The snarled threat echoed like a gunshot down the hallway of Rick Santorum’s mind, the words alone spoken with calculation enough to bring his thoughts to a grinding halt. He let out an indignant sound of protest against the hand that was, at present, clamped over his mouth. This had not been on his agenda--being accosted, abducted, taken hostage, or anything else this deranged son of a bitch might have had in mind.
Somebody, somewhere, was going to have hell to pay once this was over.
Rick struggled, turning his head to look over his shoulder with the goal of catching a glimpse of his attacker. As soon as he did, however, he felt the cold metal muzzle of a pistol pressed hard into the back of his neck. “I said, don’t move.” The assailant’s grip on him tightened, and Rick froze, a jolt of fear searing like electricity at the ends of all his nerves. He found himself staring back into his darkened office, which he had just been about to leave. Apparently, that was no longer the plan.
Yep, definitely going to be hell to pay.
He struggled again, managing to tear away from the hand covering his mouth, and snarled back at his attacker.
“Who are you? What the fuck do you want from me?” The response he received was soft laughter in his ear, not at all what he had been expecting.
“You‘ll find out in due time.” There was a pronounced hint of a Southern accent in that hushed voice, one that Rick couldn’t help but find strangely familiar, though he couldn’t readily place it. Now, he found the grip around his neck relenting, felt the muzzle of the pistol pressed hard into the center of his back. “Into the office. Now.”
“Fine.” He complied and headed back inside, flipping on the light as he went. He whirled around just as his attacker entered and slammed the door behind him. There in the doorway, shiny silver Colt .45 nonchalantly in hand, stood Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Jesus fucking Christ. You’ve got to be kidding me.
“The fuck is wrong with you, Bill?” demanded Rick, his voice a few unflattering octaves higher than normal. “Are you out of your damn mind? You just put a gun to my head!”
“Let’s skip stating the obvious, and cut to the chase,” Frist replied with a cocky smile, one that Rick certainly had never seen on the Senate floor. He arched an eyebrow.
“I didn’t realize we had a conference, Senator Frist.” Rick’s words dripped with sarcasm. “You know, a simple invitation would have sufficed, don‘t you think?”
“Don’t get cute with me, sweetheart.” Frist brandished the pistol, as if reminding Rick who possessed the upper hand, reminding him just who was in control of the situation. The polished metal gleamed in the fluorescent light. Rick sighed and sat on the edge of the desk, beholding his superior with a guarded look.
“What do you want?” he asked simply, draining his voice of emotion. “There must be some motive behind your forcing me at gunpoint into my office. Out with it.” A slow, sadistic smirk spread across the Majority Leader‘s face that made Rick‘s stomach do an ugly flip-flop.
“Well, Senator, I need to speak with you on matters of the Republican leadership in our branch of Congress.” Rick cocked his head slightly, staring in outright incredulity at the man in front of him.
“Do I look like I’m joking, Santorum?”
Joking, no. Deranged, yes. Insane? You can bet your ass on it. As was the entire situation in itself, mused Rick. He sighed defeatedly. “Where are you headed with this? I haven’t got all night, here, Bill.” The other man’s eyes narrowed.
“First of all, Rick,” He spoke with a measured coolness that unnerved Rick to his very core. His eyes were trained on the pistol, and he flinched when Frist brandished it in his direction. “You will address me as Senator Frist. You will answer my questions, ‘yes, sir,’ and ‘no, sir.’ I am your superior. You may be Republican Conference Chairman, but you are far below my level, do you understand me?”
“What was that, Senator Santorum?”
“Yes, sir,” seethed Rick. “Look, Mr. Majority Leader. Were you, you know, going somewhere with this? Because, if you‘re through belittling me, I‘d like to go.”
“It‘ll please you to watch your tone.” Frist cocked the gun, then walked over to Rick’s desk, pulled up a chair and sat down. Bizarre fucker, thought Rick, as he watched Frist place the gun on the desk beside him. Rick was standing now, pacing in front of his desk. Frist smirked slightly. “You look nervous.”
