Barry was a likable guy, confident, sporting a $100 haircut and perfectly balanced sideburns. There was no doubt he would be the next senator representing his state.

Barry had that air about him, the kind of presence that made people smile when he strutted into a room. Tailored suits, power ties, and wing-tipped shoes gave him the air of distinction. Barry looked like he knew what he was doing; he didn’t, only he thought he did.

A smart man surrounds himself with knowledgeable people and takes their advice. A foolish man doesn’t have to know anything, just employ the right people who will be subservient to his wishes and, above all, protect his reputation. If someone stood up to Barry today, they were gone tomorrow.

The team that Senator Sluke formed around Barry knew just how far they could go with the candidate. Most of them were smart enough to keep their mouths shut if they wanted to ride Barry’s wagon to the stars.

Senator Benjamin Sluke was retiring from politics. He sought the man he wanted to replace him. Someone who could make it two terms so that the statute of limitations would run its course by the time his replacement left the Senate. In twelve years, no one would remember Senator Sluke. The person he selected to replace him would have to be clueless, easily manipulated, and keep his secrets.

Years ago, Barry was in trouble as a college student who date-raped a young lady. It was Senator Sluke, a family friend, who stepped in at Barry’s father’s request. He was able to slip the college some funding they had repeatedly asked for; in exchange, they buried the story of Barry Ward.

Then the senator negotiated a tuition reimbursement for the girl, who didn’t want to testify in the first place and was more than anxious to have her huge education debt paid. With the promise that Barry would not be any closer than a thousand feet from her at any time, she received medical, psychological, and financial help.

Senator Sluke had been able to sweep the whole thing under the carpet. There was no record of Barry’s rape charges anywhere. Barry owed a considerable debt to the senator. Very soon, they were going to announce Barry was running for Senate. Sluke knew the man he handpicked would keep his mouth shut. When Barry discovered the magnitude of the deals Sluke cut for himself and not his state, Barry would be forced to keep the lid on Benjamin’s cookie jar. If the senator’s handpicked successor served two terms, the legal ramifications of his so called deals would be beyond any prosecutorial measures.

Arthur Gardiner, Sluke’s assistant, came into the senator’s office.


“They are ready for you.” Senator Sluke planned to announce his retirement at this time and leave the crowd hanging before he named his preferred predecessor. Let them guess. In the meantime, he had given Barry some assignments to complete to get his name into the news. The Senator did not want people to ask, “Who?” when he announced the handpicked stooge, offering his endorsement. First, he needed to get a feel for Barry’s electability to see how well he did in the polls before he’d stick his neck out.

The Senator quietly whispered in Barry’s ear, advising his every move. Barry was becoming well known and was amicable with the news reporters. They gave him a lot of coverage.

Maybe there was a candidate out there that Senator Sluke could strike up a bargain with if Barry didn’t fare well. He was always looking.

“You watch over me. I will give you my endorsement.” Sluke’s fear was also having that same discussion work against him. If Barry were held to the fire, he’d cave and turn on the senator.

Senator Sluke glanced at his reflection in the framed painting. He straightened his tie, pressed his suit down with his hands, and walked out to meet the reporters who clamored at his door.

“Senator Sluke, is it true you are announcing your retirement?” The senator eyed the reporter with disdain. How dare he take his thunder? Benjamin Sluke ignored the reporter, and pulling his speech out with great flourish, he started to read.

“Senator, when will you be retiring, and do you have someone you are endorsing?” the young reporter asked. Senator Sluke never wavered. He continued to read his prepared speech, ignoring the blond reporter. When he finished, the flash cameras snapped pictures. The reporters crowded around, shouting questions. Senator Sluke held his hands up.

“That is all I have to say at this time. Thank you for coming.” He stepped into his office and closed the door behind them.

“What are you looking at?”

“Nothing, sir,” Arthur Gardiner left the room quickly. The plan was in place. The senator called on his cell.

“Do it now.”

“Yes, sir,” was the response.

Shauna Brown Raymond was an attorney who graduated in the same class as Barry Ward. She had a successful career in the district attorney’s office and was the mother of three children. One born outside of the marriage. Shauna never said who the father was, but Senator Sluke launched his investigation. Through his connections, he obtained the birth certificate of her eldest daughter. She was 20 now. The father was listed as unknown. This girl was the loose end that needed to be tied up. Krista was the child of Barry Ward’s unwanted advances.

