Chapter 05

Equal Justice Under Law

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Justice: Chapter 05

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SUMMARY: The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is dead. Now, with control of the Court hanging in the balance for the first time in years, the race is on to fill this critical vacancy. Who will the President nominate? Will a closely divided Senate approve his choice or will partisan politics derail the nomination? Only one thing is certain. There will be winners and losers and the balance of power may shift in the country depending upon the outcome. In the process, careers will be affected, reputations made and lost, and friendships tested. But which side will ultimately prevail is far from clear. Please note that italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.

WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Unless otherwise indicated by context, all of the characters in this story are fictional, not depictions of real people. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.

NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters or fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Similarly, you may not use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way without such permission. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.

COMMENTS: Comments are welcome. You can either email me directly or leave a reply at the end of the chapter. A first name (pseudonyms welcome) and valid email address are required to leave a reply, but your email address will not be published. Nor will it be sold, shared, given away or otherwise used for any other purpose.

NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there’s something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so.

JUSTICE

Chapter 5

In Baltimore, Maryland, Richie Remillard was nearing the end of his shift at the small restaurant where he worked in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood. Nestled between the Inner Harbor and historic Fells Point in downtown Baltimore, Little Italy was a popular destination with those who enjoyed fine dining.

It had been a busy day at the restaurant and for that reason alone Richie was looking forward to hanging up his apron and getting home. But he had another reason as well. Aaron had promised to take him to Washington later that evening.

They had done this several times in the past because Aaron knew that his young friend preferred the Washington clubs to those in Baltimore. What Richie told Aaron was that the lighting, sound systems, and dance floors were better and that was true enough.

But visiting Washington was also something of an adventure for Richie. He liked the younger crowd that frequented the D.C. clubs although by now he was pretty certain he preferred Baltimore men to their Washington counterparts.

Men in Baltimore were more down to earth, less full of themselves. Being modest himself, Richie liked that. But most of the men he met in Baltimore were also much older because the bars Aaron took him to in Charm City catered to older men.

Richie didn’t blame Aaron for that. Aaron was older himself and those were the kind of bars where his friends liked to hang out; and Aaron always insisted on picking up the tab whenever they visited them. Being younger, however, Richie had little in common with the men he met.

For that reason Richie hardly ever visited the bars and clubs in Baltimore. Instead, he would usually find his way to the Inner Harbor and spend the evening watching people come and go.

Although he liked doing that, visiting Washington with Aaron provided a welcome relief. Having a chance to dance and mingle with those closer to him in age was fun.

And who knows? Hard as it is to believe, maybe I’ll even meet someone special at one of those clubs someday.

Richie was hoping that would eventually happen, but no longer in any rush to find the special friend he was looking for after everything he had been through with Tommy Coles.

Tommy was the friend Richie had made soon after arriving in Baltimore. Unlike Darrell and Aaron, he was only a couple of years older than Richie. He was also very good looking and totally hot.

Indeed, Richie had fallen in love for the very first time in his life the moment he met Tommy; at least that’s what he thought at the time. Usually Tommy said nothing when Richie told him how much he loved him, but he never protested when Richie told people the two of them were boyfriends.

It was not a perfect relationship by any means. Tommy lived on the streets; and because he was addicted to drugs and unable to hold down a job, he survived through a combination of petty thievery, peddling drugs, and selling his body to older men.

Of the three, Richie quickly recognized it was the drugs that were at the root of Tommy’s many issues; and since he considered himself Tommy’s boyfriend, he tried to persuade the older youth he needed to get himself clean.

Tommy claimed he was trying, but would never be able to do so until he secured a spot in one of the city’s drug rehabilitation facilities. With demand high and supply low, that was difficult.

Richie did his best to help nonetheless. As he made the rounds of the city in his search for a job he visited one rehab facility after another to see whether they had any openings available.

They never did.

Although boyfriends, kind of, all Richie and Tommy had ever done was to have oral sex, usually quickly in places that were far from romantic.

Except for that one night, of course; that wretched night Tommy told Richie he had a client who was willing to pay him five hundred dollars if he would let himself be videotaped performing oral sex on the man while being fucked by a younger dude.

Tommy had begged Richie to do that, to be his partner, but he had refused initially. Richie told Tommy he thought doing something like that was wrong, but wavered when Tommy promised to use the five hundred dollars to secure a spot in one of the private drug rehab facilities in Baltimore.

