LAST CHANCE

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Chapter 5

“Things like this just don’t happen. There’s got to be a reason. Something that you can read on an X-ray or under a microscope or see in a blood test or, Lord I don’t know. But there’s got to be some sort of logical explanation, Margaret. Don’t you see that?”

“No, Daddy, I don’t. I don’t care about the reason; all I care about is that the leukemia is gone. After all of the chemotherapy, the radiation, thinking she was well, and then a month later we find out the leukemia is not only back, but worse than before. After they told us there was nothing they could do and we should just go home and wait for her to die the disease has disappeared. The leukemia is gone, Daddy. Not in remission, gone. Dr. Shumaker has run every test he could come up with, and he said he can’t find any evidence of cancer anywhere in her body, and that’s all I care about. If the reason is because Father Cass prayed over her, then thank God, a thousand times, thank God. But I don’t need anybody to prove anything to me. My daughter is going to see her next birthday and the one after that and the one after that. And you should be just as happy as I am. I don’t understand why you’re so worked up about the why. What difference does the reason make?”

The phone on the desk buzzed and a voice came over the intercom. “Senator Gardner, Michael Edwards is on line two. He says he has to speak to you now.”

The senator picked up the phone and pressed the button for line two. “Michael, so glad you called. How’s Sharon?...Yes, well that vote won’t be coming up until next week and...I understand your point...of course...certainly...yes, we should get together for dinner sometime soon...It was good to talk to you too.”

“Sorry, honey, but work is work.”

Margaret had a comeback on the tip of her tongue but in the interest of family peace decided the satisfaction of winning a small battle wasn’t worth starting another war, so she swallowed what was on the tip of her tongue and instead said, “No problem. Can we just rejoice in the fact that your granddaughter is cancer free and leave it at that?”

“Of course we can, honey. I’m sorry. You know me, I always need to know the nuts and bolts of everything. That’s just my nature. Hey, how about we all go out to Andiamo’s tonight for dinner to celebrate, you, Koz, Amanda, and me and Mom? We can order their big family lasagna, y’know the one that they double bake with extra cheese? I’ll get my secretary to make reservations.”

“Are you sure? You’re not tied up with something else?”

“I’m sure.” He picked up the phone and pressed the intercom. “Nancy, will you call Andiamo’s and make a reservation for five for tonight at” he covered the mouthpiece “is seven o’clock okay?”

“Sure, I guess.”

“Nancy? Make it for seven o’clock. Thanks.”

Almost as soon as he hung up the phone, the buzzer went off and Nancy’s disembodied voice came over loud and clear. “Senator, you have a seven-thirty dinner meeting with Charles Tate and Jackson Hodge with UAW Local 605. The appointment has been on your calendar for six weeks. Did you want me to cancel?”

“Don’t worry Dad. We’ll celebrate another time.”

“I’m sorry, honey. I’ll check my calendar and we’ll figure out a good time.” He picked up the phone. “No, Nancy, leave it, thanks.”

Margaret picked up her coat and purse and headed for the door. Her father stepped around to the front of the desk and caught her arm before she reached the threshold. “I really am sorry, Maggie, really.”

“I know. You’re a very busy man. Senator John Gardner, respected by men, adored by women. I’m lucky to know you.”

“That’s not fair, Mags. And I would have expected more from you.”

“Just been reading your press, Dad.”

“Well, don’t make that a habit. I never even look at it. I know I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, and when I do that, you and your mother are the ones who suffer. But there’s just a lot going on right now. I promise this will all slow down soon and so will I. Now, why don’t you and your mother go pick up your husband and daughter and go to dinner without me? Okay?”

“You really do know how to turn on the charm, don’t you, Dad? Okay. Although I’m planning on holding you to that promise about slowing down.”

“That’s perfectly all right with me. Now, get out of here. I’ve got work to do.”

Margaret reached up, put her arms around him, and gave him a peck on the cheek. He returned the hug, kissed her on the forehead, and she was out the door and gone.

The senator picked up the phone and pressed the intercom. “Nancy, if there’s nothing else, you can go home. Looks like the roads might be a bit icy and you may as well get a jump on the traffic. I’ve got a couple of more calls to make and then I’ll be heading out.”

“Are you sure, Senator? I don’t mind staying. Can I help with anything, get anyone on the phone for you?”

“No, but thanks. They are just a couple of loose ends I need to tie up, nothing important. You go ahead, and I’ll see you first thing in the morning. Have a good evening, and give that little angel of yours a kiss for me.”

“I’m not so sure about the angel part. She dumped her cereal all over her high chair this morning. Lord knows what I was thinking getting pregnant again.”

“Don’t second guess yourself, Nancy. In retrospect, you’ll realize these are the best times of all, trust me. Now, get going, so you can be there when she dumps her dinner all over your shoes!”

“Right. Don’t forget about your dinner meeting with the UAW guys. It’s seven thirty at The Hill, and yes, you do have a reservation. See you in the morning.”

“Is that the place on Kercheval?”

“That’s the one.”

“Thanks, Nancy. Have a good evening.” He hung up the phone and walked to the window of his large corner office. Although he spent most of his time in Washington, he kept an office and a home in Troy, Michigan, where he and his wife, Anne had raised Margaret and her brother Tommy. Anne had made herself perfectly clear from the beginning that she didn’t care for the scene, social or political, in Washington, nor did she like being so far away from her family.

So the sensible thing to do was to hang on to the house and maintain a strong presence there. His office was in a medium-sized high rise just around the corner from Twelve Oaks Mall, which made the commute home nearly impossible, unless he left before four thirty or after six fifteen. Regardless of which direction he went, traffic getting on or off I-75 brought everything in a two-mile radius to a standstill. Traffic in the area reacted as if someone had put out an urgent message that no matter where you were, you must suddenly move somewhere, anywhere but where you were. Of course this was ridiculous. But no matter how many traffic lights they installed, no matter how many off and on ramps they added, nothing improved the situation. Traffic surrounding I-75 near Twelve Oaks Mall was just another of those frustrating facts of life, like pennies and parking meters.

Even from the sixth floor, through the darkly tinted window, he could see Nancy get into her minivan and pull out of the parking lot. As she turned out onto Twelve Mile Road, he returned to his desk, opened the drawer, and pulled out his private address book. The number he was searching for took only a few minutes to find, and only seconds to dial.

The phone rang twice before it was answered by a somewhat high voice for a man. “Arnold Park speaking, it’s your dime.”

“Hello, Mr. Park, this is Gardner. I have a small job for you, not too much really. Shouldn’t take you any time at all.”

“One hundred dollars a day, plus expenses. Five-hundred dollar retainer.”

“Of course. I assume this would be the same account as usual?”

“Of course. What’s the job?”

“Man’s name is Casimir Radnaezewski...”

“You’re gonna have to spell that one for me. I haven’t got a clue otherwise.”

“Right, okay it’s R-A-D-N-A-E-Z as in zebra-E-W-S-K-I.”

“Got it. What about him?”

“He’s a priest.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I got that. Whaddya say?”

“No, I think you heard me. The man’s a priest. He’s pastor of St. Florian Roman Catholic Church in Hamtramck. Look, this has to be really, really discreet, more so than usual. Fact is I’m not looking for dirt; in fact I doubt you’re going to find any. I’m just looking for...well, just find out whatever you can - anything. Anything you can. But, please for God’s sake, be discreet.”

“Okay, no problem. I’ll start as soon as the cash hits my account. Nice doing business with you.” The phone went dead.

John Gardner hung up the phone and said a silent prayer to whoever might be listening. “Please, don’t disappoint me.”

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