Senator Sluke believed that only Krista’s mother and the senator knew. He paid Shauna’s medical expenses. She had the child during summer break and never missed a day of school. Buying Miss Brown-Raymond’s silence had cost him a pretty penny. He had her sign an agreement that she would pay back every cent he’d given her over the last 21 years should she tell anyone of what happened back in the day. Shauna owed the senator more than a million dollars. He wanted to be confident she would keep her mouth shut, but she had a righteous streak in her that worried him.

The evening news carried the story.

“20-year-old college student Krista Brown-Raymond was attacked in her dorm and found bludgeoned to death at Templeton State University. She is the daughter of Richard and Shauna Brown-Raymond, who has tried some well-known cases with the District Attorney’s office. It is unknown if Krista’s death is due to her mother’s legal contacts.”

Senator Sluke poured himself a drink, One down. It wasn’t hard to find someone willing to kill. He hadn’t realized how many in the world were willing to do this kind of work. But the senator was also concerned. Because of the brutality of the crime on a sleepy campus, Krista’s death would not die down. He was angry at his hire. He called a man who called a man.

“In a police shootout last week, a man accused of robbing Nemo Mart has been killed. Blood samples taken from the scene have tested positive for the crime scene murdering Krista Brown-Raymond, whose mother Shauna Brown-Raymond worked with the district attorney. The man killed in the shootout, Garrett Mansford, has had a long history with the D.A. His criminal record is several pages long. Authorities suspect that Mansford killed Krista Brown-Raymond in revenge for convictions he received through that office. We’ll be following this story closely.”

Senator Sluke sighed a huge sigh. Now there was no way to connect him to Garrett Mansford. He just had to sit tight. He opened the newspaper, reading the obituary he had been waiting for. “Dr. Jeffrey Auburn, formerly the Dean of Templeton State University, died of an apparent heart attack. Auburn, 76, leaves behind his wife of 52 years.”

Ah, the senator was relieved the new person he hired had much more finesse. This whole episode would be wiped clean. Barry Ward could step into the spotlight without a ghost in the closet. Two days later, the accident happened.

“Killed by a drunk driver, Shauna Brown-Raymond.” That accident had cost him, too. To get the man to hit Shauna’s vehicle, the senator had to leave a trust fund for Ralph Manske’s children. It was all arranged; the man was on his way to a long sentence from a previous accident, anyway. It wasn’t hard to convince Ralph to do his bidding.

Now that Barry was clean, he called the reporters back to his office in the capitol building. Barry dressed in his finest.

“Barry, do you believe in God?”

“Well, yes, Senator.”

“Can you quote the Bible?”

“Excuse me?”

“The Bible, can you bring forward quotes from it? You are a conservative, and your following will expect you to have righteous knowledge.” He handed a small Bible to Barry.

“Look at Matthew, memorize some quotes. It will go a long way to helping you. Our followers expect a certain standard.” Barry thumbed through the chapter and found the Lord’s Prayer. He read quickly and moved a few pages when he saw a verse that struck him.

“Oh, here’s a good one! Then come, follow me. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Thank you, Senator. I will take this under advisement.”

“No, you will do this. It’s imperative.” He opened his office door to the reporters.

“I would like to endorse who I hope the good citizens of Oklahoma will help elect to the office of the Senate, Mr. Barry Ward.

The crowd surged. Barry had become well known to them recently with his opposition to some of the things the state was proposing. He had several well-placed followers, paid for by none other than Senator Sluke. The press gathered around Barry and asked questions.

“I am pleased to announce my candidacy for Senate, and I thank my mentor, Senator Benjamin Sluke. I am proud to accept his endorsement.” Barry pumped the Senator’s hand up and down for the perfect photo opportunity.

“Mr. Ward, how do you think you will hold up against the other candidates?”

“I think I have just as many qualifications as Eric Salway, and I look forward to debating him, and Karen Farber, another fine candidate, for the honor of being on the primary ballot, and the chance to represent this great state. May God bless America! Thank you.” Barry remembered what the senator had taught him; always leave the press wanting more.