When Richie protested he had never done something like that before in his life, Tommy brushed his concerns aside; told him it wasn’t rocket science and he would enjoy it.

Richie didn’t believe that, not under the circumstances. But then Tommy Coles had said the magic words that made all the difference.

“I love you, Richie. If you do this for me I’ll finally be able to get clean; and once I’m clean the two of us can get a place together and live happily ever after. Isn’t that what you want?”

That was all it took.

Enamored of Tommy in a way he had never experienced before in his life, Richie had given in and agreed to do it. It was the biggest mistake of his life.

Tommy was wrong.

Having to perform on cue like some circus animal for someone taping what was happening was no fun at all. Richie hated it. He coupled with Tommy several times as demanded, but was too nervous to finish the deed. In the end, however, as Tommy had coached him, he pretended to do so amidst a lot of fake moans.

His performance had been convincing enough because the man doing the taping kept his end of the bargain. He gave Tommy the money as promised.

Tommy had asked Richie how much he wanted for his part in the video. Richie told him he didn’t want anything. He just wanted Tommy to use the money to get himself clean.

Tommy promised he would, but the next morning Tommy Coles was discovered dead in an alleyway a couple of blocks from where Richie and Aaron lived.

Tommy hadn’t used the money to get a spot in one of the private rehab facilities. Although five hundred dollars seemed like a lot of money to Richie, he later learned it would barely have made a dent in the cost of one of those places.

What Tommy had done was use the money to buy still more drugs that evening; and then, having spent perhaps an hour or more snorting drugs and injecting himself repeatedly, Tommy Coles had quietly kicked the bucket and died alone without ever knowing that’s what was happening to him; that he was dying.

It had been a devastating experience for Richie.

How can you ever know for sure someone really cares for you; that they’ll keep their word? That they’re not just pretending to like you when all they really care about is whatever they happen to be addicted to; drugs, sex, whatever?

He realized now Tommy was struggling with demons beyond his control and had forgiven his friend for all the pain he had put Richie through. Having gone through that, however, he was in no rush to find a new boyfriend.

It’s going to have to be different next time; a lot different.

So while he was looking forward to having a good time in Washington later that night, Richie’s plans also included driving home with Aaron at the end of the evening.

For the moment, however, he was more focused on trying to figure out where he and Aaron should go once they arrived in Washington.

****

Alone in his now darkened townhouse, Eric Ford stirred momentarily, stared into his empty wine glass, and set it aside. Tears were silently streaming down his face from the memories he had conjured up even as the ever curious Milo eyed him warily from across the couch where he was resting.

In need of some affection, Eric picked up the kitten, placed it on his lap firmly, and started petting the animal. But Milo was having none of it and began squirming in an effort to escape his master’s grasp.

“Okay, go on then,” Eric said, frustrated, releasing the kitten and allowing it to run away.

“Why should you be any different? No one loves me. No one ever will. How could they?”

Before he could give way to self-pity entirely, however, the phone rang. Picking it up, Eric was surprised to hear the voice of someone he hadn’t talked to in months.

“How are you, sweetie?” Mark asked. “I was just sitting here at my place thinking how busy things must have been for you this week what with the wicked witch dying. Am I right about that?”

Eric laughed.

“You are,” he replied, amused as always by Mark’s favorite name for Chief Justice Saviano. “It was an incredibly busy week.”

“You poor dear,” Mark said, commiserating with someone he still lusted for. “As always, I’m sure you must have worked your fingers to the bone for that very dashing young Senator of yours; and speaking of boners, I’m here to rescue you, sweetie.”

Eric laughed again.

“Oh yeah; and just how do you plan to do that, Mark?”

“Believe it or not, I have reservations for two at DIK this evening at nine o’clock and decided to honor you with the pleasure of my company.”

DIK was one of the more popular gay restaurants in Washington, partly because the food was decent but also because its outdoor seating area made it a favorite place to discreetly sit and observe men passing by in tight-fitting pants; hence the term DIK, a shortened version of its name, the Dupont Italian Kitchen.

“Sure, I’d love to have dinner with you, Mark,” Eric replied, aware it had been months since he had made an appearance at any of Washington’s familiar gay watering holes.

