The limousine ride back from the CNN studio to Sextons office felt long for Gabrielle Ashe. The senator sat across from her, gazing out the window, obviously gloating over the debate.
They sent Tench to an afternoon cable show, he said, turning with a handsome smile. The White House is getting frantic.
Gabrielle nodded, noncommittal. Shed sensed a look of smug satisfaction on Marjorie Tenchs face as the woman drove off. It made her nervous.
Sextons personal cellphone rang, and he fished in his pocket to grab it. The senator, like most politicians, had a hierarchy of phone numbers at which his contacts could reach him, depending on how important they were. Whoever was calling him now was at the top of the list; the call was coming in on Sextons private line, a number even Gabrielle was discouraged to call.
Senator Sedgewick Sexton, he chimed, accentuating the musical quality of his name.
Gabrielle couldnt hear the caller over the sound of the limo, but Sexton listened intently, replying with enthusiasm. Fantastic. Im so pleased you called. Im thinking six oclock? Super. I have an apartment here in D.C. Private. Comfortable. You have the address, right? Okay. Looking forward to meeting you. See you tonight then.
Sexton hung up, looking pleased with himself.
New Sexton fan? Gabrielle asked.
Theyre multiplying, he said. This guys a heavy hitter.
Must be. Meeting him in your apartment? Sexton usually defended the sanctified privacy of his apartment like a lion protecting its only remaining hiding place.
Sexton shrugged. Yeah. Thought Id give him the personal touch. This guy might have some pull in the home stretch. Got to keep making those personal connections, you know. Its all about trust.
Gabrielle nodded, pulling out Sextons daily planner. You want me to put him in your calendar?
No need. Id planned to take a night at home anyway.
Gabrielle found tonights page and noticed it was already shaded out in Sextons handwriting with the bold letters P.E."‑Sexton shorthand for either personal event, private evening, or piss‑off everyone; nobody was quite sure which. From time to time, the senator scheduled himself a P.E. night so he could hole up in his apartment, take his phones off the hook, and do what he enjoyed most‑sip brandy with old cronies and pretend hed forgotten about politics for the evening.
Gabrielle gave him a surprised look. So youre actually letting business intrude on prescheduled P.E. time? Im impressed.
This guy happened to catch me on a night when Ive got some time. Ill talk to him for a little while. See what he has to say.
Gabrielle wanted to ask who this mystery caller was, but Sexton clearly was being intentionally vague. Gabrielle had learned when not to pry.
As they turned off the beltway and headed back toward Sextons office building, Gabrielle glanced down again at the P.E. time blocked out in Sextons planner and had the strange sensation Sexton knew this call was coming.