“We can’t just have her wearing that scarf all the time,” Hanna said a couple days later at the first real campaign meeting. “It’s cheesy and it will get old. We need to save it for when we really need to punch it up. Otherwise, this stuff isn’t half bad.” The governor’s body woman clearly understood something about appearances. With her long shiny black hair and her gorgeous white on black sheath (with the red belt), she was the best dressed woman Lucy had ever seen. Lucy wondered idly why she had not been able to get the governor to punch it up a little. Maybe looking dowdy was some kind of a campaign strategy.
Lucy looked at her outfits from the Sheriff John campaign, neatly hanging on the dress rack in the campaign office. She hoped they weren’t part of the dowdy strategy. She had felt quite chic in the little dresses and suits Kelly and Tiffany had picked out. It’s hard to make a short woman with big boobs look good. She thought they had done a great job.
“Thanks Hanna,” Kelly said. “Glad I didn’t schlep this stuff up from Baltimore for nothing.” Lucy looked gratefully at her old familiar companion.
“No, we just need something to remind people about the scars without hitting them over the head all the time,” Hanna mused. “Too bad the breast cancer people got that pink ribbon pin.”
“Are they still using that?” Kelly asked. “I thought once we got the stem cell medicine for it, they’d move on to some other disease. Does anyone even get breast cancer any more?”
Hanna put the question to her phone.
“Apparently it’s having a resurgence in some of the red states,” she reported. “A couple of them have started forbidding the importation of any medicines made from stem cells.”
“That’s right,” Lucy said excitedly. “Daniel and I had to smuggle in the experimental medicine for my mom from Baltimore. That’s why she died when Arthur had him drafted into the state guard. If she died,” she added sadly. “No one has been able to find out what happened to her, right Kelly? You don’t have any news or you’d tell me, wouldn’t you? This not knowing is so awful.”
“Of course I would sweetie,” Kelly said. “Larry filed the suit against Arthur to get your dad’s money, and we’re hoping the court will find him to serve him and we can find out more about your mom. But Phyllis agreeing to testify against you in the federal lawsuit is not a good sign. I’m not bullshitting you, Lucy. Virginia probably has your brother and your nephew in a pretty bad place. And we can’t find a trace of Arthur or your mom.”
Hanna stared at Lucy. “Your mom was dying because they can’t experiment with stem cell medicine in the red states?” she said. “Why didn’t you say something about that in the campaign?”
“Why would it matter?” Lucy asked.
“Are you kidding?” Hanna said excitedly. “There are still women voting all over the United States. The Agreement didn’t apply to the Amendment giving women the votes. That was passed in 1920! What a great issue! No meds for breast cancer, because the reds won’t use stem cell drugs. Women dying, cancer rates surging. And you’re the perfect person to get the message out. Did your mom have breast cancer?”
“No,” Lucy said, a little sarcastically to cover the pain, “sorry. She had lung cancer. If it had been breast cancer, we would have been able to cure it by now. Daniel would have driven mom out of Virginia in a heartbeat if it had been that simple. It’s me he didn’t care about.”
“Well no matter,” Hanna said. “It’s cancer. We are going to move that front and center in your speech. Even if women in the reddish states like Florida don’t want to run away or get abortions, breast cancer is something all women care about because they’re all, er, we’re all vulnerable to it. I think we’ll use the pink pin after all.” She turned to one of the posse of young campaign aides who followed her everywhere. “Ezra, get a thousand pink breast cancer ribbon pins made stat. They should say, um, “Sylvia. For the Cure.” And get me some pink ribbon. Lucy’s going to wear something like a pink pin starting right now. And start working on the pink ribbon speech. Where is her mother anyway?” she asked Kelly. Clearly she was thinking about Clarissa for the first time, now that Lucy’s dead or dying mother might be of some use to the movement.
“We can’t find her,” Lucy answered for Kelly. “Didn’t you follow my trial? Arthur gave us a fake picture of her to show me she was still okay when he came to Court. I figured she was dead, or why would he have faked the picture? That’s why I finally told about what he did to me. But now it’s weeks later and no one can find a trace of them. It’s so weird. She’s no use to him any more; I’ve told about the rape. Why wouldn’t he punish me by showing me Mom is dead?”