“Minor detail.” Rick promptly sat on the edge of the desk again. “So, business.” Rick prodded, attempting to speed the conversation along, and to get the hell out of there as quick as was humanly possible. “Is there a problem with the Republican leadership?” When he looked over, Frist had the gun unloaded, one bullet resting in the palm of his hand. Jesus Christ almighty.
“You might say that.” He inserted a bullet and gave the chamber a spin with one finger. “Rick?” Frist fixed his eyes on Rick’s. “What exactly is your position within the Senate leadership? Can you tell me?”
“Um, I’m the Republican Conference Chairman.” Rick stated flatly, resisting the urge to tack “dumbass” onto the latter part of that statement.
“Right,” The Majority leader drawled, with a smile that was anything but pleasant. “The third highest seat in the Senate. Good for you.” Rick sighed petulantly.
“What is your point, sir?”
“Rick, do you see yourself as a good leader? A prime example for others in the Majority to follow?”
“Absolutely.” The pistol was back in Frist’s hand again.
“You are the perfect embodiment of the morals and social standards that this party stands for. You speak your mind, regardless of popular opinion. You‘re passionate. Outspoken. Highly opinionated.” Click, click, went the pistol. “Therein, my dear colleague, lies the problem.”
“I’m sorry,” Rick beheld the other man as if he’d sprouted another head that was just as bat-shit insane as the first one. “What?” Senator Frist smiled, not at all good-naturedly.
“Let me explain,” he replied. “You are a skilled, savvy, manipulative politician. You know your powers, and you use them to work the system.” He paused. “You, yourself, know what you are capable of. However, I think you may know your own strengths a little too well.” The look in Bill’s eyes was steely now, cold and calculating. “Consider this a power check. You need to take a quick look in the mirror and realize that you are not the most powerful influence in this Majority. I am.”
“What?” Rick screeched, indignant. “You think I’m trying to undermine your job? That’s what this is about?”
“Partly,” replied Bill simply. “The other part deals with you, and your blatant lack of respect for authority.” Rick arched an eyebrow.
“And by ‘authority,’ I‘m assuming, you mean you.”
“Absolutely.” Rick rolled his eyes.
“This is ri-goddamn-diculous.” He made as if to stand up, but the cocked-and-ready pistol flashing in his direction prompted him to sit right back down again. The majority leader grinned wickedly, both of them knowing that he had Rick right where he wanted him. Cornered. Like a damn rat.
“Now.” He stood, rounding the desk, and coming to stand in front of Rick. “I didn’t ask you here just to be unreasonable.” He hefted the weapon in his hand, examined it, all while keeping it leveled dangerously at the center of Rick’s chest. “You don’t think I’m being unreasonable, do you?”
“I--” He stared down the barrel of the pistol and swallowed dryly. “I don’t--” Suddenly, Bill was right there, practically on him. The pistol pressed cold and threatening against his temple. Bill’s finger squeezed the trigger slightly. Rick shut his eyes and drew in a sharp gasp.
“Now, you listen to me.” Bill’s voice was a detached monotone. “Consider this a warning. You will consider your position in this Senate, and ponder all possible definitions of the word ‘subordinate.’ You will not step out of line again. You will know your place and you will accept it.” He lowered the gun. “Understood?”
“Abso-fucking-lutely.” Rick sneered. “And if it pleases you, Mr. Majority Leader, is this meeting adjourned?”
“Yes. You may go.” Thank you, God. Rick rose from his corner of the desk without hesitation and fairly flew to the door. Get me the fuck out of here. His hand found the doorknob. “Oh, and Rick?” Rick froze. He turned, glancing back at Senator Frist, sitting comfortably in his chair behind his desk, a smarmy smirk on his face. The pistol was hefted in his hand once again. “I’m glad we could have this dialogue.” With one swift motion, Bill raised the pistol, leveling it between Rick’s eyes.
He pulled the trigger.
The chamber was empty, the bullet sitting on the desk in front of Bill.
Son of a bitch.
Thoroughly shaken, Rick threw the door open, darted out into the hallway, and walked briskly down the corridor. Not for a second did he look back.