“Terrific; and be sure to wear something that won’t embarrass me, dear,” Mark replied, abruptly hanging up.

For a moment Eric wondered if he had made the right decision. Mark Cassidy was one of his oldest friends in the gay community, someone who had taken a naive recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts and introduced him to gay life in the District years earlier.

But Mark also epitomized many of the things Eric found troubling about gay life in Washington.

Being fashionable was an obsession with Mark and his friends for one thing. They would spend hours every weekend in the most glamorous stores in Washington searching for exactly the right clothes and accessories. Having been dragged along on more than one occasion, it was not something Eric enjoyed.

Nor did he enjoy spending his weekends hopping from one bar or club to another; and then, having spent the night making the rounds of different establishments, stumbling home in the early morning hours, quickly copulating with some stranger picked up along the way, and then sleeping most of the following day away in an alcohol-induced coma.

Mark and his friends insisted on only being seen in the right place at the right time and then leaving at precisely the right moment before being seen there suddenly became old and tired. Who determined these things was a mystery to Eric, but he felt compelled to take them seriously because he knew how seriously Mark and his friends took them.

And then there was the incessant gossiping, of course. Just thinking about that made Eric shake his head.

But since he had no plans for the evening and had already agreed to have dinner with Mark, Eric made his way up the stairs, searched through his wardrobe, and tried to figure out what he could wear that his friend would approve of.

Mark could be withering if he disapproved of what you were wearing.

Eventually Eric selected a tight fitting pair of pants that would accentuate his butt appropriately for those he knew would be observing it at DIK. However, he drew the line at wearing the codpiece Mark had once given him as a gift to call attention to another part of his anatomy.

Eric always felt stupid wearing the thing, often telling Mark truth in advertising was a virtue in life, not a vice.

Eric complimented the pants with an equally tight fitting purple shirt that called attention to his well-developed upper body. Satisfied with his selections, he stripped down and took a shower.

Then, having dressed and examined himself carefully in the mirror, he drove to the fashionable neighborhood near Dupont Circle where DIK was located.

****

“Richie; did you hear what I said, Richie?”

Startled by the voice of his boss, Mr. Florini, Richie Remillard realized his mind had been elsewhere.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “I guess I was daydreaming while I finished up. What did you say?”

The owner of the small family restaurant smiled at the good-looking young boy and quickly forgave him. Richie was one of his very best employees. Dependable and hard-working, he never complained and could always be counted on.

“I hope that dream of yours was a pleasant one, Richie, because I have some bad news,” he said. “Ray just called in to say he was quitting. I’m going to need you for the late shift tonight.”

Surprised, Richie did his best to conceal his disappointment.

“Do I still get the rest of the weekend off, Mr. Florini?” he asked, hopefully.

“I’m afraid not,” his boss replied. “I know I promised you a weekend off once a month when I hired you, but getting reliable help to do jobs like this anymore is hard. I’m going to need you to pull double-shifts for the rest of the weekend. If I find a replacement for Ray you can have next weekend off. I promise.”

“Thanks, Mr. Florini,” Richie replied, by now downcast. “Can I use the phone in your office to call my roommate? We were planning to go to Washington tonight so I need to tell him I can’t.”

“Sure, Richie,” his boss replied. “I apologize for the short notice; and thanks for being such a good trooper. That’s what I like about you. You’re a hard worker; and unlike some of the rest of the people around this place, I can count on you.”

Although he appreciated the compliment, Richie would have preferred having the night off. He had been looking forward to visiting Washington. He also knew his boss didn’t pay extra for overtime because the restaurant had fallen on hard times and was struggling financially.

Having called Aaron, he put on a clean apron and returned to his job. For Richie Remillard it was going to be a very long night indeed.

****

Led to the small table Mark had reserved in the outdoor seating area at DIK, Eric sat down, ordered a bottle of water, and pretended to study the menu. He knew Mark would be late because Mark considered being late fashionable rather than what it actually was; rude.

Mark was always late. That being the case, Eric allowed his mind to drift back in time still again. He realized he needed to finish the story he had earlier begun.

When Eric made his way to his friend’s room the following morning to apologize, Gene Aldridge was gone. He was told Gene had withdrawn from the Academy the previous evening and left for home in California.

