His story was worth $30,000 to the campaign even if it was a lie. Divine Fury. Chapter 42
March 16, 2013
THE ROOM WAS furnished with the basics. Heavy wooden coffee table. Overstuffed couch that probably hadn’t been moved in ten years. Two upholstered chairs opposite with short backs. Lee sat in one of those and put a small portfolio he was carrying on the coffee table. He pulled his notebook and pen out of it. Carter sat on the sofa. He fidgeted and rubbed his hands, one massaging the other.
“So, you got paid for telling your story about Harper,” Lee began.
“Yeah. I did,” he said. “Cashier’s check. Thirty thousand. Already in my account.”
“And it was to tell your story? And provide the email? Anything else?” said Lee.
“Well, sign a zillion documents. This and so is true. I won’t talk to anyone without their approval. I won’t pick my nose in public. Whatever.”
“You mean things like affidavits, swearing that your story is true?” said Lee.
Lee reached into the portfolio and pulled out several pages of a computer printout.
“I got this from Harper’s campaign,” he said. “It’s a chain of emails that includes the one you handed out at the press conference. But in the context of the whole chain, it makes that one misleading. Harper is saying you two had a relationship later, five years after that basketball camp, and not when you were a minor.”
Carter rocked back and forth in silence for a few seconds as if weighing which way to go with his answer.
“Yeah. That’s true,” he finally said. “Look. They called me because they knew Drew and I were together for a while. Maybe six months. Whatever. When I told them about knowing him since I was 15, they kept asking about that. It was pretty clear what they wanted. So, I gave it to them. I realized the email made it look better. So, I gave that to them, too.”
“All right,” said Lee. “So, you basically just made it up. And now you’re telling me this…why?”
Carter stared at the coffee table, lost in thought for a few moments. Then he looked up at Lee.
“Look,” he said. “Those guys are assholes. I know what they stand for. Anti-gay. I mean they’d probably send me to the concentration camps if they had their way. But I needed the bread, man. They said, ‘We’ll give you this check.’ And I said, ‘Okay. What do you want to hear.’
“What can they do?” Carter continued. He laughed. “Sue me? Good fucking luck with that. Besmirch my good name? Do you think Mommy and Daddy are going to be shocked to hear little Lonnie has been telling lies? Gimme a break. Look. I’m not looking for people to tell this to. But you’re the one who found me. And those guys are jerks. Screw ‘em.”
Lee knew he had his story and, best of all, it was on the record. He asked a few more questions to fill in the gaps. The only full name Carter recalled was Dirk Renstrom, the guy who had originally contacted him. He didn’t know how Renstrom was connected to the Chapman campaign. Carter also said he was paid through a company called La Vista Security.
The closest Carter came to showing any remorse for the situation was when Lee was leaving and he asked the reporter to give Harper a message for him.
“Tell Drew I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m really sorry.”
Lee had negotiated the crush of rush hour traffic on I-80 through Berkeley and paid the toll for the Bay Bridge. After waiting his turn at the metering lights, he began the short drive across the bay and into the city.
He understood why Harper’s opponents had pushed Lonnie Carter in front of the television cameras even if they suspected that his story would crumble in the end. The scandal had dominated the news throughout the state for a complete 24-hour news cycle. It had been the biggest story in the campaign so far. A comparable media campaign would cost millions of dollars. The payment to Carter was a pittance in comparison.
Even better, only a fraction of those who saw the initial story would really focus on later developments. For many, some level of association between Andrew Harper and the explosive allegation of child molestation would remain. If the lingering taint changed even 2 or 3 percent of the vote on election day, it could determine the outcome in a tight election.
Lee came out of the portion of the Bay Bridge that passes through Yerba Buena Island via a short tunnel. The last two-mile section of the bridge into San Francisco was suspended over the bay from two huge towers, like the more famous Golden Gate Bridge. This was Lee’s favorite view of the city with the highway heading straight into the downtown skyline. Most of the tall buildings had windows that reflected the bright blues of the sky and ocean. As usual, the cloud bank waiting over the cold Pacific rode the offshore winds that kicked up late in the afternoon when temperatures cooled. The dark mass loomed over the skyline as it rolled in from the west, reasserting its dominance and snuffing out the sunset .
Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
You can learn more about Divine Fury on Amazon.