Hanna didn’t even look embarrassed that she had not paid attention to Lucy’s particular narrative. She had one mission: Sylvia Giffords. Every day and all the time. Lucy was surprised that she wasn’t even surprised at Hanna’s single-mindedness. She must be getting used to politicians, she thought to herself.
“Hanna!” Lucy said suddenly. “If Mom is so important to Sylvia’s campaign, why don’t we use the campaign to find out where she is? At least,” she said, her voice breaking in spite of herself, “if she’s dead or alive.”
There was a pause while Sylvia Giffords’ chief advisor considered whether helping Lucy would be useful to the campaign.
“How about ‘where is Lucy’s mom’?” the politico started musing on the possibilities. “Why does Arthur Atreides get to disappear his sick wife?” she continued, warming to the subject. “It’s still America,” she added with relish, recalling the Lucy campaign for Sheriff John. “It fits in perfectly with the cancer theme and it will drive them absolutely nuts. Arthur is the mad genius of the Red state constitutional campaign. They love him at those think tanks that supply Boy Wonder with all his advisors.”
“Focus group it,” Hanna said to Ezra. “Now. I want data on ‘where’s my mom’ by tomorrow night. Meanwhile I don’t need polling on cancer. Let’s go. I’m going to talk to Sylvia.”
Lucy looked at Kelly, after everyone left.
“Kelly, do you really think there’s any chance mom is still alive?” she asked. “She was already on morphine when I escaped. I can’t believe they’re going to poll whether to help me find her.”
“I’m not a doctor, sweetie,” Kelly answered in her usual level voice. “I actually reached out to some doctors at Hopkins during the trial, and they weren’t optimistic about that medicine holding her for more than a few months. It must be awful for you not knowing. But didn’t you really say goodbye to your mom when you ran away?”
“I did,” Lucy answered slowly.
Kelly looked uncharacteristically unsympathetic. “This is the whole ball game, Lucy. Sylvia can win. If we take back the federal government, we can start dismantling this ghastly arrangement they made. But she won’t start a war. Say goodbye to your mother, Lucy. She’s probably dead. But if she’s not dead, you should have made your peace with it six months ago. She should never have let you to back to Virginia in the first place.”
Lucy looked at Kelly in astonishment. She’d never heard her friend speak so coldly or matter-of-factly about something that would be a tragedy in anyone’s life – losing their mother.
“Kelly,” she said, “would you have . . .” her voice trailed off.
“Probably,” Kelly answered. “I hoped I wouldn’t have to leak the story about Arthur, but if we lost, there was no way I was letting them take you back there. And I was certainly going to use it for the Rainbow the minute I heard your mother was gone.”
Kelly smiled at her surprise. “You’re my friend, Lucy. I know you now, and you’re the one that I care about, not someone I never met. Either she was already too sick to think when she let Daniel drag you back, or she cared more about herself than you. Which isn’t very maternal, if you ask me. My mother would never do something like that. If you care about your father’s memory, you’ll help us undo this terrible Agreement and get his country back.”
It was eerie, hearing the echo of her words to Evan come right out of Kelly’s mouth. Evan wanted to take her away. But Kelly had her father’s voice.
In almost no time, Hanna was back to fetch Lucy.
“Sylvia wants you in on the strategy meeting, Lucy,” she said, as she led her down the hall to the Governor’s new campaign office.
They hadn’t even had time to fix it up – just a desk and chairs and a big white board. The Governor everybody called Sylvia was looking at the remnants of a pizza.
“Are you hungry, Lucy?” she asked. Lucy looked at the pizza. A political veteran now, she knew if she started eating pizza, by the end of the campaign, only the candidate’s baggy clothes would fit.
“No thank you.”
Sylvia gestured Hanna and Lucy into chairs. Kelly stood at the door.
“Kelly, come in, come in,” the candidate said. Good, Lucy thought. Kelly mattered.
“Lucy,” Sylvia said, “Hanna reminds me you were in Virginia not just because your mother was sick, but because she was sick with cancer and that you couldn’t get the medicine for her because Virginia won’t let doctors use treatment from stem cell research.”
“Tell me about it.”