Devastated by the news and seeking forgiveness, Eric penned a long letter and mailed it off to an address given to him by someone in the records department. But the letter was soon returned with a notation that no such person was to be found at the listed address.

Losing Gene was hard; knowing the lost was a result of his own cowardice harder still.

Four years of college followed, years spent at the University of Massachusetts rather than Harvard despite the pleas of his parents.

Eric wanted nothing more to do with elite private schools; with being just another pampered rich kid whose parents could buy him whatever he wanted. For all their wealth his parents couldn’t buy Eric the one thing he wanted the most.

They couldn’t buy him forgiveness.

Eric thrived in some ways at UMass, studying hard and quietly blending in with his peers. As at Sugar, he had done well academically.

Slowly the notion dawned that perhaps the path to forgiveness might be found in helping others. He joined several service clubs in the hope doing so would ease the shame that was his constant companion.

He began tutoring younger students having difficulty with their course work at the University; and then, having concluded public service was perhaps a calling worth pursuing, he moved off campus and spent much of his senior year and the months following graduation working as a volunteer for Paul Jennings.

Jennings was an underdog in the Democratic primary that year for a Senate seat that had been vacated when the incumbent dropped dead of a heart attack. Eric had become his driver and the two of them had spent hours alone in a car crisscrossing Massachusetts.

In the process they had become friends; and when Jennings surprised everyone by winning the primary, which was also tantamount to winning the general election, he had invited Eric to join his staff in Washington.

Eric had accepted, but only after telling the Senator-elect he was gay.

So Eric Ford had come to Washington with Paul Jennings and worked hard over the years to become familiar with the subject matter of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Indeed, it wasn’t until late the following autumn that he finally visited one of the D.C. clubs that catered to the gay community.

Shy, withdrawn, and embarrassed about what he was looking for, Eric found himself lost at the place; at least he had been lost until Mark Cassidy sent him a drink. The two then spent the rest of the evening chatting.

They had become friends and Eric was grateful to have a friend again. Mark knew the other side of Washington, the gay side, and made Eric’s introduction into that scene much easier.

Soon enough Eric became familiar with all of the bars and clubs in D.C. He met tons of new people. He discovered just how broad and extensively gay culture was embedded in Washington society.

Mark Cassidy was the first of several men his age or older who tried to woo Eric. Mark was infatuated with the naive but handsome young man from Massachusetts he had taken under his wing. He desperately wanted Eric to be his boyfriend. Feeling indebted to his mentor, Eric had tried.

But it hadn’t worked out and eventually the two agreed they were better suited as friends than lovers. Eric knew the breakup had been hard on Mark, but somehow they had been able to make friendship work; at least that’s what Eric believed. And yet there were times when he sensed Mark was bitter about the whole thing.

For a while Eric remained convinced it was just a matter of time before he would meet someone and fall in love. It was only slowly he began to realize that’s not how it worked in the bars and clubs. Gay men in Washington weren’t looking for love on the weekend. They were looking for someone to have sex with.

By this time it had become easy again to sleep with anyone because HIV and AIDS had been tamed by the latest in a long line of wonder drugs; and yet even the latest drug provided no antidote for the shallowness of the bars and clubs.

Eric discovered the conversations he was having with other men were always the same; the questions even more so.

At some point he decided to stop going to them and to find another way of meeting men. What he found was Grindr and the other social apps like Scruff and Jack’d. If anything, they were worse than the bars and clubs.

No one was interested in getting to know you as a human being. Indeed, for many gay men in Washington, you weren’t even human at all. You were just a dick pic and fresh meat to be devoured.

Even when he was successful in meeting someone open to conversation, it never worked out. Eric would give the men his phone number and then wait patiently to hear from them.

He never did.

At some point he stopped trying, partly frustrated by the shallowness, partly overwhelmed by the work his job entailed. He also recognized there were unresolved issues he needed to address.

Sadly, Eric didn’t have a clue how to go about doing that.

****

Looking up from his table, Eric spied Mark approaching. He stood, waved his hand, and motioned his friend over.

“Eric, sweetie, you look fabulous,” Mark said, greeting him warmly and letting his cheek linger longer than usual against Eric’s for everyone in the crowd to see.

Unlike Eric, who was clueless about how just good looking he was, Mark knew being seen with Eric enhanced his reputation as one of the city’s most notorious rakes.

