potential candidate that our opponents are considering. I understand he has been consulting with various members of the party already.” Wattenberg paused, looking at the F.B.I. Director, “How does he check out, O’Toole?”

“Clean as a whistle, except for his involvement with this dirty Indian business. He doesn’t drink or womanize. Hell, I think the guy’s still a virgin. We haven’t found any woman in his life, even back in college. No man either, in case you wondered. Maybe there’s something in his beliefs that he has to save himself for marriage.”

There was light laughter around the table. “So sorry, Joel, the guy is so Clorox, he makes the sheets squeak. He’s a Goddamn boy scout!”

Pinky had to add his two cents, “They say he’s a tribal god, an icon who can control the future of this world, for Christ’s sake! I don’t believe such a being exists, and certainly not one that we’ve educated in our much-hated-by-them white man’s schools.”

“I don’t care if you believe it or not, and it doesn’t really matter whether we believe it, does it?” Wattenberg smiled to himself as he looked at the men and women around the table, part of the President’s legion. They are some of the most important leaders in the country, and they are like women in combat – weak and led by emotion. What a wonderful tragedy. Wonderful because he’s the only real leader here. He leaned over the table, giving them his leadership stare, “We’re talking about a conspiracy here. A conspiracy mounted by the enemies of democracy to bring the honorable giant to its knees and destroy our beloved America’s first-strike capabilities worldwide. We have a nation to think about – and ourselves. We’d look like damned fools if we let this ‘god’ win the job that rules our nation. But we can use him – literally even publicly support the notion of a minority as President. We watch our opponents nominate him at their convention and begin their campaign. Then we strike – abusing his name and watch him fall. Watch that whole party fall as they scramble last minute for a new candidate without time enough to successfully promote him into the elections. I have a plan that will work! Hell, it’s ingenious!”

The President appeared mesmerized by his Chief of Staff. He nodded with his customary approval of Joel’s suggestions. He allowed Joel to sweat the details, never having been a real detail man himself.
“But how? What kind of plan do we have?” Pinky was anxious to know, especially since it may involve something illegal. He would love a chance to nail this son-of-a-bitch. With Wattenberg gone, maybe he and the others would have some influence over the President.

“It’s really very simple. And very legal, Pinky.” The DCI’s body language betraying him, hating his now-slumping bulk that reflected his disappointment. Wattenberg stood straight, arms rigidly clenched behind him, as he dictated his new plan. “What we have here is a very un-American man, embattled in a war between the Executive and the Judicial. If there’s a grain of validity in that brief, we’d all be prosecuted under the laws of Congress for covering up something that we had absolutely nothing to do with over a hundred years ago for the sake of political advantage. Everybody loses. We recognize that the cost is beyond the extra-ordinary.

“So, gentlemen, this is the way the game shall be played. The Supreme Court is like an unseen, unelected government behind the government. The Supreme Court’s docket holds many cases from child pornography to antitrust. Granted the brief Joseph Pahana submitted is considered one of the most brilliant ever received by the judiciary, a model of legal analysis. But who says the Court has to make a decision on the Indian case before the election? We need to stonewall to delay the issue more. As we have successfully done before, we could begin some well-placed anti-abortion activities, or use some other issue before the Court to stonewall. Lobbyists can be made use of. The Court would have to table the Indian cause because this brief is newer, and they need to follow the dated agenda. And let us keep in mind, that there are other Indian issues out there either enroute to, or already before the Supreme Court, the summaries of which would provide a pile of papers several inches thick.

“Shortly before the election, at the perfect time, we let slip a rumor – a so-called Pahana plan. You see, we have at least three Supreme Court justices who are practically on their deathbeds, and who won’t be around shortly after next year’s elections. The ‘new’ President would find himself in the position of appointing a new Secretary of the Interior, and several new justices, who would be, naturally, sympathetic to the President’s causes. So, this rumor is that Pahana planned arranged deaths for three of the justices, planning to blame them on the late justices’ health, or if the deaths come under suspect, which they would, blame would move to the Aryans or Nazis or the Klan, some identifiable collection of domestic terrorists, some radical band of vigilantes. The motive wouldn’t be hatred or rage – but Pahana’s manipulation, to replace those justices with new ones sympathetic to the Indian cause. The rumors would grow in strength, and the party would have to rid itself of a tainted candidate. And, if they are stupid enough to keep him on as candidate, it would cost Pahana a great deal of support. And, of course, we all know that their party, in reality, is so naïve that they couldn’t think that far ahead. Joseph Pahana becomes the bad guy in the history books. If I recall, he did say something recently about Indians not being portrayed properly in the history books. Well, we would certainly take care of that, wouldn’t we?”

The others at the table seemed to take a moment to consider Wattenberg’s plan. The only female in the room, who was generally ignored, was the first one to see the larger picture. Attorney General Pegi Levin-Gallagher seemed thoughtful as she spoke, “So, you’re saying, Joel, that Joseph Pahana would be placed in an awkward position of having to defend himself, which would make him only look guiltier.” There was a murmur of approval about her thought, as she continued, staring at Wattenberg, “And, after our reelection, we could take advantage ourselves of any deaths on the Court – natural deaths, of course.” Everyone smiled at that. “And we could push in our own replacements, who just happened to hate Indians, and will either kill their case or dismiss it. Then we’re back in the slue, and the country’s safe. Right?”

Wattenberg liked the Attorney General – she was tough and fierce at her job, and never said anything until she was ready – and it was always to the point. “Exactly, Pegi.”

“Well, congratulations, Joel,” she admired his brilliant mind too. “Indians give me the creeps. It’s like they know something we don’t. I support your plan.”

O’Toole of the F.B.I. felt his face redden, he hated both of them. They were heartless in everything they did. Two peas in a pod. “Well, Pegi, I must say. That really says it all. Very profound.”

The room emptied within seconds, except for Wattenberg and the President, who turned to his Chief of Staff with a question, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea to get someone inside Pahana’s group? So we can keep track of him?”

Joel found himself disturbed and angered by O’Toole’s remarks and had to force himself to pay attention. “I agree. What do those F.B.I. yo-yos know, anyhow? We’ll let them bring in that girl of theirs on this – the one who loves the Indians? She’ll probably only report the good things to us, so we can feed that to their party and solidify his nomination. And, in the meantime, we’ll assign some special agents for our side to follow him and deal with any problems. For the girl’s benefit, we can call the assignment…’a mission of compassionate inquiry’.”

The President laughed, “Damn, Joel, you’re good at what you do. You’re my own personal leopard. Mean. Meat-eating. Never changing. The leopard has spots when he’s born and he has spots when he dies. You are definitely a leopard.”

Wattenberg made a type of growl and practiced a leopard-type smile. But it looked more like the Cheshire Cat.

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