Lucy told her how Daniel had stumbled across the news of the new medicine and had pulled all kinds of strings to get it.
“He knew somebody from the National Institute of Health,” she remembered, “and they got it for him. I’m not even sure he was supposed to have it,” she said warningly. “It’s called something like Pluripotentiazine. She felt a lot better at first,” Lucy reported, “but a couple weeks before I left she seemed to go downhill. Daniel and I didn’t know what we were doing, and, of course, we couldn’t tell her doctor. We were sort of flying blind.”
Hanna poked at her phone and then slipped out of the room.
“Our guy at Sloan says it’s actually working pretty well,” she reported a few minutes later. “But they’re mixing it with some other stuff. We’ll have to be sure we can defend ourselves, but it looks like Clarissa Atreides would have had a fighting chance if she’d lived in a blue state.”
“Jesus,” Lucy said. She felt Kelly’s arms around her. “Lucy,” Kelly whispered, “it’s okay. We don’t know for sure it she’s dead or not. If we put enough pressure on them, they may actually produce her.”
Where’s Mom? The pop up ad seemed to come from nowhere. It had no sponsor and led the viewers nowhere. But in the era of social media, the story of the most famous runaway in the nation and her mother went viral in no time. Lucy’s return to Virginia to be at her mother’s deathbed had been common knowledge, of course. But no one had focused on the fact that Clarissa had cancer, in fact, a kind of cancer that could have been treated with stem cells. And that Clarissa could not be found – dead or alive.
“OK, everybody,” Robby said. “It’s time.” Lucy took her seat next to Kelly in the small conference room and waited for Sylvia’s campaign manager to tell them what he had in mind. They were in the inner circle now, she noted with satisfaction. He had a box in front of him, and she could see the pink, formerly-breast-cancer ribbon pins inside. He handed the box to the person on his right. “Everybody take a handful,” he instructed.
“Tomorrow Sylvia and Lucy are going to tape a thirty minute infomercial,” he continued, “and I have news. Turns out a lot of women are dying of cancer in the red states. They mostly don’t care, because they’re only interested in women young enough to bear lots of healthy children, and most breast cancer victims are well over forty. President Wonder’s Centers for Disease Control has had the numbers for at least a year. But they’ve been keeping it a secret. And while the CDC was hiding what the red states were doing, someone hacked into their computer and found the emails from the cover up. I found the report in my inbox yesterday. Our people tell me it’s the real thing.”
Lucy thought she saw a tiny smile flit over Kelly’s impassive face at the mention of hacking, but in an instant it was gone.
“We’ll air it and stream it together. I’m buying time in all the services that aren’t blocked in the reddish states – Florida, Ohio. And we’re using the Blue State network that we bootleg in everywhere else. We need to show the Reds that their party’s over. Any discussion?”
One of the staff wanted to go over the scientific stuff herself, and she got Robby to promise they would pull the plug on the whole thing if she had doubts about the data. But otherwise, they knew they had finally found the Wonder administration holding a smoking gun. Breast Cancer! Hiding the health data! If they took over the White House, a blue Justice Department could put the people who did this in jail. “OK then,” Robby finished up. “The directors are here to pull the show together. Lucy, sit tight. Can we have the room?”
It would be a good show, Lucy thought as she tumbled exhaustedly into bed that night. She didn’t have so much to do; mostly it was their experts telling the world about how the stem cell medicine had almost wiped out breast cancer, before the Agreement and then the dramatic story of the upsurge and the cover up. All Lucy had to do was come in at the end with her personal story of trying to save her mother and then Arthur making her disappear. A plea to reunite her with Mom made a good dramatic ending though.
She hadn’t expected the standing ovation. Even knowing the infomercial audience was provided by the campaign, no one had scripted them leaping to their feet and screaming “Not America, Not America, Lucy, Lucy!” like that. Until she put her hand to her face, she hadn’t even realized that telling the story of her separation from mom had unleashed the tears she’d kept inside. The audience sprang up like watered grasses.
After it finally ended, she tried to compose herself. “I need,” she said to some random techie unplugging her, “to go wash my face. Where’s the bathroom?” “Take a right down this hall,” he said, gesturing behind him, “second door on the left.”
She smelled it as soon as she went out into the hall. Chloroform.