The Victim

Chapter Three: Ascent

Dangerous liaisons

I give him every assurance that he won’t be personally harmed. Even better, people will hail him as a hero. For once the “tyrant” is dead, I vow to make my husband’s crimes public. Still, he says he needs time to think about it. But time is running out, with the election in less than four months. Every day he spends making up his mind it’s one more day I spend wondering if I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. I’m playing with fire here.

Finally, I decide I can’t leave it up to fate. I call the reporter that interviewed me after the sexual assault stuff from college. She’s received several prizes and uncovered many plots to enrich powerful companies at the expense of the environment/poor people/the small business. I tell my husband that “she asked to give us an interview, I think we should both go.” But then I schedule a charity event for him that overlaps with the interview, so I end up doing it alone.

We meet at a hotel lobby, only she and I. After greeting each other, I say “This interview is not exactly about the campaign.” She seems confused. “What is it about, then?” she asks about to turn on the recorder. I shake my head. “Nothing on record.” Now she’s interested. “Look, I think my husband has been having an affair and has started drinking again.”

She backs down. “Wow, that’s. Wh-why do you think that?” she asks. “The half-erased lipstick marks, the bottles of scotch he says are to ‘toast with supporters…’ I’ve seen it all before.” Then I stop dramatically. “But I think there’s something else going on.” She wouldn’t bite if I only brought her gossip. She’s a serious reporter, interested in crimes committed by government officials. “I think he has used his office to gain support for his governor nomination, more specifically trading favors with energy companies.”

That last thing is, unfortunately, true. I’ve heard him and uncle talk and meet with people from a couple of energy companies before they got a large contract. “I want you to investigate him, but leave me out of it please,” I say. She hesitates at first, but then smiles. “You know, an informant said something similar some days ago, but I thought there was nothing to it. Now, you saying it is an entirely different story. Ok, I will definitely look into it.”

“Thank you,” I say, shaking her hand. “I have to go now. Don’t try to contact me, please, or he’ll suspect,” I ask, looking frightened. She nods. I return home and immediately look for uncle. I enter his office without knocking, while he’s still on the phone. I look terrified, and he quickly says “I-I’ll have to call you back” to the person he’s on the phone with. “The-that reporter,” I stutter. “The girl. She knows about the favor-trading and the energy companies,” I blurt out. “She wanted my comment on it. I told her it was fake news.”

“F-word!” he shouts, striking his table with his fist. “We need to squash this. She worked for true news network, right?” I nod. “Good, good, I know the editor,” he says. “I think we can contain this—” He waves me off, indicating I should leave the office while he speaks to the editor. “Is grandpa ok, mommy?” asks my daughter, who was listening outside the office.

“Yes, sweetie, don’t worry,” I reassure her. “It’s just boring grown-up stuff. Do you wanna watch a movie?” She smiles and nods. “The one with the monsters,” she says, referring to a cartoon picture we’ve watched at least sixteen times in the past two weeks. But I don’t mind watching it with her, just to see her get excited again.

After uncle finishes his conversation, he comes to the tv and makes a signal to me. “I’m going to make some popcorn, do you want some?” I ask my daughter. She smiles and nods while still looking at the tv. I start making popcorn while uncle talks to me. “Ok, she’ll be fired for whatever reason, but we need to talk to her.” I grimace. “I doubt we can buy her,” I say. “She’s refused very generous bribes before. This exclusive will get her a lot of attention.”

“What then? Do you suggest we threaten her?” he says. “No,” I go on. “I doubt that would work either. Let’s use a scapegoat. Let’s force the energy commissar’s hand to confess and make him get ahead of the story. Meanwhile we need to stall her.” He thinks for a moment. “Ok, I have enough on him. I don’t think it’ll be hard.”

The next day, I schedule a meeting with the crazy man I’m convincing to kill my husband. We meet right after it becomes public that the reporter investigating my husband has been fired. We meet behind an alley this time, out of anyone’s sight. “Do you know one of your colleagues has been fired for looking into my husband?” I ask. “No,” he says, shocked. I show him the news about it.

“She was investigating corruption in his administration,” I continue. “And she still probably is. But now she’s lost the paper’s support, and they’re now claiming she ‘manufactures testimonies.’ This. This is precisely what I was talking about. They will silence reporters, silence witnesses, silence everyone. I need your help, we have to stop him.” I take out my phone. “Look, I’ve brought proof of my commitment.” I play a fragment of the tape I recorded of my conversation with the reporter, explaining the things I knew about my husband’s corruption.

“I knew it! I f-wording knew it!” he yells too excited. “That fff-f-wording bastard!” it seems like he wants to say too much too quick. “I hate him, I hate him, I hate him! He and the other vermin like him is like, they are the, like, evil!” He takes his hands to his head. He seems too agitated, and makes me wonder if he’s a little too insane for my own good. I read he was bipolar, and I think he’s not taking his pills. “Even though I can’t prove it, I know it. It all, you know? It all makes sense.” He walks in a circle for a minute, then comes back. “Ok, I’m in. I’ll do it. I’ll be the f-wording hero this country needs.” He raises his right arm, and chants as he strikes the sky: “Sic semper tyrannis! Sic semper tyrannis!”