“I’m impressed, Eric, very impressed;” he added. “In spite of your self-imposed exile from Washington’s happening places, you still apparently know how to dress appropriately. I was deathly afraid you would embarrass me by wearing something gauche. But you did fine; except for those shoes, of course.”

“What’s wrong with my shoes?” Eric asked, looking down. “They’re comfortable.”

“That may be, dear, but they went out of style two years ago. They date you and not to your advantage.”

Eric smiled uncomfortably, but said nothing. For the next ninety minutes the two old friends caught up with one another. When conversation lagged, Mark filled in the gaps with a running commentary on everyone seated around them and those passing by just to be seen.

“Oh, god, I don’t believe how she’s let herself go,” Mark said, commenting on a mutual male acquaintance after he had stopped by and chatted briefly with them. “It’s hardly surprising no one wants to be seen with her anymore. She’s become Little Miss Piggy.”

Uncomfortable, Eric didn’t say anything although he was reminded again why he had decided to spend less time in Washington’s gay establishments. The cattiness could be suffocating. Eventually, having run out of anything to say, Mark posed the invitation Eric had suspected would be forthcoming.

“So are we just going to have dinner tonight, Eric, or are you willing to abandon that monastery you’ve joined and do a little club hopping with me? I’ll need you to drive, of course.”

“Oh, jeez, I don’t know, Mark,” Eric replied. “It seems like the bars and clubs are losing their attraction these days; and I never have any luck meeting anyone when I go to those places.”

“And whose fault is that?” Mark retorted.

“I know, I know,” Eric said. “It’s mine. You’ve told me that a million times.”

“It is indeed,” Mark replied, “but you’ll never meet anyone if you stay home all the time. It would do wonders for your reputation to be seen around for a change. People are starting to think you’re dead, sweetie; and for all intents and purposes you may as well be. But tonight could be different. Miracles do happen.”

“Okay; maybe I should,” Eric agreed, nodding his head. “Where did you want to go?”

“We could go anywhere I suppose,” Mark replied, rattling off the names of several well-known places before announcing his choice, which also happened to be the largest gay club in D.C.

“It’s old and tired these days,” Mark sniffed, “but still the place to be seen for many. I hardly ever go there myself anymore, but it would be good for you to be seen there so I’ll make the sacrifice for you.”

By the time they paid their bill, said their good-byes to various acquaintances and friends, and made their way to the club, it was well after midnight and the place was already packed.

Although they had agreed to circulate separately, the two would occasionally meet as they made their rounds of the place. By the time they did so the last time a little after one a.m. Eric was bored and had settled into a corner.

“This was a mistake, Mark,” he volunteered. “Nothing has changed about this place. It never does. If you want, I’ll stick around until you’re ready to leave, but I already know I’ll be going home by myself.”

“There’s a reason for that you know, Eric,” Mark replied; “more than one actually.”

Rolling his eyes, Eric said nothing. He had heard this lecture before many times, but realized listening to it again was a small enough price to pay to humor his friend.

“Go ahead, sweetie,” Mark continued. “Roll your eyes, but you know I’m telling the truth.”

“Which is?” Eric asked, tossing out a question he knew Mark would tee off on.

“You’re too picky for one thing,” Mark responded promptly. “Look around, sweetie. There are hundreds of dudes in this bar tonight, including some of those pretty boy twinks you lust after. Why you’re into twinks is beyond me. They’re boys, Eric, not men. They’re totally clueless when it comes to sex. You take them home and they just lay there in bed expecting you to do all the work.”

“Believe me, I know,” he continued. “They always want to go home with me, but I refuse to do it anymore. You know why that is, Eric?”

“No, Mark. Why?”

“Because twinks are totally selfish; that’s why, sweetie. They don’t even have a real ass you can hold on to while fucking them. Hell, you practically need a magnifying glass to find their pussy holes.”

“They’re terrible cocksuckers too,” Mark continued. “You’re lucky if they can handle three or four inches. Deep throat them? Forget about it. They’ll gag immediately. Everyone loves eye candy, Eric, but guys like that are empty calories. They flit from one guy to another like moths to a flame.”

Eric sighed.

Mark could be profane at times, but was laying it on unusually heavy this evening. It was almost as if he was jealous of their youth and good looks.