The race was tight; Barry pulled out all his charms and learned his Biblical references well. He won the primary and looked to be unstoppable. Senator Sluke couldn’t be happier if he tried. Barry was becoming a household name. His handpicked successor was the shining star, the new kid on the block that would make a change for all. Barry had agreed to protect the senator for a chance at the seat he was about to take by storm.

People handed him their babies. He kissed them for the camera. He was a man who would fight for them against the system that didn’t get them. People cheered. Barry had them eating out of the palm of his hand, until the fateful phone call.

On election night, the senator was in his office, putting things into boxes. His aide would have them delivered to his home. After six terms as senator, he was feeling very nostalgic at the loss of his fame. It would be hard to go back to obscurity and be one of the little people again. In a few years, he would be no one.

The office needed painting. Sluke could see the fading around the certificates he’d taken off the wall. The darker color of the original paint hidden beneath his many accolades. He stuffed another plaque into the box, sealing it with tape, stopping to get the phone.

“Hello? This is he. What? Where did you get this information?” The senator flopped back into his chair in disbelief. The call had been from a reporter.

Barry Ward’s date rape was not a one-time deal. Five women had come forward to the reporter to let her know that Barry had also attacked them. And Harriet Pik found out that Barry had raped a girl in college, she didn’t have the name yet, but that the girl had a child who would be 20 now. She was digging into the records. How did the senator feel about his endorsement of a candidate that had such a reputation?

He swore softly, wondering what he could do to stop this. It was only a matter of time before all these accusations would be pointing to him. And then they would investigate his dealings with covering up the rape. They would look into his finances and find out how he had been profiting from under-the-table deals. Sluke was ruined. He never thought Barry was a serial rapist. Why hadn’t these women come forward before he gave his endorsement? He dangled Barry to the public like a carrot in front of a mule. Not one of them came forward then. If only he had run another term. He was tired. So very tired.

Benjamin Sluke left his office. He rode the elevator to the top of the capitol building. He walked around the dome, admiring the frescos, the gilded portraits. A guard came along.


“Ted, just saying goodbye. I can’t believe it’s over.”

“Thank you, Senator, for all the time you have served us. It has been an honor to watch you work.” Sluke shook the guard’s hand.

“Thank you. You don’t know how much that means to me.” The guard continued checking doors rounding the corner.

Senator Benjamin Sluke looked over the railing of the rotunda. He thought he had gotten away with it. He had planned everything so carefully. He bent his head in prayer. It had been so long since he had prayed. When he got to “thy will be done,” he paused to think about what was happening and his part in it. There was no pulling it back. This story had legs, and it would travel far.

The reporter broke into the election results early Wednesday morning.

“Senator Benjamin Sluke was found dead on the rotunda floor last night in an apparent suicide. Again, Senator Benjamin Sluke was found dead in the capitol building after a jump or a fall from the rotunda. Senator Benjamin Sluke was taken by ambulance to the Oklahoma University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“In a remarkable turn of events, charges have been filed with the district attorney’s office against newly elected Senator Barry Ward, Senator Sluke’s handpicked successor. Senator-elect Barry Ward has been accused of attacking five women. The district attorney’s office is encouraging anyone with knowledge of these cases to please come forward. Shauna Brown-Raymond, a former employee of the D.A.’s office, was killed by a hit and run accident weeks ago.

“The women pressing charges against Ward were joined by the husband of the late Shauna Brown-Raymond. David Raymond claims that Senator Sluke paid for his wife’s silence when she named Ward as her attacker in a rape claim filed 21 years ago. David Raymond also said that his murdered daughter Krista was fathered by Barry Ward in that rape. Krista Brown-Raymond was bludgeoned to death in her dorm room by well-known career criminal Garrett Mansford. This story is just breaking, ladies and gentlemen.

“What is starting to develop as a conspiracy this morning comes as a shock. Barry Ward has won this election, but there is doubt whether he will ever take office.”

Barry Ward’s mouth dropped open as he watched the newscast expecting to see his election victory, instead seeing his fall from the pedestal. He watched the horror unfold on the news program, remembering that one line from the Lord’s Prayer. “Thy will be done.” A knock at the door signaled the end of his freedom.