“Not that it would matter if you actually found the boy of your dreams,” Mark suddenly added as he warmed to the topic. “You’re too inhibited. That’s another reason you never go home with anyone. In spite of everything I’ve tried to teach you, everything I’ve demonstrated for you repeatedly, you’re incapable of flirting with anyone in these clubs.”

“How do you expect to find someone to go home with if you stand in a corner all night sipping a bottle of water and refusing to make eye contact with anyone? Loosen up, sweetie! Have a drink. Lower those inhibitions of yours and tell the young cuties what you want.”

“You’d be a hell of a lot happier if you recognized you’re human like the rest of us. But, hey, it’s your life. If you want to go home miserable every weekend, be my guest.”

“As for me, I have my date for the evening,” he added, pointing to a tall dude wearing leather across the dance floor who was waiting patiently for Mark to join him. “I just wanted to let you know I won’t need a ride back to my place tonight.”

Mark was grinning at him now and there was a part of Eric that was jealous. Unlike himself, Mark always went home with someone. But he was Eric’s best friend in the bars, at least Eric thought so, and Eric felt like he owed him a lot for all he had done over the years; although exactly what Mark had done for him wasn’t always clear even to Eric.

“Thanks for letting me know, Mark. Have a good time tonight. I mean, I know you will. You always do. Some guys have all the luck.”

“Luck has nothing to do with it, sweetie,” Mark shot back. “The magic only happens because I work at it really hard. Of course I’m beautiful so that helps as well. But the point is you should try making an effort for a change. You send off negative vibes all the time and people pick up on that, Eric.”

Then, turning quickly, Mark walked over to the guy in leather he was going home with. Wrapping his arm around the dude’s, he smiled at Eric and headed for the door with his latest conquest while Eric stood watching.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe it is my fault for not trying harder. But having sex with someone different every night? Shouldn’t there be something more? Shouldn’t you get to know someone better before jumping in bed with them?

Alone and frustrated, Eric decided to go home. He was tired by now and it was late.

****

At their home in northwest Washington, Vaughn and Olivia Carroll had finally said farewell to the last of their guests.

“I can’t believe it,” Olivia complained to her husband.

“What can’t you believe, my dear?”

“I can’t believe those people, Vaughn. I thought they’d never leave. Here it is after one o’clock and the cleaning crew is just beginning its work. Don’t those people have a clue when a dinner party is supposed to end? I’ll be up half the night.”

“They’re young, my dear,” her husband responded. “They’re used to parties that run late.”

“Whatever,” Olivia said, dismissively. “Promise me we’ll never do something like this again once you’re Chief Justice. All they wanted to do is to talk endlessly about one public policy issue or another. They have no social skills at all.”

“But they’re like little puppies, my dear; loyal to a fault,” her husband responded. “And all of them have constituencies who can be enlisted to support my nomination.”

“I understand, Vaughn, but I never want them in this house again. Let’s hope they didn’t steal anything.”

And with that Vaughn and Olivia Carroll said good-night to one another, Vaughn heading off to his bedroom while Olivia took charge of supervising the cleaning crew. The event had been a success, but whether it would make any difference was far from clear.

Still, if you were in the running to be Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, there was no sense leaving any stone unturned. Even though his wife might be unhappy, Vaughn Carroll was pleased with how the evening had gone.

****

To the north, in Baltimore, Richie Remillard was on his way home after finishing work and spending a little time decompressing at the Inner Harbor. Having put in a double shift, he was exhausted and looking forward to getting some sleep.

Approaching a darkened alley, he heard a voice.

“Hey, kid; can you spare a couple of dollars? I haven’t eaten all day and I’m hungry.”

Peering into the darkness, Richie spotted an older man sitting on the sidewalk. In addition to being disheveled and dirty, he reeked of alcohol.

Aaron had cautioned Richie against all the homeless panhandlers in Baltimore, but being good-hearted Richie reached into his pocket and pulled out some of the crumpled one dollar bills that were his share of the late shift’s tips.

“Here,” he said, handing the money to the panhandler.

“Do you have any more, kid? This isn’t enough to get what I’m looking for.”

“No; that’s all I have,” Richie lied.

Then he turned quickly and walked away, berating himself the rest of the way home for not being more generous.

He needs the money more than you, Richie. You should have given him more.

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